Deckbuilding: The Fords of Isen

Hey, it’s Roka here, with the honour to introduce you to a new article format for Vision of the Palantir. In those posts I will take the quest analyses on this blog and use them in practice, by building and tweaking a deck for a specific quest that can beat it regularly. I will use full card pool and don’t try to stay thematic, so I have a great range of tech cards available and don’t rely on overall powerful staples.

I will begin this series with the Ring-maker cycle, which also was my starting point to the game. I picked it right up with the Core Set in 2016, mainly because I love the Rohan narrative in The Two Towers and it was awesome to get Grima and Eomer in the same box. Since then I played this game a lot, both in Solo play were I mainly test new decks (sometimes two-handed fellowships) and also with my brothers in 2-3 player mode. I live in the beautiful country of Switzerland with German as my native language, so forgive me any grammar mistakes.


Deckbuilding: The Fords of Isen

The Fords of Isen causes two big issues for deckbuilding: We have to keep our hand size low and give up card draw effects, and we also have to deal with a lot of enemies, so one big defender a la Beregond probably won’t be enough. But there’s a card that can help us to deal with both of these problems, which is the Watcher of the Bruinen. He doesn’t need to exhaust to defend as long as we can discard a card from our hand, which can be an advantage in this quest. I love the irony that an ally with another river in its name can give us this advantage against the Fords of Isen. He’s a bit squishy with two defence and two hit points, but there are the Hauberk of Mail and Raiment of War to boost him. So this ally will be the cornerstone of our deck.

Initial deck construction

It might take some time to get this ally defender going with no card draw, so I will use the already from Durin’s Father mentioned hero Beorn who can keep us alive until we get our ally defender out. He can take two of the 6 enemies out by himself, so we can choose those at the beginning of a quest stage to kill them immediately. For questing we use hero Arwen with her 3 quest power who can again help us discard cards from our hand while also providing the resources to play more cards. We add some Noldor allies which synergize with the discard strategy and the Grey Havens events that become stronger if another copy is in the discard pile. Our final hero is Bard son of Brand, who can use his resources to pay for our ally boosting attachments as well as for our Spirit allies, and can help us with both questing and attacking. On top of this, he can return any attachments from our Watcher of the Bruinen, should his enemy get an unfortunate shadow effect. Here’s a picture of the decklist which I will use for the first playtesting attempts.

Decklist for the first attempts

I playtested the deck 3 times and won 2 times. I mulliganed for the Watcher of the Bruinen and got him always early into play with some armor, so defending was fine. I always managed to keep my hand size under 5 and often even under 3, so a lot of effects weren’t triggered. I was happy to have the spirit Noldor allies instead of one hitpoint questers, because with no healing the direct damage might otherwise become a problem. They also all have a little bit of attack which can be helpful during the last stage, where we have to kill all enemies.

Adjustments

The Trollshaw Scout didn’t pay off, I was already discarding so much for the Watcher that I couldn’t use him. That way Rivendell Blade and Skyward Volley, which were intend to use with him, were also useless, so I will take these 9 cards out. The Guardian of Rivendell wasn’t very good either, but I’ll keep him in the deck for now as an alternative for the Watcher.

In the game I lost the critical card I missed was Silver Harp, so I hadn’t enough cards to discard for the Watcher while still improving my board state. I will add 3 Elven-Light to the deck, to have more stuff to discard. They will trigger some bad effects in this scenario, but I think it would be fine to use them once per round. It’s almost like Feanor’s Light in the Silmarills: Very powerful, but it might turn others (in this case the Dunlendings) mad on you. I then include 3 Defender of Rammas, who can defend some attacks instead of the Guardian. Another reason I lost was that Beorn and the Watcher with Raiment have only 7 combined which can’t kill the big enemies so I had to keep them engaged an extra round. I add 3 Beorn’s rage as a math fixer and then moved on to 3 other games of testing.

The next 3 games I could all win, besides having some unlucky draws from the encounter deck (lots of big enemies and an early Pillaging and Burning). In two of the games the Watcher of the Bruinen didn’t show up early but Guardian of Rivendell and Defender of Rammas helped out. Elven-Light also was helpful and made the deck run more smoothly, even though you have to use it carefully to not end up with too many cards. Beorn’s Rage was once also critical allowing me to defend one more attack with Beorn and then kill an enemy. You see there that it is in general important to know the stats of the enemies so you hit the numbers efficiently. I’m pretty happy with this deck, it feels definetely more consistent the the first draft. I will name it “Watchers of the Isen”, you can find it on RingsDB.

Conclusion

The Fords of Isen forces you to manage your hand carefully between keeping to many cards in hand and have no answers to the encounter deck. I first tried to simply include as much discard effects as possible, but actually replacing some of them with card draw made the deck better. When building your own decks, keep this in mind and adapt your decks until you find the right balance.

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