The second quest of the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle, Conflict at the Carrock represents a sort of side-quest during Aragorn’s hunt for Gollum. The quest itself is reminiscent of Bilbo, Thorin, and company’s battle with trolls from The Hobbit. The four trolls have silly British-sounding names, and it even takes place in a setting from The Hobbit: The Carrock.
The non-Nightmare version of the quest has two stages. The first stage merely requires 7 progress to complete. Upon reaching the second stage, The Carrock (a 2-threat immune-to-player-card-effects Location) becomes the active Location. The Carrock boosts all Troll Enemies’ attack and defense by 1 until you clear its 6 quest points. You also put all four Trolls into play at once, each of which has an engagement cost of 34 and has a nasty ability while engaged with you. Defeating these four Trolls and placing 1 progress on stage 2 wins the game.
The Nightmare version of the quest actually changes quite a few things. New Troll Enemies replace most of the non-Troll Enemies in the original version of the deck. The four boss Trolls are replaced by new versions as well, with buffed stats and altered abilities. Most of the Trolls in the quest now buff all other Trolls once they’re in the victory display. This means that Trolls inevitably get stronger the more of them you fight. The friendly Grimbeorn Objective-Ally is removed, and a third stage is added that brings out a fifth Troll to defeat before you can win the game (because let’s face it, four ugly Trolls isn’t enough).
The go-to strategy for the original quest is to try to quest just enough to stall on stage 1 until you have built up your forces to take down the Trolls one at a time (hopefully you can keep your threat below 30 or so). The Nightmare version of the quest adds a counter to this strategy by placing 1 progress on the current Quest each round (bypassing the active Location) if you didn’t place progress on it. This prevents you from using encounter deck scrying to quest perfectly each round, ensuring that they keep you on the clock.
The major Treachery card to watch out for in this quest is Sacked!, which becomes an uncancellable Condition Attachment which prevents a hero from attacking, defending, questing, triggering abilities, and collecting resources. There’s also another Treachery, Roasted Slowly, which destroys a Hero with Sacked! attached, so it’s generally a good idea to pack Condition removal when adventuring near The Carrock. In the late game, once you’ve reached stage 2, defeating one of the Britishy-named unique Troll Enemies also allows you to discard a Sacked! Condition.
Building the deck
The first quest card explicitly mentions that we’re hunting for Gollum in the Anduin Valley, so that still draws a clear thematic link to Aragorn. This quest is also set at the Carrock, so this is the perfect time to use a thematically niche card: Beorn. Technically, he has probably passed away by the time our story’s narrative rolls around, but I have already decided that I’m going to worry less about timelines than other narrative elements.
I really like the design of Hero Beorn, so I’ll go with that one over the Ally. Lore Aragorn gives me access to Condition removal cards like Athelas, so those two will form a good foundation. But how should I fill in the rest of the deck? There certainly aren’t enough Beornings to build a full deck out of—I don’t even think I can justify Beorning Beekeeper‘s 4 cost given his paltry stats and mediocre ability. So let’s take a look at the map of Middle Earth (I like to use this one) and see if that gives us any ideas:
Hey, look what’s right next to The Carrock on the map: the Eagles’ Eyrie! The Eagle faction is also thematically niche due to the fact that it’s hard to get Heroes that seem appropriate to lead them. Plus, they’re not generally solo-viable on their own due to a lack of willpower, but this quest isn’t terribly demanding in the questing department. They’re all Creatures too, so they’ll synergize nicely with Ally Radagast, yet another thematically niche card that fits due to this quest’s proximity to Rhosgobel. Hooray! This is a chance to use a whole pile of cards that I usually can’t fit elsewhere. Everything is coming together.
All that’s left to do is pick the third Hero. I could go 2-Hero again, but I don’t think I’d have enough resources to cover the cost of all of those expensive Eagle Allies. Instead I’ll fall back on the resource-generating Arwen, using the same thematic hand-waving that I did in The Hunt for Gollum. And with that choice, everything else falls neatly into place.
Deck: The Birds and the Beasts
Theme: Eagles at the Carrock
Aragorn (The Watcher in the Water)
Arwen Undómiel (The Dread Realm)
Beorn (Over Hill and Under Hill)
3x Eagles of the Misty Mountains (Return to Mirkwood)
3x Gandalf (Core Set)
1x Gwaihir (Trouble in Tharbad)
2x Landroval (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
3x Radagast (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
3x Vassal of the Windlord (The Dead Marshes)
3x Winged Guardian (The Hunt for Gollum)
3x Athelas (The Lost Realm)
3x Song of Battle (The Dead Marshes)
2x Steed of Imladris (Across the Ettenmoors)
3x Support of the Eagles (Return to Mirkwood)
2x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)
1x Wingfoot (The Nîn-in-Eilph)
3x Daeron’s Runes (Foundations of Stone)
3x Elrond’s Counsel (The Watcher in the Water)
3x Elven-light (The Dread Realm)
2x Free to Choose (Trouble in Tharbad)
3x The Eagles Are Coming! (The Hunt for Gollum)
Player Side Quest (4)
1x Delay the Enemy (Across the Ettenmoors)
1x Double Back (Escape from Mount Gram)
1x Gather Information (The Lost Realm)
1x Scout Ahead (The Wastes of Eriador)
3 Heroes, 50 Cards
There are 3 really important cards that this deck needs before it starts to work:
- Song of Battle, which goes on Aragorn so that I can start to afford Eagle cards
- Radagast, who helps both with questing and paying for Eagles
- Athelas, because without it I am vulnerable to the Sacked! Treachery
Even though I really need all 3 of these cards ASAP, I actually don’t mulligan for any of them. Unless I happen to get all 3 in my starting hand, I mulligan for Elven-light, which generally provides enough card draw to ensure I’ll find the other 3 cards.
I also want to see one of my Side Quests early in the game to buy myself a little more time, since progress against a Side Quest doesn’t do anything to hasten the coming of the Trolls. As written, I believe the Nightmare card actually places progress on your Side Quests as well, which is awfully nice of it. (EDIT: Caleb Grace actually ruled on this after I wrote this post, and he opted to follow Arkham’s Razor here: “Whatever is worse for the players is how you should read it.” So no freebie progress on your Side Quests after all!)
With the exception of the River Langflood Location, which gets +1 threat for each Troll in play, nothing coming out of the encounter deck will have more than 3 threat, so I keep that in mind when I’m aiming not to make too much progress. I usually commit no more than 1 more than what’s in the staging area in the early game, preferring to take some extra threat rather than make too much progress.
I have to keep the staging area as clear as possible, since this deck can’t muster too much willpower at once. The only thing I’ll leave in the staging area is the Hives and Hives Location which deals 1 damage to each character when progress is placed upon it. Even then, I often travel to the first one that comes out so they don’t build up.
Once my threat is too high, or it looks likely that I will be advancing to stage 2, I trigger Aragorn’s ability and drop my threat back to 33. I hold all of my threat reduction cards until this point, and and play them all at once to give me as much time as possible before I’m forced to engage all of the Trolls.
By the time the named Trolls show up, hopefully I have a copy or two of Support of the Eagles down on Aragorn and a whole host of Eagles in play, and I can start to take the Trolls down one turn at a time. I usually go for Louis (the one that raises my threat) last, but the order of the others doesn’t usually matter too much. If I happen to have a copy of the Battle Side Quest Delay the Enemy in play at this point, I usually use it to help to clear The Carrock in one go, making things a little easier and unblocking my ability to travel to other Locations.
After that, it’s just a question of bringing the Trolls down one by one until they’re all dead, which usually isn’t too hard once one of my Eagles of the Misty Mountains has 4 or 5 Eagle Attachments behind it.
Win ratio: 3/5 (60%)
Most of the time I was able to get my combo pieces in play early enough, and it was pretty smooth sailing the whole way through. Beorn’s high attack power made it pretty easy to kill just about every minor Enemy as soon as they came out of the deck, and as long as I got my 2-willpower characters down fast enough I didn’t have to worry too much about failing to quest. By the time I reached the final Troll, Rob & Bob, I was able to swing for between 30 and 40 damage—more than enough to take him down.
Both of my losses were due to missing at least one combo piece. In my first loss, both Song of Battle and Athelas were absent. I was able to tread water for 6 rounds, but eventually Sacked! came out as a shadow twice in a row. With no way to draw extra cards and only Beorn’s resource each round, I folded.
My second loss was due to a lack of questing power. Radagast was nowhere to be found, so it was difficult to play down expensive Eagle allies with any willpower like Gwaihir or Eagles of the Misty Mountains. I got stuck with a Troll Lair in the staging area, unable to travel to it, and when the time came for Aragorn to perform his sacred duty of resetting my threat, the Troll Lair prevented him from doing so. I eventually threatted out.
I can’t stop tweaking
If you followed the link to the deck on RingsDB, you might have noticed that it’s just a little different from what I have listed above. I replaced Free to Choose with a few copies of Heed the Dream instead. Free to Choose was nice a few times, but I found I mostly used it to cancel A Frightened Beast, which I could have easily done anyway by discarding one of my cheaper Eagles instead.
Heed the Dream, on the other hand, might have helped me to dig for my missing combo pieces (or at least Elven-light) which might have turned around those games that I lost.
Conflict at the Carrock seems to be a fan-favorite quest, and I can see why. It’s a fun puzzle that’s pretty different from a lot of other quests out there. My typical tactic is to take a low-threat Hobbit deck against it, but I’m glad I decided to try tossing together a bunch of the cards I don’t often get to use in theme decks, because it worked out so well!
Next is Nightmare A Journey to Rhosgobel, another quest that requires very specific deckbuilding in order to beat. Which theme will I use to help me solve the puzzle? Find out next week!