Deckbuilding: The Antlered Crown

With the Antlered Crown, this series comes to the final quest of the Ringmaker cycle. We meet once again with the Dunlendings after 3 quests without them for a final battle to conclude the narrative about the Dunlending civil war.

I think two things are necessary from my deck to defeat this quest:

  • High willpower early on to clear locations before they run out of time counters (in multiplayer you will even need location management, but in solo, you are normally fine if you clear the active location each round)
  • A way to handle the final battle with the Raven Chief and potential other enemies who do multiple attacks

Besides those two points, the quest doesn’t force you too much in a certain direction of deckbuilding and gives you some options. So I decided to try something unique for this quest and build my deck around Chief Turch.

The Deck

Chief Turch is in contrast to Nalir a really great objective ally. He has some good stats and doesn’t exhaust to defend, so I was wondering if I could use him to block the enemies at the end of the game. Sadly he is immune to player card effects, but there are some ways to lower enemies attack strength and cancel damage, so I decided to give it a try. This is what my first draft looked like:

One of the key cards to lower enemies attacks is Keep Watch, so Thurindir is an obvious hero choice to get it out right from the start. I also wanted to play Horn’s Cry for it’s full effect, for that I need to get into Valour mode. Boromir helps with this, can handle combat until we are ready to defend with Turch and gives Tactics access. Our final hero is Theoden to help increase our starting willpower, and his high threat in comparison with for example Eowyn is for once a benefit. A nice thing about this line-up is that we can play Proud Hunters for extra resources.

I then included some more Valour cards and threat reduction to stay between 40 and 50, the best questing allies from those two spheres and some specific techs: Imladris Caregiver can help lower our handsize to mitigate effects that trigger of our handsize, Dunedain Lookout can help to deal with the Raven Skirmisher and Halfling Bounder is mainly there to cancel Fierce Folk, because losing access to Events like Horn’s Cry can ruin our gameplan.

Playtesting

My first run with this deck was really amazing. I started as always with a Dunland Prowler in the staging area, who I could safely block with Boromir and then kill with Boromir and Turch. I played Meneldor on turn 2, helping me to clear the active Dunland Battlefield before it ran out of time counters with his willpower and the extra progress. I bursted to stage 1 and 2, but then revealed a Raven Warrior and had to add a Dunland Raider from the effect of a location, so I know faced two big enemies together with the Raven Chief. Fortunately, I had still two copies of Horn’s Cry in hand, so they were only attacking for one or zero. I could block them with Turch until I could kill the Raven Chief for the win.

On my second attempt I couldn’t muster enough willpower to clear the Dunland Battlefield. It ran out of time counters and I had to assign a huge amount of damage on my characters. There were also additional locations building up in the staging area so I decided to scoop.

At my third attempt The Red Arrow was my MVP card. The extra willpower was important to keep the staging area clear of locations. Once I reached Valour I turned it into an Defender of Cair Andros, who was blocking a Raven Warrior for several turns, so I could hold my combat Events for the final battle and win once again.

My threat was a bit worrying in all three games, especially because there is with Fierce Folk and Doomed 3 treachery in the encounter deck. But the combination of Woodmen’s Clearing and Favor of the Valar allowed me to stay in the game.

Adjustments

My games where normally decided in the first rounds, depending if I managed to clear the Dunland Battlefield fast enough or not. Therefore I decided to remove my combat allies (Riddermark Knight and Defender of Cair Andros) and increased the number of questers like Meneldor or Ghan-Buri-Ghan.

On my first run with the new deck everything went well, I could muster early willpower to get me through my sidequest and the first stages, and the combination of Horn’s Cry and Fierce Defense could handle combat later in the game.

My second attempt was much harder, an early Raising the Cry removed the time counters from a Raven War-camp and a Raven Village so I had two face multiple smaller enemies early. With help from Turch, who defended a Dunland Berserker 3 times in a round without taking any damage, I managed to clear the board again and thought I was ready for stage 3. But then a copy of Raven Country and a Raven Warrior showed up together… I had build up large hand of 7 cards, so when the Warrior engaged me I had to remove all time counters from Raven Country, raised my threat by seven and threated out.

What a “nice” combo…

On my third and last attempt my first reveals were both Raven Warriors. I could handle them only by using multiple copies of Horn’s Cry. Those resources I was missing in the late game and so I lost at the end to the attacks of Raven Chief.

Three victories out of 6 games is far from ideal, but I decided to not try any further. I think I had some bad draws and I didn’t see a way to improve the deck anymore. For a better win rate I would have to leave the “Defend-everything-with-Turch” strategy, so I would need to build an entire new deck. Instead I’m happy with this one and name it “Valour of the Bor Clan”. I will publish the first version on RingsDB, with the cards from the second one in the sideboard.

Conclusion

Even if I’m not perfectly satisfied with my final win rate, this quest was a lot of fun to play and an epic final battle for this cycle. Defending the Raven Chief with the Boar Clan Chief without taking any damage was also a great ending to the whole Dunland narrative. We have reunited Dunland for Saruman, so what could possibly go wrong?

Looking forward to the deckbuilding series, I will first do a wrap-up of this cycle, before I continue with Angmar Awakened. I was thinking about to jump to a newer cycle but all scenarios for Angmar Awakened are already analyzed, while I would have to do the Analysis for newer once myself or wait for them. There also some very tough scenarios in Angmar Awakened, and teching for them will be probably a lot of fun and maybe help for other Players that struggle with those scenarios.

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