Caldara 2.0

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Fellowships using this decklist
None.
Derived from
None. Self-made deck here.
Inspiration for
Caldara post-errata for Solo 1 1 0 1.0
Caldara post-errata for Multiplayer 1 1 0 1.0

Seastan 10052

The new deck to rule them all.

This deck has beaten every cycle, saga, and PoD quest I've tried so far, nightmare included, and I started with the quests that I consider to be the most difficult and am working my way toward easier ones. It can beat the majority of them with an extremely high success rate, rarely taking more than 1 attempt to beat a quest.

I consider this deck to be more powerful than Seastan's Boromir ever was. And given the recent errata to Boromir limiting his ability to once per phase, the sun has set on that deck and it's time for a new one to take its place.

Disclaimer: This is not a straightforward deck to play. If you are looking for a deck that will just smash quests on auto-pilot, this isn't it. This deck requires careful planning and knowledge of what the encounter deck can throw at you. For harder quests, you may find yourself losing with it until you figure out which cards need to be swapped in from the sideboard for the particular quest you're trying to beat.

Update (2017/12/09): Approved suggestion from rouxxor: Swap the A Good Harvest for Stand and Fight.

Video: https://youtu.be/oB-T9QNuSec

Overview (tl;dr)

In FAQ 1.9, Caldara received an errata that prevents her from being used more than once per game. This was a huge hit to her power. You can no longer combo her with Fortune or Fate to continually bring out allies over and over.

Many saw this as an errata so harsh that she became almost unplayable. Truthfully, the archetype of Caldara recycling no longer exists, but that does not mean she is unplayable in a different archetype. It turns out that once you remove all the cards from the deck that were used to recur Caldara you end up with space to do a lot of other cool stuff.

So while this deck features Caldara, she longer holds the central role she once did. But she is critical to establishing an early game foothold that the deck then uses to establish control over the encounter deck. The remainder of the game is played with her watching from the sidelines, and at the end of the day you might end up calling this more of a Jubayr or Narya deck than a Caldara deck.

I have the errata to thank for this deck. Without it I probably never would have explored the single-use Caldara archetype.

Caldara is a fighter. It will take more than one errata to bring her down.

Why does this deck work?

The deck is successful in a wide variety of quests because of the flexibility of the sphere.

You can break every quest into two categories: Quests that force you to rush, and quests that allow you to turtle. With high willpower heroes and allies, spirit is good at rushing. And with tons of threat reduction options, spirit is just as good at turtling.

But why Caldara? The errata killed her.

5ZVZlTf.png It's true that Caldara is nowhere near as strong as she once was. But consider the following example:

You have Prince Imrahil in your starting hand. On the first turn, you get to draw 2 cards with Cirdan. One of them is a Glorfindel, which you discard. Then you discard Imrahil to trigger Arwen. Then you discard Caldara to bring in Imrahil and Glorfindel. You're now at the same position you started with: you have 3 heroes, and presuming you used Caldara's resource before discarding her, you haven't lost any resources. But you now have a 5-cost ally in play and a hero with slightly better stats than Caldara. This turn one 5-resource jumpstart is huge. Just look at what Denethor does with only 2.

This is just one example. In practice you can sometimes set up a better Caldara trigger by playing Imrahil from your hand, then discarding Caldara to bring in three big spirit allies for a 13-14 resource swing as soon as turn 2.

Gameplay strategy

I generally like to mulligan for Narya. Then I burn Caldara early on, almost always in the first 2 turns. Of course, it's ideal if you can play Prince Imrahil first to make the most of her ability, but this is definitely not necessary. Often I discard Caldara for Imrahil + some other ally so that I keep myself at 3 heroes. But discarding her for two non-Imrahil allies is still something I do frequently. With Arwen's resource generation you don't miss the extra heroes' resources as much as you would think.

The next step is setting up Narya and Jubayr. Since Jubayr is a card I like to get for free with Caldara this is really easy to set up.

5F5o7SU.jpg


One of the most important points to know in order to use this combo to it's full potential is the action windows during combat. After Jubayr exhausts to defend an attack, he can discard a shadow on an attacking enemy. But before comparing the enemy's attack to Jubayr's defense, you have an action window in which you can trigger Narya. This allows Jubayr to ready and get +1 and +1 before calculating the damage. He can then exhaust again to defend a second attack with the Narya boost still active.

Some things to keep in mind about Jubayr:

  1. He cannot discard shadow cards dealt to unique enemies. Thankfully these types of enemies don't show up until the late game when you have other options available.
  2. He can discard a shadow card from anyone, not just the enemy he's defending against. Let's say you have two enemies attacking you but Jubayr can only defend once. You can let one of the shadows trigger on an enemy attacking Jubayr, then discard a shadow card from the other enemy, which you can now safely take undefended.
  3. Quests that prevent encounter cards effects or shadow effects from being cancelled do not limit Jubayr, since he is discarding the shadow card rather than cancelling it.
  4. The shadow cards attached to immune enemies are not immune to being discarded. However most immune enemies cannot be targeted by Jubayr because they are unique, so this doesn't come up too often.

So 4 is nice, especially if you don't need to worry about shadow effects. But plenty of enemies attack have a base of 5 or more. How does Jubayr deal with those? The answer is Kahliel’s Tribesman.

The Tribesman can be played with Cirdan's resource icon from Narya or via A Good Harvest, and can also enter play from A Very Good Tale. Since Arwen Undómiel's resource can go on Cirdan, it is very easy to play these guys when Narya is in play, so that's normally how I do it.

It seems like a lot of effort to go to to give Jubayr +1 . But that's not the end of it. You can choose the Tribesman as the second ally to be readied with Narya and he can use his exhaust action to boost Jubayr again. With 2 Tribesman in play you can ready them both with Narya, bringing Jubary's total defense up to 7 if needed. However, I normally like to make Jubayr one of the Narya targets so that he can attack and make use of the Tribesman's attack bonus. Then it might go something like this:

  • Jubayr exhausts to defend.
  • 2 Tribesmen exhaust to boost him to 4 /5 .
  • Narya readies Jubayr (now 5/6) and a Tribesman.
  • Exhaust the Tribesman again to boost Jubayr up to 6/7.
  • Resolve the attack, Jubary takes no damage.
  • Attack back with Jubayr and crush the enemy.

(Note: this is if you need the 7 . For maximum you are better off using the readied Tribesman to attack instead of his ability since he has the Narya boost.)

Again, the nice thing about the action windows here is that Jubayr can elect to discard a shadow from some other enemy, and then use the Tribesman to adjust his defense to the level needed to survive the attack after the shadow card is revealed.

As a final note, this combo can actually be used as a willpower boost for turns when you really need to make a big push, as the Tribesman can commit to the quest themselves then readied to give out their +1 boost.

The other cards

Arwen Undómiel

She's an ideal hero for what this deck is trying to do because she can quickly fill the discard pile with the allies you want. She's also great for putting resources on Cirdan to help buy the Tribesmen, and provides card draw by getting rid of Elven-lights.

Her resources also help make up for those lost during rounds that you only have 2 heroes before you manage to get Imrahil in play.

Círdan the Shipwright

Cirdan provides everything you could ask for in this deck. He is critical for the use of Narya obviously, but on top of that he helps you set up Caldara and provides a huge burst of willpower in the early game. I also consider him to be a better wielder of Narya than Gandalf (any version) because he combos so well with Light of Valinor.

Elfhelm

This ally is only a 1x because he's not crucial to the deck's function, but nevertheless nice to have in play. Against certain quests that really target your threat he can be a lifesaver, so for those i put in the copies from the sideboard just to make sure I can get him into play early.

Gandalf

Gandalf often makes into rule-them-all type decks I build because of his incredible flexibility. He's a great counter to quests that target your threat or to quests that have enemies in the staging area that can't be optionally engaged. His direct damage and 4 attack really help out in dealing with endgame bosses as well.

In this deck specifically, he's a great target for readying with Narya, and great to exhaust for A Very Good Tale during the refresh phase.

Glorfindel

This is really the perfect deck for Glorfindel. He can be brought into play with Caldara and is the best fuel for A Very Good Tale in the whole card pool. He also provides more opportunities to discard Elven-light to fuel the card draw.

Imladris Caregiver

The source of healing in the deck. Definitely less powerful than the Warden of Healing, but used here mainly because of his 2 . When I was testing the deck against quests like Steaward's Fear and Return to Mirkwood, which frequently deal 1 damage to every ally you control, the Warden's just weren't cutting it. I've also found their ability to get rid of Elven-light rather useful.

Northern Tracker

Location control. Sill great defenders/attackers in quests where you can't use their ability. Not too hard to pay full price for in a deck with 3 hereos that include Arwen.

Pelargir Shipwright

Basic willpower ally that can stand up to treacheries and archery damage.

Prince Imrahil

A really amazing ally/hero in this deck. Even playing him just for his stats would be fine (that's what I'm doing with the Ranger of Cardolan), but the fact that he'll start generating resources and can take damage from undefended attack just makes him incredible. I try to get him out as early as possible.

Ranger of Cardolan

Just an all-round utility ally that can serve whatever purpose he needs to. His ability is never used.

Sailor of Lune

dZzod71.png Not the ally you expected to see in a power deck? What about the Ethir Swordsman? Well, the Ethir Swordsmen are better allies for most of the quests. But in some quests their 1 makes them terrible. So by the same reasoning for choosing the Imladris Caregivers over Warden of Healing applies here as well. You can almost always guarantee that their ability is turned on with Arwen and Elven-light.

As a side benefit, Narya makes these guys into really amusing defenders from time to time. When an enemy attacks during the quest phase, like Thaurdir for example, you can ready a Sailor with Narya and block the attack with a completely invincible defender.

Treebeard

Treebeard is a good fit for this deck because helps out with the spirit sphere's lack of high allies. I also use him as a defender when Jubayr gets overwhelmed or is not totally set up yet. He is another great target for Narya because he can ready himself and make use of the boosted stats multiple times.

Light of Valinor

This goes on Cirdan of course so that he can quest and use Narya in the same turn. It's not critical though, and the deck normally has enough willpower to allow Cirdan to hold back from the quest if Light of Valinor has not been found yet.

A Good Harvest

One of my favourite cards. It's present here to help you play a healer. It can also be used to get out Kahliel’s Tribesman before Narya has been acquired, but it cannot be used to play A Very Good Tale. Swapping these for Stand and Fight as suggested in the comments section below might be a good idea.

A Test of Will and Elven-light

These are pretty self-explanatory.

A Very Good Tale

This card is just nuts in this deck. Between the ally readying effects of Narya, Treebeard, and Glorfindel, and the refresh phase action window with Gandalf, the act of exhausting allies for this card feels like nothing. It's basically a 0 cost card that instantly brings out two big allies onto the table.

And of course, with Caldara's ability, setting up the first AVGT is no trouble at all.

Will of the West

This deck can beat most quests in a single pass through the deck, but some of the tougher ones that require turtling can benefit from a second or third pass.

Conclusion

This deck is extremely powerful. It can quest hard, get out some powerful allies quickly, defend without shadow effects, and attack back with Narya's action advantage, making it a well rounded deck that is capable of defeating a wide variety of quests.

The actual piloting of the deck is really fun. There are a ton of choices to make each turn, with every turn starting with that choice of what to discard to Cirdan's ability. In contrast to other power decks, like Outlands or Vilya decks, where you just smash through the quest without much thought, this one feels more fresh and exciting, and think I will keep coming back to it. i will never tire of seeing a surprise attack from an enemy boss thwarted by a humbe Sailor.

FAQ

Q: Wouldn't this deck be better with Steward of Gondor?

A: Maybe. I thought about including it. Ultimately I felt it wasn't needed. I also wanted this to stand as an example that you don't need Steward to beat the hardest quests in the game.

Q: Will this work in multiplayer?

A: While I haven't tested it, I don't see why not. It will likely be one of the most effective decks on any table.

Q: I only have 1 Core Set! Can I still use this deck?

A: Yes! In fact, now that Caldara no longer relies on Fortune or Fate, the deck is even more friendly to single Core Set owners. Just swap out 1 Norther Tracker and 1 Test of Will for 1 more Elfhelm and 1 more Treebeard.

Nightmare Guide

I focus on beating nightmare (and PoD) quests in this section because if a deck can beat the nightmare version then it can probably beat the normal version.

Against most quests, the deck can be used just fine as is. The hardest nightmare quests in the game may take some cards from the sideboard to beat consistently. In this section I highlighted some of the substitutions I've made for various quests.

"Optimizing Substitution" for quests that won't deal 1 direct damage to all allies

The Ethir Swordsmen are the most efficient questers, and the Wardens of Healing are the most efficient healers. But they are both squishy. Since we can't keep bringing back our allies with Caldara anymore, we want them to stay alive. This means that in the of quests that can deal direct damage to allies I prefer to have the beefier but less efficient versions. Swapping out for the higher efficiency cards is never necessary, but can improve your win ratio slightly against certain quests.

Journey Along the Anduin

Strategy: Mulligan for threat control, then build up your board before taking on the troll.

The Battle of Carn Dum

Strategy: Mulligan for allies with attack power. Burn Caldara to get them into play to clear the active "battle" location. Resume control. Notes: Jubayr can remove shadow cards from enemies in the staging area. Sailor of Lune can sent to the quest, then readied with Narya to defend Thaurdir's attacks during the quest phase and take no damage.

Steward's Fear

Strategy: Rush through the initial location, then take it slow. After Jubayr/Narya, prioritize Trackers for location control and healers to combat the absurd Jealous Traitor. You will want Kahliel’s Tribesman to help Jubayr defend Murderous Turncoat attacks. The Narya + Sailor combo is another nice counter to the Turncoat.

Hold on to a Will of the West in case of the Up in Flames plot. Get out Elfhelm to combat Local Trouble and the possible Poisoned Counsels plot. Save Test of Will for the Knife in the Back treachery

Return to Mirkwood

Strategy: Prioritize Elfhelm, then get a hold of the Vanish from Sight + O Elbereth! Gilthonial! combo as soon as possible. The bats in this quest are a great target. Unexpected Courage helps with the plethora of hero-exhausting effects.

Shadow and Flame

Strategy: Use Galadriel to stay at 0 threat until your board is set up. Prioritize willpower in the early game, and Elfhelm/Elrond's Counsel to counteract doomed.

Journey in the Dark

  • No substitution needed.

The Siege of Annuminas

  • No substitution needed.
  • Very easy. Narya+Sailor of Lune is an immensely amusing counter to the Stage 2B forced effect.
  • Highlights of my first attempt: Ended with 21 city strength. Jubayr survived a 9 attack from the Host of Angmar. Thanks to Narya+Tribesman.

Nin-in-Eilph

Strategy: Leave the Marsh-dweller in the staging area and quest past it. I was unlucky because I got the stage 2 that limits you to playing only 1 card per round. But this is not a big problem for cards like Caldara and A Very Good Tale. Choose Hidden Eyot for the starting location. If you find you still can't get past the first stage in 5 rounds, consider adding A Watchful Peace to recycle the Eyot.

The Battle of Five Armies

Strategy: This quest can be exceptionally difficult. You basically have to hope that you can go 2-3 rounds before revealing a Goblin enemy. On turn one, spend all your resources and commit everyone to the willpower quest to get progress there. On the next turn you can hopefully drop down Gandalf (even though you lose all your resources each round from stage 4, you can get to 5 the next turn with Arwen and Bilbo), reduce your threat, and get progress on the battle quest. One of the enemies you want to stay clear of in the early game is the 5 warg with 25 engagement cost, so this is why so much threat reduction has been added.

Battle of Lake-town

  • No substitutions needed.

The Three Tirals

  • No substitutions required.

Strategy: I thought this one would be impossible because you start with a big, unique boss enemy engaged with you. Rather than swap out Arwen for Beregond, I gave it a try with the deck as is and it managed to win, with perhaps some luck in not drawing too many other enemies. You can try to play Treebeard turn 1 and block the first attack with Caldara, then turn Treebeard into a formidable defender on turn 2 with Narya. The quest order I chose was Perseverance->Strength->Intuition since this was nightmare. In normal mode I would choose Intuition first and clear the boss and take my time building up my board.

To Catch an Orc

  • No substitutions required.

Wasted of Eriador

  • No substitutions required.


Quests that required particularly heavy sideboarding

Ruins of Belegost

Strategy: Mulligan for threat control, and keep it under 20 to avoid engaging Narlhug. Focus on ramping up your willpower so you don't get threat locked, then build up the rest of your board.

Escape from Dol Guldur

  • http://ringsdb.com/deck/view/78847
  • Took me 21 attempts to do this one, but in actual playtime it only took me 30 minutes to beat since I kept resetting if I had a poor start.

Strategy: Blitz through the quest with high willpower cards as fast as possible to rescue your prisoner (hopefully Caldara). Then burn Caldara to get in a couple big allies, bypassing the 1/ally per turn limit on the quest. Once you have stage 2 maxed out with progress, play down Saruman to remove the Nazgul from play. Then claim the last objectives and quest with everyone to victory.

23 comments

Nov 20, 2017 sappidus 237

Helluva writeup. As you say, Caldara's in-built ability to jump-start a board state is still an amazing power… given the right deck. This seems like a pretty good go at the right deck. :)

Nov 20, 2017 Taurelin 56

Thanks for sharing your ideas and for helping to keep Caldara alive (the deck, not the hero).

I've been working on it, too, but with my preferred line-up (Arwen Undómiel + Galadriel ). -> ringsdb.com

Nov 20, 2017 hectarion 1

This made me unbelievably happy. I love playing Caldara and with spirit and had lost a lot of hope that mono spirit was dead. Thanks for making this and for an amazing writeup

Nov 20, 2017 Rouxxor 459

Thanks for sharing this. As I thought there is no longer need for Caldara to be resurrected or to be set-up wih Sword Thane. So basically you just play a mono spirit deck who, one time, an ally bonus thanks to Caldara.

I'm not a big fan of your good harvest tech. First because stand and fight seem to be superior. Then I found that with many allies you usually can just pass on the heal part. Since you play 3 jubayr you still be able to play another one when the first die.

I'm surprised not to see steward of gondor, in order to ensure production generation to provide all those big allies.

Nov 20, 2017 Seastan 10052

@RouxxorYou are right that Stand and Fight is better here. Thanks for pointing that out. My blind love for A Good Harvest took hold and I failed to consider that card.

I address the lack of Steward in the writeup.

Nov 20, 2017 choirmage 1

Can't wait to see a video of you piloting this deck! Awesome job!

Nov 20, 2017 D4rkWolf10 293

@Seastanthanks for this explanation of the deck and for the commitment to keeping a Caldara strategy alive. I never tried the deck pre-errata, and I’m excited to give this version a try to see how it fares. Well done!

Nov 20, 2017 emorlecallor 793

I was thinking that Caleb knew what he was doing when he wrote the FAQ. Seeing this proves that a card isn’t dead upon errata, it just requires new and inventive thinking to making it work. Bravo on another marvelous deck.

Nov 21, 2017 Soulcaravan 1

I used to listen to the podcasts of MTG head designer Mark Rosewater, and he said many times that "restrictions breed creativity". This is a prime example of that. Great deck!

Nov 21, 2017 死锁 53

very glad to see the rebirth of Caldara!new faq destroy a lot of powerful decks So I need to find something new.I can't wait to try this deck.

Nov 21, 2017 knochentrocken 1

Hi, love the use of Narya here! Always my favorite ring! You wrote: "With 2 Tribesman in play you can ready them both with Narya, bringing Jubary's total defense up to 8 if needed." This seems to be a mistake... If you use Narya to ready the Tribesmen, they will get the defense-bonus of the Ring. Jubary will get the bonus from both Tribesmen twice, yielding a total bonus of +4 defense, leaving him at 7. Therefore, it would never really make sense to not ready Jubary with Narya.

Cheers and thanks for the detailed write up!

Nov 21, 2017 Seastan 10052

@choirmage``@D4rkWolf10``@emorlecallor``@Soulcaravan``@死锁

Thank you! It was just as much fun to design as it is to play!

@knochentrockenThis typo has now been corrected. Thanks!

Nov 22, 2017 Wandalf the Gizzard 172

walloftext

Great deck! I love to see defense for Caldara's errata. Of course if she is still that powerful, what did it accomplish?

Nov 26, 2017 xDIABOx 53

I dunno the way you approached Caldara before @Seastan but this is pretty much the way Beorn did with his Caldara Aggro deck. The main idea with Prince Imrahil and other powerful ally and develop from there, using Narya shenanigans, was pretty much set.

At the time there wasn't any Harad shenanigans and Jubayr was an auto-include for my version once he came out, pairing along with Stand and Fight for recursion of other targets once the resource engine is set in motion.

I like the deck but I honestly don't think it's as powerful as the pre-FAQ. It was a different kind of deck, the one before, with a level of consistency pretty high.

Nov 26, 2017 Rouxxor 459

I can't answer for him but to me Caldara was way more powerful as a control deck with Galadriel. More consistent thanks to the mirror and the draw engine you also keep all the way a low threat. At this time Stand and fight was useless since any resource should be used only to pay for Fortune or Fate who bring 4 allies each time or draw using elven-light.

Beware: most of the time Prince Imrahil is a hero so you can't ready him using Narya.

Nov 26, 2017 Seastan 10052

@xDIABOxI've never played Beorn's deck before but just by looking at the list I can tell they play very differently. There is more of a Caldara focus in that deck with 3x Fortune or Fate, 2x Dwarven Tomb, and 2x Map of Earnil. This deck has none of that. This deck is much more focused on setting up the Narya/Jubayr/Tribesman with 3 of each.

The emphasis on Jubayr as a key piece and not just another strong ally is what sets it apart. He discards a shadow card every turn, and I can't tell you how many times that ability has saved my game.

And I never said this deck was as powerful as pre-FAQ Caldara. Nonetheless, it can still consistently beat the majority of nightmare quests on the first attempt, which should satisfy most people that are looking to play a power deck.

Nov 27, 2017 xDIABOx 53

@Seastanyup, he used the recursion package because it was valid pre-FAQ. I also noticed he didn't played Elven Jeweler, a card I added to my Caldara version along with Emery, it was a more Dredge'd version with the Rohan discard package and Caldara recursion engine.

You consider this deck to be better than your super-Boromir build... I dunno about that, I'm still in doubt with the new Caldara builds.

With a perfect hand of Prince Imrahil and Sword-thain (which you don't use) I guess the deck can respond well and be a fast deck to play with, with good amount of resources per turn (5 with Arwen Undómiel) and that way play Stand and Fight and abuse the curve. But that requires specific cards in the starting hand... which makes it a bit of a glass cannon.

Caldara still has her place in the meta but the one-time trade... don't trigger my fancies. If the FAQ forced the Fortune or Fate to go into the Victory Display or out-of-play like Will of the West that would be the right way to do things. The deck would still exist and players would still use it.

But good thing you didn't quit on her! ;)

Me on the other hand walked another path I was eager to carve but didn't because of the existence of the Caldara build. ;)

Nov 28, 2017 jtwilliams37 7

Awesome idea! If you were to play this with two players, what type of deck would you consider would be the best partner?

Nov 28, 2017 Seastan 10052

@jtwilliams37Great question! It might be fun to pair it with a Harad deck with Kahliel so he can ready Jubayr an additional time each phase.

Nov 28, 2017 jtwilliams37 7

@Seastan Awesome, I'll have to give that a try. I just gave this deck a test-run and I'm blown away. At no point did I lose control of the board. Love it. Thanks for all your deck-tech and write-ups, really helps a rookie like me learning how to think about building my own decks!

Dec 01, 2017 Seastan 10052

@jtwilliams37Awesome to hear!

I had a good time playing this deck across from "The Deck you want your Friend to Play" with them swapping out their Arwen hero for Éowyn. Playing across from Eowyn was nice because it allowed me to get my big allies in the discard faster and gave me more options to discard Elven-light later on.

Dec 10, 2017 FolcoBoffin 7

I love this because I never really wanted to use Caldara decks before since they were so good. Since the errata, decks like these seem so much more appealing and balanced. Nice deck. I hope you'll do as good of a job on the upcoming dale decks.

Dec 12, 2017 Tegyrius 1

Tried this a few times, and I agree, it is the new deck to rule them all. Only card that made no sense to me was Ranger of Cardolan, so I replaced them with Steward of Orthanc, Guardian of Rivendell and Elrond's Counsel. Less consistent, but that steward turns card draw to 11 with Elven-light.