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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Hold the Line! Defense in the LotR:LCG

Many of those getting into the LotR:LCG quickly realize that the core set enemies, by and large, aren't much to write home about. Sure, there are a couple heavy hitters, but overall there aren't a ton of enemies that can't be handled by a hero's base defense or an easy chump-block.

Remember the Nazgul of Dol Guldur? Remember how tough he once seemed? Modern decks can thrash this guy without breaking a sweat!

There are two issues that cause problems with defending in later quests, especially in the most recent releases. The first and more obvious problem is that the enemies are simply tougher than they've ever been. They're swinging for a lot, they have nasty engagement effects, and they can't be killed as easily. The second and more subtle issue is the prevalence of shadow effects that punish chump-blocking.

It is increasingly beneficial to block attacks with characters that will not die as a result of the attack. At the same time, we need to keep our heroes alive. This article will go into some basics of how to form a reliable shield-wall against the worst that Middle Earth can throw at you.
My first tip, and one that many players are already tired of, is to have someone in your game run Tactics Boromir.

I know, I know.... It's so obvious that it hardly bears mentioning. But! The fact of the matter is that Boromir is probably the best Tactics hero in the game, and can easily be configured to defend at a ridiculous level for every player! Gondorian Shield alone will boost him up to 4 defense. Lately I've been running a deck I stole from this article on Hall of Beorn, and I've been able to get Boromir defending for 8, with Sentinel!! I like to call this deck "Leave Combat to Me" because it's so Aggro - none of this sneaky, dare I say 'cowardly', tricksy Steve MacLauchlan-type deck. (editor- Hey! We likes sneaking, precious -S) 

Even if you're not playing Boromir, there are a ton of other great heroes that are deserving of Gondorian Shield, chief among them being Beregond. Beregond's ability lets you play the shield for free, and immediately boosts him up to a defense of 6. At that point it's up to you whether to throw a Spear of the Citadel or Citadel Plate onto him. If another player has healing, I'd go with the Spear, otherwise giving him 8 hit points is too good to pass up. Unlike Boromir, Beregond doesn't have built-in readying, so he won't be blocking many attacks unless you getting a readying effect on him or play Behind Strong Walls (which, incidentally, would also boost his defense!). Beregond does have the advantage on Boromir in that he already has Sentinel. He's an awesome defender.

So there's a lot of Gondor defense synergy (Blood of Numenor, For Gondor!), but what if you aren't playing Gondor? Hell, what if you aren't playing Tactics? Never fear, there are still options available to you:

Arwen Undomiel - There is nothing not to like about this card. Two cost for two willpower and an ability that is already built into her natural purpose. Sure, she boosts defense by 1, but I think the bigger effect is giving a character Sentinel

Dunedain Warning - One resource for +1 defense: simple, easy, effective. Also, you can pay one resource to move the defense boost to other players in need, and it's in the sphere that generates the most resources!

Hobbit Cloak - Hobbit decks are one of the most popular deck archetypes, and this card was tailor-made for Sam Gamgee. Just make sure to keep your threat low and engage the correct enemies, otherwise this attachment will be nothing more than a cute decoration.

For more Hobbit goodness, Halfling Determination can also give your defender a well-timed boost.

Durin's Song - It seems like everyone except me loves a good Dwarf deck, and while those decks rarely have trouble handling combat once they get going, every once in a while it can be helpful to have a little boost. That's where Durin's Song comes in. A +2 bonus to defense, even if it's only temporary, can make a huge difference. 

Hero Denethor - I know I said we were done with Gondor, but Denethor bears mentioning. Lore can sometimes have trouble dealing with tough enemies, but throwing a Gondorian Shield on Denethor boosts him up to a very healthy 5 defense. 

A Burning Brand - Denethor + Gondorian Shield + A Burning Brand... that, my friends, is a good investment. An 8 threat hero + 3 resources that defends for 5 and ignores shadows, in the sphere that dominates healing?!?!?! The encounter deck will never see it coming!

I hope I've at least gotten you thinking outside the box for your normal modus operandi regarding defense. Modern quests can be so punishing to chump-blocking that it makes sense to explore ways in which to keep defenders alive.  

tl;dr - Defense good, chump-blocking not reliable

Thanks for reading, for more LotR:LCG and other gaming goodness be sure to follow us @WWPDFellowship on Twitter, or me personally @PIflamesofwar. Thanks as always to the Hall of Beorn Card Search for pretty much everything related to the hobby. 

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