Deck #55 Gandalf the White

The central idea in this deck is letting Hero Gandalf die halfway through a game and replacing him his more powerful ally version. When Fall of Gil-Galad on Gandalf, he should reduce your threat by 14 when leaves which gives you plenty of space to keep “Gandalf the White” around for the rest of the game.

This deck was created and sent my way for testing by RingsDB user GregLord. This is his first deck published on RingsDB!

Gandalf the white list.JPG

The deck description is helpful and well organized. RingsDB has an understandable bug where it won’t let you put allies in a deck with heroes of the same title, so Glorfindel is subbing in for Gandalf in the list above.

First Impressions

This is a great idea for a deck! Hero Gandalf is so good that it’s odd to think of his OHaUH ally version as stronger but it’s true in a lot of ways. His stats are stronger and he doesn’t exhaust to commit to the quest and he can still take all the attachments that make the hero version so strong!

The challenge will be to make the combo actually happen. Fall of Gil-Galad is limited to one per deck which makes it less reliable, but between good card draw, a Rivendell Minstrel and Gather Information, there are several ways to make sure it’s in play when it needs to be. It’s nice that isn’t not necessary right away to make the deck work.

The high starting threat for the deck is certainly something to think about when bringing this deck to quest but Galadriel will help a lot and that level doesn’t concern me too much.

Test 1 – Passage Through Mirkwood

Resorting to my comfort quest again. This deck style is different enough I don’t feel bad…

Well, the deck worked but I forgot to kill off Gandalf. Cirdan got stuck in some webs and slowed the deck down in the early game, but I didn’t have any trouble making things work and I finished on turn 9 with a solid board state. Not sure why I didn’t let Gandalf die so I could get the ally into play…

Gandalf the white mirkwood

Test 2 – Escape from Umbar

I got the combo to go off here and it worked well. It took me 11 rounds and I made some mistakes (including not flipping my deck after hero Gandalf died), but I won and it was a good game.

There are some weird options here. Narya can go on Cirdan or ally Gandalf which is very strange… In the early game I kept looking for the Wizard Pipe but it isn’t in the deck! I missed having it it but I can see why it’s not here. You could use in the first half of the game, but it would be discarded halfway through and while it could go on ally Gandalf, it loses its power after the top card of your deck is face down again.

gandalf the white umbar

Test 3 – Watcher in the Water

This quest produces plenty of damage on heroes so I thought it would work well and it did. Some of the tentacle enemies have effects that result in attacks coming in undefended or your characters attacking your own characters and since we want Gandalf to die, it diminishes the danger of those effects.

It was an easy play and I didn’t let Gandalf go White until the Watcher showed up. With 30(!) cards in my hand and Henamarth in play, it wasn’t hard to open Durin’s Doors and quest through to the end. I did get Gandalf the White into play, but he didn’t do much since he only had one turn to do anything.

I emptied my deck well before I finished the quest on turn 13. I ended with 20 threat and 2 of my Elrond’s Counsel still in hand which means I could have gone on for a long time with ally Gandalf in play.

gandalf the whitewatcher in the water.JPG

Test 4 – The Long Dark Nightmare Mode

How’s this for an obscure quest? While not specifically built for this quest, this deck draws a ton of cards so I thought it would do decently well against this card eating quest. I got got incredibly lucky and passed each of the three Locate tests I had to make with one card! Never happens! I beat the quest on turn 10 with 16 cards still in my hand and no cards in my deck. The early game was difficult since I didn’t get Nenya until turn 5 or so and I drew an enemy on turn one. I had to let attacks go undefended on Gandalf a couple times and I drew my ally Gandalf just in time to replace him as he died.

gandalf the white nightmare long dark.JPG

Once you get LoV on Cirdan, Nenya on Galadriel and ally Gandalf into play, you can quest for 12 with those three alone and only Galadriel exhausts! The allies are just gravy.

Test 5 – Across the Ettenmoors Nightmare Mode

This quest isn’t terribly difficult in standard mode but nightmare is certainly more challenging. All the enemies take 6-16 attack to take them down in one hit so this should test the deck’s boss-killing abilities.

nightmare across the ettenmoors gandalf the white.JPG

It was a fairly long game but I beat it soundly without much trouble. Timing the Gandalf swap is tricky but it’s starting to make more sense. The deck really gets everything set up by turn 7-8 and exhausts its deck by turn 10 or so. When all set the deck can quest for around 20 and can still defend and take down a big fat troll.

I really enjoy this quest on standard and nightmare mode and I highly recommend the nightmare deck!


Card Choices

This set of heroes could honestly carry nearly any deck! These 3 heroes are of some of my very favorite and they bring plenty of power with them.  Each hero contributes some card draw which helps you get through deck fast enough to find all the cards you need to set up your combos.

Galadriel will stabilize your threat level during the early game and you will likely drop to 20 threat by the time Gandalf falls. Her ally support isn’t used heavily here since there aren’t that many questing allies, but don’t forget it! All the allies have at least one willpower they contribute to the quest without exhausting the turn they enter play. I would say she’s the first target for Unexpected Courage so she can use her action and contribute her 4 willpower to the quest with Nenya. I would say she’s the prime target for Steward of Gondor since she’s responsible for all the Lore cards but since there aren’t many non-Spirit/neutral cards in the deck, it doesn’t make a huge difference

Hero Gandalf feels different than normal here since you don’t count on his tricks for the entire game. No Wizard Pipe just feels so weird! He’s still good, but he doesn’t bring the same power in this deck as you might see in a standard “Gandalf Guy” deck. That actually encourages you to let him die and bring him back as Gandalf the White!

Cirdan is always good! He contributes card draw from turn one, high willpower without exhausting once you find Light of Valinor, access to Leadership for Steward of Gondor, and readying effects for ally Gandalf later in the game. Once you get Arwen and Narya supporting ally Gandalf, he can quest for 4, defend for 6 with shadow protection with his staff and attack back for 5!

So the deck centers around the fall of Gandalf and that threat reduction that Fall of Gil-Galad provides. Does the combo work? Yes, it does! I was able to find the crucial cards in plenty of time without any trouble in every single game (except the games I forgot to swap Gandalf in from the sideboard but that’s on me…). Between Gandalf’s card access, Galadriels extra card, Cirdan’s extra card, Ancient Mathom, Mirror/Harp, Gather Information and Rivendell Minstrel, it’s nearly impossible to not find Fall of Gil-Galad in the first 5 turns. Make sure to play the Fall of Gil-Galad right away after you draw it just in case a quest effect makes you discard cards from you hand. You do have one chance to pull it back from the discard pile with Dwarven Tomb but don’t risk it if you don’t have to. Beware of nasty treacheries like Windswept Rain and Leaves on Trees that might discard all your attachments from play!

The allies in the deck are mostly strong utility characters. Treebeard, Arwen and Henamarth Riversong are some of the best unique allies in the game and they bring nothing but goodness. It’s nice to have another solid defender in Guardian of Rivendell and with the massive amounts of card draw in the deck, it’s not hard to get them in to play. They’re a great target for Narya’s readying as well since they can effectively defend for 4 and attack back for 3 alongside Gandalf. I found 2x Warden of Healing to be enough, especially since hero Gandalf is supposed to take some damage in that early game. The Envoy of Pelargir is a nice cheap and easy questing ally. They fall to direct damage fairly fast, but they’re worth the 1 resource that they cost and they make good use of Gandalf’s neutral resources in the early game. In one game I got them out early and used them as attackers with Narya’s support!

The deck is half attachments and most of them are very strong. Narya, Nenya, Gandalf’s Staff, Mirror, Harp, Light of Valinor and UC, and Fall of Gilgalad are all great choices. The only “issue” with all these attachments is you clog your hand up with unique duplicates in the late game. I’ve had over 30 cards in hand with this deck! There’s so much draw, but by 2/3 through the game, you have a massive hand but nothing to play. You don’t need to play anything once the pieces are in play but it feels weird having so much in your hand and only a few options for actually playing cards. The Steed of Imladris is a good way to utilize some of the duplicates. Protector of Lorien might be another decent card to include 1 copy of just so you can get some value out of the card duplicates in the late game. The deck works as is and doesn’t necessarily need more willpower except in the rare game, but if you want some more value out of your cards, you could sub in another card or two like Protector of Lorien or Imladris Caregiver.

Ancient Mathom is always good, but (I can’t believe I’m going to say this) it might not be necessary. There’s a lot of card draw in the deck already and this might be more than is needed.

Test of Will, Dwarven Tomb, and Elrond’s Counsel are all to be expected here. Captain’s Wisdom is a nice bit of extra resource acceleration, but I found it to be superfluous and I never used it my games. It can’t really be played in the early game (unless it’s on top of the deck with Gandalf’s ability) and by the late game you don’t need it. I might consider swapping it out for additional copies of Elrond’s Counsel or Hasty Stroke (although the Staff can get rid of shadow cards anyway…). Another Dwarven Tomb wouldn’t hurt either. There are some interesting options in the sideboard that could be swapped in as well.

Solo or Multiplayer?

This should be fine for either context although I think it’s stronger as a solo deck. It doesn’t feature much in the way of location control, ranged, or sentinel characters unless you add Shadowfax in from the sideboard. It sets up fast enough it won’t slow down a group but it does claim several popular unique characters.

Final Thoughts

This is an excellent idea for a deck and it’s well implemented. My only criticism is that the Gandalf swap almost feels necessary because the deck works without it! That’s not so much a criticism as a backhanded compliment. I give the deck high points for effectively using Fall of Gil-Galad which doesn’t see much play. This is one of the most thematic ways you can use it in my opinion!

The deck’s power level is high. The only quest I failed against was Dunland Trap which requires a strange build and I was able to beat that quest eventually as well. It even managed to overcome a couple nightmare quests.

I highly recommend the deck and I think you’ll have a good time playing it! If you download from  RingsDB to use on OCTGN, make sure you swap out the 3 copies of Glorfindel for the Gandalfs in the sideboard or you’ll never find him!

Thanks to Greglord for creating an excellent deck and sending it my way! GandalfCheck out the deck on RingsDB and share your experiences with Greglord there.

One thought on “Deck #55 Gandalf the White

  1. Great suggestions. The card draw and captains wisdom is included because I generally favor making the opening as consistent as possible with as many working combinations I can get against any bad draws v a stronger late game. However I will have to try it otherwise. On stronger quests getting some other cards in there I can see being more useful.

    I also have problems holding onto hero Gandalf especially after a strong start. The deck is more powerful and in my opinion enjoyable to play with the ally in, but it is always tempting to keep the hero if a hero may die later. Some of the decision depends on the quest.


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