Archetype Analysis – Dwarves

Alright, so this is starting up what I intend to be another series on the blog. As the title suggests, in each post I’m going to be looking at a particular deck archetype, to see what its distinctive characteristics are, what it’s good for, what causes it problems, and then I’ll round things out with a deck or two. I do intend to include archetypes that aren’t based around particular traits as well as the ones which are, but trait-based archetypes are the easiest targets especially since I’m just starting this.

So Dwarves. As I commented at the end of the Hobbit saga in The Line Unbroken, the problem with Dwarves is that when they were initially being released they didn’t have a defining mechanic, they just got a bunch of stuff that was generally good. Look at the Dwarf trait before the Hobbit boxes and what really is there in terms of a defining theme? You can say they swarm, but really it’s just Legacy of Durin that helps you draw super fast and Erebor Battle-master that benefits from you having a swarm. Other than that, sure global boosts and global readying are better with a swarm, but they’re good anyway. And on top of those things they had just a generally good set of allies, a greater selection than any other trait at the time, and so they could just faceroll most quests. And then they got boosted further by the Hobbit boxes, though at least at that point they did start getting a bit more in the way of trait-defining mechanics. The real thing I would say that particularly pushes Dwarves over into crazy powerful territory actually is not Dain, surprisingly, though he does a huge amount for it as well… OK so maybe it’s Dain and this point. Besides Dain, the other really significant thing which pushes Dwarves into crazy powerful territory is that they have not one but two incredibly powerful trait-specific card draw attachments. No other trait has that. Most traits get draw events at best, but here’s Dwarves with repeatable attachments, and as we know, card draw is king (under the mountain).

OK, so let’s get into the more systematic breakdown. Defining features of Dwarf decks:

Mechanics

5 Dwarves – The Hobbit boxes gave us 3 heroes and 3 allies whose abilities only work if you control at least 5 Dwarf characters. I wish we had more of this, but regardless it can be a pretty defining feature.
Mining – Dwarves also have something of a sub-theme of effectively mining your deck by discarding cards from it for benefits. The Zigil Miner is obviously the original case of this, but it has developed further with other allies, Hidden Cache, King Under the Mountain, and effects like A Very Good Tale and Expert Treasure-Hunter also work with it though they’re not Dwarf-specific. Once again I wish there was more of this in the game – I made a post on the FFG forums to that effect, that I really wish the whole deck-mining mechanic had more cards like Hidden Cache that gave you benefits for discarding them from your deck, or equivalents of ally Galdor or Silver Harp.

Playstyle

Slow start – The 5 Dwarves effects from the Hobbit boxes along with the fact that for full power you want to try and avoid exhausting Dain push Dwarves towards a bit of a slow start, because you have some heroes who don’t have abilities until you play an ally or two, and one hero who doesn’t want to use his actions. I would liken it to pushing a very heavy trolley – at first you struggle to get it to move, but then once it gets going it keeps going as a nigh-unstoppable juggernaut just on its own momentum and you barely need to keep pushing.
Swarm – The need to hit 5 Dwarves fast means you want a high concentration of allies in your deck in general (this also works well with Legacy of Durin), and this feeds naturally into powerful use of A Very Good Tale to create a swarm, which in turn works will with the global boost from Dain meaning that you don’t care too much about the other cards you’re discarding because the allies coming into play have so many stats that you don’t need the other stuff. And as mentioned this also works well with the whole mining aspect.
Xenophobic – Most stuff that synergises with Dwarves doesn’t work well outside of a Dwarf context. Dwarves don’t play well with others apparently.

Key cards

Dain Ironfoot

This one is simple and obvious. +1 willpower and attack to all Dwarves is super-powerful especially when they can swarm as hard as they can.

King Under the Mountain/Legacy of Durin

How to be good at card game: Draw cards.

We Are Not Idle/Lure of Moria

Lure of Moria is excessively powerful just on its own, or alternatively you can combo it up with We Are Not Idle to get a huge amount of resource generation.

A Very Good Tale

Swarm.

Erebor Record-Keeper/Fili/Kili/Dwarven Sellsword

These all are (or will be in the case of the Sellsword) great ways of getting quickly up to 5 Dwarves. The Record-Keeper and Sellsword because they only cost 1 each (Of course the Sellsword has further cost for upkeep, but you can certainly afford to pay that once or twice until you have other Dwarves in play). Fili and Kili are good because you pay for one and get both, thus taking you straight from 3 Dwarves to 5. They’re also great for snowballing up with A Very Good Tale.

Hidden Cache

If you’re doing the mining thing this is obviously key (arguably Dwarven mining and Dwarf swarm could be considered two separate deck archetypes just with some fairly significant overlap). If not, it’s still very good because you can trigger it with A Very Good Tale, King Under the Mountain or Ered-Nimrais Prospector.

Weaknesses

Slow start – I mentioned this in playstyle, and obviously it can be a definite weakness. Dwarf decks may not do quite so well against quests which demand that you hit the ground running. On the other hand, it would be folly to underestimate the solid starting power of some of the Dwarf heroes, which may easily be enough to cope until the allies start swarming.

Location control – Dwarves don’t have it, apart from Ancestral Knowledge, and active location is not really the issue. To be fair, most traits don’t have much location control, but the somewhat xenophobic nature of Dwarf decks combined with the fact the majority of their good stuff is in Leadership and Lore can make it difficult to splash in Northern Trackers to make up the difference. On the other hand, with a swarm of allies and Dain on the table you may well have enough willpower to just skip gaily past all the locations in the staging area. Also of course proper location lock is usually only a big issue when you get up to 3 or 4 player games.

Defence – Dwarves in general have good hit point values, but they do less well on defence. This is why hero Dori can actually be pretty good in a Dwarf context (also the Dain boost always helps). The only other hero defenders they really have are Bombur and Dain, and you prefer not to be exhausting Dain. In allies there’s the Longbeard Sentry and Dwalin. So yeah, not great at defending, though Ring Mail can certainly help.

So that’s my relatively brief summary of the different aspects of the Dwarf trait deck archetype. Now as I said, I’m going to round it out by building a deck, or in this case, two decks. I intend in general to try and go for solo decks in these articles because a lot of my decks tend to be intended for multiplayer, and especially two player, but in this case what I really want to do requires two paired decks – Thorin/Ori/Bombur is one of my favourite hero lineups for a Dwarf deck, but if I really want to show off the trait to best effect I have to include Dain. The simple answer to where is in another deck. So I’m going to make the second deck Dain/Nori/Oin. This is going to be interesting, because between my more limited interest in playing Dwarves and the fact they haven’t had much in the way of support since the Hobbit boxes, I haven’t built a Dwarf deck with the modern card pool in ages and I’m intrigued to see where I may fit in some of the more interesting more recent cards, or if I’ll just end up sticking to the old classics.
For additional interest I’m going to build these decks assuming only one Core Set and one copy of each expansion, so no more than 3 copies of each card spread between both decks except Core Gandalf, and less of some Core Set cards. So let’s walk through the build:

OK, so first things first, I’m splitting Leadership between two decks, and as I said I’m assuming only one copy of each box. So that means only one deck can run A Very Good Tale. Since Nori triggers off playing Dwarves from hand (since the errata anyway), it makes more sense to put AVGT into the first deck, along with Hidden Cache and Ered-Nimrais Prospector. This will be the deck that discards stuff, so Thorin will be intended to be the King Under the Mountain, though which deck I put it in is still up in the air. Meanwhile I can play Legacy of Durin cross-table onto deck 2 so it draws a card and lowers its threat for every Dwarf played, and that way both decks should do well for card draw. Steward of Gondor is going to go onto Oin since he has to cover two spheres, while Thorin has his own resource generation – this means I’ll want to keep the Leadership cards in deck 2 cheap, though I might consider running A Good Harvest to help with them. I will not be using Narvi’s Belt because I won’t be spreading my spheres that much I don’t think. The question of where to put Sneak Attack Gandalf is also a tricky one, but I think maybe deck 1 makes more sense since he can be used for threat reduction, which deck 2 has sorted with Nori. I might go for 2 Core Gandalfs in each deck though, or I could consider putting OHaUH Gandalf in deck 2 since it has that easy threat reduction available. Not sure about that though, I want to keep the theme fairly pure. The one bit of discarding I may consider allowing for deck 2 is cross-table Expert Treasure-Hunter, because I’ve never really used it, and I can just try to make the deck incredibly ally-heavy and name ally every time so I have plenty of fodder for Nori and Legacy of Durin to trigger. So let’s throw in a bunch of standard allies and some staple cards as well and see how we look so far:

Heroes:
Thorin Oakenshield
Ori
Bombur

Allies:
Bifur x1
Dori x1
Erebor Hammersmith x2
Erebor Record Keeper x3
Ered-Nimrais Prospector x3
Gandalf (Core) x2
Gimli x1
Gloin x1
Longbeard Elder x3
Miner of the Iron Hills x2
Warden of Healing x2

Attachments:
Steward of Gondor x2
King Under the Mountain x3
Legacy of Durin x3
Expert Treasure-Hunter x2

Events:
A Very Good Tale x3
Sneak Attack x2
Daeron’s Runes x3
Hidden Cache x3

Heroes:
Dain Ironfoot
Nori
Oin

Allies:
Arwen Undomiel x2
Gandalf (Core) x2
Zigil Miner x3
Blue Mountain Trader x3
Bofur (Sp) x1
Dwalin x1
Erebor Battle Master x3
Fili x1
Kili x1
Veteran Axehand x3

Attachments:
Unexpected Courage x1

Events:
A Good Harvest x3
A Test of Will x2
Dwarven Tomb x1
Feint x2

OK, so I may have gone a bit too far in trying not to put too much Leadership stuff into the second deck, now Dain has very little to do with those resources. So let’s transfer a Leadership card or two across to the other deck and add a couple more obvious things I managed to miss.

Heroes:
Thorin Oakenshield
Ori
Bombur

Allies:
Bifur x1
Dori x1
Erebor Hammersmith x2
Erebor Record Keeper x3
Ered-Nimrais Prospector x3
Gandalf (Core) x2
Gimli x1
Longbeard Elder x3
Miner of the Iron Hills x2
Warden of Healing x2

Attachments:
King Under the Mountain x3
Legacy of Durin x3
Expert Treasure-Hunter x2

Events:
A Very Good Tale x3
Sneak Attack x2
Daeron’s Runes x3
Hidden Cache x3
We Are Not Idle x3
Lure of Moria x3
Deep Knowledge x3

Heroes:
Dain Ironfoot
Nori
Oin

Allies:
Arwen Undomiel x2
Gandalf (Core) x2
Zigil Miner x3
Blue Mountain Trader x3
Bofur (Sp) x1
Dwalin x1
Erebor Battle Master x3
Fili x1
Kili x1
Veteran Axehand x3
Gloin x1
Northern Tracker x2
Galadriel x3

Attachments:
Unexpected Courage x1
Steward of Gondor x2
Cram x3

Events:
A Good Harvest x3
A Test of Will x2
Dwarven Tomb x1
Feint x2
Hasty Stroke x2
Campfire Tales x3
Durin’s Song x3

Galadriel can get some extra attachments out and set up Expert Treasure-Hunter for me, other than that I’ve just added some more draw and redistributed a couple of things. Oh, and I decided to put We Are Not Idle/Lure of Moria into the first deck since that deck controlling the timing of Lure works nicely with a Very Good Tale. It now occurs to me I’ve missed out Ring Mail, and given I’ve got Galadriel over here maybe some more attachments would make sense, and it might be nice to fit in To me! O my kinsfolk! So the final versions before I move on to testing look like this:

Dwarven of Arnor 1/2

Heroes:
Thorin Oakenshield
Ori
Bombur

Allies (20):
Bifur x1
Dori x1
Erebor Hammersmith x2
Erebor Record Keeper x3
Ered-Nimrais Prospector x3
Gandalf (Core) x2
Gimli x1
Longbeard Elder x3
Miner of the Iron Hills x2
Warden of Healing x2

Attachments (10):
King Under the Mountain x3
Legacy of Durin x3
Expert Treasure-Hunter x2
A Burning Brand x2

Events (22):
A Very Good Tale x3
Sneak Attack x2
Daeron’s Runes x3
Hidden Cache x3
We Are Not Idle x3
Lure of Moria x3
Deep Knowledge x3
To me! O my kinsfolk! x2

Dwarven of Arnor 2/2

Heroes:
Dain Ironfoot
Nori
Oin

Allies (26):
Arwen Undomiel x2
Gandalf (Core) x2
Zigil Miner x3
Blue Mountain Trader x3
Bofur (Sp) x1
Dwalin x1
Erebor Battle Master x3
Fili x1
Kili x1
Veteran Axehand x3
Gloin x1
Northern Tracker x2
Galadriel x3

Attachments (9):
Unexpected Courage x1
Steward of Gondor x2
Cram x3
Ring Mail x3

Events (15):
A Good Harvest x3
A Test of Will x2
Dwarven Tomb x1
Feint x2
Hasty Stroke x2
Campfire Tales x3
Durin’s Song x2

So for testing, I went into the CotR Discord and asked Botomir for random quests until I got three I liked, which were The Ring Goes South, Road to Isengard, and Assault on Osgiliath (I rejected Siege of Cair Andros and The Uruk-Hai). I’ll give some quick thoughts after each quest.

Ring Goes South

OK, so immediate thoughts – deck 1 seems to be basically fine, deck 2 has the problems. A case could be made for sticking Steward in deck 1 since it’d probably find it faster but I don’t know if that’s the best solution. Deck 2 certainly I think doesn’t need its Gandalfs – I initially thought maybe they’d help with the card draw, but they’re just too expensive, if that’s what I want I’d be better off with Ancient Mathom. Campfire Tales is probably unnecessary since deck 1 really doesn’t need help with card draw, so it may as well just be 1 resource for 1 card on deck 2’s side, and Leadership resources remain somewhat scarce. I’m not sure there’s much I can do about that except perhaps remove some more of the Leadership cards. Perhaps skip Durin’s Song, as nice as it can be. The willpower boost is likely to be unnecessary in the vast majority of circumstances, unless I get totally swarmed I think I can manage defence OK, which leaves attack. Attack was maybe a little bit lacking for deck 1, so I could consider Dwarrowdelf Axes as a possibility. More attachments would also make Galadriel more reliable.
So the changes I actually made were:
Deck 1: +1 Gandalf
Deck 2: -2 Gandalf, -2 Durin’s Song, -3 Campfire Tales; +1 Dwalin, +1 Kili, +2 Miruvor, +2 Dwarrowdelf Axe, +1 Gather Information

Deck 1 is now up to 53 cards, but at the rate it draws/discards itself I’m really not that concerned. Side-quests were something I’d completely forgotten about, but Gather Information is the one I think is most significant for these decks. Miruvor can shift resources from Spirit to Leadership in deck 2 where necessary, and for the other effect I can go for the readying or stick it back on top of the deck to be redrawn by Legacy of Durin or Expert Treasure-Hunter. I’ll see how these work out. If they’re not as successful as I’d like, I’m putting serious thought into just putting in Legacy of Numenor to get the extra resources I need. Then maybe add Double Back as well to counter some of that extra threat. Other possibilities which I saw but decided against are Imladris Stargazer so I could occasionally use Zigil Miner’s ability for more resources and set up more reliable expert treasure-hunting; and Galadhrim Weaver to recover the odd attachment or event discarded by said treasure-hunting (or by Zigil Miner if I were to start doing that).

Road to Isengard

No changes at this point.

Nightmare Assault on Osgiliath

Final edits:
Deck 2: -2 Miruvor, +2 Hardy Leadership
Like I said, Hardy Leadership would clearly come in really handy, and Miruvor didn’t seem so necessary. Of course that may come down to the particular draws I got, so maybe further testing would lead me to change me mind. I could have equally swapped out the Dwarrowdelf Axes, which seemed likewise not that significant.

One final point I’m going to make is that while of course I built these decks to work together, I suspect that deck 1 would work pretty well solo, though the lack of Dain would obviously hurt it a bit. Deck two I think would function less well in the absence of the first deck to play Legacy of Durin and Expert Treasure-hunter across onto it. If nothing else, it would need some card draw thrown in to work properly solo.

Decklists and Fellowship on RingsDB:
Dwarven of Arnor 1/2
Dwarven of Arnor 2/2
Dwarven of Arnor Fellowship

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One Response to Archetype Analysis – Dwarves

  1. Pingback: The Line Unbroken – Against the Shadow Cycle Wrap-up | Warden of Arnor

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