This isn’t quite on the level of some other deckbuilding challenges I’ve done in the past, but in a recent forum thread asking about crazy combos in this game, naturally Boromir/Steward/Blood/Fire was brought up, and TwiceBornh had the following to say on it:
“Unfortunately, I think some scenarios practically require the use of the core part of this combo (Boromir/Blood of Numenor/Gondorian Fire/Resourceful or Steward of Gondor). Has anyone successfully defeated The Three Trials, straight solo progression-style, without using the above combo along with Aragorn (Lore) and Glorfindel (Spirit)? If yes, I’d be curious to know how. If any of the combo cards were nerfed, could the scenario (under the conditions mentioned above) still be beaten?”
So naturally I took this is a challenge. I suppose I should note that I am of course custom-building for the quest, but I think there could be generic decks which could do it as well. I mean, TwiceBornh’s criteria were excessively precise, suggesting that it would require not only Boromir/Steward/Blood/Fire but Loragorn and Glorfindel as well. If I were to be pedantic, I could meet those criteria by just putting together a Boromir deck with a different hero lineup, but I decided to distance myself a bit more. There are a few different things I could’ve potentially done – Elrond/Vilya would probably work, I could probably make something work with Dwarves or Outlands though it would be a bit luck-dependent in relation to when Curse of the Wild Men and Cave Barrow turned up; likewise Caldara might have an issue with the Cave Barrow but otherwise could work well. I’m sure there are other possibilities, these are just off the top of my head. If one can establish one’s combat power quickly enough then the Wolf’s Guardian isn’t a particularly punishing Time effect, so there’s a decent possibility of just turtling and building up a powerful board state while you’ve got him, though sequence of Barrows could mess that up – it’s a possibility though and opens up many more options. What I actually went for was this:
Gandalf (Core) x2
Bill the Pony x2
Gildor Inglorion x1
Steward of Gondor x3
Gondorian Shield x3
Dagger of Westernesse x3
Hobbit Cloak x2
Gondorian Fire x2
Fast Hitch x2
Protector of Lorien x2
Celebrian’s Stone x1
A Good Harvest x3
Sneak Attack x3
Halfling Determination x3
Daeron’s Runes x3
Deep Knowledge x3
Mostly the deck is just designed to be pretty efficient at going through itself to find all the important stuff. As you see, I have kept Steward of Gondor and Gondorian Fire, which does make defeating the Guardians a lot easier, but actually killing the Guardians isn’t exactly a necessity in Three Trials – you have to do one for the Trial of Strength, but otherwise you just need to defend them a lot while you quest to victory. I could potentially swap out Gondorian Fire for another 2 copies of Beorn and just use his ability (after a Sneak Attack, naturally) to make up the difference in attack power, then hopefully have enough readying and/or expendable allies to make the extra defences on stage 3. Like I said, there are a fair few options for how this could be done.
My most significant deckbuilding concession to the nature of the quest is that I remember the frustrations of Curse of the Wild Men and therefore included no non-unique allies. The fact Celebrian’s Stone is restricted and will thus block a second Dagger of Westernesse is a bit annoying but it was kind of speculative anyway. My starting point for the deck was Beregond as my defender, I picked Beravor because good card draw obviously makes it so much easier to get yourself reliably set up, and then I needed willpower, and I decided to go for Sam because he’s a less obvious choice than say, Eowyn. Plus the Guardians all have engagement cost 50 so his ability will trigger and I can build up some attack – including with Steward/Fire. Or maybe it was that I wanted access to Sneak Attack Gandalf.
Of course omitting Spirit means no Unexpected Courage, so when I have multiple attacks to deal with I need to rely on my Cram, Feints, potentially allies and of course Sam’s ability to be an OK defender as well as Beregond. And of course Sam can get Fast Hitches for readying. This quest isn’t super enemy-heavy though so it should be workable.
My first attempt I revealed nothing but locations and thus quickly reached staging area lock, but the second went much better, so here’s a write-up:
Opening hand: Kili, Halfling Determination, Feint, Fast Hitch, Bill the Pony, Steward of Gondor.
Mulligan: Deep Knowledge x2, Erestor, Bill the Pony, Cram, Protector of Lorien.
I was mostly mulliganing for some card draw to get going fast, and I got that.
Encounter Setup: I choose to start with the Trial of Perseverance. I randomly end up with the Hill Barrow and the Boar’s Guardian, which gives Sam +1 to all his stats when he engages me.
Resource: 1/1/1 (Sam/Beravor/Beregond), draw Bill the Pony.
Planning: Bill the Pony. Deep Knowledge x2, threat 32, draw Feint, Fast Hitch, Sneak Attack, Cram. Cram x2 on Beregond. Exhaust Beravor, draw Steward of Gondor, Gandalf. Fast Hitch on Sam.
The basic plan of drawing fast is working fine. Since I had no need to make quest progress at this point I had no qualms about exhausting Beravor in the planning phase, which obviously helped. Next round I can bring in Steward, I have a Fast Hitch and two copies of Cram in play already which is good progress towards the kind of board state I want.
Sam (boosted from the Guardian engaging) + Bill = 5 willpower.
Hill Barrow = 4 threat.
Staging – The Guardian’s Fury (Guardian attacks, Beregond defends, no damage).
5 – 4 = 1 progress, which does nothing.
Pretty good start, I was worried I might end up questing unsuccessfully, which as noted wasn’t a huge concern with no progress required, but still better to avoid it.
Travel: Hill Barrow.
Combat: I Feint the Guardian. I’m saving my Cram for later, since it can help with attacks made outside of the combat phase where Feint cannot.
Refresh: Threat 33, 1 Time on Boar’s Guardian.
Resource: 2/1/1, Faramir.
Planning: Exhaust Beravor, draw Gondorian Shield, A Good Harvest. Shield on Beregond, Steward of Gondor on Sam (exhaust for 2 resources), Protector of Lorien on Sam.
Sneak Attack Gandalf, draw Deep Knowledge, Halfling Determination, Hobbit Cloak. DK, threat 35, draw A Good Harvest, Dagger of Westernesse.
Sam + Bill + Gandalf = 8 willpower
Staging – Turned Around (Removes a Time counter from Boar’s Guardian, I discard Bill (-1 wp) and put 2 new Time counters on).
7 – 0 = 7 progress which explores the Hill Barrow, sending it to the victory display along with the Boar’s Guardian. I take the Key of the Boar and advance to The Trial of Intuition. I randomly get the Raven’s Guardian and the Stone Barrow.
Combat: Beregond defends taking no damage. The Stone Barrow raises my threat by 3 (38).
Refresh: 39, 3 Time on Raven’s Guardian.
Resource: 4/1/2 (including Steward), Dagger of Westernesse.
Planning: Bill the Pony, Erestor. Discard A Good Harvest with Erestor to draw Daeron’s Runes. DR, draw Gandalf, Gondorian Shield, discard Shield.
At this point I’m holding off on using Beravor because I want all the willpower I can get to speed up the process of discarding the encounter deck to find the key and move on, especially since I’ve got the hazardous combination of Raven’s Guardian + Stone Barrow raising my threat by 3 every round.
Sam + Beravor + Bill + Erestor = 8 willpower.
Stone Barrow = 2 threat.
Staging – Grim Foothills (Doomed 2 (41), +1).
8 – 3 = 5 cards discarded from the encounter deck.
Travel: Grim Foothills.
I could travel to the Stone Barrow to try and get rid of the threat raises it’s giving me, but its 10 quest points would take a while to get through and I could get location-locked in staging in the meantime, so I figure it’s likely quicker and safer to just try and quest out the encounter deck as fast as possible.
Combat: Raven’s Guardian attacks, Beregond defends, no damage, threat 44.
Refresh: 45, 2 Time counters.
Resource: 3/2/3, Daeron’s Runes.
Planning: DR draws Faramir, Celebrian’s Stone, discard Faramir. Celebrian’s Stone on Sam. A Good Harvest to let Beravor/Beregond pay for Faramir.
Sam (+ Celebrian’s Stone) + Beravor + Bill + Erestor = 10 willpower.
Stone Barrow = 2 threat.
Staging – Ancient Forest (+2, adds 1 threat to itself and the Stone Barrow). I exhaust Faramir for another 4 willpower.
14 – 6 = 8 progress, clearing the Grim Foothills and discarding five cards.
Travel: Ancient Forest.
Combat: Beregond defends, threat 48.
Refresh: 49, 1 Time.
Circumstances have contrived to let me take my threat to the absolute limit. Of course had I revealed another Grim Foothills this round I would’ve lost, but as it is I can drop down with Gandalf next round and be OK.
Resource: 4/1/2, Gleowine.
Planning: Discard Dagger of Westernesse to draw Protector of Lorien. Gandalf, threat 44.
Sam + Beravor + Bill + Erestor + Gandalf = 14 willpower.
Stone Barrow = 2 threat.
Staging – Wild Tenacity (Remove a Time counter, 1 damage to everyone, add 4 more Time counters). Exhaust Faramir for another 5 willpower just to be sure.
19 – 2 = 17 progress, clearing the Ancient Forest and discarding the rest of the encounter deck, so I just pull out the Key of the Raven and shuffle the rest back in with the discard pile. Stone Barrow and Raven’s Guardian go to the victory display. I advance to the Trial of Strength with the Cave Barrow and Wolf’s Guardian.
I generally hope to get the Cave Barrow on one of the first two stages, but since my deck is fairly ally-light and I’m playing solo it’s not so much of a problem. And the Wolf’s Guardian isn’t overly threatening to me so I can take a bit of time now to make sure I’m prepared to move on.
Combat: Beregond defends, no damage.
Refresh: 45, 2 Time, Gandalf is discarded.
Resource: 3/2/2, Daeron’s Runes.
Planning: DR draws Beorn, Halfling Determination, discard Protector of Lorien. Gleowine, Gleowine draws Fast Hitch. Beravor draws Gondorian Fire, Gondorian Shield. Discard Gondorian Shield to draw Feint. Gondorian Fire and Fast Hitch on Sam.
I now have Sam loaded up with action advantage, but I could use a few more resources for Gondorian Fire so I figure I’ll wait an extra round. The only real concern for me is threat and I have Gandalf for that.
Sam + Bill + Erestor = 8 willpower.
Cave Barrow = 3 threat.
Staging – Grim Foothills (Doomed 2, threat 47, +1).
8 – 4 = 4 progress which does nothing.
Travel: Grim Foothills
Combat: Beregond defends, no damage.
Refresh: 48, 1 Time.
Resource: 6/3/3, Sneak Attack.
Planning: Gleowine draws Hobbit Cloak. Beravor draws Steward of Gondor, Kili. Discard Kili to draw Fili. Dagger of Westernesse on Sam. Fast Hitch on Sam.
Sam + Bill + Erestor = 8 willpower.
Cave Barrow = 3 threat.
Staging – Wild Tenacity (Remove Time, Guardian attacks, Beregond defends, no damage, add 3 Time).
8 – 3 = 5 progress which more than explores the Grim Foothills.
Sam readies with Fast Hitch, Beregond readies with Cram and defends. Shadow makes me exhaust Faramir.
Sam pays 1 for Gondorian Fire (+5 attack), then 1 to Sneak Attack Gandalf (threat 43). Beregond pays for Halfling Determination x2 (+4 attack) bringing Sam to a total of 12 attack including the Dagger of Westernesse.
Sam and Gandalf attack for 16 killing the Wolf’s Guardian. The Cave Barrow goes to the victory display and I advance to stage 3. The Hallowed Circle goes to the staging area and all three Guardians return and engage me. This readies Sam and gives him +3 to everything, meaning he now attacks for 15.
Sam kills the Boar’s Guardian, readies with Fast Hitch, and kills the Raven’s Guardian.
This is the key to making this quest really not that difficult in solo. Action advantage so you can kill some of the Guardians right after advancing to stage 3 and thus not have to deal with them all attacking when you travel to the Hallowed Circle. There are other ways I could’ve managed which might not have required me to go for Gondorian Fire – as noted, if I could sensibly defend these guys I wouldn’t necessarily need to kill them, so maybe between Hobbit Cloak/Protector of Lorien on Sam, Cram on Beregond and some Feints I could’ve managed to just quest through without killing the Guardians a second time. This was easier though.
Refresh: 44, 2 Time on Wolf’s Guardian.
Resource: 7/3/1, Halfling Determination.
Planning: Gleowine draws Gildor Inglorion, Beravor draws Gondorian Fire, Gleowine. Discard Steward of Gondor to draw A Good Harvest. Second Gondorian Fire on Sam.
Sam + Erestor = 7 willpower.
Hallowed Circle = 1 threat.
Staging – Curse of the Wild Men (nothing, surge because I have all 3 keys), The Guardian’s Fury (Wolf’s Guardian attacks, Beregond defends, shadow causes another attack, discard Cram and Beregond defends again, shadow makes me exhaust Faramir).
7 – 1 = 6 progress.
The Antlered Crown – 6/1.
Travel: Hallowed Circle, the Guardian attacks, I defend with Sam (readied with Fast Hitch), discarding Gleowine, Hobbit Cloak and Fili to Protector of Lorien so he takes only 1 damage.
In retrospect maybe I should’ve just played one of those Hobbit Cloaks on Sam for the +2 defence against the 50 engagement Guardians (A +1 attack per key could’ve screwed me here), but I didn’t think about it.
I Feint the Guardian.
Sam pays one for Gondorian Fire (+6 attack), then one for the other Gondorian Fire (+5 attack), putting him at a total of 14 attack including the Dagger as well.
Sam and Bill attack and kill the Wolf’s Guardian who goes to the victory display.
Refresh: 45 threat.
Resource: 8/4/1, Dagger of Westernesse. Discard Hobbit Cloak to draw Feint. Gleowine draws Steward of Gondor. Beravor draws Cram, Sneak Attack. Sneak Attack Gandalf to drop threat to 40.
Planning: Cram on Beregond. Gandalf, threat 35.
Sam + Erestor + Bill + Gandalf = 12 willpower.
Staging – Spirit of the Wild (+4). I exhaust Faramir for another 4 willpower.
16 – 4 = 12 progress to explore Hallowed Circle.
8 completed rounds = 80
Total combined Threat = 35
Total damage on Heroes = 3
Cost of dead Heroes = 0
Victory points = 20
TOTAL SCORE = 98
As noted, I did take the easy option with a Fast Hitched Sam and Gondorian Fire, but there are other ways to deal with the problem. That excess of actions could be acquired instead through an ally swarm (so long as you get the Cave Barrow on one of your first two stage 2 quests and can thus build up a decent army on the Trial of Strength before advancing) – perhaps a Gondor deck with Leadership Boromir so all your allies have their attack boosted to kill the Guardians, or a Dwarf swarm for the same reason, or a Vilya deck. Alternatively there is of course the option of trying to just tank all the attacks while questing through – one could load up Beregond with Unexpected Courages instead of Cram so he could continually defend multiple Guardians, or alternatively one could pull out the sons of Elrond – an excellent possibility, because on all the rounds you’re not getting multiple attacks Elrohir will be stacking up resources which he can then use later on when he potentially needs to make 6 defences in a single round. It can be difficult to fit everything you want into a single deck, between tanking attacks, having the attack power to kill a Guardian and of course still being able to quest through sensibly, but the flipside is the only one card of staging every round giving you ample opportunity to power up in advance of the one really difficult bit. It can be done.