It has been a while since I published my last article on this series, but now I finally found the time to return. Celebrimbor’s Secret is my favourite deck testing scenario and I play most new decks I build first against this one. Because the quest isn’t very well known for this, I will first explain it.
Celebrimbor’s Secret is one of the most balanced scenarios in the game for solo play (in 3 or 4 player you probably get location locked). That way you can beat it with a lot of different decks. There are a couple of aspects to this balance:
The time mechanic that triggers of those bad scour effects any third round is a nice balance between “Turtle on an early stage until you have a winning board state” and “The Encounter deck throws a lot of bad stuff on you round 1”. I have beaten this deck with both slower and aggresive builds.
With two locations starting in the staging area and them getting damaged by card effects, you want to be able to explore them quickly. On the other hand with Bellach pulling out additional enemies and enemies that surge (Orc Hound, potentially Bellach’s Scout) you might have to face some combat. So your deck should handle both aspects of the game, but you can also bring a Woodmen or a Dunedain deck that needs locations respectively enemies to work.
These are things that are helpful, but not necessary for the quest. The damage effects allow you to instead remove time counters from the quest, so if you can deal with additional scour effects, you don’t need healing. There is some threat raising from The Orcs’ search, but if you play fast enough or manage to explore locations before they are destroyed you can live with that. Finally, no treachery or shadow effect simply ruins your game as long as you manage to explore the Secret Chamber in one round (again, only in solo play).
So with a great variabilty of strategies available for this one and not needing specific techs, it was kinda hard to find an idea for my deck. Instead of searching for the heroes I need to beat this, I looked for cards that I don’t play that often, because they don’t work in other scenarios. And so I ended up with Dwalin.
This quest has really good conditions for Dwalin to work. There a lot of Orcs to fight and the threat reduction will allow me to take a slower approach. I want to have access to Tactics for the Dwarven weapons and I needed a defender for the Orcs, so I went with Beregond. Our last hero should help with questing, and if we take a Spirit hero we can muster some good questing allies. I went with Cirdan, partly because the deck needs some card draw, but also because I have used Eowyn and Arwen already in this cycle and wanted to try something different. The rest of the deck I kept simple, Weapons and Armor for my combat heroes together with Foe-Hammer and Open the Armory for Card draw and the 2 cost/2 Willpower questing allies.
My first attempt of this quest went pretty well. I was almost every turn simply engaging one enemy that I blocked with Beregond and killed with Dwalin. Cirdan helped a lot setting up, finding either Weapons or Questing allies depending on what I needed. That way my threat stayed low, I took my time until I had enough attack power to kill Bellach. and I eventually won the game. Thinking my deck was well tuned, during my second run I revealed two copies of Bellach’s Scout in a row while there was no active location. There was no way I could handle those enemies (I had not found Unexpected Courage yet) and the threat in the staging area became to high so I scooped. Durin’s Father said in his analysis that you should clear the active location before questing so it isn’t destroyed, but I think it’s often better to let that happen instead of revealing additional encounter cards.
In the third game I revealed an Orc Hound early on. That way I had to deal with an additional enemy while having to exhaust Dwalin so I couldn’t kill them. That way I ended up with more enemies engaged then I could handle.
While I had the stats to deal with the enemies that aren’t that strong, it were their numbers that caused problems. So I decided to remove some stat boosting Weapons and Armor, namely a Gondorian Shield, a Spear of the Citadel and two Blades of Gondolin as well as the Hasty Strokes because I didn’t had problems with the Shadow effects. Instead I added some action advantage with 3 copies of Behind Strong Walls and Swift and Strong. That way I could handle the enemies better and win all three of the next games. I will name the deck The Orc Slayers and it can be found on RingsDB.
What I take away for general deckbuilding is to balance a deck between Quality and Quantity. It doesn’t help to have a super buffed hero if you only get one use out of him.. This also depends on the quest and the strength and number of the enemies.
Because I play this quest quite often, it wasn’t all that interesting to find a way to defeat it. But at least I build a decent Dwalin deck that might be able to tackle other Orc heavy quests. Now I’m looking forward to finsh the cycle with The Antlered Crown and hope for an epic final battle with the Dunlendings.