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Building your Fellowship: Know your Role in Combat

by on January 15, 2016

Rangers_of_the_North_by_WF74 Hello everyone, and welcome to another installment of Building your Fellowship. After a hiatus from the holidays, I’m back with another article. In this post, I want to focus on combat in LotR:LCG. After all, the most satisfying aspect of this game, in my opinion, is not exploring that 5 threat location, or clearing a certain quest card to win the game, or even cancelling that nasty treachery that you just revealed from the encounter deck. The most memorable, most satisfying moments are when you deal that final blow to the Witch-King in Massing at Osgiliath, or the first time you successfully take down a Hill Troll with a swing of Gimli’s dwarven axe. Creating your own dramatic moments in the world of Tolkien is what sets this game apart from other card games, and in the combat phase is where a majority of these dramatic moments take place. Let’s take a brief look at the combat capabilities of each, starting with what I consider the weakest in combat, and moving towards what I consider the strongest.

Spirit: One of the strengths of the Spirit sphere is encounter deck manipulation and cancellation, and that doesn’t change in the combat phase. Hasty Stroke is a pretty straightforward card, cancelling the Shadow effect of a card that has just been triggered. If you are running a mono-sphere Spirit deck, Shadows Give Way gets rid of each Shadow card in play, certainly a powerful effect given the chaining of Shadow effects that we have seen the past few cycles. In multiplayer, Rider of the Mark is a unique way of getting rid of Shadow effects, letting you pay 1 Spirit resource to give control of the Rider to another player, and getting rid of a Shadow card on your side of the table in the process. The combat tricks for Spirit don’t end there. Arwen Undomiel (arguably one of the best allies in the game) is an absolute steal at 2 resources, and gives ANY character Sentinel and +1 defense until the end of the round. Couple her with Frodo Baggins, and you have a legitimate primary defender in the Spirit sphere, and with the amount of threat management that is in the game, his ability isn’t as much of a hindrance as when he was released. Light the Beacons is another, albeit expensive, option, but the effect is powerful, and incredibly useful in a multiplayer game. On the attacking side, the new event Fair and Perilous and Herugrim both add their respective characters’ willpower to their attack, making high willpower characters like Eowyn or Glorfindel formidable combatants. The one drawback to using Spirit in combat is that a majority of the characters in this sphere have a small pool of hit points. In other words, defend at your own risk!

Lore: Much like Spirit, one of Lore’s strengths is encounter deck manipulation. A Burning Brand is the best shadow cancellation in the game, bar none. Gildor Inglorion and Elrond are fantastic targets for this card, as they are both in-sphere and have a pretty respectable 3 defense. If you are feeling tricksy, you can get this attached to Gandalf by using his ability to play it from the top of your deck, satisfying the need for the target character to have a Lore resource icon. Also, one of the great things about this card is that it can target any character (not just heroes), unlike a lot of other attachments in this game. Or you can just attach Song of Wisdom to Beregond, give him A Burning Brand, and call it a day. But what if you aren’t ready to take on that Hill Troll? Take No Notice (an undervalued card, in my opinion) raises the engagement costs of enemies in the staging area by 5, and can be played at a discount if you are playing Hobbits or Rangers. Pippin provides a similar effect, and lets you draw a card if you engage an enemy with an engagement cost higher than your threat. However, these effects aren’t permanent. Ranger Spikes lets you avoid an enemy permanently, and with scrying effects from Denethor or Henamarth Riversong, you can try to find the best target by knowing what is coming from the encounter deck. However, the one thing that Lore contributes to combat that is wholly it’s own is healing. As no other sphere has healing, this makes Lore invaluable when building a deck that is going up against combat-heavy quests. With direct damage coming from Shadow cards, and Archery being one of the more popular keywords to slap on an enemy, healing lets you keep your heroes and allies around a lot longer. Trait-specific cards like Lembas, Athelas, Wellinghall Preserver, or Silvan Tracker are great, well-costed cards, but somewhat limited in scope in terms of play/effect restrictions. However, Warden of Healing, a personal favorite of mine, is an extremely versatile healer, able to heal both heroes and allies, and possesses a built-in (albeit expensive) readying ability.

Leadership: Leadership has been largely described as the “Jack of all Trades” and support sphere, and in combat this is no different. Global stat boosting from heroes is something that makes Leadership unique from the other spheres, with heroes like Celeborn, Boromir, and Dain Ironfoot providing boosts to their respective traits. Leadership also has a bevy of attachments that not only boost stats, but can provide Ranged and Sentinel to heroes as well. Ally mustering is another strength of this sphere, and running the trusty Sneak Attack/Gandalf combo in your deck is still one of the best plays in the game to this day. Action advantage is also a standard in this sphere, with cards like Grim ResolveCram, and Strength of Arms allowing you to get multiple uses out of your characters for either attacking, defending, or any other abilities that require them to be exhausted.The heroes Prince Imrahil and Elrohir have built-in readying effects as well. Leadership also contains Shadow cancellation abilities in ErkenbrandDunedain Watcher, and Balin.

Tactics: Plain and simple, Tactics is all about combat. From a multiplayer perspective, Tactics is absolutely necessary (especially in the current meta) to have any consistent success while adventuring through Middle-Earth. After all, your heroes won’t be able to do much if they are dead. We can try to strategize all we want during each round, but it always seems to happen that the least prepared player to deal with combat somehow gets the nastiest foe, and characters with the Ranged and Sentinel keywords can help deal with these situations. Legolas has been a staple hero since the beginning of the game, not only contributing to combat anywhere on the table, but contributing progress to the quest as well. Beregond is another staple hero, being able to defend for any player, boasting a base defense of 4, and synergizing well with cards like Spear of the CitadelGondorian Shield, and Raven-winged Helm. But if there is no Ranged or Sentinel on the table, what other options are there? Feint and Thicket of Spears are great ways to hard counter attacks from enemies, outright cancelling the attack, and, taking that a step further, cancelling any Shadow effects that those enemies may have had. What I think has given Tactics a significant boost in relevance in the game is enemy engagement manipulation (controlling when and where enemies will be engaged). Cards like Tireless HunterThe Hammer-stroke, Aragorn, and Mablung are the base of this deck archetype.

So now that we have a brief idea of what each sphere contributes to combat (or situations that are the outcomes of combat), what does this mean in terms of deckbuilding? This is where the difference comes in between deckbuilding for the solo game versus the mulitplayer game. A solo deck has to have an answer for each eventuality that can come from the encounter deck. In other words, it needs to be flexible in it’s responses to all phases of the game. In building a multiplayer deck, you can narrow its focus, knowing that the deficiencies that your build may have will most likely be shored up by the other players in the game. Sphere preference also plays a big role in deckbuilding. You can build a deck that is moderately successful at handling combat that doesn’t include Tactics, but if you are a beginning deckbuilder, I wouldn’t recommend going that route. So let’s start building our deck.

When I build a combat focused deck (or any deck, for that matter) I pick a sphere (or spheres) that I think lend themselves best to what I am building. In this case, I want to build a Tactics/Lore deck. Tactics is woefully underpowered in terms of card draw (a weakness that Lore can shore up), and A Burning Brand is just way too tempting to not include in this deck. I also don’t want to have my threat too high, and splashing a low threat Lore hero can off-set the higher threat of some Tactics heroes. Now that I have picked my spheres, let’s pick some heroes. Typically, one good attacker, one good defender, and one hero who can contribute on either end is what I use. Denethor(Core) gives us access to Lore, is a great target for Gondorian Shield, and has the Lore icon for A Burning Brand. We have one hero down, two to go. Legolas(Core) is a great attacker, is arguably the best target for most of the Tactics attachments I plan to run, and can contribute to the active location/quest when he kills an enemy. So, we have two heroes for our deck. Keeping with the idea of having a more balanced hero, I think Mablung(The Nin-in-Eilph) is a good choice for our third hero, as he has built-in resource acceleration, and in the multiplayer game we will more likely than not be engaging an enemy each round. With our hero lineup set, we can now start filling in the rest of our deck.

When I look at my hero lineup, this gives me a general idea of what ratio of cards by sphere I will put in my deck. So roughly one third of my deck will be Lore cards, with the other two thirds being Tactics. One other thing to keep in mind before I start to select which cards will be included is cost. Typically, a game will last between 6-8 rounds. So, when building your decks, ask yourself the question of “Is that 4-5 cost ally going to feasibly hit the table during most games?”. Now, I do have some resource acceleration in Mablung, so some of those more expensive Tactics allies like Beorn or Eagles of the Misty Mountains could hit the table, but I don’t want to flood my deck with them either (side note, the Hall of Beorn blog has a great article on cost curves, which explores this concept in-depth). The strategy I wish to employ will also effect what cards I will put in my deck. Since I plan building a beefy defender in Denethor, I probably won’t be using a lot of chump blocking allies, and may include cards that cancel damage and heal due to the low HP total that Denethor possesses. I also plan on utilizing attachments, so fetch abilities for these types of cards, either through events or character abilities, is a must.

With my focus being on combat, my allies will not be focusing on questing, so high attack/defense allies, or allies that contribute to the overall strategy of the deck, will be added. In a combat build, I will also go for a 20 ally minimum (preferably 22-25, depending on what events/attachments are “must haves”). Eagles are cheap and powerful early game allies, so 3 copies of Vassal of the Windlord and Winged Guardian will be must haves in the deck, and along with that, Eagles of the Misty Mountains will be in to take advantage of them leaving play. With Denethor being rather frail at 3 HP, I will be adding Honour Guard to prevent some of the damage that could potentially get through on him before we get him set up as our wall. Henneth Annun Guard is another ally that we can use to pump up Denethor’s defense, but the Doomed 1 may be an expense that the other players may not want to pay for the effect, plus the cost of 3 is a bit on the high end of the cost curve that I want. Dunedain Hunter should be an auto-include in all Tactics decks that run Mablung, as he doubles as a hard hitter and resource generator for the Ranger. Fornost Bowman is another potential card that could synergize with the Dunedain Hunter and some of the other effects I plan to run in this deck, but again, the cost of 3 is a bit steep. To round out our Tactics allies, I will add one copy of Beorn(it’s always nice when he hits the table) and 3 copies of Bofur(OHaUH) to fetch our Weapon and Armor attachments. For our Lore allies, I will add 3 copies of Master of the Forge for more fetching, and 2 copies of Quickbeam. Here is what our deck looks like so far:

Heroes:
Denethor
Mablung
Legolas

Allies:
Vassal of the Windlord x3
Winged Guardian x3
Eagles of the Misty Mountains X3
Dunedain Hunter X3
Honour Guard x3
Bofur X3
Henneth Annun Guard x2
Fornost Bowman x2
Beorn x1
Master of the Forge x3
Quickbeam x2

28 allies is a bit heavier than I would like, so we are going to cut the Fornost Bowman from the deck (too costly for the effect), 1 copy of Eagles of the Misty Mountain (we’ll hopefully be able to fetch them with one of our events), putting us at 25 allies. Let’s move on to the events.

When running Lore, Daeron’s Runes, much like Dunedain Hunter for Tactics, is an auto-include. I will also add in 3 copies of Foe-hammer and 3 copies of The Eagles are Coming! for card draw (not too mention the fact that they are free). Finally, I will add 3 copies of Tireless Hunters to give more control over enemy engagements on the table. On to the final piece, our attachments.

With Denethor being our designated defender, A Burning Brand will be a perfect fit for our deck, so we will be adding in 3 copies, along with 3 copies of Gondorian Shield. Not only is Denethor a good fit for this attachment, but it makes Mablung a respectable defender as well. We will also add copies of Rivendell Blade, Rohan Warhorse, and Support of the Eagles for Legolas. Horn of Gondor attached to Denethor can help us pay for some of those Lore cards that we may need to bring the core of our deck together.

Let’s see where we stand as far as our deck list:

In the Steward’s Defense

Heroes:
Denethor
Mablung
Legolas

Allies: (25)
Vassal of the Windlord x3
Winged Guardian x3
Eagles of the Misty Mountains X2
Dunedain Hunter X3
Honour Guard x3
Bofur X3
Henneth Annun Guard x2
Beorn x1
Master of the Forge x3
Quickbeam x2

Events: (11)
Daeron’s Runes x3
Foe-hammer x2
The Eagles are Coming! x3
Tireless Hunters x3

Attachments: (14)
A Burning Brand x3
Gondorian Shield x3
Rivendell Blade x2
Support of the Eagles x2
Rohan Warhorse x2
Horn of Gondor x2

Deck Analysis: We have already gone over a lot of the choices I made, so I won’t go more in-depth on my card choices. As far as an opening hand, I would mulligan if I didn’t see Gondorian Shield or some way to fetch it. I would also like to see one of the card draw effects that we have put in the deck (Bofur and Dunedain Hunter would be a keeper). The overall strategy here is to get Denethor up and running, and then Legolas start unleashing on enemies. As a general thought, when building a deck, ask yourself “How do I intend to pay for this card?”. Out of 50 cards in this deck, 8 cost 3 or more resources. Expensive cards are extremely powerful, but, as a rule of thumb, I would advise against building an entire strategy around them.

What kind of combat decks have you been playing? What cards do you think would make this a better, more cohesive deck? Is Denethor really a legitimate primary defender in today’s meta? Please comment on any of these questions, or if you have any other feedback on this deck or article. Thanks again for reading, and hope to see you again soon!

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2 Comments
  1. “. If you are feeling tricksy, you can get this attached to Gandalf by using his ability to play it from the top of your deck, satisfying the need for the target character to have a Lore resource icon.”

    Is that true? Does an attachment only check when attaching and then it’s okay to stay on Gandalf?

  2. fifthranger permalink

    Yes, per the last sentence of this section of the FAQ:

    (1.23) Attachments Any objective card that attaches to another card is treated as an attachment in addition to its other card types. Any non-objective card that attaches to another card loses its original card type and gains the attachment card type. The “Attach to…” rules text on an attachment is only a play restriction, and is not taken into account after the card is already attached.

    Happy gaming!!

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