The Ring Goes South - Specialist Deck Series
The Specialist Deck Series arrives at The Road Darkens expansion and its first quest, The Ring Goes South. In this quest, and for many future ones, I will be moving to a Fellowship rather than a solo deck.
For an explanation of the series and to see the deck for the first quest, look here: https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/18970
There are a number of reasons for this. First is that I usually play two-handed because it's more interesting to me. The second is that there should be a wider variety of deck types that are viable in multiplayer which will hopefully keep things interesting, both for me building the decks and you reading about them. I've mentioned previously that I don't want to keep using the same powerful heroes for every quest - in the previous 5 I've already taken Sam Gamgee 3 times! Even if I do use some heroes a lot, at least there will also be a chance to showcase some more niche ones as well. A third reason is that I think some of the Saga questd are just more fun to play in multiplayer. So for this Saga expansion I'll be switching to Fellowships - past that I haven't got a plan as of writing this, but I expect a mix of solo decks and fellowships for the remaining boxes.
So what do we need to know about The Ring Goes South? The main gimmick here is placing damage on locations and being punished based on how much is there when the location is explored. Many encounter effects place damage, but the most predictable one is that whenever an enemy is engaged, damage is placed on the active location. Oh, and you have to travel each turn if able, so you can't just avoid the negative effects.
The first deck idea is to use traps - Ranger Spikes is particularly good here since pinning the enemies in the staging area will reduce the damage added to the active location. Damrod is the linchpin of any trap deck. For other heroes, I wanted someone with Ranged and settled on Bard the Bowman. He needs very little help to take out the regular enemies in this quest. Finally, I chose Gríma since cost reduction is something any deck wants. Additionally this quest is not too hard, so I wanted to get in some heroes that I might not otherwise choose.
When building the second deck I knew I needed some strong questing ability. I also had an idea that I'd like to use each of the Aragorn heroes before we switch to his Fellowship versions. Aragorn plays into this perfectly thanks to Sword that was Broken. He is supported by Arwen Undómiel, as seemed thematically appropriate. I wanted to round out the lineup with another hero as between Arwen and Celebrían's Stone it should be easy to smooth out the resources. I went with Elfhelm as he is a good all-rounder and I was likely to include a few mounts anyway and it's good to get a little extra bonus.
Each of the decks has a more detailed overview in their respective descriptions.
As an aside, I had originally thought it might be a nice thematic nod to include every member of the Fellowship between the two decks, but in the end they didn't all make the cut. I'll try and manage this for a later quest.
Finally, as a Saga quest we need to bring along a Ring-bearer. There is only a single encounter card that punishes using The One Ring in this entire expansion (Lust for the Ring from this quest). In that case my preference is to use The Mountain of Fire Frodo Baggins as his resource generation effect is universally strong.
As a general strategy we will aim to quest through fairly quickly, while minimising enemy engagements and damage on the locations. None of the enemies are particularly strong so there shouldn't be any major issues.
In testing I won two out of two games. My impression is that the match up is very good - in one game I was forced to engage the Great Warg Chief on the first turn and in the other the Mount deck didn't get any card draw effects for most of the game. Both of the wins felt fairly comfortable all the same, so I would assume a fairly high win-rate would be achievable.