Deck: Master Manipulator

There are various reasons why I build particular decks. Sometimes I’m pursuing a particular archetype, sometimes I’m trying to do something different with an idea someone else had, a lot of the time I’m inspired by one particular card and branch out from there. And where that card comes from likewise varies – sometimes it’s a card I’ve just reviewed, sometimes it’s a newly released card, sometimes it’s an older card which just happened to come up in conversation and I decide I want to do something with it. This deck is the latter case, a couple of times recently people were once again discussing the Master of Lore errata and how he’s not that good any more – and I was reminded of the time I used him in The Line Unbroken. My big conclusion from that use was that he’s still potentially a useful ally if you can get him out with plenty of rounds still to go and deal with the consequent hit to your early-game. Those certainly aren’t impossible things to achieve, so I figured I’d give it a go.

The big problem with the Master of Lore is that playing him doesn’t pay off for a few rounds, and spending those 3 resources early in the game on the Mater of Lore rather than something else which will help your immediate board-state is a tough sell. So my first stop was Grima – now as came up in one of the discussions, using Grima to make the Master of Lore cheaper doesn’t inherently make him worthwhile because without the Master you could’ve used that cost reduction on something else instead. But it certainly does make it easier to cope since paying only 2 for the Master makes it that much more likely you can afford to play another card the same round (perhaps immediately utilising the Master’s cost reduction as well) so you’re not completely sacrificing immediate concerns for the longer-term payoff.
The next potential difficulty is answering the question of what I’m using this cost reduction for. It’s hard to argue the Master of Lore is worthwhile if using him merely allows me to stack up a bunch of unspent resources – I could’ve spent those resources plus the cost of the Master on the same cards I’ve been playing and been fine. The problem is potentially compounded by the inclusion of Grima – he makes it easier to stomach playing the Master but also potentially renders him superfluous, though one definite benefit of this idea is that a few rounds into the game I can stop using Grima (so the other players will stop complaining about their threat) and use the Master of Lore instead. Regardless though, I want to have a decent number of high cost cards to make this worthwhile. The option I landed on was encounter deck manipulation – there are quite a few good encounter deck manipulation cards in the Lore sphere, but it tends to be difficult to afford them all, so it seemed like a good place for some cost reduction.
In fact, Lore has enough options for encounter deck manipulation that they won’t all fit into one deck, so some are sideboarded and some are left out entirely, as you’ll see. While the deck started from the idea of the Master of Lore, he’s just an enabler, and I had to choose what I wanted him to hopefully enable, so I picked a direction I liked and ran with it.

Master Manipulator


Allies (22):
Master of Lore x3
Master of the Forge x3
Anborn (Lo) x3
Warden of Healing x3
Mirkwood Explorer x3
Firyal x1
Gildor Inglorion x1
Robin Smallburrow x1
Mablung x1
Ghan-buri-Ghan x1
Quickbeam x1
Henamarth Riversong x1

Attachments (12):
Ranger Spikes x3
Entangling Nets x3
Scroll of Isildur x3
Keys of Orthanc x3

Events (15):
Daeron’s Runes x3
Mithrandir’s Advice x3
Gildor’s Counsel x3
Out of the Wild x3
The Evening Star x3

Side-quests (1):
Scout Ahead x1

Eryn Galen Settler
Ithilien Lookout
Mirkwood Pioneer
Advance Warning
Deep Knowledge
Heed the Dream

The name fits on a couple of levels – combining Master of Lore and encounter deck manipulation, but master manipulator is also a pretty good description of Grima.
The sideboard is divided between more encounter deck manipulation and more card draw. It’d be easy enough to swap things in and out depending on the needs of the decks being played alongside this one – more card draw options if they need help, avoid Deep Knowledge if threat is a concern; other encounter deck manipulation options are all good, I chose to hold onto the bits of location control in the deck, but if another deck can handle location control then one could easily swap in some of the other stuff instead.
So there are a few different things going on here obviously. Gildor’s Counsel and Out of the Wild were two of the first cards to come to mind when I was trying to think of expensive Lore cards which would benefit from cost reduction. As with the Master of Lore, the problem with those cards tends to be the fact you generally can’t play anything else at the same time because of the cost of 3. In this deck, they should be affordable and you can be playing other things at the same time. In particular I’ve had problems in the past of building Lore decks including multiple of these powerful 3-cost cards and then filling up my hand because I can only play one per round.
I noted my inclusion of location control. Between Mirkwood Explorers and The Evening Star it should be pretty feasible to keep the staging area fairly clear of locations, especially with the added help of Gildor’s Counsel making us reveal less in the first place. The Evening Star of course may be a good target for recycling with the Scroll of Isildur.
Actually, I could see myself recycling any of the events with the Scroll. More draw obviously helps with everything, and the location control and manipulation effects are very powerful. Worth noting is the fact that you can choose what order to apply cost reductions, so by exhausting the Master of Lore you can apply his reduction (with its minimum of 1) first, then the Scroll’s own reduction afterwards to reduce the cost to 0.
Being able to fairly easily afford Lore Anborn works out pretty nicely. Traps obviously fit in well with encounter deck manipulation, but there can be concerns about how useful Damrod will be with a limited number of Trap cards. With Anborn in play though, I can just keep playing the same copy of Entangling Nets over and over again. That’s why Anborn is a x3 card.
I wouldn’t say there’s one absolute mulligan card, but Master of the Forge is a strong candidate for the consistent extra draw he can provide. On the other hand a Master of Lore, Mithrandir’s Advice or Keys of Orthanc are also pretty solid things to start with, and Traps are also nice to start with because of Damrod. I suppose the general theme there is that you want to start with either card draw or resource generation/cost reduction, preferably a bit of both. Card draw tends to be better though as usual because it should allow you to draw everything else.

There are other things which I probably could have put into this deck. Encounter deck manipulation of course can feature all the victory display mechanics from Angmar Awakened, though that one I specifically avoided because the events are all 1-cost and thus the Master of Lore can’t affect them. In general though, there are other encounter deck manipulation options you could consider, or just other good but expensive Lore cards could be worthwhile inclusions in the deck if you want them. The cost tends to be the big thing to focus on because if you’re using cheap cards you probably shouldn’t be using Grima and Master of Lore.

Obviously this is a support deck and should be confined to multiplayer settings. Though as noted the Master(s) of Lore can potentially take over from Grima a little way into the game, you probably want to pair up with decks which don’t mind a little bit of threat raising. Most crucially though you obviously want them to be able to cover the main areas of the game – questing and combat. You can do a bit of both, but it’ll generally work better if you’re the kind of second string in both while other decks take up the larger questing and combat loads so you can get on with messing up the encounter deck. In a test play against Nightmare Trouble in Tharbad (I felt like trying some of the Nightmares I hadn’t played and questing your threat down makes Grima a non-issue) I put it alongside my mono-Leadership House of Stewards and Recalled Glory. The quest is still a bit on the easy side even in Nightmare, but I felt like I got a decent enough idea of this deck working out to feel confident posting it after a couple of tweaks. I think it works pretty well.

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3 Responses to Deck: Master Manipulator

  1. Onidsen says:

    I really enjoy this blog – I’m working through watching the Line Unbroken videos. And I’m more than a little surprised that my comments on Grima and Master of Lore sparked a blog post. I like the deck idea quite a bit.

    Another thing I’ve been thinking about wrt MoL is LdFaramir and readying it for repeated cost reduction. I don’t know if there’s a good deck that can be built that way, but I’m looking through the concept. At the moment, I’m thinking maybe Damrod/Traps and a low threat lore hero, maybe Pippin.


    • PocketWraith says:

      I somehow missed this comment for the past few days, sorry.
      I don’t know that Faramir would work that well with Master of Lore, because while extra readying could certainly be useful for the Master, Faramir is mostly going to trigger in the Encoutner phase, and there aren’t that many Lore cards you could play that late in the round.
      Which isn’t to say you couldn’t use the two in the same deck of course, but I suspect you’d end up using Faramir to ready some other ally more than the Master of Lore.


  2. Glad to see that despite all evidence to the contrary, Master of Lore is not dead. Can’t wait to try this deck! Someday, someday…


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