This article will contain spoilers for the conclusion of the narrative of the Against the Shadow cycle. If you haven’t played this quest yet, go in blind and come back in order to not be spoiled by the big surprise.
The Morgul Vale is the conclusion of the Against the Shadow cycle and it ends just like the Dwarrowdelf cycle, with a boss battle. Actually, three boss battles. This is one of the quests that can be beaten by a mono-Tactics deck since the main quest cards do not require any progress on them. This also makes Morgul Vale a good side-quest scenario, as you won’t have to go to the main quest ever. The scenario also features the To The Tower objective, that serves as a kind of Time counter for players to hurry up and kill the bosses, else the timer reaches 10 and Faramir is lost to the Nazgul. The scenario is pretty fun, but players might get engaged with a lot of enemies and lose to the continuous attacks. Alternatively, if they do not quest hard enough, they will not clear the active location, which can ensure loss due to location lock. So this isn’t a scenario to take lightly, but that is to be expected if you tread into the domain of the Nazgul:
The Morgul Vale
- Found in Against the Shadow cycle, Adventure Pack 6
- Official Difficulty: 7
- Community Difficulty: 8
- Encounter Sets: The Morgul Vale, Mordor Elite, Creatures of the Forest
- Quest cards: 3
- Play if: You want a battle-focused quest against some boss enemies, you want to try a Trap deck, you want to give your mono-Tactics deck a spin and don’t mind facing tough enemies, you want to play a side-quest deck but grow tired of Hills of Emyn Muil, you have a mono-sphere deck that you want to test (preferably Tactics), you want to beat bosses with Direct Damage.
- What is different about this quest?: No progress on the main quest, To The Tower objective, 3 boss type enemies with bodyguards, Strong enemies, multisphere hate
- Solo or Multiplayer?: I will advise that this scenario is most enjoyable in 2-3 players, though if you can win this quest in solo, your deck will be very well balanced. I would suggest all decks run some sort of Sentinel and especially Ranged to help out during combat. Some decks will have to focus on willpower, allowing the others to handle combat. Having at least 1 deck bring direct damage can make the final stage really easy.
- Can I run side-quests for this scenario?: You not only can, I would suggest you absolutely do so. This quest will work beautifully with a side-quest deck. You will be able to gather some nice support when clearing these cards. The cards I would be most in favour of are the Tactics side-quests. These will help you immensely during combat.
- What to look out for: Enemy swarm, boss level enemies at every stage, Time counter with loss condition, multiple attacks from enemies, multisphere decks hate.
There are quite a few unique cards in the encounter deck, so players will have to remove them from the deck during setup. This includes the 3 Captain enemies, The White Bridge location, and the To The Tower Objective. Then, the players will add 1 copy of Morgul Vale to the staging area and put in the first Captain enemy, Murzag in the staging area as well. At this point, any character named Faramir is removed from the game. It will be best to not run this hero, as players will not be able to use him during the scenario. After setup, there is 5 threat in the staging area. For solo players, this may be hard to overcome during the first round, especially since they will have to add another card to the staging area during staging. For more than 1 player, the setup is much easier to overcome. After these cards have been added to the staging area, the players can flip the quest card and start the first planning phase.
Quest card 1: The Rearguard
This quest stage has no quest points, no keywords, and no other special trigger except that Murzag can only leave play if he is destroyed. This shuts down any shenanigans that players might want to use in order to cheat their way around this stage. Once the Captain enemy Murzag is destroyed, the players immediately advance to the next stage. I will advise players to stall a little at this stage, but not too long, since the To The Tower objective will continuously tick towards 10. During the first planning phase, players will do great by putting out a couple of side-quests right away.
Willpower shouldn’t really be a priority at this point in the game, but the players should not fail the quest. This can lead to a rapid increase in threat and a potential location lock. But over questing by 20 is really pushing it, you might want to keep back a couple of attackers/defenders for combat.
This stage all revolves around Murzag. This boss enemy will summon forth a lot of additional enemies when he attacks. These enemies don’t make additional attacks against the engaged player but can still make your next combat phase more difficult. A great way around this effect will be to cancel his attacks. Feint or even Forest Snare will be a great counter against his 5 attack and his mustering effect. If you can continuously cancel Murzag’s attacks, you will be in good shape to deal with other enemies. When players are ready (or if To The Tower has more than 3/4 counters on it) it is time to put an end to Murzag. His 2 defence and 7 hitpoints are easily overcome by a joint attack between multiple characters with Ranged support. Characters like Beorn and Eowyn can also do massive amounts of damage to Murzag and any potential bodyguards that are in play.
The second that Murzag dies, the players advance to the next stage. There are no real triggers when transitioning between stages, other than the fact that the Captain enemy gets replaced by Lord Alcaron.
Quest card 2: The Betrayal
This was one of the biggest plot twists in the game, and people are still wary of objective characters because of this betrayal (looking at you, Sahir!). It turns out that Lord Alcaron was a Black Numenorian who went in undercover in a grand scheme to capture the sons of Denethor. With Faramir still being raced towards the city of Minas Morgul, it will be your job to kill the traitor and catch up with Faramir’s captors.
When this stage is revealed, players add the Lord Alcaron enemy to the staging area. He will definitely come down during the next combat phase, as his engagement cost is only 10. He will definitely come down unless some players are increasing his engagement cost. This might not be worth it though, as he will still come down next turn unless players are very deep into Secrecy, which is unlikely.
The rest of the stage is basically the same as the previous stage, but now with Lord Alcaron as the Captain instead of Murzag. Lord Alcaron is less of a threat in terms of stats compared to Murzag, having only 4 attack and 5 hitpoints. However, Lord Alcaron has the ability to attack multiple times. If he is dealt a shadow card without a shadow effect, he makes an additional attack with a new shadow card. This resets his ability, making it quite likely that players will have to stomach a 4 attack strength enemy for multiple times until he finally gets a shadow effect. Having a defender in place who does not exhaust to defend will be useful. Beorn can only do so much, but Vigilant Dunedan will be a great counter to this Captain. Buff him up with Blade Mastery or Arwen, and he will be able to tank any attack Lord Alcaron makes until a shadow effect is revealed.
Cancelling the attack of Lord Alcaron can also be a strategy that players might want to use. This will still force players to give Lord Alcaron shadow cards for each attack he would have made, but the players do not resolve any of the attacks. This seems a bit weird, but the bottom line is that the players will discard cards from the encounter deck until a card with a shadow effect is discarded, and then continue with the other attacks.
The other Forced effect on Lord Alcaron is that he places a progress token on To The Tower every time he attacks. This can result in a quick gain of resources here, which can lead to an early loss for the players. Cancelling his attack will prevent any progress tokens to be placed on the objective.
Try to kill Lord Alcaron as quickly as you can, if you have the possibility to use Quick Strike, do so. This will prevent Lord Alcaron from getting any attacks in and allows the players to dispatch him with ease. His 3 defence can be tough, but his 5 hitpoints and lack of immunity make him quite vulnerable to any trick you have that deals damage to Lord Alcaron. Try using Spears of the Citadel on your defender in case he makes an additional attack. Pursuing the Enemy, Rain of Arrows, and various other effects can force Alcaron to take more damage. This allows players to dispatch him with ease and move on to the next stage.
Quest card 3: The Morgul Rider
When this stage is revealed, The White Bridge and Nazgul of Minas Morgul are added to the staging area. On top of this, each player will reveal an additional encounter card and adds it to the staging area. This causes the threat in the staging area to shoot up significantly, but players should be able to remove the majority by travelling to the White Bridge and engaging the Nazgul. Any additional enemies can also be engaged at this point since the threat of the players will be getting quite high.
The first thing to do at this stage is to travel to the White Bridge. This removes a huge chunk of threat out of the staging area and allows players to quest successfully next turn. If there is another location in the active location slot, it should be explored as soon as possible. During the first planning phase at this stage, players can also choose to bring in a West Road Traveller to swap the active location with the White Bridge. Most of the other locations will be good targets for any location control cards in order to clear it. A funny combination to use with the White Bridge is to use Thror’s Key on it when it is added to the staging area. Blanking the text box of the location will make the location have no more quest points remaining. This immediately discards the location, getting rid of a lot of threat.
The big thing about this stage is, of course, the Nazgul of Minas Morgul. This enemy hits for 7 attack at a minimum and cannot have attachments. On top of this, his ability reads that any damage dealt to the Nazgul is reduced to 1. This has some interesting effects, as players will still have to deal the damage to the Morgul Bodyguard first, and then reduce any leftover damage that would be dealt to the Nazgul to 1 before dealing the damage itself. This ability forces players to find new ways of dealing damage to the Nazgul once any Bodyguard is taken care of. A good option is to have your defender wield a Spear of the Citadel. This will damage the Nazgul during his attacking step. Other strategies include using Ranger Bows on him while he is in the staging area. This can deal a lot of direct damage to the Nazgul before he even comes down. Multiple Rains of Arrows will also do the trick, as well as Hail of Stones or Skyward Volley. Special mention goes to Fresh Tracks, which can keep the Nazgul in the staging area, allowing players to use any direct damage trick they have to kill it in the staging area. Having at least 1 deck bring Direct Damage will do wonders against the Nazgul and can allow the players to win with ease. the new Bow of Yew card from Wilds of Rhovanion is also a great fit against this Nazgul. Just exhaust the Bow to deal 1 damage to him. Since it is independent of the attack, you can put an additional damage on him if you manage to breach the defence.
When the Nazgul is defeated, the players have immediately won the scenario. This concludes the Against the Shadow cycle. Players can now read the backstory of Alcaron before they move on to the Fords of Isen and the Ringmaker cycle.
The Encounter Deck
- Cards to reveal in this encounter deck are 43 in Normal mode. This gets slashed down to 30 in Easy mode.
- Shadow effects on cards go from 79% in Normal mode to a whopping 90% in Easy mode. Shadow cancellation is highly advised as these shadow effects will raise your threat, boost attack strength, and place tokens on To The Tower.
- Average threat on cards revealed is 1.5-1.6 between both modes. This quest does have a lot of high threat cards to throw at you, so there is a high deviation from this average.
- Terror Drives Them automatically surges, but The Dead City Looms can also surge if there are no progress tokens on the objective yet. 5 cards out of 43 surges, not enough for me to include Lanwyn.
- Doomed is present on The Power of Mordor (Doomed 3) and Sleepless Malice (Doomed 2). Outside those effects, there are a lot of other threat raising effects, so player Doomed cards is not really an option unless you bring enough threat reduction (for your entire team).
- Archery is not the focus of this scenario, but it is still present on the Orc Arbalesters. They tend to do more damage if you are bringing more players to the table. Try to play mono-sphere decks to avoid a big hit in Archery.
Note that these statistics do not include the objective, White Bridge, and any of the Captain enemies. They tend to increase your threat in the staging area a little more than what you would think based on the statistics above.
The To The Tower objective will stay in play for the entire game and cannot leave the staging area. This makes it immune to Power of Mordor, but the card still counts to the number of cards that have to be added from the encounter deck. This objective will force players to discard any copy of Faramir from the game at the beginning of the game. Since he has been captured, there is no purpose in having a clone of him chasing down the Orcs.
This objective serves as a kind of time counter before the real Time keyword was introduced. The encounter deck will try to put progress tokens on this objective, and when the tenth progress token is placed on this card, the players have lost the game. Since tokens are only placed here due to encounter card effects, a multiplayer game will be in more danger of losing the quest because of this objective. In solo plays, the objective rarely goes above 5 tokens if players can reliably kill Lord Alcaron before he makes too many attacks.
Since the White Bridge is directly linked to this objective, alongside some other effects, it is in the players best interest to try and minimize the number of progress tokens on this objective. This can be done by exploring Morgul Roads and returning them to the top of the deck with A Watchful Peace or Shadow of the Past. Avoiding chump blocking will also reduce the number of progress tokens on the objective. Some shadow effects will tend to put progress here if the defending character leaves play.
The various enemies in this scenario are there to slow you down and keep you occupied before you can hit back at the Captains. I have already covered how to deal with the Captains in the scenario overview since that is the way you can progress. Any other new enemies that are not a Captain are listed here.
- Morgul Bodyguard: While the Bodyguard themselves aren’t a big threat during the combat phase, they will soak up any damage that would have been dealt to a Captain enemy. The damage is dealt to a single Bodyguard at a time, not counting its defence. This makes the Bodyguards a nuisance as they soak up the damage that would have otherwise been dealt to the Captain. The Bodyguards will, therefore, be a priority to kill for any player who wishes to advance. The Bodyguards have lower defence values than most Captains, so they should be the first target of attack during the combat phase before the Captain is attacked. Note that the final Captain, the Nazgul of Minas Morgul, doesn’t lower the damage dealt to the Bodyguards by 1. Only if you deal damage to the Nazgul does it get reduced to 1. The bodyguards will be easier to bring down in a multiplayer game, as players all join in on one massive attack with Ranged support. This can kill the Bodyguards and spill any excess damage to the Captain.
- Morgul Sorcerer: This enemy feels a lot like another Goblin enemy from the Dwarrowdelf cycle. Low engagement cost (you rarely see single digit engagement costs) and poor stats can make for a weak enemy. But this Sorcerer can pack a decent punch, so you don’t want to have his attack go through undefended. The Sorcerer gets a shadow card each time a progress token is placed on To The Tower. This can be an easy step to miss, so try to scan the board for this enemy if you have just placed any number of progress tokens on the objective. His effect also means that if shadow effects like his own or Morgul Vale place a progress on the objective, he receives an additional shadow card for the next attack. You do not resolve this attack during that combat phase though. His 4 combined defensive stats make him a good target for heavy hitting characters like Quickbeam and Beorn. Istari and Ent allies can also usually take care of this guy without too much trouble.
- Morgul Tracker: Revealing this enemy is never a good thing. The Tracker has an insane 4 threat right off the bat and a very high engagement cost at 40. The rest of the stats aren’t too great so players will be able to take this one down very easily. However, when this enemy is optionally engaged, to get its threat out of the staging area, players must place 1 token on To The Tower. Now, there are some ways to deal with this enemy to make it less of a threat. First off, his defence value is 0, so he is a perfect target for Straight Shot, getting rid of his threat at the cost of a weapon exhausting. Second, this enemy is the perfect target to draw out of the encounter deck with Dunedain Hunter or Wait No Longer. He will not be optionally engaged, and you will be able to dispatch him with ease. Another great card to use on this enemy is Followed. His 4 threat will now be subtracted from the threat in the staging area. Adding Emyn Arnen Rangers to the mix will allow for some great willpower to be committed to the quest each round. You will be able to absorb the hits of this enemy with heroes like Beorn or take them undefended. You can also put a Forest Snare on this enemy, but that is better placed on different enemies.
The Vale of Minas Ithil is a dark place to be. The locations in this scenario emphasize this, though some locations are actually beneficial to players. The locations aren’t the biggest threat in this scenario, but if you don’t clear them, you can end up getting stuck with them in the staging area. Location control will be beneficial for your decks. Keep an Asfaloth ready to get rid of an Orc War Camp, should you encounter one and there are no Orcs in the staging area.
- Morgul Road: this location is actually beneficial to the players in some ways. Its threat is relatively low, allowing players to travel to other locations before clearing this one. Once the Morgul Road leaves play as an explored location, the first player may choose to remove a token off of To The Tower or deal 1 damage to an enemy in play. The progress tokens can be quite nice to get rid off, but the damage is also a good option for some targets. The first one being the Nazgul of course. Since this enemy can only take damage 1 at a time, this effect will knock him down 1 HP regardless. This is only blocked if players have a Morgul Bodyguard still in play. The other good target are the Forest Bats who are immediately killed with this effect. This can prevent players from having to engage another enemy this round. If there are no juicy targets for the damage, try to keep tokens off of the objective if you can. This will help you with effects like The Dead City Looms.
Getting more copies of this Road in play is always good if you can reliably explore them (in the staging area). Fish these locations out with The Hidden Way or put them back on top of the encounter deck with A Watchful Peace. This way, you can deal with the objective nicely, and ping some enemies off as well.
- Morgul Vale: This is the location that starts off in the staging area as a part of the setup. It is quite nasty as it will force each player to return 1 enemy to the staging area at the end of the round. During the first stage, this can be annoying as not all players will be set up yet, and having extra enemies in the staging area will require a lot of willpower to overcome. This will also force players to send back any enemies who got trapped while they were engaged with a player or prevent players from playing traps during the planning phase. There are no real ways around this effect, other than clearing this location as soon as possible. This will also get rid of 3 threat if you are clearing it in the staging area. Its 3 quest points will be easily overcome by effects like Heirs of Earendil or standard location control cards. Blanking this location’s text box will also help, though you might want to save Thror’s Key for the White Bridge. The effect on this location will stack with any additional copies that could be in play.
- The White Bridge: This location is added to the staging area at the moment players transition between stages 2 and 3. The location is unique and has a threat and quest point value equal to the number of tokens on To The Tower. This makes it quite vulnerable though. A location with X quest points will get to 0 quest points if the text box is blanked, exploring it immediately. This makes Thror’s Key the perfect piece of tech against the location. If you cannot use this combination, try to get Ghan-Buri-Ghan out once this location is active. Chances are that the Bridge will have a decent amount of threat, so making the location active should be a priority once it is in play. Players can also try and minimize the number of progress tokens on To The Tower to avoid a large sudden increase in threat at that stage.
Most of the treacheries will centre around placing more tokens on the To The Tower objective. This will increase the stats on the White Bridge and various other effects. It will also make it more likely that you will reach the 10 tokens, at which point Faramir is captured and the players lose the game. Try to clear as many Morgul Roads as you can to limit the number of tokens on the objective.
- Impenetrable Fog: This card poses a real problem for the players. It gives them the decision to either add 3 tokens to To The Tower or reveal an encounter card for each player in the game. In true solo, this choice is obvious, take the additional encounter card. This treachery will just replace itself and do nothing else. For more players, it really depends on your board state at the time. If you have been having no problems with clearing the board of enemies then additional encounter cards don’t seem like a big deal. But if the objective has next to no progress on it and you are in the later stages of the game, it will be easy to put 3 tokens there and be done with it. Cancelling this card is also always an option if you don’t want either option to trigger. In easy mode, both copies of this card are removed, so you don’t have to worry about this difficult choice.
- Sleepless Malice: Another tough treachery that will either drain your hand or place a progress on the To The Tower objective. This one is less punishing though. If you do find yourself having a full hand and not the resources to pay for them, discarding 3 cards isn’t too bad. The only downside is that you do not get to pick the cards you want to discard but have to discard them randomly. This will involve a bit of luck, which may be hard to come by, I speak from experience. The other option, to put 1 progress on the objective isn’t too bad, especially during the early game. In a solo game I would definitely recommend picking the progress, but in multiplayer, someone will have to discard cards from his hand to prevent Faramir from getting to Minas Morgul. Cancelling is always an option for this one, but you will still have to take the Doomed 2.
- Terror Drives Them: I find myself putting progress on the objective from this effect more often than the other ones. This treachery gives the players no choice and places 1 progress on the objective. On top of this, the card surges and replaces itself with another encounter card. While this doesn’t hurt your board state at the beginning of the game, it can be the cause of an underwhelming loss a few hours into the game. Cancelling this card usually isn’t worth it, but if you have the option to do so, it might help in the long run. I also often get these cards chaining into each other, causing a much more problematic 3 progress on the objective. Between all these treacheries, Faramir might reach the Tower sooner than you think.
- The Dead City Looms: Here is another card that might cause an untimely and unsatisfying defeat. The Dead City Looms forces players to raise their threat by the number of tokens on the objective. This can be translated to a casual Doomed 9 at the maximum. This can put players into Valour in the blink of an eye and totally negates Secrecy. I will recommend Free to Choose for Spirit players to counter the gain in threat. I have really come around to this card and it is a great way to negate some big gain in threat. If you reveal this card early in the game, before having any progress on To The Tower, the treachery just surges. It will be good to get these treacheries out sooner rather than later. The shadow effect on this one can also be very nasty. Getting this card in the late game as either an encounter card or shadow card can spell the end for you. Cancelling it at that point will be top priority.
- The Power of Mordor: Here it is again, for the last time. This game-breaking treachery is unable to discard the To The Tower objective because of its text. The 3 Captain enemies are also unable to leave the staging area because of this effect due to the text on the main stage. All of these cards will still count towards the total cards in the staging area, so you will end up revealing more cards than you discarded. Cancelling this effect is also out of the question, and you will have to raise your threat by 3 on top of it all.
Tips and Tricks
- You are not allowed to play any version of Faramir in this scenario. This not only excludes both of his hero versions, but also his Ally form that may still be in your deck. To counteract the potential loss of willpower, you can try to use Sword that was Broken on Aragorn or running a Dwarf/Gondor deck with Dain/Visionary Leadership.
- Don’t waste your progress on the main quest, add some side-quests to the game to make the scenario easier for you. There are no cards that interact with this type of player card, so you are free to explore as many as you can. For suggestions on what side-quests to run, Keep Watch is a great choice. This will make combat a lot easier. If players are running into a lot of enemies engaged with them, try using Delay the Enemy in order to discard some of those enemies. The Morgul Bodyguards will be great targets for this side-quest.
- Mono-Tactics decks can actually function alright against this quest. It negates the effect on the Orc Vanguard and also protects your characters against The Master’s Malice. The new Theoden hero introduced in this pack can definitely be put to good use in this quest. Combine him with Eomer and Tactics Eowyn (or any other heroes that you prefer) for a mono-Tactics deck that can do really well in willpower as well as killing the Captains.
- Forest Snare will do wonders in keeping the first 2 Captains at bay, but will not be an option for the Nazgul. Snaring Murzag or Lord Alcaron will allow players to stall a bit longer before they progress to the next stage.
- Direct Damage is the way to go against the Nazgul of Minas Morgul. Fresh Tracks can pin it in the staging area, allowing players to use every trick they have left in order to kill it. Since he is not immune to player card effects, he can be targetted by so many effects that I can’t name them all. Check out this page for some further suggestions.
- With nearly half the encounter deck being enemies, the players would do well to include Thalin in their decks. Not only will he damage each enemy revealed by the encounter deck (not the Captains), but that can cause him to get rid of those Forest Bats as well. This prevents quite a bit of damage and willpower in the long run.
- If you are looking for a fun card to bring with you on this quest, try Tides of Fate. There are a lot of shadow effects that increase attack strength, so it is likely to go off. It will also ready the defending character, allowing it to defend again or attack with a boost if players spend 2 tactics resources. This might come in handy when needing more characters to deal with engaged enemies.
- Morgul Road is a great card to reveal and explore, even in the staging area. During the first two stages you can reduce the progress on To The Tower, and in the final stage, you can deal damage to the Nazgul. Try to put this location back on top of the encounter deck after it has been explored by using A Watchful Peace or Shadow of the Past. Try to time this effect with your shadow cards, exploring it only after the cards have been dealt.
- Cancelling shadow effects and treacheries will allow you to save a couple of progress tokens on the objective. Try to cancel these if you can to save yourself from an underwhelming defeat.
- An easy way to get more damage on the Nazgul of Minas Morgul is to use a Dwarf character and Heavy Stroke to deal 2 times 1 damage to the Nazgul. This cannot be stacked, unfortunately, but using this event might provide you with that last point of damage needed to bring down the Nazgul.
- Note that Murzag isn’t added to the victory display, neither do any of the other Captain enemies. They will just go to the discard pile if they are defeated. This means that it is possible for them to get revealed again after the encounter deck has been reshuffled. Use None Return to get rid of Murzag and Lord Alcaron this way, preventing you from having to engage all 3 Captains at once.
- Bow of Yew is a perfect weapon to bring to the final stage of this quest. Just ping that Nazgul for 1 damage for each Bow you own.
Here are a couple of links to playthroughs of this scenario. You can watch the quest being played and perhaps get more idea’s for decks you would want to bring against this scenario.
- Progression style, 2 players: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zXQhQq6iEY
- Minimum purchase, 1 player: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6qth684EcE
- 3 player: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tqWhrxWpjc
- Full card pool decks (at time of recording), 2 players: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6s0mubBTfbI
This concludes the Against the Shadow cycle. I will go back to do Blood of Gondor in the next instalment of this series, which will finish the cycle. Any feedback on the articles is welcome, and if you would like to do the analysis on the Nightmare versions of this quest, let me know!