Building for a Race Against the Shadow Tournament

A few months ago ago Divinity of Number and Caleb Grace announced there would be a Race Against the Shadow tournament at the Fantasy Flight Games Center in Roseville, MN. I immediately contacted some of my buddies who play the Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game, and Mark and I began planning…to win, that is! We learned early on that the scenario would be Journey Down the Anduin, and two weeks before the tournament, my partner and I met up at a local game store. We each had built paired decks to test out against the scenario. After a few hours of testing, we identified several problems with both pairs of decks and settled on a slightly modified version of a Hobbit deck I had brought along. For the other deck, we gutted a Rohirrim deck I had put together, and each of us took it home, rebuilt, and playtested it without consulting the other. We then shared our results online and made a few minor changes before bringing the decks along to the tournament on Sunday, January 26 (more on the tournament here).

I had never so extensively played against a scenario, and I learned a lot. In addition, the Race Against the Shadow format required that we not only beat Journey Down the Anduin, but that we do it in the fewest number of turns. Injured or dead heroes don’t count against you if you can simply beat the quest before the opposing team does. I thought I would share a few insights gained during our playtesting period:

First, Journey Down the Anduin is a lot more complicated than you’d think. Plenty of decks can beat it, but doing it quickly is another matter entirely. Stages one and three require strong defenders and attackers, whereas stage two requires a hefty amount of questing. Furthermore, there are several nasty treachery cards that penalize you for having a threat higher than 35. The worst thing we discovered, however, is that the Goblin Snipers and the Wargs are impossible to deal with unless you have some way of attacking into the staging area. Since the last stage of the quest requires you to defeat all enemies in play, this can present a problem.

In this tournament format, combos are out and cheap, consistent cards are in. To put it another way, there is no time to set up any wacky moving parts. Imladris Stargazer + Zigil Miner is right out. Even Elf-Stone proved to be nearly useless in practice. In some early versions of our decks, we would win in seven or eight turns. By tournament time, we were consistently beating the quest in four or five turns because we jettisoned the more complicated gimmicks of which I am so fond.

Redundancy is key. We learned early on that having really specialized decks was problematic. If Player A is in charge of some aspect of the game and he or she doesn’t draw the necessary cards early, you may lose before you really begin. We mitigated this somewhat by including all sorts of redundancy. While my partner was playing heavy Spirit and could play Northern Tracker, I had Asfaloth and Secret Paths ready to achieve similar results. Also, We both ran with three copies of Dagger of Westernesse and Unseen Strike.

Our final lineup was a three-sphere Hobbit deck of Sam, Pippin, and Merry on one side of the table, and a two-sphere deck using Beregond, Dunhere, and Glorfindel on the other side. I’ve included the deck lists below. Feel free to ask any questions about our experience!

(Note: This tourney took place before the Voice of Isengard came out. If there is another tourney in our area, I’ll be curious to see how Doomed cards will help or harm us.)

Hobbit (Tourney) Deck: Total Cards: (55)

Hero: (3)
1x Pippin (The Black Riders)
1x Merry (The Black Riders)
1x Sam Gamgee (The Black Riders)

Ally: (19)
1x Erestor (The Long Dark)
1x Gildor Inglorion (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
3x Erebor Hammersmith (Core Set)
3x Errand-rider (Heirs of Numenor)
3x Bill the Pony (The Black Riders)
3x Gandalf (Core Set)
3x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)
1x Haldir of Lorien (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
1x Beorn (Core Set)

Attachment: (21)
3x Ring Mail (The Long Dark)
3x Fast Hitch (The Dead Marshes)
3x Hobbit Cloak (The Black Riders)
3x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)
3x Dagger of Westernesse (The Black Riders)
3x Asfaloth (Foundations of Stone)
3x Elf-stone (The Black Riders)

Event: (15)
3x Sneak Attack (Core Set)
3x Daeron’s Runes (Foundations of Stone)
3x Unseen Strike (The Redhorn Gate)
3x Halfling Determination (The Black Riders)
3x Take No Notice (The Black Riders)

Rohan + Elves (Tourney) Deck: Total Cards: (50)

Hero: (3)
1x Beregond (Heirs of Numenor)
1x Glorfindel (Foundations of Stone)
1x Dunhere (Core Set)

Ally: (20)
1x Arwen Undomiel (The Watcher in the Water)
3x Escort from Edoras (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
3x Ethir Swordsman (The Steward’s Fear)
3x Imladris Stargazer (Foundations of Stone)
3x Silvan Refugee (The Drúadan Forest)
3x West Road Traveller (Return to Mirkwood)
2x Bofur (Over Hill and Under Hill)
2x Northern Tracker (Core Set)

Attachment: (15)
3x Dagger of Westernesse (The Black Riders)
3x Spear of the Mark (The Morgul Vale)
3x Light of Valinor (Foundations of Stone)
3x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)
3x Ancient Mathom (A Journey to Rhosgobel)

Event: (15)
3x A Test of Will (Core Set)
2x Feint (Core Set)
3x Foe-hammer (Over Hill and Under Hill)
3x Elrond’s Counsel (The Watcher in the Water)
1x Straight Shot (On the Doorstep)
1x Goblin-cleaver (Over Hill and Under Hill)
2x Dwarven Tomb (Core Set)

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