Today I have a chance to play a fellowship of two decks submitted by Psychorocka. The first deck features strong Noldor heroes, a good bit of willpower and support and the second deck contains the Three Hunters as heroes and it covers the combat phase.
This combination looks entertaining! I like the looks of the combat deck a lot. Tactics Aragorn is one of my favorite heroes but he’s not as good solo so I don’t get to use him as much as I’d like. It’s unusual to use Leadership Gimli with Tactics Legolas, but after reading the fellowship and deck descriptions, I can see some good utility there. The main potential weakness I see in the early game will be Gimli’s defense: he’s the defender, but that 2 Defense is a little easy for enemies to slice through in the early game.
The Noldor deck has a lot of things going on: I see the Vilya/Stargazer/Light of Valinor combo for Elrond, the Nenya/Unexpected Courage setup for Galadriel, Silver Harps for Arwen and the Imladris Caregiver and even some location control with the Northern Tracker. If there’s a weakness here it may be low card draw. If you can afford to draw with Galadriel, it should be fine, but if you can’t the 2x Elven Lights and Daeron’s Runes will be the only card draw effects to get the deck moving.
The threat levels are pretty high overall but there are ways for both decks to reduce.
Test 1 – Passage Through Mirkwood
I got things rolling fairly quickly and finished the quest on turn 6. Good plays included using a Destrier on Gimli to avoid the forced effect on Caught in a Web, cancelling the nasty shadow effect on Ungoliant’s Spawn with Sterner than Steel and using Hands Upon the Bow to knock out the Hummerhorns before they ever had a chance to engage me.
My willpower didn’t ramp that fast and I was hoping and I ended up questing with Aragorn throughout the game. I could have used Nenya on Galadriel to make up for that but the combat element of the game was pretty well covered with Legolas, Gimli and Elrond with his armor. I used Galadriel to keep the threat level even across the board. The combat deck ended up drawing a lot more cards than the Spirit/Lore deck.
I finished off Ungoliant’s Spawn with a Sneak Attack Gandalf coupled with Gimli and Legolas hitting hard.
Test 2 – Escape from Umbar
I had to restart the quest a couple times while I tried to get enough willpower on turn 1. There were a couple attempts where I wasn’t able to quest for enough on the first turn to get a solid number of progress tokens on the quest state.
My threat level was a bit of a challenge for this quest as well since both decks were hovering around 36-38 most of the game. That meant I had to engage almost anything that came up during the quest phase (including the 3 Umbar Sentry that were all revealed back-to-back at one point!).
The archery was easy to spread around so the Galadhrim Healers were able to heal the full 6 damage off the 3 heroes when they entered play. Overall I had a rough first couple turns, then the next few turns were middling, then the last 6 (of 12 turns) were pretty easy and I was just building up to quest through the last stage in a hurry.
I still found my willpower a little light in the first 2/3 of the game (basically until I got Faramir out).
Test 3 – Nightmare Into the Pit
This quest demands some good starting willpower and it tends to run up your threat fairly fast. It was fairly difficult for these decks and while I wasn’t able to play my fun out to completion, I did gain control of the game and was headed to victory (unless something dramatic happened). I still had a hard time actually using Aragorn very well. I found myself forced to quest with him more often than not which felt like a waste.
Test 4 – The Fords of Isen
This quest has the perfect ratio of combat vs willpower needs for this fellowship. It was a good game and I beat it on round 9. The willpower ramp was a little slow again and I was in danger of losing on stage 1 to the Time effect, but once I got a few Spirit allies on the table, I was able to gain control of the board.
The combat deck got Legolas powered up fast and was able to make good use of a couple Hands Upon the Bow events. Aragorn ended up questing for the first half of the game again. I got one free Unexpected Courage out with Vilya, and I put it on Elrond, but I guess I could have put it on Legolas or Aragorn to good effect as well.
I never drew Steward of Gondor for Gimli, but I did get him powered up to 4 defense (Warning+Shield) with a Destrier so he was able to cover most of the defense for the decks with a Burning Brand Elrond filling in when needed. The decks don’t need as many defensive characters since you’re running Hands Upon the Bow, Feint and Sneak Attack Gandalf/Rumil. There are plenty of options for some direct damage to know out an enemy or two before they attack.
I abstained from drawing too many cards with Elven-Light in this quest since there are usually punishing effects that trigger off having too many cards in hand. I think I sometimes spend money on Elven-Light to draw cards when it would be better to actually just play something in my hand! It’s always so tempting to draw cards! The lust for cards in hand! But this quest helped me focus on playing out my hand instead of gathering options into my hand.
This is a complex set of decks to analyze! There’s a lot going on in a single deck and neither of these decks are simple. I’ll try to keep my comments fairly general.
Deck 1 Rings of Power
This deck has some powerful heroes but takes a while to get going. This deck can provide a lot of support to the combat deck. Arwen can pass Aragorn resources, Galadriel can provide cards and threat reduction and Elrond’s healing boost helps keep Gimli going and Elrond can even provide some solid defense with Elven Mail and Burning Brand. My main comment here is the deck is not very focused. There are tons of possibilities in the deck, but low quantities of individual cards make many of the combinations (Elrohir/Elladan, Vilya/Stargazer, Burning Brand/Light of Valinor etc). The deck functions pretty well, but there are so many ideas included in the deck it won’t perform very consistently. Variety is fine and can be exciting in a deck, and low quantities of cards means you can reach a higher power level in the late game, but you have to make sure you survive to the late game!
In this case, I might recommend considering streamlining the deck by removing Vilya and its support cards. With 2 Vilyas, 2 Stargazers and 2 LoV, it’s not a sure thing or even a likely thing that you’ll get an efficient Vilya combo set up by turn 4 or 5 and by that time the game is often won or lost. I think the power of Vilya can sometimes be a deckbuilding trap. It’s insanely powerful, but if you don’t build the deck to ensure that it happens, you either find yourself unable to pay for all the expensive cards in your deck, or you end up blindly playing Elven-Light off the top of your deck. This deck has a couple Masters of the Forge, but beyond that and the Elven-Light and Galdariel draw, there aren’t many ways to dig through the deck and find the ring and the Stargazer. Then if you do get it set up, there are only 7 cards in the deck that cost 4 or more. While Vilya is powerful, I don’t think you always need to include it in every Elrond deck. Sometimes it becomes a distraction from the central deck idea and waters everything down.
I think that this deck could produce more willpower faster if it dropped the Vilya combination and focused on getting generic questers out. Allies like the Sailor of Lune, Ethir Swordsman or West Road Traveller would all be good for boosting willpower numbers faster. I cloned the deck and trimmed it down a good bit. I cut several cards and increased quantities of other cards and didn’t even add any new cards.
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