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In this year on March 1st came at last the Passing of King Elessar. It is said that the beds of Meriadoc and Peregrin were set beside the bed of the great king. Then Legolas built a grey ship in Ithilien, and sailed down Anduin and so over Sea; and with him, it is said, went Gimli the Dwarf.
Círdan the Shipwright seemed then perfect as the third hero for this deck, both in terms of thematics and gameplay. As Lord of the Grey Havens he will eventually sail into the West himself on the last ship to do so. In terms of gameplay, he:
- shares the discard mechanic with Legolas,
- provides some much needed ,
- speeds up the early game through enhanced card draw,
- gains access to the sphere through Narya.
While the deck began purely as an attempt to create an original yet thematic deck centered around Legolas and Gimli, the end result has a strong cohesion not just in theme but also in gameplay. The main idea behind the deck is to rely on the strong action advantage provided by the hero line-up and slowly expand your board presence through the strong allies the deck has to offer.
During the early game, the most important part is to get the right pieces in place so that we can freely pay the costs for the effects of Legolas and Gimli. Once this has been done, the next step is to start playing allies to build up our questing capabilities and assist our heroes in both defending and attacking. The deck boasts a strong and varied collection of allies with a nice cost curve. As soon as we have a decent ally line-up in play and get Light of Valinor and Narya on Círdan the Shipwright, the deck really takes off by allowing you to reuse allies at will while simultaneously empowering them.
As can be seen, the deck has clearly defined plans for the early, middle and late game. I will now describe each of these plans in more detail to give you some more intuition as to how the deck plays.
While the heroes can theoretically quest for 8 and afterwards still defend for 2 and attack for 4 right out of the gate, the costs for the effects of Legolas and Gimli can quickly become quite the drain. Therefore, the main goal in the early game is to ensure that each turn the deck can reliably pay these costs. The most important cards necessary to achieve this are Steward of Gondor and either Elven-light or Silver Harp.
Steward of Gondor always goes on Círdan the Shipwright, who can afterwards easily pay for Silver Harp or the repeated cost of Elven-light. While I regret this single thematic compromise, it is sadly necessary for the deck to function properly. Once you play Narya on Círdan the Shipwright he will also be able to use Steward of Gondor's resources for any cards you play, allowing you to use Gimli's resources exclusively for his effect.
Because these two cards are so important to the basic functionality of the deck, mulligan for them aggressively. The deck contains many other cards to help you draw and pay for them as fast as possible. Unlikely Friendship and We Are Not Idle both provide card draw and resource acceleration simultaneously. Normally, you would need to wait until your second turn to play Steward of Gondor, but either of these cards can put the necessary additional resource on Gimli right away.
Captain's Wisdom and Envoy of Pelargir serve this same purpose: to help you pay for Steward of Gondor on the very first turn. Exhausting Gimli for Captain's Wisdom (or We Are Not Idle) is not a problem, since Legolas can ready him again anyway!
We run very few cards so that once Steward of Gondor is in play, we are free to use Gimli's resources exclusively for his own effect. At this point, paying for Legolas' effect should also be trivial, either because Elven-light is in your discard pile and can continually be recycled, or because you have played Silver Harp so that you are essentially allowed one free discard each turn.
The next step is to start playing allies. Ideally, this phase of the game should start as soon as turn 2 (so "middle game" is perhaps a bit of a misnomer). At first you will probably play a couple of cheaper allies such as Galadriel's Handmaiden, Arwen Undómiel and Sailor of Lune, mainly to bolster up your questing prowess.
At the same time, it would be nice to buff up Gimli a bit so he becomes a more capable defender. This is mainly done through Dúnedain Warning and Arwen Undómiel. It also can't hurt to have a Dúnedain Remedy ready just to be safe. If you play multiplayer and the other deck has enough healing for two, feel free to replace this card with something like Armored Destrier.
While not entirely essential, it would also be very nice to have Light of Valinor at this point. Sometimes you're just unlucky and it takes a while to get it, which is okay too, but getting it around this time would be ideal. It makes it easier to transition into the late game, where Narya becomes important.
During the late game you should already have a decent board that can comfortably quest for about 14 each turn. At this stage, you want to start playing some of your stronger allies if you haven't already. These mainly include Northern Tracker, Guardian of Rivendell and Glorfindel. At the same time, Narya will be at its most useful point, seeing as you now have several allies to choose from.
With Narya, both Guardian of Rivendell and Northern Tracker become quite capable defenders, though you might want to use Northern Tracker for questing if locations have been stacking up in the staging area. Glorfindel adds some much needed offense to the deck. He is the ideal target for Narya since he can make use of its stat boosts multiple times due to his built-in readying effect. Together with Legolas they should be able to kill off most enemies.
While chump blocking is never ideal, it is also sometimes inevitable as the game progresses. At this stage, don't be too worried to sacrifice your Envoy of Pelargir if you have to suddenly defend too many attacks for your main defenders to handle. If you find yourself with way too many resources (which can happen), you can even sacrifice Glorfindel and play him from your discard pile again next turn.
Strengths & Weaknesses
While the deck is immensely fun, thematic and quite capable of holding its own, it does have some notable weaknesses. The most important ones are (1) its relatively slow early game and (2) its sometimes lackluster defenses.
It is absolutely paramount to get Steward of Gondor and some free discard fodder (Silver Harp or Elven-light) in play asap. This kickstarts your hero line-up, which at that point becomes incredibly potent. However, if this takes more than a single turn, the most difficult quests will already punish you relentlessly.
As for the defensive capabilities of the deck, Gimli is your main man during both the early and middle game. While you can certainly buff his somewhat, the fact remains that he is by no means excellent at this job, nor is there much healing available in and . Gimli can therefore be pushed to the limit quite quickly, especially as a result of unfortunate shadow cards.
Despite these weaknesses, the deck is still a blast to play. If you do manage to set up relatively quickly (which is not all that hard given a good mulligan and cards like Captain's Wisdom, Unlikely Friendship and We Are Not Idle), the heroes themselves provide you with excellent and , and above average . Not to mention the strong allies, card draw and threat management (almost forgot to mention Elrond's Counsel) this deck gives you access to.
The Sideboard, as usual, is meant to solve some of the deck's weaknesses against quests that are especially difficult in one of these aspects. As stated before, the deck's main weaknesses are (1) a relatively slow early game and (2) a less than stellar defense.
While the main deck already contains many cards to solve (1), it still might not be fast enough against some quests. Therefore, Legacy of Númenor is included in the Sideboard. Its cost is pretty hefty, but if you absolutely need all your pieces in place from the very first turn, it may just be worth it.
The majority of the Sideboard is dedicated to fixing (2):
- Jubayr is one of the best defensive allies and thanks to Narya you can defend with him multiple times. Just remember that his effect can only be used once per phase.
- Armored Destrier enables Gimli to defend twice per turn and also helps with shadow cancellation. It can clog somewhat in the early game, but later on (with Arwen Undómiel and a few Dúnedain Warning) it can turn Gimli into a massive defender.
- Desperate Defense is another support card that could work well with Gimli. It's a card, so it's much easier to play than Armored Destrier, but also less impactful.
- Hasty Stroke provides more shadow cancellation, enough said.
- Terrible to Behold is not really that good of a card, but it does allow you to block an attack while still triggering Gimli's effect to ready Legolas. In some cases it may be worth it.
Finally, there's Well Warned for quests that are absolutely brutal in terms of threat (looking at you, Murder at the Prancing Pony). As said before, threat is generally not really a problem for this deck, but for some quests Galadriel's Handmaiden and Elrond's Counsel aren't enough.
There are a few other cards you may want to consider in this deck. I didn't list these in the Sideboard, because they aren't specifically meant to help the deck deal with one particular quest-specific aspect of the game (like shadow cancellation, threat management, etc.). Instead, you might consider these cards for your main deck as a means to adjust the overall playstyle to something more to your personal liking.
- Lords of the Eldar: This deck has no problems discarding cards and contains a relatively large number of Noldor characters, which makes this a solid option for a late-game sweep. It's especially good with Narya.
- Ancient Mathom: If you feel the deck still lacks card draw (mainly in the early game), this is one of the few remaining in-sphere options.
- Fair and Perilous: A useful tool for killing big enemies. Círdan the Shipwright and Glorfindel can make very good use of this.
- Dwarven Tomb: May help to recover important cards that you were forced to discard earlier, such as Arwen Undómiel or Northern Tracker.
- Ethir Swordsman: While less thematic, they are probably much better than the 3 copies of Galadriel's Handmaiden currently in the main deck.