The Line Unbroken – 50: The Battle of Carn Dum

Back from my First Age interlude, there are just two quests remaining in the Angmar Awakened cycle, and we’re really at the climax both in terms of narrative and gameplay. Having discovered the connection between the kidnapped Iarion and the now undead Daechanar who betrayed the Dunedain at the time of the war against Angmar, we are left with the unenviable position of needing to go forth into open battle against the forces of Angmar at the fortress of Carn Dum.

Battle of Carn Dum is widely regarded as the most difficult quest released for the game thus far, and I am in complete agreement with that sentiment. It’s substantially harder even than a large proportion of Nightmare quests. I like it though. I appreciate a challenge, and as soon as this quest hit OCTGN I spent the ensuing night playing it over and over until I got a victory. There are some issues with it but it still feels fairer (albeit more difficult) than earlier horrible quests. I’ve written about this before.

The player cards in this pack are all pretty interesting. They support all the things the cycle has been pushing, several of which the quest messes with – it can be rough for threat and there’s a shadow effect which punishes you for being in Valour, it’s hard hitting out the gate so Ents are risky, Dunedain will run into problems with all the shadow effects they’ll have to deal with, and Noldor get messed up by some of the anti-discard pile cards. Side-quests are OK. And the cards are nonetheless good in general, with Quick Ears admittedly being a bit more questionable and Doom Hangs Still being situational (actually that could be potentially useful for this quest if I could fit it in).

So how do I approach this quest? I think one of the big issues with this quest, which I guess applies to some other difficult quests but maybe not as much, is the fact that the quest really hits you hard in multiple areas, so whereas some quests you can just take a more focused approach on the particular needs of the quest for Carn Dum you have to balance between multiple things and hit them all strongly. I suspect a lot of people’s frustrations with the quest come from realising one of the issues and focusing on it only to be messed up by a lack in one of the other areas.
I think there are three main points of focus for this quest, and then a few more minor sub-themes as well.
1. Questing (Battle and Willpower). The starting active location makes the quest a Battle quest, so you need to bring high attack (that attack will also help with killing enemies so you need to strike the right balance between those two areas). But once the location is gone you’re back to willpower, and often a deck which does well on the initial Battle quest will fail to get willpower on the table quickly enough.
2. Thaurdir/Sorceries. Revealing Sorceries will flood the table with shadow cards, but as bad as they can be, the big focus-pulling aspect is the fact that Thaurdir will make an immediate attack against the first player when he flips to his Champion side (after getting to three shadow cards, so he’ll have four for the attack). You need to be prepared for that, most likely with a chump blocker.
3. Shadow cards. The problem with the shadow cards in this quest, as I’ve said before, is not so much that the effects are bad as it is that they stack (and there’s a very high proportion of shadow effects in this quest, 35/47 cards in the encounter deck). A +1 attack shadow isn’t an issue, but three or four on the same attack can get a hero killed. Some shadow cancellation can be significant, but there’s also just the simple aspect of engaging enemies early so they attack and their shadow cards get resolved sooner rather than letting them stack up over multiple rounds.
The more minor sub-themes I mentioned are the discard pile stuff from some of the Sorceries which can cause a lot of problems, threat raises can be an issue, and the fact there are a couple of locations which you kind of don’t want to travel to. Those don’t necessarily merit as much focus as the three big ones I just brought up, but it’d be good to do something about them if I can.
That being said, one of the things which bugs me is that despite having just talked up how hard this quest is, I still think its difficulty gets blown out of proportion at times, so I’d rather not power-deck it too much and show that that isn’t absolutely necessary. On top of which of course I also have a bunch of cards and strategies I want to try fitting in. I mentioned that side-quests don’t really have problems here, the mandatory use of Amarthiul points me in certain directions some of which I’m ignoring because I’m saving full-on Dunedain for Dread Realm, the victory display archetype hasn’t had its full outing on The Line Unbroken yet, and there’s one difficult to use card from the previous cycle which potentially finds its perfect niche in this quest. So here are a couple of decklists:

Charms and Counter-charms

Faramir (Lo)

Allies (9):
Galadhrim Minstrel x3
Warden of Healing x2
Errand-rider x2
Mablung x1
Quickbeam x1

Attachments (13):
Steward of Gondor x3
A Burning Brand x3
Secret Vigil x3
Gondorian Shield x2
Elven Mail x2

Events (24):
Daeron’s Runes x3
None Return x3
Out of the Wild x3
The Door is Closed! x3
Keen as Lances x3
Feint x3
Gildor’s Counsel x2
The White Council x2
Dunedain Message x2

Side-quests (4):
Gather Information x1
Send for Aid x1
Scout Ahead x1
Delay the Enemy x1

Thoughts: As noted, I’m saving full Dunedain for Dread Realm, but I may still be keeping a couple of engaged enemies around to power Amarthiul (or of course I may have no choice due to the high number of enemies in the encounter deck) and so I need a solid defensive solution, which Rossiel with A Burning Brand can certainly be. All but three of the enemies in the quest are Orcs (the two exceptions being Thaurdir and two copies of the Werewolf of Angmar) so a single None Return can set her up, in addition to which she can get Steward of Gondor + Gondorian Shield and take no damage from any Orc in the quest. Add in Elven Mail or the boost from Arwen in the other deck, and Unexpected Courage(s) from the other deck and she can tank a lot of hits on both sides of the table. Great targets for None Return (if I have a choice) could be Angmar Orc because of the when revealed, Angmar Marauder because of the shadow effect, Orc Grunts for everything in their text box, or maybe the Carn Dum Garrisons for their synergy with the extra shadow cards being dealt.
Beyond my defensive strategy, for a quest like this one with so many horrible cards the victory display approach seems like a great idea assuming I can make it work. I omitted Leave No Trace partly because the locations are more innocuous than everything else, but mostly because they don’t share traits so Rossiel wouldn’t get her willpower boost. Of potentially biggest significance though is my ability to use Scout Ahead and Out of the Wild (affordable out of Secrecy with Steward on Rossiel) to put the Sorcery treacheries into the victory display and thus reduce the chances of drawing them and triggering Thaurdir – not to mention if I do I can then cancel them with The Door is Closed! And an important rules point is that since The Door is Closed! cancels the entire card, not just the when revealed, Thaurdir will not trigger from a Sorcery cancelled this way. Sticking with encounter deck manipulation, Gildor’s Counsel can either help me take control of the game early on or help ensure my advancement/victory later on (in particular getting through stage 2 in one quest phase with minimal chance of Sorceries would be great).
Side-quests fit in great here as rushing through this quest is a great way to get yourself killed by Thaurdir and completing the side-quests can really help with setting up and keeping the board state under control. I stuck to only 2 copies of Dunedain Message as it’s less important and really not something I want clogging up my hand when I’m looking for an immediate boost. Even the much and somewhat justly derided Delay the Enemy could be pretty useful here since this quest can end up swarming you with enemies, and because of the Accursed Battlefield, I have to be prepared for Battle questing anyway. Speaking of which, Lore Faramir is of course fantastic for Battle questing since every enemy revealed will improve his attack. He should do pretty well in this quest in general because Thaurdir ensures him a minimum attack of 3 at all times and that’s increased by any enemies I leave in the staging area – which is easier than usual since Thaurdir on his Captain side gives enemies +10 engagement cost. I have however omitted Faramir’s usual companion card, Ranger Spikes, because while using traps and letting enemies just stack up masses of shadow cards they can’t use can be an effective strategy in this quest, I wanted to avoid it because it feels a bit exploit-y, and I’d have to prepare a definite means of getting through the threat raise on 2a as well. That’s why I also didn’t consider Forest Snares to help power Amarthiul.
Finally, I tried to address a couple of the minor sub-themes, with Secret Vigils to hopefully keep both decks threats from getting out of control, and The White Council offering the option of shuffling a card from discard pile back into deck (the readying could also be significant in a tricky moment).

Illuminating the Shadows

Glorfindel (Sp)

Allies (12):
Westfold Horse-breeder x3
Galadriel’s Handmaiden x3
West Road Traveller x3
Arwen Undomiel x1
Bilbo Baggins x1
Bofur (Sp) x1

Attachments (21):
Light of Valinor x3
Unexpected Courage x3
Ancient Mathom x3
Gandalf’s Staff x3
Wizard Pipe x3
Shadowfax x2
Asfaloth x2
Arod x2

Events (15):
A Test of Will x3
Hasty Stroke x3
Shadows Give Way x3
Elrond’s Counsel x3
Dwarven Tomb x3

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

Thoughts: This quest is the perfect environment for Shadows Give Way since multiple shadow cards can easily stack up. In addition to avoiding risks while defending, playing Shadows Give Way can also reduce threat in the staging area if there are Carn Dum Garrisons there and prevent Thaurdir from flipping while on stage 1 (I’ll most likely wait until he has 2 shadow cards and then play it, assuming I get the opportunity). In a similar vein, Gandalf’s Staff being able to repeatably discard shadow cards is a great fit (though unfortunately the Staff specifies a non-unique enemy so it can’t help with Thaurdir), and I can still play Shadows Give Way from the top of my deck with Gandalf, so that’s OK.
My initial take on this deck tried to use Spirit Theoden. The cost reduction seemed useful in principle, but in practice it wasn’t working out and I figured I’d be better off with a selection of allies chosen for their innate usefulness (mostly their willpower) rather than them having a particular trait. That version tackled location control a bit harder with The Riddermark’s Finest + Gamling, but in retrospect that was too much effort to put into a more minor element of the quest when I could have just loaded in more willpower with Handmaidens and not had to pay for Gamling.
This deck does still handle location control though – thanks to Gandalf’s sphere-smoothing I could slot all the mounts I wanted into the deck with the Horse-breeders for more consistency, and Asfaloth + Arod can explore most of the locations in this quest in a single round. Handily, exploring a location with Arod can be the perfect timing to ready Idraen to participate in another attack if she hasn’t readied earlier in the round.
Besides Gandalf, this hero lineup was chosen because while I wanted mono-Spirit for Shadows Give Way and good willpower, I also need good attack for the initial Battle questing and to kill enemies. Easy action advantage comes in handy as well – when I was using Theoden obviously he had Snowmane, but Idraen potentially gets going faster with her inbuilt readying, and Glorfindel obviously has Light of Valinor (the low threat is an additional point in his favour as usual).
Beyond that I think this deck is pretty self-explanatory – willpower, readying, cancellation, a bit of location control, shadow discarding and just built to be very consistent mostly. And of course Dwarven Tomb can be used for its usual purposes or equally to retrieve cards discarded by encounter card effects.


Youtube: Battle of Carn Dum

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