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Deck Construction: Mono Lore Secrecy Victory Display Part 1

by on September 23, 2016

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Contributor Miika returns with some thoughts about the current state of the game and another in-depth look at deck construction! -Ian

So far, the past year has been quite impressive for LOTR LCG. Not only has the Dream- Chaser cycle almost reached its climax (weird, it still feels like it just came out), but The Flame of the West Saga expansion has also filled the final piece for the Lotr Saga expansion series that has been around for a while now. And if that wasn’t enough, the next cycle has also been spoiled in the form of The Sands of Harad, ready to be released in the last quarter of the year!

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Personally, I feel really excited about the upcoming cycle, that’s for sure. For one, the intriguing stories related to the far corners of Harad have always been shrouded in secrecy in Tolkien’s stories. There are numerous cases in the books where the far east of Middle- Earth is just mentioned briefly by some characters or the narrator himself, before returning to continue the stories elsewhere. I have, for example, always wondered what happened to Ungoliant and to the Blue Wizards once they set their foot on the sands of Harad, for The Silmarillion gives only narrow hints about their possible journeys. Did Ungoliant spread terror among the southron people for a long time before she eventually ate herself (as Tolkien hinted)? Did the Blue wizards have any success in their journey either or did they just face the hostile people of the south and had their lives ended in a cruel way? And if they contributed to the events of The War of the Ring in one way or another, then how exactly?

This same wondering is true for The Lord of the Rings books as well: Gandalf mentions that he won’t travel to the east, and while Aragorn has actually done that, he tells next to nothing about these journeys to his comrades (excluding that the stars are different to other places in Middle-Earth, which is a better account than what Gandalf gives us). Moreover, the fact is that even the map of Middle-Earth itself tends to end at Far Harad and the corsair-city of Umbar in the far south. What’s beyond that? Is it as wide and forested as David Day suggested? Are there any more ancient signs and cults related to Morgoth, Ungoliant and to the journeys of the Blue wizards? Do orcs wander there like a swarm of Hummerhorns in some upcoming Lotr LCG fan-made horror movie? Can someone tell me!? Maybe FFG will?

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Sorry for all this enthusiasm that has nothing do with the article itself, but this news has been just plain great.

In addition to the huge amount of narrative-based opportunities that the upcoming cycle has, I’m also more than thrilled to see how the game itself will develop from now on. Some traits have received some real love in the past few cycles, so it will be interesting to see in what direction are the developers going to sail next. Angmar Awakened was “the” Dunedain cycle, while the Ring-Maker cycle, in turn, essentially created the Silvan decks. The Dream-Chaser cycle started off the Grey Havens deluxe box with all the Noldor stuff it contained, creating some powerful new archetypes with heroes like Cirdan and Arwen. Rohan and Gondor decks have also developed all along. The latter part of the Dream-Chaser cycle has given some promises about the possible (and finally occurring) emergence of Dale decks with the new hero Lanwyn and the Dale allies, just like the later Angmar Awakened adventure packs gave some spoilers about the upcoming Noldor spam in the following Dream-Chaser cycle. But after that-then what? There are a limited number of races in Middle-Earth so it could be a fine opportunity to focus more on different game mechanisms and marginal aspects of each race. Dwarves, for example, have their cousins in the Iron Hills, Erebor, Blue Mountains and in numerous other places, which could get some special attention once the developers start to run out of ideas.

Speaking of game mechanics, I really like the surprising elements the R&D tends to bring to light every once in a while. These mechanics present the opportunity to try something different which might not always be the strongest options in terms of game play experience (at least at the time of their appearance), but rather are ones that try to create a satisfying and fun game play experience.

One of these unique mechanics is definitely the Victory Display mechanism and all the player cards related to it. And this is how the idea behind this article came to being. Yep, Mono Lore Secrecy Victory Display. Sounds ridiculous, but it all came together surprisingly smoothly… at least on paper. The actual play tests and the editing of the deck was a different story.

mec40-rossiel

… and it all began with the release of this one hero. Rossiel is, at least in my opinion, one of the most unique heroes in the entire game because the way she plays differs so much from what we’re used to. Her rules are the following:

Silvan.

If the active location shares a Trait with a location in the victory display, Rossiel gets +2 willpower.

If the attacking enemy shares a Trait with an enemy in the victory display, Rossiel gets +2 defense.

While she has a lot of potential to offer for her relatively low Threat cost of 8, the downside is that she needs to be in a deck that has been built with consideration of her abilities in order to get anything out of her. Her abilities are more on the reactive side, which means that she is not a plug and play-type of hero. Victory Display shenanigans allow her to have a potential 4 Willpower and/or 4 Defense which will take care of most of the issues of questing and defending. Considering that Rossiel comes from the Lore sphere, this is pretty remarkable, especially when taking into account that her Defense can be further improved with attachments like Lorien Cloak and particularly by A Burning Brand. If you can muster enough healing in your deck, Rossiel with A Burning Brand can take some really powerful blows without the fear of losing her in combat. Her potential 4 Defense is, on the other hand, equal to the base Defense value of Beregond, who has been the greatest, most badass defender in the game for quite a long time now. Not only that, but she can also potentially quest equally to Eowyn or Cirdan, who are currently the best questing heroes in the game! So her improved stat potential is quite significant here.

Rossiel, therefore, formed the base of the deck. While choosing the other heroes and the possible themes for the deck, I paid close attention to the player cards and noticed that a fair amount of cards that could work well with Rossiel were also the ones that I often used in Secrecy decks. A notable amount of those cards also belonged to the Lore sphere. But before delving deeper into those cards, the rest of the heroes were to be chosen, and inspired by this coincidence, I chose the second hero to be Mirlonde.

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I decided to go mono Sphere, which is of course why Mirlonde was the mandatory choice for the next hero. While she is not the most versatile hero in existence, her low Threat of 7, her ability to reduce your starting Threat by an effective 3 points in a mono Sphere deck along with the solid 2 Willpower and 2 Attack justifies her place in the deck. She is, in fact, one of the few heroes in the game to make this deck actually work with 3 hero choices. We can easily call this pick “an obvious one” therefore.

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For the last hero choice, I chose Pippin, which should not come to a surprise to anyone at all. Not only does he have the lowest Threat of all Lore heroes, he actually has the second lowest Threat among all heroes in the game (falling just a little short of the famous Spirit Glorfindel)! That alone would have been enough to justify taking him, in order to make all the Secrecy cards work. The more important factor is, however, how incredibly good a hero he is for his Threat cost: he will buy you time to engage enemies in the staging area while giving a passive way to draw cards like it was no big deal. These two abilities synergize quite well. He also has 2 Willpower which is really important in order to get the quest engine rolling.

All in all, each of the three heroes provides some useful abilities. These characters might not be the natural born heroes that would be preferable to do the dirty work themselves (like Cirdan, Aragorn and Eomer for instance), but they are cheap, they have useful special rules, and their role is to buy time for Rossiel to become a superhero. In short, they offer cheap utility at its best.

With the heroes chosen, it was time to construct the deck itself. As usual, I started with the allies, then moved to the attachments and the events. Since I play solo most of the time, I always try to make decks that can survive on their own. This approach really feels like an achievement when I succeed at it, especially with different kinds of cards and deck types. The downside is, however, that you will end up using the same cards over and over again until you grow absolutely bored with them, no matter how hard you try to avoid it. There are just so many important elements in this game which need to be covered so that cutting a deck to 50 cards is becoming harder and harder. It becomes even more apparent when you’re playing solo since you can’t properly cover all the areas of the game, and you will have to maximize the strengths of the deck in the areas it can excel. Let’s delve a bit deeper into this area of the game with some of the cards that are included in this deck:

The above cards are just a few in this game that I have really grown bored with, yet it’s often a bad idea not to include them because they are just so effective. Of the above cards, I particularly hate Warden of Healing-he is the downright best healing card in the entire game (and with Elrond he becomes even more broken). His low cost, the ability to heal two points of damage from anywhere and the ability to recycle this effect for the cost of 2 resources is yet to be topped. There have been some good attempts by new cards to do just  that-Imladris Caregiver would have been at least as good an option in some decks if he could also heal two points of damage instead of just one, while Ioreth from A Storm on Cobas Haven adventure pack is a free alternative, although a unique one. One copy of Ioreth might in fact take the place of a Warden in this deck in the future.

With all this in mind, I always choose every single copy of each card I would like to include in a deck, after which I start to reduce their numbers until I reach a balance among them which is as close to 50 cards as possible. The last 3-4 cards are usually the hardest ones to drop-sometimes I need more than one copy of a certain card for one reason or another, even if dropping one more copy would mean a thinner deck. The allies of this deck are as follows, with the numbers chosen with that particular deck construction strategy in mind:

Allies (20):

2x Treebeard

3x Gandalf

2x Henamarth Riversong

1x Quickbeam

2x Wandering Ent

3x Warden of Healing

3x Wellinghall Preserver

1x Gildor Inglorion

3x Ithilien Lookout

That’s 20 allies in total, which is about the lowest I dare to go in any deck (I prefer to have between 22 to 24 allies most of the time). Ent characters are the foundation of the deck, particularly Treebeard and Wellinghall Preserver which are ridiculously good allies for their cost. The other allies are a mix of utility and healing. Wardens do the healing of the deck along with the Wellinghalls, while Lookout is a cheap Secrecy ally that gives some scrying. Henamath Riversong is another ally that offers utility at its best, letting you know what is coming when you play solo, which can often be invaluable when planning your turn. Quickbeam and Gildor are cards that are both fun and effective but not mandatory to have on board.

With allies chosen, it was time to move to attachments. These are the cards that you can easily go over the top with if you don’t pick them with caution. I decided to choose only the ones I needed most in the deck, and those ended up being the following:

Attachments (10):

3x Resourceful

3x Scroll of Isildur

2x A Burning Brand

2x Elf- Stone

That’s 10 attachments in total, which is really solid. It leaves room for event cards, for there will be plenty of those, and these choices fix some of the troubles that the Lore Sphere has in general. Resourceful uses the Secrecy theme of the deck for resource generation, as does the Elf-Stone. A Burning Brand is an incredible way of getting rid of every Shadow card in existence for one character,, while Scroll of Isildur makes it possible to recycle the critical event cards at the right time.

Speaking of events, these are the cards where this deck really stands out with its theme. The events ended up being quite numerous in fact:

Events  (24):

3x Mithrandir’s Advice

3x Out of the Wild

3x Risk Some Light

2x Keen as Lances

3x Daeron’s Runes

2x Radagast’s Cunning

2x Secret Paths

2x The Door is Closed!

2x Leave no Trace

2x None Return

Out of the Wild, Mithrandir’s Advice and Risk Some Light are the stand out cards in this deck. Out of the Wild in particular takes away whichever card you need to get rid of, in order to pump up Rossiel‘s Defense value by taking out an enemy with a common trait or increasing her Willpower by adding a location to your Victory Display. Sometimes this card will be handy to remove some really annoying cards from existence, although this should not be the first priority while playing this deck. While fetching annoying cards off the encounter deck might be fun, you can’t fetch the whole deck so therefore you shouldn’t even try to do it. Risk Some Light on the other hand offers you a good free scry of the encounter deck, which is almost equally important, while Mithrandir’s Advice is quite literally the Ancestral Recall of this game in a mono Lore deck.

The rest of the events support the deck in a somewhat similar yet also different fashion. Keen as Lances is a nice utility card, quite like Core Set Gandalf but without Gandalf himself, and Daeron’s Runes takes care of the rest of the card draw in the deck. Radagast’s Cunning and Secret Paths are very simple looking yet effective cards that symbolize the Lore Sphere’s way of getting more Willpower by reducing the Threat value of enemies and locations. The last cards of the bunch, namely The Door is Closed!, Leave No Trace and None Return add more cards to the Victory Display and cancel the ones that have been already placed there. TDiC! is particularly nice since it cancels all of the encounter card’s effects altogether, including the keywords Doomed and Surge which bypass the staple A Test of Will card for example. There is nothing more satisfying than fetching a Ringwraith out from the deck in A Shadow of the Past quest and letting its comrade meet its master in the discard pile next turn by playing TDiC!.

Side Quests (1):

1x Scout Ahead

scout-ahead

As a last card for the deck I chose the side quest Scout Ahead which plays to the theme of this deck really nicely. Getting the extra Out of the Wild effect and scry is really good. Moreover, sometimes the extra quest points can really come handy in quests where you want to avoid overquesting to the next stage, like in the quest Conflict at the Carrock for example.

Secretive Victory Points deck:

Heroes (3):

1x Rossiel (Lore)

1x Mirlonde (Lore)

1x Pippin (Lore)

Player (55):

Allies (20):

2x Treebeard

3x Gandalf

2x Henamarth Riversong

1x Quickbeam

2x Wandering Ent

3x Warden of Healing

3x Wellinghall Preserver

1x Gildor Inglorion

3x Ithilien Lookout

Attachments (10):

3x Resourceful

3x Scroll of Isildur

2x A Burning Brand

2x Elf- Stone

Events  (24):

3x Mithrandir’s Advice

3x Out of the Wild

3x Risk Some Light

2x Keen as Lances

3x Daeron’s Runes

2x Radagast’s Cunning

2x Secret Paths

2x The Door is Closed!

2x Leave no Trace

2x None Return

Side Quests (1):

1x Scout Ahead

Total: 55 cards

After that last card was chosen, the total card count of the deck was 55. Not the most ideal number, but a few card drawing effects and Secrecy cards can get the deck rolling, plus Pippin himself offers a built-in card draw effect.

Before trying this deck in a quest to show how it works in practice, it is worthwhile to explain how it plays a little bit:

First of all, this deck is definitely not suitable for every quest (not that there are many scenarios for that purpose in particular). This is particularly true for quests that require the extensive use of fast Willpower (Redhorn Gate and most quests from the Ring-Maker cycle to name a few), Threat reduction (Return to Mirkwood for instance) or combat abilities (Into Ithilien, Siege of Cair Andros etc.). Those quests will make short work of this deck.

Secondly, plan your board control according to your current situation, not according to your pregame plans. What I mean by saying this is that don’t, for example, let Rossiel’s abilities decide your actions constantly for the purposes of playing cards like Out of the Wild and Scout Ahead. The idea is to remove the cards so that it helps you best succeed in what you’re doing, not necessarily the cards that buff Rossiel. There are times when I constantly end up picking cards that don’t give Rossiel any boost but whose removal from the game will make my life much easier otherwise.

Let’s take a practical example, shall we? I play quite a lot of Nightmare quests these days, and a good example of what I’m talking about is good old Passage Though Mirkwood: I could easily imagine pulling The Spider’s Web from the encounter deck and adding it to the Victory Display as a first card despite the fact that it doesn’t buff Rossiel, and even though most of the other Nightmare cards in that quest can be equally nasty or often worse. But The Spider’s Web is a card that can really ruin the whole game in one swing, and it is really hard to get rid of it by any means. Condition removals are not the type of cards that I would consider picking in every deck. To make matters worse, it also damages your characters over the long term, which can also ruin your plans for hero actions. Creatures like Forest Flies and Spiders of Mirkwood are also nasty enough to pick fairly often, but those cards are avoidable in a sense that they drop to the table, they do their nasty work, but you can often react to what they’re doing, and they usually don’t destroy your whole game.

This randomness in some quests is something that most often drives my decision making when playing this particular deck. Another example of a quest is the Nightmare quest Journey Along the Anduin: you can do really well from the beginning, quest well, build your table and keep enemies at bay until you’re ready to face them (especially the dreaded Hill troll that will sit there waiting for you from turn 1). This strategy will usually pay off, until a random Gladden Marshlands destroys your game completely  if you don’t have Secret Paths in your hand. That is why I always aim to add it to the Victory Display whenever I can.

So the important lesson is: play the quests and be ready to adapt your plans as the game progresses. Rossiel is the signature hero of the deck, but she is also just one part of the whole.

And thirdly I just want to say that it took a really long time to construct this deck-this is probably the fifth version of what has been improved since the first one. The deck we have here can be improved, and it certainly will be with all the new cards that will come in the future, but still it probably isn’t the ideal way to play Lotr lCG. It plays a really unique and control heavy game, however, which does has a fun factor of its own, so if you’re into those kinds of decks, this might be the one for you to try out!

Enough talking (thanks for listening through!), stay tuned for Part 2 where we actually test this deck to see whether it will march to victory or fail miserably!

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7 Comments
  1. Eldainorn permalink

    I have yet to try out a “Victory Display deck”. This one seems like a good one to try out! But I will try it in a 2 player game and see how it pays off. 🙂

  2. Baby T permalink

    Just wanted to say this was a great read. Can’t wait for part 2.

  3. Baby T permalink

    Just wanted to say this was a great read. Can’t wait for part 2

  4. Gee3PO permalink

    Have you considered using leaf brooch in this deck? Feels like it would be right at home helping with all those events

  5. GEE3PO permalink

    Have you considered using Leaf Brooch? Feels like it would be right at home in a secrecy deck with so many events.

  6. Nusse permalink

    Thans a lot for that great read, and all the more because i built a similar deck recently and it’s nice to see the similarities and differences.

    I put 3 keen as lances in it, mostly because it’s the only event that Scroll of Isildur can’t fetch from the discard. All Lore events are only in two copies except Out of the Wild. I also rely on Galadhrim Minstrels to find also those events.

    There’s a variant i also want to put to the test : a two-hero deck Rossiel/Pippin with Strider on Rossiel. To have her quest for 6 and then defend for 4 is something i want to achieve at least once 🙂

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