Deckbuilding: The Nîn-in-Eilph

The Nîn-in-Eilph is a quest that does one thing very well: giving you the feeling to be in an endless swamp. While being thematic is normally a good thing, here it’s different. Finding a way out of this swamp is not an enjoyable experience, and therefore the quest has a bad reputation in the community. It is said to be annoying, too hard and simply frustrating, as mentioned in the analysis.

While I see these points, I think the quest is better than it’s reputation. Maybe that is also because of the fact I played it first in 3 player, where it’s easier to make enough progress on the quest stages to not get stuck. Another problem is that many players seem to prefer a slow playstyle and try to develop a strong board state, a strategy that is not really viable in this quest. As someone who prefers aggressive decks anyways, this is not such an issue for me.

First Attempts

This time the article will be structured a little different than usual, because I couldn’t simply build one deck and adjust it to get through the quest. Instead had to try a couple of different decks.

I wanted to play Spirit Elfhelm here, who is an awesome counter against all the threat raise in this scenario. To get him out quickly I first built a Rohan Deck with Spirit Eowyn and Theoden, and Tactics Eomer, including Mustering the Rohirrim to play him turn 2. The idea was too muster high willpower with the Spirit Rohan allies, with burst potential of Escort from Edoras and Astonishing Speed and use Eomer’s high attack to kill those beefy enemies and the Ancient Marsh-dweller.
The problem was that the deck had a lack of card draw, which made it too slow to set up and ultimately Low on Provisions killed my squishy Rohan allies faster then I mustered them. After 2 losses I decided to try another deck.

I switched to a somewhat standard Caldara-deck with Arwen and Dain Ironfoot, again with a high Elfhelm count. While I could get him quickly into play with Caldara, the deck was lacking attack power and I ended up with a Giant Swamp Adder engaged, that attacked me twice per turn, what I couldn’t handle for multiple rounds. Also I didn’t see a way to kill the Marsh Dweller.

What can men do against such reckless hate?

My third deck was a dwarf swarm with Thorin/Ori/Dain that used Nalir to get faster to five Dwarves. But of course, I started with No End in Sight, the quest where you can’t get resources or draw cards from player effects, so two of my heroes abilities were shut down. With two Swamp Adders engaged I resigned.

At this point I was a bit frustrated from the swamp. There seemed no possibility to keep my threat low, quest for enough and kill enemies when they show up. So I decided to switch my strategy. Instead of trying to keep up with the encounter deck and lower my threat consistantly, I needed to outpace it. If I win fast enough, I don’t see as many bad encounter cards and don’t threat out.

The Deck

The hero I immediately thought of to do this was Tactics Eowyn. High willpower, the ability to kill any enemy by herself besides the Marsh-Dweller with which she needs a little help, and low starting threat. But to have even more willpower and attack burst, I paired her with Tactics Theoden and Imrahil. 11 starting willpower with the potential to get some strong combat allies out immediately, Imrahill getting around the effect of A Forgotten Land, that forces you to play only a card per turn. This is what deck looked liked:

You see how simplistic the deck is. 30 allies sharing a trait with Imrahill shoud always give us at least a target to chump. Beorn and Marksman of Lorien also really help to kill these enemies. Then I packed the best Tactics questers, some of them having the potential to turn into even more bears, and Honour Guards to deal with In Need of Rest.
Fierce Defense is my tech for the quest, we should get to Valour where we can destroy a Giant Swamp Adder just with this Event, and Favor of the Valar prevents us from threating out.

Playtesting

After being frustrated by my earlier attempts, it was really satisfying to smash the quest 3 times in a row. I could clear each stage in two rounds, so I took normally only +11 threat, Favor of the Valar wasn’t even needed. Once I lost a time counter to Shifting Marshlands on stage 3, so I had to take one more round but that was still fine.

The enemies had no chance against my army, I could normally use Elfhelm or Feint to block Giant Swamp Adders and took the Neekerbreekers undefended. I killed them with my Imrahill-allies, Beorn showing up at the right times, but Riddermark Knight and Marksman of Lorien also did some work. That way I had Eowyn available for the Marshdweller. I twice had the minus 25 engagement cost stage 3, so I had to take the Marshdweller earlier. But Feints and Chump Blocking bought me time to quest through until Eowyn killed the Marshdweller on stage 4.

There is a shadow that deals one damage to the defending character, killing once a Defender of Rammas. Fortunately I could take the undefended Marsh Adder on Imrahil. For that reason I would take the Defenders out and replace them with a 2 hitpoint ally like Soldier of Dol Amroth. But this is the only change I would make, overall I’m happy with the deck. I will name it “The Valar favour the bold”.

Conclusion

My feelings about the quest are still mixed. While it was frustrating in my first runs, it was a blast to play once I found the right deck. But then I had basically a winning strategy and the playthroughs were very similar, so there’s no great replayability here. When building for this quest, I recommend to go for this aggro strategy instead of keeping your threat low, it seems much easier.

We know move on to Celebrimor’s Secret, the scenario I probably played the most in the entire game, being my standard testing quest. The reasons for that and more deckbuilding will follow in the next post in this series.

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