The Line Unbroken – 23: Into Ithilien

It’s a somewhat hotly debated question as to which of Into Ithilien and Siege of Cair Andros is the more brutal scenario. Personally my inclination is still towards Into Ithilien being harder, but regardless of which way you lean, it’s very much those two quests that really represented the sudden change of gradient in the difficulty curve of the game more than Peril in Pelargir. When I and my brother were still gradually getting into the game, he had the Core Set, Heirs of Numenor and The Steward’s Fear. We beat Peril in Pelargir alright – with admittedly maybe some lucky draws, but we did it – then moved onto Into Ithilien, got smashed with dead heroes round 1 two or three times in a row, and then gave up. It didn’t help perhaps that this was the point at which I chose to try out Outlands, and while Outlands are powerful they take a little bit of time to get going, especially with limited options for card draw, which was perhaps not such an advisable strategy for a quest that’s inclined to stomp your face into the ground in short order if you don’t hit the ground running. Regardless, this is a tough quest, perhaps the quest I’m most worried about in the foreseeable future for The Line Unbroken.

On the other hand, however, Heirs of Numenor does also contain some very handy player cards to even the playing field. While the collection of actual cards available to me and my brother in general is admittedly a lot more limited than OCTGN, it’s still notable that we pretty much invariably take all the Tactics cards from Heirs of Numenor any time we’re building a deck with Tactics. Other spheres fare less well, but while they may not be constants, nevertheless cards like Ranger Spikes, Envoy of Pelargir, Errand Rider and Light the Beacons (to name a few) can be incredible in the right context. The only arguable duds in my opinion are Wealth of Gondor, Damrod, and the post-errata Master of Lore, and even they can find niche uses.

So, short player card waffling aside, let’s shift focus back to the quest. Into Ithilien requires all three modes of questing, assuming you keep Celador alive. Of course, since he takes damage when characters leave play and the quest boasts numerous high attack enemies you may want to chump-block, this can be difficult to achieve. Regardless though, what I really want to focus down is Battle questing – for quite a while I thought of this quest as being primarily Battle, when in fact it’s more evenly divided, but the Battle takes on more significance because it’s the first stage, so it’s what you need on the table right from the start, especially taking into account the Ithilien Road starting as the active location – you really want to clear this right away under most circumstances, so high attack power right out the gate is a must. Beyond that, obviously I need to be combat-capable to handle the tough enemies, threat reduction can be somewhat of a big deal to counteract some encounter card effects, particularly the potentially game-ending Watcher in the Wood; and the biggest thing I tend to bear in mind when building for this quest is that I preferably want pretty much any card I draw at a given moment to be useful right away. This quest can hit hard and fast, so unless I can directly counteract its strength and speed I want every play I make to be directly advancing my board state so I can hopefully win before I get horribly murdered by the enemies and treacheries. With all that in mind, my decks:

Eagles solve all problems

Heroes:
Boromir (Ld)
Thalin
Beregond

Allies (23):
Landroval x1
Snowbourn Scout x3
Gondorian Spearman x3
Beorn x1
Envoy of Pelargir x3
Eagles of the Misty Mountains x3
Vassal of the Windlord x3
Winged Guardian x3
Gandalf (Core) x3

Attachments (9):
Steward of Gondor x3
Spear of the Citadel x3
Support of the Eagles x3

Events (18):
Sneak Attack x3
Feint x3
Behind Strong Walls x3
Shadow of the Past x2
The Eagles Are Coming! x3
Fresh Tracks x2
Valiant Sacrifice x2

Thoughts: I’m not generally one for the whole “Why didn’t the eagles fly the Ring to Mordor” idea, but eagles can be really useful for Battle and Siege questing (Though in this particular quest, Blocking Wargs can be a bit of a fly in the ointment as far as that goes). Also I’ve been re-reading The Silmarillion and there are two or three points where they basically just waltz up to Angband and rescue one of Morgoth’s prisoners with no real trouble, which does lend some credence to the point of view expressed in this deck name. But I digress.
Thalin was a hero the designers had a bit of an awkward time with earlier on – they included some 1hp enemies presumably to specifically encourage using him, but this then ends up being a binary where he can be arguably essential for some quests and then relatively irrelevant for others purely dependent on the presence or absence of such enemies. Now personally I feel things can be more nuanced and depend on the kind of deck you want to fit him into, but the existence of 1hp enemies made it harder to see that. Regardless, Into Ithilien has in my opinion possibly the worst 1hp enemy in the game, and even if it wasn’t so bad, taking a horrendously difficult quest like Into Ithilien and making three cards in the encounter deck dead on arrival is a definite win. Plus Thalin’s better at Battle and Siege questing than regular willpower.
Otherwise, I mentioned the eagles, Support of the Eagles can also be handy – Thalin can use it for questing, Beregond can use it for defence. Fresh Tracks is there primarily for Morgul Spiders, to hold them back until their attack boost goes away. And Thalin + Gondorian Spearman + Spear of the Citadel can potentially kill Haradrim Elite the instant they enter play. Other than that it’s fairly standard, Gondor allies to go with Boromir and some staples. You may note there aren’t a lot of Leadership cards in this deck – for this reason I think Steward will probably be played cross-table.

Aid from Imladris

Heroes:
Elrond
Aragorn (Lo)
Glorfindel (Sp)

Allies (18):
Haldir of Lorien x1
Henamarth Riversong x1
Gleowine x1
Imladris Stargazer x3
Ithilien Tracker x2
Envoy of Pelargir x3
Elfhelm x1
Gildor Inglorion x1
Gandalf (OHaUH) x1
Warden of Healing x3
Arwen Undomiel x1

Attachments (15):
Unexpected Courage x3
Light of Valinor x3
Miruvor x3
Vilya x3
Ranger Spikes x3

Events (17):
A Test of Will x3
Daeron’s Runes x3
A Watchful Peace x2
Shadow of the Past x2
Out of the Wild x2
Gildor’s Counsel x2
Hasty Stroke x3

Thoughts: Attentive readers will note that this deck bears some resemblance to the deck I used when doing the challenge to beat Into Ithilien without using Leadership or Tactics. Essentially, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. In the absence of Faramir I’ve got Loragorn instead and thus have taken out some threat reduction and some other cards weren’t released at this point. Otherwise I’ve got a few more cards to try and hold back the encounter deck. I brought up the point about Thalin vs. Bats making a few cards dead on arrival, and obviously Gildor’s Counsel can work on a similar principle by removing a card entirely. Shadow of the Past and A Watchful Peace aren’t quite the same, but any time I reveal the same Overgrown Trail for a second or third time is a time that I’m not revealing the Mumak, or Blocking Wargs, or Southron Support, or Watcher in the Wood, and that’s well worth a resource or two to me. Out of the Wild is perhaps the only Secrecy card from the Dwarrowdelf cycle which I tend to use even outside of Secrecy (though I know some people would disagree). Otherwise, Elrond + Vilya, let’s go!

RingsDB:
http://ringsdb.com/fellowship/view/1905/the-line-unbroken-into-ithilien
http://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/4149/the-line-unbroken-into-ithilien-deck-1-1.0
http://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/4150/the-line-unbroken-into-ithilien-deck-2-1.0

Youtube videos:
Into Ithilien
Into Ithilien Take 2

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