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CardShark Content - Don Weinstein (2/2/2003)

Sometimes it pays to have a little pre-planning when you participate in the new LOTR booster draft tournament format. I know what’s going through your mind. You’re saying to yourself, hey, that Donster dude, man, he’s flipped his card flopping mind. One can’t prepare for this format, because so randomized that you have to make decisions on the fly, right?

Au contraire, my friend. One must come to the table prepared, and it isn’t rocket science, it’s card science. Remember, you only have 40 cards to show your ‘em stuff. Here’s how.

First of all, let’s talk about the setup. When you arrive, you must bring a fellowship block of a Frodo, a One Ring, and nine sites for the adventure path, but which ones? Your choices are easy. Bring Frodo, Reluctant Adventurer, which gives you mostly free weapons, and The One Ring, Isildur’s Bane, which will grant you a +1 on both your strength and vitality for Frodo.

Choosing an adventure path is a bit harder, but there some intelligent choices, based on what your typical pull is from your minion-character-laden draft pack. Out of a typical 14 minions grabbag, half of them will either be Moria or Sauron, one will be either a Nertea or Enquea Nazgul., the other half will be Isengard. For the free peoples, you’ll get mostly Dwarven, one or two rangers, and if you’re lucky one common Legolas or a Gandalf.

Here’s what you should bring for your sites.

The Prancing Pony
Council Courtyard
The Bridge of Khazad-Dum
Galadriel’s Glade
Silverlode Banks
Gates of Argonath
Summit of Amon Hen

So for your sites, go safe, go smart. You can’t go wrong with The Prancing Pony for site 1. It is excellent for pulling out Aragorn right off the bat. It’s better than Green Dragon Inn because with Sam pulled anyway, you’ll have a better chance of surviving past site 5 with Aragorn. Ettenmoors is by far better than Trollshaw Forest or Bree Streets because of its general application to pump all companions and minions strength by two, rather than just a Nazgul cheapener or a small draw engine. Council Courtyard allows you to choke off twilight pool at site 3, while site 4’s Hollin gives you freedom for your Uruk-Hai you pulled to come pillage and plunder for no roaming penalties. You have no choice but Bridge for site 5.

Galadriel’s Glade is the way to sneak a peak at your opponents hand without having to Sting yourself. Site 7’s Anduin Wilderland prevents the archery phase but you have a poor chance of getting an archer. I’d go with Silverlode Banks first, however ensure your drafting gets you either an Aragorn or an Arwen, or else pull another site 7.

I chose Gates of Argonath for one reason only over other great sites like Anduin Banks for site 8, and that reason is because it’s the twilight pool gas station. You’ll get a full tank of twilight pool stopping at this joint. Odds are you won’t see a large fellowship so Anduin Banks won’t help. Finally for site 9, I had to struggle with myself on this, and fortunately, my self took the body slam. I took Summit over Tol Brandir and Shores of Nen Hithoel for several reasons. One I needed an easy way to make my bad guys cheap, and Summit does that in spades. Secondly Tol Brandir makes Sauron trackers jump out on stage like a bunch of American Idol hopefuls, but I doubt that it’ll work often considering pulling these Orc babies are a 50-50 proposition in draft.
Shores will work with both Moria and Sauron Orcs, and therein lies the ugliness. I guarantee you will have Moria and Sauron in your draft packs and your other boosters. However you’ll be hard pressed to make them 100% as effective as Uruk-Hai, and Shores pulls cheap Uruk-Hai like McDonalds makes burgers.

Now here comes the real test, when the moment happens when you sit around and swap cards with your opponents. What do you look for? Do you simply pull a rare and hope for the best? No way, Jose. Here’s what you do, and be ready for some surprises.

Pull Frodo protection first. Nab that O Elbereth, O Githoniel, a Hobbit Sword or Sting, if one is lucky, or a There and Back Again, Hobbit Intuition, Hobbit Stealth, Bounder, or Filbert Bolger. These guys will help Frodo beef up his strength, protect him from being body slammed like a pitiful WWE wrestler in skirmishes, or prevent him from being overwhelmed like a hapless Oakland Raider in the Super Bowl. If you get even more lucky, pull a Bilbo Baggins, Old Frodo’s Heir to allow Bounder reuse.

Sauron minions bring great evil. You Bring Great Evil is probably the most dastardly, overlooked common card ever designed by man. It caused companions to flat-out die because they can’t heal at a sanctuary. Aww, cannot heal your good guy! Too bad. If your draft pack had Sauron, this is the one card you cannot leave. Sauron exert to wound Orcs are a great pull, so focus on them.

You need Gondor pumpers or minion dumpers. Eregion Hills fits the bill. Yes, that toadstool of a card you never wanted to see again. You’ll surprise everyone if you pick one or two of these. Also you’ll want to take a new look at A Rangers Versatility. This will help if you get Aragorn or Arwen beefy. Spot them and exhaust those two minions for a very small cost on yourself.

Blade Tip or Black Breath for Nertea / Enquea. Grab one of these hotties each. Blade Tip adds a wound at the beginning of each Fellowship phase, and Black Breath prevents the healing of companions and halts de-burdenizing your ring-bearer. Not too shabby, huh? Then bid some at the start of the game, but not enough to trigger the game text on Enquea.
Isengard Orcs. Yank those guys out fast, dude, because they rock. Anytime you can regroup action wound some companions, they take priority. They’re cheap, and although they may be not be damage +1 like other Isengard minions, you’ll start seeing dead companions.

Saurman’s Ambition. Anytime you can pump up your Isengards, that’s a bad thing for your opponent.

Moria. In my draft pack, I pulled two Goblin Wallcrawlers, two Goblin Pursuers, one Goblin Scavengers, and one Goblin Flankers. I kept most of them, and waited for some Host of Thousands and Goblin Scimitars to make the rounds.

What else should you haul up in your nets? The rare Legolas Greenleaf, or the Boromir, Son of Denethor can make your party. Greenleaf can mad double shoot if he’s not wounded, while Boromir can hobbit strength pump away till the nerf-herders come home..

What’s not to pull? Most other minion conditions you can chuck like a bad date. They become kludgy and hard to play in this format, so leave ‘em on the side of the road. They just don’t make the cut because you have to think about running to site 9 as quickly as possibly and they tend to weigh your small deck down with useless minion support strategies that would not work in a small draw deck, even though you can recycle your discard deck back in.

That pretty much wraps it up. Your strategy at this point is to run like heck to site 9, and don’t double move from site 3 to 5, especially if your event drafts Mines of Moria, because the odds are half of you will haul out a big, nasty Balrog at the Bridge, and it’s good night, Gracie, after that. Best of luck to you!

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