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|Ye Olde Ranger Trap Deck||65||44||14||1.0|
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This is my most recent (and by far most powerful) iteration of the Ranger Trap deck. I have been building these type of decks ever since Faramir and Ranger Spikes came out in the "Against the Shadow cycle", and am proud to say that I think they have finally made it to top tier. They do require some finesse and have a reasonably high skill curve to play, but are the most enjoyable decks in the game to play once you know how to pilot them.
Damrod is, as usual, the man behind the curtain...not terribly sexy but providing the engine for the deck through cost reduction and dependable card draw. Faramir is the muscle, throwing the big punches, defending in a pinch, and soaking up damage with his 5 . Éowyn is the new addition to the deck and the "glue piece" that really steps it up to the next level. She provides low threat access to and covers the two biggest weaknesses of my previous trap decks....early and that one nasty enemy that always manages to slip through the traps and engage.
One of the nicest things about trap decks is that Damrod provides a built in hero engine at setup, consistently lowering your cost curve and drawing cards as long as you have a critical mass of traps to fuel him. The other major “engine” component that “really” makes this deck consistent is Master of the Forge. Despite one of the worst stat/cost ratios in the game, he is solid gold in any heavy deck. This deck has enough attachments, that he hits nearly every turn you use him. If you draw him early, he will quickly fill your hand with trap options and probably find that Song of Wisdom for Éowyn to grab a icon. The final engine card that is surprisingly useful early on is Proud Hunters. Since this hero set contains the Ranger and Noble traits from setup, you can usually count on this for a 2-3 resource boost, even if you have to kill an enemy that is already trapped just to trigger it. Just be sure that atleast one of the heroes is involved in the attack, as this is where you want the extra resources to go.
This is where this deck has most dramatically improved with a growing card pool. With the inclusion of Éowyn, the hero line up comes right out of the gate with 8 at setup. Emyn Arnen Ranger is the primary questing ally, usually able to provide 3+ for 2 cost by mid game fairly consistently. Combine this with Followed (and hopefully a complimentary Forest Snare) and you have a very potent questing package once you get some enemies trapped. If you can manage to get 2x Followed with a Forest Snare on a 3 enemy and play a couple of Emyn Arnen Rangers, not an ureasonable board state for this deck, you suddenly have 1 enemy who is doing nothing else but subtracting 6 from staging as your Emyn Arnen Rangers are triggering off of it to generate 6 , for a total of 12 net ! Mablung is also a decent early game questing ally that has the nice perk of dragging enemies out of staging during the planning phase and landing them in a Followed or Forest Snare, or even just removing their staging prior to the quest phase!
The beauty of RT decks is that they offer alternative ways to deal with tough enemies, and thus try to limit “conventional” combat.
Attack – Faramir is the primary attacker of this deck, with Éowyn’s “nuclear button” on standby for an emergency. Ideally, I try to avoid using Éowyn’s attack most games because you generally want to keep your threat low. It's mostly a safeguard against an unplanned and undesirable engagement that used to be the bane of trap decks. Ithilien Pits and especially Hands Upon the Bow grant Faramir the ability to take out enemies in the staging area where he is most effective. Hands Upon the Bow especially does a lot of work in this deck because it’s generalized action window means that Faramir can use it to take down enemies revealed during staging before quest resolution, meaning not only does he destroy an enemy, but removes it’s staging as well. Ranger Spears are there really just to give Faramir’s a good boost against enemies in Ithilien Pits and with Secret Vigils attached, but they have the niche benefit of also working against enemies with encounter card attachments. Black Arrow just adds to the explosive potential of this deck, and to be perfectly honest has saved my ass countless times. It's also great for boss enemies and is a backup to Éowyn for devastating unplanned enemy engagements.
- Defense – The defense strategy mimics the attack strategy. It focuses on providing "one of" defenses as needed rather than consistently tanking big s every turn. Ranger Spikes are typically the first line of defense ensuring that enemies don’t even make it to engagement, and if they do, they can usually be Feinted and then Forest Snared or simply dealt with the old fashioned way. For those scenarios that have a boss or another mechanic that forces you to regularly defend large s, I've sideboarded Gondorian Shields to make Faramir a solid defender with Damrod pinch hitting. Faramir’s hit points combined with Ioreth’s healing power typically makes taking s undefended a viable option as well. If all these safeguards fail, you can always chump a Master of the Forge or Guardian of Ithilien.
As always, trap decks and decks in general are all about the “tool box”.
Traps – Most of the specifics have been discussed, but they are the central focus of the deck so it's worth talking about them in a general sense. What is important to recognize is not just a given trap’s primary effect, but all the secondary effects you are using them to trigger. One of the reasons why I love Ithilien Pit despite everybody constantly telling me to take them out of my decks, is because with Damrod, they are 0 cost card draw even if they do absolutely nothing else! The lesson is that traps are doing A LOT more than what is printed. They are 1. reducing cost curve, 2. drawing cards, 3. adding , 4. negating staging , 5. adding damage, and 6. providing resources on top of whatever happens to be their “actual printed” effects. Playing off and timing all of these effects is what makes the deck super dynamic.
Healing – What self respecting deck doesn’t have some healing? Ioreth has become my favorite healer in the game. She is a 0 drop, 3 heal on demand that can eat a point of archery/direct damage to boot. She keeps Faramir healed up so he can put his 5 to use with archery and undefended attacks. Healing is actually one of the defensive strategies of this deck.
Threat Control – The best form of threat control is a low threat hero line up. If that fails, do what this deck does best and let the enemies work for you, using Secret Vigil to reduce threat. I left 1 Gandalf in my deck because I don’t feel comfortable running without atleast one Gandalf wild card. If you get behind on threat too early, he is an option if you see him...and as well as this deck draws you have a better chance of seeing him than you might think.
Resource Smoothing – Yep, that’s right….2018 and I still use icon granting song cards. The deck is very heavy on cost curve and is assuming that at some point you are going to find a Song of Wisdom and put it on Éowyn. Otherwise she ends up with a mountain of unused resources. Luckily with the consistent card draw and the incredible fetching ability of Master of the Forge, I usually have no problem seeing one of my two copies by mid-game when I need them.
- Scrying - Henamarth Riversong provides foreknowledge of the encounter deck to help match the right traps to the right enemies (on top of the incredibly powerful planning advantage in solo play of foreknowledge). Not super critical to the deck's function but nice to have and might go up to 3x if I had a third core set. 2x is perfectly fine though and usually sufficient.
Well that's about it, Faramir at his peak! Be my guest and take this deck for a spin to find out why he is the most dynamic attacker in the game!