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Deck Building 101: Exploring Mono Sphere (Tactics)

by on June 27, 2013

It seems like a few ages of Men has passed since the last installment of Deck Building 101, where I delved into a mono-Spirit deck. Much has changed in the world of Middle-earth since then, but it is now time to bring my mono-Tactics deck from the darkness into the light, finally completing the mono-sphere series. In many ways, I find building a mono-Tactics deck the most difficult of all mono-sphere constructions, not because of a lack of good options, but because of a surplus of them. The choice of heroes alone can dramatically alter the way a mono-Tactics deck is built and plays. For this reason, I feel obligated to state once again that this is not meant to be an optimal, mono-sphere deck to rule over all others from the same sphere. Rather, the intention of these articles is to give players an insight into the deck-building process, and what kinds of considerations are important to keep in mind.

To jog readers’ memories, I constructed this mono-Tactics deck as a counterpart for the mono-Spirit deck featured in this article. A fascinating discovery from play-testing was that the Tactics/Spirit mono deck combination did not perform as well against a broad array of quests as did the Lore/Leadership mono deck combination. However, on the quests that the Tactics/Spirit decks did perform well against, they tended to blow these scenarios away. To put it another way, the Lore/Leadership combo was more well balanced, and provided a chance of success against almost every quest. On the other hand, the Tactics/Spirit pair either cruised to victory or struggled mightily, depending on the scenario. My theory is that the resource generation/card draw focus of the Lore/Leadership decks, which are the two essential deck abilities in this game (to the degree that I included them under The Wizard category here), is what allows them such a broad chance of success.


For now though, let’s bring our attention back to the star of the show: Tactics. This is the sphere, according to the rulebook, that:

…emphasizes a hero’s martial prowess, particularly as it relates to combat and to overcoming other tactical challenges that might confront the players during a quest.

The primary abilities of Tactics in game terms are direct damagedefense/tanking, and attack/hulking. These abilities are all centered around combat and being able to successfully defend against enemies and destroy them. This does mean that this sphere is very specialized, and does not ordinarily contribute towards questing, which makes mono-Tactics a multiplayer, rather than solo option. The introduction of “battle” and “siege” questing in recent expansions has changed this picture somewhat, but not entirely. The extreme specialization of Tactics also means that it is lacking in other important abilities: it has a hard time managing threat, healing is off the menu, and readying effects are in short supply. Still, there are subtle options available for expanding Tactics beyond simple combat expertise.

Initial Deck Planning

As with the mono-Spirit deck, my focus here is on covering for the weaknesses of the sphere, while making sure to highlight the primary strengths of Tactics as well. This contrasts with my approach to building mono-Leadership and mono-Lore decks. Since those spheres tend to be a bit more balanced, I focused a greater amount of attention there on emphasizing strengths, as their weaknesses were not quite as pronounced. In the case of Tactics, I will include direct damage, defense/tanking, and attack/hulking effects to make the most of the red sphere’s orientation towards badassery. A primary focus, however, will be on addressing some key weaknesses, specifically card draw, resource generation, and willpower boosting (more importantly, questing potency in general). I would love to address threat management, but there aren’t really any Tactics options to include this ability, and the mono-Spirit deck will hopefully provide some relief through Song of Earendil. One consideration will be how I can expand the combat prowess of Tactics to assist decks that might be a bit weaker in that department, such as the mono-Spirit deck that has been paired with this one.

Heroes

In my opinion, Tactics has probably the best selection of heroes available. I don’t mean that Tactics heroes are better than all the heroes from other spheres. Rather, what I mean is that when choosing heroes from the Tactics sphere, you have many viable options and don’t necessarily feel like your hero selection is chosen for you because one or two heroes are clearly the best game in town (Spirit Glorfindel, I’m giving you the evil eye!). Making your hero choice for Tactics is not necessarily a matter of pure optimization, but deciding what your general approach to combat will be. Will you be sniping enemies from afar? Are you going to throw an army of cheap allies in front of marauding enemies, leaving a few big sluggers free for attack? Are you going to have a tank or two that will lock down enemies over the long haul? These initial choices will go a long way towards determining the composition of your mono-Tactics deck.

In my case, although I have experimented with many different combat strategies at one time or another, generally I favor a balanced beregond-honapproach, with a clear delineation of roles for my heroes. Because mono-Tactics doesn’t necessarily have a questing hero role (unless you use Thalin), as most decks do, usually the roles I outline roughly fall into the pattern of attacker, defender, and “wildcard” (rather than the usual attacker, defender, and quester roles). The wildcard can either be a hero with balanced stats, who can contribute in any area (Bard and Gimli are good examples), or an extra attacker or defender with a special ability.

To start off my deck, I will lock down the defender role. It is a bit surprising that Tactics doesn’t have a ton of defensive options as far as heroes are concerned. However, this is compensated for by the fact that Tactics has great defensive allies, like Winged Guardian and Defender of Rammas, that can serve this purpose instead. However, for this deck, I have something different in mind, and I do want a hero that will serve as my tank. I could use Beorn, who despite having a low defense of 1, can defend without exhausting and absorb quite a few attacks without dying thanks to his 10 hit points. However, in this case, I want a longer-term solution. Boromir, Gimli, Bard, and Brand can all serve competently in this role, with 2 defense, but all are also better suited for an attacking role.

Therefore, my choice inevitably sets on Beregond, the king of defending heroes in the post-Heirs of Numenor card pool. With his defense of 4, sentinel keyword, and low-cost or free access to defense/tanking attachments, such as Gondorian Shield and Citadel Plate, Beregond is a peerless defender. My first hero choice completed, I have a solid first-line defensive strategy in place.

Next, I want to include a strong attacking hero. Here, the options for Tactics are much more extensive. For this deck, I have decided to run hamawith Hama. My choice here is mainly driven by two desires. First, Hama will allow me to maximize the use of valuable Tactics events, such as Feint and Hands Upon the Bow, as well as the lock-down option provided by Thicket of Spears, which is only available in a mono-Tactics environment (or with songs, I suppose). Here, my deck is drifting towards a strong focus on defense/tanking, which may seem like overkill, but remember that I am building this deck in order to provide cover for a deck that is weak in terms of combat. The second motivation behind choosing Hama is that he has a relatively low starting threat (especially for Tactics) of 9. With two heroes down, my starting threat is a respectable 19, and knowing that I will be lacking in threat management effects, this is a strong consideration during my hero selection process.

For my final hero, I will choose Legolas to fill the wildcard role. Despite there being other appropriate options, he fits the bill for several reasons. First, he provides a means of compensating for a lack of willpower boosting and questing power by providing progress tokens through the destruction of enemies. This will be the main means of addressing one of the primary weaknesses of a mono-Tactics deck. Second, he has the ranged keyword, which will allow this deck to provide attacking, as well as defensive, support to another deck. It also allows for the use of Hands Upon the Bow, which can be recycled by Hama. Third, his starting threat of 9 will start my deck off at a total of 29, which is decent for Tactics.

With my hero choice complete, this deck is already beginning to take shape. It will be able to lock down enemies through Beregond and the use of events, while Hama and Legolas by themselves can provide a base attack of 6. Contribution to questing will be accomplished mainly through Legolas’ ability, and providing protection for the other deck so that it can quest to its heart’s content.

Allies

With heroes out of the way, it’s time to pick some allies. My first consideration is whether there are any Tactics allies available that can cover for the weaknesses of mono-Tactics. Unfortunately, there aren’t currently any options available for card draw or resource generation. However, there are a couple of ways to address the issue of willpower boosting and questing power.

First up, I will include 2 copies of the Tactics version of Bofur. Mainly, this is because he provides 2 willpower for 3 resources, which is an absolute steal for Tactics. Fierce artwork notwithstanding, his role in this deck will mainly be to provide questing support. However, his attack of 2 can also prove essential in helping the heroes to defeat tougher enemies, and he can fetch weapon attachments as well. I am including 2 copies instead of 3 because this ally is unique.

Next, I will bring in 2 copies of the Eagles of the Misty Mountains. These eagles start off with 2 willpower, but at an initial cost of 4, 1 higher than Bofur, they are a bit tougher to get into play than the Dwarf. However, they are another means of providing willpower boosting and questing support to the deck. Another benefit is that if I include some of the disposable Eagle allies, like Vassal of the Windlord and Winged Guardian, they will boost the Eagles of the Misty Mountains’ attack or defense when they go out of play. This provides additional attack/hulking and defense/tanking power to the deck. I am only including 2 copies, as even though this ally is not unique, it has a relatively high cost of 4.

With some thought given to address Tactics’ weakness, it is now time to round out the allies portion of the deck with characters who will emphasize the strengths.

To provide an additional defense/tanking option, I will include 3 copies of the Defender of Rammas. With 1 or 2 of these in play, together with Beregond, I should be able to safely defend against several enemies at once. Since I may use Beregond and his sentinel keyword to defend for the other deck in times of need, the Defender of Rammas can step up to the plate and defend for this deck in his absence. This ally is also absurdly useful for siege questing.

3 copies of Gondorian Spearman will bring direct damage into the deck, which so far hasn’t come into play. While their 1 defense makes them prone to being easily destroyed and a possible use for them is as chump blockers with teeth, the presence of truly strong defenders (Beregond, Defender of Rammas) allow me to strategically deploy the Gondorian Spearman in defense only when they will survive the attack or when an enemy is 1 damage away from destruction. Since I know that I will probably be including Spear of the Citadel, which works fantastically with Beregond, this gives me further incentive to include Gondorian Spearman, as they can (quite appropriately) use the Spears as well to inflict 1 extra damage each time they defend (for a total of 2). Their low-cost is also an attractive aspect of this ally, and when they are not needed in defense, sometimes even a lone point of attack from a free character is the difference between destroying an enemy and leaving it in play for the next round. Don’t forget that the Gondorian Spearman also has sentinel, which further enhances the ability of this deck to defend for others.

Next up, I will choose to include 3 copies each of the disposable attacking/defending Eagles, Vassal of the Windlord and Winged Guardian. This choice was pretty much predestined by my earlier selection of Eagles of the Misty Mountains, as I will want to make the most of that card’s stat-boosting ability. As a dirt cheap 1-cost ally, I usually always make space for the Vassal. Its 3 attack can certainly make a huge difference in clearing out enemies from play more quickly, even if it has to be discarded after a single use (think about it this way, wouldn’t you pay 1 resource for an event that boosts a character’s attack by 3 for one combat phase?). Beyond that, it can also serve as a cheap chump blocker in desperate circumstances (although in this deck, that shouldn’t be a big concern). Finally, the Vassal is an absolute beast during battle questing, as it is the equivalent of a 1 cost, 3 willpower ally during a traditional quest stage. The Winged Guardian’s stellar 4 defense is perhaps not as impressive in a deck that includes a super-Beregond and the Defender of Rammas, yet it still has a part to play in pumping up the Eagles of the Misty Mountains. Furthermore, against the toughest quests, can you ever really have too many defenders? This ally will also be yet another character in this deck with the sentinel keyword, and, as with the Defender of Rammas, is invaluable during siege questing.

At this point, I am already making a pretty strong commitment to Eagles, so it makes sense to include a favorite ally of mine, the Descendant of Thorondor. As with the other eagles, it can help to boost the Eagles of the Misty Mountains when it goes out of play. Even better, the Descendant brings in some more direct damage to complement the Gondorian Spearman. In the ideal scenario, it could pop into play, deal 2 damage to an enemy in the staging area, and then when that enemy comes down to engage with this deck, a Gondorian Spearman armed with a Spear of the Citadel can declare as a defender and deal an additional 2 damage. If the enemy only has 4 hit points or less, this combo could fell an enemy before it even has a chance to swing. With 2 attack, the Descendant can also join in conventional attacks, while dealing further damage when I strategically decide to sacrifice it for the greater good. However, since it is a more expensive option at a cost of 4, I will only include 2 copies.

At this point, I have included 18 allies. I only want to choose one more ally at this point (plus Gandalf), because I’m pretty happy with what I have so far, and want to leave room for attachments and events. If I have space, I can come back later and add some more.

There are a few possibilities left at this point. Since I’ve already included a couple of allies that are 4-cost, I really want to avoid selecting another one. This means I will automatically eliminate the more expensive allies (i.e. Veteran of Nanduhirion, Beorning Beekeeper, etc.) from consideration. I also need to be clear about what I need and what I am strong in. At this point, I already have superb defensive characters, so I will not be looking to add any more (this eliminates Watcher of the Bruinen, for example). So what I am searching for is a cheap ally who can help with attack. The choices come down to Veteran Axehand, Trollshaw Scout, and Horseback Archer (Erebor Battlemaster is out, as I don’t have enough Dwarves to really take advantage of his trait-based attack/hulking ability). The Trollshaw Scout provides 2 attack for 2 resources, and has the ranged ability, not to mention he doesn’t need to exhaust to attack. However, he burns a card with each attack if you want to keep him in play, which gives me pause in a mono-Tactics deck, which will likely be weak in card draw. The Horseback Archer also provides 2 attack and ranged, without having to discard cards, but he costs 1 resource more. The Veteran Axehand, on the other hand, provides 2 attack for 1 less resource than the Horseback Archer, but I don’t get ranged. Taking all of this into account, I choose 3 copies of Veteran Axehand, as Legolas and Vassal of the Windlord should provide enough ranged, while the difference between a 2-cost and 3-cost ally is hugely significant, especially for a sphere without much resource generation.

Finally, I will include the core version of Gandalf to cover for some of the threat management and card draw needs of this deck.

With that final choice made, the deck looks like this so far:

Hero (3)
Hama (TLD) x1
Beregond (HON) x1
Legolas (Core) x1

Ally (24)
Bofur (OHaUH) x2
Defender of Rammas (HON) x3
Gondorian Spearman (Core) x3
Vassal of the Windlord (TDM) x3
Winged Guardian (THfG) x3
Veteran Axehand (Core) x3
Descendant of Thorondor (THoEM) x2
Eagles of the Misty Mountains (RtM) x2
Gandalf (Core) x3

Note: What about neutral allies, you may ask? The White Tower Watchman is a possibility but feels superfluous in this deck, especially for a cost of 3, while the Envoy of Pelargir was tempting, but I ultimately favored extra attack power via the Axehand.

Attachments

With allies out of the way and 24 cards accounted for, attachments are up to bat next. Since this is Tactics we’re talking about, it’s time to break out some weapons and armor!

In many ways, the attachments for this deck pick themselves. I’ll show you what I mean.

With Beregond able to attach it for free, and with the Gondorian Spearman able to make great use of it, the Spear of the Citadel demands inclusion. Since this deck is so good at defending, it only makes sense to be able to inflict some direct damage simultaneously. I’ll include 3 copies to get it into play as quickly as possible and allow for multiple characters to make use of it.

Next, the Gondorian Shield is another auto-include. Again, Beregond can attach it for free, and it transforms him into a a practically impervious wall (leaving aside a few nasty shadow effects) with 6 defense.  Although I might be able to get away with only 2 copies, since Beregond will be the only character to really make great use of it, I’ll go with 3 because I really want to see it in play within the first few rounds. Any additional Shields can be placed on Hama or Legolas for emergency defending purposes or burned to fund Hama’s event recycling.

Beregond isn’t the only hero who demands toys. For Legolas, I will throw in 3 copies of the Blade of Gondolin. The Rivendell Blade is certainly an option, and can transform Legolas into a giant-killer, but ultimately I want to emphasize his ability of providing questing support through combat, thus further covering for that particular deck weakness. With a couple of Blades of Gondolin attached, Legolas can provide 4 progress tokens every time he destroys an enemy (as well as gaining a nice bonus against Orcs).

Mono-Tactics provides one primary means of resource generation, and that’s the Horn of Gondor. I thus have no hesitation about including this attachment, especially in a deck with Eagles that will be constantly leaving play. I only include 2 copies as it is unique, and I am only building with 2 Core Sets.

Finally, with 3 different Eagle allies included in the deck, I will fit in 3 copies of Support of the Eagles. Throw this on Legolas or Hama and they can leverage a Vassal of the Windlord for a decimating attack of 6. Give it to Beregond (as if he needs it), and he can boost all the way up to 10 defense, with the Shield and a Winged Guardian in play! Support of the Eagles is thus more potent than most of the other possible weapon and armor attachments that I could include, though it does need some setting up to be effective.

With 14 cards worth of attachments, and not much left that catches my eye, this is the deck so far:

Hero (3)
Hama (TLD) x1
Beregond (HON) x1
Legolas (Core) x1

Ally (24)
Bofur (OHaUH) x2
Defender of Rammas (HON) x3
Gondorian Spearman (Core) x3
Vassal of the Windlord (TDM) x3
Winged Guardian (THfG) x3
Veteran Axehand (Core) x3
Descendant of Thorondor (THoEM) x2
Eagles of the Misty Mountains (RtM) x2
Gandalf (Core) x3

Attachment (14)
Gondorian Shield (TSF) x3
Blade of Gondolin (Core) x3
Horn of Gondor (Core) x2
Spear of the Citadel (HON) x3
Support of the Eagles (RtM) x3

Events

This deck looks set to perform well in combat, with abundant attack/hulking and defense/tanking options, as well as direct damage effects. Willpower boosting and questing power has been addressed through the Legolas/Blade of Gondolin engine, while resource generation will be covered by the Horn of Gondor. Card draw is an area that needs some further attention, especially with Hama’s ability needing card fodder to function.

To that end, I will immediately gravitate towards Foe-hammer. When this card was released, it was an answer to the prayers of Tactics players everywhere, who were desperate for any card draw help. This event does have some conditions to satisfy, as you must have a weapon in play to exhaust, and you must destroy an enemy with the hero holding that weapon to activate this power (on the other hand, it doesn’t use up any resources). However, the pay-off of 3 cards is considerable and well worth the effort. I will include 3 copies for maximum usage.

With card draw taken care of, the rest of the events are as follows:

3 copies of Feint: It’s hard for me to imagine a Tactics deck that doesn’t include Feint, although this one might come close to doing without considering its defensive strength. Still, I have never been disappointed when a Feint shows up in my hand, and I doubt I ever will. It negates any danger posed by shadow effects for that one particular attack, and can be used to assist other players as well. Also, an enemy that doesn’t attack means one less character that needs to be used in defense and potentially one more body for attack (even Beregond’s lone point of attack can come in handy in certain situations).

3 copies of Goblin-cleaver: This is another fantastic 0-cost Tactics event from the Over Hill and Under Hill expansion. I will include Goblin-cleaver to add some extra direct damage. Once Beregond has his Spear of the Citadel, he can easily exhaust it to play this event and deal 2 damage to an enemy engaged with this deck. Added on to the damage done by the Spear itself, this can often be enough to outright destroy an enemy or severely wound it.

3 copies of Hands Upon the Bow: Having a ranged hero in the form of Legolas means that I will be drawn to Hands Upon the Bow like a moth to the flame (or maybe like a moth to Gandalf in trouble?). There is absolutely no good reason to leave out this fantastic 1-cost event that allows Legolas (or even the Vassal for that matter) to attack an enemy in the staging area with a +1 boost to his attack. This can be used to destroy an enemy after staging and before resolution, helping with questing and destroying an enemy before it can ever engage and mount an attack (this is particularly useful for those enemies with harmful effects that activate when they engage with a player). Note that Support of the Eagles can be used to boost Legolas’ attack further when making this attack, allowing him to destroy even bigger enemies in one fell swoop. Even if he can’t outright kill a foe, Hans Upon the Bow still may be useful to bring it down to 1 or 2 hit points, just enough for a Gondorian Spearman to kill it off with a well-placed defensive thrust.

2 copies of Thicket of Spears: Since I’ve included Hama, and this is a mono-Tactics deck, I feel obligated to include the intriguing option of Thicket of Spears. With this event, I can prevent all enemies engaged with this deck or another deck from attacking for a whole combat phase. The next time Hama attacks (or during some future attack), he can recycle Thicket of Spears back into my hand. This is the classic (or infamous, depending on your point of view) Hama-lock where enemies are perpetually unable to attack, totally nullifying shadow effects as well. I don’t imagine that I will be using the Hama-lock too much, as it is resource intensive and I have plenty of other defensive avenues, but it is nice to have the option available. As such, I’ll include 2 copies. If I truly don’t need it, I can discard it to bring another, more useful card back via Hama, and then fetch it later if I need it.

Note 1: Don’t forget that all of these events can be recycled by Hama whenever he attacks, as long as I discard another card afterwards. This allows for maximum use of these effects.

Note 2: There is a small rules wrinkle in the newest FAQ regarding Thicket of Spears. On the card, it says it prevents all enemies engaged with a player from attacking at all. According to the errata, it now prevents all enemies engaged with a player from attacking the player they are engaged with (meaning they can still attack other players, if they are able to). This is a small difference, only affecting those enemies who engage with multiple players, with Durin’s Bane being the most notable example.

With my favorite number of 52 cards reached (although I am gravitating more towards strict 50 card decks recently), it is time to display my final deck list:

Strong Walls and Diving Eagles (Mono-sphere Tactics deck)

Hero (3)
Hama (TLD) x1
Beregond (HON) x1
Legolas (Core) x1

Ally (24)
Bofur (OHaUH) x2
Defender of Rammas (HON) x3
Gondorian Spearman (Core) x3
Vassal of the Windlord (TDM) x3
Winged Guardian (THfG) x3
Veteran Axehand (Core) x3
Descendant of Thorondor (THoEM) x2
Eagles of the Misty Mountains (RtM) x2
Gandalf (Core) x3

Attachment (14)
Gondorian Shield (TSF) x3
Blade of Gondolin (Core) x3
Horn of Gondor (Core) x2
Spear of the Citadel (HON) x3
Support of the Eagles (RtM) x3

Event (14)
Feint (Core) x3
Foe-hammer (OHaUH) x3
Goblin-cleaver (OHaUH) x3
Hands Upon the Bow (SaF) x3
Thicket of Spears (Core) x2

Strategy

In general, I am looking to build Beregond up to a defensive powerhouse as quickly as possible. Therefore, if there is one card that I am looking for in my opening hand, it is probably Gondorian Shield. However, if I have a strong collection of cards, I probably won’t mulligan for it. It is important to get weapons into play within the first few rounds, meaning either the Spear of the Citadel or Blade of Gondolin, in order to power the card draw provided by Foe-hammer. Bofur can use his ability to fetch these weapons if the deck is not being cooperative. If I can get Support of the Eagles attached to Legolas fairly early, then I will try to keep one copy of Vassal of Windlord in play as long as possible. The overall strategy of this deck is to hold the heroes and allies back from questing while the other deck handles this responsibility (however, if Bofur and the Eagles of the Misty Mountains are in play, they can be committed to the quest). In return, this deck will take on the majority of enemies and handle combat duties. Legolas will destroy enemies whenever possible to generate progress, while Hama will recycle events when necessary. If a surplus of enemies threatens to overwhelm players at any point, this deck will aim to engage as many as possible and lock them down using Thicket of Spears and/or Feint.

Strengths and Weaknesses

The strength of this deck is combat, plain and simple. Both attack/hulking and defense/tanking are quite well taken care of. For the former, Legolas + Support of the Eagles + Vassal of the Windlord is a particularly effective combination. For the latter, Beregond + Gondorian Shield is amazing. This build also brings strong direct damage effects to the table, with Descendant of Thorondor, Gondorian Spearman, Spear of the Citadel, and Goblin-cleaver able to combine in a variety of ways to dispatch enemies quickly, sometimes even without the need to directly attack them. This deck also provides some moderate card draw through Foe-hammer, and moderate resource generation through the Horn of Gondor.

With such an intensive combat specialization, however, it is no surprise that there are glaring weaknesses in this deck. Despite the presence of Legolas and a couple of 2-willpower allies, willpower boosting and questing power is not a strong point, and this deck will struggle to contribute in that department, leaving other decks to pick up the slack. Even more glaring is the lack of threat management, and this is probably the biggest weakness of this build. Gandalf is the only option available to lower this deck’s threat, and it will have the biggest problems against quests with plenty of threat-boosting effects. Healing is also nowhere to be found, which means that if damage does happen to slip by, it’s permanent. However, with strong defensive characters, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue, although archery and direct damage from treacheries can be problematic.

Overall, this is a deck with one specific purpose in mind: dealing with enemies. It doesn’t do much to help in other areas, but hopefully taking on the lion’s share of combat responsibilities can leave another deck free to carry the players through questing and provide support abilities. This does raise the question of whether it is better to have a pair of heavily specialized decks or a pair of well-balanced decks. I’ll leave the readers to debate that issue in the comments.

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

Out of all the mono-sphere decks that I have covered in this Deckbuilding 101 series, this mono-Tactics build is the least suitable for pure solo play. It can, however, provide a powerful counterpart to another deck in two-handed play, or several decks in a multiplayer game. Keep in mind though, that it needs to be paired with a deck that is extremely strong in the realm of willpower boosting and general questing, such as the mono-Spirit build outlined in the previous mono-sphere article. The recently released Tactics event, Trained for War, can allow this deck to turn any quest stage into a battle stage, which could facilitate questing, but this may hamper the efforts of a traditional willpower-oriented build, creating a possible Catch 22. One aspect of this deck that must be stressed is that it is a blast to play and relatively easy for a newcomer to pick up and play. Laughing at enemies as they swat futilely at your characters is quite enjoyable, as is riddling them with arrows and spears until they collapse in defeat.

 

With that said, the mono-sphere portion of the broader Deck Building 101 series is complete. However, this is only the beginning. Despite my great love for mono-sphere construction, I am looking forward to moving onto other areas of deck-building. With that in mind, I would greatly appreciate reader feedback as to where you would like to see this series go next. What Deck Building 101 concepts would you like to see explored in greater depth? What do you think yourself or newer players would benefit from reading about when it comes to deck building for this game? Please sound off in the comments below!

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25 Comments
  1. scwont permalink

    Great read, as always. The mono-Tactics landscape will receive an interesting twist shortly, when Theoden is released.

    I’d replace a card (probably one of the Descendants of Thorondor) for a 3rd copy of Eagles of the Misty Mountains myself. 2 willpower is gold for a Tactics deck, and he can get huge pretty quickly, and this gets even more powerful if you can get Support of the Eagles out at the same time.

    It’s also worth mentioning the Achilles heel of Legolas/Blade of Gondolin, which is that they need a steady stream of enemies. It’s less of a concern in 2+ player where a mono-Tactics deck will normally be engaging as many of the available enemies as possible anyway, but there is a risk of location lock if the encounter deck decides to throw lots of locations rather than enemies at you; Legolas/Blade can do nothing against locations in the staging area. Pairing it with mono-Spirit should help in that regard of course.

    As for possible next steps in the series, one possibility is to expand on your Core Set deckbuilding and explore what new possibilities open up depending on what you buy next after the Core set. For simplicity’s sake you could assume the player invests in a particular cycle, e.g.:

    Core + Mirkwood cycle
    Core + Khazad-Dum + Dwarrowdelf cycle
    Core + Hobbit saga expansions
    Core + Heirs of Numenor + Against the Shadow cycle

    Alternatively you could focus on specific aspects of deckbuilding – perhaps more Deckbuilding 201, but anyway: general concepts like redundancy (i.e. multiple ways to access key cards or effects), or more LotR-specific topics like the various ways you can factor the effect of unique characters/attachments into your deckbuilding.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks for the suggestions! I do like the idea of doing the Core Set + expansion/cycle articles, as I know that’s something that many players are looking for.

  2. Landroval permalink

    An eagle deck without radagast? Sacrilege!

    Wow. This is virtually identical to the two-handed Tactics decks i just built (Beregond, Legolas, Hama / Eleanor, Glorfindel (sp), Eowyn).

    I adore the eagles cards, but they are just so problematic in solo play (hi cost, low willpower) you really do need to pair up with another deck in order to beat anything.

    Beregond + Gondor Shield is epic.

    Thanks for you clarification on Song of Earendil btw – very helpful.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Glad it was helpful.

      I know, poor Radagast didn’t make the cut, there’s room for only 1 Istari in my deck! Actually, his willpower is quite useful, and he does serve as a form of resource generation, once you overcome the initial cost. I could see including him here, but the thought of two 5-cost allies floating around in the deck stopped me.

      • Landroval permalink

        I am contemplating a two handed tactics deck (Thalin, Gimli, Bard / Beorn, Legolas, Hama) that is driven by Trained for War. I am intending to have dwarves on the left side and eagles on the other.

        I imagine that willpower of c.20 can be achieved within a few rounds, as long as TFW can come out early, hama can keep recycling it.

        Legolas will take care of killing and chump blocks/beorn can defend.

        I’ll let you know if it works!

      • Landroval permalink

        One other thing:

        Meneldor’s Flight and To the Eyrie

        Are you aware of a combo of any real value that cards can achieve?

        I know there is descendent of thorondor effects, and to the eyrie could be used to get some more use out of gandalf (core) – although it’s hard to find 8 damage attacks that would kill him

        I have never found any use whatsoever for these cards

        Thanks

      • TalesfromtheCards permalink

        I would love to hear about your two-handed Tactics/Trained for War decks, and how they perform. I love these kind of innovative deck types. Even if they fail spectacularly, it’s still a lot of fun to experiment. The success really will depend on how early you can get Trained for War into play. Are you going to splash in any other spheres using songs?

        Regarding Meneldor’s Flight, I have never found a use for it, even in my most Eagle-centric decks. The main use would be the one you already mentioned (Descendant of Thorondor). Other than that, it can be used to activate effects that trigger when characters leave play (Horn of Gondor, Prince Imrahil, etc.), but it doesn’t add enough value to justify the deck space. To the Eyrie is also one I hardly ever use, mainly because of its high cost of 2. I suppose it can be used to get your most valuable allies back into play as quickly as possible, and can be used to recycle Descendant of Thorondor. If you’re running a deck with only a few allies, or allies that have beneficial “when revealed” effects (ally version of Bifur and Gloin spring to mind) then it might be worth, but there’s so many better ways to do it.

      • Landroval permalink

        I think i actually found a use for Meneldor’s flight:

        In We Must Away ‘Ere Break Of Day, i can play Eagle Allies for the sacks, and use meneldor’s flight to take them back in my hand and discard the sack…

        quite pleased about that little discovery!

      • TalesfromtheCards permalink

        Oooh, I like that!

  3. Tiandes permalink

    For the Heirs quests, a tactics mono-solo deck can easily succeed.

    For now, it’s pretty much the only mono-spehere deck for solo play that can achieve success on regular basis, but sadly just for those quests.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I think that’s one of the reasons why I really enjoy Heirs of Numenor so much, it changed up so much of what we take for granted in the game, including the futility of using mono-Tactics in pure solo play.

  4. legolas18 permalink

    I think one aspect of deckbuilding that would be useful to discuss would be two handed play, where one deck is made of two spheres and the second is made of the other two spheres. That’s how I usually play, I don’t know if a lot of others do or not. Great article by the way, I always like seeing how other people design their decks.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Good suggestion. I predominantly play two-handed, with the odd pure solo game with one deck sprinkled in here and there. Perhaps focusing specifically on how to build decks that work together and include all 4 spheres could be useful.

  5. Fieryseraph permalink

    After reading your deckbuilding articles on draw and healing and scrying, I’d love to read one on “ramping” effects as well!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Great suggestion. That’s definitely one of the candidates for the next article in the series, so you might see one soon!

  6. juicebox permalink

    Hi Tales,

    First, thanks for your excellent blog and well thought out deck suggestions.

    I’ve been a player of this game from day one, though I’ve been out of the loop for several months now, continuing to pick up the new card expansions with very little time to play.

    Well, it might be the New Year talking (Happy 2014), but I have some buddies I would very much like to introduce to this game.

    Specifically, I’d like to try a 4 player game, and I’m wondering about the idea of using all 4 of these mono-sphere decks that you’ve designed together. (I have 2 copies of the core set and everything else to date.) With my card pool, I think I’d only be one core Gandalf card short.

    In any case, have you tried this? Would you recommend this? Or do you have any other suggestions/ideas for playing a 4 player game using 4 mono-sphere decks?

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on these things.

    Appreciatively,

    juicebox

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Hi juicebox, thanks for your kind words and I’m glad you enjoy the blog. While I haven’t had the opportunity to play a four-player game using these decks, I have used various combinations of them in two-player games, and they are designed to work together. I think going mono-sphere for a 4-player game makes perfect sense, especially for introducing new players to the game, and these decks should work well together, especially since each player can feel like they are taking on a different part of the game. If you do try it, let me know how it goes!

      • juicebox permalink

        Thanks! Sounds great! I’ve never tried a 4 player game before (3 has been my max up to this point), but I really want to give it a go. I will use these 4 decks then (aiming for an FFG LOTR LCG game day with some buddies later this month or early February), and I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes. Thanks again for putting together such thoughtful deck lists.

        And if I’m a core Gandalf short, any suggestions on which deck to alter?

        • TalesfromtheCards permalink

          I would say the two decks that are most in need of Gandalf are Tactics (for card draw and threat reduction) and Leadership (to make use of Sneak Attack). So I would probably alter either the Lore or Spirit deck.

      • juicebox permalink

        Oops, just realized that if I go with these four monosphere decks as they are, there would be two versions of Glorfindel. Did you ever run into that if/when combining the Spirit and Lore decks? Any suggestions? I can try other options on my own, but why not consult the master builder, eh?

        • TalesfromtheCards permalink

          You flatter me, sir! I have indeed run into that issue. Fortunately, a few new Lore heroes have emerged since I wrote the article, and so you have a couple of options. One is to replace Lore Glorfindel with Mirlonde, which will compromise that deck’s attack capability a tad, but will give it a nice, low threat. Alternatively, you can sub in Faramir, who is actually probably an upgrade over Lorfindel. Either way, you’ll want to keep Spirit Glorfindel in the Spirit deck, as he’s too good to replace.

  7. juicebox permalink

    Okay, yesterday was the big day! A four player romp through Middle Earth, using your four fine monosphere decks. I was the only one with FFG LOTR LCG experience, though my three companions were all experienced gamers. Fun was had by all.

    We played two games, one to learn the ropes and the second to have ourselves a true challenge.

    The first game we played Passage Through Mirkwood, as I wanted them to get a feel for the flow of the phases, game mechanics, and cards. It was a smashing success. Literally, we absolutely destroyed the quest. But the game served it’s purpose, and the stage was set for something bigger.

    The second game we took on Massing at Osgiliath. I know, right!?!? Talk about going from zero to sixty. It was tremendously fun, and we worked our way all the way to the fourth stage, did some serious damage to the Witch King, and had a very fun time in general before going down in flames due, primarily, to high threat. One more round, and we would have tasted victory. We were so close. As it was, three players (my three companions playing Leadership, Tactics, and Lore) all exceeded 50 threat in the same questing phase due to some brutal doom action from the encounter deck. I (playing Spirit) was not able to make the needed progress to finish the game and was immediately crushed by the remaining enemies. Game over. It was an epic defeat, nearly as compelling as the sweetness of victory.

    Threat management was really our biggest problem. As it turned out, all three copies of my Galadhrim’s Greetings ended up being buried in my deck, and none of my companions played Gandalf – not even once – to help manage their own threat. Part of that may have been lousy card draw. Part of it was likely just due to inexperience (not yet knowing the importance of threat management). So, that was our downfall, which fit perfectly from a thematic narrative perspective.

    Most importantly, we had a ton of fun, and all three of my friends said they would enjoy playing again. So, in my book, that’s victory enough.

    Thanks again Tales for your fine deck recommendations. We had a blast taking them for a spin.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      This is really awesome! Thanks for sharing your experience, and it’s really gratifying to hear that the decks worked to introduce new players to the game (and make them enjoy it, rather than get intimidated by it). Reaching the last stage of Massing with new players is no small feat.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Deck: Three Kings, a Queen, and a Prince | Hall of Beorn
  2. Guest Spotlight: Trained For War – Unlocking the Potential of the Tactics Sphere | Tales from the Cards

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