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The Balrog
Going Ever Under Dark

Copyright Nigel Buckle ©2003

Edited by Nicholas H.M. Caldwell for The Guild Companion

Sometimes you build a deck around a theme, or a geographical location, but occasionally you will build a deck around a single card.

In a recent game I played against Andy Fredricksen. He used a hero deck based around Crept Along Carefully to good effect with a company of high prowess characters. Previously I've only really seen this card used with stealthy hobbits, or hobbits with a guardian such as Glorfindel. This got me thinking about building a competitive deck that exploits the minion version of this card, Going Ever Under Dark.

The card is from the Balrog expansion:

Going Ever Under Dark

TYPE: Resource

CLASS: Permanent-event

Playable on a company during the organization phase. The company cannot use starter movement. In addition, if they move with region movement, they are limited in all cases to 3 regions maximum and their hazard limit is reduced by one (to a minimum of two). Discard this card from play and make a roll to attempt to cancel an attack against them by an opponent's company. If the roll plus the number of scouts in the company is greater than 7, the attack is canceled. Discard during your organization phase if you choose. Cannot be duplicated on a given company.

One problem with this card is you can't start the game with it in play, so you need to draw it from your deck which means you need 3 copies in the deck to maximise your chances of getting the card early in the game. Also you need a company with a normal hazard limit of 3 or more with region movement to get maximum benefit.

So I started thinking about the possibilities of a Balrog deck. The Balrog can bring in 2 low mind characters from the sideboard per turn, so building a big company is easy, and if you play the Balrog, all your companies have to use region (or underdeeps) movement no starter movement at all.

I could have built this deck for a Fallen Wizard, and used both the minion version and the hero version of the cards (2 of each), but I decided to stick with the Balrog to see how it would pan out.

The next decision was what characters to use. The Balrog can only use Orcs and Trolls, so that simplifies the decision. I chose to use both and have a strong company of Trolls (high prowess) and big company of Orc Scouts with a ridiculously low hazard limit.

I've covered in detail this deck versus Hero, but at the end there are a few suggestions for playing against Minion. You might want to alter the sideboard depending on what sort of deck types you anticipate you will face.

In this deck, I've not worried about trying to avoid using cards from the later sets. To consider building a Balrog deck, you must have as a minimum a number of cards from The Balrog, along with a significant number of Lidless Eye and probably Against the Shadow cards too.

Character Draft (4)

* = Ideal characters, Radbug is just in the draft if Ufthak bounces against a Fallen Wizard opponent. If that doesn't happen leave him out.

Minor Items: Whip (x2)
Characters for the Deck:
Balrog (x3), Lugdush, Grishnakh (either of these orcs should go into Gorbag's Company)

Ideal Starting Companies
Company 1:
[start at Moria]
Gorbag with Whip
Controlling Ufthak

Company 2:
[start at the Undergates]
Bûthrakaur with Whip

This gives you 2 starting companies. On turn one, immediately bring 2 Orc Scouts from the sideboard (either Orc Sniffers or Sly Southerners) to play with company 1. This gives you a 4 character company with a 2 hazard limit set for action immediately. You also have enough influence to add another 2 Orc Scouts from the sideboard once you have Going Ever Under Dark in play on the company giving you 6 Orc Scouts and a 2 hazard limit!

The big troll needs you to add Hill Trolls (or Hill Troll and a Troll Lout) from the sideboard, to be fully up to strength. (Both are controlled under Bûthrakaur's DI). Thus you'll have 3 trolls all with decent prowess and once you have Going Ever Under Dark, a hazard limit of 2 for that company too.

Once you get the Balrog in play, you need to play Strangling Coils on him, so he can have followers then play 3 mind trolls from the sideboard with him (for the MPs). You can also bring in Roam the Waste and Heart of Dark Fire. Most of the time, the Balrog will stay in his havens, but at some point you need to make a trip to another underdeeps site to play the Nasty Slimy Things.

Resources (30)
MP cards (10)
Great Lord of Goblin Gate
Grey Mountain Goblins
High helm
Iron Shield of Old
Maker's Map
Nasty Slimy Thing
Orcs of Gundabad
Orcs of Moria
Sable shield

Support cards (20)
Bold Thrust (x3)
Crept along Cleverly (x2)
Dark Tryst (x3)
Foe Dismayed (x3)
Going Ever Under Dark (x3)
Strangling Coils (x3)
Weigh all things to a nicety (x3)

The idea of the resource deck is to have 2 companies (1 orc, 1 troll) moving around the sites of the Misty Mountains and the adjacent regions in relative safety, collecting the items, recruiting the factions etc. The Balrog waits in the haven, play Strangling Coils, and then you can play more 1MP characters with him from the sideboard. Using Heart of Dark Fire you can boost the Balrog's DI for extra characters.

Assuming you get all the MP cards (including characters) into play you would have 32 points from the MP cards in the deck plus easily sideboarded characters. Additionally there are other MP cards in the sideboard you can get by tapping the Balrog or first bringing in Ancient Secrets from the sideboard, or at the end of the first deck cycle:

Characters [11] from:
Gorbag (2) & Ufthak (1)
Bûthrakaur (3) & 2 Hill Trolls (1 each)
Balrog & 3 Troll Louts (1 each)

Factions [9] from:
Grey Mountain Goblins (3), Orcs of Gundabad (3), Orcs of Moria (3)

Allies [6] from:
Stinker (2), 2 Nasty Slimy Things (1 each), Great Lord of Goblin Gate (2),

Misc [2] from:
Maker's Map (2)

Items [4] from:
High Helm (2), Sable Shield (2)

Great Lord of Goblin Gate: A useful ally, play with your Orc company to get the best use out of him.

Grey Mountain Goblins: Nice 3 point faction - ideally have a Crept Along Cleverly to get around the automatic attack (or sacrifice an Orc Sniffer, then get another from the sideboard).

High Helm: Probably the most useful major item. Give it to a leader so he can control more characters.

Iron Shield of Old: Item for the Balrog's company to collect - hold it in hand until you have the Nasty Slimy Thing to play at the same site, and possibly another item.

Maker's Map: Good source of miscellaneous points - play it at Dimrill Dale or possibly Weathertop or even The Wind Throne.

Nasty Slimy Thing: Good ally for the Balrog to play, hold it in hand until you have an item to get at the same time (or sideboard in a 2nd).

Orcs of Gundabad: Nice 3 point faction

Orcs of Moria: Easy faction to get - even the Balrog can recruit these while waiting for the Strangling Coils etc.

Sable Shield: Similar to High Helm, don't count on it lasting the whole game if you use it actively in combat.

Stinker: Easy ally, the Balrog can collect him, or one of the other companies.

Bold Thrust: Staple combat card - use it for facing creatures or automatic attacks

Crept along Cleverly: Great canceller - and Gorbag's company is moving to sites where you can use it. Your ranger doesn't have to tap to use this, and can even creep along when wounded!

Dark Tryst: Basic minion utility card drawing card. I use 3 in every minion (and 2 in most fallen wizard) decks.

Foe Dismayed: Awesome card - use it for faction recruiting (with your leaders) or for combat as necessary.

Going Ever Under Dark - one of the key cards of the deck, play them on your Orc and Troll companies to give both a 2 hazard limit.

Strangling Coils - Essential to allow the Balrog to have allies, and get access to Roam the Waste and Heart of Dark Fire from the sideboard.

Weigh all things to a nicety: Necessary for either sideboarding or recycling the key cards.

Key Sideboard Cards
Heart of Dark Fire (x3), Roam the Wastes (x2), Ancient Secrets (x2), Long Grievous Siege, Sudden Call, Sly Southerner (x2), Orc Sniffer (x2), Hill Troll (x3), Troll Lout (x3), Iron Shield of Old, Nasty Slimy Thing, The Under-roads


Hazards (30)
Creatures (17) * = creature
Beorning Skinchangers (x3) *
Daelomin at Home*
Dwarven Travellers (x3)
Knights of the Prince
Mouth of Sauron *
Rain Drake (x3)
Súrion *

Non-creatures (13)
An Unexpected Outpost (x3)
Bane of the Ithil Stone
Chill Them With Fear (x3)
Great Secrets Buried There (x3)
Near to Hear a Whisper
To Get You Away (x2)

Key Sideboard Cards
Drór, Pilfer Anything Unwatched (x2), Twilight, Twisted Tales (x2), Your Welcome is Doubtful (x2).

The Balrog considers agents as hazards (rather than characters) so you can include agents as creatures like a hero hazard deck. This deck uses Chilled agents to decimate hero companies when they think they are safe. The agent influence cards are mainly in the sideboard to be used against Fallen Wizards. Drór is there to be combined with Pilfer to disrupt Dwarven characters (or even attack them).

Anarin: Key elf agent - centrally located, awesome when combined with Chill Them With Fear.

Beorning Skinchangers: Annoying roadblock for hero companies, especially all hobbit companies. This is mainly anti-one ring, but if you can get the warriors tapped this can be very effective.

Daelomin at Home: Staple hazard card - use it to boost the hazard limit when needed, and to prevent your opponent playing their version. Be aware of attempts to kill the dragon with a Wizard using Sacrifice of Form, etc. It's not a serious threat as you can discard Daelomin (boosting the hazard limit) when a company moves to Dancing Spires.

Dwarven Travellers: Pretty ineffectual detainment, but very playable, much improved by Chill Them With Fear.

Elwen: Another key Elf Agent (see Anarin)

Golohdros: Another anti-one ring hazard, as he's close to Mount Doom. But his ability to influence and the fact he's Dúnadan (so gets the bonus from Chill Them with Fear) can be useful if your opponent has companies somewhere near his home-sites.

Knights of the Prince: Good detainment creature - another Dúnadan.

Mouth of Sauron: Probably used in every deck!

Nimloth: Another key Elf Agent (see Anarin/Elwen)

Rain Drake: Token coastal sea coverage - don't overlook the chance to key them to a Ruins & Lairs with 2 wildernesses in the site-path (of the site)

Súrion: Another useful Dúnadan agent, especially against Gondor based decks.

An Unexpected Outpost: Used to recycle key cards (Chills, Agents, etc) or bring in key hazards from the sideboard.

Bane of the Ithil Stone: No effect on Minion players, so why not use it?

Chill Them With Fear: Staple enhancer card for the agents/creatures

Great Secrets Buried There: Only a brave hero company would venture into the underdeeps against a Balrog opponent. You might not want to play this against Fallen Wizards as they can use the Deep Mines to get the Buried item.

Near to Hear a Whisper: With this in play you can attack with your agents even if your opponent decides not to enter the site.

To Get You Away: Excellent prisoner card as you're using agents - if you can get Anarin to capture some characters (best played when he's 'Chilled') then your opponent has to go to Moria to attempt a rescue! The other agents can give your opponent headaches with this card too.

Vs Minions

This deck has specific risks and problems when facing a minion opponent.

The most obvious danger is facing another Balrog deck. If this happens, you could duplicate Bûthrakaur in the draft. He's key to the deck, having the ranger skill and a large DI, and it's highly likely you'll have similar resources (such as Orcs of Moria, Stinker, etc) in the deck, risking influence attempts. There are also other dangers of duplicated characters - see other minion opponents below, especially as Balrog players can only use Orcs and Trolls, limiting the possible characters a deck design can use. Furthermore if your opponent gets the Balrog into play first then you're likely to loose the game.

If you're facing a non-balrog Minion then you still run the risk that your orcs will duplicate in the draft. Gorbag and Ufthak are popular characters and the deck doesn't really have suitable replacement characters. Also High Helm and Sable Shield are popular (unique) items and the 3 point factions are frequently used by minions.

You could redesign the deck to use Balrog-specific Orcs instead, which removes the chance of a non-Balrog player including them in the deck

Finally you have to consider the hazard deck - the current hazard deck isn't really tuned against a minion opponent as some of the agent hazards are illegal (unplayable) against a minion, and agent attacks are always detainment for minions.

So against a minion opponent, you'll either have to make some significant changes to the deck, or run the risk of duplicating characters and resources.

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