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Some Sort 1563
So, I had a deck designed to infinitely recur Reinforcements. The effect is versatile and the deck was really fun to play, offering probably more decision points per round than any other deck I've played, including pre-errata Caldara. (Sample round: do you Reinforce during planning, questing, or combat? Which two allies do you bring in? Which players get control of them? If you're bringing in Gandalf or Elrond, which "enters play" ability do you trigger? Odds are at any given point there's multiple players who want threat reduction and multiple players who want card draw and multiple enemies who need dispatching, but also you could probably use a bit of extra willpower during the quest phase and also it'd be great if you could smooth out engagements and maybe somebody needs some healing.)
The two biggest problems were basically
- when playing Reinforcements once per round, you could either contribute to the quest or to combat, but not both, and
- The recursion combo was really, really finicky. It was easy to screw up and often irreparable if you did.
Here's that original sequence, from the old deck description: "Basically, you want to reach the following board state: Reinforcements in hand (along with two allies, preferably), Tome of Atanatar in play, the rest of your deck in the discard.
From there, you (A) Play Reinforcements and drop two allies. (B) Blow up Tome of Atanatar to play the Second Breakfast in your discard. That Second Breakfast pulls the Tome of Atanatar you just blew up back into your hand, and then the Second Breakfast becomes the only card in your deck. (C) Play the Tome of Atanatar again. End the round.
(A) Draw a card, (Second Breakfast). (B) Blow up Tome of Atanatar to play Reinforcements from your discard. Reinforcements is now the only card in your deck. (C) Play Second Breakfast to pull back the Tome of Atanatar and play it again. End the round.
Next round you'll draw Reinforcements you're right back at your starting board state again. The entire sequence costs 6 resources per round."
See? Lots of steps! And if you accidentally forget and blow up your Tome of Atanatar to recur a Reinforcements when you were supposed to recur a Second Breakfast, that's it, no more infinite Reinforcements.
This deck is a result of my effort to solve both of those problems. It still has the Tome and the Second Breakfast, and they're important for getting everything set up just right, but once you're set up you can ignore them. The new loop is this:
- Get two copies of Reinforcements in hand and one on top of your discard.
- Empty your deck.
- Play Reinforcements.
- Play Reinforcements.
- Draw two cards.
- Repeat from step 3.
You see, you don't need all those fancy extras to recur Reinforcements; if you reinforce the right ally, Reinforcements is self-recurring. The right ally, in this case, would be the Galadhrim Weaver. When she enters play, she shuffles the top card of your discard into your deck. If the top card of your discard is a Reinforcements, and if your deck is empty, then she takes that Reinforcements and puts it on top of your deck for you.
So to keep the loop going, every time you play Reinforcements one of the two allies you select MUST be a Galadhrim Weaver, and she MUST be put into play under your own control. The second ally can be anything you want, still.
(Technically, you can Reinforce two non-Weavers so long as your next Reinforcements is two Weavers to make up for it, and even if you don't do that you can often use the Tome and Second Breakfast to save the loop, but... I mean, unless you have a seventh-degree black belt in jank, just save yourself the effort and always Reinforce a Weaver.)
So the loop is simplified, but it isn't dramatically changed. In the old loop, you spent 6 resources a round to reinforce 2 allies. In the new loop, you spend 6 resources a round to reinforce 2 Galadhrim Weavers and 2 allies. On the surface, it's not a net gain, it's just a simplification.
But digging deeper, it's actually a net gain, too. Since you don't have to play both Reinforcements in the same phase, you're now capable of contributing both to the quest AND to combat. And also, since you don't have to Reinforce during the same phase, instead of reinforcing Core Gandalf plus your second-best option, you can now reinforce Core Gandalf twice. This is a straight value gain.
Also, because the loop is much simpler, it can easily be increased to more than twice per round provided you have enough resource generation and card draw-- one extra Reinforcements for every three extra resources. (And, oh yeah, Core Gandalf just happens to handle all that card draw, too, another example of how the only thing required to recur Reinforcements is Reinforcements.)
On the hunt for resource generation, enter Glóin + Citadel Plate. The old dwarf is famous for his ability to spit out money every time he's punched in the mouth. Typically decks designed around that engine rely on damaging him up little by little and healing it off little by little. With Reinforcements, we don't need to mess with that "little by little" nonsense; reinforce Ally Elrond and you can remove all damage in one fell swoop for just three resources.
The end result is... kind of something else. I took it for a tune-up run against Journey Down the Anduin and wound up with a sub-optimal starting hand. I had to use Heed the Dream to fetch another Heed the Dream to fetch a Sneak Attack just so I didn't fail the first quest phase and get stuck facing the Hill Troll right off the bat.
But despite that, I managed to empty my entire deck by the end of round 4, and by the end of round 6 I had set everything up to recur Reinforcements four times per round, every round, in perpetuity.
How? Théodred + his ability nets two resources per round. Beravor + Song of Kings + Steward of Gondor nets three resources per round. Gloin nets one resource per round and then gets hit by the Hill Troll for 6 (minimum), getting a total of 7. Then the three Errand-riders move two to Theodred and one to Beravor, giving me four on every hero, enough for four Reinforcements, (three Gandalfs and one Elrond to heal off the damage again).
Everything else in the deck is designed to keep you alive until you get to that point. Beorn is your best weapon against enemies who are immune to Gandalf's direct damage. Elrond gets you healing if you need it and draw if you don't. Mablung is an underrated ally with one of the most powerful "enters play" abilities in the pool; he can be used to avoid inconvenient engagements while setting up, and you can also drop him after resolving attacks against you to pull down an enemy and strike back. You can also play him straight using Beravor's resources and use him as a quester or a chump blocker if needed.
The Tome of Atanatar and Second Breakfast are there so you can play lots of Sneak Attacks and Reinforcements in the first few rounds without worrying about getting the setup right. The Galadhrim Weaver only recurs the top card of your discard, so it's a bad thing if your Reinforcements are buried several cards deep. Tome of Atanatar can pull them back into your deck, back into your hand, and back to the top of your discard again.
A Good Harvest is useful to get the Citadel Plates out without a tempo hit from Song of Battle, and it's also useful to enable you to play Reinforcements if you haven't seen your Song of Kings yet.
Errand-riders can serve as chumps in an emergency, but try to avoid it where possible, because you'll need all three of them to move Gloin's resources off if you want to play four Reinforcements per round. (If you're content only playing three times per round, only one Errand-rider needs to make it through alive.)
As mentioned, Steward of Gondor goes on Beravor to minimize the amount of smoothing you have to do with your resources, since Theodred and Gloin have their own built-in acceleration.
Song of Mocking is only useful in multiplayer, but Reinforcements is so much more fun in multiplayer that I included it in the base deck. If you're playing solo, you can either leave it in and ignore it, or else you can substitute it out for the three We Are Not Idles to thin your deck some.
As far as other allies, Reinforcements is flexible, but most allies are just going to be strictly inferior to Core Set Gandalf. Marksman of Lórien is incredibly powerful, but she can't compare with Core Set Gandalf when he's turned to the "direct damage" setting. Galadhrim Minstrel, Lindir, and Sarn Ford Sentry offer potentially powerful draw effects, but 99% of the time you'll be better off with Core Set Gandalf's generic "draw 3". Galadhrim Healer pales in comparison to Ally Elrond, etc.
With that said, if you ever need powerful defenders with built-in action advantage, both Boromir and Háma can fill the role. If you're ever paired with a Rohan deck, they'll go nuts if you drop Éomund during every quest stage. Likewise, if your partner deck is running Outlands, Reinforce two more Ethir Swordsmen under their control during the quest phase and see what happens to their total willpower.
Guardian of Ithilien is a direct downgrade from Mablung except for the fact that he's not unique, which means you can play a couple copies without interfering with your ability to use him as a reinforcement, too. (Also good if you're ever paired with Hero Mablung.)
Alternately, for funsies, you could hard-cast an Eagles of the Misty Mountains and then use Reinforcements to stuff every other Eagle in the game underneath them until they had a stat line that would make Sauron himself feel a little self-conscious. It's not as powerful, but really, it's all about unlocking those achievements, right?
One weakness of the deck is questing. While you're getting set up, your heroes will be questing for 3, (Theodred and Gloin). If you sneak in a Gandalf, that's 7. If you Reinforce in both Gandalf and Elrond, that's 10. If you hard-cast a Mablung, that's 12. When your deck is gone, you can add Beravor for 14. That's about the upper limit available to you. Enemies are easy to clear out, but it's possible to get location locked if you're not careful. If you have a partner deck, they can help out here. Even if you don't have a partner deck, you should have plenty to get by solo as long as you're paying attention.
Long-term, the solution to this problem is the spoiled ally Meneldor in an upcoming adventure pack, who does to locations what Gandalf does to enemies. He will be an automatic include in this deck when released.
The Weavers are also a weak point of this build; anything that kills them off can wreck your day. Don't quest with them when Necromancer's Reach is a possibility, and be wary of bringing them in during combat if there are any shadow effects that can drop direct damage on the entire board at once. (As I mentioned, if you want to be extra cautious, you can reinforce two non-Weaver allies during Questing, then offset by reinforcing two Weavers during travel or the encounter phase. Then reinforce two non-Weavers during combat and finally reinforce two Weavers during the refresh phase.)
The other big weakness of the deck is shadow cards, especially ones that are extra vicious if the attack is undefended, (since we're just taking most attacks undefended, assigning the damage to Gloin, and healing it off). If you're facing a quest that has a lot of those, feel free to sub in Balin for Theodred. The lost resource generation slows the deck down a good bit, but the extra peace of mind is worth the sacrifice.
Also, like, this is probably common sense and all, but... don't bring this deck against any quest where you lose if you run out of deck.