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!

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