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The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game appeals to a lot of players who have never before delved into deck-building, and I’ve recently heard a lot of players talk about the challenges they face in building fun and successful player decks. I just recently built a new deck that I really like, so I thought I’d share it here and explain some of the decisions that went into it.
My latest creation is a Tactics and Spirit deck with a focus on the Ranged keyword. The deck uses the heroes Bard the Bowman, Legolas, and the Glorfindel from Foundations of Stone. It’s a lot of fun to play, it excels at both questing and fighting, and it shines in both solo and cooperative play.
Building Around a Theme
My inspiration for this deck was the Great Yew Bow. I wanted to play with heroes who could use it to destroy enemies in the staging area. That’s why I chose Bard and Legolas. But in order to use the Great Yew Bow effectively throughout a game, I have to be able to keep my threat below the engagement costs of the enemies in the staging area. That meant I needed to keep my starting threat low and find enough Willpower to quest successfully each round. Those concerns led me to choose Glorfindel as my third hero. His low starting threat, combined with his high Willpower, made him the perfect counterpart to my archers. Also, his Noldor trait and Spirit icon allow me to reduce my threat with Elrond's Counsel and cancel When Revealed effects with A Test of Will.
Once I had selected my three starting heroes, the rest of the deck came together quickly. As long as I stuck to my central theme of eliminating enemies before they could engage with me, it was easy to decide which cards fit and which ones didn’t. In the end, I had constructed a deck that I couldn’t wait to see in action.
When I play a scenario with this deck, I hope to find any combination of several key cards in my opening hand. If I don’t see them, I’ll usually use my mulligan to try again:
Light of Valinor. If I draw this card in my opening hand, I will almost certainly keep that hand because it means that Glorfindel will never exhaust to quest, and I won’t have to raise my threat for his ability. It also means that Glorfindel can combine his three Attack Strength with Legolas to destroy the enemies that do engage me.
Horn of Gondor. This is the only card in the deck that can provide me with additional resources, so the earlier I draw it the better. I like to play it on Glorfindel since he’s my only Spirit hero.
Great Yew Bow. In a solo game, this card is the heart of the deck. Much of the deck is designed around keeping enemies in the staging area (or sending them back to the staging area) so that Bard and Legolas can shoot them down with this Weapon attachment.
Envoy of Pelargir. A first turn Envoy of Pelargir usually allows me to play two allies on my first turn. Since both Glorfindel and Legolas have the Noble trait, I can use the Envoy’s ability to shift a resource to the sphere that needs it. For example, this allows me to spend one resource apiece from Bard and Legolas’ resource pools to play the Envoy and give Glorfindel a resource. Glorfindel then has two resources to spend on either Escort from Edoras or Arwen Undómiel.
Unexpected Courage. An Unexpected Courage on Bard the Bowman allows him to quest with his two Willpower and still contribute his formidable Attack Strength each round.
Playing the Deck
During a game, I like every deck I build to be able to accomplish a number of tasks: quest successfully, defend against enemy attacks, destroy enemies, draw additional cards, and reduce threat. This deck can do all of these and frequently finds ways of doing two or more of them at once.
As an example, I can play Hands Upon the Bow with Legolas during the quest phase to destroy an enemy in the staging area and place progress on the quest. This not only prevents that enemy from engaging with me, but it lowers the total threat strength in the staging area, making it easier for my other characters to quest successfully. Then, I can exhaust a Weapon attached to Legolas to play Foe-hammer. This Response action grants me an additional draw of three cards and increases my options for later phases and turns. If my threat is getting high, I can play Elrond’s Counsel to simultaneously lower my threat and boost Glorfindel’s Willpower, increasing my chances of questing successfully. If an enemy does engage me, I can prevent it from attacking by using A Light in the Dark to return it to the staging area at the end of the encounter phase. Then, during the combat phase, Bard can exhaust his Great Yew Bow to shoot it. In a multiplayer game, I encourage my teammates to engage as many enemies as they can so I can shoot them with Bard and Legolas. If there are too many enemies for my teammates to defend on their own, I can use Arwen’s ability to give my Defender of Rammas an additional point of Defense Strength and Sentinel so that he help defend across the table, or I simply prevent one of those enemies from attacking by playing Feint.
Journeys in Middle-earth
I’ve had a blast playing this deck against a variety of scenarios since I put it together. If you decide to give it a try, I hope you have as much fun with it as I have. Or perhaps reading this article has given you your own idea for a deck you’d like to build instead. Whatever you decide to play, I wish you luck on your adventures in Middle-earth!
-Caleb Grace, Lead Developer. Posted to FFG Website 3/19/13