For months now we’ve collected them, we’ve sought out that rare character, or that elusive event, yet many players of Decipher’s Lord of the Rings TCG ponder, what now? Your next step, of course, is to build a deck of these cards to compete with those you deem worthy. “Wait, you want me to build a what?” rolls off of your tongue as you stare blankly at the screen. Yes indeed! For the next so many bad cliche’s and Legolas jokes we’ll be discussing just what goes into building the powerful stack of cards that will devastate your friends, or rush your Ring Bearer along the site path.
Let’s start out with the rules. Your Deck will consist of three parts that will equal 71 Cards, A Ring-Bearer, with The One Ring, 9 Location Cards in an “Adventure Deck”, and an equal number of Fellowship and Shadow cards [at least 30 for each]. We now face our first decision.
The Fellowship of the Ring
“Nine walkers set out from Rivendell…” or were there? With the LOTR TCG you’re given the option to rethink the council of Elrond and craft your own group to include anywhere from two to nine companions [including the Ring-bearer]. This is where the various factors involved in this game start to be confusing. You can be selective with the Culture of Companions you bring into your fellowship, most cards of the same culture have effects or bonuses that work well with other cards of that same Culture, other cards promote equality [ie Shoulder to Shoulder] and work well when two Cultures are present in the Fellowship at the same time.
Flinch: I went with the combination of Aragorn: King in Exile, and Arwen: Daughter of Elrond. Powerful due to numerous support cards for the duo [ie The Choice of Luthien, or Arwen’s Fate]. Not only are both of these powerful characters Rangers, thus allowing use of ‘Spot a Ranger’ effects, but with Aragorn’s ability to heal a companion with the Aragorn Signet at the start of each of your turns the duo can remain mostly healthy throughout your quest!
I also added Legolas: Greenleaf for his Archery ability [Exert Legolas to wound a minion; Legolas does not add to the fellowship archery total], Sam: Son of Hamfast for his burden removing ability, Boromir: Lord of Gondor because he is not easily overwhelmed, and Merry: From O’er the Brandywine because when bearing a weapon his strength is +2. This collection gives me no more than 6 in my Fellowship, although when I have four on the table I try not to deploy more than this if at all possible due to cards like Ulaire Nertea which can bring minions from your discard pile back into play when your Fellowship is of more than 4, cards like this become a penalty to those with a large fellowship.
With the proper balance of members in your Fellowship comes a successful journey. Bear in mind how one card works with another and try to combine strategies if at all possible to ensure that your Fellowship moves easily past Sauron’s Minions.
With your Fellowship moving the distance that they do, it is vital to equip them with tools to make their quest easier, or inspire them with Tales of the past that bring out a new found determination or vitality. Weapons such as Sting, Ranger’s Sword, Blade of Gondor, and Hobbit Sword can enhance your companion’s Strength and benefit them in combat, where cards like the Tale of Gil-galad, The Last Alliance of Elves and Men, and Endurance of the Dwarves offer Statistical Enhancements in the form of a Condition.
While conditions are great to leave a permanent mark on one of your companions, salvation often comes in the form of single instances in time, or in this game Event Cards. With cards like Defiance, Cleaving Blow, Swordsman of the Northern Kingdom, and Halfling Defenses to enhance strength during an individual skirmish, you can often get that ray of hope that can mean the difference between a victory or a defeat.
Flinch: With the Aragorn/Arwen combination I added weapons like Ranger’s Sword, Gwemegil, and Asfaloth to boost them above their attackers. The Tale of Gil-Galad comes in handy to boost Arwen’s Vitality, where The Last Alliance of Elves and Men offers Aragorn +1 Strength for each elf you can spot (limit +3). My Hobbits are equipped with Hobbit Swords, but I left out the Stealth events to make room for Ranger boosting events like Pursuit Just Behind, Swordsman of the Northern Kingdom and An Able Guide which play off Arwen, Aragorn and Boromir.
Combining Possessions, Conditions, and Events can often turn a Hobbit Walking Party into a march of devastation that your enemy will not soon forget, but weapons and stories alone might not be enough to succeed against Sauron’s Will.
Assistance from Allies
Invaluable were the words and protection from Galadriel in Lothlorien, or the council and wisdom of Elrond in Rivendell. With ally cards you can gain benefit from knowing people in high places as well! Using cards like Rosie Cotton, Farmer Maggot, and The Gaffer you can easily keep your Hobbits in fighting shape with their ability to remove wounds and burdens from your halfling party members [This works well with the Rare Frodo: Old Bilbo’s Heir card as it allows you to heal a hobbit ally at the start of each of your turns].
Flinch: Because of cards like The Last Alliance of Elves and Men, I included Elrond: Lord of Rivendell; with Arwen and Legolas already in play, these elves can boost Aragorn or Boromir up to 11/10 Strength even without a weapon in their possession. Sam’s ability to remove burdens is handy, but with his Aragorn Signet and Aragorn: King in Exile’s ability to heal a companion with that Signet, Sam becomes a burden removing machine without the need to include excess Hobbit Allies.
With the proper assortment of Allies in your collection, your companions can receive the support benefits that they will come to rely on along their journey to site 9. You can choose to call to the woods for support from the elven archers of Lorien, or the wisdom and assistance of friends made along the quest like Barliman!
Throughout the Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo is left with the burden of the One Ring. With the LOTR TCG we’re offered a chance to select which elements of Frodo’s personality we want to bring with us on our journey. At the release of the Mines of Moria expansion, there were three versions of Frodo: Old Bilbo’s Heir, Son of Drogo, and Reluctant Adventurer. With the release of new expansions we will see new versions of Frodo to develop decks with.
Flinch: I used Frodo: Reluctant Adventurer with my favorite Deck. When playing cards like Sting, Mithril Coat, and Hobbit Sword this Frodo allows these possessions to deploy with -1 to the twilight pool. This Frodo also has the Aragorn Signet which comes in handy with Aragorn: King in Exile.
Depending on where you want to take the rest of your deck, you can select a Frodo that plays well with your Fellowship and its support cards.
The One Ring
There are currently two versions of The One Ring: Isildur’s Bane [+1 Str, +1 Vitality], and The Ruling Ring [+1 Str]. The rare card: Isildur’s Bane, which with its Vitality Point bonus requires you to take 2 Burdens instead of a wound, where the common ring The Ruling Ring only adds one burden.
Flinch: I try to put in as many support cards to prevent Frodo from needing to take a wound as humanly possible. With this being said I went with the Rare Ring to boost Frodo’s Vitality. Depending on how often your Frodo will be hot in combat, you may go with either ring, but a well protected Frodo always benefits from that extra Vitality point.
With your Frodo now clasping The One Ring and your Fellowship thuroughly supported, you are now well on your way to completing your deck. Can we allow for all the fun to be had by the good guys? No sir!
This section needs NO introduction. These cards exist for one reason, recapture the One Ring, and kill the one who wields it. But… Frodo… No! That’s right, your goal as the shadow player is to work your minions into the position of killing Frodo and his friends, as difficult as it may be to purposefully kill Frodo or the dreamy Legolas, without doing so you cannot claim victory over your Fellowship Opponent.
Flinch: I’ve been known to sacrifice Frodo to keep Arwen out of harm’s way. Let Sam deal with the ring as long as Arwen is safe! Well okay so maybe Arwen’s bit the bullet a few times in play but it never leaves me in a civil mood.
Without the aide of the countless minions of the Dark Lord, the Ring can never be reclaimed. Make right where the Dark Lord made wrong and set your minions to work in the evil tasks of delivering the One Ring back to its rightful owner. Selecting your evil is entirely up to you, if you so wish to bring a swarm of Moria Orcs into battle with your Fellowship Opponent you are more than capable, or if you so desire to send the Nine after the ring, you are free to do so as well.
Flinch: I’m a fan of big evil, and including the likes of the Nine was an easy choice. I went and chose Ulaire Attea: Ringwraith in Twilight, Ulaire Unquea: Ringwraith in Twilight, Ulaire Nelya: Ringwraith in Twilight, Ulaire Nelya: Lieutenant of Morgul, Ulaire Toldea: Messenger of Morgul, and Ulaire Attea: Keeper of Dol Guldur. I use the Twilight Nazgul as a benefit to It Wants to be Found, as it automatically adds a burden just by spotting a Twilight Nazgul, and the other selection is based on Strength and Card Text.
Cards like The Balrog, Cave Troll, and Watcher in the Water give us a chance to destroy one or two companions in one turn with little loss. Where the Balrog is a MUST for most decks, you may choose to toss in the Cave Troll, or the Watcher depending on your other minion usage.
Choosing an army of the Dark Lord is often rewarding as you watch your opponent struggle to defend against a swarm of Moria Orcs, or evading the charge of the Massive Balrog. Oh, but it gets better!
This section may need to be retitled to ‘de-support cards’ as they will become a constant detriment to your opponent’s attempts at rushing to site 9 undamaged. You’re given the opportunity to have your minions wield items that they so wielded in book or film, with Lurtz’ Sword, The Balrog’s Sword, and Whip of Many Thongs, these cards can make an already devastating minion that much more difficult to defend against and can often bridge the gap between a victory and an overwhelm.
With Conditions you’re given the right to be Nasty, and no, I don’t mean you can say cruel things to your opponent! With conditions like Blade Tip, Saruman’s Snows, and Drawn to its Power, you are more than able to leave a bad taste in the mouths of your opponents fellowship by leaving burden increases and wounds after common actions like a Nazgul winning a skirmish.
Flinch: Back to that whole “Flinch is evil” thing, I come out with Nazgul cards like Blade Tip and let them wreak havoc on my opponent, and cards like Saruman’s Snows that can keep Gandalf’s Support Cards from being used in the Balrog combat. This is also a good reason to include a short supply of minions from the Isengard Culture. I used Uruk Messenger as it is cheap and still of some use if you didn’t manage to get Snows in hand by Site 5.
Using Conditions can devastate your opponent’s chances of getting very far in their quest, this can also be added with the use of Events that work the same as the Fellowship events except to benefit your Shadow Minions. Your Fellowship and Shadow Cards have been assembled, now you’re on to the last step of this little tour.
You are required to have an “adventure deck” of nine cards, order 1 through 9. With each location comes a different benefit, so if you are planning to use a devastating Nazgul Deck, then you may want to include Locations that make it easier to bring your Nazgul out into play, but beware, a location in play benefits both you and your opponent, so choose wisely.
Flinch: The key to my deck revolves around site 1, The Prancing Pony. Without the ability to add a burden and play Aragorn: King in Exile much of my Strategy is lost, so starting off I use Arwen and Sam as my starting Fellowship and bid anywhere from 3 to 5 as my starting bid. This brings Aragorn into play and lets me use Sam’s ability to remove burdens to take at least three of those off of Frodo at the end of my first Fellowship phase. Early in the game it is unlikely for your opponent to be able to play enough minions to overwhelm both Aragorn and Arwen so if you only move once this turn or make a run for Rivendell, Sam’s Exertions become a thing of the past and I began scott free.
You now have a full deck built with enough power and strategy to lead your thoughts further down the path of deck building, perhaps you can come up with new combinations and show us a thing or two!
What do you use to take on the Fellowship? How do you rush your ring-bearer to Site 9? Tell us about it! E-mail Flinch at firstname.lastname@example.org.