With Bilbo having been just released in his Tactics form, I’m eager to try a couple decks using this treasure hunter. He seems to be breathing new life into the Direct Damage deck while also making Guarded attachments a little more attractive at the same time.
I’m impressed that even with the “overcosted” Bilbo this deck can start at 22 threat. I see a lot of moving parts here but one of the essential tasks is taken care of by Thurindir/Gather Information.
There’s a nice distribution of allies/attachments/events. It looks like a good portion of the allies are unique to help get good value out of the Arkentstone. There isn’t a ton of direct card draw but between Glamdring, Master of the Forge, and Daeron’s Runes, it should be OK. There isn’t a lot of direct damage beyond Bilbo, but the the Gondorian Spearman coupled with Bilbo’s effect could do some serious damage before an enemy could attack.
If defense is needed, it looks like the Vigilant Dunedain with a Wild Stallion and a Spear of the Citadel would be very adequate.
Overall it looks kind of “complicated” with lots of 1x and 2x cards, but it seems like there’s some good overlap. Even so, it might be a little “unreliable”.
Test 1 – Passage Through Mirkwood
With the spider in the staging area Bilbo can quest for 3 on the first turn! I was able to quest well and take out the spider on turn 1 and put Sting out in the staging area on turn 2. It attached to the Hummerhorns which I was able to kill with Bilbo over the next two turns.
The deck didn’t power up super fast, but it was a nice power curve and I beat it handily by turn 9. My main limiting factor was no resource acceleration. I was wishing I could find the Necklace of Girion.
Test 2 – Into the Pit
I got a sweet setup with Sting in my opening hand. I put it out there turn 1 and attached it to the Goblin Scout with 3 threat and 2 hitpoints which is a dream for Bilbo. I quested for 9 on turn 1 and earned Sting right away. I spent a few turns at stage one earning my Guarded attachments before moving on to stage 2 and 3 which I cleared quickly.
Finding the Arkenstone in Moria was fun. I earned all 4 attachments in this game. I ended the game on turn 10 with one card in my hand, 26 cards left in my deck, and a threat level of 36.
Test 3 – Roam Across Rhovanion
I lost my initial attempt but had a good second game.
This was really a perfect quest for this deck. I got to use all the tricks! The treacheries could have ruined me but they didn’t attack me too hard and I had enough time to get most all of the cards into play. Bilbo merrily took down the toothpick troll all by himself, 2 damage at a time.
A Lost in the Wild dumped my hand in the first couple turns of the game and it took me a long time to rebuild my hand of cards and my resources really built up over a long game. Even with Glamdring and Master of the Forge going!
I lot some allies here and there, but overall it was a good game. It was long at 17 full turns. I ended at 36 threat and only 4 cards left in my deck.
Test 4 – Escape from Umbar
Another fun game! I took my time so I could earn some of the Guarded attachments and the archery started to get dangerous at one point, but I was able to grab Warden of Healing with Gather Information and worked my way back.
I’m really liking the Wild Stallion ally/attachment. I think it’s ideal on the Vigilant Dunedain in this deck but it can go on Thalion as well. A 3/3/3/4 ally that readies at the beginning of the combat phase is very strong!
I didn’t use Bilbo’s questing effect as often in this game because I was engaging most enemies right away rather than leaving them in the staging area.
Glorfindel is an excellent choice for a Guarded deck just for access to Asfaloth. I was able to play Necklace of Girion, it attached to a Narrow Alleyway with 2 progress points, and then clear it during that same planning phase.
I got Glamdring down fairly early this time and my card draw didn’t feel as slow.
Test 5 – Lost in Mirkwood
This was a close win! 49 threat on turn 13. The lack of card draw hurt here and my resources built up and when the Swarm of Bats treachery hit I had to raise my threat by 11!
Once you get the Arkenstone down, questing becomes impressive. With the Rider of Rohan, Glorfindel and Haldan questing without exhausting, I had 12 willpower for the quest before I started exhausting any characters!
Bilbo did a great job in the first half of this quest, until my threat got too high. Sting got attached to the large Mirkwood Patrol enemy.
I like this hero combo. The combined threat of the 3 heroes is only 22 which gives you plenty of time to get those Guarded attachments, access to Spirit gives you the Hobbit Pony, access to Lore gives you the Fast Hitch and Asfaloth which is a wonderful tool in a Treasure deck. Thurinder ensures that you can get Sting if you don’t get it in your opening hand. It’s a solid combination of heroes. Defense is a weakness in the hero lineup but with only 22 threat, you shouldn’t have to defend right away and Glorfindel can take an undefended and survive with his five HP.
The deck focuses on unique allies to make the Arkenstone more valuable. For questers we have Arwen, Grimbold, Mablung, Quickbeam, Rider of Rohan, Thalion and possibly Treebeard. I wish it was possible to get a couple more 2-cost questers into the deck because most of these cost 3+, but I didn’t have issues with willpower in any of my plays, so I think the questing allies are fine.
For combat allies we have Gondorian Spearman, Quickbeam, Vigilant Dunedain, Treebeard and Thalion. I see Vigilant Dunedain as the “primary defender” if you if you have something too tough for Bilbo to defend and when you get a Stallion on that Vigilant Dunedain, he becomes a tank! The Stallion can also make Thalion a really valuable ally since he could quest for 3 and ready and defend or attack for 3 in the combat phase. It’s not as good, but putting a Rider of Rohan on a Stallion isn’t half bad either. Arwen can be used to either buff Treebeard, the Dunedain or Bilbo (who can defend for 4 if he has Sting).
The only ally I didn’t feel was helpful was the Gondorian Spearmen. It’s possible to use him to keep of enemies that Bilbo has softened up with his ability, but in practice, I found it difficult to pull off and Bilbo can technically do the same think with Sting or if you want to forfeit the Hobbit Pony, Bilbo can take a Spear of the Citadel and double up the Sting Damage.
Other allies that might be good options include Beechbone (who could either quest or play off the Direct Damage mechanic), Bofur (either version but Tactics would be good for his weapon fetching ability), Galadriel’s Handmaiden, Gleowine (his card draw would be very helpful) and Robin Smallburrow (Robin’s effect could be really good for Bilbo). I wouldn’t mind having a 2nd copy of Warden of Healing in the deck as well.
The core of this part of the deck is the Guarded attachments. There are 2x Sting, 1 Glamdring, 1 Arkenstone and 1 Necklace of Girion. Sting seems super important just to let Bilbo have fun and I’d say the Arkenstone and Glamdring are equally important after that. I like the Arkenstone on Glorfindel just because the Spirit resource demands are highest and you can send him questing without losing his attack after you get Light of Valinor.
I think you can go a couple different directions with Bilbo in this deck and sometimes you can switch gears halfway through a quest. Sting is a clear choice for one of his restricted slots. If your threat is still low you can equip him with a Spear of the Citadel and if you can keep the enemy in the staging area for one turn, apply 1 or 2 damage through his ability, then engage it and apply 2 damage when you declare Bilbo as the defender, you can often kill an enemy before he attacks at all. In fact, I killed the Stone Giant with Bilbo’s direct damage alone in Roam Across Rhovanion! If you have Fast Hitch on Bilbo he can get both of these direct damage jabs in on the same turn. The Gondorian Spearman can do the 2 direct damage as well, but it’s hard to get him to survive anything if the enemy doesn’t insta die. Bilbo will have 3+ defense by the time you start poking things with Sting. That’s making me think…what if you used a super bad old Tactics event card called Stand Together to declare Bilbo and the Gondorian Spearman defenders of the same attack? You could apply 3-4 direct damage all at once!
If you don’t want to defend with Bilbo and your threat starts to get a little higher, you can use the Hobbit Pony to let Bilbo commit to the quest and poke that newly revealed enemy after the staging step. Unfortunately the Pony, Spear and Sting all take a Restricted slot so you can’t use all three. I’ve sometimes just discarded the Spear to give him the pony in the last half of the game.
Pretty much all these attachments are important! I wish there was space in the deck for additional copies of the powerful ones like Light of Valinor, but Master of the Forge starts getting them into your hand faster when he hits the table.
Test of Will is still and will probably always be an auto include if you want power. Daeron’s Runes is pretty solid here since you have some unique duplicates. Elrond’s Counsel is good but the way my games played, I think The Galadhrim’s Greeting might be a competitive choice. I ended my games with high threat nearly every time because these 2 copies were the only threat reducing cards in the deck and I didn’t always see them. Games move a little slower than usual with this many guarded cards in a deck so I think solid stronger threat reduction could be warranted. And the combination of a slower moving deck and limited card draw effects mean that you’ll often have resources hanging around making the cost of the Galadhrim’s Greeting not a huge drawback. Adding the Woodmen’s Clearing in from the Sideboard could also solve this issue I was having.
Feint is a powerful card and with only a few defenders in the deck it’s a solid choice but I didn’t actually use it very often. I had control of engagement in the early game and I was set up to either defend or poke enemies to death before their attacks resolved in the late game.
Heirs of Earendil is an amazing card with Guarded attachments in the deck. You can play out a powerful attachment then immediately free it by discarding that location with this event. Awesome event and fine use of it here. Open the Armory is helpful in finding Sting and if you already grabbed Sting with Gather Information, you can search for Glamdring or a Spear with it. It’s not super helpful at 1 copy and I think it could be cut, but it’s nice to have backup ways to find the crucial pieces of a deck. There are 6 total weapons in the deck and I’m thinking that gives this event an 80% chance of succeeding?
Foe-Hammer might be a solid choice for upping the card draw a little. Sting is going to get attached to Bilbo fairly soon if the deck is functioning at all and while you will be doing tricks with Bilbo, you will also do some standard defending and attacking. Since both Sting and Glamdring (the real Foe-Hammer!!!) don’t exhaust to trigger it’s effects, you have the opportunity to draw cards off it.
Gather Information is an obvious include here. You’re going to want Sting ASAP just for the fun of it if not anything else. I might throw in a Double Back in there if there was room as well and Scout Ahead is another fun card to combo with Guarded attachments but finding room for things like that is hard here. The deck is already doing a lot.
The sideboard does have some good cards in it as well so don’t ignore it.
Ranger Spikes, Legolas, Woodmen’s Clearing and Robin Smallburrow can all work well with supporting or furthering the strengths of this deck. I don’t think the Mirkwood Longknife needs to be in there since there aren’t any legitimate targets!
I had a lot of fun with this deck and it performed really well. I won a lot of games with it and had fun using those Guarded cards. Bilbo worked better in practice than I anticipated. He basically removes the pressure of engaging an enemy (assuming you only have 1 enemy in the staging area). If you engage it, Bilbo’s willpower goes down and you don’t get the free damage. If you don’t engage it, Bilbo’s willpower increase makes the enemy virtually invisible. In Roam Across Rhovanion I had a 4 threat Pack of Wargs in the staging area with a high engagement cost and I wasn’t prepped to defend it twice. Bilbo basically removed it from the game for a couple turns and got some sneaky jabs in while he was at it! Bilbo was regularly questing for 4-6 which isn’t bad at all! Even on Passage in Mirkwood, he can quest for 3 on the first turn without any setup and a three willpower hero that does direct damage as well isn’t so bad! He has the potential to surpass even the mono Thalin deck!!
The upcoming Mithril Shirt can fit into this deck when it comes out. It’s not a crucial piece for the deck by any means it would fun and thematic and would make Bilbo a better defender if you wanted to that rout (and it’s not Restricted).
If I was to bring the deck to the table, I would probably get some more card draw in there somehow (Gleowine and Foe-Hammer are easy choices) and increase the power of my threat reduction by swapping Elrond’s Counsel for The Galadhrim’s Greeting.