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The Mormegil 837
Once again the Lure of Middle-Earth happened and it was AWESOME! Thanks to all the amazing players I had the opportunity to play with (I'm Jakob, if you don't know my online alias), you all rocked without exception. Dominik and Wolfgang, who are organizing the whole event (thanks so much to these incredibly dedicated guys), manage to create something wonderful every year and if you think about coming, do it!
This is one of the decks (will post my Erkenwall madness soon) I brought and I love it. Not only is it one of the most powerful decks I built, it is insanely fun. Getting to the goal of the deck is like a puzzle and you have just a ton of options in terms of how you get there. Also, it is one of the decks with the most shenanigans I have seen around (with exception of only the “win turn one combo-decks“ of course). This means it is also quite hard to pilot.
You will hardly ever run into uniqueness problems with the deck in my experience which is also great for events like the Lure. In terms of testing, I played it for several months now and it really did well against all types of quests, which is due to the concept of the deck. During the weekend, I played it during the Epic Multiplayer Mount Doom/Black Gate Event (in which we managed to destroy the ring) and during the Nightmare Survival challenge alongside my buddys Elrond-deck which we managed to win narrowly. A special highlight was playing it together with Caleb in a game of Woodland realm (the encounter deck he built for the other team was just absolutely nasty).
1. The Concept
The concept of this deck is relatively simple although the way in which you get there is not always. You are trying to eliminate the factor with which the encounter deck regards your existence as a player by playing and recycling Gildor's Counsel and The Hidden Way. This is the reason why the deck works so incredibly well against even the hardest quests because the nastier the encounter deck is, the more powerful encounter deck manipulation and reducing the cards revealed during staging becomes (which is what this deck does). In true solo, the deck will not work as well as Gildor's Counsel reduces only to a minimum of one.
Since revealing cards during the staging step is by far the most prevalent way the encounter deck scales with the number of players, you basically manage to become invisible for the encounter deck's side of the game for the most part while contributing some pretty sizeable benefits like scrying, willpower and victory display stuff for the players. Due to that, it is also the most thematic Hobbit deck I played so far (if you include Bilbo Baggins at least) because staying under the radar of the dark forces and helping out all free people is pretty much what the Hobbits tried to do during the Lord of the Rings. Please note that Distant Stars is a stand-in for the upcoming Drinking Song.
2. Overall How to Play
With every play you make, keep in mind what your ultimate goal is. Reducing the number of cards revealed during the staging step this round and the following ones by at least one. If it is not possible to do this in the round you are currently on, maximize your efforts in guaranteeing it next round. You reduce the number of cards revealed by one with Hidden Way and Gildor's Counsel and these two cards are the most important cards in your deck. They are however not that great alone. Reaching the consistancy of playing at least one of them every round is only possible by the two things that are the oil in every great deck engine, resource acceleration and card draw.
The scrying and the victory stuff are really great but only icing on the cake so to speak although both of these things can be really great. What jumps to mind is the game of Woodland Realm I played with Caleb. We were well ahead of the other team but there was one card that could have potentially screwed us over, the Enchanted Stream. I used Henamarth Riversong and of course the Stream was the top card of the deck so I was able to use Out of the Wild to remove the Enchanted Stream. This meant we could do enough progress on the quest and Caleb was able to kill our boss enemy.
One reason this deck works well is its starting threat of 16 (the lowest in the game while playing with three heroes). This really serves two goals, first it hinders enemies from engaging you (you start effectiely with 14 threat when it comes to engagement due to Pippin) and it gives you normally a few round access to secrecy. You almost never want to engage enemies with this deck because you can almost do no combat by yourself. Secrecy is amazing for this deck since Resourceful, which manages most of your resource acceleration is a clutch card in the deck and some of the encounter manipulation effects like Risk Some Light and Out of the Wild have the secrecy keyword which really helps in managing your cost curve.
There is no one card you look for in your opening hand but having a Gildor's Counsel or Hidden Way in there certainly helps since you can insure that you can reduce the staging during the first turn already. Keep in mind however that you want to think ahead to future turns so I would not necessarily keep any hand with one of the two events. A hand with Hidden Way, 2x The Door is Close, 2x None Return and Quickbeam is something you want to mulligan away for sure since you only have one staging-reducing event and no card draw to draw other copies or recycling options to insure that you keep reducing the number of cards revealed during staging. A hand with Good Meal, 2x Mithrandirs Advice, Drinking Song, Resourceful and Scroll of Isildur is a definite keeper. You have resource acceleration to ensure that you can draw cards and play stuff that you draw into, you have recycling for your events and you can “mulligan“ away the stuff you draw with Drinking Song.
There are cards that will only help you later in the game so any hands that include four or more of these cards are hands you want to mulligan away. Also remember that card draw helps you get everything, including resource acceleration. Resource acceleration on the other hand only helps you by itself if you already have the cards you ultimately want to play in hand. The sentence used in The Concept, “Keep in mind what your ultimate goal is“, applies strongly to your opening hand.
Your heroes basically are not important for anything other than keeping your strating threat as low as possible and collecting a resource every round. Having one Hobbit hero is important because Good Meal can just be amazing, espescially in the first few turns, as it lets you draw cards while you can als afford you Gildor's Counsel for example. Folco is not someone you necessarily run for his discard ability, although that can help you later on. I sacrifice him in very few games however since he increases the cost of Scroll of Isildur and decreases the value of Mithrandir's Advice. You can also include Bilbo (instead of Mirlonde most likely) to run the upcoming Shire-Folk. He would fit extremely well in the deck and helps you support other players (and yourself) even more with his passive ability.
3. Individual Player Cards
I decided to break down the players cards into six categories.
Core of the Deck
Gildor's Counsel, The Hidden Way
The core of the deck are the cards you play to reduce the number of cards revealed during staging. They do the work of the deck and your whole strategy is built around them. Drawing them, playing them and recycling them is what makes the deck so strong. If you sideboard, do not switch out these cards except if you are playing solo (remove Gildor's Counsel) or if there are no or very few locations in the encounter deck (remove Hidden Way). Gildor's Counsel is almost always the better of the two, but you can only include three of it in your deck and it can be harder to afford during the first few turns espescially.
Daeron's Runes, Drinking Song, Heed the Dream, Keen as Lances, Mithrandir's Advice, Peace, and Thought, Erebor Hammersmith
Your card advantage cards are the cards that you need for everything else to work. They can be divided into two categories, drawing and recycling.
In terms of card draw, you have your no-brainer stuff like Daeron's Runes, Mithrandir's Advice and Heed the Dream. Peace, and Thought is also amazing since your heroes do not have to be ready for the deck to work and Keen as Lances becomes just bonkers later on. Drinking Song is also fantastic for this deck since you will have lots of hands which are good but which not include the specific piece you need right now. It also shuffles your deck which is fantastic because Scroll of Isildur recycles cards to the bottom of your deck (Heed the Dream also has that secondary use).
Scroll of Isildur can recycle your events (mostly Gildor's Counsel) which is of course essential in keeping the deck consistent. Erebor Hammersmith takes the recyling to another level as he reycles the recycling attachment. There were games where I played one copy of Gildor's Counsel four times or more (playing it, playing it with the Scoll, shuffling my deck → drawing and playing it, Scrolling it again with a Hammersmith or a second Scroll). If you have an event that costs you two or more in your hand which you want to play and a Good Meal in your discard pile, he also becomes basically a free ally with 1/1/1/3.
Resourceful, Leaf Brooch, Good Meal, Keen as Lances
Good Meal and Resourceful are absolute MVPs in the deck. They also have great synergy together since your initial tempo-hit when playing Resourceful (it doesn't generate a resource the turn you play it) can be compensated by the tempo-boost Good Meal gives you. You are with Good Meal for example able to play a Resourceful and a Gildor's Counsel first turn while still having a resource for anything else. Leaf Brooch has value espescially early on but can lose that value while Keen as Lances is the exact opposite. It's great having a early-game and a late-game resource helper with you.
Henamarth Riversong, Risk Some Light, Scout Ahead
Scrying is sooo undervalued. It can be insanely helpful during espescially during one player games. The sweet thing about the deck is that a two player game becomes (at least in regards to the cards you reveal) basically a one player game. Risk Some Light helps you to avoid the nastiest encounter cards that could screw over your deck or other players completely (Lost in the Wild is a great example). Henamarth is amazing but he can't do anything with the card that's coming by himself. Risk Some Light (also Out of the Wild and The Hidden Way) enable you to do just that. Scout Ahead can setup usually more than one turn and the fact that you will count as a player for its effect but will most likely not reveal encounter cards for yourself increases its usefulness even further.
Keen as Lances, None Return, Out of the Wild, The Door is Closed!, Scout Ahead
The victory desplay has also two uses. First of all, Keen as Lances. An amazing card in this deck because of its flexibility, all three effects are effects that can be really useful for this deck in different situations. I have used all three abilities more than once. Your victory desplay stuff also allows other players to play the card which is a fantastic support by itself. The other cards are just classic victory display cards that are really helpful when it comes to encounter deck manipulation, espescially later on. Leave No Trace I didn't include because it raises your chances to whiff on Hidden Way after you reshuffle the encounter deck.
The oddball since he is the only card not “belonging“ to any category. He is just too damn efficient to pass up though. Also for the most part your only shot at defeating enemy when one engages you.
You can do some really fun stuff with your sideboard. If you want to swap stuff out, I recommend you do not swap out stuff from the first three categories because they are the categories that are absolutely essential for the main goal of the deck. Most of your sideboard stuff is just generally good cards that you can include if you want to go a route of less encounter deck manipulation and more just constructive building of your board. There are a few exceptions which I will gloss over though.
Bilbo Bagging and Shire-Folk (proxied here by The End Comes). Making this deck an all-hobbit deck and then being able to use Shire-Folk to stay in secrecy is fantastic. Bartering and Sword-thain. Amazing for Scroll of Isildur and Mithrandir's Advice, I wanted to double down on the manipulation route though. Justice Shall Be Done. Actually a really good include in a four player game. With the resources and cards, you should be able to recycle Gildor's Counsel more than once and thus reduce the number of cards revealed to one. So you bought the whole table a really good turn with only one card revealed during the quest phase. I think that's worth dying for!
That's it. I am exhausted after that write-up but this is a hard deck to pilot and I wanted to explain how it works. Sorry for any language mess-ups, I am not a native speaker.