Pretty much as soon as hero Radagast was first spoiled I knew I was going to end up putting him with Gandalf for a two wizard deck to see what I could do with that idea. Obviously a fair amount of time has passed since that point, but I recently sat down and actually built the deck as planned. This is that deck.
Of course at about the time I was getting to this the article was published for Challenge of the Wainriders, revealing the upcoming hero Saruman, allowing the potential for a *three* wizard deck! However I decided to stick with what I was already working on. As much as I’m excited for Saruman, I don’t think pairing him with the other two Istari is going to be a particularly good idea – for one thing it’d be very deckspace intensive between Creatures for Radagast and Doomed cards for Saruman; and more significantly I think the hero whose playstyle is based around Doomed cards and who passively limits the effectiveness of threat reduction will probably do better with a starting threat a bit lower than 38.
So Gandalf and Radagast. Unlike Saruman, Gandalf doesn’t really have a particular deck type he’s specifically designed to work with – as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, he’s basically a 14 threat support hero who just happens to have great stats as well. Radagast on the other hand is specifically Creature-focused. Most often that translates to Eagles, but I get bored of Eagles so I decided early in the deckbuilding process to see if I could make a deck work with the non-Eagle Creatures instead. It’d be nice to maybe have some more non-Eagle Creatures to choose from, but all the same I think it worked out reasonably.
Picking a third hero, obviously I wanted to go lower threat, ideally with some sort of threat-lowering ability and not requiring additional support cards. I considered Spirit Merry, Glorfindel, Tactics Eowyn or Galadriel, but ultimately chose Folco Boffin. In large part my decision was because it meant aside from the Creatures and a couple of other cards for Gandalf to play, the deck could be mono-Lore, both helping keep it focused and making it easier to justify some more expensive options. It should also be noted that between the two wizards’ Staffs I can get 2-3 extra resources per round, so I shouldn’t miss Folco too much after I discard him.
I’m just going to observe at this juncture that I’m not explaining these various deckbuilding decisions in the sequence I made them – I don’t necessarily remember the sequence I made them – I’m just explaining them as I think of them.
So next point, which I really should’ve considered a bit sooner than I actually did – why am I building a deck with two wizards (other than “Because it’s cool”)? Gandalf obviously is always good for the effect he has on draw, he works well with playing out of sphere cards, and he specifically synergises with the Messenger Raven; perhaps those points could be enough. But one of the things which definitely appealed to me about the idea of building a two wizard deck – which I then forgot for a decent amount of the time I spent actually building one – was the ability to make use of two Wizard Pipes. Given that Gandalf’s ability to play from the top of the deck only works once per phase, though, it can be difficult to actually utilise two Wizard Pipes (another strike against the hypothetical three wizard deck – the third Pipe would probably be largely useless). To use two Pipes one needs to either use a decent number of events so you can use Gandalf again outside of the Planning phase, and/or use the Expert Treasure-hunter/Hidden Cache combo to generate a bunch of resources (another thing which will help me not miss Folco).
Finally, though this decision I actually made not long after rejecting the Eagle approach, what is the deck going to actually focus on? The double wizard setup enables a lot of stuff which helps a deck run very efficiently, but what is it going to be very efficiently doing? There are multiple ways I could’ve taken the idea, but my source of inspiration ended up being one of the Creature allies – the Wild Stallion. Since I’m including these Creature allies I want them to be useful, so what can I do with the Stallion? Well, it needs some other strong allies who will benefit from the extra stats. It’s unfortunate that the Giant Bear can’t have attachments, preventing some potentially great synergy (also, bear cavalry), but I can put in some other decent targets. So the focus of the deck ended up being on massively powering up one or two already strong allies.
Messenger Raven x3
Giant Bear x3
Wild Stallion x3
Gildor Inglorion x2
Haldir of Lorien x2
Warden of Healing x2
Arwen Undomiel x1
Expert Treasure-hunter x3
Gandalf’s Staff x3
Radagast’s Staff x3
Wizard Pipe x3
A Burning Brand x2
Cloak of Lorien x2
Unexpected Courage x2
Hidden Cache x3
Daeron’s Runes x3
Word of Command x3
The Hidden Way x3
Flame of Anor
Heed the Dream
Send for Aid
Let’s cover the sideboard first. The Loyal Hound obviously is another good Creature ally – but neither its stats nor its ability should really be crucial, and since the focus of this deck is on beefing up allies rather than Radagast, it’s less important that I have a critical mass of Creatures in the deck to keep him constantly ready. Valiant Determination would get an extra action out of the powered up ally. Shadowfax and Gildor’s Counsel are in the sideboard because I focused on a solo build of the deck (though even in that context there’s still a case to be made for Shadowfax just because it can be played from hand using all heroes’ resources rather than only from top of deck by Gandalf). Flame of Anor is a nice option but shouldn’t be needed, Heed the Dream just seemed like more draw than necessary, side-quests are always nice options but not crucial.
As for the main deck, obviously my chosen allies for powering up are Gildor and Haldir (Haldir is better in multiplayer for his Ranged/Sentinel, otherwise Gildor for the extra point of defence, but both are good). Potentially, with Wild Stallion, Cloak of Lorien, ally Arwen and Narya, they can defend for up to 6 or 7 (7 or 8 in a quest with Forests), cancelling a shadow effect with A Burning Brand. They can also potentially attack for 4 if needed. Those are some pretty potent combat allies. Of course you can’t necessarily rely on putting together the entire combo, but your chances of putting together enough to handle most enemies you’ll encounter in the vast majority of quests are actually pretty great given the draw/search capabilities.
Gandalf’s ability effectively provides card draw, Expert Treasure-hunter is free draw with Gandalf (so long as you quest successfully), as are Messenger Ravens, we have Daeron’s Runes obviously, Gandalf’s Staff can be used for draw if you really need it though usually I’d take the resources, and of course if you have a free action (say because you played a Creature and then didn’t need Radagast for combat) Word of Command will find you anything you want. On the other front of deck efficiency of course I already mentioned further up the resource generation question – the two Staffs and Wizard Pipe/Expert Treasure-hunter/Hidden Cache should provide/save enough resources to afford everything pretty easily.
There’s only one other important point – what about backups? Both to cover things while the combo pieces are still assembling and to cover more exceptional combat circumstances. Obviously Firyal and The Hidden Way (or Gildor’s Counsel in multiplayer) can help keep the encounter deck from doing anything too harsh while you’re setting up, and combat before set up or in exceptional circumstances can obviously be covered by the two impressively statted wizards and the Giant Bears (who can of course get extra actions out of Narya and Radagast’s Staff without needing to use up their own ability and shuffle them away).
All in all, based on a few test plays I’ve found this deck to be very effective and strong support for the proverb: “Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and frequently supported by elf warriors and bears.”