The Line Unbroken – N40: Nightmare The Nin-in-Eilph

The Nin-in-Eilph I think would be most commonly described as frustrating, and the descriptor is difficult to argue. The transition to Nightmare certainly does nothing to change that. But at the same time, I’d say I’ve become better disposed towards the Nin-in-Eilph over time and playing it more. As much as it can be frustrating to deal with, for me it’s the kind of frustration which motivates me to keep trying to beat the quest. So it’s not a quest I’d want to play all the time, but I do appreciate the challenge it poses.

Honestly, for thhe most part I’d say the Nightmare deck doesn’t do anything really to change the dynamics of the quest. The enemies can be frustrating, the locations cause problems while they’re in the staging area, assorted effects trigger on the removal of Time counters or advancing quest stages. The Nightmare cards mostly just play into those existing aspects of the quest. It took me a while testing decks before realising the biggest new problem is the Nightmare setup card putting the Ancient Marsh Dweller into play on stage 2 as well as stages 3 and 4. That seems obvious, but until playing the quest a few times I didn’t realise just how sigificant it is, and how important it is to rapidly acquire the ability to kill the Ancient Marsh Dweller – because while it comes back every time you change quest stage, every time it dies it loses all the resources on it and thus has less threat clogging up the staging area.

That in itself is basically just an extension of the generally required strategy for this quest, which is to try and remove all encounter cards from play as quickly as possible. Once again, that seems obvious, but in other quests leaving things in play is less impactful – it’s often just some extra threat in the staging area. For Nin-in-Eilph almost everything has some sort of negative effect it’s going to keep applying, and having these effects already in play makes it harder to get rid of them, so allowing them to stack up just spirals out of control that much faster. And as I said, the Ancient Marsh Dweller problem is an extension of that, because by steadily increasing the threat in the staging area it is making it continually more difficult to clear out any of the locations, so their negative effects stack up, etc. Whereas if you get all the locations and enemies out of play, all of a sudden you laugh at the treacheries which make you remove additional time counters, because the Time effects aren’t really doing anything you care about.

So, with this being the case, where I landed was with a desire to have one deck focused on quickly accumulating the attack power required to kill definitely the regular enemies and preferably the boss, while the other built up willpower. Of course this quest can also cause some problems for allies so it’s best to have more power concentrated in heroes. On the other hand, if the plan is to clear the staging area then the willpower demands become less. And in testing I realised the further significance of bringing effects to cancel threat in the staging area, particularly that of the Ancient Marsh Dweller when it’s taking me a while to kill it off.
Note: The Nightmare decks for the second half of the Ring-maker cycle were released after The Grey Havens, so my card pool has helpfully expanded again.

Equipped for Combat

Merry (Ta)

Allies (9):
Legolas x3
Honour Guard x3
Vassal of the Windlord x3

Attachments (26):
Steward of Gondor x3
King Under the Mountain x3
Dunedain Cache x3
Citadel Plate x3
Grappling Hook x3
Gandalf’s Staff x3
Wizard Pipe x3
Boots from Erebor x3
Shadowfax x2

Events (15):
Well-Equipped x3
Hidden Cache x3
Feint x3
Unseen Strike x3
Halfling Determination x3

Thoughts: If I want to amass a lot of attack power on a single hero, Gimli is the way to go. Gandalf was then chosen to enable effective use of Well-Equipped to quickly get Gimli set up, while Merry is mostly just here for his low threat – though if he can be spared from questing then his abiility to ready Gimli after a kill could come in very handy.
The allies are pretty simple choices – Legolas gets me some card draw, the Honour Guards can help keep everyone alive, and the Vassals of the Windlord are cheap extra attack to make it easier to get an early kill on the Ancient Marsh Dweller before Gimli stacks up enough damage to do without.
Aside from the Staff, Pipe and Shadowfax, all the attachments are intended for Gimli, making it very likely I can make decent use of Well-Equipped when I draw it. Citadel Plate is obviously the main thing I want, with Boots from Erebor for one (free) additional hit point. King Under the Mountain gets me extra cards. Steward of Gondor is mostly there as a redundancy, ensuring that if I can’t set up to Well-Equipped Citadel Plates I have means of acquiring the resources to just play them normally. Dunedain Cache so if enemies engage the second deck Gimli can still kill them (assisted by Gandalf with Shadowfax and Legolas of course). The Grappling Hooks mean that I should be pretty much able to complete quest stages at will once Gimli has a bunch of damage.
The Gandalf attachments are fairly self-explanatory I think, the Pipe and Staff just help the deck to play more efficiently, including using the Pipe to set up Well-Equipped, and the extra action plus Ranged/Sentinel from Shadowfax could be very significant.
Event-wise Well-Equipped is once again the main thing, to get Gimli powered up as quickly as possible. The extra resources from Hidden Cache (discarded either by Well-Equipped or King Under the Mountain) further that goal. Feints are obvious. Unseen Strike fulfils the same purpose as the Vassals of the Windlord. Halfling Determination is most likely to be used for extra willpower to clear an important active location and keep clearing out the staging area.

The Elven Wise

Arwen Undomiel

Allies (16):
Treebeard x3
Imladris Stargazer x3
Galadriel’s Handmaiden x3
Warden of Healing x3
Mirkwood Pioneer x3
Quickbeam x1

Attachments (11):
Vilya x3
Nenya x3
Unexpected Courage x3
Ent Draught x2

Events (23):
A Test of Will x3
Hasty Stroke x3
Elrond’s Counsel x3
The Galadhrim’s Greeting x3
Elven-light x3
Daeron’s Runes x3
Radagast’s Cunning x3
Secret Paths x2

Side-quests (1):
Double Back x1

Thoughts: With my expanded card pool giving me access to Arwen, naturally I jumped at the opportunity of another Spirit hero choice. She’s also great for deck efficiency, which I want. Elrond enables Vilya, which is always a great tool for outpacing a difficult encounter deck; plus he’s good willpower and the healing boost is tremendously helpful. Galadriel helps a bit with threat and with deck efficiency again, while also giving the option of Nenya, which then also means the sphere distribution for this deck can be very flexible, since with the two elven rings in play I have one Spirit hero and two Spirit/Lore heroes, plus I can add a resource to any of them by discarding a card.
Treebeard and Quickbeam I initially looked at primarily to enable Ent Draughts for Gimli, but they can also help out with questing and/or combat, the latter being potentially significant since I’ll probably be queting with all three heroes from this deck. Imladris Stargazers obviously enable good use of Vilya while Wardens of Healing keep everyone alive. Finally Mirkwood Pioneers can allow me to ignore some threat in the staging area, which may be significant, especially early on before I have a good board-state established, and especially with Ancient Marsh Dweller gaining in threat every round.
I’ve already touched on the significance of the two rings and the Ent Draughts, and Unexpected Courages are standard so the attachments need little explanation. Priority for Courage is probably Elrond if I already have Vilya and Gimli if I don’t.
Cancellation is standard and potentially significant, including Hasty Strokes because there’s definite potential for a bad shadow effect to screw up a lot of things. Elrond’s Counsel for the cheap threat reduction and the little willpower boost, Galadhrim’s Greetings for the more serious threat reduction to ensure I don’t hit 50. Daeron’s Runes and Elven-light for card draw. Finally the threat cancelling events as mentioned further up I want to ensure I can keep clearing out the staging area efficiently – with unusually 3x Radagast’s Cunning compared to only 2x Secret Paths because of the many-times aforementioned problem with the Ancient Marsh Dweller. Between Mirkwood Pioneers and Radagast’s Cunning, I can hopefully bypass the Ancient Marsh Dweller for a few rounds while the first deck is getting set up and having to deal with other enemies.

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