The Line Unbroken – N34: Nightmare Fords of Isen

While last time on the Line Unbroken I was getting started on a Nightmare campaign, there was a whole additional cycle between the Nightmare decks for Black Riders and The Road Darkens, and in that cycle we got all of Nightmare Ring-maker, so that’s where I’m going now. This deluxe wasn’t the best in terms of quests, though with hindsight Fords of Isen is my favourite of the three. Let’s see how it works out in Nightmare.

Fords of Isen was the first appearance of the Dunlendings and their habit of punishing us for drawing too many cards. In particular it tended to cause issues if you held on to too many cards in your hand, with a couple of effects having break points at 3 and 5 cards in hand. The Nightmare deck just does more of all that stuff. Effects punishing you based on number of cards in hand, a couple of “This is worse if you have 3 or 5 cards,” and a couple of locations clearly designed to try and stop players getting cards out of their hands. There’s also the effect on the Nightmare setup card which causes players to draw more cards when they advance quest stages, thus powering up all the negative effects. Of course on the other hand if you can weather the negatives then this means the quest is kind of just helping you get through your deck faster.

At higher player counts location control would be a significant factor given the locations which restrict the playing of events and the discarding of cards, but at just 2-player I think I should be fine to just travel to them as they come up and clear them out normally. Which means the priorities for this quest are exactly the same as in standard difficulty – get cards out of hand quickly. Which can be done through discard effects, but can also be done by just having a low cost curve so I can play the cards quickly and efficiently. My card pool for this Nightmare set only goes up to Wastes of Eriador, so I can’t go full discard Noldor whereas efficient cost curve (plus Eowyn) is always an option. The fact I can’t rely on drawing a bunch of cards to find key stuff also means there’s definite value to having heroes who are pretty strong by themselves so I’ll still be OK even without finding everything.

Hold the Fords

Heroes:
Elrond
Treebeard
Eowyn

Allies (21):
Gandalf (Core) x3
Envoy of Pelargir x3
Elfhelm x3
Galadriel’s Handmaiden x3
Imladris Stargazer x3
Warden of Healing x3
Gildor Inglorion x1
Haldir of Lorien x1
Arwen Undomiel x1

Attachments (18):
Vilya x3
Unexpected Courage x3
Light of Valinor x3
Miruvor x3
Ent Draught x3
Lembas x3

Events (9):
A Test of Will x3
Elrond’s Counsel x3
Daeron’s Runes x3

Side-quests (2):
Gather Information x1
Scout Ahead x1

Thoughts: Eowyn is always great and is a real no-brainer for this quest since she provides strong questing right out of the gate and allows both decks to discard a card from their hand every round. Treebeard is a great one for early-game power not dependent on other cards being in play – he can potentially quest for 6 or (more likely) attack for 7 in the first round if necessary with no support. Elrond is great for just helping me efficiently play cards to get them out of my hand because he can pay for allies of any sphere.
Elrond also enables Vilya, which of course is very powerful and provides me with a means of improving my board state without needing to draw all the cards for it. If the expensive allies intended as Vilya targets wind up in my hand I can try to save up the resources or more likely just discard them to Eowyn along with all my duplicate uniques. Gandalf, Elfhelm, Haldir and Gildor are the only cards in the deck which cost more than 2.
Of course one issue with this hero lineup is that it starts at 35 threat. But Elrond’s Counsel (conveniently free to help me empty my hand), Galadriel’s Handmaidens and Gandalf can all lower my threat if needed, and ally Elfhelm would potentially allow this deck to completely ignore one of the annoying condition treacheries in this quest (because it only ever raises your threat by 1 at a time).
Envoys are great for efficiency since they’re cheap and allow the reallocation of resources, Stargazers further enable Vilya, Wardens arestandard healing. All the action advantage is useful since I’m somewhat focused on my heroes, with the healing on Lembas making it particularly good for Treebeard. Miruvor’s flexibility may come in handy though it’s mostly for readying. Ent Draught obviously is an additional boost for Treebeard.
I deliberately went fairly light on events because a lot of good events are contextual things which you end up hanging onto until the right moment, which runs counter to the strategy for this quest of trying to rapidly empty one’s hand. Test of Will of course is too good to pass up, Elrond’s Counsel I already mentioned that on the one hand the threat reduction is important and on the other it’s very convenient that it’s free. Daeron’s Runes may seem an odd choice given Dunlendings, but as noted, the majority of the problems in this quest are not with drawing cards, but with having a lot of cards in hand – and playing Daeron’s Runes doesn’t increase the total number of cards in your hand.
Finally, side-quests. They’re great choices here because they’re free, and also they’re very powerful effects. Gather Information is particularly nice in a context where I can’t rely on a lot of card draw to find key components of the decks’ engines, and Scout Ahead can just allow me to take more control of the encounter deck at a key moment.

Courageous Vanguard

Heroes:
Balin
Sam Gamgee
Beregond

Allies (19):
Envoy of Pelargir x3
Galadhon Archer x3
Honour Guard x3
Bill the Pony x3
Errand-rider x3
Naith Guide x3
Faramir x1

Attachments (24):
Steward of Gondor x3
King Under the Mountain x3
Dunedain Mark x3
Cram x3
Gondorian Shield x3
Spear of the Citadel x3
Raven-winged Helm x3
Secret Vigil x3

Events (6):
Feint x3
Wealth of Gondor x3

Side-quests (1):
Gather Information x1

Thoughts: It’s not particularly common for me to build a deck with two Leadership heroes, but in this case the desire to be able to play cards efficiently meant it made a lot of sense – with two Leadership heroes I can guaranteeably play Steward of Gondor as soon as I draw it, and then use those resources to play more cards quicker, getting things out of my hand. As to the specific choices, leaving aside there are limited options for more generic Leadership heroes – Balin providing shadow cancellation not dependent on drawing other cards could be useful, and provides a use for all those resources once I have emptied my hand; while Sam is just good willpower out the gate. Beregond on the other hand was another no-brainer, because if your goal is to play cards as fast as possible, making some of them free is a really easy way to ensure that.
The majority of this deck, like the other, costs 2 or less, with the one exception being the single copy of Faramir. I decided to forgo the usual Sneak Attack Gandalf combo because I didn’t want to be stuck holding half the combo for several rounds waiting to draw the other half and being punished for the extra card in hand. A speculative Faramir seemed reasonable though since with Steward I can afford him easily, just limiting it to the speculative x1 so he shouldn’t end up cloggin up my hand.
Envoys I mentioned for the other deck. The Tactics allies are fairly standard good cheap choices. Naith Guide obviously could be useful in the early game since she can keep Elrond (before I find Light of Valinor) or Treebeard ready for combat (or Vilya) while still having their willpower on the quest. Errand-riders were another no-brainer choice because they themselves are very cheap, and once I have one in play the ability to rearrange resources (especially if I have an excess from Steward) just makes it so much easier to play cards efficiently.
Gather Information is great as mentioned previously. Once again I’m light on events, with Feint being the one event I can hold on to for the right moment, while Wealth of Gondor has the advantage of always being playable and of course helping me to play other things.
Attachment-wise, Steward is obviously good. Dunedain Marks can help spare Treebeard’s hit points. I’ve mentioned already that action advantage could be significant, on top of which Cram has the additional advantage of being free. The three Beregond attachments power him up to great levels and once again are free if played on him. Secret Vigils can help control threat for both decks. King Under the Mountain may seem more of an oddity, but on the one hand if effects will penalise me for drawing cards then KUtM is still safe since it merely looks at cards and adds one to hand; and on the other if I burn through the cards in my hand as efficiently as I’m setting up to, then it will be useful to grab a few more. And if I’m worried about having too many cards in hand for a certain effect then I don’t have to trigger it.

https://ringsdb.com/fellowship/view/7578/thelineunbroken-nmfordsofisen
https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/13247/thelineunbroken-nmfordsofisendeck1-1.0
https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/13248/thelineunbroken-nmfordsofisendeck2-1.0

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