Decks: Hero’s Fall

It has happened a few times since I started doing card reviews on RingsDB that something I come up with in a review inspires me towards deckbuilding. Somewhat to be expected, since some of the reasons I review cards is based on thinking they’re under-rated (possibly including by me) or that they’re difficult to use (including if I haven’t managed to use them much myself). And in particular of course, for one reason or another all of My Top 10 Favourite Cards Which I Never Use made their way onto the lists. Right now I’m a bit tempted to do something involving the Henneth Annun Guard since I just wrote that review, but a couple of weeks back it was The Fall of Gil-Galad.

Prior to writing the review I hadn’t really put that much detailed thought into the potential variety of uses for The Fall of Gil-Galad, but having come up with some of these thoughts in the abstract I couldn’t help but want to try them out – in particular the thought which hadn’t previously occurred to me of building a deck with the actual intention of killing off a hero with Fall of Gil-Galad and thus just turning into a two hero deck a little way into the game. I have a great fondness for shenanigans-based decks, and this is a prime area for weird shenanigans.
Of course, there are some obvious difficulties in the idea of this sort of deck – I need to be able to find Fall of Gil-Galad reliably, and I need to choose a sacrificial hero who will definitely benefit me somehow in the early-game before they die. For the latter I came up with a few likely candidates in the card review, and so far I’ve tried out two of them. For the former problem the most direct solution is of course to use hero Gandalf and Word of Command, and so that’s what I’ve gone for in these two instances – though I have put some thought into other options, like Rivendell Minstrel (+To the Sea! To the Sea!) or Mirror of Galadriel+Silver Harp; and I may try those options with some of my other picks for third hero. Another possibility which will be available a couple of APs from now will be to have Thurindir dig Gather Information out of the deck in setup – and I suppose one could already go for that with Dunedain Message, though that adds another step to the process.

The two possibilities I’ve tried out thus far are Tactics Eowyn and Lore Aragorn, and in both cases my two companion heroes are Gandalf and Spirit Glorfindel – Gandalf is of course there for Word of Command, while Glorfindel is of course there for his low threat. With Aragorn having Glorfindel keeps my starting threat to a mere 31 so I have more room for the intended mass of Doomed before the reset (though I don’t have enough threat room to accommodate all the Doomed in the deck, maybe I should consider a non-Gandalf version of this deck). Meanwhile with Eowyn the focus is more on my threat level post-Fall. The only benefit I get from Eowyn (besides the early game 4 willpower) is the additional threat drop from her setup ability, which naturally points me towards Secrecy and so I want the lowest threat I can get.
Beyond the hero lineups the two decks also took different approaches. The Eowyn deck as noted makes use of Secrecy, taking advantage of the cost reduction and Timely Aid to acquire a swarm of allies alongside the two remaining heroes. Meanwhile the Aragorn deck relies on Legacy of Numenor to get resources early for an explosive start, doesn’t really care about its low threat except for the relaxation of encounter deck pressure it grants, and replaces the dead Aragorn with the ally version of Prince Imrahil. Here are the decklists:

Eowyn’s Fall

Heroes:
Gandalf
Eowyn (Ta)
Glorfindel (Sp)

Allies (20):
Dunedain Wanderer x3
Rivendell Scout x3
Celduin Traveller x3
Master of the Forge x3
Envoy of Pelargir x3
Ithilien Lookout x2
Arwen Undomiel x1
Bilbo Baggins x1
Treebeard x1

Attachments (16):
Light of Valinor x3
Resourceful x3
Wizard Pipe x3
Gandalf’s Staff x2
Unexpected Courage x2
Strider x1
Narya x1
The Fall of Gil-Galad x1

Events (12):
A Test of Will x3
Elrond’s Counsel x3
Timely Aid x3
Word of Command x3

Side quests (2):
Gather Information x1
Double Back x1

Sideboard:
Elfhelm x1
Shadowfax x1
Out of Sight x3
Out of the Wild x3
The Storm Comes x3

Decklist on RingsDB

You’ll note there are no Tactics cards in this deck. You should always prioritise spending Eowyn’s resources on Neutral cards since she won’t be sticking around. Remember that if you play Strider early you can potentially still get the willpower boost even if you’re not getting the action advantage (not that likely with only the one copy, but it’s a possibility).
Obviously this deck faces some difficulties in its setup, since you have no natural Lore access and thus can only play Word of Command from the top of your deck. Master of the Forge is another way to find Fall of Gil-Galad, or to find Wizard Pipe to enable the top-of-deck play, but the Master himself can only be played from the top of the deck. Gather Information at least will work regardless. The sideboard option of The Storm Comes could partially solve the Lore access problem, or equally I suppose I could’ve considered A Good Harvest or even Song of Wisdom. I’ve found the deck to work reasonably well as is though. It’s best to pull off the Eowyn sacrifice fairly early, but you have some leeway on the Secrecy (a theoretical round 1 Fall of Gil-Galad would give you a threat of 16), and you can use Elrond’s Counsel and Double Back to keep your threat down.
Master of the Forge is potentially pretty significant in general, since some of the attachments with less copies can be quite significant, like Gandalf’s Staff and Narya (to let you play Leadership cards from hand). The deck decidedly does better at questing than combat, but it’s pretty creditable as a combat presence once it gets established as well. It won’t have the easiest time with boss enemies, might take a couple of rounds, but average enemies can be managed.
This deck seems like a very weird idea, so I went through a decent-length bout of testing, culminating in a solo run against Massing at Osgiliath. Wolves from Mordor of course are a great enemy when you’re planning to sacrifice a hero. Unfortunately I didn’t find a Ranger of Ithilien before stage 3 so I had to discard Glorfindel on stage 3 so I could quest through it, but by that point I’d amassed enough allies to just not care. I only left Secrecy by the end because of the Forced effect on The Witch-King.
eowynsfall

Aragorn’s Fall

Heroes:
Gandalf
Aragorn (Lo)
Glorfindel (Sp)

Allies (11):
Prince Imrahil x3
Master of the Forge x3
Treebeard x2
Arwen Undomiel x1
Bilbo Baggins x1
Elfhelm x1

Attachments (18):
Light of Valinor x3
Unexpected Courage x3
Narya x3
Expert Treasure-hunter x2
Gandalf’s Staff x2
Wizard Pipe x2
Shadowfax x1
Asfaloth x1
The Fall of Gil-Galad x1

Events (21):
The Seeing-stone x3
Legacy of Numenor x3
Deep Knowledge x3
Daeron’s Runes x3
Word of Command x3
A Test of Will x3
Elrond’s Counsel x3

Decklist on RingsDB

Very different as I mentioned above. This one doesn’t actually care about Secrecy, though low threat is handy. The primary thing here though is the strategy of powering up with Doomed cards then resetting with Loragorn which has been around since Voice of Isengard was released, just factoring in the additional wrinkle of killing him off once he’s done his thing. As with Eowyn in the first deck, prioritise spending resources from Aragorn. In this case there are actually some Lore cards for him to play as well as Neutral. This deck has an easier time with Word of Command obviously.
This is a solo deck, obviously. I suppose you could put in Desperate Alliance to allow another player to reset after benefitting from all the Doomed, but it would be adding another complication to an already somewhat combo-tastic deck. It could work though, because the deck’s card draw is pretty insane. Combo-tastic doesn’t necessarily mean inconsistent. I’d say the main place this deck could potentially fall down would be when your skyrocketing threat requires you to engage every enemy on the table before you get the chance to drop back to 31 in the Refresh phase.
Master of the Forge is significant again, indeed more so since this deck is lighter on allies and more about powering up a smaller number of more powerful characters.
I didn’t put this one through as much testing as the other, so there may well be ways I could improve it, or at least potentially useful sideboard cards I could have – Protector of Lorien springs to mind given the number of uniques and the draw power. As far as the testing goes, I just jumped straight to the same trial by Massing at Osgiliath. This one did find a Ranger in time, but could’ve dealt with it more easily if it hadn’t by discarding Imrahil and then playing him again. Finished the quest with a less impressive board-state but also finished faster, that fast ramp-up really working to full potential.
aragornsfall

I’ve been musing on more potential Fall of Gil-Galad decks, so they may yet come to pass, but these are the two I have for now. The card is much better than it gets credit for, especially if you share my fondness for shenanigans.

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