I’ve been playing a lot of Dale recently (an upcoming episode of Three is Company may focus on Dale) and I recently thought of this combination of heroes but hadn’t built the deck yet, but here it is! TritonWreck has put together a deck that utilizes the strengths of Dale and leverages Elrond’s smoothing to help play allies faster without relying as much on the King of Dale attachment.
One of the first things I look at in a Dale deck is the Ally-to-Attachment ratio. Without the Guardian of Esgaroth, I think an approximately even ratio is pretty good but if the Guardian is a central part of the deck, I think the ratio needs to be tipped towards attachments by about 4-6. Here we have 16 allies and 21 attachments which I think will be a good balance for these allies.
I notice the Warrior of Dale is omitted from the ally selection and so is the Redwater Sentry. This means the deck will likely heavily rely on the readying of the Guardian to kill things.
I see some card draw here in the form of the Long Lake Fisherman and Daeron’s Runes, Heed the Dream and Peace and Thought. This should be enough! I hadn’t considered using Peach and Thought in a deck like this but since the allies get so stout in Dale decks, the heroes might have the freedom to take a turn off.
I’m sad to see Bartering omitted but it might not perform as well as usual here since this deck doesn’t rely on the cost-reduction allies.
Test 1 – Passage Through Mirkwood
I raced through the quest in a hurry! I beat Ungoliant’s Spawn on turn 5.
Here’s my turn 1 planning phase:
I found the fetching cards like Heed the Dream to be useful, but I ran my hand dry pretty quickly.
Test 2 – Escape from Umbar
I lost this one a twice in a row. This quest can hit you hard!
In both cases I couldn’t get allies in my hand to put on the table. My first game I had plenty of resources but I didn’t have anything in my hand to play. More card draw might be helpful.
I came back and tried again and beat it this time. I won on turn 11 which is a little long but it was a good game where I had to deal with both encounter side quests including the Southron Champion.
Test 3 – The Black Serpent
This took me a couple tries as well but I beat it. Those Guardians of Esgaroth did everything! I was questing for 23 without exhausting anyone by the end.
I was really wishing for some treachery cancellation during this quest! There’s some nasty cards in here.
Running your hand dry can be an issue and I stalled out on card draw around turn 8 or so but I still got the pieces in play to win the quest. I ended up with 28 extra resources on my heroes by the end of the game just because I couldn’t get more cards into hand.
I have to say those Guardians with the Wild Stallion and Valiant Determination are something else. It’s kind of nuts.
Test 4 – The Fords of Isen
This is a weird quest to play with a Dale deck since you’re drawing cards frequently, but in this case I was able to keep my hand small most of the time and win handily in a mere 6 turns.
The extra card draw provided by the quest actually helped a lot. This is the fastest I’ve seen this deck setup. By turn 6 I only had 11 cards left in my deck. I actually played Peace and Thought during this game and it was really helpful. You lose 5-6 willpower by exhausting the Dale heroes, but sometimes that is just fine in a Dale deck!
Test 5 – Raid on the Grey Havens
I beat it! This is a tough one for any deck but heavy defense and willpower make it possible! It was a good tough game.
The game lasted 13 rounds and I still had 15 cards in the deck which means it probably could use some more card draw. It can still beat Raid on the Grey Havens which means it doesn’t need anything but the card draw would help set things up faster and make game play more interesting in the mid game. It’s always a little depressing playing with an empty hand.
The Dale heroes and allies are solid and to some extent the Dale deck “builds itself” but there are still some real meaningful decisions to be made. This deck is strong and I beat some good quests but I’m going to critique it anyway because that’s what I do!
When I wasn’t doing well in a quest it was usually because I couldn’t get cards in my hand. There were moments I wish I had Test of Will so I could dodge some painful Treachery as well but I respect a man willing to play without it! The other thing I noticed about the deck is that it didn’t always play the same. There are some combos that came together nicely every game (Guardian+Wild Stallion) but other combos or events just weren’t as reliable because of the quantities included in the deck. This isn’t necessarily a weakness but if you want a more consistent experience I think the quantities of cards in the deck could be tweaked to make it play more “reliably.”
Elrond does bring some good things to a Dale deck. The resource smoothing is probably the most helpful thing since it gives you the ability to play a 2-cost Leadership or Spirit ally on any given turn. He also provides you with a decent early game defender which is usually one of Dale’s weaknesses. He comes at the cost of high early game threat but Dale is strong enough it can usually withstand that extra pressure from the first enemies that come out of the encounter deck. His high threat means you need some threat reduction which takes up a couple cards slots in the form of Elrond’s Counsel but that’s not a huge cost. If you wanted an alternative to that event, this deck could easily run Sneak Attack and Gandalf which is always a super powerful and flexible option. Elrond becomes slightly less powerful in the late game after King of Dale takes over the resource smoothing roll but he can still help. He isn’t a valid target for most of the attachments in the deck so his power doesn’t really move up through the course of the game but he can still quest, defend and attack as necessary. His healing bonus also comes into play occasionally with Dunedain Remedy. He also gives access to Lore which opens up card draw effects like Daeron’s Runes, Peace and Thought, Heed the Dream and potentially Bartering. The Bartering event isn’t included here but I think it could be a good addition to the deck.
When it comes to building a Dale deck you can either build a wide and shallow style of deck that aims at getting a lot of allies out boosted by one attachment, or you can build a narrow and “deeper” deck that aims at building up a few allies up with big stats. The Guardian of Esgaroth is the central part of this style of deck and both the Knight of Dale and Wiglaf fit into that play style as well. This deck would certainly fall into that later category. The Guardian, Knight, Wiglaf can be built up to handle the combat phase and the other allies play a support role for the most part.
This is an unusual ally list for a Dale deck. Most Dale decks I’ve played use all 3 of the allies found in the Wilds of Rhovanion box but here both the Redwater Sentry and the Warrior of Dale are omitted in favor of the mighty Guardian!
I would say the North Realm Lookout, Guardian and Stallion are the essential allies here and the Long Lake Trader is also necessary. The Long Lake Fisherman is helpful for finding key parts but is much less useful after he hits the table. The Knight of Dale and Wiglaf don’t come near the power level of the other allies, but they are fun. With no Item attachment that costs more than 1, you won’t get full value out of Wiglaf’s bargain option, but the 3 willpower with readying for the combat phase is still nice if you have the resources to play him.
I did miss the cost reduction on the Redwater Sentry. If card draw was going well, resources were fairly tight in this deck unless I got both copies of the Traffic from Dale at the ideal times.
I would probably lean towards including a couple copies of the Redwater Sentry or Warrior of Dale over Knight of Dale and Wiglaf and maybe even the Fisherman, but when it comes to really doing work, the Guardian of Esgaroth is the gun who gets things done in this deck.
A deck with the Guardian of Esgaroth will usually need more attachments than allies since he’s so hungry for a pile of them. Here we have 5 more attachments than allies to put them on. King of Dale needs to be there and I’d probably push it up to 3. Elrond makes it slightly less urgent, but the discount and smoothing together make this card incredibly powerful. I would say Valiant Determination is the second most powerful attachment here. It’s expensive and only Bard can pay for it, but it basically doubles the power of the Guardian. He’s already powerful so doubling his power for 2 Spirit resources is a bargain for sure. I count the Hauberk of Mail as the next most powerful since you need defense to keep that monster Guardian alive. Spare Hood and Cloak is another solid way to get more actions from your Guardians and it’s quick willpower and card draw in the early game. In my opinion, if you’re going to rely on the cloak for real readying, its worth it to run the full 3 copies of the Long Lake Trader. I got stuck a few times with the Cloak sitting on the Guardian with no real way to get it off. After that the Squire’s Helm, Map of Rhovanion and the Bow of Yew fall into the second tier attachments that can be used on different allies as needed. Dunedian Remedy saved me a couple times and it’s free which is nice but it was a little frustrating when my Guardians took damage and I couldn’t apply that healing to them.
I didn’t feel like I got great value out of Cram. It’s a free item but it only goes on heroes and the hero I was most likely to want to ready was Elrond for an early defense, but attaching it to him didn’t provide me with the extra willpower and card draw that you come to feel entitled to in a Dale deck! I found it to be a low impact card when I drew it and I wonder if more copies of the Bow would be just as good. Or it could be replaced with one of my favorite lousy cards, the Mariner’s Compass which works really well on the North Realm Lookout for some location management.
This deck has more events than most Dale decks I’ve played. Elrond’s Counsel has the full 3x and that’s probably good since the deck starts fairly high and has no other way to reduce but all the other cards only have 2 copies.
All the other events are focused on card draw and resource acceleration. For resource acceleration there are 2x Captain’s Wisdom and 2x Traffic from Dale. I’m a little torn here because Captains Wisdom will for sure net 2 resources on any of the 3 heroes, but Traffic from Dale usually nets more than 3, doesn’t require the hero to exhaust and has the potential to gain up to 6-8 resources fairly easily. I think Traffic from Dale is probably the stronger card and I’d go with a full 3x.
We have a similar situation with the 3 Lore card draw events. Heed the Dream is great for searching for the next piece you need to boost your Guardian or for finding King of Dale, Peace and Thought is true card advantage and Daeron’s Runes helps you get through your deck to find what you need. With 2 copies of each card this gives you options but it would be possible to simplify and cut a card title and increase the other two events to 3x. I know Daeron’s Runes never hurts to have in the deck, but the other two events are good enough that I’d personally rather have a full 3 copies of them instead of the 2x Daeron’s Runes. Losing two heroes worth of willpower certainly hurts when you play Peace and Thought, but willpower is fairly easy to come by in Dale and it turned out to be more manageable than I first thought.
I’m a big believer in Bartering and I wish it could fit in here. It doesn’t help as much in this deck without the allies that reduce the cost of various types of attachments, but the flexibility and additional card draw it provides are still pretty good in my opinion. It’s kind of like Dale’s own version of Daeron’s Runes.
I think Elrond brings some good things to the Dale deck. His high threat is a real consideration and there’s so many good cards that go into a Dale deck you can’t really focus on using Elrond in his standard roles of defender and Vilya monster.
When compared to some of the other strong Dale decks I’ve played I’d say this deck has a nice early game advantage with the resource smoothing but it sometimes stalls out without enough card draw which can limit some of the combos from happening. This could be accurately described as a “Guardian of Esgaroth” deck. You’re pretty sure to get one of those allies out and set up fairly quickly and once he starts questing for 4-7 without exhausting, it becomes fairly unlikely that you’ll lose most quests. It isn’t the very strongest Dale deck I’ve played but it still has a nice high power level.