Aid of Orthanc

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The Friendship of Saruman 2.0
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Aid of Orthanc 1 0 0 2.0
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Onidsen 898

This is a thematic Rohan/Isengard deck, designed around the Doomed keyword. The deck takes full advantage of the four available Isengard allies, and specializes in defense and questing. It is paired with a Rohan staging area attack deck, built around Éomer and Fastred, to offset the threat gain from the Doomed keyword.

Overview: The core conceit of the deck is to see if we can build Orthanc Guard up to be a decent inclusion. With Wild Stallion and Ancestral Armor, the ally ends up with 5 and 5 , and can get an extra point of defense from Arwen Undómiel. That's more than useful enough (and the 2 means that it can be worth readying), but it still leaves the problem of an unpredictable trigger - most of the player's Doomed effects happen during the planning phase, well before readying the Guard will do any good.

Enter the Steward of Orthanc. Now, any event we play can be Doomed, and therefore any event we play can ready the Orthanc Guard. While any of the events are suitable, the most interesting option here is Elven-light. As a repeatable event that doesn't have a specific ideal time in the round to play it, it is perfect to use as on-demand readying for the Guard. With Protector of Lórien as a means of discarding it, we now have a powerful defender with inbuilt readying and decent willpower. We can even get 2 readies per turn consistently if we cycle Elven-light twice, spending Galadriel's resource the first time, and triggering the ability on Steward of Orthanc, and then using Gríma's ability to play the second copy. Since the deck is already weighted towards cards, Keys of Orthanc should be played onto Galadriel to keep up with the cost of the cards and repeatedly playing Elven-light.

Heroes: Gríma is the center of almost any Doomed deck. His ability is among the most powerful of the Doomed effects, and is an incredible accelerant, bringing your core interactions together and allowing you to include cards that would normally be too expensive for a tri-sphere deck.

Théodred is a low-threat hero to give us access. As a Rohan character, he is in-line with our theme, but his extra resource means that - between his ability and Gríma - we only need to save up a single turn' worth of resources in order to play Ancestral Armor.

Finally, Galadriel is the consummate glue hero. She accelerates our card draw and helps us mitigate the threat cost of our various abilities. In a multiplayer game, she can also help defray the cost on other players, who might not be so enthused at using their threat as a resource to accelerate our deck.

In addition, the deck will be getting a great deal of use out of Galadriel's passive ability. As we are running both of our powerful Istari allies, she will let us use multiple stats each round.

Allies: In addition to the allies already noted above, we have some allies that expand on the Doomed theme. Isengard Messenger get additional willpower every time we trigger a Doomed effect, meaning that in the mid-to-late game we should be able to quest for 2 or 3 with each of them every round.

In addition, Saruman and Gandalf provide both powerful combat support and a lot of tool-box effects. Gandalf should normally be used to lower threat, especially in concert with Sneak Attack. Since Galadriel's passive ability also works if you have snuck Gandalf into play during the Quest Phase, it can be the perfect time to exhaust him to trigger Word of Command. Since the deck has so many moving parts, the ability to search the entire deck for the exact card you are missing is exceptionally powerful. Alternatively, Gandalf can be used as a defender against any enemies that make attacks during the quest phase as well.

In addition to the Istari, offensive power is provided by Treebeard and several Riders of Rohan.

The remainder of the deck is fairly self-explanatory. Although the resource curve is weighted strongly towards the sphere (and, unfortunately, since Théodred cannot pass resources to Galadriel since she doesn't quest), you should avoid spending the Lady of Lorien's resources when at all possible. Théodred will accumulate a significant pile of resources that can be used to play the neutral cards so that the resources can be used to bring in more expensive allies and to play Elven-light for readying the Orthanc Guard.

Strategy: An ideal opening hand has both an Orthanc Guard and a Wild Stallion or Arwen Undómiel. Nenya is also an important early-game card, because the starting willpower of the deck is remarkably low. Gúthwinë should be played across the table onto Éomer, boosting his attack to kill enemies in the staging area.

If you have Nenya in your opening hand, it can often be a good idea to leave Gríma as a defender during the early game. He's also a natural target for Protector of Lórien - it may be primarily meant to let us cycle Elven-light, but it can also provide some important boosts during a tense moment.

Between Galadriel, the ability of the Steward of Orthanc, and Deep Knowledge, the card draw available to this deck is phenomenal. And whatever you can't find through your repeated digging, an Istari can pull up with a Word of Command, especially during the Refresh phase but before the end of the round, when neither of the wizards will be doing anything else useful.