When Flight of the Stormcaller was released, one of the most interesting cards to speculate about potential uses for was Vanish from Sight. The ability to benefit from a Secrecy discount regardless of your threat at the time immediately inspires thoughts of shenanigans, and who doesn’t love shenanigans?
The particular brand of shenanigans I found myself contemplating was the potential to build a two-hero Secrecy deck with two heroes of sufficiently high threat they wouldn’t actually be in Secrecy without Vanish from Sight. Specifically, Gandalf and Elrond, one of the highest threat two hero combinations in the game (the other of course being Gandalf/Treebeard). The two have a lot of synergy, since Gandalf’s passive ability and Wizard Pipe is amazingly powerful for Vilya. So I set about building the deck.
I quickly found that there were too many things I wanted to fit in for it to be entirely practical. Also I realised that since using Vanish from Sight only allows for fairly limited use of that Secrecy discount (though the ability to Vilya the Secrecy cards at any point is potentially handy), I couldn’t exactly stock up on that many Secrecy effects, so it was better to make a small selection and stick to them. Specifically I figured I’d go for events, because they’re more flexible timing-wise. Even restricting things that way it’s tough to cut down to a reasonable deck size. I think there are probably some other directions one could validly take this concept, but this is the one I went with.
The Invisible Army
Master of the Forge x3
Arwen Undomiel x1
Bilbo Baggins x1
Gildor Inglorion x1
Warden of Healing x1
Gandalf’s Staff x3
Wizard Pipe x3
Unexpected Courage x2
Light of Valinor x1
Daeron’s Runes x3
Deep Knowledge x3
Vanish from Sight x3
Timely Aid x3
Out of the Wild x3
Keen As Lances x3
A Elbereth! Gilthoniel! x2
Side quests (2):
Gather Information x1
Send For Aid x1
Celduin Traveller x3
Ithilien Lookout x3
Northern Tracker x3
Expert Treasure-hunter x2
Unexpected Courage x1
Heed the Dream x3
Risk Some Light x3
Will of the West x3
Scout Ahead x1
So let’s talk about the sideboard first.
Leaving Expert Treasure-hunter out of a Gandalf deck is an odd move to be sure, but in this particular case drawing the deck too fast can be a bad idea since it’ll stop Timely Aid and Vilya working. And Gandalf for that matter. Some draw is still good just for general efficiency and to help get set up at the start of the game, but in that vein the event-based draw is better because it has no other conditions, draws more instantly and can be played from top of deck by Gandalf in any phase for additional acceleration. Master of the Forge on the other hand fishes out the key attachments first and then fishes out the superfluous copies so they don’t clog up the deck and I get a higher consistency of allies and events. Expert Treasure-hunter I think should only be reinstated if one is putting in a substantial portion of the sideboard (or other cards) without taking things out to compensate, because then the deck will be more oversized and will consequently need more draw.
The other x1 unique allies obviously are good fodder for Vilya/Timely Aid but I just felt they weren’t quite on the same level as the ones I kept in the main deck. Your mileage may vary though, the selection of allies can be basically whatever. The non-uniques, as I said I decided to focus my Secrecy on events for the flexibility of when they can be played, but Ithilien Lookouts and Celduin Travellers are so good as Secrecy allies that I had to at least retain the possibility. And Northern Trackers obviously are a huge deal in multiplayer but not in solo which is how I’ve been testing the deck.
Shadowfax and the other Courage are again multiplayer things – in solo to be honest I don’t really need the 2 Courages in the main deck once set up, but they can be helpful in the early-game before I am set up.
Heed the Dream is another powerful card for multiplayer mostly. The deck’s draw works well enough as is and it doesn’t tend to have lots of resources to spare. Will of the West obviously is there as an option for if I feel I may actually run out the deck and want to keep going at that point, but what I’ve found thus far is that by the time my deck is empty I’m in a strong enough position that I don’t need anything more to just stomp all over the quest. Risk Some Light is a very useful Secrecy event, but didn’t quite make the cut when pitted against Timely Aid/Out of the Wild/A Elbereth! Gilthoniel! Scout Ahead likewise is a great side-quest and synergises with Out of the Wild/Keen As Lances, but I was trying to cut down and it’s not on the same level as Gather Information/Send for Aid.
And now the main deck.
I already talked about the card draw options. The allies I think are fairly self-explanatory, other than Master of the Forge they’re all just very powerful allies, the cheap ones should be played and the expensive ones should be brought in with Timely Aid or Vilya.
Attachment-wise, while Wizard Pipe/Vilya is obviously a big part of the deck’s engine, Gandalf’s Staff I’ve found to make a huge difference in the efficiency of getting set up, mostly for the extra resources to play everything else, but also potentially the card draw if other key pieces are not appearing in a timely fashion. Narya ends up being very significant for combat, obviously, but the reason it’s a 3-of in the deck is because it also gives Gandalf the Leadership icon he needs to play Timely Aid from hand as well as from the top of the deck. Since you can potentially acquire more than one Timely Aid before finding a Vanish from Sight to enable them this is obviously handy, though I possibly could get away with cutting a copy of Narya. I mentioned that the Courages are more for early-game help, by late-game the allies are powerful enough that I don’t really need the extra hero actions. And obviously Light of Valinor/Strider allow my heroes to quest in addition to using their rings. Nice, but not really essential to the functioning of the deck which is why there’s only 1 copy of each.
The events I mostly covered in talking about the card draw and the basic concept of the deck. Timely Aid is probably the best Secrecy card in the game, so any attempt at Vanish from Sight abuse should use it. Out of the Wild is a card I love even though it’s not as big a deal with less players. It does still help enable Keen as Lances on top of its own effect though. The one less obvious card in this mix is A Elbereth! Gilthoniel! And the thing with that one is, there’s an interesting ruling about how that card works in conjunction with Vanish from Sight – while Vanish from Sight is in effect, your threat is considered to be 20. So if you then play A Elbereth (for free because Secrecy) and move a non-unique enemy with an engagement cost above 20 to the bottom of the encounter deck, you set your threat equal to the engagement cost of that enemy per what the card says. This includes if that engagement cost is in fact lower than your actual un-vanished-from-sight threat, and so this interesting bit of shenanigans can be used to lower your threat after you’ve raised it in various ways. So for example, my threat is 40, I play Vanish from Sight – my threat is considered to be 20 – and defend an enemy with engagement cost 24; I then play A Elbereth! Gilthoniel!, move that enemy to the bottom of the encounter deck, and since my threat is (considered to be) below 24, I set my threat equal to 24. Thus I’ve ditched an enemy and dropped my threat by 16 points for two cards and no resources. Sounds good to me! A couple of Keen as Lances later and I was in actual Secrecy rather than just one phase of pretend Secrecy.
Thinking about it now, the one simple alteration to the deck which might bear noticeable fruit actually could be dropping Out of the Wild and Keen as Lances to just go all in on Timely Aid by adding more allies. I quite like the deck as it is though, and the victory display stuff becomes more valuable in multiplayer.
Finally, let’s muse on other possibilities for this deck. Well, as I mentioned further up, the exact selection of allies doesn’t matter that much. You can put in whatever you like, I just tend to default to powerful uniques in circumstances like this. Curious Brandybucks could be an interesting possibility, since by going to the bottom of my deck they’d let me continue using Gandalf/Pipe/Vilya after emptying my deck, which if nothing else could allow me to trigger Beorn’s action over and over. Not that I’d expect to need it though. Of course with Vilya or top of deck placing I could use Test of Will in this deck, so I should probably at least put it into the sideboard, but it doesn’t specifically match the rest of the deck concept and I thought it’d be interesting to go without. I’m struggling to think of any other Secrecy cards that’d really make sense though. I do feel like there are a lot more options to potentially be explored in this sort of deck concept but I can’t think what they all are.
This deck doesn’t do so well against quests which demand a fast start. I tried it against Wastes of Eriador and got horribly murdered by wargs despite an amazing opening hand. On the other hand I did much much better against Passage of the Marshes. Note: someone asked Matt Newman about the interaction between saga heroes and “two heroes or less cards” and he said that while by the letter of the rules it’d be a problem he would be fine with house-ruling it to not count saga heroes. Here’s the link to where it was brought up in a forum thread: https://community.fantasyflightgames.com/topic/202872-spoiler-for-those-sub-3-hero-decks/?p=2057693
And here’s my victory screenshot: