Solo Thematic Campaign: The Black Gate Opens

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The BGamerJoe 1885

The Campaign

I’ve been part of 2, 3, and 4 player campaigns but I’ve never sat down and run my own solo campaign. I won’t be recording or blogging this campaign as others have recently done that (I’m in the middle of a YouTube thematic campaign with Mr Underhill right now) and I want to play rather quickly through the entire set of quests but I will play in “strict” campaign mode and trying to build as thematically as I can.

I can’t promise the decks I publish in this series will be totally optimized or super teched against each quest for a 90% win ratio, but I hope they will be decent thematic decks that could provide a good experience for people looking to play the campaign in a thematic manner.

The Deck

What deck do you bring against an unwinnable quest? You have to be able to quest for a lot every turn and take the time to kill enemies otherwise, once you fail the quest by a significant amount, a thousand enemies descend on you! The Erestor/Gondor swarm is a pretty good fit since it has access to Visionary Leadership, Sword that was Broken, Faramir in addition to Aragorn's Banner of Elendil. On top of that all Gondor allies can get +1 from Boromir and an additional +1 Sneak Attack if they're attacking with Aragorn with his banner. Combine that with Leadership's resources acceleration and A Very Good Tale and Erestor's peerless card draw and you have a potent combination!

I card that performs extremely well in this quest is Ever Onward. It basically lets you devote all your characters to a deadly combat phase. You can literally quest for zero, suffer no consequence, then use every character to kill of as many enemies as possible. Doom Hangs Still can basically do the same thing while under 80 threat, but it costs 5 instead of 3. I didn't try running both events, but it could be a good choice if they come up in a nice sequence.

Here's some combos I found useful in this quest:

  • Citadel Custodian is a great ally in this quest for several reasons. 1, he has 3 HP which soaks archery. 2, he's great for A Very Good Tale since you can play him for free or close to free then get more allies out him. 3, his 5 cost lets you discard him for The Hour of Doom treachery for fairly minimal loss. He keeps Faramir safe!
  • Ancestral Armor on Aragorn or Denethor is really good. Denethor becomes a 5/5 and Aragorn becomes a 4/7 with readying built in to him. They can successfully block Trolls, Nazgul and the Mouth of Souron without too much fear of dying until later in the game when that +X shadow can kill anyone.
  • The resource shuffling abilities of Pelargir Ship Captain, Envoy of Pelargir and Denethor all help get more actions out of Aragorn. When you can boost everyone you attack with, letting Aragorn attack more than once is a big deal. The Errand-rider will often move resources over to Erestor so Ioreth can heal every turn and still play out Lembas and the Wardens.
  • Captain's Wisdom is kind of lame, but it's a free 1 resource on Aragorn since you can ready him for 1 resource.
  • I kind of wish I had put one copy of Leather Boots into the deck. It would be amazing on Faramir since you're sure to reveal a location by the time you really need him most. Then you could use his ability twice per turn, potentially getting 30+ willpower out of Faramir alone. You could also put it on a Warden of Healing to good effect or even Ioreth. A copy of Heir of Mardil would be tasty on Aragorn as well since he could ready by getting a resource from any number of effects, then ready again when he used that resource.

But it's already a 60 card deck! Abomination! But Erestor makes the magic happen.

Again, This box has pushed me to abandon a strictly thematic build just so I can get through the quests. Both Land of Shadow and Mountain of Fire are extremely challenging and it’s hard to sacrifice power for theme when you’re barely making with power decks.

I built up a deck like this way back when Erestor first came out and before I was heavily involved in the community so I have a special sense of ownership of this deck style but I did use one of Chad's decks, Visionary & Wise Leadership, as a template for this deck. He had 62 (!) cards in the deck!

The Experience

I played several other deck styles vs this quest including Outlands and The One Deck but found it hard to ramp that willpower fast enough. This deck still takes some luck to get going but once it gets going, it can really hold on. I got both the Sword that was Broken and the Banner of Elendil out for free on turn 1 which helped my willpower immensely. I was able to successfully quest on most of the first 6 turns which kept my threat low and let me engage a couple enemies every turn and take them out. As I got on towards turn 7, I was just barely failing the quest which is perfect since you take minimal threat and you still get to discard the active location. Whenever I drew Ever Onward, I would play it at the cost of discarding whatever else was in my hand. Quest for nothing, don't raise my threat level at all, still discard the active location, then kill all the enemies I could handle. It's beautiful. Grim Resolve basically does the same thing at a higher cost but I didn't have a chance to play it. I ran out of cards on my 10 turn and a combo of cards hit me hard. The X threat location (which was up to 22) and two copies of the treachery that gives every damaged character -1 willpower hit me on the same turn and I had to raise my threat by more than 20 which made me engage 10 enemies at once. With Ill Fate in play, I would have to raise my threat by 2 every time I chump blocked so there was no way to survive the round, even if I did have the chumps up. I may have been able to survive one more turn if I hadn't discarded Phial of Galadriel to a shadow card earlier in the game. It was an epic game with an epic finish. So much fun.

You can see final board states to my successful games on my Twitter account.

Moving Forward

I was able to kill the Wraith on Wings which is great news for Mount Doom and with 10 rounds to work with, I hope I have a chance! I saved Ho! Tom Bombadil for Mount Doom as well which isn't a great choice since most treacheries can't be cancelled but I'm proud of having kept it through the entire campaign. I also have the Phial of Galadriel along with Noble Hero, Sting and Anduril to help out with Mount Doom. The only Burdens I have to deal with at Mount Doom are Gandalf's Delay, Ill Fate and Overcome by Grief.

Campaign Decks so Far

  1. Shadow of the Past
  2. The Old Forest
  3. Fog on the Barrow Downs
  4. Knife in the Dark
  5. Flight to the Ford
  6. The Ring Goes South
  7. Journey in the Dark
  8. Breaking of the Fellowship
  9. The Uruk-Hai
  10. Helm's Deep
  11. The Road to Isengard
  12. The Passage of the Marshes
  13. Journey to the Crossroads
  14. Shelob's Lair
  15. Passing of the Grey Company
  16. The Siege of Gondor
  17. The Battle of the Pelannor Fields
  18. The Tower of Cirith Ungol
  19. The Black Gate Opens
  20. Mount Doom
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