Ah, Blood of Gondor. My least favourite quest in the Against the Shadow cycle by a wide margin. Its primary mechanic, hidden cards, tends to turn the levels of randomly getting screwed by the shuffle of the encounter deck to levels which are rarely if ever matched in this game. And as with earlier Nightmare decks for quests I didn’t like, the Nightmare deck here leans into that primary mechanic which just makes it worse from my perspective.
I don’t wish to unambiguously condemn the quest in Nightmare or standard difficulty. I’m sure there are some players of this game who enjoy it, and more power to them. However I’m not here to give a full account of the quest and thus have no particular need to hide my own bias against it. On the other hand part of the benefit of a video series like The Line Unbroken is that you can see for yourself how the quest plays regardless of what I think of it.
So, what does the Nightmare deck change about this quest? Well, as mentioned it primarily just leans in further to the whole hidden cards mechanic to make it that much more difficult to deal with. It also makes the Black Numenorean worse and adds a proviso that the quest cannot be completed until both he and Thr Crossroads are in the victory display so you can’t just ignore them. To be honest I think I would struggle to ignore the Black Numenorean in any case given the amount he can end up raising your threat from all the hidden cards you keep taking, but it’s there just in case.
Now given the amount the hidden cards can potentially screw you, I struggle to imagine a setup which can consistently handle this quest in multiplayer without breaking it in some way. I’m sure it can be done in solo, but in multiplayer things can potentially just spiral out of control much too fast. If anyone has a multiplayer fellowship they think can consistently hande Nightmare Blood of Gondor I’d be interested in seeing it. But I certainly struggle to come up with one myself, which puts me in an interesting position as I start deckbuilding for it.
Significant points I have to cover are Siege questing at the start until The Crossroads is explored, the need to defend potentially quite a lot of attacks based on the randomness of hidden cards (which clashes a bit with the need for Siege questing of course), threat raises from the Black Numenorean if I don’t kill him right away – so ideally I want to kill him right away. I went through a few different ideas which didn’t work before hitting on the setup I’m going to be using, which is based on a couple of significant strategic points. Firstly since randomness is my big problem, trying to just take the quest at a sprint so I win before too many bad things happen seems a viable strategy. And secondly it’s easier to keep my decks focused if I simply plan on never bothering to explore The Crossroads until the final round of the game – that way I know I’m going to be Siege questing all the way, so I can ditch willpower entirely and just double down on good defence characters. So a dedicated Siege questing felowship with an excessively aggro approach to just try and run past the quest before it has a chance to do too much to me. Oh, and preferably I kill the Black Numenorean on the first round. Not the easiest brief to meet but here’s what I came up with based on those parameters:
Fight or Flight
Eagles of the Misty Mountains x3
Vassal of the Windlord x3
Winged Guardian x3
Defender of Rammas x3
Gandalf (Core) x3
Gondorian Shield x3
Spear of the Citadel x3
Support of the Eagles x3
Behind Strong Walls x3
The Wizard’s Voice x3
Gondorian Discipline x3
The Eagles Are Coming! x3
Thoughts: Beorn is my solution to the problem of defending an uncertain number of enemies while sending most of my good defenders on the quest, especially at the start. He also contributes 5 of the necessary 13 attack towards the goal of killing the Black Numenorean in the first round. The objective ally Faramir and either Lord Alcaron or Mablung provide another 5 to bring me up to 10, so I’m probably going to mulligan aggressively for a Vassal of the Windlord to get the final 3.
Beregond of course is here for the great Siege questing while Mablung will get me a bunch of extra resources – he’s the one way I can actually benefit a bit from the hidden cards since flipping up my hidden cards causes me to engage the enemies in a phase other than the Encounter phase.
Eagles (and Support of the Eagles) of course are great for Siege questing. Core Gandalf I don’t tend to use without Sneak Attack of course, but in this case it’s the only threat reduction I have access to and that could be significant, mostly because of Doomed player cards. Ally Boromir is another way to potentially handle multiple defences while Siege questing.
Gondorian Shields are obviously good cheap defence on Gondor heroes (especially cheap on Beregond), which will likely be mostly used for Siege questing rather than actually defending. Support of the Eagles likewise will be used either with Winged Guardians or Eagles of the Misty Mountains for Siege questing, and Spear of the Citadel is mostly there to trigger Goblin-cleaver rather than for its own effect.
The events other than The Eagles are Coming! are all just intended as means of dealing with being engaged with too many enemies – attack cancellation including The Wizard’s Voice as the full power option for both decks simultaneously; Behind Strong Walls for an extra defence from a Gondor character; Goblin-cleaver to possibly get a pre-emptive kill, especially since all the enemies other than the Black Numenorean are orcs; and Gondorian Discipline to save me from too strong attacks defended or undefended.
Withstand the Onslaught
Herald of Anorien x3
Snowbourn Scout x3
Warden of Helm’s Deep x3
Squire of the Citadel x3
Warden of Healing x3
Ithilien Tracker x3
Gandalf (Core) x3
Steward of Gondor x3
Daeron’s Runes x3
Deep Knowledge x3
Legacy of Numenor x3
Campfire Tales x3
We Are Not Idle x3
Sneak Attack x3
For Gondor! x3
Thoughts: Heroes here were picked for good defence primarily, and Imrahil’s action advantage makes him a good pick here – plus obviously I works well both with Eagles and chump-blockers – who can be another solution to enemy attacks while the high defence characters are questing.
Steward of Gondor obviously, it’ll go on Erkenbrand to give him the Gondor trait.
The allies are mostly focused on either chump-blocking or Siege questing. The Ithilien Trackers obviously won’t quest but will help out by cancelling threat, Wardens of Healing can help keep everyone alive long enough for me to win, and Errand-riders may help with the efficiency of both decks by moving resources most likely from Leadership to either Tactics or Lore. Gandalf and Elrond are great targets for Sneak Attack with their enters play effects, and the Heralds of Anorien are one more thing to help me ramp up as fast as possible at the start of the game.
Event-wise, I have all the unconditional card draw I can get to maximise my chances of getting the other things I need. Sneak Attack as mentioned is good with Gandalf aand Elrond. For Gondor! will provide a sizeable boost to my questing with its +1 defence to all Gondor characters. I actually considered trying to slot in Mutual Accord but I figured just for Erkenbrand and a couple of allies it wouldn’t be worth it. Finally perhaps the most significant card here is Legacy of Numenor, because once again my goal is to power up as fast as possible and then win quickly, so I’m not super concerned about boosting my threat, and I can get a lot of use out of the extra resources.