The BEARST Deck - Radagast BEST-ish One Deck

Questlogs using this decklist
NM Into Inthilien (W, W, W)
NM Encounter at Amon Din (W, L, W, L, W)
NM Nin-in-Eliph (L, L, W)
NM Escape from Mount Gram (W, L, W, W)
NM A Journey to Rhosgobel (W)
NM Storm on Cobas Have (W)
NM Return to Mirkwood (L,L,L,L,L,L,L,L,W)
NM - Escape from Dol Goldur (L, W, W)
Mount Doom (L,L,L,L,W)
The Crossings of Poros (W)
NM The Battle of Five Armies (L, W)
NM Journey to the Cross-Roads (W, W)
The Battle of Carn Dûm (L, W)
NM The Three Trials (W)
NM The Lonely Mountain (L, W)
NM Shadow and Flame (W)
The Fortress of Nurn (W)
The Ruins of Belegost (L, W)
Under the Ash Mountains (W)
Escape from Umbar - 1 Player - 2021-10-12
NM The Drúadan Forest (W)
The Long Arm of Mordor (W, W)
NM The Dunland Trap (W, W)
NM Flight of the Stormcaller (W)
Race Across Harad (W)
Hard-Mode The Hunt for the Dreadnaught (W, W, W, W, W, W)
NM The Uruk-Hai (W)
NM Conflict at the Carrock (W, W)
NM Raid on the Gray Havens (W, W, W)
NM Storm on Cobas Haven (W, L, W)
Fellowships using this decklist
None.
Derived from
The Bester Deck 35 25 62 1.0
Inspiration for
Bear Arms 5 0 5 1.0
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Imrahil13 459

NOTE: The Descendant of Thorondor should be swapped for a Beorning Skin-changer.

I'm officially calling this, to my own surprise, a legitimate ONE DECK. It's cleared, rather handily, the entire Nightmare Reduced Quest Gauntlet, and only took more than 5 tries for a single quest on the list (NM Return to Mirkwood) [props to Seastan for the curation of that list] (giving it a Power Deck Score of 0.94). It's also been thrown against a handful of other quests here and there. See the Quest Logs for more details, which I add to periodically. I suspect that there isn't a quest this deck can't handle, but happy to hear suggestions for other quests that it should be thrown against.


Radagast the Brown is, of course, a worthy Hero, a master of spheres and questing unexhausted; and he has much lore of pipe-herbs and birds fetch him cards, and bears especially are his friend. JRR Tolkien (paraphrased)


INTRO:

This is my attempt at a Glamcrist-style BESTer Deck (see 'Inspired By' section for Glam's BESTER Deck). It's struck a nice balance between early questing power and attack power, though at the expense of card draw (since it gives up Bereavor from the BESTER Deck lineup). It also doesn't have the stout reliability of Beregond leading the defenses, but Radagast can quest while still offering some capable defense, and he is backed by a slew of Bears and Gandalf who can leap into the fray to lend a paw as needed.

I present... The BEARST Deck (because it's got four Bears (if one counts the Beornings as Bears), and they are often crucial to the deck's combat capabilities). Feedback welcomed!

After trying a variety of MoTK and other BoF options in the pursuit of the best One Deck I could find, I settled here. It's got a lot of BESTER Deck influences, of course, as I think Glamcrist's really made a convincing case for cards like Nori, Strider, Thorongil, and Helm of Secrecy as pretty much obligatory One Deck inclusions (just to highlight a few key cards), but feels and plays quite differently to his masterpiece thanks to the presence of Eowyn, Radagast, and the Bears/Birds.

HEROES:

  • Denethor - Resource Acceleration, Defense, Encounter Deck Control (once Thorongil'ed)
  • Eowyn - Questing, Emergency Attack, Secret Helm target (often)
  • Glorfindel - Quester+Attacker, Asfaloth-enabler
  • Radagast - Resource Acceleration (staff), Quester+Attacker/Defender

What's distinct about this deck, and a surprise to me, is that, of all the other variants I tinkered with, Radagast ended up in the best-performing line-up, despite having a generally creature-light spread of cards available to him. I certainly haven't encountered the Brown Wizard in any other One Decks or BoF lineups before, nor have I really seen him outside of a dedicated eagle deck, but he's certainly got the skills. While the power of the Master of Rhosgobel is obvious in dedicated eagle decks, he's no slouch even without a flock of eagles, as this deck has proven.

As a 2/2/3 he's great as an unexhausted quester and switch defender/attacker. Most of the time Radagast gets Steward of Gondor (since his resources can pay for any of the creatures, Firyal, and fuel the healers), and this also lets him become a 5 DEF defender via a Gondorian Shield (6 with Arwen out, and effectively 7 with the Honor Guard, while also having the emergency protection of the Loyal Hounds), and he can importantly also wield the Burning Brand. Denethor can pick up the second Gondorian Shield and the Armored Destrier in quests where you need lots of additional blocks or shadow discard against swarm enemies, but ideally Denethor is going to be scrying the Encounter Deck for you once Thorongil'ed rather than blocking.

The real utility of Radagast lies in his staff. While the cost reduction is often the most common usage, I've found that here it's often best used to ready a Giant Bear, and one trick is that you can Sneak Attack a Giant Bear, have it block/attack, ready it with the Staff, have it block/attack again, and even use it's own innate ability to ready and block/attack once more, all before returning back to your hand via Sneak Attack's delayed effect. There's not a lot of times when you'll need three exhausts from one Snuck Bear, but when you do it can entirely save a quest. Also, more than I would have expected, I've used the Staff to banish a creature enemy back to Staging when you're a bit overwhelmed in combat (snakes, bats, birds, oliphaunts, marsh-dwellers, spiders, wolves, warges, sea-monsters, etc. ... the quest gauntlet has more creatures than you'd typically think). For instance, in NM Conflict at the Carrock, I just kept staging the poisonous muck-adders during the fight with the trolls, so I'd banish them back to Staging to relieve some of the combat pressure so I could dedicate as many bodies as possible to putting down Trolls. I've found the staff similarly useful in NM Rhosgobel, NM Nin-in-Eliph, and NM Wastes of Eriador, just to name a few quests.

Other synergy comes in the form of the Messenger Raven, which act as pseudo card draw and allows Radagast to easily quest unexhausted every round. As unassuming of a card as the Messenger Raven is, it may be one of the best cards in the entire deck. An early Raven often makes for a successful quest. If you use the Wizard Pipe, you have perfect knowledge of the top-deck card, so the Raven is a safe (automatic) draw. Even without that, I frequently use the Raven(s) to guess the cardtype of the card which I am most hoping to see in the next round... even if the Raven "misses" you're still getting one card out of the way and thus closer to the card you most want for next round's draw. More often than not, in the early game if I'm Raven'ing blind I will say attachment (pending my hand and the quest) because a lot of the attachments are potent pieces to get out early in the game (Steward, Staff, Pipe, Shield, Asfaloth, Brand, and Light are always welcomed sights in the early game).

Card draw is, far and away, the deck's biggest "weakness." Fortunately, the deck doesn't need a lot of cards to get rolling and has no multi-piece linear combos to setup. For card searh there is Word of Command and Gather Info, and card draw comes in the form of Gandalf (Core), Gleowine, Messenger Raven, and Wizard's Pipe. Draw usually starts out a bit slow at first and ramps up exponentially as you build (barring a more pressing need, I'll usually use Gather or Word early to fetch a Gleowine or the missing piece of a Pipe/Raven combo).

On the note of Core Gandalf, there are four events to try and play him multiple times per game (2x Sneak, 2x Horns!). These Leadership events are also nicely utilized with the entering/exiting effects of Meneldor when there is a particularly troublesome location, and the events can useful during combat to get Beorn or a Giant Bear into the fray quickly (e.g. you can Sneak a Giant Bear or Beorn into combat, use their action, and then still return them back to your hand before they shuffle into your deck, since both "at the end of the phase" conditions can be resolved in the order of your choosing).

The typical ideal attachment placement, I find, tends to look like this:

  • Denethor + Gondorian Shield + Armored Destrier + Thorongil + Unexpected Courage(s)
  • Eowyn
  • Glorfindel + Light of Valinor + Asfaloth + Silver Circlet + Celebrian's Stone
  • Radagast + Steward of Gondor + Radagast's Staff + Gondorian Shield + Burning Brand + Unexpected Courage(s)

    In quests where you might need a lot more defenses, stacking the Unexpected Courages onto Radagast makes sense. In quests with particularly nasty Encounter Cards, you might want to stack the Unexpected Courages onto Denethor so, once Thorongil'ed, he can scrye the Encounter Deck thrice per round. In a quest where you know you'll have a big spike in combat, you might want to Unexpected Courage Eowyn so that she can use her once-per-game 10 ATK 3-4 times in the same round.

Eowyn is most frequently the target for Helm of Secrecy. After she's used her once-per-game and your boardstate is built a bit, she's excellent to replace. Galadriel is an obvious choice, as she gives you reliable threat-reduction and card draw. Similarly, Frodo Baggins can give you threat control with some questing power retained. If you need big emergency threat reduction, Folco Boffin is an option. Of course, the best choice of Helm of Secrecy will always be quest dependent. For instance, in Journey to Rhosgobel you can swap into a Ranged hero to help with combat against the Bats/Birds. In Mount Doom, I like to swap Denethor into Sam Gamgee, which grants additional (and all-important) WP for Fortitude tests (and has some nice synergy when Gollum surprise-ambushes you and readies Sam). Sometimes, turning Eowyn into Hama can let you get squeeze extra uses out of your Feint, which in certain quests can be incredibly valauble. Lots of options for lots of quest demands.

NOTABLE QUEST ATTEMPTS (solo, 1-Handed):

(Updating periodically: I'm attempting to play the notably hard quests at least three times each, even if I win the first and/or second attempts, to control a bit for the chance of lucking past a bad quest on the first go. The Quest Logs on this page will offer some level of detail about individual games.):

  • NM Escape from Dol Goldur: 2 Wins, 1 Loss (3 plays)
  • NM Conflict at the Carrock: 2 Wins, 0 Losses (2 plays)
  • NM Journey to Rhosgobel: 1 Win, 0 Losses (1 play)
  • NM Return to Mirkwood: 1 Win, 7 Losses (8 plays)
  • NM Into the Pit: 1 Win, 0 Losses (1 play)
  • NM Foundation of Stone: 1 Win, 0 Losses (1 play)
  • NM Shadow & Flame: 1 Win, 0 Losses (1 play)
  • NM Into Ithilien: 3 Wins, 0 Losses (3 plays)
  • NM The Druadan Forest: 1 Win, 0 Losses (1 play)
  • NM Encounter at Amon Din: 3 Wins, 2 Losses (5 plays)
  • NM Blood of Gondor: 2 Wins, 1 Loss (3 plays)
  • NM The Dunland Trap: 2 Wins, 0 Losses (2 plays)
  • NM The Three Trials: 1 Win, 0 Losses (1 play)
  • NM Nin-in-Eliph: 1 Win, 2 Losses (3 plays)
  • NM Mount Gram: 2 Wins, 0 Losses (2 plays)
  • Battle of Carn Dum: 1 Win, 1 Loss (2 plays)
  • NM Raid on the Gray Havens: 3 Wins, 0 Losses (3 plays)
  • NM Flight of the Stormcaller: 1 Win, 0 Losses (1 play)
  • NM Storm on Cobas Haven: 2 Wins, 1 Loss (3 plays)
  • Under the Ash Mountians: 1 Win, 0 Losses (1 play)
  • The Fortress of Nurn: 1 Win, 0 Losses (1 play)
  • The Ruins of Belegost: 1 Win, 1 Loss (2 plays)
  • Hard-Mode Hunt for the Dreadnaught: 6 Wins, 0 Losses (6 plays)
  • NM The Lonely Mountain: 1 Win, 1 Loss (2 plays)
  • NM Battle of Five Armies: 1 Win, 1 Loss (2 plays)
  • NM The Fighting Uruk-Hai: 1 Win, 0 Loss (1 play)
  • NM Journey to the Crossroads: 2 Wins (2 plays)
  • Mount Doom: 1 Win, 4 Losses (5 plays)

VARIATIONS:

All in all, I'm pretty happy with the balance this deck has struck. As noted, the Descendant of Thorondor was swapped for the incredibly useful Beorning Skin-Changer pretty early in the trial run of this deck, but beyond that I don't think I'd change much else and every card in the deck serves some purpose (some more quest-specific than others). Notably missing cards that could be really good to add might be an Angbor the Fearless or Faramir (Core), possibly in the place of a Horns! Horns! Horns!, or perhaps a second Word of Command or Quickbeam, possibly in the place of a Loyal Hound. Being able to squeeze a Favor of the Valar into the mix would be great as well, but not quite sure where that might find a spot. If you have any thoughts/suggestions, I'd love to hear them! The least useful card, I think, is Nori, and a second Skin-Changer, Feint, or even a Revealed in Wrath or T-Pippin (ally) would be really valuable, I think. But, Nori exists pretty much as a silver-bullet for Under the Ash Mountains, and has some added utility in decks that drain your deck quickly (e.g. Fortress of Nurn) or require you to have a card in your deck for some sort of quest-specific effect (e.g. the Dark Pit in NM Shadow & Flame), so while he's generally an inefficient 2 ATk, it's hard to let him go for those couple of very specific purposes he serves.

Thanks for reading!

11 comments

Sep 21, 2021 Mythik 50

That's really cool - I've never actually thought about Radagast as doing anything other than supporting eagles.

The messenger raven trick is also neat, given how relatively few leadership resources you need for the rest of the deck.

Good stuff!

Sep 22, 2021 Imrahil13 459

Thanks @Mythik2704. Yea, Radagast has continued to impress me in this build. The Raven trick is surprisingly useful (especially once the pipe is out), and as you've noted once Denethor has played Steward (onto Radagast, probably), he doesn't need his Resources for anything except a Sneak Attack here and there, so he can use them to play the Raven (or pass it to Radagast if Radagast wants to just use the staff to play the Raven and save his money).

Messenger Raven, I must confess, is one of those cards I first looked at thought.. "hmm, neat, but ... meh," and now its one of the cornerstones of this deck. Just goes to show how even after years the game can still surprise you.

I just beat Nightmare Storm on Cobas Haven last night, and a part of that victory was Denethor playing a Raven each round, and then that Raven both sailing and questing (because Radagast would ready it with his staff) before then drawing a card at the Refresh phase. Being able to let Radagast quest unexhausted helped him to be ready to help remove the treacheries that attached to my boat.

Then, I had a point where I needed to engage a Corsair Warship to free up the Objective it was guarding, and it put 4 Raiders into play with me also. I was able to survive tha tround by Sneaking a Giant Bear and Horns! Horns! Horns!ing Gandalf into play. The Bear then blocked/attacked three times (from the staff and the it's own innate ability), before jumping back into my hand.

So the surprising breadth of the Ravens and the Staff really let the hidden, non-eagle values of Radagast stat to shine through.

Sep 23, 2021 Glamcrist 467

"All I need to win this quest is to top deck a giant bear."

Sep 23, 2021 Imrahil13 459

The encounter deck hates a good ol' fashion mauling!

I may have underestimated this deck, and it's just continued to surprise me. On paper, it still looks like I just spilled your Bester Deck and my collection together, and randomly grabbed 50 cards together from the pile. But time and time again, those Bears and Ravens find a way to pull out wins. I havne't gotten to the worst of the Reduced NM Quest Gauntlet quite yet, but here's hoping.

I will say I'm eye-ing Descendant of Thorondor as a likely replacement card, as I don't think I've made good use of its ability yet in this deck against the RQG, and its a terrible stats-to-value card otherwise.

Sep 23, 2021 Glamcrist 467

How about Beorning Skin Changer? Only costs 2 and can recursion bears from your discard. Then you won't always have to top deck them, haha. And with Sneak Attacks is a really convoluted way to play Beorn or a bear for a marginal discount lol.

Sep 23, 2021 Imrahil13 459

The skin-changer idea is actually not half bad... I was thinking more along the lines of something like a second Feint or Revealed in Wrath... but the Skin-Changer is actually pretty intriguing. It's certainly the more fun choice, it furthers the BEARST title, and 2 cost isn't a terrible burden for Eowyn's resources.

Oct 07, 2021 GreenWizard 234

Any chance there'll be videos? Would love to see this deck in action at the hands of an experienced man. ;)

Oct 08, 2021 Mythik 50

I'll second a request for videos! Would be interesting.

Oct 09, 2021 Imrahil13 459

@GreenWizard @Mythik

I'm sure I can work some BEARST Deck into our filming rotation. I'll throw the link up here once I've gotten some onto the channel.

Oct 12, 2021 Imrahil13 459

Just a quick note that I'm considering this a One Deck, officially. It's beaten all 16 quests on Seastan's Nightmare Reduced Quest Gauntlet, and only two took more than 3 attempts (NM Return to Mirkwood = 8 and Mount Doom = 5). Since Power Deck Score looks at the number of quest from the reduced gauntlet that can be beating in 5 or less attempts, this gives it a Power Deck Score of 15/16 = 0.9375 (for further elaboration on PDS, see Seastan's "Dale Force Wins" deck).

Oct 13, 2021 Mythik 50

That's awesome! Hadn't realised you didn't consider it a One Deck haha.

Good to see Radagast showing his quality.