The “Trap Deck” has been around for a good while but there’s isn’t one definitive version out there yet. While most trap decks are mono Lore, the recent release (3 months is “recent” in LOTR time) of Followed and the Emyn Arnen Ranger has breathed new life and possibilities into an already interesting deck type.
Traptics is a new Trap deck built and published on RingsDB by Mr Underhill (as a full disclosure, Mr Underhill is a good friend of mine “in real life” so I might be biased).
Be sure to read the deck description as it gives you plenty of helpful directions and tips.
My current impressions aren’t exactly “first impressions” because I’ve seen this deck in action while playing Nightmare Temple of the Deceived with Mr Underhill on OCTGN, but I’ll do my best to approach this deck with fresh eyes and analyze it primarily as a solo deck.
The hero lineup looks strong especially when the deck gets to start at a cozy 23 threat! Mono Lore versions of the Trap deck tend to be low on starting willpower and a little high on threat but Tactics Eowyn provides an excellent solution to both those weaknesses and she provides a resource match for the new Followed trap which should help with the low willpower issue as well.
Deciding which and how many traps to include in a deck is one of the hardest parts of building a trap deck. There are so many fun options! I’m actually a little surprised to see only 11 trap included here (of the 21 possible trap cards).
The ally selection looks strong with 25 ally cards included. Mirkwood Explorer is one of my personal favorites that doesn’t get a lot of play, so it’s fun to see that here. Anborn is a key part of making a Trap deck viable in the long game, and I only see one here, but since he’s unique and high cost, I can see not wanting to devote too much space to him.
The deck is heavily weighted towards Lore cards so I’m sure Steward of Gondor will be very helpful on Damrod. With only a few Leadership cards in the deck, Denethor’s resource passing ability will be excellent to keep Damrod funded.
In his deck submission Mr Underhill suggested working through Passage Through Mirkwood and Journey Along the Anduin to get a feel for the deck, then moving to Dungeons of Cirith Gurat and The Crossings of Poros for a challenge.
Test 1 – Passage Through Mirkwood
This was a fun game. The deck didn’t move super fast, but it was interesting to play and in control most of the time. I got Henamarth Riversong out fairly early which let me play very precisely. I trapped the opening Forest Spider in Followed right away and let it quest for me the whole game.
Ungoliant’s Spawn came out early but I was able to leave it in the staging area until I was ready to face it during the last stage.
The deck builds up gradually so it wasn’t a short game, but it was a good game. I won on turn 11 with no characters killed.
Test 2 – Journey Along the Anduin
This was another long game, but good. It took me a while to get solid attack numbers on the board to start killing off enemies in the mid game. For a while I had 3 enemies trapped in the staging area and two engaged with me.
I had 41 progress on stage 1 before I finished off the Hill Trolls (the second one came up but I Forest Snared both of them). By that point I was able to race through stage 2 in 2 turns, them mop up the 3 little enemies that were lingering in my Ranger Spikes.
It was a long game at 17 turns, but fun and tricky. I used Mablung to pull down a Goblin Sniper and used a Guardian of Ithilian to throw the Wolf Rider into the Ranger Spikes on turn 2.
I never found Anborn and I wish I had because I had a good number of Traps in my discard and my Master of the Forge had fetched every trap and attachment from my deck.
Test 3 – Dungeons of Cirith Gurat
At 15 turns, this was another long game, but it had a steady power ramp and kept pace with the encounter deck nicely. I hit 44 threat by the end, but had the willpower, defense and attack to deal with whatever the encounter deck dished out. I did turtle for a good while at stage 1 to get things set up.
At one point an enemy had Followed, Forest Snare, Ranger Spikes, a Warg attachments and a captured ally attached to him!
At this point I think I have a good feel for the deck. It’s happy to move slow in the early game and get those support allies out early while the low threat and traps keep the game in hand.
The single copies of key allies are helpful here since they don’t run the risk of getting discarded if they get captured from your draw deck.
Test 4 – The Crossings of Poros
This quest is fairly difficult but it was a good game that ended in success! It was a little faster ramp up and I had solid control of the quest nearly the entire time. The X threat location came up a couple times and gave me grief, but between the Followed trap reducing threat in the staging and the Emyn Arnen Rangers questing for 3 each, I overcame the 20 threat location(!!) and kept moving. I got a Mirkwood Explorer powered up to 4 progress and left him ready to explore that location just in case it came up again.
I had enough freedom to continue taking the “alternative pain” and not add enemies to the encounter deck and by the time I got the last stage a single Scorpion came out to play. It was a long game again because of that course of action, but it was a solid game that was interesting every turn.
By the last turn I could quest for 25+, reduce the threat of the staging area by 6, control any location that came up, defend up to 6 times and kill enemies with my 5 attack Fornost Bowmen. My deck was empty and there were only 9 cards in my discard and 2 in my deck which means I had 39 cards in play! It was a very complex game as Crossings of Poros is apt to be, but this deck really makes you crunch the numbers once you get Followed, Spikes and Rangers all altering your standard numbers.
Test 5 – The Mumakil
I played this one just to see if I could trap that terrible tiger and it worked! I got that Harad Tiger in a Ranger Spikes so my Emyn Arnen Rangers were questing for 4 WP each (until the tiger came back and ate them all through the Savage South).
With a turn 1 Master of the Forge and Anborn in hand from the start, I was able to keep the trap cycle going and get things set up fairly quickly. That Savage South treachery was the main difficulty, but at least I was able to fetch all the attachments out of the deck with Master of the Forge so the Savage South didn’t free all the trapped enemies from the cages. That could have been a mess…
It was a solid win on turn 12 and I could have won sooner if my random Capture objective had been better matched to my board state.
Test 6 – The Fords of Isen
This deck likes to draw cards, likes to have cards in hand, and it doesn’t like to move fast so this quest should be challenge.
I lost my first attempt but managed to win on my second run. You have to play the deck a little different, but this proves the deck can be flexible and move a little faster than “turtle speed” (turtle speed isn’t a bad thing, in fact, it’s often my preferred speed for the first half of a game).
At one point I had 2 Dunland Berserkers engaged with me and every time I drew a card I had to take 2 attacks from those guys. I was able to Forest Snare one, then use a Guardian of Ithilien to push one back to the staging area so I could use my Daeron’s Runes. The Master of the Forge is very helpful here since he gets cards into your hand without actually drawing them.
This deck does best with several enemies engaged and snared through the whole game, but you can’t win this quest until you kill every last enemy and since this deck doesn’t pack tons of attacking allies, I had to start killing off my pet Dunlandings much earlier than I would have liked.
The Mirkwood Explorer showed his quality several times here with low progress locations with nasty travel effects being common in this quest/cycle.
I beat the quest on turn 11 with a strong board state and 37 threat on my dial.
After 8-10 games with the deck, I can see value in every card. Damrod is certainly the linchpin hero here. That cost reduction and card draw he provides really make trap decks work. Denethor is actually really helpful through the entire game here as well. He often is included in a deck just for the early cash, but he was my primary defender through most of these games and he never died. Between the Shield, Destrier and Entangling Nets, you have a lot of ways to make sure he doesn’t get hit with a big attack and nasty shadow card. His ability to move resources over to Damrod whenever it was needed was very useful as well. Eowyn is always good and she provides the early game willpower needed to survive those first crucial turns. Once you get those Emyn Arnen Rangers questing, you can hold her back from the quest for a turn and then kill two big enemies during the combat phase with her Rampage effect. The fact that you can get these three stellar heroes on the table for only 23 threat is incredible. That low starting threat keeps the deck safer in the early game and frees up deck space for useful cards instead of running threat reduction cards like Secret Vigil.
In spite of being a “trap deck,” I think the ally selection is probably the most interesting and crucial part this deck. The new Emyn Arnen Ranger is certainly at home here. I love the design of the this new card and it does great work in this deck. A 2-cost ally questing for between 2-4 every turn is excellent value for Lore. The set up they require is worth it. The Master of the Forge is the other core ally in this deck. Beyond those two allies, there are some tricky decisions to be made in a deck like this.
The Warden of Healing is another workhorse ally and I was thinking 3 copies might be better when I started playing the deck, but found that since you don’t defend that often, the damage is usually fairly easy to control across the board and 2 copies of this ally seemed perfect. The Mirkwood Explorer doesn’t get into many decks I see on RingsDB but I think he’s a solid choice and worth more than he first appears. Again, he takes some investment, but having him loaded and ready to get rid of something like a 20 threat Desolate Lands feels pretty good! If you think of him as a 3-cost ally with 3 willpower (since he gets that extra progress every turn) and some ability to dodge travel or “when this becomes active” effects, he’s actually very good. The Guardian of Ithilien is another ally that doesn’t see much play and while his stats aren’t good at all, he makes some fun trap tricks possible. If you have him in hand, you can engage a troublesome enemy, Feint it or defend with Denethor, then on the following turn you can play your Ranger Spikes, then play the Guardian and throw that annoying surging Mumakil Python or Southron Outrider into the stakes and never worry about it again. The Guardian of Arnor was nice to have around but I didn’t end up using him as much as I anticipated.
I wonder if the Fornost Bowmen would be almost interchangeable with the Dunedain Hunter. The Tactics resource curve is really low so it’s not too hard to get the Bowman out, but the Dunedain Hunter might provide some faster setup in a couple different ways: he would be able to set you up on turn 1 with a trapped enemy with either Followed or Forest Snare, and he would have a reliable 3 attack which is very decent and as much as the Bowman is likely to give you most of the time. The Bowman has the advantage of having the Ranged keyword for multiplayer games, but the Dunedain Hunter might be an entertaining and effective alternative. With all the traps and questing rangers around, I found myself with enough willpower and defense most of the time, but when it came to attacking back when I needed to, I found my attack stat to be weakest.
The Errand Rider did some work, but I see that the description mentions replacing it with the Envoy of Pelargir for solo games. Both are helpful for resource redistribution in this complicated tri-sphere deck, but I would consider them the most disposable if you really wanted to squeeze another card into the deck.
The 5 unique allies in the deck all have only 1 copy included. Mablung, Quickbeam and Grimbold are great value and I think 1 copy each is perfect. I might consider raising the quantities on Anborn and Henamarth Riversong to 2 each. A tricky deck like this will do much better having a good idea of what’s coming off the encounter deck. Checking the top of the deck during planning phase (or at the end of the combat phase) can guide your choice when you have the option of playing a Ranger Spikes to leave an enemy in the staging area, or playing another Explorer for more willpower, or even leaving a loaded up Explorer uncommitted so he can knock out a particularly troublesome location before the end of the quest phase. While Anborn is expensive, he extends the longevity of the deck by a huge amount. If you lose a couple traps into your discard by either being forced to kill that enemy (Cirith Gurat), or from a milling effect (Savage South), or the game just goes long, you may find yourself out of traps in the mid to late game and the Master of the Forge may have nothing left to pull from your deck. The ability to pull any trap from your discard is extremely powerful. And if you don’t need that trap recycling in the early game, his 3 attack and 3 hitpoints are welcome as well! I would consider adding a copy of both Henemarth and Anborn and possibly cutting a couple Errand Riders/Envoys. With Daeron’s Runes in the deck and very few unique cards or restricted attachments, a couple extra copies of these two allies wouldn’t hurt and it would increase consistency.
The attachment selection seemed very well balanced. I was surprised how well it worked with only 11 traps and I think these traps are certainly the best choices. The Ithilien Pit, Poisoned Stakes and Ambush are all traps aimed at killing enemies off quickly while these traps make enemies useful or just easier to keep around. Followed could probably be a 3x card but 2 seemed to work out. Hopefully you have Anborn around to get it back if some lame 1-threat enemy got attached and you need to kill it off and get it on my a more profitable target.
The Gondorian Shield is essential for keeping Denethor alive and while 3 copies is a lot of deck space for a card you only need one of but it’s worth it (you can always drop one on Damrod for a backup defender). The same goes for the Destrier. I enjoyed how the Destier works with Entangling nets: Denethor can first defend against the 0-2 attack enemy in the nets and the shadow card won’t be as dangerous, then he can discard the shadow from any “untrapped” enemy and defend without fear of dying.
The event selection is tiny and effective. Feint is a great card for a trap deck and even easier to use now that we have another good reason to run Tactics! Daeron’s Runes is always a solid card but there isn’t many duplicate cards in the deck so you might find yourself with a hard choice to make when you have to discard after drawing. Steward, Shield, and the Destrier are the only cards that aren’t lost opportunities. Daeron’s Runes makes me want to add those extra copies of Anborn and Henamarth!
After playing all those games and thinking through the cards, this is a slightly tweaked version I came up with. I played it against Dungeons of Cirith Gurat and while the encounter deck kept punishing me for having those multiple copies of allies, I got a solid win. That Dunedain Hunter was very effective in this quest.
Solo or Multiplayer?
I can say this works well in both contexts. I’ve won a good number and variety of quests in solo play and I’ve played alongside the deck in some nightmare 2-player games and I’ve seen it do good work. I’m always happy to see Steward of Gondor and Errand Rider across from me! You can see the deck in a two-player game of Nightmare Temple of the Deceived here.
I’ve had a lot of fun with this deck and it has performed very well! Any deck that can beat The Crossings of Poros gets respect! A trap deck isn’t perfect for every quest so I wouldn’t encourage taking this deck to a fast moving quest like Journey in the Dark or a Sailing quest like Flight of the Stormcaller, but this deck proved itself through several different types of quests and did well! The new Followed Trap and Emyn Arnen Ranger were highly anticipated cards but I think they take some finesse to get best value out of them and this deck does that well. It’s a tricky and engaging deck to play with lots of options and tricks (and math calculations!). It also has a nice steady power trajectory that can increase all the way to the end of a long game. Once the deck it set up, you pretty much have the quest under control and there’t not a lot that will can take it down.
I think increasing the quantity of a couple very helpful allies might make the deck a little more consistent, but as it is, nearly every card in your hand over the course of the entire game will be playable and have value.
While the deck has lots of options and risk mitigation, it has no treachery cancellation or “get out of jail free” cards like Hasty Stroke or Test of Will. You will have to deal with the treacheries as they come, but with fairly sturdy allies, some scrying ability, healing effects, some location control and plenty of ways to deal with enemies you should be able to trap your way through a wide variety of quests with this deck!
Thanks to Mr Underhill for creating an excellent trap deck and pushing the archetype “into the future” with the new trap and ranger cards. Head over to RingsDB and give it a like and play some games with it. If your play style is fast and aggressive, you might find it plays a little slow, but if you like tricks, shenanigans and thoughtful play, you will really enjoy this deck! Give it a play!