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|Stealing The Initiative v2.0||8||6||0||1.0|
Some Sort 1285
RingsDB currently contains 680 decks. Of those 680, five contain the card "Taking Initiative". Of those five, two are duplicate decks and a third is a gimmick deck that contains every single card in the game. So really just two decks are using it.
Let's go ahead and make that three, because while Taking Initiative sucks in 99% of decks, it does the opposite of suck in this one.
The whole point of this deck is to have a massive first planning phase. To give an example from testing against Journey Along the Anduin, I entered the quest phase one time with Bill the Pony, two Rivendell Scouts, and Treebeard on the board, a Resourceful on Pippen, another Resourceful in my hand, and six points of damage already on the Hill Troll. This wasn't a one-in-a-million start; I usually get starts this good maybe one time out of five.
The engine behind the deck is Timely Aid and a ton of super-beefy allies. The engine behind that engine is a trio of 0-cost card draw cards. Daeron's Runes and Deep Knowledge need no introduction, other than to note that, because we start with a pathetically low 14 threat, we can actually play all three Deep Knowledges on the first turn and still be in secrecy range for a Timely Aid.
The third zero-cost draw card, as I've mentioned, is Taking Initiative. It is normally extremely finicky to land, but in this deck it will rarely whiff. (This is one of the rare instances where using two heroes is an asset, not a liability.) It helps that fifteen of the cards in the deck have a printed cost of two or more, but play for one resource or fewer thanks to secrecy or other discounts.
Before we've played any allies, there are only nine cards that will cause Taking Initiative to fizzle, and one of them is the Taking Initiative that you're currently playing. Knowing nothing about the rest of our opening hand we have around an 84% success rate. With a success rate that high, it's not at all uncommon to find ourselves drawing ten extra cards on the first turn.
If we already have an ally in play, the deck contains 33 3-or-more cost cards, so we're still significantly more likely to hit than not with the Taking Initiative. With two allies in play, we still hit on 27 of our cards. With three allies in play, Taking Initiative isn't going to do much, (but by the time we have three allies in play, we don't really need it anymore).
In your opening hand you really want to see a Timely Aid or, absent that, at least two pieces of card draw. Play all your card draw first to ensure that you don't get an ally out and then draw into Taking Initiative later in the planning phase. Then, once your hand is maxed out, drop any Timely Aids, Bills the Pony, Rivendell Scouts, or Resourcefuls you've managed to bank. Odds are great that you'll have three or four turns in secrecy; by the time you come out of it, you'll have enough Resourcefuls to just pay for your allies the old-fashioned way.
You might note that I use Gandalf instead of Gandalf. This is because 14 starting threat gives me plenty of time in secrecy, (and allows me to easily afford Gandalf's extra cost), Taking Initiative gives me some of direct damage, and I've already got tons of card draw. I usually prefer to have Beefy Ally Gandalf hanging out helping murderize stuff.
Against some quests, though, I'll gladly sideboard in Core Set Gandalf and some Sneak Attacks. (If I'm going this route, I'll sometimes sideboard in Ally Elrond, too, and possibly Ally Beorn to take advantage of those Sneak Attacks.) The rest of my sideboard includes various other beefy allies if I want to change the mix up a bit, some attachments if I'm going against a quest with a lot of ally hate and need to buff up my heroes a bit, and some versatile, cheap event cards. Mix them in and out to best suit the quest you're going up against next.