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The Mormegil 453
Harbor Master. What does that card even do I hear you ask. Well, Harbor Master is basically a panned card that no one plays. But that is entirely unjust since I found him to be the best defending ally in the game (except for Guardian of Arnor maybe). He is certainly a character that is not very versatile, but in the right deck he is an absolute monster that reaches pretty ridiculous defence values consistently. This is the best deck I could come up with which features him prominently.
This deck won against Escape from Umbar, Intruders in Chetwood, Treachery of Rhudaur, Siege of Gondor and Helm’s Deep (non-campaign).
This deck lost again Passage through Mirkwood (nightmare mode).
As you can see, it has a pretty decent record (also since I beat the listed won quests all on the first attempt), beating some of the “standard” testing-quests as well as some fairly hard quests. The hardest quest the deck beat was Helm’s Deep which was a total walk through the park; the encounter deck didn’t make progress once during the quest phase the entire game.
My only loss was due to that quest having some cards which counter my deck directly. Ungoliant’s Brood and Ungoliant’s Spawn are hurting the deck immensely and all the direct damage wiped out my ally base. I maybe would have won had I seen my Anfalas Herdsmen or my Test of Wills, but still, this quests counters the deck pretty hard.
Overall, this deck should be able to win most quests (normal mode) and even many nightmare quests. That being said, the deck will probably lose against most quests with Siege/Battle, so I would not play it against these quests. Siege might be alright (with the Harbor Master) but battle would be very rough.
Mulligan for Steward. You can find your other pieces later with your insane amount of card draw, but Steward is just the most efficient resource-acceleration (something that you desperately need). Legacy of Numenor is a decent alternative, but seeing neither of them is very tough. However, the chances of that happening are very small with a 10 card opening hand.
Both are viable. Tested only in solo, but should pull its weight in multiplayer as well. Only problem could be that your partners threat is too low to threat them out with Legacy of Numenor.
Overall, you have to have a hero of each of the spheres except tactics to make the Harbor Master work best (in solo) I have found.
Erestor: Allows for an awesome start and assures you card-draw throughout the game. Steward goes on him most of the time since most of the more expensive cards in the deck belong to his sphere. A rock star in every sense of the word!
Arwen: She assures both resource acceleration (boosting the Harbor Master) and card draw (Elven-Light). Add her willpower (which can be crucial before you set up your Ethir Swordsmen) and her gorgeous art and you have an obvious choice for your spirit hero. Steward goes on her in some cases (but not in a lot), mostly if your opening hand includes Steward and is very Spirit-heavy. That is a corner case though.
Denethor: Erestor’s best friend since they can just guarantee you a kickass start. The deck would normally be hard to set up but a 10 card opening hand and an increase of your starting resources are changing the matter entirely. His moving ability also boosts the Harbor Master which is (of course) something that you want. Steward never goes on him and after you get out Steward and maybe one or two Errand-Riders he becomes the least important of your heroes. His boosting of the good old HM and his resource generation of one per turn still makes him worthwhile though and his defence value can really help you early game.
Anfalas Herdsman/Ethir Swordsman: Your willpower-base and your pincushions (archery/direct damage). They are essential since your heroes’ willpower will not suffice for the entire game and you should try to play them out before Erestor discards them, especially the Swordsmen. I really like Outland-allies as enablers for some kind of decks and are glad that they exist for that reason alone (but that discussion is one for another time).
Envoy of Pelargir/Errand-Rider: They smooth out your resources and boost the Harbor Master. Triggering Errand-Rider to move resources back and forth just to trigger the Harbor Master feels dirty but pretty great. They are just incredibly useful.
Eryn Galen Sattler: They might seem like an odd choice but they are here for their cost-efficient attack power. Finding decent attacking allies is hard (outside of tactics) and your heroes do not pull the biggest of punches. If you have a better way of defeating enemies (e.g. another player providing ranged or Aragorn in the Saga expansions) you should probably drop them. You just have to ensure that you are able to defeat enemies.
Glorfindel: He is just plain awesome. Helps you with questing and attacking, is playable after you chuck him with Arwen or Erestor and has built-in readying. What more could you want? Quickbeam: He is utterly amazing and probably the most versatile and efficient ally in the game. He is also unique. Play him and profit.
Harbor Master: Let us address the elephant in the room. Your defending beast and somewhat the card that sets the deck apart from “just another good Denethor/Erestor deck”. Arwen, Denethor, Errand-Rider, Envoy of Pelargir, Steward and Legacy of Numenor (which triggers him thrice) are the ways you boost him. Arwen, Steward, Errand-Rider and Denethor are triggerable every round and so you should get him to 4-6 (depending on the number of Errand-Riders) defence consistently by turn 2-3. Add the +3 that he can get with only one Legacy of Numenor and Burning Brand and he might as well have the indestructible keyword. AND HE IS NOT EVEN UNIQUE! YOU COULD HAVE THREE OF THOSE BEASTS! HOLY COW!
Burning Brand, Steward of Gondor and Light of Valinor (which goes on Erestor of course) speak for themselves. Steward is just crucial, crucial, and crucial. The other ones are also amazing.
Silver Harp is interesting. You could go 3x but I found 2x sufficient since you can normally puke out your hand with the amount of resource acceleration this deck runs. I normally use it to have always a Test of Will in hand and maybe to hold on to a card that I could not play this round. I found it to be a solid 2x but not really worth the third copy. An exception would be if there is that game-ending Treachery and having to discard you Test of Wills for Erestor might prove deathly.
Test of Will, Daeron’s Runes and Elrond’s Counsel are (again) no-brainers. In quests in which threating out becomes threatening (no, I am not ashamed because of this pun), you might want to add the third copy.
Elven-Light: Gets important once you swim in resources (which is very often turn two or three) and four cards per round are not enough. So a very crucial mid- to late-game card.
Legacy of Numenor: Allows you to have an even greater start and gives your Harbor Master a +3 boost. You can also threat out your partners with it. You cannot ask for more than that.
Lords of the Eldar: Sneaky one-of and great in a pinch or a final quest/attack push. If your deck is empty you can also cycle it at least once a turn with Elven-Light since it becomes the only card in your deck after triggering its effect. You can draw it back with Elven-Light, chuck it with Arwen and play it. Overall, not worth more than one copy but certainly worth one copy.
Will of the West: I do not think that one needs to be explained.
So that’s it. Have fun with the deck and experience the immense power of the Harbor Master for yourself. I really recommend the deck as it is fun and powerful. TRY IT!