This low threat, “Strider” deck was created and sent to me by RingsDB user Altar of Pan. It features Tactics Eowyn and Sam Gamgee, both very strong heroes, along with Folco Boffin, who appears to be destined to head home at some point in the near future.
Low threat and low ally count! That’s not a typical combination. Many low threat decks rely on allies to do much of the heavy lifting while the heroes primarily quest. There are only three allies in the deck, Gandalf, Rosie and Treebeard, arguably some of the best allies in the game. The most characters you’ll ever have on the board with this deck is 6 and at least one of those will be leaving at the end of the turn! I haven’t played many decks like this so I’m looking forward to giving it a try.
At 19 starting threat, you’ll have a couple turns to get your initial Secrecy cards out and then you’ll have to wait on either a Gandalf, Vanish from Sight (which I haven’t played in a long time), or Folco’s departure to get back to 20 threat.
My two concerns that come to mind while looking at this deck are healing (1x Long Defeat is only option) and long term willpower. Starting willpower to threat ratio is amazing, and when that’s the case, I find you don’t need as much end-game willpower, but this deck can’t reach huge willpower numbers. Although the more I look at it the more willpower I see in there…
Test 1 – Passage Through Mirkwood
Well, that worked. I crushed it. Turn 1 Treebeard with Send for Aid is pretty great. With 9 allies in the deck, it’s possible for that event to miss, but it hit twice for me in this game. I didn’t end up sending Folco home, but I could have anytime and I would have been OK. I had 20 willpower available to me by the end of the game and I certainly didn’t need that much. I got some direct damage and that was a little scary, but I found The Long Defeat and healed up.
Test 2 – Roam Across Rhovanion
This was a fun game. I didn’t get very many enemies which was weird since I got both Eowyn and Sam set up as defenders right away. I got Gandalf out fairly early which meant my threat went up fast. I let Folco go at around turn 6-7 to keep my threat in check.
I beat the quest on turn 12 with a threat level of 45. I could have let Gandalf go but I kind of needed him to complete the little brawl at the end of the quest.
I played a Timely Aid on turn one which didn’t pull any allies which was a sad moment but I got a Resourceful fairly early on which let me easily play those allies when they did get into my hand. Card draw was fairly sparse, but I had something in my hand all through the game.
Test 3 – The Fords of Isen
I folded my first attempt after the first turn blew up my staging area and attached both nasty condition attachments to the quest card. That hurt.
My second attempt was a fun game in spite of getting hit with the Pillaging and Burning treachery really early which put me far and away out of Secrecy really early in the game.
I got Sam built up with a Dagger and Sting. If he engages an enemy that triggers his ability, he gets readies, brings his attack up to 1+1+2+1+1 direct damage. for attacking and/or defending. He was taking down Dunlanding all by himself!
Even with some forced card draw, I only got down to 31 cards in my deck by turn 8. But willpower wasn’t a problem and I won!
Test 4 – The River Running
I’ve played some low threat decks against this quest in the past month and they’re very effective so I thought this would be a good match. I was doing OK for the first few turns until I ran out of useful cards in hand and I just didn’t have a way to replenish my hand. Eventually I started to struggle to quest successfully and my threat got out of control while the Easterlings swarmed me and locations stopped my readying effects. I couldn’t toss Folco for threat reduction because I wasn’t mustering enough willpower.
It feels like Gandalf is very important for making the deck happy so it’s pretty crucial to find him, which means either more card draw or card fetching would be helpful.
I whiffed on two Timely Aids in the first few turns of the game. If those had hit, it may have been a much different game. It may be that there either needs to be more allies in the deck so that event is more reliable, or it may not be worth including. I’ve missed with it more often than not.
Test 5 – Intruders in Chetwood
This was a win! With a Feint in my opening hand and Eowyn right there, I took care of the War Party right away then proceeded to reveal several locations over the next few turns which gave me some time to set up.
Timely Aid finally got me a Gandalf! My threat was already at 28 or but I had 8+ resources on Sam from the turn 1 Resourceful, so it didn’t hurt to pay for the 4. What did hurt was having all those resources and no card draw.
This deck has a strong opening with an incredible willpower-to-threat ratio so it consistently has strong first couple turns. The heroes are primarily focused on willpower in their “raw form” and that’s great for a couple turns but to really get through quests consistently, you need to start finding either several key attachments to turn these willpower heroes into combat heroes or you need to find Gandalf and Treebeard to handle combat. In both cases, you need to get cards into hand to gear up for combat and that’s been the weak link so far in my experience. If you can get the cards out, things work, but that can be a struggle.
Folco’s ability to get threat back down to compensate for Gandalf being there is great, but if you don’t draw Gandalf and you have no quick way to look for him, Folco becomes less useful than Pippin for a similar threat cost.
It could be that I’m selecting my opening hand incorrectly. I’ve been looking for Resourceful or Timely Aid in my opening hand but more often than not, the Timely Aid misses and by the third or fourth turn, the Resourcefuls have piled up resources that I haven’t been able to spend. Maybe I should mulligan for either Treebeard or Gandalf.
There were a few cards I had trouble getting value out of. As it is, I found it often didn’t make sense to get rid of Folco which meant that Vanish From Sight was basically a dead card for me. Song of Wisdom was the same way for me. Once you get Strider and a Song of Wisdom/Resourceful down, there’s no downside to letting Folco go, but getting even 2 of those 3 cards down in preparation for Folco’s desertion was difficult.
All this to say I think this deck needs more card draw to run consistently. All the other tools are there, the deck just needs access to those cards.
We already have Daeron’s Runes and Drinking Song which are amazing, but I think that the brute force of Peace and Thought is warranted here. With such high willpower and and easy and cheap readying through Fast Hitch, I think Peace and Thought would be a great card to get this deck’s engine up and running much faster and more reliably. Master of the Forge is always a good option as well. With nearly half the entire deck being attachments, Master of the Forge is excellent here. Adding all these Lore cards means you can’t toss Folco as flippantly, but I think the trade off is worth it.
Heed the Dream might be a good addition as well, but what I wanted to focus on was card advantage rather than just card filtering which is well covered by Daeron’s Runes and Drinking Song. But that ability to fetch any card in your deck for 3 Leadership resources is a real possibility in this deck. Might be good!
I cloned the deck and add those basic engine cards and cut a couple cards to keep at 50 and this is what I settled on.
I tried to up the ally count a little, add some card draw, and cut some of the cards that weren’t as necessary to make room for cards that would accelerate the deck. These modifications very well might just help out the way I play quests, but after playing a couple games of The River Running with this version, I felt it was working pretty well for me. One Peace and Thought and 1 Master of the Forge on the table and the deck was humming along very nicely! I think this variation keeps the heart of the deck intact while helping it power up faster.
I enjoy a good deck that relies on a minimum number of characters. This deck can do a remarkable amount with very few characters on the table and that’s a lot of fun. So the core of the deck is solid but I found the engine that helps that core come together needed a few more cards to ensure a successful experience. Peace and Thought and Master of the Forge aren’t necessarily hidden gems or exciting cards to include in a deck, but they just help the deck come together.
Right now this deck has a few allies and a lot of attachments. My variation on the deck didn’t necessary focus it on either side of those themes but I think there could be viable variations that are hyper focused on powering up one of those two elements. You could ditch most of the allies and Timely Aid and just fill the deck with attachments and these two or three heroes could accomplish a lot. You could even slot in Take Initiative if you’re looking for a hidden “gem.” Or you could give in to the current hotness and drop most of the attachments and fill the deck with unique allies and make a Fellowship deck out of this trio of heroes. High willpower and low threat give plenty of room for creativity, but no matter which way you go, make sure you’re packing enough card and resource advantage to make your basic idea come together.
Thanks to AlterofPan for creating the deck and sending it my way. From the notes included with the deck it sounds like he’s played it a good bit and it’s been working well! I hope my experience and comments are helpful in a way. Have fun with the deck! You can check out the version I reviewed on RingsDB here, but there is a slightly updated version that includes a couple new cards here.
Also, I apologize to AlterofPan for being slow to get this up on the blog. I have a new baby in the house and it’s been a littler harder to get games in lately!