In Part One, I discussed that ISENGARD was the culture which will significantly impact the dynamic of the LOTR TCG in such a way that many believe as a culture it is too powerful, broken and unbalanced.
After testing many of the key strategies and essential elements concerning ISENGARD’s Orc subculture, I have concluded that these new ORCS are quite indeed powerful, surprisingly effective, however not as potentially abusive as many assume they are. In fact, they just as powerful as “splashes”; subtle elements of secondary support strategies within the contexts of different cultures and their respective strategies.
To successfully construct an Isengard Orc deck to maximize the full potential of the Orc subculture, you must understand and realize your design on the basis of how and why this culture was created: to reduce the potential of powerful Fellowships. Isengard Orcs have two very powerful, inherent characteristics: (1) They can exert themselves multiple times for a variety of different purposes and (2) They are incredibly strong which gives them the advantage in skirmishes – protecting their ability to exert.
Shadow cultures as a whole are incredibly weak against ARCHERY (total and directed as utilized in Legolas, Gondor Bowmen, Double Shot, Splendor of their Banners, Calaglin, Elven Bowes, Hand Axe, etc.). However, in the case of the Isengard Orcs, their vulnerability against direct damage effects such as Orc-Bane, Frying Pan, Power According To His Stature, Bow of the Galadhrim, Blade of Gondor, Pursuit Just Behind and any damage +1 weapon capabilities just to name a few – limits their potential for multiple exertions which weakens their overall strategic possibilities.
Remember, their power is in the ability to “exert for” a specific effect. Even if they win the skirmish, if their exertion potential is removed due to wounds or exhaustion, then their stopping power is completely ineffective. Which is why I feel that this culture is NOT broken nor unbeatable.
So how exactly are the Isengard Orcs effective? Why is everyone concerned with the abusiveness of this specific culture? Where lies the real threat?
Let’s look more closely at a few KEY cards which make these Orcs such a breed to be feared. Remember, the strategic success of using these Orcs not only relies just on the ROTEL expansion, but also in cards from the previous two releases.
SPIES OF SARUMAN – This is the one card which is a MUST in every Isengard Orc Deck. For all intents and purposes it cancels the archery phase which gives your high strength/high vitality Orcs the protection to exert multiple times for multiple effects. “Spies” works by spotting and Isengard “minion” and not just an Uruk-Hai. Even though it costs 2 twilight and an exertion from one of your Isengard minions – at the right time, this card is devastating especially at the sites where rivers and forests are concerned (re:Legolas).
TRAPPED AND ALONE: Another exertion protection card. On occasion throughout the course of the game – your orcs will take damage from archery fire. However, prevent further vitality loss by preventing additional damage from Ranger’s Sword, Glamdring, Gwemegil and other such additional damage possessions if your Orc loses the skirmish.
WASTES OF EMYN MUIL – By the time your opponent has reached Site 9 against your deck, one of two situations has already shaped the endgame: (1) Your opponent has more than 4 companions in play (hopefully stripped of their possessions by the Isengard Smith) or (2) The smaller Fellowship has been weakened severely by your Isengard Orc exertion abilities. WASTES will punish the Fellowship with over 4 companions during the Manuever phase, as you exert to wound as many times as possible. Since this action takes effect before archery – your exertions are intact. For smaller fellowships, the high twilight alone (9) will give you the necessary pool you need to launch an assault force capable of overwhelming Frodo and ending the quest at this site.
ISENGARD SMITH – Another MUST in and Isengard Orc deck. If you want to force your opponent to reduce the potential of the Fellowship, this is the card you need to play early at first and in reserve for later. The Isengard Smith, has the ability to exert to discard a weapon (or such free peoples possessions if you can spot 5 companions). The best quality about this card is that it is not proprietary to the Isengard Orc strategy. Rather this minion can be “splashed” into every culture and perform the same effect against the Fellowship’s multiple possessions.
THE TREES ARE STRONG: Remember, if your Orcs are exhausted – they are essentially powerless…essentially. By using THE TREES ARE STRONG – you have the ability to inflict more direct damage to your opponent than originally intended. This card will allow you to basically “squeeze” your Orcs’ for the last drop of their potential as you discard them to wound companions. Using this is best reserved after the Fellowship has sustained heavy damage or has exhausted several companions.
So as you can see – the Isengard Orcs are indeed a true force with incredible, but not limitless, potential. They are not broken, nor are they unbeatable. However, they are incredibly versatile which is a factor always problematic to contend with. Their resources are difficult to counter because they are proprietary from one Orc to the next. And, most importantly, they – like Moria – no longer roam past Site 3 so by Site 4, the ability to launch a very effective fighting force (with capabilites to exhaust, disarm or wound companions) is by all means no longer a strategy limited only to Moria.
Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for Part 3: The Melting Pot of Isengard