I’ve talked up hero Beorn a fair bit as he’s something of a favourite of mine. Of course I recently declared him the most fun hero in the game, narrowly edging out Caldara. There and elsewhere I mentioned my intention to soon post my Beorn deck on here, and now is the time.
So Beorn was one of those heroes that I looked on as something of a puzzle. How best to make him work, given the limited number of things that really do work with him since he’s immune to player card effects. At the time I originally built the deck, somewhere in the Ring-maker cycle, that pretty much amounted to Landroval, Fortune or Fate, Dori, and Bifur being able to receive his resources. And Close Call was added to the list at some point, though it was a little while before that one occurred to me.
Thus, I fixed on the idea of a Tactics/Lore deck with Beorn, Bifur and a second Tactics hero. With two Tactics heroes affording Landroval conventionally is not out of the question, while Bifur can take resources from other heroes so affording Dori is similarly more practical than it might otherwise be. Elf-stone can also bring in either of the key allies (this deck can’t really do its own questing very well, it’s multiplayer only, so it has to mostly depend on someone else to clear the location). And then the only additional option is having played Dori to try and power him up a bit, give him some more hit points by stacking up Boots from Erebor and Ring Mail, and including Erebor Record Keepers gives me the option of readying him to take more hits. And of course some healing to bring him back up to full again each time.
Now a point which has been occurring to me recently is that if I’m powering up Dori like this, I might question what I actually need Beorn for. With Ring Mail, Dori actually becomes a better defender than Beorn for a single attack. And thinking about it I think the answer is firstly that using Beorn gives me his 5 attack, the flexibility that I can also make use of his pool of 10 hit points, and his Sentinel keyword. That said, the idea of a Beorn-less deck that still focused on turning Dori into the ultimate damage sponge is an idea which might have some traction. Perhaps I’ll try and build that at some point.
The final question was that of my third hero. I think this was before the release of Mablung, who certainly would be a decent option to get some extra resources together. It was certainly before the release of Tactics Aragorn, who also works well with Beorn, the enemy defence reduction pairing well with the high base attack of the bear, and of course the engagement ability potentially avoiding attacks as another means of preserving Beorn’s HP. My eventual thought though was that it would make sense to work with Beorn’s Sentinel as well. His 5 attack is generally enough to kill most enemies directly in front of him, so a logical choice would be a hero who could boast similar killing power at range, and so I came to Bard the Bowman, who at range is effectively 5 attack against any enemy with at least 2 defence. Of course a similar effect could be achieved by attaching a Rivendell Blade to Legolas, and that would work at point blank as well, but Legolas can feel overused at times, there may at times be some use to Bard’s 2 willpower; plus of course Bard’s ability starts the game in play rather than relying on drawing the Rivendell Blade, and that reliable early game power as opposed to conditional later game power is a natural match for Beorn as well. Plus, kind of a thematic fit, they’re both Hobbit-era heroes.
Thus I built the deck. The list I’m going to post here is far removed from the original. There used to be more healing. Ents were a natural fit, I have the right spheres and Beorn’s early game power can easily cover for them entering play exhausted, but as more Ents were released, I couldn’t fit all of them in, so I had to cut down to the ones that fit best. Ent Draught was a perfect complement to the other HP-boosting effects for Dori. At some point I put Close Call into the deck, then I swapped it out for Honour Guards when they were released. Horn’s Cry also fit very well, since reducing enemy attack has the same effect as buffing Beorn’s attack, except the latter isn’t possible. Finally, just before posting I swapped out the Horn of Gondor, as it’s less useful post-errata, though I could go back on that, since it’ll still trigger for Beorn before he gets brought back by Landroval, and for Dori if I kill him off early rather than buffing him (I have 3 copies, after all). So here it is, as it currently stands:
Dwarves and Eagles and Bears, Oh My!
Bard the Bowman
Warden of Healing x3
Erebor Record Keeper x3
Gandalf (Core) x3
Honour Guard x3
Derndingle Warrior x2
Boots from Erebor x2
Ring Mail x2
Blade of Gondolin x2
Ent Draught x2
Daeron’s Runes x3
Horn’s Cry x3
Deep Knowledge x3
Even now I’m thinking it could probably do with some more changes. I could debate how much I really need Ring Mail. Having the flexibility to sometimes just defend with Dori is nice, but I’m still using it primarily for the hit points, and it’s expensive for that. The fact that Ent Draught can’t be played until I already have an Ent in play could present issues since I only have 5 in the deck – I used to have more, but took some out to make room for Horn’s Cry. The Blades of Gondolin are of limited use as well. To be honest, I’m pretty much certain to make some of the changes I just mentioned, but at that point, especially if I remove the Ring Mail, it’ll be moving significantly away from the original look of the deck, so I wanted to give you guys a glimpse of it in this form before changing it up again.
Other possibilities to potentially be added: Obviously there are some staples like Ranger Spikes that go well in pretty much any deck. Ambush works well with Beorn since the triggered attack is a framework effect and doesn’t specifically target the characters you declare to attack with, so Beorn can use it (See this forum thread for a deck built with that idea in mind). Defender of the West could be an interesting one, to allow Landroval to be passed round the table and thus potentially get additional uses out of him (since “Limit once per game” restrictions are actually effectively limit once per game per player).
Strategy-wise, it’s fairly straightforward – Beorn defends things early, Beorn and Bard kill them. Honour Guards are fantastic whenever you draw them. Dori should take hits and potentially die early on, you can potentially wait a bit until the second or even third copy of him before giving him attachments (since by waiting that long you’re more likely to have drawn the attachments and saved the resources for them). Don’t feel you have to do this, but you can. Landroval is the reset button, and also you can potentially use Landroval to defend (he even has Sentinel) before killing off Beorn and returning him to hand. You want to be careful about this, since if Landroval dies to a shadow effect at that point, Beorn will follow him out, but it can be a neat trick to just bypass one more defence you’d otherwise need.
Obviously, do not try this deck solo, it won’t work. But in multiplayer it can do a lot of work, particularly if a quest has some fairly wimpy enemies (An earlier version worked very well against Nightmare Journey Down the Anduin – Beorn can shrug off the Brown Water Rats for days and not care), but even if not, stacking up damage cancellation from Honour Guards, damage soaking with Dori, Beorn’s own 10HP pool and the ability to reuse most of that pool with Landroval.
So there you are – my Beorn deck. For other ideas on similar themes, see GrandSpleen’s Bear Trap deck I linked further up, or The Bear’s Revenge on Hall of Beorn. If you choose to try out my version, I do recommend you make some of the changes I was talking about above (as I probably will myself), but that said, even without them it may still work pretty well. Have fun with it!