All Shall Love Me And Despair!

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Some Sort 2367

And now at last it comes. You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!

This deck asks what might have happened had Galadriel chosen differently when Frodo offered her the ring of power.

Galadriel is my favorite potential Grey Wanderer target for a number of reasons. While virtually every hero will grab Strider as their starting attachment (with some minor exceptions for, say, Lord of Morthond), Galadriel has little interest in it at all; not exhausting to commit to the quest is of little value when you can't commit to the quest in the first place, and the +2 willpower bonus lasts a small handful of rounds before the board is overwhelmed with allies anyway.

Instead, she's one of the few heroes who has two ideal targets for the contract: in this case, her ring and her mirror. (Actually there's a third phenomenal starting target, but I don't want to spoil it yet!) If you're playing Grey Wanderer the proper way (where if you draw your desired attachment in your opening hand, the contract fizzles), this is a huge advantage.

Grey Wanderer decks are typically starved for actions, but Galadriel's ability ensures that any allies you play can perform double duty in their first round. There's always a tension with Grey Wanderer between triggering the contract early so you can use the resources immediately or saving it for later in the round so you can benefit from the ready as well, but Galadriel is one of the few heroes who can voluntarily exhaust to great effect during the planning phase, rendering the decision moot (use it immediately and still benefit from both the resources and the ready).

Grey Wanderer lets you start deep in secrecy territory, but using it ramps up your threat and quickly takes you back out again; Galadriel can offset the extra threat from Grey Wanderer entirely and also provides access to Elrond's Counsel if you want to keep your threat really, really low for a long, long time.

Grey Wanderer gives you access to multiple spheres, but with a restriction (no out-of-sphere uniques) and a limitation (only one out-of-sphere card per round, and it must be played first). Because she starts with Nenya, Galadriel has natural access to two spheres, which eliminates a lot of the fiddly parts of the contract where you can't play the cards you want because the order doesn't work out. (The only out-of-sphere card in the deck is Timely Aid; needless to say, this should always be the first card you play every round if it's available.)

Single-hero builds are also typically fairly vulnerable; a single undefended attack can wipe out an entire game. But Galadriel makes tremendous use of the best cheap hit point boost in the game: Ring of Barahir. With Nenya, and The One Ring attaching during setup, Ring of Barahir provides three hit points for a single resource. Add in the Mirror and that jumps to four hit points. Throw in the spoiled-but-not-yet-released Well-preserved (proxied here with Strength and Courage) and Galadriel reaches 9 hit points and gains the strongest repeatable healing effect in the game.

(Well-preserved is the Lore master attachment. It costs 1 resource and adds 1 hit point plus the ability to exhaust the One Ring and raise your threat by one during the planning phase to heal all damage off of the attached character.)

With nine hit points and unlimited healing, Galadriel provides an even greater source of action advantage: the ability to take undefended attacks in lieu of declaring defenses. (For fun during testing, I once optionally engaged the Hill Troll on turn 1 and just ate the undefended attacks for a half-dozen rounds before wiping him out.)

Galadriel doesn't just solve a lot of Grey Wanderer's issues, she solves general deckbuilding issues as well. She ensures you see two cards per round and never get stuck in top-decking hell. With the Mirror and a Silver Harp that rises to three cards per round, one of which you get to select from any of the top ten cards of your deck.

And because you're paying for everything with a single hero, curving the deck's spheres becomes easy; no more question of which hero gets Steward of Gondor or the first Resourceful. Everything goes on Galadriel.

Typically the "sideboard" in my decks contains other ideas I'd had for the deck that got cut during the winnowing process, or neat-but-gimmicky interactions. Here it's more of a true sideboard, a suite of cards to help with quests that are particularly difficult. Knights of the Swan and Vassal of the Windlord can solve Battle Questing issues, while Defender of Rammas and Warrior of Lossarnach handle Seige Questing.

Healing and damage cancellation allies can help heal and/or cancel damage. There are attack cancellation events for quests that feature early engagements or extra-nasty shadow cards, plus Drinking Song for quests where you want to ensure that you get one of your key pieces more quickly (to dig for Ring of Barahir against archery, say).

Golden Belt helps solve a problem I hadn't anticipated: what to do when a quest forces you to take on a restricted attachment (such as the Cave Torch in much of the Dwarrowdelf cycle). Golden Belt lets you pick up that attachment and still make room for a Silver Harp.

Then the rest of the sideboard is other attachments you could possibly run if you wanted to get really silly. With Magic Ring, Necklace of Girion, Palantir, Thror's Map, Thrór's Key, and a Mithril Shirt, Ring of Barahir provides a whopping 10 extra hit points. (Plus the not-yet-released Stone of Elostirion will slot in nicely for an additional HP). You could even dual-wield Daggers of Westernesse for two more hp, but now we're just getting silly.

With 15+ hit points, a flat 1-point damage reduction on each attack, and unlimited healing during every planning phase, you could take a whole raft of undefended attacks or soak a battalion's worth of archery damage and emerge none the worse for wear.

Mulligan-wise I'm typically looking for a Timely Aid or a Resourceful, and you really need an ally you can play on turn 1 or else things will turn ugly quickly. (Galadriel can add 4 willpower, but only if there's a viable questing target for her to boost.) Once you have your Mirror and Harp up and running the rest of the quest is largely a formality, in my experience.

Now, no Grey Wanderer deck will ever be a true "One Deck" candidate and there are some issues that no amount of sideboarding will ever resolve. (Lasting past setup in Escape from Dol Guldor comes to mind.) But outside of mechanical issues that plague any one-hero deck and cannot be overcome, Grey Wanderer Galadriel really shines.

8 comments

May 01, 2020 Alonewolf87 533

Amazing deck, astounding work!

May 01, 2020 Some Sort 2367

Thanks @Alonewolf87! I didn't expect much out of it while building but it's quickly become one of my favorite decks to play, too. (Perhaps should have come as less of a surprise, given how much I love low-threat builds.)

May 01, 2020 askelad 112

great deck! Galadriel is also my favourite wanderer, and you have motivated me to work on that deck again, maybe publish it. Your tech with Ring of Barahir and well-preserved is interesting.

have you considered Ithilien Lookout? they are about as good as Celduin Traveler.

also in my version i run Wild Stallion too boost Jubayr's defense and hit points, in some quests you will need to tank some big attacks, are you counting on ring of barahir for those as well?

you should definitely have Warden of Healing in the main deck, otherwise you have zero way to heal your allies

May 01, 2020 Some Sort 2367

Thanks @askelad!

I had the Lookouts in for a bit, but in practice I always find the Traveler better because willpower is more important than attack in general. (Potentially discarding an enemy is usually better than discarding a location, but with Firyal around this benefit is mitigated somewhat.)

With Grey Wanderer, willpower becomes even more important relative to attack, because provided you can keep up with the threat in staging, you can stall out and avoid engaging basically indefinitely until you’re set up and ready to handle an enemy. While playtesting I wound up swapping out the Lookouts for Treebeard, who fills that “supplemental attack” niche better and in less deck space. The fact that he’s slower is a non-issue because, like I said, I typically found myself with all kinds of time to get set up before engaging. (He’s also a great secondary or tertiary defender.)

I had Wild Stallion in for a bit, but I found that Jubayr was mostly a secondary defender for me. What I really like him for is when I engage a big enemy and a small enemy, he can defend the small enemy but discard the shadow from the big one to eliminate the threat of taking that attack undefended. Sometimes I’ll even keep a small enemy engaged and defend it with Jubayr every round so if a bigger enemy shows up at some point I can pull off that trick (since I can only optionally engage one enemy per round and my threat is often so low that nothing automatically engages, so getting two enemies engaged usually requires pulling one down in advance).

As built, this deck lets Galadriel take up to 8 points of damage; for the rare quests where you might see more than that from an attack you can sideboard in more artifacts, especially the Mithril Shirt.

The Wardens have been in and out, but overall Galadriel wound up handling most of the damage and they sat around useless. The big exception was global damage effects, but those tended to wipe out the wardens at the same time as damaging everything else. And most allies don’t really care about damage anyway. Outlands gets up to 4hp each. Jubayr mostly handles small defenses and can get replayed if he gets wiped. Ditto Treebeard. If you need to drop a lot of damage somewhere, Glorfindel can take a ton of abuse and this deck can generate up to 6 resources per round to just keep replaying him.

I actually ran 2x honour guards over the wardens for a while and think they wind up being superior most of the time for this deck. They increase the damage Galadriel can take from a single attack, which is better than healing it off afterwards, and are functionally an extra point of defense for Jubayr or Treebeard (like the Wild Stallion, only more flexible, or like Arwen except you don’t have to commit the bonus so early, you can see how the cards play out first).

All in all I agree with all of your points and had all those cards in at some point or another, they just wound up being late cuts during testing. (The last change before publishing was dropping the honour guards for the northern trackers because I found myself needing location control more frequently than the damage buffer.)

(Another card I’ve been toying with and might add during a future update is Sneak Attack to get more uses out of Gandalf. If it goes in I might even pull out the trackers and add 1x Meneldor to get more flexible and on-demand location control.)

May 01, 2020 AlasForCeleborn 184

Tom Bombadil, the fate of the Entwives, and Galadriel's viability in Grey Wanderer decks; three riddles of Middle-Earth we shall never know the answers to.

May 02, 2020 askelad 112

@AlasForCeleborn i think she is pretty viable, except against some very specific quests (battle/siege, escape from dol guldur...). You made me chuckle though.

@Some Sortyour reasoning makes sense. In my version in ran both travelers and lookouts, it gives you some nice consistency on the first turn.

Jul 16, 2020 Jtothemac 319

I just ran this deck across from a dale deck in the City of Ulfast scenario. It kicked butt! I love it... I imagine if I got luckier and could find resourceful before leaving secrecy I would really get this deck clicking. Still, Timely Aid came in time 3x and I got Jubayr, Firyal and Gaffer Gamgee (who I thought would be a solid addition as a pseudo-recyclable Feint). So that was definitely worth the cash.

I am really shocked but in the marathon scenarios like that one, you really do need Elrond's Counsel. I burned two and a gandalf and my threat still hit 33. It didn't help having the location that prevented threat reduction.

All in all, this is almost a two-phase engine: phase 1 is get the artifacts on galadriel. Then it's get the army of high cost allies in to help kill. Willpower wasn't great in these high threat quests, so in redoing it I might toss in Stone of Elostirion or Necklace of Girion to get the hitpoint/willpower bonus, and an extra card or resource would be awesome.

Jul 16, 2020 doomguard 192

nice deck! i would include 3 rhovanion outrider for better locationcontrol, or fighting, they are absolute flexible in a spirit-heavy-deck. would discard 1 fyrial, treebeard and either 1 arwen (moslty she is used in befrieded decks) or a quickbeam.

would replace the runes with deep knowledge, this deck can handle this little doomed. (and mostly befriended decks likes the +2 for 2 cards)