Usually I leave the strategy to the fine folks of The Grey Company at Tales from the Cards and Hall of Beorn, but today I’m going to venture beyond my pay grade because I’ve finally beaten The Dunland Trap with a deck that satisfies my particular thematic tastes as well. Thanks to an especially Well Laid Trap in the second stage, this scenario has required a dedicated build that has been a fun challenge and even given me the chance to use a couple of cards that haven’t touched my table before. If you’re willing to trust a thematic player on strategy, then read on to check out my deck based on the ancient alliance of Rohan and Gondor with some help from the White Wizard and the Grey Pilgrim!
Northward the white crest of Éomer led the great front of the Rohirrim which he had again gathered and marshalled; and out of the City came all the strength of men that was in it, and the silver swan of Dol Amroth was borne in the van, driving the enemy…
The Return of the King, Book V, Chapter VI
The basic strategy of this deck is fairly obvious — questing with Éowyn and Prince Imrahil, then serving up a “meat shield” ally in defense to ready Imrahil and buff Éomer. Although it has been mentioned before by many fans of this game, it bears repeating that the Squire of the Citadel is particularly enjoyable to draft for this purpose. He is just so eager to participate in the defense of the Men of the West and Stand and Fight allows you to strike the “small silver gong” near your “footstool” to send him into battle again and again.
Another cheap ally that was fun to include in this deck is the Minas Tirith Lampwright. With 9 of the 42 cards that start in the encounter deck brandishing the Surge keyword, there is more than a 20% chance that Gondor’s Zack Galifianakis will get to wave his torch at something. In solo games, having even a single enemy in play once the trap is sprung was often the death of me and it is incredibly satisfying to see an enemy go straight to the discard pile by triggering the response on an ally you are about to lose anyway.
A second card that I’ve never put into a deck before is Stand Together. This classic coaster from the core set hasn’t seen play since my ill-fated attempts to make a Passage Through Mirkwood with the pre-constructed mono-Tactics deck. With the hard-hitting Dunland Chieftain and the fierce Boar Clan leader Chief Turch (5 base attack each) this card has allowed Éomer and Imrahil to pool their defense and avoid damage that puts them one step closer to facing a painful and inglorious death in the Munuv Dûv Ravine. The same can be said for Close Call, a card whose value I questioned when I pulled it out of the pack but has proven invaluable many times, especially in the late game.
While my deck started out with some Item and Mount cards like Horn of Gondor, Firefoot, and Gondorian Shield, I found that Signal attachments were more reliable since they are subtle enough to avoid the trap. While it might seem like these Dúnedain cards are a thematic concession, I like the idea that the Rangers of the North have long been active and unseen in these lands, leaving behind marks and warnings that lend aid to their southern kin.
To quote Galadriel, “your Quest stands upon the edge of a knife”, perhaps more than any we’ve faced yet. With so few cards in your hand and little chance to build up your Company, there is really a great deal of tension with each draw from the encounter deck and flip of a shadow card. If it wasn’t for the insanely cool artwork on Dunland Berserker, I don’t think I’d be able to tolerate the number of times his shadow effect caused a additional attack that sent my Company into an inexorable death spiral. Rarely has a Hasty Stroke been so satisfying.
And yet, in the face all these enemies, how many times did I die simply because I was hungry or tired? Here is where Power of Orthanc proved its worth curing me when I was In Need of Rest while it was almost always essential to use a Test of Will whenever we became Low on Provisions.
Maybe it’s because we’ve been starved for new content for so long or maybe it is truly a great quest, but I have thoroughly enjoyed playing The Dunland Trap. My favorite scenario previously was The Steward’s Fear for its brilliant theme, variable replayability, and challenging difficulty without being simply frustrating. The Dunland Trap hits those same criteria with the replayability coming from the fact that you’re never going to be able to build up an army and therefore have to squeak out a unique survival each time. Here’s how I was finally able to do it!
Note that if you haven’t checked out the new deckbuilder on CardGameDB, it works quite well. It loads quickly and provides some fun metrics. The “Sample Hand” generator is the feature that I’ve most appreciated though, as you can take a look at some opening draws and think about if you can get your deck up and running with a single mulligan. Check out my Dunland Trap Deck on their website and, as always, happy questing!