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The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Deck Building Principles rss

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Jamie Riehl
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I've noticed from several threads here that some people come to this game with little experience of deck building. So I thought I'd lay out some principles which might be helpful to keep in mind. I'm sure this list is not complete, additions and discussion are invited.

All of these principles are guidelines, and are often in tension. You won't be a better deck builder by trying to follow them blindly and never finding exceptions. I had a lot of "in general" and "on averages" in here, but I removed them all. But you should read every sentence with those disclaimers in mind. But I find by keeping them in mind as you build, you'll have a better sense of how to evaluate cards for your deck.

1) Card advantage.

Each player draws 1 card a turn, and the encounter deck produces 1 card a turn per player.

That means that if the cards you play deal with more than one encounter card, you will come out ahead and probably win.

Cards which draw more cards are therefore good. Cards which stick around and work turn after turn are therefore good. Cards which are dead in your hand (multiple copies of unique cards, highly situational cards) therefore tend to be worse.

2) Tempo.

You get 3 resources a turn to deal with 1 encounter card.

That means that every time you spend 3 resources, you want do deal with slightly more than one encounter card so you come out ahead.

Cards which can eliminate an encounter card for less than 3 resources are therefore good. Cards which cost more than 3 resources should be able to deal with at least 2 encounter cards.

You want a balance of card and tempo advantage because these are your two limited inputs. If you have too many cheap cards which deal with 1 or less encounter card each, you'll end up losing with lots of resources in play and no cards in hand. Too many expensive cards which deal with multiple encounter cards and the opposite will happen. Of course, some cards provide both. Those cards are awesome.

3) Curve.

In the early game, you have lots of cards and few resources, meaning that good tempo cards are better. In the late game, the opposite is true which means that good card advantage cards are better. In order to have a deck which is consistently strong in both late and early game, you want to have a spread of card costs from small to large. Because you will have seen more cards by the late game, you want to have a larger number of cards at the cheap (good tempo) end of your curve. I would recommend that 2/3rds of your deck costs 3 resources or less, so you can be confident of having multiple options on the first few turns.

4) Consistency.

Smaller decks are more consistent. You should never play with more than 50 cards. You should also adopt redundancy by including cards which do basically the same thing. A good rule of thumb is that if you have 9 of a card type, you can be confident you will draw it in the first few turns (including your mulligan) in most games. So if, for example, your deck needs a way to deal with a big early attacker, having 3 feints isn't going to cut it. But if you have 3 feints, 3 gondorian spearmen and 3 snowborn scouts you can be reasonably confident you're going to draw at least one of those most games.

This is also a good rule for combo decks. So if your deck relies on getting lots of resources, like with zigil miner, then if your deck only has 3 miners you're going to be disappointed much of the time. But if you have 3 miners, 3 stewards and 3 timely aid (to find the miners), you'll find your deck is much more consistent.

Cards that replace themselves cheaply, like Song of Earendil, effectively make your deck smaller (at a small tempo cost) and therefore more consistent.

5) Flexibility

The opposite of consistency, you want your deck (or decks, if not playing solo) to be able to deal with multiple types of threats. If all you can do is kill stuff, you're going to lose to locations. Therefore, it's good to have answers for most common threats in your deck.

However, flexibility comes at a fairly high price both in terms of consistency and card advantage (since cards which solve particular problems can often be dead when those problems don't come up). A common early mistake is to over-prioritize flexibility.

6) Switching assets is often powerful.

I didn't have a catchy title here. LOTR is basically a asset management problem. You have several assets: will, attack, defense, cards in hand, resources, etc and you need to manage those in such a way as to deal with the threats of the encounter deck. Cards which let you change one of those assets into another give you more options and make solving this puzzle easier. Beravor lets you turn will/attack/defense into cards in hand. Protector of Lorien lets you turn cards in hand into will/defense. Longbeard Mapmaker lets you turn resources into will. Being able to move around your assets like this makes your deck more flexible without sacrificing consistency.
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Mike Stevens
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Very helpful info, thanks!
 
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Andrea Marino
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Great article.
Thank you!

You can look at this file, I find it extremely useful while building a deck not only to balance costs, spheres, healing, action advantage, threat control, card advantage, resource management but also to find sinergies between cards (combos).
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/filepage/75357/complete-player-...
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Jose Bellomar
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Pretty awesome!! I agree completely. I described it a bit differently but you do so very well. For me card drawing and resource are the most important building blocks to a good deck because I want to find the card I need when I need it and I want to be able to pay for it
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Good stuff!

I like to suggest a sub-theme: Deck manipulation/thinning down your deck. Cards like The Eagles are coming are a huge speed boost. I also rate Campfire tales as a very good card, evem in solo play bc it essentially makes your deck one card thinner, increasing your chance to draw key cards earlier/faster.
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Jamie Riehl
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Shelfwear wrote:
Good stuff!

I like to suggest a sub-theme: Deck manipulation/thinning down your deck.


I agree, I wish there were more cards like this (especially cheap ones)

 
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Fitz Chivalry
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Very helpful article, thanks for spelling things out in a technical but readable manner!
 
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Edwin Karat
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One of the things about this game is that the different scenarios often give opportunities for the situational cards to shine.

The point is that the scenarios are very different. In one scenario, perhaps an effect will cause you to discard a card every time it is used for a certain type of effect, nullifying the rule that cards that stick around are better. (Yes, such a scenario exists in the very first cycle of packs.) In such a situation, you want to use more one-shots, as they will be cheaper.

Also, some scenarios have more of one type of obstacle rather than another. Some are almost exclusively combats. Some are almost exclusively locations. These scenarios tend to be the easier ones, since you can prepare for them, but they can be difficult, if not impossible, if you are going into them with a general deck.

That brings up the topic of whether you are trying to build a general deck or a deck to beat a scenario. Different people approach this in different ways. Personally, I attempt new scenarios blind the first time, then adjust the decks after that. However, that makes it harder to attempt a different scenario with those same decks.

In short, the relevance of a lot of advice depends on whether you are building a general deck or a specialized deck. In my opinion, this article is best for general decks (actually, it's more general for deckbuilding, as most of this can be said of other deckbuilders as well). I believe that there is room for expansion on specifics.
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