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The BGamerJoe 983
I had to push myself to try a devoted Harad deck, and it took a few iterations, but I'm glad I did! The archetype is hardy and enjoyable!
This deck starts at a high threat level, but I found that having some of the most powerful characters in Middle Earth on my side was well worth it! The goal for Harad decks is always to get those big 5 cost allies out on the board and let them do the work, so all 15 Harad allies are included. The Hero lineup is really where we have room to be creative. The challenge for the Harad deck seems to be getting enough card draw and resources fast enough to get those big allies on the table. Galadriel and Gandalf seem to do the trick for me.
Choosing what to look for in your opening hand is actually a little hard. Steward of Gondor is your highest priority just so you can get those allies out as fast as possible. Nenya is excellent so you have the option of more willpower on turn 1 if you need it. Other good cards to see are Captain's Wisdom, Gandalf's Staff, Southron Refugee and Elrond's Counsel for an early threat drop. It's not essential to see one of the Big Three allies in the opening hand but you're almost certain to have one ready to play when you have the resources.
The opening turns will make or break the game. With a high starting threat, balancing how heavily to quest and how many characters to leave ready for combat is a trick. The ability to ready Kahliel for a defense let’s you quest pretty heavily and still have a way to stay safe. When you can afford to, use Galadriel's threat reduction/card draw to keep the deck moving forward and keep threat level reasonable. I try to use her ability at least two thirds of the time. The first Unexpected Courage should go on her unless you really need Gandalf to defend and attack.
Kahliel's Headdress is expensive at 3 cost, but totally worth it. I find the deck really starts to move once it's out. Gandalf's Staff is super helpful as well providing either card draw or resource acceleration as needed. There's so many toys in this deck! Narya can wait until later in the game, but it helps get great actions advantage out of the Jubayr and Yazan, or if you need super strong defense, you can manipulate Jubayr and Kahliel’s Tribesman potentially get Jubyar up to 8 defense! (Seastan as demonstrated this in his Caldara 2.0 deck. I feel clever for using this sweet combo before he posted his deck :P )
Once you get the Headdress down, you can play a Harad ally, it can quest for +1 without exhausting with Galadriel's ability, and still contribute later in the round!
By turn 6 or so you should have all 3 big allies out with a solid group of Southron Refugees and Tribesmen for questing and support. Firyal should keep you from hitting some of the worst cards in your quest and Yazan and Jubayr with the Tribesmen will handle the rest.
With Narya on Gandalf, the combat phase is really strong. You can defend with Jubayr, boost with a Tribesman, ready with Narya, defend again, then discard a Harad duplicate in your hand to ready again, possibly with another Tribesman boost. I've played a good 20 games or so with this deck and I've only seen Jubayr killed one or two times. It's easy to forget about Kahliel's "discard to ready" ability. I've found it sometimes worthwhile to quest for 3 with Yazan and immediately ready him during the quest phase so he's ready for combat phase. Another fun combo is using Kahliel to play Captain's Wisdom, then discard a Tribesman to ready him, then play the Tribesman from your discard with Stand and Fight.
I've included a copy of Protector of Lórien to make use of the duplicates of all the unique attachments. They do build up in the hand in the late game. Bilbo is there as a more useful second copy of Wizard Pipe.
I was running Flame of Anor since there are so many 5-cost cards in the deck, but found that I never really used it so I moved it to the sideboard. I have Well Warned in the sideboard as well for further threat reduction if the quest requires it. I wish I could fit more of the "multi-trait event cards into the deck since the 4 Harad uniques cover all the primary traits, but once they're all out, it hardly seems necessary!
If this deck gets past the first couple turns, it has it made. It has a little of everything:
- Willpower - Kahliel's Headdress and many allies. Galadriel, Tribesman and Protector provide flexibility
- Boss Fights - Jubayr with boosts and Yazan with Spears
- Swarms Fights - Jubayr with multiple defenses and Narya to support
- Healing - Warden of Healing (can even do double duty with Narya)
- Resource Acceleration - Captain's Wisdom, Gandalf's Staff, Steward, Southron Refugee
- Resource Smoothing - Gandalf, Kahliel, Nenya, Stand and Fight
- Card Draw - Galadriel, Gandalf from top of the deck, Daeron's Runes, Gandalf's Staff
- Threat Reduction - Galadriel, Elrond's Council
- Multiplayer Support - Galadriel, Yazan, Jubayr, Shadowfax
While not viable for every scenario due to its high starting threat, I've found the deck fairly versatile and suitable for solo and multiplayer games. I had a good time playing through the entire Harad cycle (except Long Arm of Mordor because all the characters are part of the quest...) with it, and while Race Across Harad was super hard, I was able to beat each quest with this deck (even Crossing of Poros which was smuggled across international borders to my gaming table).
The deck tops out at about 25-30 willpower by turn 8 or so and can handle 2-3 enemies when need arises.
Thanks for taking a look! Give it a try if it looks fun and let me how it plays for you!