Deck: The Charge of Harrowdale

This deck that I’d like to talk about and show off here is one I built a little while ago. It’s actually still sitting in my ‘Template’ folder, suggesting that perhaps I didn’t think it had quite reached finished product status, but despite that I have played a couple of games with it and found it worked pretty well. So I may go back and edit this deck in the near future, but the interest is less in the precise contents than in the concept. To be more precise, this deck is a marrying of two concepts, which fitted together so well for this deck that I’m no longer entirely sure which one I started from before adding in the other.

The first concept was of course that of a Dunhere deck. I wasn’t playing the game back in ye olden Core Set days, but I understand the Chieftain of Harrowdale was popular enough back then, because there were enough wimpy enemies who made decent targets for him, or enemies which were perhaps annoying to fight but had low threat and defence but high engagement cost so you wouldn’t mind just letting him chip them down. Plus in the early days I suppose Spirit had much more limited access to decent attack power. As the game has developed, however, things have changed, with Spirit now having three 3 attack heroes and some other decent stuff to let it cope with combat, and enemies having gotten to be generally more of a problem. There are still some quests where Dunhere can potentially shine – I imagine he could do very well against Intruders in Chetwood with its lack of engagement checks, or perhaps Across the Ettenmoors where he could sally out from a Safe location to run down enemies in the staging area; and of course he was somewhat popular for The Morgul Vale, which also gave him a new lease on life in general with the release of the Spear of the Mark. For more general use, however, he has problems, as a Dunhere strategy requires all players to keep their threat fairly low so he has targets; he only gets one attack per round so you need either readying effects or other combat options available; and if you can’t kill enemies the round they’re revealed, leaving them in the staging area will mean they contribute their threat against questing again next round. Of course, Dunhere’s Spirit sphere offers solutions to all of these, with handy access to threat reduction, readying, and cheap and easy willpower. The thing is though, you also need Tactics so you can actually make Dunhere a credible combat threat as well. And then once you’ve played your Spears of the Mark and Quick Strikes, your Tactics hero may be limited in what he can contribute – plus Tactics heroes are mostly on the higher end of threat and have abilities relating to combat, which they can’t use if you’re just Dunhere-ing everything. Really you kind of want a mono-Spirit deck with a focus on questing and threat reduction, and just a little splash of Tactics, but Song of Battle really isn’t reliable enough for these purposes…

Enter concept number 2: Hero Gandalf can be used to build an essentially mono-sphere deck with little splashes of other spheres to be played from the top of the deck via his ability. When The Road Darkens and Celebrimbor’s Secret came out I excitedly built a deck with Elrond, Gandalf and Galadriel and found that once I’d put in each character’s particular toys, I was rather limited on space for anything else at all. I think that deck is still oversized. I tried building just focusing on Gandalf himself. It was easier, but still there’s a lot you want to fit in. After these struggles I figured a mono-sphere/Gandalf deck would be a lot simpler since beyond some Gandalf splashes I’d only have one sphere to choose from. Plus, it’s not really a Gandalf deck, he’s just there to provide those splashes, so the nature of the splashes would be determined by the nature of the rest of the deck rather than anything else.

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And so these two ideas came together for a fabulous pairing. I can have my mono-Spirit questing/threat reduction focus while still being able to give Dunhere Spears and play Quick Strike. And because of the flexibility of Gandalf, rather than including other weapons (e.g. Daggers of Westernesse) like some decks do just to ensure you find one early enough to get up and running I can instead include the older method of Dunhere-boosting, which actually can be stacked with the Spears: Dunedain Mark. In theory this means I can get Dunhere up to 10 attack without any outside help, which will kill the vast majority of enemies. The one downside is Gandalf’s rather high threat cost. I’m at 22 already before adding my third hero, so even most Spirit options would put me close to 30, and what I really want here is to have Dunhere be a viable option for most or all of the game. I could take the standard easy option and bring out Glorfindel for a starting threat of 27 and easy access to Elrond’s Counsel, but a more interesting and arguably even better choice was the one I went with – the at the time newly released Spirit Merry from Wastes of Eriador. After all, he lowers my threat at the exact point where it’s most relevant – when I’ve found an enemy and want it not to engage me, and I’ve found him to be phenomenally good threat reduction. A lot of the time I don’t need anything else, and The Galadhrim’s Greeting can be spared for other players so they don’t screw things up for me.

I played some solo games just to test the deck which I don’t really remember, but the two multiplayer games I’ve used it in were both 3-player, one against Trouble in Tharbad and one against The Ring Goes South. Trouble in Tharbad is of course a rather easy quest and very well suited to low threat approaches such as Dunhere (of course I couldn’t actually use Merry’s ability and ended up just questing with him all game), but Ring Goes South was a whole different story. I chose the deck for it because I figured killing enemies in staging would avoid getting damage on active locations for engaging enemies, but I forgot how heavy that quest can weigh on the threat dial. That said, it also has some fairly high engagement costs to go with the extra threat you’re picking up, so I still got some use out of Dunhere, and without the threat reduction I was providing I think all three of us would’ve threated out rather than ending the game somewhere in the mid-to-high 30s. And actually to put a note on Tharbad, though it is simple enough to just quest a bunch and nothing else to win that particular scenario, without Dunhere the threat of enemies in the staging area could have built up to less manageable levels, so it did at least afford opportunities to show the efficiency of the approach once he gets powered up with attack boosts and readying.

So here’s the decklist. Like I said above, it could probably do with a bit more editing. If nothing else, adding Double Back (which hadn’t been released yet when I originally built this deck) would seem like a good idea. But this is how it currently stands:

The Charge of Harrowdale

Heroes:
Gandalf
Dunhere
Merry (Sp)

Allies (17):
Galadriel’s Handmaiden x3
Westfold Horse-breeder x3
Elfhelm x1
Arwen Undomiel x2
Bilbo Baggins x2
Silvan Refugee x3
West Road Traveller x3

Attachments (21):
Hobbit Pony x1
Map of Earnil x3
Gandalf’s Staff x2
Wizard Pipe x1
Spear of the Mark x3
Unexpected Courage x3
Good Meal x3
Dunedain Mark x3
Expert Treasure-hunter x1
Shadowfax x1

Events (12):
The Galadhrim’s Greeting x3
A Test of Will x3
A Light in the Dark x3
Quick Strike x3

Decklist on RingsDB

The strategy behind this deck is pretty simple. Power up Dunhere so he can run over enemies in the staging area, quest up a storm with Gandalf and the allies, keep your threat down with Merry. It’s interesting to note that Gandalf, usually a hero who really pulls the focus of a deck towards himself, is here mostly a support hero, just there to enable Dunhere and quest for 3 most of the time, though his other stats can come in handy once he has readying from Shadowfax. The Ranged and Sentinel come in handy as well. Possible edits to the deck – I mentioned Double Back above; I’m not sure about the single copy of Expert Treasure-hunter, because as good as it is with Gandalf, it’s no good if I don’t draw it, so I might be better with an extra copy of Bilbo to find the Pipe faster, or an extra Staff since that can also do card draw. Nothing else really springs to mind, as the core of this deck is pretty simple as noted, and it seems all pretty well covered here. I suppose one could debate the inclusion of Quick Strike, because while it’s generally good with Dunhere to kill off an enemy in staging before quest resolution, in this case that requires the extra setup of putting it on top of your deck, and the Wizard Pipe may well have been used in the Planning phase instead to play an attack-boost on Dunhere so that may not always work out. I should consider trying it out both ways.

So, readers, have you done anything interesting in decks with Dunhere, that hero far more famed in the card game than in the books (seriously, google Dunhere, you get multiple results for the card game before reaching his character page on the LotR wiki, and I think he’s only mentioned about 3 times in the books)? Or indeed with pseudo-mono-sphere Gandalf decks?

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6 Responses to Deck: The Charge of Harrowdale

  1. Hi Steve. Enjoyed your post. I’m having trouble from the card list to get Dunhere up to 10 attack. Are you implying that it can be done, even if not withe cards in this deck?

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    • Steven A says:

      2 + 1 from his own ability for attacking into the staging area, +2+2 for two Spears of the Mark attacking into the staging area, +1+1+1 from Dunedain Marks comes to a total of 10 attack into the staging area.

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      • Fully tricked-out indeed! Got it. I think killing or engaging enemies before quest resolution is a powerful, aggressive strategy. Dunhere also reduces the number if shadow cards you have to suffer through and prevents engagement responses, if you can actually kill the enemy in staging. I like it. He would be even more interesting to give him ranged also, maybe with the Dunedain cache, and be amble to hit all areas where enemies are hiding.

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  2. TalesfromtheCards says:

    Nice! I’ve been wanting to revisit Dunhere with the modern card pool, but haven’t quite got around to it. Gandalf is a nice solution to the problem of having to include Tactics.

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  3. Pingback: Power vs. Fun in the Hero Championship | Warden of Arnor

  4. Pingback: Deck Spring Cleaning – Template | Warden of Arnor

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