[Thematic Nightmare] Even the Smallest Person

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Authraw 3050

This is a thematic deck built as part of my Thematic Nightmare series on my blog, Darkling Door.

The theme for this deck is "The courage of Hobbits and the counsel of the Wise" and it was built to defeat Nightmare Escape from Dol Guldur.


This deck is locked in a constant battle to keep my threat low, ideally under 28 (the engagement cost of the Dol Guldur Spider). It's not always possible, but between Merry, Galadriel, Gandalf, The Galadhrim's Greeting, and Elrond's Counsel, I at least have a chance to keep things under control in the early game. It's not usually possible to stay under the 20 threat threshold for Secrecy for very long, however. I can generally trigger Merry's ability during staging to ensure I'm under 20 for my first planning phase, but there are no guarantees after that.

It's a little hard to know what makes a good starting hand, but I usually look for Nenya or Resourceful, or a bunch of threat reduction that I could drop on turn 1 (Good Meal + The Galadhrim's Greeting, for instance). Sam Gamgee is usually a good turn 1 card too. In my first hand, I'm explicitly not looking for Gandalf or Saruman, and if I have too many copies of them I'll usually mulligan. Saruman especially is vital for the late game, but I don't want him clogging up my precious hand slots too early.

I typically just have to accept that I'm going to fail to quest successfully on the first round. Unless I get a bunch of Treacheries during setup, I'm just not going to be able to contend with the 3-6 cards in the staging area during the first quest phase with only 2 resources and (up to) 1 Ally. The hope is that on the second round, I will have moved a location to being active, engaged some low-attack enemy, and begun to build up some semblance of a board presence.

If he hasn't been captured, Frodo Baggins can take an undefended attack as threat each round if needed. His ability saves my bacon a lot of times when a terrible shadow effect would make me lose a hero if the damage weren't cancelled. If Frodo Baggins isn't around, or if he has already used his ability, it's preferable to have Allies do the blocking rather than Heroes, since they're in less danger to loss by shadow effect (or just less vital). Galadriel's ability makes it easier to have an Ally around to block an attack on the turn it enters play.

This deck doesn't have many ways to remove enemies from the game. Glorfindel can do it, sometimes requiring multiple turns to hack away at an enemy. If my threat is under control, I can use Gandalf's direct damage ability to kill a pesky enemy, and potentially his 4 attack to kill another. Saruman has 5 attack, although I want to avoid using him too early due to his Doomed 3 since threat is a constant issue. I can also use A Elbereth! Gilthonial! to remove an enemy from the game. These are all pricey options, but it's usually worth it just to avoid having to reserve a defender and take another shadow effect every round.

As soon as I feel like questing is more or less "under control" (or as under control as it ever can be) I grab all 3 of the objectives. Gandalf's Map goes on either Galadriel or Merry, the Shadow Key goes on Frodo so that he can take the damage as threat, and the Dungeon Torch can go on anyone, but preferably Galadriel or Merry since they're less likely to be defending and lose it to a shadow effect. The great thing about grabbing all three objectives is that it essentially defangs the Spider of Dol Guldur, which seems to be the #1 card which is most likely to ruin an otherwise good run. If I can get to this point without having seen one (or perhaps having seen only one as a shadow card, which probably killed off an Ally) I just might have a chance at making it to the endgame.

I have two choices for dealing with the Nazg├╗l:

  1. Use Saruman to remove it from play and quest through Stage 3 all at once
  2. Take one hit from it and then use A Elbereth! Gilthonial! to banish it to the bottom of the encounter deck

Which option I take depends on the cards in my hand at the time and the board state. If everything comes together just so, I might have a chance.

For more analysis, check out my blog post on this deck.


Nov 20, 2016 wlk 1

I love your blog and the thematic trait, really entertaining. Will try that deck soon.

Nov 21, 2016 Authraw 3050

Thanks! I'm really enjoying writing it. Good luck!

Jan 24, 2017 Lecitadin 151

Amazing idea for a blog and decks... Some nightmare quests do need tailored decks!