Updated: Sep 17, 2019
So, this weekend Dave and I began the next deluxe expansion in the #LordoftheRingsLCG, The Voice of Isengard. We had decided beforehand that we wanted to run thematic decks, using the Rohan keyword to provide a synergy, not only amongst our own cards but across the table too.
I was running a Blue-Green deck with Grima, Eowyn and Dunhere. The primary function of the deck was Support, packed with useful cards like Test of Will, Galadhrim’s Greeting and A Light in the Dark. It’s secondary function was to provide questing allies and heroes. For this I had Escort to Edoras and West Road Traveller plus We Do Not Sleep and Astonishing Speed. Finally the deck offered some much needed readying through Unexpected Courage and Steed of the Mark.
I was also experimenting with the Doomed Mechanic. Grima could lower the cost of the next card played by 1 allowing the card to gain Doomed 1 instead. While this seems like a negative effect we actually put it to good use, using the Orthanc Guards (who ready after Doomed triggers) and the Isengard Messenger (who raises his Will each time doom triggers). In addition we attached the Keys to Orthanc to Eowyn, allowing her to generate resources when Doomed was triggered.
Dave was running a Red-Purple deck using Eomer, Theodred and Hama. This deck was obviously more attack and defence focused. Packing the tools to help us defeat our enemies without engaging them, such as Spear of the Mark (+2 bonus attacking into the staging area) and Forth Eorlingas (allowing all Rohan characters to attack into the staging area). Should anything get out, ablative allies like the Snowbourn Scouts or readiable allies like the Orthanc Guards provided useful cover. The Westfold Outrider could be used to attack or defend before being discarded to pull enemies where they needed to be hit.
Discarding allies also powered up Eomer and if he had Firefoot or the Rohan Warhorse he could mete out serious damage to multiple enemies in a turn.
The two builds complimented each other quite well, at least on paper. One deck would serve as a quest deck, one as a fighting deck. My deck could provide support for threat reduction and card draw, while my friend could turn aside vicious attacks while providing armours and other defensive items.
Our major downfall was Resource production. It was slow with both players running multi-sphere decks and even though my friend had two copies of Steward of Gondor in his deck they never saw the light. Once I figured out how to activate the doomed strategy my resource problems lessened.
Our second problem was defence. I had taken Grima as a defender, planning to drop a Steed of the Mark on him to allow him to ready after questing. My friend however only had Eomer with 2 defence and he wanted to keep Eomer for attacking. Ablative allies, like the Snowbourn Scouts helped but feeding allies to attackers can be an expensive habit.
Worse still, all our heroes boasted meager health, 3 or 4, which could be drastically reduced by treachery cards at the wrong moment.
It wasn’t all bad though. Using the Rohan strategy we were able to place plenty of progress when we needed it through the use of Astonishing Speed or Ride to Ruin. We also began the game with 25 and 26 threat respectively, allowing us to pick and choose our engagements and leave enemies in the staging area to be picked off by Dunhere. Grima proved to be a valuable ally, allowing us access to emergency events when we needed them, at the cost of a threat.
Eomer and Dunhere both proved to be real beasts when it came to fighting, Dunhere with two Spears of the Mark could lay waste to most creatures in the staging area, while Eomer with a couple of Dunedain Marks plus a sacrificial ally and Firefoot could quite literally stomp two enemies a turn.
So, there are upsides and downsides to our new builds, but the important part is that they are thematic. It’s great to see all the Rohan Heroes riding out together on a quest, without the aid of Eagles or Rangers from the North. Is it providing a challenge? Sure, but learning to adapt to that challenge and change our style of play is exactly what I feel the Lord of the Rings LCG is all about. Trying new builds and seeing how they work or sometimes understanding why they didn't.