Another deck in the list of ones I want to share on here is my Caldara deck, already referenced in passing after it beat Nightmare Return to Mirkwood. Well, I say “my Caldara deck”, I have a few in OCTGN actually, but this is the one I’ve had the most success with and that I use the most and keep updating more consistently as new cards come out – though I don’t think I’ve updated it since the start of the Angmar Awakened cycle.
The particular reason I wanted to bring up this deck now is that Caldara stuff has been quite a bit on my mind of late, because with the spoiling of Cirdan the Shipwright and ally Glorfindel, and the release of hero Arwen and Sword-thain in The Dread Realm, not to mention that we’re starting to get cards which play exclusively from the discard pile; with all this stuff, the number of options for Caldara decks are really snowballing up impressively, so it seems like an opportune moment to talk about what I’ve done with her (and found to work) before.
So this deck was one of the earliest ideas I came to after Galadriel was spoiled. I can’t remember if it was entirely my own idea or if I saw it speculated on the forum, but Galadriel, or more specifically, the Mirror of Galadriel, can be really good for a Caldara deck. Just use the Mirror to dig out all your 4-cost allies so you can discard them. And because the deck is really built around interacting with the discard pile, you’re not too bothered about other things getting discarded either (with the possible exception of Test of Will).
The problem I have with us getting all these good new options for Caldara decks is that I already had more options I felt were good than I could actually fit in the deck. So the way the deck currently is, the core of it is actually only 45 cards, but then I have a sizeable sideboard of cards that I’ll put in whichever ones I feel are most useful for the quest I’m specifically playing, or that will help out the other decks in multiplayer, or just whichever ones I feel like at the time. I actually tend to run at around 55 cards in the deck. Enough preamble on this, here is the decklist:
To Live and Die and Live and Die and Live (…etc) in Middle Earth
Galadriel’s Handmaiden x3
Northern Tracker x3
Zigil Miner x3
Imladris Stargazer x3
Pelargir Shipwright x3
Arwen Undomiel x1
Gandalf (OHaUH) x2
Mirror of Galadriel x3
Map of Earnil x3
Will of the West x1
Dwarven Tomb x3
Hidden Cache x3
Fortune or Fate x3
Elrond’s Counsel x3
A Test of Will x3
Warden of Annuminas x2
Unexpected Courage x3
Hasty Stroke x3
Power of Orthanc x2
Ride Them Down x2
Shadows Give Way x2
Stand and Fight x3
Gather Information x1
The Fall of Gil-Galad x1
The Galadhrim’s Greeting x2
So where to start? I guess with the core of the deck. So, the attachments are key. Use Galadriel to draw cards and use the Mirror for more cards – primarily look for the 4-cost allies or Fortune or Fate if you’re ready to use Caldara’s ability. The one card you should always play pretty much instantly and not risk losing to the Mirror is the Map, because it gives you that security where you don’t have to care about accidentally discarding Fortune or Fate, or Dwarven Tomb. Discard the 4-cost allies to Eowyn’s ability if you don’t lose them to the Mirror. Use the Zigil Miner’s ability indiscriminately (though remember he can quest without exhausting before using it the round he enters play) – you want cards in the discard and you need the resources to pay for Fortune or Fate. A point to note is that Damrod, usually not that great an ally, can be used more freely in this deck because after you discard him, Caldara can bring him back again.
Be careful about Gandalf – playing him too early can cause problems if you’re not ready for all the enemies he’ll drive you past the engagement costs of, but keeping him in your hand puts him at risk of Mirror-discard, and he can’t be recovered with Caldara or Dwarven Tomb.
Once you’ve used Will of the West, you should hopefully be in a decent position so you don’t need to keep using the Mirror and the Miner and can play more cautiously to avoid ditching good cards.
You don’t need to be too worried about taking the odd weak attack undefended, or taking some archery damage – Galadriel has no other use for her hit points, and Caldara’s get replenished every time you discard and FoF her. Given this relative expendability, incidentally, you should always spend Caldara’s resources first, then Galadriel’s. Eowyn is the only one who is allowed to stack up resources.
Sideboard-wise, Power of Orthanc is obviously just for quests with conditions. Nenya I tend to find I don’t need, but could be more relevant in multiplayer. Unexpected Courage is more for multiplayer as well, though it can obviously pair up with Galadriel+Nenya and/or Eowyn+Herugrim. Herugrim, the Wardens of Annuminas, and Ride Them Down of course are all different ways to get a bit more enemy-killing power if you feel you need it. Hasty Stroke if shadow effects are bad, Shadows Give Way ditto in multiplayer. Stand and Fight is just generally useful for additional ally recycling, Gather Information is great if you can afford the time away from the main quest. Galadhrim’s Greeting is for multiplayer again, you shouldn’t need it for yourself. Fall of Gil-Galad is kind of a gimmick to be honest, since you have Fortune or Fate anyway you can attach it to Galadriel, kill her off with archery or an undefended and drop your threat by 9, but threat generally isn’t a problem for this deck so it’s probably not worth it. Maybe it’ll fit better in a different version with Cirdan.
As I said further up, for a while this was my go-to deck for trying out most Nightmare quests and it did pretty well in that regard. Of course I posted the screenshot from when I beat NM RtM with it – not quite valid I think, but I think I could’ve retconned it to be, and regardless of the victory being valid or not, I did kill two Attercops in two rounds, which is no mean feat for mono-Spirit deck. I also took it through NM Seventh Level, which with all its enemy-swarming is also not a quest you’d really expect to tackle with mono-Spirit – that included the memorable moment where having blitzed through stage 1, I realised I didn’t have the necessary combat power to handle Overseer Maurul, so I Mapped Elrond’s Counsel and discarded Damrod with four or five enemies in staging to drop myself below 20 threat and avoid the Overseer while I mustered some more combat power. Having heard NM Encounter at Amon Din was horrifically difficult, I took this deck against it and won first try, though only just – 16 rescued villagers to 15 dead. And I beat Battle of Lake-Town with it, in a breathtaking 28 completed rounds (thank you Galadriel, for your truly amazing threat reduction).
Finally, let’s have a bit of a muse on how this deck my develop with new and upcoming releases: Hero Arwen could be fantastic – discarding for resources from a hero slot might let me ditch the Zigil Miner/Imladris Stargazer combo and thus free up some more deckspace, though admittedly it won’t get me as many resources, particularly since Arwen discards from hand and thus can’t trigger Hidden Caches (which would probably also be removed therefore). Sword-thain is obviously a fantastic option, improving Caldara’s ability to reviving three allies instead of two, so long as I can afford it. Hero Arwen of course, could allow for a round 1 Emery + Sword-thain, which would be a fairly epic start for a Caldara deck, though Emery can be a chump so it might not be entirely ideal. If not using hero Arwen, ally Arwen is a pretty great Sword-thain target, because she’s cheap to play herself and you never want her to die; plus making her a hero means Galadriel doesn’t stop her exhausting the round she enters play, being the one case where that’s a disadvantage. Cirdan is another great fit. Could possibly replace Galadriel or Eowyn – he’s got the willpower and he’s got the extra draw. I could use Fair and Perilous instead of Herugrim when I want those big attacks, and Light of Valinor for some more general small ones. Finally, ally Glorfindel is obviously an immediate auto-include for this deck – the first 5-cost Spirit ally, good stats, and an ability which discards cards? Perfect for Caldara.
With all these options, I’m going to have a hard time deciding how to rebuild my Caldara deck in the future, but as problems go, that’s a pretty good one to have. Caldara’s ability is one of the most unusual in the game, and I’ve always liked her for that reason, though I understand why some people don’t bother with her for much the same reason – she’s a lot of effort to effectively build around, and being an FFG original character, there’s no thematic motivation to do so, it’s purely down to your interest in the playstyle.
Readers, what are your thoughts on Caldara and building decks around her? Have you found success with them, struggled to get her to work, or just never been sufficiently bothered to make the effort?