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September Solo League -- Mirkwood Cycle

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Welcome to the LOTR Solo League.  This month we'll be playing three quests from the core and Mirkwood cycle.  The quests are:

1) Journey Down the Anduin
2) Conflict at the Carrock
3) Return to Mirkwood

Yes, the final quest isn't particularly well suited to single decks, but with the help of the Valar we can prevail.  Here are the rules:

1) Each player will construct a 50-card deck, then use that exact deck against all three quests.

2) At least one of the heroes must be from a box with those quests -- this means you must have one of the Core set heroes, or Frodo Baggins(Conflict at the Carrock) or Dain Ironfoot (Return to Mirkwood)

3) Your score against each quest will be how much help you need to defeat it, based on the Grace of the Valar variant invented by Seastan.  It works like this:

For each token you have, after you draw/mulligan your initial hand you can choose to draw a card or give a hero a resource.  This happens one at a time, so if I use my first token to draw a card, I see the card before I decide whether to use my second token for a card or a resource.

The original variant starts at zero tokens and gains two tokens if you lose quickly (first five turns) and one if you do not -- however, for the purposes of this league I will allow you to start a quest at any number of tokens, and adjust by as many as you want -- if it's going to take 16 tokens for your deck to beat Return to Mirkwood, I don't want to make you play it 17 times!  The only rules for adding/reducing tokens are these:

Rule 1) If you lose a quest with X tokens, you cannot play that quest again with X or less tokens.
Rule 2) If you defeat a quest with Y tokens, you cannot play that quest again with Y or more tokens.

So for example, if I start with six tokens against Return to Mirkwood and defeat it, I can play it again with 0-5 tokens.  If I then try with three tokens and lose, I can play it again with 4 or 5 tokens.  If I try with four and lose, I can play it again with 5 tokens.  If I win, my final score for that quest is 5, and if I lose my final score for the quest is 6.  (Alternatively, I could've decided that 6 was a good enough score the first time I played it, and just have my final score be 6 without playing again.)

Remember that tokens do not carry over between quests.  When playing Conflict at the Carrock it does not matter how many tokens I needed to defeat Journey Down the Anduin.

4) You are not required to publish your deck, but you are required to reveal which Heroes you used, and how many cards in your deck came from outside Mirkwood and a single core.  When breaking ties, the first tiebreaker is number of outside cards used (less is better), the second tiebreaker is number of heroes outside the cycle (less is better), third tiebreaker is number of heroes outside the boxes with the three quest (less is better).

5) 1st place gets to choose the cycle for November's league, 2nd place gets to choose a quest from that cycle, and 3rd place gets to choose a quest *not* to be used from that cycle.  For October we will be using the Grey Havens/Dreamchaser cycle.

6) Weekly deadlines will be on Monday at 11pm Eastern, but only the final deadline really matters for scoring -- the first two deadlines are only to be included in standings.

Journey Down the Anduin: September 10th
Conflict at the Carrock: September 17th
Return to Mirkwood: September 24th

7) I've created a google spreadsheet for results here:

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I just submitted my results, however i think the scoring system is bad and should be changed for next league. My thoughts:

Because this format doesn't take regular FFG scoring system into consideration, it has the same flaws as original scoring system - it encourages "grinding the scenario out", not taking any risk to try to speed up the pace. What only matters is a win. Because most really good decks will be able to score the win the 1st time they beat the scenario without any of the valar points, this will mean the player who used the deck that meets more conditions decided here, like using cards from cycle, using heroes from packs etc will win over the player that had 2x better score and played the scenario better. This is pretty crazy if you ask me. FFG scoring system will allow to compare regular 1st time wins instead of making the winner the player who used more reccomended cards.

Also favor of the valor system is actually... incredibly punishing rather than helpful for any "competitive" setting. It means that if you lose, you have to get those valor points which basically means you lost the competition and due to random nature of LOTR lcg sometimes, imo one lose should not be as punishing. This is how i would make it work:

You have 3 tries for each scenario. You write down each of your wins/loses and your scores for win. You submit:

1) Win ratio (3/3, 2/3, 1/3), 0/3 means you are not taken into account for ranking this week

2) Best Score

3) If there was more than one win, other scores

This way the tiebreakers become: 

1) Best Score

2) Win ratio

3) Other Scores

4) And finally, the deckbuilding restrictions at the very end

Imo this would make for more fun and fair competition which isn't all about not failing a scenario once but encourages keeping your win ratio high. If you want to impose restrictions harder, it should not be for addictional points, but it should be mandatory - like 50% cards in your deck have to be from the cycle.

I'm hoping the league goes well and there will be further interest in the project. Please don't take anything here to yourself because i think league is a great idea and i just don't like the scoring system.


Edited by Zura

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Hello Zura, Thanks for playing!  I'm impressed with your score.

I'm open to revising the scoring method at the end of the season, after we've had a chance to play with this and see how it all stacks out.  In the "Any interest in a solo league" thread I gave my rationale for my proposed rules, but the rules are less important than what the players want to get out of the league.  Here's what I personally wanted:

1) An excuse to play and compare results against some quests

2) A required workload that can be easily managed over the course of a month

3) Requirements that give our decks at least something in common, but...

4) Flexibility in our constructed decks and some of our heroes

5) Some sort of advantage for players who use a limited card pool, whether by choice or necessity

6) Have players experience something besides soul-crushing losses.

Aside from glory and fame forever, the rewards are pretty minimal, non-existent outside the top three, so my hope was that winning the league would take a back seat to playing the league -- but it's a pretty forlorn hope, because winning leagues, like winning games, is sufficient reward in itself.

Given those goals, what sort of ad hoc scoring system works best is unknown to me.  The appeal of using Valar Tokens as a scoring mechanism to me is that it produces a number that can be compared, but it also helps prevent #6.  Someone who piles up a lot of Valar tokens may not win the league, but they'll at least win the quests, and so (I hope) will at least go out on a high note.  Maybe I'm wrong and most players would prefer to just take their loss (or losses) and move on, rather than resort to what can become easy mode on steroids to overpower the quest.  The Valar Tokens aren't intended to feel like punishment, they're intended to feel like help.

Yes, I ignored the official scoring system -- I actively dislike the official scoring system for two main reasons:

1) It's largely driven by style of play

2) It requires you to track something you don't normally track (number of turns)

The scoring system believes that your win is "better" if you did it more quickly, or that all else being equal a win with an undamaged TaGimli is better than a nearly-dead TaGimli.  I believe neither -- I believe that a deck that grinds out a quest and wins 100% of the time is superior to an Aggro deck that wins much quicker but only wins 95% of the time.  I would be opposed to *any* scoring system that is driven by style of play -- this also means I would oppose just going by VP cards from the encounter deck, since the slow deck would naturally see more of those cards.

But we need *some* sort of differentiator in a league, and just W-L (or Valar tokens) won't do it.  That's why my tiebreakers go back to card pool -- same result, but done with more in-cycle cards.  You can choose to make your deck weaker by constricting your card pool, at the risk of the weaker deck acquiring more tokens.  That simultaneously (I hope) discourages just bringing a power deck to the league and also gives players with a limited card pool a shot.  (Though I'll be surprised if Mirkwood-only players manage as well as you did.)

Anyway, we'll certainly want to revisit the rules/scoring before the October league, after everyone's had a chance to experience the current ruleset.  It's quite possible no single league can be all things to all players who'd like to do a monthly league.  In Legendary I've played in as many as four different leagues at the same time -- one that uses only the core set (and sometimes Dark City), a "Starter League" that uses Core + one expansion, the full league that uses all the sets up to a certain point, and even a Semi-Co-Op league where all the players use the exact same heroes and the collective W-L of all players is what matters most.

Edited by dalestephenson

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4 minutes ago, Wandalf the Gizzard said:

Thanks for running this. I can't wait to get started!

What do you mean by "weekly deadlines" versus "final deadline?" That we can play each quest each week?

No, those are just milestones where I'll post the intermediate standings.  Specifically:

1) After September 10th I'll post standings *through the first quest*

2) After September 17th I'll post standings *through the second quest*

But September 24th is the one that matters.  If you want to wait until the last week to play any of the quests that's totally legal; it just means you won't be in the intermediate standings.

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I can see the flaws in the scoring system but it's a massive improvement over FFG's. But for something like this, who cares if it's not perfect? The prize for winning is just bragging rights and getting to play your favorite quests next time around. But since we all probably love this game enough to be in a league, I don't think any of us will complain about any cycle being chosen. I, for one, just want to play and having a competition gives me incentive to do so. I fully expect to be at the bottom of the standings. I'm not a very good deckbuilder!

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Yeah, I'd rather not use FFG's system. ten points per round is too harsh, especially with quests like CatC.

Anyway, here are my results from the first two quests for anyone interested.

My early loss on JdtA came from a one turn loss when Pursued by Shadow cam up as the setup card. The Hill Toll engaged first round and with no allies in play, a Wolf Rider shadow card told me it was time to scoop. The second game was going much better until midway through stage two, Goblin Sniper, Evil Storm, and Necromancer's Reach nearly cleared my board. I managed to come back and win it, though.

My single game of CatC kicked off horrendously, but the deck I was using had a lot staying power and somehow, with two Sacked, six progress on stage one, and my threat steadily climbing, I brought the game back down under control and finished off the Trolls like it had been that easy the whole game.

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Got some free time today, so I used this challenge as an excuse to go back and revisited a deck I built for my blog a while ago that I've been meaning to try against other quests. It worked way better than I had expected!

My first game was the only one that I lost. I revealed Pursued by Shadow during Setup, which I had no way to counter, so I had to raise my threat by 3. That put me within Hill Troll range immediately, which had me on the back foot for most of the game. I was able to dispatch the Hill Troll eventually (although it took like four or five rounds) but I had to trigger Aragorn's reset ability earlier than usual in order to stay alive.

My deck served me cards in the wrong order, so it took me a long time to get to the end of the quest. I ended up threatting out on the last Stage while trying to kill the last copy of  "Wargs" that kept returning to the Staging Area, preventing me from actually winning. I was so close! Lots of things conspired against me that game.

My other games went pretty well, though. Conflict at the Carrock was pretty easy to dispatch thanks to Aragorn's threat reset allowing me to take my sweet time. I did end Return to Mirkwood at 49 threat, but part of that was because I decided to take the direct damage from Hummerhorns as threat through Frodo's ability, even though I could have instead chosen to lose a Hero instead (and things would have also turned out fine).

This was fun! I'm looking forward to seeing if anyone can get a perfect score! ?

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First game with my solo dwarf deck against Journey down the Anduin:

I have a starting threat of 30, pretty bad in this scenario. I reveal a 10 threat location (nightmare of course) before the troll. What a first turn it is! I don't have draw in my beginning hand (I'm especially looking for legacy of durin) but I have many allies and steward of Gondor. I play Erebor Record Keeper and dwarven sellsword, a cram on Dain an send everyone but Dain in quest (hope for nothing bad occur, have to get a bit lucky with such a setup). I get a bunch of nightmare treachery  who don't meet their requirement and so get surge, a surge bird and a treachery who give me as much threat as I have character who don't quest... so only 1 :D. I travel on the location and engage the two enemies. I block the troll with Dain, he get a +1 attack shadow and let Dain at 1 HP. I let the bug undefended and deal 2 damage on Thorin. I ready Dain with cram to kill the bird.

Turn two I send almost no one to the quest. I reveal a 48 threat goblin that I let in the staging area, trash block the troll with my miner of the iron hills, block the new nightmare impossible to kill rat, then send everyone (except Dain) to attack in order to kill the troll. Next turn I reveal a treachery that put back the troll in the staging area (really?) but I can do the same things with the help of lure of moria. Then I reveal another 48 threat goblin (so no one can be engaged at this moment) and a location. During this time I draw little things (like a gimli, but nothing that allow me to explode like a Gandalf with my 2 sneack attack). I'm at 42 threat so I decide to go anyway in stage 2. I want to go to stage 3 before being too high in threat. I just draw a Gandalf the turn after so I'm able to quest well and kill all the enemies at this moment.

A difficult win but a win in first try :).

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Then againt conflict at the carrock:

I know how to proceed to win this one quite easily: stall the game on step 1, try no to quest too hard but not to take too many threat (henamarth is really good for that, but I don't play it) then reduce the threat under 34 before go to quest 2. Take the troll one by one and kill them. The nightmare version offer some difference: 1/ it put a progress counter on the quest if no one have been put this turn. So the troll will come on the 7th turn or before. 2/ We have to defeat a fifth troll after the 4. 3/ The troll are a little bit different. 4/ There is more troll on the encounter deck

I open a 6 hand with 1 legacy of numenor (not really a good card in this 3 scenario), 2 steward of of gondor... and only one ally (and no legacy of durin). This is not good to me. I mulligan and open a hand with many allies. Then on turn 2 I was able to play steward of gondor, a very good tale that discard a legacy of durin, hammersmith that bring back the legacy. I'm started. 2 or 3 turns later I got my deck empty, with almost of my dwarf in play and the rest of my deck in hand. Among them some gandalf have been discarded in the course of the game but they are now back in my hand thank to Ered Nimrais Prospector.

During this time my threat was at 37 because I rather take some threat than overquesting on the few first turns. I get back at 32 with gandalf and quest with all my dwarf and ready them with lure of moria. Take a tiny troll with 3 attack, block with Dain, block a smaller enemy and kill them. Then each turn I play a gandalf to reduce my threat and block with him and kill the troll. So 4 turns later (4 trolls, 3 gandalf, 1 sneack attack) the game is over.

The next one will be the harder, but if I get a nice start like in this one I may get to win it. I hope I will.

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And the last one.

I mulligan again for a starting hand with legacy of durin (or at least king under the mountain). I succeed at finding all three before the end of the turn one (but sadly not on the right order). I get 8 threat because of a treachery. So I'm at 48 threat at the beginning of turn 5. I have to play a Gandalf each turn and to be lucky on the treachery / shadow cards. I don't have difficulties to quest enough or beat ennemies since the turn three but I fail on the last combat phase because of a shadow who deal 4 threat to me. I'm still able to kill the enemies but not to put the 2 last progress counter on the stage 4. I wouldn't have this shadow without the nightmare effect that force me to look for an attercop when I get on stage 4.

So I will retry with a valar point.

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Another try

I get an even better beginning hand, with the three good equipment in turn one (after some draw/cantrip event). I don't play any ally because I just want to get as many threat reduction as fast as possible. I get a treachery that make me deal 4 to a hero. Take it Thorin (who survive with his 5 HP). I put many allies on the following turn, but Thorin die in a shadow that deal 1 damage on each character (so do die an ally). I get milled of 10 cards (2 gandalf) so I rely on sneak attack for now. I do it two time to vary between 35 and 40 threat. I have a enemy who deal 5 damage on a hero when it engage me. I manage to get on stage 4 where I can put a Gandalf to kill it before loosing a hero. But a treachery destroy all my attachement so I accept to let Bifur die and I use gandalf to kill the two enemies and reduce my threat. I win the turn after that, after killing another enemy. What a game!

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Submitted my results - 

Journey Down the Anduin - Won on first attempt

Conflict at the Carrock - lost first attempt due to location that gets+1 threat for each troll in play causing my threat to raise high enough that I had to engage all the trolls at once rather than selectively picking them off.

Second attempt with 1 Grace of the Valar token (used to add a resource to Eowyn for early Galadhrim's greeting) was successful, keeping threat low and building up during stage 1, then selectively engaging, forest-trapping and defeating the trolls. managed two sneak attacks  Gandalf and Beorn in one combat phase, followed by Grim resolve to get a second use from each, finishing two trolls. Discarded Beorn to Eowyn and used stand and fight the next round to bring him back to finish the final Troll (A hill troll came out on the last round, so i needed to kill him off as well).

Return to Mirkwood - Won on first attempt. Got lucky with the draws, so never encountered Attacop, and got the discard 10 from your deck during setup. 48 threat on the final round.

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2 hours ago, dalestephenson said:

One Valar token with *no* cards outside single core + Mirkwood?  That's going to be tough to beat.

Wow! Yeah, that's pretty impressive. Seems like now it's down to whether or not someone can get a perfect score!

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I just realize that I forget to use my valor point :x. Corbetta is only one game away to a perfect run. Good luck!

I may want to retry this league, with other decks (another dwarf, a secrecy with Frodo both in nightmare, a deck with only card of those set and standard mode on OCTGN). It is okay to add those results to the spreadsheet?

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(Cross-posting from BGG)

I just finished my run. Managed a clean sheet, but I’m afraid I can’t win because I don’t have the tiebreaker. I used http://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/9735/the-picky-peoples-1.0. Congrats to YepesNopes for his Nightmare run. Would love to hear about his win against Return to Mirkwood with a starting threat of at least 35, that must have been epic. EDIT: also congrats to Rouxxor, of course. His run certainly deserves to be ranked higher than mine. The session report is impressive.

Journey Down the Anduin : I defeated this quest right on the heels of defeating Journey Up the Anduin from The Wilds of Rhovanion (which is trickier and harder IMO). I didn’t need to discard Folco. The matchup is in favor of this deck because of the very low threat and the encounter deck manipulations. In the final stage, the only dangerous enemy that had a lower engagement cost than my threat was the Warg, and I removed it after its attack by paying O Elbereth Gilthoniel full cost (it thought it could escape to the staging area -- no thank you). Other enemies with lower engagement cost were caught on Ranger Spikes. So I just picked them off one at a time. The main threats were the setup and direct damage from Necromancer’s Reach and Dol Guldur Orcs. I drew Necromancer’s Pass for the setup, which makes you discard 2 cards at random when you travel to it. Luckily, I had the only copy of Thror’s Map in my opening hand, and later I drew into the only copy of Warden of Healing.

Conflict at the Carrock : a clinic in turtling. The scrying allows you to quest just enough to stay ahead of the encounter deck, without putting too much progress tokens. I stayed 10+ turns in quest stage 1, going almost through my entire deck looking for Treebeard.

Return to Mirkwood : I was apprehensive before this one. I had never beat this quest before. I had lost to it badly, and then I snubbed it because of how poorly I thought it played solo. This time, Denethor and Risk Some Light did the work. Together, they moved to the bottom of the encounter deck 2 Mirkwood Bats, 1 Wolf Rider, 1 Marsh Adder, and 1 Hummerhorns. As a result, I only met harmless locations and 2 treacheries (one was Gollum’s Anguish, which increases threat by 8, and it got Test-of-Will’ed). My plan was to have the Denethor-Firyal combo ready for stage 3, where you can’t play cards at all. They were my insurance against a game-ending Gollum’s Anguish or enemies that would have protracted stage 4 and led to defeat by threat. Sure enough, Firyal discarded a Warg which could have easily won the game for Sauron. Instead, I got a nice Woodman’s Glade location and sailed to victory. The only threat reduction all game was from discarding Folco. I would have lost without his ability, as I failed to draw Gandalf (the only other source of threat reduction) and finished at exactly 43 threat. His sacrifice made it possible to stay in secrecy for 2 turns despite Gollum’s threat increase, and allowed me to play Risk Some Light twice for free.

Edited by theagesthrough56

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