The journey in Moria continues, and this is a quest that feels quite similar to the last one, in my opinion. It only consists of two stages, and neither have anything particularly challenging about them. The quest can possibly swarm you with enemies, but they are mostly weak enemies, although, they have punishing effects if you take an attack undefended. So, the goal is to quest very well, and be able to defend numerous times, or eliminate attacks overall, while avoiding Shadow effects.
As usual, starting with Aragorn, I’m not shifting away from Leadership Aragorn, mostly because of his access to powerful attachments. Attachments like Celebrian’s Stone, Sword That was Broken, and Roheryn accomplish all goals mentioned above. Aragorn can quest for a potential 5 willpower, ready with his ability, and attack an enemy with Roheryn. This may turn out to be a broken record, but Aragorn with these artifacts and his mount, are a stellar combination.
However, instead of going with the same Steward of Gondor and Gondorian Fire recipe of that last quest, making it easy to vanquish any enemy, I am using conventional weapons here. Once equipped with Roheryn, Aragorn can play the Blade of Gondolin, which better plays into what I hope to accomplish in this quest. All enemies, save for the scary Cave Troll, are Orcs, so therefore, he will always have the attack bonus from the weapon. Also, when killing an enemy, the blade places progress on the current quest; if Aragorn can attack and kill multiple enemies, with Roheryn, and say, an Unexpected Courage, then he can place more than one progress on the quest in a round, and speed our journey along.
Another option for readying Aragorn and boosting his attack, is the card Tale of Tinuviel. This is a fun, but situational card that I do not use that often. In concert with Arwen Undomiel, this card can exhaust her to ready Aragorn, and add her 3 willpower to all of his stats for the phase. This could come in handy if faced with the Cave Troll, which is the deadliest enemy in this Encounter Deck. Aragorn doesn’t get the attack bonus against the Troll from the Blade of Gondolin, so it is tough to deal with this enemy. Hopefully, we avoid it altogether!
As mentioned, Arwen is still along for the quests. For this one, she receives the Book of Mazarbul attachment, which allows her to quest without exhausting. So, on Stage 1, this allows her to quest, and remain a target for Tale of Tinuviel, to exhaust her and ready Aragorn. However, the book is removed from the game on Stage 2, so she will have to exhaust to quest, since I do not have Light of Valinor in the deck. It isn’t that big of a deal, since once you hit Stage 2, it is best to run, run, run out of there as fast as possible!
New to the series, as a defensive replacement for Spirit Beregond from the last deck, is Erkenbrand: Lord of the Westfold, and uncle to Dunhere! He is a fun defensive character because of his ability to cancel Shadow effects. Many of the Shadow effects in this quest add enemies to the staging area, give the enemies an attack boost, cause extra attacks, and other nasty effects. Erkenbrand offers a way to always cancel them, by dealing him damage. Although, with no healing included, this will have to be used cautiously.
For Erkenbrand, I’ve added Dunedain Warning to improve his defense, as well as Armored Destrier. This mount also adds more Shadow cancellation, and multiple defenses. With two of them, Erkenbrand defends multiple times, and would only have to face one Shadow effect on the first enemy, unless of course, there are more than three enemies engaged. The idea of Erkenbrand riding two mounts is funny to me, also, as I picture him like Zorro, riding with one foot on each saddle.
Allies for this deck are all about questing. With most of the deck focused on Leadership and Tactics attachments, almost all allies are Spirit, and contribute strong willpower. With Erkenbrand added, I went for a slight Rohan theme, with Escort from Edoras, West Road Traveler, and Westfold Horse-breeder. The first two are of course just purely questing characters, and Escort from Edoras I try to save until Stage 2, when I can play them and really hammer the quest with their 4 willpower (or 5 with Sword That was Broken). The Westfold Horse-breeder is there to try and fish out Roheryn and the Armored Destrier for Aragorn and Erkenbrand; then, she is also able to quest for 1 (or 2), and chump block if necessary. The last questing ally is the Ethir Swordsman, a hall-of-fame questing ally. Although they don’t fit a theme or anything, their exponential willpower comes in handy.
Galdriel and Gandalf are the last two allies. Galadriel allows for a form of card draw, and gets you free cards in play; stacking the top of your deck is also amazing, and I like her ally form a whole lot. Gandalf is still his usual self: a crutch he may be, but it’s hard to let him go for now.
Opening Hand and Strategy
For the opening hand, it’s quite simply about defense and card draw. I really want to see Armored Destrier first, so that Erkenbrand can defend more than once right out of the gate. Roheryn is also nice, so I’m hoping to find the mounts quickly. Steward of Gondor, of course, is preferred. Otherwise, Elven-light or Galadriel in an opening hand means I can access the only forms of card draw that I have. Galadriel can’t be played until the second turn, but she can set you up nicely for subsequent turns.
As I’ve mentioned before, with the possibility of being swarmed by enemies, it’s really important to have the ability to defend without worry as soon as possible. Erkenbrand can take a hit from the main enemies, Goblin Spearman and Goblin Swordsman, without worry, but a Cave Troll on turn one or two might lead to certain death.
If Aragorn gets Steward of Gondor in the first turn, he can quickly start questing and attacking. Steward along with Armored Destrier or Roheryn is a perfect turn one. I’m always hesitant to mulligan when I see Steward in an opening hand, so even if the other cards are less than ideal, it may be worth it to keep the hand for Steward alone, unless there’s no card draw. Without Elven-light or Galadriel, the deck can stall.
Hope you enjoy the game!