Denethor and Sons

A Second Breakfast Article for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game

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"Whatever be his descent from father to son, by some chance the blood of Westernesse runs nearly true in him; as it does in his other son, Faramir, and yet did not in Boromir whom he loved best. He has long sight. He can perceive, if he bends his will thither, much of what is passing in the minds of men."
     –Gandalf on Denethor

Temple of the Deceived, the next Adventure Pack in the Dream-chaser cycle for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, is scheduled to arrive at United States retailers in just over a week. When it does, we will have traveled fully halfway through the cycle's many surprising twists and turns. Simultaneously, we will have seen half its new heroes and player cards, and many of the new deck designs that the cycle's new cards promote will have already begun to come together.

In today's Second Breakfast article, lead developer Matthew Newman presents one such deck design.

The Dream-chaser and the Men of Gondor

One of our larger design goals with the Dream-chaser cycle was to introduce new ways for players to interact with resources, whether by playing allies that benefit when played with the resources from a single hero’s pool, by introducing high-cost allies with powerful effects, or by adding abilities to cards that could be paid for by multiple players. As a matter of happy coincidence, all of these new effects add new synergies to the Gondor trait, which has always benefited from having a wealth of resources, and there are a lot of Gondor-themed cards in the game which allow you to gain extra resources.

For these reasons, the Dream-chaser cycle adds new twists to a lot of the older Gondor cards, and we decided it was the perfect time to introduce a new Leadership version of Denethor (Flight of the Stormcaller, 1).

If the Lore version from the Core Set represented the far-seeing Steward who dared to search for knowledge in the White Tower's Palantir, then this version represents Denethor as the leader of his people. He works well with other Gondor cards, he encourages you to play Steward of Gondor (Core Set, 26) on the real Steward, and he inspired us to design a new Gondor deck that takes advantage of his ability, as well as those of his sons.

For Gondor!

Deck Created with CardGameDB.com The Lord of the Rings Deckbuilder

Total Cards: (47)

Hero: (3)
1x Boromir (Heirs of Numenor)
1x Denethor (Flight of the Stormcaller)
1x Faramir (The Land of Shadow)

Ally: (25)
1x Anborn (The Land of Shadow)
3x Citadel Custodian (Heirs of Numenor)
3x Envoy of Pelargir (Heirs of Numenor)
3x Gandalf (Core Set)
2x Guard of the Citadel (Core Set)
2x Herald of anórien (Trouble in Tharbad)
1x Ingold (The Wastes of Eriador)
2x Pelargir Ship Captain (The Morgul Vale)
3x Squire of the Citadel (The Blood of Gondor)
3x Veteran of Osgiliath (Escape from Mount Gram)
2x White Tower Watchman (The Drúadan Forest)

Attachment: (12)
2x Armored Destrier (Temple of the Deceived)
2x Heir of Mardil (Celebrimbor's Secret)
2x Rod of the Steward (Flight of the Stormcaller)
2x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)
2x Tome of Atanatar (The Blood of Gondor)
2x Visionary Leadership (The Morgul Vale)

Event: (12)
2x A Very Good Tale (Over Hill and Under Hill)
2x For Gondor! (Core Set)
2x Reinforcements (The Treachery of Rhudaur)
2x Sneak Attack (Core Set)
2x Captain’s Wisdom (The Thing in the Depths)
2x Strength of Arms (The Drúadan Forest)

Side Quest (1):
1x Send for Aid (The Treachery of Rhudaur)

This deck uses only one copy of the Core Set, along with cards from select expansions from the Against the Shadow, Ring-maker, and Angmar Awakened cycles. It also incorporates a few cards from the Dream-chaser cycle. With its emphasis on mustering an army of Gondor allies, the deck allows you, too, to bring the might of Gondor to bear against the Corsairs.

How to Play the Deck

As the Steward of Gondor, Denethor is the perfect candidate to lead his two sons and an army of Gondor characters into battle. And his ability goes a long way toward ensuring you get a quick start. When you play the deck, you'll want to focus on getting a handful of useful attachments on Denethor, Borormir, and Faramir, and then pumping out as many allies as physically possible.

Your first goal is to get Steward of Gondor and Rod of the Steward out onto Denethor as fast as possible. Once this is accomplished, Denethor can provide his sons with a wealth of resource tokens, while simultaneously providing some much-needed card draw when necessary. Visionary Leadership goes on Boromir, as it mirrors his card ability, and Heir of Mardil can go on either brother, whichever is your favorite, allowing Denethor to ready him whenever he transfers a resource. Finally, the upcoming Temple of the Deceived provides us the new Armored Destrier Mount, which is a great play on any of your three heroes. It allows you to defend twice with Denethor, or defend with Boromir or Faramir and ready for a counter-attack—all while discarding a shadow card in the process.

The new event from the recently released The Thing in the Depths, Captain’s Wisdom, is a fantastic include in this deck. All three of your heroes are Noble, giving you a lot of options when playing this card. Simply exhaust the hero you need least at the moment and use the extra resources to play an ally to make up for the loss in Willpower or Attack Strength. Better yet, play Captain’s Wisdom on Denethor to draw a card with Rod of the Steward, or play it on whoever is the Heir of Mardil and use it to immediately ready them, netting two resources for essentially zero cost!

The real purpose of this deck is to create a host of Gondor characters and then overrun the quest with an army of Willpower and Attack Strength. Even though most of the characters in this deck are cheap, “weenie” allies with low stats, the boosts provided by Boromir and Visionary Leadership can quickly unite them into an unstoppable force. Let’s look at all the ways this deck can throw allies into play:

  • A Very Good Tale has been a staple of swarm decks for years, and it’s no slouch here either. If you’re lucky enough to pull one in your opening hand, you can play two cheap allies and then exhaust them for A Very Good Tale, resulting in as many as four allies in your first turn. If you’re really lucky, some of those allies will be Envoys of Pelargir who can even give some extra resources back to your heroes.
  • Herald of Anórien can gain Doomed 2 to allow you or another player to put another ally of cost two or less into play, which hits the majority of allies in your deck.
  • Send for Aid can also help you and your fellow players put free allies into play, as long as you’re questing successfully each round.
  • Finally, Citadel Custodian is extremely cheap—or even free—as long as you have enough Gondor allies in play, which is a simple feat for this deck to accomplish.

But it doesn’t stop there. As a mono-leadership deck, you have access to both Sneak Attack and Reinforcements. Both of these let you drop allies into play for a single phase. Most often you will want to use these to put Gandalf into play for free, but any ally can be helpful if it's entrance is timed well enough. There are only two copies of each of these events in your deck, but the reason is because you also have Tome of Atanatar. Having a couple copies of Tome of Atanatars in your deck allows you to recur your favorite events multiple times.

The deck doesn't look like all that much early, but its real power builds in the mid-to-late game, when you have a great many allies in play and use Boromir, Visionary Leadership, and For Gondor! to simply overwhelm the encounter deck with numbers. After all, there’s nothing quite like questing for forty Willpower and then using Strength of Arms to ready all your allies and muster an attack of forty Attack Strength!

Customizing the Deck

There’s a lot that can be done to customize this Gondor deck, even while maintaining its theme. The list presented is good for a solo approach, but if you’re playing with one or more partners, you can easily modify the deck to adopt more of a focus on support. Simply trading three Guards of the Citadel for three Errand-riders (Heirs of Númenor, 3) makes a huge difference, allowing you to spread your incredible wealth to other players. Additionally, if any of your partners are playing with Gondor heroes, Denethor can pass his resources to those heroes naturally… But you can facilitate this process on your own by adding one or more copies of In Service of the Steward (Flight of the Stormcaller, 3). Giving your friends' characters the Gondor trait also allows them to take advantage of For Gondor! and Visionary Leadership.

While mono-Leadership is probably the best for a purely ally-focused approach, either of the two brothers can be swapped out for their alternate versions while keeping the Gondor theme intact. Swapping Faramir for his Lore version (Assault on Osgiliath, 81) gives you access to that sphere's healing capabilities as well as many Ithilien Rangers and Trap cards, including the new Entangling Nets (Temple of the Deceived, 64). Lore Faramir also gives you access to Heed the Dream (Flight of the Stormcaller, 9) and its powerful ability to search the top of your deck for any card you want… Steward of Gondor or Visionary Leadership, for example! And because the card offers a kicker when you can also spend Leadership resources, this deck can easily get the most from it. Finally, adding a Lore resource through Faramir allows you to use the new Eldahir ally (The Thing in the Depths, 31) to great effect.

Meanwhile, swapping Boromir for his Tactics version (The Dead Marshes, 95) will steer the deck toward a more hero-focused approach, allowing you to dip into Tactics for Gondorian Fire (Assault on Osgiliath, 85) and more Weapons and Armor to play on Denethor and Faramir. This also gives you access to a host of great Tactics Gondor allies, such as Gondorian Spearman (Core Set, 29) and Defender of Rammas (Heirs of Númenor, 7). Perhaps the best new card Tactics Boromir can offer his brother and father is Déorwine (Temple of the Deceived, 60). This powerful defender can use Denethor’s leadership resources to cancel shadow effects. And although he's expensive, thanks to Denethor’s Action ability and Captain’s Wisdom, you could play Deorwine as early as turn one.

Who Will Explore the Jungle?

You'll soon be able to add Armored Destrier and the other cards from Temple of the Deceived to your decks. Will you use them to sail an army of Gondor allies to the jungle? Will you lead them with the Lore Ranger Faramir or the Leadership Boromir? How will you proceed across the scenario's unique grid of Uncharted locations?

Start preparing today for your jungle expedition. Temple of the Deceived is scheduled to arrive at United States retailers on Thursday, June 30th!

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