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Deck Building 101: Exploring Tri Sphere (Elves of Rivendell)

by on April 23, 2014

twins

In a past series of Deck Building 101 articles, I investigated mono-sphere decks at length, outlining potential builds for each of the four spheres. In many ways, mono decks are the easiest to build, as you don’t have to worry about balancing spheres and resources within your deck and among your heroes. They thus form a perfect entry point for both those who are looking to get their feet wet with deck building and also for experienced players who want to try something a bit different. Tri-sphere decks are on the other side of the spectrum of complexity. Having only 1 resource generated for each sphere each turn is a far cry from the 3 resources per sphere you generate in mono-sphere. However, in return you gain access to cards from three different spheres at once, which potentially makes for a more well-balanced and versatile deck than is possible with mono-sphere. This is especially important for pure solo (one deck) play, where such balance and versatility is at the heart of success. Thus, learning to build a tri-sphere deck that can function well and efficiently is a challenge, but one that can reap great rewards.

Unlike building mono-sphere decks, where the range of options in terms of heroes and card choice is more limited, there are a staggering number of combinations possible with tri-sphere. Therefore, here I will not aim to build the exemplary tri-sphere deck, as this really depends on what interests you in terms of theme and playstyle, nor will I seek out the “one deck to rule them all”. Rather, what follows is a sample tri-sphere deck, together with what is probably the more important aspect: the how and why behind the choices. By following along with this process, hopefully some of the basic pointers behind tri-sphere deck construction will become more clear.

Initial Deck Planning

Those who have followed along with the Deck Building 101 series know that I have generally begun my decks by mapping out what deck abilities (read here for more info about deck abilities) and effects I want to be present. However, it is important to understand that deck building doesn’t always start from this place. Many times, it simply begins with an idea, such as, “I’d like to build a Rohan deck”, or “I’ve never used Spirit Pippin, let me try to build a deck around him”. This is a perfectly valid, and in fact perhaps a more entertaining, genesis for a deck than simply mapping out abilities in a very mechanical fashion. However, while a deck can begin from any idea, it is important to not throw out deck ability considerations completely. Rather, they will form an important guideline to check that our deck will do what we want to do, as well as be fun and interesting. In the case of the deck here, it began with a simple thought: “I haven’t used Elladan and Elrohir for a long time”. When the two Elven twins were released back in the Dwarrowdelf cycle, I created a few decks featuring them. However, it’s been awhile since I really gave them their time in the spotlight, so this deck began with a simple desire to include Elladan and Elrohir with the benefit of the current card pool. I also wanted to build a pure solo deck, rather than a multiplayer deck, and this is crucial in terms of deck design, as pure solo decks need to be able to handle everything, both questing and combat, rather than just one of those core aspects of the game.

Heroes

Hero selection is easy, as two have already been picked as part of my initial deck idea. Elladan from the Tactics sphere and Elrohir from the Leadership sphere will be the dynamic duo at the heart of the deck. However, picking the third hero to complement them is a key decision. First, we must be clear about what Elladan and Elrohir bring to the table, as if we can determine their strengths, then we can better select a hero to complement these advantages, as well as cover for their weaknesses.

elladan

Elladan has a built-in attack/hulking feature when his brother, Elrohir, is in play. Essentially, this means that he provides 3 attack and will serve as the primary attacker for this deck. Elrohir has a built-in defense/tanking effect when Elladan is around, and thus he will have 3 defense from the start, thus filling the primary defender role. Most importantly, both have built-in readying effects, with Elladan being able to pay 1 resource to ready after attacking, while Elrohir can do the same while defending. This readying is only limited by available resources and so can be extremely powerful. What makes the twins even better is that they have balanced stats outside of their specialty, with each possessing 2 willpower to aid in questing, while Elrohir has 2 attack to aid in attack and Elladan has 2 defense if the need arises. The biggest drawback is that the starting threat with just these two heroes is 20, which makes threat cost a definite consideration for the third hero. There also is a need for questing power, as while they can contribute 4 willpower between the both of them, this would take away from their primary duties (combat). Ideally, the third hero would be a dedicated quester that can free up Elrond’s son for doing what they do best: separating the heads of orcs and other evil creatures from their bodies.

elrohir

Since I know I’m building a tri-sphere deck, and I already have included Tactics and Leadership, this leaves a choice between Lore and Spirit. I’ve already identified questing, willpower boosting and threat management as existing weaknesses, so this points a clear arrow towards Spirit. If I’m looking for a dedicated quester in the Spirit sphere, Eowyn immediately springs to mind. With 4 willpower available from the jump and built-in willpower boosting, this would definitely free the twins for combat. However, her threat cost of 9 would put my starting threat at 29. This is decent, but I’d really like something a bit lower to give the deck time to get the attachments I have in mind into play. There just so happens to be a hero who will lend similar questing value, but be a better thematic and gameplay fit…

Yes, Glorfindel arrives to fill the third slot. While experienced players may be sick to death of Spirit Glorfindel, and I am tending more and more to avoid him myself these days just out of a sense of fatigue, he actually fits in quite well here. After all, what better companion for the twins from Rivendell than another Elven resident of that legendary refuge? With a threat cost of only 5, Glorfindel also works perfectly from a gameplay perspective, granting this deck a starting threat of 25, which is perfect. Even better, his willpower of 3 provides a strong foundation, while Light of Valinor allows him to contribute his 3 attack to combat. With the readying that is available, I should be able to consistently muster 8 attack between the three heroes (Elrohir can ready after combat, while Glorfindel has Light of Valinor), which is extremely powerful. Defense is covered by Elrohir, while questing should be sufficiently provided for by Glorfindel, along with an ally and/or Elladan (when his attack is not needed). There is also a level of flexibility to this line-up, in that they can cover for each other’s functions, that make it able to adapt to various situations. If there is one weakness, it is that these heroes don’t provide any abilities outside of readying.

Attachments

Typically, I’ve begun the deck building process in these articles with allies. However, this is not always the best approach or the one I always follow. Oftentimes, I like to begin with attachments, which are so often the most powerful elements of a deck and the ones that form the foundation for everything else. In this case, with a heavy focus on action advantage and readying for heroes, attachments will certainly be crucial, so I will begin my deck there. When building a tri-sphere deck, it is extremely important to take sphere balance into account. What this means is that you must not include too many cards from any one sphere. Otherwise, you will find your hand filling up with cards that you don’t have enough resources to pay for, while other heroes end up piling up resources that they can’t use. For example, if  I include too many Spirit cards in this deck, then the 1 resource generated by Glorfindel each turn won’t be enough to pay for them. However, and this is where things get tricky, every good tri-sphere deck should include resource generation effects to overcome the initial resource disadvantage. A key consideration then becomes which deck should receive the wealth. If one sphere is going to get the resources, then there can be a bias or imbalance in favor of cards from that sphere, since there will be more resources to pay for them. Similarly, if a hero will be using their resources to pay for an ability (such as Elladan and Elrohir’s readying), then they might not need as many cards from their sphere in the deck, as they’ll need to save their money.

In the case of this deck, the attachments begin with Steward of Gondor and Gondorian Shield. I’m a big proponent of prioritizing a solid defensive strategy, and Elrohir will form the core of an uber-defender approach. Attaching the Gondorian Shield to him will boost his defense to 4, which is equivalent to Beregond, and he will be able to use that impressive strength multiple times per turn. This leads me to Steward of Gondor, which serves two functions:

1) Providing resources to Elrohir to power his ability, so that he can defend against multiple enemies or defend and attack.

2) Granting the Gondor trait to Elrohir, which boosts the defense/tanking effect of Gondorian Shield up to +2. This puts Elrohir at a total defense of 5.

Since these two cards are so important, I’ll throw 3 copies of each into the deck, for 6 cards total so far. I discussed before how deciding where resource generation should go in a tri-sphere deck is important, but here it has been decided by the interaction with Gondorian Shield and Elrohir’s ability. This means Leadership will be getting more resources, but also some of those resources will be used for defending. I could potentially include a few more Leadership cards than Spirit or Tactics, but I will also look into the possibility of adding in resource transfer effects to spread the wealth around and smooth out the resource situation.

ffg_gondorian-shield-tsf

The next attachment is a no-brainer: 3 copies of Light of Valinor. This is an automatic include with every Glorfindel deck, and will allow him to both quest and attack each turn, which lends formidable attack power to the deck when combined with the twins.

With Elrohir and Glorfindel both situated, I now want to tend to Elladan’s attack strength, which will allow him to gain the maximum benefit from his ability. Rivendell Blade is the logical choice, as it is made for Noldor and Silvan characters and reduces enemy defenses by 2. This puts Elladan at an effective 5 against most enemies, putting the total attack capacity of the heroes at an impressive 10. I’ll definitely include 3 copies, as all 3 heroes can make use of the Rivendell Blade, which would boost the total attack even more. The final important function of Rivendell Blade is to provide card draw through Foe-hammer.

At this point, I have 12 cards in my deck. The sphere balance is 3 for Leadership, 6 for Tactics, and 3 for Spirit. I may go back and add in attachments later, but at this point I’ll move on to allies.

The deck looks like this so far:

Hero (3)
Elrohir (TRG) x1
Elladan (RtR) x1
Glorfindel (FoS) x1

Attachment (12)
Gondorian Shield (TSF) x3
Light of Valinor (FoS) x3
Rivendell Blade (RtR) x3
Steward of Gondor (Core) x3

 

Allies

It’s always important to pick allies based on an assessment of needed deck abilities, costs, and sphere balance. With a tri-sphere deck, I generally try to prioritize allies with a cost of 1 or 2, generally avoiding any with a cost of 3 or higher. This is because it is important to be able to get allies out onto the table quickly, and including 2-cost allies will ensure that this can happen with only 1 round of saving resources (immediately in the case 1-cost allies). Doing so makes a huge difference between a successful tri-sphere deck and one that stalls. The one exception is a tri-sphere build that makes use of extensive resource generation or effects that dump allies into play for free or a reduced cost. However, I only have Steward of Gondor, and some of those resources will be used for Elrohir’s ability, while I also am not planning on including ally dumping effects.

The first ally is one of the most pivotal and is an immediate and obvious choice: Arwen Undomiel. As the sister of Elladan and Elrohir, she is a perfect thematic match. In terms of gameplay, she provides added defense/tanking for Elrohir, bumping him up to 6 when the Gondorian Shield/Steward of Gondor combo is working. This is enough to block a couple of Hill Trolls without breaking a sweat. Finally, Arwen’s 2 willpower is great for questing support. She’s so important that 3 copies are a must despite her unique status.

The second ally is just as important, this time for the purpose of resource generation/manipulation: Errand-rider. Effects that facilitate resource transfer are pivotal for tri-sphere decks, as they allow you to get the resources exactly where you need them for a particular turn. Imagine having only 1 resource on Glorfindel and needing that extra 1 to pay for the Arwen in your hand. Errand-rider could allow you to strip it from Elladan or Elrohir (whichever didn’t need it at the moment) to get that ally now instead of next turn. Similarly, Errand-rider could move a resource to Elrohir for an extra defense or to Elladan for an extra attack. The possibilities are endless. However you slice it, Errand-rider is one of the most important cards in the deck and is a must-include for any tri-sphere deck that uses Leadership.

errand

For a Tactics ally, I’m looking for a solid 2-cost character that can help with combat and has a useful ability. Defender of Rammas is always a possibility, and I love that ally to death, but with Elrohir around, wasting an ally spot on pure defense seems wasteful (this also applies to Winged Guardian). Instead, I’ll include Westfold Outrider. He boasts 2 attack for only 2 resources, 2 hit points to survive a bit of a beating, and most importantly, a useful ability. When needed, the Outrider can pull down an enemy that normally prevents this from happening or can act as a substitute Radagast’s Cunning by eliminating enemy threat during the quest phase. All in all, this utility is an improvement over Veteran Axehand for the same cost and stat line.

Having included 3 copies of each, I’m sitting at 9 allies total and 21 cards total. I’ll move on to a neutral card, meaning Gandalf, but it won’t be the Gandalf you might expect. Instead of Core Set Gandalf, I’m opting for the Over Hill and Under Hill version. This Gandalf is often criminally underrated, but can be beastly good, particularly in pure solo play where there is no potential for conflict with other versions. While I will lose out on the threat reduction (not needed particularly for this deck), direct damage (also not needed with all the attack power), and card draw (this is the main loss) provided by Core Gandalf, the new version more than makes up for it. With 4 willpower for questing each turn without having to exhaust, I’ll have 7 willpower between Gandalf and Glorfindel (with Light of Valinor) without having to exhaust a single character! Then, Gandalf can use his 4 attack power to turn this deck into even more of a killing machine or defend if need be. The price of 2 extra threat will be worth this permanent dose of strength and should allow me to slam through a scenario before it becomes an issue (and I can include threat reduction through Spirit).

With 12 allies included, I’m about halfway through my usual goal of about 20-25 allies. I have an even number from each sphere, so I’d like to include maybe one more from each to keep the sphere balance roughly equal. I’ll start with Spirit. I want to include one more 1 or 2-cost questing ally to make sure willpower is well taken care of even if Arwen and Gandalf take some time to emerge. West Road Traveller is always a favorite and could provide some missing location management, while Silvan Refugee would be perfect with 2 willpower for only resource. With allies probably not leaving play often due to little need for chump blocking, I could probably keep the Refugee in play for awhile. However, I will ultimately choose the Ethir Swordsman for pure willpower potential. This ally starts at 2 willpower, but can escalate to 3 or 4 willpower with further copies. I like this option as it can combine with Gandalf, Arwen, and Glorfindel to form a willpower machine to complement the combat machine.

Looking through the potential Tactics choices, I’m not too enamored with any of them. Instead, I’ll include another neutral character: Envoy of Pelargir. This provides another form of resource transfer between the spheres to add to Errand-rider or make up for it in case of its absence (rule number one of deck building: always have a back-up plan). She also can contribute 1 point to either willpower or attack, which isn’t negligible.

envoy

For my final ally, I will choose Faramir from the Leadership sphere. He violates my 2-cost maximum rule, but Leadership will have Steward of Gondor available and he is worth the expense. By providing willpower boosting, Faramir is the final piece to shore up the questing prowess of this deck. His overall stat line and substantial hit points also make up for the generally lower power of the other allies in the deck. I’ll only use 2 copies since he is expensive and unique.

So far, I have 20 allies and 32 cards total. In terms of sphere balance, 9 are from Tactics, while there are 8 from Leadership and 9 from Spirit, along with 6 neutral cards (Gandalf). The deck looks like this so far:

Hero (3)
Elrohir (TRG) x1
Elladan (RtR) x1
Glorfindel (FoS) x1

Ally (20)
Arwen Undomiel (TWitW) x3
Errand-rider (HON) x3
Ethir Swordsman (TSF) x3
Faramir (Core) x2
Gandalf (OHaUH) x3
Westfold Outrider (VOI) x3
Envoy of Pelargir (HoN) x3

Attachment (12)
Gondorian Shield (TSF) x3
Light of Valinor (FoS) x3
Rivendell Blade (RtR) x3
Steward of Gondor (Core) x3

 

Events

The events section will be simple to fill out, as I will generally look to include the staple events from each sphere. In a tri-sphere deck, this means I will be able to include some of the most powerful cards available all in one deck. With 32 cards so far, I have about 18 cards to work with, although I may save space for an extra ally or attachment.

When including Spirit, A Test of Will is basically automatic, as this is one of the most powerful cards in the game, and the only form of treachery cancellation besides Eleanor. Together with A Test of Will, I will include its partner-in-crime, Hasty Stroke, for shadow cancellation. This is especially important when using a hero as your primary defender, as the wrong shadow can be devastating and even kill a hero outright. Hasty Stroke will thus be vital protection for Elrohir.

Feint from Tactics is similarly crucial. While I have the defensive solidity to perhaps do without attack cancellation, there are always moments when it is worthwhile to stop an attack, even if it is just to prevent a shadow effect from being revealed. Feint can be particularly useful in the early game before the full defensive set-up is complete or in combat-heavy quests. As for a second Tactics event, since the time I chose Rivendell Blade, I knew that I would want to include Foe-hammer for card draw, as I have yet to include any of this necessary ability in my deck.

After looking through the Leadership events, there aren’t any that speak to the needs of my deck in a way that justifies the deck space. The popular Sneak Attack doesn’t have much use here without Core Gandalf or any other allies with “enters play” abilities. Instead, I’ll ignore sphere balance for a moment and include Elrond’s Counsel. This thematically appropriate card provides missing threat reduction (as well as willpower boosting, especially useful in the early game). What would a deck featuring Elladan, Elrohir, and Arwen be without an appearance by Elrond in some form?

elrond's counsel

I now have 15 event cards and 47 cards total. There are 15 Tactics cards, 18 Spirit cards, and only 8 Leadership cards  (along with 6 neutral cards). This seems to be a huge imbalance and gross violation of my original advice about sphere balance. However, keep in mind that Errand-rider will allow Elrohir to transfer Steward resources to the other heroes, as will Envoy of Pelargir, which mitigates the imbalance. The neutral cards can also serve as Leadership cards in terms of who pays for them (or who pays for the majority of the cost). However, I will go back and add in a Leadership card as the final piece of the puzzle. Not liking the events (or the allies really), I search through the Leadership attachments and pull out Celebrian’s Stone. This attachment will turn Glorfindel into a 5 willpower quester. I originally had my eye on Cram, as this unconventional choice could allow Elladan or Elrohir to participate in questing along with Glorfindel, which is great in the early game, as the one aspect of the game this deck may struggle with is early questing against encounters that start with high threat in the staging area. However, while Celebrian’s Stone costs 2 more resources, it also provides a permanent solution to the problem and is quite thematic (Celebrian is the twins’ mother and Elrond’s wife). The final deck stands at 50 cards, with 15 from Tactics, 18 from Spirit, 11 from Leadership, and 6 neutral cards. This is an acceptable sphere balance with the resource transfer and neutral cards in mind.

Elves of Rivendell (Tri-sphere deck)

Hero (3)
Elrohir (TRG) x1
Elladan (RtR) x1
Glorfindel (FoS) x1

Ally (20)
Arwen Undomiel (TWitW) x3
Errand-rider (HON) x3
Ethir Swordsman (TSF) x3
Faramir (Core) x2
Gandalf (OHaUH) x3
Westfold Outrider (VOI) x3
Envoy of Pelargir (HoN) x3

Attachment (15)
Gondorian Shield (TSF) x3
Light of Valinor (FoS) x3
Rivendell Blade (RtR) x3
Steward of Gondor (Core) x3
Celebrian’s Stone (Core) x3

Event (15)
A Test of Will (Core) x3
Feint (Core) x3
Hasty Stroke (Core) x3
Foe-hammer (OHaUH) x3
Elrond’s Counsel (TWitW) x3

Strategy

The first order of business is to establish Elrohir as a defensive powerhouse with the help of Steward of Gondor and Gondorian Shield. Light of Valinor is also an early priority. Finding any of these three cards in your opening hand is good justification for turning down the mulligan. Getting two out of three turns this into a certainty. Glorfindel is the quester, with or without Light of Valinor, while Elladan can join in if his attacking services don’t seem necessary. Once Errand-rider is on the table, Elrohir can distribute out his resources to either Tactics or Spirit depending on need and what’s in hand. As soon as Gandalf is drawn, he becomes a priority (unless one of the crucial attachments has yet to hit the table). Generally, Glorfindel, Gandalf, Arwen, and the Ethir Swordsman (with Faramir’s help) will form the questing team, while the three Elven heroes, along with Gandalf and the Westfold Outrider will mow down enemies.

Strengths and Weaknesses

The biggest strength of this deck is the in-built readying effects, along with the de facto readying of Gandalf and Light of Valinor. This allows for a potent amount of willpower and attack to be mustered each turn, really demonstrating just how effective action advantage can be, especially in pure solo play. Defense/tanking is handled by Elrohir along with his toys, and doesn’t become much of an issue once the set-up is in place. Attack/hulking is similarly well taken care of by Elladan and company, meaning that the two fundamental aspects of the game, questing and combat are covered. While resource generation is present, it is really resource manipulation (transfer) that allows this tri-sphere deck to hum, and I would suggest prioritizing such effects for most tri-sphere decks. Finally, there is enough treachery cancellation and shadow cancellation to provide emergency support.

The greatest weakness of this deck is card draw. Foe-hammer along with Rivendell Blade certainly provides just enough for the deck to pass muster. However, I strongly considered either Ancient Mathom or Valiant Sacrifice to add to this ability. However, I decided to do without as I wasn’t willing to live with what I had to give up in terms of cards that did make the deck or sphere balance, and it has worked fine in practice. Another weakness is healing, but with a strong defender and combat skills in general, damage shouldn’t be too much of an issue. Scenarios with plenty of direct damage and archery are an exception, but without including Lore, there’s not much to be done here (Gondorian Discipline is an option of de faction healing for Elrohir, but not worth the space in most cases). The final weakness is location management. This isn’t too big an issue in the mid to late game when the willpower machine can run over any locations that show themselves, but location difficulty in the early game if the questing set-up stalls can be a bit problematic.

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.

* Resource manipulation is included under resource generation.

Expansions Needed to Build This Deck = 9

Core Set, The Redhorn Gate, Road to Rivendell, Foundations of Stone, The Watcher in the Water, Heirs of Numenor, The Steward’s Fear, Over Hill and Under Hill, Voice of Isengard

* Those underlined are the ones that are deemed essential to building this deck.

Potential Substitutions (if you don’t own all expansions)

* Veteran Axehand for Westfold Outrider

* Dunedain Warning for Gondorian Shield

* West Road Traveller for Ethir Swordsman

Final Thoughts

Overall, this is an extremely entertaining deck. The first time you are able to level 3 or 4 enemies in one go or watch Elrohir defend against several tough enemies without a scratch, the potential of the deck will become obvious. This is not a combo deck or a tricksters deck. Rather, it focuses on excelling at the two central elements of the game: questing and combat. The heart of the build is really all about getting the most out of four superior characters (Elrohir, Elladan, Glorfindel, and Gandalf) and letting them run wild on the enemy. There is something intriguing about controlling this level of concentrated power and action advantage, as a change of pace from swarm strategies.

Hopefully this deck and accompanying article provides insight into the process of successfully building a tri-sphere deck. If you follow the central tenets of sphere balance and resource transfer/generation, then you are on the way to overcoming the intimidating prospect of tri-sphere. Readers, what have been your most successful tri-sphere decks? What are your favorite Elladan/Elrohir decks and combinations?

 

 

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29 Comments
  1. Great article and very useful for me, who is often playing alone and doesn’t like the one player two hands setup. Thanks! The thematics are a little strange with Steward of Gondor with Gondorian Shield, but this case, I couldn’t offer any other more thematic and useful resource generator card. This will be the next deck I’ll try out. 🙂

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Awesome, glad it was helpful! The nearest thematic substitutions I can think of are Dunedain Warning for Gondorian Shield (you’d need two copies to equal the power of the Shield, which is the downside), since the twins had such close connections with Aragorn and the Dunedain, and Resourceful for Steward of Gondor. Resourceful wouldn’t be nearly as efficient, but it does make more thematic sense in that characters who are out in the wild so much like the twins would surely need to be resourceful.

  2. Now I feel tempted to make a deck with just the Twins.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I can’t remember who it was, but I remember someone way back when creating an Elladan/Elrohir deck with just Arwen as the only ally and a boatload of attachments and events.

  3. Alex permalink

    Great article and deck.

    It’s a shame that theme needs to be broken as the above poster noted. Putting SOG and a shield on an elf seems little sense, despite what the recent FFG article tried to say. It would be nice if they limited SOG to gondor heroes and released an elf version of the card as well or something. Just seems thematically strange.

    Other than that it’s a soild deck. The blades help make this a total tank job in terms of attack.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks! The attack power can get truly ridiculous in this deck.

      In gameplay terms, it made perfect sense to release Steward of Gondor in the Core Set and give a resource generation card that could be used by anyone. I think the biggest mistake in thematic terms was calling it Steward of Gondor. If they had called that card “Resourceful” or “Inspired Leadership” or something generic like that, then it could have filled its gameplay role and not inspired any thematic qualms. Steward of Gondor could have showed up as a different, more Gondor-centric card later.

  4. Phate999 permalink

    Hero (3)
    Dain Ironfoot (RtM)
    Nori (OHaUH)
    Ori (OHaUH)

    Ally (23)
    Gloin (OtD) x1
    Fili (OHaUH) x1
    Kili (OHaUH) x1
    Dori (OHaUH) x1
    Dwalin (OtD) x1
    Bofur (TRG) x1
    Bifur (OtD) x1
    Bombur (RtR) x1
    Zigil Miner (KD) x3
    Erebor Hammersmith (Core) x3
    Erebor Record Keeper (KD) x3
    Miner of the Iron Hills (Core) x3
    Longbeard Elder (FoS) x3

    Attachment (20)
    Narvi’s Belt (KD) x3
    Steward of Gondor (Core) x3
    Unexpected Courage (Core) x3
    Dunedain Warning (CatC) x3
    Legacy of Durin (TWitW) x3
    Protector of Lorien (Core) x3
    Healing Herbs (FoS) x 2

    Event (7)
    Lure of Moria (RtR) x2
    Untroubled by Darkness (KD) x2
    A Test of Will (Core) x3

    Total: 50 cards

    Three things motivated this deck construction.
    Desire to:
    1.) Use Tri-Sphere, as this post was talking about.
    2.) Use Dwarves.
    3.) Make Dain a tank.
    4.) Make a deck that could do well in solo or two-player.

    Heroes: Starting threat of 28 (Kind of high, but that is where Nori fit’s in). Since I wanted to make Dain a tank, he was a shoe-in. I am always tempted to put Tactics into my decks, especially with Dwarves because of that spheres OP attack power for this trait. But here, I opted for more balance. Balance in the fact of electing to go with automatic card draw in Ori and automatic threat reduction in Nori, instead of other pure attack prowess options, was overall more beneficial. The idea was that I don’t really need all the attack power of the Dwarven Tactic’s sphere for most quests because of Dain’s boost and just the sheer numbers that Dwarves produce. I didn’t go with Bifur or Bombur as my Lore hero because then I couldn’t put their Ally versions in the deck. And I would also lose Ori’s auto-card draw. I omitted Dwalin for the same reason. I suppose I could have added Oin, but I don’t really need the Tactics icon he gets. This would probably be better if one wanted to add some Tactics weapon attachments to the deck (which one can do with Narvi’s Belt as well), or go with Thalin and/or Gimli as a hero. Anyhow, I opted for the auto-Threat reduction in Nori.

    Strategy: In my opening hand, I’d like to see Steward of Gondor (duh?! Haha!) and/or Narvi’s Belt. I place both of these two on Ori because the Lore sphere has the most Ally (and total at 20 of the 50) cards in the deck. But if I have Narvi’s Belt it doesn’t matter, because it is like an auto-Resource share for Steward of Gondor (and also happens to be the glue that makes the Tri-Sphere work). Dwarves seem to be like that. Auto-pilot. Where other decks need cards to get stuff done (draw cards, reduce threat, generate resources, willpower or attack strength, etc), Dwarves automatically do it. That’s part of what makes them so powerful because then it saves deck space for other important cards. I’d also like to see an Unexpected Courage and Legacy of Durin pretty early. The former for Dain to tank and then refresh to block again or to give back his attack boost to his Dwarven army. The latter to draw even more cards on autopilot. All the “unneeded-at-the-time” cards are then used to feed Protector of Lorien once I get it on Dain. This makes him able to block just about anything without a scratch, especially with one or two Dunedain Warnings to boot. Throw in Untroubled by Darkness and Lure of Moria and you have got one powerful questing and attacking machine at your disposal. On top of all that, you have the ability to cancel that game-ending treachery (even possibly see it coming with Longbeard Elder) with A Test of Will, or destroy that pesky encounter deck “Condition” attachment that pops up in some scenarios with Miner of the Iron Hills. Healing Herbs was thrown in late because I felt like it might be useful if Dain took too much damage for comfort at some point. I can also get it back with Erebor Hammersmith if needed. All and all, I think this deck can work really well in solo play on just about any Quest in the game. It pretty much does everything useful in the game. Readying with Unexpected Courage, Erebor Record Keeper, and Lure of Moria. Defending with Dain and the attachment boosts. Attacking/questing with any of the other Dwarves. Threat reduction with Nori. Card draw with Ori and Legacy of Durin. Treachery cancellation. Resource generation/sharing. Healing. Even a splash of scrying. What more could a LotR LCG player as for?

  5. I think you hit the nail on the head with SoG. It’s a tough card to work around from a thematic perspective, because it’s too good at what it does. In my middle earth, Gondor has seen everyone from a teeny hobbit to Lord Elrond elected as Steward. Always amusing.

    What recommendations would you have for tri-sphere hobbit decks? They seem to me like the only way to run a shire deck at the moment, but I struggle to get enough resources in play.

    • The Black Riders hobbit deck is one of my favorites! To work with resources I (1) use low cost cards or (2) use Elf-stone for the big cards and, of course (3) SOG to get Sam big money and Parting Gifts to move it around.

      I’ve also had success subbing out Sam for Frodo to turn it into a Secrecy deck with the Spirit threat reduction. Then you can just use Resourceful and you’re good to go.

      • Phate999 permalink

        Maybe try this (not real great for solo play). Mulligan if you don’t get Resourceful. Still have 2 turns to, hopefully, get it for Secrecy discount if mulligan fails. Use Elf-stone’s to drop the big Allies into play from your hand. The rest is Outlands swarm, attachments to buff weak HP, and stuff to reduce Threat.

        Hero:
        Frodo Baggins (CatC)
        Merry (TBR)
        Pippin (TBR)

        Ally (17)
        Anfalas Herdsman (TSF) x3
        Knights of the Swan (TSF) x3
        Ethir Swordsman (TSF) x3
        Henamarth Riversong (Core) x1
        Arwen Undomiel (TWitW) x2
        Anborn (TBoG) x1
        Beorn (Core) x1
        Elfhelm (TDM) x1
        Gildor Inglorion (THoEM) x1
        Landroval (AJtR) x1

        Attachment (21)
        Hobbit Pipe (TBR) x3
        Ring Mail (TLD) x3
        Good Meal (TRG) x3
        Dagger of Westernesse (TBR) x3
        Resourceful (TWitW) x3
        Fast Hitch (TDM) x3
        Elf-stone (TBR) x3

        Event (12)
        Take No Notice (TBR) x3
        Smoke Rings (TBR) x3
        The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core) x3
        Feint (Core) x3

        • Thanks! I’ll try these two variations out. Although I don’t have all of those AP’s, so I might have to substitute a few alternatives.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      In addition to the fine decks that others have suggested, you can take a look at one of my tri-sphere Hobbit builds here: https://talesfromthecards.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/campaign-mode-a-knife-in-the-dark-part-2/. Generally, I haven’t found resources to be too problematic. Following the model I used in this article is the key: including resource transfer through Errand-rider/Parting Gifts as well as resource generation, using low-cost cards as much as possible, and keeping the sphere balance right.

  6. Mndela permalink

    Very powerful deck. Sure. Maybe i would add 3 more weapons. Only 3 weapons in deck for Foe-hammer is very few. I hate havint Foe-hammer without weapons, and here sure it happens often.

    I have a very good trisphere deck and i have won all scenarios with it -only Laketown not :)-
    The heroes are: Balin · Boromir tactics · Glorfindel spirit. It has all of abilities. It has even drawing effects: mathom · foe hammer and king mountain. Maybe the unique weakness is healing.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I thought about adding 3 more weapons in, but deck space was very tight. It does hurt to get Foe-hammer without a weapon. The good thing is that this deck seems to be consistent enough and works in a way that card draw isn’t as vital as it can be for some other builds. Ancient Mathom might actually be a good alternative as it wouldn’t be reliant on weapons (although it would rely on drawing and clearing locations).

      • Or maybe change west-fold rider by Bofur. Only +1 resource but one time you have got a weapon you can quest very comforably (2wp).

    • David permalink

      Would you share a deck list? Desperately looking for a solo deck to try out Boromir

  7. Psychorocka permalink

    Very similar to the two handed decks I just posted on the ffg forums, please have a look if you get the time =)

    http://community.fantasyflightgames.com/index.php?/topic/104951-two-handed-decks/

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I’ll definitely give them a look!

  8. McDog3 permalink

    As a preface I’m newer to the game and just made my way through the Khazad-Dum cycle so this deck probably isn’t too unique, but it sure is for me! I just recently created my first tri-sphere deck, which I thought worked fantastically, centered around Elrond. The heroes were Prince Imrahil, Glorfindel, and Elrond. It was basically an ally swarm deck with a fair number of key attachments (Asfaloth, Vilya, Light of Valinor, Steward of Gondor). The majority of the allies were cards that could either be discarded to some effect (Westfold Horse-Breaker, Dunedain Watcher, etc.), pop in and leave quickly (Bofur, Escort from Edoras) or be used as chump blockers in order to trigger Imrahil’s effect. Once the engine got going, between Gleowine, Vilya, Imladris Stargazer and Master of the Forge it became just a crazy a card-playing machine. The biggest drawback is that the first 2 rounds can be very slow-going since most of the allies and attachments are at the 2 resource mark. A tough initial staging area can sometimes cripple you and in very unfortunate cases outright destroy you before things take off on the player end.

  9. tomtomiszcze permalink

    I’m afraid that you overvalued this deck in readying and card draw departments, because of the fact that there’s no backup plan for those. Either you draw SoG and consequently have the resources required to trigger brothers’ ability or not and you have a problem. Similarly – either you’re lucky enough to unleash Foe-Hammer or not, period. Besides, this deck is heavily dependant on crucial cards drawn ASAP (LoV, SoG, Arwen/GS) and that basically requires some card draw in case of some unlucky mulligan. I know – all decks are dependant on cards just because it’s a card game, but important questions remain intact: how long will you have to wait for the engine to start rolling and are you able to stay alive during that time, having no way to accelerate the process?
    My humble recommendations: increase card pool to 52 (there are scientific papers available proving that it’s not a big deal), cut 1xArwen, 3xCelebrian Stone (IMO you clearly overreacted in willpower department), add 3xAncient Mathom and 3xUC.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      With 2 out of 3 heroes having built-in readying and Glorfindel having Light of Valinor, I think that’s a strong case for a full rating in the readying department. There’s really little need for Unexpected Courage. I did include it in similar versions of this deck, and it just felt redundant, so UC was cut. True, the twins need resources for their readying, but Elladan’s is more of a luxury that isn’t needed much in the course of a game, while Elrohir’s can be safely funded through Errand-rider or Envoy even if Steward doesn’t show up. I’m normally a big fan of back-up plans, but there’s a point at which too many back-up plans take away from other options.

      The need for willpower is based on play experience with the deck and a certain strategy. The idea for this deck is to power through quests quickly, using a few key characters as the main focus. This is especially important once Hobbit Gandalf hits the table and threat becomes a ticking clock. I can definitely see card draw as the main weakness of this deck, which I mentioned in the article, and I could see a 1 star rating instead of 2 stars as fair. Generally, in practice, this deck isn’t as dependent on those cards as you suggest and as it may seem just looking at the deck list. I’ve had games where some or most of those cards haven’t emerged at all or only close to the end and still had success, because of some of the other options that are built into the deck. That is why I felt comfortable relying on limited card draw.

      Finally, no need for scientific papers, I wrote a piece recently on probability that included a mention of the viability of 52 card decks!

      https://talesfromthecards.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/a-note-on-probability/

  10. tomtomiszcze permalink

    I had exactly your article on my mind when mentioning scientific papers 🙂
    Anyway, your emphasis on playing expierence with this specific deck forces me to try it myself before I decide whether to agree with you or rant and whine some more. I consider it a pretty good excuse to try pure solo – thanks!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Ah, perhaps I should submit it to a scientific conference? 😉

      I will say that it would be worth a go to cut one copy of Celebrian’s Stone, throw in 3 copies of Ancient Mathom and roll with the 52 card deck and see how that goes. I’d really want to keep the 3 Arwens to increase the chances of getting one early.

      • Psychorocka permalink

        I use to only run x2 arwen but now insist on x3 as well, that def boost and even more so for me (play two handed) granting sentinel is so invaluable

  11. Have you thought about including the MSRP of constructing the deck using off the shelf products?

    For example, having three Celebrian Stones is nice, but unless you hunt out that specific card it requires the purchase of three Core Sets (which isn’t that hard to get with some flea market shopping, online trading, or guilt tripping of friends)… unless you are playing on OCTGN.

    I think it is good to keep track of the “market value” of obtaining each card through set purchases, sort of like keeping track of a sport team’s payroll… as the 1 Of’s and 2 Of’s might require spending currency in exchange for goods.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I actually hadn’t thought of that before, but that’s a good idea. It could give an idea of what players have to invest to build a certain deck. I’ve tended to think in terms of just what expansions are needed, but it might be interesting to include.

  12. I played this deck 4 times. Was playing with a friend and I really like it.
    Elrohir + Arwen + Shield is just amazing.

    When making the deck I realised that it doesn’t use a lot of the new cards, then I saw that this article is from April 2014.
    What changes would you do today (having access to all player cards except the latest 2 APs)?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Hmm. That’s a good question. It’s a pretty simple deck and there actually isn’t too much that I would change as the core cards are still the same. I might switch out the Envoy of Pelargir for something. Maybe I’d add in a few more weapons to help Foe-hammer get going. I’ve actually started using Blade of Gondolin more these days so that might do the trick, or if I’m playing multiplayer, I’d add in Rivendell Bow to get some ranged. Tighten Our Belts is a newer card that is fantastic for tri-sphere decks so I’d definitely add it in, maybe shaving off a copy of Gandalf and the Outrider. If you did have the first two AP’s, I’d also love to find room for Honour Guard too to provide some backup for Elrohir.

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