Return of the Kings

Copyright Travis Took © 2004

Edited by Nigel Buckle for The Guild Companion

Introduction

This is a fun deck designed to gather the full might of Gondor to your cause, as well as deliver a surprise ending if all goes well. The main purpose is to have Aragorn and Arwen travel to Minas Tirith to fulfil their roles as King and Queen. As an escort and show of friendship between the Mountain and the Coast, Dain II will go as well. Alatar (or Pallando, if your opponent has played him) will show up allowing Cirdan to take control of his haven and the Elves of Lindon - freeing the wizard to travel down the coast to join up with Dain. Under his urgings and the gallant example of Aragorn, Dain decides to look to rebuilding his own kingdom. The royal couple stay in Gondor as the Dwarf makes a sudden exit from Minas Tirith. Crossing the Anduin River, the brave duo, Dain and Alatar, run to the Lonely Mountain to exact vengeance upon Smaug while he is At Home - with the help of an Old Thrush and a well-placed Sacrifice of Form, from Alatar. Being King Under the Mountain suits Dain well, as he finds the Arkenstone, and with the help of an Old Friendship he calls forth some Returned Exiles - completing the Alliance of the Free Peoples!

Starting Characters

Aragorn II
Arwen
Dain II
Ioreth
Halbarad
Thorin II
Eomer
Oin
Strider
Denethor II
Star-glass
Horn of Anor

Characters for the Deck

Alatar (x3)
Cirdan

Resources (32)

Gates of Morning (x2)
Many Turns and Doublings (x3)
Sapling of the White Tree (x3)
The White Tree
Longbottom Leaf (x3)
Forewarned Is Forearmed (x2)
Flatter a Foe (x3)
Choice of Luthien
Dark Quarrels (x3)
Crown of Flowers (x2)
Marvels Told (x2)
Sentinels of Numenor (x2)
Smoke Rings (x2)
Token of Goodwill (x2)
Return of the King

Hazards (32)

Adunaphel
Agburanar Ahunt
Daelomin Ahunt
Daelomin at Home
Indur Dawndeath
Itangast Ahunt
Khamul the Easterling
Leucaruth Ahunt
Mouth of Sauron
Ren the Unclean
Scatha Ahunt
Smaug Ahunt
Witch-king of Angmar
Uvatha the Horseman
Smaug at Home
Cave-drake (x3)
Sellswords Between Charters (x3)
Parsimony of Seclusion (x3)
River (x3)
Lure of Expedience (x3)
Twilight (x2)

Sideboard

Anduin River
Not at Home
Sacrifice of Form
The Old Thrush
King under the Mountain
The Arkenstone
Old Friendship
Returned Exiles
The Sun Unveiled (x2)
Pallando
Nenselde the Wingild
Men of Lebennin
Men of Lamedon
Men of Anorien
Men of Anfalas
Noble Hound (x3)
Elves of Lindon
Alliance of Free Peoples
The White Wizard
The Hunt (x2)
Alone and Unadvised (x2)
Lobelia Sackville-Baggins
Rolled down to the Sea
Pilfer Anything Unwatched (x2)

Deck Details

In total there are up to 72 MP's available within the deck and sideboard combined, as follows

Character: Cirdan (3), Aragorn II (3), Arwen (1), Dain II (2), Oin (1), Eomer (1) = 11 [9 Likely]

Item: Sapling of the White Tree (1/2) x3, The Arkenstone (3/5) = 11 [8 Likely]

Faction: Men of Anorien/Lebennin/Lamedon/Anfalas (2 each), Elves of Lindon (2), Returned Exiles (5), Alliance of the Free Peoples (3 - 6), Sentinels of Numenor (1 - 4) = 25 [25 Likely]

Ally: Nenselde the Wingild (2), Noble Hound (1) x3 = 5 [2 Likely]

Miscellaneous: The White Tree (5), Return of the King (3), Choice of Luthien (1), King Under the Mountain (5), The White Wizard (2) = 16 [14 Likely]

Kill: The Hunt (1 - 6) x2 = up to 12 [0 Likely]

For a grand total of 80 MP's [58 Likely] + any creatures you kill.

In all the games I've played with this deck the only time I had less than 50 MP's within one turn of exhausting for the first time, I had made the mistake of not teleporting Alatar to join Dain - thus I couldn't kill Smaug.

Starting Company:

The ideal starting company would be Aragorn II controlling Arwen (who has the Star-glass), Dain II with Horn of Anor, and Ioreth. This deck doesn't need Aragorn that much, as the only card that cannot be played without him is Return of the King. In fact Arwen is much more important in this deck, as without her you must pull all your factions/allies into the deck via the several "tobacco" cards and your wizard. So if she dies early - just skip the entire King Under the Mountain combo, as you need the other stuff much more.

I still play Aragorn first draft, as I don't want to tip off my opponent how valuable Arwen is. If he bounces I reveal Strider next. If he bounces I would play Arwen (if she bounces too - good luck, you're going to need it as this deck centres around Arwen, a priority will be to get Arwen in play first, or influence her away from your opponent.) If both manifestations of Isildur's Heir bounce, then you are most likely playing against another Return of the King deck, so I draft Denethor next round. Now your opponent will have a harder time playing a good portion of his deck - even if he plays Aragorn first. The factions are well within reach of Denethor's DI (if you still try to use the Sentinels, make sure to keep the Horn on him). If the draft goes as bad as that, your company will look like this: Dain II controlling Arwen with Star-glass, Denethor II with the Horn, Oin/Eomer, Ioreth/Halbarad. Thorin is there in case you cannot start with Dain II - you'll just have to make do with only one sage, as your initial draft mind of 20 will be all used up with Aragorn, Arwen and Thorin.

After the draft, I usually only include the two rangers in the deck. Thorin (or Dain) can be included for backup - in case the one in play dies. Halbarad and/or Ioreth can also be included, but I wouldn't bother if your opponent has one/both of them in play.

Strategies for Specific Cards:

Token of Goodwill:

One of the best cards in this deck. There are a lot of combo's inherent in a Gondor deck (Sapling of the White Tree/The White Tree, Return of the King/Choice of Luthien, Sentinels of Numenor/All Gondor Factions, and the Paths of the Dead/Army of the Dead combo not in this deck) and effective use of this card will allow you to manage all this easily - even if your opponent is trying for some of the same combos. With Dain's DI completely free you need not worry about failing the influence check, so make sure his company has at least one of the two starting minor items for as long as possible. You can be pro-active with this card as well - just send Dain to a site with a man auto-attack and then you can grab your needed card. There are several sites you can use: Tharbad, Gobel Mirlond, Bandit's Lair, Hermit's Hill, and Geann a-Lisch. If I draw one of the Token's in my first hand, I travel straight to Geann a-Lisch - then I can pull Choice of Luthien (or Return of the King if I already have that) and move to Minas Tirith next turn. You can even play a Sapling as well if you have one in hand - in that case, The White Tree is another target to fish for. Once I'm in Gondor, I stick to Gobel Mirlond (in which you can pull the same stunts) and once that is used I travel north to Bandit's Lair.

Choice of Luthien:

Choice of Luthien is the most important card in this deck - not only does it allow your wizard to drop 5 MP cards to the discard to be played later, but it frees up 4 GI and allows Aragorn to use his full DI to gather the factions (at little to no risk of botching the roll).

Return of the King:

Easy to play, great for getting those factions. Only thing worth saying here is that it can be played during any phase that Aragorn is at Minas Tirith (the same goes for Choice of Luthien as well) - and that includes the End of Turn Phase, even if you just drew it (you just won't be able to reconcile your hand again).

Sentinels of Numenor:

Once you play this card you get an easy MP from each of your four Gondor factions, but you should only play it if you have a chance of getting them - and that means you have either Strider or Aragorn in play (or you could try to use Alatar).

Forewarned Is Forearmed:

Great protection against Slayers and Assassins! You can either hold it in hand until one is played, then watch your opponent wither as you reveal it and get the 2 kill MP's, or play it as soon as you can to prevent him from playing any at all. For an added treat, you might be able to use The Hunt to call them out - netting an easy 2 MP's. Also don't forget that you can teleport Alatar to face the attack, then play Forewarned to kill it - not only saving Arwen, but bringing Alatar to where he is needed.

Flatter a Foe:

Not only another protection card for the ubiquitous man attacks you can face in this deck, but also a great hazard limiter (due to the -2 to the hazard limit). Since Dain will have his full DI available he will have +5 (+6 vs. men) to the roll, so he only needs to roll a 6 or greater to cancel a man attack. You can also use it to stop the dragon attack from Isle of Ulond and you still only need a 6 or greater. The main reason it is in the deck, however, is for the last turn. When Alatar and Dain make the run to the Lonely Mountain, Alatar will use it to stop an Ahunt attack -- thus preventing all corruption and creature cards from being played on them (due to their hazard limit disappearing). Since Dain will be in GI, Alatar will have his full 10 DI to use, thus there is no chance of it failing.

Alatar:

As soon as you can, play him at Rivendell and tap him to drop the 4 factions and Nenselde the Wingild to your discard so Arwen can pull them up and play them. He should also move to the Grey Havens so he can bring in Cirdan. Each turn he should tap to access the sideboard. Once you have Cirdan and Choice of Luthien in play you need to move him south to join up with Dain - Your GI will be maxed out at 20 for that one turn, so don't let your opponent know you are going to do it!

Alliance of the Free Peoples:

If you played Elves of Lindon and Returned Exiles this is an easy source of MP's. All the Gondor factions are Man factions, so you will net a nice 6 MP's with this.

Parsimony of Seclusion:

For your end-game run, you need to have both Smaug at Home and one of the other Dragon's Ahunt in play, so you need to use this to pull them into your hand so they can be played on your opponent before your last turn. (You don't need the Ahunt, but it makes things much easier as you shall soon see.)

Nenselde the Wingild:

Get her after all the three factions that are out of her moving area, or on your last turn... which ever comes first. You want to make sure you get her (or at least one of the dogs) so you will have some ally points.

King Under the Mountain (Total Combination):

When you near the end of your deck Alatar must be with Dain, and they need to move to either Minas Tirith (or Lorien if it is discarded) on the turn before you cycle. Then on your next turn you make your move to crown the second king. For your last turn you need: Flatter a Foe, Not at Home, The Old Thrush, Sacrifice of Form, The Arkenstone, Old Friendship, King Under the Mountain, Returned Exiles, and possibly Anduin River. In play you must have Smaug at Home and an Ahunt (not Smaug).

The best run is from Minas Tirith, as it will be a complete surprise for your opponent! You tap Alatar and play Anduin River, so they can move from Anorien to Dagorlad and then onto Southern and Northern Rhovanion. With this site path the first thing that will happen is the Ahunt attack, which you cancel with Flatter a Foe - reducing your hazard limit to zero. When you make it to the Mountain, you enter and play Not at Home on the normal dragon attack, then The Old Thrush and Sacrifice of Form on Smaug! (Make sure that Dain is not under Alatar's DI or he will be discarded as well.) Drop the King Under the Mountain and Dain can find The Arkenstone. Use the Arkenstone's ability to untap him and use Old Friendship to survive the corruption check. Now he can call the Returned Exiles. After all this you should have already cycled so you can call the council and not face any problems for having used up all your GI. Don't forget that you can still play Alliance of the Free Peoples during your End of Turn Phase for more MP's!

Hazard Strategy

This is mainly for speed, although you need some Ahunts and Smaug At Home for the King Under the Mountain last turn play as detailed above. The hazard deck can be altered to suit the types of hero decks you expect to meet, but with fewer dragons the King Under the Mountain play might be more obvious. Smaug At Home is vulnerable to Marvels Told, so either mask the play by including lots, giving the impression you are just playing the cards for speed -- or include 'better' targets for your opponent's Marvels Told.