Deck #20 Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

This is a unique deck built by Rings user Mr Underhill. The deck has no defender but aims to deal with enemies through either Haldir’s combat action, or stopping it’s attack through various event cards.

Full disclosure: Mr Underhill and I talk about and play LOTR together a good bit and I asked to test this deck before it was actually published. That’s why the screenshot below is of an unpublished deck. In spite of being friends with Mr Underhill, I will try to be as impartial as I can! Maybe even meaner than usual…

Shoot First list.PNG

First Impressions

The deck looks weird! No defender and fairly light questing power from heroes. Hama is included even though the deck tries to avoid engaging enemies. It must be a tricksy deck!

I see the Outlands suite of allies, and I assume they give the deck WP momentum as the game progresses.

Test 1 – Journey Down the Anduin

I actually played this quest twice because I got locked up early in the first game with a Brown Lands in the staging area and I couldn’t muster enough willpower to get past it before my threat got too high and I would have eventually been clubbed to death by the hill troll.

The second play went better. The general plan was to keep threat relatively low, quest with everyone but Haldir, then let Haldir kill off any enemies that show up before they can attack. If the enemies have higher threat, Haldir can easily hit them in the staging area with a combo of Rivendell Blade and Dagger of Westerness. This quest proved a bit of a challenge since there are many low engagement level enemies. The Wolf Rider, Dol Guldur Orcs, Wargs and Misty Mountain Goblins all have engagement numbers of 20 or lower.

To deal with these enemies, the deck offers Hands Upon the Bow, Feint, Noiseless Movement and Coney in a Trap. Most of the time I had the appropriate event to protect me from a enemy that engaged me, but I did have to defend with Arwen once to avoid losing an ally.

shoot first jdta combo.PNG

Hands Upon the Bow to attack an enemy before it has a chance to engage, followed by a Foe-Hammer!

As is typical for JdtA, I took my time on stage one and I was able to sprint through stage 2 and clean up fairly easily on stage 3.

Henemarth Riversong kept me on track as far as questing for appropriate numbers. The deck doesn’t offer strong questing numbers until you get a critical mass of Outland allies out then your troubles are over as far as WP numbers go.

shoot first jdta win

The two primary challenges for this quest were direct damage, and low engagement cost enemies. The direct damage did knock out several allies right after I played them during the early game. With no healers or damage mitigation, Henemarth was super useful to avoid getting my board wiped by Necromancer’s Reach.

Test 2 – Druadan Forest

This quest is brutal in multiplayer but fairly gentle when playing solo, but I thought it would present some challenges to the deck since it starves you for resources, deals out a lot of archery and has a Siege quest stage at the end.

This was a fun game. I never defended against an attack! Most of the enemies were higher threat so I didn’t have to worry about engaging them and with my two weapons attached, I was able to snipe them through the malevolent woses through the trees before the filled my characters full of arrows.

shoot first dru buri dru

Dru-buri-dru is easily convinced to take our side by the sweet-talking Outlands.

Henemarth was a key piece in beating this quest. Without the scrying, I would have lost heroes to direct damage. It looks like Warden of Healing is included in the deck’s sideboard for quests that have direct damage and archery. He would have been very helpful here.

After hitting the final stage, the quest gains the Siege keyword, and I would have been fairly slow getting the needed progress except that I was able to easily defeat Dru-buri-Dru with the Outlands willpower and he gives all your characters +1 defense after he has been defeated.

Again, the basic strategy was quest with almost everyone, then hope to kill whatever enemy might be revealed without letting it attack. I was able to beat the quest on turn 13.

shoot first druadan wi

Final state for Druadan Forest. Still plenty of attack prevention in hand.

Test 3 – Celebrimbor’s Secret

This was considerably harder than the previous quests. I had to consistently prioritize getting willpower on the board to keep clearing locations. Luckily most of the enemies have high engagement cost, so Haldir was able to do his thing. With 6 weapons in the deck and a healthy amount of card draw, he is able to one-shot most enemies within by turn 2 or 3.

I really struggled with willpower on this play because I only drew one of the crucial Ethir Swordsmen. I was still able to get my WP numbers up to 18-20 in the last couple turns. The Henemarth/Wingfoot combo gave me Haldir’s 2WP and still let him attack every turn.

This quest went a full 13 rounds before I won by sending the Black Arrow right through Bellach’s black heart while he was still in the staging area. That was a pretty great way to end the quest.

shoot first Celibrimbors secret

Test 4 – Hunt for Gollum

Part of the fun of doing this for me is getting to play lots of different quests. I haven’t played Hunt for Gollum for a long time and I had a good time with it! It did drag on a bit after my only clue was stolen from by a treachery right as I launched into stage 3 and I had to return to stage 2, but it was fun anyway.

There are a couple super-bad locations in this quest that set me back several turns so this quest lasted 13 turns. There aren’t a lot of enemies in this quest, but the enemies that you do see are either substantial, or really low engagement cost, so it kept me on my toes.

Hama didn’t prove super useful in most of my plays with this deck, but in this game, he did pull back a Hands Upon the Bow in the earlier half of the game that helped keep me safe. With two weapons and that event, Haldir can take down any enemy that has a combines defense and HP of 8 or less. It feels good and safe knowing that you can quest with everyone and take down any enemy that shows up without having to face it!

This was a long game at 13 rounds, but again, I never defended against an attack. I always was able to either kill it in the staging area during combat if the enemy had a high engagement number, use Hands Upon the Bow, or if I had to engage it I had Coney in a Trap or Feint. Noiseless Movement can also keep a enemy in the staging area that would otherwise come down at you. All those events give you 11 chances to keep an enemy from attacking and 3 more chances if you use Hama’s ability. And that’s apart from Haldir’s standard murderous modus operandi!

Threat level became an issue in Celebrimbor’s Secret, but here, even running long at 13 turns, I ended at 33 threat after starting at 27. Elrond’s Council and Galadriel’s Handmaiden are you only options, but that is a total of 12 threat reduction possible, and I did draw through the entire deck before turn 13!

Shoot First Hunt for Gollum win

Card Choices

This is unlike any deck I’ve really played. I’ve played plenty of mono lore Haldir decks that aim to avoid engaging enemies, but this tri-sphere solo approach is kind of crazy! It’s weird, but it actually works. It’s a tricksy deck and it can go sideways in a hurry, but it does work for the most part!

The selection of events and how they complement the heroes is the central part of the deck. The allies are fairly unremarkable since they primarily serve to provide willpower to help the heroes focus on their tricks, so I can “forgive” the Outlands allies here. 🙂

Card draw is strong here! One game I got stuck with no cards in hand for a turn or two, but with 12 cards devoted to drawing cards, and a couple of them repeatable, you will dig through your deck.

Hama seems a little weird in the deck since he doesn’t do a lot, but he does help keep the deck safe. He can always grab that Feint or Hand’s Upon the Bow to keep the next enemy from attacking again. It is a little tricky using him since you actually have to engage an enemy, but with Henemarth on the table, you can see that orc coming a mile away and plan for it. He also provides the Warrior trait needed for Coney in a Trap. That said, I did find myself questing with Hama most of the time.

Six copies of weapon cards felt like more than enough in the late game, but that number helps get Haldir online right away so he can start hitting hard. I had Haldir killing enemies in one shot by turn 2-3 every game. While 6 feels like a lot with only one hero really using these weapons, I think the consistency is worth the cost. If you really needed to take down a boss enemy, you could always attach Rivendell Blade to Henemarth Riversong!

Robin Smallburrow and Mablung are good choices since they both have engagement cost manipulation abilities that help Haldir out a little. Noiseless Movement is a card that doesn’t see much play that is excellent here.

With 7 traits on the heroes, using another “multi-trait” card like Proud Hunters might be worth it. I found I was low on resources in the early game with no easy way to get them, but I usually ended the game with excess resources on one or two heroes.

Final Analysis

This is a fresh deck that is fun and tricky to play! It showcases Hama as he was probably meant to be played, not breaking games with Thicket of Spears every turn, but pulling back key events to keep the deck safe.

I haven’t ever played a solo deck that doesn’t include a defender. It just feels weird to not have a hero or ally devoted to that role!

I won 4/5 of my testing games and I think it has potential to beat lots of quests after you gain some experience with the non-standard play style of the deck.

Thanks to Mr Underhill for creating and posting this deck! Since I started writing this post, he has actually posted a video using this deck against Celibrimbor’s Secret on nightmare mode!

Be sure to check out the rest of the videos on his Youtube channel including plenty of solo nightmare quests, standard quests and card review videos.


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