fellowship based around using Vigilant Dúnadan to handle defense.
The strategy is to reliably play a Vigilant Dúnadan on round 2 with some defensive support and a side quest in the victory display, essentially solving the question of defense.
The first round
for that to happen, there are a lot of things we need to do on the first round:
2: We need to survive the first turn without losing a hero to the first wave of attack.
3: We need to have at least 1 extra source of defense for the Vigilant Dúnadan ready to be played: this could be a Wild Stallion, Narya, 2x Spare Hood and Cloak or Palantir+Unexpected Courage to get him to a reliable 4 .
4: We need to quest for a high enough amount to overcome , the quest points of an eventual location, and the 4 quest points necessary to complete the first quest.
A good portion of the deck is dedicated to solving those 4 problems.
1: The Grey Wanderer combines amazingly well with Galadriel's ability, providing her with 3 resources in the first planning phase. With a large stock of allies (as well as Resourceful and Timely Aid) costing 1 or 2, Galadriel should be able to produce 1 or 2 allies on the first turn while retaining a resource.
2: That is exactly the reason for Beorn's presence: with a beefy 10 HP and it's ability to defend any number of attacks (all reduced by 1 by his 1 ), Beorn can absorb at least 10 just by himself. add to that the possibility for Aragorn with sentinel and a boost from (MotK) Arwen Undómiel to 3 . An ally played by Galadriel on the first turn can also be sacrificed even if it was commited to the quest because of her ability. Lastly, 3 copies of Feint and Hasty Stroke provide some extra breathing room. With all those layers defense on the first turn should be handled, however losing Beorn while hurting our damage capabilities is not game-ending.
3: Usually we should choose Gather Information as our first side quest with Thurindir. The priority pulls should be as follow: Galadriel's deck pulls Vigilant Dúnadan, (MotK) Arwen Undómiel's deck pulls Light of Valinor and Círdan the Shipwright's deck pulls Narya. That ensures on the next turn an operational Narya with Light of Valinor to retain Cirdan's 4 .
which adds up to a worst case scenario (heroes+Wild Stallion+Ioreth, Aragorn held back for defense) of 19 and a best case scenario (heroes including Aragorn+[Glorfindel](/card/12006/Firyal/Elrond from Timely Aid+Escort from Edoras+Envoy of Pelargir+Galion+Henamarth Riversong+Ioreth) of 32 . Generally we can reasonably expect about 23 .
So that's round 1. On round 2 we should establish a solid Vigilant Dúnadan to defend us. We are less pressured on defense and willpower. The job from this point on is to secure the position and achieve victory.
Securing the position
Once Vigilant Dúnadan is in position, we essentially have a wall shielding us from attacks. The second goal this fellowship tries to accomplish is to protect the wall's weaknesses, namely:
High attack enemies: a 4 and 3 hit points Vigilant Dúnadan cannot survive a hit from bigger enemies. With all the mentionned above ways of increasing it's defense as well as Warden of Healing, we can reach effectivelyf up to 11 (7 , -1 from Keep Watch and 4 hit points from Wild Stallion). In the meantime, the overabundance of cheap allies from Galadriel's and Balin's decks can chump some big attacks, Feint can also deal with a few.
Shadows. While we can defend against any number of enemies, each of those enemies will be dealt at least 1 shadow card with potentially devestating effects. This is why we are including Balin in this deck, who coupled with a Steward of Gondor allows us a second shot at shadow cards with every single enemy. Holding back a Hasty Stroke (repeatable with Dwarven Tomb) as an extra safety net allows us a lot of control on which shadow effects are allowed to resolve.
Treacheries: on top of the usual A Test of Will (backed with Dwarven Tomb), Palantir allows us to scry in advance what is about to be dealt, allowing us to at least prepare accordingly. Firyal also helps with the first one revealed, especially with insight on what is to come next from Palantir.
Location lock: With 3 cards revealed a round location lock is a serious possibility. The fellowship being high should mitigate at least by exploring locations fast. on top of that, Northern Tracker and Mirkwood Explorer can deal with untraveled locations.
threat: while engaging enemies should not be a problem past the first round, using The Grey Wanderer, The One Ring, Palantir and Magic Ring should guarantee a steep climb in threat. For that reason, on top of her ability Galadriel includes 3 copies of The Galadhrim's Greeting, to mitigate the threat of whichever deck needs it the most, and Elrond's Counsel as well. Since Palantir will be the main offender, (MotK) Arwen Undómiel is working with Aragorn, to push the button at the last second.
So we are safe behind a solid dunadan wall, and palantir gives us advanced warning of what is to come. How do we turn the tide? We need to complete quests to win, and eventually to be able to kill the enemies that are piling up.
Attack: most of the attacking will be handled by Aragorn and Beorn, with extra contribution from the likes of Gandalf, Treebeard, Quickbeam, Marksman of Lórien, Glorfindel and the Vigilant Dúnadan themselves. The process of piling up allies is pretty straightforward, but to give a little bit more oomph there is also a package for Aragorn of Rivendell Bow to make him ranged and Gondorian Fire combined with Sword of Númenor and possibly Steward of Gondor.
questing: The fellowship is already high in because of the needs of thurindir, but just in case i made sure that we could go as high as necessary in to overcome any accumulation of . We pack a lot of allies, and Galadriel using Ethir Swordsman already contributes a lot. On top of that, the Balin deck is a Fellowship+Power of Command+Faramir deck, so with the Fellowship contract fliped we should be basically resolving a stage every turn.
This was built with the intent of not using more than 3 copies of any card accross the fellowship. Because we use a lot of tutoring and i tried to optimize consistency and cost curves, the attachments are not necessarily in the same deck as their intended target.
While building the decks, i made sure to keep costs balanced between spheres and to avoid as much as possible having to wait several turns before using a hero's resources.
in this deck spheres present no difficulty at all, since Nenya provides Galadriel with sphere, and The Grey Wanderer allows us to play Timely Aid and Vigilant Dúnadan as well as long as they are played first.
As for costs, with The Grey Wanderer, Resourceful and an eventual Magic Ring, Galadriel should be producing 4-5 resource a turn for most of the game. with an average cost of 2.2 and drawing 2 cards a turn most of the time (thanks to her ability or Mirror of Galadriel), Galadriel should always be busy building up the board.
The actual sphere distribution in this deck is 16 15 14 14 , which ensures costs will be shared evenly between heroes. Since aragorn will want to hoard some extra resources for Gondorian Fire, giving him a Magic Ring should be a priority while waiting for Sword of Númenor or Steward of Gondor.
Sphere distribution is 19 15 18 24 . The extra and dip in is to account for Narya giving Cirdan . With a balanced sphere distribution and a lot of neutral cards resources should be spent evenly.
at 1.46 average cost and not much raw draw (only card selection in Círdan the Shipwright and Dúnedain Pipe, which deals with the overabundance of uniques), resources are gonna pile up. This is intentionnal and is meant to allow Balin to spend resource on shadow control. With Narya usually online by turn 2 Círdan the Shipwright will actually take care of both and spendings (to an average of 0.68 resource per turn plus contribution to ). For that reason, while paying for the many cards we should use as much of Thurindir's resources and as little of Balin's as possible.