Kids, Trees and Ponies

In Cards, Lord of the Rings by Paul0 Comments

The Decklist:
Deck Created with CardGameDB.com The Lord of the Rings Deckbuilder (make this a link)

Total Cards: (50)

Hero: (3)
1x Sam Gamgee (The Black Riders)
1x Pippin (The Black Riders)
1x Merry (The Wastes of Eriador)

Ally: (24)
2x Celduin Traveler (The Nin-in-Eilph)
2x Rivendell Scout (The Three Trials)
2x Henamarth Riversong (Core Set)
3x Bill the Pony (The Black Riders)
3x Wandering Ent (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
3x Booming Ent (The Antlered Crown)
2x Treebeard (The Antlered Crown)
3x Gandalf (Core Set)
2x Quickbeam (The Treason of Saruman)
2x Barliman Butterbur (The Black Riders)

Attachment: (14)
2x Protector of Lorien (Core Set)
2x Hobbit Cloak (The Black Riders)
3x Fast Hitch (The Dead Marshes)
3x Resourceful (The Watcher in the Water)
3x Ancient Mathom (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
1x Ent Draught (The Treason of Saruman)

Event: (12)
2x The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core Set)
2x A Test of Will (Core Set)
2x Sneak Attack (Core Set)
3x Entmoot (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Timely Aid (The Redhorn Gate)

Side Quest: (0)

Introduction:
From a theme perspective, this deck started as “The Search for the Ent-Wives” with the three Hobbit-heroes that remained in Middle Earth helping the Ents on their Last Great Crusade before the Fourth Age caused them all to fade from the world… I’ve had that deck idea floating around since my last reading of Lord of the Rings, but hadn’t built anything. The release of the Ents in the last cycle ticked my fancy, but it wasn’t until the release of Spirit Merry that the time was right to build the deck.

Taking Spirit Merry as the departure point, with built in threat reduction, it seemed to make sense to try out a secrecy-build, with the Ents as the powerhouses that take care of enemy threats and the Hobbits provide the questing and tricksy elements of the combination.

After a few iterations, the deck has become a pseudo-secrecy deck with the aim of keeping threat low in the early to mid-game, trying to fly under the radar as the Ent’s build up their speed and then letting threat build as the tree-army ploughs through the enemies pushed at them and a number of handy attachments powerup the Hobbit Heroes to handle other challenges. Treebeard’s resource gathering acts as a form of resource acceleration and one or two Resourcefuls mean that the deck is often resource-swamped towards the end game. This helps play cards normally when out of the secrecy threshold.

Play suffers when an encounter deck comes right out of the gate at it, or if some of the key components of the deck can’t be found early on and encounter decks that are heavy on locations cause real challenges.

Whilst designed to play as a single-player deck, success has been gained when paired with a mono-tactics deck built around Sentinel and Ranged, providing a measure of protection in the early to mid-game and allowing the heroes to focus on questing and threat reduction.

General Playstyle:
The success of the first few rounds makes or breaks this deck, so I’ve focused quite a bit on the permutations of these plays. Once the board-presence is established the deck tends to look after itself and will allow for some almost auto-piloting!

In an opening hand, you are looking for at least one Resourceful, a Timely Aid and some combination of Fast Hitch, Test of Will, and Bill the Pony. A lot will depend upon the blend of spheres of the cards you do pull; too many of one colour may cause a mulligan even if each individual card is good.

Hobbit Cloak or Rivendell Scout and Celduin Traveller don’t hurt a starting hand, but I’d rather see the above. Avoid Treebeard and other Ents filling the starting hand as that makes it slightly harder to get the deck rolling.

Mulligan for Resourceful irrespective of what else comes out.

The ideal first hand would see a Resourceful from Merry onto Pippin (the balance of cards are Lore), Timely Aid played from Sam to cheat out Treebeard (who’ll come out exhausted remember) and Fast Hitch from Pippin on to Merry. I would not be upset if I had a Test of Will in hand and a resource on Merry either.

Then the basic idea of the deck is quest Sam, Pippin and Merry. Stand Merry with his Fast Hitch ready to get the encounter deck threat reduction. Hopefully that’s enough willpower to quest successfully, maybe some threat reduction and a combination of a low enough threat to not attract enemies.

It is not unusual for the deck to have moved out of secrecy range after the first round, and the threat reduction cards are too expensive this early on to bring it back into play. Pippin is however, starting to build a resource pool and could pay for either a Quickbeam (preference) or a Wandering Ent. Hopefully an Entmoot could follow that and bring more Ents into hand whilst also thinning out the remaining deck.

Other low-cost allies such as Bill the Pony (for free!), Barliman Butterbur or even a ninja’d Gandalf at the appropriate phase can establish some early board presence within the resource-generation of a second round. Gaining 4-resources a turn from a Resourceful brings Treebeard into scope as a normal play, which starts to see the resource generation accelerate for Ents.

Sam is usually my target for a second Fast Hitch as well as taking on Protector of Lorien. The latter card allows dead cards to be pitched to useful effect (duplicate copies of uniques that appear to be sticking to the board or attachments with a single target) and is the only real willpower accelerator in the deck for when final pushes need to be made in the last gasp of a quest.

Treebeard often takes on the role of defender, and I usually stick Ent Draught on him. This helps out the Booming Ents, who become vicious when damage can be spread through the Ent cohort. It is not usual for me to be very tactical in choosing defenders to try to damage as many Ents as possible, or even allow “all allies take a damage”-style treachery effects to trigger to create the bonus. This also frees Wandering Ents and Quickbeam to contribute their willpower to the questing phase.

Any quest or treachery effects that create a board wipe (e.g. moving to a separate staging area, or remove all allies etc) massively hamper the deck, and the other weakness is against Location Lock for which there is no real counter.

An Explanation of Cards
Sam, Pippin and Merry are the heroes chosen for thematic reasons, with Spirit Merry being used to better manage threat with the aim of keeping within secrecy at points within the game.

Allies:
2x Rivendell Scout (The Three Trials)
3x Gandalf (Core Set)

The allies are basically formed of three ‘cohorts’; allies that synergise with the Ents, Merry or Hobbits generally.

The Ents – The Engine of the Deck
2 x Treebeard comes along as the other part of the thematic package, and he brings his Ent friends with him. I’ve played with 2-of and 3-of within the deck and there are pro’s and con’s to both. Current thinking is that I will go back to this being a 3-of and drop Bill the Pony out, as the deck suffers when he isn’t brought out early enough. As well as being a strong board presence, he acts as a form of resource acceleration for the main body of allies and is the only way to play a Booming Ent from hand.

3 x Booming Ent are the damage dealers for the deck. Bring them out, get some Ents damaged and let them boom all over the evil in the engagement area. They need to be paid for by Treebeard or a Timely Aid, so don’t be afraid to prioritise these for Treebeard’s resources. They more often come to hand because of the use of Entmoot to draw out the Ent cards as quickly as possible.

3 x Wandering Ent. Early blockers and then a strong questing pack. I prefer to pay for these from Pippin’s pool and get them damaged.

2 x Quickbeam. Always take the decision to damage him as it gives you either a strong attacker or a solid quester as well as feeding the Booming Ents. It is not usual to see all of your Ents in a play through and he can be easily re-played in the mid to late game from Pippin’s resources.

Merry-friends
2 x Celduin Traveller provides some scry generally and will allow movement of locations to the bottom of the encounter deck, and then hangs around contributing solid questing. This is a good card to support Merry and I’d play this early if there’s no Fast Hitch or Test of Will. It is really the only counter to location lock in the deck.

2 x Henamarth Riversong allows a decision on whether to commit Merry or not be more sensible, as well as informing a decision on whether a resource can be spent or retained for Test of Will. There is an argument around Hobbit Pony which would act in a similar capacity, but I would prefer to have greater knowledge to inform other decisions. I rarely use Henamarth for anything other than his scrying capacity.

Hobbit Friends
3 x Bill the Pony. Sam’s not going to go hunting the Ent-wives without his backup Pony. Which, I assume, carries all those additional breakfasts that fatten up the hobbits and give them that little extra health. Bill the Pony is a good candidate to drop out to a 2-of without harming the deck particularly.

2 x Barliman Butterbur. I can only assume Barliman had been at his own wares the night he agreed to go with the Hobbits on this adventure. I also assume that they hadn’t told him exactly his role in the adventure: “Yeah, Master Butterbur, we need you to take undefended damage on our behalf.” Doesn’t sound like a successful sales-pitch!

And the Rest
2 x Rivendell Scout’s purpose is to be a cheap body to bring out if the other plans aren’t quite in place yet. The secrecy keyword makes it more attractive than other options and Leadership isn’t a pressured sphere for other resources.

3 x Gandalf, performs his normal role. Note Treebeard can’t pay for him as whilst Gandalf is neutral he can only pay for Ent cards. I usually use Gandalf to either bring me back into Secrecy or card draw if I’m searching for a particular element. Ninjalf (Gandalf + Sneak Attack) is in the deck and I’ve used this combo in the planning phase to bring me back below 20 threat to then play a secrecy card.

Attachment: (14)
2x Protector of Lorien (Core Set) goes on Sam and is in the deck to sweep up otherwise dead cards. It provides a bit of solidity if seen in the early game (+def) and willpower ramp elsewhere.

2x Hobbit Cloak (The Black Riders) goes on Sam and supports the aim of optionally engaging enemies. Sam is a defender of choice after Treebeard.

3x Fast Hitch (The Dead Marshes) goes on Merry first (which also acts against the need to use Hobbit Pony) and then onto Sam. I prefer to use this rather than Hobbit Pony to keep spirit free for Treachery cancellation and threat reduction.

3x Resourceful (The Watcher in the Water) is the most important piece of the deck. Goes on Pippin first, then Merry and then possibly on Sam. Trying to get the second one out is one of the key drivers to remain for Secrecy and once it is on, I tend to focus less on the threat reduction and more on the board presence playing as a more typical deck.

3x Ancient Mathom (A Journey to Rhosgobel) provides non-Ent card draw. I am not sold on the efficacy of this and am looking for something better to fill this slot.

1x Ent Draught (The Treason of Saruman) goes on Treebeard to provide a bigger buffer for his defending. There’s no healing in the deck so careful management of health is required.

Event: (12)

The event cards have fairly obvious roles in the deck. Entmoot is used to both retrieve Ents to hand and to thin the deck out to increase the chance of natural draw pulling out the other pieces. I am toying with dropping a Timely Aid for a Test of Will. Treacheries can often be the undoing of the deck, in particular in that early to mid-game where there are insufficient defenders or the heroes have insufficient health to bear those burdens.

Treacheries that become condition attachments would be impossible to remove, so holding onto a Test of Will to counter those kinds of cards is a strong part of a successful strategy.

2x The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core Set)
2x A Test of Will (Core Set)
2x Sneak Attack (Core Set)
3x Entmoot (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Timely Aid (The Redhorn Gate)

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