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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], as well as a handful of other odd quests here and there. See the Quest Logs for more details. I suspect there isn't a quest this deck can't handle.
This is my attempt at a Glamcrist style BESTer Deck. Not too long ago, Glamcrist was exploring ways to improve his BEST Deck (linked in "Inspired By" section via its predecessor the BESTER Deck), and asked me to come up with something different that, as a One Deck, might give his newest creation, the BESTER DECK, a run for it's money. This deck isn't that, as I don't think it holds a candle to the reliability of the BESTER Deck, but it's the best that I could come up with that wasn't ultimately a completely derivative clone of his work.
I present... The BEARST Deck (because it's got three big 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 BEST 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).
- 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. While the power of the Brown Wizard 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 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, 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, but ideally Denethor is going to be scrying the Encounter Deck for you once Thorongil'ed.
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 be quest-saving. Also, more than I would have expected, I've used the 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 Waste 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. If you use the Wizard Pipe, you have perfect knowledge of the top-deck card, so the Raven is a safe and free 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 closer to the card you need for next round's draw by getting the not-the-card-I-most-want out of the way.
Card draw is, far and away, the deck's biggest weakness and room for improvement. Gleowine, the Pipe, and the Ravens are there, as well as Core-Gandalf. Deck search is also present via the Word of Command and the Gather Info.
On the note of Gandalf, there are four events to try and play him a lot (2x Sneak, 2x Horns!). These Leadership events are also nicely utilized with the entering/exiting effects of Meneldor, and can useful during combat to get a Beorn or the Giant Bears into the fray quickly (e.g. you can Sneak a Giant Bear or Beaorn into combat, use their actions, 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)
- Glorfindel + Light of Valinor + Asfaloth + Silver Circlet + Celebrian's Stone
- Radagast + Steward of Gondor + Radagast's Staff + Gondorian Shield + Burning Brand + Unexpected Courage(s)
NOTABLE QUEST ATTEMPTS (solo, 1-Handed)
(updating periodically; I'm attempting to play the more 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):
- NM Escape from Dol Goldur: 2 Wins, 1 Loss (3 attempts)
- NM Conflict at the Carrock: 1 Win, 0 Losses (1 attempt)
- NM Journey to Rhosgobel: 1 Win, 0 Losses (1 attempt)
- NM Return to Mirkwood: 1 Win, 7 Losses (8 attempts)
- NM Into the Pit: 1 Win, 0 Losses (1 attempt)
- NM Foundation of Stone: 1 Win, 0 Losses (1 attempt)
- NM Shadow & Flame: 1 Win, 0 Losses (1 attempt)
- NM Into Ithilien: 2 Wins, 0 Losses (2 attempts)
- NM The Druadan Forest: 1 Win, 0 Losses (1 attempt)
- NM Encounter at Amon Din: 1 Win, 0 Losses (1 attempt)
- NM Blood of Gondor: 2 Wins, 1 Loss (3 attempts)
- NM The Dunland Trap: 2 Wins, 0 Losses (2 attempts)
- NM The Three Trials: 1 Win, 0 Losses (1 attempt)
- NM Nin-in-Eliph: 1 Win, 2 Losses (3 attempts)
- NM Mount Gram: 2 Wins, 0 Losses (2 attempts)
- Battle of Carn Dum: 1 Win, 1 Loss (2 attempts)
- NM Raid on the Gray Havens: 1 Win, 0 Losses (1 attempt)
- NM Flight of the Stormcaller: 1 Win, 0 Losses (1 attempt)
- NM Storm on Cobas Haven: 1 Win, 0 Losses (1 attempt)
- Under the Ash Mountians: 1 Win, 0 Losses (1 attempt)
- The Fortress of Nurn: 1 Win, 0 Losses (1 attempt)
- The Ruins of Belegost: 1 Win, 1 Loss (2 attempts)
- Hard-Mode Hunt for the Dreadnaught: 4 Wins, 0 Losses (4 attempts)
- NM The Lonely Mountain: 1 Win, 1 Loss (2 attempts)
- NM Battle of Five Armies: 1 Win, 1 Loss (2 attempts)
- NM Journey to the Crossroads: 2 Wins (2 attempts)
- Mount Doom: 1 Win, 4 Losses (5 attempts)
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!