Playing Magic: Cult of Rakdos

Hey everybody,
It’s been a long time since I have talked about Magic on my blog, but it’s been something that I’ve been drifting back towards in recent days, so I’ve been looking over some of the decks that I’ve had built over the years. I’ve written quite a few of these “playing Magic” blogs, focusing on a few of the Ravnica guilds such as Dimir and Orzhov, but not yet on the colour combination that I perhaps enjoy more than any other: red and black! So it’s finally time to get to “my roots”, as it were, and talk about the Cult of Rakdos!

Rakdos Lord of Riots

Rakdos is unlike any of the other Guilds on the plane of Ravnica, in that they’re a sort of madcap band of circus-folk who are all bound by their hedonistic worship of the demon, Rakdos. The black and red cult has appeared now in three different sets, starting with Dissension in original Ravnica back in 2006. The guild mechanic here was Hellbent, an ability word that gave additional or enhanced effects to a card if you have no cards in hand.

Return to Ravnica gave us Unleash, a mechanic that allows you to choose when casting a creature to place a +1/+1 counter on it. If you do, it then cannot block, but is obviously buffed for as long as it remains in play. (Indeed, a counter placed from any source will prevent the creature from blocking). As far as the link to Rakdos goes, it’s fairly thematic, given the fact that the creature will only be concerned with attacking.

Finally, Ravnica Allegiance has given us Spectacle, which is a sort of re-imagined version of the ability originally chosen for Rakdos – if an opponent lost life this turn, you can cast the spell for its Spectacle cost rather than its casting cost. It’s also thematic for being so similar to the ability of the guildmaster himself, Rakdos Lord of Riots.

Rakdos

So let’s get down to my deck!

Creatures
Rakdos, Lord of Riots
Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch
Spike Jester (2)
Goblin Deathraiders (2)
Rakka Mar
Kiln Fiend
Hellrider
Rakdos Cackler (2)
Rakdos Shred-Freak (2)
Gore-House Chainwalker (2)
Rakdos Drake (2)
Exuberant Firestoker

Instants
Staggershock (2)
Shock (2)
Showstopper (2)
Virulent Swipe (2)
Rally the Forces

Enchantments
Lightning Talons (2)
Deviant Glee (2)
Madcap Skills
Anthem of Rakdos

Artifacts
Rakdos Keyrune (2)
Rakdos Signet
Rakdos Cluestone
Veinfire Borderpost

Land
Rakdos Guildgate (4)
Rakdos Carnarium (2)
Blood Crypt
Swamp (7)
Mountain (8)

There are a couple of things that I’ve considered changing about this deck, but I’ve had pretty decent luck with it so far that I’ve not really done anything about it just yet.

The bulk of the deck is of course Rakdos-centric, which is a lot of attacking power and Haste creatures. A lot of people don’t value Enchantments much, because of the fact that they die with the creature they’re attached to, but I do like to have some in my decks for the abilities they can grant. And I do recall one particularly memorable game where I had the Hellrider deal just one point of damage to my opponent, which let me bring Rakdos himself out, and the pair of them consequently won me the game while equipped with Deviant Glee and Lightning Talons, respectively! By contrast, the only artifacts included in the deck are concerned with mana-fixing, which is probably something that isn’t going to be a problem with the majority of the cards included, but they’re also really on-theme, so I find it hard to argue with that!

I mentioned Hellrider being a useful way to ensure Rakdos comes out, but there are a couple of direct-damage spells (of course!) that can help to ensure I’m able to deal damage to my opponent if need be, as well as the Exuberant Firestoker who, for quite a while, was almost cut from the team. However, even with creatures that have Trample or Flying, I need to make sure I can get the big guy out as much as possible. There are plenty of ways to pump him throughout the deck, which can win me the game if need be – Rakdos with Lightning Talons was a 9/6 Flying & Trample demon badass, but with Virulent Swipe he can be an 11/6 Flying/Trample/Deathtouch nightmare! Add in a Rally the Forces and he’s giving out 12 points of damage in the air – Trample ensures at least some of it gets through, and First Strike will kill off any chumps before they get a chance to kill him as well. If Anthem of Rakdos is added into the mix, there is the potential to one-shot a player! He can be such an incredible threat, it’s worth adding in the additional insurances to make sure he can be cast!

Exava Rakdos Blood Witch

Of course, the deck isn’t entirely about the Lord of Riots. He’s not an expensive card to buy, normally, but his availability has decreased significantly since I first got into the game, it has to be said. So the deck was never going to be a showcase for my favourite cult leader. We’ve got Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch, who acts almost as a focal point for the Unleash mechanic, allowing me to play those creatures on the turn they come out as she gives anything with a +1/+1 counter Haste. There are plenty of creatures and plenty of direct-damage spells that I can still stand a very good chance here, even if the Lord of Riots is stuck at the bottom of my deck. I don’t need him to win, but he’s really great when he hits the table!

I’ve talked before about encouraging the aesthetics of the deck in having cards in the same frame, and so on, and here I wanted to keep that sort of look of the deck as having the pre-M15 frame. I should probably try to make another deck from the new Rakdos cards in the new block, as I’ve got quite a few that I think might go together to make a decent re-imagining of the classic combo of black and red. Might be a blog for another day soon!

Rakdos

Outside of the Ravnica cards, I’ve gone pretty wide this time in the deck, including stuff from original Zendikar block, and even Shards of Alara. I feel it’s worth mentioning here the Borderposts that I’ve included in the deck – I’ve come across a lot of hate for these cards online, as people seem to condemn anything that isn’t a fetchland as worthless. However, it’s worth noting that you can pay 1 generic mana and return a land to your hand to play the card, rather than paying the three-mana casting cost. Turn one, then, being able to play the post provides some immediate fixing on the same speed as a Guildgate. Again, I’m aware that Guildgates are hardly the go-to lands but, playing against a lot of land removal allows me to keep my colour fixing in artifacts like these and the Keyrune etc.

Of course, it’s basically an aggro deck, so there are a lot of creatures involved, with a lot of combat tricks to buff them (and keeping the Kiln Fiend happy!) I’ve been thinking of more stuff like this going into the deck, to have more value coming from casting spells – Guttersnipe springs to mind, of course, but as I’d said before, I’ve had decent success so I’m not in too much of a rush to change things for now. I also have only 9 instant cards in the deck, which I don’t think is enough to consider building a spells-matter strategy into it at this point.

Rakdos

It’s a lot of fun playing these sorts of decks, I find, as you usually don’t find yourself playing for very long, so can get in multiple games and, thus, get to see a lot more of the deck.

There are a lot of great cards that can find a home in a deck like this, although they do tend to lend themselves to a certain type of card as time goes on. I’ve found myself having collected a large number of Magic cards over the years, and so find it a lot of fun to physically go through the collection and build decks that include all manner of weird and wonderful cards and effects. It’s also one of the reasons that I think this game is always going to be around for me – I might not play it anywhere near as often as I used to, but it’s something that has been a big part of my life for quite some time, and will doubtless always remain there, ready for me to come back to it when life allows! I suppose that’s the beauty of the game, in that a deck like Return to Ravnica-era Rakdos (and we’re talking 2012 here) will always be fun to play, no matter what has happened in the game. There’s another reason why I keep coming back to Magic – that timeless quality of it just being a really good game!

Remembering Netrunner

Hey everybody,
Anyone who reads my blog regularly will know I’m mostly obsessed with Warhammer 40k, although of course I’ve long been a huge fan of all manner of tabletop boardgames, particularly those from Fantasy Flight. While it’s been almost two years, I’ve recently found myself feeling pretty nostalgic for Android Netrunner, that amazing living card game that came to an end in 2018 after six glorious years of expansions that served to deepen the gameplay and expand the universe.

Android Netrunner

 

I first featured this game on my blog back in 2015, after having had a couple of years’ casual play out of it with my regular gaming buddy Tony, who introduced me to it after we’d enjoyed a few of the LCGs from FFS’s stable. I think the original draw, for me at least, was how asymmetrical the game play is. The differences in what each side is trying to do made it pretty different from any game I’d come across, before or since, really!

At the time, I was quite heavily involved in web development, and was looking to pursue it as something of a career option. Perhaps this was among the things that attracted me to the Runner side of the game, particularly the Shaper faction. While I think I’ve tried out each of the Runner factions, the Shaper was the faction I kept coming back to, because of the tinkering aspect of the identity. Being able to do crazy-ass things appealed to me greatly, and it was for sure the identity that I had the most fun with!

Android Netrunner

I played in the Summer 2015 Netrunner tournament, using my favourite Shaper build alongside a hastily put-together Haas/Bioroid Corp deck that I hadn’t really used before. Indeed, playing the Corp wasn’t something that I was overly familiar with at that time, as I’d played almost exclusively as the Runner when playing against Tony. However, the tournament was perhaps a symptom of the success I’d had with infecting the local community with this card game, and opportunities for games became fairly regular over time with guys at the local store. As such, I was able to get into playing more Corp decks, and to see what the fuss was all about.

Android Netrunner

NBN is an identity that I had graduated towards shortly before their deluxe expansion came out, and they had a massive boost in publicity. For most of my time with the game, Jinteki seemed to be the dominant Corp that I’d played against, although Tony always favoured Wayland. At any rate, I started throwing cards together and, over time, came up with a really enjoyable deck to play – I think I won with it as often as I lost, so I think that’s a fairly decent yardstick!

Android Netrunner

I sold off my collection in December 2018, sadly, having not actually played the game for more than two years prior to that. It was actually quite a sad moment, really, as I’d had so much fun with the game over the years. As it happens, though, I turned it into more plastic crack, so I suppose I’ve managed to get something out of it.

I do feel, though, that of all the games that I’ve played, the games that I’ve bought and then sold, this is one that I really regret losing a hold of. FFG stopped publishing the game, of course, but I have recently thought about trying to get a hold of a core set again, maybe a couple of expansion packs, just to recreate some of those happy times! I think Tony has still got his copy though, so I can always raid that to build up some decks and try my luck again when the lockdown is properly lifted!!

We’re approaching GenCon now, of course, which always gets me thinking about the other games from my collection. Gaming isn’t all about the grim darkness of the far future – something that I think I’d like to try to recapture as time goes on. Fingers crossed!

Playing Magic: The Orzhov Syndicate

Hey everybody!
It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these “playing Magic” blogs, but in light of the fact that I’ve started to collect some cards again, and seeing as how we’ve just experienced another return to the plane of Ravnica, I thought it’s about time I wrote up a blog showcasing the Orzhov deck that I’ve been talking about in a number of my previous blogs! So without further ado, let’s get to it!

Orzhov Syndicate

The Orzhov Syndicate is a bit like the idea of a corrupt Church organisation, not all that far removed from real life, where the leaders are more businessmen than clerics, and who have a very temporal power through their control of all manner of deals. Indeed, one of the Guild-specific land cards in the original Ravnica block is Orzhova, the Church of Deals. There is a strong theme whereby even in death, a person’s debt is rarely paid, and so the Guild features a lot of ghosts and shades, with a few keywords that have come in over the years that play on that idea.

The original keyword mechanic for the Orzhov Syndicate was Haunt. Widely considered to be a terrible mechanic (head designer Mark Rosewater himself considers it “a mistake”), a card with Haunt will be exiled rather than placed in the graveyard, “haunting” another permanent on the battlefield. When the card it is haunting is itself then put into the graveyard, that action will trigger the Haunt effect of the original card, basically getting a second use out of it before both die.

During Return to Ravnica block, Orzhov had the mechanic Extort, which allows you to pay an additional white or black mana whenever you cast a spell, whereupon each opponent loses 1 life and you gain life equal to the total lost. Commonly referred to as “drain and gain”, it’s a great way to ensure cards have impact for you the whole game, and it’s the mechanic around which I’ve built my deck that I’ll talk about shortly!

During the latest Guilds of Ravnica block, the new Orzhov mechanic is Afterlife X, which creates X 1/1 Spirit creature tokens when the card with Afterlife X dies. I suppose you can think of this as a cleaner Haunt, or at least, a cleaner implementation of the idea of Haunt! It’s also extremely on-point for the idea of never quite paying off your debts to the Syndicate!

Unlike my Dimir deck, my Orzhov deck is all about the Guild, and goes heavily into the theme of Orzhov, using cards only from Ravnica and Return to Ravnica blocks.

Orzhov Syndicate

I’ll be the first to admit, this deck can be clunky as hell. Because of the fact that I’ve got the self-imposed limit of only including Guild-specific cards in the deck, it’s really difficult to reliably make the deck win. I’ve also included some cards in there for the sheer theme alone, and ordinarily wouldn’t consider using if I were trying to make the deck more playable. But it’s a lot of fun to build decks that are dripping with theme like this, so there is definitely that in its favour!

Creatures (25):
Obzedat, Ghost Council
Blood Baron of Vizkopa
Kingpin’s Pet
Treasury Thrull
Syndic of Tithes
Syndicate Enforcer
Souls of the Faultless
Maze Sentinel
Basilica Guards
Sin Collector
High Priest of Penance (2)
Tithe Drinker (2)
Orzhov Guildmage
Vizkopa Confessor
Thrull Parasite (2)
Crypt Ghast
Pontiff of Blight
Vizkopa Guildmage
Dutiful Thrull (2)
Basilica Screecher (2)

Instants & Sorceries (5):
Purge the Profane
Executioner’s Swing (2)
Obzedat’s Aid (2)

Artifacts (4):
Orzhov Signet
Orzhov Cluestone
Orzhov Keyrune (2)

Enchantments (4):
Gift of Orzhova (2)
Shadow Lance
Blind Obedience

Land (22):
Orzhov Guildgate (3)
Orzhov Basilica (3)
Orzhova, the Church of Deals
Plains (8)
Swamp (7)

Orzhov Syndicate

There are 15 instances of Extort as a keyword in the deck, though thanks to the Pontiff of Blight, every single spell being cast has the potential to gain Extort – and in case you were wondering, multiple instances of Extort on a card do indeed stack, so there is definitely the potential for some serious drain and gain shenanigans going on there!

Of course, Extort isn’t the only thing going on with the deck. There is a certain element of Control, thanks to stuff like Blind Obedience (a card I normally dislike playing due to the amount of hate it can attract) and the High Priest of Penance forcing some difficult choices to be made by any would-be attacker. The lifegain potential in the deck is high, due to the multiple instances of Lifelink outside of Extort, though one of the big areas this deck falls down is a failing to weaponize that. I’ve talked more in-depth on weaponizing lifegain in my Ayli Commander deck blog, though, and I think if I were to travel outside of the Ravnica block cards, it wouldn’t be too difficult to create a really punishing version of this deck.

Ultimately, this is meant to be just a fun deck that is really dripping with theme, and one that brings back fond memories for me when I was first getting into Magic the Gathering, watching Spellslingers and enjoying the interactions of the cards, as well as seeing just how much fun you can have playing this game!!

Games updates!

Hey everybody!
I may be in the middle of moving house, but I’m still trying to keep abreast of all the goings-on in the games world! There is, after all, quite a great deal happening in the world, and I feel like it’s a glorious time for us nerds as we move into the summer.

First up, I want to talk about Lord of the Rings, and the first pack preview for the upcoming Vengeance of Mordor cycle.

After your adventures in A Shadow in the East, Dorwinion seems to be bright and beautiful, free from the taint of evil that the mysterious cult had swept over the land. After a month of peaceful travel, your band of adventurers have made their way back to the capital city to enjoy one last night of the citizens’ hospitality before returning home. You are glad for the rest, but your thoughts cannot help but drift back to the horrors you witnessed in the shadow of Mordor, and wonder whether the evil has truly been rooted out.

Your fears are confirmed when you awake in the middle of the night to the sounds of clashing steel and cries of fear pouring in from the streets. The enemy has gotten Inside the Walls. Thane Ulchor, a traitor to Dorwinion, has returned to the city with an army of Easterlings. His agents within the city slew the guards and opened the gate to let them in, and now the battle rages in the streets. It is up to you to defend the helpless citizens, support the city guard, and push back the invading forces before the city falls into the clutches of darkness.

I feel very much like this cycle is setting itself up a little like Against the Shadow, which was an urban cycle focused on Gondor, and began with a pack set in the city with the task of rooting out a traitor. While comparisons can be made with controlling locations and Assault on Osgiliath, I think this one could be quite interesting, with the locations you control having effects on them that remain in play even after the card has left play.

Of course, the most interesting aspect of this pack is the new Tom Bombadil ally card, which is shuffled into the encounter deck if you manage to play a copy of the Tom Bombadillo! card from your hand. It’s an interesting way to bring in an ally like this – previously, they’ve been included in the encounter deck as Objectives. It’s exciting to see that the game is still bringing us new ways to play, even this far in the game’s history.

I’ve not been playing Lord of the Rings nearly as much as I’d like to this year, though I have rediscovered my love for the adventure card game with Arkham Horror LCG, and recently picked up the Return to Night of the Zealot box from my local store. While I’ve finally made it to playing The Dunwich Legacy, I think it might be fun to give this one a try and see how much more difficult the additional cards make things!

I’m still not caught up with the current cycle, which I think has now seen the final pack released, but I am looking forward to the next box already, as it looks really interesting with its dual-planes of play. I’ve already talked about this in a previous blog, of course, but I really need to catch up with this game and put some time aside to really investigate what it has to offer. I mean, it’s really not that I dislike the game, it just doesn’t seem to have the table-time that I think it needs. Symptomatic of the times, of course, as I don’t seem to be playing anywhere near as much as I’d like. I guess I’m mainly painting miniatures these days, which brings me on to…

Warcry, the skirmish game set in the Mortal Realms, the game I’d nearly forgotten about with everything else going on, has had another warband revealed, and it is just weird!

The Unmade are just…well, weird! They look like some wonderful Drukhari experiment or something, and I can probably see myself getting hold of some of these models simply to paint, though I’m not sure if they’ve taken the spot of the Iron Golems as my favourite.

They look… I don’t know, almost too-40k. Especially that elongated champion-like figure. Very much John Blanche-esque, make no mistake!

They could also make some useful Cultists for 40k, thinking about it…

Model of the set is probably this chap with the chain, though. The models coming out of Nottingham these days are all pretty amazing, but the sense of movement in these warbands is just phenomenal, and I thought it just looks really, really cool!

Of course,

Where the hell did this come from?! Talisman: Batman?! Not only a re-skin of the classic game, but a Super Villains edition, where you navigate the hallways of Arkham Asylum, evading Batman to free the inmates! Sounds hilarious, and it’s always interesting when you have the opportunity to play as the villains!

I’m actually trying to thin out the boardgames collection once more, as space is currently at a premium while we get settled in the new house and prepare for the arrival of the firstborn, but it is definitely very tempting, I have to say!!

Core Set 2020 is now out, with no real storyline as such (well, it’s a Core Set, so…) but focusing on the life of everybody’s favourite pyromancer, Chandra Nalaar. The set focuses on three-colour wedges, which I like because it’s the first time we’re seeing this since Tarkir block, the set that I really started playing in. I’ve not played in prerelease, of course, but I would like to get my hands on some of those cards for my decks!

There is always something quite nice about a new Magic set, and especially seeing a Core Set again. I’m really trying hard not to fall into the spiral of the cardboard crack, but Magic is probably the best one-on-one card game experience I can think of, so I think it will always be there in some form, and I enjoy collecting at least a few cards from each set and seeing what I can do with them!

Getting Back into Magic!

Hey everybody!
So it’s been a while, but I’ve started to get myself back into Magic the Gathering, having been thinking a lot about what I’ve been missing since I was last looking at it back when Guilds of Ravnica came out last year.

To begin with, it seems like there’s been a lot happening! War of the Spark is out, and all hell seems to have broken loose on Ravnica, as the Planeswalkers of the Gatewatch face off against Nicol Bolas. I think I need to really get to grips with what on earth has been going on overall, though there is that novel coming out that, I presume, will deal with all of that! In the meantime, though, I’ve been taking a look through a lot of my collection, adding a few bits here and there, and have already been building up a couple of decks – one of which, I’m sharing with you all here today!

Jund

Jund is one of the five Shards of Alara, primarily aligned with Red mana, spilling over into both Black and Green. The Shards were introduced in Shards of Alara, unsurprisingly, and gave names to the allied three-colour groupings. The flavour of the Shard is very much something I like, using the vibrancy of Red as a base to build upon. I’m not hugely into Green, but I do enjoy the pair of Red and Green, so that’s all fine.

There is a strong theme of wildness and passion that comes out from looking at the actual Jund-themed cards from Shards of Alara block, where the theme of predator/prey comes out through the Devour mechanic:

Devour N (As this enters the battlefield, you may sacrifice any number of creatures. This creature enters the battlefield with N +1/+1 counters on it.)

Jund Savage Lands

For my deck, I’ve got quite a few things going on, which should hopefully make it interesting to play. There is a theme of Enchantments matter, spells matter, and a counters sub-theme, along with more of a meta-theme of shamans playing about with magic. This latter might take some explaining, so bear with me!

Creatures (14):
Radha, Heir to Keld
Deeproot Chamption
Dragonmaster Outcast
Blightcaster
Savage Ventmaw
Boltwing Marauder
Hellkite Hatchling
Paragon of Eternal Wilds
Poison-Tip Archer
Guttersnipe (2)
Kiln Fiend (2)
Winding Constrictor

Instants & Sorceries (9):
Blood Divination
Doublecast
Grim Affliction (2)
Virulent Swipe
Firebolt
Ground Assault
Enter the Unknown
Death Frenzy

Enchantments (8):
Sight of the Scalelords
See Red
Gruul War Chant
Untamed Hunger
Pyromancer’s Assault
Retreat to Valakut
Bonds of Mortality
Infernal Scarring

Artifacts (4):
Primal Amulet
Thunderstaff
Worn Powerstone
Dowsing Dagger

Land (25):
Mountain (4)
Swamp (4)
Forest (2)
Bloodfell Caves
Jungle Hollow
Rugged Highlands
Timber Gorge
Hissing Quagmire
Cinder Barrens
Rootbound Crag
Cinder Glade
Savage Lands (2)
Akoum Refuge 
Molten Slagheap
Kazandu Refuge
Dragonskull Summit
Evolving Wilds

So we’ve got a lot going on, but the thought process here is stuff like the Blightcaster killing creatures whenever Enchantments enter the battlefield; the Primal Amulet, Deeproot Champion, Guttersnipe and Kiln Fiend doing things whenever instant and sorcery cards are cast; and the Winding Constrictor increasing the number of counters that get put on cards through effects like the Deeproot Champion and Enter the Unknown. Hellkite Hatchling is the only card with Jund’s Devour mechanic, which is nice to have for flavour purposes, and will also benefit from the Winding Constrictor.

The land base is a little bit janky, I’m currently thinking about swapping out a few things, and can’t decide if I want to get rid of the manland or the storage land. It’s always a question of cost as far as lands are concerned though!

I mentioned earlier the theme of shamans going crazy casting spells. I want the deck to have a fairly strong theme of magic coming through in the artwork, with spells that have a strong feeling of casting (Blood Divination, Doublecast, Firebolt), artifacts of power (Worn Powerstone), and even powerful spellcasters themselves (Blightcaster, Dragonmaster Outcast).

Artwork on cards is something that I’m often very sensitive to, wanting a deck to feel like it’s coherent as well as looking it. Another theme I wanted here was for the cards to all share the post-M15 border, and for any colourless mana symbols to have the “diamond” symbol, and not just a number in a grey circle. All very unimportant to most players, I know, but it’s something that I’m becoming increasingly concerned with.

As a side note, Firebolt’s appearance in the upcoming Modern Horizons means that it’s only Worn Powerstone that is keeping this deck Modern-legal. Ah well!

This deck should be interesting enough to play, in theory, so I’m looking forward to trying it out in the near future, along with some of the others that I’ve been putting together!

A Shadow in the East

Wow, you guys! Wow!

Lord of the Rings LCG is getting an eighth deluxe expansion pack, A Shadow in the East, and it sounds spectacular! We’re heading to Rhûn for this and the subsequent Vengeance of Mordor cycle, and I for one simply cannot wait!

The three quests that come in the expansion are all a little reminiscent of the Against the Shadow cycle, with their urban feel and sinister cults, but there is also the added feeling of the oppression of Mordor, with the idea of mysterious ruined temples built in honour of Sauron. Wow!

This has been great news, I have to say. It’s always exciting to see more come out for this game, which I have frequently said is my all-time favourite board/card game in my collection. We’re getting new quests of course, and we’re travelling to another new area of the map, so what’s not to like? Some very interesting new theme and mechanics coming on the cards we’ve seen spoiled so far – and we’re getting The One Ring once again!

I’m not sure whether this new Ring card will make it into my decks (although I’m also wondering whether it will be a stipulation of playing the quests?) as I’m a fairly cautious player at times, and reducing my threat elimination level by 5 to play with it seems a bit too much for me! But I’m sure, in time, I’ll try and experience how it changes things – especially seeing as how there will be new cards that interact with it, as well.

The first double-sided Hero card is here, too! I’m sure I’ve seen fans speculating about the possibility of a Sméagol/Gollum card for years, so I’m sure there are plenty of folks excited by this! With two cards shuffled into the encounter deck that give him a chance to flip to the Enemy side, I can see having the Ring’s ability to counter encounter cards in this way could be quite powerful! He’s otherwise quite decent-looking, and his cost is splendid! Reminds me of the Spirit Glorfindel from back in the day!


I’m really excited to see a new deluxe expansion – I’ve been concerned for a while now that The Wilds of Rhovanion would be the end of the game in its paper form, as it seems to have a real “last hurrah” feel to it. You can read more about that here, though! There is still some strong speculation online that the language used in the announcement feels a bit final – “it has all led to this” etc – plus the question of just what was happening within the time period the game is supposed to be following, leading many folks to think we could be in for news of the final expansion pack soon.

Previous LCGs from Fantasy Flight have come to an end when they have about this much content out there for them, of course. We’re coming to the end of the eighth cycle for the game, which has also included seven deluxe expansions and eight Saga deluxe expansions, as well as eleven standalone expansion packs, not to mention all of the Nightmare expansion packs! There is a heck of a lot of content out there right now for this game, and while the amount of content doesn’t always equal bloat for a game like this, there is nevertheless quite a high barrier to entry at this point, and I wonder if the designers might be feeling the need to draw things to a close. I guess we can but wait and see on this.

At least we’re in for more Lord of the Rings LCG for a while yet, and I cannot wait to see what we’re going to be up to in this upcoming cycle! I think it might be time to crack out some decks and see how far I can get once more!

Lord of the Rings LCG

Hey everybody!
It’s my birthday today, so for today’s game day, I thought I’d ramble for a bit about my favourite game of all, Lord of the Rings LCG from Fantasy Flight Games!

Lord of the Rings LCG

It’s my favourite for so many reasons, not all of them linked to how wonderful the game is to simply play, but also my memories of playing it over the last seven years. I’ve featured the game on my blog before as a game day extravaganza, but I’ve recently been playing more of it again, so I wanted to talk a bit about my enjoyment of these games, and see where I go from there!

I’ve been playing the Shadows of Mirkwood and Dwarrowdelf quests once more, which are some of my absolute all-time favourites. I’ve been trying to play them all, rather than going through those that I know I enjoy and skipping the others, and it has led to me almost rediscovering these early packs as if they were brand new! For instance, the last time I played A Journey to Rhosgobel prior to this most recent playthrough was 2012!

Getting to play these old favourites has really taken me back to my glory days of gaming, when I had so much more time for these sorts of things. In particular, I remember how excited I used to get to take delivery of the latest Adventure Pack, and would have tried it out within days (if not hours!) of getting it. I recall my first plays with The Dead Marshes being almost at the dead of night, as I just couldn’t wait to give it a go! Happy times, indeed.

As the game matured and evolved, though, I think that faded for me, as the quests seemed to get harder and harder almost on purpose. Some of those from the fourth cycle onwards (the Ringmaker cycle) felt a little like they were too much like a game, and not as much like an exploration of Middle Earth, and I seem to recall it was around this time that my attention waned somewhat. I’ve certainly never been as excited for the latest expansions to arrive since – although Sands of Harad was perhaps one exception!

I recently gave a couple of new scenarios a try, while still intending to play through the entire game from start to finish, and I think it surprised me at just how difficult things have become! Sands of Harad has been on my radar for a long while now, as I love the desert theme and whatnot, but I was a little surprised at how brutal the first quest was – having an automatic “you lose” if there are no progress tokens on a quest, as well as a proliferation of enemies to keep you pinned down and make questing difficult, seemed a far cry from the banks of the Anduin! The Nightmare decks for scenarios are supposed to represent an opponent tweaking his deck to give you a slightly tougher challenge, but I thought this was quite tough to begin with, so would hate to see how bad Nightmare mode makes this one!

I’ve been using an elven-themed deck, which features a lot of comparatively new cards from the Ringmaker cycle. I’ve previously talked about the deck here, and you can see the full breakdown in that blog also. However, I think I might need to include some of the newer-still cards if I’m to make it through these new scenarios!

Shadows of Mirkwood

Of course, my all-time favourite scenario remains The Hills of Emyn Muil. It’s widely dismissed by the internet community as being “too easy” and has been consigned to oblivion since 2011. But I would vehemently defend this as being the most thematic, Tolkien-esque expansion for the game that FFG has ever produced. Nowhere is the breadth of Middle Earth more clearly brought to the tabletop than in this expansion, as we wander almost lost and aimless through the expanse of Emyn Muil, desperately trying to pick up the trail of Gollum once again. It manages to capture the feel of the books, and even that of the movies, so amazingly well that I always look forward to playing this one. It might be easy to play as a game, but as a gameplay experience, it is just nothing short of wonderful.

The Dwarrowdelf cycle is one that I feel another special sort of kinship with, though I always feel like I need to play with my Dwarven deck whenever I head into the Mines of Moria. Part of that is a game reason, of course, as the deck includes a lot of cards designed to work with the Underground locations within that cycle, but even so, there is a very strong theme here that comes from the fact that Dwarves were the first deck archetype to be really supported in the game.

The cycle is obviously FFG trying to tell the central story from Fellowship of the Ring, as the merry band of heroes travels through the Mines on their way to Lórien, from the time when the company didn’t have the licence to produce games based on the books themselves. While we’ve since had the Saga expansions that actually tell that tale, I still enjoy the Dwarrowdelf cycle for what it is: an attempt to tell an original tale within the framework of the novel itself. I like it, anyway, and I think I’ve returned to this cycle much more than I’ve attempted to play through the Saga expansion itself!

My recent playthrough of the three scenarios from Khazad-dûm this past weekend has shown that, between some luck and the amazing synergy that a Dwarven deck can build, the scenarios are nowhere near as difficult as they once were. I think it’s not so much the whole Dwarrowdelf cycle support for the theme, but also the two Hobbit Saga expansions that really helped to flesh out the archetype – the increased bonuses granted for having more than five Dwarf characters in play, combined with some of the cheaper generic Dwarves from the core set and early packs, really help to build the theme early on.

For reference, then, here’s my Dwarf deck that I enjoy:

Dáin Ironfoot (leadership)
Óin (spirit)
Ori (lore)

Allies:
Glóin
Gimli
Dori
Bifur
Bofur
Fili
Kili
Dwalin
Zigil Miner
Longbeard Orc Slayer
Miner of the Iron Hills
Longbeard Map-Maker
Erebor Hammersmith
Erebor Record Keeper
Erebor Battle Master

Attachments:
Song of Battle
Song of Kings
Ever My Heart Rises (2)
Dwarrowdelf Axe (2)
Narvi’s Belt (2)
Boots from Erebor
Legacy of Durin (2)
Hardy Leadership
Cram

Event: 
Khazâd! Khazâd!
Dwarven Tomb
Untroubled by Darkness (2)
Durin’s Song (2)
To me! O my kinsfolk! (2)
Lure of Moria (2)
Strength of Will (2)
Daeron’s Runes
Ever Onward
Ancestral Knowledge (2)
Fresh Tracks (2)
A Good Harvest
We Are Not Idle
Quick Strike
Sneak Attack

The deck is one of my favourites, though as I said above, it can get on-line pretty quickly and make short work of some of these earlier scenarios. There are a lot of effects that trigger of specific location-types, which means I probably wouldn’t bring it out if I knew there were none of those locations coming in the deck. The return of Underground and Dark locations in the Ered Mithrin cycle has made me think once more about seeing how this deck fares with those newer scenarios, though, so I may well give it a go in the near future!

Lord of the Rings LCG may well be coming to the end of its life cycle soon, as it feels very much like FFG is winding down the game. It has grown significantly over the last 7 years, and it’s currently their longest-running card game still being produced, with a card pool that really shows that. While I do appreciate the fact that core set cards remain valid in decks built to take on the very latest expansions (the above example with Sands of Harad being a case in point), I think there is a general pervasive feeling that the game is coming to its end, with the current Ered Mithrin cycle feeling very much like one last hurrah through Middle Earth before it’s done. Seeing scenarios that re-use encounter sets from the core set, as well as returning to mechanics such as Underground and Dark locations, feels very much like a last ride through the fan favourites before calling it a day.

I will naturally be saddened to see the end of the game, should that come to pass, but I think, of all the games I own, this is one that I have kept coming back to, and will keep coming back to, time and time again. Not just for the wonderful memories it has given me, or the beautiful card art, or the breathtaking narrative each Adventure Pack brings, but just because it’s such a good game, overall. It’s a fantastic adventure game, while managing to be as under-stated as Tolkien could be.

I just love it!

Getting back to Mirkwood, part one

Hey everybody!
I’m having something of a card game renaissance lately, getting back into both Arkham Horror LCG and my all-time favourite game, Lord of the Rings LCG! I’ve rambled previously about these events, of course, and today will be a little more of a ramble, as I talk about revisiting three of the absolute classics of the game, the first half of the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle!

I’ve waxed lyrical about this game in a number of posts now, but I really can’t quite describe just how much joy I get from playing this game!

If you read my original look through the Mirkwood cycle linked above, you’ll know just how much I like to wax lyrical about this cycle. I wrote that back in 2014, but it all pretty much still stands up as true! The cycle is just so classic for me, and so quintessentially what this game is all about. This was released before the Saga expansions of course, when I think FFG didn’t have licence to produce games set to follow the books themselves, so had to work around that by producing these side-stories. We see this most clearly with the Dwarrowdelf cycle, of course, but even with things like the Dead Marshes here, we’re attempting to visit book locations while not telling the story of Frodo and Sam.

While I’ve been a huge fan of this cycle since I originally bought it, I don’t normally play Conflict at the Carrock or A Journey to Rhosgobel, as I like the cinematic feel of playing packs I, IV, V and VI in that order. Missing out the ‘side quests’ has become so normal for me that actually playing them this time has been a lot of fun! A Journey to Rhosgobel in particular was almost something of a discovery, as I’d forgotten so much of that scenario!

I was playing through them with my Elves deck, which is made up of a lot of cards from the Ringmaker cycle, something that I was curious to see whether it would have much of an effect on these comparatively older expansions. As it happens, the answer is no. Don’t get me wrong, I think there’s a lot to be said for playing with a much more synergistic deck like all-elves or all-dwarves, as FFG have really made some great attempts to bring these cards together into often quite powerful archetypes, whereas trying to play with the wider synergies of the entire sphere could see you struggle, but I don’t think it makes things particularly easier to manage. My elven deck can allow Legolas and Glorfindel to become real powerhouses, of course, but I still managed to end up with Glorfindel Sacked! in Conflict at the Carrock, and I did still lose A Journey to Rhosgobel after having only discovered one Athelas plant.

I’m really thinking I might play Rhosgobel again, as I feel like I barely know that pack! It was a lot of fun – well, the whole playthrough was a lot of fun! But yeah, might get back to that one before I move on into the Hills of Emyn Muil


I’ve got the second half of these quests to play through as well, of course, but I’m also thinking about playing through on Nightmare mode before I move on to Khazad-dûm. It’s something I definitely don’t normally do, as I find a lot of the time, Nightmare mode feels like it breaks the original theme for the sake of making an otherwise really enjoyable game unnecessarily difficult. However, when I’ve previously looked through the cards for the Mirkwood Nightmares, I seem to recall they’re actually very thematic as well. Maybe I’m unjustly hating on Nightmare mode? Anyway. We shall see!

The Lord of the Rings LCG remains my all-time favourite game, and I am really looking forward to getting back into playing through some of my favourite quests, as well as playing the newer scenarios that I have yet to experience! Stay tuned!

Getting back to Arkham!

Hey everybody!
After talking more about the general boardgames in recent weeks, rather than bombarding you all with news of my hobby progress etc, I thought I’d come here and ramble for a bit about how it went with my Arkham Horror LCG core set campaign!

It’s been ages since I had originally started this, of course, and I had actually had to re-start so that I could once again get into the game and its various mechanics.

So I took Daisy and Skids off on an adventure to save the world from a diabolical cult, and it actually went fairly well – my initial thought about two investigators causing more problems didn’t really pose that much of an issue, as there were also more clues being spawned and we got through the encounter deck a lot quicker, etc.

I must say, I’m quite surprised at the differences between this game and Lord of the Rings, which I’d recently gotten back into of course, and my approaches to them. Skids had pretty much been tooled-up to be the heavy hitter, while Daisy was scampering off investigating clues etc, but there is a distinct lack of enemies that require beating up for the Skids deck as I’d been building it to really work.

While there are plenty of monsters here, and that’s also true of the board game antecedent also, the game is less about combat than it is about, well, everything else! I quite like that about it, as I’m not really looking for a beat-’em-up style experience all the time.

The Dunwich Legacy

For now, anyway, I’ve made my way through the core set campaign, Night of the Zealot, and while I’m sure at some point I’ll be investing in the campaign box they recently brought out, for now my attention has been firmly fixed on Dunwich. I’ve been putting this off for an age now, of course, but I really want to actually make it to the first cycle of expansions and just see what they’re all about!

My initial investigations have shown that it has no real link to the core set, so I have retired my Daisy and Skids decks, and instead have been looking to build decks with the new investigators from the deluxe expansion. This sort of thing does bring with it an interesting situation, as the investigators here have a completely different sort of limitation upon their deckbuilding, which involves a lot more thought than the core investigators, and just mashing together two factions into a single deck! Of course, I still haven’t made the leap for a second core box, so my deckbuilding options are a little slim as far as that goes, so I’m thinking I may well be buying that second box before Christmas gets here.

I’m very much looking forward to getting back into the whole card gaming world of LCGs this autumn/winter season, so stay tuned for more exciting updates!!

Arkham Horror LCG

Returning to Middle Earth!

Hey everybody!
So, after my last blog, I was really feeling the need to get back into Middle Earth, and playing some Lord of the Rings LCG once again. It’s without a doubt my favourite game, so when I had some spare time last Sunday, I dusted off my elves deck and took a turn through the first two scenarios in the core set.

My goodness me, what a wonderful time was had!

I’d forgotten how good the elves were to play, having not had a game with that deck since 2016, when I had made a brief attempt to get playing this game again, and made a new Dúnedain deck. The elven strategy is to gain benefits from discarding cards; some of those benefits can be quite handy, and one of the most notable from my games at the weekend was that of Erestor, allowing me to cycle through my deck a lot more efficiently.

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I feel like I have become a much better card-game-player since I started getting into Magic all those years ago, as the whole Magic scene better-prepares you for building decks etc than any other game I’ve ever come across.

The Wilds of Rhovanion

While I’m currently thinking that I’m going to try and play my way through the game from the start, cycle by cycle, the reason for me writing this blog today is that I have now taken delivery of both the latest (last?) deluxe expansion, and the first pack in the linked cycle! I’ve talked briefly about this before, but I do have the strong feeling that this latest expansion is bringing the game a whole lot closer to the early days of the Mirkwood cycle, when I really fell in love with it and obsessed over it.

The three scenarios take us along the Anduin once again, through Mirkwood Forest, and then under the Lonely Mountain on a quest for King Brand, who appears as one of the new heroes. The expansion has a really nice feel to it, and the Dale theme among the player cards does appear to be one that could be a lot of fun to work with. I’ve previously tried an Outlands human deck, but felt it was a little bland – the Men of Dale could be the men I’ve been looking for all these years! Ahem…

What’s really exciting about this latest expansion in the fact we’re re-using encounter sets from the core set – only a couple, but they’re there once again! It’s something I’ve wondered if they’d ever do for a long time now, and while it is only the core set encounters, I am left wondering how far they could feasibly take this in the game. Expansions of expansions are always a very dubious prospect, as it requires a player to have more than just the core set, but given that each cycle has required its deluxe expansion in order to function, it would really only be expanding on that theme…

Of course, I’m not going to get into the whole “is this the final cycle?” question just now.

The Wilds of Rhovanion
While I did say earlier that I was going to attempt to play my way steadily through all of the released content for the game, I might just have a sneaky game with this expansion at the weekend, perhaps make up a new deck especially for the occasion, and see whether the old magic still pervades the latest offerings for the game. And then I’ll get stuck into The Hunt for Gollum!


So what is my elven deck, you might be asking yourselves. Well, it’s something that I built a number of years ago, somewhat following on from this pair of articles on the FFG website, here and here. So, in the spirit of sharing, let me show you…

Glorfindel (spirit)
Elrond (lore)
Legolas (tactics)

Leadership:
Erestor
Orophin
Naith Guide

Tactics:
Rúmil
Galadhon Archer
Marksman of Lórien
Arod
Bow of the Galadhrim
Rivendell Blade (2)
Blade of Gondolin
Unseen Strike
Hands Upon the Bow
Quick Strike
Pursuing the Enemy
Rain of Arrows

Spirit:
Arwen Undómiel
Imladris Stargazer
Lórien Guide
Light of Valinor (2)
The Favor of the Lady (2)
Elrond’s Counsel (2)
The Galadhrim’s Greeting (2)
Fair and Perilous (2)
A Test of Will (2)
Island amid Perils
Children of the Sea

Lore:
Henamarth Riversong
Haldir of Lórien
Gildor Inglorion
Galdor of the Havens
Galadhrim Healer
Mirkwood Runner
Silvan Tracker
Asfaloth
Elf-stone (2)
Protector of Lórien
The Tree People
Lórien’s Wealth (2)
Leave no Trace

Neutral:
Vilya
Keen as Lances

The are, for sure, a number of cards in this deck that I think have been included more for theme than for actual utility – one of those themes being that the art is by Magali Villeneuve… But anyway! I think it’ll be useful to run through the deck soon and look at some of these cards, such as the very expensive Gildor Inglorion, and replace them with cards that might be better-placed overall. I play Lord of the Rings pretty much exclusively solo with one deck, so all card spaces are at a premium for me. Having cards in there just because the art is nice, or something, is not a good idea. But I don’t want to break the theme too much – it is an elven deck, and I want to have something that works off this theme overall.

 

It feels so good to be back in Middle Earth right now!