I am quite pleased that the game’s first cycle kicked off with such a thematic quest. It is easy to place this quest within the timeline of Aragorn’s life. From 3009 to 3017, they hunted, and at last, Aragorn found signs of the creature, and ultimately, captured him.
This first cycle, Shadows of Mirkwood, takes place in the Anduin Valley, between the Misty Mountains and Mirkwood forest. We’ll be searching for clues of Gollum’s passing in this quest; but we are not the only ones on the hunt!
First and foremost, Aragorn appears in his Lore version. Access to Lore is great, as it provides healing, card draw, and best represents Aragorn as he trudges across the landscapes of Middle-earth. In my mind, Lore Aragorn depicts him as he simply travels from one region to another. Unassuming, quiet, and mostly unknown.
Since Aragorn always starts with a relatively high threat of 12, his ability to reduce your threat to its starting level, is really great, and makes “Loragorn” one of the powerful hereos of the game, opening up a lot of avenues for deck-building. For my purposes here, Lore Aragorn allows me to stay below 35 threat, in order to avoid many of the nasty treacheries and shadow effects that punish you for being at 35 threat or higher. Since that is one of my goals, I needed companions that give me a low starting threat, so that the reduction ability can be most valuable. Although, the ability is a nice-to-have, not a necessity.
Beside him are Arwen Undomiel, and Glorfindel. Admittedly, these are very powerful heroes for such an early, easy quest. Glorfindel provides an extremely low 5 threat. Of course, I’ll have to raise my threat when questing with him, but the deck has the obvious solution for that in Light of Valinor.
Arwen is a logical inclusion as well. She is a powerful questing hero with a great ability to generate resources for any of my heroes, since she and Glorfindel have the Noldor trait. Since Arwen is not physically present in many of Aragorn’s journeys, I am either saying she was with him, or that her inclusion as a hero or ally represents her being spiritually with Aragorn. She was never far from his thoughts, of course.
Coming with the heroes are many questing allies from the Spirit and Lore spheres. Keeping with the theme, there are Dunedain, elves, and some unique allies that are tossed in for utility. Henamarth Riversong allows us to “scout ahead” in the Encounter Deck; Mablung is just basic utility that will allow us to engage an enemy outside of the Encounter Phase, or, return an enemy to staging. Of course, with Gandalf also hunting for Gollum at the same time, the wizard makes an appearance as well.
Overall, the deck will be questing with Arwen and Glorfindel, while Aragorn quests, or prepares for combat with A Burning Brand. There isn’t much combat here, but the Hunters from Mordor can be quite nasty when clues are in play.
In my opening hand, I’d prefer to see Light of Valinor, of course, but also, an Elven-Light is great to get card draw going. Outside of Elven-Light, Daeron’s Runes make card draw easier, especially if you get both together, since you can draw two with Daeron’s Runes, then discard the Elven-Light with it, allowing you to avoid discarding a card that you may want to actually keep in your hand. Unexpected Courage will allow Aragorn to participate in multiple facets of the game, so getting one early really helps the deck handle quests and enemies.
I built this deck with Journey Along the Anduin in mind, ironically, since I was not planning on playing that quest in this series, and it was able to tackle that quest rather easily, or consistently. If playing against that quest, getting Treebeard or Gandalf in the opening hand is quite essential, as they will be the defenders for the Hill Troll, when you get to 30 threat. But, for Hunt for Gollum, they aren’t that necessary to start.