To continue our mono-sphere deck analysis, we move on to the Lore sphere. In this article I will go over the cards that are amazing for a line-up of mono-Lore heroes, and what synergies work well with it. As with Spirit, I will go over the strengths and weaknesses of the sphere first, before moving on to the rest. Lore is one of my favourite spheres, but I will try and keep this article as neutral as possible.
Lore is a tricksy sphere, being good in some parts of the game, but being pretty average when it comes to stat distribution. One of the big strengths of Lore is its ability to draw you more cards quickly. You will see a lot more of your deck with access to this sphere, which opens up quicker combos. This started with the Core Set, where Beravor was a hero that was easily splashed into decks to add more card draw. But even in recent times, cards like Drinking Song will allow you to see much more of your deck in the early game, making it easy to see the cards you need in your hand. Card draw is also useful to fuel Noldor and Harad synergies, and can be used in more niche situations for passing Locate tests. Outside of the Ringmaker cycle, having more cards in your hand adds to your options, and puts you in a better position.
Another thing that Lore does well, is afflicting direct damage to enemies in play. While Tactics also has some cards that does this, you can get away with a mono-Lore direct damage deck. This allows you to bypass defence on enemies and cut away at their hitpoints from a safe distance. Heroes like Argalad and allies with Ranger Bows will chip away at the hitpoints of enemies, allowing you to take a more stealthy approach to your game while still clearing enemies. Larger effects like Infighting, Forest Patrol, and Arrows from the Trees can inflict a lot of damage to a single enemy or to several enemies at the same time.
Where Lore is good at dishing out damage, it can also prevent and heal damage quite adaquately. Healing is a key mechanic that Lore is known for, with heroes like Glorfindel and Elrond having special abilities for it. The allies in Lore also come with healing abilities, whether it is trait restrictive (Wellinghall Preserver and Silvan Tracker), or just a more global healing effect for any character (Ioreth and Warden of Healing). Even to this day, no other sphere can heal as effectively as Lore can. In recent times, Lore even gained the ability to cancel damage as well, with the Loyal Hound. Whether or not this trend will continue in the last cycle remains to be seen.
As I mentioned, the Lore sphere is more of a Jack-of-all-traits-master-of-none kind of sphere. The stats on the heroes are often not very flashy, but instead spread evenly over willpower/attack/defence/hitpoints. This can be seen when looking at defenders in each sphere. Tactics has plenty of options, with Beregond being an obvious one, but heroes like Beorn, Grimbeorn, and Dori are all solid defenders. Leadership has characters like Erkenbrand and Dain Ironfoot to fall back on for their defence, and while Spirit is also lacking a proper defender, it still has its version of Beregond to look to. Lore’s best defenders are heroes that have traded the regular 2 defence for a 3, with characters like Bombur and Denethor stepping forward. But these aren’t the most reliable defenders out there, especially with a lack of defence enhancing pieces of armour. Lore does has ways to help its defenders with cards like A Burning Brand to save them from shadow cards, but you will find yourself having a tough time continuously defending a 5-attack enemy. Soaking the damage and healing it off later can be a tricky strategy.
Dealing out damage is somewhat easier for Lore, with several 3-attack heroes, though the allies won’t often get an attack stat above 2. This can make it hard to deal enough damage with your characters to finish an enemy. There are some Weapons in Lore now that help out with attack, though you might still need a few extra allies to help out and defeat an enemy with your heroes.
One of the biggest obstacles for Lore is the ability to actually pay for its cards. There is little to no resource generation in Lore unless a card is cheated in from another sphere. While a victory display deck can in theory generate resources through Keen as Lances, this does take a while to set up. Your best bet will be to use Neutral cards like Resourceful and Necklace of Girion. Resourceful can be made cheaper if you first play Scroll of Isildur (Lore Record attachment) and then use Bartering to reduce the cost of the next attachment (Resourceful) by 4. This combo will set you up nicely. Other effects like Master of Lore and Good Meal can lower the cost to play cards, but you won’t have any more resources through them. The resource issue is a big one for Lore, since many of the allies will cost 3 resources, making you only play one card per round, except for a few free events. When building a mono-Lore deck, try to find a solution around this problem.
The final thing that Lore struggles with is threat reduction. There is only Woodmen’s Clearing that lowers your threat in-sphere, but that only triggers if you are the first player when the location is explored. The other method would be to rely on Core Set Gandalf. You can circumvent having to lower your threat by starting with a low enough threat. Lore has several great options for low-threat cost heroes, such as Hobbits, Smeagol, Mirlonde, and various others. While these heroes aren’t the strongest, they can be used alongside one big hero (Elrond, Treebeard, Radagast) to counter the gain in starting threat.
While there are Lore cards in many expansions, you will want to pick up these expansions especially for a more cohesive mono-Lore deck.
- The Steward’s Fear
- The Drúadan Forest
- The Morgul Vale
- Escape from Mount Gram
- The Fate of Wilderland
The following archetypes are represented very well in Lore and their decks can be made exclusively out of Lore cards if you so choose to. These archetypes have all been discussed before in my archetype analyses, so give those a read if you want more insight in the synergy and staples of the specific archetype.
- Victory Display: This archetype was fully developed in the Angmar Awakened cycle, but new cards are added in the current cycle as well. The Victory Display archetype relies on putting encounter cards in the victory display so that they won’t appear in your playthrough anymore. This also gives you the option to cancel other copies of that card and gives you more control over the encounter deck. This entire archetype is self-contained in Lore and will be most effective in a mono-Lore deck where you can afford cards like Woodland Sentry more easily. This archetype is powerful in multiplayer, but can have trouble beating a scenario in true solo. Still, it is great to send a horrible enemy to the victory display with Out of the Wild before you would encounter it.
- Ents: The green sphere should include our beloved Tree-archetype, and it does! While Ents aren’t restricted to just Lore (they also have Tactics cards), it is their primary sphere. Fetch events, healing, and basic allies can all be found in this sphere, allowing you to make a pretty decent mono-Lore Ent deck if you want. Add in Elrond and you’ll be able to splash in the Tactics Ents as well for some more offence and defence in your deck. An Ent deck is slow to start, but does amazing work when it gets rolling.
- Traps: Yes, Traps have received some Tactics support as well in the previous cycle, but Lore is still the dominant sphere when it comes to a good trap deck. Most of the useful traps are in Lore, such as the Ranger Spikes, Forest Snare, and Entangling Nets. Not to mention the many characters that interact with these traps are also mostly in Lore. A mono-Lore Trap deck will allow you to have more control over the enemies in play, and allows you to hit them from afar. Splashing in Tactics is still advised, since that gives you more traps and better weapons if you do intend to attack at range.
- Rangers: The Ranger archetype is closely related to the Trap archetype, since most of the characters that interact with Traps are Rangers as well. But this occupational trait is the one most strongly connected to Lore. Whether it be Dunedain or Gondorian Rangers, these characters will find ways to get rid of enemies at their own pace. They can easily increase the engagement cost of enemies, allowing you to avoid the more dangerous ones while sniping the others. If you are building a mono-Lore deck, chances are that you will be including a few Rangers in there, giving you access to a few useful tools in your deck to help with combat.
- Side-quests: A mono-Lore side-quest deck is entirely possible to make. Lore has an easier time exploring side-quests with characters like the East Road Ranger and Thurindir. You can then chain these side-quests into each other with The Road Goes Ever On. In return, you can get all the help from the Lore and Neutral side-quests, as well as buffs on attack with Legacy Blade. Explore enough side-quests, and Thalion will even become a hero, helping your resource situation as well. While Side-quests can be played in mono-Lore, they would like to see some help from the other spheres as well for some more useful side-quests. But even sticking to the Lore ones, it will set up some cancellation with the Halfling Bounder.
- Woodmen: While the Woodmen archetype isn’t as well developed as others, it does entirely sit in the Lore sphere, being mostly self contained. Many of the attachments that go on locations are in Lore, with the exception of some important ones like Ancient Mathom and Ranger Provisions. There are ways to get these into play, but with a Woodmen deck already including many Lore attachments, you might not have enough room to include off-sphere attachments. All Woodmen characters are also in the Lore sphere, making it very easy to get your synergy going with a mono-Lore deck paying for everything. Add in some location control and you should be good.
- Istari: Sure, this archetype relies on a lot of Neutral cards too, but with Radagast and Word of Command being in Lore, I feel that a Neutral/Lore deck focusing on the Wizards can be a powerful deck. You can offset your high starting threat with a Hobbit or with Mirlonde, and will be able to have enough tricks on the table very quickly. A lot of other cards in Lore mention the Istari, so you can make a fun and powerful deck with them that is also quite thematic.
When it comes to card draw, there is no sphere that does it better than Lore. Where Spirit may have a 1 resource for 1 card engine with Elven Light, and Leadership a 2 resources for 1 card engine with Rod of the Steward, Lore has a 1 resource for 3 cards combo in a mono-sphere setup with Mithrandir’s Advice. This does not require any other cards to be in play, except for your heroes. This makes it a very stable way to draw cards in case you need them. But the event is not limited to just 3 cards though. It draws you one card per hero with the printed Lore resource icon. This means that a Sword-thained Lore ally will bring the event up to 4 cards for 1 resource. Sadly, the combo does not work with Thalion, as he does not get the printed icons of side-quests in the victory display. So no 5 cards per 1 resources, but 4 is still the best trade you are going to get in terms of card draw.
While Warden of Healing is a staple even outside of a Lore deck, the ally is much better if you have more Lore heroes. Not only can you increase his healing potential with Elrond in your lineup, but you can also more reliably trigger the response on the Warden should you ever find yourself with too many resources in your Lore deck (which is unlikely). Still, at the cost of 2 resources, you get to ready the Warden of Healing for another 2 characters getting healed across the board. Being able to repeat this process over and over can bring relief to decks that are facing a lot of direct damage or a lot of Archery.
“Bad” Mono-Lore cards
Even in a mono-Lore deck, some cards aren’t worth including in the deck. These cards serve little to no purpose, even if you can buy them quickly. This is the case with the Master of Lore, who has a very thematic title, but hasn’t come out of the binder since the Elder Days of the game. At 3 cost in Lore, you are basically spending your entire turn worth of resources on this ally. In return, you get an ally with one (1!) hitpoint, 1 point of willpower, and a point of defence. The defence is worthless, since you are never defending with this guy. The 1 willpower is ok, but for 3 cost, I really expected more. You are not going to quest with this guy either, since a single point of damage to questing or exhausted characters will take him out. So you don’t use him for his stats, but instead play him for his ability, which forces him to exhaust anyway. In return, you get to name a card type and lower the cost of the next Lore card of that type by 1 until the end of the phase. This doesn’t even lower the cost to play cards to 0, since that received an errata. This ally only redeems himself if you can trigger his effect more than three times and keep him alive during that time. Even in a mono-Lore deck, this is too much of a setback and the ally should be avoided at all cost.
The following selection of mono-Lore decks will help you to understand the different synergies that are best suited in a mono-Lore line-up. Feel free to test some of these out to get a taste for it.
We’re already halfway through our analysis of the mono-sphere decks, with just two more spheres to go. Next time will be the Leadership sphere, after which we conclude the series with Tactics.