Deck Spotlight: Dunedain Draw
The release of The Lost Realm has introduced a brand new deck type, one that is firmly centered around engaging enemies often and without fear. While other decks employ cutesy tricks to avoid combat or hide in the shadows, the Dunedain do not go in for all that nonsense. They are too busy taking all the heat so that everyone else can live and quest in relative peace. Such a deck type is refreshing as it encourages players to think about combat and the game overall in a new way. However, there’s always a period of adjustment and learning after a big release as players get used to the new cards and have to figure out what the best deck builds are to make use of them. The Dunedain are certainly no exception. After some fiddling and tweaking, I’ve arrived at a Dunedain deck that puts a smile on my face, which is the summit of my promises about this deck. I don’t claim to have the optimal list or the most powerful, as to get there I would definitely have to make some thematic compromises. On the other hand, this is a deck that can do quite well for itself in multiplayer and has a strong Dunedain heart beating at its core.
The Dunedain Draw deck is based around Halbarad, Tactics Aragorn, and Beravor. These three Dunedain heroes all bring something a little different to the table, with the most obvious being three different spheres. Although Tactics/Leadership seemed the ideal arrangement for a Dunedain deck focused around engaging and fighting enemies, I wanted to introduce Lore into the mix for some card draw. Nothing can get a deck working more efficiently and consistently than some card draw, although this comes at the cost of a slower build up because of resources being spread across three different spheres. In terms of theme, there’s no stretching or contortions needed here, as these three Rangers of the North would certainly have reason to work together!
Side Quest (1)
Total Deck Size: 52
Expansions Needed (11): The Lost Realm, Heirs of Numenor, Shadow and Flame, Conflict at the Carrock, The Hunt for Gollum, The Antlered Crown, Voice of Isengard, Foundations of Stone, The Black Riders, The Nin-in-Eilph, 2nd Core Set
Theme: Enemy Engagement, Card Draw, Stat Boosts
Solo or Multiplayer?: Multiplayer
First off, this is a multiplayer deck, not a solo deck, and is designed to work in conjunction with a questing deck or in a three or four player game. This deck focuses on engaging enemies, as well as carefully managing the engagement of enemies. Since this is a tri-sphere deck, the first order of business is to get some options for resource generation and/or resource smoothing onto the table. This means some combination (or at least one) of Steward of Gondor, Legacy of Numenor, Tighten Our Belts, and Errand-rider is needed. Everything else can flow from there. Steward of Gondor is meant for Halbarad, as he can then use those resources to pump out the Signal attachments, which are crucial in order to increase the offensive and defensive capabilities of the deck. Defense is actually a special concern as none of the three heroes are exceptional in defense, although all of them can do a decent job assuming they don’t have to take on anything with too high of an attack. This means that second in priority after resource generation/smoothing is defense boosts. With a couple of copies of Dunedain Warning, any of the three heroes can have a defense of four, which is equivalent to Beregond (and don’t forget that they can be moved around). With three copies attached, they can defend for five. Although Aragorn could fulfill this role, because of his ability, he needs to be attacking as often as possible and not defending. Therefore, either Halbarad or Beravor should be your main defender and make use of Dunedain Warning. There are advantages and disadvantages to either choice. Using Beravor means that you have the option of using A Burning Brand to transform her into an airtight defender. This particular deck does not include A Burning Brand but I usually pair this deck with a support deck that does include it (if you don’t have that luxury, then you could use A Burning Brand in this deck). On the other hand, transforming Beravor into your defender means that she won’t be able to use her card draw ability as often, in the absence of readying, so Halbarad might be a better choice. Again, the other decks that will be playing alongside this one might influence this choice. If someone can throw Unexpected Courage on Beravor, then she can defend and draw cards as well. Note that the Defender of Rammas is specifically included to serve as an early game form of defensive coverage, so use it as such. Also note that Captain of Gondor provides Aragorn with some flexibility, as this attachment will usually be used to boost his attack, but it could also allow him to defend for three in a pinch.
Once resources and defense are sorted, the deck should be able to function well in its given role. That role is to engage enemies as often as possible, taking on the majority of combat duties so that other decks don’t feel the heat. This can take a few different forms and it is important not to pigeonhole this deck into one particular tactic, as it can and should adapt to the situation. Some of the different possibilities are…
1) Use Halbarad’s additional optional engagement and the deck’s high starting threat of 32 to engage everything in sight
This is the preferred strategy when enemies are going to be coming down to other decks. With Halbarad and a high threat, you should be able to prevent many enemies from slipping through to bother someone else. You’ll probably be using this tactic more often once you are set up defensively.
2) Take on one enemy at a time and engage the rest with Aragorn
Sometimes it is better not to engage everything if you have the choice. This will be the case more often in the early game when your threat isn’t so high. Take No Notice and Secret Vigil can also help to keep enemies away from you. Then, you can engage just one enemy, kill it with Aragorn, and then pull over another enemy from the staging area or even another player. With Aragorn having access to readying through Rohan Warhorse and attack boosts from Dunedain Mark/Captain of Gondor, he should be able to repeat this multiple times, meaning that you might be able to kill several enemies without having to suffer their attack. Again, this can happen either from keeping enemies in the staging area or using an approach where another deck does the defending and you handle the attacking.
3) Avoid killing at least one enemy to fuel future effects
This isn’t so much an alternative to the first two tactics as an addition to either one. It is often useful to avoid killing the final enemy you are engaged with, even if it is possible to do so, because having at least one enemy engaged for the next round can fuel effects such as Halbarad’s ability to quest without exhausting, card draw through the Sarn Ford Sentry, etc. I’ve even let two enemies survive in order to set up an epic round. Of course this all depends upon your particular position and the enemies you are facing. It feels a bit strange the first time you intentionally let an enemy survive, but it definitely plays a role in the overall strategy of the deck. I’m not totally sure how to feel about it in thematic terms, although I suppose letting an enemy survive so that you can track them to their fellows or find out more information is a plausible excuse.
With these approaches in mind, this deck is all about managing the flow of enemies in a way that maximizes the benefit to you while minimizing the risk. However, it’s important to know that you will constantly be taking on risk with this deck, much more so than many other decks. Just as the Rangers of the North constantly were putting their lives on the line and facing unspeakable dangers to keep others safe, you must be willing to walk a fine line. Making the right choices about when and how to engage enemies will determine the success of this deck in any given game.
How It Was Constructed: While a combination of Halbarad/Mablung/Aragorn was my initial inclination, I quickly decided that I wanted to try something a bit different. I made this decision not because I think that trio is ineffective. On the contrary, such a combination is both logical and potentially powerful. However, more than anything I wanted an opportunity to try out as many of the new cards as I could in a single deck, and tri-sphere seemed the logical choice. This left me with the option of either adding Lore or Spirit to the mix, and the Lore Dunedain cards just seemed a better fit. In addition, I had used Beravor in so many decks over the years, but she has never been able to call a true Dunedain deck home, so this seemed like the time to finally include her for a thematic reason, rather than a gameplay motive. Still, the needs of the game do matter, and Beravor also plays a part here. Including her allows access to consistent card draw, both through her own effect and that of other Lore cards, and this can help to grease the wheels of the deck, getting key cards out more quickly.
1) Aragorn + Rohan Warhorse + Captain of Gondor + Dunedain Mark (+ Quick Strike): Although Aragorn has balanced stats and can cover questing or defending when needed, such cases are the exception to the rule. Most of the time, in order to make best use of his ability, he should be attacking, and so several of the attachments are included to transform him into a killing machine. With Captain of Gondor and several copies of Dunedain Mark, Aragorn can strike for four, five, six, or even seven! When his enemy defense reduction is included, the effective damage is increased even more. Rohan Warhorse allows you to apply this attack power and his enemy engagement ability several times in one round. Adding Quick Strike to the mix makes things even more interesting, as a pumped up Aragorn can use this event to kill an engaged enemy during the quest phase, pulling another enemy down from the staging area. You could also use Quick Strike to destroy an enemy before it can attack during the combat phase, pulling over an enemy from another player before enemy attacks are resolved.
2) Dunedain Hunter + Halbarad/Sarn Ford Sentry/Heir of Valandil: The Dunedain Hunter can help to set up other effects by engaging an enemy, whether this means adding questing power through Halbarad, drawing more cards through the Sarn Ford Sentry, or reducing the cost of another ally with Heir of Valandil. For this reason, the Dunedain Hunter is actually a great draw in your opening hand. Just be careful of those scenarios where you start off with an engaged enemy, such as Deadmen’s Dike from The Lost Realm itself, as taking on two enemies on the first turn may be too much, especially if more show up during staging. Note that these combinations of cards can work quite well together and set up a chain of effects. For example, you can play a Dunedain Hunter, then lower the cost of the Sarn Ford Sentry with the Heir of Valandil and the newly engaged enemy, drawing more cards and more options to play.
3) Weather Hills Watchman + Ranger Summons/Ranger of the North: Let’s be clear about one thing before discussing this combo further. The whole Ranger Summons/Ranger of the North trick is never going to be the most consistent thing in the world, simply because once you put a Ranger in the encounter deck, there’s no guarantee about when it is going to show up or if it is ever going to show up at all. That being said, it’s also one of the most entertaining and rewarding things in the world when it does happen, and I’ve included it in the deck for that reason and that reason alone. The Weather Hills Watchman, in addition to helping to fetch Dunedain Warning and Dunedain Mark, can also help to bring out Ranger Summons more quickly, so you can get those Rangers into the encounter deck more quickly.
4) Forest Snare + Halbarad/Sarn Ford Sentry/Heir of Valandil: If the Dunedain Hunter provides one means of triggering and fueling engagement/based effects, Forest Snare is even better for this purpose, although obviously more expensive. It’s worth it, though, to Snare at least one enemy which gives you a consistent baseline for these effects for the rest of the game. For example, the Heir of Valandil will always reduce the cost of the next Dunedain by one (making it equivalent to O Lorien!), the Sarn Ford Sentry will always draw at least one card, etc. Even better, since this engaged enemy will never be able to attack you, it makes it easier to add an additional enemy without worry, meaning that effects like those on the Sentry and Heir will be even more potent. As a final note, the Dunedain Hunter can pull out an enemy during the planning phase, allowing you to immediately trap it with Forest Snare before it can ever attack.
5) Gather Information + Steward of Gondor: The new side quest, Gather Information, is a valuable means of pulling out the card you most need at a given instant, and it is incredibly powerful in multiplayer as this helps out every player. This side quest can allow you to grab Steward of Gondor if it’s hiding somewhere in your deck, but it can also be used to fetch almost anything.
6) Celebrian’s Stone + Halbarad: Although willpower and questing are not major focuses of this deck, it seems a shame not to maximize Halbarad’s ability to quest without exhausting when engaged with an enemy. Celebrian’s Stone transforms him into a four willpower hero that can quest while still being available for combat, and this is great value.
7) Legacy of Numenor + Secret Vigil: Legacy of Numenor is an expensive form of resource generation in terms of raw threat gain. However, Secret Vigil provides a means of cushioning this blow, as this new attachment can reduce the threat of every singe player in multiplayer, effectively negating the gain. If another player has Erebor Hammersmith, you can even get multiple uses out of a single copy of Secret Vigil.
Variations: I’ve already mentioned the Aragorn/Mablung/Halbarad deck as a potential variation that maximizes resource generation. There also is the entirely different approach of pairing Aragorn with low threat heroes, such as the Hobbits or Spirit Glorfindel, and letting him kill one enemy at a time to pull down enemies that have been left in the staging area. Moving away from such decks, though, that are substantially different from the one here, there are some smaller tweaks or variations possible:
* A Burning Brand – I mentioned this earlier, but if you can’t count on receiving A Burning Brand from someone else’s deck, it may be worthwhile to include it here to place on Beravor.
* Wingfoot – The first version of this deck used Wingfoot so that Beravor could quest and then be available for defense or card draw. However, the net result was adding a small bit more willpower to the deck, which isn’t one of its main jobs. Therefore, I ended up cutting Wingfoot in favor of additional readying for Aragorn through the Rohan Warhorse, which was far more important and useful.
* Dunedain Watcher – I’ve been a tireless defender of the Dunedain Watcher and her value, and so this seemed like a perfect opportunity to finally find a thematic home for her. She definitely has gameplay utility here, as shadow cancellation can protect fragile defenders, especially towards the beginning of a game. However, once I hit upon the A Burning Brand/Beravor/Dunedain Warning combination, I ended up cutting the Watcher for other cards.
* Rivendell Bow/Hands Upon the Bow – I really, really wanted to find room for Rivendell Bow and Hands Upon the Bow in order to give Aragorn ranged and allow him to snipe enemies in the staging area, setting up a situation where he could actually remove two enemies during a single quest phase. However, it just wasn’t possible to find room for these cards, but I may create an alternative version of the deck that includes them.
* Tireless Hunters – I included this card originally as it is shiny and new and seemed to provide another option for engaging enemies while exerting some control over shadows. However, in practice, I always ended up playing something else and I rarely really needed to use this effect. Therefore, I ended up cutting it out entirely.
* Expert Trackers: This is another Lost Realm card that I originally included, but ended up cutting. In this case, I love the effect and think it’s quite useful, but this deck just needs to focus on other things besides location control.
* Poisoned Stakes: I considered using this trap to help wear down enemies. This would allow me to keep an enemy engaged for a few rounds in order to fuel certain effects, while having it eventually die through the direct damage from Poisoned Stakes rather than having to expend character actions to attack. Ultimately, though, this was a nice idea that there simply wasn’t room to include.
* Sword that was Broken: With Aragorn on the table, Sword that was Broken seemed like a good opportunity to increase willpower and smooth resources by giving Aragorn the Leadership icon. However, leaving this card out was again a matter of priorities, as willpower boosting is not a key focus of the deck. Of course, you might wonder why I’ve included Faramir then, but that ally can help to boost other players in multiplayer while Sword that was Broken is limited to one’s own characters.
Complementary Deck: I’ve mentioned a support deck that I’ve used in conjunction with this one, so I’ll share that deck here as well. This deck is tied loosely around a “Rivendell” theme, with Glorfindel and Elrond both hailing from The Last Homely House, while Idraen is the Dunedain representative. Note that several of the cards are included to meet the particular needs of The Lost Realm scenarios, so these can be switched out as needed when facing other quests. Generally, this deck takes on the support/questing role, although it can handle combat when necessary.
2x Gandalf (OHaUH)
2x Arwen Undómiel
1x Bilbo Baggins
3x Ethir Swordsman
3x Northern Tracker
3x Pelargir Shipwright
3x Warden of Healing
3x Erebor Hammersmith
2x Mirkwood Pioneer
3x Ancient Mathom
3x Light of Valinor
2x Thror’s Key
3x Unexpected Courage
3x A Burning Brand
2x Star Brooch
3x A Test of Will
2x Dwarven Tomb
3x Elrond’s Counsel
2x Hasty Stroke
1x Power of Orthanc
2x The Galadhrim’s Greeting
Final Thoughts: This deck provides a ton of entertainment and is a good platform for experimenting with some of the new cards from The Lost Realm. It can certainly hold its own in multiplayer games against a variety of quests. However, it does have some glaring weaknesses. Most notable is defensive frailty, especially in the early game. Scenarios that hit hard from the start with extremely strong enemies or swarms of enemies pose a particular challenge for this deck. Beyond that weakness, though, this deck can allow you to roll the dice and tempt fate as you take on enemies with a daring that will leave you feeling heroic and bold. Just remember, that protecting the more peaceful and passive subjects of the North is not a game, nor free of risk and sacrifice.