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TftC Mailbag: Deck Building #6

by on October 3, 2014

bilbo mail

It’s been awhile since I dipped into the mailbag, but I’ve received a few interesting deck building questions and challenges of late, and I’ll be sharing them over the next few weeks. One common theme is the issue of restriction. In many cases, this means that some players, especially newer ones, are building decks with a limited card pool. Trying to help players build decks with this kind of limitation is illuminating, because it outlines just how reliant I have become on certain cards and on having access to the entire card pool in my own deck building. It’s not simply a matter of building a “progression style” deck either, where someone has all the cards of the Core Set up to the end of the Mirkwood cycle or up to the middle of the Dwarrowdelf cycle either. Players often don’t or can’t buy expansions in order, so they build from a variety of different expansions instead, depending on what is most interesting to them. It’s actually a highly intriguing exercise to try this for myself, and I recommend experienced players and deck builders to try such random restrictions for themselves, just to sharpen up their skills and see how they would deal with the lack of certain crucial cards. Another kind of restriction that comes up when players contact me is the desire to implement decks that fit a certain theme. This issue doesn’t necessarily come up here, but look out for it in future editions of the mailbag.

With that preamble out of the way, let’s look at our piece of mail for today. It comes from a reader asking for help in building decks against some particular quests with a limited card pool:

Hello, are you still doing the TftC Mailbag?  I have one copy of the Core set, Heirs of Numenor, The Steward’s Fear, The Druadan Forest, Encounter at Amon Din, Assault on Osgiliath, and The Black Riders and was wondering if you could make a deck that could beat the Siege of Cair Andros and a deck that could perform well at the campaign.  Please avoid using EaAD Pippin and Mirlonde (as much as I know you like Lore). 

This is an interesting array of player cards, as besides the Core Set, it contains a hefty array of Hobbit cards from The Black Riders, as well as a smattering of Gondor, mono-sphere, and Outlands from Heirs of Numenor and several quests of the Against the Shadow cycle. Originally, I wanted to build a deck that could tackle both Siege of Cair Andros and The Black Riders campaign, but I found the limited card pool made this goal a bit too ambitious. Instead, I built two separate decks to handle the very different challenges posed by Cair Andros and the campaign. First, while I had the option of creating a Hobbit deck to face the campaign using many of The Black Riders cards, I decided to go in a different direction:

I’ve done some thinking about your deck building situation, and have come up with what I feel to be a fairly solid deck for the campaign, based on the card pool you have available. 
1x Aragorn
1x Sam Gamgee
1x Éowyn
2x Bill the Pony
1x Denethor
1x Faramir
3x Guard of the Citadel
2x Son of Arnor
3x Warrior of Lossarnach
3x Ethir Swordsman
2x Northern Tracker
3x Minas Tirith Lampwright
3x Gandalf
3x Envoy of Pelargir
2x Hobbit Cloak
2x Steward of Gondor
1x Unexpected Courage
3x Blood of Númenor
1x Celebrían’s Stone
1x Grim Resolve
2x Sneak Attack
2x Valiant Sacrifice
2x Ever Vigilant
1x For Gondor!
2x A Test of Will
2x Hasty Stroke
1x Dwarven Tomb
2x The Galadhrim’s Greeting

Between Eowyn, Sam, and the Ethir Swordsman, you should have plenty of willpower to go around. This will serve you in good stead against Shadow of the Past, as well as the rest of the scenarios in The Black Riders. In terms of combat, Aragorn will be your main attacker, along with help from a variety of smaller allies and judicious use of Sneak Attack/Gandalf (Sam can also contribute 2 attack in many cases). Both Aragorn (with Blood of Numenor) and Sam (with Hobbit Cloak) can serve as defenders. The Warrior of Lossarnach, which may seem an odd choice at first, can not only become strong questers with the help of Ethir Swordsman, but also turn into decent defenders in their own right, or pitch in a point to attack.

Steward of Gondor should go on Aragorn to help fund Blood of Numenor, as well as his own ability. If he gets Celebrian’s Stone, he can also help pay for Spirit cards. The deck is a bit light on card draw (really light on card draw actually) so I’ve added in Valiant Sacrifice (which can pair well with Sneak Attack) to complement Gandalf. The deck is rounded out with Ever Vigilant for extra action advantage, For Gondor for moments of needed attack, and the key Spirit cancellation and reduction effects.

You also asked for a deck that can work well against Siege of Cair Andros. I’m afraid this one will probably not do too well against that scenario, although I haven’t tried it yet, so I will send a follow-up with a specific deck for that quest. Let me know how the deck fares against the campaign!

Long-time readers may note that this deck shares some affinity with one of the decks I used in my own campaign play, except that one used Aragorn, Eowyn, and Spirit Glorfindel as its heroes. Without Glorfindel around, I needed another high willpower hero with fairly low threat that could also help in combat. This brought me to Sam, who is a versatile hero that can work well in almost any deck. In terms of allies, although I’ve been a bit harsh on Outlands at times as an overall deck archetype, I find that individual Outlands allies continue to be useful in various combinations and deck types. Generally, I’ll use the Ethir Swordsman in almost any deck that includes Spirit, but rarely use the Warrior of Lossarnach outside actual Outlands decks. However, here he’s useful in a limited card pool merely as a cheap, 2-cost body with a decent stat line (1/1/1). With the Ethir Swordsman around, however, he can become an amazing quester in his own right, as well as strong defensively (although the 1 hit point remains a danger). I’ll leave it to others to debate how far down the Outlands hole you can go before you pass the point of no return, but my beef has never been with the Outlands cards themselves so much as the boredom of pure Outlands decks that provide few meaningful choices.

I digress, however, from the main topic. With a limited card pool, a strong ally like Denethor, who is often surplus to requirements elsewhere, becomes invaluable. Blood of Numenor also continues to prove its worth as a crucial form of defense boosting outside the Tactics sphere. Finally, fringe cards like Ever Vigilant and For Gondor! find their way into contention and actually prove quite useful, as the former can get double duty out of a Gandalf, Faramir, or even one of the boosted Outlands characters, while the latter can help overcome tough Nazgul during a key moment in the campaign.

All told, it’s easy to think about building with a limited card pool as having to do without. For example, including Leadership Aragorn without Sword that was Broken is certainly not optimal, and cards that I use more often than not, such as A Very Good Tale or Arwen, had to be excluded. However, there is also an opportunity here to experiment with cards that haven’t seen the light of day in a long while. For newer players, obviously, this is also a necessity, unless they are willing or able to buy the whole card pool at once. However, as this post hopefully shows, it’s possible to build strong decks that can play against the quests you are interested in without having to put down a giant wad of cash all at once.

I hope today’s installment of TftC has been useful. As always, feel free to share your own responses to these questions in the comments below, as there are many avid deck builders that frequent this blog and can contribute some valuable advice of their own. In the next installment of the mailbag, I will share the deck designed to beat Siege of Cair Andros with thissame  card pool. Remember, if you have questions of your own, click on the Contact TftC! button above, and you might be featured in the next TftC mailbag. Enjoy your weekend!



From → TftC Mailbag

  1. He doesn’t have WitW so it is indeed only Aragorn. I was a bit confused there myself…
    Cool that you’re doing this! I didn’t know that. I find it extremely solidarity!
    And it’s a fun deck. 🙂

  2. This is an excellent deck, especially considering the constraints. I agree about Outlands: the allies themselves are fine (Ethir Swordsman and Knights of the Swan find themselves in quite a few of my decks), it is the archetype as a whole (and Hirluin) that I prefer to avoid.

  3. I’ll echo the Outlands sentiment. Just a little bit of crack is okay, right? I love using Knights of the Swan as cheap chumps with Imrahil and Eomer for thematic and strategic fun!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Sure, that’s how it starts. Then, next thing you know, you wake up in bed with Hirluin the Fair! :p

  4. Silver Swan permalink

    About Outlands …
    Thematically, how I see Outlands is that Outlands represents the drafting of the entire population of Gondor, with each ally representing the start of a new company as well as reinforcements to existing companies. Ethir Swordsman represents the ability of the fisherfolk of the Anduin delta to show others how to sail (which helped Aragorn get to the battle of the Pelennor fields in time). So thematically, I consider using an Outlands ally outside of an Outlands deck a problem, but not in an Outlands deck.
    I built an Outlands deck that was a discard-draw type deck, with A Very Good Tale to discard cards and put out allies, Emery to discard cards and ready Prince Imrahil, and Hidden Cache as the only resource acceleration. Tome of Atanator and Men of the West meant the cards in the discard pile were playable. My only problem was that the only quests I could think of for which Denethor would draft an Outlands ally had The Master’s Malice, which really hurts Outlands.

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