Decks for The Druadan Forest
Struggling with The Druadan Forest? Tired of your heroes and allies looking more like pin-cushions than heroic adventurers? Feeling woeful after another Woses beat-down? Never fear, I have a prescription just for you! Earlier this week, I shared a couple of decks that had great success against the quests of the Hobbit Saga Expansions. Now, I want to highlight another pair of decks, in this case ones that have performed quite well against the latest scenario, The Druadan Forest.
It is quite appropriate that these decks are both mono-sphere, as this is very much an Adventure Pack that focuses on mono-sphere support. This is true not just because the player cards in the pack directly enhance mono-sphere, but also because the scenario itself is so resource-intensive that it practically encourages you to play mono-sphere (of course, it is perfectly possible to win with dual- or tri-sphere decks). The Druadan Forest provides two main challenges: a whole cart load of archery damage on one hand and resource sapping effects on the other. This points directly to the use of my favorite mono-sphere combination: mono-Lore and mono-Leadership, as the former is the healing sphere and the latter is the resource king. Without further ado, here’s the decks:
Deck #1: Protect Ya Neck (Mono Lore)
Dori (OHaUH) x2
Erebor Hammersmith (Core) x3
Gildor Inglorion (THoEM) x2
Haldir of Lorien (AJtR) x2
Ithilien Tracker (HON) x2
Mirkwood Runner (RtM) x2
Silvan Tracker (TDM) x3
Warden of Healing (TLD) x3
Gandalf (Core) x3
The Strategy: This deck is designed with one primary goal in mind: neutralize the massive archery damage that this quest can dish out. To this end, I included a few different healing options,ensuring that if one option doesn’t present itself, then another one will. Usually however, I’m able to get all of them into play fairly quickly (thanks to some handy card draw options), and archery damage quickly becomes a non-issue. One of the key cards in this deck is Self Preservation, which is quite surprising since I haven’t used this particular attachment for ages. Generally, it is too expensive now that other cheaper and more flexible (not limited to one character) healing options have become available. However, in this quest, it is an absolute star. In general, I throw the first copy across the board to Gloin. This old-school combo finds new life, as Gloin can take the steady supply of archery damage and turn it into resources, the one thing that you need most of in this quest. Even better, since Elrond is in play, Self Preservation can actually heal 3 damage per turn, not the usual 2. Usually, once a second copy of Self Preservation comes up, I’ll actually attach it to an ally, which might seem counter-intuitive but is specifically a strategy to deal with quest stage 2, which requires archery damage to be placed on allies (thus ruling out the use of Gloin or any other hero with Self Preservation attached). It makes sense to choose an ally with at least 3 hit points, and my favorite target has been Ithilien Tracker, since he usually ends up on the table fairly early.
Beyond Self Preservation, this deck relies on a fledgling Silvan synergy for further healing. With Silvan Trackers in play, Silvan characters can heal 2 damage per round when they refresh (thanks to Elrond, who provides the additional 1). This allows Mirlonde, Mirkwood Runners, Haldir, and the Trackers themselves to soak up archery damage without a long-term impact on the game state. Finally, I also included some Wardens of Healing, who serve as the “mop-up crew”, taking care of any damage left behind by the Silvans and Self Preservations. With Elrond in play (yes, him again, his healing boost in this quest is actually quite essential to how it functions), a Warden of Healing can get rid of 2 damage on 2 different characters per turn. This might seem like overkill, but again, I’m looking for multiple healing options and back-up plans, and you’ll need every bit of it in this quest. So, all told, with a Silvan Tracker and Warden of Healing in play, along with copies of Self Preservation on Gloin and Ithilien Tracker, I am able to take 13 (2 on Silvan Tracker + 3 on Gloin + 2 on Ithilien Tracker + 2 on Mirlonde + 4 damage total healed by the Warden) damage and have it healed by the end of the turn! Of course, with further copies of Silvan characters or the Warden of Healing, this ability increases. For quest stage 2, which limits archery damage to allies, this baseline healing capacity is slightly reduced to 8 damage, but this is still usually quite enough, especially since additional Silvan characters can increase this level. Needless to say, this deck effectively addresses archery until you are laughing and snapping your fingers at those Wose arrows. One healing option I didn’t mention was Lore Glorfindel’s ability, which allows for 2 damage to be healed for only 1 resource (again thanks to Elrond). As the game wears on, I usually don’t need to use this ability much, since the other healing effects are quite sufficient, but in the first few rounds, he can be essential to prevent damage from piling up. Go Lorefindel!
As for the rest of the deck, Daeron’s Runes and Mithrandir’s Advice are there for card draw, with the main goal being to bring out the healing effects as quickly as possible. Vilya does make an appearance, but it is actually there more for splashing Spirit than anything else (yes, I could use a song, but I do appreciate the odd use of Vilya now and then when Elrond can spare the action). Once Elrond has his ring, I can pay for A Test of Will and Light of Valinor. The latter gets placed on Elrond to allow him to quest and also defend or use Vilya. Erebor Hammersmith exists to return attachments that have been discarded thanks to Leaves on Tree, which is a nasty treachery that gets rid of all your attachments unless you pay 1 resource for each that you control. Finally, Gildor’s Counsel provides staging relief when it is most needed, and I particularly like to use it during quest stage 3, as mustering defense for siege questing can be tough at times. Before I move on to the next deck, I do want to give a special mention to Ithilien Tracker, as that ally really comes into his own in this quest (as is only appropriate for a forest scenario). Not only does he soak up damage with his hearty bank of 3 hit points and Self Preservation attached, but he also neutralizes threat from enemies during questing. To top it all of though, he can use his ranger trait to help clear the otherwise formidable Overgrown Trail location out of play (ranger characters can exhaust to put 3 progress tokens on that 4 threat, 6 quest points location).
Deck #2: G.R.E.A.M – Gloin Rules Everything Around Me (Mono Leadership)
The Strategy: As the name of this deck suggests, Gloin is the lynchpin and star of the show. With Self Preservation provided by the mono-Lore deck, Gloin can not only help soak up archery damage but also generate resources for the trouble. While the mono-Lore deck takes care of the healing needs of this quest, this mono-Leadership build handles the resource needs. Beyond the Gloin damage engine, resources are also provided by Theodred and Steward of Gondor. This quest is so resource-intensive that I even brought in the relatively new Leadership event from The Steward’s Fear, Gaining Strength, to have that little extra edge, particularly in the early game. The Errand-riders play a part in helping to spread the wealth between heroes, as many of the encounter card and shadow effects are based on how many heroes have at least 1 resource on them. Aside from straight up resource generation and resource transfer, Fili/Kili and A Very Good Tale allow me to pump allies into play quickly without having to pay anything, which can have quite a dramatic impact, especially in the early turns.
This deck is not a one-trick pony, however, as it also shoulders much of the questing responsibility. Cards like Celebrian’s Stone, Faramir, Sneak Attack/Gandalf, and Sword that was Broken all combine to ensure that locations can be cleared out quickly and progress can be made. Even better, while willpower ceases to be useful for questing during stage 3, it doesn’t become useless, as it can be used to incapacitate enemies thanks to the unique combat mechanic that is introduced (using willpower instead of attack). Unlike some mono-Leadership decks, there is also a fair bit of card draw, as Gloin’s inclusion allows for the use of King Under the Mountain, and the ally, Erestor, helps out in this capacity as well. Special mention goes to the Dunedain Watchers who provide a handy safety net against some of the nasty attack-boosting shadow effects. All in all, this deck, as with most mono-Leadership builds, is well-balanced and can handle both combat and questing.
Overall, these decks are adapted to meet the particular needs of The Druadan Forest. I haven’t yet tested them against other quests, but I imagine that they would be successful against quite a few other scenarios. For now though, enjoy your adventures in The Druadan Forest, and feel free to share other decks that you have found useful against this scenario!