Thursday, November 18, 2004

The Leader and the King

Yesterday I got my first real taste of Shadows when I attended a local sealed deck tournament. I won't go into the murky details of how I had my butt handed to me in the two games I played. Instead I wanted to focus on one of the starter decks that Shadows offers.

Shadows is the first set of the Lord of the Rings TCG that has four starter decks (each prior set had two). This is great in terms of sealed deck play, because it provides a wide range of deck diversity and means your tournament won't be the same game over and over. Unfortunately, as with any sealed deck product, there is a high probability that there will be an unbalance of power between decks. This is the case with the Shadows sealed decks where the Gandalf, Leader of the Company starter reigns unquestionably supreme.

For those still new to the game, the basis of each deck is a Free People's side and a Shadow side. In sealed deck play, you are given a set theme for each of these sides. The theme for the Shadow side of the Gandalf deck is Nazgul, which have always been a very powerful group of minions, albeit expensive.

In sealed deck play, this culture becomes all the more potent due to the lack of defense available for the Free People's side. Thus, when Player A has the Wringwraith culture against Player B's fellowship, Player B will invariably be at a disadvantage. Take for example The Witch King, Captain of the Nine Riders.

Though he doesn't come in any of the starters, he is the prime example of the power of the Nazgul. Once the fellowship moves in to region 2, chances are they will be giving the eight twilight this beast costs. And once he hits, the table, you can start kissing your companions goodbye. At strength 14, he instantly overwhelms any companion you can assign to him except for Gandalf and Aragorn (unless you have the extra defenses such as weapons and events that sealed deck lacks as previously mentioned).

As his title suggests, The Witch King is accompanied by eight other deadly Nazgul. Coupled with a powerful Gandalf, who is your best bet when it comes to protecting your fellowship, it's easy to see why the Gandalf starter is the grandest choice in sealed deck play!

Friday, November 12, 2004

From Four to Free

Time to get into some strategy! Though this blog is still getting started and mostly for beginners to the game, I thought it would be nice to look at one of the new tactics that is available with the release of Shadows. In particular, the introduction of an all new version of Aragorn: Strider.

What makes Strider so special you ask? Look closer at that twilight cost. That's not Aragorn's typical cost of four, it's a one! For the low price of an extra twilight each time you move, you now have a Ranger that can easily fit into any starting fellowship. Even better, start Strider with Faramir, Captain of Gondor and you now have a FREE Aragorn.

Add on Boromir, Bearer of Council as your ring-bearer and then Denethor, Lord of Minas Tirith to your starting fellowship and your Noble Leaders are instantly set up. You can even use Denethor to pull Noble Leaders out as soon as you reach site 3. If you've got an artifact in your hand (or extra vitality on Denethor) you can also pull Elendil, the Tall and go for your jump to site 6.

With a consistent way to get to site 6 in each of your games, it's hard to not cheer 'FOR GONDOR!'

Monday, November 08, 2004

Shadows Released!

The latest expansion set for Lord of the Rings TCG was released last week. This set should shake things up nicely for the game. The biggest change (and best in my opinion) is the introduction of an all new adventure path. Now, instead of having a set of Site 1s, a set of Site 2s, etc., you simply have an adventure deck and get to choose which site your opponent moves to! This adds a whole new strategy to your way of playing that you never had control over before and should give your adventure deck choices a much greater impact.

A downside to the new set is the introduction of several new minion cultures. To me, this seems like a cheap way to get around extensive playtesting of new cards (not having to worry about how powerful new cards make the old cards). The artwork is also underwhelming.

I'll be buying cards from this set to get access to the new site path as well as some of the amazing cards, such as the beautiful Arwen, Staunch Defender:

Hope to see everyone out at the Shadows Release Tournaments!
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