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Deck Spotlight: The Seven Rings

by on February 19, 2014

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I’ve always found it remarkable that the Rings of Power in Tolkien’s world are so subtle in their effects. While modern fantasy authors often feature magical artifacts that slap you in the face with flashy effects, such is not the case with The Lord of the Rings.  The Seven Rings given to the Dwarves are a good example of this subtlety. They are known to increase the avarice of the wearer and to help generate wealth, but not much more is said about their powers. Of course, this wealth generating ability tends to also bring about trouble, best exemplified by the madness and capture of Thrain and the coming of Smaug to Erebor.

While I did not consciously set out to create a deck that would mimic the feel of controlling one of the Seven, I did happen upon such a theme in my quest to create a build centering around encounter deck manipulation. Messing with the encounter deck is one of my favorite effects in the game, and while I know that it is not everyone’s cup of tea, I love the feeling of turning the tables on the game and giving it a taste of its own medicine. Usually, players are forced to simply react to what the encounter deck dishes out, but manipulation provides a means of proactively undermining and limiting the nastiness of any given scenario. The problem is that these effects are generally expensive and the Lore sphere, which contains these cards, can have difficulty generating resources. Thus, I set about pairing encounter deck manipulation effects with a resource generation engine all within a single deck. Through happenstance or fate, what I ended up with is a deck that ultimately reflects the risk and dangers, as well as the power, of the Seven Dwarven Rings.

* Note: This deck is primarily intended for multiplayer use.

 

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Theme: Encounter Deck Manipulation, Resource Generation, and Card Draw

Spheres: Leadership/Lore (1/3 Leadership, 2/3 Lore)

Strategy: The strategy of this deck heavily revolves around Gloin and his resource generation ability. Self Preservation is the most gloincrucial card and needs to be drawn early, so I’ll almost always mulligan for it if it’s not in my opening hand. With Self Preservation attached, Gloin can take damage and generate resources each turn (using this deck so far, I’ve managed to use his ability almost every single turn). Bifur’s ability is extremely useful here, as I can use it to pull a resource off of Gloin on turn one and get Self Preservation onto the table as my very first play. This Gloin/Self Preservation resource combination is nothing new. In fact, it’s one of the oldest tricks in the game, dating back to the Core Set itself. While it has largely fallen out of favor since then and been replaced by other resource generation options, it still can work quite well, and cards that have been released since the Core Set have made it even better. It’s actually quite underrated, especially in multiplayer, as it provides an alternative to Steward of Gondor.

Returning to the core combination, once Self Preservation is attached to Gloin, Narvi’s Belt is the next priority. This card is absolutely fantastic within the context of this deck’s strategy, as it allows Gloin to use his store of resources to pay for the Lore encounter deck manipulation events (which is the whole point of the deck), as well as the Tactics attachments (Citadel Plate, Song of Mocking) that are included. A Burning Brand can be usefully attached to Gloin once he has Narvi’s Belt as well (the Belt gives him a Lore icon for a phase, which is all you need to satisfy A Burning Brand’s attaching condition), allowing him to defend without fear of shadow effects boosting an enemy attack (or discarding an attachment), which helps to mitigate some of the original uncertainty of the Gloin engine. In terms of getting damage (and thus resources) onto Gloin, I use a mixture of undefended attacks, defending with Gloin, and Song of Mocking to draw damage from another player’s/deck’s hero. If Narvi’s Belt is belated in showing up, Bifur’s ability provides a perfect back-up option.

Once the resources are being generated, they can be used to pay for the encounter deck manipulation/scrying effects: Gildor’s Counsel,narvi Ravens of the Mountain, Risk Some Light, and Rumour from the Earth. The combination of these cards can be flexibly used to both see what’s coming and avoid the worst of it when needed (further information on potential combos can be found below). Readying effects are necessary in this deck to make the most of effects like Ravens of the Mountain, which requires exhausting a hero, and Beravor’s ability, and this is where Cram (which can be recycled by Erebor Hammersmith) and Erebor Record Keeper come into play. Speaking of Beravor, in this deck she combines well with Daeron’s Runes and Master of the Forge to provide strong card draw. With both resource generation and card draw plentiful, this deck is pretty consistent and doesn’t stall very often, giving you reliable access to encounter deck manipulation and scrying.

Overall, a theme is advanced of managed risk and living on the edge of danger, all in the service of seeking power and mastery over fate itself. This is where the idea of the Seven Rings really comes into stark relief. The Gloin engine can surely bring great wealth, but it can also lead to disaster and death if not handled properly. The manipulation cards, especially Ravens of the Mountain, can bring fantastic rewards, but can also end up as wasted plays, possibly distracting from building up a more substantial foundation. All of this leads to a fun, thematic, and potentially powerful deck, albeit one that is not necessarily for those who are looking for a top tier build. When everything is humming along though, this deck is awesome in multiplayer or two-handed play to fill some key support functions.

How It Was Constructed: Once the initial idea of pairing resource generation with encounter deck manipulation was in place, song of mockingit became clear that this would be a Leadership/Lore build. I decided that I didn’t want to simply run with Steward of Gondor, as that would be too easy, and I wanted to create a multiplayer deck that players could easily bring to almost any game with few modifications. Thus, Gloin called out as a natural solution. From there, many of the key elements fell into place: Narvi’s Belt provided a neat solution for the problem of needing to use Leadership resources for manipulation cards from the Lore sphere, being much more potent than Errand-rider and more flexible than a song; meanwhile, Song of Mocking, Self Preservation, and Citadel Plate all facilitated Gloin’s resource generation.

Knowing that it was best to have 2 Lore heroes, rather than 2 Leadership heroes, in order to best pay for the key cards, I chose Bifur as a perfect companion to Gloin. He has a low threat, strong willpower, and an ability to complement/supplement Narvi’s Belt. For example, Gloin can use Narvi’s Belt during planning for a Tactics resource, but still be able to transfer a resource to the Lore side of the equation using Bifur. Bifur also helps smooth things over until Narvi’s Belt is drawn.

Choosing the third hero was the biggest challenge. I wanted to pick a Lore hero while avoiding those with high threat (such as Elrond) and searching for one with balanced stats (which eliminated Ori) in order to provide a defensive/offensive option to supplement Gloin. This led me straight to Beravor, who also made perfect sense in that she could provide card draw to go along with resource generation. The three heroes together provide a base willpower of 6, which isn’t spectacular, but is competent, and a relatively low threat of 26.

With the heroes and key components in place, the deck took shape as a Dwarf build that doesn’t really function or feel like a typical Dwarf deck. It does, however, feature some key Dwarven allies that have abilities that make perfect sense for the deck’s needs. Erebor Hammersmith can recycle Cram to provide the all-important readying, Dori provides emergency damage soaking in case a Gloin defense goes horribly awry, Miner of the Iron Hills helps add to the theme of dealing with the encounter deck by getting rid of condition attachments, and Longbeard Elder/Longbeard Map-Maker serve as primary questers. Finally, I threw in Well-Equipped as an admittedly risky (but fun) play to get some of those key attachments into play for free. Like using one of the Seven Rings, great wealth can be yours, but only at the risk of ruin (or at least discarding a couple of cards).

Possible Combos:

1) Rumour from the Earth + Ravens of the Mountain: Rumour from the Earth lets you look at the top card of the encounter deck, which rumour from the earthwould be perfect to ensure that Ravens of the Mountain hits every time, except the latter card forces you to shuffle the encounter deck first. However, this little missed opportunity actually opens the way for a fruitful interaction. Sometimes Rumour from the Earth shows you a terrible card in your future, but you have no way of dealing with it or manipulating it. This is where Ravens of the Mountain comes in, as you can use it to shuffle the deck, hopefully removing that card from the top position, and gaining a chance to grab some progress tokens while you’re at it. Rumour from the Earth is a generally flexible and useful card in this deck, as it can be used to peek at a future shadow card as well, or to help against certain mechanics, like the tentacle shenanigans in The Watcher in the Water or certain “tests”. Since resources are generally not an issue, it can continually recycled or simply discarded if further copies are drawn.

2) Risk Some Light + Gildor’s Counsel: Risk Some Light works well in multiplayer as it provides a glimpse at the top 3 cards of the encounter deck, making it analogous to how Rumour of the Earth or Henamarth Riversong function for solo play. Even better, you can put 1 card at the bottom of the encounter deck and reorder the remaining 2 (you can also keep all 3 on top and reorder them as you wish). This is where Gildor’s Counsel has a part to play. While Gildor’s Counsel is powerful on its own, as reducing the number of encounter cards revealed is one of the best effects around, it can also work here to avoid a nasty combination that you have spotted with Risk Some Light. In a two-player game, for example, you could use Risk Some Light, drop the worst card to the bottom of the encounter deck, then put the most palatable card of the 3 on top, with the second worst card just underneath. Using Gildor’s Counsel would allow you to only have to face the top card, sending the second card off to the discard pile as a shadow instead (this assumes combat during the round, which is something you can predict).

3) Erebor Hammersmith + Cram: This one is pretty obvious, but readying is important in this deck to allow Beravor to use her card draw ability as often as possible, and to make sure that Gloin can both defend and attack (or quest). A counterpart option is using Erebor Record Keeper to ready a Dwarf, using Bifur to pull a resource from another player in emergency situations to pay for this effect.

4) Song of Mocking + Citadel Plate + Self Preservation: This combination allows you to use Gloin to soak up damage for a hero across the board, which can be quite useful in multiplayer. This serves two purposes: it helps generate even more resources for Gloin and it takes care of some defensive tasks in a multiplayer environment. You can even use Song of Mocking to allow another player/deck to take an undefended attack, assign the damage to whatever hero you targeted, and then move it to Gloin!

5) Rumour from the Earth + Longbeard Elder (+ Ravens of the Mountain): The Longbeard Elder’s response ability can be a risky maneuver, and I often avoid using it, simply content with making the most of his willpower. However, in this deck you’ll often be looking at the top card of the encounter deck using Rumour from the Earth, and this can allow you to safely use Longbeard Elder’s ability to put extra progress on the quest (or active location). Ravens of the Mountain can add even more extra tokens, and thus I’ve added it here, even though it doesn’t technically combine with the other 2 cards, because there is a light emphasis in this deck on gaining bonus progress. In fact, I’ve always wanted to try out Ravens of the Mountain more extensively and I’m surprised with just how well it works in actual practice. Sure, it can and does whiff completely (by hitting a treachery), but many times it will dump at least 2 or 3 progress tokens on the active location or quest. Since it is an action, you can use it quite flexibly to make up the difference during questing to clear out a pesky location or a crucial quest stage that would otherwise remain in play. Alternatively, you can wait until after the travel phase to potentially explore a location with a troublesome active location effect right after you travel to it! All in all, Ravens of the Mountain is a surprising star player in this deck.

Variations: Since there are quite a few Dwarves included in this deck, Ori is a potential replacement for Beravor. The problem is that he can’t provide cards for other players, which removes some of the support potential from this deck, and he also isn’t as strong defensively. Denethor was a strong contender in the early stages of the conception of this deck, as he adds to the manipulation theme, but I didn’t like his low willpower and duplication of roles (Gloin needs to be the main defender).

Overall, large changes to the sphere or hero configuration of this deck would dramatically transform its character, but there are smallout of the wild variations that are possible in terms of individual cards that could be excluded or included. I originally had 3 copies of Out of the Wild in this deck, but found that it was a step too far and didn’t perform as well as the other encounter deck manipulation effects. However, I definitely would substitute it back in for those quests that feature incredibly brutal encounter cards (Into Ithilien is a prime example), and it could work well together with Risk Some Light. I also liked the idea of including Dwarrowdelf Axe so that Gloin could be better in attack, but other Tactics cards were more important to the core of how the deck functions and combat isn’t really a priority here. Another possible change is to replace Rumour of the Earth with Henamarth Riversong, but I chose the former to avoid unique allies as much as possible (to improve multiplayer compatibility) and because Henamarth is more vulnerable to destruction. Finally, Errand-rider could be included to help this deck share the wealth with other players (if you’re feeling generous).

Final Thoughts: While the upper tier of power is home to a select few decks, there are plenty of opportunities for creative deck building outside of that range. Multiplayer opens up things even more, as decks like the one here can work to fill a valuable support role, enhancing the power of other decks and the ability of players as a whole to tackle the most difficult scenarios. This deck provides an alternative to Secrecy for paying for cards like Risk Some Light (and Out of the Wild) and helps to cement encounter deck manipulation as a viable deck type in its own right. While manipulation effects can safely be left out of your decks altogether, they can provide an enjoyable play-style that is also effective.

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13 Comments
  1. Tonskillitis permalink

    Really interesting deck design. I would definitely go for Ori over Beravor for thematic reasons. I guess as soon as someone else around the table chooses Dain as a starting hero then this deck becomes pretty powerful!

    I’ve always been intrigued with Gloin’s ability since the core set days (and while I’ve investigated the Gloin Engine deck archetype I’ve always found it a bit slow. I think that is the prime problem with most decks with interesting combos is that they take a few turns to set up and not much can beat putting out Arwen and the Light of Valinor on the first turn. then you’ve got a secure 5 wp. I’ve been quite enjoying the lull before Voice of Isengard playing a pair of reasonably successful Hobbit Decks (yes, including Spirit Pippin).

    Decks can certainly be fun and synergistic without being able to tackle top tier quests on their own, though I suspect your Dwarven deck could play an effective role in any quest if partnered with some other strong dwarf characters (or if racial differences could be set aside, Elven archers to help with attacking). Thanks for another fun deck to try out…

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I intentionally left Dain out of my calculations here, but if he was on the table, this deck would definitely get a big boost in terms of raw power. The Gloin engine works surprisingly consistently and quickly here, largely because you can use the Bifur trick to get Self Preservation first turn. If you don’t draw Self Preservation though, things could slow down, although the card draw definitely helps.

      It’s interesting in that this game, because of its cooperative nature, does encourage players to explore and experiment with all kinds of decks, because once you’ve beaten quests with top-tier decks, further enjoyment comes through variety. This contrasts with the common experience of competitive card games where it can often be about focusing on just what will win consistently.

  2. Interesting looking deck. Without questing much or hitting much do you find the manipulation is enough to contribute?

    I expect the ideal partner would be a questy ranged deck – which sounds like tactics/spirit but with the manipulation do you think you could avoid the rather dull Spirit staples for maybe Leadership & more cash to pay for fun Tactics cards & expensive red/purple questers?

    I have was thinking of trying out Gloin as I have not really used him in engine mode & this looks like a very different way to try it, possibly paired with the hobbits.

    Thanks for this 🙂

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Tactics/Spirit would certainly be an ideal partner deck. I’ve been using mostly a Leadership/Spirit deck to complement it, which works well also. The tricky thing is that when playing two-player (or two-handed), the partner deck to this one needs to be good at both questing and combat, which puts quite a bit of pressure on it. It’s really hard to quantify just how much of a contribution the manipulation effects make to overall success.Would I be able to handle what the encounter deck would have thrown at me without manipulation if I just replaced this with a strong combat or questing build? It’s difficult to say. The plays of Gildor’s Counsel especially and Risk Some Light/Ravens of the Mountain usually feel meaningful, and I do think that you could possibly do without Spirit completely, as the manipulation could stand in for cancellation.

      In terms of Gloin, I think the core Gloin/Self Preservation/Narvi’s Belt engine could be transplanted into a bunch of different deck types to provide resource generation.

  3. I was going through my cards during a reorganization session and noticed quite a few oldies that I hadn’t touched in a while; one was Song of Mocking. I forgot how bloody useful that was, especially on Gloin (or Beregond or Frodo).

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I can’t remember ever using Song of Mocking, and so part of the genesis of this deck was also trying to find a role for that card to fill. I do think it would pair really well with Frodo.

  4. Traekos77 permalink

    This is an excellent build that I’m going to try out one day. Building on Gloin + Narvi’s Belt + Self Preservation is awesome. I only have two minor quibbles …
    1. Why have Master of the Forge and Well Equipped in the same build? I’m not enough of a gambler to use Well Equipped without player card scrying. Since you are running Master of the Forge then the risk-reward of Well Equipped seems even less palatable. Did you find the combination complimentary (i.e. you were so confident on finding attachments with Master of the Forge that the Well Equipped risk was minimal) or contradictory (i.e. Master of the Forge was lowering the ratio of attachments to deck size making Well Equipped less likely to be successful and so discarding more Allies/Events)?
    2. Need more Lore Event cards or a way to use them more. I’d probably try to fit in Expecting Mischief, Radagast’s Cunning and/or, Secret Paths. Scroll of Isildur would seem ideal but might be too expensive even with the increased resource generation from Gloin.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      #1 is a good question. Honestly, the thinking behind Well-Equipped was more as an early game play to hopefully accelerate the speed with which I can get the central engine to run. Although I can generate a good amount of resources, being able to drop a 3-cost Self Preservation or 4-cost Citadel Plate for free really helps matters. Of course, it is a big gamble. Because Well-Equipped is meant to be an early game play, it’s not really meant to interact with Master of Forge much. If it shows up later, it may kind of be a dead card unfortunately, although you can always take a shot in the dark.

      As for #2, I agree. The main thing I’ve considered is cutting something (like potentially Well-Equipped) to make room for Scroll of Isildur. Even for 2 resources, I think it would be worth it to recycle Gildor’s Counsel alone.

  5. jamesarthurharrison permalink

    Really cool. I particularly like how with a few changes it can be played with only the first two expansion arc’s.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks! I didn’t do that intentionally, but it was nice to pull out some older cards that I haven’t used for a long time (Narvi’s Belt, Song of Mocking, etc.) that can still work well.

  6. Grathor permalink

    Would Healing Herbs be a good replacement card?

  7. sweetnesswhachacha permalink

    Very interesting deck, cool theme! I’m a lore lover (lorver?), and I agree about the subtlety of the rings power (and magic in general in middle earth )

    I always liked Gloin in the early days, and I’ve been wanting to throw in song of mocking on him for a while. You’ve got some solid combos in here for sure!

    Thanks for the article!

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