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Tier 1, the final frontier for any deck. If you can survive here, you can win any place else. And while the premiere series this year has brought us some fantastic fellowship sides, the shadow side seems very focused on Uruk-hai. Why? The Uruk-hai slow your opponent down. They force them to move slowly thus allowing your fellowship to do its thing. But what about for those of us not content to merely slow down our opponent, but would like to see they’re Frodo hanging from the end of a rope? Well Nazgul are certainly big, but also tend to be very stop oriented rather than Frodo kill oriented. Sauron finds itself at a loss of how to deal with Sleep Caladhras and Secret Sentinels. For the truly kill oriented player, the swarms of Moria seem to offer the best option. This article is designed to teach the average Moria player how to become a great Moria player. I’m not saying Moria is the best shadow side or the right one for you, but for those of us who choose to use them as our weapon of choice they can certainly be a formidable force.
So what do I need to do to win with Moria? The first answer is build your deck right. Unlike Urukhai and Nazgul which can be adapted to the needs of your fellowship with Moria you need to start building on the shadow side first. And 35 cards just doesn’t cut it either. My most successful Moria sides have been anywhere from 45 cards to the 70 card Moria I played at Gencon. My personal recommendation for the novice to Moria is to start at 50 and then add or subtract as play testing dictates. You should include 4 Goblin Armories (no exceptions), 2 or 3 They Are Coming, 2 or 3 Swarms, 4 Scimitars, and at most 1 or 2 other non-minion cards. In a 50 card, I recommend a mix of 15 non-minion cards, no more. The minions are really your choice though some of my favorites are: Goblin Runner (more twilight), Goblin Scavenegers (pull back weapons, draw cards, add twilight), Goblin Wallcrawler (anti-archery and pretty tough for their cost of 2), Moria Scout (cheap and 2 hitpoints), Goblin Warrior (kills Thrarin and really pisses off dwarf decks), Goblin Scrabbler (kills Last Alliance, Tale Of Gilgalad, and Splendour), Goblin Pursuer (Big minion for pretty cheap), and Goblin Backstabber (kills most companions if combined with other minions), Host Of Thousands (It really is a minion card… ignore that word event). The minions I’m not flexible with however are as follows:
1. 2 -4 Cave Trolls (depending on your play style) – Vastly superior to the Balrog due to its cheaper cost at the Bridge, the ability to play it anywhere, and its ability to follow the fellowship. Your opponent might double move past the Bridge if you drop a Balrog on them but the Cave Troll is a menacing stop sign and nearly as effective as a killer.
2. 2 -4 Ulaire Nertea – A must have for any Moria deck. The average response to a Moria deck is to play as many companions as possible. Nertea takes that advantage away from your opponent by turning each of those companions in to one more minion that didn’t have to come from hand.
Once you’ve built your shadow side, it’s time to build a fellowship side to match. Not being one to restrict fellowship options, the items your fellowship deck must be able to do are: 1. Play every fellowship card in it every fellowship turn. 2. Be able to deal with not getting that one card you really wanted. No fellowship card should be so important that you can’t discard it to They Are Coming if it would mean one more minion. While card draw or Dwarven discard engines can certainly help, they are not a requirement. For those of you who want to be able to play cards that you can’t always use right away, think about Gandalf’s Cart and Shards Of Narsil as storage options.
Now you’ve got your Moria deck, but how do you play it? Get more minions than your opponent has companions and toss them all on Frodo right? Wrong. Frodo has more tricks then any one else in the game to deal with Moria. If you want to kill Frodo the best way to do so is arrange for a private meaning between him and the Cave Troll. To do so, you need to kill off the rest of the fellowship. Not only does it dishearten your opponent to lose that companion who he views as key to his deck, it gets you that much closer to that vital Cave Troll vs. Frodo match up. So how do you kill his other companions?
First, you need more minions than he has companions. It means that you are given the choice of who you would like to send where and against whom. In order to get more minions, you need to: 1. Discard early on and play minions at sites 2 and 3 even if they don’t have a chance of winning. This translates to more card drawing and puts those minions there for Nertea, They Are Coming, and Host Of Thousands to use. 2. Goblin Swarms is critical. There are no orcs so powerful and expensive that I wouldn’t want to stack them even if it means I might have to pay for them again if the fellowship double moves. Twilight is rarely a problem at later sites for Moria and so each minion here translates to an extra one on table for sites 7, 8, or 9 when they’re needed most. If an Orc wins a skirmish, don’t think about it, put them here. 3. Don’t hold anything at the later sites. That one extra minion will win so many more games for you than those three fellowship cards that you just can’t live without. Nine times out of ten you’ll regroup into more fellowship stuff that could help just as much as that card you were dying to see. Never be content with the number of minions of table. There is no Wrath Of God to wipe out all your creatures and stop you at the end. Even if you got twice as many minions as he has companions, one more will always help.
My favorite aspect of Moria is the flexibility it gives me to choose which companion I hate the most. No other shadow culture consisitantly offers you that power (though a well played Sauron Hate/Enduring Evil very well could, I remember Colorado tournaments). My recommendation is to at first consider who is the easiest kill on the table. Your opponent won’t fight as hard to save Pippin as he will Legolas or Aragorn. But that one dead companion makes it easier to get more minions than he has companions at future sites. Also, look at who is winning their skirmishes and who isn’t. If swarms is on table, often I will simply try and win as many skirmishes as possible rather than kill one particular companion. Scavengers, Runners, and Scouts are all ideal Swarm material. Look for Bounders or other important support cards in their support area before you make your assignments and try to think about what your opponent might do based on how he has played so far that game.
The last word of advice I have for you is: Fear PATHS. It is the enemy. Be paranoid. Even if you stung them on your last turn and they held none in hand, but they regrouped four cards assume they are now holding all 4. More games have been lost by assuming they didn’t regroup one or two when they really did. Only go for the kill on Frodo if you’ve already got the rest of the companions in trouble and still have extra minions or it has become apparent that only a desperate attack on Frodo has any chance of winning you the game. But when you do assault him, make sure and read Goblin Armories game text. (Hehehe… Site 9, Origins, Round 3… you really shouldn’t have counted on that one little PATHS clearing the table my friend.)
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