This deck is another one I was inspired to build after writing a card review, but in this case it took me rather longer to get the deck figured out to my satisfaction. The card in question this time is the Palantir. Powerful scrying, potentially powerful card draw as well, at a cost of threat though. It’s a card which I’ve always wanted to build a decent deck around given the interesting risk/reward dynamic of it, and even more so given that a lot of people just unjustly reject it out of hand. It must be admitted though, it is difficult to make it work properly, which is why this deck has ended up taking a few months since the review to actually get to a point where I’m happy with it.
So in building a Palantir deck the key points to address are firstly how I’m going to manage my threat and secondly who will actually wield the stone. Thirdly but slightly less significantly, I need to consider ways I may be able to take advantage of the knowledge I glean from each use. Simply knowing the threat of staging can be enough, but potential means of responding to the information doesn’t go amiss.
There are two obvious answers to the threat question – one is the Spirit sphere in general, the other is Lore Aragorn. I opted for Aragorn, with the option of a bit of additional Spirit threat reduction as well.
Who I want to have actually use the Palantir is of course another question entirely, and a more difficult one since the game at present includes 31 Noble heroes to choose from, with doubtless more to come in future releases. There’s the option of just picking a hero whose sole purpose will be to use the Palantir or of getting one or more Unexpected Courage onto them to make them multi-use. Obviously UC won’t generally be available from the start though, so best not to choose a hero whose action it would hurt that much to use, even if it will be useful when they have it. After considering a few different options I landed on one which is both thematic and somewhat synergistic – Lore Denethor. Obviously he’s one of only two canonical users of a Palantir who we have in hero form, and since his innate ability also allows you to scry the encounter deck, he can feed into a general strategy along those lines.
Finally, how am I going to respond to the information I glean? Well, there are some bits of location control which may be relevant. Knowing when cancellation will or will not be necessary is a simple but powerful benefit. I can also know how to trigger Wingfoot and when will be a good time for Ranger Spikes. By and large though, simply knowing staging so I can quest exactly may be enough a lot of the time, and so much of the deck is simply devoted to making the Palantir work, and then drawing my various useful support cards.
I should note, this is very definitely a support deck. It can quest a bit and handle some combat, but it was built in the expectation of probably being the third deck in a game.
Keener Sight than Lesser Men
Master of the Forge x3
Galadhrim Minstrel x3
Halfling Bounder x3
Warden of Healing x2
Ithilien Tracker x1
Unexpected Courage x3
Ranger Spikes x3
Thror’s Map x1
A Burning Brand x1
A Test of Will x3
Elrond’s Counsel x3
Daeron’s Runes x3
Deep Knowledge x3
Secret Paths x3
The Evening Star x3
Double Back x1
Scout Ahead x1
Minas Tirith Lampwright
Power of Orthanc
The Galadhrim’s Greeting
Let’s talk the sideboard quickly – Greeting is purely an option for if threat is more of a concern than usual, and Desperate Alliance is there for if the other players’ threat is a concern. The other cards are more quest-specific – Thror’s Key is a great card to use with the Palantir since you know when you’ll want to attach it and don’t have to play it until then, but not all quests have locations you care about blanking the text boxes of. Expecting Mischief follows a similar principle but depending on the combat capabilities of your companions and how tough the enemies are the direct damage may be unnecessary. Power of Orthanc is only useful if there are conditions obviously, and Minas Tirith Lampwright is only useful if there’s a reasonable amount of Surge.
The main deck then. Side-quests also go nicely with the Palantir since if you know exactly what you’ll be revealing for staging you can quest exactly enough to clear them in one round to minimise the time you’re taking away from the main quest. The two I included both fit well with the Palantir, since one offers a bit of threat reduction (though it may only just or not quite off-set the use of the Palantir that round), while the other is the most powerful scrying effect in the game and unless you have a lot of shadow cards to deal may help you with your next Palantir use. Furthermore, once either of these side-quests has been explored I can use Halfling Bounders for cancellation as well as A Test of Will, and as noted earlier of course I’ll know exactly when I’m going to want to cancel something thanks to the Palantir.
The Unexpected Courages are primarily intended for Denethor so he can scry everything.
There are a few x1 cards in there, but it’s more consistent than you might think, because the draw between Masters of the Forge, Galadhrim Minstrels, the Palantir, Daeron’s Runes, Deep Knowledge and Elven-light is pretty impressive. You’ll note there aren’t actually that many Spirit cards in the deck, so Arwen can afford to just keep playing Elven-light a fair amount of the time, and is more free to give resources to Aragorn rather than herself. That powerful draw is the reason I omitted Gather Information from my selection of side-quests, but I should probably add it anyway just as another option. A few of those x1 cards are also decent choices to swap out for sideboard cards if wanted.
Other options I mentioned in passing further up – location control is handy, with the Palantir I can know in advance exactly when I’ll want to play Secret Paths or The Evening Star and should therefore save the resources. Elrond’s Counsel can be saved until after the Loragorn reset to get a more impressive drop, or can be used earlier to delay having to use the reset and perhaps to avoid some engagement costs you’re not totally ready for. Ranger Spikes can be targeted on a particular enemy rather than just randomly hitting whatever comes up, and if a decent target isn’t coming up, just use the resources for something else – just the knowledge of how to best spend your resources can be incredibly powerful, and the Palantir can give you the relevant information for that.
Other useful cards I could consider include Gather Information as mentioned, Dwarven Tomb to recur Test of Will or Lampwrights if I’m using them, Radagast’s Cunning for the same reason as Secret Paths. Other Traps and side-quests could be considered if they fit a particular strategy which a group wants to go for.
This deck took a little tweaking to reach the point where I was fully satisfied with it, but it does what it’s supposed to – it scries the encounter deck to provide useful advance knowledge, and has a few tricks up its sleeve to manage the staging area based on that knowledge, plus general support. It’s not the kind of deck that’s going to amass a huge board state to utterly crush the encounter deck, but the insight it can give may prove crucial for allowing all decks in a multiplayer game to get set up safely into a winning position.