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Deck Spotlight: Heroes of Pelennor Fields

by on October 24, 2014

lord-of-the-rings-return-of-the-king-legolas-and-gimli

Anyone who has read The Lord of the Rings or seen the films has dreamed of recreating the epic heroics of the Battle of Pelennor Fields, from Legolas and Gimli competing to see who could deal the most damage to the Enemy to Eowyn standing face-to-face with the Witch King and coming out on top (I know the kill competition actually only took place at Helm’s Deep in the books, but bear with me here!). When LOTR LCG was first released, and I found out Legolas and Gimli were part of the Core Set, I immediately wanted to place them side-by-side so that I could implement their little game of one-upmanship into the experience. Unfortunately, using that pair together never quite worked for me, especially in solo play, but all that has changed with the larger card pool we now have to work with, and it is indeed possible to play out your own version of that friendly rivalry. Read on and before you know it, you’ll be shouting, “That still only counts as one!”

While building decks with Gandalf has occupied much of my attention of late, as I imagine it has for much of the player community, I’ve also been experimenting with a few other ideas. Although I’m as liable as anyone else to focus in on whatever the new hotness is, I also often find myself looking back to older cards in the hopes of finding a fresh take on them. As the card pool grows, new deck types can be crafted from what seemed dusty and decrepit, and this is an aspect of the LCG format that I particularly enjoy. With this in mind, I’ll leave our Istari friend aside for the moment, and share a deck focused around 3 Core Set heroes. Each is tried and true in his or her own way, but I’ve managed to build a deck around them that is fun and effective.

Deck List:

Hero (3)
1x Gimli
1x Éowyn
1x Legolas

Ally (18)
2x Bofur (Tactics)
3x Defender of Rammas
1x Landroval
3x Westfold Outrider
1x Bilbo Baggins
2x Arwen Undómiel
3x Ethir Swordsman
3x Gandalf (Core)

Attachment
2x Unexpected Courage
3x Dwarrowdelf Axe
2x Rohan Warhorse
3x Ancient Mathom
2x Rivendell Blade
3x Keeping Count

Event
3x Quick Strike
3x Khazâd! Khazâd!
3x Foe-hammer
3x A Test of Will
2x Hasty Stroke
3x Hands Upon the Bow

Total Deck Size: 50

Expansions Needed (12): 2nd Core Set, Over Hill and Under Hill, Heirs of Numenor, A Journey to Rhosgobel, Voice of Isengard, The Road Darkens, The Watcher in the Water, The Steward’s Fear, Khazad-dum, Road to Rivendell, The Redhorn Gate, Shadow and Flame

Theme: Pre-emptive Strikes, Attack Boosting/Hulking, Benefits from Destroying Enemies

Spheres: Tactics/Spirit (2/3 Tactics, 1/3 Spirit)

Strategy: The main focus of this deck is first to get Gimli built up into a weapon of mass destruction. This then enables other combos and the rest of the deck to function. To do this, Gimli needs to take at least 3 damage, although 4 is also desirable as long as the quest doesn’t pose a threat of unwillingly dealing a point of damage to him at some point. There are a few different ways of getting the damage on Gimli quickly. Archery or direct damage from encounter card effects is probably the most simple, but not necessarily the most reliable, unless the quest features these aspects heavily. If Hasty Stroke is drawn early, then it is also possible to take an undefended attack from a 3 or 4 attack enemy, with the shadow cancellation guarding against any attack boosts. You can also take this approach without a Hasty Stroke, but I would advise against this gamble, unless you know for a fact that there is no chance of a shadow boosting the enemy’s attack. Finally, you can simply defend with Gimli against an enemy that has 3 attack or greater. How easy it is to damage Gimli is somewhat dependent on the quest, but generally it doesn’t take too long and the deck can manage relatively well for at least a few rounds. Aside from damage, Gimli also should get at least 1 copy of Dwarrowdelf Axe attached. Other copies are also welcome, but once a Rohan Warhorse makes an appearance, Gimli should hop on for some awesome action advantage, even if this means discarding a second Axe or not attaching one in the future. With all this in place, Gimli can easily attack for at least 6, but usually more, along with the direct damage from the Axe. Khazad! Khazad! can boost this even higher when needed. When Gimli has the Warhorse, he can often take out two enemies all by himself (Gimli can also make use of Unexpected Courage to quest and attack, defend and attack, or launch multiple attacks). The final element is to hopefully draw a copy of Keeping Count, which is placed on Gimli. With as strong as Gimli can get in this deck, and with the action advantage from the Rohan Warhose, he can amass quite a few resources on Keeping Count.

Keeping-Count

Legolas is a strong hero and can pull his weight throughout a game for all the usual reasons, including his always useful ability. However, in this deck, the aim is to use Gimli and Keeping Count to build up Legolas to an almost absurd attack strength for some devastating uses of Hands Upon the Bow. Once the second copy of Keeping Count is drawn, this should not be placed on Legolas immediately. While Gimli is the only one to have Keeping Count, Legolas can safely destroy enemies and help him out without amassing resources on his own copy. Once you have a Hands Upon the Bow and are ready to use it, then attach the second Keeping Count to Legolas. If everything has been set up correctly, Legolas can attack into the staging area with a huge bonus from Keeping Count. A couple of copies of Rivendell Blade also help turn Legolas into an effective attacker, and provide a second option in case the second copy of Keeping Count is never drawn. So far, it is obvious that this deck relies upon drawing quite a few cards in order to get Legolas and Gimli to where they need to be, which is a problem since Spirit and Tactics are not known for their card draw. However, with the Rivendell Blade and Dwarrowdelf Axe to enable Foe-hammer, and several copies of Ancient Mathom (along with Core Gandalf), this deck can actually draw far more cards than you might normally expect.

The central strategy of this deck, which is possible once Legolas and Gimli are buffed, is to kill enemies before they can attack. Many decks rely on a huge super defender or armies of chump blockers to cover defense. This one is based around the idea that the best defense is a good offense, and those pesky shadow effects can’t hurt you if they never get to take effect. With this in mind, Quick Strike is a crucial card, and when employed by a hulked up Gimli, can allow him to eliminate even the biggest foes before they can even swing once. Similarly, Legolas can use Hands Upon the Bow and Rivendell Blade/Keeping Count to snipe enemies in the staging area before they can even engage, which is especially useful against foes that have a harmful engagement effect. This deck does require some solid decision-making, as knowing when to use the key events, Quick Strike and Hands Upon the Bow, is important.

I haven’t said a word about Eowyn and the Spirit component of this deck yet. This is because there is nothing too groundbreaking here: the main role of Eowyn and the Spirit allies is to provide the willpower necessary to be successful, while nullifying treacheries and the worst shadow effects. In the fairly unlikely event that a third Keeping Count is drawn, though, Eowyn can attach it and gear herself up for a last round attack that will make the Witch King himself tremble in terror.

How It Was Constructed: While it’s nice to have a clear theme worked out from the beginning, there is something magical about a theme emerging as you are building a deck, almost as if it is suggesting itself to you. The original inspiration for this deck was based around a desire to bring Gimli back into relevance and see just how effective he could be with the current card pool available. I honed in on the idea of pre-emptive attacks as a central deck strategy, with Quick Strike allowing Gimli to use his formidable attack strength as a form of defense. Then, I hit upon the notion of pairing him with Hama, using that hero’s ability to recycle Quick Strike as often as possible. In practice, this worked out fairly well, although there was a continual challenge around finding Hama a target to attack in order to do his recycling, as Gimli hogged up all the kills! This then led me to replace Hama with Legolas, as I began to formulate the idea of bringing Keeping Count back from the dead and finally fulfilling my wish of recreating Legolas and Gimli’s epic competition. I knew that the third hero needed to be Spirit, in order to provide the willpower I would need to make up for all the Tactics characters flying around, as well as protection against treacheries and shadows. While Glorfindel is perhaps the obvious choice to lower the starting threat of this deck, while still providing strong willpower, I made a conscious choice to stay away from him due to simple “Glorfy fatigue”. Eowyn has higher threat, but 4 willpower (5 when using her ability in solo play) is quite strong and allows her to bear the lion’s share of questing responsibilities. It also fit the emerging theme of “heroes of Pelennor Fields”. The starting threat of 29 isn’t actually too bad, all things considered. It struck me as amusing that I had hit upon a deck using 3 Core Set heroes, but I had never built a deck that looked quite like this before, so it was nice to see something new built from the tried and true. The deck was designed for solo play, but would actually probably be even better in multiplayer, as additional players could add more questing power.

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Possible Combos:

1) Keeping Count + Legolas/Gimli + Hands Upon the Bow (+ Eowyn): Hands Upon the Bow is a great card, but can often falter against new enemies, especially since their defensive strength and hit points seems to increase over time. The attack boost from Keeping Count, along with Rivendell Blade, allow Legolas to take out strong enemies in the staging area. It’s also just plain fun. If you can get a third copy of Keeping Count on Eowyn, then she can actually lay down a huge attack of her own! Alternatively, she can use the boost to participate in battle questing.

2) Westfold Outrider + Gimli + Quick Strike: That Legolas thinks he’s so fancy and cool with his ability to kill an enemy in the staging area! Well, Gimli can match that feat. The Westfold Outrider can pull down an enemy from the staging area during questing, and Gimli can then use Quick Strike to finish it off before it can attack.

3) Bofur + Dwarrowdelf Axe/Rivendell Blade + Foe-hammer: This deck needs weapons and card draw to function. Fortunately, Bofur can help fetch weapons and Foe-hammer can turn those weapons into extra cards!

4) Rohan Warhorse/Unexpected Courage + Legolas/Gimli: Action advantage abounds here and this can both allow Gimli to devastate enemies and Legolas to pile progress on the quest.

5) Arwen Undomiel + Defender of Rammas: Arwen can make the defenders more secure by boosting their defense up to 5, which can help for siege questing or blocking enemies that avoid pre-emptive attacks.

Hands-Upon-the-Bow

Variations: I mentioned earlier that the original version of this deck included Hama instead of Legolas. That deck was relatively similar except for it excluded Rivendell Blade and Hands Upon the Bow and included more allies. Beside that variation, there are a few cards I considered or would consider adding but couldn’t justify cutting any of the existing cards:

* Close Call – This could protect Gimli when he has damage on him or allow him to take an undefended attack without fear of death. I opted for Hasty Stroke instead as an option that could help with more than just enemy attack boosts.

* Heavy Stroke – I would include this for battles against the biggest boss enemies, as it could allow crazy amounts of damage to be piled on, although this wouldn’t work against foes that are immune to player card effects. Against most quests, though, this extra attack boost is a bit redundant.

* Citadel Plate – Extra protection for Gimli and potentially more attack strength but the Plate is expensive and not really necessary in most cases. It could be used to make Gimli a better defender though.

* Book of Eldacar – In the absence of Hama, this is an option for recycling Quick Strike and Hands Upon the Bow. I left it out because of the expense (2 plus the cost of the event) but may experiment with it in the future.

Final Thoughts: I’ve had a blast playing this deck so far, which is perhaps the most important criteria. Getting Keeping Count to finally work, even if it is not the most consistent, in a way that allows me to play out one of my favorite moments from the books and a partnership for the ages, is amazing. While these heroes are nothing new, the particular way in which the cards work together makes the whole thing feel different. I’ve been playing a lot of subtle and tricky decks lately, so it’s nice to put a deck on the table that can just smash through enemies with the greatest of ease, laughing at them as they are swept aside. Although this deck may have trouble against specialized scenarios or those that require exorbitant amounts of willpower, it can surprisingly hold its own more than you might expect. Give it a try, and bring down a Mumak while you’re at it!

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19 Comments
  1. Epi Lepi permalink

    Very cool deck. I’ve been wanting to make a Three Hunters deck and this might be a good jumping off point for me. Leadership Aragorn and some of his toys, plus maybe Naith Guide instead of the Spirit stuff could work. Luckily I always play multiplayer so I can rely on my friends decks for shadow card cancellation and extra willpower.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I remember trying out a Three Hunters deck when I first got my Core Set and it failed miserably. I’m curious how it would do now with a bigger card pool, though. Seems like it could do well in multiplayer, if not solo. Let me know how it goes!

  2. Glowwyrm permalink

    Fun deck! Always wanted to make a Legolas/Gimli deck that works well. I like your solo viable approach to it, something that amazes me that it works and speaks to the potential of the card pool now. As a variation for multiplayer, I could see pairing them with a Lore hero for card draw to make sure I get keeping count (or for scary high threat, Gandalf and Word of Command).

    Gimli is a hero who has been fun to revisit. I built a Gimili-Sam-Balin ally-light deck that loaded Gimili down with attachments and boosted his attack to ridiculous levels. Then I equipped him with Firefoot, so that his extra attack could be turned into damage on another enemy engaged with you. Often, I was able to overwhelm one enemy and take two down at once. Not a very thematic way to play, but it was an interesting deck that was lots of fun.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I was actually surprised by how well it works solo. It makes me wonder how well other combinations could work now.

      The Firefoot idea is great! That’s another possible variation to this deck and could work well within it. You could put Firefoot on Gimli, then use Quick Strike to smash through a weak enemy, hopefully putting a bunch of damage on a second enemy. You could potentially kill 2 enemies before any get to attack. I’ll definitely have to try this out!

  3. Fouilloux permalink

    Hey nice one!
    I had an idea in mind of a deck that would also have the theme heores of Pelennor field. But my hero line up would be completly different as I woulg go for the fancy trio Eomer-Arargorn (leadership)-Imrahil. I just re-read the book lately and I had fogotten how this three are decisive on the battle (specially Imrahil which I completly re-discovered).

    In this deck, Emery would be amazing: imagine: “discard a card from your hand and three from the top of your deck to ready a hero, give +2ATT, and gain one ressource if horn of gondor is in play”. She would be the MVP, without ever stay in the game!
    I am wondering though if the starting threat woul’be too high.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      The starting threat would be high, but I think you could go for a full aggro approach and it could work well. I love Emery by the way, she’s great value for mono-Spirit or a deck like you’re imagining!

      • Fouilloux permalink

        I actually tried it yesterday without Emery (still don’t have the AP) against peril in pelargir. It was a blast to play, and the combo Eomer- firefoot-westfold outrider found a new application here while we have the battle keyword, with Eomer questing for 7 and the westfold lowering the threat by taking out an enemy from the dragging area. The last step was harder, as neither Celebriant Stone, sword that was broken, nor Faramir decided to show up. The herald of anorien was also amazing.

        Actually, it gave me the wish for doing a campaign-like description of the game, with the three quests from heir of numenor. However I do not have anywhere to publish it. Would you be interested?

  4. MPK permalink

    I love keeping count! Great to see it getting a showcase here, and with the two heroes it was surely inspired by in the first place. I generally include it in my Elrohir & Elladan decks, where it can also work out quite well.

    I also would love to see Eowyn kill a Nazgul with keeping count as her only source of attack.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I would love to pull off the Nazgul kill with Eowyn!

  5. Makes me really excited for when we get to the Battle of Pelennor in the Saga Expansions! This would also be a fun deck to run at Helm’s Deep when we get there!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yeah, that would definitely be awesome. I may have to incorporate this deck into my Campaign playthrough at some point.

  6. Gwaihir the Windlord permalink

    The Battle of Pelennor Fields is my favorite battle of all time, save that I did not take part in it :). Hopefully, FFG will release a Dernhelm attachment (or boon!) that reads something like this:
    Setup: Attach to Eowyn. Permanent. Eowyn gets +1 attack when attacking a Nazgûl enemy.
    Action: Exhaust Dernhelm to swap Eowyn’s willpower with her attack until the end of the phase. (Limit once per round.)
    What do you think, Tales? Boon or attachment for Dernhelm, or an entirely new character?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I’ve been partial to the idea of a separate Tactics Eowyn character for quite a while now. The only problem is that if they keep the same stat line, which they have so far for hero versions, than this would totally unbalance the spheres (4 willpower for Tactics is just too good!). This means that a Dernhelm attachment is probably the best way to go. Maybe they could make it similar to how the Hobbits work, and she could use her willpower for attack if the enemy’s engagement cost is greater than the player’s threat. Alternatively, they would need to change up the stats for Tactics Eowyn.

  7. Gizlivadi permalink

    With all these new tricksy decks such as Silvan, Gandalf, Galadriel, etc. I sometimes forget how good an old fashioned standarized Spirit Tactics deck can be. Made a couple modifications to it (took out Keeping count and added 3 Knights of the Swan) and played this againsT JDTA and won 2/3 attempts. This deck is great and really fun to play!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Awesome! I tend to get caught up in the tricksy stuff myself but simply smashing through enemies can be a ton of fun.

  8. Patrick B permalink

    I am thinking of revisiting this deck after playing Battle of Carn Dum today. I thought about subbing Galadriel for Eowyn and adding Elf Friend for Gimli. The newer Tactic ents also might make an appearance. Any other new cards/combos you might swap out with the expanded card pool?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I like the idea of adding in Galadriel instead of Eowyn to get some added card draw in. I haven’t played Battle of Carn Dum much yet, so it’s difficult for me to comment, but it seems like any extra readying you can fit in would be a main order of business. I definitely like the Tactics Ents, and Honour Guard is good as Gimli insurance too. With all the shadows skulking around, the 3rd copy of Hasty Stroke is probably essential, and perhaps some copies of Dwarven Tomb.

  9. sweetnesswhachacha permalink

    I really wish keeping count was more viable, I love it but it does not work very well at all….

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