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Surviving The Fords of Isen

by on April 1, 2014

enedwaith supposition random.ai

The Voice of Isengard has been out for a few weeks now and many players have had the chance to get to grip with these new quests. I’ve had the chance to pit a variety of decks against Dunlendings, Orcs, and Huorns, while trying the scenarios out with everything from one player to four players. I wanted to share a play experience of The Fords of Isen at some point, as its card draw hate mechanics are quite unique, but I couldn’t decide what kind of deck I wanted to use for this session report. Finally, I settled on using a mono-Spirit Caldara deck for a few reasons. One, I haven’t yet shared my version of this deck. Two, I’m really enjoying the new “discard draw” deck type. Three, it is a good choice to use for a pure solo play session, as I decided to take a break from my preferred two-handed playstyle and provide a one deck view of The Fords of Isen. How will Caldara and company fare against the wrathful Dunlendings? Read on to to find out!

The Fords of Isen has 3 quest stages, each of which uses traditional willpower questing. This scenario mostly focuses around “hand hate”, meaning harmful effects that are tied to the number of cards in one’s hand, and the new Time mechanic. While this is not the toughest quest around, especially if you adhere to some basic strategies, it can be tricky to deal with if you get unlucky draws along the way.

Part 1 – General Strategies

1) Get Cards Out Of Your Hand

The first rule of The Fords of Isen is you don’t talk about The Fords of Isen…Only joking, readers, the real first rule of this quest is to get cards out of your hand as quickly as possible. Many encounter cards have effects that trigger depending on if you have either 3 or 5 cards in your hand. A perfect example of this is the Dunland Prowler, which gains an extra point of threat if you have 5 or more cards in your hand, but gains surge if you have 3 or more cards in your hand.

Dunland-Prowler

Avoiding surge is enough of an incentive to seek to drop your hand to the “magic number” of 2 cards or fewer as quickly as possible. How do you accomplish this?

– Take advantage of card effects that allow you to discard cards from your hand. Eowyn is perfect for this, as is Protector of Lorien. The Trollshaw Scout and Watcher of the Bruinen from the Tactics sphere are also strong options. Cards that allow you to discard cards but draw to replace them, like Erestor, are not as good but at least give you the potential of replacing an unplayable card with something that you can actually play.

– Play cards whenever you can. Don’t worry about saving up or worrying about those other considerations you might normally take into account. “Just play it” is your new motto. To aid in this endeavor, include low-cost cards when possible, as well as resource generation to increase the rate at which you can pay for cards.

– Get used to making do with a small hand. Card draw is normally your friend but it is your enemy here, so build a lean, consistent deck with no fat and don’t rely on a strategy that relies on drawing a large portion of your cards. Keep in mind that there are moments where drawing cards is possible and useful, specifically when your hand size is low and you feel confident in bringing it back down again even if you draw. Card draw is also possible when there are no effects in play that trigger off of card draw.

2) Pile On The Willpower

The Time mechanic can punish you, but it’s really a race against the ability of the encounter deck to pile on enemies that matters here. Of the three Time punishments, the first one is pretty hard to trigger, with 5 time counters and only 6 progress needed for the stage, while the second can usually be managed if you’ve adhered to point #1. It is the third stage Time effect, however, that can ruin your day if it dumps enemies into play when you need to clear the board to win the scenario (although again, if you clear out your hand, this becomes a non-issue). Loading up on willpower allows you to blow through the quest stages more quickly, while being able to deal with effects like the threat-boosting ability of The Islet.

3) Kill Enemies As They Show Up

As mentioned in the last entry, the third quest stage requires all enemies to be destroyed before the quest can be won. However, each new quest stage dumps in another enemy per player, in addition to any that are revealed during the normal course of the game. This means that one of the real keys to victory here is being able to kill enemies as they arise. This is not a quest where you want to let enemies sit in the staging area, as they will eventually build up and make it difficult to whittle them down again, keeping in mind the extra enemies that are added when you advance to each new stage. Thus, you should include enough easily accessible attack power (meaning attack options that you don’t need a ton of card draw to access) that you will be able to kill most enemies in one turn. The good news is that the majority of the enemies in this scenario only need 5-6 total attack strength to kill (need more proof why Eomer is awesome?), with the exception of the Dunland Chieftain (9 attack needed) and Dunland Raider (8 attack needed).

Part 2 – The Deck

This deck is designed around the “discard draw” archetype, which is the idea of using your discard pile as a source of cards and resources. My first (and still favorite) build along these lines was the Aule’s Pride deck. This one, by contrast, is a mono-Spirit built around Caldara and her ability. I basically took my existing mono-Spirit deck and stripped out some parts to replace it with the Caldara/recycling pieces. Keep in mind that I had built this deck earlier and decided to take it “as-is” into The Fords of Isen, which may explain weird choices like the inclusion of Ancient Mathom. I was particularly interested to see how this deck would fare against a quest that hates on hand size, as it seems perfectly suited to tackle it, considering that it relies on grabbing cards from the discard pile and playing cards quickly rather than drawing cards from the deck.

caldara

Hero (3)
Caldara (TBoG) x1
Glorfindel (FoS) x1
Eowyn (Core) x1

This is a variation on my favorite mono-Spirit trio, replacing Frodo with Caldara in this case. Eowyn is the quester as usual, but can also constantly get cards into the discard pile. Glorfindel brings the attack power (and questing). Caldara can contribute to questing, but usually will play a defensive role or even attack if need be (1 attack is low, but can make the difference in some cases). Most importantly, Caldara can use her ability to bring 2 high-cost allies into play from the discard pile for free, with Fortune or Fate being used to bring her back afterwards.

Ally (23)
Damrod (HoN) x1
Emery (TBoG) x3
Elfhelm (TDM) x1
Pelargir Shipwright (AoO) x3
Eomund (CatC) x1
Arwen Undomiel (TWitW) x2
Ethir Swordsman (TSF) x3
Imladris Stargazer (FoS) x3
Zigil Miner (KD) x3
Northern Tracker (Core) x3

I’ve cut out some of the mainstays of my usual mono-Spirit deck, like Escort from Edoras, West Road Traveller, and Silvan Refugee, to make room for some of the “discard draw” shenanigans. Specifically, the Zigil Miner/Imladris Stargazer combination will help to generate resources to pay for Fortune or Fate, which will be needed to resurrect Caldara after she uses her ability, but is quite expensive. This resource engine is one of the few options mono-Spirit has, but it does have the advantage of being fun (in its errata’d form). It should also be mentioned that Zigil Miner is a useful, cheap ally with 1 point of willpower and 1 point of attack to pitch into questing or combat as needed. I’ve also included single copies of some expensive allies, such as Damrod, Eomund, and Elfhelm, to serve as potential targets for Caldara’s ability. The hope is that they will be discarded through Emery or Zigil Miner, the two primary generators of discard, but I’m only including single copies because I don’t want them to clog up my hand. I should still have more than enough questing power through Ethir Swordsman, Arwen, and Pelargir Shipwright to blow away questing. The unsung hero, but real star, of this deck, and many decks, is Emery. She is free for mono-Spirit, can defend well (especially with Arwen’s help), and helps to discard cards.

Attachment (11)
Light of Valinor (FoS) x3
Unexpected Courage (Core) x2
Silver Lamp (VoI) x3
Ancient Mathom (AJtR) x3

Beyond the obvious use of Light of Valinor, Unexpected Courage can allow Caldara to both quest and defend, although it’s important to be careful with attaching anything to her, as she will be discarded during the course of most games. It can alternatively be placed on Glorfindel for multiple attacks or on other player’s heroes in a multiplayer game. I often like including Thror’s Key to deal with harmful locations, but I’ve replaced it with the new card, Silver Lamp, as it will be great to have the knowledge I need to protect fragile defenders like Emery and Caldara. Ancient Mathom is mostly useless for this quest, but, as previously mentioned,  I’ve kept the existing deck build intact for this quest, so it will be mostly used as discard fodder for Eowyn. If you want to optimize this deck for The Fords of Isen, remove Ancient Mathom and replace it with something more useful.

Event (18)
Hasty Stroke (Core) x3
Dwarven Tomb (Core) x2
Elrond’s Counsel (TWitW) x3
Will of the West (Core) x2
A Test of Will (Core) x3
Hidden Cache (TMV) x3
Fortune or Fate (Core) x2

The usual Spirit suspects are here: A Test of Will, Hasty Stroke, and Elrond’s Counsel. Fortune or Fate is a key card to bring back Caldara after she uses her ability (note that I’ve only included 2 copies, because I tend to limit myself to only the cards I actually have in my collection, even when I play online, otherwise 3 copies would be a must here). Dwarven Tomb adds to the recycling theme and may be most useful to get more uses out of Fortune or Fate, although it can always bring back A Test of Will as well. Since so many cards are discarded from the deck over the course of the game, Will of the West helps to reset things, especially if too many valuable cards, or all the copies of an important card, are discarded. I’ve considered including Stand and Fight to add even more to the “discard draw” fun, but haven’t yet tried it out. Finally, Hidden Cache is one of my favorite cards around, as nothing beats the “jackpot” feeling of hitting upon some hidden resources!

Overall Strategy:

The two most important cards to see early are Light of Valinor (of course) and Fortune or Fate. Questing power should not be a problem, while Glorfindel together with the allies handles combat. The main defenders are either Caldara or Emery (with the help of Arwen’s boost), along with using allies as chumps. The Zigil Miners will go mining with or without the Stargazer, in order to get cards into the discard pile and hopefully generate resources when possible. When Fortune or Fate and 5 resources have been collected, I will discard Caldara to bring in 2 strong allies that have been hopefully discarded by that point. Fortune or Fate will bring Caldara immediately back, and the whole process begins again. I really like how this deck works and feel that Caldara’s ability is much better than I originally gave it credit for, as even though you may only net 3 resources or so (the cost of the allies you’re getting for free minus the cost of Fortune or Fate), this adds up over the course of the game and can be flexibly used at any point during the turn. Also, Caldara herself has low threat and balanced stats.

For another player’s take on this deck type, check out Tracker 1’s version here.

Part 3 – Session Report

This session was played solo, with the deck described above. 

Set-up

Starting Threat – 22

Starting Hand: Emery, Light of Valinor, Pelargir Shipwright, Northern Tracker, Ancient Mathom, Zigil Miner

Thoughts: Anytime I draw Light of Valinor in a Glorfindel deck, I’m pretty much guaranteed to keep a hand. It also helps that I have an extremely strong quester (Pelargir Shipwright), a useful free ally (Emery), and some potential resource generation/discard generation through Zigil Miner. Overall, very pleased with this opening draw.

ENCOUNTER DECK SET-UP

Card 1 – The Islet (with Grima attached) (1 threat, 1 quest point): This location is placed in the staging area by the first quest card, with the Grima objective attached to it. It only has 1 threat and 1 quest point, which is great, but it must be cleared to advance to the next stage (because you must have Grima to pass, who is “guarded” by the location). The only tricky aspect of The Islet is that it boosts the threat of all Dunland enemies by 1 while it is the active location.

Card 2 – Dunland Tribesman (37 engagement cost, 0 threat, 4 attack, 2 defense, 3 hit points): The quest card then instructs each player to choose a different Dunland enemy and add it to the staging area. There’s an art to choosing which Dunland enemy to face, with positives and negatives to each, but here I’ll choose the Dunland Tribesman. In a 1-player game, he’ll usually only have 1 threat per turn, barring any other card draw, and has a high engagement cost, so that I can handle him at my leisure. When it does come time to fight, he hits hard but goes down easy.

Dunland-Tribesman

Thoughts: With only 2 threat in the staging area to start the game, and using a deck with a ton of questing power, I should be able to get an early jump on the quest.

ROUND 1 (2 threat in staging area, 0/6 progress on 1B, 5 time counters remaining, 0 victory points, Active Location – None)

Staging Area – The Islet, Dunland Tribesman

DECK PREPARATION – 22 Threat

Resources: Glorfindel – 1, Eowyn – 1, Caldara – 1

Draw: Arwen Undomiel

New Hand: Emery, Light of Valinor, Pelargir Shipwright, Northern Tracker, Ancient Mathom, Zigil Miner, Arwen Undomiel

Planning: I will get the party started by paying a resource from Glorfindel to attach Light of Valinor to himself. My priority here is to get as many cards out of my hand as quickly as possible, so paying or what I can play now, rather than saving up, is the order of the day. Since Emery is free, I will play her, discarding another copy of Arwen Undomiel, along with Imladris Stargazer, and…Hidden Cache! This is fantastic and confirms my love for Hidden Cache yet again. I will place the 2 resources from the Cache on Eowyn and immediately use them to play Arwen Undomiel. Finally, I will get one more card out of my hand, and get the discard engine running, by playing Zigil Miner. I’m down to only 3 cards in my hand, which puts me in a great position to control my destiny.

Resources After Planning: Glorfindel – 0, Eowyn – 0, Caldara – 0

hidden cache

QUESTING:

Committing Characters: I will commit Glorfindel (3 willpower), Arwen Undomiel (2 willpower), and Eowyn (4 willpower). Arwen will boost Caldara’s defense to 3. I will also use Eowyn’s ability to discard Ancient Mathom, which isn’t really needed because it’s a card draw effect, to boost her willpower by 1. More importantly, this gets my hand size down to 2 cards, which prevents effects like the surge on Dunland Prowler from triggering. In total, I have 10 willpower committed to the quest against 2 in the staging area.

Staging:

Card 1 – Dunland Beserker (25 engagement cost, 2 threat, 2 attack, 1 defense, 4 hit points): This guy can be nasty if you don’t kill him as soon as he engages, as then he can attack at least twice per turn (once during the resource phase when you draw a card). Fortunately though, he’s pretty weak in combat.

Resolution:

10 willpower against 4 threat nets 6 progress. I have already met the progress requirement for 1B, but need to rescue Grima at The Islet before I can continue.

TRAVEL:

With the willpower I have available and momentum on my side, I see no reason not to travel to The Islet, despite its ability to boost enemy threat.

ENCOUNTER:

Neither enemy needs to come down, but I want to keep the staging area clear and, more importantly,  prevent a build-up of enemies. The final stage requires the board to be clear of foes in order to win, so I need to kill them off as they emerge, otherwise I run the risk of getting stuck in an eternal cycle of Dunlendings. Thus, I will engage the Dunland Beserker, since it has low attack and I can kill it.

COMBAT:

Enemy Attack:

I will use Caldara to defend against the Beserker. The shadow card is Dunlending Bandit, which boosts its attack to 3. Fortunately, Caldara has had her defense boosted by Arwen, so there is no damage. If I would have had 3 cards in my hand, Caldara would have had to take a damage, as the Beserker would have been at 4 attack.

Player Attack:

Glorfindel (3 attack), Emery (1 attack), and Zigil Miner (1 attack) combine for a total of 5 attack strength. This is enough to destroy the Beserker (5 attack – 1 defense = 4 damage).

ROUND 2 (2 threat in staging area, 6/6 progress on 1B, 4 time counters remaining, 0 victory points, Active Location – The Islet [0/1 quest point])

Staging Area – Dunland Tribesman

DECK PREPARATION – 23 Threat

Resources: Glorfindel – 1, Eowyn – 1, Caldara – 1

Draw: Light of Valinor

New Hand: Pelargir Shipwright, Northern Tracker, Light of Valinor

Planning: Another Light of Valinor doesn’t help much, but it at least serves as perfect discard fodder for Eowyn and keeping my hand size low. I will pay 3 resources to put out the Pelargir Shipwright, as he is a questing powerhouse.

Resources After Planning: Glorfindel – 0, Eowyn – 0, Caldara – 0

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

I will commit Glorfindel (3 willpower), Eowyn (4 willpower), and Arwen (2 willpower), for a total of 9 willpower. I don’t need much more than this, as I’ve already met the progress requirement of the stage, but do want to benefit from Arwen’s defense boost, which will be applied to Emery. Why Emery and not Caldara? In the first turn, I wanted to use Caldara to defend to preserve my fragile ally line-up. However, now with Pelargir Shipwright on the table, I feel more confident in my position even if Emery were to be somehow destroyed by a shadow effect. Finally, I discard Light of Valinor to boost Eowyn, taking my total to 10, and leaving me with only 1 card in hand.

Staging:

Card 1Fords of Isen ( 3 threat, 4 quest points): This is possibly the most annoying location in the quest. While this deck isn’t dependent on gaining resources from effects, this location would neuter things like Zigil Miner and Hidden Cache. More importantly, its 3 threat is substantial.

Fords-of-Isen

Resolution:

My 10 willpower against 5 threat in the staging area is more than enough to clear out The Islet, which is sent to the victory display. Slimy little Grima now comes under my control. (Or do I come under his control? Discuss.) Now having Grima, I advance to stage 2 and must bring out a Dunland enemy. I will choose a Dunland Beserker, as I plan to take it out with a single swing just as I did last turn.

TRAVEL:

I really hate to suffer the travel requirement of Fords of Isen, which pushes my hand back up to 5, but I feel confident in being able to get my hand back down quickly, and I don’t want to keep having to stomach that 3 threat turn after turn. It also will be nice to see if I can draw some useful cards in the process. Thus, I travel to Fords of Isen, drawing Hasty Stroke, Light of Valinor, Will of the West, Northern Tracker. This isn’t the best draw, in terms of immediate utility, but I should be able to work with it.

ENCOUNTER:

Once again, I will take on a weaker Beserker and leave the Tribesman to stew.

COMBAT:

Enemy Attack:

Emery, with her boosted defense of 3, will defend against the Beserker. The shadow card is another copy of Fords of Isen, which has no effect. Emery emerges unscathed. Did I mention how much I love Emery?

Player Attack:

I will attack with Glorfindel (3 attack), Caldara (1 attack), Pelargir Shipwright (1 attack), and Grima (1 attack), for a total of 6 attack. This is more than enough to dispatch the Beserker (6 attack – 1 defense = 5 damage).

Not needing the Zigil Miner’s services for combat, I will send him digging, choosing 2 cost as my guess. I discard Pelargir Shipwright and Northern Tracker, missing on both.

ROUND 3 (1 threat in staging area, 0/14 progress on 2B, 1 time counter remaining, 1 victory point, Active Location – Fords of Isen [0/4 quest points])

Staging Area – Dunland Tribesman

DECK PREPARATION – 24 Threat

Resources: Glorfindel – 1, Eowyn – 1, Caldara – 1

Draw: Unexpected Courage

New Hand: Northern Tracker, Hasty Stroke, Light of Valinor, Will of the West, Northern Tracker, Unexpected Courage

Planning: My priority here is to get my hand back down to 2 as quickly as possible. Thus, I will make the odd move of playing Will of the West. Normally, I would save this card until close to the end of the game, when I need to bring needed cards back into my deck that have been discarded through Emery and Zigil Miner. However, in this case, I am playing it simply to get it out of my hand and for no other reason. This does take away allies that can be brought back with Caldara’s ability, but since Fortune or Fate hasn’t shown up yet, this is a moot point. Thus, I play Will of the West, shuffle my discard pile into my deck, and discard Will of the West. I’ll then play the only other card I can, which is Unexpected Courage, placed it on Glorfindel. Eowyn doesn’t need it, and Caldara may be discarded later, while Glorfindel could use it to attack twice of possibly even defend in an emergency. I have 4 cards in my hand, but will get down to 3 during questing.

Resources After Planning: Glorfindel – 0, Eowyn – 0, Caldara – 0

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

This stage is a lot more demanding in terms of progress, so I will send the big guns out, committing Eowyn (4 willpower), Arwen (2 willpower, Emery’s defense is boosted by 1), Glorfindel (3 willpower), and Pelargir Shipwright (3 willpower), for a total of 12. I will also discard Northern Tracker to boost Eowyn up to 5 and take my hand down to 3. Why Northern Tracker and not the duplicate Light of Valinor? The idea is to provide potential fodder for Caldara’s ability, while the Light of Valinor may come in handy if one of those attachment-hating shadow effects pops up. My total of 13 goes up against 1 threat in the staging area.

Staging:

Card 1 – Pillaging and Burning: This treachery forces me to draw 1 card and then raise my threat by the number of cards in my hand. In one way, this is annoying, as it goes against my attempts to get down to 2 cards, but it isn’t the worst draw in the world, as my threat is low and not pulling an enemy or location means I will make more progress. I draw Hidden Cache, taking my hand up to 4, thus raising my threat up to 28.

Resolution:

My total of 13 willpower goes against 2 threat in the staging area (the Tribesman gets an extra point of threat because Pillaging and Burning made me draw a card). I make 11 progress. 4 tokens clear out Fords of Isen, while the remaining 7 go on stage 2B.

TRAVEL:

There are no locations in play.

ENCOUNTER:

With no other enemies in sight, it’s time to finally put paid to the Dunland Tribesman’s thoughts of revenge. Clearing the board of enemies will put me in the driver’s seat for stage 3, which requires all enemies to be destroyed for victory to be achieved. Thus, I will engaged the Tribesman.

COMBAT:

Enemy Attack:

I exhaust Emery to defend against the Tribesman. The shadow card is Dunland Raider, which forces an attachment to be discarded. I could get rid of Light of Valinor, since I have another copy in hand, but this would require paying a resource. Instead, I’ll just get rid of Unexpected Courage, which is surplus to requirements. Emery takes 1 damage (4 attack – 3 defense = 1 damage), leaving her with 1 hit point left.

Player Attack:

I will attack with Glorfindel (3 attack), Caldara (1 attack), and Grima (1 attack), which is enough to destroy the Tribesman (5 attack – 2 defense = 3 damage).

Once again, I will send the Zigil Miner digging, guessing 2 as the cost. I discard Pelargir Shipwright and Elrond’s Counsel, missing once more, but adding another strong ally to the discard pile for Caldara to resurrect later (hopefully).

REFRESH:

The last time counter is removed from stage 2, which deals 4 damage (1 for each card in my hand). I will assign 2 to the Pelargir Shipwright (1 hit point remaining), 1 to Grima (2 hit points remaining), and 1 to Arwen (1 hit point remaining). One of the reasons why I love the Shipwright so much is that he’s so useful as a damage soak, in addition to questing.

ROUND 4 (0 threat in staging area, 7/14 progress on 2B, 2 time counters remaining, 1 victory point, Active Location – None)

Staging Area – None

DECK PREPARATION – 29 Threat

Resources: Glorfindel – 1, Eowyn – 1, Caldara – 1

Draw: Zigil Miner

New Hand: Hasty Stroke, Light of Valinor, Northern Tracker, Hidden Cache, Zigil Miner

Planning: I will pay 2 from Glorfindel and Eowyn to put another Zigil Miner on the table. My only real other option here is to use Hidden Cache’s draw ability to see if I can replace it with something more useful. I’ll pay my last resource on Caldara and use Hidden Cache to draw another Northern Tracker. This leaves me at a hand size of 4.

Resources After Planning: Glorfindel – 0, Eowyn – 0, Caldara – 0

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

I will commit Eowyn (4 willpower), Glorfindel (3 willpower), Pelargir Shipwright (3 willpower), and Arwen (2 willpower) to the quest. This should give me more than enough willpower to advance to the next stage with the board being completely clear. I will discard Northern Tracker to boost Eowyn by 1 and drop my hand size to 3, while Arwen will boost Emery once more. I should have enough characters left back to take out any enemies that emerge. In total, I have 13 willpower committed to the quest against 0 in the staging area.

Staging:

Card 1Gap of Rohan (2 threat, 3 quest points): This location boosts the attack strength of enemies while it is in the staging area. However, with no active location in the way, I’ll be able to immediately travel to it and neutralize the effect. I’m also happy that no enemy was drawn here, as it looks like smooth sailing ahead. I’ll have to pull out an enemy when I advance to the next stage, so it’ll be nice to only have to deal with one new enemy, not two.

Gap-of-Rohan

 Resolution:

My 13 willpower against 2 threat yields 11 progress, which is more than enough to clear the stage. I advance to stage 3, and choose to put a Beserker into play.

TRAVEL:

I will travel to the Gap of Rohan, as there is no real reason to leave it in the staging and every reason to clear it out.

ENCOUNTER:

I will engage the Dunland Beserker, seeking to keep the board clear of enemies.

COMBAT:

Enemy Attack: 

Emery will defend against the Beserker. The shadow card is Dunland Prowler, which has no effect. Emery takes no damage. Is it too soon to mention again how much I love Emery?

Player Attack:

Caldara (1 attack), Glorfindel (3 attack), and Grima (1 attack) destroy the Beserker (5 attack – 1 defense = 4 damage).

Both Zigil Miners will whistle while they work and attempt to find me some preciousss gems. I know we’re in the midst of a raging battle, but a miner’s work is never done. I will guess 2-cost for both attempts, because I have to hit at some point, right? The first Zigil misses, discarding Emery and Ancient Mathom. The second Zigil, however, hits the jackpot, discarding Hidden Cache and Will of the West, thus striking gold with the Cache, if not with his effect. I’ll drop the 2 resources on Glorfindel.

ROUND 5 (0 threat in staging area, 0/16 progress on 3B, 2 time counters remaining, 1 victory point, Active Location – Gap of Rohan [0/3 quest points])

Staging Area – None

DECK PREPARATION – 30 Threat

Resources: Glorfindel – 3, Eowyn – 1, Caldara – 1

Draw: Fortune or Fate

New Hand: Hasty Stroke, Light of Valinor, Northern Tracker, Fortune or Fate

Planning: I’m so overjoyed that I drew Fortune or Fate, as this means I can pull off Caldara’s parlor trick at least once before the game ends. This could be crucial if I end up drawing a tough enemy like the Dunland Chieftain and need extra support to defeat him. However, this also means I’ll need all 5 resources, so I won’t be able to play anything now, holding steady with 4 cards in my hand.

Resources After Planning: Glorfindel – 3, Eowyn – 1, Caldara – 1

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

I will send my usual complement of Eowyn (4 willpower), Arwen (2 willpower), Glorfindel (3 willpower), and Pelargir Shipwright (3 willpower), for a total of 12. I’ll discard Light of Valinor to boost Eowyn by 1, taking my hand down to 3 cards. Arwen will increase Emery’s defense to 3. In total, I have 13 willpower against 0 in the staging area. I could commit everyone and try to clear the stage now, but I want to hold people back for combat so that I can kill any enemy that shows up, keeping the board clear for the victory condition.

Staging:

Card 1The King’s Road (2 threat, 2 quest points): This location is pretty much a non-issue, as I don’t have 5 cards in  hand (and would travel to it anyway), and the extra 3 quest points shouldn’t make too much of a difference.

Resolution:

My 13 willpower against 2 threat in the staging area leads to 11 progress, with 3 going on the Gap of Rohan to explore it, and 8 going on 3B. Not having drawn an enemy, I can potentially win the quest next turn if I don’t pull an enemy during staging. Even if I do, I should be able to dispatch it.

TRAVEL:

I will travel to The King’s Road.

ENCOUNTER:

There are no enemies in play.

COMBAT:

There are no enemies in play. I could use Caldara’s ability here (or anytime really), but I will save the resources in case I need them for something even more influential next turn.

It’s also that time again: mining time! I will exhaust both Zigil Miners, guessing 2-cost once more. The fist Zigil discards Unexpected Courage and Elrond’s Counsel, yielding 1 resource for Eowyn. The second Zigil, however, continues to steal his fellow miner’s thunder, discarding Ethir Swordsman and Imladris Stargazer to grab 2 resources for Glorfindel.

* Note: With an Imladris Stargazer  in the discard pile now, it may have been interesting to pop Caldara immediately to bring in the Stargazer and maybe a Northern Tracker. I could’ve used the Stargazer at the beginning of next turn to allow the 2 Zigil Miners to hit for 3 or 4 resources. However, I chose here to stay the course.

ROUND 6 (0 threat in staging area, 8/16 progress on 3B, 1 time counter remaining, 1 victory point, Active Location – The King’s Road [0/5 quest points])

Staging Area – None

DECK PREPARATION – 31 Threat

Resources: Glorfindel – 5, Eowyn – 2, Caldara – 2

Draw: Hasty Stroke

New Hand: Hasty Stroke, Northern Tracker, Fortune or Fate, Hasty Stroke

Planning: With my bonanza of resources, I can play Northern Tracker AND still have enough left over for Fortune or Fate later. I will do exactly that, making sure to spend Caldara’s 2 resources, in case I discard her this turn. This leaves me with 3 cards in my hand.

Resources After Planning: Glorfindel – 5, Eowyn – 0, Caldara – 0

QUESTING:

Committing Characters:

I will commit Eowyn (4 willpower), Glorfindel (3 willpower), Arwen (2 willpower), Pelargir Shipwright (3 willpower), and Grima (2 willpower), for a total of 14. I will also discard a copy of Hasty Stroke to boost Eowyn by 1, as I probably won’t need both with the game coming to a close soon. This takes me down to the magic number of 2 cards in my hand, which takes away the extra 3 quest points from The King’s Road in the active location spot. I’m adding Grima in this time to make sure that I clear the quest this turn and hopefully win. Time will run out at the end of the round, which could potentially bring in new enemies, as I would have to discard the top 2 cards (the size of my hand), putting any discarded enemies into play. This could potentially ruin everything. As it is, I’m committing 15 willpower against 0 threat in the staging area. Arwen will boost Caldara’s defense this turn, because if an enemy shows up, I plan on using her to defend before triggering her ability.

Staging:

Card 1 – Dunlending Bandit (33 engagement cost, 2 threat, 1 attack, 2 defense, 4 hit points): Mr. Loincloth himself has made an appearance, spoiling the fun, as I would have been able to win right now if an enemy didn’t show up. Oh well, I’m glad to have the chance to have one last battle.

Dunlending-Bandit

Resolution:

I have 15 willpower against 2 threat in the staging area. This yields 13 progress, with 2 going on the active location, and the remaining 11 going on the quest stage. Once the board is clear of enemies, I will win the game.

TRAVEL:

There are no locations in play.

ENCOUNTER:

I will engage the Dunlending Bandit.

COMBAT:

Enemy Attack:

Caldara will defend against the Bandit, who is swinging for 3 because of the 2 cards in my hand. I always have a Hasty Stroke in hand if the shadow effect is too nasty. The shadow is Gap of Rohan, which boosts the Bandit’s attack to 4. Caldara takes 1 damage (4 attack – 3 defense = 1 damage). I will then discard Caldara to bring Northern Tracker and Pelargir Shipwright from the discard pile, and then I will use Fortune or Fate to bring Caldara back as well. This bandit is in for a world of hurt.

Player Attack:

Glorfindel (3 attack) and the 2 Northern Trackers (2 attack each) combine for a total attack of 7. This destroys the Bandit (7 attack – 2 defense = 5 damage) and wins the game!

SCENARIO CONCLUSION:

This scenario can be tough, but this deck handled it with relative ease. However, I wonder how much of the strength of this Caldara build is simply a reflection of the strength of mono-Spirit deck in general. Still, the “discard draw” and resource generation aspects of this particular mono-Spirit variation definitely add some unique quirks to it and help to get cards out more quickly, which did help in having the army I needed to quest powerfully and kill of enemies as they emerged. In the end, a few simple strategies can help to conquer this scenario, but things can get much dicier in multiplayer.

Emery says, "You're welcome...."

Emery says, “You’re welcome….”

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From → Strategy

12 Comments
  1. Nusse permalink

    I haven’t read the whole article as i haven’t played the scenario yet and i prefer to avoid spoilers… I have one question about the deck you built though : why didn’t you go with Map of Earnil? You’d pay minimum cost for it (as cheap as a dwarven tomb), you’re likely to have a ton of events in your discard with Emery/Eowyn and the miners and you get to play cards not from your hands but from the discard pile which nicely fits your theme.
    Dwarven tomb is still useful: you can bring back any kind of card and not just non-response events. But the map gives you some flexibility by letting you play the event you need when you need it without filling your hand. I think maybe one less lamp and/or Elrond’s Counsel could let you squeeze in one or two maps.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Good question. The answer might sound kind of weird, but I’ve been using the Map of Earnil/Dwarven Tomb/A Test of Will combo a ton in one of my mono-Spirit builds to play through all of the Nightmare quests, and I got a bit sick of it. Map of Earnil is definitely a great choice for this deck, for all the reasons you mentioned, but just as I eventually got tired of the power of Hama/Feint, I’ve gotten a bit burnt out on having the Map AND Dwarven Tomb. Map of Earnil was in the original build of this deck, but I actually took it out when Voice of Isengard came out so that I could try out the shiny new Silver Lamp. After having beat this particular quest with a few different decks, I wasn’t really interested in the optimal route so much as something different. If I were to take this deck against Nightmare scenarios or more difficult scenarios, I would definitely include the Map though!

  2. Tonskillitis permalink

    Interesting to see a spirit deck so close to your discussion on the podcast about the mighty blue sphere. I really agree with Caldara being a surprisingly fun and effective hero. Personally I find the spirit style very effective but quite uninteresting to play (predominantly cancellation and willpower questing), however, cards like Caldara add nuance and varied strategies which, albeit a little strange and convoluted can actually work out well. I feel Fantasy Flight are aware of the fact that spirit is a brilliant yet boring sphere and so they are designing some really interesting cards to spark off new deck types and give players meaningful choices to keep things enjoyable. I have still yet to try the hobbit small target deck style in order to create some amusing calamities with orcs hacking each parts off other. I was a little surprised that your deck fared so well against the combat-heavy Fords of Isen quest but I guess old Glorfi sorted out that one for you. 🙂

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I think “brilliant yet boring” perfectly encapsulates Spirit. In some ways, Caldara has definitely revived some of my interest in the sphere, which makes her a great addition to the game even just on those terms. Glorfindel definitely took care of combat here, and I think I also benefited from the fact that I never drew one of the tougher enemies (Chieftain or Raider). If I had, I would have struggle a bit more, although this deck does get some combat help through sheer numbers when Caldara can use her ability multiple times. I’m curious to see how this deck would fare against the other two VoI scenarios.

  3. Hi,
    Since we struggle to succed against Isengart with three Players i am very interested in different decks for the adventure. The Caldara one sounds great and i will try it. Which other decks did u play against the dunlands ?
    Best,
    Nyck

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      In two-handed play, I used an Imrahil/Eomer/Beregond deck along with a Frodo/Eowyn/Glorfindel deck. I’ve also used a Grima/Lore Aragorn/Glorfindel deck with some success. In three player, I would probably recommend the Caldara deck for a strong questing force, a Tactics/combat deck to handle the enemies (any strong attackers would be a good choice: Beorn, Legolas, Eomer, etc.), and a balanced support deck for the third deck that can handle a bit of combat but also contribute some willpower.

      • Thanks a lot,
        I will check these out. Last time i tried a Rohan deck Boromir/Eomer/Hama. It startet fine but we made one crucial wrong decision, so we lost again 😀

  4. Yesterday we managed to survive tbe isen, finally. I played the Caldara spirit deck, which worked fine, even though i did not get the chance to play the dwarven tomb. Second player played Imrahil/Boromir/Gamdschie, third was Theoden/Beregond/Brand. I would change Theoden to Merry next time, lowering the starting threat. We only sent him questing anyway.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Awesome! Did Theoden’s extra willpower for Beregond and Brand help at all? I agree that Merry would probably be a better choice for those decks.

  5. Should you resolve the ‘when revealed’ effect of Dunland Tribesman in the setup stage, and draw an additional card to have a starting hand of 7 cards? If not, I’ve been playing this game all wrong!

  6. Oh – I’ve just reread it – the instruction is to ‘add’ the card, not reveal it- ! There are so many little wrinkles to this game, I think I rarely play it with some kind of small mistake somewhere in the play through 😦

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