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Deck Building 101: Part 15 – Testing A Deck In Practice #1

by on January 12, 2015


Previously, I proposed and reviewed a process for thoroughly testing a prospective deck. This generated some interesting discussion on best testing practices, especially which quests are the best choice for this purpose. In this installment, I am going to actually be taking a deck and running it through this crucible, sharing my thoughts and tweaks along the way. Hopefully, this will give far better insight into what testing a deck actually looks like in practice and how it should inform deck building. This should also help to show what kinds of considerations go into making a strong deck.

Before I begin, I want to reiterate and emphasize a few crucial points:

* Winning is not the main objective or standard of measurement in testing. If I win, that’s great, but losing doesn’t necessarily mean a deck is terrible. I’m far more interested in how I won or how I lost. That being said, the win/loss ratio for each quest does give you some information on how a deck performs against different types of quests.

* Asking the right questions and making tweaks based on the answers is key. The key to good testing is really all about the questions you ask after each game. Asking the right questions will give you the information you need to make tweaks. I don’t stand by and run through a whole testing cycle without making any changes. Instead, I will make appropriate changes based on what I experience in a game. This lets me see how a change impacts the next game in order to see whether it seems to make the deck better or worse.

* Be clear on the goal of a deck before testing. What you want out of a deck will greatly inform the testing process. If you are looking to build a “one deck to rule them all”, then it should probably have few glaring weaknesses and perform well against all four scenario types. If you are looking to build a strong questing and location management deck, then it probably doesn’t matter how well it does against battle/siege quests.

Part One: The Deck

Testing begins with a deck, and here I’ve chosen a new deck that I’ve only played once before (against Celebrimbor’s Secret, it was a narrow victory at 49 threat). I wanted to pick an untested deck that I haven’t tampered with at all or thought much about in order to give a realistic and genuine insight into testing. I originally conceived the idea for this deck when Galadriel was released, seeing how fun it could be to pair her threat reduction with Boromir’s penchant for raising threat in order to grant action advantage. However, I was so caught up in Galadriel Silvan decks for awhile that I haven’t had a chance to sit down and build a Galadriel/Boromir deck until now.

Hero (3)
1x Boromir
1x Glorfindel
1x Galadriel

Ally (19)
2x Arwen Undómiel
3x Ethir Swordsman
3x Galadriel’s Handmaiden
3x Northern Tracker
2x Treebeard
3x Booming Ent
3x Gondorian Spearman

Attachment (15)
2x Captain of Gondor
3x Gondorian Shield
3x Nenya
3x Light of Valinor
2x Mirror of Galadriel
2x Unexpected Courage

Event (16)
3x A Test of Will
3x Elrond’s Counsel
1x Fortune or Fate
3x Hasty Stroke
3x Feint
3x Gondorian Discipline

The general idea of the deck is pretty simple: Boromir uses his ability whenever necessary to attack and defend, in conjunction with Captain of Gondor and Gondorian Shield, and Galadriel, Galadriel’s Handmaiden, and Elrond’s Counsel help to keep the threat manageable. Glorfindel is around to add both questing and attack power, while Galadriel hopes to get Nenya quickly in order to turn the deck into a true willpower force. The deck is a bit lighter in allies than I normally prefer, mainly because Boromir and the other heroes are supposed to take on a great deal of the burden of questing and combat. However, I do have some of the new Ents included, mainly to try them out as a strong supplement to the heroes. I said earlier that it is important to be clear about the purpose of a deck before testing. With that in mind, I want this build to be a well-rounded force that can potentially do well against most quests. I, however, expect it to struggle against battle/siege quests and so I’m not too concerned with how well it performs in that department.

Besides purpose, it is also crucial to lay out some questions before you even start testing based on the initial build of your deck. These should be based on how you think the deck will perform and the strengths and weaknesses you are looking to verify and potentially address. Here are the main questions I have before testing:

* Is this deck too dependent on the opening hand?

Generally the main and only weakness of Glorfindel is dependency on drawing Light of Valinor as early as possible, preferably in the opening hand. Now, I am pairing him with another hero, Galadriel, who is potentially dependent upon drawing a card in the opening hand (Nenya). While the chances of drawing one of these attachments in my opening hand each game is decent, the chances of drawing both is lower. So one of the main aspects I”ll be looking at is how much the deck’s success is dependent on the opening hand.

* Is the threat management sufficient?

With Boromir shouldering the majority of defense and offense, will I be able to keep my threat under control? This is the whole point of the deck, so if the answer is no, then I’ll need to do some major re-tooling.

* Should I take better advantage of Galadriel’s ally ability?

Galadriel has the awesome ability to allow allies to quest without exhausting during their first turn on the board. I haven’t paid too much attention to this ability, focusing more on allies that either quest well or are strong fighters. I’ve even included Ents that enter the game exhausted. I will be looking to see if the deck would be better served by including some more well-rounded allies to take advantage of Galadriel’s support.

These of course are the more deck specific questions, but then there are the more general questions that should always be present: Was there enough card draw? Were there enough resources? Did any cards feel useless or wasted? How did the sphere distribution work out? 

Finally, let’s take a look at the deck statistics before we get started (courtesy of CardGameDB):

Deck Stats

Part Two: First Round of Testing (Journey Along the Anduin)

Now it’s time to start the first round of testing. Remember, I am playing four different scenarios (Journey Along the Anduin, Into Ithilien, The Steward’s Fear, and The Three Trials) three times each. Journey Along the Anduin is in many ways the baseline test. It is a well-rounded quest, demanding both questing and combat power. As one of the Core quests, a modern deck should be able to handle this one, so too much trouble against this scenario is a bad sign. That being said, Journey Along the Anduin can be an extremely swingy quest, being easy during one playthrough and difficult on another, and this is something to keep in mind during testing. Without further ado, here are the results. I will be keeping track of my opening hands since that will help answer one of my  key questions.

Game #1: Victory

Opening Hand – Mirror of Galadriel, Treebeard, Arwen Undomiel, Booming Ent, Booming Ent, Nenya

Mulligan – Unexpected Courage, Northern Tracker, Treebeard, Nenya, Gondorian Discipline, Unexpected Courage

This game began with a relatively tough opening setup with three straight enemies, including a Hill Troll. Fortunately, the action advantage through Boromir helped, as intended, and the low starting threat of 25 enabled me to build up to face the Troll. The opening hand did play a big part here, as Nenya provided the willpower I needed, while Unexpected Courage allowed me to get threat management, card draw, and willpower all at once from Galadriel. Based on this, Unexpected Courage seems pretty important to this particular deck (Note: I would include three copies, but I have a personal policy of only using the cards I actually own). Using Galadriel’s ability allowed me to draw into Light of Valinor and Captain of Gondor early, which also proved decisive. I prioritized getting Treebeard on the board early, which worked well, and he seems like a definite keeper. Ultimately, I used Feint on the Hill Troll, then Boromir (with Captain of Gondor), Glorfindel, Treebeard, and the Ethir Swordsman dispatched the Hill Troll easily. A second Hill Troll popped up during stage 2, but Boromir defended it without breaking a sweat with the help of Gondorian Discipline, and I brought it within one damage of destruction, which allowed a Gondorian Spearman to finish it off on the subsequent round. I wondered whether Gondorian Discipline would pull its weight, but I used all three copies this game to minimize damage to Boromir in the absence of Gondorian Shield. Overall, this was an easy victory where I was in control the entire time, and I was able to kill two Hill Trolls as if they were some two-bit goblins. Unfortunately, I drew two copies of Goblin Sniper, which were stuck in the staging area during stage 3, and I had to work myself up to 48 threat to bring them down and finish them off.

Conclusion – Overall, the win was comfortable enough that there aren’t many big lessons to take away. The double Goblin Sniper situation did point out the lack of any ability to pull enemies from the staging area. However, is this a scenario-specific problem or a more general weakness of the deck? It is important to separate the two, as many scenarios throw up unique situations that aren’t necessarily found in most other quests. There are other scenarios, for example, with enemies that can’t be optionally engaged, but this also isn’t common enough to necessarily make a tweak to the deck. Remember, the point of making tweaks right now is not to defeat this scenario in particular but to make the deck better against a wide variety of scenarios. With that in mind, I will consider Westfold Outrider as a potential sideboard card for now, but won’t add it to the deck.

Tweaks – Add Westfold Outrider to sideboard.


Game #2: Victory

Opening Hand – Mirror of Galadriel, Booming Ent, Northern Tracker, Gondorian Shield, Elrond’s Counsel, Galadriel’s Handmaiden

Mulligan – Treebeard, Northern Tracker, Treebeard, Light of Valinor, Ethir Swordsman, Gondorian Discipline

This game provided a good chance to see how this deck would do without Nenya in the opening hand. In fact, it didn’t show up for the first several rounds. This initial period was difficult, as I struggled with the threat of locations and enemies in the staging area, including an early Goblin Sniper. I had to rely on Light of Valinor/Glorfindel and one or two allies for willpower. However, the deck continued to prove itself in terms of combat, making short work of Chieftain Ufthak and several other enemies while building up for the Hill Troll. The Goblin Sniper continued to pile damage, but this actually served just to feed my Booming Ents. Galadriel’s card draw helped to manage threat and cycle through cards, eventually hitting upon Nenya. In this way, Galadriel worked to perfection. Once I had Nenya, the deck took off and the rest of the quest was a cakewalk. The Ents were the real star of the show with three Booming Ents and Treebeard ultimately on the table. All four Ents were damaged from Goblin Sniper, meaning each Booming Ent was swinging for six for an insane amount of attack power. Overall, this was another relatively easy game, but I wonder how this deck will deal with the absence of Nenya against quests that ramp up much faster. This is a deck that definitely takes a few rounds to get rolling, waiting for those key attachments to emerge. Once again, Unexpected Courage was essential.

Conclusion – In terms of tweaks, Northern Tracker is potentially not pulling its weight, as there always seemed to be something better to play. The cost is high and I already have more than enough attack. Of course, this might be a different story against a more location heavy scenario. Still, I’ll try something different for my third play, while I have the training wheels on. I’ll add in Asfaloth for location management, which I can use with the Lore icon from Nenya, and then two copies of Westfold Horse-breeder to help fetch it and serve as a cheap body.

Tweaks – Removed 3 copies of Northern Tracker. Added 2 copies of Westfold Horse-breeder and 1 copy of Asfaloth.


Game #3: Victory

Opening Hand – Gondorian Discipline, Gondorian Spearman, Gondorian Shield, Nenya, Arwen Undomiel, Feint

This game was a good chance to try out an early Nenya play. Although the setup was an early treachery that whiffed, I did draw into the dreaded double Hill Troll on the first turn, which served as a good test of this deck’s capabilities. Again, Unexpected Courage was crucial here, which I drew into early once more, helped on by Galadriel’s card draw ability. Once Unexpected Courage and Nenya were in place, I could easily tread water, keeping my threat low while cycling through my deck to get everything in place to face the Hill Trolls. With the Ents playing a key role once again and Gondorian Shield and Captain of Gondor on Boromir, the two Hill Trolls were easily dispatched one after the other. Altogether, this was another stroll in the park.

Conclusion – Asfaloth did come into play during the game, but I didn’t draw many locations and could easily travel through the ones I did encounter, so I didn’t get much of a sense of how helpful the horse would be against other scenarios, while the Westfold Horse-breeder didn’t even show up in my hand. The jury is still out on that change. As for tweaks, this particular game didn’t really suggest any meaningful tweaks, so I will hold fast.

Tweaks – None

Wrapping Up The First Round

Overall, it’s safe to say that this deck cleared the first hurdle of testing, easily thrashing Journey Along the Anduin all three times without too much trouble. It’s clear that if a scenario allows for a turtling/treading water strategy, as many of the earlier quest do, that this deck can perform very well. The real test will be against less forgiving scenarios. Before I move on to the second round of testing, I will see what answers I’ve gained regarding my key questions so far.

* Is this deck too dependent on the opening hand?

Yes and no. I drew either Nenya or Light of Valinor all three games, but never drew both. However, Galadriel’s card draw meant that I was able to get both onto the table within the first few rounds. What I did discover was that Unexpected Courage was more crucial than I originally anticipated and having only two copies in the deck has me a bit worried about consistency. If I can have time to cycle through my deck, then the opening hand question is moot, but if a quest requires a faster pace, then I might be too dependent on the important attachments. The real question now is, which is more important to look for in the opening hand: Nenya or Light of Valinor? I did well both ways, so the jury is out on this one.

* Is the threat management sufficient?

So far yes. My threat never got out of control, except for when I had to deal with the unorthodox double Goblin Sniper situation in the first game. It’s important to remember, though, that I also wasn’t under tremendous pressure from enemies, which would have required me to use Boromir’s ability more.

* Should I take better advantage of Galadriel’s ally ability?

So far no.  The ally selection seems good overall, and though Galadriel’s ally ability is clearly being underused, especially with the Ents, it doesn’t seem to make sense to change gears in any major way at this point. The Ents in particular have played a major role in all three games, so I wouldn’t swap them out for any price.

– General questions

Everything seems to be working fine in terms of card draw, resource generation and sphere balance. The one card which seemed wasted (Northern Tracker) was swapped out, and we’ll have to see whether Asfaloth and the Westfold Horse-breeder prove useful enough to keep. Although everything looks good so far, though, keep in mind that the first round, Journey Along the Anduin, is really the easiest and sterner tests lie ahead to really put this deck through the crucible.

Part Three: Second Round of Testing (Into Ithilien)

The second round of testing is really aimed at determining two things: How well can a deck handle battle/siege questing and how will a deck hold up against a fast-paced scenario? Into Ithilien was an incredibly difficult quest when it was first released and still remains a meaty challenge. If a deck can hold up against the battle/siege questing in this scenario, then it will likely do well against battle/siege questing in general. However, I’m not actually that concerned with how this deck does against battle/siege questing, as this is mostly limited to the Against the Shadow cycle and I’m not necessarily looking for a “one deck to rule them all”, so I won’t be too concerned if I lose every game of this round. In fact, I’m expecting this to be the case and will be surprised if I even sniff victory. On the other hand, I’m more concerned with how this deck holds up against the second aspect of Into Ithilien, which is its fast-paced nature. It starts off fast and furious with the tough Southron Company and doesn’t let up from there. Although I may lose every game, this round will give me a sense of how dependent this deck is on turtling and how well it will do against scenarios that don’t allow a more deliberate pace. Obviously, my strategy will be to keep Celador alive and make it to stage 3 in order to use all the willpower I have available, as siege questing will probably be the toughest of the three types of questing for this deck. I also will be aiming to hit stage 4 with my threat below 37 for the same reason, and hopefully threat management will help in that regard.

Game #1: Victory

Opening Hand – Light of Valinor, Nenya, Nenya, Arwen, Light of Valinor, Gondorian Spearman

Mulligan – Ethir Swordsman, Feint, Ethir Swordsman, Nenya, Hasty Stroke, Nenya

For the opening hand, I had the ideal scenario of Nenya and Light of Valinor. However, I really wanted more help for the combat demands of stage 1, so I took the mulligan, which at least gave me a crucial Feint to deal with the initial Southron Company.

Well, that was unexpected. Not only did the deck defeat this scenario, but it did it without too much trouble, although there were a few tense moments. The first round started off brutal, with Forest Bats dealing two damage to Boromir during the quest phase, which immediately put pressure on my primary defender. However, I survived the first round thanks to the Feint in my opening hand stopping the Southron Company in its tracks and Boromir and Glorfindel dispatching it. As is so often the case, six attack proves to be a magic number for quickly getting rid of enemies, which makes the Boromir and Glorfindel pairing so perfect. I drew into Light of Valinor on my second turn, which really facilitated the success of this particular playthrough. This was the first time I got Mirror of Galadriel into play and it actually heped out a great deal for this particular quest, as it allowed me to tailor my hand by pulling in the cards in my deck that I needed to meet the specific challenges of Into Ithilien (for example, grabbing A Test of Will early on when I didn’t have one available, drawing Gondorian Shield for Boromir, or getting access to another copy of Feint). After I progressed to a certain level of stability and safety, with two copies of A Test of Will in hand and a good set of cards, I stopped using the Mirror. I was surprised how well turtling worked for this quest, as after the initial flurry, Galadriel and other threat reduction allowed me to calmly build up resources to put Booming Ent and Treebeard into play, while using the Mirror to grab key cards for the final push. I amassed a set of questing allies in hand (Ethir Swordsman, Galadriel’s Handmaiden, etc.), which I dumped into play once I reached stage 2. Along with Nenya, this meant that I blew through stage 3 in a single turn. The one tense moment was when a shadow attack from a Haradrim Elite during stage 3 raised my threat, forcing me to siege quest for stage 4. This deck did surprisingly well at this type of questing though, with the Ents again proving their worth (Booming Ent and Treebeard), and Gondorian Shield finding some use on Glorfindel as well as Boromir (even a single extra point helps!).

Conclusion – Overall, a good victory for this deck; now it’s a matter of seeing whether I can replicate this success. At this point, no clear tweaks suggest themselves, although the Westfold Outrider might be useful for stage 3, when enemies cannot be normally engaged, so perhaps it’s time to move it from the sideboard to the main deck? Again, the logic here is not to beat this scenario specifically, but the fact that engagement control has now appeared as a potential issue in two different quests.

Tweaks – Removed 3 copies of Gondorian Spearman. Added 3 copies of Westfold Outrider.

into ithlien game 1

A shocking Game 1 victory!

Game #2: Victory

Opening Hand – Westfold Outrider, Galadriel’s Handmaiden, Captain of Gondor, Gondorian Shield, Gondorian Shield, Ethir Swordsman

Mulligan – Hasty Stroke, Mirror of Galadriel, Westfold Outrider, Hasty Stroke, Unexpected Courage, Gondorian Discipline

The opening hand is pretty good, mainly because of Gondorian Shield, but it leans very heavily towards Tactics, and I would like to have Light of Valinor. The replacement hand isn’t as strong, unfortunately, but hopefully I can use the Mirror to grab what I need. I can use Gondorian Discipline as a kind of replacement Shield to mitigate some of the damage, if needed.

This was even more of a surprising victory, as I had some really tough encounter draws in this game. The fact that I came out victorious once more shows that the first game was no fluke. The start was definitely rough, as I hit upon a second Southron Company during the first round. Fortunately, I had drawn a Feint, so I used Feint and Gondorian Discipline to deal with the two companies. Without any of my key attachments around (Gondorian Shield, Light of Valinor, Nenya, etc.), I had to rely on the Mirror of Galadriel to find what I needed most each round. My poor run of fortune continued at first, though, as the Light of Valinor I grabbed with the Mirror was immediately discarded! This made me consider whether Dwarven Tomb might be a potential tweak to the deck. Drawing Light of Valinor the next round helped greatly, and Galadriel’s card draw continued to get the job done. The Mirror was key in providing defensive solutions, as it allowed me to draw a Feint for the second round. Blocking Wargs soon arrived to ruin the party though. After canceling one copy through A Test of Will, I drew two in a row on the next turn, killing off Celador!. Things really looked grim and I felt certain of defeat having to siege quest on stage 2 so early in the game. The Mirror, though, really saved the day (I can’t stress this point enough) in allowing me to tailor my hand to meet the needs of the moment and switch course from planning for willpower for stage 3 to planning for siege questing. I prioritized Treebeard and the Booming Ents and this later proved pivotal in getting me through stage 2. Just when I thought I might be able to pull this game off, a wild Mumak appeared! It was obvious the game had it out for me after becoming so cocky. However, I simply continued turtling with Galadriel, got my Ents out on the table, and built up Boromir to a defensive force with Captain of Gondor, Arwen, and the Shield, while leaving the Mumak in the staging area. I blasted through stage 2 and was ready to hit stage 4 with my threat sitting at a comfortable 30 and questing allies in hand. I even engaged the Mumak, confident in my defensive options and to clear the threat out of the staging area, but demolished stage 4 in a single round of questing. My only regret is that I feel confident I could have killed the Mumak. Ah well…

Conclusion – No real tweaks to make here, although the Westfold Outriders did sit in hand. That’s fine for now, as they are more of a solution card to specific problems than a consistent staple of the deck. However, I will consider other options for that spot if necessary. The Mirror has proved to be so useful for Into Ithilien that I do wonder if I should add in the third copy to make sure I get a hold of it each game, but I will shelve that change for now until I see how the third game plays out.

Tweaks – None


Game #3: Victory

Opening Hand – Gondorian Shield, Gondorian Shield, Hasty Stroke, Westfold Horse-breeder, Ethir Swordsman, Gondorian Shield

Mulligan – Elrond’s Counsel, Ethir Swordsman, Elrond’s Counsel, Ethir Swordsman, A Test of Will, A Test of Will

Gondorian Shield is a good opening hand, but three of them is a bit excessive, with not much else of note. My mulligan doesn’t turn up any of the key attachments, though, including the Shield and no clear defensive solutions for the first round. The one bright spot is that I have two copies of A Test of Will available.

Another clear victory for this deck against Into Ithilien. Feint continued to play an important role here, and I’m finding that I draw at least a couple of copies each game, if not all three. This is a testament to the ability of this deck to get at key cards. There also are few duds as most cards that end up in my hand serve a clear purpose and have some utility. This game did cause the most trouble so far in terms of not seeing any of my key attachments for awhile. However, the deck was still able to survive thanks to some chump blocking (which is rare) and the aforementioned Feint. The Mirror showed up in round five, which is when the deck began to take off, and I pulled Light of Valinor in round six. The game did get quite dicey in the middle as Boromir stood at three damage due to having to defend against the Southron Company on the first round without any defensive help. I was able to cancel two Blocking Wargs, but a third copy put the fourth damage on Boromir. This meant that any further Blocking Wargs during the game would kill him, but I needed to quest with him at key moments to progress. Fortunately my luck held until Gondorian Discipline was drawn and I did have Hasty Stroke in hand to let him defend without worrying about death. I completed stage 3 in a single turn with the help of Nenya and the questing crew. I had to siege quest for stage 4 but did so even with the Ent complement coming in fairly late, defeating that final stage in two rounds. Westfold Outrider did work well in the early game when paired with Galadriel’s ability to allow that ally to battle quest and still be available for combat. As for tweaks, I am drawing Asfaloth most games without help from the Horse-breeder. So while I like the cost of one and having a go-to chump blocker around, there are other 1-cost Spirit allies around, namely the Silvan Refugee for even more willpower or the Minas Tirith Lampwright for battling surge. The Silvan Refugee is not a bad choice, as more willpower can’t hurt, and characters don’t leave play often in this deck.

Tweaks – Removed 2 copies of Westfold Horse-breeder. Added 2 copies of Silvan Refugee.

Wrapping Up The Second Round

I was legitimately shocked that my deck smashed through Into Ithilien three times in a row. There were indeed some tense moments, but this deck proved without a doubt that it can hold its own against quests that feature battle and siege questing. This is the value of testing. On the surface, a deck that features Galadriel and so many questing allies doesn’t seem a good candidate for these types of scenarios, but in practice, it can do quite well against them.

* Is this deck too dependent on the opening hand?

After the experiences of the second round, I would say no. In two out of three games of Into Ithilien, I was lacking both Light of Valinor and Nenya, and still was able to have great success. Of course, Nenya cannot be considered a key attachment for battle/siege questing, yet my opening hands were not generally strong in terms of having other important attachments either, like Gondorian Shield or Unexpected Courage. This seems to suggest that this deck is not as reliant on the opening hand as I originally feared. However, keep in mind that having both Light of Valinor and Nenya in play early will be far more important for quests that place a high demand on willpower, such as the upcoming quest for the third round (The Steward’s Fear). Altogether, though, the draw (and threat management) provided by Galadriel and the fetching provided by the Mirror of Galadriel helps to mitigate any problems with the opening hand.

* Is the threat management sufficient?

Again, the answer is yes. While I wasn’t able to keep my threat as low as I would have liked, Into Ithilien is a scenario that features several nasty effects that raise player threat. The fact that I was able to avoid any real danger of threating out while using a Boromir deck and suffering many of these effects demonstrates that the threat management is working well.

* Should I take better advantage of Galadriel’s ally ability?

The answer is still no. Her ability has proved to be useful, but I don’t see a big need to make changes to the ally complement and the Ents are at this point are an essential element. I would sooner jump into the cracks of Mount Doom in a metal suit than give up my Ents!

– General questions

I can probably safely conclude at this point that card draw is not an issue and further card draw effects are not needed. Resource generation has also not been a huge factor, although I do tend to stockpile Spirit resources at some points, while being short of Tactics resources at other times. It’s not problematic enough to make any changes at this point though.  The one change I’m considering is adding in either the OHaUH or Core version of Gandalf. This could pair well with the power of Treebeard and the Ents to provide insane questing and combat power, and core Gandalf can do both thanks to Galadriel. I’ll have to think more about this alteration before pulling the trigger. Originally, I didn’t include Gandalf because I didn’t want to distract from the other high-cost Neutral ally (Treebeard) and I still think the Ents have proved themselves enough to warrant the main focus. However, it may be worth an experiment.

– The Updated Deck

Here’s what the deck looks like midway through the testing process:

Hero (3)
1x Boromir
1x Glorfindel
1x Galadriel

Ally (18)
2x Arwen Undómiel
3x Ethir Swordsman
3x Galadriel’s Handmaiden
2x Treebeard
3x Booming Ent
3x Westfold Outrider
2x Silvan Refugee

Attachment (16)
2x Captain of Gondor
3x Gondorian Shield
3x Nenya
3x Light of Valinor
2x Mirror of Galadriel
2x Unexpected Courage
1x Asfaloth

Event (16)
3x A Test of Will
3x Elrond’s Counsel
1x Fortune or Fate
3x Hasty Stroke
3x Feint
3x Gondorian Discipline


A clean sweep with six out of six victories may give the false illusion that this deck is the finished product. However, the full testing process must be completed to really see if this is the case. The Steward’s Fear and The Three Trials will both throw up a hefty challenge, with each scenario placing very different demands on this deck. Stay tuned as we see how this deck continues to change as testing continues!

  1. Yea, with Gondorian Shield, Arwen, and the ents, I didn’t think you’d have too much issue with battle and siege, but it’s not like the battle and siege keywords are the biggest issue with this quest. That Mirror did awesome work and I love that you were able to essentially get whatever you needed, whenever you needed it. After reading this, I really want to give the Mirror and ents a chance to prove their merit to me. I haven’t really tried either of these and I was skeptical at first, but now I just NEED to try them.

    I was thinking you might want to try including a couple Wandering Ents too. Galadriel with Nenya can pay for them. Maybe swap them with the Silvan Refugees.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      You know after having so much success with Treebeard and the Booming Ents, I’ve been sorely tempted to add in the Wandering Ents too. I thought maybe I was going too Ent crazy but you may just have sent me over the edge…

      • Can confirm, this deck is bad ass, and swapping the Silvan Refugees with Wandering Ents is super good. While the Silvans have more questing power, the Ents have so much more general utility and synergy.

        • TalesfromtheCards permalink

          I don’t really need more excuses to love Ents more, but you’ve given them to me, so… Ents! Ents! Moar! Moar!

  2. This was a great read! I’ve had a lot of fun with Galadriel though I have not been as successful. This testing process looks very intriguing though and I just might try these series of quests as well and see if it helps me make better deckbuilding decisions. Can’t wait for the follow up article!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks! Galadriel has worked really well in my Silvan decks, but I feel like she’s showed her true potential in this deck. That extra card and threat management is great.

      • Yea I just ran a deck with her and another deck. Her deck (A) was at 29 threat and deck B was at 24, I was able to keep them below 32 pretty much the entire game. Certainly a bit of a relief.

  3. A very useful and insightful article! I enjoyed reading it, and was not expecting that deck to sweep Into Ithilien – well done!

    My only wish is that there was some way to fit Eleanor into the deck – but you really need the three attack from Glorfindel… and without Glorfindel, you may get into a situation where you have no questing ability for the first turn(s).

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks! I was as surprised as anyone and I’ll admit it felt good to stomp the stuffing out of that quest three times in a row after all the trouble it gave me when it first came out.

      I really wanted to avoid Glorfindel, but he’s really the perfect hero for that third spot with the 3 attack and 3 willpower both. I considered Idraen, who comes somewhat close (2 will/3 attack), but the difference in starting threat is just massive.

  4. Andrew permalink

    Just won a cruel fight against quest Journey Along the Anduin – NIGHTMARE deck. Had very lucky first hand with Nenya, Asfaloth, Light of Valinor. Outlands Ethir Swordsmen took care of the nasty 10-threat location. Galadriel, Boromir did their job wonderfully. At the end, after 12 rounds, I was with 28 threat, and Boromir was near to death with 4 wounds, Glorfindel and Galadriel with 2 wounds each.

    I was too lucky with the first hand, then really really easy to crush Viper and Trolls.
    I will try two other times and see what happen.

    Had very good time. Thank you!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Awesome! Cool to hear that this deck actually managed a victory against Nightmare!

  5. Futonrivercrossing permalink

    I added 3 wandering Ents to your deck, and cruised to victory down the Anduin. My 2 booming Ents were attacking for 6 each 😉 – I used treebeard to pay for the wandering Ents. It’s a fun deck to play, having 5 ents on the table is a blast !!! It’s a shame that JDTA is no longer the beast of a scenario (it hasn’t been for some time, I suppose) that it once was.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      True. I remember how beastly that quest was when I first got the Core Set, but I suppose that just shows how far the game has come. Nightmare Journey really puts the teeth back in.

  6. Gwaihir the Windlord permalink

    Interesting article! I myself have found a mono-red deck that works pretty well against most scenarios in multi-player, and it can even hold its own in solo, thanks to Théoden (who I believe is a rather underappreciated hero). Here’s the deck:
    Heroes: Théoden, Merry, Beregond (27 starting threat)
    Knight of Minas Tirith X3
    Guthlaf X2
    Gondorian Spearman X3
    Westfold Outrider X3
    Defender of Rammas X2
    Bofur X2
    Gandalf X2
    Total Allies: 17
    Ring Mail X2
    Blade of Gondolin X1
    Dagger of Westernesse X3
    Born Aloft X1
    Rohan Warhorse X2
    Book of Eldacar X1
    Spear of the Mark X2
    Mighty Prowess X1
    Gondorian Shield X3
    Horn of Gondor X1
    Citadel Plate X1
    Spear of the Citadel X3
    Total Attachments: 22
    Gondorian Discipline X1
    Trained for War X1
    Unseen Strike X1
    Stand Together X1
    Halfling Determination X1
    Forth Eorlingas! X1
    Thicket of Spears X1
    Feint X1
    Quick Strike X1
    Behind Strong Walls X2
    Total Events: 11
    Total Cards: 50

    This deck originated out of a strong desire to actually win The Siege of Cair Andros, and Théoden’s ability makes it easier to do so. The main goal is to choose one aspect – attack or defense – and look for cards that boost the aforementioned stats. A good strategy is to get as many allies as possible on the table after buffing the heroes, so Théoden can quest alongside Merry. Hopefully, it will become possible to hold back the king of Rohan so he can attack. Although this deck is lopsided in its attachments-allies-events ratio, any events drawn are very potent. I’ve played with this deck many times, and it has proved quite reliable, if it provides for some odd moments (Merry as primary defender makes tense moments between he and Beregond).

    • I’ve never seen so many 1x events. Events are one of the things I like having 3x of the most because they are 1-and-done cards.

      • Gwaihir the Windlord permalink

        The idea is that no matter what event you draw, it will have a potent effect on the outcome of the game. I have been thinking about switching out Forth Eorlingas! for another copy of Quick Strike, as Théoden ends up exhausting in the quest phase most of the time,

  7. Futonrivercrossing permalink

    I just beat the three trials, for the first time, using the ent deck. I won on the second attempt, after swapping out some cards, i won’t mention what they are – I don’t wan to to preempt your next article.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Interesting…I haven’t done my Three Trials testing yet, so I’m definitely interested to see how it’s going to go. Cool to hear that you had some success with a modified version though!

  8. Andrew permalink

    FORTUNE OR FATE: I’ve done my 6 games and never had chance to play Fortune or Fate. When I draw it, it seems to me it is a wasted slot in my hand…

    I’m thinking about exchanging it with Warden of Healing. With the help of Nenya and Mirror, I could have retrieved and used Warden so many times, and Warden can really save a hero’s life and in the second part of the game, when I’m starting to stack resources on Galadriel, I can use these to ready Warden.
    What do you think about?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yeah, I’ve had a similar experience. I’ve been loathe to get rid of it simply for the off chance I can activate the “Boromir bomb” and then bring him back with Fortune or Fate. It’s not really a power decision so much as a “fun factor” decision. As testing goes on, I may end up replacing it with something else though.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Deck Building 101: Part 15 – Testing A Deck In Practice #2 | Tales from the Cards
  2. TftC Mailbag: Deck Testing and Asking Questions | Tales from the Cards

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