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Deck Building 101: Exploring Mono Sphere (Spirit)

by on April 4, 2013

spirit

It’s been awhile since the last edition of Deck Building 101, but if Frodo can wait 17 years for Gandalf to return, surely the wait for the next article of this series is but a blink of an eye in comparison. In the past two installments, I outlined two mono-sphere decks, from the Lore and Leadership spheres, that were designed to work both as solo decks and in conjunction with one another. Now, I’m rounding out our exploration of mono-sphere by discussing builds from the Spirit and Tactics spheres, with Spirit stepping up to bat first. One interesting discovery I made when play-testing these two decks was that they felt far more specialized than the mono-Lore and mono-Leadership decks. Those two, despite being drawn from only one sphere, felt fairly well-rounded and able to tackle a wide variety of situations. When played together, this was even more true. However, the mono-Spirit and mono-Tactics decks I’ve built are far more focused, on questing and combat respectively, and they also have a greater tendency to struggle against certain quests while excelling against others. This points out an interesting dynamic about mono-sphere builds. While the mono-Spirit deck I’ll be discussing today can certainly be used together with the mono-Tactics deck I’ll discuss in the next article of this series (and indeed this was how it was tested and built), it can also be paired with one of the mono-sphere decks from earlier editions as well. With that introduction out of the way, let’s explore the blue sphere!


Spirit is the sphere, according to the rulebook, that:

…emphasizes the strength of a hero’s will. Determination, resilience, courage, loyalty, and heart are all aspects of this sphere.

The primary abilities of Spirit in game terms are willpower boosting, treachery cancellation, threat management, and readying. These abilities can often be key ingredients to successfully completing a quest, and for this reason mono-Spirit can function well in a pure solo environment. However, this sphere is very specialized in that it does not provide much help in the combat department, instead focusing its attention on questing and trying to mitigate the worst effects of the encounter deck, either by reducing threat or canceling nasty effects.

Initial Deck Planning

In the two previous mono-sphere builds, my focus was on emphasizing the natural strengths of the sphere first, and then attempting to cover for any weaknesses later. This will be true to a certain extent with this deck as well. However, because I find Spirit to be more heavily specialized than Lore or Leadership, I am going to put a greater emphasis on strengthening the weak points of this deck than I did with my other mono-sphere builds. Thus, for this deck, I will emphasize willpower boosting, treachery cancellation, and threat management (with a secondary focus on readying), three primary strengths of the blue sphere. On the other hand, the main weaknesses for mono-Spirit will be card draw and resource generation. In addition, as with most decks that emphasize Spirit, it will definitely be lacking in combat abilities as well, and this will be an area that I will be particularly zeroing in on. Although I plan on pairing this deck with a more combat-focused deck, I will also look for ways to improve its combat capabilities in its own right, as I tend to favor versatility and adaptability in general, an inclination that was strengthened by my experience with the mono-Lore and mono-Leadership decks and how successful they have been.

Heroes

There are some quality heroes to choose from among the Spirit sphere, but they tend to be very specialized. This means that the particular heroes you decide to choose will make your mono-Spirit deck look and function differently than someone else who is using a different trio of heroes.

In my case, I’m going to start off with the queen bee of Spirit heroes, the ever-present Eowyn. This represents an investment in willpower boosting from the start. Not only will her base willpower of 4 provide a great foundation to build upon, but she allows each player to discard a card to add 1 to her Eowyn cardwillpower during questing. This is an endlessly useful ability, as you can choose to use it in the action window after staging and before quest resolution, based on a knowledge of just how much willpower you need. Eowyn’s ability can often be the difference between defeat and success or advancing to a next quest stage or not. This also means she can be an invaluable aid to pacing. If you are interested in getting some progress, for example, but don’t want to advance stages yet, Eowyn can allow you to hold some willpower back but also discard cards for a boost if you didn’t quite reach the level you wanted. With Eowyn on my team of heroes, willpower boosting is already well taken care of, and she will be able to carry much of the questing load on her shoulders as well, freeing up my other heroes. At a threat level of 9, she provides a medium level of threat to begin the game with, which means I shouldn’t be too concerned yet, but will have to keep an eye on my total as a Spirit deck should ideally start with low threat to maximize its strengths (questing) and avoid exposing its weaknesses (combat).

With another focus of my deck being treachery cancellation, it would seem that Eleanor might be a natural choice for my second hero. With 2 defense, she can also serve as a decent defender, although her low hit points of 3 makes this a dangerous proposition in many cases. At 7 threat, she does help to keep things low-key. However, I decide not include Eleanor for a few reasons.

1) While her treachery cancellation ability is useful and I am not one of those players who immediately writes off Eleanor because you have to draw another encounter card, I can go a long way with 3 copies of A Test of Will.

2) Including Eleanor actually emphasizes Spirit’s natural tendency to be terrible at combat. With only 1 attack, she just can’t provide much muscle, and at 2 defense and 3 hit points, she can only soak up so many attacks before she dies.

3) Speaking of 3 hit points, I am very loathe to include 2 heroes with only 3 hit points (Eowyn has 3 as well). This is a consideration that might not seem vitally important, but it can be the difference between victory and defeat. I almost always like to include at least 1 hero with 5 hit points to soak up those undefended attacks, whether intentional or accidental, and to provide a buffer against those nasty damage-dealing treacheries as well. In fact, high hit-point heroes can almost serve as a form of insurance against certain treacheries, albeit in a different way than Eleanor. Having 2 heroes with only 3 hit points is far too flimsy for my tastes. (Yes, I know, if you look back at my Core Set Construction deck, I had Eowyn and Eleanor side-by-side, but that was building with a limited set of cards, and it made sense from the standpoint of building a very specialized deck.)

With that in mind, I’m skipping past Eleanor. What I would like instead is someone that can serve as a solid and sturdy defender. For that, I’m going to tap one of my favorite heroes: Frodo Baggins. While he only has 2 hit points and might seem like a worse choice than Eleanor in that respect, his ability is all frodoabout soaking/canceling damage. He can cancel treachery or combat damage, with the only limitation being that he can only do it once per phase and at the cost of increasing threat. For a Spirit deck that should start low and have a few threat management tricks, Frodo seems like a great choice, as I will be able to afford to use his ability quite often. In addition, his 2 willpower is decent (better than Eleanor’s), which means he can contribute meaningfully to those big quest pushes that are sometimes necessary. Finally, a low threat of 7 means that with 2 heroes selected, I’m only sitting at 16.

For my final choice, I’m looking for a quality attacker. As I mentioned before, I want this to be a Spirit deck that is not entirely helpless when it comes to combat. If Frodo does boost this deck’s threat and enemies start coming down, I want someone who can dispatch them fairly quickly. If you’re talking about Spirit and attacking, there are pretty much only two options: Dunhere and Glorfindel (well, I suppose Oin as well, but I’m not running a Dwarf deck here so that’s out). I do like Dunhere’s ability to attack enemies in the staging area, and that often is a great strategy for a low-threat mono-Spirit deck, but in this case I’m giving the nod to Glorfindel. For 3 less threat than Dunhere, he gives me an attack of 3 that I can use against engaged enemies, and an amazing 3 willpower that will help with questing. Also important are those 5 hit points, something that I prize as I mentioned with Eleanor. At only 5 threat, my final starting threat level will be a dainty 21.

As for the two Spirit heroes who didn’t make the cut and that I didn’t mention at all, Dwalin and Nori, the former is too specialized for my tastes (his ability works only against orcs) and the latter is primarily useful in a Dwarf deck, which this is not.

Allies

My heroes are picked and I’m feeling good, but out of the abilities I’m focusing on, only willpower boosting has gotten any love. Unfortunately, there is currently no such thing as a treachery-canceling ally, so that ability will have to wait until events (A Test of Will). Similarly, threat management is only provided by Damrod, and at 4 resources, I find that I can get all I need for that ability through events as well. That means that my ally choices are going to be based on rounding out the deck with other abilities, as well as finding a mix of stats that will play to the strengths of this deck as a questing powerhouse, but also provide Glorfindel and Frodo some help in combat…

Why, hello there Arwen Undomiel! I didn’t see you walk in, please join us. I think she heard me mention something about helping Frodo in combat, because that is just what she will do in this deck. When she exhausts, she can boost Frodo’s defense up to 3, and give him sentinel in case he wants to defend for arwenanother deck. This extra defense can be invaluable in minimizing how much Frodo needs to use his damage-canceling ability. In addition, her willpower of 2 helps with questing, and at 2 resources, she is an absolute bargain. Being unique, I might be tempted to include only 2 copies to prevent duplicates, but she is so useful and important to get into play that I will put in 3 copies instead. Also, remember that Eowyn eats duplicates for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so extra Arwens won’t necessarily be a negative.

Although Eowyn already provides some willpower boosting, I’d like to provide a little bit more to make this deck really shine as a quester. To this end, I’ll throw in 3 copies of Escort from Edoras. While I know that some players have never really taken a shine to this card, I have never regretted including it in any of my decks. For only 2 resources, you get 4 extra willpower in a turn (equivalent to Gandalf). Yes, this is only a one-time use, but that use can be extremely important. The Escort can help you get over the hump in the early stages of a game when willpower is precious, provide a boost in the mid-game when the staging area is piling up, or give you that last push to close out a game.

Did I say that only Damrod provides threat management for Spirit? Sorry, Elfhelm, I have received your strongly-worded letter and rectified the situation immediately by including 2 copies of you in my deck. Elfhelm provides some insurance against threat gain by reducing any such gain by 1 while he is ready (note that this can’t be used with Frodo’s ability though, only with quest or encounter card effects or with threat gained from questing unsuccessfully). More importantly for my purposes though, his 2 attack, 2 defense, and 3 hit points makes him a heavy-hitting ally in combat, one that can play a key role in helping Glorfindel take down enemies. This means he’ll mostly be standing during questing, when most threat gain takes place, and then leaping into action during battle.

For my next choice, I am bringing in another Noldor ally in the form of 3 copies of Imladris Stargazer. She provides an absolutely invaluable bit of player deck manipulation, allowing me to look at and re-arrange the top 5 cards of my deck (I can also allow another player to do this as well). Not only is this imladris stargazeruseful in its own right to make sure I grab those cards I need as soon as possible (Light of Valinor, A Test of Will, etc.), but it also is a must-have in order to counteract the lack of card draw for mono-Spirit. While it doesn’t allow me to draw more cards, it does allow me to make sure that I am getting what I need when I need it, which is a big part of why card draw is important in the first place.

Finally, an important part of questing is location management in order to prevent location-lock (the piling up of locations in the staging area), which can lead to defeat if it gets out of hand. I will include a trio of location managing allies that also provide the balance of stats and cost that I need.

* 3 copies of Northern Tracker: I don’t like that he costs 4 resources, because even running mono-sphere, Spirit still finds resources precious without natural resource generation. However, his almost unparalleled ability to manage locations, combined with his Elfhelm levels of combat ability (2 attack, 2 defense, 3 hit points) make his inclusion a no-brainer.

3 copies of West Road Traveller: Oh West Road Traveller, I wish I knew how to quit you. 2 resources for 2 willpower is a bargain I will take all day, and questing is the primary role she plays in this deck. Her ability to switch the active location with one in the staging area can certainly be useful, but I honestly can count the times that I’ve actually used it on one hand. The real reason she is here is for her willpower. At only 1 hit point, she is vulnerable to nasty damage-dealing treacheries, which is an important consideration for certain quests.

3 copies of The Riddermark’s Finest: Sometimes you just need to blast a location into oblivion, and The Riddermark’s Finest can do just that at the cost of sacrificing itself. At only 2 resources, I like the price, and the 1 willpower is at least something. 2 hit points also means that it is a bit more sturdy than the West Road Traveller. One negative about The Riddermark’s Finest is that you have to exhaust and discard to use its ability, not just discard, which means that often you have to hold it out of questing just in case a location pops up that you want to eliminate. The Riddermark’s Finest does work well in conjunction with Northern Tracker, who can put some progress on locations until they are in the 2 progress threshold.

Finally, I round out my deck with 3 copies of Core Gandalf. Over Hill and Under Hill Gandalf is also a tempting choice, as with a low starting threat deck like this, if he pops up early he could serve essentially as a fourth hero. However, I’m going with the Core version to provide some card draw, as well as to provide direct damage and help with combat.

A few almost-includes were Bofur, Westfold Horse-Breaker, and Zigil Miner. I like Bofur’s extra willpower and ability to pop into questing for only 1 resource, but I already have enough questing power. Westfold Horse-Breaker provides readying, but Unexpected Courage would probably be sufficient and I don’t really want another 1 hit point ally hanging around (it would be better if it readied characters and not just heroes). Finally, Zigil Miner could give me some much-needed resource generation, especially in tandem with Imladris Stargazer, but I don’t feel like it is enough to justify his presence instead of one of the other allies.

Here’s the deck list so far:

Hero (3)
Glorfindel (FoS) 
Frodo Baggins (CatC) 
Eowyn (Core) 

Ally (23)
Arwen Undomiel (TWitW) x3
Elfhelm (TDM) x2
Escort from Edoras (AJtR) x3
Imladris Stargazer (FoS) x3
Northern Tracker (Core) x3
The Riddermark’s Finest (THoEM) x3
West Road Traveller (RtM) x3
Gandalf (Core) x3

Attachments

Including Glorfindel means that I need to include Light of Valinor to avoid his forced effect (raising threat by 1 when he exhausts to commit to a quest). It also means that I can benefit from both his willpower and attack strength. While Light of Valinor is unique and I have Imladris Stargazer to fetch it, I’m including 3 copies because it is just that important and extra copies can serve as Eowyn fodder.

Next, I want some card draw for this deck beyond Gandalf, and for Spirit this means Ancient Mathom. Exploring a location with Ancient Mathom attached nets 3 cards, and with high willpower and a ancient mathomcouple of location management tricks, this shouldn’t be too much of an ask. I will include 3 copies for maximum card draw.

I would like to include some form of resource generation, and Miruvor is certainly an option in this regard. However, by including Frodo, I also have the option of Good Meal. While this card doesn’t generate resources per se, by giving a discount on events it saves resources for other uses. Primarily, Good Meal will be used to make The Galadhrim’s Greeting a 1-cost card, but it also makes Light the Beacons a viable option (more on that later).

The second-to-last attachment will be a bit of an unorthodox one, but it plays on the strengths of this deck to provide support of other decks: Song of Earendil. Obviously, if I was playing this deck solo, I would not include this attachment, and would include another in its place (possibly the aforementioned Miruvor). However, playing with another deck, particularly a high-threat one like the mono-Tactics build I will cover in the next Deck Building 101 article, this attachment makes perfect sense. Starting at a low threat and staying at a low threat through Elfhelm, The Galadhrim’s Greeting, and Elrond’s Counsel,  this mono-Spirit deck can use Song of Earendil to lower the threat of another deck. It also provides a small dose of card draw upon entering play. Since this is not an essential attachment, I will only include 2 copies.

Finally, the always necessary Unexpected Courage will round out the attachments portion of this deck to provide readying. I will only use 2 copies, as I only own 2 Core Sets and that is what I normally use as the basis for my builds.

Favor of the Lady, Miruvor, and Thror’s Key are the attachments that missed the cut. Favor provides more willpower boosting, but this deck is already strong in that department. Miruvor is versatile and effective, but I just couldn’t justify it in place of one of the other attachments. Thror’s Key is a great new attachment, but with other location management effects provided by my allies, it seemed an extravagance.

Here’s the updated deck list:

Hero (3)
Glorfindel (FoS) 
Frodo Baggins (CatC) 
Eowyn (Core) 

Ally (23)
Arwen Undomiel (TWitW) x3
Elfhelm (TDM) x2
Escort from Edoras (AJtR) x3
Imladris Stargazer (FoS) x3
Northern Tracker (Core) x3
The Riddermark’s Finest (THoEM) x3
West Road Traveller (RtM) x3
Gandalf (Core) x3

Attachment (13)
Ancient Mathom (AJtR) x3
Good Meal (TRG) x3
Light of Valinor (FoS) x3
Song of Earendil (RtR) x2
Unexpected Courage (Core) x2

Events

So far this deck is rounding out pretty well so far, with willpower boostinglocation management, and readying. It also boasts decent card draw and can handle itself in combat. However, with treachery cancellation and threat management needing some love, it’s time for events to come to the rescue. Here’s the breakdown:

3 copies of A Test of Will: What more needs to be said about this event? It is still the best option for dealing with treacheries in the game (in fact, the only direct option aside from Eleanor). Even better, it can cancel all “when revealed” effects, not just those on treacheries.

3 copies of Elrond’s Counsel: With Glorindel and Arwen in this deck (unique Noldor characters), Elrond’s Counsel is fair game. For free, it can lower my threat by 3 and gives +1 willpower to a character elronds counselas the cherry on top. This is a nice, cheap form of threat management and willpower boosting.

3 copies of The Galadhrim’s Greeting: Already having Elrond’s Counsel in this deck, including The Galadhrim’s Greeting as well might seem like overkill. However, this card allows me to lower another player’s threat or all players’ threat, which Elrond’s Counsel can’t do. With Good Meal, I can play this card for only 1 resource, which is an amazing bargain. Having a few options for keeping my threat low makes Song of Earendil more effective. More importantly, having both Elrond’s Counsel and The Galadhrim’s Greeting means that I can use Frodo’s ability often without having to worry about threat spiraling out of control.

* 3 copies of Hasty Stroke: One thing this deck doesn’t have is a means of canceling shadows. Hasty Stroke provides cover for that weakness.

2 copies of Light the Beacons: Let’s get this straight right away, this card is awesome. It allows all players to defend without exhausting, with a +2 bonus to boot. The problem is that at 5 resources, it is often too expensive to use. However, with Good Meal in the picture, I can play Light the Beacons for only 3. Just imagine Frodo defending all attacks with a defense of 4 (5 with an Arwen buff), having his damage-canceling ability as a back-up. With sentinel from Arwen, he could theoretically block every attack on the board. Needless to say, the tantalizing possibilities of this card made it too hard to exclude.

2 copies of Dwarven Tomb: In the original build of this deck, I included A Watchful Peace over Dwarven Tomb. The reasoning behind this choice was that it allowed me to put a location back on top of the encounter deck, which this deck would be more equipped to handle than a nasty enemy or soul-sucking treachery (even with A Test of Wills around, treacheries can be brutal). However, in practice this just wasn’t all that useful. Instead, I’m including 2 copies of Dwarven Tomb. This allows me to bring back A Test of Will immediately, instead of having to wait to draw another one, maximizing my ability to cancel treacheries. Furthermore, when used in a mono-Spirit deck, this card has almost limitless potential, since it can bring any Spirit card back from the discard pile. A discarded Escort can come back for another ride, an Unexpected Courage that was thrown out by a treachery or shadow effect can be courageous once more, and Light the Beacons can return for another epic moment. For this reason, I feel stupid for not including Dwarven Tomb in the first place.

Now I’ve reached my favorite number of 52 cards. Here’s the final deck list:

Strong in Spirit (Mono-sphere Spirit deck)

Hero (3)
Glorfindel (FoS) 
Frodo Baggins (CatC) 
Eowyn (Core) 

Ally (23)
Arwen Undomiel (TWitW) x3
Elfhelm (TDM) x2
Escort from Edoras (AJtR) x3
Imladris Stargazer (FoS) x3
Northern Tracker (Core) x3
The Riddermark’s Finest (THoEM) x3
West Road Traveller (RtM) x3
Gandalf (Core) x3

Attachment (13)
Ancient Mathom (AJtR) x3
Good Meal (TRG) x3
Light of Valinor (FoS) x3
Song of Earendil (RtR) x2
Unexpected Courage (Core) x2

Event (16)
A Test of Will (Core) x3
A Watchful Peace (HON) x2
Elrond’s Counsel (TWitW) x3
Hasty Stroke (Core) x3
Light the Beacons (HON) x2
The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core) x3

Strategy

I will be looking to get Light of Valinor in my opening hand to minimize threat gain from Glorfindel and allow him to participate in both questing and combat from the first turn. If I don’t draw it right away, I will almost always try to mulligan for it unless I have an amazing hand. The roles for this deck are pretty clear. Eowyn and Glorfindel (once he has Light of Valinor) will quest every turn, with Frodo joining in when able (if there are no enemies in sight, although he can take an undefended attack if I really need his willpower). Frodo does the defending and Glorfindel does the attacking. Unexpected Courage will go onto Frodo to allow him to stand in the way of multiple enemies, while a second copy will probably go to another deck’s hero (Eowyn doesn’t need it and Glorfindel has the Light of Valinor). The threat management cards will aim to keep the threat low, while Song of Earendil can lower the threat of other decks. Treachery cancellation is highly important and because of this, I’m looking to get A Test of Will in my opening hand or as soon as possible, with Imladris Stargazer and Ancient Mathom helping in this process.

Strengths and Weaknesses

The strength of this deck is clearly in questing. With Eowyn, Glorfindel, Escorts from Edoras, and West Road Travellers committing to the quest, willpower should not be a problem. In fact, most of the time the aim of this deck will be to blaze through quest stages as quickly as possible, except in those cases where a slower pace is required. Threat management is also very well taken care of, and it should be a rare game where threat gets out of control. Surprisingly for mono-Spirit, this deck can handle itself in the combat department, with Frodo soaking up attacks and Glorfindel along with Elfhelm and Northern Trackers providing the counter-strikes. Finally, treachery cancellation should be a strength as well with A Test of Will and Dwarven Tomb handling the worst “when revealed” effects.

However, every deck has weaknesses, and this deck is no exception. One of the most glaring is resource generation. While running mono-sphere means that paying for cards will be a bit easier, the lack of resource generation will still mean that hard choices need to be made at times. Another area that this deck is lacking in is healing. While hopefully Frodo can cancel much of the damage thrown at this deck, he is not infallible by any means (there is only 1 of him and he can only use his ability once per turn). When damage does pile up, this deck can’t do much about it. Finally, although this deck is not lacking in attack power, it will struggle to marshal the damage it needs to take out larger enemies or a horde of smaller ones.

Here’s how I assess this deck in terms of abilities:

Resource Generation     ♦◊◊◊

Card Draw     ♦♦◊◊

Treachery Cancellation     ♦♦♦♦

Encounter Deck Manipulation     ◊◊◊◊

Location Management     ♦♦♦◊

Threat Management     ♦♦♦♦

Direct Damage     ◊◊◊◊

Defense/Tanking     ♦♦◊◊

Attack/Hulking     ◊◊◊◊

Healing     ◊◊◊◊

Readying     ♦♦♦♦

Player Deck Manipulation     ♦♦◊◊

Willpower Boosting     ♦♦♦◊

*Just as a caveat, remember that the power of a deck cannot be judged solely in terms of deck abilities, but also in hero composition, consistency, versatility, balance of stats, etc. The above profile simply gives you an idea of what abilities are included, and to what degree.

Final Thoughts

I mentioned in the intro to this article that I find mono-Spirit to be more specialized than mono-Lore or mono-Leadership. This is true, but it also depends on what kind of deck you pair it with, as this affects how it plays and feels. Playing this deck with a mono-Tactics build, for example, will tend to put the burden of questing on its shoulders and make the combat capabilities feel a bit redundant. However, the ability to manage threat and manage other deck’s threat will be welcome. On the other hand, using this mono-Spirit deck with a more balanced deck will bring out its balanced elements. So keep that in mind when building your own mono-sphere decks and pairs. Overall, this is a solid deck that can also be used in pure solo play with a couple of tweaks. In the course of these mono-sphere articles, I hope it has become clear that there is a fine balance to be attained between emphasizing strengths and covering for weaknesses, between specialization and versatility. Stay tuned for the mono-Tactics article coming soon.

With that, talking so much about Spirit, I can’t help but leave you with this gem from my childhood (just try to get it out of your head).

29 Comments
  1. Etienne permalink

    Nice article. Just a reminder that Frodo’s ability is once per phase, not per turn; which makes him even better!

  2. TalesfromtheCards permalink

    Oops, a bit of a typo there. Thanks for that.

  3. gaudyls permalink

    Ouch, i Love Frodo so much and i was misreading that for so much time…, this means he can take damage in form of threat from a treachery and later from an enemy in the combat phase, for example! Great!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yes, it makes him very handy indeed. He’s also great for Lake-Town, if you can get a Fast Hitch or Unexpected Courage on him, as he can block the Smaug that attacks during the quest phase, and then block Smaug again during the combat phase!

  4. I feel spirit is easier to build than the other spheres as there are so many powerhouse cards, starting with the heroes. Harder to be creative with maybe.
    I don’t really find it suprising that tactics and spirt are more specialised then the other spheres. What they do is what needs to be done (questing & fighting). The strengths of the other spheres are more “meta” with card draw & more resources just being good multipliers while other effects like healing deck manipulation & leaderships general buffs make whatever you do work better.

    Its been a great series of articles! though spirit winds me up a bit. I would have Zigil not Escort from Edoras as the resources & filtering are great!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I’m glad you’ve been enjoying them so far! I think your points about Lore and Leadership being more “meta” and the lack of creativity with Spirit are spot on. Although I’ve enjoyed writing about mono-Spirit and play-testing the mono-Spirit and mono-Tactics decks, I found that I had a lot more fun with the mono-Lore and mono-Leadership decks, both in terms of playing and creating them. Maybe that just means I’m more of a “meta”/creative player, but I think it also speaks to the fact that in some ways a mono-Spirit deck builds itself. I did try to throw in some wrinkles, like Good Meal, Light the Beacons, and Song of Earendil, and they do inject some interesting play moments, but at the end of the day there didn’t feel like there were quite as many choices to be made as there was with Lore, for example.

      P.S. I knew the Escort inclusion and Zigil exclusion would bother someone! Hehe.

  5. shipprekk permalink

    I love the Good Meal/Light the Bacon/Arwen/Frodo combo. Never thought of that one before!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I’m looking forward to trying it in one of our next games, Frodo zapping all over the battlefield with his ring, drawing the enemies off!

    • I love lighting up the stove to start frying bacon (you misspelled “Beacons”).

      • TalesfromtheCards permalink

        Mmm, the tastiest of all possible mistakes.

  6. Hey, just wondering when you’d be adding this to the Deck Building 101 page.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Just added! Thanks for the reminder.

  7. Landroval permalink

    I know this is an old post but i am looking for some clarity on Song of Earandil.

    Is it unlimited in its use? i.e. if players quest unsuccessfully and need to raise threat by 4, can player A (Song of Earendil) raise his threat by 8 and player B remain where he is? i.e. is it unlimited or can it only be used for only threat increases of 1 (like at the end of the round)

    I know that Player B’s threat must go all the way up before it can come down.

    Just grateful for an explanation as i am starting to play 2 handed, and this card seems like a must use in a Tactics / Spirit split.

    Thanks

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      As far as I understand it, any time the non-Song of Earendil player raises their threat by any amount, the Song of Earendil player can raise their threat by 1 to take on 1 threat of that amount. It is unlimited in the sense that it can be used in response to multiple instances of threat gain during the course of a turn (threat increase at end of the round, a “doomed” keyword, Boromir using his ability, etc.). However, it is limited in the sense that you can only affect 1 point of any particular instance of threat gain.

      So in the example you cited, where players quest unsuccessfully and need to raise their threat by 4, the Song of Earendil player can raise their threat by 5, while the other player raises their threat by 3 (a 1 point swing), but that is the limit of the effect.

      Note that there is a combo with Wandering Took, though, where you can essentially send that ally back and forth, while using the Song of Earendil, to drop one player’s threat by a bunch while raising another player’s up.

      Hope this helps!

  8. Great article.
    With the release of new expansion packs, will you update those at some point? I’m thinking here of the Ethir Swordsman. For the same amount of resources as the Edoras Escort, you get 2 willpower to use on multiple turns, and with 3 of them, you quest at 9 each turn. They have only 1 hit point so it’s highly possible that they quit the game in a few turns but I think they’re still a nice bargain.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I think eventually at some point, I will release a second version of these mono-sphere decks and articles, probably after the card pool has grown a bit more. The Ethir Swordsman is a fantastic ally, even outside of Outlands decks. Even just 1 of them in play is a great deal, in my opinion.

  9. Phate999 permalink

    “Finally, treachery cancellation should be a strength as well with A Test of Will and Dwarven Tomb handling the worst ‘when revealed’ effects.”

    In your final card list, it appears that you forgot to replace A Watchful Peace with Dwarven Tomb.

    I recently made a pretty cool mono-Spirit deck that featured Zigil + Stargazer, Hidden Stash, and Caldara + Fortune or Fate (using Good Meal on Frodo to help pay or for Hidden Stash + Zigil).

    I features using Caldara to pump out 2 allies (that were probably mined with Zigil) for the cost of 5 or 3. And being able to do it over and over with Dwarven Tomb and A Will of the West. I try to spend all her resources and have her committed to the quest before I discard her. It’s kind of awkward but it nets some cool effects, especially if you can get 2 allies that cost 4 apiece into play at once for 5/3 resources. Also I like to add a couple copies of Emery in. She might dump a Hidden Stash and help me gain 2 resources to play her or add more 4 cost allies to my hand. I mean my discard pile. 🙂

    I works really well paired with a strong mono-Tactics (or Tactics/Leadership) deck and can synergize with Landroval + Caldara if needed.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Oops, thanks for catching that! Mono-Spirit Caldara is my current favorite incarnation of a Spirit deck for all the reasons you mention. Those combos are so fun, and Caldara’s ability itself is entertaining, despite my initial pessimism, and it really adds something to Spirit, which is a bit boring and practical in many ways. You can check out my particular version of the deck, and a more update mono-Spirit build here: https://talesfromthecards.wordpress.com/2014/04/01/surviving-the-fords-of-isen/

      • Phate999 permalink

        Oh sweet! I didn’t see that one that you made. It is almost identical to mine in the allies area. Mine was made for two player in mind (maximum questing power) and yours was for solo it appears. It is a fun deck, very different, yet effective. You don’t even need Fortune or Fate for it to work really, so it has many loopholes. Something I like to have in a deck. I am not a fan of having to have one card or your deck crumbles.

        One thing you pointed out about Eowyn was really cool. I often forget she has the discard for willpower ability. This works perfect to get rid of high cost allies to set up for Caldara.

        I pair this deck with a Hama, Beregond, Dunhere deck. It can kill things in the staging area and rehash 0 or 1 cost Tactic events. I am usually not a fan of events in general because of their one time use. So I don’t add many of them to my decks unless they are game changing. But with Hama, I enjoy adding a lot of them. Also I add Blood of Numenor on Boregond with this build. Can help a lot if you get a point where you are out of cards in your hand and have a ton of resources piled up.

        • TalesfromtheCards permalink

          I like the idea of a Hama/Beregond/Dunhere deck, as I haven’t used that combination yet. Hama definitely adds a new twist to events and opens up some possibilities, even beyond the “Hama lock” (Hama/Feint).

  10. What I have been trying to understand is why people don’t use mono decks more often. I should preface this by reviewing that in the rules it clearly states that you can only pay for a card if it matches THAT SPHERE. So why would you play with three different sphere heroes? That would mean you would only receive 1 resource per sphere per round. That isn’t enough for the vast majority of cards in this game. And isn’t resources like the money in LoTR LCG? I mean you can’t play most cards without enough resources and those cards completely aid your actions (questing, defending or attacking). So why wouldn’t you run a really tight deck in ONE sphere? Usually I run one Spirit and Tactics double-fisted decks and usually my wife runs a Lore deck. This way with a few “song” attachments that helps generate even more resources, just about any and all cards are available to us, thus increasing our chances to beat the game. On a side note; allies seem to be key to this game as well because they generate much more numbers in actions on a consistent basis for your deck. But back to the mono deck issue; Why do people mix spheres when it seems to be a more difficult and a higher percentage of losing? Doesn’t that make your chances of playing more cards more difficult?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Hi Rob, that’s a great question. The answer really is the balance between versatility and efficiency. With a mono-sphere deck, you can get stuff out much more quickly, as you mentioned, and your deck will be at maximum efficiency. The advantage of running two or three spheres is versatility, allowing you to combine the combat of Tactics, for example, with the questing of Spirit. It also allows for combining cards together in a way that you can’t achieve with mono sphere. So both approaches offer something different. Mono sphere used to be a lot weaker, because each sphere didn’t have as many options, but it’s much better now.

  11. 1Q81 permalink

    Maybe not in this deck, but what about 2x Bilbo and 1x Hobbit Pipe. Playing Bilbo would equate to paying 2 resources for a 2 willpower that brings a card drawing mechanic in play.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yeah, I’m a fan of ally Bilbo. I’ll even run a single copy of Bilbo and the Pipe and that works out.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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  4. Frodo Baggins | Master of Lore

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