I Will Diminish and Remain Galadriel

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Some Sort 2325

She lifted up her hand and from the ring that she wore there issued a great light that illuminated her alone and left all else dark. She stood before Frodo seeming now tall beyond measurement, and beautiful beyond enduring, terrible and worshipful. Then she let her hand fall, and the light faded, and suddenly she laughed again, and lo! she was shrunken: a slender elf-woman, clad in simple white, whose gentle voice was soft and sad.

“I pass the test”, she said. “I will diminish, and go into the West and remain Galadriel.”

I built this deck as an alternate-universe version of my Grey Wanderer Galadriel deck. That deck asked what would happen if Galadriel accepted the offer of the One Ring. This deck attempts to thematically portray her as she was after she refused.

Like most of my "thematic" deckbuilding, it's more meta-thematic than literal-thematic. It doesn't recreate an exact lineup of characters or build out a specific faction, it aims to recreate a passage's mood, its theme in a literary sense. In this case, the theme of choosing to play a lesser role in the events to come. I really like Rosie and Folco here because, as Hobbits, they're evocative of Frodo, but like Galadriel, they're two heroes whose biggest contribution to the source material comes in their absence.

I wanted to build this deck based on a comment from the discord channel about the Grey Wanderer, suggesting that there were no issues with a Grey Wanderer deck that couldn't be solved simply by adding two extra heroes. Essentially the contract tries merely to (imperfectly) compensate you for the loss of heroes but doesn't really add any new capabilities to entice you to run it. It's thematically interesting, but mechanically flawed.

This seemed right to me, but often our impressions of a card give way to the actual played reality once we start building around it. A pair of self-similar decks seemed like a great way to compare and contrast. So here's a deck built to mirror the other deck as much as feasible.

... the Mirror shows many things, and not all have yet come to pass. Some never come to be, unless those that behold the visions turn aside from their path to prevent them.

I have a forthcoming blog post that delves more into the comparison and my thoughts on Grey Wanderer itself, so I'll cut short and instead focus on this deck. The core of the deck revolves around one of my favorite new pairings: Galadriel and (MotK) Rosie Cotton. With Nenya on Galadriel and a Fast Hitch on Rosie, you can commit the hobbit to the quest, trigger Nenya to boost her Willpower, ready Rosie, then trigger her ability on herself to double all bonuses.

With those two cards alone the duo quests for 12. (This is why the Ethir Swordsman and Anfalas Herdsman were cut; willpower is much less of a need here.) But the best part is just how adjustable that value is; you start out questing for two and then based on what the encounter deck reveals can remain at 2 or turn that into 4 (just trigger Rosie on herself), 6 (just Nenya), or 12 (both).

The engine here is that by questing first and then triggering Rosie on herself, all willpower boosts are doubled. And Galadriel just happens to provide the biggest willpower boost in the game (barring a one-off Lay of Nimrodel or something). In theory you could add all sorts of other willpower boosts for Rosie to double, but that's a different deck entirely, so here I've confined myself to Song of Hope just to give an outlet for any extra Leadership resources.

(Song of Hope also greatly increases the number of post-staging willpower values you can hit. With Fast Hitch, Nenya, and Song of Hope, you can wait until staging and then tune Rosie's willpower to 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, or 18. Amazing tech in quests where you're trying to hit an exact value, just hope you don't need exactly 11.)

Otherwise, it's mostly the same deck. Play cheap allies, cheat a few into play with Timely Aid, use Gandalf to keep threat low or draw cards. (Sneak Attack is added to this list to get extra uses since you have a persistent Leadership resource match.)

Don't be afraid to discard Folco Boffin for more threat reduction once Nenya is out if you need it. In a way, this actually makes it even more similar to the Grey Wanderer version, trading actions for ridiculously low threat. But just from a mechanical standpoint, it's often a very strong play that lets you slide under the engagement threshold of some just-revealed enemy or regain your secrecy discount for one last Timely Aid or increase the pool of viable targets for Gaffer Gamgee.

To the extent that there are differences between the decks, they stem from the fact that Grey Wanderer gives Galadriel a ten-threat and three-card head start (two rings attached and Well-preserved in hand). Undefended attacks with Ring of Barahir and Well-preserved isn’t an option because you can’t get set up quickly enough without that head start, so a fall-back plan is necessary (the also-notable-by-his-absence-from-the-story Gaffer Gamgee).

(Technically two cards from that "three-card head start" come not from Grey Wanderer, but from the One Ring itself. Even if the ring of power weren’t thematically verboten, though, it's hit-or-miss here since you're starting so much closer to your secrecy threshold. You could pull out the Resourcefuls and Timely Aids and replace them with something else... but it’s quickly becoming a very different deck.)

One could even argue Grey Wanderer gives a 4-card head start, counting Grey Wanderer itself (which in its absence must be replaced by Unexpected Courage so we can benefit from both of Galadriel’s uses every round). One interesting aspect of Galadriel is that (barring something insane like Doughty Ranger and Guarded Ceaselessly) you can only ever use two actions from her per round.

I find that when building decks, readying effects can get a bit greedy; some is good, more is better, and it's hard to know when enough is enough. But when your only hero is Galadriel, it's very easy to know when enough is enough. One ready unlocks her full value, more than that does nothing. This frees up a lot of deck space and frees us from hunting for yet another piece to get rolling. (And from paying for that piece; 2 spirit resources ain't cheap, especially if you're trying to save one for A Test of Will, too.)

Because we have to get set up faster without Grey Wanderer, we drop the Mirror/Harp combo (phenomenal but slow) for Drinking Songs, the fastest-digging card in the entire pool. (The songs also take up less deck space, which is important because we have to add a lot of cards to offset no longer having that head start.)

The resulting deck is more flexible and in a lot of ways less fragile. (A single nasty shadow is rarely an automatic loss, Sleeping Sentry notwithstanding.) But in other ways it’s a bit more fragile. While the loss of a hero isn’t a death sentence when you have two others, hobbits don’t fare well in the face of direct damage or surprise undefended attacks. For all I’ve tried to keep the decks the same, they feel very different in practice. Which is a very good thing.

5 comments

May 06, 2020 askelad 100

that is awesome!

You could push the willpower mechanic even further with Fireside Song, but at this point it would become a dedicated questing deck for multiplayer

May 06, 2020 Some Sort 2325

@askelad I have another Rosie/Galadriel deck that pushes the pairing a bit further. It's really good. (As long as you get an opening-hand Nenya it quests for 19 on turn 1.)

But as you note, it's kind of a different deck. :)

May 07, 2020 GrandSpleen 1017

deserves a like for the thematic mirroring and deck titles alone... among other things.

May 07, 2020 Alonewolf87 511

@Some Sort I am curious, how do you get to 19 Willpower in turn 1? I can see playing Nenya, Celduin Traveler and Fast Hitch on Rosie, using Nenya on Rosie (getting her to 6 Willpower) she exhaust to target herself getting to 12 Willpower, readies with Fast Hitch and you quest for 12 Rosie +2 Folco + 2 Celduin Traveler = 16

May 07, 2020 Some Sort 2325

@Alonewolf87 Frodo Baggins + (MotK) Rosie Cotton + Galadriel with The One Ring and Power of Command. Mulligan aggressively for Nenya, it's the only piece you actually need to draw to pull this off.

Rosie plays Power of Command on Frodo, Galadriel plays Nenya on herself. Rosie and Frodo quest, Frodo triggers his ability to ready Rosie, Frodo triggers Power of Command to give Rosie and Galadriel +1WP, Galadriel triggers Nenya on Rosie (bringing her total WP up to 8), Rosie triggers herself on herself, which brings her WP up to 16 plus the 3 from Frodo.

Voila, 19 willpower out the gate and you only need to draw one card (Nenya) to achieve it. And provided you quest successfully (which... come on, you're sending 19 willpower on turn 1, you're probably questing successfully), the second part of Frodo's ability triggers and drops your threat by 1 to offset the threat gain from triggering Power of Command in the first place.

Plus, you know... thematic grand slam.