Bard's Black Arrow: a thematic solo Lake-town deck

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Estel Edain 175

I wanted to build a deck that could beat The Battle of Lake-town with Bard and Black Arrow, and without any cards that violate theme (such as unique characters who weren't yet born during the battle). Some flexibility with theme is necessary, but I wanted to come up with semi-plausible reasons for why these characters and attachments might all be in Lake-town. The Battle of Lake-town is one of the most difficult quests for the solo player, so this thematically-restricted deck does not have a high win percentage (>25%, with several close losses). It's also a slow deck, but it's epic when a fully set up Bard single-handedly one-shots Smaug (using The Old Thrush, Black Arrow, and 2 or 3 Support of the Eagles).

Early on, I focus on setting up my board state: willpower, Eagles of the Misty Mountains, and attachments to build up a super defender. Elf-stone, Song of Battle, and Miruvor (recycling itself) all help to get EotMM out quickly. I generally keep Smaug in the staging area and try to break even on questing or clear the active location. When necessary, I'll have Smaug engaged and sacrifice a chump blocker to prevent location lock.

Depending on which song I get first, I set up Bard or Beravor with A Burning Brand and Support of the Eagles. Once my main defender has at least 7 and A Burning Brand, I can have Smaug engaged every round. I also need a secondary defender or readying for extra attacks from Smaug the Mighty, together with healing or a second Support of the Eagles. Then I can start removing burn damage through questing, and building up facedown attachments on Eagles of the Misty Mountains to set up the kill.

When deciding whether to mulligan, there are a few things I want quickly: (i) chump blockers or Lembas to minimize the damage of an early Smaug the Mighty, (ii) cheap willpower (especially Arwen) or location management to counteract staging area threat, (iii) Elrond's Counsel or Light of Valinor so that I can avoid engaging Smaug the Magnificent (30 engagement) while setting up, (iv) Master of the Forge or readying for Beravor to draw, and (v) A Test of Will or Hasty Stroke to cancel any devastating encounter card effects. I also want (vi) a hand that's relatively balanced in its demand for each hero's resources, or else resource smoothing to make up for it. If I'm missing any three of these elements, I'll mulligan. I don't count the same card towards two elements, so if Arwen were my only cheap ally, I wouldn't count her as satisfying both (i) and (ii). If I'm missing two elements, it depends on whether the hand does some of these things especially well, or whether it has other benefits (such as Eagles of the Misty Mountains with Elf-stone). If I have five or all six of these elements, I won't mulligan.

Since a game often lasts more than 10 rounds, it's important to keep track of the likelihood of getting each version of Smaug. You should also count key cards in the encounter deck, especially Close to the Flame and Esgaroth Wharf (horrible shadow effect). Fortunately, Dire Magnificence's shadow effect whiffs in a solo game. Its when revealed effect, however, means that you should avoid having Eagles of the Misty Mountains as your only ally.

Card notes: Beravor's is needed early to avoid significant threat increases. I use her ability when I have readying or more willpower, or when I choose to have Smaug engaged. Since this is a tri-sphere deck, most cards cost 1 or less, including 5 allies that can be played round 1. Erebor Hammersmith is good for recurring Elf-stone, Miruvor, and Lembas. Together with Arwen, he won't die if he chump blocks and gets Close to the Flame as a shadow card. Miruvor is flexible: it can smooth resources (there's usually less demand for Spirit resources), but it can also help Beravor to draw, ready a defender, or (like Elrond's Counsel) provide the last point of to clear the active location. You can also recycle it and then use Master of the Forge to ensure both an attachment and a fresh draw next turn. I normally save my cancellation for effects that would destroy either a hero or Eagles of the Misty Mountains. Secret Paths is best used with a 6 or 4 threat location. Stand and Fight is often used to retrieve a cheap Eagle after Eagles of the Misty Mountains are out, but can also get an emergency chump blocker or a utility ally. I normally use Dwarven Tomb to get back cancellation or Elrond's Counsel.

Theme notes: Eagles seem like a relatively thematic choice, since Bard was helped by the thrush and the dwarves by the ravens. We know that the eagles were keeping watch as goblins mustered to conquer the North. Perhaps a band of goblins headed towards Lake-town to scout its defenses, and several eagles followed the goblins to track their movement. Erebor Hammersmith could be an elderly survivor of Smaug's attack on the Lonely Mountain who now works as a blacksmith in Lake-town. Beravor may have travelled widely as a DĂșnedain Ranger, and if her travels brought her east of Mirkwood, she would likely visit Lake-town. The DĂșnedain live long enough that she could have been a young ranger at the time of The Hobbit and still active in the 17 years leading up to the War of the Ring. Glorfindel may have participated in the White Council's attack on Dol Goldur, and perhaps he brought news of the attack to Thranduil. Arwen might have been visiting Thranduil, and she could have accompanied Glorfindel (with Henamarth and Master of the Forge) to Lake-town, where Gandalf (who was still needed for wizard's business at Dol Guldur) had asked Glorfindel to inquire about Thorin's company.

Notable omissions: This deck was built shortly after Trouble in Tharbad came out, so some more recent cards might improve it. -1 Arwen, -1 Dwarven Tomb or Secret Paths, +2 Galadriel's Handmaiden would likely help. I only have two copies of Light of Valinor because I rarely need Glorfindel ready after questing. Asfaloth and Unexpected Courage are both good cards, but they appear only once because they cost two resources, Asfaloth can't chump block, and I already have readying from Lembas and Miruvor. Daeron's Runes might be worth adding, though I'm not sure what to cut for it. Discarding is not ideal, given The Old Thrush and the when revealed effect on Great Bridge, and runes (which are carved, not written) seem less thematic than the other cards in the deck.

2 comments

Aug 05, 2018 pd187540 10

"this thematically-restricted deck does not have a high win percentage". So what's the point then? I want to WIN, not to play the scenario more than 5 times to eke out a win.

Aug 06, 2018 SamthemanGamgee 373

@pd187540 Well for people who love recreating the theme this is a great way to do so, and it shows how slim the chances were that they actually would survive and kill smaug so it feels great to recreate it.