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. Only recently have the Dwarves reappeared to use their axes against their enemies.
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.
As mentioned the Dwarves are available early in the life of the game, the following expansions feature Dwarves and their toys:
- Core Set
- Over Hill and Under Hill
- On the Doorstep
- The Treason of Saruman
- Conflict at the Carrock
- Return to Mirkwood
- Dwarrowdelf cycle
- 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 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 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.
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, as of late, 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 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.
Synergy with other traits
Dwarves do not really like to play with others, but their attachments do fit Hobbits as well. 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.
Wow, I’ve talked for the entirety of this article without mentioning 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.
There are many decks and Fellowships that play only Dwarves. Here are a couple of examples:
In the end, I like that the Dwarves have helped many players through some tough quests, and they have taken their blame for it. Now I am eager to see what the Wilderlands cycle has in store for the stout folk under the Mountain.