When Tactics Eowyn was released, the Mono Tactics deck because a truly viable solo deck. When Hirgon was released, he catapulted this archetype into a very powerful position. This year Grimbeorn the Old is shaking up the Tactics meta again and I think he’s here to stay!
This looks like an aggressive deck that has several key elements in place with just the starting hero lineup. Even before you have any allies on the board you have a decent amount of starting willpower, that ability to defend and attack with solid numbers, some resource acceleration and a backup 10 attack if you get stuck with a big enemy in the early game. That’s an impressive set of abilities for 3 heroes.
I can’t help but compare this to the Theoden/Eowyn/Hirgon hero combination which has been my standard mono tactics lineup for a while now. This doesn’t have as strong of starting willpower, but it can jump into combat a lot faster with Grimbeorn on the board and it has more willpower in the deck with the 10 copies of allies with 2 willpower in addition to a little location control. The Theoden version starts with massive willpower but doesn’t build grow much beyond that starting 11 and it takes time to build up your army of combat allies. This deck starts with moderate willpower and a strong combat foundation right on the first turn.
The Theoden version of the Mono tactics deck has a hard time running other key cards like Foe-Hammer since the heroes are basically questing machines and the allies do the fun work. Allies take up less than half the deck here and we have plenty of attachments for the heroes as well (mostly Grimbeorn if we’re being honest).
I haven’t seen Born Aloft or Meneldor’s Flight in a deck for a long time. It will be interesting to try them again, especially since Meneldor has entered the game with a great enter/exit game ability!
Test 1 – Passage Through Mirkwood – Win
The encounter deck hamstrung me pretty bad by dishing out two Caught In A Web treacheries really early in the game which drained my willpower, resource acceleration and resources! It was pretty rough but I made it through. Grimbeorn’s action advantage was crucial to staying alive but between spending resources on his ability and using 2 resources occasionally to actually quest with Ewoyn or Hirgon, I had a hard time getting may allies on the table and I certainly wasn’t tempted to start pulling those eagles out of play.
It was a rough game but I won anyway! It was really nice to have those 2 willpower eagle allies to cover for my entangled heroes.
The game took a full 11 turns but would have been much shorter if my heroes had been able to quest!
Test 2 – The Antlered Crown – Loss x2
I thought Meneldor would have a good time clearing these low quest point locations in the staging area, but my willpower couldn’t clear the active location in the first couple turns and things started to go bad quickly once those time counters started to trigger. I never cleared the active location and direct damage (scaled by the number of cards in my hand) destroyed my on turn 4.
I gave it another try it but ended on turn 3 with a nasty enemy rush after a bunch of locations lost their time counters. This quest needs a stronger turn 1 willpower push so it can keep locations turning over or it will go poorly!
Test 3 – The Drowned Ruines – Loss
This was a hard one for this style of deck since you need some really solid “burst questing” power to get through the Underwater Grotto locations. I got bogged down with re-spawning Throngs of Unfaithful over and over again and when I had finally mustered a few 2WP questing eagles, I still wasn’t able to get through my first Undwater location. All the eagles drowned… I guess they aren’t mean for underwater flight.
I kept in the game but eventually hit 50 threat on turn 22.
I did get some solid use of Meneldor. I cleared a couple copies of the annoying Drowned Cave with his ability.
Shadow effects really hindered me as they kept discarding my attachments and triggering second attacks. With a reasonable low resource curve, this deck really wasn’t designed to fight the undead which thrive off low cost cards in your deck.
Test 4 – Into the Pit – Win
Getting through the East Gate was the most difficult part of this run since the willpower doesn’t ramp up too fast in this deck. 6 starting willpower is solid, but it isn’t too easy to increase that number very quickly. Wait No Longer was the perfect tool to help me get through that first stage.
Test 5 – Journey Up the Anduin – Loss
I did well during the first stage but I eventually hit 50 threat on the second stage as I couldn’t muster enough willpower to push through. I worked through the Evil Creature deck one and a half times!
Grimbeorn really helps combat phase on the first couple turns, but with 0 willpower, it’s hard not to think of Theoden’s 5 willpower he would provide the deck.
I got to do some more Eagle bouncing with Meneldor and it’s pretty effective, but not really central do the strategy. A little location control is helpful, but at the cost of 2-3 resource to pay for the ally and a card slot for either Meneldor’s Flight or Born Aloft, all to get 4 progress down (2 for entering play, 2 for leaving play) I’m not totally sold on the idea yet.
Grimbeorn is a heroic Warg killer. Even if those punks get no shadow card and retreat to the staging area, Grimbeorn can toss a rock from the top of the Carrock and smash the Warg to pieces. Watching those wargs die was immensely satisfying!
Test 6 – Across the Ettenmoors – Win
The deck really powered up here! I got Legolas out early and he helped me draw into more of my deck and I got those combos going. It played really well here!
The only disappointment was I never had enough in the staging area to make good use of Meneldor’s progress or the Descendant’s direct damage. It’s certainly not cheap willpower but it’s nice that the Descendant has 1 willpower so he can contribute a little during the quest phase if you have enough defense and attack available.
I never had a cause to use Born Aloft or Meneldor’s Flight.
This hero combination is well balanced but my experience with the deck pushed me to think it might be best as a multiplayer deck. I still feel like I have to compare any Hirgon deck to the Theoden/Hirgon/Eowyn deck that has that massive 11 willpower on turn 1. The games I lost in my testing were due to a lack of willpower. I just couldn’t move fast enough. Theoden has spoiled me!
This hero combination has decent willpower, reasonably low threat, good attack and defense and resource acceleration from turn 1, but I just found the willpower to be lower than necessary to defeat most quests as a solo deck. I was topping out at 12 willpower with 3 strong eagles in play which is a reasonable amount of willpower, but it just took a while to get there and at that point, my staging area wasn’t letting me drop more than a couple progress on the quest card per turn.
While Grimbeorn and the eagles thematically go together (being from the North), their strengths kind of overlap. Both are good at combat. If Grimbeorn is managing the combat phase, what’s to be done with these combat eagles allies? If you’re low on willpower, it doesn’t matter how strong you build up an Eagle of the Misty Mountains because it will probably be questing. You don’t need to trigger Grimbeorn’s counterattack at every opportunity in this deck but you’ll need to occasionally and that’s a bit expensive in an eagle deck where your resource curve is pretty high, even with Hirgon’s help.
As a multiplayer deck I can see this working really well. It has a solid amount of willpower to contribute in spite of being a combat deck and it has a lot of sentinel options along with some Ranged Eagles and Grimbeorn’s “ranged” attack option. I feel bad saying all this since the creator has had good success with this as a solo deck, but I had trouble keeping my willpower high enough.
That aside, I had a lot of fun with the eagles again! Meneldor is fun and if you’re paying 2 for 2 willpower plus some bonus progress, he has huge value. Meneldor combined with Arod could be really fun as well, but I never got Arod in play in my games.
Both Meneldor and the Descendant of Thorondor have enter/leave play effects and here we have both Meneldor’s Flight and Born Aloft to take advantage of those effects. This can turn the Eagles into a pseudo Silvan style of deck, but it’s pretty expensive. It’s nice to see these cards back in play, but I’m still not totally convinced they pull their weight. With 3 copies of each of these cards, this mechanic takes up a good portion of this deck. I would probably cut back to just one of these cards instead of both. They basically function the same way in this deck, so I would suggest keeping Meneldor’s Flight since it’s an event and doesn’t need any setup (you could also grief another player at the table if they’re playing eagles. Return that Eagles of the Misty Mountains to their hand for no reason…). The brand new Flight of the Eagles event basically accomplishes the same thing while providing another potential benefit by adding an eagle ally to the encounter deck. If you’re planning to do some of the eagle bouncing, Flight of the Eagles seems to be an even better method of bringing Eagles back to your hand so I would exchange it for Born Aloft. You might not see that Eagle of the North if you’re playing solo, but it doesn’t hurt to add a good card to that deck!
Card draw is rough in Tactics but it’s been getting better! The Eagles are Coming is a great option for this deck and with 19 Eagle cards in the deck you’ll be averaging 1-3 cards. Foe-Hammer can help as well, but with only 3 weapons in the deck, it’s hard to trigger here (I only got it to trigger once in 7 games). In general I think you need to include at least 6 weapons to make Foe-Hammer reliable. Legolas is Tactics’ other option. There’s one copy of Legolas in the deck but I might push that up to the full 3. His hitpoints, willpower, card draw, and ability to use a Bow of Yew just make him awesome.
This deck has all 3 card draw options but it may be able to focus a little and become more consistent. I would suggest running the full 3 copies of Legolas and adding a couple more eagle cards to increase the density of eagle cards to make The Eagles are Coming a little more productive (only options at this point are Landroval and additional copies of Gwaihir). You could even add a copy or two of the Book of Eldacar if you wanted to go crazy on this Eagle card strategy.
Honour Guard, Secret Vigil and Red Arrow are awesome and Wait No Longer is excellent quest control as well.
Support of the Eagles is kind of amazing on Grimbeorn, but he doesn’t need it most of the time. It could be cut without hurting the consistency of the deck since there’s only 1 copy, but a chance at turning Grimbeorn into a flying bear is worth the one card.
With all those thoughts in mind, this could be another version of this deck:
I’m glad to see Eagles get some more cards and attention lately. I’m eager to see if we get any more cards in our current cycle. The good cards keep coming!
This deck is working well vs quests that don’t need too much willpower but I still had trouble playing quests that needed “average” or heavy willpower. When Eowyn was released, the Mono Tactics deck became a dominant deck, solo or multiplayer, but I think while playing solo, you’re almost locked into that Hirgon/Theoden/Eowyn combination. With that 11 starting willpower can hit that encounter deck hard from turn one and never let the staging area build up. Removing Theoden in favor of Grimbeorn breaks up that block of willpower and it’s still viable as a solo deck, I just found it less consistent. It’s a little sad that the options for a solo Tactics are so limited, but I’m just happy it works and we have any room for variation. This hero lineup works but it is a little susceptible to getting bogged down by an aggressive encounter deck.