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For a long time now I've been intrigued by Argalad and have wanted to build a trap deck around him. I also noticed that nearly every Argalad trap deck in the meta is designed multiplayer as a support deck. I decided there needs to be a solo viable variant, and here it is. It has some similar concepts to the multiplayer variants, but less focus on direct damage and more on being well rounded. The core mechanic of the deck is to control enemies through a combination of traps and direct damage, and then recycle the traps with Anborn.
Argalad - Argalad is the hero that makes this variant of trap deck distinct. With a Bow of the Galadhrim he can "neutralize" 3 enemies and with an Elven Spear he can do the same with up to 5 . I have found that most of the time, he doesn't really need these buffs. A majority of enemies in the game are 2 and he synergizes with Ranger Spikes to bring enemy down even further. His direct damage effect also synergizes with Poisoned Stakes, making it so a 3 hit point enemy (fairly common) goes down at the end of the round, and tougher enemies are greatly "softened".
Damrod - The hero that pretty much runs trap decks now. He is very good at what he does because he basically provides a trap deck engine (card advantage + resource advantage) in one card, available to you from turn 1. No other archetype has this incredible advantage and it has vaulted trap decks into top tier.
Mirlonde - Mirlonde is one of my favorite heroes in the game and typically pretty underrated. She is one of the "behind the scenes" characters that makes the deck work... lowering starting threat to maximize control of enemy engagement while providing supplementary questing and attack power.
Mostly driven by Damrod as mentioned above. However, there are a few other key elements to ramp it up. Master of the Forge will ensure that your hand is never small, that you have lot's of trap options, and that you can find the odd attachments that you need to make the deck super consistent. He is nearly as essential as Damrod and is typically the card I mulligan for. If you play him turn 1, you have a decent chance of drawing your entire deck. Mithrandir's Advice advice is also at max effectiveness with mono-lore and Daeron's Runes is really just overkill.... I sometimes drop them out to replace with quest specific sideboard tech or cards I simply want to try out. I've noticed that in heavy draw decks, Daeron's Runes sometimes can be a liability because the card draw becomes a marginal benefit and you have to unnecessarily discard a card. The Rivendell Minstrel minstrel, while a bit over costed these days, still provides a lot of value by allowing me to splash tactics into the deck with only 1 Song of Battle (that master of the forge finds half the time anyway). Finally, not as obvious but worth a mention, this deck is mono-sphere with a fairly low cost curve... and that in and of itself fuels the engine on the resource end.
This isn't the fastest deck that I have ever built but it does get the job done. Starting hero is 6 which is adequate. Bare minimum adequate, but still adequate. In these type of decks, Ranger Spikes do a lot of the work alongside Argalad in reducing staging . The core of the questing work is done by 2 allies like Rivendell Minstrel, Emyn Arnen Ranger (most of the time 2 ), and Mablung. Normally, this probably isn't quite enough, but working in tandem with neutralizing/killing enemies in staging, it works out.
As always, combat is never straightforward in trap decks. That's kind of the point and what makes them fun.
- Attack – There is actually a fair amount of power in this deck between Argalad when fully suited up, Mirlonde with her own Elven Spear, Ithilien Archers, and of course Anborn hits pretty hard too...although is primary job in this deck is trap recursion rather than combat. The single Galadhon Archer is in the deck because his effect synergizes with the main mechanics and he provides a target for that second Bow of the Galadhrim should I find it in my hand. That's actually what got him thrown into the deck!
Of course, the primary attackers are the traps themselves. Ranger Spikes control/neutralize enemies, poisoned stakes help kill them passively before they engage, and Forest Snares take care of the "low engagers" that get past everything else, essentially removing their impact from the game after one attack. This is a control deck, so the goal is not to go toe to toe with enemies, though the power is there when you need to.
- Defense – The beautiful thing about control, is that it typically works for attack and defense simultaneously. If enemies are neutralized or killed through passive/direct damage, they aren't attacking you. Occasionally you do have to take a big attack and it usually means chump blocking with the lowest cost character on the board or Master of the Forge, who's primary role switches to chump blocker once you fill your hand. Valour of the North is in the sideboard for quests where you anticipate taking more attacks then normal, and it is excellent for turning any character into a pretty stout defender for an attack. Just remember that the best defense is an enemy who is not attacking in the first place.
Mono-lore decks are the king of the toolbox, and that is why I love them.
I've mostly talked about them in other descriptions so I won't rehash too much here, as they are central to the deck mechanics. I will say something that isn't terribly intuitive at first, that traps not only have direct effects, but function as "markers" for secondary effects. This is why the Ithilien Pit still carries a ton of value even later in the game when most enemies will engage due to high threat. For 0 cost and a card draw, you "mark" an enemy for Forest Patrol, one of the most potent direct damage effects in the game. Also serves as a marker for Valour of the North if you are playing it and of course allows you to kill enemies in staging with normal one sided combat in the early game. Ranger Spikes, Poisoned Stakes, and Forest Snares have already been discussed. They are controlling enemies minimizing their impact on the game.
In the mid to late game, Anborn becomes a critical component of the deck's strategy by recurring traps from the discard pile. He is a big part of the reason why I built this particular deck. I normally find him a bit too expensive but in this particular build he is quite valuable because you are killing more enemies through direct damage, sending more traps to the discard pile. Erebor Hammersmith is in the sideboard mostly for quests that really jack with your threat making it hard to control enemy engagement; in which case his job is to recur the Woodmen's Clearing.
Woodmen's Clearing is the card that finally made me realize that yes, I could make this deck work in solo. One weak point of the deck has always been that it thrives off of low threat, but it's previously been very difficult to manage threat from a mono-lore deck. No longer, this card is everything you need to keep that threat low and maximizing enemy control.
It's exciting that the game has reached a point where there are now several consistent healing options. I went with Imladris Caregiver because I believe in high draw decks (where there are plenty of discard options) he is much, much better than any of the competition. The drawback is that he is garbage when you get low on cards...but that is almost never a problem here.
One thing that does bear a special mention is the Ithilien Archer. Ever had that problem where the 3 that you wanted in your Ranger Spikes got by before you got your ranger spikes out? This guy is your solution. He can be swapped out for another Mablung in quests with a high willpower demand or with Guardian of Ithilien in quests where you would rather have more chump blocking and cheaper cost curve.
Distant Stars is the king of active location control in ranger decks. For the small price of an exhausted Emyn Arnen Ranger, you get to remove a high quest point location from the active, search the ENTIRE encounter deck and discard pile, and cherry pick a location that either has low quest points, a horrible travel effect (which you get to bypass) or both. In some quests with some particularly nasty travel effects, I will often use this card deliberately and early just to remove that card from the encounter deck. Also nice to get that encounter deck reshuffle if Henamarth Riversong spotted an upcoming encounter card that he doesn't like. Really, this card is as much soft encounter deck control as location control sometimes. If you find a quest where you are more concerned with staging threat than you are quest points/travel effects, you can always swap this out for Asfaloth.
Henamarth Riversong. It's been a long time since the core set but Henny is still the man. Once he hits the board, he takes most of the guesswork out of questing giving you laser tight control over quest progress and action efficiency. Beware, sometimes he foresees his own doom, which is always pretty funny.
Discard for Effect
It's worth a mention that discard for effect cards like Elven Spear and the Imladris Caregiver\ are very powerful in this deck for two reasons. Firstly it draws like crazy and fills your hand so you have an abundance of cards, and secondly you can actually get infinite recursion from Anborn recurring traps. I almost "always" have excess traps in my hand to discard.
As you can see, this deck does A LOT of things. It's quickly becoming one of my favorite builds ever because of the sheer toolbox of options and versatility.
You want to look for Master of the Forge first and foremost. I can't stress enough how this is the guy that really makes the deck consistent. He gives you trap options early on and fills up your hand with cards to discard for effect when you need it. You want to mulligan for him. Second priority item is usually Ranger Spikes in most scenarios. Protecting yourself from early enemies and reducing their threat makings clearing early locations and making early progress much easier. If you don't see spikes, that's fine, the master will find them. Also good to see Rivendell Minstrell or Song of Battle early but getting the weapons on Argalad isn't really essential in this deck, more of a value added thing.
Just to ensure that it actually is viable, I have beaten atleast Wastes of Eriador with it, so it does have a pretty tough quest (that hits on many fronts) notched in it's belt. I've also beaten lots of other easier quests as well. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I have!