Friendship of Saruman Fellowship

I appreciate an aggro Grima as much as anybody but I’ve never tried to build a fellowship around him. Onidsen has taken on the challenge of creating a (reasonably) thematic two-deck fellowship using Wormtongue himself!

the friendship of saruman lists.JPG

First Impressions

The first thing one looks for in a Grima fellowship is threat reduction and here both decks have solid threat reduction in the form of the heroes Galadriel and Fastred. Galadriel stretches the theme a little but she’s good enough that’s easily excused.

I would have never thought of throwing all these heroes together but it looks like it has promise. Fastred and Leadership Eomer work nicely together and Fastred’s threat reduction will counterbalance the greedy Grima across the table. Assuming Grima is triggered 1.5 times per turn and Galadriel and Fastred both use their abilities every turn, threat level should be fairly stable or at least not go up much faster than the standard 1 per turn (taking a couple Elrond’s Counsels into consideration).

It’s unusual to see a Rohan-themed fellowship with no Theoden and no Tactics in either deck! All told we have 3 Spirit, 2 Leadership and 1 Lore hero. Overall it looks like the resource curves are nicely balanced with the Grima deck a little higher on the cost curve (which it should be able to handle easily) and the Eomer deck coming in at about 80 resources for the entire deck which is fairly standard.

Overall I’m thinking mustering attack power will be the most challenging. With all that Spirit on the board it looks like Willpower will be fairly solid but defense in the Grima deck might be a challenge for a bit and the decks will rely on Eomer and allies to start killing things.

Test 1 – Passage Through Mirkwood

This was a fun game! I was hard pressed at the beginning when a couple low engagement level spiders hit me turn 1 but I got it turned around.

It turns out Eomer is a good treasure hunter! The ability to play something like the Necklace of Girion or Orcrist and immediately kill it with Eomer is very fun! It does take some work to get Eomer boosted up to kill anything bigger than a chumpy goblin but when you get it rolling it’s pretty great. Without some of the Tactics armor cards that usually accompany Fastred he felt a little squishy, but I kept him alive. The 3x Hasty Strokes are certainly helpful and might be worth putting in the other deck as well since some of the Galadriel deck’s defenders aren’t that stout either.

friendship of saruman ptm.JPG

I won on turn 9 with threat still in the low 30’s.

Test 2 – Celebrimbor’s Secret

This quest is always harder than I think it should be. Without some good location control, those locations can pile up in the staging area and turn into a bit of a mess.

The Doom I was subjecting myself to with Grima started to work with the mechanic of the quest once I got 4 cards under The Orc’s Search. I had to move fast! It took me a while to build up the willpower presence to get through the first stage with all those locations clogging the staging area.

With an early Dunedain Mark, Eomer was able to kill off several enemies in the staging area throughout the game.
celibrimbor's secret.JPG

This was a tight game and I felt every decision I made had the potential to make a huge difference in the game. I had to carefully set aside enough attackers to take out Bellach and I was able to squeak out a win on turn 8 with decks at 44 and 47 threat (while raising my threat an additional 4 every turn!

Gandalf got me the Necklace of Girion again which was great for Eomer.

A very fun game!

Test 3 – Escape from Umbar

I started this quest and was interrupted half way through and had to quit my first game before I finished but it was a challenge!

I played again and I was knocked out by a bad shadow card that killed Fastred, but I “mulliganed” than shadow card and continued the game and finished with a win (after losing). Fastred is squishy for a primary defender and really needs some attachment support. Leadership has the Hauberk and Dunedain Warning, but the lack of Tactics makes him a more vulnerable. Too bad that new Ancestral Armor doesn’t work on him…

saruman harad.JPG

The Narrow Alleyway can be gamed pretty hard in this quest if you use Thror’s Map every turn to make a new location active after travelling to the alleyway every turn. You can pile up as many enemies as you want under there! I didn’t have the map, but with some careful planning you can use the West Road Traveler to accomplish a similar thing. In this game I got 3 enemies stuck in that alley, including the Southron Champion himself!

Threat levels were surprisingly easy to manage as I didn’t feel the need to use Grima every turn. I had the most trouble with keeping the board defended. The only real defenders in these decks are Fastred and the Orthanc Guard and Grima can be built up as well, but that can leave the front line a little thin when the inevitable enemy rush hits.

 

Test 4 – Roam Across Rhovanion

My first attempt ended on turn 2 when the two opening Hills of Wilderland and the 3 enemies that spawned on those first two turns sunk my chances of successfully questing on turn 2 which led to a troll bashing Fastred to pieces…

My second attempt went better and I think I won but I may have made some mistakes along the way… once you get a swarm on the board, it can be hard for me to keep up with managing everything well for both decks! The Eomer deck reached 49 threat! Some of these treacheries are rough on your threat level and the supply of enemies to return to the staging area ran dry for a couple turns. It was a tight game but I pretty much stopped using any Doomed cards by halfway through the game. Saruman proved to be invaluable when I revealed two 11 threat Hills of Wilderland in one turn. He removed that entire 11 threat from the board for a turn which gave me room to clear the other copy. He’s weird but he can be really valuable in the circumstances.

isengard roam.JPG

Eomer enjoyed teaching Urdug a lesson in loyalty at the end, attacking for 9 and taking him out in one blow.

Several of the standard combos failed to go off until the late game which made things difficult but luckily the encounter deck didn’t hit me too hard. I didn’t draw the Keys of Orthanc until turn 11 or 12 (and two copies of Word of Command got discarded to Lost in the Wild on turn 2), I didn’t draw a sidequest to help out my Riders of Rohan until the very last turn and I never drew the armor for the Orthanc Guard so they were pretty useless. I guess I could have given them Arwen’s buff but I wanted it on Fastred so he could handle the big troll attacks.

Eomer ended up with Orcrist and the Necklace (necklace came out first) so he ended with a hug pile of resources he couldn’t use. I’d rather put the necklace on Eowyn, but I needed the resources on Eomer right away so….I ended up with both on him.

Card Choices

This is an ambitious project! Grima isn’t friendly to his neighbors but Fastred and Galadriel are great tech for managing threat for a fellowship.

These decks gave me some good games! The Doomed mechanic is certainly a challenge to turn into a working Fellowship but I see more potential here than I previously thought possible. I think the basic concepts are sound but I felt there was some further optimization that could be done.

The lack of Tactics and of Theoden provides some challenges since you lose access to armor for Fastred (Raiment of War is my favorite for him), and Theoden can provide some much needed cost-reduction, but I couldn’t easily think of a way to work either of those into the decks without changing them significantly. I think there’s potential for replacing Spirit Eowyn with the Tactics version and that could provide some more threat relief through her starting ability, but then you’d have to redistribute the entire ally and resource curve. I think that’s a possibility but it opens a whole new can of worms. Another way to mitigate that problem would be to include 3x The Storm Comes to smooth over the allies’ sphere spread and help out the Rider of Rohan.

Aid of Orthanc

The Doom starts here! This deck seemed to do well in the threat and resource departments but not so strong in the combat phase. Questing can be a little light for the first few turns, especially if you struggle to find Nenya.

aid of orthanc.JPG

While incorporating the Orthanc Guard is impressive and a thematic idea, I’m not sure he provides all this deck needs to defend itself. Treebeard is certainly the best option for defending but I struggled to find enough defending characters with this deck. The Orthanc Guard just isn’t that great of an ally. With 2 Defense and 2 hitpoints his really only good for 1 defense against a 3 attack enemy and that could take him down if there’s even a mild +1 shadow effect. He’s more expensive, not widely used and only 1 stat better but I think the Warden of Helm’s Deep a stronger choice than the Orthanc Guard. He has a better chance of surviving more than 1 attack and he can take the Hauberk and/or the Ancestral Armor.

The Ancestral Armor is a new favorite card of mine but I don’t think the ally lineup here is really going to let it shine.

In approximate order of usefulness the possible target characters include:

  1. Galadriel (don’t do this!)
  2. Snowborn Scout (or this)
  3. Errand Rider (or this…)
  4. Arwen
  5. Theodred
  6. Eomer
  7. Orthanc Guard

 

Most all of these characters have other purposes and don’t want to be defending so assume it’s meant for the Guard but the likelihood of getting a Guard into play and him surviving long enough to find one of the two copies of the Ancestral Armor and getting it on him is fairly low. I never managed it although I did make a decent defender of him with the Wild Stallion.

I feel like I should point out that ally Arwen can actually defend for 4 with 3 hitpoints with the Ancestral Armor! Take that Beregond!

Grima can quest or defend as necessary. I put the Protector of Lorien on him a couple times which can make him flexible for either questing or defense.

If a full 3 copies of Unexpected Courage are available, I think moving that 1x up to a 2 or 3 would be worth it. Putting it on Fastred, Galadriel or Eomer would all benefit from an extra action.

Overall I felt this deck had a decent amount of willpower, plenty of card draw and threat reduction and no issue with resources at all but it lacked a bit in the combat phase. Treebeard is pretty key for surviving if hard pressed by several enemies.

gríma-hero

Lord of a Fell People

lord of a fell people

 

Leadership Eomer has proved a lot more difficult to use than I initially anticipated when he was announced but Fastred really makes him work. If you boil it down, you’re basically paying a resource to lower your threat by two every turn (provided you have the attack strength boosted enough on Eomer to actually kill things by himself).

Overall this deck worked really well for me in my games. There aren’t a lot options for defenders if multiple enemies were to engage but I had good luck with it! The two primary challenges I ran into were resource smoothing and keeping Fastred alive.

The resource smoothing is strange because at the beginning of a game, the Leadership resources are pretty tight, especially if you’re attempting to kill things in the staging area with Eomer. If you draw the Necklace before Orcrist, you’ll need to put it on Eomer for the resources, then Orcrist goes on him as well and pretty soon you’ll have way too many Leadership resources! The Errand Rider is critical for keeping those resources distributed.

Without Tactics, the armor options are limited for Fastred. We have 3x Dunedain Warning and 2x Hauberk of Mail so he can potentially get to a nice 7 defense if you pull all 4 of those attachments but he was usually defending for 4 in my games and sometimes reaching 5. There are only 2x Hauberks which makes sense since there’s no other target for it besides Fastred (and Eomer…).

I really enjoyed using Eomer with the Guarded cards. The ability to play that tasty guarded card into the staging area and know I had a 50% chance of earning right away with Eomer was exciting and really strong.

If I were to suggest any modifications for this deck I would think about adding Unexpected Courage (if you collection allows for it), another sidequest or two, and another defensive ally. Elfhelm is decent and does pretty good on a Wild Stallion, but beyond that, Fastred is your only line of defense. Rohan doesn’t have a lot of defensive options in these spheres, but that Warden of Helm’s Deep could be good (nice target for extra Hauberks) and you could even sneak a cheeky Jubayr into the deck if you wanted. Chump blocking is a time-honored tradition for Rohan as well, so don’t be afraid to throw that Snowborn Scout under the troll and pull him back for another round with Guthwine.

If I was to cut cards to make room for additions, a copy of Ceorl, Riddermark’s Finest and all 3 Muster the Rhohirrim would probably be the easiest to remove.

Éomer

 

Final Thoughts

I would have never thought of putting together a fellowship like this and I applaud Onidsen for making a Grima Fellowship work! I wasn’t really sure it was possible. I had some really good games withe decks and enjoyed myself with them. Grima certainly helps you get over that hump on the first 2-3 turns were you’re struggling to match the speed of the encounter deck and this set of deck is well equipped to counter the threat that comes along with that advantage.

I think the allies lists have some room for flexibility and some more emphasis on defense might be helpful but I beat some challenging quest with these decks so they’re doing things right overall!

Thanks to Onidsen for creating an offbeat and thematic fellowship that works and for sending it my way! Now we know that a Grima fellowship is a real possibility!

I encourage you to check it out and give it a like on RingsDB and put them together a play a couple games. Barring the Rider of Rohan, these decks can be built with a single collection! Bring it to you’re next multiplayer game and enjoy the horror on your partners face when you hand them the Eomer deck and lay Grima out across from them!

One thought on “Friendship of Saruman Fellowship

  1. Thanks for the review! Just carved out enough time to run a game with these decks again. I agree that they could use a little tweaking – and defense is the weak link there. Orthanc Guard becomes a very sturdy defender with Ancestral Armor – he tanked 2 hits from an Attercop in my last playthrough against Return to Mirkwood! But it is expensive and a little more difficult to get into play, and it could use some interim defenders until the combo is put together. I’m thinking that the Warden of Helm’s deep is a decent choice, and I’m considering Hama as well.

    Like

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