Facing Fallen Wizards
(as a Hero player)
Copyright Nigel Buckle ©2002
Edited by Nicholas HM Caldwell for The Guild Companion
The existence of the non-hero alignments sometimes deters the less experienced/ confident player from attending constructed tournaments. Many players only build hero either because the other alignments over-complicate the game, or they prefer playing "good guys", or they don't own cards from the later expansions.
In this article, I'm going to give some advice on how a player opting to play hero alignment can build a deck that can be competitive against Fallen Wizards. I will also cover some of the main types of Fallen Wizard decks a player could expect to face, as playing is just as important as deck building. Where possible, I will limit the suggested cards to those from the early sets (The Wizards, The Dragons and Dark Minions); where later cards are needed, I'll try to restrict them to just commons and uncommons.
The first thing to realise is that a Fallen Wizard is a mix of both Hero and Minion, and can include 2 of each non-unique card from both alignments in the deck (except for those cards specifically banned by the White Hand Rule Insert, such as Old Road and the Windlord Found Me). This makes fallen wizards both weaker and stronger than the hero and minion alignments, as in some cases the Fallen Wizard can only use 2 copies of a card (rather than 3) but in other cases 4 (rather than 3). The "4 copy" case is when the equivalent card has both a hero and minion version, such as Marvels Told/Voices of Malice, Smoke Rings/Weigh All things to a nicety, etc. It also means you need to be familiar with the minion cards as your Fallen Wizard opponent is likely to use some of them.
The second thing to realise is that, although you might be competing in the character draft for characters (as all hero characters are unique), the Fallen Wizard can normally only play characters with a mind of 5 or less. It is possible to play with a 6 mind character, but the Fallen Wizard player has to play an appropriate card (such as Thrall of the Voice) earlier in the draft. This means when facing a Fallen Wizard you can leave playing your high mind (7+) characters until the end. To guarantee a 6 mind character, you need to play it first round of the draft, and any 5 mind or lower hero character could be played immediately by a Fallen Wizard (except Fram Framson). Furthermore, you can safely use 3 copies of your main (preferred wizard) as you'll know in advance which wizard you'll be facing. If, however, the Fallen Wizard matches your preferred wizard, e.g., you wanted to play Radagast but you're facing Fallen Radagast, then you cannot play Radagast at all, but you can remove the copies of Radagast from your deck and replace them with an alternative wizard.
When building your deck, you need to consider the resources and hazards for your deck, but you also need to think about the likely resources and hazards your opponent will use (called playing the meta-game). I think it's easier to start with building a hazard deck that is likely to have some effect against a Fallen Wizard, then build your resource deck with this hazard deck in mind. This is the opposite way to my normal method of deck building, where I start with the resources.
To build a hazard deck, you need to have some idea what your Fallen Wizard opponent might do. Below are a brief list of some of the more popular Fallen Wizard strategies:
- Squat/Semi Squat – the characters in the deck either never move or move very rarely with lots of protection/cancellers. This sort of deck is problematic if you were relying on the card draw from your opponent's movement/hazard phase or if your deck was designed to hit companies with creatures – as often your creatures are unplayable. You might see Fallen Gandalf squatting in the Shire, or Fallen Pallando squatting at the White Towers or Fallen Radagast squatting at some site in the wilderness (like the Ettenmoors).
- Underdeeps – Fallen Wizards have access to a number of underdeep specific resources and also a special underdeeps site that is adjacent to a protected Wizard Haven
- Speed – Often Fallen Wizard decks are slow to play (as they rarely move), but it is possible to build a very fast Fallen Wizard deck that either makes use of multiple short rest/bridge/leg it double quick etc., or actively uses Crambor to move over and over again (usually combined with Spying out the Land to stop you playing any hazards).
- Gondor/Free Holds – this deck works in a similar way to a hero Gondor deck, with the added bonus that Assassins can be turned into allies with 'Ready to His Will'.
- Coastal – this deck works in a similar way to hero coastal decks, with the added bonus of minion spells etc.
- Overt – this deck plays more like a minion deck, and can squat or alternatively load up on high prowess non-unique trolls or Orc Scouts etc.
And of course these types of deck have a number of hazard decks they could use.
You also need to decide if you are going to use your 'vs. Hero' deck against Fallen Wizards or your 'vs. Minion' deck, there are arguments for using either. You also have an additional 10-card sideboard that you need to consider.
It is beyond the scope of this article to detail all the possible fallen wizard decks and their likely hazards and propose decks to compete against them. Instead, I will list 2 prototype hazard decks, one for playing vs. Hero & Fallen Wizard and the other for vs. Minion & Fallen Wizard. I'll try to explain why I've built these 2 specific decks, and I'll leave it to you to try to design others. If you think you've built a good anti-fallen wizard deck, contact me and I'll turn it into a future article.
Sample Vs. Hero & Fallen Wizard Hazard deck (30 Cards)
This is a corruption strategy, which is often effective against hero decks. Even if your fallen wizard is playing with minimal items at least the cards are quite playable – making the whole deck relatively fast. Apart from the Corpse Candles, Ren and the Mouth, the creatures are there to give some coverage of deck types that do not play with many items (usually hero faction decks). Where I've used a card from a later set I've suggested a replacement card from the first 3 sets in brackets  afterwards. I'd prefer to use the later card, but the replacement is a viable option if you don't own the card.
2x Corpse Candle
1x Knights of the Prince [Corsairs of Umbar]
2x Corsairs of Umbar
3x Cave Worm
1x Mouth of Sauron
1x Ren the Unclean
3x Sellswords Between Charters [Ambusher]
1x Bane of the Ithil Stone
3x Echoes of the Song [2x Weariness of the Heart, 1x Lure of Expedience]
3x Lure of the Senses
1x The Balance of Things
1x Alone and Unadvised [Lure of Nature]
2x Lure of Nature
2x Lure of Expedience
1x Longing for the West [Lure of Creation]
Only play the corpse candles when the corruption check has a reasonable chance of corrupting a character or two – otherwise you are just giving up the MP for the kill.
The sideboard should have more corruption cards along with anti-hobbit cards, as that particular resource strategy is a blind spot for this deck.
Notice there is little deck manipulation; this is because Bane of the Ithil Stone stops you manipulating your deck as well as your opponent.
Sample Vs. Minion & Fallen Wizard Hazard deck (30 Cards)
This is a modified "Dump and Run" strategy. The focus of this deck is speed. You should aim to play all the hazards you hold (to the hazard limit) each turn, possibly increasing the hazard limit too. Many minion (and Fallen Wizard) decks squat in safety or move in very safe areas and you also have to consider a Balrog opponent too. This hazard deck doesn't really care what your opponent does – all you do is play out the hazards each turn. Occasionally, you might be able to play hazards that really hurt your opponent, but that is a bonus. With this sort of hazard deck you are relying on your resources to win the game, so ensure your resource deck is competitive and can cope with the speed of your hazard deck. The agents are in the deck as minor roadblock (Badulia) and to stop the play of Stinker as an ally (if you can get My Precious in play first). Also some minion players actively use Mount Doom with weak companies (for the information and Wolf allies) – Stinker popping up there can be a bit of a surprise. The Cave Worms are there mainly against Fallen Wizards and Balrog and the Sellswords for some shadow hold and Borderhold coverage. The deck is quite effective at hampering influence attempts, just be careful which characters you target with Foolish Words. Drums and Redoubled Force are included mainly against Balrog decks, but they are both fast hazards, so play them when you draw them against other opponents. Where I've used a card from a later set I've suggested a replacement card from the first 3 sets in brackets  afterwards. I'd prefer to use the later card, but the replacement is a viable option if you don't own the card.
2x Cave Worm
2x Sellswords between Charters [2x Pukel Men]
6x Nazgul (Uvatha, Andunaphel, Witchking probably the most useful)
6x Ahunt Dragons
1x Lady of the Golden Wood [1x Ahunt Dragon]
1x Dealomin at Home
1x My Precious
3x Foolish Words
1x Redoubled Force
3x Power Built by Waiting [1x Revealed to all Watchers, 1x Many Sorrows Befall, 1x Scorba At Home]
1x Times are Evil