Lord of the Rings LCG · Strategy

LotR LCG Strategy: A Hobbit Deck with Minimal Investment

One of the biggest questions that recurs in forums and Facebook groups about the Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is what to purchase after the Core Set. I wrote a post almost a year ago highlighting my own speculations on where to go next, and so here is a sort of follow-up post to that one.

My initial purchases were going into the Dream-Chaser Cycle (Grey Havens), and I also got a Sands of Harad deluxe at Christmas time due to the unavailability of The Black Riders. But I always knew that the Hobbits were the ones for me and my playstyle.

Now that I am nearly 100 logged plays (in about a 12-month period) into my second plunge of this great game, most of them being solo, it is time to expound on my thoughts for a great first deck to chase. The Hobbit deck won’t match everyone’s playstyle. There are a few other great deck archetypes out there to pursue that might match yours better, and I plan to explore a few of them soon myself (Rohan first, then Dwarves, then Silvan). But I will always be a Hobbit player, first and foremost.

So to address the question of where to begin, here is why I would recommend The Black Riders as a starting point for new players after the Core Set:

  • This deluxe comes with a fairly complete and functional deck that has solid synergy out of the box. Even without any additional purchases, this deck can be used effectively on a reasonable number of quests.
  • This deluxe provides three heroes rather than the typical two you’d find in other Deluxe boxes.
  • This is the starting point for the Saga quests, which are designed to be a solid starting point for new players and, from my understanding, were designed so that even a player with just a Core Set could play and defeat the quests (losses are to be expected, but they are not insurmountable quests).
  • With only two additional purchases (a Saga box and an Adventure pack – $45 MSRP investment) this deck goes from good to great by adding Rosie Cotton and Fast Hitch into the mix.

Those are good to hear, but what you really want to know is how the deck ticks, right? How can someone effectively pilot a Hobbit deck, especially if it plays differently than some of the other decks out there? Luckily, I can help with that. And to sweeten things a bit, I have also constructed a Hobbit deck on RingsDB using only a single Core Set, the Black Riders box, the Dead Marshes Adventure Pack, and the Mountain of Fire box so you can see an idea of how the deck would look with that minimal purchase. I will also make recommendations on other cards in the Saga cycle that would be worthwhile to include, as that would be the sensible next set of purchases if you start down this road.

A Hobbit Deck, a brief snapshot:

http://www.ringsdb.com/decklist/view/9724/low-investment-hobbit-deck-1.0

  • The Heroes: This is a pretty standard lineup, and the one I’ve almost always used in there. Sam Gamgee is the MVP of the deck, thanks to his higher willpower and his ability to ready when engaging an enemy with higher threat. He is the Hobbit that I build up to be both a quester and a defender whenever possible and allow him to throw in an attack from time to time if he really gets built up with Fast Hitch, etc. to ready him more often. Merry is the other critical component in this deck, as he starts with 3 attack in this setup (and 4 when playing through the Saga quests thanks to Frodo being a hero). He, of course, gets stacked with anything that makes him hit harder or be able to attack more often. He is likely the 2nd Hobbit to get a Fast Hitch (the first going on Sam) so he can either quest and attack, or attack multiple enemies per turn. Finally is Pippin, whose abilities are solid but is honestly in here solely for access to Fast Hitch for the increased readying ability on the heroes. But his abilities do come in handy, increasing the engagement cost of all enemies in the staging area and allowing a card draw when engaging an enemy with a higher engagement. If I didn’t need Fast Hitch in the deck, I would likely look toward Spirit Frodo (Conflict at the Carrock) to fill that spot as a secondary defender, someone who could absorb direct damage treacheries (or effects like Archery), and someone who could absorb an undefended attack in a pinch.
  • The Allies: In this deck there are four standout allies, each for varying reasons, and then a swarm of cheaper allies to help you defend while building up those Hobbit heroes in the early game. The MVP of allies is Rosie Cotton, who may not seem like much at first glance. However, her ability helps shine, as she can contribute to powering up Willpower, Attack, or Defense when needed (and it will be needed!). Farmer Maggot is a notable inclusion for two reasons: he is a Hobbit ally, making him a candidate for Raise the Shire if you have a Rosie, and because he drops damage onto an enemy you’re engaged with (making it even better when combined with Raise the Shire). Barliman Butterbur is a good ally to have around because he can take your undefended attacks, allowing you to be slightly more reckless in your decisions on how to attack and defend and who to hold back from questing. And Bill the Pony is that lonely card that seems simple but is so vital. Bill can help quest each turn, but that isn’t the real benefit. Not only does Bill come into play for free, he also boost the HP of every Hobbit. Not just your heroes, but the allies, too.
  • The Events: Most of what I like to run involve the Tactics sphere and boosting your characters or stopping the enemy. The best of the ones outside of the Core Set would be the Halfling Determination, giving a +2 boost to all stats for the phase. It can help with questing in a pinch, but more importantly can boost Sam for a defense and a follow-up attack if he can ready. Its versatility of uses, and low cost, makes it one of the few 3-of cards I run (I typically run most cards with 2x as the max, apart from those critical to a strategy or ones that are cheap and efficient in some fashion). Raise the Shire was mentioned in the Allies section and with good reason: it helps you pull out Rosie and Farmer Maggot when engaging enemies, which is how this deck can run 2x of Rosie. Yes, they return to your hand at the end of the round but that is what makes it especially nasty to use with the Farmer. Take No Notice is the other noteworthy card in here, boosting the engagement level of all enemies and, hopefully, costing you nothing in the process. I’ve found it to be useful only at certain times, and so I run just 1x so it doesn’t clog the deck but still keep it around for when I need to draw it.
  • The Attachments: Fast Hitch is almost an essential attachment, and I used to think it was the best card in the deck. However, I’ve survived plenty of quests where I never saw it appear. It is a nice card, and it allows you to be a lot more efficient, but it is far from being an essential card. Yet I hesitate to shed the Lore Sphere because I know it can really change the game when you get 1-2 of them out. Popping it onto Rosie can be an equally good idea as putting it on Pippin so I usually put the 3rd copy on her if I manage to get them all in a play. Steward of Gondor is in here because it is a nice card to see in an opening hand – likely placed on Merry to help fund the higher ratio of cards in the Tactics Sphere – but I can count on one hand the number of times I see the card. I’ve never needed it to be effective, it simply helps accelerate. Hobbit Cloak is the Sam Gamgee attachment I seek after and the card that makes this deck function, making it so ideally Sam is defending the first attack with a 4 defense, and every attack after that with a 3 defense (as long as your threat is low enough). Dagger of Westernesse, on the other hand, is the tool that Merry needs to become a lethal Balrog-killer. They are restricted, so I would avoid putting anything else Restricted on him so he can wield two of them. A third copy could be used in here, as it wouldn’t be a bad attachment to throw on Sam if you pull all three in a game. Friend of Friends is the other one to highlight, which is amazing when it pulls off. Sadly, I almost never get them both but consistently have one in my hand early. But getting the pair out will boost Sam and Merry and push them both to elite levels.

Ideal Starting Hand:

In a perfect world, I would draw Fast Hitch, Hobbit Cloak, Dagger of Westernesse, Bill the Pony, Friend of Friends x 2. In two turns, I’d be 80% of the way to having a stacked team. Continuing the perfect world, the next two card draws would be the other Dagger of Westernesse and a Rosie Cotton. Maybe some day I’ll have that happen!

How to play this deck effectively:

This deck takes time to set up, as could be surmised from the starting HP of the heroes. You can’t freely go all-in and expect to come out unscathed on the other side. The bad news is that this deck needs some of those allies and attachments to really function well. The cheap allies and the Tactics events are in there to help keep your deck from flaming out in the face of the first few rounds. The good news is that almost everything you need in this deck is inexpensive so you don’t need to spend a ton of time saving up resources, and that is part of the secret of how this deck can function well as a tri-Sphere deck.

Take advantage, in the early turns, of the low starting threat. Most of the time you’re going to be able to choose when to engage an enemy, and you always want to engage them before your threat surpasses their engagement cost. Those extra cards are always welcome, and Sam loves to quest and then ready to defend that attack. If the quest starts with no enemies in play, I might chance things and quest with all three Hobbits. Sometimes you might need that just to offset the starting threat in the staging area. But most of the game is spent using Sam, Pippin, and allies to quest and relying on Sam to ready for defense (or Barliman to take an undefended attack) and Merry to hopefully one-shot whatever engaged you.

This deck builds up slow, but once it hits its peak this deck is nearly unstoppable. I’ve taken down the Balrog and other massive, scary enemies with relative ease. I’ve had Sam reliably defend 5-6 attack swings every round without taking wounds. I’ve dropped big chunks of progress on quests. This deck can do it all, and it does things effectively once it gets going.

Surging enemies are this deck’s worst enemy, although this iteration is better suited to that than the high-cost unique ally version of a Hobbit deck I had been running (ally Gimli, Boromir, Legolas, Elrond, etc. are all fun, but take a LONG time to get out for such little return). Discarding attachments is a nasty shadow effect, but even more devastating will be anything that either ignores defense or simply drops damage on exhausted (or all) characters in play. Sometimes you’re going to lose and lose hard based on early turns or treachery cards that can’t be cancelled by the deck. However, those have proven to be the exception more than the experience, and losing early just means a quicker restart to challenge the quest again.

What to look for when adding to this deck:

Obviously there are a lot of other cards that could be added to the deck. A lot of the Saga cycle has cards with good synergy, providing at least a few cards in every box that mesh well with Hobbits. Anything dealing with having a lower threat than engagement costs should at least get some serious consideration, as that is the gimmick this deck works with. My current testing is using more Hobbit allies that exist, although there isn’t one good pack to pick up to bolster their numbers. But having 3 copies of Raise the Shire and being able to choose from a lot of allies is a good thing. Most of them are inexpensive and provide 2 Willpower to help with questing. Plus Bill boosts all of their HP in the process. I hope there are some better allies coming in the current cycle, but even with what exists there is enough to make it worth tossing a few cheap Hobbits into the mix. Anything with card draw or, if running Spirit, cancellation is going to help the deck either accelerate its setup or allow it to survive long enough to get running. Cards that help Sam defend better, such as the Armored Destrier (Temple of the Deceived) are great to include. Anything that boosts Merry’s effectiveness as an attacker, or provides allies to attack with him so they can ready and attack a second enemy, are equally beneficial.

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Board Gaming · Lord of the Rings LCG

LotR LCG Strategy: Where to go After the Core Set?

Welcome to what is the fifth post in a semi-planned series of posts outlining some beginner-level strategies to help you get started in the Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game. In a game that already has so much additional content out there, it can feel overwhelming to know how to begin and, even, how to get started with learning the game. Deck construction is a key component to the game, and even the Core Set itself will encourage you to explore this path with the small selection of cards in the pool. Before you even consider purchasing more content for the game, you’ll likely want to get familiar with how the game plays AND how to construct a deck in order to combat the scenarios you’ll encounter.

Why listen to me when I am a beginner, too? Because I love to deckbuild, and I am at a starting level of this game like you. I’m not five years into playing and looking back on things. I don’t know much of the cardpool that is out there in current meta play, I just know the cards in this core set really well after building dozens of decks and running through Journey Down the Anduin more times than I care to share.

So without any more ado, I will dive right into the topic that I have seen repeated so many times in Facebook groups and other places in the past month: I have a Core Set so what should I buy next???

There are, of course, a multitude of approaches to this question. In a fully cooperative game, there is truly no wrong answer to the question. There are some excellent guides already out there dealing with this, but they are far more exhaustive in what they offer. For a shorter answer, looking at things from an overall approach rather than pack-by-pack, this should be a good starting point. I’ll link to the place I turned to down at the bottom. So here are the six choices on where to go after the Core Set:

The Traditional Purchase

The bit of advice that is thrown to the players most often is to start at the beginning: the Shadows of Mirkwood Cycle. That is a set of six adventure packs: The Hunt for Gollum, Conflict at the Carrock, A Journey to Rhosgobel, The Hills of Emyn Muil, The Dead Marshes, and Return to Mirkwood. These make sense as a first purchase because they were the first ones released for the game. They each add a new quest that can be used with the Encounter cards in the Core Set. They add solid Heroes and some staple cards that you’ll want to include in the decks you build. The scenarios are varied in approach, ranging from combat-heavy to quest-heavy. These six scenarios, plus the ones in the Core Set, will challenge your deck building abilities as it will be difficult to find that one deck to tackle everything as a solo player. It will encourage balance, either among your one deck or among the group of players, in order to tackle everything these throw at you. These are the only ones I’ve played outside of the Core Set (although I don’t own them) and they are a lot of fun because of the varied objectives and the varied difficulty. There is a good reason why this is typically the #1 recommendation you’ll receive on where to start.

The Alternative Traditional Purchase

Don’t want to dive into that first set of Adventure Packs? The “other” traditional recommendation is to pick up the first Deluxe expansion: Khazad-Dum and then add in the six Adventure Packs in the Dwarrowdelf Cycle: The Redhorn Gate, Road to Rivendell, The Watcher in the Water, The Long Dark, Foundations of Stone, & Shadow and Flame. The reason why this is a great starting point is because the Dwarves are still a very strong and popular type to build a deck around, and this set it bursting with Dwarves. This cycle is also rumored to have fun, memorable, and thematic scenarios in there which makes it an enjoyable first choice to expand.

The Current Purchase

This is something that isn’t recommended often, yet to me it makes some sense. Rather than collecting and playing through things that are 6 years old, jump in on the current cycle and get a feel for if you like where the game is at now. As a whole, there is no reason why you can’t dive into a new set and enjoy the experience; however, there is a chance that your limited card pool for deck building could raise the difficulty of some of the quests being encountered. If you don’t mind a challenge and want to see the newer keywords and combinations coming out in the game, the Sands of Harad Deluxe Expansion and the Haradrim Cycle Adventure Packs might be the place to start. Those packs would be: The Mumakil, Race Across Harad, Beneath the Sands, The Black Serpent, The Dungeons of Cirith Gurat, and The Crossings of Poros.

The Hobbit Saga

The Saga sets are a fun and interesting place to begin because they will tread among ground familiar to fans of the books and/or movies. The Hobbit Saga is a great starting point because it consists of only two Deluxe Expansions: Over Hill and Under Hill & On the Doorstep. This will introduce you to the Campaign idea, where you can string together a series of adventures with minimal modifications allowed to your deck and some lingering effects occurring based on how you perform. This aspect will resonate with those who have played and enjoyed the Arkham Horror Card Game. The other nice thing about this as a starting point is that it will give you a healthy number of Dwarves, making it a great place to start and then dive into Khazad-Dum and the Dwarrowdelf Cycle (or a great place to go after that set).

The Lord of the Rings Books Saga

This one is the larger Saga Set, spanning six Deluxe Expansions: The Black Riders, The Road Darkens, The Treason of Saruman, The Land of Shadow, The Flame of the West, & The Mountain of Fire. These sets will provide Hobbit heroes, and a lot of strong synergy between them in a deck. This will also provide the same sort of experience as the Hobbit Saga Set, only with the ability to go much longer. These six sets are broken into pairs, so you could run a campaign through a pair (which are centered around one of the three books in the series) or string them all together for one really long experience. If you want to make your own Lord of the Rings adventure, this is one of the best places to start so long as you accept that some parts might be a challenge with a limited card pool. Buying all six before going on the long campaign may be the ideal approach, but each pair should be doable as they come up for the mini-campaigns.

The FLGS Purchase

Ignore everything above and walk into your local game store and see what they have on the shelf. Will it be exhaustive? Nope. But odds are you can find a deluxe expansion or two to choose from at least, and you might luck out and get some Adventure Packs that pair with that set. Unless you plan on purchasing multiple items online, I’ve not found much difference in price because of the inclusion of freight, etc. in ordering from online retailers. Plus you’ll be supporting your local game store which might help encourage them to stock more of the game, host events such as the Fellowship Event, and maybe even make them receptive to having a dedicated night to host players of the game. You might not be able to select your beginning path, and some cycles are going to be much harder to beat as the first step, but even just taking that expanded card pool will help you to be able to experiment with new decks, combinations, etc. to run through beatable scenarios.

My Intended Approach and Closing Thoughts

I have two things I plan to do: pick up the Lord of the Rings Saga Set and to go with what my FLGS has in stock. I picked up the one and only pack one store had, which was an Adventure Pack in the middle of the Dream-Chaser Cycle. So I’ll be picking up the Grey Havens Deluxe Expansion as well, which promises to be really interesting in terms of providing some fun and interesting scenarios and mechanics.

There are a ton of places to dive in and, ultimately, there isn’t a single wrong answer. If a cycle sounds like fun, then pick it up. Who cares if it isn’t the “recommended” place to begin so long as you are enjoying the game and the experience it provides? Just know that there is a chance, the further you remove yourself from those first two cycles, that you might encounter another Dol Goldur scenario in there (which I’ve deemed to be unbeatable solo…at least with the cards I have right now). The great thing about this game is that it is fully cooperative, meaning if you run into trouble you can find a friend to bring a deck and help play through.

For a more extensive analysis of the options out there, check out: https://talesfromthecards.wordpress.com/2013/09/13/new-playe…

Here are the other posts I’ve made so far in this series, as well as a few other bonus posts that I plan to make later in December regarding this game:

Strategy Post #1: First Steps After Purchasing a Core Set:
Strategy Post #2: Evaluating the Core Set Heroes:
Strategy Post #3: Constructing a Deck without Knowing the Next Quest:
Strategy Post #4: Constructing a Deck to Defeat a Specific Quest:
Bonus Post #5: Where to Go After the Core Set?
Bonus Posts #6 & 7: The Fellowship Event

Board Gaming · Lord of the Rings LCG

LotR LCG Strategy: Constructing a Deck to Defeat a Specific Quest

Welcome to what is the fourth post in a semi-planned series of posts outlining some beginner-level strategies to help you get started in the Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game. In a game that already has so much additional content out there, it can feel overwhelming to know how to begin and, even, how to get started with learning the game. Deck construction is a key component to the game, and even the Core Set itself will encourage you to explore this path with the small selection of cards in the pool. Before you even consider purchasing more content for the game, you’ll likely want to get familiar with how the game plays AND how to construct a deck in order to combat the scenarios you’ll encounter.

Why listen to me when I am a beginner, too? Because I love to deckbuild, and I am at a starting level of this game like you. I’m not five years into playing and looking back on things. I don’t know much of the cardpool that is out there in current meta play, I just know the cards in this core set really well after building dozens of decks and running through Journey Down the Anduin more times than I care to share.

So without any more ado, I will dive right into the topic that many of you are probably really curious to know: how to construct a deck that is capable of faring well against a specific quest. Sometimes that jack-of-all-trades deck in your arsenal just isn’t quite capable of handling everything a certain quest can throw at you.

In fact, this is one of the most rewarding aspects about the Lord of the Rings LCG, in my opinion. If a single deck was all you ever needed to build in order to win the game, there would be a lot less excitement. It’d be that deck versus the quest every time. What we have instead is a puzzle with every new quest that comes our way. Sometimes we’ll get lucky and our favorite deck will steamroll right through. Sometimes you’ll never see a glimpse of the really nasty cards waiting inside that encounter deck. Other times the quest will smack your heroes around and leave you feeling overwhelmed.

Which is where specialized deck construction comes in, where there are a few very important questions to ask yourself:

What are the cards that I definitely need to be able to overcome?

The one thing that I love about the Journey Along the Anduin is that it makes you have to answer this question. Some quests there is a chance of a certain card appearing. This one has an absolute certainty: the Hill Troll.

If you ever advanced to the second part of the quest, which means you placed your 8th progress on the quest while there was no Hill Troll in play then you’ve seen the other guaranteed challenge: you flip two encounter cards per player in Stage 2 of the quest. Which means that, not only do you need to place a whopping 16 progress on the quest, you need to be able to do it while taking care of up to two enemies, locations, or treacheries per player every round. This is the area where my constructed Aragorn/Theodred/Dunhere deck struggled mightily after being able to reliably take down the Hill Troll.

The first step, in building the deck, is to answer these questions, which leads you to:

How can I overcome the Hill Troll?

This can be a tricky thing to consider because there are several potential avenues. There are five important things to note about the Hill Troll:

His 30 Threat-engagement
His 9 Health
His 6 Attack
His 3 Defense
His ability

What this means is you will need to hit him hard, early, and often. You will also need a viable way to absorb his attacks or else be prepared to accept the surge in your overall threat. There are a few options to consider here:

Chump block with a weak ally and try to drop 12 damage in one round on the Troll. This is possible, but not easy to do and almost always will require multiple rounds to get your board set up to accomplish this. Your block will prevent it from being an undefended attack, but the excess threat will roll over. Furthermore, anyone dedicated to questing that round will not be likely to participate in damaging the troll so that is something to consider.

Block the first attack with Gimli and then block with a weak ally the next round. This is one situation where Gimli, whose attack increases with damage, can be really helpful. His defense and health are high enough that he can absorb a single attack from the troll and still live, making his attack stronger in the process. When one hero is swinging for 6, it is easier to take that troll down fast.

Keep your threat low and chip away with Dunhere. This isn’t a very viable strategy because there are not enough ways, in the core set, to increase Dunhere’s base attack. Yes, he can attack for 3 when attacking alone…but the troll’s defense is 3. The best attachments will only increase his attack by 1, making it a long process to chip away…

Gandalf the troll – bonus points for being sneaky about it! Gandalf can drop 4 damage right on the troll when he comes into play. He can also either defend the attack, leaving your other guys free to hack at it or else he can swing for 4 damage himself. Gandalf is expensive, requiring most of two turns’ resources to pay for him. And he only stays out for a turn. But he remains one of the best ways to drop damage on this beast. Sneak Attack + Gandalf is a devastating combo, allowing you to blast it even if it hasn’t engaged with you yet while bringing Gandalf right back to your hand.

Snare the troll and keep it idle. Damage mitigation central. The obvious method is using a Forest Snare on the troll, which will require 3 Lore resources and for the troll to be engaged with a player. But this makes it an idle threat, something to chip away at as you are able to while allowing you to focus efforts on questing and other enemies if you need to. Unless you are running two Lore heroes, it can be really hard to afford this card when you need it. Alternative option would be the use of Feint, which prevents it from attacking for a turn.

So you can see, there are many possible answers to the Hill Troll. Every deck will have Gandalf in there, but you can’t count on drawing that Gandalf early enough to make a difference. You should have at least one other plan in place, since most decks will get only a few turns at most to be set up before the troll engages you.

How Can I Overcome the Addition of Two Cards Per Player?

This is a hard one to answer because those cards will be variable every time. You could get lucky and see a pair of treacheries that whiff completely. You could see small, easy-to-kill enemies. You could get really unlucky and see two locations. The best way to plan for this is to look at some of the nastier cards in the deck and have an idea of how you could blast through those.

sauron Eastern Crows is a card that seems innocent enough. Low threat in the staging area, one attack, no defense, one health. The problem comes with its surge effect, which has you reveal another card. Yep, this one will make you see three cards per turn. There is one real counter to them in the Core Set: Thalin’s ability to deal a damage as it is revealed will trigger before the surge, eliminating the card and its nasty effect.

sauron The Brown Lands is a location that, in a perfect world, you’ll see only when you have no active location. It is easily quested through by traveling there, making it so that 5-threat only applies once. There are two other good answers for this in the Core Set: playing a Snowbourne Scout from your hand to put a progress on it, or questing with a Northern Tracker while this is in the Staging Area. If none of these are true, and the Brown Lands makes it so you didn’t successfully quest through your previous location, then this one can be a game-ender with that high threat to overcome.

sauron Goblin Sniper seems innocent enough. High engagement cost, reasonable threat, weak defense and health and attack. The problem is that you cannot optionally engage him if you are able to engage anything else. Which means your one engagement has to go elsewhere every single round that at least one enemy appears. Which means his other effect, dealing a damage to a hero at the end of each round, will chip away at your health unless you can plow through enemies. Being able to optionally engage only one enemy per turn will make it hard to get through everyone. The best answer to him, of course, is Dunhere because he can attack the staging area. He doesn’t even need the attack boost from attacking alone, making him ideal to take this goblin down.

Hordes of enemies will be appearing, both small and large. Being able to deal with them, especially if two are appearing each turn, is essential for success. Getting overrun by enemies in the staging area is a very real threat, and pairs with the next thing that has to be answered. You don’t even need to necessarily kill all the enemies at once, just be able to engage and survive as long as possible. A second Hill Troll, the Marsh Adder, and the Chieftain Ufthak are the biggest baddies in there and can wreck even the best-laid plans.

The ability to quest exceptionally well is essential. The best way to get past this part of the quest is to get through it quickly. The more rounds you spend getting that 16 progress, the more bloated the board will become. And, yes, the harder it will be to get those progress tokens out there. This is where Eowyn, Faramir, and Legolas all become stars. In fact, Legolas might be one of the more useful heroes here because he can hack at enemies (especially if equipped with a Gondolan Blade) and place progress tokens at the same time. The other reason it is essential to quest well is that failure will bring about a rise in your threat. Get to 50 threat and it is game over.

So where do you begin with the deckbuilding?

As you have seen, every sphere has a benefit that it can offer in here. Lore is great for drawing cards, healing damage for survival, and using the Forest Snare. Tactics can deal with the Hill Troll and the threat of an endless horde of enemies. Leadership can boost willpower, resource generation, and Sneak Attack to get even more uses out of your Gandalf. Spirit can blast through the questing phase, allowing you to move with all haste through the quest.

Using the Core Set only, I would say that either Eowyn or Glorfindel will need to be in your deck for their pure questing. Eowyn would get priority, but if you really don’t want to use Spirit then a Glorfindel/Theodred/Aragorn combo might function well enough but at the cost of a high starting threat.

I’ve run Tactics/Spirit using Gimli/Legolas/Eowyn and had a reasonable amount of success with the deck even into the Mirkwood cycle quests. This group is almost ideal for the Anduin quest, as you have plenty of tools for handling and defeating the Troll and a way to get progress on the quest even if the staging area gets a little flooded. I threw pretty much every Tactics card in there, and then filled the rest in with low-cost Spirit and a copy or two of the higher-cost cards.

I’ve run Spirit/Lore with Denethor/Beravor/Eowyn and had reasonable success by being able to stall long enough to Forest Snare onto the Troll. It isn’t a fast-killing deck, but it proved capable of managing if given the chance. This was probably the hardest of the decks to play successfully, as Gandalf is really your only consistent way to drop batches of damage.

I’ve also run Aragorn/Theodred/Eowyn using pretty much the same deck as last time. One simple change, from Dunhere to Eowyn, takes that deck to a whole new level which was why I left Eowyn out…so that you could see how a deck functions without that super-questing power. I found the deck did just fine against the Mirkwood quest, going 2/3 on there, but when I faced Anduin it fell short. The troll was a non-issue for two of the games but the Stage 2 part of the quest flooded the board with too many locations both times and not even Celebrian’s Stone was able to salvage the attempt.

Closing Thoughts

This is a game, especially when playing solo, where you are likely going to have to tweak and rebuild decks often. Every quest is different, and certain quests are going to require different approaches in order to overcome the obstacles they throw at you. My preference so far is to use a deck that can handle a little bit of everything and then, after a few losses on a particular quest, to try and build around that specific quest once I’ve seen what nasty cards it has in store. You could, of course, look at those ahead of time and build that deck before ever running the quest. But the key, if you are stuck on a specific quest, remains to plan a way to counter the nasty cards in that deck. Sometimes those are simply planning ways to overcome those things you know will come out every time (like the Hill Troll). Other times you might need to have a specific way to handle something that could appear but might end up never showing up, such as the Hummerhorns in the Mirkwood quest. The game isn’t meant to be “I have a deck here and I can use this 100% of the time and find a great success rate”, but rather it is designed to push you to test new cards and decks and be willing to adapt. Which I think is great, because that means there are many cards in the pool, once you purchase more, that might seem useless but become critical for success in certain quests.

Here are the other posts I’ve made so far in this series, as well as a few other bonus posts that I plan to make in December regarding this game:

Strategy Post #1: First Steps After Purchasing a Core Set: https://cardboardclash.wordpress.com/2017/11/13/lotr-lcg-str
Strategy Post #2: Evaluating the Core Set Heroes: https://cardboardclash.wordpress.com/2017/11/20/lotr-lcg-str
Strategy Post #3: Constructing a Deck without Knowing the Next Quest: https://cardboardclash.wordpress.com/2017/11/24/lotr-lcg-str…
Strategy Post #4: Constructing a Deck to Defeat a Specific Quest
Bonus Post #5: Where to Go After the Core Set?
Bonus Posts #6 & 7: The Fellowship Event

Board Gaming · Lord of the Rings LCG

LotR LCG Strategy: Constructing a Deck without Knowing the Next Quest

Welcome to what is the third post in a semi-planned series of posts outlining some beginner-level strategies to help you get started in the Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game. In a game that already has so much additional content out there, it can feel overwhelming to know how to begin and, even, how to get started with learning the game. Deck construction is a key component to the game, and even the Core Set itself will encourage you to explore this path with the small selection of cards in the pool. Before you even consider purchasing more content for the game, you’ll likely want to get familiar with how the game plays AND how to construct a deck in order to combat the scenarios you’ll encounter.

Why listen to me when I am a beginner, too? Because I love to deckbuild, and I am at a starting level of this game like you. I’m not five years into playing and looking back on things. I don’t know much of the cardpool that is out there in current meta play, I just know the cards in this core set really well after building dozens of decks and running through Journey Down the Anduin more times than I care to share.

So without any more ado, I will dive right into the topic that many of you are probably really curious to know: how to construct a deck that is capable of faring well against many quests. This isn’t a way to build that One Deck to Rule Them All which can win every quest out there, but rather how to build the foundation for a successful deck.

What spheres do you want to use?

This is one of the more important questions to consider. At best, you will max out at using three of the spheres; however, I would definitely encourage avoiding even making a deck using three spheres. Why? Because resources in this game are going to come at a premium price if you have each hero belonging to a unique sphere. Consider this: each turn you gain one resource on every hero. Those resources can be used only to pay for cards in their sphere or to pay for the only neutral card in the Core Set. That means anything costing 3 or more resources is either going to require you to play nothing for a good chunk of the game or they will simply sit and clog up your hand. Yes, there are ways to gain extra resources, but in general you’ll get a lot better mileage when running only two spheres.

What Tactics can offer – This sphere excels at dealing damage, taking hits, and influencing enemy attacks. This is a fantastic sphere if you are playing with another person, and when paired with the right sphere it is also quite feasible for solo play. This sphere is very weak at questing, though, so it will need the other hero or two to be strong in that area.

What Lore can offer – This sphere provides ways to heal damage, draw cards, and some mitigation of threat in the staging area. Like the Tactics sphere, this one really shines in a 2-player game because it brings a lot of ways to dig into your decks for needed cards and ways to reduce what the encounter deck has thrown at you. This sphere isn’t very good with damage dealing, making it a sensible partner with Tactics.

What Spirit can offer – This sphere really shines at questing, and also offers good ways to reduce your threat track and to cancel the nastier effects that an encounter deck reveals. There are allies that can help to burn through locations, both active and those clogged in the staging area and is my must-have sphere in any solo deck. This sphere, like Lore, isn’t so great at attacking but is also not great at defending. Spirit and Lore make a fun deck to run, but not one that will progress quickly through piles of enemies that appear.

What Leadership can offer – This sphere provides ways to generate resources, making it a great partner for any sphere. They are reasonably good at questing, attacking, and defending which makes them a jack-of-all-trades sort of sphere in the Core Set. But while they are good at all of those, they do not excel at any of them so – although they are arguably the best sphere to use if running mono-sphere – they definitely benefit from pairing with one of the other spheres.

The vital things to include in a deck

Questing – Without high willpower, or other acceptable ways of dealing with what is in the staging area, there is little hope to find consistent success with any deck you make. This is the reason why Eowyn is, for me, pretty much an auto-include in any deck I construct. Her ability to quest for 4+ each round is simply too good in the Core Set to be ignored. Other good options include Aragorn because he can ready after questing, Faramir to boost all questing characters, the Northern Tracker to put tokens on locations that clog in the staging area, the Lorien Guide to auto-add tokens to the active location, and the Snowborn Scout for their effect when entering play. Attachments such as Favor of the Lady and Celebrian’s Stone are also fantastic to include in a deck.

Attack power – Few quests can be completed if you have a board full of enemies either engaged with you or in the staging area. The former will continue to damage you and/or require you to dedicate blockers each round instead of using them in other ways. The latter will require you to have insane amounts of willpower in order to progress through locations and the quest cards. Legolas and Glorfindel are the two strongest base attack heroes in the game. Other excellent cards include Beorn, For Gondor! to boost attack for all characters, Blade Mastery to boost one attack, Quick Strike to deal damage before an enemy, as well as Blade of Gondolin and Dwarven Axe to attach to heroes to boost their power.

Defense power – Enemies strike first, which means you have to be able to defend what is thrown at you. Heroes like Denethor are great for his high defense, and there are some like Gimli and Beravor who have a solid defense stat. Gimli in particular is nice to defend early so he can get his attack boosted. A popular line of thinking is to put out a host of cheap allies who can exist solely to defend. No one does this better than the Gondoran Spearman who deals a damage as he defends, but allies like Guard of the Citadel, Snowborn Scout, Wandering Took, and others can serve in that capacity. Beorn and Gandalf are both excellent blockers but are expensive. Cards such as Protector of Lorien to boost defense, Swift Strike to deal damage while defending, Citadel Plate to take more damage, and Feint to cancel an attack are all worthwhile to include.

The other stuff – This is where everything that doesn’t fit nicely into one of the three main categories can fit, and this is going to depend on your spheres used. If you are using Leadership, you will want cards like Ever Vigilant to ready characters, Sneak Attack to get out an expensive card for a turn, and Steward of Gondor for resource generation. If you are using Tactics, you’ll want to include Blade Mastery, Quick Strike, Feint, and Swift Strike to manipulate the attack/defense phases of the game. You’d also want attachments like the Horn of Gondor to boost resources as your cheap allies die. If running Lore, then cards like Lore of Indralis and Daughter of the Nimrodel to heal damage, Gleowine and Lorien’s Wealth for card draw. You may also consider Forest Snare, Secret Paths, and Radagast’s Cunning for their ability to mitigate the impact of certain enemies and locations. For Spirit, cards like Hasty Stroke and A Test of Will are vital to cancel encounter deck effects. The Galadhrim’s Greeting is a great way to reduce threat, and Unexpected Courage allows you to ready a hero each turn so you can use them for more things every round.

Putting things together into a deck

For the purposes of an all-around deck, I feel that Spirit and Leadership will make a great pairing because it can handle a little bit of everything. However, in the interest of undoing my dependency of Eowyn I am going to have us build a slightly different deck here:

Heroes:

Aragorn
Dunhere
Theodred

Theodred and Aragorn will quest each round, with Dunhere holding back to be able to defend or attack an enemy in the staging area. With a 28 starting threat, this should allow him to chip away at a few enemies early in the game. Aragorn can gain the resource from Theodred in order to ready again if needed, and Theodred could also add a resource to Dunhere in order to boost that spirit generation as needed.

Allies:

Brok Ironfist x 1
Faramir x 2
Gandalf x 3 (If playing two players with the same core, reduce a Gandalf and increase a Silverlode Archer)
Guard of the Citadel x 3
Longbeard Orc Slayer x 2
Lorien Guide x 2
Northern Tracker x 2
Silverlode Archer x 1
Snowbourne Scout x 3

Attachments:

Celebrian’s Stone x 1
Power in the Earth x 1
Steward of Gondor x 2
The Favor of the Lady x 2
Unexpected Courage x 1

Event:

A Light in the Dark x 1
A Test of Will x 2
Common Cause x 2
Dwarven Tomb x 1
Ever Vigilant x 2
For Gondor! x 2
Grim Resolve x 1
Hasty Stroke x 2
Sneak Attack x 2
Stand and Fight x 2
Strength of Will x 2
The Galadhrim’s Greeting x 2
Valiant Sacrifice x 2
Will of the West x 1

Cards to look for in a starting hand:

Sneak Attack + Gandalf – This combo would let you get a Gandalf out immediately, either to drop some damage on an enemy on the board or to drop your threat, allowing even more time to get set up before the big nasties have to engage with you.

Steward of Gondor – This is an excellent resource generator, and getting this Turn 1 onto Dunhere will allow you to be able to afford a lot more of the Spirit items early in the game, such as Lorien Guides and Northern Trackers to help with the questing and location resolution.

Unexpected Courage – Getting this onto Theodred early would allow you to quest with 2-3 heroes and have 2-3 ready after the questing phase. Or, putting it on Aragorn will allow you to quest, defend, and attack with him every turn.

Celebrian’s Stone OR The Favor of the Lady – Either of these are great additions, and putting one of them onto Aragorn will boost his questing ability. The Stone, in addition, will allow him to spend on either Spirit or Leadership cards which would make him become the ideal candidate for a later play of Steward of Gondor.

****

Okay, so there is a fairly basic deck to start with. Want to make questing a little easier? Sub Dunhere out for Eowyn. It will leave you needing to get allies out in order to defend so Aragorn can attack them (unless you get an Unexpected Courage right away) but you’ll be able to chew right through a ton of locations and quests. I’ve built it myself and will run this through the first two quests in the Core Set three times each solo and then I’ll report on my results in the final post in this series for the month.

By all means, feel free to throw this together as well and let me know how it worked for you!

Here are the other two planned posts for this month, as well as a few other bonus posts that I plan to make in December regarding this game:

Strategy Post #1: First Steps After Purchasing a Core Set
Strategy Post #2: Evaluating the Core Set Heroes
Strategy Post #3: Constructing a Deck without Knowing the Next Quest
Strategy Post #4: Constructing a Deck to Defeat a Specific Quest
Bonus Post #5: Where to Go After the Core Set?
Bonus Posts #6 & 7: The Fellowship Event

Board Gaming · Lord of the Rings LCG

LotR LCG Strategy: Evaluating the Core Set Heroes

Welcome to what is going to be the first in a semi-planned series of posts outlining some beginner-level strategies to help you get started in the Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game. In a game that already has so much additional content out there, it can feel overwhelming to know how to begin and, even, how to get started with learning the game. Deck construction is a key component to the game, and even the Core Set itself will encourage you to explore this path with the small selection of cards in the pool. Before you even consider purchasing more content for the game, you’ll likely want to get familiar with how the game plays AND how to construct a deck in order to combat the scenarios you’ll encounter.

Why listen to me when I am a beginner, too? Because I love to deckbuild, and I am at a starting level of this game like you. I’m not five years into playing and looking back on things. I don’t know much of the cardpool that is out there in current meta play, I just know the cards in this core set really well after building dozens of decks and running through Journey Down the Anduin more times than I care to share.

So without any more ado, I will dive right into the twelve heroes that come in the core set, looking at them each in turn and then considering some synergies between certain heroes and their abilities.

The Tactics Sphere Heroes

 

 

 

Gimli – This dwarf is one of the early stars of the Core Set for heroes, simply because he is so beefy. His five health, combined with the increase in his damage output as he takes more damage, allows him to contribute to defending early in the game and to mercilessly slaughtering the tougher enemies later in the game. He even has reasonable willpower for questing, allowing you to plunk down progress tokens when there isn’t any visible threat to deal with. His biggest drawback is the threat of 11, which isn’t horrible for what you can have out of him but is still on the high end.

Legolas – There are three important things to note on Legolas’ card: Ranged, 3 Attack, and his ability to place progress tokens when helping defeat an enemy. That 3 attack is really nice, and helps make up for his unimpressive willpower and defense. He’ll often be a hero you keep back along with a dedicated blocker, allowing Legolas to cut through swaths of enemies via the only efficient way that Tactics can quest in this Core Set. Ranged is a keyword that is nearly meaningless in a solo game playing with one deck, but as soon as you add another player it can become important because it allows him to attack an enemy that is engaged with another player.

Thalin – His willpower is his weakest stat, but it is probably the one you’ll use him for the most often because of his ability to deal damage to enemies as they are revealed. That means anything with one health dies instantly, something very important in certain scenarios as we’ll discuss in the fourth post. His defense is better than Legolas, allowing him to take hits a little better, but he seems to be really only worth including if you plan to quest with him every round.

The Lore Sphere Heroes

 

 

Beravor – Her stats are solid. As a very well-rounded hero, this alone would make her stand out. Her threat is a little on the high side, but it is one less than Gimli (who is identical apart from health) and two less than Aragorn (whose attack is one higher) so in comparison that actually isn’t a bad cost. Where she shines, and why so many people are thrilled to use her in their decks, is for her action to draw cards. Being able to dig in your deck is no small benefit, allowing you to get that event, ally, or attachment you really need. She can be held back until the end of the round in case you need a defender or a boost to an attack more than a card. They have errata’d the text on her to make that ability once per round, but even with that change she’s definitely one of the more useful heroes in the Core Set.

Denethor – There are three things I really like about Denethor, and they are why I usually add him into a deck when I want Lore: his low threat, his 3 defense, and his ability to peek at the encounter deck. He is perfect for sitting back while the other heroes quest, leaving you a capable defender if an enemy gets revealed. In those best-case scenarios where an enemy never appears, his ability allows you to see the top card of the encounter deck and either put it on the top or the bottom of the deck. This is not only useful at the end of a round so you could possibly plan on what comes next, but it also could allow you to peek ahead of dealing shadow cards when the enemies attack. More often than not, the card I see goes right back on top but then I can plan my questing and combat phases for the next round based on that information. Better to deal with the threat you know is coming than to risk revealing something even nastier, right?

Glorfindel – The knee-jerk reaction is that this guy is a great hero. Five health. Three willpower. The ability to heal. Three attack. If you need a quester and don’t want to include Eowyn or Aragorn, then he is a good replacement. But that threat is so high, and his ability is one that I find I rarely make use of during a game. That one resource could be put toward a card in my hand, or saving up for those expensive cards in my hand. Lore has a lot of cards that allow you to heal, including some ally cards that will let you do that every round once they are in play. So he ends up being that hero who is really only in there if you don’t use Aragorn or Eowyn instead, either of whom I would include over him. I suppose if you are running Tactics/Lore…

The Leadership Sphere Heroes

 

 

Aragorn – This is arguably the best hero in the entire Core Set. His stats are all excellent. His threat can be an issue, but if you pair him with two lower-threat heroes then it isn’t as much of a detriment. His ability to ready by paying a resource is invaluable, allowing him to quest and attack, or to quest and defend. In a solo game his Sentinel keyword is useless, but in a multiplayer game that adds even more benefit to bringing him in a deck because he can take an attack directed at another player. As you will see in the next article, there are also some very specific cards that synergize with Aragorn in this Core Set so that raises his value even more. If you are including Leadership in a deck, he is the hero you probably want to be using.

Gloin – In a deck with lots of healing, this dwarf might actually become useful. As it stands, he is one of the other heroes that never sees the chance to appear in one of my decks because he is, overall, unremarkable. Sure, his stats themselves aren’t horrible. And his response isn’t a bad one, really. You get resources for every point of damage he suffers. But the limitation is that its usefulness caps at around 3 unless you have healing or a way to take additional damage. His problem is that he just isn’t as good with ability or stats as some of the other choices for the same, or very close, threat in your deck.

Theodred – The real reason why Gloin is left behind is because of Theodred. Yes, his stats are a little worse for one threat less. But where this guy wins is his response to add a resource to the pool of a hero who is committed to the quest. Which, guess what? It gives you the resource to ready Aragorn. This combo right here, as I’ll discuss soon, is what makes Theodred a fantastic hero to field when you want to use two Leadership heroes. Plus he also is handy to have when you need to boost your resource generation of a specific sphere in order to play an expensive card.

The Spirit Sphere Heroes

 

 

Dunhere – Welcome to the sphere of mostly unimpressive stats. His low threat is a great thing, but the real reason you’re going to want to consider him in your lineup is because of that ability. Normally you have to engage an enemy in order to attack it, which means it will get a chance to hit you first. Not with Dunhere on your side! He can sock an enemy for 3 when attacking alone, which is enough to deal with some of the lesser enemies you might see in an encounter deck. It isn’t a spectacular ability, but it definitely works well in a deck designed to keep threat really low.

Eleanor – I will be the first to admit that I do not use her nearly as much as I should, and I think the problem is because I play solo. Denethor is great to keep back until late in a round because he excels at blocking with that 3 defense. Eleanor’s 2 isn’t bad, but there are too many chances she’s going to take some damage if left to defend. But that ability, allowing you to cancel the effect of a card revealed from the encounter deck, can be huge. She might not be designed for solo play, but I could see her being very welcome in any multiplayer game you might play.

Eowyn – If I were to log my decks that I built, not counting mono-sphere decks, I am almost certain Eowyn would be on every one of them. And why not? As a solo player, it is hard to beat her 4 willpower each questing phase. Not to mention her ability to boost that by a point if I need it to advance that quest, clear a location, or to avoid an increase in threat. Every deck I build in the core set begins with her and with very good reason. Just don’t put any unnecessary damage on her – encounter cards getting revealed can kill her off and leave you floundering to scrape by the last leg of a quest. Trust me on that.

A few basic pairings

Aragorn + Theodred + Eowyn – As I mentioned already, these two have some excellent synergy because they can both quest each round and then Aragorn can essentially ready for free. Or not, if he isn’t needed. Throwing the two of these with Eowyn can lead to a deck that is able to blaze past almost anything quest-wise. Just be sure to field lots of cheap allies to block so Aragorn can attack when needed.

Legolas + Denethor + Eowyn – I’ve grown less fond of tri-sphere decks lately because it can be hard to afford cards, and this grouping would be no different. Where they have synergy, though, is in having a strong attacker, a strong defender, and a strong quester for a starting threat of only 26. Most decks I make start between 28-31, so having those few extra rounds to set your board up for whatever is flipped is a great benefit. Plus consider Legolas’ excellent addition to questing whenever he attacks.

Eleanor + Denethor + Beravor – This wouldn’t be as great in a solo situation, but if you want a strong support deck to field when playing with friends this is where it is at. You can cancel treacheries, peek ahead at the encounter deck, and help whoever is in need to draw cards. If you want to go all-in on playing a supportive role you might really enjoy this deck. The card pool for Lore and Spirit also help to support that idea. And I actually find that one of my favorite dual-sphere combos to play solo is Lore and Spirit, just not with this trio. You guessed it, swap out Eleanor of Eowyn and you have one of my favorite solo combos for a slow, but steady, progression that is very dependent on some card draws for certain quests.

Gimli + Legolas + Aragorn – On the other side of things, maybe you like going all out and being able to attack and defend at will. This would actually pair really well with the above deck for two players running through the Core Set together, as this gives you both Sentinel and Ranged to help pull off any threats that go after the support deck. The biggest problem with this deck is the starting threat of 32, which means there are a lot of nasty enemies that won’t just sit and wait for you to be ready for them. Meaning you need to not only draw that card you need in an opening hand, but also be able to hold off until you have the resources to play it.

So there you have it, a brief evaluation of each of the heroes in the core set, some of my thoughts on them, and four pairings that you could take and test against the Core Set scenarios. How would I build the deck at this point? For a dual-sphere deck, throw all of the cards in both spheres together, add in three Gandalf cards (or two if building a second deck to use), and run with that. Pay attention to the cards you always try to play as those should definitely stay in the deck. Also pay attention to the cards that seem to always sit in your hand, either because they aren’t ever useful or are too expensive. Those are likely good candidates to trim from the deck.

Running three spheres in a deck and don’t want to deckbuild yet? Grab two of each card in those spheres and some Gandalfs and see how that plays with the same parameters as before. Even if the deck is too large, this will let you see a great number of cards during game situations to see how they perform. At this point, that is the most important thing you’re wanting to find: how useful are these cards?

I’d love to hear if you try out one of these decks going through Journey Through Mirkwood. Got a combination of heroes from the Core Set that you prefer? Comment below and let me know what that is as well!

Here are the other two planned posts for this month, as well as a few other bonus posts that I plan to make in December regarding this game:

Strategy Post #1: First Steps After Purchasing a Core Set
Strategy Post #2: Evaluating the Core Set Heroes
Strategy Post #3: Constructing a Deck without Knowing the Next Quest
Strategy Post #4: Constructing a Deck to Defeat a Specific Quest
Bonus Post #5: Where to Go After the Core Set?
Bonus Posts #6 & 7: The Fellowship Event

Board Gaming · Lord of the Rings LCG

LotR LCG Strategy: First Steps After Purchasing a Core Set

Welcome to what is going to be the first in a semi-planned series of posts outlining some beginner-level strategies to help you get started in the Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game. In a game that already has so much additional content out there, it can feel overwhelming to know how to begin and, even, how to get started with learning the game. Deck construction is a key component to the game, and even the Core Set itself will encourage you to explore this path with the small selection of cards in the pool. Before you even consider purchasing more content for the game, you’ll likely want to get familiar with how the game plays AND how to construct a deck in order to combat the scenarios you’ll encounter.

That leads us to the question: what do you do first after opening the game? Where should you get started as a newbie to the Lord of the Rings: LCG? The answer will apply whether you are playing solo or playing with another player…

Play through the Passage Through Mirkwood quest with each preconstructed deck

The very best way to gain an understanding of the various cards in this core set would be to try each of them out. This is best accomplished by running through the first scenario – one that can provide enough challenge to test the deck but not enough to create confusion and frustration. Each mono-sphere deck is capable of making it through this quest, although some will be more likely to succeed than others. This will let you see the strengths and weaknesses of each trio of heroes for the sphere and learn what some of the cards in each sphere can accomplish. For example:

Tactics is really good at killing things and surviving attacks, but isn’t so great at questing

If you are going to lose with one of the four decks, this is the one that will probably lose. And it isn’t through any real fault of this sphere – they will be more than capable of handling any enemies that spawn and they do have ways of getting some quest tokens onto the board. But they are heavy on attachments and on events that affect attack, defense, or the ability to attack. There are only a handful of allies in the deck, and none of them really add to the questing power of your group. Being able to see the deck in action, and witness both its strengths and its shortcomings, will pay off when it comes time to construct a deck. You’ll be able to know that this sphere will need to be paired with a sphere that is excellent at questing.

After you’ve played through the quest with the faction, take some time to look through the rest of the cards in the deck and see what cards didn’t come out over the course of the quest. Doing this now, while the playthrough is fresh in your mind, will help you to see and evaluate how that could have possibly functioned if you had drawn that card. Especially in a losing situation, being able to look for a card where you say “If I had this in my hand, I could have overcome X and then I might have won” is valuable because that will help you to identify those cards that you’ll want to consider including in a deck.

The Gandalf cards

The one sphere-less card in the core set is Gandalf, a very powerful ally card. You’ll find later, when constructing decks, that this is the one auto-include card in every deck. If you are playing solo and using one deck, you’ll want to include three copies in your deck. If you are building two decks, you’ll want two in each deck. It is that good. There can be some value in adding the Gandalf card to these four decks as you test them, as it will allow you to not only see how his card can be a big benefit but also help you to preplan for the cost needed to play him in a deck.

However, his card can also detract from the experience of seeing how a particular sphere functions and its ability to operate independently. There is a good argument to include him at this point, and a good argument to be had for leaving him out. Which is why I’d probably suggest putting only one copy in the mono-sphere deck. This will give you a chance to see him in action if you draw him, but will also not clog the deck down with multiple copies of the card. But if you feel inclined to do so, you can leave him out entirely or put in 2-3 copies.

The Next Steps

The next thing you are going to want to do is to construct a deck of your own, putting two spheres together in order to create a larger, more versatile deck. This is the area that I will be looking at in the next few posts, all of which I am going to aim to create this month. Here are the other three planned posts, as well as a few other bonus posts that I plan to make in December regarding this game:

Strategy Post #2: Evaluating the Heroes – In this post I will look at all twelve heroes in the Core Set and discuss a little bit about them, their abilities, and give some thoughts on solid pairings of heroes in a dual-sphere deck.

Strategy Post #3: Constructing a Deck without Knowing the Next Quest – In this post I will go over some strategies on how I would blindly construct a deck that is suited to tackle a quest without knowing what dangers are lurking in the specific quest. In other words, what general things should a deck have in order to have a fighting chance against most quests?

Strategy Post #4: Constructing a Deck to Defeat a Specific Quest – I’ll take a look at specifically building a deck to tackle known threats in the second Core Set quest: Journey Down the Anduin. We’ll cover what those cards are that you need to plan on dealing with and some possible counters that exist in the Core Set.

Bonus Post #5: Where to Go After the Core Set? – I’ll look at the various suggestions that are frequently presented to the newer player and evaluate what those have to offer. Since I’ve not purchased anything other than the Core Set myself, this will present the thoughts of a newer player trying to weigh the pros/cons of each possible path of purchase.

Bonus Posts #6 & 7: The Fellowship Event – December is coming, which means the 2017 Fellowship is arriving soon at local game stores. I’ll take a look at a possible deck using just the Core Set, as well as possible low-cost purchases to expand a deck construction beyond just the Core for the event. Then, after my event on December 17th I will come back with an impressions/reaction post based on participating in my first Fellowship Event.