One of the more controversial mechanics to bring to a multiplayer game is the Doomed mechanic. This set of cards rarely uses resources to pay for their effects, but instead requires all players to raise their threat. It is a difficult mechanic to properly integrate in the decks of all players, so not everyone will be pleased to learn they are playing besides a Doomed deck. But the mechanic can accelerate your deck to top speed very quickly, allowing you to get a quick headstart on the encounter deck. With recent additions to the Doomed archetype, the mechanic has gotten a little better though, so it was worth revisiting this article and updating it to the full card pool until the end of the Vengeance of Mordor cycle.
What is the Doomed mechanic?
Studying the arts of the enemy is dangerous, and while initially it may give you a lot of power, it corrupts your deck and makes you more visible to the servants of Sauron. The mechanic involves the Doomed keyword, which has been on player cards since the very beginning of the game. This time, the keyword is found on player cards as well, and serve as a cost that must be paid before the effect on the card can be triggered. This cost is sometimes the only cost of the card (Deep Knowledge and Legacy of Numenor for instance), but can be an additional cost for the players together with a standard resource cost (Saruman, Waters of Nimrodel). When playing a card with the Doomed keyword, all players in the game must raise their threat by X, where X is the number printed after the Doomed keyword. This works in the same way as the Doomed keyword on encounter cards, and should be familiar with players when they eventually receive player cards with Doomed.
The Doomed mechanic is a powerful one, with some strong abilities behind the threat cost. However, the more you use these events, the higher your threat will go. It is therefore essential that you have a way to reduce your threat or you will be engaging a lot of enemies earlier than expected, and may even threat out near the end. Having a low starting threat gives you some space to Doom yourself up a few points, but I will advise to at least include some threat reduction in your deck to go back down again. Your fellow players may be less enthausiastic about playing Doomed cards, as they will also require threat reduction to not engage more enemies than they would like, or to drop out of Secrecy early. The best tool against this is Lore Aragorn who can drop your threat to the starting value once per game per player. You can move Aragorn across the table with Desperate Alliance, allowing all players eventually to lower their threat down without them including threat reduction of their own.
Because threat reduction is so effective in countering the corruptive nature of the Doomed keyword, the designers added an extra rule to hero Saruman, where the players can only lower their threat by 1 at a time from player card effects. Since Saruman is important to modern Doomed decks, a strategy has to be included in any Doomed deck that lowers the threat as often as possible with only 1 point at a time. Players could also use the Loragorn trick again, but only if they invest in Helm of Secrecy to get rid of Saruman and replace him with Aragorn once your threat reaches a critical level.
Doomed player cards were first introduced in the Voice of Isengard Deluxe expansion and the accompanying Ringmaker cycle. There have been few other Doomed player cards since then, perhaps due to the lack of popularity of this mechanic outside of a solo environment. However, during the Vengeance of Mordor cycle, the mechanic got a bunch of new cards again, including new events and a hero that focuses on the mechanic. Below are the packs that include cards important to the Doomed mechanic. Get the packs in bold first if you are seriously considering tapping into this mechanic.
- The Voice of Isengard (Grima, Keys of Orthanc, 5 events)
- Entire Ringmaker cycle
- Race Across Harad
- Challenge of the Wainriders (Hero Saruman, Saruman’s Staff, 2 events)
- Under the Ash Mountains
There are Doomed cards for all spheres, but Neutral has the most cards with the keyword. This makes the mechanic very splashable into many decks. Decks that want to focus on Doomed and its synergy, really should include Lore. Grima allows you to add Doomed to any card to reduce its cost, which is a huge boost for the mechanic. Deep Knowledge is also one of the most popular Doomed cards in the cardpool, allowing you to fill your hand with cards for no cost of resources. Other Doomed-related cards such as Soldier of Isengard and Isengard Messenger are also worth including in such a deck. Since the Leadership sphere is another sphere with a lot of Doomed and Isengard synergy, you can get a pretty good Doom deck going with a Lore/Leadership setup and adding in some Neutral cards.
Players can also include hero Saruman in their Doomed deck to be able to play Doomed events of any sphere. This also forces you towards the Lore sphere, but allows you to pick any other heroes without having to worry about a sphere match for your events. Having access to Lore with him also allows you to tap into some Istari synergy with cards like Word of Command.
The synergy of this mechanic is easy, at the cost of threat, you get to play cards without having to spend (as many) resources. Waters of Nimrodel is an example of a card that got its cost split between resources and threat, requiring 3 resources and Doomed 3 to play. The cost of Doomed cards is 1:1 compared to resources, so you have a deep pool of resources to use on your threat meter if you have the cards to use it with. This is why Grima is quite a good hero to accelerate your deck with, as he can make any card cheaper by raising everyone’s threat instead. Keys of Orthanc synergizes well with this, allowing you to get an additional resource each time you raise your threat through the keyword. This can allow you to play some expensive cards very early in the game.
The Doomed mechanic also tends to focus on the various events that it has access to. These events can solve nearly any problem at the cost of threat. Power of Orthanc can get rid of nasty condition attachments, Horns! Horns! Horns! can sneak in allies to deal with attacks, and Far-sighted can scry the encounter deck quite deeply for solo players so that you are prepared for what is to come. The mechanic does not solve your threat issue though, you will need to spec into other cards for that.
The synergy also ties in well with hero Saruman. Not only does he allow you to play Doomed events of any sphere, but he also readies each time that you play a card with the Doomed keyword. This extra action advantage combined with his big stats can allow you to get a lot of uses out of Saruman. He is also the only way to reliably get Saruman’s Staff on the table (and keep it there). This attachment is essential in a modern Doomed deck, as it allows players to lower the Doomed cost to play certain events. This prevents players from raising their threat as quickly, which is helpful to your teammates, and for yourself as well. The Staff should be a priority to get on the table, as some Doomed events will be free with it, which improves the mechanic substantially. instead of raising the threat of players by 2, you can now play Doomed 2 events for free! That means free cards, free damage to enemies, and free condition removal for all players!
Synergy with other traits
The Doomed mechanic can be used in any deck to good effect and does not have direct synergy with any other major traits, except for the Isengard trait. This small trait was introduced together with the Doomed mechanic, and allows allies like Orthanc Guard to ready whenever a Doomed keyword is triggered. The Isengard trait also makes it easier to trigger the Doomed mechanic through characters like the Steward of Orthanc. This ally can turn any event into one with the Doomed keyword, and in return, the player may draw a replacement card for the event just played. Doomed and Isengard are very closely linked, and that link got expanded when Challenge of the Wainriders dropped and gave us both Saruman and Soldier of Isengard. They both interact with the Doomed keyword and are the only new additions to the Isengard trait in nearly 3 years worth of content. Playing an Isengard deck means you are playing a Doomed deck, though the reverse doesn’t have to be true. It will help to add Saruman to your Doomed deck though, as his staff and abilities really tie the archetype together.
There are also a few allies in the card pool that have an ability where you can give them an additional Doomed cost in order to trigger an additional ability. These allies do have some synergy with their respective racial trait, which varies from Gondor to Dunedain and Woodmen. These allies do synergize with the deck, though they aren’t popular picks for many decks.
While not all Doomed cards might be worth it to some people, these staple cards will be worth including in your decks, even if you don’t have a lot of Doomed synergy in your deck.
More card draw is always nice to have in your deck if you have a cheap deck or plenty of resources. In that case, Deep Knowledge might be the card you want to include. At 0 resources of cost, you leave enough resources available to pay for the two cards you are about to draw. This does come at the cost of 2 threat, but that is a fair bargain. This is also one of the easier cards to justify in a multiplayer game, as many people will want more cards to be drawn, and 2 threat isn’t that much of a threat increase. Unlike cards such as Daeron’s Runes, which also draws you two cards, this event allows you to keep your entire hand, increasing your handsize. The event is well worth the threat in my eyes, although you have to be careful not to raise your threat to a level that is higher than certain engagement costs of enemies you don’t yet want to engage.
Herald of Anorien is another card that I find myself using a lot, especially in swarm decks. At 2 cost, you get a vanilla Gondor ally that will receive boosts from buffs such as Sword that was Broken, Visionary Leadership, and Leadership Boromir. He also has an ability when he enters play, where you may raise each player’s threat by 2 to play a 2-cost (or lower) ally from your hand. This ally does not require a resource match, making it easy to throw in allies like Warden of Healing for 2 threat in your mono-Leadership deck. This also gives you another body on the table without paying resources for that ally. Play the Herald with cost reduction like Man the Walls, and you will get your allies into play very quickly. The Herald can quest, which is nice for his cost, or he can be used for chumping an attack. The fact that the Herald can target any player can accelerate other player’s deck as well, which can turn on some synergies like getting 5 Dwarves early, or flip someone else’s Fellowship Contract if they get their 9th unique character this way.
“Bad” Doomed cards
In a way, for your fellowship all Doomed cards are bad for you if you aren’t careful with your threat management. But in this segment I will look at the cards with the Doomed cost that aren’t worth playing, since their benefit isn’t worth the threat raise in many cases.
I had to look at this ally again as I can’t remember ever using him. The Woodmen Pioneer was the very first Woodmen card we received, but wasn’t a very memorable one. At the cost of 2 resources, you get only 1 willpower and 2 hitpoints, which is a poor trade for stats, especially in Lore where resources are usually scarce. If you raise your threat by 1 on top of this cost of 2 resources, you get a one-time use of the Pioneer’s ability. This allows you to negate the threat of one encounter card in the staging area, in the same manner as Radagast’s Cunning and Secret Paths. These events are just a lot better than this ally, who isn’t doing much after he enters play. The Doomed cost in 4 players is likely an even bigger cost than the threat you just removed from the staging area, unless that was something like a 10 threat location. Even then, the Pioneer is less flexible than Radagast’s Cunning/Secret Paths and will also cost you 2 Lore resources, which could have been spent on other, better allies instead.
What the archetype is missing
The Doomed deck has received a major boost during the Vengeance of Mordor cycle, but it isn’t truely top-tier yet. The risk of threating out is still keeping it back compared to other decks. But recommending threat reduction to be added is a little weird, so instead I want to see some more useful allies for the Doomed archetype. We have received several with enter play abilities, but none are really used too often, with perhaps the exception of the Herald of Anorien. Getting some more allies that trigger off of the Doomed keyword would be nice to see and would allow the Doomed deck to expand a little beyond adding in all the Doomed events and calling it a day.
There are a lot of solo decks out there that make use of the Doomed keyword on player cards to get their deck going quickly. Here are a few examples:
That concludes our overview of the Doomed mechanic. Perhaps it will see some more synergy in the months to come, and hopefully that will make Doomed decks easier to bring to multiplayer games. Until then, the Doomed deck will be very powerful in solo, or to troll your friends with during a fun multiplayer game.