Fair Ithilien by banania

There’s so many new deck types to test now! These new contracts are creating a massive amount of new decks to explore and enjoy. I’ve been so busy creating and playing decks that I’ve again neglected this blog.

But today I get to look at a Grey Wanderer contract deck and this is a contract that I  haven’t really explored yet. This trap deck was created and sent to me by RingsDB user banania.

fair ithilien.PNG

First Impressions

I haven’t played enough Grey Wandered decks to have a practiced eye when looking over a deck like this. I read through the description and got some insight into the deck. From the description and my untested analysis of the card list, I would say that willpower will probably be the most difficult thing, that it will be especially difficult on the first couple turns. The deck uses Strider as the starting attachment so you can easily quest for 4 on the first turn without playing a card. Hopefully you can play a few card to but even so, there’s not a ton of high willpower in Lore.

It looks like it will be fun to do some real staging area trapping of the enemies.

The description said the deck was tested through The Oath, The Caves of Nibin Dum, Passage Through Mirkwood, Journey Down the Anduin and Into Ithilien so I will follow that same course and see how I do!

Test 1 – The Oath

The first attempt was fine until I got location locked at stage 2. There was 10 threat in the staging area on turn 5 or so and I couldn’t draw willpower into my hand. Locations locked me down! I lasted until turn 8 but I couldn’t catch up before I was locked down with too much threat.

My second attempt ended with staging area lock as well.

I beat it on the third try. I get 2 Ranger Spikes out on successive turns near the beginning which worked as questing power and enemy negation. That and the Emyn Arnen Ranger early helped me get my willpower up to 8 fairly quickly so I could quest through the locations as they came out.

There were some fun tricks possible. Mablung was able to pull down that pesky Goblin Sniper before he pinged me forever from the staging area. I was able to Forest Patrol to good effect once.

I finished the quest on the 12 turn with a threat level of 20 with 15 cards left in my deck. The deck performed much more smoothly this time and the quest presented cards in a more typical order. Fun game.

Screenshot (151).png

Test 2 – The Caves of Nibin Dum

I got pretty far in this quest but ran out of steam on the third stage. I just can’t seem to muster much willpower. That combined with not many options for defending when it becomes necessary to engage enemies makes certain points in games pretty difficult. I got some Guardians of Ithilien out with Ranger Bows and I was able to take out a few enemies that way, and outright kill one enemy with Forest Patrol, but having an upper limit of around 8 willpower just makes it hard to get through some of these larger locations like Goblin Tunnels. Revealing 2 cards per turn really stalled me out with limited willpower.

Screenshot (152).png

I went for 18 turns but couldn’t make it through. I ended with a location lock at 34 threat with only 5 cards left in my deck.

Test 3 – Passage Through Mirkwood

I won this without any issue. There are some really low engagement cost enemies in the encounter deck but this deck can usually even evade them! Felt good to kill that Hummerhorn in the staging area!

It still took a while to get through but it was a very enjoyable experience.

Screenshot (153).png

Test 4 – Journey Down the Anduin

The first stage went well. I killed both Hill Trolls with Ranger Bows and Poisoned Stakes, but I got bogged down on stage two with too much threat in staging area again. I couldn’t keep up with 2 cards per turn. It was turn 13 and my max willpower was 10. The Brown Lands came out and I was pretty well stuck.

Screenshot (156).png

My second game went better. It was long at 19 turns but I got my willpower up to about 13 and I was able to get through. Those enemies with 1 and 2 hitpoints are fun to knock out before the end of the quest phase.

Screenshot (157).png

Test 5 – Into Ithilien

I think there is a way to beat this quest with this deck but that first turn needs a perfect hand. I couldn’t manage to get that Ithilien Road clear to avoid engaging that first enemy. After that enemy was engaged, it was difficult to survive since no characters in the deck can survive a 5 attack enemy. I tried 3 times with couple mulligans on my opening card when I drew Southron Support. I made it through the first road once, but I couldn’t manage to kill the Southron Company that engaged me on the first turn so he was chomping through an ally every turn and then I got behind on questing attack power.

Strider is seriously nerfed in quests that us Battle or Siege and that didn’t help things. If it have gained me 2 additional attack power for questing, it would have been much easier to get a hold on the quest.

Thematically this is a great quest for this deck, but mechanically, this quest demands more stats on the table right away.

Card Choices

I’ve learned a lot about this contract playing this deck. Losing all those stats on the other two heroes really changes the way you have to play the game. You lose the stats but you gain the flexibility of the the readying, resources or healing at need. Honestly you’ll probably need to use that action to just take the resources in the first couple turns which is kind of a waste since you can’t really take advantage of the other options during the planning phase but that can change later. The other main advantage the contract gives you is low threat and access to Secrecy cards. You also get some sphere smoothing options with the contract but I don’t see that as a real “advantage” since you’re limiting yourself to one sphere instead of 2 or 3 to start with and you can’t use unique cards from out of your one sphere. That’s all to say this contract is a little harder to use than I thought!

If you only start with one character on the table, you need to play lots of cards pretty fast and those cards need to really change the board state. I sometimes found myself with not many options of cards to play from my hand while using this deck which leads me to think it might need some more card draw. The main draw here is Damrod’s ability. That draw when a trap attaches is good, but it won’t trigger every turn and I kind of think you need at least one additional card per turn to help a Grey Wanderer deck catch up to the encounter deck which is basically starting with a larger advantage than usual. Daeron’s Runes helps dig through the deck but doesn’t provide card advantage which is really wah you need in my opinion. Anborn is another form of card draw, but he’s not going to get out until later in a game. And even if you recycle traps and play one every turn, you aren’t going to reveal an enemy every turn to trigger that draw you need. While not on theme, Gleowine is a nice cheap option for long term repeatable card draw. I would even be happy to pay the full 3 resources for an expensive Wealth of Lorien here! You get resources just fine with Resourceful, but you just need cards to play every turn.

I like the trap selection. I think Forest Snare could provide a valuable service by locking down that stray enemy that gets past your low threat and could repeatedly destroy every ally you play until you can kill it of find a Defender or Rammas to defend it for a couple turns.

The other point which I felt was weak was willpower. That issue might clear up with more card draw which could translate into more allies on the table, but the fact remains that most of these allies have 1 willpower. You’re really relying on the Emeyn Arnen Ranger and Mablung for your questing power. The other rangers can help, but at 1wp each, it’s hard to build up a solid amount of willpower which can reliably clear locations and keep you out of the dreaded location lock. I would really like to see this deck paired with a traditional Leadership Gondor deck so it could benefit from the Visionary Leadership buff. With that in play, willpower would be so much easier to muster.

I really enjoyed playing Forest Patrol in this deck. That’s a card that I rarely get to use and it had some good moments in my games. Timely Aid is also an excellent card here and probably a great choice for every Grey Wanderer deck. It doesn’t pack as much punch as it sometimes can in this deck since there’s only 2 allies that cost 4 or more and with 21 allies in the deck, it is actually possible for the event to miss entirely which makes for a sad day.

If you wanted to add some more willpower to the deck you could add some “good stuff” Lore allies like Ghan Buri Ghan, Robin Smallburrow, Quickbeam etc but that breaks down the thematic unity of the deck. The other option is adding some out-of-sphere Gondor allies with 2 willpower. You could still play them as the first card in the planning phase. Knight of the White Tower would be solid and maybe even the Linhir Sea-Captain. They aren’t as thematic as the Gondor Rangers, but at least they share the Gondor trait.

I cloned the deck and added a little more card draw and more willpower and this was the result. I played one quick game of PTM with it and it performed well in that small test.

fair ithilien more willpower.PNG

I got up to 11 WP in 6 turns which felt a little better.

Screenshot (163).png

Final Thoughts

I like the idea behind this deck and when I was able to get enough cards out on the table, it was fun picking off enemies with those bows and trapping every one as it came out. As a solo deck, I think it has some weaknesses that will make many quests difficult, primarily getting enough willpower on the table fast enough to get through the first few turns without letting the staging area get full.

I would recommend it as a very thematic Gondor trap deck but it may function better as a multiplayer deck where someone could help provide that early willpower.

Thanks to banania for creating the sneaky trap deck and sharing it with me! I wish I was able to get this deck review out in a more timely manner! But you can still go over to RingsDB and give the deck a like in spite of it being 2 months old now.



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