The Line Unbroken – N27: Nightmare Siege of Cair Andros

Heirs of Numenor is once again rounded out by Siege of Cair Andros, but of course this time in Nightmare mode. This quest I feel is a great example of the other aspect of the improved Nightmare design from this point – no rebalancing like the removal of Collateral Damage and Watcher in the Wood (though the Nightmare deck does remove the absolutely game-breaking Power of Mordor), but more of a refocusing around the mechanics. I suppose that was already somewhat of a thing with earlier Nightmares, but I think from HoN they started doing more of it.

I refer of course to the significance of Battleground locations. They were already a defining feature of the original Siege of Cair Andros, but there (barring Power of Mordor ridiculousness) they only factored in at the start of the quest, on stage 1, and in fact the encounter deck was startlingly short of locations, with only two Orc War Camps besides. Thus creating a strange beast in a quest which was defined by its locations but which was nevertheless a poor choice for location control as there were so few locations to interact with. The Nightmare deck resolves this weirdness by adding a bunch more Battleground locations, and maintaining the focus on exploring those Battlegrounds to avoid negative consequences of letting your defences be overrun in the ongoing siege. This change also means the players are a lot more likely to end up actually completing stage 1 of the quest rather than just hanging around there until the three starting Battlegrounds are either explored or destroyed.
My big pieces of deckbuilding guidance then are: Siege/Battle questing, but not willpower as I intend to simply explore The Banks to ensure I never need willpower; as with Into Ithilien, mitigating threat in the staging area helps whatever questing stat I’m using – though here in the absence of Ithilien Overlook Ranger Spikes is a reasonable choice again (just hope they miss the Archery 5 guys); I have to remember that The Master’s Malice is still in the encounter deck and build accordingly to ensure it won’t kill my heroes or too many allies; and I may want to bear in mind the existence of some fairly horrifying shadow effects (including the dreaded shadow-chains). This is what I came up with:

The Storm is Upon Us

Pippin (Lo)

Allies (20):
Envoy of Pelargir x3
Gleowine x3
Warden of Healing x3
Master of the Forge x3
Mirkwood Pioneer x3
Ithilien Tracker x2
Henamarth Riversong x1
Gildor Inglorion x1
Haldir of Lorien x1

Attachments (18):
Gandalf’s Staff x3
Wizard Pipe x3
Dunedain Warning x3
Ranger Spikes x3
Fast Hitch x3
Expert Treasure-hunter x2
Silver Lamp x1

Events (12):
Daeron’s Runes x3
Secret Paths x3
Gildor’s Counsel x3
Hidden Cache x3

Thoughts: I didn’t specifically intend to avoid Core Gandalf for all three NM HoN quests, but it ended up that way. In this case, using the hero version makes the deck run efficiently, he’s good at all types of questing and allows me to slot a couple of other sphere cards into what is essentially a mono-sphere deck. Gandalf has enough hit points to live through The Master’s Malice so the only characters who’d die are the Envoys of Pelargir. Meanwhile Denethor will help me keep the encounter deck in check and he has good defence, while Pippin is mostly just a good low threat option.
The staging area can be kept under control with Ranger Spikes, Ithilien Tracker, Mirkwood Pioneers and of course Gildor’s Counsel. Shadow cards can potentially be discarded with Gandalf’s Staff and seen in advance if I get the Silver Lamp onto Gandalf – though there is only one copy between the general good draw and Masters of the Forge I’m hoping I can still find it in a timely enough fashion. Gleowine is primarily to help out the other deck. Dunedain Warnings can help with Siege questing and with actual defending. I tried to keep the out-of-sphere cards to a minimum so Gandalf can hopefully mostly use the Wizard Pipe to swap Hidden Cache onto the top of the deck to give me extra resources via Expert Treasure-hunter every round so I can afford everything else.

Stand Against the Threat of Mordor

Frodo Baggins

Allies (19):
Envoy of Pelargir x3
Defender of Rammas x3
Winged Guardian x3
Vassal of the Windlord x3
Galadhon Archer x3
Westfold Outrider x3
Landroval x1

Attachments (13):
Gondorian Shield x3
Unexpected Courage x3
Ancient Mathom x3
Silver Lamp x2
Spear of the Citadel x2

Events (18):
A Good Harvest x3
Feint x3
A Test of Will x3
Hasty Stroke x3
Dwarven Tomb x3
The Galadhrim’s Greeting x3

Thoughts: Over here the Master’s Malice solution is of course that Frodo can take the damage as threat. Between Frodo’s ability to take undefended damage as threat and Beorn defending without exhausting I should be able to keep combat reasonably in check even when I need to be using my actual good defenders for Siege questing – which of course is primarily at the start of the quest, so hopefully once Beorn starts running out of hit points Beregond will be ready to pick up the slack.
Once again Envoys of Pelargir are the only character who will be properly susceptible to The Master’s Malice. The other allies were chosen for their combat stats, which of course in this quest are also their questing stats, and Landroval as a potential means to get more out of Beorn.
Between Unexpected Courages and Fast Hitches from the other deck I can hopefully get enough actions out of Frodo and Beregond to cover questing and defences once I get going. Frodo can also have a Silver Lamp for added knowledge. Ancient Mathoms to supplement the otherwise not so impressive card draw of this deck – the intent is for the other deck to also help out with Gleowine and/or Gandalf’s Staff.
The sphere balance here is perhaps not ideal, but then that’s what A Good Harvest is for, to ensure I can get out those Courages and Greetings more easily. The Greetings are potentially very important and along with Test of Will they’re the main intended target for Dwarven Tomb since Doomed and Frodo could end up giving me some threat issues.

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