In a little game called Magic the Gathering, there's a deck type called The Sliver Deck, a specialized type of what one might call the Weenie Rush. If this did not sound ominous to you, let me explain:
Slivers are a type of creature that, by themselves, are not very impressive. They're usually 1 attack, 1 defense; but their special ability reads: "All slivers [gain quality]." This can be anything from "All Slivers get +1 attack" to "All Slivers gain protection from red (damage)" and so on. Like the Trolls from We Must Away Ere Break of Day, they buff each other; and the more types of Slivers in play, the more abilities every single one of them has.
Get enough Slivers with abilities into play, and even blank Sliver counters will become powerful 3 attack, 3 defense, protection from all colors, shrouded, shadow, regenerating enemies. Playing against a Sliver deck with no reliable mass or even targeted creature destruction can be a nightmare.
Slivers are a demonstration of a very simple type of synergy, what I'll call direct synergy: abilities that read "cards of type X gain a quality". The Trolls in WMAEBOD have synergy.
And what's called a Dwarf Deck in LotR:TCG also has this kind of synergy.
Let us consider the following partial deck list:
- Dain Ironfoot
- Erebor Battle Master x3
- Erebor Hammersmith x3
- Erebor Record Keeper x3
- Longbeard Map-Maker x3
- Longbeard Orc Slayer x2
- Miner of the Iron Hills x3
- Zigil Miner x3
- Hardy Leadership x2 (unique)
- Legacy of Durin x3 (unique)
- Song of Battle x3
- Lure of Moria x3
And consider the build-up of abilities:
- Nori basically means that every dwarf gains "when put into play lower your threat by 1"
- Ori draws 2 cards instead of 1 if you have at least 5 dwarves in play
- Dain Ironfoot gives every dwarf +1 willpower and +1 attack
- Erebor Battle Master gains +1 attack for every dwarf in play (on top of 1 attack)
- Hardy Leadership gives +1 hitpoint to every dwarf in play
- Legacy of Durin means that every dwarf gains "when put into play draw a card"
Consider now the impact of playing 3 Erebor Record Keepers, which I know people diss as a 1 cost, 1 willpower, 1 hit point, can't defend or attack, ally with a relatively expensive ability:
- You decrease threat by 3
- You draw an additional 3 cards
- You gain 6 willpower
- All Erebor Battle Masters now have +3 attack
- You get three 2-hit-point allies
- You draw 2 cards instead of 1 during resource
All for a mere cost of 3.
Consider playing a single Zigil Miner, whose ability has been so nerfed by a recent FAQ that I just basically use him as a 2-cost Spirit Dwarf ally with no ability:
- You decrease threat by 1
- You draw an additional card
- You gain 2 willpower
- You gain 2 attack
- All Erebord Battle Masters now have +1 attack
- You get a 2-hit-point ally
Erebor Hammersmith? You get a 4-hit-point ally, along with all the other niceties above, for a cost of 2 with a useful special ability all on its own.
I tossed in Lure of Moria because it has awesome value for 3 cost: ready all Dwarves in play. This can mean something like spending 20 willpower, then standing all 2-hit-point-minimum allies, then attacking for 16 (assuming you hold a couple Zigil Miners back for defense).
This results in an absolutely amazing deck type that performs well unless you encounter mass ally destruction---and even then, a Hardy Leadership will ensure that all except for treacheries like Rock Slide are relatively harmless. I actually play without treachery or shadow effect counters, even if they remove attachments because the synergy without attachments is still pretty dang powerful. And all three hero abilities work even when sacked.
The question now becomes: Is all this synergy too powerful?
Let's go back to MtG and Sliver decks. They are powerful, but there exist cards to counter them: creature destruction. A deck that splashes in black or even white, the two main mass creature destruction colors, will be well-prepared. A deck that splashes blue to steal key creatures like Sliver Overlord will wreck havoc against the Slivers' master. In other words, a competitive environment, by its volatile and adaptive nature, eventually balances against almost any deck type, even Sliver decks.
But what about a cooperative environment, like LotR:TCG, where the only opponent is the encounter deck?
Well… things get a little… dicey. A well-built dwarf deck will demolish most quests solo. Yet here's the thing: for those of us who want to win semi-reliably in the mines of Moria, a dwarf deck is key. The deck type just happens to be the Swiss Army knife of deck types for the moment because the evolution of the game means that earlier quests often become weaker as more cards are introduced---especially if they have high synergy. It's the rare quest that stands the test of time, like Journey Down the Anduin.
And the thing about synergy is that it can be used against you. Consider the following types of treacheries that would kill a dwarf deck:
- All Dwarf allies are dealt three damage.
- This card becomes a Condition Attachment with the text: "All dwarves cost 1 extra resource to play."
- While Shadow of Durin's Bane is in play, all dwarves have their hit points reduced by 1.
- Flame of Durin's Bane gains +1 attack and +1 defense for every dwarf in play.
These are pretty evil, but also pretty extreme and specifically aimed at dwarf nerfing, which would be a bit inelegant.
But I can think of a non-specific treachery that will stop a dwarf deck in its tracks:
- Target the hero with the highest printed hit points. This card becomes a Condition Attachment with the text: "Treat this hero's text as if it were blank."
Does the design team need to resort to such treacheries?
I personally don't think so. You might as well argue that the Rohan Rush or Noldor decks are too powerful and should be nerfed.
But this isn't a competitive environment.
When it comes down to it, you are the one making the choice to play a Swiss Army deck. You are the one choosing to play one deck type over all others. The choice of boredom, if you think of this as such, is yours and yours alone.
That said, I like my dwarf deck and play it a lot. It's synergistic and thematic and powerful. What more could a Bilbo want?
Pipe-weed, that's what.
BRING ON THE HOBBITS, I SAY
Edited: Corrected for the fact that Legacy of Durin is unique. Thanks, Zanebane!