This will come as no surprise to those who know me, but I’m a fan of 2-hero decks. Building one provides a lot of puzzles and challenges; you start the game with 33% fewer actions and 33% fewer resources, and you gain 33% fewer resources per round. In return, you get a lower starting threat, which often means secrecy access. Secrecy has a few cards that will help cover for that slow start, but you need to draw them in your opening hand or else you’re starting the game well behind the 8-ball.
The easiest way to overcome these challenges is to go with Leadership for access to Timely Aid, perhaps the best secrecy card in the game and an easy way to shore up that action disadvantage. Using Lore as a second sphere gives access to plenty of draw to make sure you’re hitting your key cards early while you still have your secrecy discounts.
Spirit makes for a tougher 2-hero build, in large part because there’s little compelling reason to go to all that extra trouble to get a secrecy discount in Spirit. The Celduin Traveler is perhaps the best ally in the game when you can play him for 1, but otherwise there’s not much to solve your key problems.
The one asset Spirit does have is Hero Arwen, whose innate resource acceleration can immediately erase the opening hit to your economy. And splashing Spirit gives access to threat reduction to regain secrecy discounts if they are lost. But even when using Arwen, you’ll still often want a second sphere to gain access to some more and better secrecy cards
Today’s deck is a two-hero deck that takes everything I just said and tosses it out the window. So hang on while we rethink the meta a tiny bit with
3x Celduin Traveler (The Nîn-in-Eilph)
3x Greyflood Wanderer (The Three Trials)
3x Imladris Stargazer (Foundations of Stone)
3x Northern Tracker (Core Set)
3x Rhovanion Outrider (Temple of the Deceived)
3x Westfold Horse-breeder (The Voice of Isengard)
3x Zigil Miner (Khazad-dûm)
3x Ancient Mathom (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
3x Defender of the West (The Nîn-in-Eilph)
3x Resourceful (The Watcher in the Water)
3x Steed of Imladris (Across the Ettenmoors)
2x Thrór’s Key (On the Doorstep)
2x Warden of Arnor (The Three Trials)
Player Side Quest (1)
1x Double Back (Escape from Mount Gram)
(A note: since the deck was published several months before the release of the Drowned Ruins, DavFlamerock used Defender of the West as a proxy for Strider.)
The first thing that might stand out in the deck is the hero selection. DavFlamerock has passed over all of the wildly popular “top-tier” Spirit heroes in favor of the quirky, fun, and less-commonly-used Lanwyn and Idraen.
But those “second-tier” hero choices give a really clever solution to the starting action disadvantage that 2-hero decks have to contend with. Both heroes have really strong statistics, but more importantly, both heroes are capable of self-readying. Whenever a surge effect is revealed, Lanywn can either quest harder or ready to help out with combat. Whenever a location is explored, Idraen can ready as well. And it’s a good thing, too, because this deck is going to explore a lot of locations.
With the action problem solved by the heroes and Strider, Wild Joy only needs to access the two pillars of quality deck construction– resources and cards. And it has several paths to both. Ancient Mathom is catnip in a location control deck, and with so many ways to pop locations, it can even be targeted to give the draw to other players. Elven-light doesn’t see a lot of play unless there’s a discarding hero in the starting lineup, but Steed of Imladris can pitch it very effectively while also boosting the location control theme, and Westfold Horse-breeders can fetch those Steeds to get the engine rolling.
For resources, there’s the secrecy standby Resourceful, but it’s not the only trick available. Any Spirit deck is always going to be able to take advantage of the old Imladris Stargazer / Zigil Miner combo for more wealth.
“Support” decks are less popular on RingsDB, but they are the glue that often holds fellowships together, and while it lacks the raw power that a third hero enables, Wild Joy remains useful by questing strong and nuking any locations on the board with great alacrity.
Beyond the heroes, DavFlamerock continued to confine himself to less-used uniques. This deck will rarely find other players competing for access to Thror’s Map or Warden of Arnor, and while Strider is hugely popular in 2-hero builds, 2-hero builds are still rare enough that there’s unlikely to be much competition there, either.
By building around cards with such little competition, Wild Joy becomes a deck that can be added to almost any fellowship without any issues, which is really the holy grail for a support deck. It just hangs out invisibly in the background, not stepping on anyone’s toes, and helping every other deck at the table do what it does, only better.
So if you feel a burning desire to make everyone else at the table look better, or you’ve always wanted to try a 2-hero build but worry about your ability to carry your weight, take a walk on the wild side and spread a little joy with a fun location control deck that’s certainly worth a closer look.