Shadows Give Way (Battle of Carn Dûm solo progression)

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The Battle of Carn Dûm - 1 Player - 2024-02-11
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Mathrandir 66

A deck that is purpose built to beat Battle of Carn Dûm in true solo, using only cards released until the Angmar Awakened cycle, no saga cards and one Core set.

My goal, as usual, was to build a deck that beats the scenario three times in a row. This deck has only managed two times in a row, but hey… it’s Carn Dûm. Sometimes it just doesn’t matter if you have the perfect draw with the perfect deck. I played this deck (and many many other decks) against Carn Dûm many many times over a period of nine months, and this is the best I’ve come up with. This deck wins regularly. Have you beaten Carn Dûm in true solo three times in a row with the progression card pool? Please post your deck!

I’m gonna assume that you know the scenario well for this write-up. If you don’t, head on over to Vision of the Palantir and read the excellent description of why this is one of the hardest scenarios in the game: https://visionofthepalantir.com/2019/01/24/the-battle-of-carn-dum/

The key card for consistency against Carn Dûm is in the title - Shadows Give Way. It’s the silver bullet for resetting the board state, often discarding four, six or eight shadow cards, preventing Thaurdir from flipping and lowering the threat of the Garrisons. Such a feeling of relief every time you play it, even on the umpteenth attempt. It never gets played in solo, so it’s fun to see it shine here.

Shadows Give Way has to be played from each hero, so everyone needs to be in Spirit. I played a bit with Bi-sphere decks that give the last hero the spirit icon, but ended up going with a true mono-Spirit deck. Three sorceries can come up fast if you’re unlucky, and it’s enough trouble to find one of your copies of Shadows Give Way (and managing everything else the scenario throws at you) that you don’t need the added worry of making every hero Spirit as well. Since I want to win three times in a row, consistency is a big issue.

To even survive to the point where you play Shadows Give Way, you first have to get off Accursed Battlefield. A mono-spirit deck doesn’t exactly shine in Battle. Asfaloth on Glorfindel is the cleanest solution, but the deck can also manage it with the one-time boost of Fair and Perilous, Saruman or Mirkwood Pioneer if the situation is right. In one of my wins, Galadriel Nenya-boosted Glorfindel to make him add 7 to his Att with Fair and Perilous and clear the Battlefield. Good times.

To play Asfaloth (or to pull the stunt above), Galadriel needs Nenya. That’s why there’s three copies of it and why Nenya is your Mulligan target. Galadriel draws an extra card each turn to help you find your silver bullets. UC goes on her to let her use both abilities. Horse-Breeder also looks for Asfaloth, and is a priority early play.

Arwen with Elven Light is your secondary source of extra draw, and she also makes sure you always have two resources on Galadriel when you need them. I prefer to activate Elven Light only in the very early game and only after I’ve played every decent card from hand. Even with the extra resource from Arwen every turn, you will be hard pressed for resources.

If the extra draw isn’t enough (and it isn’t, at least it’s not consistent enough), there’s also three copies of Galadriel’s Mirror to find the cards you need, and two Silver Harps to cancel the random discard from the Mirror (and to cancel Arwen’s discard, and the discards from the scenario - Harp is great in this scenario). In my back-to-back wins I didn’t do a Mirror search without Harp in play, but I’ve certainly done so in other singular wins. Deciding on Mirror timing is one of the hard choices every turn. I prefer to play the Harp before the Mirror, and to activate the mirror after questing and combat when I know I won’t suffer a forced discard.

Ok, let’s say you’ve cleared the Battlefield and played Shadows Give Way to reset the board state. You have Nenya, Asfaloth, Mirror, Harp and one or two allies in play. Usually at this point there’s a bunch of stuff in staging and you’re failing questing by a couple of points each turn. Threat is in the mid 30s, thanks to your low starting threat, and enemies haven’t started to auto-engage. It’s time to start clearing out the staging area.

You have to quest for a lot to keep up with the encounter deck, and this happens to be pretty easy for a mono-Spirit deck. The heroes quest for 10, and two Ethir Swordsmen (f.ex.) quest for another 6. That’s why there are three copies of the Swordsmen. The one copy of Ride Them Down is in the deck for this part. In one of my wins, I Rode Down both Angmar Captains with it (before and after Will of the West). Good times. Another easy thing will be locations in the staging area. Don’t ever travel to them, and let Asfaloth and Northern Tracker take care of them. That’s why there are two copies of the Trackers.

The Swordsmen, the Trackers and Gandalf are the only non-singleton allies in the deck, and thus the only allies vulnerable to the many effects that target non-singletons. Know the effects and play around them to make sure your key allies are never potential targets. Stand and Fight and Will of the West are in the deck as contingencies against this. This also goes for questing - send a chump quester along when you need to.

Treacheries are mostly not so bad, thanks to Shadows Give Way. They have powerful effects on their own as well, but as long as you know them and plan for them in play you can mostly be fine. The Thaurdir flip is the exception to the rule - it has to be canceled both as a When Revealed and as a Shadow, and that’s the reason for two copies each of A Test of Will and Hasty Stroke. A flip at the wrong time often means game over. Some other effects can feel terrible but can mostly be mitigated, so don’t fall for the temptation of canceling them unless they actually mean game over.

Enemies are your main problem, as they are big and you are piloting a mono-Spirit deck. Get to the point where you can engage and kill one enemy each turn. You don’t have a dedicated defender, so this is hard. Gandalf and Treebeard (preferrably with Warden of Healing) are your silver bullets for this part, so try to get Treebeard into play as soon as possible. Remember that there is a X Shadow where X = number of allies, so no attack is safe without Hasty Stroke. +3 is not unusual, and +1 is to be expected.

The 2- and 3-attack enemies can be defended by a number of allies, but be prepared to lose them to shadows. Again, don’t cancel shadows that aren’t a Thaurdir flip. The 4- and 5-attack enemies can reasonably only be defended by Gandalf or Treebeard, or be chump-blocked. Try to avoid chumping them though, as you want to save the chumps for Thaurdir himself. That’s why there are several 1-cost allies. The shadow cards can be devastating, so make sure you can kill every enemy you engage immediately. Use Fair and Perilous for momentum if you have to.

Ok, let’s say you’ve cleared the staging area down to only Thaurdir himself and placed 14 progress on stage 1. This took a lot of turns, you’ve been playing for 90 minutes at maximum concentration and you’re tired. You’ve cleared one or both of the annoying Side Quests and played Shadow Give Way a second time, or maybe a third? You have all your attachments and lots of allies in play, including Treebeard with two counters on him. Probably your hand and resources are depleted and there’s some damage on your characters. Think you can relax? Hell no.

The transition to stage 2 can be brutal. I’ve transitioned with good board states and been wrecked. Thaurdir will attack at least twice for 6, which will cost you two allies. If you get another big enemy off the encounter deck, that can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Don’t get cocky! In both my back-to-back wins, I timed the transition with the encounter deck running out so there wouldn’t be enough shadows to go around. I also had Henamarth out to plan the transition perfectly. Stand and Fight can also save the day here.

If you survive transition, then the next turn you should be able to quest for 20-something, survive the encounter card, defend another 6-Att hit from Thaurdir and attack for 13 to win. Easy!

In closing, this is such a cool scenario. Respect.

1 comments

Feb 13, 2024 doomguard 1877

as i played it, my deck was progression ;) regarding rev-content i think one important card is not. see ringsdb.com

the card of not-rev content is Tome of Atanatar