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|The Bester Deck||46||37||89||1.0|
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This deck has a focus on survival and utility. I don't play Nightmare (because I don't own them and I only play with physical cards) but since Denethor is the best hero in that regard (i.e. avoiding ugly cards), it should handle those quests reasonable well.
I’m terrible at progressing through cycles. Mostly because I didn’t finish sleeving until recently (with what this game costs, I won’t play any quest without protecting them first). So for full disclosure, I’ve only completed the first two cycles and the Hobbit saga (somewhere between 5 and 20+ times for each of them). I’m now slowly working through the Numenor cycle. Regardless, this deck has tools to handle all sorts of board states so has a counter for just about anything.
Lots of credit to @Glamcrist. This deck is certainly my own but was influenced by his Best/Bester decks. Some cards like Armored Destrier and Heed the Dream would have gotten into the mix eventually but I noticed them sooner because of him. Other cards like Nori, Ioreth and Revealed in Wrath probably wouldn’t have been noticed at all. Beyond the decks, his videos helped me notice certain synergies and approaches that have really helped. Again, a huge thanks to @Glamcrist!
In terms of deck composition, I had certain goals beyond the Bond of Friendship requirements.
I wanted a wide assortment of card draw options since the four heroes don't have that ability: Gleowine, Haleth, Imladris Stargazer, Legolas, Master of the Forge, Heed the Dream (x2) and Gather Information.
I wanted a strong mix of allies with compelling willpower, notably 2 and 2 for 2 cost: Angbor the Fearless, Arwen Undomiel, Pippin and Quickbeam.
I wanted ents to be included, so their strong stats would help the heroes: Quickbeam and Treebeard.
I wanted a good balance between allies and attachments; 17 versus 19.
I wanted at least 2 events per sphere, so that cards can be played outside the planning phase; the deck ended up with 2 events of each sphere except neutral and spirit that have 3.
I wanted the deck's cards to skew towards cheap and/or easily playable; 7 cards that cost 0, 4 non-neutral cards that cost 3 to 5: (3) Thorongil, (4) Treebeard and (5) Gandalf (x2) and 5 non-neutral cards that cost 3 or 4: (3) Nori and The Galadhrim's Greeting, (4) Faramir, Haleth and Legolas. The other 34 cards cost 1 or 2.
I wanted internal synergy amongst the cards. That has happened after tons of tweaking over approximately 200 versions over the deck. I’ve finally stopped making changes since I’ve arrived at my best composition. Anyone trying out this deck, feel free to make changes that speak to your sensibilities.
Bond of Friendship decks generate resources faster than 3 hero decks (i.e. 4 resources every round instead of 3), so resource smoothing is important with neutral being the easiest sphere to include those cards; Magic Ring, Thorongil, A Good Harvest, The White Council and A Storm Comes.
Best hand of 7 would be some combination like (in order of priority) ...
- Card Draw via Gleowine, Haleth, Imladris Stargazer, Legolas, Master of the Forge or Heed the Dream.
- Action Advantage via Armored Destrier or Light of Valinor.
- Encounter Advantage via Asfaloth or Unexpected Courage.
- Defense via Gondorian Shield, Hauberk of Mail or Captain of Gondor.
- Resources via Steward of Gondor or Magic Ring.
- Attack via Treebeard or Quickbeam or Legolas.
- Dynamic Assistance via Arwen Undomiel, Honour Guard or Warden of Healing.
How this deck sucks ...
- No card draw from heroes.
- Four allies that have only 1 .
- No weapon attachments.
- Erkenbrand doesn't have a use for Thorongil.
- No second copy of Unexpected Courage.
- No Helm of Secrecy since cheaper cards are almost always more useful. So much fun though better suited for extreme scenarios like in Nightmare.
Explanation of Heroes
The synergy between these heroes is so strong that separating them into a logic order is impossible. This is my best attempt at ordering them into a reasonable narrative.
Glorfindel is the best action advantage hero in the game. His low and high stats make him a compelling base to a Friendship deck. He provides 3 and when Light of Valinor appears, an identical boost to as well. His 5 would seem odd on a non-defender but he can soak up treachery damage, archery damage and/or undefended attacks. Asfaloth is the last part of what makes Glorfindel extremely strong.
Eowyn is the best questing and one-time boost hero. She is the perfect partner for Glorfindel before and after he attaches Light of Valinor. When both Eowyn and Glorfindel are questing, is strong even without allies. Eoywn's increase is great for big boss kills and can give battle questing a boost when it is most needed.
Denethor is the best danger avoidance hero. His primary function is to ensure that the surge/worst encounter cards are avoided making everything else that much easier. This cannot be understated, in each quest, burying 2-3 terrible cards and 3-5 bad cards is assured. I normally use his ability in the Planning Phase which helps in deciding what cards are played. Of course encounter cards aren't discarded but this deck will generally have completed the quest by when they reappear and/or be ready for them by then. Denethor is also an emergency defender and can even provide siege questing. Denethor’s ability is better applied against encounter cards rather than shadow cards (although with Unexpected Courage that can be an option when an extra action is available).
Erkenbrand is the best shadow neutralizer hero. I've always feared shadows more than treacheries, so Erkenbrand's ability is a delight and laughing at the worst shadows is always entertaining (i.e. oh man, that card would have ended the game, Erkenbrand says "no to that"). But yes, his is limited so there are a large number of support cards directly or indirectly included to keep him alive (~25% of the deck). Careful management of Erkenbrand, so that he bends but doesn’t break is the most important aspect of playing this deck and is the main reason it is called “We Shall Endure”.
(19 of 50) Explanation of Attachments (alphabetical order, with primary target)
As expected, the majority of attachments are for Erkenbrand and Glorfindel. There are however, enough attachments that they can be redistributed if necessary (ex. for siege and battle quests).
(x2) Armored Destrier (Erkenbrand): An extra action for Erkenbrand while neutering a second enemy is very powerful. Defending twice and/or attacking once takes Erkenbrand to next level power. Can be combined with Blood of Numenor so that Blood of Numenor replaces the Shields, allowing Erkenbrand to use two mounts simultaneously which can be useful in quests with mostly weak attack enemies.
(x2) Asfaloth (Glorfindel): With Denethor steering the heroes away from the worst encounter cards, more locations will be faced than usual. Being able to apply progress to locations in the staging area is incredibly powerful (i.e. it feels like cheating) and acts as a form of action advantage. A powerful card in 9/10 quest runs.
(x1) Blood of Numenor (Erkenbrand, Steward of Gondor needed first): For enemies with extremely high , being able to reach equally high is worthwhile. Blood of Numenor isn't restricted and isn't an item, so is extremely useful in quests that punish and/or make you discard such attachments. For siege quests (combined with Magic Ring), allows Erkenbrand to participate at a high level when needed.
(x1) Captain of Gondor (Erkenbrand): Erkenbrand gets +1 and even +1 when combined with Armored Destrier. The deck doesn't have weapon attachments, so Armored Destrier + Captain of Gondor are the equivalent.
(x1) Celebrian's Stone (Glorfindel or Eowyn): Glorfindel reaching 5 makes him doubly effective in quests where willpower is used for anything beyond questing. Can also be placed on Eowyn if Light of Valinor doesn't appear.
(x2) Gondorian Shield (1st to Erkenbrand, 2nd to Denethor): +1 is great, 2 with Steward of Gondor is excellent. A simple but impactful attachment.
(x1) Hauberk of Mail (Erkenbrand): and for 1 resource without using a restricted slot is a great deal. The health boost basically provides 1 free shadow cancellation for Erkenbrand.
(x2) Light of Valinor (Glorfindel): The catalyst for Glorfindel to contribute in two phases per round.
(x1) Magic Ring (Erkenbrand): Serves multiple purposes here and its utility is deceptively useful. Resource generation in the early game (ex. to attach Steward of Gondor immediately or act like it temporarily) makes the first few rounds flow better. Because of Armored Destrier and Denethor's scrying, Erkenbrand isn't usually starving for actions but when surges happen anyway or siege questing is needed, the readying ability is very useful. Erkenbrand will usually need to use his hero ability 2-5 times during a game, so multiple healing cards is important, Magic Ring serves as one of four options in this deck. The increases are countered by Sneak Attack, Gandalf and The Galadhrim's Greeting.
(x1) Round Shield (Erkenbrand): Since the card cost is free, it is worthwhile in the early game when some quests make you scramble against a strong enemy. Erkenbrand taking damage from the enemy attack and from his shadow cancellation depletes his health quickly, so this card reduces the painful double dipping. Of course it is restricted, so can be dropped in favor of Armored Destrier and Gondorian Shield (or when a shadow/treachery makes you discard an attachment).
(x2) Steward of Gondor (Erkenbrand): Serves as fuel for Blood of Numenor, boost to Gondorian Shield and payment for Heed the Dream. It can also pay for expensive cards (ex. neutral ones or through A Good Harvest / The Storm Comes).
(x1) Thorongil (Glorfindel): has more expensive cost cards than (with generally higher priority), so allows Glorfindel to help pay for those cards (or when Glorfindel has to play double-duty because Denethor was chosen as the target for an ugly Condition). Not to be underestimated, also allows Glorfindel to heal which although expensive, can be a great stop-gap measure until the healing allies appear. Glorfindel healing a few choice times has contributed to a shocking number of quest victories. Can be attached to Denethor or Eowyn but I've never found that to be impactful enough to be worthwhile.
(x1) Unexpected Courage (Denethor): Unexpected Courage allows Denethor to trigger his ability twice so that he can scry/bury/exhaust even after burying another card. With this one attachment, Denethor goes from influencing the encounter card to steering it. Regardless, I only have one core set so I couldn't include a second copy but I honestly don't know if I would anyway (i.e. too much Unexpected Courage stops making it unexpected).
(x1) Windfola (Eowyn or Glorfindel): Allows Eowyn to reach 5 that can be re-applied to the quest. Although it is her horse (i.e. Rohan heroes need horses), can be attached to Glorfindel when that is appropriate. Basically my replacement for Silver Circlet since I wanted a boost in Spirit that didn't need to wait for Light of Valinor.
(17 of 50) Explanation of Allies
Angbor the Fearless: Solid stats outside valor and amazing stats inside. This deck usually isn't in valor but when it does happen, Angbor becomes a mini-Glorfindel.
Arwen Undomiel: She is great at providing dynamic lasting the entire round which can be applied to ANYONE. I've even used her ability on Wilyador for the Journey to Rhosgobel (i.e. grab a random weak enemy and have Erkenbrand defend against it, using Armored Destrier to remove the Shadow Card from the can only attack/defend using eagles/ranged enemies so that Wilyador can safely defend, freeing up Legolas to attack). Because of her ability, she can also provide 2 for siege quests.
Faramir: Expensive but provides a suitable impact for the cost. Basically converts Leadership resources into every round.
(x2) Gandalf: No surprises here, versatility personified, he can solve all sorts of problems.
Gleowine: A core set gem that hasn't diminished in value; somewhat boring but that doesn't mean he isn't effective. An extra card every round for a one-time cost of 2 resource is a bargain.
Haleth: Good willpower, card draw and equally suited to battle quests. The deck is usually successfully questing and Haleth finds an attachment at the same probability so her ability provides a good return.
Honour Guard: Healthy and can protect other 1 allies. Honour Guard is very useful in specific quests where his damage cancellation can be applied to ANYONE.
Imladris Stargazer: Her ability is subdued but always useful and immensely powerful in certain quests. When combined with other forms of card draw or repeated shuffling (i.e. Haleth or Master of the Forge), her ability acts as catalyst to make everything work that much better. True, she doesn't actually draw a card but arranging the next 5 cards for maximum impact makes it feel that way. Beyond just reaching the best card first, allows some reordering so a card is drawn when resources are available to pay for it.
Ioreth: She is free to play and when she does heal, it is impactful for the cost.
Legolas: Good , great hair, consistent card draw and has the useful ranged trait.
Master of the Forge: Some overlap with Haleth but that is fine since they operate differently. Draining the deck of attachments, even when finding duplicates means other cards surface faster.
Nori: The only way to repeatedly bring discards back into the deck which is great way to play events more than once. He has great synergy with card shuffling and card draw in general, with his ability being useful in quests. He is usually not the highest priority Tactics card to play but that is fine, his role is situational.
Pippin: Pippin provides and can also provide offense against stronger opponents.
Quickbeam: Quickbeam has best stats for cost in the game and is a battle quest delight. Not to be forgotten, Treebeard can pay his cost. The deck doesn't have weapon attachments, so Quickbeam helps in this regard since 3 for 2 cost is a great deal.
Treebeard: Yes, he is exhausted for the round when he enters play but that is a small price to pay for an elite contributor. Playing him on the opening round is like adding a 5th hero (with stats that make Glorfindel envious) that can contribute in every type of quest and every type of action, often multiple times per round. It feels wrong to play him from your opening hand (i.e. using up all your resources so no other costed cards can be played) but outside of getting Light of Valinor and/or Steward of Gondor into play, Treebeard is usually the strongest way to start. Let his resources pile up and he becomes the best safety valve for those 1 or 2 rounds where catastrophe occurs.
Warden of Healing: The best healer who can quickly clean up a lot of damage. When damage is piling up, makes a great target for Heed the Dream or Gather Information. His 1 is a concern but since he is impactful quickly, his entry can be delayed until he has something to do (i.e. if the team has taken little or no damage then he can come into play later).
(11 of 50) Explanation of Events
(x2) A Good Harvest: Great card for paying high cost non-neutral cards and for when a hand has an unbalanced sphere assortment. The conceptual idea is for one copy to each of Haleth and Legolas, although that is obviously more in theory than in practice.
(x2) A Test of Will: Ignoring the worst When Revealed effects is great, it is even sometimes worthwhile to want a Treachery to happen so that significant progress can happen. Two copies is sufficient since Denethor also buries the worst encounter cards.
(x1) Hail of Stones: A card that should get a lot more praise. Normal enemies (i.e. not bosses) are usually of two types, heavy combat stats without much else of note or light combat stats with something annoying about them (ex. stays in staging area, has a painful engagement penalty, attacks out of sequence). The light combat stat enemies generally have 1 to 4 which makes them a great target for this card which also works on unique enemies. This deck has lots of allies that can keep an action free to be added to the damage of this card. Even Ioreth, she cannot attack or defend but she can certainly exhaust, put that old lady to work!
(x2) Heed the Dream: Always good to find the exact card you need. When not sure what is needed, grab the best card draw ally (i.e. Gleowine, Haleth, Imladris Stargazer, Legolas, Master of the Forge), depending on what resources are available and the current board state.
(x1) Revealed in Wrath: A nice versatility counterpart to Hail of Stones (i.e. better to have one of each than two of either). Can neuter the worst opponents at the perfect time.
(x2) Sneak Attack: Two copies is a must. That way finding Sneak Attack before Gandalf is at least a 50/50 (i.e. having a Sneak Attack without a Gandalf is a waste so you want to maximize the probability of seeing both).
(x1) The Galadhrim's Greeting: Can be played after the higher priority Spirit cards for a nice reduction. Costs a lot but again, can be paid for later without a reduction of impact.
(x1) The White Council: A very nice versatile card that is usually ignored. It is normally played as a one-time Errand Rider to pay for cards early (like Steward of Gondor in the opening hand) or as a way to bring back an important discard. Nori can only bring back the top discard while White Council can bring back anything (plus includes a courtesy shuffle), making Nori ineffective at recursion when a key card is buried underneath a bunch of others. And anyway, Nori with The White Council have synergy; it can bring back Nori if he is in the discard pile and Nori can return the favor by bringing back The White Council for use in further recursion of deeply buried cards. The readying and card draw are solid options too.
(2 of 50) Explanation of Side Quests (aside from their obvious usage, can be used to short-circuit certain quests that act differently depending on what the current quest card entails).
A Storm Comes: Combined with good card draw and resource generation, allows allies to quickly gather.
Gather Information: A good card for turtling with a useful benefit.