We are incredibly lucky to be players of this game at its current state. New scenarios and player cards come out with smoothish consistency, the community is vibrant and active, and every day new decks and ideas are released into the wild. It’s easy to get caught up in all of this and try a different deck from one play session to the next which is something I am most certainly guilty of, especially due to the blog. Thankfully, a little deck I built last August has remained sleeved and in my bag, traveling with me from session to session, quest to quest.
The deck I built awhile back was built around* Eleanor, titled “Eleanor, the Bard.” Eleanor was hardly the central point, but rather one tool among many in this support focused build (hence the Bard aspect of the title) that had a primary objective of questing/location-control among others. The concept behind the deck hasn’t changed, really just a few key players coming in and out amid a few other tweaks.
The first deck suffered in a few categories. First was (and is, to an extent) combat. With the deck dedicating most of its resources, almost literally, to the quest phase, an early aggressive start or late game surprise from the encounter deck spelled doom in most cases unless another player was able come to the rescue. Ally Glorfindel, good as he is, is a horrible defender and would sometimes buckle under pressure from a few weak attacks before getting the chance to even strike back. Sure, he could inherently be pulled back from the brink but if any other player at the table became overwhelmed with enemies, then I had no real solution (which went against the idea behind the deck). Gildor Inglorion was some sort of solution but having only one copy meant I was rolling the dice a little bit more than I would like.
The next issue was resources. Cards like To The Sea, To the Sea! and Arwen Undomiel did their fair share of heavy lifting in that department (very much thanks to Elven-Light) but with so many high cost allies like the aforementioned Glorfindel or Gildor but also Northern Tracker, or even costly events like The Galadhrim’s Greeting, meant that I was almost always starving for resources, sometimes having to choose between playing a much needed card or holding back to play A Test of Will – not an efficient use of resources.
Lastly there was the cuteness behind Galdor of the Havens. His presence was probably the biggest factor behind my unwillingness to edit the deck until now. When he worked… he worked… amazingly. The gimmick behind Galdor was clear: take advantage of his first ability to get the ideal hand, play aggressively with resources and opening cards, then trigger his second ability and draw back up. Sweet right? Sometimes it was, sometimes it wasn’t. Sometimes I wish I had a more stat heavy Hero, especially in those combat heavy moments or when the encounter deck spits out little shots of direct damage. Even his name became a burden in a couple games where it shut down key strategies of other decks at the table. Long story short, he was very situational.
So I toyed around with the idea of making a “Galdor Sideboard” which, spoiler alert, I did. Another Hero had been swimming around in my head whenever the deck would show its warts. That Hero had better stats, helped improve my resources, and furthered the deck’s purpose of support, just to name a few. The Hero did have a much higher starting threat, but with the amount of threat reduction available, and the improved stats, I was willing to take the risk. That Hero was Elrond.
With Elrond on the table I can easily pull of a turn one Northern Tracker or Sulien (new to the scene) on location heavy quests. Not having the extra spirit resource for A Test of Will is a concern, but keeping Eleanor in the list helped counteract the potential loss. Elrond’s healing boosting ability also meant that Imladris Caregiver became a much more worthy ally. With each trigger of their ability basically being doubled in strength my reliance on discarding cards was therefore cut in half.
Another concern that kept popping up in the deck’s previous iteration was the uselessness of a seemingly key card in a deck full of questing elves, Light of Valinor. I had actually ditched using this card except when paired with a deck by a community member that featured Arwen’s brothers. My Heroes didn’t really care if they were ready (as none of them were really good for attacking or defending). Now, with Elrond boasting 3 defense instead of Galdor‘s laughable 1, Light of Valinor found its way back home. This still leaves the combat problem unanswered… sort of.
On the most recent episode of “The Grey Company Podcast” it was pretty much agreed upon that not every trait should be everything and, in extension, neither should every archetype (don’t quote me on that last part, haha). I do not believe this deck should be able to handle combat. It just shouldn’t. Elrond has, so far, proven to lighten the load a bit, and a few beefier allies have been added to either take more archery damage or potentially survive a chump block but that’s about it. Without a reliable combat oriented deck, or at least one with a decent defender, this deck will not perform but, again, that’s okay. This deck is meant to support, clear out locations, pick up the questing slack where other decks may falter, cancel some encounter cards, a bit of healing, and on it goes. Adding combat to the list would simply stretch this deck too thin, as Bilbo would put it, “like butter scraped over too much bread.”
I’ll quickly rattle off a few more cards that have come in and out for various reasons. Elven Jeweler was simply too hard on my cards. Thror’s Key now just has one copy, since the second copy may never even get to be played due to the uniqueness rule. The number of Elrond’s Counsels has been reduced from 3 to 2 since two copies of Galadriel’s Handmaiden both lower threat and improve this deck’s questing ability. Yes they aren’t free, but they are much more long-lasting. Sulien, one of the newcomers, in addition to Firyal are proving their worth. Firyal may be hard to get into play, so I have only thrown in one copy of her as well as and a couple copies of Envoy of Pelargir and A Good Harvest to help out. Sailor of Lune is a new one not only to the deck but to me, having no experience playing with it prior to now. With 19 events in the deck, Elven-Light being one of them, I can almost always make sure there is an event on top the discard pile to bring the Sailor‘s abilities online.
The jury is out on A Good Harvest and Envoy of Pelargir, as they were added to the list after tonight’s session. Again, Elrond can only do so much. Similarly, I added another card after seeing another player throw this down and that is Double Back. Among all the various supporting functions this deck has, threat reduction is probably one of its weakest currently, with only the Handmaidens filling that role. I did include a copy of The Galadhrim’s Greeting but almost always discarded it for one of the many Noldor effects, its 3 cost proving too much in the face of other, more powerful cards. Double Back‘s effect may not be immediate, but it is arguably more powerful. It will not save every player from threating out (and I would argue if you’re already at that point, it may be too late) but it will buy players a round or two from engaging aggressive enemies and yes, maybe, keep a player from reaching 50.
The sideboard pretty much includes all of the cards that were removed to make room for these edits, with very few exceptions. Galdor will remain an integral part of this list, but only as an audible of sorts, coming in on those select quests that work towards crippling players’ hand size. He will probably also come in with his favorite event, Desperate Alliance, to bestow his hand refilling prowess upon other players.
As it stands, I’m incredibly happy where this deck is. Like the deck that came before it, there will be some other update that will eventually come along as the card pool grows and the encounter decks shift to counter our meta. Until then, I suppose!
As always, thanks for reading!
-The Secondhand Took
2x Envoy of Pelargir (Heirs of Númenor)
1x Firyal (The Mûmakil)
2x Galadriel’s Handmaiden (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
2x Ghân-buri-Ghân (The Flame of the West)
1x Gildor Inglorion (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
2x Glorfindel (Flight of the Stormcaller)
2x Imladris Caregiver (Flight of the Stormcaller)
1x Lindir (The Battle of Carn Dûm)
2x Lindon Navigator (The Grey Havens)
2x Northern Tracker (Core Set)
2x Sailor of Lune (The Grey Havens)
1x Súlien (The City of Corsairs)
2x Light of Valinor (Foundations of Stone)
2x Steed of Imladris (Across the Ettenmoors)
1x The Long Defeat (The Battle of Carn Dûm)
1x Thrór’s Key (On the Doorstep)
3x To the Sea, to the Sea! (The Grey Havens)
2x A Good Harvest (The Steward’s Fear)
3x A Test of Will (Core Set)
3x Daeron’s Runes (Foundations of Stone)
2x Elrond’s Counsel (The Watcher in the Water)
3x Elven-light (The Dread Realm)
1x Hasty Stroke (Core Set)
2x Heed the Dream (Flight of the Stormcaller)
3x The Evening Star (The Grey Havens)
Cards up to The Mûmakil
Galdor of the Havens (The Grey Havens)
2x Desperate Alliance (On the Doorstep)
1x Elrond’s Counsel (The Watcher in the Water)
1x Heed the Dream (Flight of the Stormcaller)
1x Tale of Tinúviel (The Dread Realm)
1x The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core Set)
2x Will of the West (Core Set)
Decklist built and published on RingsDB.