The Line Unbroken – 67: The Black Serpent

Alright, returning to the Haradrim cycle I face The Black Serpent. As one might hope from a confrontation with the only specifically named Haradrim enemy from the books, this to my mind stands out as one of the better quests in a cycle full of good quests. The player cards are an interesting mix as well. Anyway, let’s get into it.

So, as noted in the Return of the King Wrap-up post, I’m going to start doing not full card reviews, but at least quick impressions looking over the player cards released in each pack, so let’s have a look at them:
Fastred I think I still haven’t played yet. I’ve heard that he works out pretty reasonably, but I’m still on my initial impressions, which are that he’s a bit oddly placed. He obviously synergises with staging area attack, but the big advantage of keeping your threat down and attacking the staging is usually that you don’t have to defend at all. It’d work out easier if he was a Sentinel, since then you could defend someone else’s enemy, lower your threat so you don’t have to engage and then snipe them in the staging area, but he’s not natively Sentinel so it just feels a little odd to me.
Song of Hope and Burst into Song obviously kind of go together. Song of Hope is expensive to use but potentially pretty widely useful while Burst into Song requires you to build more generally around Songs, which is one of those things which always looks fun but I find hard to get it to work efficiently. If you do get it working then Song of Hope obviously goes nicely with it because it’s free.
Defender of Cair Andros I feel is a great addition to Valour decks. Expensive to be sure, but they make impressively beefy ally defenders, and the added direct damage definitely has its uses.
Oath of Eorl I’ve never actually used, but it’s clearly very strong if you get it to work, since you can skip a bunch of enemy attacks – much like a Thicket of Spears, or an effective direct damage or staging area attack strategy. Removing action requirements for defending and the randomness of shadow cards is big. The Gondor/Rohan requirement does limit it a little, but there are plenty of heroes to choose from in both traits.
Fearless Scout is OK, but trait-granting attachments have always been pretty niche and this is no exception.
Rally the West is OK if you have a decent number of questing heroes – obviously it gets better at higher player counts, but depending on the quest taking a round away from the main quest to increase your willpower and make it easier to quest through faster can seem redundant. Really shines in quests where there are other uses for willpower than just questing, e.g. Fortitude tests in Mount Doom.
Dunedain Pipe can obviously tie into the small amount of Pipe synergy with ally Bilbo, Smoke Rings and the next card below this. It’s also a pretty solid card draw option in its own right, albeit it faces stiff competition from all the other solid card draw options in the Lore sphere. I think it’s probably at its best as a supplement to other draw anyway though, because then you’re more likely to have superfluous cards you can get rid of to draw new ones.
Old Toby by contrast obviously only works in the context of trying to build Pipe synergy. As with Songs, this is something I’ve struggled to make work, but there definitely seems to be potential there. Worth noting that the healing is global, though the card draw is player-specific; and that the draw is based on any Pipes you have in play, while the healing only works for heroes. I suspect the healing is more of a bonus though, with the card draw being the real reason to play this.
Southron Refugee really makes the Harad deck work. Stats are pretty standard for a 2-cost ally, and then the ability lets them effectively pay for themselves over a couple of rounds by cheapening the other Harad allies, including the very strong unique ones. Since the Refugee is neutral it can be paid for by any heroes, allowing you to save Kahliel’s resources for said expensive uniques. One could also use Kahliel’s ability to ready the Refugee and get more cost reduction if you have the spare ally to discard.

Alright, now let’s turn to the quest. The Black Serpent revisits the theme from Escape from Umbar of enemies removing progress from the quest, so it’s important to quest well and thus have progress to remove for those effects. Of course this ends up meaning you have a difficult time whenever you advance a quest stage since you then have no progress on the new stage. Quite thematically for a quest based around launching a surprise attack on an enemy camp, I find a good way of approaching this quest is to keep your threat down to control which enemies you engage and allow you to prepare more carefully rather than just charging into the middle of everything. Handily the newly-released Fastred fits in pretty well with this kind of strategy. That slower, more controlled approach can also help me be more careful about the timing of when I advance the quest, since those are difficult moments – this works very nicely with the quest mechanics, because on the one hand I can’t advance without claiming an objective so I can be careful about timing that and on the other hand I can delay my advancement with the various progress-removing effects the encounter deck hits me with.

So my primary thoughts for deckbuilding are strong questing, threat control, and probably staging area attack to synergise both with the controlled low threat approach and Fastred.

Launching the Attack

Heroes:
Eowyn (Ta)
Dunhere
Fastred

Allies (15):
Arwen Undomiel x3
Galadriel’s Handmaiden x3
Elfhelm (Ta) x3
Galadhon Archer x3
Steward of Orthanc x3

Attachments (20):
Gondorian Shield x3
Spear of the Mark x3
Dagger of Westernesse x3
Unexpected Courage x3
Ancient Mathom x3
Song of Earendil x3
Light of Valinor x1
Captain of Gondor x1

Events (15):
A Test of Will x3
Foe-hammer x3
Sterner than Steel x3
Quick Strike x2
The Galadhrim’s Greeting x2
A Good Harvest x2

Thoughts: I initially kind of wanted to avoid this hero lineup because I feel like it’s just *the* classic Fastred lineup and I like to do different things, but on the other hand using the classic lineup makes a lot of sense for trying to show off how he works as a hero. So this is a very straightforward division of labour – Eowyn quests (and probably uses her ability to defeat The Black Serpent himself at the end of the quest), Fastred defends, lowering my threat and sending the enemies back to the staging area, where Dunhere kills them.
For allies we have primarily willpower from Spirit and neutral, combat from Tactics. Ally Arwen of course also adds defence and Sentinel to Fastred, both of which are very helpful. All three of my heroes are Rohan and can thus pay for Elfhelm, which is handy. Finally the Stewards of Orthanc are great for a deck like this because they’re repeatable neutral card draw, and I have enough threat reduction to not be particularly concerned about the Doomed.
For attachments, first off we have the gear for our two combat heroes. Fastred will get Steward of Gondor from the other deck, so with the Shield and Arwen he’ll end up at 6 defence, while regardless of which weapons I draw Dunhere should hopefully get up to 7 attack against most enemies before the other deck starts passing Dunedain Marks across as well. Captain of Gondor can go on either combat hero depending on if I feel I need more defence or more attack. Action advantage is significant for the combat heroes again primarily, though Light of Valinor is a cross-table option to potentially let Elrond defend after questing. And then we have a bit of card draw and the Song of Earendil to even out the threat.
For events, Test of Will is standard of course. Foe-hammer for more draw, Sterner than Steel to keep Fastred safe. Quick Strike of course is very useful in conjunction with Dunhere’s ability to attack the staging area, Greetings are threat reduction as part of my general strategy, and Good Harvest just potentially smooths out the resources if I draw things in an unfavourable order.

Strategic Planning

Heroes:
Sam Gamgee
Grima
Elrond

Allies (20):
Gandalf (Core) x3
Gleowine x3
Wandering Ent x3
Warden of Healing x3
Galadhrim Minstrel x3
Mablung x1
Quickbeam x1
Robin Smallburrow x1
Rosie Cotton x1
Bill the Pony x1

Attachments (12):
Keys of Orthanc x3
Steward of Gondor x3
Dunedain Mark x3
Cram x3

Events (18):
Sneak Attack x3
Campfire Tales x3
Daeron’s Runes x3
Deep Knowledge x3
Heed the Dream x3
Gildor’s Counsel x3

Thoughts: This deck is mostly intended to just provide willpower and support the other deck. So I picked a hero lineup with 8 willpower between them, Elrond provides his healing boost if relevant, and I figured since I’m working around threat control, Grima could potentially be useful as well without causing too many problems.
So for allies we have an assortment of 2-cost 2 willpower options, both unique and Ents. Bill the Pony because he’s free with Sam, Minstrels to accelerate the deck. Wardens of Healing for healing, obviously, Gleowine to help draw for whichever deck needs it, and Gandalf primarily for Sneak Attacks – likely used to drop this deck’s threat if it gets out of control.
All the attachments are intended to be played cross-table. Steward on Fastred, Marks on Dunhere, Cram on both of them, and the Keys on Eowyn.
In events we have a bunch of card draw, Sneak Attacks for Gandalf, and Gildor’s Counsel to reduce problems from staging. Fairly self-explanatory I think.
In both decks I chose not to bring any side-quests given the progress sapping effects on the enemies, I figure I’ll probably want to be making new progress on the main quest most of the time.

https://ringsdb.com/fellowship/view/11248/thelineunbroken-theblackserpent
https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/21087/thelineunbroken-theblackserpentdeck1-1.0
https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/21088/thelineunbroken-theblackserpentdeck2-1.0

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