Today I have a chance to play a fellowship of two decks submitted by Psychorocka. The first deck features strong Noldor heroes, a good bit of willpower and support and the second deck contains the Three Hunters as heroes and it covers the combat phase.
This combination looks entertaining! I like the looks of the combat deck a lot. Tactics Aragorn is one of my favorite heroes but he’s not as good solo so I don’t get to use him as much as I’d like. It’s unusual to use Leadership Gimli with Tactics Legolas, but after reading the fellowship and deck descriptions, I can see some good utility there. The main potential weakness I see in the early game will be Gimli’s defense: he’s the defender, but that 2 Defense is a little easy for enemies to slice through in the early game.
The Noldor deck has a lot of things going on: I see the Vilya/Stargazer/Light of Valinor combo for Elrond, the Nenya/Unexpected Courage setup for Galadriel, Silver Harps for Arwen and the Imladris Caregiver and even some location control with the Northern Tracker. If there’s a weakness here it may be low card draw. If you can afford to draw with Galadriel, it should be fine, but if you can’t the 2x Elven Lights and Daeron’s Runes will be the only card draw effects to get the deck moving.
The threat levels are pretty high overall but there are ways for both decks to reduce.
Test 1 – Passage Through Mirkwood
I got things rolling fairly quickly and finished the quest on turn 6. Good plays included using a Destrier on Gimli to avoid the forced effect on Caught in a Web, cancelling the nasty shadow effect on Ungoliant’s Spawn with Sterner than Steel and using Hands Upon the Bow to knock out the Hummerhorns before they ever had a chance to engage me.
My willpower didn’t ramp that fast and I was hoping and I ended up questing with Aragorn throughout the game. I could have used Nenya on Galadriel to make up for that but the combat element of the game was pretty well covered with Legolas, Gimli and Elrond with his armor. I used Galadriel to keep the threat level even across the board. The combat deck ended up drawing a lot more cards than the Spirit/Lore deck.
I finished off Ungoliant’s Spawn with a Sneak Attack Gandalf coupled with Gimli and Legolas hitting hard.
Test 2 – Escape from Umbar
I had to restart the quest a couple times while I tried to get enough willpower on turn 1. There were a couple attempts where I wasn’t able to quest for enough on the first turn to get a solid number of progress tokens on the quest stage.
My threat level was a bit of a challenge for this quest as well since both decks were hovering around 36-38 most of the game. That meant I had to engage almost anything that came up during the quest phase (including the 3 Umbar Sentry that were all revealed back-to-back at one point!).
The archery was easy to spread around so the Galadhrim Healers were able to heal the full 6 damage off the 3 heroes when they entered play. Overall I had a rough first couple turns, then the next few turns were middling, then the last 6 (of 12 turns) were pretty easy and I was just building up to quest through the last stage in a hurry.
I still found my willpower a little light in the first 2/3 of the game (basically until I got Faramir out).
Test 3 – Nightmare Into the Pit
This quest demands some good starting willpower and it tends to run up your threat fairly fast. It was fairly difficult for these decks and while I wasn’t able to play my game out to completion, I did gain control of the game and was headed to victory (unless something dramatic happened). I still had a hard time actually using Aragorn very well. I found myself forced to quest with him more often than not which felt like a waste.
Test 4 – The Fords of Isen
This quest has the perfect ratio of combat vs willpower needs for this fellowship. It was a good game and I beat it on round 9. The willpower ramp was a little slow again and I was in danger of losing on stage 1 to the Time effect, but once I got a few Spirit allies on the table, I was able to gain control of the board.
The combat deck got Legolas powered up fast and was able to make good use of a couple Hands Upon the Bow events. Aragorn ended up questing for the first half of the game again. I got one free Unexpected Courage out with Vilya, and I put it on Elrond, but I guess I could have put it on Legolas or Aragorn to good effect as well.
I never drew Steward of Gondor for Gimli, but I did get him powered up to 4 defense (Warning+Shield) with a Destrier so he was able to cover most of the defense for the decks with a Burning Brand Elrond filling in when needed. The decks don’t need as many defensive characters since you’re running Hands Upon the Bow, Feint and Sneak Attack Gandalf/Rumil. There are plenty of options for some direct damage to know out an enemy or two before they attack.
I abstained from drawing too many cards with Elven-Light in this quest since there are usually punishing effects that trigger off having too many cards in hand. I think I sometimes spend money on Elven-Light to draw cards when it would be better to actually just play something in my hand! It’s always so tempting to draw cards! The lust for cards in hand! But this quest helped me focus on playing out my hand instead of gathering options into my hand.
This is a complex set of decks to analyze! There’s a lot going on in a single deck and neither of these decks are simple. I’ll try to keep my comments fairly general.
Deck 1 Rings of Power
This deck has some powerful heroes but takes a while to get going. This deck can provide a lot of support to the combat deck. Arwen can pass Aragorn resources, Galadriel can provide cards and threat reduction and Elrond’s healing boost helps keep Gimli going and Elrond can even provide some solid defense with Elven Mail and Burning Brand. My main comment here is the deck is not very focused. There are tons of possibilities in the deck, but low quantities of individual cards make many of the combinations (Elrohir/Elladan, Vilya/Stargazer, Burning Brand/Light of Valinor etc). The deck functions pretty well, but there are so many ideas included in the deck it won’t perform very consistently. Variety is fine and can be exciting in a deck, and low quantities of cards means you can reach a higher power level in the late game, but you have to make sure you survive to the late game!
In this case, I might recommend considering streamlining the deck by removing Vilya and its support cards. With 2 Vilyas, 2 Stargazers and 2 LoV, it’s not a sure thing or even a likely thing that you’ll get an efficient Vilya combo set up by turn 4 or 5 and by that time the game is often won or lost. I think the power of Vilya can sometimes be a deckbuilding trap. It’s insanely powerful, but if you don’t build the deck to ensure that it happens, you either find yourself unable to pay for all the expensive cards in your deck, or you end up blindly playing Elven-Light off the top of your deck. This deck has a couple Masters of the Forge, but beyond that and the Elven-Light and Galdariel draw, there aren’t many ways to dig through the deck and find the ring and the Stargazer. Then if you do get it set up, there are only 7 cards in the deck that cost 4 or more. While Vilya is powerful, I don’t think you always need to include it in every Elrond deck. Sometimes it becomes a distraction from the central deck idea and waters everything down.
I think that this deck could produce more willpower faster if it dropped the Vilya combination and focused on getting generic questers out. Allies like the Sailor of Lune, Ethir Swordsman or West Road Traveller would all be good for boosting willpower numbers faster. I cloned the deck and simplified it by removing he “Vilya suite” of cards and boosting quantities of other important cards.
This increases the chance of being able to play a 2 willpower ally on turn 1 to boost your willpower which can free up Aragorn to do his thing. Without some of the high cost allies in the deck, the resource curve comes down from around 110 to 77. This should free up some Spirit resources for cycling Elven Light more often to keep your hand filled with cards that are getting on the table.
It might be just as effective to go the other direction and focus on the Vilya combo by adding a third copy of the ring, Stargazer, adding Heed the Dream and doubling down with more expensive (or 3-cost) allies. The decks works as it is and is great fun when you get your pieces in play, but there are almost too many combos that need to happen and you may not have enough time to get them set up before you’re in a tight spot!
Deck 2 -Sword, Axe and Bow
This deck is murderous fun! The sentinel and range it features can make sure the Elrond deck is free to focus on questing and support.
Gimli is a little tough to run as a primary defender because of his stating 2 defense but he had enough support with 3 Dunedain Warnings and 3 Shields plus all the Elven healing. His readying is fairly useful here as well since he can ready Elrond for an emergency defense or he can ready a questing Aragorn or even Legolas if he picked someone out of the staging area with Hands Upon the Bow.
Legolas is still an amazing hero! I found the Elrond deck a little low on willpower but Legolas’s ability helped make up for it because he was dropping progress every single turn. The Unlikely Friends were usually able to handle a standard combat phase with the help of the allies and Aragorn was usually just questing which was a little sad (for him).
There are a lot of things going on in this deck as well but there was enough overlap in function that the lower quantities of each card didn’t effect the consistency very much. In my opinion cards like Hands Upon the Bow, Steward of Gondor, Foe Hammer, Armored Destrier and Faramir all provide enough benefit to warrant more copies but then you have to make a choice on what to cut.
My other thought here is I’d like to see Aragorn freed up from questing so he can hav some fun. If he’s going to be questing, you could almost sub him out for Merry without much effect on the deck. Just adding a third Steward and a couple more copies of Faramir might do the trick. The other deck could even run Faramir since Elrond can pay for him!
I usually review decks in a solo context so this was a treat to able to play a deck that was combat focused.
This is a solid fellowship with a cohesive theme. The combat element is very strong as is the healing. I found I could have used a bit more willpower to maintain control of the quest a few times and I think that could be slotted into the Elrond deck fairly easily. With relatively high starting threat levels in both decks, you just can’t afford to fail the quest very often and hope to survive the first 3 turns. I won all the games I reported above but there were a few games I restarted right away after getting bogged down with too much threat right away. There were a couple false starts in Escape from Umbar where I didn’t get any progress on the quest during the first quest phase. I could have soldiered on and relied on Legolas to get a couple progress to keep me in the game, but I took the better part of valor and reset.
I’m happy that Leadership Gimli can be paired with Tactics Legolas and still provide good value!
I had a lot of fun playing these decks! I focused on what I felt was working least well because I hope that’s the most helpful part of what I do here. So don’t take my suggestions as negativity. The fellowship works well and has potential to take a couple different ways if you wanted to customize it.
Thanks to Psychorocka for sending these decks my way and I apologize for how long it took me to get this article finished! You can check out the fellowship on Ringsdb here. Make sure to check out the individual decks as well since he has extensive and helpful descriptions for both decks.