Deck #50 Doom of Estel: Hope of the Dunedain

This Dunedain deck was created and submitted for testing by Devaresh. Devaresh has recently launched his own blog, Reflection in Henneth Annun. It looks like he has plans to post deck spotlights, thematic game play narratives and even a First Age themed deck series!

The title for this deck puzzled me a little so I did a little research and found an excellent article on Estel and the idea of hope in Middle Earth and Elven culture. You can find that blog post here.

doom of estel list.JPG

First Impressions

The deck description is fairly long and well written and gives you a good idea of how the deck will play. His goal for the deck is for it to thrive on the Dunedain theme of having enemies engaged, but not rely on that alone for getting moving. The Elven heroes give the deck much better starting willpower numbers than a more strict Dunedain hero lineup. Questing for 8 with a defender ready (assuming you use Aragorn’s ability or play an ally) on the first turn is solid!

The trisphere nature of the deck shouldn’t be a problem with all three of the heroes having abilities that can either move resources or give them additional sphere icons.

The threat level is my biggest concern after looking over the deck. Starting at 34 threat is certainly on the higher side but the list relies on Gandalf (and Sneak Attack) alone to keep the threat level down. The sideboard has Elrond’s Counsel, and I’m guessing that might be a good option to include more often than not.

The split between including high cost/high impact cards and lower cost cards that can give you a boost right away is always hard when building a deck and it seems particularly hard in a Dunedain deck since most of the allies are not cheap (either in resources or other game costs). This deck seems weighted towards meaty allies that take some investment to get on the table.

Test 1 – Hunt for Gollum

This actually took a couple tries but I ended up having a good game and winning on the third attempt.

Increasing that base willpower number takes some work and it does’t ramp up too fast until you can get The Sword that Was Broken. The deck really started to hum when I was able to get my Sarn Ford Sentries to draw me some cards. I went through the first half of the game without any card advantage (forced to use Gandalf to reduce threat), but when I safely had 3 enemies engaged with me, my Sentries started to give me options.

I barely kept up with the encounter deck up until that point, then the deck started doing things and I powered through the last half with the new boost of allies and the extra willpower from Aragorn’s sword.

estel hunt for gollum.JPG

I won on round 13 with a threat level of 45 (reduced once with Gandalf), plenty of allies on the board and only 9 cards left in my deck.

Test 2 – Escape from Umbar

Devaresh mentioned this quest as one that he beat in testing so I tried it, but I couldn’t get the gears moving fast enough. The encounter deck kept dishing me the worst combos, but I tried it several times (5 or more) and I couldn’t get a win. These Harad enemies are not easy to keep engaged!

The allies are expensive enough it’s just hard to get going. All the allies are good, but they don’t make a big splash on entrance.

escape from umbar estel.JPG

Defeat on turn 7. It seems like I either was killed by archery, or got engaged with too many enemies and couldn’t keep up with willpower and defense.

This quest certainly isn’t kind to the Dunedain deck type and while I felt like this deck had a chance, I couldn’t get it going fast enough in my plays.

Test 3 – Into the Pit

This quest provides all the enemies wanted to make the Dunedain work well, but it also messed with your threat enough to make it difficult for this deck. It took a couple plays, but I got a win eventually.

I won on turn 10 with a threat level of 44 with 16 cards left in my deck.

estel into the pit.JPG

Test 4 – Desert Crossing

I won on my first attempt. Things came together quickly this time and the enemies were easy to keep engaged. I won on turn 10 with the temperature at 56. I could see some good power coming together in this game but it still took a good while to get all the pieces in play. Heirs of Valandil, Light of Valinor and Sword that Was Broken all seem like essential cards to make the deck hum, but it just takes a while to find them and pay for them. I finally got Heir of Valandil into play on turn 8 and that helped me get more allies into play, but before that, resources are a struggle.

Once Sword that Was Broken hits, questing becomes so much easier and you can actually make progress. It’s pretty expensive, but it might be worth more than 1x. The two Noldor heroes provide a nice base of willpower, but it’s hard to generate more very quickly and boosting those 2 willpower allies to 3 is huge.

estel sands.JPG

Card Choices

I like the interaction between these heroes. The card draw/resource smoothing that’s possible with Arwen/Aragorn/Noldor hero lineup is incredibly helpful. The toughest thing about these three heroes together is the threat level. I would be much more comfortable playing this deck running another form of threat reduction (Elrond’s Counsel from the sideboard would make a world of difference).

My main struggle playing this deck was getting everything online and in place before I was either swamped with enemies that were engaging me faster than I could handle, or the threat was building up in the staging area faster than I could generate willpower. The resource curve of the deck is fairly high (~100 resources worth of cards) and Heir of Valandil is the only form of resource advantage (assuming you’re cycling Elven-Light for the card draw).

The Dunedain Pipe was excellent here. Dunedain allies tend to be pricey and Dunedain decks tend to run a couple essential unique attachments and this pipe lets you either save that expensive card for later or turn that useless duplicate into something useful. It’s helpful that it can attach to Dunedain allies as well! Since we have the pipe here, I might suggest running more copies of powerful cards like Light of Valinor and Sword that Was Broken. At 1x each, they’re a little hard to find but they make a huge difference when they’re in play.

I played all the allies to good effect except the Vigilant Dunedan. Without any sidequests, damage mitigation or enemy “nerfing” I find him a bit of a risky investment for the cost (especially when the entire cost has to be paid for by Elrond). The Sarn Ford Sentry and the Guardian or Arnor ally seemed the most valuable. I like the Dunedain Pathfinder/Heirs Of Earendil combo but it would be much more attractive if there were more ways to mitigate the threat gain. The Dunedain Hunter is essential for getting solid attack numbers and I got him in play a couple times but I rarely felt I had the luxury of taking another enemy.

I have two main ideas for this deck: more threat reduction and more hero readying. A Dunedain deck needs to time to set up. This deck has a big advantage over many decks of this type since it starts with heroes boasting 3 willpower each, but even so, starting at 34 threat with minimal threat reduction really puts the pressure on!

Both Elrond and Aragorn have a heavy lineup of stats so some additional readying might be really helpful. Right now we have 1x Light of Valinor, 2 Armored Destrier and 1x Magic Ring. The sooner you can get Elrond questing and defending the better! There are 3x Burning Brands, but no realistic way to make them useful until you get either Light of Valinor on Elrond or Ring of Barahir on Aragorn. I honestly consider the Magic Ring dangerous in this deck and I cycled it with the Pipe because I didn’t want to deal with the extra threat. I think a couple more copies of LoV and 2 copies of Unexpected Courage might be helpful in getting more value out of these heroes stats (1x Wingfoot would be good as well). But maybe I’m just playing too conservatively! I have been called Turtlegamerjoe!

As far as threat reduction goes, I think adding Elrond’s Counsel woudl certainly be worth it. The next card I might suggest for threat management would be a third copy of Sneak attack. The deck currently has 3x Gandalfs and 2x Sneak Attacks. I find it’s usually more efficient to actually reverse that number and run 2 Gandalfs and 3 Sneak Attacks. A 1x Galadhrim’s Greeting might be OK as well. It would give you a big bump down and relieve a lot of pressure.

I took the liberty of cloning the deck, making some adjustments and playing a couple games with it and it seemed to work well! Here’s what I came up with:

Modified Estel deck.JPG

I managed to beat Escape from Umbar and Into the Pit with it and had a good time! This version is probably a little more conservative and “safe” (I’m not saying it’s necessarily better, it’s just closer to my play style).

modified estel umbar game

A win on turn 11 at 36 threat and only 6 cards left in the deck. 

 

Final Thoughts

I had a good time playing the deck in spite its threat level stressing me out a little. It’s one of the only Dunedain deck’s I’ve played that doesn’t use traps and Damrod. I had a little difficulty beating some of my testing quests, but looking back I can see I a few things I could have played better (for example Aragorn can carry a Burning Brand after he gets his ring which in turn makes the Destrier much better).

If you have nerves of steel, you’ll have a good time with this deck! Try to squeeze out that win before your threat goes over the top! If you’re more cautious like me, a couple tweaks to the deck and you’ll beating quests without that issue causing any trouble.

I really like the hero combination and the core idea of this deck. Go check it out on RingsDB! Thanks to Devaresh for creating the deck and sending it my way! Make sure to go read his new blog as well. It took me a couple days to finish this post and he’s got a couple posts up there now.

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