I haven’t seen a song deck posted on RingsDB for a while! The Song Deck has been getting a few cards here and there for a long time but it’s still fairly tricky to build a cohesive deck centered around songs. This Song deck was created and sent to my by RingsDB user Wandalf the Gizzard (who I got to meet at GENCON).
This deck only includes cards up to the Shadow and Flame! I noticed all the heroes are older right away then looked over the list and the entire deck can be built with the first two cycles. That Dwarrowdelf cycle was full of strong cards! After a quick look at the other decks built by Wandalf the Gizzard, I’m guessing his collection extends through Shadow and Flame but not beyond (yet). With this in mind, I’ll be primarily testing it against quests from this era.
It looks like the basic core engine centers around Love of Tales and the 11 songs which can generate resources and give the deck more flexibility as it progresses. The Master of the Forge is there to keep the deck moving smoothly by ensuring you have a song to play every turn to keep the resources flowing.
The event list is half card draw and half utility cards like Sneak Attack, Feint and A Test of Will.
This isn’t a “big ally Vilya deck,” but the allies look crucial for building a board state since the attachments won’t buff the heroes that much (beyond getting a Burning Brand on your defender).
I’m a little surprised at the modest scope of the ally list. There are some nice solid allies like Haldir and Gildor, but most of the allies here are 1 or 2 cost.
The descriptions mentions using Denethor to control the encounter deck and I’m happy to see that here. His ability is really powerful but seems neglected. There’s a lot of flashier heroes out that (looking at you Grimbeorn), but control is so powerful in this game that Core Denethor is a solid hero, even 7 years later.
Test 1 – Passage Through Mirkwood
This was such a weird game. I didn’t kill any enemies! Between Denethor’s foresight and Forest Snare, I was able to either bypass or nail down all the enemies before they caused me much trouble.
It was a fun game and I won on turn 9 with a solid board state, 15 cards left in my deck and a threat level of 40.
Test 2 – The Hunt for Gollum
This was a really well balanced game. Denethor’s scrying was very helpful and let me dodge all but one of the Hunters from Mordor. It was a long game and I ended up emptying my entire deck, but I had control the whole time. I reached a level where I could quest for about 17 most turns and still have a defender ready if I needed it.
The game took 14 full turns, but Gandalf was able to keep my threat down to a reasonable level.
I killed 2 enemies over the course of this game and either trapped or avoided the others.
Test 3 – Foundations of Stone
This was the quest that Wandalf the Gizzard mentioned he had tested the deck against.
I beat the quest but it was a lengthy game at 20 full turns! I got it a vicious cycle that I couldn’t get out of right at the beginning of the game. I could barely quest successfully and I had an enemy engaged I that I couldn’t kill. I had to work myself out of that trap for a good 6 turns or so.
So far the songs/Love of Tales engine has taken off pretty well every time but I struggle ramping up my willpower so if I get a couple locations in the staging area, I can stall and fall behind. There are 5 allies with 2+ willpower and my feeling is that it might need a couple more.
By the time I got stage 4 with the Nameless Things, my deck was empty so I didn’t have to worry about them getting out of control. My threat was high through the game, but Gandalf kept me from hitting 50.
I was merrily using Denethor to control the encounter deck until both he and Elrond got Watchful Eyes attached to them and I had to slow a little which meant I hit more enemies that proved difficult to kill.
It was a tough game but it was satisfying to finally beat it on turn 21!
Test 4 – Escape from Umbar
This deck is built from the first two cycles but I thought I’d test it against a modern quest anyway. Denethor was a life saver. It feels like cheating! Henemarth is good but Denethor is amazing. I’m going to have to build around him again myself. It’s so fun to be able to dodge stuff you don’t want to deal with! I probably put 5 Harad Archers on the bottom of the deck.
I haven’t built with a restricted card pool for a long time so this will be a little hard for me to comment on but I’ll try to rewind my brain back 5 years.
The Song Deck is basically held together by Love of Tales at this point. The extra resource acceleration is the primary benefit to playing a Song Deck with the sphere flexibility as a secondary bonus. When fully set up with all 3 Love of Tales out (which can take a good 6 turns), you can net 2 resources per turn by playing a song every turn (provided you have one in your hand). The strange and kind of sad thing about that is Steward of Gondor, the Big Daddy of resource acceleration, can basically accomplish the same thing with only 3 cards devoted to resources instead of 14. But Lore is infamous for expensive cards and no options for resources so it’s fair that you need to work harder for the same effect. In this case, you have to devote more cards to the resource engine, but Lore is great at getting cards into you hands so I guess it more or less balances out.
I like this hero combination. Denethor provides control, early game safety if you can use his foresight to bury the big enemies and nice low threat cost to offset Elrond. Elrond is a solid quester, defender and makes healing efficient. Berevor is the best way to flood your hand with options. Here I found it difficult to use her ability often because I found myself a little low on willpower and had to quest with her and if she wasn’t questing, I probably needed her attack to kill an enemy. Elrond gets Light of Valinor and I was giving Unexpected Courage to Denethor so he could use his ability multiple times and that left Berevor with no options for readying. Another copy of Unexpected Courage would probably help out, if you have the luxury of owning 3 copies.
With an expanded card pool, swapping Berevor for Lore Pippin might be interesting. That would open up some big questing numbers through Fireside Song. He would kind of fill the same role of a quester while still drawing you some cards and it would shave 4 off you starting threat level.
Peace And Thought is another way to get a load of cards into you hand, but that requires either an abundance of willpower to cover for the exhausted heroes, or plenty of readying options. I rarely felt I had the freedom to play this event in my games. I think I played it once and sometimes I discarded it to Daeron’s Runes because I knew I wouldn’t be able to play it for at least a couple turns. It’s not in the card pool we’re working with here but Mithrandir’s Advice from The Steward’s Fear would be a nice option for heavy card draw without sacrificing your heroes’ actions.
I think this deck could move significantly faster with a few more questing allies. Deck space is tight with the abundance of songs needed to make the engine run, but if there was room for at least 3 more 2WP allies, I think the deck could shave off a couple turns off most quests. The deck can quest for 5 on turn one, but there are only 3 allies that have that magic 2WP for 2 cost ratio. Haldir and Gildor can really help, but being expensive and with only one copy each, you may have a wait a while to get them out. I found myself plateauing around 9WP in the midgame and that wouldn’t always clear the active location. Denethor’s scrying means you’ll be facing more locations than anything else (assuming the enemies and treacheries are up to Sauron Grace’s normal standards) and that’s good, but it means you need willpower to get through them. Looking over that Core-Shadow and Flame card pool, I think Spirit Bofur would be a strong choice along with a third copy of West Road Traveller (and/or another Arwen or two). He’s more expensive at 3 cost, but the Rider of the Mark would be another 2WP ally to help with questing. Since you’re already running a couple eagles, the Eagles of the Misty Mountains might be a nice flexible option as well. Nice 2WP Lore options out of the assumed card pool would include Mablung, Ghan-buri-Ghan and all the Lore ents.
Master of the Forge is pure gold here as he helps you fetch all those songs to keep the engine running. Warden of Healing is a solid choice and he can be used to quest if his healing ability isn’t needed. Snowborn Scout is a nice chump and can be used to help get rid of that active location if you’re struggling to get rid of it. The deck has solid hero defenders so I didn’t actually need him as a chump blocker very often, so he often stood there with his hands in his pockets after he entered play, but he offered himself up as an emergency defender a couple times. Cutting him to make room for more questing allies might be worth considering.
Vassal of the Windlord is strange to see without his eagles buddies, but he kind of works here. The deck is light on attack in general, but with Denethor trying to avoid enemies, having this cheap “burst attack” works better than I initially thought. I did have a little trouble in Moria when little enemies kept spawning from shadow cards (before I got Burning Brand up) but if you’re able to avoid the heftier enemies with Denethor, this eagle ally can help dispatch the few larger enemies you see during the game. Landroval and Beorn are the only other 3 attack options in this card pool so this cheap and disposable Vassal might be the best option.
Gandalf is essential for his flexibility and for his invaluable threat reduction since games tend to run a little long. Henamarth Riversong rounds out the ally list and you can’t go wrong with him! With Denethor on the table, he loses a little glory, but at one cost, he’s good just for the 1 willpower or attack.
The attachment lineup is centered around songs which are the core of the deck. There are significantly more songs in the modern card pool, some of which might be good substitutes for the generic sphere-granting songs found in the Mirkwood cycle. Song of Hope is the first one that comes to mind since it can potentially boost your willpower if you need it and it’s free to play which means you can net 3 resources in a turn instead of 2. Many of the other songs released since Dwarrowdelf are events which are more focused to other deck styles.
Here is the current list of available songs:
Most of the newer songs wouldn’t really effect this build but Song of Hope would could replace Song of Earendil.
The non-song attachments are all very strong. With 2 Lore heroes with 3 defense each, Burning Brand is an auto include. The three Lore heroes let you play Forest Snare in any planning phase and it can remove a difficult enemy from play and save you a lot of grief. Light of Valinor might even be worth more than the 1 copy that’s included here. If you have 3 copies of Unexpected Courage, I think they would all be useful. Wingfoot is also out of the assumed card pool, but it would be an affordable option to get some more card draw out of Berevor.
I was always happy to see Sneak Attack, Daeron’s Runes and Test of Will in my hand. As I said earlier, Peace and Thought was pretty difficult to play and might be worth cutting unless some additional readying was added. Feint isn’t bad, but with Burning Brand Elrond around, I didn’t use it often in my games (but it was life saving in one game in particular).
This was a fun experience. I haven’t played a deck from a limited card pool for a long time!
This is a control deck that doesn’t accelerate really fast, but with a little breathing room, it can give you some really good games. I would put the power level kind of in the mid range but I had a really good win ratio in my testing games! My primary thought would be to add a little more willpower to improve questing numbers. My favorite part of the deck was using Denethor to control the encounter deck. The Song engine is pretty effective but the downside is that it limits deck space so you don’t have as many options to do other things.