Of the Three Rings that the Elves had preserved unsullied no open word was ever spoken among the Wise, and few even of the Eldar knew where they were bestowed. Yet after the fall of Sauron their power was ever at work, and where they abode there mirth also dwelt and all things were unstained by the griefs of time.
This passage from “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age” in The Silmarillion describing the “unsullied” works of Celebrimbor serves as a perfect introduction to my “Wielders of the Three” deck featuring Elrond, Gandalf, and Galadriel. Arguably the three most powerful individuals among the Free Peoples of Middle-earth during the Third Age, these members of the White Council also share the secret burden of being a Ring-bearer. Although their three Elven-rings were not forged by Sauron, they remain “subject to the One.” Therefore while the Three are the “last made” and thus “possess the greatest powers”, their guardians know that their power will not endure. Whether Sauron reclaims his One Ring or whether his enemies destroy it, the Three are doomed to fail and “pass into the twilight”.
But at the time of our card game, it is not yet so. Elrond wields Vilya, the “mightiest of the Three”, Ring of Air. On Galadriel’s finger is Nenya, “wrought of mithril“, the Ring of Waters. Narya, the Red Ring, “remained hidden until the end, and none save Elrond and Galadriel and Círdan knew to whom it had been committed.” Originally given to Gil-galad and later passed to Círdan, it is only on the second to the last page of The Lord of the Rings, that we learn it is has been in the possession of Gandalf, who appears wearing it “openly on his hand” on the way to the Grey Havens.
While Narya still “remains hidden” in our LCG, these three heroes with our two released Elven-rings are definitely not lacking in potency. In fact, I daresay they form the nucleus of the most powerful solo deck you can build. When you control them with their full complement of attachments, it is simply ridiculous what you can accomplish. Fittingly, the Master of the Forge is the most essential ally in this deck. The quicker the Noldorin craftsman can begin churning out rings, staffs, pipes, armor and (more obscurely) courage, the sooner you will be ready to take on every enemy and treachery the encounter deck can muster. As the powerful card draw available from Expert Treasure-hunter, Galadriel, and Gandalf’s Staff thins your deck to just a few cards, you will see ally Beorn coming in and out of play regularly as a raging bear. If this isn’t enough attack strength, Gandalf can summon the Flame of Anor to attack for 9 after having a smoke on his Wizard Pipe with Brok Ironfist. Meanwhile Elrond equipped with Burning Brand and Elven Mail can defend against the mightiest blow with the support of his daughter Arwen and appointment as Protector of Lórien by his mother-in-law Galadriel.
I’ve recently been playing my “Wielders of the Three” deck against the second scenario of The Road Darkens saga expansion, “Journey in the Dark”. Only Durin’s Bane, The Balrog of Morgoth, seems a foe worthy of their strength. Each time, the showdown has been epic.
I recorded my most recent playthrough to post on YouTube. Watching through my game while editing, I realized that I am still only scratching the surface of how powerful this deck can be. I regularly forgot to trigger Expert Treasure-hunter, neglected adding several resources to Treebeard, often let Gandalf’s Staff go unused for a round, and frequently exhausted allies to quest when they entered play in spite of Galadriel. Despite all this, I still managed to face The Balrog and I hope that the confrontation does not disappoint!
I did, unfortunately, make one incredibly bone-headed error at the very beginning of the game that I pray does not disqualify me from your good graces. For some inexplicable reason, I set my starting threat at 32 instead of 36. This was actually more of hassle in the long run, because a 38 threat Moria Orc sat in the staging area for several rounds while I complained about not wanting to optionally engage him. Meanwhile, I let Galadhrim’s Greeting clog my hand the entire game. If you can overlook this major mistake though, I hope you’ll enjoy my playthrough. I stuck a video camera tripod on my ceiling fan to get a great angle on the table!