Voices at the Door: The Trap Deck has Arrived!

Note: Voices at the Door is the title I’ll be using for musings on how our beloved LCG is changing.

On Friday I headed to my favorite local game shop, Level Up Games, in South St. Paul, MN. It’s just a six-minute drive from my house, the staff is friendly, the gaming space is large, and they always have LOTR:LCG in stock. My buddy M and I have been playing there on-and-off for about two years. Over time we’ve developed a simple routine: each of us builds a pair of decks that work well together, and then we play each pair in turn against the same quest. This way, we don’t really have to coordinate much over email about deck-building, we each can explore deck designs that interest us, and each of us gets insight into how the other plays the game. Ideally, this is how I would play all of my games, because it leads to many fun surprises as you’re playing a deck someone else built for you.

Since I’m starting a new work project this week, I only had about fifteen minutes to slap together two new decks. For the first, I settled on a simple lineup: Eowyn, Galadriel, and Legolas with a ton of strong Spirit allies (e.g., Silvan Refugee, Galadriel’s Handmaiden), some cancellation, and a lot of cheap Tactics cards to power up everyone’s favorite Core Set elf (Rivendell Blade, Rohan Warhorse, Arod).

With the second deck, I took a risk: a Gondor trap deck featuring Leadership Faramir, Damrod, and Denethor. The first two heroes are fresh off the boat from the Land of Shadow expansion. I included a number of Gondor allies such as Lore Anborn, Squire of the Citadel, and Ingold, and copies of strong trap cards like Forest Snare, Ambush, and Ranger Spikes. I wasn’t so sure about this deck, since I have never felt that Trap decks were very powerful. But with the inclusion of some of these new Land of Shadow cards, I was blown away at how good the Trap archetype has become.

We played Wastes of Eriador, starting with M’s decks: a powerful Rohan lineup featuring strong questing allies and beefy heroes, and a Ranged/Sentinel lineup boasting mighty Ents. Amazingly, we played a ten turn game and lost due to threating out, despite having a veritable army of Ents on the board. After that playthrough, I was feeling pretty stupid about bringing the decks I outlined above, predicting we’d have a host of dead heroes by turn four or five. But M and I were astounded to beat Wastes of Eriador in a mere five turns.

Though neither the Eowyn, Galadriel, Legolas lineup or the Faramir, Damrod, Denethor lineup featured a lot of combat power, each held its own. By game’s end, each deck had drawn over half of its cards. Here’s the staging area after we killed the pack leader:
IMG_1488

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yup, that’s two scary Wargs trapped by Ranger Spikes, and Damrod smiling because he’s awash in Lore resources. Here’s a quick look at the entire board at the end:

IMG_1487

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Previous to this game session, I had always assumed that Traps were a sort of “third player” archetype. By this I mean to say that in a typical game, the first player has a strong questing deck, the second has a strong combat deck, and if a third person shows up, the Trap deck sort of fills in some gaps. Previous to Land of Shadow, I would have always said that in a two-player game, there was no way the second player could play a trap deck and pull his or her weight in the game. But Friday’s playthrough showed us the Trap deck is alive and well. Here’s why:

  • Damrod: The 1-resource discount on Traps cannot be overlooked, especially if you play with two Lore heroes. Ranger Spikes, Ambush, and Poisoned Stakes can be played on Turn 1 with a resource to spare on your second hero. Amazingly, Ithilien Pit can come in for free. And the card you get to draw when a Trap attaches to an enemy comes at an interesting time: during staging. This might mean you suddenly end up with a Sneak Attack, Feint, Radagast’s Cunning, or Secret Paths at a critical moment: as you resolve questing and look ahead to combat.
  • Ambush: This brand-new Trap from the Land of Shadow expansion is a bit like Quick Strike, saving you the trouble of defending against an enemy because you can kill it before it attacks. In our game, Legolas with Rohan Warhorse and Rivendell Blade just loved this card. An enemy would reveal during staging, end up in the Ambush, would be optionally engaged and destroyed, and then Legolas would ready up to help destroy another enemy. This also left defenders free to help out elsewhere.
  • Lore Anborn: I’ve always thought Poisoned Stakes was a terrible card, but I’m happy to run the other four Traps (Ithilien Pit, Ranger Spikes, Forest Snare, and Ambush). Now that we have a number of them, and Lore has such good access to card draw, I feel comfortable running two copies of each Trap. Ally Anborn can call these Traps back to hand after they’ve been used. So our four awesome Traps only take up eight slots in the deck, and Anborn only takes up another two (I never run three copies of a unique ally in a lore deck), and–TA-DA!–you’ve got a real Trap deck going with 40 more slots to do other things.

I think the value of a real Trap synergy based on just one hero, two copies of a unique ally, and two copies of four strong Traps cannot be overstated. You’re left with so much room to build that I can honestly say shout from the rooftops that Traps have arrived. In my deck, I used that extra space to build in a bit of Gondor synergy (For Gondor!, Wealth of Gondor, Envoy of Pelargir, Squire of the Citadel) and a bit of Ranger synergy (Wingfoot, Expert Trackers), provide healing to the table (Warden of Healing, The Long Defeat), and get in some ally mustering (A Very Good Tale) without feeling like the deck was pulling in too many directions.

To borrow a term from the Star Wars LCG, I’m now going to consider using Damrod, Lore Anborn, and those two copies of four strong Traps as a pod: a set of ten cards and one hero that can be slotted into several different sorts of decks to provide a lot of value. And never again will I show up to play LOTR: LCG and have the other players roll their eyes and mutter, “Oh brother, JR brought a Trap deck.”

Until next time, mára mesta: good journeys!

The Red Book: Fellowship 2015

After an excellent experience with Fog on the Barrow Downs last year, I was very excited to join with my gaming crew for a resounding Fellowship 2015, and it did not disappoint! According to co-developer Matt Newman, about 100 players showed up at the Fantasy Flight Game Center for the event. Here’s a panorama I took about two hours in:

IMG_1477

All in all, I think the event was better attended than last year, which is a good sign for the health of the game! I ended up playing two-player the whole afternoon with my good friend RS, who I have not seen in a while. He played my Lady, Master, Captain deck, and I piloted a slapped-together deck that worked surprisingly well: Celeborn, Haldir, and Rossiel with a full contingent of Silvan allies and victory display cards such as None Return and The Door is Closed. We lost both times to Murder at the Prancing Pony, but quickly rebounded by beating Intruders in Chetwood and The Weather Hills.

As much fun as the games were, though, I truly enjoyed the camaraderie of the afternoon. I’ve gotten to meet so many amazing people through this game, and it was great to have most of us in one room, playing together. There were a lot of folks brand new to the game as well, and with LOTR:LCG now quite mature in terms of its development, it’s awesome that new people are still entering the game. I was even fortunate enough to sit next to a couple who were playing and discovered “Sneak Attack + Gandalf” for the first time.

Once I’ve had a chance to digest the quest a bit more, I’m sure I’ll post on it, but for now…it’s very encouraging to see that LOTR:LCG is in such good hands and has such an amazing community gathered around it.

 

Deck-Craft: Fangorn and Friends

I originally planned to get out a video this week, but I’ve been waylaid by a monster cold (as have all four of my children! No!), so while the technical issues of recording have been largely ironed out, my voice is shot. In fact, just before writing this, I downed a hot toddy and tried to tough it out, but I still sounded like Kermit the Frog after a hard night of drinking…so Deck-Craft it is!

Inspiration
There’s no doubt about it; Ents are the new power on the LOTR:LCG scene. We’ve had a glut of them recently, and they just begged to be played. As I first started constructing Ent decks, however, two major problems popped out. First, true to their nature, they are not very hasty, entering play exhausted. Second, the two spheres from which they hail (Tactics and Lore) are not great at resource acceleration. What’s a poor player to do? My answer, which is just one of many to this two-pronged problem: a three-sphere deck featuring Leadership Theodred to send resources wherever they need to go, paired with two resource generating/smoothing heroes: Mablung and Bifur. Bonus: low threat to get those Ents ready! To that end…I give you Fangorn and Friends!

ents

“We’re slow.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total Cards: 50

Heroes: 3
1x Mablung (The Nin-in-Eilph)
1x Theodred (Core Set)
1x Bifur (Khazad-dum)

Allies: 21
3x Treebeard (The Antlered Crown)
2x Wandering Ent (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
2x Gleowine (Core Set)
3x Booming Ent (The Antlered Crown)
2x Skinbark (The Land of Shadow)
2x Wellinghall Preserver (Across the Ettenmoors)
2x Quickbeam (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Derndingle Warrior (Escape from Mount Gram)
2x Gandalf (Core Set)

Attachments: 11
3x Wingfoot (The Nin-in-Eilph)
2x King Under the Mountain (On the Doorstep)
2x Celebrian’s Stone (Core Set)
1x Protector of Lorien (Core Set)
3x Gondorian Shield (The Steward’s Fear)

Events: 17
2x We Are Not Idle (Shadow and Flame)
2x Sneak Attack (Core Set)
3x Tighten Our Belts (The Nin-in-Eilph)
3x Ever Vigilant (Core Set)
2x Durin’s Song (Khazad-dum)
2x Tireless Hunters (The Lost Realm)
3x Daeron’s Runes (Foundations of Stone)

Side Quest: 1
1x Send for Aid (The Treachery of Rhudaur)

Strategy
There’s really not a bad starting hand with this deck, but some key cards to look for are either Gondorian Shield or Durin’s Song (to offer you early defense while you set the Ents up), King Under the Mountain (for early card draw), or Wingfoot (for action advantage). All three heroes are somewhat lackluster in stats, but with Theodred’s ability, just take a look at your hand, and quest with Theodred and the hero of whatever sphere you need resources in.

Meanwhile, the quest will largely determine whether you need defending, questing, or attacking Ents out first. I usually lead with a good defender, like Derndingle Warrior, just to offer my heroes some breathing space. If you find yourself swarmed by enemies, a well-timed Ever Vigilant can ready and Ent to defend or smash the forces of Sauron. Good times!

Reward
For me, the real reward of this deck is that you can be all things to all people. Since your Ents heal up with Wellinghall Preserver, you’re not taking the healing at the table. You are self-sufficient in terms of resource generation and card draw, and everyone loves to see the Ents trounce enemies. Playing this multiplayer, I have been pleasantly surprised at how I can offer willpower, attack, and defense as needed. And there’s nothing more fun than pulling a friend out of a jam with Tireless Hunters.

A very short post this week (again, I’m trying to heal!), but take heart, faithful readers: videos are coming! Until next time, mára mesta: good journeys!