Ah, the Heirs of Numenor deluxe expansion. Before I get into the deck, since this kicks off a new cycle, I just want to go back to when I purchased the deluxe because this one holds a special (tortured) place in my heart. I owned the Core Set since the year it was released (though, not day 1), and thought the game was super difficult. So, I shelved it, but when I moved to Colorado in 2013, I was looking for things to do, and stumbled upon the Heirs of Numenor deluxe box in my local store. I was naturally all-in on buying it as it took place in Gondor.
But, little did I know the difficulty level (when playing progressively) was off the charts! I didn’t even have the Shadows of Mirkwood adventure packs, nor any of the Dwarrowdelf content. I tried to dive right into Heirs of Numenor from the Core Set. Folks, it did not go well. I was thus convinced the game was too difficult for me to enjoy, and shelved it again, until a couple years later when I really committed myself and started over at the beginning!
Without further ado, let’s get to Peril in Pelargir. This quest is fun, but it can be a pain. It introduced Battle questing, and lest you think you only need to bring attack power for questing, willpower is also needed! I actually love the theme and story for this quest, so I was looking forward to deckbuilding for it with Aragorn at the center.
Although all versions of Aragorn have the same stats, I wanted to toss in Tactics Aragorn for this one, with the Battle questing. Mainly I wanted to have access to some tactics cards, but Aragorn’s defense reduction on enemies is quite handy in this quest. There are a lot of enemies, and there are some 3 defense values in this encounter deck. But, the primary enemies, the Harbor Thug, become vulnerable to a one-shot kill as they sport only a 1 defense.
So, with a 3 attack, Aragorn is a great questing character, as well as a great attacker for this quest. The problem will be finding ways to ready him, but more on that later. There won’t be many attachments for Aragorn, as he’s capable of felling enemies on his own; however, a couple of Dunedain Marks are helpful not only as attack boosts, but also for questing! Furthermore, since there is standard willpower questing needed, his Sword That was Broken is obviously coming along, too. Since he will have the Tactics and Leadership icons with the Sword, I like to give him Steward of Gondor as well, so he can pay for items, and gain the Gondor trait, which is good to have, and feels thematic for this storyline. Finally, I added Celebrian’s Stone to give Aragorn a further willpower boost, and the Spirit icon, as Steward usually results in him having too many resources.
As for Aragorn’s ability to engage enemies after he kills an enemy, it won’t come into play often. The enemies in this quest have relatively low engagement costs, so they’re most likely going to engage me no matter what. However, the final stage of the quest prevents you from optionally engaging enemies. This could be nasty if I’m not at 40 threat and can’t engage the deadly Umbar Assassin. Also, there’s a trick to timing when you advance to Stage 3 that makes Aragorn pretty useful there.
Since Aragorn will be questing, and attacking, I’ll need a consistent way to ready him. Also, I’ve mentioned Steward of Gondor and Sword That was Broken, so I need a means of playing those cards, of course! As a result, the supporting cast is included specifically for those reasons, but they also fill vital roles in the quest itself.
First, I’ll cover Denethor, the Leadership version, who felt like a perfect inclusion, and serves a clear purpose. For starters, Denethor begins with 2 resources in his pool, perfect for playing Steward of Gondor on turn 1, and giving Aragorn 3 resources to work with right off the bat. But, also, once Aragorn has the Gondor trait, I could use Denethor’s ability to pass a resource to Aragorn. Maybe I spent all my resources on allies and need one more for a Feint during combat. Denethor accomplishes that for us!
Also, Denethor has a solid 3 defense, and with Tactics Aragorn involved, means he can receive the Gondorian Shield for a reliable 5 defense. There is only 1 attack-boosting Shadow effect, which is a +2 to attack, but the 5 defense can withstand that hit. Also, there will be lots of enemies, so Denethor needs to defend more than once most rounds. The Armored Destrier gives him readying and some Shadow removal.
The third hero also lends a helping hand to Aragorn. Spirit Legolas returns to the series, and I’ve included him because he allows Aragorn to quest and ready. Also, I’ve played Tactics Legolas from the core set against this box before, but this time, Spirit Legolas is even better! Not only does he have a great attack value for questing, but I can also boost his attack, and later his willpower, with the Mirkwood Long-knife. Since Legolas will need to discard a card to ready Aragorn, this gives me a clear spot for Elven-light, which also adds card draw to the deck.
Legolas is actually the primary target for any copies of Unexpected Courage, so I can have two attackers. Legolas and Aragorn can kill most enemies on their own, with Aragorn’s -1 defense ability, but they need to attack together to kill some of the tougher brigands. Also, having a 2nd attacker available is good for when pesky enemies may return to the staging area after their attacks. Some Shadow effects in the quest will do so, and if Aragorn has another enemy to kill, he can bring that first enemy back down for Legolas to kill.
As for the allies, there are a mix of folks, including attackers, defenders, and regular questing characters. For defense, the tried-and-true Defender of Rammas can defend anything in this quest, unless the enemy gets that +2 attack Shadow effect. If I need more than 2 defenses in a combat, Denethor will defend first, and discard a shadow with the Destrier, meaning he can protect the Defender of Rammas a little. The Honor Guard is another good “defensive” ally. While his defense is low, his hit points are high for an ally, and his ability is fantastic to protect heroes and allies from damage. There are annoying effects on enemy cards that deal indirect damage to allies, and Honor Guard can avoid that. Also, he’s great against Archery, but that isn’t a huge problem here.
For attack, and questing, the Dunedain Hunter is a great ally for this quest. Although he has to find an enemy to put in play engaged with you, he costs 0 resources and has a 3 attack, which is phenomenal. Also, he’s got more than 1 hit point, so those stupid indirect damage effects won’t outright kill him. It can be risky to play this guy when you aren’t prepared, because there are a lot of enemies in this quest. So, I will pick my spots. This isn’t a turn one type of guy.
Similar to the Hunter is the Dunedain Pathfinder. He’s a great character for the final stage, as he has 2 willpower, and again, costs nothing. There is little need to play him early one, with only 1 attack, and I don’t necessarily want to flood the staging area with locations, but if he can find a copy of City Street, which removes a Surge card from the deck, I’m all for it. Finally, there are a few copies of Arwen Undomiel, just for the questing power, as well as Gandalf, because some Collateral Damage can be devastating, and Gandalf is primarily a card draw and threat reduction guy, with Sneak Attack. One copy of Elfhelm can help mitigate effects of Collateral Damage or Local Trouble.
Opening Hand and Strategy
Since you have to babysit the Alcaron’s Scroll objective card, and start out with an enemy in the staging area, with the strong possibility of revealing two more on turn one, thanks to the Leaping Fish, I want to see Gondorian Shield, or Armored Destrier really quickly. Three enemies on the first turn, when Aragorn and Legolas have to quest, is almost a scoop. A Defender of Rammas on the first turn is also good, if I can also get Steward of Gondor.
Willpower cards are not essential to start out, so there’s little point to keep a hand that’s heavy on Pathfinders, Arwen, or Sword That was Broken. Of course, any time I play Elven-light in my deck, I want to see one copy in my opening hand to get the cycle going. Also, A Test of Will is crucial in this quest!
The scariest card in this quest is Local Trouble. It can result in skyrocketing threat. I will hold A Test of Will for this card. Collateral Damage can be bad, but Local Trouble is brutal, and I do not have Condition removal in this deck. You can slot Power of Orthanc or even Bulwark of the West, if you like, but I will just try to shut the door on it with A Test of Will. Of course, if you’ve get a Collateral Damage and see every other copy already in the discard, by all means, cancel that! The one copy of Elfhelm will blank Local Trouble, effectively, but, I can’t count on that. He’s icing if I can pay for him, but I’m not relying on him.
I let Denethor carry the scroll, and gamble a little on taking attacks at the start. The Leaping Fish effect can sink the game really quickly, so if Denethor gets hit with a couple damage early, I’m A-OK with that, since he’ll drop the scroll and negate the Leaping Fish. Otherwise, I need to get through Leaping Fish as soon as possible to prevent extra card reveals.
On Stage 2B, I will delay re-taking the scroll until I have maxed out the progress on the quest card. Then, I can grab the scroll after enemy attacks in combat, immediately advance, and add the enemy to the staging area. Then, Aragorn can kill an enemy engaged with me, and pull down that new enemy, who can’t be optionally engaged. This is how I avoid starting with threat in staging when going to the final quest stage!