With RingsDB being the new hotness, I find myself wanting to make a lot of deck posts, so here’s another one.
So Valour was a concept which I, like a lot of people, was rather excited about. The inverse of Secrecy, offering big power plays at high threat levels? Yeah, sounds pretty damn good to me. Apart from anything else, it appeals to the desire to be flashy. Of course, if one wants to rely on it as a serious focus for a deck you need a way to get up to 40 threat fast and then to stay in the 40s but not hit 50. A difficult thing to figure out. And on the flipside, I think some people feel that as it stands Valour doesn’t do enough to justify the risk involved in being so high threat. While I certainly would like to see more Valour stuff released, I do feel that there’s enough for us to consider Valour a thing at this point.
Besides that, my inspirations for this deck were this Valour deck posted on the forums which gave me the thought that maybe Valour could be good and effective; CotR Sean’s take on the aggro Boromir deck, powering up quickly with the Signal attachments; and some people lamenting that Leadership/Tactics Dunedain decks weren’t as effective as they’d like inspiring me to try and build one – Boromir being an obvious pairing with a Ld/Ta Dunedain deck since he can defend however many enemies you want him to. Also until this deck I hadn’t built anything with Amarthiul and I really wanted to.
Now obviously, that’s too many things to fit into one deck. In practice I found the Signal attachments were mostly superfluous – I had plenty of attack power and including Tactics Aragorn meant there was no need to give Boromir Ranged because I could just pull the enemies to me. I started out using Doomed cards for a quick start and to hit Valour fast but found quickly that just Boromir was enough. The Dunedain stuff got mostly abandoned, leaving only Amarthiul and thus allowing me to focus more on efficiently killing enemies and less on keeping them around for buffs (though I do tend to keep two alive). I also figured that while the Aragorn/Sword that was Broken willpower machine is a tremendously powerful option, it didn’t really have a place in this highly combat-focused deck. Finally Steward of Gondor actually didn’t make the cut. As good as it is, I consistently find that this deck has enough resources without it, and so it becomes not worth the 3 card slots it takes up compared to other things. I get some extra resources from Amarthiul anyway. Here’s the list:
The Valour of Numenor
Dunedain Hunter x3
Gandalf (Core) x3
Honour Guard x3
Ranger of Cardolan x3
Veteran of Osgiliath x3
Captain of Gondor x1
Dunedain Warning x3
Favour of the Valar x2
Gondorian Shield x3
Path of Need x1
Rohan Warhorse x3
Secret Vigil x2
Campfire Tales x3
Hope Rekindled x3
Horn’s Cry x3
Hour of Wrath x2
Sneak Attack x3
Valiant Sacrifice x3
Dunedain Watcher x3
Dunedain Signal x3
Thicket of Spears x3
Obviously this deck is purely combat-focused, someone else needs to do the questing.
You’ll note that Feint and Thicket of Spears also got relegated to the sideboard, because while that attack cancellation is helpful, it deals with them for one round when you use it, whereas if I use that deckspace for stuff focused on getting Boromir’s defence up so he can just take all the hits that’s a solution for all attacks throughout the entire game. The main reason I kept them in the sideboard is because they can be used on other players’ enemies, and I can’t necessarily engage everything or reliably get Sentinel right off the bat. The other two cards in the sideboard are essentially intended to be swapped in when the things they provide are important and not being provided by other decks. So if there are brutal shadow effects and no-one’s running Hasty Stroke, you probably want to sub in those Watchers; and if you can’t rely on someone getting ally Arwen out in a timely fashion you definitely want the Signals. The cards I’d swap out for them would probably be the Rangers of Cardolan, which are primarily there just to be brought in by their ability in emergencies when you want a chump or an extra 2 attack (and to helpfully trigger Valiant Sacrifice if you need more draw), and/or the Dunedain Hunters, because you probably have enough attack power especially since you don’t necessarily want to kill all the enemies because you want to keep two around for Amarthiul and you should be able to find those requisite two enemies without needing to dig them out of the encounter deck specially.
In general when playing this deck, you power up Boromir. All the hero attachments are intended for him apart from the Rohan Warhorses, which go on Aragorn (if you get the third, Amarthiul assuming there’s no better target elsewhere on the board). Captain of Gondor could also go on someone else if Boromir already has enough defence and you feel like you might want the extra point of attack. It’s worth bearing in mind that Amarthiul can also be a decent defender if you don’t need his attack and want to spare your threat a little, but be wary given his low hit point pool. Get your two enemies to fuel Amarthiul and give you an easy means of upping your threat to hit Valour. Once you’re in Valour you can weigh up the decision of whether you want to keep getting the extra resource each round or slow down your threat gains. Generally I’ve found I can manage OK and the resources are helpful, between Favour of the Valar, Secret Vigil and Gandalf you can control your threat pretty well. Before your threat gets so high that every enemy and their mother will engage you, using Aragorn can allow you to pull enemies out of the staging area and skip defending them. He also helps you to pick and choose which two enemies you want to have left enabling Amarthiul once you’re done killing all the others.
The actual Valour events are intended for big plays. This is one of the reasons I find myself never having resource issues – some of the really central stuff to the deck, in particular the more expensive stuff, is stuff you tend to just save up for emergencies, whereas the cards you want to play as soon as you draw them are the cheaper ones. Of course they’re also good for saving threat from Boromir – Hour of Wrath obviously allows you to have him do everything without exhausting (as well as your other two heroes, so that or Path of Need can easily lead to you wiping out all the enemies on the board in one combat phase), while if you use the Valour option on Horn’s Cry anything with 3 or less attack can be taken undefended unless the shadows are a real concern.
So let’s talk about the consistency of the setup. When playing this deck, the most important thing is to get Boromir’s defence up fast. If he can’t defend safely, the deck can’t do what it’s supposed to. Fortunately, if you look at it, the options for avoiding him taking damage while defending are numerous. Gondorian Shield is the best to start with of course, but you also have Dunedain Warning, Captain of Gondor and the Honour Guards. That’s 10 cards out of 50, and so if I’ve done the maths right, the chances of you not finding at least one of those 10 cards in your opening hand or your mulligan hand is noticeably less than 1%. And then we consider the possibility of using a Ranger of Cardolan to cover the first defence and triggering Valiant Sacrifice off him, or Sneak Attack Gandalf to draw cards… you take my point. Boromir’s going to get set up, and once he is you can cut a bloody swath through your enemies. That being said, it’s probably still a good idea for a companion deck to contain healing just in case of mishaps or particularly big enemies.
Other options for this deck – obviously I built this after Dread Realm, so we haven’t had a lot of cards released since, and nothing in Grey Havens really strikes me as that good an option. Looking back though, Gondorian Discipline and Close Call obviously could help as well, I just prefer the consistency of the Honour Guards and had limited space. If using Dunedain Signals I suppose Raven-Winged Helm could be an option. The Hammer-stroke would pair nicely with Horn’s Cry. Another couple of big expensive cards that could potentially fit alright in this deck since resources can pile up over time would be Grim Resolve and Doom Hangs Still. The latter obviously fits the Valour theme and can be picked out or cheapened by Hope Rekindled.
And one really odd thought which occurred to me while writing the post – a similar deck to this could probably be made making use of hero Dori in place of one of the non-Boromir heroes. That would give Boromir a guaranteed defence buff at the start, and later on you can use Dori’s attack instead. That hypothetical variant might want to have less defence boosts and a bit more attack, but I feel like it could work out pretty well, as crazy as it may sound.
The opposite deck was a Noldor build with Elrond/Erestor/Arwen which has been working out really well for me. The quest was Nightmare Assault on Osgiliath. Memorable moments included:
Getting a Mumak and a 5 attack Orc while Boromir was still at only 4 defence, leaving him with 3 damage (using an Honour Guard to cancel 1). Then trying to use Hope Rekindled to dig out Horn’s Cry, getting another Hope Rekindled, using that one and only finding Hour of Wrath. I’m not sure what the chances are of doing two 10 card searches through a deck ~40 cards and not finding a 3x card in either of those searches, but I feel like the odds should be against it. Instead I got him a Dunedain Warning to hit 5 def and so he went up to 4 damage and then the following round the Noldor deck drew a Warden of Healing. Oh, I think this whole Mumak experience started round 2? Maybe 3.
Successfully killing that Mumak in the minimum 4 rounds without having to chump-block it even once.
Using Hour of Wrath to handle 5 or 6 enemies while at 48 threat.
Final round had archery 15.
All in all, a pretty impressive outing. Valour is definitely a thing.