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Deck Spotlight: …Sting Like A Bee (Hobbits Part 2)

by on June 5, 2014

BrothersHSamShel

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!

Hero (3)
Sam Gamgee (TBR) x1
Merry (TBR) x1
Pippin (TBR) x1

Ally (22)
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

Attachment (18)
Fast Hitch (TDM) x3
Gondorian Shield (TSF) x3
Hobbit Cloak (TBR) x3
Dagger of Westernesse (TBR) x3
Steward of Gondor (Core) x3
Elf-stone (TBR) x3

Event (12)
Daeron’s Runes (FoS) x3
Sneak Attack (Core) x3
Halfling Determination (TBR) x3
Feint (Core) 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

Spheres: Leadership/Lore/Tactics

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.

elfstone

 

 

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.

dagger of westernesse

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.

Possible Combos:

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…

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29 Comments
  1. Another great deck! I especially like the decision to go with 1 or 2 copies of most of the unique allies. I am really prefering this approach in my recent decks as well. Variety is more interesting that consistency. Besides, with some attachments, these heroes can typically take care of themselves quite well.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks! I agree. Consistency is often (understandably) emphasized, but variety in a deck can often be underrated.

  2. Neil permalink

    Still consider this to be the strongest deck archetype in the game. Great use of classic combos and very strong hulking techniques in your deck list. If only the steward was available at our game table, and Faramir for that matter. Core set goodness with the three most synergistic heroes around. Nice job dude.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks! I’m glad the designers succeeded in making the Hobbits such a fun archetype to play. One of a few reasons why The Black Riders is such an amazing expansion.

  3. I’m happy to see people moving to 52 card decks, especially since you wrote that “Note on Probability”. 🙂

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

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yeah, difference between 50 and 52 is pretty negligible in terms of consistency, but having 2 copies of a card that wouldn’t normally fit in a deck can make a big difference!

  4. Great deck – I’ve used it for the Balck riders, works a treat! I usually have 2 or 3 Beorns, as he works with Merry so well, especially combined with sneak attack, so you can return Beorn to your hand, rather than your deck – merry/ Beorn/sneak attack is probably on the best combos in the game! I also love to use Merry combined with Brand son of Bain in a second deck, so they can ready each other and destroy multiple enemies, this worked a treat in the Conflict at the Carock.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I agree, I love the Merry/Beorn/Sneak Attack combination, and nothing feels quite like it in terms of being able to lay waste to enemies. I forgot to mention the ability of Merry to ready Beorn in the combo list above, but have used it to great advantage, particularly in the Black Riders, to decimate unsuspecting Nazgul.

  5. How do you handle set up in scenarios with very low-threat engaging enemies?

    Additionally, how do you survive the scenarios that have it out for attachments (wind whipped rain comes to mind)?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Good questions. This deck will tend to struggle more against these types of quests, since enemies get to grips before things get rolling. It really comes down to relying on the usual for most decks in this situation: chump blocking where necessary and biding time until a few of the attachments come out. Sam can handle a couple of attacks, as long as they’re not too beefy.

      Attachment hate, if it’s just one attachment, is generally manageable. Wind Whipped Rain is a real killer though in the absence of Spirit. Since this deck is so reliant on attachments, that treachery could effectively snatch away victory if it comes up at the wrong moment. I’d almost be tempted to splash in Spirit if I was playing that scenario specifically, or including Erebor Hammersmith and Second Breakfast for attachment retrieval.

      • Fouilloux permalink

        I just got my hands on black rider box, and I am trying to do my own deck with the same idea. I was just wondering why you did not include Second Breakfast. I had it why only one target in mind: the elf stone. Maybe the difference commes from the fact that I like to have few decks available at the same time (in the apst it was four, but now it’s gonna 6 I think) like that I can play easily with my group of player who does not like deck building.
        The result is that I have to spread the key cards amongst my deck, and the Steward of gondor is always use in my gondorian deck. Same issue with errand rider. So elf stone saty the only mean to drop expensive allies.

        The only decks that does not interract with the others one is th dwarf deck, as dwarf have all the need amongt the specialzed dwarf cards.

        This way of playing deck is fun because we can start playing right away, but it also makes thing harder to create super good deck, specialy as I have only one core set. (So yes, sometimes I play Spirit without a test of will…)

        • TalesfromtheCards permalink

          I could see Second Breakfast for Elf-stone, but generally deck space was so tight that I couldn’t justify taking anything else out to make room for it. As you said, this does seem to come down to maybe having multiple decks available at the same time vs. tearing them down and building new ones constantly.

        • TalesfromtheCards permalink

          Erebor Hammersmith is also a good choice for the same effect, because you get a useful ally at the same time.

  6. Fouilloux permalink

    Indeed. However he is already in my dwarf deck…
    The thing I found difficult while making a big set of game at once is the lack of allies. Even if I put only 2 in a given deck, it often does not make a lot of sence to put one copy of for example vassal windlord in another one.
    On the other hand, elf stone and hobbit deck are wonderfull for that: Yesterday it was playing single handed hobbit deck against the black riders, and I have silverode archer, bruinnen guard, haldir, Rhadasgast and landroval in play. All of them being in only one example in my deck…
    It is also really interresting as I almost have to use all my cards for the different decks, and it is rewarding to try them all.
    Still, I will probably make some proxy one day, even do I haven’t find a good way to do so yet.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That definitely is one of the rewarding parts of building multiple decks at the same time: it forces you to use some of those cards that might not otherwise be included. This can actually help with deck building in general as it helps to familiarize you with cards in actual practice instead of just in theory.

  7. Sean permalink

    Have you ever thought of turning these two decks into two decks intended to work with each other? Also, if so do you think they can be paired properly and do you think floats like a butterfly could be rewired to take advantage of resourceful? It seems like these decks could be strong together… Something like 5 hobbits and spirit glorifindel or merlonde etc…

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That’s an interesting thought. I hadn’t considered building an all-Hobbit pair of two decks, but I don’t see why it couldn’t work. Both decks would have low threat, which would help to make sure enemies are managed in the right way.

  8. I have a version of this deck that I use as one of my primary play decks… There are three cards that I wonder why you didn’t use – errestor, peace and thought and hobbit gandalf.. I really feel like errestor smooths out the deck, and that peace and thought can easily played due to all the untap in it also 1 copy of hobbit gandalf used late can do wonders as the deck can usually keep it around for a long time…. Any thoughts?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I could definitely see including Erestor. He’s a great and underrated card. As for Peace and Thought, you’re right that it fits in well here, with all the readying. However, I found that I had good draw with Daeron’s Runes and Pippin to not need PaT. I could see swapping Daeron’s Runes out for Peace and Thought, but I like that you can use Daeron from the very start, while Peace and Thought needs some time to set up. Regarding Hobbit Gandalf, I do like Gandalf 2.0 quite a bit, but I’ve tended to use this deck a bunch in multiplayer, although it can work solo, so I use original Gandalf. I also like to take advantage of the Sneak Attack/Gandalf combination for the variety of effects.

  9. I removed landroval, 1 elf stone, 1 hobbit cloak, 1 halfling determination…. Then added 2 errestor, 2 peace and thought and converted one gandalf to v2…. Landroval just didn’t feel like it was worth it, the 3rd cloak felt unneeded (as late game they are usually worthless and even early you usually only need 1) and the elf stone and half determination were good but I felt like an extra 10 potential card draw made everything feel like I was drawing it more anyway (I feel that it makes 2 of something feel like 3 and 3s feel more like 4 – if you follow)… The erestors are golden and give over resources bill another 2 good allies to cast, and then smooth out the deck in conjunction with the extra draw…. The v2 gandalf I am still on the fence about…. It has really applied a lot of late game help (as the deck usually is good on threat, and as above 2 gandalf feels like 3 from the other extra card draw, but it could be 3 feeling like 4… I haven’t made up my mins on that one.
    One other thing that I really would love to do is try it with resourceful… Figure that you start at 20 either you get resourceful or steward in the draw or mulligan, then any you draw later you have resources to play them for full cost… I have had some harsh choices I have had to make involving resources on pipin and merry and it would help that too… But it is a major alteration that I haven’t quite figured out… Thoughts?

    • Scored a 19 on anduin with that today, and it was hating on me… Pretty early dbl trolls but low threat trumps that… Cleared it, put out gandalf v2 then blew through it… Had a mildly scary bout of surge to boost the last mass attack to about 5-6 attackers, but mowed them down eventually… About 12 turns total.
      40 end threat (6 gandalf and 2 from locations) and 21 vps.
      That deck just rocks anduin.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I think Resourceful could be worth a shot given the low threat, but haven’t felt it worthwhile if I’m going to use Steward. And you’re right, if you have strong card draw, you can pretty much drop down 3 of’s to 2 of’s unless they’re a card that you really need 3 copies of (like a Test of Will).

  10. I really think it is A very strong deck, and full of character…. I am working on a lower budget version as my recommendation to people getting into the game… You figure a core set, and dark rider, and a pack to get the hitches and you have probably the best deck (and again fun + characterful) for a very low entry cost. Also I think black riders as a saga expansion is a better place to start than the core/older quests (less anduin/dol guldur burn out) and they just play saga stuff if they want… The campaign mode is a good seller.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I agree. Although I think Black Riders can be a bit hard for newer players, the theme and especially the Campaign Mode can keep them interested, and it’s really a fantastic expansion all around.

  11. I also really like this deck! We’ve been using a version of it with great success. Since one of us plays a Tactics deck with Legolas, I tried adding Dúnedain Cache to give Merry a Ranged attack, and it’s worked brilliantly with Legolas. A very strong deck, thank you for posting it!

  12. sweetnesswhachacha permalink

    When I first got a taste of the hobbit archetype I absolutely loved it! I like that you put the whole elf stone piece in this deck along with the steward back up!

    Thanks again!

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