Nightmare Celebrimbor’s Secret

You have finally reached the ruins of Ost-in-Edhil, but Bellach and his Orcs have arrived before you. They appear to be searching for the hidden chamber. If you want to reach it first, you will have to move quickly and carefully…

The Ruins of Ost-in-Edhil

It has been far too long since my last blog post! I can certainly empathize with my Heroes from my last post, seemingly stuck in a vast swamp with no end in sight. But the springtime sun has reinvigorated my weary bones, and I have finally found some time to continue my adventure. Let’s explore the ruins of Ost-in-Edhil, and see if we can work out what secrets Celebrimbor kept there!

The power to scour

In the narrative of Celebrimbor’s Secret, your goal is to locate Celebrimbor’s Mould before Bellach and his Orcs do. The ring mould itself starts the game attached to The Secret Chamber in the staging area, and all you have to do to grab it is to place 3 progress on the quest, travel to the Secret Chamber, and clear it. From there you just have to make 14 total progress on the quest to move on to Stage 2. It sounds straightforward enough, but as always, there’s a catch.

You are opposed by The Orcs’ Search, an Objective that starts in the staging area and collects every Location that takes as much damage as it has quest points and raises your threat by 1 each round for every card it has collected. How do Locations take damage, you ask? Well, in addition to regular card effects like the When Revealed text of Hateful Search, most Location damage accumulates as a result of triggering all Scour effects in play. These are triggered roughly every 3 rounds as a result of a Time 3 effect on each Quest Stage.

Many Scour effects deal damage to Locations, but not all of them. Bellach, for instance, sits in the staging area all game and calls in new Orcs to do his bidding. Unfortunately, an effect on the first quest stage makes him invincible until you reach Stage 2—but in general, you’ll want to prioritize which Enemies and Locations to deal with first based on how badly their Scour effects will hurt you if they go off.

Once you have recovered the Mould and placed 14 progress on Stage 1, you get to move on to the second and final Stage.

Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!

Regardless of how sneaky you were in the first stage, Bellach catches up to you in the second and takes the Mould, forcing you to place another 12 progress on the quest before you’re finally allowed to engage and defeat the Spy from Mordor. It works fine mechanically, but I can’t help but feel like narratively it’s a little ham-fisted. After all, why did we do all of that work to beat the bad guy to the macguffin if he’s just going to take it from us and force us to fight him anyway? It feels like the Dungeon Master railroaded us.

In any case, Bellach isn’t the scariest end-boss in the game, but the Scour effects continue to trigger on a Time 3 keyword during Stage 2, so it’s usually best to make quick work of him before his Orc hoard overwhelms you. You’ll also be racing against The Orcs’ Search as it builds up and tries to threat you out. Once you’ve defeated Bellach and recovered the Mould, you can pack up for your successful return journey to Isengard to collect your reward!

With a new keyword and a few new mechanical concepts, Celebrimbor’s Secret seems kind of complicated at first, but it has a particular cadence to it. Once you get the hang of it, it actually turns out to be a pretty quick and straightforward quest.

Deck: Riding far Afield

They were tamers of beasts and had learned the mastery of horses, and many were skilled and fearless riders. These would often ride far afield as scouts and keep watch on movements of their enemies; and if the Orcs dared to assemble in the open for some great raid, they would gather great force of horsed archers to surround them and destroy them.

Of Dwarves and Men, The Peoples of Middle Earth

Theme: Trusty Steeds

Hero (3)
Aragorn (The Lost Realm)
Elfhelm (Temple of the Deceived)
Éowyn (Core Set)

Ally (15)
3x Ranger of Cardolan (The Wastes of Eriador)
3x Snowbourn Scout (Core Set)
3x Steward of Orthanc (Race Across Harad)
3x West Road Traveller (Return to Mirkwood)
3x Westfold Horse-breeder (The Voice of Isengard)

Attachment (19)
2x Armored Destrier (Temple of the Deceived)
1x Arod (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Dúnedain Mark (The Hunt for Gollum)
1x Dúnedain Remedy (The Drowned Ruins)
2x Dúnedain Warning (Conflict at the Carrock)
2x Golden Shield (The Flame of the West)
2x Rohan Warhorse (The Voice of Isengard)
1x Snowmane (The Land of Shadow)
1x Steed of the Mark (The Morgul Vale)
2x Steed of the North (Race Across Harad)
2x Windfola (A Storm on Cobas Haven)

Event (16)
3x Feint (Core Set)
2x Hasty Stroke (Core Set)
1x Mustering the Rohirrim (The Hunt for Gollum)
2x Tides of Fate (Flight of the Stormcaller)
2x Valiant Sacrifice (Core Set)
3x We Are Not Idle (Shadow and Flame)
3x Well Warned (The Sands of Harad)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards

Check out this deck’s decription on RingsDB for info on how to play it.


Solo Hero Elfhelm decks are a little tricky to get right, so of course I wanted to try my hand at building one for this series. My key goal here was to have three Heroes who could maximally benefit from each of Elfhelm’s stat bonuses: Spirit Éowyn for questing, Tactics Aragorn for attacking, and Elfhelm himself for defense. Once each was equipped with a Mount, their already-focused stats would be highly optimized for their intended function.

I actually built the first version of this deck quite a while ago, back when I was trying out the Dúnedain / Rohan theme for The Three Trials. While I found the core concepts of the deck to be really fun, the deck itself wasn’t quite strong enough to be able to tackle that monster of a quest. Elfhelm’s defense, for one, isn’t high enough to handle quests with aggressive starts. So I took things in a different direction.

I kept revisiting this deck for each quest thereafter, hoping I’d be able to find one for which it was a good fit. I finally found that fit in Celebrimbor’s Secret.

Well… I sort of found that fit. Truth be told, this deck still isn’t as strong as most of the decks that I build for this series. But it’s fun to play, so I’m glad I was eventually able to find a use for it.

Thematic concessions

The card We Are Not Idle has the peculiar property of being zero cost and drawing you a free card, even if you exhaust zero Dwarf Heroes. Normally, I reserve it for Dwarf decks, but with Rohan decks being so starved for card draw (and this deck doubly so) I decided I could make an exception here.

We Are Not Idle
Action: Exhaust X Dwarf heroes to add X resources to a hero's resource pool and draw 1 card.

While the game text clearly references Dwarves, nothing about the title of the card is particularly Dwarf-specific. After all, none could in good faith accuse the horse-lords or the rangers of the North of idleness—so maybe it’s not so much of a stretch after all.

The play’s the thing

Win ratio: 3 / 6

More often than not, the biggest obstacle I had to overcome in this quest was threat, generally from having too many cards collect under The Orcs’ Search too quickly. Two of my losses could be directly attributed to early-game reveals of Closing In and not drawing into enough of my threat reduction cards. My third loss was due to threat as well, although that one may have been more as a result of not killing high-threat Enemies fast enough and failing to quest successfully a few times.

All of my wins were photo finishes, never ending with my threat dial sitting lower than 48. In two games, I only won due to holding Éowyn back from questing (or readying her with Snowmane), allowing her to contribute the final point of attack required to kill Bellach before threatting out. Apparently even her Spirit incarnation is good at boss-slaying!

In all of my games, as soon as a single card found its way under The Orcs’ Search, I knew I was on a ticking clock, desperately trying to amass enough willpower and combat prowess to complete the quest as my threat dial reeled out of control. My deck and the encounter deck were closely matched, making for several intense games that were never certain until the final action!

Final thoughts

I had a lot of fun with this one. My deck was quirky and interesting to get up and running, and the encounter deck was dynamic and challenging—but not overly so. As far as Nightmare quests go, Celebrimbor’s Secret isn’t the hardest of the bunch, which is part of why I was able to get away with a slightly less efficient deck.

I’m not worried about getting my fill of difficult quests, though, for the next quest is the grand finale of the Ringmaker cycle, The Antlered Crown! If my memory serves me correctly, the original is already plenty difficult on its own; I can only imagine what Nightmares wait for me ahead!

3 thoughts on “Nightmare Celebrimbor’s Secret

  1. Welcome back! Perhaps there’s hope that some other bloggers’ long-delayed series will find new life this spring too! (Not pointing fingers at myself or anything…)

    I really love this series, and this deck is just an excellent example of what you are trying to accomplish with it! I am curious – did you go with Aragorn over Eomer because of the willpower flexibility? Or just because losing an ally every round is just hard to accomplish while not dying in a solo deck?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was partly a willpower thing, but also it let me play around with the combo with Steed of the North. I think Roheryn was in an early draft of the deck, too, but that didn’t end up panning out.
      Also it was kind of a theme thing, since I was playing with the whole Dunedain / Rohan thing, although in retrospect I’m not sure how well it actually works.
      Eomer + Firefoot would be an interesting take on the deck, though. Now I want to give it a try and see how it plays!


  2. Pingback: Nightmare Wrap-Up: The Voice of Isengard + Ring-maker | Darkling Door

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