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|Three Hunters + Two Rings|
|None. Self-made deck here.|
This is the latest version of my Three Hunters Leadership and Tactics Deck that is played two-handed alongside the following deck: http://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/8847/rings-of-power-v2-1.0
Essentially the core strategy is to load up Gimli with defensive attachments and resources (via Steward) turning him into a dedicated and reliable defender that can defend multiple attacks each turn for either deck (via Sentinel) while Legolas and Aragorn, with help from allies and attachments, counter attack and decimate enemies on either side of the board (with lots of Ranged Characters and Aragorn's ability) quickly and efficiently. Gimli's readying ability is essential to this strategy as he can potentially ready either Legolas or Aragorn to free them up for offensive duties or he can ready Elrond to allow for an additional defence instead.
With Steward and Shield, Armoured Destrier and a few Dunedain Warnings Gimli becomes an absolute wall of , if he gets a copy of UC he can defend against yet another attack each round or even contribute to the questing phase if need be. Gimli is such a flexible and powerful hero because of the fact that he can defend for either deck and can ready whichever Hero is needed most for the current situation. He even has 2 so can help take out foes any time he is ready and available to do so.
The remaining defensive attachments (Elven Mail and any extra or spare copies you have of Armoured Destrier, Gondorian Shield or Dunedain Warning) are played on Elrond turning him into a powerful secondary defender. Elrond with Burning Brand, Elven Mail and Armoured Destrier is a ridiculously good defender that can cancel or remove shadow cards with ease. Once you get both heroes set up there is very little that can threaten or even attempt to overcome your defences.
Legolas and Aragorn are the core of the deck's power, slap some weapons on them and watch them carve almost any foe apart. The -3 from both Aragorn's ability and Rivendell Blade combined is extremely helpful against heavily armoured foes. Hands Upon the Bow with Legolas can be very powerful during the quest phase so long as he is buffed with weapons as it can allow you to take out a strong foe in the staging area stopping it from ever attacking you whilst also placing progress thanks to Legolas and reducing the total in the staging area on top of that! You also avoid any nasty engagement effects this way as well. You can even trigger Foe Hammer with Hands Upon the Bow! Lastly this combo also allows you to easily ready Legolas with Gimli's ability (boosting his attack in the process) allowing him to attack again later in the combat phase and once more place progress if he gets a kill.
Foe-Hammer and Unlikely Friendship both provide card draw or deck thinning and Gandalf can also be used for his card draw if need be. Unlikely Friendship and Proud Hunters provide additional resource acceleration alongside Steward of Gondor to ensure that you can pay for the expensive unique allies in the deck. Feint is a no brainer and is just another level of defence for both decks. Due to this decks potent strength and offensive capability most enemies I use Feint on are taken out before the following round and consequently do not get to perform any attacks. This can be used early or mid game on high enemies that I cannot yet safely defend against to great effect giving me more time to set up boosting attachments and/or healing.
Sterner than Steel is included to cancel any 'must cancel' shadow effects late game, it can be used on Gimli once he has Gondorian Shield attached and can be used on Elrond if he has Elven Mail attached but does not yet have Burning Brand. It can be a bit of a dead card if you don't yet have any armour attached to a hero and is perhaps one of the weaker cards in the deck however it has saved my bacon quite a few times and because it has a cost of zero you never have to leave resources behind or specifically plan for it. As I don't have any other straight up shadow cancellation in either deck (Burning Brand and Armoured Destrier discard shadows but cannot cancel them outright) Sterner than Steel does fit a very specific role in the deck and is more important than it may seem.
Sneak Attack is the final event card and is included for the Gandalf + Sneak Attack combo we all know and love. It can also be used to great effect with the following allies in a pinch though:
- Faramir can be Sneak Attacked if you can't afford him outright but desperately need to make a big quest push
- Boromir similarly can be Sneak Attacked if you need an emergency defender however depending on the (and engagement cost!) of the enemy Boromir may fall in battle and you would then not return him to hand.... (big waste of Boromir but if it saves a hero it may be worthwhile)
- Marksman of Lorien can be Sneak Attacked for a big offensive push as you would get his 3 as well as his reduction ability allowing you to take out a foe that would otherwise survive to the next round. This also means you may get to use his reduction ability twice.
- Finally Greenwood Archer is also a great target for Sneak Attack. You get an extra 2 against any foe as the Archer has ranged but you also get to ready any hero in play! This can ready Gimli or Elrond for another defence, Aragorn or Legolas so they can make another attack or even just Elrond or Galadriel with their rings attached so that they can both quest and use their abilities in the same round.
The single player side quest in this deck is Send for Aid. This Side Quest is bonkers good with these decks. Both decks feature a ton of high cost valuable allies and Send for Aid allows BOTH decks to potentially play one of these allies for free. Even when you only hit one high cost ally and the other deck gets a weaker/low cost ally it is well worth it, especially if the weaker ally is a utility ally like say Imladris Stargazer or Imladris Caregiver. There are also quite a few allies with enter play effects included in either deck so clearing Send for Aid actually has the potential to also directly provide healing (via Galadrim Healer), readying (via Greenwood Archer), defense reduction (via Marksman of Lorien), threat reduction (via Galadriel's Handmaiden or Gandalf), card draw (via Gandalf) or even direct damage (via Gandalf). Yes you delay yourself from the main quest for a turn but you build your board state up quickly and cheaply as well as potentially triggering some nice effects. Only in quests where you cannot really afford to ever explore side quests will I not try to clear Send for Aid as soon as I possibly can.
Lastly we get to the allies. To make things simple I am going to break down the role each ally has within the deck:
-Azain Silverbeard is a fantastic offensive ally. He has 3 and a direct damage ability you can use whenever he helps kill an enemy. His ability is certainly something I only use on occasion but that does not take away from how great it is especially late game when you often have plenty of spare resources. Two damage is nothing to laugh at and this can easily take out weaker or already damaged foes in one go, the fact it can target any foe in play including the staging area is incredible. Yes some games you simply won't have spare resources or a good opportunity to use his ability but you will also have games where he shines and uses his ability a few times to great effect.
-Boromir is a jack of all trades ally. He can quest for 1 (which yes is not much but still helps), is a great attacker and can be a great defender as well. In quests with Archery or encounter direct damage he has the potential to quest, defend AND attack all in the same round: Quest with him, assign 1 point of archery or direct damage to him to ready him, defend against a foe and take another point or two of damage and ready him again, counter attack! He is a fantastic defender against enemies with a higher engagement cost than your threat with a very decent 3 and 4 in this situation. Just for reference that is more than Gimli begins with and the same amount of and Elrond has! Even defending against foes without his boost can be really useful as there is far more chance that he will take damage this way and ready himself for a counter attack. The core issue with Boromir is making sure he is always healed up and does not actually fall in battle as you want to keep pulling double duty and getting the most out of him for as long as you can. For this reason he is better suited at defending against weaker foes that are likely to damage him but unlikely to kill him.
-Derndingle Warrior is a fantastic backup defender when Gimli and/or Elrond need some support and with Sentinel he can defend for either deck. Even just with his base stats Derndingle is a decent defender against weaker enemies. Trigger his ability however and he has a whopping 5 , for an ally this is extremely impressive. You do need to put a point of damage on him to boost his however so it does make it a little easier for him to die with only 2 remaining. So long as you use Derndingle carefully only using him to defend against certain foes and providing healing for him when need be he will rarely fall in battle and is an incredibly useful defender. Worth mentioning is that Treebeard can ready a Derndingle allowing it to defend two attacks in one round, Treebeard being a great defender himself however makes it unlikely that you would do this instead of simply readying Treebeard instead and defending with him.
-Faramir is a bit of a no brainer as everyone can clearly tell what his role is; one hell of a huge boost! He always boosts the OTHER deck played alongside this one as this deck is the combat deck and does not contribute much to the quest phase whereas the other deck builds up an army of questing allies. Faramir is the only card in the deck purely aimed at improving questing capability and not focused on combat in any way. Gandalf, Rumil and Treebeard are all great questers as well and Aragorn is very often used to quest (and then readied via Gimli when possible) however they are very capable combat wise as well whereas I would never dream of using Faramir to defend or attack as it would be a complete waste.
-Gandalf is another no brainer as he can provide a multitude of beneficial effects. He provides card draw, threat reduction and direct damage to the deck. Hard casting him without Sneak Attack isn't too hard for the deck either thanks to cards like Steward and Proud Hunters. With Steward in play he can be played with one rounds worth of resources. As far as his actual stats and use he is more than often used to quest considering this decks low output or is used as an emergency defender. Due to the deck having such great offensive capability Gandalf is rarely used as an attacker but he excels at this too with his fantastic 4 strength.
-Greenwood Archer is more of a utility card than an ally really. His main use is to either ready Elrond or Galadriel before they have readying attachments so that they can both use their abilities/rings and 'quest' in the same round. If Elrond has say Light Of Valinor and Vilya attached with this combo way you can exhaust him to use Vilya during planning, ready him with Greenwood Archer and quest with him (without exhausting) and then defend if need be as well! Greenwood Archer can also be used to great effect to ready Legolas after Hands Upon the Bow is used during planning if you won't be able to ready Legolas via Gimli's ability or have another target for Gimli. The worst thing about Greenwood Archer is that barring any shenanigans he enters play during the planning phase and his readying ability is far more useful during the combat phase. Sneak Attack can remedy this weakness as described above.
-Marksman of Lorien is easily one of the best allies in the deck as it provides an incredible ability and fantastic stats (and ranged!) for only 3 resources. The Marksman is more combat capable as far as raw stats and ranged are concerned than either Rumil, Boromir or Azain and is cheaper or the same cost as all of them and non-unique! Now I will admit that the armour reduction ability is actually not used as often as I would like because the deck is so good at killing! https://i.imgur.com/t8JjQix.gif
There is often not an enemy in play to target with the reduction but I still really need to get an offensive ally out for combat as I know more enemies will appear (more likely than not that same round) and the faster I can get out a bunch of offensive allies the faster I can maintain control over combat. That being said when the ability is triggered it can be extremely helpful at taking out a nasty enemy. Minus 2 on top of a potential -3 thanks to Legolas with Rivendell Blade (which can go on Marksman too if you draw the second copy!) and Aragorn's ability means that even the most armoured of foes can quickly find themselves reduced to little or no at all and dispatched with ease. The Marksman also has 3 and ranged and even has more than 1 ! Across the board direct damage of 1 won't take the Marksman out which is a big deal for various quests. The Marksman is especially good at helping with enemies engaged with the questing deck thanks to his ability and ranged keyword. Lets say a nasty enemy is engaged with the questing deck that you simply can't take out for whatever reason, lets say Legolas alone can't kill it and you don't have other ranged allies out to help and the questing deck doesn't have enough attack strength to take care of it, the Marksman can both weaken and help attack this enemy and between the Marksman and Legolas the foe is more than likely to fall (6 and -2 total).
-Rumil can either provide a TON of direct damage as well as a great ally or he can simply be a great ally. It can be hard to make the most out of his ability as you need both a handful of ranged characters under your control as well as a good target engaged with one of the two decks. Once again the decks ability to decimate enemies is actually a minor setback as you need an enemy to stick around and remain engaged with a deck to make full use of Rumil. Now if you can trigger his ability it can be crazy powerful, during a game I played last night for example I had him deal an insane 5 damage to an enemy with his ability as I had Legolas, Marksman of Lorien, both Greenwood Archers and Rumil in play. This is a pretty rare case though and more often than not he deals 3 damage as I have one other ranged ally in play and Legolas or he whiffs entirely because I simply need to get him in play and cannot afford to wait and utilize him to the fullest extent. This may seem silly but just like with Marksman Of Lorien sometimes you simply need to get cards on the table to take control of the board state and cannot wait for the perfect time to play them. Even without his ability however Rumil is a fantastic ally, he can quest for 2 (which is rare in tactics) or attack for 2 and he has ranged. The issue with him being both good at questing and attacking however is that he is only ever going to be performing one or the other on any given turn. Honestly more often than not he is predominantly used to quest especially if other potent allies are in play as he is simply not needed for combat and his willpower is far more useful or even necessary. When the boss enemy comes out or a whole wave of enemies appear however he can quickly change roles and help with offence instead.
-Lastly we have Treebeard! An insanely strong ally with stats as good as a hero if not better and an inbuilt readying effect for himself or any other Ents in play. Treebeard just excels at everything because of his incredible stats and resource/readying ability. As soon as he has been in play a few rounds and has collected his first set of two resources he can pull double duty every second round from then on. You can quest and attack with him, quest and then defend with him, defend twice with him or even attack twice with him. Considering his 3 and 5 and the fact he has the highest printed attack on any character in either deck he is clearly exceptional at combat. Here is a quick example to highlight this; so long as he has two resources and can ready by using them, Treebeard can take out two enemies that have 2 and 3 on his own in the same combat phase (Aragorn provides -1)! Now if he is attacking alongside other characters and not on his own which is far more likely (unless you are swarmed by foes) you can dish out some serious damage to multiple foes with ease.
I hope the breakdown of the cards included and the purpose they serve clearly outlines the way the deck is played and the various combos and strategies it employs to keep combat under control. The deck very much fills the offensive role for both decks and heavily relies on the other to fill the questing role for both decks. These are decks that have evolved and changed over the years based on new releases and constant refinement. Admittedly the last round of changes to the decks were mainly influenced by Seastan's new 'One Deck' as I spent a great deal of time looking at the various cards his deck uses that mine do not and sussing out whether they would be as incredible in my decks, the main reason for this was not only that he is a master deck builder but also because his deck does the same thing that mine attempt; take on any and every quest without having to include a sideboard or having to rebuild or change the deck/s. Feedback and constructive criticism are very welcome.