The Dwarves are one of the earliest developed traits in the game. If you get the first 2 Saga boxes, the Khazad-Dûm Deluxe expansion, and the Return to Mirkwood Adventure Pack, you can already build a pretty solid deck. however, because they got developed so early on, their content has decreased as the game moved to focus on other traits. Once the game entered its seventh cycle, the Dwarf trait has gotten some new cards again, with Ered Mithrin being a little more Dwarf-focused to expand their second synergy. To this day, the Dwarf trait is still one of the largest traits in the game, and players can easily make a 4p fellowship of Dwarves without breaking any uniqueness rules!
Who are the Dwarves?
The game has all 7 houses of the Dwarves under one trait. Most of these are Longbeards (Durin’s Folk), but some Dwarves from the Ered Luin might be from other families. The only named Dwarf from another house is Brok Ironfist. But let’s not mention him again. These stout warriors have had a long history of battles with the Orcs and Goblins, and have a reputation for being stubborn and having excellent stamina. This will be reflected in their overall high HP stats, and their powerful combat abilities.
As mentioned the Dwarves are available early in the life of the game, the following expansions feature Dwarves and their toys. Get the bold printed packs first if you are looking to get a Dwarf deck together:
- Core Set
- 2 player starter set
- Over Hill and Under Hill [3 heroes and ton of support]
- On the Doorstep [3 heroes and ton of support]
- The Treason of Saruman
- Conflict at the Carrock
- Return to Mirkwood [Dain Ironfoot]
- Khazad-Dûm [2 heroes and support for the archetype]
- Dwarrowdelf cycle [Various allies, attachments and events]
- The Morgul Vale
- The Dunland Trap
- Across the Ettenmoors
- Flight of the Stormcaller
- Temple of the Deceived
- The Drowned Ruins
- The Sands of Harad
- The Mumakil
- The Ghost of Framsburg
- Mount Gundabad
- Wrath and Ruin
- Challenge of the Wainriders
The Dwarves are very versatile in that they originate from all 4 spheres of influence. All spheres have enough heroes for a fully fletched mono-sphere Dwarf deck. However, this is not how you should play Dwarves. Just the fact that Narvi’s Belt exists is enough reason to believe that the Dwarves should be combined from across multiple, or even all, spheres. There is no real difference the synergy between the Dwarves from different spheres. Only the main traits of each sphere are amplified for the Dwarves. Nori allows threat reduction for Dwarves in Spirit. Legacy of Durin allows for Card draw in Lore. Erebor Battlemaster will bring the attack strength of the Dwarves for Tactics. And Thorin Oakenshield allows for resource acceleration in Leadership. Combine all of this in one, and you have yourself a very powerful archetype rolled into a single, bearded deck.
The one sphere that I would definitely include in your Dwarf Swarm decks, is Leadership. Attachments like Narvi’s Belt and effects like Lure of Moria can be quite important to your strategy. But it is not needed, a Mono-Tactics Dwarven Armory deck can also be built, pumping out attachments and weapons on heroes across the board. If you are looking to build a Dwarven Mining deck, then you should at least have one or two Spirit Dwarf heroes like Dain Ironfoot. Spirit has a lot more discard options and has been developed to include plenty of mining effects for your Dwarf deck. Other spheres also have Dwarven Mining synergy (Thorin Stonehelm, Ered Nimrais Prospector, Soldier of Erebor) and there are also a ton of Neutral cards you can include in such a mining deck.
The early days of the Dwarves revolved around getting 5 or more Dwarves on the table to allow extra abilities on heroes and unique allies. This can be seen in cards like Hero Bombur, Thorin, and ally Gloin. This synergy can even be achieved during setup in quests like Trouble in Tharbad and the Nin-in-Eilph, where you have an additional Dwarf objective ally from the beginning. Run Bombur as a defender in your deck et voila, 5 Dwarves. Because this strategy was considered too easy, and Dwarf decks were seen as overpowered, and “no fun to play”, Dwarves were not frequently used for a couple of years.
However during the previous 2-3 cycles, a new synergy is rising. Dwarven mining, or discarding cards from the top of your deck, is quickly becoming a new deck archetype. The idea is that you must discard cards from the top of your deck to fuel abilities. There are also cards, like Ered Luin Miner and Hidden Cache, that benefit the player that discards them. Though the synergy is still in development, it is fun to play in my opinion and has resulted in more Dwarf decks being played.
The Dwarves also specialize in unique allies, not only can you almost gather the entire company of Thorin Oakenshield into 1 deck, but allies like Gimli and Azain Silverbeard make your setup even more unique. This does come at a cost though, you will end up with duplicates of allies in your hand, or you will have to dig for that one copy of an ally in your deck. This makes Dwarves a good archetype to use for the Fellowship contract, as they have a ton of unique allies and have powerful buffs that can stack on top of the contract.
Synergy with other traits
Dwarves do not really like to play with others, but their attachments do fit Hobbits as well thanks to the vertical challenges of both races. Attachments like Ring Mail and Boots from Erebor are designed for the smaller races of the free peoples, though I find it hard to believe Hobbits will put on Boots to cover up their feet.
The Dwarves also share a little bit of a synergy with Dale, though it isn’t much. The Armor of Erebor can fit both Dwarves and Dalesmen, which could open the door to a deck that runs Dwarves with some attachments on them, which would be quite powerful. Pair that with for example Bard son of Brand, and you’ll have fully armoured Dwarves, which is a powerful boardstate once set up.
Wow, I’ve talked for the entirety of this article without mentioning the Leadership version of Daín Ironfoot. Well, he is hard to pass up on when looking at building a Dwarf deck. Dain is 90% of the time the Dwarf that is used for access to the Leadership sphere. This is because he globally buffs all Dwarf characters (not only allies, heroes too!) by 1 willpower and 1 attack as long as Dain is ready. This makes even the cheapest of dwarf allies worth more than you are paying for. The global Dwarf buffs keep going when introducing Hardy Leadership. Now all Dwarf allies gain 1 hitpoint as well. This 1/1/0/1 buffed stat line is amazing on the allies and heroes.
Pumping out the Dwarf Swarm, as people have begun to call it, makes good use of Legacy of Durin and King under the Mountain for faster card draw. The pre-errata We Are Not Idle took care of the resources. Nowadays, we have to look elsewhere for those resources, Hidden Cache and Zigil Miners can be used to get that mining synergy going and funding your Dwarven Swarms.
“Bad” Dwarf cards
There are a couple of Dwarf cards that are not used in decks once people have other options. Brok Ironfist (I know, I know, I wasn’t going to mention him again) is one of the worst allies in the game. Other Dwarves that are passed on in most decks are Hero Dori, Veteran of Nanduhirion, and ally Bombur (though his Hero version isn’t popular either). These cards are often placed between the bike spokes or left to gather dust in the binder.
One of the worst cards in the game, according to the community is The End Comes. Very rarely do you want to include this in your deck to recycle the encounter discard pile into the encounter deck. This can be done to make sure that discarded objectives are in the encounter deck again. However, having this trigger only when a Dwarf character leaves play is way too situational for most players.
What the archetype is missing
The Dwarven archetype is very well rounded, but does miss a couple of things that they don’t get within the trait itself. Of course, there is no reason not to run other cards that fill these gaps, but it would be nice to see these things in the future for Dwarves. The first of which is healing. Dwarves tend to have a lot of hitpoints, so healing them won’t be necessary for a while. But in quests that focus a lot on direct damage or Archery damage (A Journey to Rhosgobel, Desert Crossing) Dwarves tend to accumulate too much damage and bite the dust. They have no healing within the trait, and will have to look to standard healing tools to prevent their characters from dying.
The second thing that Dwarves miss is a cost reducer. While some factions have cards that lower the cost of their allies (Heir of Valandil, To the Sea! To the Sea!), Dwarves miss this. I could easily imagine having a card that lowers the cost of the next ally by 1 if you discard a card from the top of your deck, which would help Dwarves to get their more expensive allies on the table faster. Dwarves do have some resource acceleration though, so as long as you run that, you won’t be needing such a cost reducer.
There are many decks and Fellowships that play only Dwarves. Here are a couple of examples to help inspire you to play Dwarves or build your own deck!:
In the end, I like that the Dwarves have helped many players through some tough quests, and they have taken their blame for it. But with the recent mining addition to the archetype, they have become fun to see in play again. I’ll always have a Dwarf deck at the ready to bring to Underground quests, which is where they shine!