StrategiCon/Feb 2020 - DC Playtest Frenzy, Part 1

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StrategiCon/Feb 2020 - DC Playtest Frenzy, Part 1

Post by TradewindRider »

I’d purchased the original First Folk and Durin’s Folk sets a few years ago and, at the time, I was eager to build a deck around one of my most favorite characters in Middle-Earth, Dain. I like tooling around in Dragon country and have a number of hero and minion decks geared to the area, so I looked forward to the opportunity for new factions and allies very near to the Iron Hill Dwarf-Hold, with the long-term goal of restoring the area around Dale to its former glory. However, I ended up not playing the deck too much—partly because the recommended 80-card deck really slowed the game and the statistical variations of an 80-card deck were not to my liking, plus the added difficulties of *shuffling* an 80-card deck became a hindrance as well.

When Necromancer arrived last fall, I tried again to deal with my issues above, but as I adapted my existing Lidless Eye dragon faction deck to the DC format, I realized I won’t be playing DC decks as much as I want to until I skinny them down to the 30/30 format of the basic game decks. I know this goes all against the best advice out there, and 30/30 decks forego so many of the neat quests and missions that really take time to set up. But for me, I just want to experience the DC format more often, so I prepared for last weekend’s gaming with six DC-legal 30/30 decks for active playtest with the others in the group.

What follows is my rationale for deck design, most of which are adaptations of some tried-and-true hero strategies, along with some of the play highlights. There are many many wrinkles to iron out, and I expect I will be fine-tuning these decks for many conventions to come, but at least I will be playing the DC format regularly and hopefully increasing the interest level among the others in the group. I approached the games not to compete, but rather to entertain by showing what an amazing experience DC games can be, and (of course) to better learn the DC rules—so I brought all three rules books with me to the convention to ensure all reference information was immediately available. Last but not least, I have intentionally not read any of the previous postings here regarding DC deck design because I enjoy organically discovering what works (and in particular, what works for me), so much of what follows will be “old hat” to veteran DC players—regardless, any and all feedback (to include any illegalities I might have committed in deck design or card play) would be most welcome. :)

Galadriel Elf-Lord vs Lidless Eye Spellcasters

Starting Characters: Celeborn, Lord of Lorien; Galdor; Glorfindel
Starting Stage Cards: Trusted Companion (on Celeborn), Blind to All Else
Starting Minor Items: 2x Rumours of Rings, Star Glass

The first game of the weekend saw the most experimental of my DC decks, as I wanted to try out as many of Galadriel’s fetch cards as possible. The mission I adopted from the basic game was a standard ring-deck, and as mentioned in the First Folk rulebook, Lorien is smack dab in the middle of most of the nicer ring sites. The play-through revealed that one Rumours of Rings probably suffices, as Essay on Ringcraft retrieves Magic Rings directly and Aegnor is in the deck to facilitate ring-testing later on in the game. There is also Gwaith-i-Mirdain (a unique DC resource card that I had a heck of a time finding), the obligatory Leaf Brooches, and Rings of Power to recycle gold rings as well as to defend against the inevitable Rolled Down to the Sea. There was no intention to work towards A Lady Rules Upon Arda, but the Scroll was included to allow Elf-King to be played. To enable all of this, I decided to forego Royal Duo and Active Governess for the time being, with Galadriel squatting at Lorien and supporting the ring parties from afar. In addition, I do not have a dwarf in the deck to maximize MPs for the dwarven rings, but it seems there will be enough ring points anyway so I need to look at other MP sources for balance.

In retrospect, it would have been better to use Awakened Plants as the hazard side for this deck, since the playable sites and regions are much closer to Lorien, but I had already reserved the Awakened Plants hazards for Fallen Radagast (see below). I used spiders to take advantage of the King Spiders as 3 of the required 8 DC cards on the hazard side, with the usual spider creatures supported by Full of Froth and Rage plus Protecting Their Domain. I do like King Spider for its luck factor, and I’ll have to find a way to include it in a deck next time we have an MECCG gathering in Vegas, and Black Crows is very nice for bringing back spiders for return engagements.

After shuffling out a highly illegal starting company (no, Hobbits are *not* Elves, lol), I settled on the above listing, with Galdor (bearing the Star Glass) sitting in as a follower of Celeborn until I find someone better. Gandalf Gene’s spellcaster minions started out in nearby Dol Guldur, so it was clear we were going to be butting heads in short order. My maneuver party actually went to the Gladden Fields and acquired a gold ring with no problems, but the next transit was perilous as a tapped Galdor was accosted by not one, but two Slayers, with no help as everyone else in the party was tapped. Fortunately, I was rolling very hot dice (as I always seem to the first couple of hours of a convention), and he rolled an 11, 10, 10, and 9 in that order to turn back the Slayers with naught but a flesh wound. Lady Galadriel started to get the Show Things Unbidden machine going when she arrived, and the ring party made their way eventually to Ost-in-Edhil.

We played until our decks cycled and didn’t both to count up points as we still had a long road to travel for our missions. For the next iteration, I’m looking to start Lady of Many Visions and Lady of Many Gifts instead of Blind to All Else, in order to have her fetch cards available right from the get-go. I would also like to main-deck Bears of the Carrock and bring in Beorning Skin-Changers from the sideboard if I match up against minions. I did include Mithrandir in case Wizard’s Test is needed but it occurs to me as I write this that some of the old-school spells can be played with this card, *without* the corruption checks. There are plenty of satisfactory candidates to replace the second Rumours of Rings as the third minor item, so that deserves some thought. All in all, a decent start to the DC playtest for the weekend.

DC Fallen Radagast vs Lidless Eye Spellcasters

Starting Characters: Faramir; Annalena; Gildor Inglorion; Bilbo; Fatty Bolger
Starting Stage Cards: Wizard’s Myrmidon (on Bilbo), Friend of Secret Things
Starting Minor Items: Elf Stone (on Faramir), Thrall-Ring (on Bilbo), Shield of Iron-Bound Ash (on Gildor)

This deck came together rather quickly based on the simple idea of incorporating Awakened Plants hazards to support Fallen Radagast, which is incredibly thematic and more than amply supported by a great number of additional DC hazards to pick from. The four Ent allies are now available as hazard creatures or half-creatures, enabling (along with Nature’s Revenge) Tree-Herder to be played, with basic-game Ents in Search of Ent-Wives and Old Man Willow filling out the ranks. Among the new DC support cards, Wrath of the Olvar seemed the best, although the combination of Dark Heart and Sentinel of the Grove can be very useful as well. Yavanna’s Plea is *probably* a sideboard card, as the hazard side was almost half DC cards, well in excess of the 25% minimum.

The starting companies are little changed from what was sitting on my shelf, with Bilbo controlling Fatty, and the third minor item affording Gildor some additional protection. In Accord with Nature was a possibility, but was not in synch with my starting company preferences, so I decided to not change the character suite in the end. I’ve dithered between starting or not starting Friend of Secret Things, and this time it was there in the beginning to speedily gather allies (facilitated by Come at Need) and staging points to play the Girdle of Radagast as quickly as possible. However, the missions bogged down as usual, with the Hobbits and then the other party sitting at a tapped Wellinghall waiting for the proper support and MP cards. My items were the Cloak of Many Colours, to be retrieved by Radagast at the Dead Marshes, and Bilbo’s Magic Ring, which is available at the Under-Grottos but (in hindsight) is a bit of a stretch.

In the event, Radagast was late to arrive (who said a Wizard is never late?) at Rhosgobel, though he did fly off to Tom’s House to convince the resident Maia to join the cause. Unfortunately, the airborne scouts of the Lidless Eye detected this diplomatic mission and guided Taladhan to the site, fighting through weak opposition to unleash the Hounds of Sauron—at Tom’s House!—wounding Radagast (in his Winged Change-Master mode) in the process. Worse was to come, as Elerina noticed the large squatting party at Wellinghall and decided to pay a visit to infect Faramir, which she did! Faramir failed the corruption check, turned Traitor and stabbed Annalena in the back on his way out, and that was pretty much game right there, lol!

After the fact, the resource side of my Fallen Radagast deck still has the MP and pacing problems it had previously, and this issue was not helped much by an otherwise viable hazard side. As mentioned above, I will likely transplant the Awakened Plants hazard side to the Galadriel Elf-Lord deck, which retains the thematic element and supports the ring mission. Perhaps I can take a page from Dan’s hazard playbook and support Fallen Radagast with Wolves, especially with Werewolf now available from the Necromancer set…

Elrond Elf-Lord vs Dan’s Eriador/Short Rest Deck

Starting Characters: Glorfindel; Erestor; Elladan
Starting Stage Cards: Captain of the House (on Glorfindel), Possessions of the High Elves
Starting Minor Items: Shield of Iron-Bound Ash (on Erestor), Elven Rope (on Elladan), Elf Stone (on Glorfindel)

Last game on Friday night was against Dan and his well-proven Eriador/Short Rest deck. I’ve not put together an old-school Elves combat deck since shortly after Gandalf Gene started to teach me the game back in 2010, but this was certainly the way to go for Lord Elrond. Captain of the House is a *must* on Glorfindel, though committing to this is a risk when drafting against a hero or another Elf-Lord deck. Possessions clearly telegraphs the intention to gather the seeing-stones, but I was more excited at the prospects of easily obtaining Miruvor or even Jewels of Beleriand from the beginning. Instead of Captain of the House, Trusted Counsellor is always a wise choice, but there were already in other decks and the 8-8-4 starter configuration worked out nicely in this instance.

In the deck was Celebrian, who arrived early in the game, and her skills automatic +1 to prowess of other party members when not moving to a haven is amazing. If Master Healer comes out early, then the Herb-Lore becomes an option, so the maneuver party can stay out as long as they like. I did not get the opportunity to use Ring of Air to begin power-using Vilya’s, but it was included, as was Moon-Runes to provide alternate sources of character and faction MPs. I did complete the Reconstructed Towers mission, which seems one of the easiest quest cards included in the DC sets so far, and Aranruth was also included to possibly enable Elf-King. Last but not least, Ulmo’s Watch provides a great deal of protection on those long cross-Eriador marches.

The hazard side was much more generic, packing my usual favorite drake creatures (Cave Worm, Cave Drake, and Rain Drake) backed up by a suite of corruption cards. The hazard manifestations of Tom, Goldberry, Arwen, and the Sons of Elrond were included to help comply with the 8-DC card minimum, but it became immediately clear that these were not easily playable since I was also using the characters. With Bolg, Son of Azog available, perhaps a future iteration will include the other unique Orc and Troll hazards for flavor, otherwise the best hazard strategy for this deck is still an open question.

In any case, this game differed vastly from the earlier games against Gandalf Gene in that both Dan and I greatly benefitted from each other’s supporting resource cards, so it became something of a mutual admiration society. He would play Short Rest and I’d say thank you, and I’d return the favor by casting Gates of Morning. I’d forgotten my basic hero deck design lessons and will replace the Evenstars with Echo of All Joy, but for someone who usually relies on stealth and secrecy, marching around with beefy Elves was quite a revelation. The White Towers were cleaned out with no issues, and I do not remember that our creature hazards actually made any difference in the game. Dan did get his massive Short Rest draws early, but these draws did not include his big-ticket item MPs, and my corruption cards slowed him down enough that we were pretty much at a standstill at mid-20s MPs each when we cycled our decks. So ended the first day of gaming.
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