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CardShark Content - Carl Craig (4/1/2004)

This Article takes a look at the starter decks from the Siege of Gondor expansion, which has a street release date of the 10 March and for those of you who are not in the know already, Decipher no longer have what are called ‘Pre-Release’ events, BUT now have just ‘Release’ Events which basically are the same layout (with a promo card etc..) but you don’t get to play a few weeks earlier than the release date, you play on or after the actual release date.

So for those of you who might be participating in a Release event coming-up, I’ve tried to break down what I’ve noticed about the Siege of Gondor starters for your aid – you will find however that these starters are possibly the most balanced yet, so It’ll come down to personal preference as to which starter you’ll have your fingers crossed for at your Release event.

For those of you who are not already in the know, Decipher do have a full spoiler list available at their site, plus a list of what cards appear in the Siege of Gondor starter decks (Merry and Pippin). I’d recommend viewing those, it’ll help your understanding of what I’ve written a little more.
Spoilers are here: http://decipher.com/indexes/index-lotrsiege.html

At a glance, I could already see a nice balance in each of the decks. By balance I mean cards that seem to have a decent purpose. For Example these balances come in the form of, particular sites that have good purpose when in previous expansion’s starters we’ve seen sites included with little or no use at all…. But I will break it all down in detail and discuss a few findings below.

I am happy to notice too that each side is perfectly balanced this time with 24 Free Peoples (+ Frodo makes 25) and 25 Shadow Cards, we’ve seen imbalance decks in the past so this is a nicety indeed.

I will be breaking each deck down separately, starting with the adventure deck, then the Free Peoples side followed by the Shadow side.

MERRY DECK:
Adventure Deck:

(1) Edoras Hall: Great for Rohan + they have 8 possession from which to make use of this site.
(2) Rohirrim Camp: All minions (incl the Nazgul whose home site is 3) benefit from this.
(3) Hall of Kings: The most neutral yet useful of all site 3’s in the King Block.
(4) Anduin Banks: With little Burden Adding around, I guess this site is more useful than one that requires the removal of more burden’s.
(5) Pelennor Flat: Not 100% sure why they chose this one over city gates, I guess the threat of extra wounds from threats would unbalance the game? Both decks have this site 5 so their balance in the respect. Adding burdens won’t do much to the outcome of the game unless it’s a timed game.
(6) Minus Tirith Fourth Circle: Go the Rohan
(7) Osgiliath Channel: Here we see the only Siege of Gondor site added to BOTH starters. Both decks have exactly 7 companions they could possibly pull (before what you draft in your boosters) thus it would be wise for both sides to be weary of playing with more than 5 companions at a time ;-)
(8) Morgulduin: Playing Cheap Nazgul from your discard is bliss.
(9) Haunted Pass: Threats may not be common, but if your opponent just has one then you’ll be drawing one more card than he/she will be.

*Comments: Well there are 4 sites the same in each deck. There are possibilities for other sites to work in each deck, but it could have upset the balance that is why I believe the play testers stuck with these ones. Not to mention the ones that are different are somewhat similar in value (sites 1 and 2 for example) – Overall I’m very pleased with the balance of the site paths in these decks.

Free Peoples (24)
To keep it simple to decipher (pun intended ;-) I’m going to look at each card, this will help you at a starting level, more in depth knowledge can be gained by reading over the spoiler/starter lists.

Merry, Noble Warrior: One of your starting team. His discarding ability makes him stronger + it gets rid of any unwanted cards at the time.

Eowyn, Restless Maiden: The 2nd part of your starting team. Reason for her instead of Eomer is the fact that Eomer’s ability only kicks in if he’s NOT in your starting fellowship. Her discarding a possession for STR is a decent ability that I think should only be used when ‘really’ needed.

Eomer, Keeper of Oaths: When played you get to look at the top 10 cards of your draw deck and play a Rohan Companion from that 10, all other cards are shuffled back into your deck so you don’t lose them – I think this ability (along with Faramir’s mirror ability but for Knights) is great – although perhaps Faramir will see more use in the future due to Rohan already having the likes of Simbelmyne to get what you need from your draw deck…. But anyway we’re talking sealed deck here on with it man ;-)

Doom Drove Them: Very useable, when you can exert Frodo + a Rohan Companion to make it work. If you drafted Gondor men that you wanted to put into this deck then you could also exert them to use this condition.

Charged Headlong: If you want to re-use the Javelin’s you can exchange a Steed for one with this card.

Hobbit Sword: Mandatory for the Shire folk

Guthlaf, Herald: You have a couple of conditions that could be used later with this guy – maybe you’ll draft more and make him even more useful – if only it was a +2 STR bonus.

Enraged Horseman: This where the Javelin’s come in handy to make sure you assign these guys to wounded minions (although the steed’s can do that too ;-)

Swift Steed: Extra damage before a skirmish starts + there are 2 plains sites in your path for the added ability

Long Spear: Nice surprise to play this during a skirmish if you don’t mind adding a threat.

Rohirrim Javelin: Discard for Archery, use wise fully though as this possession does give a +1 STR bonus just for being borne.

White Hot Fury: With only 2 mounts in this deck and none in SoG do draft from you boosters – I’d recommend these are 1st place discarders if you need to use Merry’s ability, although they can be useful when drawn at the right time.

Shadow (25)

Morgul Lurker: Quite possible for the Shadow player to gain initiative as both Free Peoples side have a lot of ‘Dump’ type cards, if you come across an inexperienced player who likes ‘dumping’ their hands then this guy can get nasty. Unhindered gains you initiative too (see below)

Morgul Creeper: The only clash that I’ve noticed in this deck is with these guys and site 3’s although there’s no real way around that – if some how your opponent ends up with 4+ burden’s by site 3 then you can discard for site 3 abilities BUT keep 3 around for your +2 minion archery total from these guys.

Morgul Predator: Exert to make a Nazgul or Orc +1

Morgul Spearman: Spot a Nazgul, opponent must exert a companion to assign this guy to him.

Morgul Destroyer: When played spot a Nazgul to add 2 threats.

Ulaire Nelya, Black Mantled Wraith: With initiative, discard to exert every companion.

Ulaire Otsea, Black Mantled Wraith: With initiative, discard to wound frodo x2 or return a companion to hand.

Ulaire Lemenya, Wraith on Wings: With initiative, discard to discard a possession.

Morgul Axe: +2 STR for orcs, if Frodo has 2+ wounds orc is DMG+1

Unhindered: Nazgul +2 STR, if he wins Shadow has initiative till end of turn, has Key uses with a lot minion’s in this deck – I’d have finger’s crossed for pulling a few more of these in your boosters.


FARAMIR DECK:

Adventure Deck:
(1) Steps of Edoras: Great for Gondor
(2) Kings Tent: Slowing your opponent down is a great move for your Shadow side. (-1 to movement)
(3) Hall of Kings: The most neutral, yet useful, of all site 3’s in the King Block.
(4) Pelennor Plain: With little burden addition I though that Anduin Banks in the Merry starter was a little more useful.
(5) Pelennor Flat: Not 100% sure why they chose this one over city gates, I guess the threat of extra wounds from threats would unbalance the game? Both decks have this site 5 so their balance in the respect. Adding burden’s wont do much to the outcome of the game unless it’s a timed game.
(6) Minus Tirith Fourth Circle: Go the Gondor.
(7) Osgiliath Channel: Here we see the only Siege of Gondor site added to BOTH starters. Both decks have exactly 7 companions they could possibly pull (before what you draft in your boosters) thus it would be wise for both sides to be weary of playing with more than 5 companions at a time ;-)
(8) Morgulduin: Adding a 2 more twilight for spotting 2 threats and 2 raider men is good.
(9) Haunted Pass: Threats may not be common, but if your opponent just has one then you’ll be drawing one more card than he/she will be.

Free Peoples:

Hobbit Sword: Mandatory for the Shire folk

Pippin, Guard of Minus Tirith: One of your starting team. His discarding ability makes him wound a minion twice + it gets rid of any unwanted cards at the time.

Denethor, Wizened Steward: This is the 2nd part of this team. His STR increases as your fellowship of knights grows.

Faramir, Defender of Osgiliath: As with Eomer in the other starter, his ability will increase your chances of getting more Knights out in the game, BUT he’s not a starting companion just as is the case with Eomer.

Ingold: Discard a Fortification to heal him twice. Could be potentially hard to kill if you keep your Fort’s out (First level, Forth Level).

Gondorian Gaptain: Discard a Fort to remove a threat. I’m not sure how bigger part threats will play, but it could be somewhat useful later in the game.

First Level: Fort which gives –1 STR

Gondorian Sword: If it means you might save yourself by all means discard 3 cards to make yourself +3 STR – it’s a nice added surprise ability.

Forth Level: A nasty piece of work that can exhaust a big guy instantly, I love this new fortification I think you’ll find this around in every Knight Deck.

Knights Mount: When bearer wins, wound a non-assigned minion, still wounds but works differently from Rohan Mounts and obviously rely’s on a win – still better than nothing.

Dagger Strike: +2 for Shire or Gondor companion’s: The only pump that Pippin gets over Merry although the Rohan deck does have ‘doom drove them’ which isn’t a pump but gives some other significance to Merry being there.


Shadow:
Haradwaith: spot a raider man at site 4 to gain initiative, not hard to obtain – you’ll want to pull more of these ‘fingers crossed’

Haradrim Marksman: Archer and can leave Frodo out of the fray to concentrate more on whipping the rest of the fellowship.

Troop of Haradrim: Spotting threats make this guy quite intense, although adding threats can be the difficult task in a limited card pool environment such as this.

Dersert Soldier: remove 3 to wound a companion (limit once)

Dersert Runner: Ambush 1. Initiative = wound a companion + ambush 1

Dersert Scout: Ambush 1. Initiative = wound a companion + ambush 1

Dersert Sneak: Ambush 1. Initiative = wound a companion + ambush 1

Raider Bow: Bearer is an Archer + Ambush 5

Great Beasts: Slowing your opponent is a great idea with this deck, But having the 9 twilight to make this work can be tricky, good thing that is a ‘stay in play’ condition aye ;-)

New Strength Came Now: STR +3 OR +6 if you have initiative, definitely save these if you happen to have a haradwaith as well.



HELPFUL HINTS:
*Keep an eye on an opponent discarding a minion during their reconcile, that usually means they’ve got a clog of minion’s and you’d be better off calling it a day than risking another move.
*Try to remember key sites that may affect you in each deck Esp Osgiliath Channel as both decks will come up against it and both decks can be seriously hurt by it. Knowledge of what sites are out there is a feather in your cap.
*This isn’t a race, running is risky and remember that if you think you’ll be wanting to run that the Raider guys can stop you.
*As goes with not racing, going first or second doesn’t really matter.
*Remember to have fun.

I wanted to give a simplified outlook on the starters with a few simple ideas for playing them – hoping to help out the newer players rather than the already experienced players.
Please remember that these are just my views and opinion’s, I understand that everyone looks at things differently, but I hope that you at least get something from this.
At the end of the day I believe that these 2 starters would have to be the most balanced ones I’ve come across to date, there’s nothing really negative I could say (except maybe that there aren’t a lot of Siege of Gondor cards actually in each one – but that’s why their balanced) and the expansion itself is awesome I think. Everyone should have lots of fun playing in their Release events.

Have a great time and good luck.


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