I have created a few solo decks now, but still get stuck on different scenarios for different reasons. My goal remains to find a deck that can do well, at least have a decent chance against all scenarios. It can never be better than a tailored scenario specific deck of course, but it should be possible to win against any scenario.
In order to succeed I have tried to find a few basic rules of thumb and I want your feed back on them and maybe suggestions for more guide lines when constructing this kind of deck.
Starting Spheres and Heroes
This is very much a defining choice of the deck, especially in a solo deck where every card is available and you can't rely on a partner deck for those few special cards or combos. You need versatility so you can handle everything yourself. Normally in a card game you have the option of an active deck doing your own thing and force the opponent to play your kind of game or you are reactive and adapt with versatility to any threat. This is not the case with a set scenario, since the rules changes. The way to win in the Rosgobel scenario cannot be solved with a questing deck and neither can the Carrock scenario, etc.
This means we absolutely need to be reactive and versatile. In order to access as many of the strong cards and the strong combos we also need reliable access to all spheres or at least three of the spheres. We can't keep a coherrent theme, since "only 4 cost cards" or "mostly Rohan" cards will limit us severly when we start to add all those special cards that we need.
Most likely we will have too many cards in the deck to have three of each. The only way around this is to have fewer card copies and then have a good card draw so we still can get at them and maybe combine this with discard deck reuse. This means that we can have 1 or two copies of some scenario specific cards and still be able to rely on them.
The Dol Guldur scenario is probably the most difficult scenario to build for. That scenario is very difficult for any solo deck, since loosing a hero usually means that you loose access to a lot more than a third of your cards. Alot of card combos disappears and then you can not compensate for the lack of one resource with resources from another hero if all heroes has their own spheres. In order to have a 50/50 chance we need to be able to do without at least two off the three heores and even then we would only have a maximum of 2/3 chance of winning. In short we can't rely on any one hero we should be able to have a chance with any one hero gone. It is a tall order, I know.
At the moment I am thinking Spirit for the much needed card reuse and control, Lore for the specialty cards and card draw and maybe a splash of Tactics and/or Leadership for combat strength or resource build up.
A starting threat of below 30. Mostly for the Hill troll, when one or more extra rounds to set up increases survivability a lot. You need that chump blocker or secure the survival of your tank, get the resources for that special card, etc.
You also need to have access to some threat reduction cards, preferably so many that you have time to draw at least two, but hopefully more than that during a normal game. The advantage with threat reduction is that it usually doesn't present you with a serious problem until the very end.
Only problem with Gandalf is that you can't answer every problem with "I have Gandalf", he is very versatile, but he can't do everything all the time.
So far I am thinking Gandalf of course but i need more reduction than that. Probably not much but at least a few blue cards i can reuse or atleast find before the end of the scenarios.
We have a few scenarios that really needs healing. Obviously Rosgobel, but also a few others. Playing a versatile deck means that the going might be slow, and slow going means attrition. You need to be able to compensate for this. Your healing can not be dedicated to heroes only or onlye one specific hero like Gloin. You need more versatile healing than that. Staying power means you can drag out a scenario and find those key cards you desperately need before you actually need to play them and maybe give you a chance to fins another copy or reuse them. Slow and steady is the name of the solo game.
Daughter of Nimrodel is a given, especially if you are to play Lore, but she is fragile (controle is needed) and you need more than her if you have Gloin or a low card draw. I am thinking of reuse with Stand and Fight as well as other Spirit control cards.
Tanking and healing goes hand in hand and chump blockers are one step behind. With only one player surge effects and quest card shifts can really spoil your day. You need more than one tank and preferably have heroes that can use their abilities without exhaustion or late in the turn so they are available for an easy block. Or you can have allies that can take a hit or two.
The real issu is the start of each scenario. Sometimes the set up makes it twice as difficult for solo play than two player mode. This means that your deck should be able to take an early and brutal beating. Frodo and any hero that can get themselves ready really quick are great here, but not the answer to everything. You also need a troll blocker and that means a bunch of cheap chump blockers so you are sure to have the resources and the cards in hand form start. Sure you can use Feint and maybe a Forest Trap, but one card type is too few. You need several ways of handling an early Ungoliant or a second Hill Troll.
You need good combat allies or a heavy hitter like Gimli. And you need to realize that often you won't have the option of questing and fighting at the same time, especially with a big baddie beating on your door. And with failed questing, threat increases and more monsters will try to get you.
So in short a heavy hitter or several combat allies and a hero or two who can take an early punishment or several cards that buys you time.
So far I have a hard time letting go of Gimli. His ability to almost by himself take out an early troll is remarkable. But there are a few alternatives as well as having a **** load of cheap allies. If you run a multi colored deck, there will be initial resource problems. Multi colored decks are slow, and the initial three or four rounds in solo play are much tougher than in multiplayer mode.
You need to be able to handle a condition, either by stopping them from happening or more reliably remove the conditions afterwards with the miner or letting them die and pick up the pieces afterwards. You can not afford to have a hero trapped for very long. It is comparable to having two heroes trapped at the same time in a multi player game and they would still have a better chance of being able to cooperate themselves out of the problems.
I love the Dwarven Miner, especially if you are already running lore. Landroval is fun and so is the blue 5 cost card, but they are both expensive and kind of slow. The miner can always be a chump blocker when he has performed his duty. He i snot dead weight in your deck when there are no harmful conditions in the encounter deck.
Encounter Deck Control
Playing without access to Spirit can probably be done, but is very hard. Denethor is an alternative but just eating everything the encounter deck serves you is not possible, no deck has that kind of an apetite.
Encounter Deck Search
When you look for that special monster or quest objective it is twice as hard when you solo. So far I only know of Denethor that actually helps with this, but he does a remarkable job. The alternative is just staying power which means threat reduction, healing and card deck reshuffle.
Denethor is one of my favourites when I play solo. His ability is so strong and the bonus side effect is that he can search like no other.
You must have card draw and lots of it. There is no question in my mind. You need to get hold of the cards you need or at least have access to them in your discard pile. No deck can be versatile enough without some kind of extra card draw. One card extra now and then won't do it. Card draw must be at least a minor theme in your deck. Reused Mathoms, Bilbo and Gleowyn or Beravor and Unexpected Courage.
So far I haven't found any reason not to include Beravor in my solo decks that also include spirit for UC. She is just too strong. The flexibility of being able to draw cards when you haven't gotten the right cards in hand and later on draw cards for flexibility is just so important. It is not possible for you to go through your whole deck twice without her. And when you are looking for that special card she is a god send.
There is such a thing as too many resources, but not too many cards. Cards gives you flexibility and they can be discarded for various effects with Protector of Lorien and Eowyn. Excess resources can be used to hard cast Gandalf and you can always increase the average card cost in your deck, but that usually also means a slower start before your resource engine is in play properly. There is also the problem of of multi colored decks and single resource increasers like Steward of Gondor. You need to combine that with several songs or Narvi's Belt to keep the initial resourge profile of your deck. Or play a lot of no sphere cards to make up for it.
Do not feel you have to play every card you draw. It is better to play the right card at the right time, than having fewer cards but playing them all. I prefer card draw above resource production, but of course I want them both. I used to think that if I draw a card it is wasted if it is not played. I have changed my mind. And I always smile when I finish the last quest card with one turn card discard boost from Protector of Lorien.
Theodred and Zigil Miner has the advantage of being able to give the resource to other heroes and there by get more flexibility, especially at the start. Cards like Gloin, Zigil Miner and The Horn of Gondor needs a support mechanism to work, while Steward of Gondor works fine on it's own. Zigil Miner is a special case since he scales fairly well. You can get him to wrok pretty good on his own by including 25% of your cards as 3, 4 or 5 cost cards and then "count" on him to deliver that amount every second attempt. Which for a 4 cost base deck means he is a Steward of Gondor and a Narvi's belt all in one, that can be made ready for more attempts, mutliplied with more copies and get his effect doubled by Gildor Inglorion, Gandalf's Search or that little irratic hobbit.
I must say that Zigil Miner in my book is the winner. He outperforms the other alternatives both by amount and flexibility, but he does lack a little in dependability, especially in the beginning when you still take chances with your guesses.
Questing and Burst Questing
So most, if not all, scearios need some serious questing or at least a way to handle locations effectively. In a multi player game you are limited by the fact that you can only solve one location per turn, unless you use Northern ranger. This is not as great of a problem when you play solo since you can never draw more than one location, unless it is a Quest effect or some othere unusual circumstance. This means that the main advantage of a Northern Ranger no longer is simultaneous questing, but instead it lies in avoiding the travel to effects. If you have three locations out with an average of 3 quest points and one Northern Ranger, you can really just coast along, getting a new one added every round and getting rid of one on average. And if you are two people playing you will probably draw one location a turn and can handle the threat of three locations.
With only one player it's a slightly different deal. You will almost never face three locations at the same time and seldom even two. You must be able to quest alot just to just stay even and not fail a quest and this is tricky. The need for questing will be very uneven. So you must be flexible as well. Protector of Lorien, Eowyn or Faramir are great as always. But Eowyns ability is halved with only one player, Faramir is great in a good questing deck but you won't have that. You have a versatile deck that can do some questing. So Faramir sure has a place but not more than one copy or maybe two, since you won't use him until late in the game when you have enough allies to warrant his ability.
Protector of Lorien is great but needs a lot of excess cards. Denethor's ability to find out how much you need to quest for is also a real strength. The decks I have played have many times gone through half the player deck before placing even one questing token on the Quest card. It's just more important to stay alive, get control and keep it, in order to build up your strength and get your combos into place than to hurry along a quest that will most often only lead to greater problems. On the other hand it is great to shock quest one or two rounds when the opportunity arises. For me that is Protector of Lorien and Faramir, not Ranger of the North or Eowyn. Not to say that they can't find their way into my decks, but their strength are less in solo play.
As my deck stands now, I do have Ranger of the North, but mostly because he is a 4 point ally that actually can quest.
Have I forgotten any importan aspect or some cards that just must be in there to handle certain scenarios?