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Campaign Mode: The Passage of the Marshes (Part 1)

by on February 24, 2017

land-of-shadow

After defeating the armies of the treacherous wizard Saruman at Helm’s Deep, our intrepid heroes, led by Aragorn and Gandalf, struck back at Isengard itself. Saruman used every last bit of his wizardry in a final, desperate attempt to claw out some kind of victory, but was ultimately forced to retreat inside his fortress. Now, he is neutralized for the moment, with Isengard occupied by an army of Ents. With the scenarios of The Treason of Saruman completed, it is now time to turn our attention to The Land of Shadow.

This part of the campaign is one that I have both been looking forward to and also partially dreading. The reason for my apprehension is that while I enjoy coming up with plausible (and some admittedly reaching) thematic explanations for unlikely characters showing up at unlikely times, or strange deck combinations, this box poses unique challenges in terms of narrative. This is because while the previous moments of the book have lent themselves fairly well to the idea of a larger group participating in these adventures, The Land of Shadow represents for the first time Frodo and Sam’s lonely journey towards and into Mordor. The fact is that The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game isn’t really built to facilitate controlling just one or two characters against the pain the encounter deck can deal out, even though the secrecy and two-hero elements have been fleshed out over time. Most games and decks center around relatively large numbers of characters. Figuring out how to square the mechanics of the game with a part of the story is that is supposed to be all about stealth and isolation.

Of course, there are low-ally count and secrecy decks possible, but the other issue is that the scenarios of The Land of Shadow can be quite challenging, especially the second and third, and I want to give myself a fair chance at success without having to play each quest ten times. With all that in mind, I finally decided on a pair of decks to carry out this portion of the story and to accompany the ring-bearer to his final goal. I won’t say that they are completely satisfying in terms of story and theme. However, my objective in this series has always been to try to carve out interesting stories and investigate alternative ways that the events of the books could have gone down, rather than slavishly sticking to the text. We will certainly be pursuing that course to the fullest as the next leg of the campaign begins!

In Part 1 of The Passage of the Marshes, I will discuss some brief strategy pointers for the first quest of the box, as well as outline the decks I have decided to run with. The scenario isn’t too challenging, at least compared to the rest of the box, but it can still defeat the unwary. The main

Part 1 – Strategy

There isn’t anything too tricky about The Passage of the Marshes. The main hurdle is “taming” Gollum at the beginning and the rest is dealing with locations and undead enemies. With that in mind, here’s a few handy tips:

* Include some early attack power

for-gondor

Due to the effect on stage 1B, which adds to Gollum’s defense, it can be difficult to defeat Gollum at the beginning and transform him to Sméagol. You might be well on your way to seemingly achieving this goal, and then turn a 4 threat encounter card, snatching away all the damage you would have dealt. To that end, you need a good buffer of damage to ensure the damage is done, and it’s best to get him on your side sooner rather than later so that you can deal with the rest of the encounter deck. With this in mind, I suggest including a good deal of early attack power, and cards that provide temporary doses of attack, such as Khazad! Khazad! or For Gondor!, can be useful here.

* Bring location management along

evil-smelling-fens

I feel like I say this often, but there really are some quests that hit you with locations more than others. I don’t find the mire keyword to be too troublesome in lower player counts (one or two players), but it’s still worth having some means of clearing locations quickly and manipulating them. Thror’s Map is a continually underrated card that helps to avoid travel costs or simply replace one location with another that needs to be cleared more quickly.

* Don’t chump block

candle-bearer

The undead enemies in this scenario punish you when they destroy a character, which seems to fit into the “undead” theme of feeding off death. So it is best to avoid chump blocking as a defensive strategy. If you do want to chump block and it is part of your core deck strategy, then you just will have to be strategic about which enemies to engage with and when. Taking a threat gain here or preventing an enemy from taking damage until the end of the round might not be deal-breaking, but they are effects worth considering. There is always the option of including Revealed in Wrath to blank an enemy’s text box too if you want to avoid these penalties of remove the clause that prevents the engaged player from lowering their threat.

* Manage the encounter discard pile

dont-look-at-the-lights-3a

Undead themed scenarios tend to like to bring enemies back from the “dead” (i.e. the discard pile). When discarding shadow cards at the end of the combat phase, keep in mind that since they are discarded simultaneously you can choose the order in which they go into the discard pile. Use this to your advantage to place weaker enemies on top of the discard pile whenever possible. You might even consider something like The End Comes for this purpose, but that might be overkill!

Part 2 – Decks

These are brand new decks since we are starting a new expansion, and the first campaign card allows us to change heroes without incurring the usual threat penalty (note that this was always the intention and was added as an errata although not actually appearing on the printed card). My main goal as mentioned in the introduction was to create decks that could provide some kind of plausible thematic sense while also giving me a winning shot. More selfishly, I also wanted to play some fun and interesting decks, so I avoided the more obvious power decks that I’ve played too much.

One of the key limitations and considerations was that I didn’t want to use any characters (heroes or allies) that appeared in my decks for Helm’s Deep and Road to Isengard. As the events of The Land of Shadow are happening simultaneously with the battles depicted in those scenarios, there can be no reasonable explanation for people being in the same place at the same time! This definitely meant that I had to exclude some cards that would otherwise be no-brainers in some of the types of decks I wanted to build. Of course, this also encouraged some creativity and fresh ideas.

It’s worth mentioning that I tried out a few different deck combinations on other quests to make sure that I wasn’t going on a wild goose chase, including traps/rangers, Caldara, Silvan, and even Harad. Finally, though, I settled on a motley crew questing deck for Deck One and a Gondor fighting deck for Deck Two. Without further ado, let’s see who will be accompanying Frodo on his journey.

DECK ONE

First things first, Sam needed to be a part of one of the decks. Although I am a fan of alternate universe speculation, telling Frodo’s journey without Sam would be sacrilege, and I’ve already incorporated his joining of Frodo in earlier parts of the narrative. From there, it was a matter of figuring out the two heroes that would flesh out the deck. I knew already that Deck Two would be more focused on combat so I needed to tailor this deck to focus more on questing and support abilities.

Hero (3)
1x Círdan the Shipwright (The Grey Havens)
1x Sam Gamgee (The Black Riders)
1x Eleanor (Core Set)

With Sam providing a steady 3 willpower, I wanted at least one other hero with strong starting willpower to give this deck a solid basis, preferably from the Spirit sphere. Unfortunately, Eowyn, Arwen, and Glorfindel were all not available for consideration due to their inclusion in the Aragorn/The Treason of Saruman decks. This left me bereft of my usual top choices for this role. Thankfully, I was able to call on an unlikely replacement: Cirdan the Shipwright. Cirdan is rocking 4 willpower, along with some other strong stats. He also helps to deal with one of the slight deficiencies of Spirit/Leadership, which is card draw. I wanted a second Spirit hero to be able to quickly pay for those cheap Spirit questing allies. Again, options were severely limited, but I settled on Eleanor. She can’t help much with questing, but Eleanor can play an invaluable role in canceling those ugly treacheries that can ruin games in saga quests. The one issue is the “peril” keyword, which limits here applicability a bit, but at least she can help pitch in for defense at times as well.

Ally (25)
3x Curious Brandybuck (The Wastes of Eriador)
3x Warden of the Havens (The Grey Havens)
3x Sailor of Lune (The Grey Havens)
2x Guardian of Rivendell (Flight of the Stormcaller)
3x Dwarven Sellsword (The Drowned Ruins)
3x Erebor Guard (The Sands of Harad)
1x Bill the Pony (The Black Riders)
1x Háma (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Ethir Swordsman (The Steward’s Fear)
3x Galadriel’s Handmaiden (Celebrimbor’s Secret)

There isn’t anything too unorthodox here. Ethir Swordsman, Galadriel’s Handmaiden, Curious Brandybuck, and Sailor of Lune are the questing core. Since I don’t have a super strong hero defender for this deck, I decided to throw in some defensive options with Hama, Erebor Guard, Warden of the Havens, and Guardian of Rivendell all able to help in this respect. With Cirdan around, I should be able to trigger the Sailor of Lune or Warden of the Havens more often. Finally, the Dwarven Sellsword is just an all-around option.

Attachment (14)

3x Ranger Provisions (Across the Ettenmoors)
3x Narya (The Grey Havens)
2x Hobbit Cloak (The Black Riders)
3x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)
3x Light of Valinor (Foundations of Stone)

The suite of attachments is partially focused on setting Cirdan up with his Narya/Light of Valinor combination so that he can maximize his support role. Hobbit Cloak is included to help Sam with defense, but that is not his primary role, as the deck starts with a high enough threat the his ability won’t be reliably triggered.

Event (11)
2x Taste it Again! (The Land of Shadow)
3x Hasty Stroke (Core Set)
3x A Test of Will (Core Set)
3x Elrond’s Counsel (The Watcher in the Water)

The Spirit events are fairly standard, perhaps even boring, but they are the core of support decks in this game and will go a long way towards giving me a fighting chance. Taste it Again! might not be the optimal choice, but I can’t resist the temptation of trying to give Sam an epic moment or two so he isn’t lost in the crowd.

FINAL DECK SIZE: 50

DECK TWO

As I mentioned earlier, it was tough to settle on a final theme for these decks. With Deck One, I pretty much threw a motley crew together around Sam. For Deck Two, I had total freedom, but wanted to focus on something somewhat Gondor related, since that would make the most thematic sense. I eventually moved away from traps, as that approach can sometimes be too quest-dependent. Finally, I settled on a Leadership/Tactics Gondor combination. It is kind of a medley of traditional Gondor/Visionary Leadership swarm and Tactics Imrahil shenanigans. More importantly, it is amazingly fun to play, which is what sold it for me in the end.

Hero (3)
1x Denethor (Flight of the Stormcaller)
1x Prince Imrahil (The City of Corsairs)
1x Faramir (The Land of Shadow)

Like Sam with the other deck, Faramir was a figure that I absolutely needed to include in this part of the saga for my own peace of mind. It also helped that I haven’t used this hero to his full potential, and wanted to explore using him in a different kind of environment. When thinking about some of the Gondor allies, as well as others that I might include in an Imrahil deck, I realized that some of them have strong, well-rounded stats, especially with boosts from something like Visionary Leadership, and so Faramir’s ability could come in handy. Not being able to use Leadership Boromir (since Tactics Boromir is part of the Aragorn/The Treason of Saruman side) left the door open for Leadership Denethor. His starting resource boost and ability to move resources to Prince Imrahil is fantastic. Finally, including Tactics Imrahil was the choice that really elevated this deck. With his ability, I can bring in extra combat support pretty much every round and make some magic happen. This deck is also satisfying in thematic terms, although it’ll be a struggle to explain the absence of some of these key figures from climatic battles later.

Ally (27)
1x Ingold (The Wastes of Eriador)
3x Veteran of Osgiliath (Escape from Mount Gram)
3x Marksman of Lórien (The Drowned Ruins)
3x Knight of the White Tower (The City of Corsairs)
1x Anborn (The Land of Shadow)
3x Guard of the Citadel (Core Set)
3x Gondorian Spearman (Core Set)
1x Beorn (Core Set)
3x Errand-rider (Heirs of Númenor)
3x Defender of Rammas (Heirs of Númenor)
3x Squire of the Citadel (The Blood of Gondor)

I decided to experiment with an abnormally high number of allies to really get the most out of Imrahil’s ability. Most of the deck consists of the standard Gondor fare in order to benefit from Visionary leadership and For Gondor!. I did make a couple of exceptions for the sake of Imrahil. Beorn is just a tasty target for the prince, as is the Marksman of Lorien. These allies mostly focus on either attack or defense, but they can participate decently in questing with the help of Visonary Leadership.

Attachment (15)
2x Rod of the Steward (Flight of the Stormcaller)
3x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)
3x Gondorian Shield (The Steward’s Fear)
3x Visionary Leadership (The Morgul Vale)
3x Heir of Mardil (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
1x Captain of Gondor (The Antlered Crown)

It’s another Gondor-fest where the attachments are concerned. Visionary Leadership helps to provide questing power, Steward churns out resources, and the Shield turns any of these deck’s heroes or even Eleanor on the other side into a strong tank. The real highlight is Heir of Mardil, which can be placed on Tactics Imrahil and then will trigger when a resource is moved over from Denethor. Rod of the Steward is also important to help when this deck manages to pile up resources but is thin on options in hand.

Event (8)
2x For Gondor! (Core Set)
3x Behind Strong Walls (Heirs of Númenor)
3x Gondorian Discipline (Encounter at Amon Dîn)

With the rest of the deck so crowded, there wasn’t a ton of room for events. I settled on Behind Strong Walls and Gondorian Discipline to make sure that this deck could really do work as a tank when needed. For Gondor! just hits the theme so well but can help deal with some of the big bosses that lie ahead in the campaign.

FINAL DECK SIZE: 50

The final decks can be found here:

Deck #1

Packs: From Core Set (3) to The Sands of Harad
Heroes (3)
1x Círdan the Shipwright (The Grey Havens)
1x Sam Gamgee (The Black Riders)
1x Eleanor (Core Set)
Allies (25)
3x Curious Brandybuck (The Wastes of Eriador)
3x Warden of the Havens (The Grey Havens)
3x Sailor of Lune (The Grey Havens)
2x Guardian of Rivendell (Flight of the Stormcaller)
3x Dwarven Sellsword (The Drowned Ruins)
3x Erebor Guard (The Sands of Harad)
1x Bill the Pony (The Black Riders)
1x Háma (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Ethir Swordsman (The Steward’s Fear)
3x Galadriel’s Handmaiden (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
Attachments (14)
3x Ranger Provisions (Across the Ettenmoors)
3x Narya (The Grey Havens)
2x Hobbit Cloak (The Black Riders)
3x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)
3x Light of Valinor (Foundations of Stone)
Events (11)
2x Taste it Again! (The Land of Shadow)
3x Hasty Stroke (Core Set)
3x A Test of Will (Core Set)
3x Elrond’s Counsel (The Watcher in the Water)

http://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/4554/tftc-land-of-shadow-campaign-deck-one-1.0

Deck #2

Packs: From Core Set (2) to The City of Corsairs
Heroes (3)
1x Denethor (Flight of the Stormcaller)
1x Prince Imrahil (The City of Corsairs)
1x Faramir (The Land of Shadow)
Allies (27)
1x Ingold (The Wastes of Eriador)
3x Veteran of Osgiliath (Escape from Mount Gram)
3x Marksman of Lórien (The Drowned Ruins)
3x Knight of the White Tower (The City of Corsairs)
1x Anborn (The Land of Shadow)
3x Guard of the Citadel (Core Set)
3x Gondorian Spearman (Core Set)
1x Beorn (Core Set)
3x Errand-rider (Heirs of Númenor)
3x Defender of Rammas (Heirs of Númenor)
3x Squire of the Citadel (The Blood of Gondor)
Attachments (15)
2x Rod of the Steward (Flight of the Stormcaller)
3x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)
3x Gondorian Shield (The Steward’s Fear)
3x Visionary Leadership (The Morgul Vale)
3x Heir of Mardil (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
1x Captain of Gondor (The Antlered Crown)
Events (8)
2x For Gondor! (Core Set)
3x Behind Strong Walls (Heirs of Númenor)
3x Gondorian Discipline (Encounter at Amon Dîn)

http://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/4555/tftc-land-of-shadow-campaign-deck-two-1.0

 

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

That about does it for now. Stay tuned as Frodo begins his darkness. Will these decks simply walk into Mordor? Or will they fall to the diseased bite of a fallen Hobbit? Find out soon!

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From → Strategy

4 Comments
  1. Anonim permalink

    So happy to see you continue the campaign after the stop! As for the Gondor guys, you can say they turn back to Gondor after defeating Shelob to defend Minas Tirith. Or just run Outlands. 🙂

  2. Jabberwock permalink

    Great article! I really like the quests that feature undead enemies. They’re very thematic and fun to play against.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks! Yeah, sometimes it’s fun to have a break from the sea of Orcs and fight against undead instead.

  3. Regular_guy permalink

    Where did the Sands review go?

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