Tame & Flame: a Radagast + Gandalf Deck

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Derived from
The BEARST Deck - Radagast BEST-ish One Deck 31 25 12 1.0
Inspiration for
Saruman Containment Unit 10 10 10 1.0
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Imrahil13 1042

"I am the servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor..." - Gandalf the Gray

As one of my favorite characters, I've made a lot of Radagast decks over the past few years. This particular has become one of my favorites, and is especially thematic. Here, Radagast and Gandalf team up (with their loyal hobbit hunter friend Halfast?) and weild the Secret Fire and Nature's Ire against the Servants of Evil.

EARLY SET-UP

Halfast Gamgee functions like the generic brand Denethor. He'll start the game with 2 Leadership resources, which is importantly enough to play a first round Steward of Gondor onto Radagast and begin fueling the ally engine. Halfast actually does have some advantages over Denethor. First, I find the theme of a curious hobbit hunter befriending the two Istari and joining them on some adventures much more palatable than having the Steward of Gondor himself present. Second, being a hobbit, Halfast super-charges the three copies of Drinking Song, which facilitates finding copies of key cards early. Halfast is also a better quester than Denethor (which is nice because he's only going to be questing and Expert Treasure-huntering every round anyways, and finally he keeps your starting threat at a very respectable 30.

Ideally, you want to get Steward and Radagast's Staff out as early as possible, and some Messenger Ravens and Expert Treasure-hunters are valuable as well, since they offer exceptional drawing power thanks to Gandalf's perfect top-deck knowledge.

After the early game, Halfast is valuable in providing Leadership sphere for the Messenger Ravens (which you'll likely want to pickup and replay from time to time via their Refresh Action) and Sneak Attack. Should you have to lose a hero and Halfast succumbs to the Encounter Deck, Gandalf can still give you access to these Leadership cards by virtue of both his "play from the top of the deck" ability in conjunction with some Wizard Pipes and also by virtue of Narya eventually granting him the Leadership icon.

CARD DRAW

In addition to the Expert Treasure-hunters and Messenger Ravens which offer reliable card draw every round, the deck also sports Daeron's Runes, Drinking Song, and Word of Command. With regard to Daerun's Runes, when it comes time to discard a card don't be afraid to pitch a Beorn, Giant Bear, or Eagle ally. Even in the discard pile, you'll still have access to these cards. The Beorning Skin-changer can transform into a discarded Beorn/Bear, and playing the Wind-Lord Gwaihir will allow recovering a discarded eagle. Be efficient in your use of Word of Command - if your hand is 'meh' rather than fishing for that one particular toolbox card you're looking for, it may often be better to grab a Drinking Song with your search and reset with an entirely new hand, a new hand that is pretty likely to itself include more card draw and/or the particular card you're after. This deck started with 3x Word of Command, but I found the draw engine was so reliable I've since whittled it down to just a singular copy for some context-specific tech.

HIT POINTS

An interesting note about this deck is that It's possible to have a staggering ~70 hit points on the board. Thanks to the unusually beefy allies, it can soak up direct damage from treachery and archery effects exceedingly well. A copy of Ioreth exists to provide some healing, and she can heal a 3 damage Bear/Eagle back up to full if needed, while a pair of Loyal Hounds offer some emergency bodyguard services, as does Landroval. It's worth noting that Landroval cannot save Halfast (since he's an ally once he hits the discard pile), and since Radagast will often have the more important attachments (ideally he'll have his Staff, Steward, Song of Battle, Gondorian Shield, Wizard Pipe, and Expert Treasure-hunter) this means your ideal emergency-usage for Landroval would be to save Gandalf in situations where you must lose a hero. At worst, you may lose Gandalf's Staff and Narya, but that's not too bad. Note that it may be possible to use certain action windows to Sneak Attack either Landroval or a Loyal Hound into play in order to discard-them and save the life of a hero.

When assigning direct damage, always prioritize damage onto allies that might be discarded soon anyways for another effect, such as the Beorning Skin-changers, Loyal Hounds, or Meneldor.

QUESTING POTENTIAL

One thing combat-capable decks often make some concessions toward is WP, but this deck is able to maintain a respectable WP total. The heroes can quest for 7 WP right out of the gate, and Radagast will almost always quest unexhausted. Then, you've got access to six eagle allies with 2 WP and some 1 WP tech allies that are often readily avaialable to help quest (Ravens, Skin-Changers,Landroval, Hounds). Questing is not the deck's strongest phase, but it can certainly shoulder it's fair share of questing duites.

The deck is also sporting two copies of Meneldor, who can do absolute wonders against locations. As demanded by the quest, this deck has a handful of tricks to play those two copies of Meneldor multiple times via Sneaks or Gwaihir-revival (or Sneaking Gwaihir for multiple Meneldor revivals, even). Important Note: if Gwaihir is a future play option, it's often best to resist the urge to tuck Meneldor under the Eagles of the Misty Mountains, as Gwaihir's ability to fish him back into play from the discard pile may be more worthwhile. In a deck that leverages the advantage of his winged talents, Meneldor is arguably one of the best player cards in the entire game, and certainly one of my favorites.

COMBAT FEROCITY

Now we're solidly in this deck's wheelhouse. The combat phase is where this deck can adaptively dominate the Encounter Deck with a flurry of shrieking beaks, gnashing teeths, and wizard flame-blizzards.

This deck is all about squeezing efficiency out of its allies. With Narya and Radagast's Staff, one can do quite a few things with the Bears and Beorn.

For instance, in the combat phase you might Sneak Attack a Skin-Changer. The Skin-Changer could then exhaust to block a weaker enemy, then, after it survives the attack can transform into a Giant Bear from your hand/discard. The Bear could then block/attack and be readied by Narya to become a 5 ATK / 4 DEF. It could retain this stat boost and then block again. Radagast's Staff could ready for it yet another block or attack. Finally, if it was an emergency, it could ready itself via its own ability and put up yet one block/attack. That single Sneak Attack that resulted in potentially 1 Skin-Changer block and 3-4 combat exahusts with a 4 ATK / 5 DEF Bear. It's a rare quest where one would need so much combat mileage out of one ally in one phase, but it's there if you need it.

Narya works really well in conjunction with Radagast's Staff. Being able to ready the Eagles with their decent generalist stats or the Giant Bears with their unrivaled combat ferocity is exceptional, and that Gandalf's Narya can ready the ally first and give it +1/+1 to retain through Radagast's ready as well is quite nice. The Narya trick is especially solid with Beorn (who's likely in play via either a Skin-Chagner or Sneak) as Beorn can attack an enemy and use his +5 ATK boost ability. Then, as part of that attack resoultion, Gandalf can use Narya to ready Beorn and bring him up to 9 ATK. The now-readied Beorn can then attack a second enemy this phase with his 9 ATK before shuffling back into the deck.

A similar trick is possible with Flame of Anor. Should a readied Gandalf/Radagast need to throw up two big attacks, you can use Pipe + Flame of Anor to have the wizard attack with a top-decked expensive ally (let's say Beorn, for the +6 ATK) twice. The wizard exhausts to be declared as an attacker, then in the action window before attack resolution you use Flame of Anor to ready and get the +6 ATK. After this attack, the readied wizard can attack again and use his +6 ATK for one more attack this round. Thanks to the expensive Creature allies and Beorn, there are 11 cards (>20% of the deck) with a cost of 4+ to super-charge the Flame of Arnor spells.

Though, it's important to wield the Secret Fire wisely. It's ATK-boosting potential is nice, but even just as a 1-cost neutral event that can ready a wizard it's very useful. Maybe Radagast needs to ready to throw up one more block with his Gondorian Shield and A Burning Brand. Maybe you need an unexhausted hero to claim an objective or pay a travel cost, in which case Flame of Anor has you covered.

The Sneak Attack tricks in this deck are pretty deep. If you directly Sneak a Giant Bear in the combat phase, definitely use up both of it's block/attacks via it's ability, since it will still return to your hand because you can resolve the Sneak effect first (same with Beorn's attack boost effect). Gwaihir, Meneldor, and even Landroval have abilities that can be exploited with Sneak Attack, and I've even used Sneak during an attack to slip a Loyal Hound into play in order to save a hero's life from a shadow-effect ATK Boost that would have otherwise killed the defender. But of course the big one is to Sneak a Skin-Changer into play in the combat phase and then discard it to put a Giant Bear or Beorn into play, which then gets to remain in play. Note: since the Skin-Changer doesn't need to be readied for its ability, try to use up some utility from them any turn you know they will be transforming... eg have them quest with their 1 WP or exhaust them to pay effects or in a pinch even risk a block against a weenie enemy before transforming.

Between the sneak attacks, transformations, and secret fires of Anor, this deck can rapidly and adaptively respond to combat pressures. When playing this deck, I draw great enjoyment imaging how utterly shocked the enemies must be when they set upon a bunch of exhausted heroes only to suddenly find themeselves surpirsed by a bunch of hidden bears and fireballs.

WEAKNESSES

This is not intended to be a One Deck (been there, done that with Radagast already: see The BEARST Deck). As such, this deck definitely has a few vulnerabilities to particular quests, but the core engine is brutally efficient and capable of having many quests, even in 1-Handed.

The most glaring vulnerability is that it doesn't sport any cancellation control cards (e.g. A Test of Will), so quests with painful "cancel or lose" treacheries, like from the early cycles, may be obnoxious. This can be assuaged somewhat by pairing this deck in mutliplayer with a Spirit-toting partner deck, if needed (that said, this deck can absorb a lot of pain, and I've beaten a couple of quests in Against the Shadow despite getting hit by things like The Master's Malice, because the allies are so generally tough with 4+ HP that they can weather quite a few storms).

Aother potenial weakness is Threat Control, as I have only included a single copy of Favor of the Valar. This will be a problem in some particularly punishing threat-ramping quests, but this issue can be addressed by splashing in some threat control (maybe Favor of the Valar or off-sphere by Gandalfable cards like Double Back or The Galadhrim's Greeting. But in many quests, the 30 Starting Threat is low enough and the deck is quick enough that Threat will not be an issue.

This deck quests moderately well, but does not sport the raw WP of many other decks and many find certain questing roadblocks. If one desired more questing power, a few creatures could be replaced with Hobbits like Merry, Pippin, and Robin Smallburrow. 2-cost-for-2-WP is a pretty good deal, and one could add in Bill the Pony (creature for Radagast) to buff the halfling's resiliency a bit.

Prisoner quests, where you start down one or more heroes (e.g., Escape from Dol Goldur, Escape from Mount Gram, Cirith Gurant, The Uruk-Hai) are potentially problematic. That said, both Gandalf and Radagast have tricks to pay for off-sphere cards, and the Songs of Battle mean that even a Steward'ed Halfast could pay for most of the allies. Certainly not ideal, not designed with such quests in mind, but at least these quests aren't utterly hopeless prospects.

Healing is also absent from this deck aside from Ioreth, which could become an issue in a couple of the most extreme damage-heavy quests, though the general toughness of the allies may provide some breathing room. If one desired more healing in the deck a Waters of Nimrodel could do wonders and, with this lineup, could heal dozens of damage in one usage.

7 comments

Jan 16, 2022 GreenWizard 276

I love your use of Halfast Gamgee over Denethor. Quite clever!

Jan 18, 2022 doomguard 1419

would replace 2 Flame of Anor with Gwaihir's Debt if doing so add 2 unique eagles (+1 Meneldor +1 Landroval

attackforce will soon be enough, so i think it does not need 3 Flame of Anor and a (big) eagle, cheap and early on with Gwaihir's Debt is nice.

Jan 18, 2022 Imrahil13 1042

Hi @doomguard

Yea, Gwaihir's Debt is such a power card, I love it. But I ended up leaving it out since it's a card that's not immediately usable in an opening hand, and while it's easy enough for Tame + Flame to setup the requirements (Tactics / Gandalf's top-deck + Unique Eagle) my decision was that I'd rather be devoting those efforts to other things.

I actually think the Flame of Anor has some utility beyond the Gwaihir's Debt (in addition to being playable and potentially useful at any point).

First, the ability to ready an Istari is it's real value (frequently I'll ready Radagast for an additional block and not even worry about the +ATK, or it can be useful to help an exhausted Istari avoid "does not ready in the Refresh phase" or "exhaust a hero(s)" sorts of treacheries and shadow effects).

Second, Flame of Anor has some fringe benefit in quests where "only 1 character can attack" (eg We Must Away, Dreadnaught, etc.).

Third, if raw attack power is what you need, Flame of Anor is generally better. It's pretty trivial for the deck to set up a +4 to +6 ATK boost that can be used against two enemies (which will far outstrip whatever ATK boost two eagles will provide, which is at best 6 total attack devotable to singular attacks.

Forth, fireballs to the face are super cool, hehe, so maybe my preference for it is a bit of a matter of taste.

Ultimately, though, Gwaihir's Debt is an exceptional card too, and squeezing it into the deck is likely to yield some good mileage (though even with additional copies of Meneldor and Landroval added to the deck, at best a Gwaihir's Debt would be searching for an eagle with a 7/50 chance of finding one (though Gandalf could set it up on top-deck stuff).

Thanks!

Jan 18, 2022 doomguard 1419

understandable, ecspecially the only 1 hero can attack-thing, have played dreadbough myself lately and got those pesky pirate ^^ hallofbeorn.com

Jan 18, 2022 Imrahil13 1042

Haha, yes.

Ophidian can be such a problem because against most decks he can extend the game for several rounds. Unfortunately for him, evertime he's smugly hopped aboard my boat I've had either T-Eowyn (different deck), Gandalf + Beorn/discard Flame of Anor, or Beorn ally + Narya's +1 ATK ready for him...

Jan 18, 2022 doomguard 1419

beorn with narya is just a bomb 2 attacks with str 9 is nuts ^^

Jan 18, 2022 Imrahil13 1042

Yea, this deck does a really good job of approximating t-Eowyn's once-per-game emergecny attack once or twice every round. Heh.