Dale Force Wins

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Seastan 20671

This is my power Dale deck.

No cards were "off-limits" for this deck build, provided the deck still felt like it was staying true to the Dale archetype of using King of Dale to play free/cheap allies and then putting attachments on them.

The Dale decks I started off with when Wild of Rhovanion first released tended to build up slowly then dominate the encounter deck by late game. It felt like I was playing a power deck because when I won, I won by a lot.

But I think that a more accurate measure of a "power deck" is not how much it wins by, but how much it wins, period. For example, I'd consider a deck that loses 10% of the time, wins by a little bit 80% of the time, and dominates 10% of the time to be better than a deck that loses 20% of the time and dominates 80% of the time. And the percentage here should somehow take into account both the number of different quests it can beat and how often it beats them.

And I found that the "standard" Dale lineup of Brand/Bard/X, at least when it came to the toughest of the tough quests this game has to offer, simply could build up fast enough before it got torn down by the encounter deck.

So, when I set out to build a "power Dale deck", I wanted a way to assign some sort of "score" to it to see how it compared to the standard lineup. And since I'm pretty time constrained these days, I wanted this ranking scheme to not require months of playing the deck through 100+ quests as I did with The One Deck.

My experience with The One Deck showed me that there's actually a small subset of quests such that if a deck can beat every deck in the subset, it should be able to beat everything else. I've called this the "Reduced Quest Gauntlet":

  1. (NM) Escape from Mount Gram (captured heroes)
  2. (NM) A Storm on Cobas Haven (sailing, rewards high character count)
  3. (NM) Encounter at Amon Din (early willpower)
  4. The Battle of Carn Dum (treachery/shadow cancellation)
  5. (NM) The Three Trials (early defense)
  6. The Ruins of Belegost (direct damage)
  7. (NM) The Lonely Mountain (max willpower and deck management)
  8. (NM) A Journey to Rhosgobel (healing)
  9. (NM) Return to Mirkwood (threat control)
  10. (NM) Journey to the Cross-roads (early attack)
  11. (NM) Shadow and Flame (big boss)
  12. (NM) The ​Nin-in-Eilph (burst willpower)
  13. (NM) The Battle of the Five Armies (battle and siege)
  14. Mount Doom (punishes high character count)
  15. (NM) Escape From Dol Guldur (lol)

The reasoning behind the list was originally discussed in my blog post here.

Power Deck Score (PDS)

My method for ranking power decks is to take them all through the Reduced Quest Gauntlet, which I've carefully selected to challenge all aspects of the game. The deck's ranking is then the fraction of quests that the deck should able to beat in 5 attempts or less, 90% of the time. This assumes the player has familiarity with the deck and the quest. I chose 5 because I think it's a reasonable number of attempts a person might try before giving up and trying something else.

Now, I don't have enough time to play even a small of quests 5 times each, so in reality I do some approximation.

  1. First, I just play the quest once, and if I win, I give it a check mark and move on.
  2. If I lose the first game, I play it once more, and if I win the second game I give it a check mark and move on.
  3. If I lose the second game, then I'll evaluate the two games I just played, and I can generally get a good sense of whether if would be possible to win in the next 3 or not:
    • If I had a close game where I feel like with a little more luck I'd have won, I'll give it a check and move on.
    • If I had a close game where I feel like everthing went right for me and I still lost, I'll give it an X and move on.
    • If I had horrible losses both times, I'll give it an X and move on.
    • If I'm not really sure, I'll play it again.

In this way, I can come up with a PDS without having to dedicate a month to playing it exclusively.

Finally, there are some quests where, given my knowledge of my player deck and the challenges of the encounter deck, I can give them an X without even needing to play them, which saves time as well.

The Quests

Here is the series of quests. I have bolded the quests that this deck should be able to beat in 5 attempts or less, 90% of the time.

  1. (NM) Escape from Mount Gram (captured heroes)
  2. (NM) A Storm on Cobas Haven (sailing)
  3. (NM) Encounter at Amon Din (early willpower)
  4. The Battle of Carn Dum (treachery/shadow cancellation)
  5. (NM) The Three Trials (early defense)
  6. The Ruins of Belegost (direct damage)
  7. (NM) The Lonely Mountain (max willpower and deck management)
  8. (NM) A Journey to Rhosgobel (healing)
  9. (NM) Return to Mirkwood (threat control)
  10. (NM) Journey to the Cross-roads (early attack)
  11. (NM) Shadow and Flame (big boss)
  12. (NM) The ​Nin-in-Eilph (burst willpower)
  13. (NM) The Battle of the Five Armies (battle and siege)
  14. Mount Doom (anti-swarm)
  15. (NM) Escape From Dol Guldur (lol)

PDS: 6/15 => 0.4

With a sideboard it could beat a few of the others (only thing preventing a good winrate vs NM The Lonely Mountain is a singleton Will of the West). But I don't include sideboard victories in the PDS. There's also the (high) chance that I'm not using the best strategy against some of these quests. That's always a consideration, so a PDS can change in the future if a better strategy is discovered.

For comparison, the One Deck has a score of about 0.87. So while 0.4 seems low, remember that these are the hardest quests in the game. If I had to make an educated guess, a "standard" Dale deck with a Brand/Bard/X lineup probably has a has a score around 0 to 0.2 depending on who "X" is. If you do have a classic Dale lineup that can exceed this score, please share! It may help me improve me own.

The Strategy

So, how do you actually play this deck, and what makes it better than the Dale decks that run Bard? Well, it's pretty simple. By dropping Bard, we make room for Beregond, a fully defensive hero. This allows the deck to buy the time that Dale needs to get set up, especially against quests that start with a big enemy in play, of which there are several in the Reduced Quest Gauntlet (really helps to mulligan for the Hauberk or Arwen in those quests for even higher turn 1 defense). Beregond also keeps your threat down, which I find Dale normally has a hard time doing.

The "set up" state of this Dale deck, which you are trying to achieve as fast as possible, is to have Narya on Círdan the Shipwright (with Light of Valinor if possible) and at least 1 combat-ready Guardian of Esgaroth, ideally with these three attachments:

This setup allows the Guardian to quest for 6 without exhausting, then defend and ready with Narya for 7 with 5 hit points, then attack back for 6 . Not bad. Narya normally readies another Dale ally for an additional 2 , or in many cases can target a Sneak-attacked or hard-casted Gandalf.

It sounds like a lot of moving pieces, but it comes together quickly thanks to tons of card draw from Círdan the Shipwright, Sneak Attack-Gandalf, and Bard son of Brand. The Long Lake Fisherman also helps set up, and is remarkably useful here because many of the key pieces cost 2.

The other big card that helps this Dale deck excel is it's shameless inclusion of Steward of Gondor, which I've seen other Dale decks shy away from for thematic reasons. So while most Dale decks mulligan hard for King of Dale, this deck is happy seeing either resource accelerator in its opening hand, making the early game a lot more consistent. Oh, and it's no harm either that both cards cost 2 and can be dug out by a turn 1 Fisherman. And if it wasn't clear, Steward goes on Cirdan because once he gets Narya he can pay for anything.

Mid game

After setting up the first Guardian, you can start building up a second, but it's often overkill. In the mid game you are normally just playing down allies for free with King of Dale, playing Gandalf repeatedly, and shifting around attachments to their ideal locations with Long Lake Trader.

Late game

By late game you will feel like a regular Dale deck; you will be questing for 20 without exhausting anyone, you will be able to take a handful of boss-level attacks without taking damage and kill every enemy the round it appears.


Well this was fun! Trying to push Dale to its highest Power Deck Score while retaining the spirit of the archetype was a really great challenge. Which trait should I work on next?


Jul 06, 2019 SamthemanGamgee 374

Dwarves do dwarves next

Jul 06, 2019 SamthemanGamgee 374

But this is an amazing idea for a dale deck I never even considered dropping bard!

Jul 06, 2019 Sfrug 131

Do you have a guess as to what a power score of .43 translates to in terms of overall quests in the game which this could beat (5 times or fewer, 90% of the time)?

And do you think this deck could eventually get a win against all the quests, as the One Deck did, or are there some which it simply won't beat in any reasonable number of tries?

Jul 06, 2019 Hippoboy 1

Looks solid! I love adding Beregond for early defense. The only thing I will miss about this deck is not using Bard Son of Bain/Spare Hood to get multiple use Gandalfs/ But the thing here is Narya does just that

Jul 06, 2019 Seastan 20671

@SamthemanGamgeeDwarves is a great idea! Swarm or mining?

@SfrugDepends. To get a good measure on that, you kind of have to look at which quests in the Reduced Gauntlet were beaten, not just how many. The quests were chosen such that they are the hardest at the thing they test (described in parentheses next to the quest name). So if a deck beats a quest in this list, it should be able to beat any other quest that tests the same thing.

For example, if the deck can beat NM Encounter at Amon Din, it should be able to beat any quest where having strong early willpower is the main "challenge" of the quest (that's a lot of quests). meanwhile, the fact that a deck can beat Escape from Mount Gram does not translate to the rest of the card pool nearly as well, since not many quests feature captured heroes.

Jul 07, 2019 Yepesnopes 798

I see that in your list of quests for the gauntlet you have not included quests with nasty shadow cards such as Cair Andros and Battle of Carn Dum. These quests have shadow cards that can lead to an auto-kill without shadow cancellation. Also a list of most difficult quests without Battle of Carn Dum (normal) feels like missing something :). Which is your reason behind this decision?

Jul 07, 2019 Yepesnopes 798

Sorry for the double posting, one more question. Would not Battle of Lake town be a more representative quest of a boss fight than Shadow and Flame?

Jul 07, 2019 Seastan 20671

@YepesnopesThe lack of a quest that tests a deck's ability to deal with shadow effects is an oversight for sure. Same goes for Treachery cancellation. I debated adding NM Road to Rivendell for this rather than Carn Dum, as the former has the worse treachery/shadow, while the latter is the harder quest. I think I'll go with Carn Dum because you're right, it's odd to no see it appear on the list anywhere. Thanks! And I think I'll make it the standard version because it actually feels harder than the nightmare version for some reason.

As for Battle of Lake-town. It's perhaps the quintessential boss quest, but it's nowhere near the difficulty of NM Shadow and Flame. Lake-town is pretty trivial to beat with a low-threat-high-willpower deck, which is already being tested by some of the other quests.

Jul 07, 2019 Tegyrius 39

Nice deck If you were to build two-handed instead, what rating would you think might be possible? And where would you start?

Jul 07, 2019 Seastan 20671

@Tegyriusas in two Dale decks? Or one Dale and one something else?

Jul 07, 2019 Yepesnopes 798

I forgot to say that I like your idea to quantify the strength of a deck.

As for lake town, what I see there, is that for a deck with threat higher than 30, like the one you posted, you potentially have an attack of strength 8 in round 1 (and with an initial threat of 32, potentially an attack of 7 can happen instead). This situation is going to kill something in your deck, either a hero or an ally if you played one. That is the big difference I see with Shadow and Flame, where the Balrog only hits for 6. If I am not mistake, the Balrog does not hit in round 1 because your threat is zero, which gives you a round to prepare.

That is the main difference I see from the two quests, but yes, I don't discuss Shadow and Flame NM is the harder on the long run but his extra round it gives you and the 6 attack strength are gold in my opinion.

Jul 07, 2019 Tegyrius 39

@Seastan I was thinking any two decks vs all the thoughest scenarios. But I guess the RQG would change slightly. Any in case, where would start for such a challange?

Jul 07, 2019 Seastan 20671

@Yepesnopes not every attempt is going to start with that version of Smaug. I've had games where that Smaug didn't show up until round 5 or so. But regardless, it may be the case that for a high threat deck that Lake-town is harder than NM Shadow and flame, but high starting threat is already tested pretty well by other quests.

Basically, I see so many decks beating Lake-town through a low-threat-high-willpower strategy that would not be viable on many boss quests, so I don't think it's a good tester. NM Shadow and Flame on the other hand is really good at countering both ways of dealing with a big boss (super defender or chumps), so I like it as a tester a lot more.

Now there are decks that can kind of cheese through Shadow and Flame using repeatable threat reduction (that's how this deck beat it), but it still has to be able to gather a ton of attack strength. And besides, every deck is going to have that one quest where they are perfectly suited to counter the main mechanic (like Loragorn in Return to Mirkwood) so I don't see it as a big problem.

Jul 07, 2019 Gizlivadi 773

@Seastan I don't know what @SamthemanGamgee wants but may I request a solo dwarf mining deck please? D:

Jul 07, 2019 Goggen 93

I'm a bit surprized you didn't include nightmare Wastes of Eriador in the questlist. Perhaps mainly undet "Threat-management", but also as a nasty hybrid and for being particularly punishing in solo.


Jul 08, 2019 kjeld 13

I'd love to see you put together a Tactics/Lore power deck! That seems to me one of the more challenging lineups, with no direct access to staple Leadership and Spirit abilities.

Jul 08, 2019 carlosm88 46

Mining dwarves with Gandalf! I'd love to see the most powerful version possible of that deck.

Jul 08, 2019 Tegyrius 39

Why do the Noldor get all the love for power decks? You can't beat Arwen, Elrond, Glorfindel, Galadriel, Cirdan and Erestor.

Jul 08, 2019 Seastan 20671

@Gizlivadi I'll have to see about dwarf mining. IMO the archetype still needs some more cards to be a fun deckbuilding challenge for me. Since there aren't that many mining cards, you have to pad it out quite a bit. I'd probably just build Caldara 2.0 with Dain instead of Arwen, and then throw in the caches and miners.

@Tegyrius I think it's possible to get a perfect PDS with two decks. One example would be if you take the Once Deck and pad up its weaknesses with a second deck. There are likely other deck combinations that could get a perfect score as well. But yeah, they'll likely include some combination of Noldor and Tactics Eowyn :P

Jul 09, 2019 Flrbb 72

I'd vote for a Dwarf swarm deck. Thorin Oakenshield and Ori + X. But I guess you'll find other more effective ways to play a modern dwarf deck.

Jul 09, 2019 carlosm88 46

Well, being a fan of the Strider, I wonder what is the best two Hero power deck possible?

Jul 10, 2019 weloiavala 1

I would also love to see a properly thematic, Dwarf power deck using the latest available cards.

Jul 10, 2019 Gizlivadi 773

@SeastanIn that case (yeah, mining still doesn't seem to be quite there yet) I would LOVE to see an updated solo Silvan deck, not necessarily a POWER, one deck type deck but a good all rounder solo Silvan build :^)

Jul 11, 2019 MDuckworth83 1751

@SeastanHave you considered adding Fate of Wilderland to the gauntlet list?

So far I have been completely unable to beat that one in solo without Beorn. I'd be curious to see how this deck fared against that one in solo? Most Dale decks wouldn't stand a chance against this quest.

Jul 11, 2019 MDuckworth83 1751

@Seastan Come to think of it, I've curious how the Vilya deck would do against that one as well....

Jul 11, 2019 Mavwick 4

Lots of votes for dwarf decks. I’d love to see @seastan take on an eagle deck or less traditional Silvan Thranduil deck. Eagles need more willpower and Thranduil hasn’t been fully explored as a defender in a usually weak defense archetype.

Jul 13, 2019 n0rek 1

Just had a pleasure to test this deck as I'm looking for some Dale one for next Saga run. I must say it's really awesome, Ciridian with Brand are insane.

What I'm horribly missing here is Will of the West as there're many great cards just being discarded by Ciridian and after few rounds you're ending with pile of resources and no cards to play.

Another card that I'm considering is Erestor for switching not needed uniques as it's working very well in Eomer/Fastred deck.

Last but not least I'm thinking about Power of Orthanc and Dúnedain Remedy but it will be hard to find a place for them and not lost the momentum.

I'm almost convinced this deck will provide me a lots of fun during Saga run, thanks!

Jul 13, 2019 Seastan 20671

@n0rekGlad you're enjoying it! If Cirdan's discard is frustrating you I think you'll get more out of Silver Lamp than Will of the West. Also, you should mostly be drawing with Gandalf rather than the other options, which should keep your resouce/card balance in check.

Jul 13, 2019 Seastan 20671

@MDuckworth83I beat Fate twice in about 6 attempts. Fate is difficult, but really swingy. If you get an encounter deck where the first couple cards are not enemies, it can be pretty easy. One of my wins was only 4 rounds.

Jul 13, 2019 n0rek 1

@Seastan don't get me wrong, I'm finding Ciridian's ability very needed in this deck, well it's what keeps this deck rolling I just think we can re-use discarded cards. TBH I don't know how the Lamp could replace Will of the West, those are two different cards IMHO

Jul 13, 2019 Seastan 20671

@n0rekSorry, wrong card got linked. I meant Silver Harp.

Jul 13, 2019 n0rek 1

@Seastan that's a very good card for this deck. I will surely test it. Thanks!

Jul 21, 2019 Kristian 18

Very nice guide. Any idea of a replacement for Steward of Gondor, so I don't upset my playgroup? (and I know, there is no real replacement but still...)

Jul 21, 2019 Seastan 20671

@Kristian Possibly some combination of The Day's Rising and Magic Ring?

Jul 21, 2019 n0rek 1

@Kristian you can try Resourceful

@SeastanI tried Silver Harp like you suggested, it's a game breaker if attached soon enough.