Deck Spotlight: …Sting Like A Bee (Hobbits Part 2)
In part 1 of this Deck Spotlight, I shared a Hobbit deck that is based around evading and tricking enemies. In essence, this was a somewhat “classic” Hobbit build in the sense of really connecting to the theme of the trait and the way it was developed in the early stages of the game. However, The Black Riders opened up brand new possibilities for a more combat-focused deck with the introduction of two key cards: Merry and Dagger of Westernesse. In Part 2, we’ll be looking at this more martial side of the Hobbits in LOTR LCG. While the first deck may “float like a butterfly”, this second one “stings like a bee”. Of the two decks, it is also the more versatile and powerful, although the Spirit Pippin build is a sentimental favorite for some of the tricks it includes. If you’re looking to show the dark minions of Sauron that the smallest of the Free Peoples can hit hard and take names, look no further!
Gandalf (Core) x3
Bofur (OHaUH) x2
Dori (OHaUH) x2
Faramir (Core) x2
Haldir of Lorien (AJtR) x1
Bill the Pony (TBR) x3
Landroval (AJtR) x1
Gildor Inglorion (THoEM) x1
Beorn (Core) x1
Warden of Healing (TLD) x3
Errand-rider (HON) x3
Expansions Required (9): The Black Riders, Over Hill and Under Hill, A Journey to Rhosgobel, The Hills of Emyn Muil, The Long Dark, Heirs of Numenor, The Dead Marshes, The Steward’s Fear, Foundations of Stone
Theme: Ally Dumping, Attack/Hulking, Defense/Tanking
Strategy: This deck follows a slow build-up strategy, while surgically destroying enemies one-by-one. Once the deck gets rolling, it can handle both questing and combat quite well, which makes it strong against a variety of quests. One of the key strategies is the use of Elf-stone to dump expensive allies into play without having to actually pay for them, with a roster of single copies of Beorn, Gildor, Haldir, and Landroval as potential candidates, while Faramir, Dori, and Gandalf can also take advantage as well. While including a single copy of a card is normally not recommended because of potential inconsistency, here the important concern is not that I draw any particular one of these powerhouse allies, but rather that I draw at least a couple of them in general.
Whether it is Beorn or Gildor or someone else who gets dropped into play through Elf-stone, the high power level of these allies guarantees that they will have a strong impact. With the card draw provided by Lore Pippin and Daeron’s Runes, the probability of drawing more than one of these allies also increases. In some ways, this can be viewed as a “goliath swarm”. Rather than seeking to drop a bunch of relatively weak allies into play, this deck focuses on bringing in some of the strongest characters available. It’s not out of the question to field a line-up with Faramir, Gildor, and Haldir on the board at once, for example, which really improves this deck’s board position in a big way. But what happens if Elf-stone itself doesn’t show up? In this case, the strong resource generation provided by Steward of Gondor, aided by the resource transfer of Errand-rider, ensures that these allies can also be paid for outright if the need arises. Building in such contingency plans is a key element of this deck, and my general deck building style in general.
Each hero follows a fairly defined role, but the advantage of the Hobbit deck is that all three heroes can contribute adequately to questing, with Sam clocking in at 3 willpower, while Merry and Pippin each have 2. With the inclusion of cheap readying through Fast Hitch, it is not at all uncommon for all 3 Hobbits to quest each turn for a total willpower of 7 in addition to whatever allies provide. Merry is the designated attacker, and he fills the role far more ably than anyone might expect from a Hobbit. In fact, he’s so good at this job that some might argue that his ability potentially breaks the theme a bit by making the Hobbits equal to the strongest warriors in Middle-earth. I definitely sympathize with this perspective, but I view Merry’s ability (granting him +1 attack for each Hobbit hero you control) as representing his ability to organize his fellow Hobbits and plan the best battle strategy, as best exemplified by the Battle of Bywater in the Scouring of the Shire chapter, rather than outright fighting prowess. This ability starts Merry off with 3 attack, given the 3 Hobbit heroes. The goal is to eventually attach at least 1, but preferably 2, copies of Dagger of Westernesse. Each Dagger grants +1 attack (+2 attack if the enemy’s engagement cost is higher than the player’s threat). With 2 Daggers attached, Merry thus has an attack strength of either 5 or 7 depending on the foe’s engagement cost. This is quite formidable and allows Merry to singlehandedly dispatch most foes, while being able to deal damage against some of the “boss”-type enemies as well. If this wasn’t enough, I’ve also included Halfling Determination, which can boost this attack, if necessary. Originally, I had Unseen Strike in this spot, which is cheaper, but I prefer the versatility of Halfling Determination in this context, which can also help with questing or defense, and although it costs 2 resources, as opposed to the 0-cost of Unseen Strike, there aren’t too many other cards competing for the Tactics resources. Merry is often the first candidate for Fast Hitch, as this allows him to contribute his willpower while still being available for attack or mount two attacks in one turn. In terms of getting the weapons out in the first place, Tactics Bofur plays a useful role in fetching the Daggers out as quickly as possible.
With Merry covering attack, Sam is the designated defender, as well as a primary quester. His in-built readying effect allows him to fill both roles, as long as the threat of the deck remains lower than enemy engagement costs. If things start to spiral out of control or enemy engagement costs tend to be lower in a particular quest, then I will aim to get the first copy of Fast Hitch onto Sam, which allows him to quest and defend without fail. While Sam will often have 2 defense, as enemies with higher engagement costs get to grips, this isn’t enough to make him a reliable and consistent defender. Instead, I use two tricks to boost him up to ridiculous levels. First, Hobbit Cloak is a simple 1-cost attachment that increases Sam’s defense up to 4 when defending against an enemy with a higher engagement cost. The second option is Gondorian Shield combined with Steward of Gondor. With the Shield in place, Sam is bumped up to 3 (assuming his in-built bonus is activated once). However, the Steward is attached to raise this even higher, up to 5 with the bonus, or a natural 4 without any help from enemy engagement costs. I appreciate this second option, not only because it provides extra resources for the deck, but because it maintains Sam as an extremely solid defender even as the deck’s threat increases throughout the course of a game. Of course, when both the Shield and Hobbit Cloak are working, Sam can often defend at a strength of 6. All in all, Sam can defend comfortably against most enemies in the game, with the 3 copies of Warden of Healing cleaning up any mess caused by shadow effects (particularly important with the lack of shadow cancellation in this deck). If all else fails, Dori is an invaluable emergency backup in the event that a hero would be otherwise destroyed, and Landroval can serve this purpose as well.
Lore Pippin serves primarily as a quester, with his card draw and boost to enemy engagement costs both being extremely useful abilities. With so many cards in hand and plenty of resources through Steward of Gondor, Errand-rider is essential as always in a tri-sphere deck to distribute the wealth to where it is needed most.
How It Was Constructed: This is a modified version of the Hobbit deck I used in my Campaign Mode playthrough. The main difference here is the shedding of several cards that were really included for thematic reasons: Barliman Butterbur and Farmer Maggot being two clear examples. While I love both of these characters and cards, I feel more bound to theme when playing Saga Expansion than regular quests. Here, I have ignored thematic considerations, and made room for the power allies, as well as some of the other utility characters.
1) Sneak Attack + Gandalf: The classic combination of all classic combinations makes yet another appearance. Generally, I will use Gandalf for card draw or threat reduction in this deck, although a bit of direct damage is welcome against certain quests and foes.
2) Merry + Dagger of Westernesse + Halfling Determination: This is the central attacking combination of the deck and certainly is what gives this build its sting. With a potential total attack strength of 9 all provided by a single character, the possibility exists of Merry taking out enemies without any assistance, which frees up the other characters for questing. This combination is also a great “hulking” alternative to characters like Gimli or Erebeor Battle Master for facing down those “boss” enemies.
3) Sam + Steward of Gondor + Gondorian Shield + Hobbit Cloak: With these attachments in play, Sam can become a 5 or 6 defense behemoth matching his stature as a character. When you add in Dori, Landroval, and Warden of Healing as assistants, defense can be pretty solidly taken care of in this deck.
4) Sneak Attack + Beorn: Another “oldie but a goodie”, sneaking in Beorn in full-on rage mode for only 1 resource is so uniquely satisfying.
5) Elf-stone + one of the power allies: In many ways, this is the signature combination of this deck type, and I remain an unapologetic defender of the awesomeness of Elf-stone, because it has so rarely failed me. With this powerful attachment available in solo play, it is relatively easy to dump some of the most powerful characters in the game onto the board. The plus side is that while this combination is important, I have managed to pull off victories even without it being used once, thanks to the plethora of back-up options available in the deck.
Final Thoughts: This deck proves that a big hurt can come in a small package, and I’ve successfully taken these Hobbits against a variety of scenarios, from hacking the Watcher in the Water into calamari to battling back the Dunlendings at the Fords of Isen. The Black Riders definitively proved that a single “big box” expansion can transform a trait overnight into not only a fully viable deck type, but a powerful one. Whether you prefer to play a Hobbit evasion deck or a fightin’ Hobbits deck, there are a few options open to you, and each is quite fun compared to some other traits, which is perhaps the most important consideration. While I”m not sure whether we’ll see more Hobbit support anytime soon, I’m holding out hope for a Farmer Maggot hero in the future…