The Dunedain deck is a challenging archetype to make function as a solo deck. I’ve played and built lots of Dunedain decks but for the most part, they are usually built for a specific quest or for a multiplayer setting. This is a Dunedain deck built specifically to function on its own. This deck was built and shared on RingsDB by OKTarg (who is a friend of mine).
One of the challenges for a Dunedain deck is producing early game willpower and this deck solves that with T Eowyn. The ally selection is strong and features a god bit of willpower for a Dunedain deck which should help it be independent. Master of the Forge and a couple copies of Sarm Ford Sentry should nicely compliment Damrod’s card draw and keep the deck moving.
Gandalf, Sneak Attack and Armored Destrier are all cards I would expect to see in a deck like this but are absent here.
With 14 Trap cards in the deck, it should be easy to keep every enemy trapped in some way.
The deck description on RingsDB is very helpful and thorough. Certainly worth reading.
Test 1 – Passage Through Mirkwood – Win
This was a swift success. I won on turn 5 and it was an easy victory. I was able to play Outmatched for free, then fill it using a Dunedain Hunter on the first turn. Turn 2 started with 2 enemies engaged and I was able to play Heir of Valendil and start playing cheap Dunedain allies right away. By the time Ungoliant’s Spawn came out, there were two traps waiting for her and she didn’t stand a chance.
I did get hit by the Hummerhorn’s shadow effect but with no damage getting through during the combat phase, that wasn’t a bid deal.
Test 2 – Into the Pit – 2 Losses
I had some good starts but I ended up losing Amarthiul to nasty shadow cards in both games, once the infamous “discard the defending character” shadow and one to the +3 Goblin Tunnels. This cycle has plenty of nasty shadow effects so it may not be the best set of quests for Dunedain decks. This particular deck doesn’t have any shadow effect mitigation and that hurt here.
Test 3 – The Fords of Isen – Win
This was a bit of a challenge, especially after I got a +6 or 7 threat bump on turn 1 from a nasty Pillaging and Burning treachery. The deck is good at defending and it has “optional card draw” with Damrod’s response, but the last stage of this quest forces you to kill every enemy in play and that was difficult. As I cut down the enemies I was engaged with, the deck become less effective so it was hard to kill the last couple.
Outmatched is a fun attachment. The Beserker tends to make additional attacks during a round if you don’t kill him right away but if you have Outmatched on him, those extra attacks barely have any effect. Same thing goes for the “makes an additional attack” shadow effect.
Test 4 – Lost in Mirkwood – Win
My first game was going well but got interrupted and my second game was really close and enjoyable. I won with 1 hero left standing. I got into a bad position where the guarded location I needed travel to was attached to the Hummerhorns and there was no way to survive the 5 damage on any of my heroes. With access to Tactics through Amarthiul, I let Eowyn die, but they I struggled to quest through the last stage of the quest while Ufthak ramped up in power level and a Twilight hall increased in threat and I approached 50 threat. I had to let 2 attacks go undefended to kill Ufthak!
My first game was headed to a more straightforward win but this second game was exciting and a near loss
There’s enough decent questing allies in the deck that it was able to quest for decent numbers even after I lost Eowyn! That’s impressive for a Dunedain deck without support from Aragorn/Sword That Was Broken.
Test 5 – Escape from Umbar – Loss/Loss/Win
I wanted to use a different testing quest for this final game so I loaded up Treachery or Rhudaur and moved the Objective ally over next to my heroes… right next to Amarthiul… and reset the game.
This took me a couple attempts. I love this quest but it can give you a nasty opening that piles on the enemies in a way that’s hard to come back from.
In my second game I was forced to take progress off and lost that way.
My third game was more even handed and I made it through. Using Dunedian and Traps vs this quest is always interesting because you have to kill an engaged enemies to move from stage 1 to 2 and then again at the end which puts a strange dip in the power level temporarily as you have to get a new batch of trapped enemies set up.
The biggest challenge I ran into after I finally got a good game going was archery damage. It took me a while to find a Master of the Forge and after I found him, it took 2+ turns to find the Dunedain Remedy and meanwhile all my allies were getting maxed out on damage.
I ran into a fun combo with Outmatched and Southron Soldier. His forced effect makes him make an immediate attack after he engages you but if he landed in Outmatched when he engaged, your defender will ready anyway! I like Outmatched but the shadow cards have burned me enough times by now to make me less enthusiastic about cutting a copy of Forest Snare to make room for 3 Outmatched. It’s good, but Forest Snare is still a cut above for sure. One of my losses came from the “Choose a non-unique enemy in the staging area and engage it and deal it a shadow card” shadow effects on an enemy in the Outmatched trap.
While only 1/3 of these heroes are technically Dunedain characters, this hero lineup is solid and gives the deck a great foundation. Being able to quest for 6 on the first turn every time is extremely helpful. It keeps the deck from digging itself into a hole with locations backing up in the staging area over the first few turns. Damrod is basically a must for Dunedain decks in my opinion. Best non-Dunedain Dunedain hero out there for sure. I found I didn’t actually use Eowyn’s ability in very many games because killing things wasn’t as necessary as in other deck styles. Amarthiul is such a balanced hero. The solid defense and attack stats combined with sphere smoothing and resource acceleration is amazing but that 3hp can be a deadly weakness sometimes. I lost him to a shadow effect in a couple games and it feels bad! The Ancestral Armor turns him into a top tier defender but it can take a few turns to get it out, even with the acceleration.
The only real issue I had with the hero lineup is I was often strapped for Leadership resources, usually because I wanted to play an Ancestral Armor! The Tactics resources built up a little on Eowyn while Amarthiul’s were usually spent right away.
Getting all those strong heroes for a mere 25 threat is a steal! In general you want to engage most enemies anyway with this deck, but that low starting threat gives you options which is nice.
I thought this selection of allies was solid.
I don’t like getting attacked, even in a Dunedain deck so I really appreciated the Andrath Guardsmen although he was pretty useless after he hit the table. He was my “Injured Companion” a few times in Escape from Umbar… He can still quest for 1 and take a point of archery!
The Guardian of Arnor was probably the MVP. I got an Ancestral Armor on him a couple times and he becomes an absolute tank. With two enemies engaged he’s defending at 5 with 5 hitpoints. Not bad for an ally! He’s a good candidate to have defend your enemies in the Outmatched trap so you can get maximum value out of him and keep Amarthiul out of harm’s way entirely if he’s not set up with some armor as well.
The Emyn Arnen Ranger is another honorary Dunedain. A swingy quester, but always a welcome sight in my hand. Halbarad can jump into play for super cheap or even free! If you have 2 enemies engaged, which is pretty standard, you can reduce him by 2, then reduce him by 2 again with Heir of Valendil and you have a 4 cost ally in for free!
The Dunedain Lookout is good in some quests but most of the time he is a vanilla ally. I might be tempted to reduce him to 1 to add another Sarn Ford Sentry. That additional willpower and some bonus card draw is great. Sarn Ford Sentry is great!
I’m usually way using the Dunedain Hunter, but I found some good combos with him in this deck. Playing one of those traps you put in your play area, then pulling an enemy which falls right into the trap is a pretty great way to start your first turn if you know can handle it.
If I was to make any adjustments after playing the deck a few times, I would likely move the Lookout to the Sideboard and add a Sarn Ford Sentry and another copy of Master of the Forge. You can never have too many traps in your hand! That Master of the Forge makes sure the deck runs smoothly and consistently and it took me longer than I hoped to find him a few times.
Gandalf is noticeable in his absence. Most decks with Leadership and some resource acceleration automatically include Sneak Attack and Gandalf but this deck nobly abstains. It would increase power level, but its admirable to keep the deck focused and close to theme.
Traps, armor, cost reduction and healing are found in this attachment list.
Traps are clearly the centerpiece here. We have 3 Entangling Nets, 3 Followed, 2 Forest Snares, 3 Outmatched and 3 Ranger Spikes.
In my experience, I still value Forest Snare most highly, probably followed by Outmatched, then Entangling nets, then Followed and then Ranger Spikes. Ranger Spikes kind of work against the basic engine of the deck, or at least don’t add to it. I found myself engaging the Spiked enemy right away in most cases so it was mostly a -2 threat card. I didn’t play some of the harder quests, but I didn’t find myself too low on willpower most of the time so Followed didn’t have as high of impact as I anticipated. I would likely lower Ranger Spikes to 2 to give myself a 3rd copy of Forest Snare. I know it costs 1 more resource, but having that little pet enemy in the Snare just feels so good! No worries at all from that guy and he’s always there for you HoV, Guardian and Bowman!
Ancestral Armor is so good! I found myself with extra copies in hand sometimes but I think it’s good enough on Amarthiul that it warrants the full 3x. Heir of Valandil is worth the 3x as well. It can fairly reliably provide a -2 cost which is plenty to keep the deck powering up.
The Remedy is necessary and I think 2x is OK but for some quests, I’d put it up to the full 3x. Damrod died to a fever in the jungle once because I couldn’t find my Remedy! Anything with a lot of direct damage or archery could use a 3rd copy. The heroes don’t have tons of hitpoints and they allies aren’t weaklings, but they won’t last forever.
Events and Sidequest
Not many events here. I’m glad to see Descendants of Kings. I love playing that card. Watching a huge part of your board ready and clean up all those enemies after a bunch of defenses is awesome. Feint is never a bad draw and I used Wait No Longer to good effect a couple times. It’s basically a willpower boost and a good way to use some Tactics resources.
Keep Watch is an amazing sidequest and if you’re able to clear that, I feel like that makes up for the lack of Shadow cancellation in the deck. That -1 attack does so much more than it seems like it should. Moving your standard enemy down from 3 to 2 attack makes all your defenses much safer.
I wish there was more room for some cards that would cancel shadow effects, but there isn’t a resource match for Hasty Stroke, and there’s no enough armor in the deck to make Sterner than Steel reliable. Maybe its time to bring back the Dunedain Watcher! I’m actually mostly serious about that… She’s expensive for her stats, but having her there to save Amarthiul if a shadow goes sideways would be nice.
It also lacks threat reduction in any form. It starts at 25 so its really going to be fine in all but the longest or most threat-focused quests.
The Dunedain archetype is an interesting deck to build because you’re always looking for trouble. You’re putting yourself at risk to get a benefit and you hope that benefit is worth the risk. This makes it enjoyable but it also means things can go bad for you occasionally even when it looks like you have things under control.
I felt this deck was pretty consistent about getting a solid start on a quest which is typically the Dunedain deck’s weakest moment. The low threat and high willpower of Eowyn make so many thing possible! The deck performed well. I had some losses but I think part of that is that it takes an experienced pilot to make the right calls on when to keep an enemy engaged and when to kill it remove the risk.
Since this Dunedain deck is a little faster than is typical, it would be a good choice for bringing to a multiplayer table (as long as Eowyn is available…). It has some blind spots that you might need a sideboard for (threat reduction and possibly more healing if you’re going up against something like The Withered Heath), but it’s a solid and fairly quick moving Dunedian deck that has the tools it needs to beat most quests as a solo deck in 9-12 turns. With no treachery or shadow cancellation, its a “riskier” deck that I typically play, but there’s a certain thrill in taking the quest as it comes!
You can check the deck out here on RingsDB. Make sure to read the deck description because he has some more tips, tricks and rationales for the way the way the deck is put together. Thanks to OKTarg for building a solid solo Dunedain deck and sharing it with us!