Deck #15 Pickaxes and Pipes (Dwarven Miners)

Ringsdb was a little slow today so I’m testing a deck that was posted by a friend a couple months ago.

Dwarves have earned a bit of a bad reputation within the “hardcore” element of the community for being “too powerful” but the mining subtheme within the Dwarven faction has some tricky and very different ways to play that can be fun and interesting without resorting the the typical brute force of the standard dwarf decks.

Pickaxes and Pipes was posted in October by user Mr Underhill (who is a friend of mine).

pickaxes and pipes list

First Impressions

This deck features Dain Ironfoot but it doesn’t feature some of the other “power cards” like Legacy of Durin, Steward of Gondor, We Are Not Idle, and Lure of Moria.

Gandalf is clearly a non-standard inclusion in a dwarf deck, but he will clearly help direct the greedy dwarves to the best runs of ore. With a high starting threat level of 34, I’m assuming the early game will be a little difficult to manage, but at least Gandalf and Dain have strong defense stats and could take an undefended attack if necessary. Nori should help manage threat through most of the game but with no threat reducing events, threat looks like it could be a little scary.

With two spheres represented by the starting heroes and all four spheres included in the player cards, I can tell this won’t be a “straightforward” deck to play.

Test 1 – Journey in the Dark

This test was going well but I had to take a break near the end of the game and my computer hibernated shut down while I was away and killed the game. This quest has good pacing and I felt like I had a chance to actually kill the Balrog if I was willing to sacrifice a hero. I had Dain up to 6 defense and 2 powered up Battlemasters ready to lay down the damage before my game was ruined.

dwarven miners moria

Test 2 – Road to Isengard

This isn’t a quest I play often and I had to restart once after missing the important forced effect on Orthanc.

I was lucky to earn 3 Ent of Fanghorn allies in three turns of “Entmoot” before starting the quest proper which gave me great advantage in combat and location control in the rest of the quest.

There are several important pieces that need to get in place before the deck starts to shine: Zigil Miner is the most important because it is always able to get one resource because of Gandalf’s foresight. Wizard Pipe is probably the next important piece so you can put helpful cards like Hidden Cache and Eren Luin Miner on top of your deck.

Both Narvi’s Belt and Gandalf’s ability to play cards off the top of the deck will help get the Lore and Tactics cards out. With Narvi’s Belt on Dain, you can attach Burning Brand to Dain and turn him into a solid defender, especially if you have Arwen our and one or 2 Dwarven Shields on him. 6 defense with Burning Brand is pretty great! He’s also a good target for Unexpected Courage.

The first half of this game was tough to continue clearing locations and not get too many enemies engaged with no way to kill them. With such high starting threat, there’s no way to avoid whatever comes off the deck.

When you finally confront Saruman, he tries to empty your hand and he attacks you every time you draw cards. This deck was able to avoid the pain for the draw with King Under the Mountain (which adds cards to hand) and Gandalf playing off the top of the deck. The Battle Masters got powered up to 7 attack each and were able to wear down Saruman quickly and win on turn 10 at 44 threat. This isn’t an easy quest and the deck survived!

dwarven miners road to isengard

Test 3 – Fords of Isen

This was an extremely fun game with a very tenuous first 4 turns. At one point I was engaged with 4 enemies with no way to kill them off and I was able to turn it around and win! The high threat hurt again with every single mad Dunlanding engaging me! I hovered between 40 and 45 threat most of the game but the combos finally came together!

You can have huge turns if you’re able to mine one or two Hidden Caches, draw some extra cards with the Staff and King Under the Mountain and possibly even get a free ally with Eren Luin Miner. It feels great when you’re able to have a huge turn and turn the game around!

I did get set back several times with shadow cards discarding my attachments (one undefended attack discarded all my attachments!). This deck have an advantage when playing against the Dunland quests because it has access to that card on top of the deck without having it in hand to power up the enemies.

Once I was established with Dain as a super defender and a couple Erebor Battlemasters on the board, I was able to massacre whatever came at me and quest through to the end.

dwarven miners fords of isen win

Card Choices

This deck feels polished and I never questioned the inclusion of a card. I found myself with duplicates of Wizard Pipe and Staff in hand occasionally, but you can always Wizard Pipe the duplicates and mine them away!

You might expect a deck like this to run A Test of Will, but it seems to handle things ok without it. It may be worthwhile to include in quests that have a backbreaking treachery, especially that might be magnified by running lots of allies.

34 cards cost 2 which helps the mining consistency and a further 6 cards provide benefit when they are discarded. The King Under the Mountain is a perfect include here since it functions as a mining card as well.

Bilbo fetches pipes, then you can quest with him and chump block when you drawn another copy so you can fetch another pipe! The Dwarf Pipe helps the deck hold up longer before using the 1x copy of Will of the West. Try to send Will of the West to the bottom of the deck with the Dwarf Pipe so it comes up later when you actually need it.

Final Analysis

This is a strong, but risky and exciting deck to play! The early game is tough, as with many decks, but the heroes have the stats to withstand a beating and hopefully turn it around. Once you get enough of the pieces in place, the deck becomes nearly invincible!

The deck really has some of everything: resource acceleration, card draw, a strong defender, questing buffs, strong attackers and healing. Near the ends of games, if I was able to build up my board, I was questing for low 20’s and able to muster about 20 attack as well.

This is a super strong deck when established and it’s exciting to play those difficult first few turns. With answers to almost every problem the game throws your way, I think the deck will prove strong against a wide variety of quests. It may struggle against quests with lots of global damage (Zigil Miners have 1hp) or quests that reward low threat (Journey Down the Anduin).

Thanks to Mr Underhill for creating and sharing this deck! You can watch him play it against Nightmare Into the Pit on YouTube here. If you haven’t, take a moment to check out his other excellent quest and review videos and subscribe to his channel!

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