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UK Nationals - The Winning Deck

Copyright Nigel Buckle © 2000

Edited by Nicholas HM Caldwell for The Guild Companion

Copyright ©2000

This article gives a brief insight into the deck which I used to win this year's UK MECCG Nationals. Rather than just provide a list of cards, I've tried to give some background to the deck (in terms of what I was thinking when I built it), how it is supposed to work, and how it performed on the day. This deck was only used against HERO decks, not Fallen-Wizard or Minions, as all the players used Hero decks in the final. This was a total shock for me (so I suppose I failed to play the meta game). I'd spent much more time tuning my deck against Minions (and Fallen Wizards) because I'd expected to see Balrog decks and Fallen Wizards.

Deck List:

Character Draft:
Aragorn, Balin, Bilbo, Falco, Fatty, Gloin, Merry, Pippin, Robin, Sam
Minor Items: Horn of Anor, Cram

Character Pool:
Alatar x2, Gandalf, Vygavril, Ghan-Buri-Ghan, plus some unused characters from the draft

Resources (30)
A friend or 3 (x3)
Concealment (x3)
Durin's Axe
Elves of Lindon
Great Ship (x3)
Halfling Strength (x3)
Long Bottom Leaf (x3)
Noble Hound
Ocrist
Promptings of Wisdom
Sapling of the White Tree (x2)
Scroll of Isildur
Southrons
Stealth (x3)
Torque of Hues
Variags of Khand
Woses of Old Pukel Land

Hazards (30) [Creatures first]
Cave Drake (x3)
Cave Worm (x2)
Corsairs of Umbar (x3)
Lobelia Sackville Baggins
Ren the Unclean
Sellswords Between Charters (x3)
Dragon Sickness
Foolish Words (x3)
Greed
Lure of Expedience (x3)
Lure of Nature (x2)
Lure of Power
Lure of the Senses (x3)
Press Gang
The Roving Eye (x2)

Sideboard (30)
Longing for the West
Lure of Creation
Lure of Nature
Neither So Ancient nor so Potent
The Will of the Ring
Twilight
Align Palantir
Army of the Dead
Haradrim
Hobbit Lore
Marvels Told (x2)
Men of Anfalas
Nenselde the Wingild
Noble Hound
Palantir of Amon Sul
Paths of the Dead
Return of the King
Smoke Rings (x3)
The Hunt (x2)
The White Tree
To Fealty Sworn (x2)
Withdrawn to Mordor (x2)
Wizard's Laughter
Wizard's River Horses

My ideal starting party (and order of drafting) was: Sam, Fatty (with Cram), Bilbo (with Horn of Anor), Robin

The idea of the deck is for the 4 hobbits to form a company with a hazard limit of 2 and move to the coast (using Himring, Isle of the Dead that Live, Isle of Ulond, Tolfalas, and the coastal sites like The Stones, Dol Amroth, Southron Oasis, Wose Passage Hold, Lond Galen, etc.) and use Great Ship and Stealth to protect them from hazard creatures.

Aragorn gets played with Alatar (or Gandalf) at Edhellond, all the Aragorn specific resources are in the sideboard and are pulled in by tapping the wizard and using Long Bottom Leaf (once the deck has thinned). By the end of the first deck cycle, I aim to be able to plant a White Tree and play Return of the King, or Paths of the Dead and Army of the Dead (Paths of the Dead can be played at any site, including the Vale of Erech - not just at Dunharrow - read the card). Along with the other points in the deck, I should be able to Call the Council very early into the 2nd deck cycle.

In essence this is an Aragorn/Return of the King deck, but instead of starting with Aragorn (who has a nasty habit of dying!), I use 4 hobbits for a low hazard limit and bring Aragorn in later on, close to Minas Tirith (one turn away). Using hobbits also helps to disrupt a One Ring deck.

The main problem for this deck is playing against a more 'traditional' Aragorn/Strider deck, as chances are my opponent will play Aragorn (or Strider) in the draft. In this case I don't panic, but keep with the plan and try to influence Aragorn away from my opponent using my Wizard.

The hazard strategy is corruption, as my hobbits are virtually immune. The main target is the opposing wizard; bring the corruption cards from the sideboard in at the end of the deck cycle to try to corrupt the opponent's wizard at the Free Council (or if the hazards aren't working, halve the limit and bring them in earlier). The creatures are designed to hit Ruins and Lairs and Coastal Sea decks (and borderholds/shadowholds with the Sellswords). The Agent is for protection for the hobbits (to stop my opponent playing it) Similarly for Ren, although if my opponent has lots of corruption and my companies are relatively corruption free I may consider tapping him. Foolish Words is a staple hazard card - often I'll play it on-guard if I think my opponent is going to attempt to play a faction (reveal it for an unexpected -4 to the roll!). The other cards are either corruption cards or cards to force corruption checks. Press Gang is a nice card if you manage to get a high MP character discarded by a corruption check. Instead of just losing the character, now it's worth negative MPs until my opponent can either discard the Press Gang (with a Marvels Told say) or discard another character.

How did the deck perform? Very well. In the qualifiers I only played this deck twice, My other games were against Fallen Wizards and Minions, and in both I won fairly easily (once corrupting my opponents wizard with a Lure of Power), so I stuck with the same deck for the finals.

Game 1 was against Arco, who was playing a "Dwarf Deck". His hazards hurt me (agents influencing my big southern factions, Lobelia pilfering my hobbits and Beorning skin changers roadblocking me), and I was really lucky to squeeze a 4-2 win. Bilbo managed to influence the Southrons on the last turn for a big MP swing.

2nd Game was against Chris, he was playing a deck based around Galadriel squatting at Lorien (playing Show Things Unbidden, Great Road, Token of Goodwill, etc.). I managed to wound Saruman with a Cave Worm in the Gap of Isen and put a Lure of the Senses on him. He couldn't roll high enough to remove it, moved to Lorien to heal and I hit him with a Lure of Nature ... Saruman blew the 2nd roll.

Game 3 was another close game against Andy, who was playing a similar Gondor deck, except he concentrated on Rohan/Fangorn rather than the coastal sea. He managed to bury my saplings with Great Secrets, but I smashed his starting company (Balin & Thrain) with Cave Worms in the Gap of Isen (again). He actively used Pallando to attempt to influence my factions and characters, but a persistent Foolish Words hampered his effectiveness. I think the loss of his main starting characters slowed his deck enough to give me the win.

Was my deck the 'best' deck? I'm not sure. I was lucky in some games but corruption is a powerful hazard strategy (only faction decks or hobbit decks are immune). I think the combination of a low hazard limit resource strategy combined with my fast and effective hazard strategy helped me cycle my deck faster than my opponents. My hardest games were against the fallen Alatar decks, as I was denied access to my preferred wizard and my hazard strategy was designed to stop squatter decks, and when a high body roll killed a hobbit early on in the game (happened twice, Sam both times).

Would I change the deck if I intended to play it again? Of course, I always tinker with decks, changing a card here or there. Certainly my sideboard needs more work (most of the cards I never used) and I'd probably switch out the Roving Eye's for a couple more copies of Greed. Often I was discarding a Roving Eye as I was unable to play it - but a Greed on-guard is always a threat. On the resource side, I sometimes relied on luck for a good faction roll, so I'd consider adding 'Tempering Friendship' to use along with the 'A Friend or 3's'.

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