After defeating The Watcher in the Water, our intrepid adventurers have ventured once again into The Long Dark of Moria. You might think that their earlier brush with The Nameless Fear would have put them off the mines for good, but apparently some heroes don’t learn from their mistakes…

The Long Dark can be quite a swingy scenario, but it has some very thematic mechanics that make it an enjoyable quest to deckbuild for. It has also given me a chance to try out several cards that haven’t found their way into my decks before now.

Please Háma don’t hurt ’em

(That’s the last MC Hammer pun, I promise)

The new hero in The Long Dark adventure pack is Háma, a Tactics character with the response: “After Háma is declared as an attacker, return a Tactics event from your discard pile to your hand. Then, choose and discard 1 card from your hand.” Which I interpret as “Play Feint every turn”. Háma’s ability works with any Tactics event, but it is the idea of recycling Feint that fires my imagination.

In a game where action advantage can spell the difference between victory and defeat, being able to deflect an enemy’s attack can give you a decisive edge. And the more powerful your adversary, the more pronounced the benefit. But with only two copies of Feint included in the core set, I have never considered making it the centrepiece of a deck until now.

Of course Feint is not the only card that Háma can retrieve from your discard pile, and this deck includes multiple copies of three other Tactics events: Quick Strike, Khazâd! Khazâd! and Hail of Stones.

I don’t know that Háma is a natural choice for The Long Dark, but I am trying to include each adventure pack’s hero in the deck I build for that quest. There are plenty of pesky orc and troll enemies in the encounter deck, so his ability will certainly not go to waste. I have rounded the deck out with two Dwarf heroes, Dain Ironfoot and Bifur. We are venturing into Moria, after all. There are also a couple of cards with Dwarf synergy that are particularly well suited to this quest, so it pays to run as many Dwarves as possible.

Lost in the dark

The Long Dark introduces a new mechanic that represents the heroes’ attempts to find their way through the mines of Moria. At various points in the quest a player will be required to make a “Locate Test”. The player may discard a card from their hand and the encounter deck, and If the encounter card has the word “PASS” printed on its lower right corner then the test succeeds. Otherwise, the player may continue to make Locate Tests until they have no cards left in their hand.

If a Locate Test fails then various BAD THINGS will happen, ranging from putting enemies in the discard pile back into play to raising your threat by 7 and removing all progress tokens from play.

Of the 61 cards in the encounter deck only 14 have “PASS” printed on them, so on average you will need to discard 4 cards to pass a Locate Test. Add to this the Cave Spider, who forces you to discard 4 cards when it is revealed from the encounter deck and another when it engages, and you can see that The Long Dark has been designed to make you haemorrhage cards from your hand.

To stem the card loss this deck is packed with card draw effects. Legacy of Durin lets you draw a card every time a Dwarf ally enters play, Gleowine can guarantee an additional card every round, and Valiant Sacrifice can net you 2 cards as a consolation for losing an ally.

Despite this deck’s card draw engine it is still worth weighing your odds before choosing to make a locate test. In some cases the penalty for failing the test may be preferable to discarding cards from your hand, especially when you consider that you might discard your entire hand only to fail the test anyway.

Location control

The Long Dark contains two copies of Twisting Passage, a particularly evil location which has the forced effect “Before placing progress tokens on Twisting Passage, the first player must make a locate test. If this test is failed, do not place any progress tokens on Twisting Passage and trigger all ‘Lost:’ effects in play.”

With less than a 25% chance of passing a locate test, it is easy to become location locked when Twisting Passage is the active location. In one game I found myself discarding cards round after round in a desperate attempt to put progress on Twisting Passage, but to no avail. This is a card that can quickly end your game if you don’t plan for it.

This deck’s answer to Twisting Passage is 3 copies of Bombur, a Dwarf ally who can exhaust to completely neutralise the threat of an Underground location. Once Bombur is in play you can leave Twisting Passage in the staging area indefinitely, and never need to worry about triggering its forced effect.

Even if Twisting Passage never shows up there are plenty of other Underground locations to keep Bombur busy. When you consider that the first quest stage boosts the threat of all locations by +1, being able to ignore one location’s threat every round can greatly speed up your questing progress. I think it is fair to say that Bombur is this deck’s MVP.

Combat a.k.a. Dwarven badassery

Dain Ironfoot is this deck’s dedicated defender, and he should receive Burning Brand (via Narvi’s Belt) and Durin’s Greaves if they show up. Erebor Record Keeper can be used to ready Dain so that he can defend multiple attacks. And of course the Háma + Feint loop can be used to hold an enemy at bay indefinitely.

Háma is no slouch with a sword, but the deck’s real badass is Erebor Battle Master, who gets +1 attack for each other Dwarf ally you control. In a deck that contains 18 Dwarves you can imagine how bonkers that ability can be. There are also 3 copies of Khazad! Khazad! for buffing Dwarf attacks.

There are plenty of low level enemies in The Long Dark, but only one really tough adversary, the Great Cave-troll, who has such a high engagement cost that the board state is usually in your favour by the time it shows up. The troll’s low defence strength makes it vulnerable to conventional combat attacks but if you want to get tricksy you can pelt it from afar with A Hail of Stones, sidestep it with Feint, sneak attack it with Gandalf, or go all “Khazad! Khazad!” on it.

Treachery cancellation

Although this scenario contains a couple of brutal treacheries, I decided not to include any treachery cancellation effects in this deck. The worst treacheries can be outwitted by a Locate Test, so I opted for card draw instead of treachery cancellation.

However, the sideboard for this deck contains 2 copies of A Test of Will, in case you find that treachery cards are thwarting your game plan. The drawback is that you will need to get Narvi’s Belt on one of your heroes in order to play A Test of Will, and also make sure not to exhaust the belt before the staging step.  If you decide to include A Test of Will in your deck then it can replace A Valiant Sacrifice without dramatically affecting the card draw engine.

The deck

Here is the 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 Long Dark adventure pack was released.

Hero (3)
Bifur (Khazad-dûm)
Dain Ironfoot (Return to Mirkwood)
Háma (The Long Dark)

Ally (25)
3x Bombur (Road to Rivendell)
3x Erebor Battle Master (The Long Dark)
2x Erebor Hammersmith (Core Set)
2x Erebor Record Keeper (Khazad-dûm)
3x Gandalf (Core Set)
2x Gléowine (Core Set)
3x Longbeard Map-Maker (Conflict at the Carrock)
2x Miner of the Iron Hills (Core Set)
3x Veteran Axehand (Core Set)
2x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)

Attachment (11)
3x A Burning Brand (Conflict at the Carrock)
3x Legacy of Durin (The Watcher in the Water)
3x Narvi’s Belt (Khazad-dûm)
2x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)

Event (14)
2x Feint (Core Set)
2x Hail of Stones (Road to Rivendell)
3x Khazâd! Khazâd! (Khazad-dûm)
2x Quick Strike (Core Set)
2x Sneak Attack (Core Set)
3x Valiant Sacrifice (Core Set)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to The Long Dark

Sideboard (2)
2x A Test of Will (Core Set)

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Additional strategy notes

  • Attach Narvi’s Belt to Dain so that he can receive A Burning Brand, and also for resource smoothing. Until Narvi’s Belt shows up you can funnel Dain’s resources to Bifur to pay for the deck’s many Lore cards.
  • Dain also gets Steward of Gondor.
  • Avoid using the Cave Torch unless you are in a real pinch. The possibility of attracting goblins makes the torch a risky gamble.