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Friday, January 30, 2015

The Eagles are Coming (And Going)!

Some people love a deck where everything makes sense together, lore-wise. I do, too, but more satisfying to me is a deck where everything makes sense together mechanically.

Luckily, the eagles in The Lord of the Rings: LCG do both. I think we can skip the talk about the thematic relations in an eagle deck. Eagles make sense with other eagles. Cool. Moving on.
The mechanic, for me, that is the basis for an eagle deck, is that of allies (and even heroes!) leaving play. At times it seems counter-intuitive; putting an ally that you paid for with your hard-earned resources back into your hand voluntarily, or most of all letting one of your heroes die, but it’s sacrifices like this that really make an eagle deck…fly.

Let’s start with Landroval. He’s 5 cost and has mediocre stats, and he’s here to take you under his wing and save your neck. The fun thing about Landroval is that he urges you to tactically allow one of your heroes to die. Is your best defender one hit point away from death, causing you to be terrified of defending with him? Don’t have any healing cards to save him? Is there a high damage enemy waiting to swing at you? Let your hero be destroyed. Put Landroval back in your hand and then flip that hero back over with full health. It’s a full heal, a feint, and however many turns’ worth of Landroval’s stats you kept him in play for, all for five cost. Maybe Landroval only had one health left anyway. It’s beyond a fair trade. In Return of the King, Landroval was there to pick up Sam and Frodo in Mordor, so of course he's the savior of heroes in the game. Another point to Fantasy Flight Games for making nearly every card make sense thematically.

Next up, and possibly my favorite, is Descendant of Thorondor.  (Fun fact: Landroval is actually a descendant of Thorondor. I guess this one just wasn't special enough to be named.) As soon as he enters play, he deals 2 damage to any enemy in the staging area. Guess what happens when he leaves play. The same thing! That’s 4 damage to an enemy in the staging area for 4 cost if you…play your cards right. Descendent is the perfect recipient for Born Aloft. Snatch him up whenever you want to deal that last 2 damage and save the day (or at least make the day a lot easier when it comes after you). Then play him again, since Born Aloft put him back into your hand. Or, you know, Sneak Attack.

Speaking of attachments, possibly the star of this whole show is Support of the Eagles. Attach it to a hero, and exhaust it any time to give the attached hero any eagle ally’s attack OR defense. Are you about to get hit really hard? Got a Winged Guardian in play? Exhaust Support of the Eagles and your hero now has 4 more defense added to whatever that hero already had. You’re practically untouchable. Do the same thing when you need an attack boost using Vassal of the Windlord. Or…
Eagles of the Misty Mountains! Remember all the comings and goings of these eagles? Don’t want to pay to keep Winged Guardian out? Made an attack with Vassal of the Windlord? Put it under Eagles of the Misty Mountains. EotMM gets +1 attack and +1 armor for each card under it. You can choose to put any card leaving play under it. Not to mention the starting stats are totally acceptable on their own at 4 cost, AND with each card under it, your Support of the Eagles is giving an even bigger boost to the attached hero. Pretty great!

Now, there aren’t enough eagles to make a deck entirely out of eagles, so that brings up our good supplements. I really like to latch onto the “when so-and-so leaves play” concept, so a hero like Prince Imrahil (readies when a character leaves play) or Eomer (gains +2 attack until the end of the turn when a character leaves play) is perfect. Horn of Gondor will have you swimming in gold, and sneak attack will just add to all of that (Plus, what kind of deck doesn't have sneak attack and Gandalf in it anyway?).

There are some drawbacks to an eagle-based deck. You’re not going to be doing too great in the willpower department, especially early on. Also, eagles come at a high price. I’ve gone back and forth on Radagast’s worth and decided that if you can get him out early and still survive, he’s worth it, especially if you’re going multi-sphere. With multiple spheres, it will take you even longer to get your big cards out without your brown friend. Plus, he’ll give you a much-needed 2 willpower and the
possibility of healing one of your many creatures (though I've never used him to heal since there are always eagles to buy).

I’m sure it’s been said a million times, but the great thing about this game is the absurd amount of ways you can play. Eagles feel like a very unique one, and it’s a blast when everything comes out just right.

Like playing your Eagle deck? Want to talk about why the Eagles couldn't have possibly borne the ringbearer straight to Mount Doom? Please sound off in the comments below, or let us know on our forum!

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