This Spirit/Tactics deck was sent to me for testing by RingsDB user Christian_Medic. Notes included in the email indicated they were interested in playing this deck through the Saga campaign so I will be testing this deck through some of the quests in the campaign.
The description mentions this deck partly designed to make Tactics Legolas useful in a solo setting so it includes plenty of weapons for him including the Great Yew Bow which transforms Legolas into a Haldir-like hero while still placing that progress.
Tactics and Spirit are a great pairing and I see a lot of good cards here. The 3 heroes only add up to 21 threat which is great for any non-hobbit deck! Glorfindel really helps here and it looks like functions are the primary quester. Eleanor is an interesting choice for a solo deck. I haven’t used her for a long time but we can’t ignore Eleanor! In general I find her ability to be hard to use in a solo deck but with a Shield, she can function as a good defender if her ability isn’t needed.
Gandalf will be a great here and with such a low starting threat, you can afford to keep him around for a long time in this deck. There’s a good amount of threat reduction as well.
I’m noticing there aren’t too many allies in the deck and with only 1 strong questing hero, I’ll be watching those willpower numbers. It may be hard to keep those numbers high enough, especially in those brutal saga quests like Helm’s Deep or anything that needs high stats on the board.
Defense might be difficult if you don’t draw into a Gandalf fairly early. Eleanor can defend with a shield, but I only see 1 shield so that could be a hard combo to rely on.
I’m happy to see lots of card draw! That should help set up Legolas to kill stuff without having to very much.
Test 1 – Passage Through Mirkwood
This quest gave me its best shot on the first play and demolished me with a combo of Ufthak in staging and Hummerhorns as a shadow effect which killed of my valuable questing Handmaiden. I lost 2 times before beating it. The third game was smooth sailing after I drew the treachery that discarded all events in my hand on the opening draw.
I found it pretty difficult to Legolas powered up with both the Great Yew Bow and the other two bows which boost his basic attack stat. By the time that happened, I was often questing unsuccessfully or had enemies engaging me because my threat was high with Gandalf around.
Test 2 – Shadow of the Past
Christian_Medic mentioned using this deck against Saga quests so I’ll test it against a few.
Again, I found it difficult to muster the necessary willpower to consistently quest well and clear locations. The quest put a lot of threat into the staging area which didn’t help, but I ultimately was overwhelmed with enemies as my threat got out of control
I was able to draw some cards with some Mathoms and Foe Hammers, but there just aren’t many allies with willpower in the deck to help quest. With 4 Defense, those Nazguls take a long time for a solo Legolas to chew threw, even when set up ideally.
I used Eleanor’s ability once, but I was forced to quest with her more often than not.
Test 3 – The Ring Goes South
This is a good quest for this deck since the enemies tend to have a high engagement cost and you don’t want to engage them if possible. If Legolas cane snipe them out with the Great Yew Bow, it would be perfect.
My first attempt had a lousy Council of Elrond so I restarted and got a free Gandalf! That helped a lot! I was able to get down to Secrecy on turn 2 with a Greeting and get two Resourcefuls into play which set me up for resources for the rest of the game.
By the end of the third turn’s planning phase, I was really well set up.
The Council also put the Yew Bow into my hand which meant I could start attacking enemies by turn 2. Killing that Crebain without engaging it is sweet revenge on that pesky enemy!
Preparing to engage the Great Warg Chief was a little scary but I ended up having both Feints in hand at once and was able to kill both enemies without taking too much damage.
With Narya in plan and Arwen questing, should turned into a solid defender! I could quest with here, apply her bonus to herself which brought her to 2 Defense, then ready her in the combat phase with Narya which brought her to 3 Defense, then exhaust to defend and apply her bonus to herself again and defend for 4. I could use Gandalf’s Staff to remove the shadow card so she could defend without danger!
I drew the Black arrow in time to use it on the Watcher and get Frodo back and I ended up winning the game! Free Gandalf for the entire game is pretty great!
Test 4 – Journey in the Dark
With some careful play, I got a long ways into this before a stalled out on the last stage. I got Gandalf in play fairly early but that was my downfall since I ended up threating out by the end. I couldn’t afford to throw Gandalf away as he was my only defender but his threat was too much. Part of the problem is that I never was able to trigger a card draw effect. No Mathom, no Staff, no Foe Hammer. 9 turns into the game and still 35 cards in my deck.
All told, the deck did pretty well but the lack of defender really hurts. You just can’t rely on Legolas to take out all the enemies when you have to draw at least 2 weapons that have a combined cost of 3 resources to even start dealing with them. And with no dedicated defender, its difficult to even try to deal with them in a normal way.
Eleanor was good in this quest just to stop that Fool of a Took treachery.
Test 5 – A Knife in the Dark
This is a tough quest as a solo game and it needs some tricks to either reset threat or keep threat at a reasonable level as you get towards the end of the game. Ferny is a pain!
I lost on turn 4 here without enough willpower to overcome what was coming off the encounter deck.
Even using the questing version of Frodo, questing power just couldn’t keep up. I never drew gandalf which didn’t help.
There are some good ideas in this deck but ultimately I think there are too many good ideas. Using Legolas with the Great Yew Bow is possible and it’s a lot of fun but it takes some quick and focused setup. Adding Open the Armory would be nice for helping get Legolas set up faster and Hands Upon the Bow would be an excellent addition to the deck since it gives that +1 that might make the difference in killing an enemy, and you can use it during the quest phase which could help out quest resolution by a couple points.
Using Eleanor as a solo hero can be OK if you make plans to use her effectively if her ability isn’t needed. In this deck, I found I was often questing with her out of necessity. If I did end up using here, it often added more threat to the staging area that made questing harder. In solo I just find her ability isn’t necessary enough to warrant an entire hero slot devoted to it. If you can build her up as a solid defender with Gondorian Shield, she can help out if her ability isn’t needed in the quest phase, but that takes another set of card slots and the deck is already pretty full!
The other primary issue I came up against is lack of willpower. Your base hero stats can quest for a max of 5 on turn 1 and if you want to keep Eleanor and Legolas ready to use their strengths, Glorfindel is your primary quester. In my mind, that means you need at least 9 effecient questing allies in the deck. I really want to see a 2-for-2 ally in my hand on the first turn here. With no other ways to buff willpower on other heroes and allies (besides Wild Stallion), I believe you need to have a consistent draw of allies into your hand to build up a base of willpower. Gandalf together with Glorfindel can quest for 7-8, add a Handmaiden and you have 9 or so, but that’s a pretty low peak willpower number.
Overall, I would say this deck is trying to do two very difficult things for a solo deck (use Eleanor and Legolas as a Haldir) and while it sometimes pulls it off, it can’t adequately cover the basics of Questing and Defending (when necessary) and have deck space and momentum to do everything at once. Trying to cram Gandalf+attachments, Legolas+ attachments, and making Eleanor work in a single deck is just a tall order.
My instincts would be to cut some of the less essential cards like Miruvor, the sidequests, the armor for Eleanor and add more copies of Treebeard (can’t have too many Treebeards!), more questing allies and I’m going to add a couple copies of Open the Armory to help set up Legolas faster.
Here’s the original on the Left and my “simplified” version on the Right. I’ll take for a test drive and see how it goes. There are more allies so it changes the flavor of the deck, but I think it will work a little more consistently with a few more characters on the board.
I played it vs Passage Through Mirkwood and it didn’t ramp up super fast but I was able to get a win. I was able to get Legolas up on running as a “Haldir” and was able to kill the Dol Guldur Beastmaster during the quest phase with Hands Upon the Bow during a crucial moment.
I played the deck again vs The Ring Goes South but I dawdled too long with Gandalf in play and ended up threating out. It was a weird game. I got Legolas all set up ready to kill enemies but then I didn’t reveal any enemies for a long time!
I played my version once more vs Escape from Umbar and I got a good feel for the deck. I tried to prioritize Treebeard and Legolas early and leave Gandalf for latter in the game so I could actually use Legolas’ Great Yew Bow for a few turns.
It was a good game and I ended up winning pretty handily.
Playing that second game of The Rings Goes South made me realize something I should have commented on earlier: using Gandalf as a main element of the deck and trying to get Legolas using Great Yew Bow effectively are essentially non-compatible goals. If you have Gandalf in play, you’re going to get into the mid-30’s pretty fast and at that point you can’t rely on preemptive attacks out of Legolas. It’s sort of OK since you can defend them just fine with Gandalf, but all that effort put into Legolas then feels kind of wasted. It may be that Gandalf and Legolas just don’t get along.
I still think trying to make Eleanor and Legolas work in a solo deck is a difficult challenge but it can be done. I think that adding a few allies and simplifying the deck to be a little more consistent would be a good thing. In my experience, it was a challenge getting Legolas set up and getting enough willpower on the table. If you’re relying on Gandalf for willpower, it seemed like you were basically forfeiting the entire Great Yew Bow/Legolas combo. If you’re committed to the “early Gandalf approach,” you might be better off bringing Rivendell Blades instead of the bows.
I just finished a campaign myself and I can say with confidence that this deck will need some modifications as you go through the campaign. Many of those quests are quite difficult and/or emphasize a specific element of the game. Pretty much any deck will need modifications as you play the campaign, but a deck with 2 hard-to-achieve solo goals will make some of those already-difficult quests very difficult.
Thanks to Christian_Medic for sending me this deck. I wish you well in the campaign!