Mono-Lore: is it a thing?

In Cards, Lord of the Rings by JoeLeave a Comment

It’s not, is it? It could be. Maybe it is. If it is a thing, could it work in multiplayer?

That was the question the Mostly Off-topic team were left pondering after a recent Lord of the Rings LCG multiplayer session at the FLGS. The question particularly resonated with me, partly because I’d spent a bit of time experimenting with a new, mostly green, Noldor build. It was a good deck, and fun to play, but it had some serious weak spots.

Attacking, for example. The green sphere may have a load of funky tricks up its wizard’s sleeve, but it’s not known for its ability to take down enemies. If we’re honest, it’s not as good at questing as blue (or purple on a good day), and it lacks the resource acceleration that purple does so well. Lore does a few things very well, but the core skills you need to succeed at quests can sometimes be lacking.

The more I considered a pure green build, and the more I looked at the cards, the more gaps I saw. But I was determined to find a way of smoothing the edges, while making use of Lore’s strengths. So I started by looking at green heroes.

Bombur: hands-down, the best green hero ever printed.

Bombur: hands-down, the best green hero ever printed.

Lore has some familiar names, when it comes to your big three. Elrond, Treebeard and Bilbo all stand out as central figures from Tolkien’s epic stories, with abilities that reflect their importance to the narrative. In fact, Ents in general stand out, when you start looking at Lore cards. As do Dwarves. Initially, I was sorely tempted to put together a combination of leafy Ents and beardy Dwarves that would somehow find a way to work together.

But I didn’t want to go exclusively down the trait-synergy route. My aim was to plug the gaps in the sphere, while making the most of the best it had to offer, like scrying, healing and card draw. So, in the end, I chose heroes whose synergy seems obvious, once you put them next to each other.

First up was a hero I’d never used before: Grima. His stats, while not stellar, give him a bit of utility in questing, as well as on the battlefield, and his ability is a huge help with getting stuff on the table – especially early on.

The next choice was a familiar face: Aragorn. The green version of the heir of Isildur used to see the table a lot in the past, but Tactics Aragorn, with his bloodthirsty approach to enemies, is undoubtedly the new king. Poor Strider has been binder-fodder for months, but his threat reset is the perfect answer to Grima’s exploitation of the Doomed mechanic.

Nestling snugly between them is Mirlonde. Again, she has versatile stats and, with Loragorn by her side and access to healing cards, her low hit points shouldn’t be an issue. Her ability – a built-in starting threat reduction – isn’t a huge benefit on the face of it, but it gives you the prospect of a mid-game threat reset to 26. That gives you a lot of room to play around with Grima’s ability. She’s also a Silvan, which is nice to have.

The next few card choices were easy for me to make: green has card draw aplenty, so I put some in. The first card to go in the deck was Mithrandir’s Advice – three copies, because drawing three cards for one resource (or one threat) and a card is good value. In total, there are ten individual cards in this deck that can draw you more cards. That might seem a lot, but it ensures you draw what you need early on, and maximises your use of Grima.

Looking at Mithrandir’s Advice made me think of a newer card I was keen to try out: Sword-Thain. It seems like a simple premise, right? You stick Sword-Thain on a unique green guy, and Mithrandir’s Advice suddenly becomes more effective. And you get more green resources each turn. OK, two copies of Sword-Thain coming up.

That started me thinking about targets for the neutral attachment. Obviously I’d be including the go-to green guys Gleowine and Henamarth, but I needed a couple more uniques to make sure the card would have a use. A natural fit for the deck is Haldir. He gives you options, and he can hold his own during combat – including attacking and defending across the table, if needed.

I decided against Gildor for this deck, but he’d make a fine replacement for Haldir. For a final potential Sword-Thain target, I chose the hasty Ent, Quickbeam. I’d also given the ally version of Mablung a go in this slot, but Quickbeam’s ability synergises well with the plentiful healing in this deck. He’s also much more effective on offense.

I was keen for Aragorn to be the star of the show, and Lore’s attachments can really make him shine. Burning Brand was the first attachment I put in the deck, followed by Protector of Lorien. He’s a Ranger, so two copies of Wingfoot found their way in. Remember Mirlonde has the Silvan trait? It means the deck can run Lembas, giving Aragorn a cheap burst of action advantage and healing.

With a Voltron Strider on the board (in theory), I looked at the rest of the deck. Keys of Orthanc is a natural fit for the deck, giving me one potential extra resource per round. Two copies? Yes please.

The Doomed thing was at the forefront of my mind by now, so Isengard Messenger jumped out at me. He’s only really any use for questing, but he’s cheap and, if you manage your hand well, he really earns his corn. In an early version of the deck, I tried including more doomed cards, hoping to boost the Messengers as much as possible. Really, you just need to use Grima.

Cheat your way to success by harnessing the power of the Doomed mechanic

Cheat your way to success by harnessing the power of the Doomed mechanic.

I went with two copies of Mirkwood Runner because, while he boosts green’s ability to attack enemies, you generally don’t want more than two of them on the table (and probably only one). Miner of the Iron Hills, however, is a ‘three of’, because GAH, CONDITIONS! There are also three Wardens of Healing who, I’ve found during testing, you sometimes have resources to ready and get a second use out of.

That brings me to the last ally. The big one. The G-Bomb. I’ve messed around with the Hobbit version of Gandalf before, as part of a Hobbit Secrecy deck. His toys and tricks can make him a huge presence on the board, and if threat’s not a problem, he can do a lot of work for you in a few rounds.

I gave him his staff and horse, after trying out Flame of Anor in a few quests. Despite its action advantage and potential attack boost, I found it sat in my hand most of the time, probably because a lot of the cards in this deck are very cheap. Instead, Shadowfax and Gandalf’s Staff give you action advantage and the choice of resource acceleration, card draw or shadow card management.

And (again, in theory) he can be put to use at any time after questing with the two copies of Word of Command, searching for the component pieces you need to build a board presence.

Oh, you also have a Gandalf? That's nice.

Oh, you also have a Gandalf? That’s nice.

Having tested the deck fairly thoroughly, I can say with conviction that mono-Lore is definitely ‘a thing’. It works. You can do a lot of questing, and it has the grunt to get you through some nasty staging areas. Voltron Strider can quest, defend, take a pummeling, stand up and hit right back. And Gandalf can change the game.

But there are issues with the deck. You need to play with someone who doesn’t mind if you increase their threat on a regular basis, or that they can’t play Gandalf because you’ve pretty much glued him to your side of the table.

It also depends heavily on card draw. There are some combo pieces for you to put together before the deck really sings. If you don’t have Wingfoot (and Henamarth), Lembas or Gandalf and his steed, you’re can easily run out of steam.

Enemies will hang around for longer than you’d like while you get set up. You can defend all day long but, without Mirkwood Runner or a ready Aragorn, you’ll struggle to put a dent in the bad guys.

If your partner (and I say partner rather than partners, because I can’t completely recommend playing this deck in three or four player) is happy to Sentinel or Ranged across the table now and then you’ll be fine. And if they can cancel the odd treachery, throw in for the quest and generally pull their weight, things will go great.

But warn them in advance that they need to build in threat reduction. They don’t need loads. A couple of well-timed Galadhrim’s Greetings, or an Elrond’s Council or three, that’s all. As long as the quest isn’t spamming you with Doomed cards, the threat from Grima is perfectly manageable. The onus is on you, really, to control the tempo of your own deck, play Gandalf at the right time, put things on him, and let him and Aragorn do their thing.

Here’s the deck.

Total Cards: (50)

Hero: (3)

1x Aragorn (The Watcher in the Water)

1x Mirlonde (The Drúadan Forest)

1x Gríma (The Voice of Isengard)

Ally: (20)

3x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)

3x Gandalf (Over Hill and Under Hill)

2x Mirkwood Runner (Return to Mirkwood)

1x Quickbeam (The Treason of Saruman)

2x Gleowine (Core Set)

1x Haldir of Lorien (A Journey to Rhosgobel)

3x Isengard Messenger (The Voice of Isengard)

3x Miner of the Iron Hills (Core Set)

2x Henamarth Riversong (Core Set)

Attachment: (19)

3x Protector of Lorien (Core Set)

3x Lembas (Trouble in Tharbad)

2x Wingfoot (The Nin-in-Eilph)

2x Keys of Orthanc (The Voice of Isengard)

2x Shadowfax (The Treason of Saruman)

3x A Burning Brand (Conflict at the Carrock)

2x Gandalf Staff (The Road Darkens)

2x Sword-Thain (The Dread Realm)

Event: (11)

3x Deep Knowledge (The Voice of Isengard)

3x Rumour from the Earth (Return to Mirkwood)

3x Mithrandir’s Advice (The Steward’s Fear)

2x Word of Command (The Long Dark)

Tips:

Mulligan for Keys of Orthanc, Gleowine or Wingfoot. If you end up with card draw events and a Messenger, you’ll do OK.

It’s a good idea to start piling attachments on Aragorn as soon as possible, starting with Wingfoot, then Protector of Lorien and Burning Brand. Once that’s done, and you have a few characters in play, you should be doing some good questing. If you end up with a spare Brand, put it on Grima rather than ditching it. It’s always nice to have the option.

Use Grima’s ability every round for the first few rounds so that you can get a board presence. If you have the Keys, you’ll start to feel quite comfortable. The only thing that can really scupper you early on, other than horrific treacheries, is not drawing cards.

Once your board’s stable, aim to get Gandalf down (ideally once your partner’s already played a G-Bomb or two). Then get his attachments on him. Set up a Sword-Thain on Gleowine, Mablung or Haldir, if you can. It’s nice to have, but not essential, so don’t cripple yourself doing it.

Keep an eye on Aragorn. With some careful damage limitation, you can get three damage on him, then discard a Lembas during combat to maximise the healing ability and ready him to attack. Hopefully you’ll have enough cards to use Protector of Lorien for the big enemies. There are just enough duplicates of uniques in the deck to fuel Protector without eating into your hand too much.

The Wardens of Healing will do their thing too. If there’s one thing you can do for your partner, it’s heal an ally or two every round or so. And maybe throw them a use of Gleowine now and then.

I’ve paired this deck very successfully with a blue-red-purple Rohan deck that runs two copies of Galadhrim’s Greeting. It’s always helpful if they draw their Gandalfs early, but threat’s usually not too much of a problem, given that Rohan generally want to fight stuff anyway.

Really, the deck would work well with any combination of blue, red and purple, but I’d like to see how it gets on with mono-Spirit, or with non-Secrecy Hobbits.

Let me know if you try it.

 

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