Heading north from Minas Tirith, this quest takes you into the Drúadan Forest, home of the Wose people. If you remember Return of the King, Ghan-buri-Ghan helped Theoden and his Rohirrim ride to Minas Tirith by secret paths, to avoid an army of orcs. This can be a tough quest if you aren’t prepared, because there is a lot of Archery as well as some annoying resource-stealing with the Prowl mechanic.
Because of all the Archery, healing is a necessity in this quest, and that is largely within Lore. Also, because of the forest setting, I wanted to go with Lore Aragorn. Threat reduction isn’t so much a need here, as most of the enemies have very low engagement costs, so you won’t be able to avoid them, anyway. But, I don’t really play Lore Aragorn for that ability.
For this quest, Aragorn will be attacking and defending, with Protector of Lorien as the only real defense boost. But, also, there’s a quirk to this quest in that willpower becomes very important for attacking later on. So, he’s also going to get Sword that was Broken later, to help with questing and attacking. With Unexpected Courage, he can also attack and defend. But, to start, I need him as my defender.
The Leadership icon granted from Sword that was Broken isn’t very useful in this deck, but if I get the Sword early enough, I will use it to play Steward of Gondor on Aragorn, to mitigate the resource-stealing Prowl keyword. Otherwise, it’s a light journey for Aragorn in terms of attachments. The only other item to give him would be the Ranger Spear, which will help with normal attacking, before getting to Stage 3.
I wanted to go back to the Gondor Ranger theme, but not replicate my deck from Into Ithilien, so I chose to include Damrod, to accomplish the Ranger theme. My third hero, though, is Arwen Undomiel, who adds some nice Spirit resources, and also can generate resources. With Damrod, the deck is primarily about the traps, and there are some risks and rewards with trapping enemies in this quest.
Because of the Archery, it can be very dangerous to trap an enemy in a Forest Snare and ignore it for the rest of the game, as you commonly would with that trap. As such, I didn’t even include this one in the deck. Also, the Ranger Spikes, where you can ignore the enemy in the staging area, is also dangerous with an enemy that has Archery. So, while the enemies will get trapped, I will also be engaging and attacking them when the time is right.
This meant that traps like Poisoned Stakes and Entangling Nets are the ones to play. The Nets are great to lower attack and defense on some enemies, and the Poisoned Stakes will kill certain enemies in one round. Ranger Spikes are still included as it is useful to minimize threat in the staging area and avoid having multiple enemies engaged. But, unlike Into Ithilien, I don’t need to see a Ranger Spikes in my opening hand.
Arwen is present primarily as a great questing hero, and with the ability to generate a resource every round. Given that Prowl will take resources in the quest phase, it’s not a good idea to use her ability just to bank resources. With Spirit access, she’s also allowing for A Test of Will and Unexpected Courage. She is how I will play Sword that was Broken, since she can use Reforged to get it (and Steward) out of my discard pile.
For allies, I started with the Warden of Healing, Anborn, and Henamarth Riversong. The healing is crucial in this quest, and Anborn helps with the Traps, but he’s also a very strong attacker. Since the Ranger Spear attaches to a Ranger character, he can also wield one for a great 4 or 5 attack. Henamarth is so strong in solo play for knowing what the next encounter card will be. Also, because of the Trap focus, the Master of the Forge is an essential ally.
Two other Gondor characters are less essential, but tossed in for fun. Mablung will help with questing, as well as possibly some engagement shenanigans with his ability. Faramir is a win-more inclusion, as he’ll rarely come into play unless the game is very late, and already won, since he will require Aragorn to have Sword that was Broken and Steward, most likely.
Opening Hand and Strategy
Starting out, it’s important to see Master of the Forge and some traps. I also like to have Elven-light or Daeron’s Runes to draw cards. But these things will get the deck moving. Henamarth is also a wonderful opening hand draw. I prefer to get a Poisoned Stakes or Entangling Nets first, so Damrod can draw and the enemies will either be weaker, or will die at the end of the round, if more than one wind up in play, either through Surge or the Setup reveal.
I’m usually in no rush in this quest, but that comes with risks, as I don’t want Archery to build up. But, since Archery has to be assigned to allies on Stage 2, and most of my allies have 1 HP, I try to avoid this stage by slowly advancing on stage 1 until I have a healer or Anborn in play to soak some damage. I don’t want to go to Stage 2 with trapped enemies that have Archery and the Glade of Cleansing in play to boost their Archery.
Stage 2 requires a lot of progress, but with one or two Wardens, and Anborn or Mablung, it’s less of a threat. Still, getting to stage 3 quickly is ideal. So most of the setup should be accomplished on Stage 1, and traps help by drawing and slowing things down with managing the enemies. Once Stage 3 is revealed, you have to add the boss enemy to the staging area. Dru-buri-dru has a high attack, and hit points, but the quest requires you to attack with willpower instead of normal attack. So, the Ranger Spear becomes useless, but the Protector of Lorien and Sword that was Broken are very powerful.
I want to try and time my advance from Stage 2 to 3 to trap Dru-buri-dru, for card draw, and to possibly lower his attack with the Entangling Nets. Allies cannot defend against him, but if he’s sporting a 3 attack from the Nets, instead of a 5, I can safely let Aragorn defend and use Protector of Lorien. Then, Arwen becomes my strongest attacker with 3 natural willpower! Once Dru-buri-dru is defeated, he gives all characters a willpower and defense boost, which is helpful because the last stage is a Siege quest. With Protector of Lorien and Dru-buri-dru’s stat buffs, the final stage is usually walkthrough.