The Road to Isengard - Specialist Deck Series
This Fellowship for my Specialist Deck Series is built to take on Saruman of Many Colours in The Road to Isengard.
For an explanation of the series and to see the deck for the first quest, A Shadow of the Past, look here: https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/18970
Dwarves? They might seem an odd choice for this quest. I had one main burst of inspiration for this decision and then in testing it turned out that there are a number of reasons why the Dwarves are a great match for this quest. I have also had a lot of failures in the past by bringing along a general purpose deck to Isengard. It feels like a quest where there is a strong incentive to build towards it and the Dwarves are still a decently powerful archetype in their own right.
What does the quest involve? Finally we get to face off against Saruman and he is certainly a formidable foe, and will devastate our board if we give him the chance. We lose on the last Stage if we run out of cards in hand, but Saruman will attack every time we draw cards. We're damned if we do, damned if we don't. However, we have a few tricks to get around this. We also have to clear several locations that will punish us for doing so.
So why choose Dwarves? My reasoning, was that I wanted a reliable way to win over the Ents in Stage 1. If you need a reminder, your heroes are basically trying to convince the Ents to join the march on Isengard, and they are successful if their beats the of a discarded encounter card. So, high is the name of the game. Thanks to Dáin Ironfoot's bonus, we get 5 heroes with 3+ , which gives us excellent odds of gaining the Ents as allies. We can expect to spend 3 turns on average getting all 4 of the Objective-Allies, although it is possible in just 2.
Apart from Dain, which heroes were chosen? Thorin Oakenshield is the next obvious choice since he has the highest . The others were chosen from among the Dwarf heroes with 2 . I like the and pairing for Dwarves, which left a relatively straightforward choice for the hero to acompany Dain and Thorin. Ori gets the nod, partly because his ability is a nice complement to Thorin's and partly because he has no ally competition like Bifur does. Having said that, I think Bifur would also be a fine choice under the circumstances.
Both decks are built with ally swarming in mind to maximise the benefit from Dain. Swarming decks in general feel like a good choice, as many of the bad effects in the encounter deck are lessened or negated all together with this strategy. It also gives chump blocking options when facing Saruman in combat which is great.
Aside from the Dwarves themselves, the other main inclusion for this specific quest are the side quests included in both decks. Stage 2 of this quest doesn't require any progress to be completed, so we have a great opportunity to complete 2-3 side quests before getting to Stage 3. Detailed descriptions of the decks can be found in the respective deck lists.
As for how this quest plays outside of campaign mode, it's not that different. We dodge the Burden Saruman's Voice and we also are less concerned about our cards in hand at end game. Otherwise it's the same. Aragorn is also present, although I found that when the decks were performing well I barely needed him.
In testing I won 3 out of 4 games. In the one loss it took me 4 turns to acquire the Ents which combined with a terrible encounter draw put me too far behind right from the start. In each other attempt I had ample time to get set up and at that point the Dwarves just run over everything.