As soon as we started seeing spoilers for the cards, I knew that the whole Rossiel/victory display shenanigans setup was something I would want to do. Out of the Wild has always been one of my favourite Secrecy cards, so an expansion of that idea was likewise very appealing to me. However on trying it out, I rapidly found that it was also quite difficult to make it work.
Part of the problem may admittedly have been that the victory display deck may be better suited to a game with more players – in a three or four player game you cycle the encounter deck more and thus removing certain cards from it has a greater impact, and it’s easier for a deck to take on a more focused support role if there are more other decks to pick up the slack of actually doing questing and combat while the support deck just throws out a steady stream of useful events to make it easier for them. Actually now I type it all out, I feel like that’s quite a bit of the problem.
On the other hand, some of it is that the deck can get kind of pigeonholed into that focused pure support role because on the one hand the victory display stuff is card-intensive/deckspace-intensive, all those events take up a lot of your deck and leave less room for everything else; and on the other it can also be resource-intensive because you’re spending so much on adding things to the victory display, which certainly can help, but mostly in a kind of nebulous intangible manner rather than directly advancing your board-state. This is especially true if you want to use Out of the Wild outside of Secrecy since then it costs 3. Now this problem can potentially be solved by simply making it a Secrecy deck, but then you also want to fit in Secrecy stuff, and maybe some threat reduction, and once again we’re getting into deckspace-intensive territory. I do actually have a Rossiel Secrecy build I’ve been working on, but I’m not totally happy with it and it definitely falls into that very support focused category. Plus, I feel like loads of people are going to try and make Rossiel work in Secrecy, and I want to do something different.
So one thing I observed while trying to get the Rossiel Secrecy build to work for me was that the whole victory display setup is necessarily kind of a late-game thing – you need time to play those events. And then once you’re done, Rossiel’s questing for 4 and defending for 4 with A Burning Brand, you can cancel nasty cards with The Door is Closed! and you spam your Keen as Lances for free: it’s worth it when you get there, but you have to be able to get there. So I figured, maybe what I need to do to try and make a more dynamic Rossiel deck is to pair the late-game Rossiel/victory display stuff with something much more early-game front-loaded power. It also potentially helps with the issue of having to spend your early resources on setting up the VD rather than advancing your board-state if your board-state is pretty beefy to start with just from your heroes. So enter two of the most potent early-game heroes I could think of:
Yep. Beorn and Treebeard. Beorn is pretty much the definitive early-game hero with his base 5 attack, not exhausting to defend, and huge but unreplenishable hit point pool. Meanwhile Treebeard is another hero I had difficulty getting to work as I wanted him to as I tended to wind up using his ability early on to get that little bit of extra willpower or attack I needed to clear a location or kill an enemy then find he was running out of hit points and I couldn’t keep up with it. In this case however, that fits perfectly, because I can use him as an early-game solution and if I then slow down for lack of spare hit points hopefully by then Rossiel will be starting to come online and can pick up the slack.
That was the theory anyway. In practice I still found it very difficult to hit the right balance, but the idea appealed to me so much that I kept chipping away at it until I reached a version I was happy with. It was all a matter of fitting in the right proportions of cards devoted to each hero, plus some generically useful stuff, and managing the fact that Rossiel and Treebeard really both kind of want some action advantage. So here’s the deck as it now stands:
The Forest Devours
Galadhrim Minstrel x3
Honour Guard x3
Warden of Healing x2
Wellinghall Preserver x3
A Burning Brand x2
Ent Draught x2
Secret Vigil x3
Unexpected Courage x3
A Good Harvest x3
Daeron’s Runes x3
Deep Knowledge x3
Horn’s Cry x2
Keen as Lances x3
Leave No Trace x3
None Return x3
Out of the Wild x2
The Door is Closed! x3
Gather Information x1
Scout Ahead x1
Good Harvest is there for Unexpected Courage, obviously, but it also potentially allows Beorn to help pay for some of the Lore cards, which is relevant since there’s not a lot of Tactics in the deck. Threat can be a concern, starting at 33 and then using Deep Knowledge for draw, but between Secret Vigil and Keen as Lances you can generally keep it in check, and you can actually benefit from it with Horn’s Cry. Beyond that I think it’s fairly self-explanatory. Set up the victory display to pull the teeth of the encounter deck and power up Rossiel, Beorn tanks early on and smashes things throughout, Treebeard can be used for questing or combat as required (or both once you get him UC). Bear in mind that Treebeard can also be a serviceable defender if needed, though he’s obviously more useful on attack. Don’t be afraid to save up your resources. Beorn and Treebeard are a formidable duo so you can stand not to be churning out cards at supersonic speeds. Getting out the right cards will make your endgame power level pretty crazy.
Other potential options for this deck that I can think of are mostly things I’ve swapped in and out while I’ve been working on it:
Steward of Gondor (+Gondorian Shield) – since you already have A Good Harvest for UC, you could get some extra resources while you’re at it, and then you could buff Rossiel up to 6 defence with a Shield.
Lembas, Boomed and Trumpeted – I considered these when I was trying to make the deck work without AGH+UC, as other forms of readying. Lembas is obvious, Boomed and Trumpeted I’d only ever used with Ent allies before, but I realised it has incredible synergy with hero Treebeard since he can damage himself at will. It could be used to get two powered up attacks, or to ready him for an attack after he quested, or after defending, and so on.
Protector of Lorien – another means of boosting questing and defence, and there are a few cards in the deck you can probably afford to ditch. For example, only the first copy of each of Leave No Trace and None Return is that important usually, so the others you could afford to lose.
Mithrandir’s Advice – You want to find all your key stuff fast so more draw makes sense. The reason I left it out is because the draw’s pretty good already and I don’t like it when I spend my resources to fill up my hand with cards I can’t play because I just spent my resources to draw them. With some important 3-cost Lore cards, I really wanted to minimise the amount of resources I needed to spend on other things, and everything else was pretty much essential to the deck.
Since I got the deck into this form, I’ve found it to work pretty well. I even think it might work solo against some quests – I made it right to the end of Steward’s Fear and was only 1 willpower short of winning before the plot threated me out. Had I found Treebeard an Ent Draught I could’ve damaged him one more time for the victory. Of course almost winning doesn’t really count for anything so this isn’t a ringing endorsement, but it’s pretty impressive given that this deck and for that matter this deck archetype in general isn’t that well suited to solo play – the archetype for the reasons I outlined at the start of the article, and this specific deck because it’s much better at combat than it is at questing for all that it can get up to 25 willpower if you get everything played. It definitely works in multiplayer if you pair it up with a decent all-round/questing deck.
And there you go. I think I definitely achieved my goal of doing something different to the norm – while flocks of people are jumping on the Rossiel Secrecy idea, I’ve gone for much the opposite, and I seriously doubt that many other people have built a Rossiel deck that benefits from Valour, if any. This is one of my favourite decks I’ve built recently and I’d really like to get some more playtime in with it.