Welcome back! I took a break to work on some page setup for the site, and to plan ahead for this cycle, and the series returns with Into the Pit, the first quest in the Khazad-dum deluxe expansion. To be honest, I don’t love this cycle, although there are some good quests here. The first two cycles feel similar, to me, some stinker quests with some good ones mixed in. Many of the quests in this cycle feel the same, and some can be just awful slogs. Now that I’ve made you appropriately excited to revisit this cycle, here’s my deck build for Into the Pit!
Leadership Aragorn returns, and I feel that he will make many appearances for this cycle. Many quests in this box require a strong mix of willpower and attack/defense. Leadership Aragorn meets a number of challenges related to this just due to the nature of his ability to quest and ready, as well as his native ability to access his great Leadership attachments for this purpose. In this quest, Aragorn will be a secondary questing hero and the main attacker.
Mainly coming with Aragorn is the Sword That was Broken, probably my favorite attachment, or card, in the game. Aragorn doesn’t benefit from the Leadership icon, but that is never the reason to play the card, of course. The Sword will boost willpower for every character, which not only helps Aragorn in his secondary role, but also makes allies so much better for questing.
The second Aragorn-specific attachment is Roheryn, the steed brought to him during Return of the King, and was said to be a gift from Arwen Undomiel. This is a card I had never used before, and let me tell you, I love it. I already feel like Roheryn is my good, loyal friend. This attachment gives Aragorn the Tactics icon, but also allows him to attack an enemy that you optionally engage, which pairs nicely with him being able to ready after committing to the quest. Many of the enemies in these quests have low defense and low hit points, with a few exceptions. So Aragorn’s native 3 attack can a few of them without ever having to take an attack from them.
This also brings me to the next few attachments and strategies that Roheryn enables. Once Aragorn gains the Tactics icon, he can play Gondorian Fire to boost his attack. Since you really need Steward of Gondor to maximize Gondorian Fire’s usefulness, it is also a crucial attachment to see as soon as possible. I’ve never used that combination before, and at times, it can really feel game-breaking. Although, with all of my allies focusing on questing, Aragorn being able to attack and one-shot any enemy in the quest, it is nice to have.
Surprise, surprise, Arwen Undomiel is my main questing hero, simply because it’s so hard to let go of her resource acceleration for Aragorn right now. Being able to give him a 2nd resource on turn one, which will enable him to drop Steward of Gondor (and maybe, also Roheryn) immediately, is huge.
So, with that aside, this quest is featuring a new hero! Welcome Spirit Beregond, one of the best defenders in the game (shouts to new Spirit Dain Ironfoot, who I do not own). Beregond can defend almost every enemy on turn one without taking damage, since their attacks often do not exceed 3, and he can use his ability to manage threat increase. It felt crucial to have a powerful defender, because there are a lot of effects that “sprout” enemies, either into the staging area, or into play engaged with you. While those goblins have low hit points and defense, there are a lot of them.
I went with Spirit Beregond for the threat management, and because I wanted to keep the deck at only two spheres. With Aragorn gaining Tactics from Roheryn, he can play a Gondorian Shield on Beregond, and having him defending for 6, which is the maximum amount of attack any enemy can muster in this quest, I believe.
Allies focus solely on questing. There aren’t any attacking allies in the deck, unless you count Gandalf, but I mostly find myself using Gandalf for card draw and defense. Galadriel is such a great ally for this deck, as she can allow me to play a key attachment for free, and getting a Sword That was Broken for free is amazing. The added effect of stacking the remaining cards in any order is icing on the cake, as Elven-light and Ancient Mathom are the only card draw effects, so it’s nice to be able to set up some of those draws.
Galadriel’s Handmaiden and the Silvan Refugee remain some of my cheap questing allies, but also included is the lowly Snowbourn Scout. He’s the OG chump blocker from the Core Set, but he also serves another purpose in these quests. When in play, he will always quest, despite a 0 willpower, because of a nasty treachery. When Sword That was Broken is in play, he can at least quest for 1 willpower.
Opening Hand and Strategy
For the opening hand, I am aiming to see a number of key cards to get Aragorn set up for his questing/attacking role, and to be prepared for the treachery Sudden Pitfall. This is the card I’m most afraid of in the quest, even though there is only one copy. If you don’t play an ally on turn one, you could theoretically lose a hero in the first quest phase. So, while I want to see Steward of Gondor, and either Roheryn or Sword That was Broken in my opening hand, I really, really want to see one of those cheap allies, whether the Snowbourn Scout, the Handmaiden, or Refugee.
I play this quest on the edge of my seat if I don’t have a questing ally in play on turn one, and also, Sudden Pitfall’s shadow effect will discard your defending character, so it’s also possible to lose Beregond. I’ve packed 3 copies of Hasty Stroke solely to combat this effect. You can’t cancel the treachery’s “when revealed” effect, but you can cancel the shadow effect.
Since you start this quest at the East-gate, and you do not make any engagement checks, and cannot optionally engage enemies, this can be a blessing and a curse. It allows you to set up for a couple turns, avoiding enemy attacks, but it also can mean being totally swarmed by enemies once you clear the gate. Balancing that is crucial, and since enemies can stack up, this is why I felt like willpower was super important, and why all of my allies are focused on that role.
Once on Stage 2, Beregond’s strong defense becomes necessary as you have to fight a Patrol Leader, which has a 4 attack. There are a lot of attack-boosting shadow effects, or effects that spawn enemies in the staging area, so this means there may be a lot of combat in the quest. But, at least, when questing on Stage 2, you will discard enemies when they’re revealed from the encounter deck. Also, once there aren’t enemies in play, you advance immediately to Stage 3, and often, with Aragorn’s powerful attack with the Gondorian Fire, I can skip Stage 2 entirely if I only have to take out the Patrol Leader.
Stage 3 is just a straight-forward stage, but your heroes cannot collect resources during the Resource Phase. This does not affect Steward of Gondor, or Arwen’s ability, which is why it’s nice to have those two cards included. However, it’s possible for Aragorn to just be loaded with resources by that point and it becomes moot. But, with the willpower allies, and Aragorn attacking everything with crazy values, and Beregond defending everything with ease, this quest is often a breeze! (Unless you get Sudden Pitfall without a questing ally, or as a shadow effect without Hasty Stroke in hand, and you lose Beregond. Seriously, this card is scary, always be prepared for it!)