We come to the end of Dwarrowdelf at last. Shadow and Flame was a really scary quest in the early going. Having to defend Durin’s Bane was no easy task, and has been made easier with time and the expansion of the card pool. For example, if you played progressively, you’d have no access to any of the heroes I’m using. But, I managed to win this quest safely the majority of attempts. Onward!
I’m switching gears for this quest and featuring Tactics Aragorn. I love this version of him, and in this quest, the attack power needed to bring down Durin’s Bane means Tactics is needed. Also, Aragorn provides a defense reduction to Durin’s Bane while he’s engaged. A reduction from 3 to 2 may not sound like much, but when staring down 27 hit points and Regenerate 3, psychologically, it feels valuable.
Aragorn also helps me with my main strategy going into this quest. I want to keep at least 1 lowly enemy engaged with me, to permanently defend with my main defender. Aragorn’s ability allows me to filter the enemies in play, if more than 1 show up. If I have an enemy engaged, that I’m defending every turn, but then another goblin appears, I can kill the engaged enemy with Aragorn, and then bring down the enemy in staging, allowing me to keep an enemy engaged at all times, while taking fewer attacks overall.
Also, since Aragorn is my primary attacker, I’ve included the Dagger of Westernesse as his primary weapon. Unfortunately, this doesn’t affect the attacks against Durin’s Bane, since, by rule of the scenario, you will have to have threat equal to, or greater than his engagement cost to be engaged with him, but they’re cheap, and 2 of them will do the trick, coupled with all of the other attack on the table. Also, if a terrifying Great Cave-troll shows up, Aragorn will enjoy an effective attack of 8 against that enemy (+4 attack, -1 defense).
Durin’s Bane in the staging area means you always have to quest against at least 4 threat, so it is important to include questing power, not just attack and defense. Arwen Undomiel is pretty much always my go-to questing hero when playing Aragorn. She can give resources to Aragorn to help him pay for tactics cards, and allows for Elven-light as a means to draw cards (Note: I don’t own the Hobbit boxes, so I do not have Foe-hammer).
The other hero, and my primary defender, is Spirit Beregond. His ability allows me to game the system in this quest. With a smaller enemy permanently engaged, I can always defend that enemy, take no damage, and reduce my threat by 1, ideally to 0, in order to avoid attacks from Durin’s Bane as long as possible. This means it is absolutely vital to find a weak enemy to engage by turn 2. Beregond can defend for 6 with the Gondorian Shield, which is equal to the base attack of Durin’s Bane. So, as long as Durin’s Bane doesn’t get a boost from a shadow card, or the Fiery Sword, then Beregond can safely defend those attacks, too.
I’ve got a mix of allies for questing and attacking. Allies for questing also offer a little extra utility, such as the Galadriel’s Handmaiden, who can lower my threat by 1. If I find myself at 2 threat, then Beregond can only ever lower me back to 1, which means I can’t escape those attacks from Durin’s Bane. A well-timed Galadriel’s Handmaiden can get my threat back to that 0-1 sweet spot to let Beregond do his thing. Also for questing, the Celduin Traveler offers a good bit of utility in looking at the top card when he enters play, and being cheap to play with Secrecy 2. There may be a situation where I want to discard a location being revealed, but really, the ability to see what the card is for a turn, is extremely valuable here!
Attacking allies include Legolas, the Riddermark Knight, Dunedain Hunter, and Treebeard. These allies are all great attack value, and Legolas facilitates some card draw if and when I want to kill chump enemies. He will usually attack with Aragorn, kill a weak enemy, so Aragorn can engage a second enemy, and Legolas draws. The Riddermark Knight is great to have at 2 attack, with a potential 4 attack for when I am ready to smash Durin’s Bane. Treebeard doubles as an attacker and emergency defender.
Opening Hand and Strategy
Entering this quest, I knew I wanted to accomplish one thing to win: avoid Durin’s Bane attacks as long as possible. As such, there are a few pieces to get that strategy rolling. One, of course, is Beregond. Starting at 0 threat means I have one turn to prepare, and then the 2nd turn is when Durin’s Bane starts swinging. So, Beregond needs to be able to defend either against a chump enemy or take a hit from Durin’s Bane by round 2.
Ideally, the deck is built to accomplish the first option: engage and defend a chump enemy forever. The Dunedain Hunter ally enables me to search the top 5 cards for an enemy and put it into play engaged with me. If he succeeds, I’m off and rolling! Another option is Wait No Longer, which not only facilitates my strategy of finding an enemy to engage, but also allows me to quest without revealing a card, since it says “minimum of 0” on the number of cards revealed!
With a chump enemy in play, and the Gondorian Shield, Beregond is never in danger from those goblins, as the best attack they can muster is 6, from the worst shadow effects (that apply to non-Durin’s Bane enemies), which is equal to his defense, ensuring he takes no damage and can trigger his ability. But, if for some reason Beregond does take a hit for actual damage, I’ve tossed in Gondorian Discipline to help.
So, what does this all mean for an opening hand? First of all, I want to see Gondorian Shield, or perhaps, Open the Armory. Those make me feel more comfortable about defending early, if I get supremely unlucky. I also want to see either Celduin Traveler or Galadriel’s Handmaiden in my opening hand. Those questing allies are really essential to avoid failing the quest early on! Aragorn has to quest for a while, too, because the 4 starting threat in staging is nothing to sneeze at. A Dunedain Hunter is another card I want to see quickly. Also, getting Elven-light as soon as possible means I can start drawing and safely generating extra resources. Top-decking can turn ugly in this quest!
Once online, Beregond will eventually have to defend Durin’s Bane, as I will want to attack him eventually. But, the shadow effects for Durin’s Bane can be nightmarish. I’ve added in a little trick to hopefully avoid those! Armored Destrier provides a ready, and a shadow discard for Beregond, but to play it, I have to also play Reforged. It’s a little silly to “reforge” my armored steed, but hey, whatever works! Arwen also offers an easy way to get the Destrier into the discard pile. In hindsight, I should’ve included 3 copies of Reforged in my deck, but went ahead with only 2.
Finally, I will point out that Stand and Fight is a good card in this quest, and with the allies that I’ve included. If I need to, I can chump block Durin’s Bane with a Handmaiden or Celduin Traveler, and use Stand and Fight to not only play them again, but also get their benefits when entering play. However, Celduin Traveler becomes much more expensive via Stand and Fight, as you have to pay the printed cost (I may have made this mistake in my game, but I cannot recall). Also, Stand and Fight can bring back the Riddermark Knight for another turn of 4-attack power, as he discards when you use his response.