While I usually test decks alone in a “true solo” context, today I have the chance to test a 2-handed fellowship consisting of The Hunters of the North and Eyes of the White Tower decks. This fellowship was created and sent to me by RingsDB user Onidsen.
The entire fellowship is primarily made up of Lore cards with a selection of Spirit cards in deck 1 and a smattering of Tactics and Leadership in deck 2. Spirit and Lore have long been the weaker combat spheres so I’m eager to see if this fellowship will withstand a standard “combat quest” on its own with the Tactics and Leadership spheres to support it. Legacy Blade has the potential to help Lore become significantly more deadly, but it doesn’t do much until mid-game.
Both decks have a wide selection of cards with deck two including 2x of the majority of its cards. Both decks start at comfortably low threat levels of 27 and 23. Deck 2 starts at 23 but the description indicates that its aim is to use the Palantir to scry the encounter deck fairly often. It will likely need every bit of threat reduction the Spirit cards can offer!
Test 1 – Journey Down the Anduin
Onidsen mentioned he’d enjoyed playing this against Journey Down the Anduin so I started here. This quest is perfect for completing sidequests right away, so it should help the decks get going.
I was able to win but it was a trick! The main challenge in the early game was keeping my threat below 30 long enough and killing off the little enemies that pestered me while I tried to complete sidequests and get my heavy-hitting allies on the board.
I was hard pressed to keep deck one’s threat below 30 for 6 turns before I felt I was ready to face the hill troll. I had to fetch threat reduction cards with both Gather Information sidquests. I didn’t try to use the Palantir at all here since it would likely launch me into dangerous territory before I was ready.
The first few turns were fairly difficult since the combined willpower of all 6 heroes starts at 11 and you likely need to hold both Beravor and Denethor back for possible attacks. It took me a couple turns to clear the initial Gather Information and by that point I was desperate to fetch and complete Double Back before the Hill Troll noticed me.
By turn 6 I had cleared 3 sidequests and built up my board state enough to quest for 15 or so and still handle the lower threat enemies that might come at me. The traps certainly helped manage the enemies that I wasn’t prepared to deal with.
Lanwyn was boosted to 9 attack with two Legacy Blades by the time I dealt with the Hill Troll on turn 7. It was challenging getting a defensive option set up for dealing with the Hill Troll. I eventually got both Gondorian Shield and Good Harvest in hand together and was able to get Denethor beefed up enough with a Protector of Lorien attached as a safety net. Things were much safer once I got Arwen in play across the board and an Unexpected Courage on Denethor so he could defend 2 attacks with 6 defense and Sentinel.
I wasn’t eager to try and set up and use the Palantir since it would raise my threat so much and I didn’t have a lot of reduction available. I never used the Deep Knowledge event either in an effort stay below 35 threat and avoid the Evil Storms.
I sailed through stage 2 in just two turns and had to face 5 enemies at the end, but several were trapped so I could deal with them at my convenience. The Goblin Sniper was predictably the last enemy to die.
I won on turn 10 with plenty of cards in hand and respective threat levels of 27 and 32. I used Denethor’s scrying ability a few times along with Scout Ahead and Firyal to attempt to keep me safe from the worst cards, but I actually never drew the Palantir in spite of drawing 35 cards out of Denethor’s deck!
Test 2 – Foundations of Stone
I had a decent start here and was able to complete both Gather Information quests, but my willpower didn’t ramp up fast enough, then Dark and Dreadful hit and took out Pippin, Beravor and a load of allies and it took me a long time to recover. I did eventually beat it!
I soldiered on and was eventually able to win on turn 17! Denethor’s deck drew all 52 cards and kept recycling traps with Anborn. I didn’t use the Palantir at all and Denethor’s deck hit 47 threat by the end without it! It was a long game but a good one! I thought I was dead after getting hit by that early Dark and Dreadful but it was fun to struggle through and eventually win.
All the Ranged characters were helpful against the pesky Moria Bats (because everyone knows you can only defend against a bat with an arrow…).
Creating a low threat fellowship of Spirit and Lore cards is a challenge! These decks provided interesting and challenging play opportunities
With two decks to cover here I will try to offer some overall thoughts then some specifics on each deck.
Overall I think this type of fellowship could be strengthened by a little higher starting willpower and either a lower starting threat for the Lanwyn deck or additional options for reducing threat for both decks. I found myself a little desperate in the early game while I tried to manage the enemies coming at me and keep my threat level in a place where I didn’t get overwhelmed by more enemies.
My other overall comment is that some of the necessary combos might be too difficult to set up. Denethor is the primary defender, but he really needs some help but there’s only 2x Arwen and 2x Gondorian Shield and you can’t play the shield until you get Good Harvest. The same goes for willpower numbers. When Thurindir gets powered up by sidequests, the willpower numbers are good, but if you get too much threat in the staging area early, you won’t have a chance to clear those sidequests and get him powered up! Having access to a little more willpower or (staging area threat reduction) might give it better chances of success.
Deck 1 – Hunters of the North
I’m growing to really like Lanwyn in multiplayer games. With her 2-4 willpower, Spirit access, Scout trait and 3 ranged attack, she has a lot to offer! Without many cards that surged in this quest, she didn’t shine to her full potential, but the Ranged attack really helped during the combat phase before Arwen was able to give Denethor Sentinel. I hate to say it since he tends to be omnipresent, but Spirit Glorfindel might be a strong choice as well. It would reduce the deck’s starting threat down to 23 to match the Denethor deck and give access to Elrond’s Counsel to maintain that lower level and keep deck two’s threat low as well.
Thurindir is a solid choice here as long as you have the willpower to start clearing sidequests right away. Without any 3+ willpower characters on the board at the start, there is a possibility that you will get location/enemy locked and fail to get him going.
Beravor is an excellent hero, but I found it difficult to get a lot of value out of here here since I had to either quest with her or defend and with minimal readying, I wasn’t able to ever draw cards with her in the games I played. Lanwyn’s deck could certainly use some additional card draw! Maybe a 3rd copy of Unexpected Courage would be worth it.
I like the ally lineup here, but I might up the quantity of a couple of them, most notably Arwen so deck 2 can reliably defend for deck 1. The one ally I might cut is the Mirkwood Pioneer. The Eryn Galen Settler or Mirkwood Explorer might be good substitutes.
The attachment selection is helpful. I’m still unsure how much I like the Dunedain Pipe, but with several uniques and some high cost cards in this deck, I found it useful. I might cut it to 2x or 1x and a Bilbo ally to fetch it. The Elf-Stone is very helpful for both players and its actually the only way to get Yazan into play. I know collections limit how many copies of Unexpected Courage can be included in a physical deck, but I would go 3x if possible. It’s good on Lanwyn, Beravor and Denethor.
The Legacy Blade is one of my new favorites. Lanwyn hitting for 9 is pretty great!
Narya is included in the list, but only has a placeholder for the new Magic Ring coming out in the Crossing of Poros. Magic Ring would probably go on Lanwyn, but I wasn’t able to use it in my games. She often needs more resources and she would be able to kill another enemy with an additional action.
Test of Will, Daeron’s Runes and the Galadhrim’s Greeting are great. I didn’t get much out of Radagast’s Cunning or Secret Paths, but there were times they would have been useful if they were in my hand. They would probably be my first suggestions of cards to cut to make room for other cards.
Deck 2 – Eyes of the White Tower
The hero combination in deck 2 was very strong as long as deck 1 was able to provide enough willpower. Both Pippin and Damrod provide card draw and Denethor provided decent defense all at low threat cost. This deck takes a while to get going, but functions well when it gets there. It is a little weak in the willpower department, but between the Ranger Spikes and Ithilien Tracker, it can contribute to the quest phase.
My main suggestion here is streamlining the deck so that Denethor can become a reliable defender as soon as possible. Neither deck has many defensive options besides him. There are several defensive attachment options, but with 2x of each and no Master of the Forge and no resource match for the Shield, it can take a long time to get Denethor to where he needs to be!
Firyal and Anborn are expensive, but both proved useful. With Lanwyn killing most enemies, Anborn was able to pull traps back from the discard and keep the enemies trapped through to the end of the 16 turn Foundations of Stone! I wasn’t able to get Steward into play until turn 12 or so, so I relied on Elf-Stone to get these big allies into play. Mablung is good for his 2WP and he can always through an enemy into a trap in the planning phases as well. The Guardians of Ithilien were useful for putting enemies in traps or chipping away with the Ranger Bow, but that was difficult to actually make work.
Even though this deck has a lot of card draw through a game, I would probably still include 2x Master of the Forge. With several key attachments and a total of 22 attachments in the deck, it seems a shame to leave him out.
The Ithilien Archer would probably be the first ally I would drop if I had to make a cut. It doesn’t keep with the Gondorian Ranger theme, but Quickbeam would be a cheaper option for getting some solid attack power and willpower into the deck. There are three Bounders in deck 1, but it might be a solid inclusion her as well. Extra cancellation is always good, especially since he can quest for 1 until he’s needed.
I would probably leave out both Leadership attachments. They are nice, but relying on Good Harvest to get them played just didn’t work out for me. That would make room for another copy of Burning Brand and some more WP allies.
The deck includes 2x each of Ranger Spikes, Forest Snare, Ambush and Entangling Nets. I wasn’t able to afford Forest Snare but it is a potential lifesaver. I might switch out Ambush for Ithilien Pit, but that depends on if you’re trying to play this as a low threat deck, or as a high threat Palantir deck.
That brings us to the Palantir. It’s hard to use and I’m not sure this is the best place for it. Since the Fellowship relies on setting up for several turns, you can’t use it early or you get blown up by too many enemies. If you’re going to use it, I think you have to include more threat reduction which probably means including Spirit in both decks. It owuld probably be smart to include supporting scrying card like Henamarth Riversong and/or a second copy of Scout Ahead to at least give you some knowledge when you start using the Seeing Stone. Personally, I would rather work on getting more actions out of Denethor to help tame the encounter deck. The deck has plenty of card draw, so the primary purpose of the Palantir seems to be scrying, but there’s less expensive ways to do it. I wish the Palantir was easier to get value out of, but I’m not sure it’s worth it here.
Forest Patrol did good work for me and Mithrandir’s Advice is always amazing in mono lore. A Good Harvest is essential if you’re running those off-sphere cards, but its not super reliable. In the two games I played, I couldn’t bring myself to play Deep Knowledge either. I had pretty good draw but really needed my threat to stay down.
It’s not reliable either but Ravens of the Misty Mountains might be a fun card to include to get some more pre-Palantir scrying and some extra threat reduction to compensate.
I had a good time playing these decks and I was able to win both quests I tested it against! It may be that these decks can be played either way, but I couldn’t decide if these should be played as a “Palantir” fellowship, or as a “Trap and Sidequest” fellowship. I think it has good strengths as the later but it may be stronger by forgoing the Palantir and accompanying cards.
Thanks to Onidsen to submitting the fellowship! Go over to RingsDB and check it out!