My last posting was an in depth state of the union on deck-building. It couldn’t have been done at a worse time as much of what I said needs to be reviewed again. While FFG has clearly endeavored to create encounter sets + quests that present a new challenge to players, the impacts have been mostly incremental and somewhat modest. Sure, I needed a slight tweak to respond to the massive card suck that was The Long Dark. Shadow + Flame and Laketown told us right off the bat how they were going to kick our ass both with their initial set up and their official DL – but still a well rounded deck mostly just required some deck tweaks to be able to handle it. Heirs of Numenor is a revolution - all the more so if the concepts it has introduced carry over into the adventure packs of cycle.
I’ve come to expect player cards to influence my feelings about deck building more than quests. Heirs of Numenor presents a player card list with some interesting options, but ultimately nothing that I found truly groundbreaking. I suspect that this will change as the Gondor theme develops, but for now the cards didn’t significantly alter the strategies I would already choose to use anyway. The encounter deck is another story entirely. With very limited exceptions (possibly an argument Hills of Emyn Muil), all quests are built around the same basic capabilities that you need to have covered in your deck: questing and fighting. This is the very fabric of the game. While there are numerous other things that can or should go into a good deck (economy, card synergies, threat reduction, healing, cancelation, location management, encounter deck manipulation . . .), these are simply capabilities that support or enhance the basic need to be able to quest and to be able to fight. While there are a few different ways that you can approach dealing with enemies, questing tends to be straight forward: You need willpower. This basic inescapable need has been dominant in being successful in the game. A quick scan of my hero rankings from my previous post shows full representation of high willpower heroes in the top 10-15 heroes while no 1 or 0 willpower heroes make the cut. I based two rules in my deck-building ten commandments around it. Delivering willpower is a central thought in my construction of decks. Ensuring that I have sufficient willpower available IS half of the game. I belabor this point for an obvious reason. In Heirs of Numenor, willpower is not only unimportant, it is almost NOT NEEDED.
This shift is a bit of a shock with far reaching implications, but I expected it to be manageable. I figured that my battle stout dwarf decks should fair reasonably well in this situation given their versatility between willpower and attack power. This was largely confirmed in “Peril at Pelargir” where I found solid success with the dwarves. The first couple of turns in particular are quite challenging as there are enormous pressures on your attack power for both questing and trying to clear enemies. Harbor Thugs with their 3 hp and 1 defense require more than a trivial amount of attack power to eliminate. After a couple of failed attempts at a balanced early round approach, we quickly realized that the first round must be focused on killing enemies even if our threat skyrockets, otherwise an impossible second or third turn develops with too many enemies to manage. It definitely feels like a battle. So thematically the concept is strong. My biggest issue with the quest is the massive variance that you can get in the first turn reveals. In a two player game you can end up dealing with anywhere between 2 and 6 enemies for the first combat round. A 2 enemy first turn is very manageable if not downright easy. A 6 enemy first round is all but impossible. So my gaming experience is heavily influenced by the encounter deck reveals on the first turn of which I have essentially no control.
To further delve into that topic, there are two key ways that the encounter deck/quest deck can challenge the player. The first way is the easy way: construct an initial set up and encounter deck that can overwhelm the players very early on in the game before the players can establish a power curve. This could also prevent the players from establishing a power curve and hence be constantly vulnerable to certain encounter deck combos. I say this is the easy way because FFG can predict with a high degree of certainty what the player’s capabilities are at the very beginning of the game. Mid-game the range of player capability can range dramatically based on deck construction and play. The second way is to ramp up the difficulty during the quest as fast or faster than the players can keep up. This is much harder to accomplish, but simple mechanisms of holding cards off to the side to be introduced later in the quest and/or quest card text are the simplest ways to do this and by my view are heavily under-utilized. My complaints with high power encounter deck combos are not so much that they exist, rather they are often impossible to prepare for on the first turn or two. 6 enemies being added to the staging area could be quite a challenge at any point in the game, but at the beginning it is too much. To further belabor the point, a player for the most part starts off at their weakest. Obviously a player could lose heroes to become weaker, but I posit the basic premise that a first or second turn hero death in a one or two player game is generally not recoverable on any challenging quests with most decks. Outside of that, hero damage, loss of cards in your hand, and bad attachments are really the only ways you can be in a worse state than you start. The point is that if the encounter deck is designed to present you with the same challenges at the beginning of the quest as it does throughout, then almost by definition your success will largely be determined by how the game starts – because that is when you are the weakest. And furthermore, those same encounter deck combos are bound to be less challenging later on. There are certainly plenty of exceptions particularly the cards that target your attachments or allies. Zealous Traitor is a great example of this being a card that isn’t nearly as bad first turn as it is later when established with ally support. But I continue to believe they are far too infrequent.
Into Ithilien totally kicked our collective asses more than any scenario previously played. Our first 5 or 6 games barely resulted in any progress tokens before we knew we were sunk. My decks simply didn’t work. Even the dwarf deck with a near perfect start which included a first turn Erebor Battle Master with 5 other dwarves in play (We are not idle, Kili/Fili, and A Very Good Tale make this possible) still resulted in questionable chances. The initial set up is quite awful and it is simply not practical to quest enough to get “off of the road” and still have enough attack power to spare to substantially reduce what is in the staging area. So while the first turn is rough, the second turn is often very difficult as well as we would often have even more to deal with. The encounter set is unrelenting and is challenging even to a developed player board, so there are numerous combinations that are near knockout blows first or second turn. We rarely recovered from an early uncancelled Southron Support or a Mumak reveal. I think these cards would have been prime options to set aside and shuffle in after stage 1 of the quest. Of course the Southron Companies by themselves present as difficult of an early enemy as we’ve seen in the game particularly in multiplayer. Sure a Hill Troll or Stone Giant is worse, but at least there is only 1 of them! The encounter deck and start is truly awful, but if you can establish yourself and make it past the first couple of turns, I think there is an engaging and suspenseful experience available. Our wins have never come easy even with decks more tuned towards the challenges of this quest. But I am sure some got crushed in their first 5 games, so they just gave up on the quest, which is a shame. The quest does some nasty things most notably Blocking Wargs, but it lacks any card text that makes you simply discard something from play. The deck throws waves of tough enemies at you and never lets you catch your breath unless you earn it. Ultimately, I can’t say I am a fan of the total crapshoot which is the first turn. I think the quest would be a lot better if there were simply 1 free turn to prepare (i.e. a 0B quest card that automatically moves to 1B at the end of the first turn. Also, Blocking Wargs shouldn’t reshuffle into the deck or it should only be allowed to be played once a turn to prevent a round of endless cycling when you get to the bottom of the deck. I still think the quest would be immensely challenging even with these changes, but there would be a lot more opportunity for the players to stand a chance on some of the nasty reveals.
With retooled decks that were appropriately powered up for Into Ithilien, we were better prepared for Siege at Cair Andros including winning our second game. I really liked the additional dimension of defending locations and having that meaningfully impact the progression of the quest. Celador did that as well in Into Ithilien, but the implementation in Cair Andros was so much more effective. It is another brutal quest with the new twist of chaining shadow cards making it very difficult to predict the attack strength of your enemy. I think this goes a tad overboard as the variations in attack power can be massive making it very difficult to block with heroes for fear that they’ll be kill. Shadow cancellation is that much more critical as is treachery cancellation. The Master’s Malice and Orc Assault are quite awful but at least can be cancelled. I am not sure what I think of The Power of Mordor card. This card causes you to shuffle back all staging area cards (including the start locations) into the encounter deck and replace them with new reveals. The effect can’t be cancelled and also has doomed 3. It essentially forces you down a completely divergent path on the quest from at least the path and reveals a bunch of bad stuff (almost certainly enemies) while ballooning our threat so they engage us. It also forces you into the next quest card which is often 2B early in the game. This card has an additional reveal and requires willpower for questing which is the exception for the quest which is a substantial shift from what is needed on 1B. This particular card has been all but equivalent to “game over” when we’ve drawn it on the first 2 turns, particularly if you are loading up on early defense so that you can siege quest quickly. I’d be interested to hear from someone who won the game after a first turn Power of Mordor reveal as I would find this very impressive. After winning our second game, we went on a major losing streak on this quest. Our win was heavily dependent on being able to clear The Banks quickly before it was destroyed while avoiding some crushing treacheries and high attack enemies early on. Eventually we changed course and took a different approach: Let the enemies attack undefended on 1B and focus entirely on killing the enemies while power curving. In a two player game, the locations will usually give you 2-3 turns before being overrun. Particularly with a set of dwarf decks, this can give you plenty of time to crank out a bunch of allies and prepare to massively quest on 2B (which with its extra reveal should be navigated past quickly). This has yielded a much higher success rate and has produced some epic games.
So all in all, while there are some definite frustrations to be had, there is a lot to like about the quests in Heirs of Numenor. After a few more plays, I might remove some of those frustrations just to up the fun a bit and make it a little easier. But even out of the box, the quests finally provide what I have been craving previously, a quest that throws a relentless amount of difficult enemies at you.
I already talked a bit about the impact on Willpower, but there are a couple other key game changing themes that come out of these quests:
1. A fast start is important. I’ve always primarily viewed LOTR tcg as a power curve game. Survive early and set up your power curve tends to be a strong approach to any strategy game. There is a balance between optimizing play on the first or second turn versus the rest of the game. Heirs of Numenor tips that balance significantly as you need to be able to accomplish a lot on the first turn and the early turns of each quest. So while those event cards or discardable attachments won’t do much for your long term economy, they are often needed just to survive. Also, having multi-color decks makes it harder to make plays of cards first turn. This last point is quite frustrating to me as I so much prefer tri-color decks as you can usually implement a much deeper strategy with them. I may very well have to go back to building deck pairs if for no other reason than to optimize the color usage a bit more. I moved away from deck pair construction partially because they were becoming a bit overpowered. But Heirs of Numenor has tipped the balance again and I will unabashedly reintroduce deck pairs.
2. It is very difficult to build a single deck + hero combo to manage all quests in Heirs of Numenor let alone all quests because of the massive variability in the needs between willpower, defense, and attack. I think the dwarves can still do it to some degree, but my efforts otherwise have largely failed.
Boromir – I respected the potential power of Boromir previously but ultimately his weak questing and high threat meant that I didn’t use him much. On the battle quests I have trouble imagining winning without him. He is absolutely incredible. The ability to quest at 3 AND still be available to defend/attack on the early turns of HoN quests is immense. All the more if his attack is boosted with a Dunedain Mark enhancing the effect further. Boromir is the king of providing early turn value since he can spend the most plentiful resource at the beginning of the game: threat.
Tactics – Tactics jumps from being the least valuable sphere to one of the most on the HoN quests. Attack power is precious on these quests because you never really have enough. The defense statistic has not traditionally been a strength of Tactics (or any sphere really), but the additions of Beregond and Defender of Ramas now substantially expand access.
A Test of Will At first glance, you’d look at these quests and determine that all you need is Tactics. But then the treacheries start rolling out. Blocking Wargs by itself all but makes treachery cancellation required as it is almost the only way to get rid of the card – otherwise Warg appearances will become increasingly common and eventually kill off whoever you are questing with. Orc Assault on Cair Andros essentially shuts the players down for a turn on both questing and fighting if not cancelled. Cancelling Southron Support is critical in the early rounds to avoid being overrun with enemies and continues to be a solid play through the game. Collateral Damage can cause massive threat damage in Peril at Pelargir especially when combined with the harbor storehouse. Plus Into Ithilien has other treachery cards that surge if you don’t cancel them. The point is that treachery cancellation is at least as important if not more important on these quests than usual. This is particularly challenging since Spirit is not exactly a good sphere for deploying battle worthy allies or heroes . . .
Glorfindel (Spirit version) Spirit heroes are not good against these quests. While Dunhere and Dwalin are somewhat adequate in a “battle” quest, Glorfindel clearly has an edge. Plus, heroes with good fighting stats tend to be higher threat anyway. So to avoid starting with too high of a threat (31 or higher in particular is a bad number on Into Ithilien since a Southron Support can boost your threat to 34 and send the Southron Companies at you first turn), Glorfindel is often a great choice to balance out the high threat of battle stalwarts like Beorn, Boromir, Imrahil, Aragorn, and Elrond. And with him already being the best Spirit hero, he extends his lead here. That said, he is not as well suited to Cair Andros given his small defense, but his attack power is still more than welcome on the quest.
Threat reduction These quests are not shy about going after your threat. Numerous cards with the “doomed” keyword, the aforementioned Collateral damage, and Into Ithilien’s 5B can rapidly crank up your threat even if you make it through the earlier cards. There are also numerous shadow effects that bump up your threat. And sometimes you simply need to circle the wagons and kill enemies at the sacrifice of questing resulting in a threat hit. Plus if you use heroes like Boromir and Frodo, you WILL have reason to use their threat increasing powers as there are always enemies to fight. Even with the addition of Damrod, there simply isn’t enough threat reduction available in the game to build more than a few decks without a huge amount of proxies.
Steward of Gondor While one could argue that there are other resource/power curve accelerators available that are somewhat comparable if not better (Vilya/stargazer, Secrecy, Master of Lore, Gloining, We are not idle), Steward of Gondor continues to have an advantage in that it has almost no dependencies. Play the steward and you are breaking even on resources immediately with an immediate profit in the future. This is all the more important on quests that are particularly unfriendly to spending resources entirely devoted to establishing future power. You need the power now. On top of that, Steward gives the Gondor trait AND resources making it a perfect pairing with Blood of Numenor. This combo turns any hero in the game into a stud defender if you are willing to save your resources. The other issue I have with Steward is that I usually can’t play it first turn due to me needing 2 leadership resources to play it. I rarely want two Leadership heroes in a deck simply because Leadership doesn’t have enough good cards or strategies to warrant them. I can easily get my Sneak Attacks, Steward, Dunedain attachments, or even secrecy cards with just one leadership hero. But you need two to play Steward turn 1. Now there are two ways around that. Wealth of Gondor is one way, but my preferred way is Envoy of Pelargir which allows you to both buy the Envoy and put a resource on your leadership hero for a steward play. I am not sure there is a stronger way to start the game as you still have 2 more resources at this point (from exhausting the SoG) after having put a cheap quester/attacker/chump blocker in play with the resource acceleration of SoG available for future turns. All but one Leadership hero is compatible with this approach (i.e. they are all nobles and/or gondor) except Dain (oddly enough, seems like he should be a noble). Note that the subtly effective Errand Rider if purchased first turn can set you up with a second turn with 3 leadership resources, which is often what I am looking for so that I can play a SoG and a Dunedain Warning/Mark or Sneak Attack. This is all with 1 leadership hero and the SoG being put on a more valuable sphered hero. While I am generally not trying to stock up on Leadership resources, often there are numerous cards that I am trying to crank out the first 2 turns.
Healing With the extensive damage capabilities of the enemies and the new Archery trait, characters have plenty of damage assigned to them. With the excessive need for chump blockers anyway, the last thing you want to do is have the archery damage actually kill something. Warden of Healing and Elrond in combo together have been very key for us keeping up with the unending damage being applied.
Hardy Leadership With the sometimes unpredictably large attacks and archery damage, having hit points available that can have damage assigned to them is immensely helpful. I’ve seen plenty of quests in the past where Hardy Leadership ends up not making that much of a difference other than being an expensive way to boost Dain’s health and make him more sturdy. But particularly in Cair Andros, it makes a huge difference.
Lore The introduction of Master of Lore means that the Lore sphere has native access to what is effectively resource acceleration. It isn’t particularly efficient to get going particularly where it would normally take at least 2-3 turns to pay for itself, unlike the craziness that is SoG or Resourceful played under secrecy. But there is a key short cut here in Spare Hood and Cloak that can allow you to use the ability multiple times a turn. This could allow the purchase of multiple Lore cards at a discounted price on the turn after Master of Lore enters play meaning a very fast return on investment. I think this is quite notable since Lore is already very strong with card draw which can be easily combined to create a power curve based mostly around Lore cards. Also Lore gained another ally that delivers a lot of value for the price. The Ithilien Tracker is an exceptionally effective “quester” by using its ability to make the threat of the first enemy revealed be zero for that round. He also has an attack point that can be buffed with the new Boromir. Finally the 3 hit points is outstanding for a 2 cost ally. This is a great card.
Gondor The racial winner of this expansion is quite obvious with most of the cards having the word Gondor printed on the card somewhere. There needs to be some more development here though as I don’t see it as worthy of building a deck around. But numerous cards such as Citadel Custodian, Hunter of Lamedon, and Boromir are likely to only be stronger as they develop the Gondor theme further.
Gondorian Spearman I love doubling up the Gondorian Spearman’s power with the Spear of the Citadel. One of my favorite situations to see in Heirs of Numenor is on a Haradhrim Elite reveal. You can deal 1 damage from Thalin and then block with a Gondorian Spearman with a Spear of the Citadel. Not only are you safely stopping the attack and killing the Haradhrim Elite, but he also dies BEFORE the quest resolves and hence doesn’t add his threat. The excessive hit points of enemies in HoN actually prevents this combo from shining a bit beyond this situation, but it will be fun to deploy the combo against earlier scenarios and wipe out enemies with an armed Spearman with some Thalin damage to go after those 3 hit point enemies.
Thalin and Theodred These guys are handy to have around, but it always seems a bit of a waste that their willpower is so low. On battle quests, the balance shifts heavily in their favor as they have solid questing and they get to use their ability.
Prince Imrahil This is another hero I never really got the appeal of before. But on these quests, actions are like gold early on. And with very good attack strength and solid defense, he is a great play on these quests. You can certainly guarantee that characters will be frequently leaving play. If you can get a chump blocker out first turn or a sneak attack Gandalf, then Imrahil provides immense first turn value.
Cram My initial views of this card were not impressive. It seemed like a nice card to mix in, but was likely to get cut for something with a stronger synergy. With a greater need for a fast start, the desire to mix in cheap and high short term impact cards is substantially higher. Cram is a great way to do this as an additional hero action on the first or second turn can easily be the difference between being able to kill an enemy and prevent it from attacking again turn two. This can make a HUGE difference when a bad shadow draw can easily kill your hero defenders. Plus this card has some decent synergies including Beravor (essentially turns into a zero cost draw two event) and Erebor Hammersmith.
Two health chump blockers Into Ithilien really puts pressure on you with by having Southron Companies potentially attacking at 8 with a bad shadow effect (Southron Mercenaries) while also possibly doing 1 damage to the defending character (Blocking Wargs). This means that outside of Beorn (both versions), nothing can “safely” defend a Southron Company attack without boosts or shadow cancellation. Furthermore, a chump blocker with only 1 hit point is prone to be destroyed by Blocking Wargs and allow an undefended attack which can kill almost any unboosted hero. One solution is to simply have chump blockers with at least 2 health. There are some decent ones out there (Riddermark’s Finest, Wandering Took, the aforementioned Ithilien Tracker, numerous dwarves) but the new card Errand Rider is worthy of calling out specifically. It has a nice ability, 2 health, and only costs 1.
Shadow Cancellation – ideally repeatable I just covered the woes of Into Ithilien. Cair Andros is in many ways worse. There is no such thing as a “safe” defense unless you have shadow cancellation. I personally think this is kind of ridiculous and introduces entirely too much luck into battles. You might as well be rolling a die to see how much additional attack the enemy has. On heroes this is just brutal as you are practically guaranteed to lose a hero if you frequently block with them and don’t have a cancel in reserve – which reminds me of the good ole days of Sudden Pitfall in Khazadum. So what if you have 3 Dunedain Warnings on Dain, he is still not entirely safe. Burning Brands are a fantastic play on this quest.
Dunhere While it is much harder to set up than previously, there is immense value in having Dunhere pick off enemies in the staging area rather than deal with their attacks. Unfortunately, I find it very difficult to keep your threat low enough to make this happen. Dunhere also “quests” at 2 on Into Ithilien making him a solid Spirit choice.
Feint + Thicket of Spears If ever there was a time when Thicket of Spears was a good play, it is on this quest. Hama cycling Thicket is one of the few ways you can undermine the inherent difficulty of the quest.
Thror’s Map Thror’s map is generally a handy attachment to have, but it can make a huge difference as a first turn play on Into Ithilien or Cair Andros. On Cair Andros it allows you to apply progress tokens to The Banks immediately on the first turn. Since clearing The Banks has a major impact on the flow of the quest this is a big deal. Thror’s Map also provides a back door to the challenge presented at the beginning of Into Ithilien.
Eowyn – Oh my god they killed Eowyn! Eowyn is just plain awful on these quests. Of course what do you expect when you nullify the only capability that a one dimensional character has. A hot swap to another hero like Dunhere or Glorfindel is a must with any deck with Eowyn.
West Road Traveller + Rivendell Minstrel + Escort of Edoras Much like Eowyn, these are one dimensional characters who were previously very strong options. On these quests they are horrible and on Into Ithilien aren’t even acceptable chump blockers due to Blocking Wargs making them all but a wasted card draw.
Countless other things that boost willpower Celebrian’s stone being one of my favorites to splash in a deck. On these quests it is a wasted card draw.
Ancient Mathom A traditionally awesome card that has lost some luster. Into Ithilien and Cair Andros are rather light on locations with some being immune. On Cair Andros, playing it on a battleground location presents some risks that it won’t trigger its effect since the location could be destroyed or shuffled away by the Power of Mordor. I am beginning to see Ancient Mathom as more of a situational card than I prefer to include in my decks. I’ll be the first to admit that I am probably overreacting here, but this card used to be an auto-add in my decks, and now I am not so sure.
Hail of Stones Another traditionally fantastic card. The problem is that this card is increasingly less practical the more hit points the enemies have. In Into Ithilien and Cair Andros, the enemies have a LOT of hit points. Sparing 4 to 7 characters to exhaust is a tall order to kill a single enemy off.
This deck is designed to provide a fast start with cheap allies and high impact heroes. Dwarven Tombs allow for additional plays of A Test of Will. Master of the Forge allows fishing for high impact attachments and combos. Blood of Numenor and Steward of Gondor are generally targeted at another deck, but playing on Elrond is an option to facilitate early buys and mid to late game defenses. Vilya is a nice later in the game particularly if a UC can be placed on Elrond. I’ve soured on the Vilya + Stargazer combo as it is very expensive and inconsistent to set up in the early game, so I prefer to fish for Vilya, play it blind, and view it as a bonus. Burning Brand (possibly with Song of Wisdom) can be used to bolster the shadow defenses of one or two heroes. Preferred opening draws will have a Steward of Gondor ideally with an Envoy of Pelargir and/or a Light of Valinor. Although A Test of Will may be just as important depending on the quest. Imrahil is generally the preferred choice here, but a starting threat 26 with Theodred is a big help on some quests.
Hero (3) – starting threat 29/26
Elrond (SaF) x1
Prince Imrahil (AJtR) x1 or Theodred (Core) x1
Glorfindel (FoS) x1
Arwen Undomiel (TWitW) x1
Master of the Forge (SaF) x3
Warden of Healing (TLD) x3
Gandalf (Core) x3
Wandering Took (Core) x3
Errand-rider (HON) x2
Envoy of Pelargir (HON) x3
Henamarth Riversong (Core) x1
Asfaloth (FoS) x1
Blood of Numenor (HON) x1
Light of Valinor (FoS) x3
Song of Earendil (RtR) x1
Steward of Gondor (Core) x3
Unexpected Courage (Core) x2
A Burning Brand (CatC) x2
Song of Wisdom (CatC) x1
Thror's Map (OHaUH) x1
Dunedain Mark (THfG) x3
Vilya (SaF) x1
A Test of Will (Core) x3
Dwarven Tomb (Core) x2
Hasty Stroke (Core) x1
Sneak Attack (Core) x3
Elrond's Counsel (TWitW) x3
I essentially built this deck to combat the Heirs of Numenor particularly Into Ithilien although swapping out Dunhere for Eowyn makes the deck somewhat capable of venturing outside of HoN. This deck is intended to be played with the Elrond Hub Deck and make use of the Steward of Gondor and Blood of Numenor combo on Boromir. Add on a Song of Wisdom + Burning Brand and you have an unstoppable defender that can defend as many times as your threat will allow. Spirit resources are almost entirely assigned to pay for threat reduction through Born Alofted Gandalf and Galadhrim’s Greeting. Although there are times that Born Alofting a Descendent of Thorondor can make a huge difference in the reveal stage of a quest (Haradhrim Elite comes to mind). Opening draws ideally have A Test of Will and a 1 or 2 cost Tactics ally to die first turn if needed. On battles and sieges, the cheap eagles are particularly good plays as they make economical questers. In the mid-late game, power up Boromir for defense with a Support of the Eagles/Blood of Numenor, power up Dunhere for staging area kills, and an Eagles of the Misty Mountains as an additional stud ally.
Hero (3) – starting threat 28/29
Dunhere (Core) x1 or Eowyn (Core) x1
Thalin (Core) x1
Boromir (TDM) x1
Descendant of Thorondor (THoEM) x3
Eagles of the Misty Mountains (RtM) x3
Gondorian Spearman (Core) x3
Radagast (AJtR) x1
Vassal of the Windlord (TDM) x3
Veteran Axehand (Core) x3
Winged Guardian (THfG) x3
Landroval (AJtR) x1
Gandalf (Core) x3
Trollshaw Scout (FoS) x3
Dwarven Axe (Core) x3
Horn of Gondor (Core) x1
Spear of the Citadel (HON) x3
Support of the Eagles (RtM) x2
Born Aloft (CatC) x3
Test of Will (Core) x3
Quick Strike (Core) x3
The Eagles Are Coming! (THfG) x3
The Galadhrim's Greeting (Core) x3
With Bifur stealing from Frodo, this is essentially a 3 hero Lore deck. Master of Lore and Spare Hood and Cloak allow for cheap plays of many 3 cost cards. A Fast Hitch on Frodo allows for an affordable mid game play of Peace, and Thought ensuring plenty of card draw. Rivendell Minstrel can fish out the Song of Kings helping to provide exceptional mid to late game questing with Sword that was Broken. Opening draws ideally have a Fast Hitch and A Test of Will, although almost every card is playable first turn which is not something I am used to with how I normally deck build. If played with the Elrond Hub deck, Frodo makes a great uber defender with Steward of Gondor and Blood of Numenor.
Hero (3) – starting threat 26
Aragorn (TWitW) x1
Bifur (KD) x1
Frodo Baggins (CatC) x1
Daughter of the Nimrodel (Core) x3
Gildor Inglorion (THoEM) x2
Haldir of Lorien (AJtR) x2
Ithilien Tracker (HON) x3
Master of Lore (HON) x3
Mirkwood Runner (RtM) x3
Rivendell Minstrel (THFG) x3
Silvan Tracker (TDM) x3
Gleowine (Core) x1
Arwen Undomiel (TWitW) x1
Ravenhill Scout (TRG) x1
Protector of Lorien (Core) x3
Song of Kings (THFG) x1
Spare Hood and Cloak (OHaUH) x3
Sword that was Broken (TWitW) x2
A Burning Brand (CatC) x1
Fast Hitch (TDM) x3
Forest Snare (Core) x3
A Test of Will (Core) x3
Lorien's Wealth (Core) x3
Peace, and Thought (SaF) x3
Dain Dwarf Support HoN
I resurrected my pair of Dwarf decks in response to the difficulty of HoN. Early draws ideally have a Steward of Gondor, although I love getting a Cram in my opening hand for two actions from Dain on turn 1 if needed. The Steward belongs on Ori in the Swarm deck, so resource acceleration here comes from Zigil Miner if needed with 26 of the cards being of cost 2. The spoiled card King Under the Mountain from the upcoming Hobbit Saga expansion has been proxied for its exceptional card draw. For those not familiar, it is a unique 2 cost leadership card that attaches to a dwarf and exhausts to let you draw 2 cards where 1 must be discarded. Ancient Mathom is a decent replacement if you are opposed to forward-looking proxies. Gandalf and Sneak Attack is the only reliable source of threat reduction, although it can be used for card draw or direct damage if orcs are available for Dwalin to kill. These two decks are exceptionally powerful. The frightening thing here is that there is a lot more room for dwarves in this deck and we are bound to get a few more in the second hobbit expansion.
Hero (3) – starting threat 29
Dwalin (KD) x1
Dain Ironfoot (RtM) x1
Thalin (Core) x1
Arwen Undomiel (TWitW) x1
Wandering Took (Core) x1
Veteran Axehand (Core) x3
Zigil Miner (KD) x3
Erebor Battle Master (TLD) x3
Gandalf (Core) x3
The Riddermark's Finest (THoEM) x3
Defender of Rammas (HON) x3
Steward of Gondor (Core) x3
Hardy Leadership (SaF) x3
Dunedain Warning (CatC) x3
Ring Mail (TLD) x3
Cram (OHaUH) x3
Dwarrowdelf Axe (KD) x3
King Under the Mountain (Hobbit 2) x3
A Test of Will (Core) x3
Sneak Attack (Core) x3
Hasty Stroke (Core) x3
Dwarf Swarm HoN
Play dwarves, activate the abilities, play more dwarves, and repeat. Ideally a first turn hand has a We Are Note Idle and a Kili or a Fili so that you can get to 5 dwarves to start triggering Ori and Thorin’s abilities. A Very Good Tale takes this to another level. Legacy of Durin and A Test of Will are also strong early cards. While this deck often needs Dain to be unexhausted early on to kill things efficiently, later in the game, Orc Slayers and Dori provide decent attack on their own. What you are really hoping for is that the Dain Dwarf Support deck discards or loses an Erebor Battle Master. Then you can Stand and Fight that Erebor Battle Master and have an ungodly attack power. With Zigil Miner and King Under the Mountain, discards can be frequent so this is quite feasible. I’ve said it before, but I really wish that dwarves had a healer of some kind as the Warden of Healing seems very out of place in this deck and it also requires proxying to maintain this deck and the Elrond Hub Deck.
Hero (3) – starting threat 29
Nori (OHaUH) x1
Ori (OHaUH) x1
Thorin Oakenshield (OHaUH) x1
Bofur (TRG) x3
Erebor Hammersmith (Core) x3
Erebor Record Keeper (KD) x3
Longbeard Map-Maker (CatC) x3
Miner of the Iron Hills (Core) x3
Warden of Healing (TLD) x3
Dori (OHaUH) x3
Fili (OHaUH) x2
Longbeard Elder (FoS) x3
Longbeard Orc Slayer (Core) x3
Kili (OHaUH) x2
Legacy of Durin (TWitW) x3
Thror's Map (OHaUH) x1
A Test of Will (Core) x3
Stand and Fight (Core) x3
A Very Good Tale (OHaUH) x3
We Are Not Idle (SaF) x3
Daeron's Runes (FoS) x3