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Deck Building 101: Part 15 – Testing A Deck In Practice #2

by on January 28, 2015

celebrimbor

In Part #1, I took an experimental deck and ran it through the first half of a testing process that I had previously proposed, meeting with great success as it swept through Journey Along the Anduin and, more surprisingly, Into Ithilien. In Part #2, I will continue the process, completing the second half of testing with a series of games against The Steward’s Fear and The Three Trials. Both of these scenarios will pose a stern challenge to Boromir, Galadriel, and Glorfindel in very different ways, with The Steward’s Fear placing a heavy burden on location management and The Three Trials assessing the ability of the deck to handle a series of boss-like enemies. Will the deck hold or will it fall? More importantly, what will this deck look like at the end of it all?

Part One: The Deck

Wandering-Ent

I will begin with the current state of the deck I ended with in Part #1…with one small change. I had been heavily contemplating including the Wandering Ents, since the Booming Ents and Treebeard worked so well for me, but worried that I was simply getting caught up in Ent fever and that it would stretch the deck a bit too far. However, some reader comments supporting the Wandering Ent alteration convinced me that I should fully embrace my love for Ents and throw caution to the wind! With that in mind, I will chuck the Silvan Refugees I had added at the close of part #1 and replace them with Wandering Ents instead.

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 Wandering Ent

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

My primary questions about this deck remain the same, as they should throughout testing, as each new game and scenario brings up new answers to these questions, as well as throwing up some new ones.

Part Two: Third Round of Testing (The Steward’s Fear)

The Steward’s Fear is a tough scenario for solo play with one deck. In particular, it demands either a great deal of willpower or sophisticated location management (or both). Losing to location lock is perhaps the most common fate. While I do have some good willpower potential in this deck, Asfaloth is the only real location management available, so I am curious to see how this deck will hold up. This quest can also play out quite differently depending on the random plots and villains that are drawn. That all being said, my goal is to see what this quest tells me about how this deck holds up against location-heavy quests and whether I need to include more location management to make it better against a wider variety of scenarios.

test steward1

Game #1: Victory

Opening Hand – Ethir Swordsman, Mirror of Galadriel, Light of Valinor, Gondorian Shield, Feint, Wandering Ent

I didn’t want to get too greedy here, as having Light of Valinor and the Ethir Swordsman could give me a good basis for questing, while the Mirror could allow me find the other cards I needed and the Shield could help with defense. Overall, this was a good starting hand and was just missing Nenya, so this was a good test of the Light/no Nenya scenario.

This was an epic slog, finally accomplishing a hard won victory in the seventeenth round. There were several points at which I fully expected to lose and might have quit the game if I wasn’t involved in testing, where it is important to play out each situation to get the full picture as to how your deck will respond. In just the second round, I hit upon two City Streets that surged into a third location and location lock seemed imminent, especially since I hadn’t cleared The Fourth Star on the first turn. The lack of Nenya severely hampered my ability to overcome the threat in the staging area and the situation kept piling up and seemed hopeless. My only shot was to keep breaking even and minimizing threat gain until Nenya showed up. The Mirror really saved me here, as I used it constantly to grab what I needed. First on the menu was obviously Nenya, but in its absence, I grabbed Asfaloth to help clear out locations in the staging area. When I eventually did get Nenya, the situation was still dire enough that it took me awhile to climb out of the hole. With this in mind, it appears that Nenya is the better choice for an opening hand over Light of Valinor, as at least with that situation, I have the option of questing with Glorfindel and taking the threat hit, while without Nenya, I miss out on the 4 willpower completely. Fortunately, Galadriel’s ability helped to manage my threat while I kept chipping away. As the rounds dragged on, I became increasingly concerned that A Knife in the Back would deal grievous damage to a hero and remove a key ally like Treebeard or a Booming Ent from play. This made me think that Dwarven Tomb might be a good addition, as I had pondered earlier in testing, as A Test of Will had been discarded through the Mirror at one point and the Tomb would have allowed me to grab it. Ultimately, I grabbed a copy of A Test of Will but had to immediately use it to cancel Local Trouble. This illustrated another weak spot of this deck, which is a complete lack of condition control. 

Finally, the Fourth Star finally fell, revealing three enemies at once. With Boromir blocking and the Booming Ents charged up thanks to the Zealous Traitor dealing damage to all my Ents, I made short work of these foes. Sadly, the Traitor did take out some of my squishy one hit point questing allies, but the Ents once again were the star of the show as their hardiness meant that I could hold onto most of my board position. Unfortunately, a Local Trouble did eventually attach to Boromir, and this was real trouble, as now my ability to use his action advantage was severely hampered. I finally made it to the second stage, revealing Poisoned Counsels as the plot, which raised my threat by two at the end of each round! Fortunately, Treebeard and the Booming Ents let me avoid exhausting Boromir for the rest of the game (except for one instance), as Treebeard could quest and defend using his readying ability and the Booming Ents were able to wipe out enemies without any help. When the Houses of the Dead popped up, location lock appeared back on the menu, but Asfaloth, the Ents, Glorfindel, and Galadriel kept me in the game, even when I needed to tread water. Here, the Wandering Ents proved their worth as strong questers that could survive direct damage while my Spirit questers fell (the Refugees would have been a disaster here).  Finally, I reached the third stage and the villain was Telemnar’s Bane. Boromir had to defend in this case, but the Booming Ents proceeded to grind the villain into a fine paste. With the villain out of the way, I quested out, finally winning the game on turn 17. A Knife in the Back finally did hit, causing a Booming Ent to betray the cause and murder Boromir! It didn’t matter though as I won the game on that round.

Conclusion – Overall, this was an impressive win as the deck managed to overcome some truly horrendous situations, including Local Trouble teamed with Poisoned Counsels and serious location lock throughout the game. In terms of lessons to take from this game, the Ents were once again the key to victory, and the Wandering Ent looks set to stay in the deck. Gondorian Discipline also justified its place by allowing me to take undefended attacks with Boromir instead of exhausting him, which would have raised my threat from Local Trouble. In terms of weaknesses, I was incredibly fortunate not to draw A Knife in the Back earlier, at a more vulnerable moment. I think adding in Dwarven Tomb is the right move at this point, as other quests feature treacheries that are similarly devastating. I’m also lacking any form of condition attachment control to deal with Local Trouble and condition attachments in other quests can also cripple decks. Not every quest has them, though, so I’m thinking of Power of Orthanc as a sideboard card. The tough part is making room for these changes. Fortune or Fate hasn’t been used once in all my plays, so I will take out the single copy. I will also experiment with increasing my total deck size to 52, as I’m able to churn through my deck fairly quickly with the Mirror and Galadriel. This shouldn’t affect my probabilities of drawing key cards early on too much while giving me more options overall. Obviously, location management was also a bit lacking, but I’m going to stay the course for game two and see whether things play out better the second time around in that department.

Tweaks – Remove Fortune or Fate. Add 2 copies of Dwarven Tomb. Add 1 copy of Power of Orthanc temporarily (permanently add Power of Orthanc to the sideboard).

Local-Trouble

Game #2: Defeat

Opening Hand – A Test of Will, Arwen Undomiel, Captain of Gondor, Elrond’s Counsel, Unexpected Courage, Elrond’s Counsel

Mulligan – Light of Valinor, Power of Orthanc, Nenya, Captain of Gondor, A Test of Will, Booming Ent

The first opening hand didn’t have any of the key attachments I was looking for, save Unexpected Courage. The mulligan hand was much better, with both Light of Valinor and Nenya, while Captain of Gondor was available to serve as a Gondorian Shield replacement.

I suppose the moment had to eventually come for this deck to lose. My confidence was building and I thought maybe I could sweep through everything, but one or two terrible rounds of this particular game put paid to that notion. Ironically, I was much more in control this game than the previous successful attempt at The Steward’s Fear. Having Nenya right off the bat, I was able to keep the staging area clear of locations and cruised through stage 1 without any real problems. Having an early Unexpected Courage meant that I could use Galadriel’s card draw to make up for the absence of the Mirror. An early Local Trouble was immediately dismissed by Power of Orthanc, while I used A Test of Will to cancel A Knife in the Back three times thanks to the help of two Dwarven Tombs (the Knife showed up three rounds in a row!). Dwarven Tomb seemed to pay its way without much debate. My only real concern was Zealous Traitor destroying my one hit point questers. I decided to hold some of them back in hand to serve as replacements in case this happened. Ultimately, it was indeed the Traitor, along with some rotten luck that completely turned the situation on its head and spelled my ruin. For stage two, the plot was Unholy Alliance, by far the worst of the plots for solo play, as revealing two cards per turn meant that I ran into a ton of nastiness. One Zealous Traitor took out an Ethir Swordsman and two Handmaidens. Then, its shadow effect returned it to the staging area, meaning that not only could I not kill it, but it would do its damage again the next round! If that wasn’t bad enough, an Unwelcome Discovery revealed a second Zealous Traitor meaning each of my allies would take three damage! This killed the rest of my allies, including some poor Booming Ents, all except Treebeard. The extra card during staging each round piling locations in the staging area at the same time I lost all my questing allies, along with a Local Trouble attached to Boromir, spelled the end. As if to add a final kick to the unmentionables, a shadow effect then discarded my entire hand. I lost the next turn due to reaching 50 threat. What a humbling experience.

Conclusion – On the one hand, it is easy to overreact to such a terrible loss, and it hurts all the more that I was so firmly in control at first. It is important to question this urge, as sometimes a quest can hit all the right combinations to knock you into next week and there’s not much any deck can do about it. That’s just part of the game and totally changing your deck around in response is the wrong move. On the other hand, this play did expose one major weakness, which is a fatal vulnerability to Zealous Traitor and its direct damage to allies. As I’ve mentioned before, my goal is not to make tweaks to beat this particular quest, but rather to make the deck better overall. So the question is whether I should try to compensate for the Zealous Traitor or chalk it up to a special situation brought up by one scenario. The kind of direct damage inflicted by the Traitor is fairly unique in its power, so I could just avoid making changes in response. If I did want to compensate, I would either change out the one hit point allies for something more robust or include an option for staging area attacks to kill the Traitors before they can engage. In the absence of ranged, perhaps the best option would be Hail of Stones, given that Boromir has readying and Galadriel can be easily held back, making for an easy two points of damage on an enemy in the staging area. Ride Them Down is a possibility, but the Traitor is often revealed after quest resolution as an underworld card. Switching out the Swordsman and Handmaiden is not as attractive an option, as both have been quite valuable. I could throw in the Anfalas Herdsman to boost up the hit points of the Ethir Swordsman, but that takes away from the focused set of allies. With all that in mind, I’ll go for the simplest solution and add in Hail of Stones, which could be useful not just for this scenario but other quests where I also need to take out a troublesome foe from afar, or simply to add in extra damage where necessary. To make room, I will remove 1 copy of Westfold Outrider, who isn’t always necessary and serves a similar function and 1 copy of Hasty Stroke, which is a great card, but is used only once a game usually.

Tweaks – Removed 1 copy of Westfold Outrider and 1 copy of Hasty Stroke. Added 2 copies of Hail of Stones

Game #3: Defeat

Opening Hand – Galadriel’s Handmaiden, Light of Valinor, Gondorian Shield, Gondorian Shield, Ethir Swordsman, Hail of Stones

Mulligan – Galadriel’s Handmaiden, Asfaloth, Gondorian Shield, Power of Orthanc, Galadriel’s Handmaiden, Gondorian Shield

I decided to mulligan a pretty good opening hand with Light of Valinor and Gondorian Shield (as well as Hail of Stones as the Traitor solution) to try to grab Nenya. The gamble didn’t pay off, but I wanted to try it out to see how this would work out in actual gameplay. The new hand wasn’t terrible, but a lack of both Light of Valinor and Nenya was definitely troublesome.

There’s really not much to say about this defeat except that it can be attributed entirely to Nenya showing up too late. Galadriel’s draw netted me Light of Valinor on the first round, which was a good test again of the Light/no Nenya situation. As with the first game, locations piled up as Light of Valinor and a few questing allies were not enough to counter the threat that rapidly accrued in the staging area. There was some definite bad luck as I drew surging City Streets on three consecutive rounds. This confirms the fact that I was right to try to mulligan for Nenya even if it didn’t work out. Unlike the first game of The Steward’s Fear, Nenya did not show up until 20 threat worth of locations had accumulated in the staging area! Even worse, Asfaloth had been discarded by the Mirror of Galadriel as I searched for Nenya, meaning I had no way to clear out the locations at the pace I needed. By the time Nenya showed up, it was much too late, and a second Local Trouble on Boromir spelled the end, as my threat hit 50 before I could even clear the first location (The Fourth Star). The one bright spot was using Hail of Stones early on to eliminate a Zealous Traitor in the staging area that had been revealed by Unwelcome Discovery.

Conclusion – I’m not sure the lessons I should draw from this game other than the dire importance of Nenya against a location-heavy quest such as this one. The amount of willpower otherwise seems appropriate, but a lack of Nenya means that crucial 4 willpower is missing and access to the Lore cards (Asfaloth and Wandering Ent) is barred. Northern Tracker is perhaps a logical solution to location management and is heartier to boot. However, his four cost with no resource generation is a tough sell against most quests that are not named The Steward’s Fear. I’m going to stand pat as I head into The Three Trials, as I look to see what that quest tells me about this deck. The one change I will make in anticipation is to move Power of Orthanc to the sideboard as The Three Trials is lacking any condition attachments. I will also take Northern Tracker into consideration by moving it into the sideboard for use against quests such as The Steward’s Fear.

Tweaks – Power of Orthanc and Northern Tracker moved to sideboard

Wrapping Up The First Round

This round of testing began with great success and optimism, as I defeated The Steward’s Fear in epic fashion during the first game. However, this very challenging quest showed what it’s capable of during the next two games, demolishing the deck through either direct damage (Zealous Traitor) or location lock. The primary lesson to be garnered from this experience is that while this deck is quite strong, it is certainly not invulnerable and requires specific tweaks against the more difficult quests. In particular, location management is an area of weakness, with Asfaloth being the only option. If I were to take this deck against The Steward’s Fear again, I would definitely add in more location management as a direct answer to the needs of the scenario, while removing those effects against other scenarios. We now return to our set of key questions for this deck in light of our experience with The Steward’s Fear.

* Is this deck too dependent on the opening hand?

Yes…against certain scenarios. Nenya is an absolute must if a quest features location or requires a great deal of willpower out of the gate. This is a substantial weakness of the deck and would not be present if I used a hero like Eowyn instead of Galadriel, for example. On the other hand, Galadriel brings her own substantial strengths to the deck, and so it’s all a matter of trade-offs. I could look into ways to speed up Nenya retrieval, but it just may be a matter of luck of the draw at times. One thing is now clear, though, Nenya is top priority, followed on the second tier by Light of Valinor and Gondorian Shield, along with Unexpected Courage.

* Is the threat management sufficient?

In general yes, as losing to threat in the two defeats was a matter of location lock rather than insufficient threat management. Threat problems through treacheries and condition attachments have been addressed through Dwarven Tomb and Power of Orthanc, which was a valuable tweak to this deck based on this round.

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

Not really, as it didn’t really play a factor one way or another in this round, and wouldn’t have even if I had used more synergistic allies.

– General questions

The balance does seem to still be fine. Although Boromir did end up with some extra resources at times, this was largely a product of needing questing solutions for this quest more than combat solutions.

Part Three: Fourth Round of Testing (The Three Trials)

In some ways, The Three Trials serves as the ultimate test for this deck, requiring a good deal of willpower almost immediately, but also putting the biggest strain on its combat capabilities that we have yet seen, both in the early game and the final climax. Ideally, Boromir should be able to use his ability to deal with the final swarm of guardians, but only real game experience will prove this one way or another. After experiencing defeat in The Steward’s Fear, it is time to see if there are some fundamental flaws that need to be addressed before testing is over.

Wolf's-Guardian

Game #1: Defeat

Opening Hand – Galadriel’s Handmaiden, Unexpected Courage, Nenya, Feint, Ethir Swordsman, Galadriel’s Handmaiden

Although I had no Gondorian Shield, I did have Feint and hoped to draw a Shield soon. I didn’t want to risk losing Nenya.

This was a close game that I came very close to winning if it wasn’t for a shadow card at the end that killed Boromir. The biggest problem was how long it took to draw Gondorian Shield, which meant that Boromir went into the final, vital stage with four damage already on him, making the final defense too tenuous to pull off successfully. I took the Trial of Intuition first, facing the Raven Guardian and Hill Barrow. With Unexpected Courage and Nenya out for the first round, I had a good handle on things early, except for Boromir had to take a consistent beating from the Raven Guardian, one damage at a time. Despite that situation, I advanced to the Trial of Perseverance without too much trouble, facing the Stone Barrow and Wolf Guardian. This was an easy trial for this deck, as I blasted through it quickly with raw questing power, using chump blocking against the Wolf Guardian. The presence of Asfaloth definitely helped in this regard. For the Trial of Strength, I faced the Cave Barrow and Boar Guardian, using A Test of Will to cancel a couple copies of The Guardian’s Fury along the way. With two Booming Ents out to play, I was able to take out the Boar Guardian, although Boromir moved to within one point of death heading into the last stage. Amazingly, with all three Guardians now engaged, I still had yet to sniff a Gondorian Shield! Finally, I was able to grab one with the Mirror of Galadriel, but lost a Hasty Stroke in the process, which turned out to be definitive. I actually lasted for a few rounds, with Boromir dodging a few bullets through another Hasty Stroke and some luck, as well as quite a bit of chump blocking, which depleted my allies. I actually succeeded in killing one of the guardians, and was in position to pick off the other two, but a shadow effect boosted the Boar Guardian’s attack, and I lacked the Hasty Stroke I needed to cancel it. This killed Boromir and left me with no recourse as the rest of my heroes were picked off.

Conclusion – This was quite a close game considering the draw was not optimal throughout, meaning I’m close to where I need to be minus a few tweaks. The main issue here is that I need more shadow control, and Hasty Stroke is not cutting the mustard. While this isn’t necessarily an issue against some quests, scenarios that feature punishing shadows, such as The Three Trials, might be able to break through my defenses, especially when coupled with boss-level enemies. Hasty Stroke is a strong card, but doesn’t always work when Boromir has to defend frequently, increasing the probability of hitting on harmful shadows. This is an opportunity to test some alterations to my defenses to respond to a tougher combat challenge, which applies beyond The Three Trials. I have a few options here. I can experiment with boosting Boromir’s defense with Blood of Numenor or Protector of Lorien. I don’t generally generate enough resources to make Blood of Numenor, worthwhile, however. The card draw in this deck could definitely feed Protector of Lorien, but this doesn’t necessarily deal with all shadows, just the attack boosting ones. Other options are Silver Lamp, but this gives me knowledge without solutions, while Shadows Give Way is merely a more expensive form of Hasty Stroke for this deck (not all decks). A final option could provide maximum security: A Burning Brand. However, I would have to give Boromir a Lore resource icon with Song of Wisdom. However, with this in place, I could defend to my heart’s content without a single worry. Generally, I try to stay away from this combination, as it requires a fair bit of setup and establishes some dependencies, and I already have a fair bit of that in my deck. However, it is definitely worth a try, if nothing else. In order to make room, I will remove the 2 copies of Hasty Stroke, since A Burning Brand will take their place. Hail of Stones also doesn’t have much use in this quest, and I have come to view it as more of a sideboard card, coming into the deck for certain quests and being taken out others to make room for scenario specific solution cards. Thus, I will bring in 2 copies of A Burning Brand and 2 copies of Song of Wisdom to replace Hasty Stroke and Hail of Stones. Fortunately, Song of Wisdom won’t be completely relegated to giving Boromir access to A Burning Brand, but also allows Boromir to use his Tactics resources to help pay for some of the Lore cards in the deck and also gives an alternative way to pay for something like Asfaloth if Nenya is delayed in showing up (as happened with the third game of The Steward’s Fear).

Tweaks – Hail of Stones moved to the sideboard. Removed 2 copies of Hasty Stroke. Added 2 copies of A Burning Brand and 2 copies of Song of Wisdom.

a burning brand

Game #2: Victory

Opening Hand – Booming Ent, Nenya, A Test of Will, Wandering Ent, Booming Ent, Light of Valinor

Mulligan – Light of Valinor, Treebeard, Westfold Outrider, Booming Ent, Gondorian Shield, Galadriel’s Handmaiden

The opening hand would have normally been an automatic keeper, with both Light of Valinor and Nenya. However, this is not a normal quest and I suffered dearly last game from not drawing Gondorian Shield early. With this in mind, I took the risk of a mulligan. This paid off as I drew Gondorian Shield in the mulligan hand, along with Light of Valinor. This scenario proves that the priority of attachments is not absolute but really depends on the scenario’s needs.

The luck continued as I drew Nenya during the first round with Galadriel’s ability. I then loaded up Gondorian Shield onto Boromir, Light of Valinor onto Glorfindel, and Nenya onto Galadriel. Since I faced the Boar Guardian during the first trial, which discards an ally when its time counters run out, I decided to keep all allies off the table, which allowed me to save up resources as I hit a steady questing pace with just Glorfindel and Galadriel. Unfortunately, this meant I couldn’t use Galadriel’s ability to keep my threat down or draw cards, which stalled my deck a bit. Moving onto the Trial of Perseverance, I faced down the Wolf Guardian and Hill Barrow, a nasty combination since the Wolf Guardian is the one guardian that can get past Boromir’s defenses and the Hill Barrow adds extra shadows. At one point, the Wolf Guardian got to attack me three times in a row due to nasty chaining shadows and Boromir suffered 3 damage despite the Shield. With A Burning Brand nowhere in sight, I started to get a bit worried. Fortunately, I was able to make a big quest push, thanks to putting down allies like Treebeard and Booming Ent, using the resources I had saved up. I also got my hands on Song of Wisdom for Boromir, setting him up for A Burning Brand whenever it should appear. The Trial of Strength brought out the Raven Guardian, who would normally be a piece of cake, but increased my threat by 3 with every swing thanks to the Stone Barrow. I would have liked to stay at this stage before advancing to the final showdown in order to wait for A Burning Brand but the threat pressure forced me to kill the Raven Guardian and move on quickly. Fortune did smile on me (as did Galadriel’s card draw), as I grabbed A Burning Brand as soon as I hit stage 3 and immediately put it on Boromir. Unfortunately, a Spirit of the Wild appeared, which was pumped up to 4 attack with all the Key objectives on the table. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem for Boromir with the Brand, but my high threat meant I had to restrict using Boromir’s ability as much as possible. With this in mind, I used Treebeard and a Feint that I drew to cut down on the number of attacks Boromir had to defend. Then I killed the Wolf Guardian. During the next round, The Guardian’s Fury put additional pressure on my threat, as I had to use Boromir to defend these extra attacks. I killed the Boar Guardian but was left at 47 threat. Fortunately, the Mirror of Galadriel showed up, which I used to grab Elrond’s Counsel to take some of the pressure off, with Galadriel helping out. I polished off the Raven Guardian and the pumped up Spirit, holding onto A Test of Will to guard against another copy of The Guardian’s Fury bringing one of the guardians back. With that accomplished, I traveled to Hallowed Circle and quickly finished the game. Admittedly, I did benefit from some luck early on regarding the stage/Guardian pairings. Facing the Wolf Guardian early on when I was trying to build up would have hurt, for example.

Conclusion – A much better performance here and my changes were fully vindicated. Without A Burning Brand, I would have surely lost, as even three copies of Hasty Stroke would not have been enough to save me. This could become a permanent feature of the deck. The one weak point was that threat became a serious issue in the absence of Unexpected Courage as Galadriel had to help with the quest often and couldn’t help with threat management. I could sub in The Galadhrim’s Greeting for Elrond’s Counsel or simply add in 1 copy of the Greeting since I am sitting at 51 cards. I will choose the latter option just for a test run against the final game.

Tweaks – Add 1 copy of The Galadhrim’s Greeting.

test three 2

Game #3: Victory

Opening Hand – Nenya, Gondorian Shield, Booming Ent, Captain of Gondor, Treebeard, Booming Ent

In the opening hand, I had a copy of Gondorian Shield, which was all that I cared about. Having Nenya was merely an added bonus.

The first trial began with the Wolf Guardian and Cave Barrow, which was a rough start, as Gondorian Shield by itself was not enough to cover five attack, and generally I aim to bide my time on the first trial and build up my forces. This would be a good test of this deck’s mettle. I did draw Light of Valinor on the first round, which was a big help. Drawing Arwen on the second round was an even more important occurrence, as this boosted Boromir’s defense up to five, which would allow me to tank the Wolf Guardian for awhile rather than rush through. Arwen has actually been fairly inconsistent in showing up throughout testing, and I’m wondering if she might be important enough to throw an extra copy into the deck for some added consistency (the only bad part of Arwen in this deck is that she doesn’t combo very well with her grandmother on the turn she enters play). Without Unexpected Courage, I again had to do without threat management and card draw for awhile. However, I was able to build up a good sized army with Treebeard, two Booming Ents, and a Wandering Ent, among others, hitting the table. In the Trial of Perseverance, I hit upon the Boar Guardian and Stone Barrow. I flew through this trial in order to avoid the Boar Guardian discarding an ally. The Raven Guardian was waiting for me in the Trial of Strength. I was faced with a dilemma here as I wanted to be patient and wait for Song of Wisdom and A Burning Brand to show up before moving on to the final showdown, but the Hill Barrow gave the Raven Guardian two shadows with every attack. It was worth the risk though and I did have two copies of Gondorian Discipline in hand as safety. Eventually, with the help of Galadriel’s draw, I gathered both the Song of Wisdom and A Burning Brand. The Raven Guardian’s time counters ran out, but this just served to put a damage on every Ent in play, boosting both of my Booming Ents up to six attack each. With everything in place, I moved to stage three. What happened next was one of my proudest moments of LOTR LCG as I decimated all three guardians in a single round of combat! First, Boromir and the Brand made defense trivial. Then, combining Boromir’s readying ability and the six resources I had stockpiled on Treebeard, which I used to ready the Booming Ents, I was able to smash through the guardians without much trouble. After that, it was a simple matter of finishing the quest.

Conclusion – This was a definitive victory for the deck and everything worked to perfection. I feel like this deck is at a healthy place for this specific type of scenario and no major tweaks are needed.

Tweaks – None

Wrapping Up The Fourth Round

I’m actually quite glad that I lost the first game, as this prompted me to make a major change to the deck, jettisoning the temporary shadow removal of Hasty Stroke for the more permanent solution of Song of Wisdom/A Burning Brand. While this combination might take some setup, it can transform Boromir into an impeccable defensive solution. With victories in two out of three games, this deck will likely perform well against quests that place a high premium on combat, both defensively and offensively, especially those with boss enemies.

* Is this deck too dependent on the opening hand?

I’m back to yes and no. It can be dependent on opening hand, but not every attachment is necessary right out of the gate and the particular priority differs from quest to quest. Against The Steward’s Fear, for example, Nenya was all-important, while Gondorian Shield became primary against The Three Trials. While this deck can definitely be scuppered if an important attachment takes too long in showing up, it does have the ability to tread water in many situations while Galadriel and/or the Mirror goes fishing. More often than not during this entire testing process, I have been able to grab most of the important attachments within the first few rounds, which shows a good deal of consistency, although it’s not foolproof.

* Is the threat management sufficient?

In general, yes. Threat only became a real issue in a couple of games and the addition of one copy of The Galadhrim’s Greeting plus Dwarven Tomb should rectify most of these problems. The only time I ever lost due to threat was because of location lock during The Steward’s Fear, which was a location management problem rather than a threat management issue.

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

No, but she needs to stop holding Arwen back!

– General questions

Overall, the resource and card balance feels right. There usually is always something meaningful to play, while at the same time, I don’t find myself short of necessary resources for a card I want to play for all that long. The addition of Song of Wisdom has given Boromir something else to use Tactics resources for, while guarding against dead Lore cards in hand if Nenya is tardy. The ratio of allies has ended up being lower than is typical for my decks, but this actually makes sense for a deck that is primarily based around the heroes, especially Boromir’s action advantage, and a few strong allies. All in all, what I appreciate most about this deck is its ability to flexibly adapt to situations and compensate for missing options. At the risk of it being repetitive, I will say again that building in redundancies and back-up options, such as Captain of Gondor covering for Gondorian Shield/Arwen or Dwarven Tomb picking up A Test of Will discarded by the Mirror, is a good strategy.

Conclusion

Despite a stutter against The Steward’s Fear and the first game of The Three Trials, this deck has made its way through the testing crucible to become a better, stronger deck. In fact, I would argue that those defeats were essential to fine tuning and eliminating weaknesses. While this deck was pretty strong when I began, it is undoubtedly much more ready to handle a variety of challenges now,  which illustrates why testing is so useful. The key is to ask the right questions and draw lessons from each game, constantly tweaking and tinkering. As you’ve seen here, sometimes I will add a card in and then take it back out, or put one back in that I removed earlier. Sometimes I will throw some cards in the sideboard as solutions to specific quest problems. Sometimes I will try something that doesn’t work well at all, while other times I will take a chance on a card that works out beautifully. This is all part of the testing and while not every deck needs to or should go through such a rigorous or in-depth process, the basic principles can be applied to your own needs and what works for you.

As for the fate of this deck, in honor of my friend and Grey Company co-host, Derek, who dubbed this one, “Dirty Elf Magic”, I will use that for its name. Is is the final product? Perhaps not, as there is always room for further improvement in almost any deck. However, it’s pretty close to it and gives a fighting chance against many scenarios. Happy testing everyone!

“Dirty Elf Magic”

testdeck2

    Sideboard

Power of Orthanc
Northern Tracker
Hail of Stones

 

 

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9 Comments
  1. Hawk Rose permalink

    This pair of articles has been excellent, and extremely edifying. I am humbled in the awesome presence of your deckbuilding.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      You are too kind! I’m glad you’ve found them useful.

  2. Futonrivercrossing permalink

    I’m curious how you paid for Asfalof in your first game, as you state you used it for location control, before Nenya showed up? Payed

    I used Blood of Numenor in my version, I pretty much eliminated Tactics cards except Booming Ent, Gondorian Shield and feint. So resources will eventually pile up on Boromir, I found you only need 3 resources on him, if you have the shield and Arwen in play, as defending for 7 is enough for most situations. Shadows have proven pesky at times, so I may try your Burning Brand/song solution.

    Great write up! Ents are definitely here!!! I’ve made 2 handed Ent decks, with the heroes Eowin, Galadriel and Boromir, paired with – Gandalf, Glorfindel and Elrond/Vilya – I proxied in the Ents in the second deck, I was considering buying some extra packs as the proxies are not satisfying to play with. It kind of worked ok, I’m having real trouble with the first scenario of the Black Riders though 😦

    I just hope there is some more Ent love in the up coming delux expansions.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Basically how it worked is I used the Mirror to peek into the top 10 cards, hoping to find Nenya with no luck. Asfaloth was there so I grabbed him, figuring that I could at least have him in hand when Nenya showed up, which is what happened. Once Nenya appeared, I put both on the table and started chipping away at the staging area.

      The Ents are pretty amazing already, and there’s only three of them! I do hope we get more Ents in the future and an all-Ent deck could be devastating.

  3. Have you tried Spare Hood and Cloak? I’ve found it to be quite nice with Ents+Galadriel, but maybe it’s just too cute?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I’ve definitely thought about it, but the Ents have worked out well enough, even with the extra round it takes them to get going, that I didn’t feel the need for extra readying to get them into play sooner. This is mainly due to the presence of Boromir, who can cover for the deck until everything gets set up.

  4. Feyiame permalink

    In my 3 player group Glorfindel is taken by an Aragorn-Elrond-Spiritfindel-Deck. Do you have a suggestion for a substitute for Glorfindel?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That’s a tough one because Glorfindel satisfies 3 requirements, all of which help to make the deck function.

      1) Spirit hero
      2) Low threat
      3) High attack

      The nearest replacement is Idraen, as she meets two of those needs (high attack, Spirit) but the hard part is you’ll start off with 6 more threat than Glorfindel. I think it can be made to work, but you just have to watch your threat a bit more.

  5. Feyiame permalink

    That was actually my first idea as well, but my card judgement skills are rather mediocre, so I wasn’t really sure. Would you consider the upcoming Spirit Merry as a sub as well? He does fulfill two of those roles as well, just missing the high attack, and his ability seems useful to me. Probably missing the high attack might be easier to compensate for, especially as one of the other two decks usually has 2 or even 3 ranged heroes who may be able to help out until I can muster some attack power through allies as well? (3 players seems very uncommon, not easy to find people to compare experience with to learn more, and I either play 3 players or pure solo).

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