Unlike Into the Pit, which struck a balance between combat, exploration and treacheries, The Seventh Level revolves around killing goblins. Lots and lots of goblins.
In the second quest stage each player reveals an additional card from the encounter deck, and adds that card to the staging area if it is an enemy. The encounter deck is overflowing with goblins, so in most rounds you will be flipping two enemies every round. To make matters worse, Goblin Swordsman and Goblin Spearman add themselves to the staging area when their shadow effects resolve, and the Watchful Eyes condition spawns enemies in the staging area too. Unless you have a strategy for killing enemies quickly they will very likely keep accumulating in the staging area and overrun you.
For this scenario I wanted a deck that could attack into the staging area and deal direct damage to enemies, running down goblins as fast as possible. The deck also had to generate plenty of willpower, because the scenario’s two stages require 15 and 17 progress tokens respectively. And naturally there needed to be plenty of dwarves too, since this is Khazad-dûm after all!
Attacking into the staging area and direct damage
The Seventh Level seems like it was designed with Thalin’s ability in mind. When he is committed to the quest Thalin does 1 point of damage to each enemy as it is revealed from the encounter deck, which is perfect for softening up goblins, or even killing them outright.
Dunhere is another obvious choice for this deck since he is the only hero (to this point, at least) who can directly attack enemies in the staging area. Dunhere needs to attack alone for his ability to trigger, so he is a good candidate for weapon attachments to make his attacks more potent.
Descendent of Thorondor is also excellent at picking off enemies in the staging area. When DoT enters play it deals 2 damage to an enemy in the staging area, and this effect is triggered again when it leaves play. In the past I have struggled to find opportunities to trigger DoT’s effect, but that is seldom a problem in The Seventh Level, where enemies are frequently added to the staging area.
Born Aloft gives you a handy means of returning Descendent to your hand, triggering its leave play effect. Sneak Attack works well with Descendant of Thorondor too. Sneak DoT into play during the quest phase, after the staging step, and you can deal 4 damage to an enemy before it has a chance to engage you.
Gondorian Spearman is a Tactics ally that combos very nicely with Thalin, and together they can neutralise a 2 hit point enemy before it can retaliate with an attack of its own. This combo works by committing Thalin to the quest so that he deals 1 damage to the enemy when it is revealed during the staging phase, then declaring Gondorian Spearman as a defender against the enemy’s attack to deliver the killing point of damage.
Longbeard Orc Slayer is an excellent ally to bring out when Orcs are starting to clog up the staging area. His enter play effect deals 1 damage to every Orc in play, which can be a life saver when you find yourself overrun by goblins.
Lastly, Gandalf’s ability to inflict 4 points of direct damage when he enters play earns him an automatic spot in this deck.
In such a combat heavy scenario you’ll want some attack buffing in your deck. I have opted for the Dwarven Axe rather than the Dwarrowdelf Axe, since it can be attached to Dunhere, who is the deck’s primary attacker.
I considered going for Dunedain Mark instead, but The Plundered Armoury location lets us put weapons and armour into play for free, which makes Dwarven Axe a more appealing option.
“They have a cave troll”
Pesky 2HP goblins are easy enough to dispatch, but the scenario’s two Cave Trolls are much harder to take down. The trolls swing for 6, and any excess damage beyond the defender’s hit points has to be dealt to another character, which makes chump blocking a very limited defensive strategy.
Gandalf’s enter play response is one option for doing damage to the troll, but Sneak Attack + Descendant of Thorondor is equally effective. Sneak DoT into play during the quest phase, after the Cave Troll is revealed, to inflict 4 points of direct damage. If you combine that with an additional point of damage from Thalin, then the troll will be 2 points from death before the combat phase even begins!
Thalin is this deck’s dedicated quester, but Dain Ironfoot is its secret weapon, thanks to his passive ability which gives Dwarf characters a +1 willpower boost.
Faramir is perfect for generating extra willpower in the late stages of the game, Celebrian’s Stone can be attached to Thalin for a further willpower buff, and Untroubled by Darkness can help with your final big push.
Treachery and shadow effect cancellation
The Seventh Level has one particularly sinister treachery: Watchful Eyes. This condition attachment spawns yet more enemies in the staging area, and can be devastating if it appears early in the game.
For this reason I have included 2 copies of Miner of the Iron Hills in the deck, and 3 copies of Narvi’s Belt to pay for them. I am not convinced that this is an efficient use of those slots in the deck, but I want to do everything possible to avoid those Watchful Eyes!
3 copies of A Burning Brand are included for Shadow Effect cancellation. Once again we are relying on Narvi’s Belt to give a Dwarf hero a Lore resource icon so that they can pay for a Brand and legally attach it.
A Test of Will and Hasty Stroke provide additional protection against Treacheries and Shadow Effects.
Putting it all together, here is my final 50 card deck. It is constructed from a card pool consisting of one core set and all the player cards available at the time that the Khazad-dûm expansion was released.
Total Cards: 50
2x Faramir (Core Set)
2x Longbeard Orc Slayer (Core Set)
3x Descendant of Thorondor (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
3x Gondorian Spearman (Core Set)
2x Vassal of the Windlord (The Dead Marshes)
3x Veteran Axehand (Core Set)
2x Northern Tracker (Core Set)
3x Zigil Miner (Khazad-Dûm)
2x Miner of the Iron Hills (Core Set)
3x Gandalf (Core Set)
1x Celebrían’s Stone (Core Set)
3x Narvi’s Belt (Khazad-Dûm)
2x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)
2x Born Aloft (Conflict at the Carrock)
2x Dwarven Axe (Core Set)
1x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)
3x A Burning Brand (Conflict at the Carrock)
Deck built with Rivendell Councilroom
- Attach Book of Mazarbul to Dain Ironfoot so that he can commit to the quest for free, and reap the benefit of his own willpower boost too!
- Keep Dain ready during the questing phase to take advantage of his willpower boost for Dwarf characters, then use him to defend any attacks.
- Dain gets Narvi’s Belt so that he can attach A Burning Brand, making him immune to shadow effects.
- Dain also gets Steward of Gondor, to pay for all his other attachments. Use surplus resources for resource fixing via Narvi’s Belt.
- Commit Thalin to the quest in every round unless he is needed for combat.
- Unexpected Courage goes on Thalin so that he can quest and participate in combat. If a hero has Watchful Eyes attached, and you don’t have Miner of the Iron Hills and Narvi’s Belt in your hand, attach Unexpected Courage to that character instead.
- My favourite combos in this deck are Thalin + Gondorian Spearman, Sneak Attack + Descendant of Thorondor, and Sneak Attack + Gandalf.
- Try to save Descendant of Thorondor and Longbeard Orc Slayer for a situation when their enter play effect will be the most useful.
- If you are sure that you can muster enough willpower to complete the final quest stage, go all in!
If you have any suggestions for how this deck could be improved let me know in the comments.
Header art by Rick Price