**Note: SPOILER WARNING! This quest concludes the official story from FFG for the cycle, and it is difficult to discuss the quest mechanics without spoiling this storyline. If you are a new player and do not wish to spoil the FFG narrative, you may want to skip this deck article and jump to the decklist on RingsDB.
The final quest of the Against the Shadow cycle is here, and it is still a difficult quest all these years later! The Morgul Vale is a series of boss fights, one after another, and not only does that make it a difficult nut to crack, but a lot of the very bad encounter sets from this cycle are back for one more go at tormenting you.
I went through many deck iterations for taking on this quest, ranging from focusing on humongous attacks, like Tactics Eowyn to eliminate the bosses, to Damrod and traps to avoid enemies as best I could. But, I couldn’t find anything I liked in those ideas, so I called back to my deck for the Watcher in the Water for inspiration.
Originally, I tried a lot of Tactics in this quest, but here I’ve settled on Lore Aragorn. The real key in this quest is actually avoid the first boss as long as you can, to allow you to set up. This makes Aragorn’s threat reduction ability an emergency safety valve, because there is plenty of Doomed in this quest. Since I am starting below 30 threat, which is the engagement cost of Murzag, the first boss, Aragorn’s ability will be handy if I don’t see any other threat reduction beforehand. Otherwise, the game can drag on, and with so much Doomed and Shadow effects to raise threat, it’s good to have the ability here.
Aragorn is also my primary defender, although, later in the game, with the final boss, it’s better to be chump blocking. For defending, and within Lore, the basic attachments for him are Protector of Lorien and A Burning Brand. Although the errata is technically not official, I play with the errata on Burning Brand. Canceling Shadow effects on the boss enemies, and the other enemies, can be very crucial, especially when on the second quest stage. There isn’t much else that Aragorn will need, although Unexpected Courage is nice for multiple defenses.
Since Aragorn starts with 12 threat, and I need to begin the game under 30, the other two heroes fit the bill, and I threw a little theme out the window and aimed for power, since this quest is tough. Thurindir is a great hero for trying to game this quest a bit, since none of the main quest cards require any progress. Side quests are great then, to give some boosts while not wasting progress each round.
Going with the side quest theme, I included three: Gather Information, Double Back, and Scout Ahead. Of course, I’ll begin with the game with Gather Information, and would prefer to see Double Back second. Thurindir is strictly a questing hero, and his willpower will only go up, which frees up other characters for attacking or chump blocking later on.
I love to combine Spirit and Lore, and I needed a powerful mix of questing and attacking, so Spirit Glorfindel was the perfect answer, especially since I needed a low threat. Of course, that means I’ll need to see Light of Valinor as soon as possible. If I don’t see it quickly, then I am going to ramp my threat up to 30 earlier than I want, with 1 threat raise per round plus Glorfindel’s own from exhausting to quest. That means my wiggle room is very minimal. So, Light of Valinor would be something to get with Gather Information.
Glorfindel also becomes my primary attacker, since he won’t exhaust to quest, and can’t really defend. So, with the side quests included, the easy weapon to bring is Legacy Blade. I’ll put one or two on Glorfindel, and maybe one on Aragorn (if he has a ready). But, Glorfindel really only needs to get to 5 attack at minimum, to chip away at the final boss.
Opening Hand and Strategy
As I’ve already mentioned, Gather Information is the starting side quest. From there, seeing Light of Valinor, some form of card draw, like Heed the Dream or Elven-light (combined with Protector of Lorien), is good to get. But, I’m really hoping to find a way to avoid an attack from the boss enemies, and in these spheres, that is only available from Coney in a Trap. This is another reason I chose Glorfindel, since he has the Warrior trait, and opens this card up as a possibility. Otherwise, getting another side quest, or threat reduction like Elrond’s Counsel will help avoid Murzag.
My primary strategy is to set up and get some boosts by completing side quests, and avoiding Murzag. So I need to stay below 30 threat for as long as possible. Elrond’s Counsel will go a long way, but if I get into trouble, I will be able to use Aragorn to drop back to 25. Once you get past Murzag, threat becomes less of an issue as the other boss enemies have such low engagement costs (10 and 1), that you can’t avoid them.
Once it’s time to take on Murzag, I do not want to be taking attacks from him. At most, I’ll take one, but any more than that, and the quest can slowly snowball. So Coney in a Trap is essential to cancel Murzag’s attack the round I engage him. Then, it’s important to kill him in one attack, or two, at most, finishing him in the second round. There is a neat little trick I like to do to allow me to advance the quest at more opportune moments than in combat, since once you defeat each boss, you immediately advance.
I’ve included three copies of Infighting, which isn’t a card that sees a lot of play, but it is very useful here. It requires to keep a second enemy in play, with damage, but it allows me to plan when I want to advance. For instance, I can put just enough damage on Murzag, or Lord Alcaron, and in the next round, use Infighting to finish them off without taking another attack. In this way, it acts as another “feint” or Coney in a Trap.
Lord Alcaron is really the boss enemy you don’t want attacking at all. It’s good to stockpile the Coney in a Trap copies until he’s in play. But, if he does attack, hope he gets a Shadow effect, or otherwise, he’ll go bananas. It’s not a high attack, but it adds tokens on To the Tower objective, which could end the game.
Of course, the final boss, the Nazgul of Minas Morgul, is very bad, and requires you to attack him numerous times to finish him, since all damage is reduced to 1. So, Infighting is another option here, allowing me to move 1 damage to him, and effectively, negate a round of attacking him. Once he’s down, the game is won! This quest is very tough, even with today’s card pool, so getting a win is no small feat.