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Beyond the Core Set: A Guide to Faction-Wise Purchasing

by on June 19, 2014


Here we have a special guest article from banania, a regular poster over on the BGG forums and creator of the absolutely fantastic LOTR LCG Quest Companion site. If you haven’t yet checked it out, the Quest Companion is an absolutely invaluable resource, where you can find the rules and errata for each quest on your tablet, phone, or computer. This article is a perfect counterpart to my New Player Buying Guide, with this piece serving as a handy reference for those players who want to base their buying decisions around theme and factions. Enjoy!


A lot of players enjoy the strong theme of The Lord of The Rings: The Card Game, which borrows from the extensive and rich world created by Professor Tolkien. With the card pool ever growing, some new players may wish to purchase only a few of the key expansions in order to build a deck around the faction or race they love the most,  whether because of a lack of time, money or due to the unavailability of expansions through time.

Concerning Faction and Traits

The following article is not intended as specific deck building advice on traits.

From the beginning, The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game has been based around the four spheres of influence, which provide their own benefits and rewards, as well as drawbacks and flaws, when facing the encounter deck.

Traits are card properties which do not provide any abilities themselves, but which may be referenced by other cards to grant new benefits. Traits can be found on characters and are often used to identify the race: Dwarf, Noldor, Silvan, Hobbit, Gondor, Rohan, Dunedain and Outlands being the common ones. That’s what is commonly known as a “faction”. They may also give skills such as Warrior, Healer, Ranger, Noble or Scout.

You can build your fellowship around two spheres, for example, that would include Elves, Dwarves and Men alike. The strongest decks out there are often made with the strongest cards, bypassing theme, old hatreds between races, and lore inconsistencies.

The developers have come up with cards giving huge bonuses to certain traits, but ultimately the metagame is built around spheres. You could include only Gondor characters in your deck, because you feel like the bulwark of the West will give you a satisfying theme experience, but you may struggle against the encounter deck.

That’s why one should know that some thematic decks are more viable than others: Dwarves, Hobbits, Outlands and Rohan. Gondor would be just a step below, and some other decks can’t shine in a solo experience or have too few cards to be real powerhouses (Ranger is a real blast in my opinion, but I only make it shine in multiplayer).

If you’re out for a men of Dale deck, don’t go any further: it’s impossible (for now), as some factions aren’t even sufficiently developed to allow specific deck building.

A Quick Reference

For each trait, I will be limiting the number of key expansions to three.

You’ll find lots of thematic deck lists over the internet, but you may not have all the cards in hand after you purchase the two or three key expansions. That’s where you should seek some deck building advice on the various forums.

I want to build…


… a Dwarf deck

This is certainly the most capable trait, strong in a solo environment, as well as multiplayer. As this article is directed toward theme lovers, and as there are many possible combinations for Dwarf decks, I am giving different possibilities:

– The “War of the Ring” period:

o   The Khazad-Dûm deluxe expansion contains two Dwarf heroes (Dwalin and Bifur) and cards from every sphere that lend support to the trait, which is a good start for any Dwarf deck.

o   Return to Mirkwood is essential as it contains Dain Ironfoot. This hero gives a huge boost to Dwarf synergy.

o   The Shadow and Flame adventure pack contains the We Are Not Idle event and the Hardy Leadership attachment that ties well to a Dain Ironfoot-based deck. If you’re more into reinforcing the combat aspect of your dwarf deck (for instance with Gimli and Thalin), The Long Dark gives you a strong  ally, an attachment boosting defense, and an additional attachment to ready your questing dwarves.

– “The Hobbit” period:

o   Over Hill and Under Hill: 3 Dwarf heroes, and so many good cards for the archetype

o   On The Doorstep: 3 Dwarf heroes and the key attachment King Under the Mountain, which boosts your card draw to incredible levels

o   Then go for the Khazad-Dûm deluxe expansion or Return to Mirkwood for Dain Ironfoot.

– “I’m not that theme-crazed”: Then go for the two Hobbit Saga Expansions and Khazad-Dûm.

–  Other expansions supporting the trait: The Redhorn Gate, Road to Rivendell, Foundations of Stone, and Conflict at the Carrock


… a Hobbit deck

You will be able to build a nice (and quite strong) Hobbit deck with only a handful of expansions:

–  The Black Riders saga expansion gives you four Hobbit heroes (one for each sphere) and cards supporting the trait

–  The Dead Marshes contains one attachment, Fast Hitch, which is a staple card in any Hobbit deck

–  Conflict at the Carrock contains Frodo Baggins, a very good  hero. Though if you plan to play the Saga Expansions and therefore can’t use Frodo Baggins, consider moving to Encounter at Amon-Din, for a new  Pippin hero and cards supporting the Hobbit trait, as well as The Hunt for Gollum, giving you the Bilbo Baggins hero.


… an Outlands deck

The Outland deck is certainly one of the most powerful out there, and was actually designed to help new players face the stronger scenarios for a reasonable amount of money.

–  With only The Steward’s Fear adventure pack, you get Hirluin the Fair and four Outland allies which help you build a deck right out of the box

–  Encounter at Amon-Din gives you Lord of Morthond, a useful unique attachment to boost your card draw

– Then you can either pick: Heirs of Númenor expansion (with one  Outland ally), The Drúadan Forest (with one Outland unique ally) or Assault on Osgiliath, which refines the archetype with a new attachment and a new event tied to the trait


… a Rohan deck

There are two ways to go with Rohan, either you want to emphasize their combat ability or questing ability:

–  Questing-heavy Rohan deck:

o   A Journey to Rhosgobel for the Escort from Edoras, a very synergystic Rohan ally

o   Return to Mirkwood gives you the West Road Traveler and a powerful  event, Astonishing Speed

o   The Hills of Emyn Muil for an ally, The Riddermark’s Finest, and one  event, Ride to Ruin

–  Combat-heavy Rohan deck:

o   The Morgul Vale is a great addition to the combat aspects of Rohan Decks. It provides a new hero (Théoden) as well as the Spear of the Mark and the event Forth Eorlingas! which boosts Dúnhere from the Core Set! You will also find a  Mount attachment

o   The Voice of Isengard continues that trend with Eomer and allies/attachments lending support to the Mount and Rohan traits

o   The Blood of Gondor gives you Guthlaf, a useful and thematic unique ally

–  Then move on to Conflict at the Carrock that brings you Eomund, a nice Spirit ally for both of Rohan’s main abilities, as well as The Hunt for Gollum and The Dead Marshes, which both contains two cards building on the questing theme. The Long Dark gives you Hama, a hero.


…Gondor deck

Gondor cards are spread across lots of expansions; it certainly requires some effort to get the trait competitive with a handful of them. Let’s try:

– Heirs of Númenor deluxe expansion is the obvious first choice, as it contains two good Gondor heroes (Boromir and Beregond), as well as staple Gondor-support cards

–  The Morgul Vale contains Visionnary Leadership, an attachment boosting Gondorian characters

–  The Steward’s Fear is the perfect expansion to stuff Beregond and make him a defending machine

Then, you can move on to any adventure pack giving you Gondor heroes (The Dead Marshes for Boromir, Journey to Rhosgobel for Imrahil) or on to any of the adventure packs from the Against the Shadow Cycle.


… a Ranger deck

Ranger decks are mostly based on Gondor cards from the  sphere. That’s why you’d certainly consider buying:

– The Heirs of Númenor deluxe expansion: Ranger Spikes is a Trap attachment, the best in the game, which is the base card of any Ranger deck. Additionally, the expansion gives you two Ranger allies: Ithilien Tracker and Damrod.

–  Assault on Osgiliath for the  Faramir hero, an attachment, and the Forest Patrol event

–  The Blood of Gondor for yet another Trap attachment and the unique Ranger ally, Anborn

Other expansions lending support to the Ranger archetype are: Encounter at Amon-Din (with a Trap attachment), The Drúadan Forest (for the  Silvan hero, Mirlonde, who reduces your starting threat, and the event Advance Warning) or The Black Riders (for the Lore Pippin hero and the Take No Notice event).


… a Noldor deck

The Noldor trait contains three of the most powerful heroes of the games (Elrond, Glorfindel and Galadriel) on which you can easily build strong decks, so if you love them, consider buying:

–  Glorfindel and his attachments Light of Valinor and Asfaloth are must-haves you can find in Foundation of Stone

– Elrond and his Ring attachment Vilya in Shadow and Flame. The Imladris Stargazer is a Noldor ally tremendously important to Elrond which you can find in the aforementioned Foundation of Stone.

– The Watcher in the Water, especially for Arwen Undomiel, an ally, and Elrond’s Counsel.

– Alternatively,  Galadriel and her Ring attachment Nenya in Celebrimbor’s Secret


… a Silvan deck

The Silvan trait is currently developing during The Ring-Maker Cycle. Staple expansions are:

–  The Dunland Trap gives Celeborn and Silvan-traited cards

–  Trouble in Tharbad contains six players cards


… an Eagle deck

There is no Eagle hero at the moment, so what is called the “Eagle deck” is (usually) a  heavy deck with Eagle allies. Consider:

–  Return to Mirkwood for Eagles of the Misty Mountains and the attachment Support of the Eagles

–  The Hunt for Gollum for the Winged Guardian and The Eagles Are Coming!

–  The Dead Marshes for Vassal of the Windlord and Boromir, commonly acknowledged as a goood recipient for Support of the Eagles

Then, you can go on to either Journey to Rhosgobel (giving you Landroval and Radagast as unique allies) or Trouble in Tharbad for Gwaihir.


… a Dúnedain deck

Dúnedain is not a strong trait by any means. Few cards refer to it (Blood of Númenor, Gondorian Fire) and the developers have yet to come up with the mechanics tied to this trait.


… an Isengard deck

There is no  true Isengard deck at the moment. The Isengard trait only appears in The Voice of Isengard and is mainly based on the Doomed X keyword. With this expansion, you’ll get Grima as a  hero, as well as Saruman and two Isengard allies.

The “Doomed deck” is an alternative using the doomed cards without actually building on Isengard theme. However, if you want to move into that deck, consider buying The Watcher in the Water for Lore Aragorn, since he combos nicely with the doomed keyword and Grima.


… a Beorning deck

This is deck is difficult for now. Beorn is a hero in The Hobbit Over Hill and Under Hill Saga Expansion, and a  Beorning ally can be found in Conflict at the Carrock, but it’s nowhere close to be able to build a thematic deck.


… a Dale deck

You’ll find the hero Brand Son of Bain in The Hills of Emyn Muil and the Ravenhill Scout ally in The Redhorn Gate, but it’s not near enough.


Sample Trait Decks






(starting threat: 20)


Allies: 18

Gandalf x3

Beorn x1

Farmer Maggot x2 (The Black Riders)

Bill the Poney x3 (The Black Riders)

Faramir x2

Henamarth Riversong x1

Erebor Hammersmith x2

Miner of the Iron Hills x2

Barliman Butterbeer x2 (The Black Riders)


Events: 14

Sneak Attack x2

Feint x2

Halfling Determination x3 (The Black Riders)

Secret Paths x2

Radagast’s Cunning x2

Take No Notice x3 (The Black Riders)


Attachments: 18

Celebrian’s Stone x1

Protector of Lorien x2

Fast Hitch x3 (The Dead Marshes)

Elf-Stone x2 (The Black Riders)

Hobbit Cloak x3 (The Black Riders)

Steward of Gondor x2

Dagger of Westerness x3 (The Black Riders)

Blade of Gondolin x2




Hirluin the Fair (The Steward’s Fear)


Boromir (Heirs of Númenor)

(starting threat: 32)


Allies: 30

Warrior of Lossarnach x3 (The Steward’s Fear)

Errand-Rider x3 (Heirs of Númenor)

Denethor x2 (Encounter at Amon-Din)

Faramir x2

Guard of the Citadel x2

Anfalas Herdsman x3 (The Steward’s Fear)

Hunter of Lamedon x3 (Heirs of Númenor)

Knights of the Swan x3 (The Steward’s Fear)

Ethir Swordsman x3 (The Steward’s Fear)

Envoy of Pelargir x3 (Heirs of Númenor)

Gandalf x3


Attachments: 6

Celebrian’s Stone x1

Steward of Gondor x2

Lord of Morthond x3 (Encounter at Amon-Din)


Events: 14

Sneak Attack x2

Wealth of Gondor x3 (Heirs of Númenor)

Gaining Strength x3 (The Steward’s Fear)

A Good Harvest x3 (The Steward’s Fear)

Valiant Sacrifice x2

Grim Resolve x1


Questing Rohan





(starting threat: 25)


Allies: 20

Snowbourn Scout x3

Guard of the Citadel x2

Faramir x2

Escort from Edoras x3 (A Journey to Rhosgobel)

Westroad Traveler x3 (Return to Mirkwood)

The Riddermark’s Finest x3 (The Hills of Emyn Muil)

Northern Tracker x2

Gandalf x2


Attachments: 11

Celebrian’s Stone x1

Steward of Gondor x2

Unexpected Courage x1

The Favor of the Lady x2

Dúnedain Quest x2 (A Journey to Rhosgobel)


Events: 19

Sneak Attack x2

Valiant Sacrifice x2

A Test of Will x2

Hasty Stroke x2

The Galadhrim’s Greetings x2

Astonishing Speed x3 (Return to Mirkwood)

Ride to Ruin x3 (The Hills of Emyn Muil)

Stand and Fight x3

Rear Guard x3 (The Hills of Emyn Muil)

Battling Rohan


Théoden (The Morgul Vale)

Eomer (Voice of Isengard)


(starting threat: 31)


Allies: 23

Gondorian Spearman x3

Veterand Axehand x3

Westfold Outrider x3 (Voice of Isengard)

Guthlaf x3 (The Blood of Gondor)

Horseback Archer x2

Westfold Horse-breeder x3 (Voice of Isengard)

Gandalf x3

Saruman x3


Attachments: 12

Rohan Warhorse x3 (Voice of Isengard)

Unexpected Courage x1

Blade of Gondolin x2

Spear of the Mark x3 (The Morgul Vale)

Steed of the Mark x2 (The Morgul Vale)

Horn of Gondor x1


Events: 17

Feint x2

Forth Eorlingas x2 (The Morgul Vale)

The Hammer-stroke x2 (The Blood of Gondor)

A Test of Will x2

Hasty Stroke x2

The Galadhrim’s Greeting x2

A Light In The Dark x2

Stand and Fight x3




Boromir (Heirs of Númenor)

Begerond (Heirs of Númenor)


(starting threat: 33)


Allies: 24

Gondorian Spearman x3

Defender of Rammas x3 (Heirs of Númenor)

Guard of the Citadel x2

Faramir x2

Errand-rider x3 (Heirs of Númenor)

Citadel Custodian x2 (Heirs of Númenor)

Envoy of Pelargir x3 (Heirs of Númenor)

Gandalf x3

Pelargir Ship Captain x3 (The Morgul Vale)


Attachments: 16

Celebrian’s Stone x1

Steward of Gondor x2

Visionnary Leadership x3 (The Morgul Vale)

Spear of the Citadel x3 (Heirs of Númenor)

Gondorian Shield x3 (The Steward’s Fear)

Citadel Plate x2

Blade of Gondolin x2


Events: 10

Feint x2

Behind Strong Walls x3 (Heirs of Númenor)

Sneak Attack x2

Wealth of Gondor x3 (Heirs of Númenor)

For Gondor! x2




Faramir (Assault on Osgiliath)



(starting threat: 28)


Allies: 19

Hunter of Lamedon x3 (Heirs of Númenor)

Master of Lore x2 (Heirs of Númenor)

Erebor Hammersmith x2

Ithilien Tracker x3 (Heirs of Númenor)

Anborn x2 (The Blood of Gondor)

Damrod x2 (Heirs of Númenor)

Gandalf x2

Envoy of Pelargir x3 (Heirs of Númenor)


Attachments: 16

Ranger Spikes x3 (Heirs of Númenor)

Poisoned Stakes x3 (The Blood of Gondor)

Forest Snare x2

Protector of Lorien x2

Ranger Bow x2 (Assault on Osgiliath)

Unexpected Courage x1

Blood of Númenor x3 (Heirs of Númenor)


Events: 15

Forest Patrol x3 (Assault on Osgiliath)

A Light in the Dark x2

A Test of Will x2

Hasty Stroke x2

The Galadhrim’s Greeting x2

Secret Paths x2

Radagast’s Cunning x2




Glorfindel (Foundations of Stone)


Elrond (Shadow and Flame)

(starting threat: 27)


Allies: 18

Imladris Stargazer x3 (Foundations of Sone)

Trollshaw Scout x3 (Foundations of Stone)

Watcher of the Bruinen x3 (The Watcher in the Water)

Master of the Forge x3 (Shadow and Flame)

Arwen Undomiel x3 (The Watcher in the Water)

Gandalf x3


Attachments: 15

Asfaloth x3 (Foundations of Sone)

Light of Valinor x3 (Foundations of Sone)

Unexpected Courage x1

Vilya x3 (Shadow and Flame)

Blade of Gondolin x2

Miruvor x3 (Shadow and Flame)


Events: 17

Daeron’s Rune x3 (Foundations of Sone)

A Test of Will x2

Hasty Stroke x2

The Galahrim’s Greetings x2

Hands Upon the Bow x3 (Shadow and Flame)

Feint x2

Elrond’s Council x3 (The Watcher in the Water)




Boromir (The Dead Marshes)



(starting threat: 30)


Allies: 18

Eagles of the Misty Mountains x3 (Return to Mirkwood)

Winged Guardian x3 (The Hunt for Gollum)

Vassal of the Windlord x3 (The Dead Marshes)

Gondorian Spearman x3

Axehand Veteran x3

Horseback Archer x2

Beorn x1


Attachments: 13

Horn of Gondor x1

Support of the Eagles x3 (Return to Mirkwood)

Blade of Gondolin x2

Citadel Plate x2

Song of Mocking x3 (The Dead Marshes)

Dwarven Axe x2


Events: 19

The Eagles Are Coming x3 (The Hunt for Gollum)

Feint x2

Thicket of Spears x2

Blade Mastery x3

Rain of Arrows x2

Quick Strike x2

Swift Strike x1

Stand Together x1

A Shadow of the Past x3 (Return to Mirkwood)



From → New Players

  1. Great job, Ian. When it came to the section about making a Beorning deck, all I could do was sigh and bury my head in my massive paws. I still hold out hope that one day we can make a Beorning deck, but I don’t see it happening any time soon.

  2. A great resource for newbies. Kinda wish I was a newbie so I could take advantage of it 😉

  3. My apologies, I didn’t notice at first that this article was written by banania. Great work, sir!

  4. catastrophic09 permalink

    Thanks for putting all the time into this, it is great for people just getting into the game and I’ll have to refer them over here! 🙂

  5. Baphomet69 permalink

    I don’t see an example Dwarf deck…

  6. VladVoivode permalink

    This is simply a brilliant article!! I am more of a theme player than a build a deck to beat life, the universe, and everything. But as you so correctly wrote, the metagame is about the four spheres and as such presents unique challenges for theme players. In other games I have no problem not being thematic. Case in point are the three D&D big box games. Mixing WoA, CR, and LoD isn’t a problem beause in D&D at least for me, a monster is a monster is a monster. But with Tolkien, theme is central and for me it is essential. Elves, Men, Dwarves, Hobbits, etc., all have rich histories and I want to vicariously be immersed in the rich lore and the unparalleled “themes” of the man called the greatest author of the millenium.”

  7. wiljack permalink

    A very fine article on a very exquisite job overall. I only miss the hobbit saga expansions from my collection and I find it very hard to stray away thematically and timeline-wise. Nobody’s perfect.

  8. topher permalink

    Great article. Especially from a new player’s perspective… but now i have so many more questions 🙂 Thanks again!

  9. Dries permalink

    Could you please create a sample Dwarf deck as well ?? Thanks very much for the information !

  10. Luke Hector permalink

    This is a great article, is there any chance that this will ever get updated now that we have the whole Isenguard cycle done as well as Lost Realms and new saga expansions? I’d be keen to see if an Ent deck could be listed also.

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