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|Saga Deck 2.2: Abominable Trees||0||0||0||2.0|
I used this deck for the first quest of my Saga Campaign. I am going to try and keep it as thematic as possible, stemming from the 'What If?' of 'What if Gandalf didn't escape from Orthanc in The Fellowship of the Ring?' Please note, I don't own all the cards, so am not able to make the most powerful thematic deck theoretically possible, but constrained by what I have, here is my best attempt.
_-When Gwaihir approached Isengard, bearing tidings for Gandalf and Saruman, he was fired upon by several orc archers. Warded off by the volume of arrows being loosed at him, he circled the valley out of bow-shot and what the Great Eagle saw dismayed him. Upon returning to Radagast and alerting him of what seemed as a captured Isengard, and hence an ensnared Saruman and Gandalf, Radagast alerted Cirdan, Elrond and Galadriel as the surviving members of the White Council. Hearing Gwaihir's report of the industry in Isengard, with the valley now filled with orcs and wolves, as well as Saruman's message to Radagast of the Nazgul having issued from their strongholds of Minas Morgul and Dol Goldur, the Council conclude that the Nine had captured Isengard and have either detained or slain the White and Grey Wizards. Galadriel consulted her mirror, which showed her a great host marching from Isengard, destroying all in its path.
With no more doubt in their minds, the Council send scouts and messengers into the Shire, alerting every faithful friend of the danger now posed to Bilbo's nephew. For Elrond knew of Bilbo's 'magic ring', and that Frodo now possessed it, and when he learned of the Nazgul's roving in the West coupled with Gandalf's disappearance, he deduced only one thing would prompt The Dark Lord to move so boldly and openly: The One Ring. And so agents issued forth from Imladris, Lothlorien and Mithlond, Bilbo, filled with concern and regret at having unwittingly left Frodo in such great peril, sneaked away from Rivendell ahead of Elrond's scouts to return to Bag End and help Frodo however he could. But he was not so foolish as to think he could go alone. Enlisting the help of his former companions Bofur and Dori, and Gloin's son Gimli, he set off for the Shire.
Bilbo arrived in Bag End to find Frodo in the last stages of moving to Crickhollow, still awaiting Gandalf's promised return. Merry and Fredegar had gone on ahead to Frodo's new house, and Pippin and Sam were helping tidy away the last odds and ends. Joy at seeing Bilbo quickly turned to despair at hearing news of Gandalf, and so resolving to waste no further time, Frodo sets off from Bag End, not fully comprehending the terrors of the road ahead.-_
The Deck: This deck is primarily designed to handle the combat side of the quest. Ring Mail is primarily to be played on Tom Cotton, putting him on the same level as Beregond for , whick is taken even further with buffs from Bill the Pony or Dúnedain Warning from the partner deck. At least one Dagger of Westernesse needs to be played on Merry, hopefully two with a spare going on Sam Gamgee. Feint could be called on in a pinch to defend against Black Riders, but the main defender should be Tom Cotton who needs an Unexpected Courage to truely make him shine. There are not a vast number of enemies in the quest, but they are intimidating. To that end, Marksman of Lórien and Farmer Maggot, who is boosted to 4 when he enters play, are the allies who will help the most with them. Curious Brandybuck is also good for combat in a pinch, as he enters play for free after travelling somewhere, gets his boost, quests for 2 and then goes on his way.
The Song of Travel is needed to get this deck firing on all cylinders, but friendly Elf-stones or Ranger Provisions will also help. Ancient Mathom will help share the love, and Secret Vigil with a seasoning of Hobbit Pipes/Smoke Rings will help in keeping threat below the Black Rider's engagement cost of 35 (38 with Pippin across the table). Northern Trackers are a prime target for an Elf-stone but Woodland Couriers will help massively to chip away at the multiple forest locations in the quest. For Hide tests, Merry can be used in a pinch if he gets a Fast Hitch, but otherwise the West Road Traveller and the Blue Mountain Trader will take the brunt of them, the latter being good for little else after he's helped smooth out resources for that turn.
Thematically, this deck represents various allies and messengers that have descended upon the Shire from as far away as Lothlorien, all trying to help Frodo reach Rivendell if at all possible. There are some hobbits who Frodo already knew and could depend on, but most of these people are complete strangers to him and to Bilbo, and yet are willing to sacrifice their lives to see the Ring escape the attention of the Ringwraiths. The only concession to the theme is the West Road Traveller, but I can justify it by viewing her as a roving scout of Edoras who just happened to get caught up in this mess.
The play-through using this deck can be found here: https://theroadlotr.wordpress.com/the-saga/