Deckbuilding: To Catch an Orc

Continuing on this series with the Voice of Isengard deluxe, we move on to To Catch an Orc. At this point I’m very happy to play this series in solo, because this quest in higher player counts can become pretty much impossible. It will still be a big challenge to find a deck to beat this quest consistently, because it can go in very different directions. Sometimes, you find Mugash early, so you need early attack power (in addition to high willpower because you need to make progress from the start). In other games Mugash will appear later and the risk of location lock is greater. So we need to have a well-rounded deck, that isn’t relying too much on certain cards, because they might be in your Out-of-Play-deck.

Initial deck construction

The first hero that came to my mind to achieve this was Treebeard. He can have high attack and willpower right from the start, and we can probably get some healing cards out during a longer game.

When I build a deck with Treebeard, I pretty much always want a Silvan or Noldor hero to get Lembas on to Treebeard. There are a couple good options, but I picked here Spirit Glorfindel who can help with Location management through Asfaloth, has also good questing and attacking stats, and balances Treebeard’s high threat. Our third hero will be Lore Denethor, who is our main defender and can help to get rid of some surging cards. He can also carry Mugash at the end of the game when Treebeard has some readying to defend.

With a Lore/Spirit line-up, we have some decent questing allies who have more than one hitpoints so they can survive a hit from Take Cover! They will be our base to keep up with threat the encounter deck throws at us. We add some healing and with Thror’s Key and Strider’s Path ways to get around Broken Lands which would shut down Asfaloth. This is how our first deck list looks like:

Inital deck

You might recognize a lot of two and one offs in this first draft. I like this for deck testing, you can see which cards you will need and then go for more consistency.

I played the deck 3 times and could only win one of them, when I revealed Mugash very late. The deck could handle the Locations quite easily and keep up with the encounter willpower wise. My loses came when I wasn’t ready for Mugash when I revealed him, either not being able to kill him fast enough or then not making it through stage 3 in time and have to fight him again. So I shifted the focus of the deck on getting to this board state as fast possible (more on that later). I constantly made changes to the deck during around 5 playtesting attempts (I stopped counting at some point), until I was finally happy with this new version of the deck:

Final deck list

Adjustments

You see that this decklist is much shorter because there are less different cards in it, going for efficiency to fight Mugash. To deal with him in a single round, we need:

  • 12 attack. Our heroes have a potential of 11, but we want to quest with them so we need our readying attachments or some extra attacking allies like Quickbeam or Eryn Galen Settler
  • A Chump blocker, the Horse-Breeder is the best option

Until this is set up we don’t explore any search locations. The deck is normally able to keep up with threat in the beginning. If you draw Asfaloth in your opening hand, you can take Mugashs Lair during setup so you can explore that location without having to do a search.

A card that was surprisingly strong was Ranger Spikes, because it counters Orc Hunting Party. This treachery would normally often surge because there is no enemy in the staging area, but if one is in the Spikes, it whiffs without surging.

I played three additional games with the deck. I was able to win two times, once when Mugash was in the last 5 cards and once when he appeared in the midgame. During my last attempt he showed up when I explored my second search location. At the end I was two progress short of clearing stage 3 before the time ticked off and Mugash killed a hero, but I feel like this deck can beat the quest even if you reveal Mugash early.

I will name this deck “The good, the bad and the ugly”. You can probably figure out by yourself which hero is representing which movie character…

Conclusion

This quest really turned into a puzzle for me, trying to find the most efficient way to kill Mugash while still mustering enough quest power. I enjoyed this more than I was expecting, but will probably not return to this quest anytime soon. If you play this quest, I recommend thinking about if you want to beat it’s different scenarios (depending when Mugash shows up) which is an interesting and possible frustrating challenge or if you play it until you get a win if you find Mugash at the right moment.

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