The Line Unbroken – N33: Nightmare The Morgul Vale

Alright, here we are once again at the end of the Against the Shadow cycle. After this (and a wrap-up post for this nightmare cycle) I can go back to playing quests in standard difficulty again. But for now, Morgul Vale. It’s a fun quest, the transition to Nightmare certainly focuses it nicely, though it retains a couple of horrible cards from the original quest which I’d rather didn’t exist. The tighter focus of the Nightmare deck can also lead to some frustrating moments but it’s a better kind of frustration, the kind I accept as an inherent part of this game.

The two significant foci of this quest are of course the three Captain enemies and the To the Tower objective, and the Nightmare deck is pretty much entirely devoted to making the Captains more threatening, adding more progress to To the Tower, and causing problems to the players based on how much progress is on To the Tower. Pretty much the only things still spoiling the tight focus of the mechanics in the quest are Morgul Spider, Orc Vanguard, The Master’s Malice and Watcher in the Wood (unfortunately those are some of the worst encounter cards in the game in general, let alone this quest).
Ultimately this means the requirements when building decks for this quest haven’t changed from the original: no use for quest progress but still can’t neglect willpower given the amount of threat in the encounter deck; need to be ready for the series of boss fights and other tough enemies, though preferably starting below 30 threat so you don’t have to engage Murzag right away; ideally want to Feint Lord Alcaron (and possibly Murzag) and bring some direct damage effects to accelerate the demise of the Nazgul of Minas Morgul. All the same stuff, it’s just you need to be even better at them.

Actually one difference is that some of the generic enemies are rather more of a problem and not something you can ignore so you have to be ready for them pretty much right from the start, which is then a difficult balance to strike with being sufficiently aggro to take those early enemies while staying below 30 to have at least a bit of setup time before taking on Murzag.
As a self imposed restriction I also want to avoid staging area attack since that’s what I did for the standard difficulty version and I want both to be different and to show off more of the problems which can arise with dealing with the enemies normally (though staging area attack isn’t anything like as strong of a silver bullet in Nightmare as it was in standard).
Given the Master’s Malice problem mono-sphere is also a decent idea to leave one less treachery I would have to cancel, so the somewhat natural way to go is mono-Spirit and mono-Tactics (mono-Tactics also can help with the Orc Vanguard problem of course), fairly focused on questing and combat respectively – obviously with Ranged and Sentinel in the combat deck so the questing deck can’t get screwed over by unplanned engagements. Given my desire to start at low threat, this means Merry is pretty much mandated for the Tactics deck, though Spirit has more options.

Staunch Will Under the Shadow

Frodo Baggins

Allies (20):
Envoy of Pelargir x3
Warden of Healing x3
Galadriel’s Handmaiden x3
West Road Traveller x3
Pelargir Shipwright x3
Arwen Undomiel x3
Emery x2

Attachments (15):
Nenya x3
Unexpected Courage x3
Map of Earnil x3
Ancient Mathom x3
Mirror of Galadriel x3

Events (15):
A Test of Will x3
Hasty Stroke x3
Elrond’s Counsel x3
Ride Them Down x3
Dwarven Tomb x3

Thoughts: Galadriel was left over from a previous idea I rejected, but being able to control my threats is useful, as is the extra draw, and of course Nenya allows me Lore access so I can still have healing. In addition Nenya is a nice emergency option for if questing goes wrong. Eowyn’s discard ability also works for that, and Frodo’s ability is an emergency option for if I have too many enemies to handle.
The Wardens of Healing can theoretically cause Emery to discard herself, but since they’re only 3 cards in a deck of 50 chances should still be reasonable. The rest of the allies are basically all there to provide cost-effective willpower, with the Envoys also allowing me to rearrange resources (if I need another resource on Galadriel for a Warden of Healing or want to pass a resource over to the Tactics deck).
Unexpected Courage is primarily intended for the Tactics deck, though the third copy could potentially go on Frodo to let him quest and defend (likely boosted by Arwen). Mathoms and the Mirror obviously just allow more draw to find all the crucial cards in a timely fashion, and Map of Earnil allows recycling of some of the significant events.
Test of Will is standard of course. Hasty Stroke I often do without, but there are some really bad shadow effects in this quest so I want to be ready to cancel them. Elrond’s Counsel is another little bit of questing insurance, Dwarven Tomb (along with the Maps) allows recycling all these important events, and Ride Them Down is perfectly suited to this quest as the only way I can actually use my quest progress (the progression-style card pool for this Nightmare quest being still just pre-side-quests). Ride Them Down also combos very nicely with willpower boosts like Nenya, Eowyn and Elrond’s Counsel to get me exactly the amount of willpower I need – and it allows me to avoid some of the problems the enemies might otherwise represent.

Valour in Battle

Brand Son of Bain

Allies (18):
Bofur (Ta) x3
Galadhon Archer x3
Knight of Minas Tirith x3
Gondorian Spearman x3
Westfold Outrider x3
Envoy of Pelargir x3

Attachments (18):
Gondorian Shield x3
Spear of the Citadel x3
Dagger of Westernesse x3
Blade of Gondolin x3
Mighty Prowess x3
Book of Eldacar x3

Events (14):
Feint x3
Foe-hammer x3
Goblin-cleaver x3
Gondorian Discipline x3
Hail of Stones x2

Thoughts: Merry was basically compulsory just to keep my threat down. Beregond was also an incredibly obvious choice to ensure I can defend (most of) the horrible enemies. Finally I wanted a Ranged attacker – I mostly chose Brand because I like him, but his ability can also helpfully ready Galadriel if I used Nenya) or a Warden of Healing, his 2 willpower may be relevant especially if I can get him an Unexpected Courage, and the obvious alternative in Legolas wouldn’t be as useful as usual since there’s no use for quest progress.
Envoys of Pelargir are cost-effective willpower and again allow rearranging of resources. Gondorian Spearmen can deal some direct damage to the Nazgul, as can Galadhon Archers, and mostly we’re getting more attack power. The Knight of Minas Tirith’s ability may be useful to pull threat out of the staging area before questing, and of course Westfold Outriders are the masters of that being able to do it in any action window. Finally Bofur is a wonderfully flexible ally – the main reason for including him is his ability to improve the draw by searching for weapons, but he can also contribute to either questing or attack as needed.
Shield and Spear for Beregond of course. Additional Spears may go on Gondorian Spearmen to get an extra point of damage onto the Nazgul. Daggers of Westernesse are my weapon of choice, the Blades of Gondolin are included mostly to give Bofur a better hit-rate and make Foe-hammer more consistently useful. Mighty Prowess is a nice bit of direct damage to throw in, and Book of Eldacar can recycle some important events.
Feint is standard and of course also very important potentially given Lord Alcaron, as noted further up. Foe-hammer is here for the draw, Goblin-cleaver is another direct damage option. Gondorian Discipline is an emergency option to save Beregond in a dire situation, and Hail of Stones fits in nicely – often it’s problematic because you need so many characters to trigger it effectively, but in this instance while I can use it with many characters if relevant I may just want to use it to supplement Ride Them Down if I’m not questing for quite enough, or of course for the Nazgul of Minas Morgul I only need 1 character and it’s easily worth it. It’s still a more speculative option though which is why it’s the one 2x card in the deck.

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