This deck was submitted for testing by RingsDB user eldub. The deck is full of Ents, shepherded by the elves (the most recent Grey Company Podcast episode contains an interesting discussion with community personality Master of Lore regarding the Ents and Elves and which race is older).
This deck is an Ent deck to be sure, but unlike any Ent deck I’ve played before! With Spirit at the dominant sphere and Noldor filling out the hero list, it defies convention.
These heroes bring healing, card draw and some resource acceleration to the deck, but I’m afraid it will take too long to get allies on the table with only one hero able to pay for the greater part of them. Arwen can help as she can effectively move one resource to Elrond every turn and net a card while she’s at it. I hope that will be enough!
Test 1 – Passage Through Mirkwood
No shame in testing against the most basic. My first run went really well with an ideal opening hand of Good Harvest, Steward of Gondor, Light of Valinor, Elven-Light and an Entmoot. With 10 starting willpower, I raced through the quest in 4 turn and didn’t have to face Ungoliant’s Spawn, which hit me as a shadow effect on the second turn. I got Narya out and it helped me use freshly played ents for my combat phase. All the pieces of the deck fell into place and it powered through just fine. I got 5 Ents and 3 key attachments out in 4 turns.
The second play was a little more interesting. I never drew an Elven-light or Narya so my action advantage and card draw was slow. Good Harvest got me Steward on turn 3 and I would have been in trouble without it. I randomly drew a whole mess of spiders and had a real standoff at the end, finally defeating Ungoliant’s Spawn and winning on turn 7.
Test 2 – Foundations of Stone
Ents tramping through Moria? Why not? This was a fairly easy win. With only 1 item attachment and no mounts or weapons, moving to stage 3 wasn’t a big deal and I had the willpower numbers to move quickly through stage 4 and 5.
There are four different stage 4 quest cards in this scenario and I randomly revealed The Shivering Bank which forces you to discard your hand. I’d like to point out the obvious and praise Elven-Light for being an incredible card. There are a surprising number of quests and cards that can discard your hand (Passing of the Grey Company, Steward’s Fear, Long Dark, Poisoned Counsels), and Elven-Light lets you recover remarkably quickly from an otherwise devastating effect.
The game only lasted 8 turns and with Elven-Light and Steward working, I was able to get through all but 13 cards in my deck. In longer game, it’s probably possible to exhaust your deck. Cirdan really burns through the deck! As long as the key attachments come up, this deck seems to be pretty powerful. I did wish for another way to discard Elven-Light. Arwen can discard one per turn, but I ended with excess resources and all three copies of Elven-Light in my hand.
Test 3 – Escape from Umbar
I tried this several times but couldn’t get attack on the table soon enough to kill enemies off. If a healer didn’t come up, the archery was a problem as well. I gave it 4 attempts but couldn’t get the deck to ramp up fast enough to survive the enemies that come at you when you start at 34 threat. With the right draw of the encounter deck, I’m sure its possible, but this quest might push a little too fast.
Test 4 – Weather Hills
This quest is a mortal enemy of mine but I thought with all the hitpoints and Elrond’s healing boost, I thought this might be a good deck to play against it. It took 4 plays, but I finally beat it.
I had some good luck and hardly drew any of the horrific weather cards in the deck, but I had some bad luck on my draw as well, not drawing Steward until turn 11 and never draw a single copy of Elven-Light through the entire 13 turn game! Luckily I played Silver Harp turn 1 which boosted my card draw the entire game. Without Steward and Elven-Light, I had to sacrifice “real cards” from my hand for Arwen’s resource acceleration to get any extra resources at all.
The sidequests didn’t combo on me either in my successful game and with two Wardens of Healing and 1-2 Wellinghall preservers, I was able to clear all my damage almost every turn. It was a weird game with my draw failing me and the encounter deck treating me fairly gently, but it was a fun game.
I ended with a strong board state, but lots of locations in the staging area. I had to intentionally quest light on the first few turns so I wouldn’t bring too many orcs into play, which is how I lost the quest a couple times earlier, but that piled up a large amount of threat in the staging area for the last part of the game. I was able to muster 20-24 willpower by turn 13 and still have Ents to defend and kill an enemy or two.
Skinbark was a champ in this quest, as he was able to stomp any orc into the ground with no assistance except Narya’s boost for the Angmar Captain.
My threat reducing cards came out at opportune times and I was able to keep my threat 40 or below the entire game. I had to use 2 copies of the Galadrhim’s Greeting and 2 Elrond’s Counsel. Without an Elven-Light to drain Spirit resources, I had the cash to fund the threat reduction.
These three heroes are all very strong characters by themselves and they certainly synergize here, but I’m not entirely convinced starting with 2 Spirit heroes is the most efficient choice for an Ent deck. There are some great combos to enjoy, but the challenge is getting them going and surviving the tempo hit with the Ents entering exhausted. When the heroes are all set up with Steward, Light of Valinor, Narya, Silver Harp and Elven-Light, it works like a dream: 3 cards per turn, 4 resources for Elrond per turn to pay for Ents, Cirdan questing and readying Ents, and Elrond helping keep all the Ents healed. The problem is it takes a good deal of setup and I found it challenging to survive while I setup, or in some cases, I couldn’t find all my combo pieces.
The heroes’ starting stats are great, with the Spirit heroes questing for 7 and leaving Elrond to defend. If you can get a solid ally out turn 1, you’ll be OK, but if you can’t get an Ent our turn 1, your heroes wont have any support until turn 3 when that ponderous turn-2 Ent has finally rouses himself. If the encounter deck hasn’t produced too many enemies, you might be fine, but with fairly high threat, you might find yourself with 2-3 enemies engaged by turn 3 and it may take a while to muster the attack to kill them for a good while.
The deck description is right when it says the early game is filled with hard and game defining decisions. Do I play Treebeard on turn 1 to get turn 2 advantage, or should I save for Steward that will benefit the entire game? Should I play Silver Harp turn 1 to double my card draw or play this Wandering Ent? Without very many “instant benefit” cards, there’s always a choice between a long term power card and a “survive the next two turns” card and the decisions are hard and interesting. Even choosing which card to keep and which card Cirdan will discard every turn is hard!
The ally list is fairly standard for an Ent deck with the notable exception of the Booming Ent. This leaves the role of attacker to Treebeard, Skinbark and Quickbeam. The Boomers are missed and you can’t always count on killing everything you engage like Ent decks sometimes can. Narya helps, but I would still consider attack power the weakest stat in the deck until you get a proper “Ent swarm” on the table. Quickbeam is strong enough and cheap enough to possibly warrant 2x or even 3x instead of 1x.
With 3x Wellinghall Preservers and 2x Wardens, healing was rarely a problem, especially since Narya can potentially get two healing triggers out of the Preserver. The Warden is certainly worth it since your heroes will likely take damage in those first few crucial turns.
Galadriel’s Handmaiden is the only non-standard ally to include in an Ent deck, and she works well here, utilizing some of the possibly excess Spirit resources and providing more willpower and a little threat reduction which is very welcome.
The attachments all work well, but their timing of play is tricky. You need Steward ASAP to get Ents in the board. You need Narya to pay for Steward but you don’t need Narya to ready Ents until you have Ents which you won’t have until you have Steward! Good Harvest is the best solution, but getting one of the 2x Stewards and one of the 2x Good Harvests in your hand soon enough doesn’t always happen. I’d like to see 3x of both of those cards, but I’m not sure what to cut.
Light of Valinor and Unexpected Courage both accomplish the same goal of letting Cirdan contribute his 4WP and still use Narya. With 3x LoV and 2 UC, you should be sure to draw one of them fairly early in a game. Unexpected Courage is more expensive, but it might be worth considering swapping the quantities to 2 Lights and 3 Unexpected Courages so you get more use out of Elrond as a defender.
Silver Harp is mentioned as a “iffy” card in the deck description but I think it pulls its weight and then some. I think Cirdan shouldn’t ever go out the door with less than 2 Silver Harps in his deck! Doubling your basic card draw every turn is a huge help to any deck and well worth the 2 resources, especially in a deck with two Spirit heroes. Think of it as Cirdan’s Gléowine.
The event lineup is solid. Elven-Light, Entmoot and Elrond’s Counsel are extremely strong choices. Test of Will never hurts although Ents tend to survive some of the nasty treacheries that destroy some decks. The Galadhrim’s Greeting is expensive, but with two Spirit heroes, Arwen ensures that you can play it on any given turn. With 34 starting threat, I think 2x is perfect.
Multi or Solo
This could function in either setting. The starting threat level might throw a multiplayer game depending on the what other decks are brought to the table.
This isn’t the fastest Ent deck I’ve played but it’s unique, it works, has interesting things going on and it’s viable for beating a variety of quests. Like eldub said in the deck description, the first couple turns have a “touch-and-go” feel, but if you survive them, there’s a good chance you’ll have a sturdy deck set up on the board and you’ll be able to do well.
This lineup of heroes helps with card draw, resource smoothing and acceleration and ally readying, but the very fact that two heroes are off-sphere slows the deck down. Ents do great when they get on the table and start smashing things so the goal is to get them played as fast as you can. This deck’s major strength over the traditional Tactics/Lore hero lineup is that is has more robust card draw available through Elven-Light, but it sacrifices some speed through resource matching difficulties until all the pieces fall into place. It has solid readying through Narya, but it pays for it with high threat cost and setup time and resources.
Thanks to eldub for creating and publishing the deck and sending it my way! This deck was published back in December, so it’s not currently on the front page of RingsDB, but you can check it out here!