Journey in the Dark - Eagles Deck - Specialist Deck Series

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Journey in the Dark - Specialist Deck Series
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This deck is one of two that make up the Fellowship for Journey in the Dark for my Specialist Deck Series. This deck is pretty combat focused and would likely not be good enough at questing to use solo.

This is a fairly straightforward Eagles deck, whose main purpose is to succeed at combat and in particular, defend reliably against the Balrog. I'll mention here that all of this is done using my own collection of physical cards, which is why none of the Eagle cards from the last cycle of APs is present.

Radagast is the most obvious hero to take along with the Eagles. His staff gives a huge cost discount in order to play them, and later on can give action advantage if needed. He also has very respectable stats himself and will often get to quest without exhausting.

Eagles is a heavily focused archetype, so two heroes from that sphere seemed sensible to accompany Radagast. I was looking for an opportunity to run some less-used heroes while the Saga quests are still manageable - this deck is designed for use outside of campaign mode, which takes a lot of the sting out of Journey in the Dark.

The first I settled on was Bilbo Baggins. I had never used this card before, as I was not too impressed with it on paper. I think this ended up being a pretty good situation to use him, although truth be told I will not be rushing to include him in more decks anytime soon. But he does have his uses here. First off, the enemies in this quest have relatively high engagment costs, which means that we will actually be able to get good use out his ability if we want to. Some enemies are also wimpy enough that Bilbo might take them out entirely by himself. We are further incentivised to avoid engagements during the first quest stage, which cements this use for him. Secondly, we have a couple of direct damage effects in the deck, meaning that defeating enemies without engaging them becomes an even more reliable strategy. In one test game, I was even able to kill a Great Cave-troll while is was in the staging area. Finally, even at 9, Bilbo is on the lower end of threat costs for heroes, and threat can be a real factor in this quest.

The final hero is Quickbeam, because he is non-unique.

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Okay, the real reason is that he is another hero that I haven't used before. He has some solid stats, in particular that 4 , as well as built in readying, so it was definitely fun to try him out. This is also an opportunity to run him without needing to worry about clashing with his seemingly ever-present ally version (it helps to minimise non-eagle characters in this deck). With some healing, we can afford to quest often and ready him up as needed for combat. On stage 2, we need to defeat enemies as quickly as possible, so the chance to attack twice is also a big help. Quickbeam unfortunately does not have a low threat cost, so threat is something we will need to consider as the quest progresses.

This deck is partnered with a and deck, which has a large number of questing allies, and while this one can contribute a little to the quest, combat is where it will shine. The partner deck might also lend a hand with the odd The Galadhrim's Greeting.

Since the overall plan for the deck is pretty straightforward, let's say no more about that and get to the individual cards:

Descendant of Thorondor - The first of our many Eagle allies at the core of this deck. This ally is expensive, but much more playable with Radagast's Staff on the table. With the high engagement cost enemies in this quest, we should get good use out of this Eagle's ability in combination with Bilbo's to deal some good damage to enemies and potentially kill them without engaging. Also good in combination with Gwaihir and Flight of the Eagles, to get multiple uses in the same turn. We can also chump-block with it to get the same effect. The Balrog's attack during the quest phase can be a good time to do this.

Eagles of the Misty Mountains - This card is one of the main reasons to play an Eagle deck. It is a fantastic card even with its base stats and can get truly monstrous in size, especially if we have good luck with The Eagles Are Coming! Once we have a giant EotMM out, it might be prefereable to stop using Radagast's Staff for the cost reduction, and instead get multiple uses out of the Eagle's stats. Ideally, we will be able to defend against the Balrog with little to no damage by the endgame.

Gandalf - Gandalf's versatilty is as useful here as ever. In this quest in particular, it might be most advantageous to use the threat reduction, but any of his modes can be put to great use. There will also be many occasions for his great stats to shine as well.

Gléowine - Before he was in the deck I found card economy to be an issue and I find his repeatable effect to be very valuable, especially since we just want as many Eagles as possible.

Gwaihir - He has great stats, but mainly we'll find his ability to be a big benefit to the deck. Any Eagles that get destroyed before our Eagles of the Misty Mountains are in play can get re-used. He's also really great for getting multiple uses out of the abilities of Descendant of Thorondor and Meneldor.

Landroval - While we hope not to need his ability, it is very valuable in an emergency, especially with the Balrog showing up. We might also use it strategically to get extra action advantage out of Quickbeam, or possibly Prince Imrahil in the Partner deck - Landroval brings back the hero ready, so if they take an undefended attack while exhausted we can use them again. Of course this would work with any of the heroes, but these two are least likely to have attachments, so the downside is minimal. Landroval also just brings up our number of Eagle allies.

Meneldor - This Eagle is most likely of all to help out in the quest phase, something we will be very happy with, especially for his cost. The ability is also useful in this regard, especially to avoid location lock. The Partner deck also has Rhovanion Outrider for location control. With the help of Flight of the Eagles, Gwaihir or chump-blocking, we can multiple uses in the same turn, which would really give us the edge.

Messenger Raven - Messenger Raven fulfils two functions in a deck with Radagast. First, it is a creature ally that can be played repeatedly, enabling Radagast to quest without exhausting on turns when we don't have an Eagle. Second, it is a potential draw engine, particularly when used in conjunction with Wizard Pipe. Hopefully there won't be too many calls for the former, but we might get some good value in the latter case.

Vassal of the Windlord - The cheapest Eagle ally we have and a great value attacker. The drawback of discarding is greatly lessened when we can attach it to Eagles of the Misty Mountains.

Warden of Healing - We will be facing plenty of enemies and there are also a few damaging effects and archery. The warden will keep our all our characters in play and in the fight.

Winged Guardian - Another cheap Eagle. This one gives us a bit more flexibility in that we can keep it in play by paying resources, but it's also fine to just get it under the EotMM. Also handy in the sense that we can play it for free sometimes thanks to Radagast's staff.

Radagast's Staff - Speaking of, this is one of the key cards for the deck. If we are playing an eagle every round it can be as effective as Steward of Gondor in terms of resource acceleration. If we don't need that, it's a ready for an Eagle, hopefully a high-stat Eagles of the Misty Mountains.

Sting - Sting has a particular use for us in this quest. In stage 2 we are required to defeat 6 enemies in order to progress, but the encounter deck doesn't always make this easy for us. Sting grabs an enemy out of the deck at will in the planning phase for free and hopefully shortens our time at that stage. Even better, the two toughest enemies cannot have attachments so this will even skip them and give us something weaker. The stats boost and bonus to Bilbo's ability are a very welcome, but secondary, benefit.

Wizard Pipe - A versatile card that has a few uses. Most obviously, it combos with Messenger Raven to create a draw engine for this deck. Placing an Eagle on top of the deck and then playing The Eagles Are Coming! will effectively draw us an extra card (unless the top card was already an Eagle). We can also combine with Word of Command to shuffle away an unwanted card, such as a duplicate unique.

Woodmen's Clearing - Some threat control which is very welcome in this quest. It doesn't need to be attached to the active location, so could be combined with Meneldor to give instant threat reduction.

Daeron's Runes - As always, this is practically an auto-include in a deck and we have quite a few pieces to assemble our desired board state.

Feint - Sadly not effective on the Balrog, but there are plenty of other enemies for us to target. Orc-chieftain especially can be difficult because we can't defend it with allies.

Flight of the Eagles - People are often lukewarm on the Encounter player cards, and with good reason. They are generally unreliable, but I have a soft spot for them since I like the idea behind this mechanic. Still, we might get lucky and the Eagle of the North is a great ally if we can get it into play. Luckily, that's not all this card offers us. The "cost" of returning an Eagle to hand can definitely be turned to our benefit. Any of our Eagles allies with enters or leaves play effects can get extra uses thanks to this card, and in any action window. For example, we can return a Descendant of Thorondor after Bilbo's ability deals 1 damage to a 3 HP enemy to kill it before it can engage.

The Eagles Are Coming! - One of the key cards to keep this deck going into the late game. We have 20 Eagle cards in the deck, including this card, so we will hope to see about two new Eagles every time we play this. Even one is acceptable for zero cost. If we are lucky and find more than two, things just get absurd. With Radagast's Staff and Frodo Baggins, we should be able to pay for them as well.

Word of Command - An excellent card in this deck. Most turns we hope that Radagast can quest without exhausting. If he's not needed for combat, that gives us a "free" opportunity to use this incredibly strong tutoring effect. Circumstances will dictate which card we need, but I would always go for Radagast's Staff if it's not in hand already. After that, Eagles of the Misty Mountains is never a bad card to have if there are no other pressing needs.

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