Nightmare The Treachery of Rhudaur

You have decided to explore the ruins of this ancient keep, but Thaurdir pursues you, and time is of the essence.

Having crossed the deadly Ettenmoors, our Heroes have arrived in the lands once known as Rhudaur—one of the three kingdoms formed when the Númenorian kingdom of Arnor split apart over 2000 years before the War of the Ring. They begin to search for clues to the disappearance of Amarthiúl’s friend, Iârion, all the while pursued by the undying Wraith Thaurdir. That their journey has brought them here of all places is an ill omen, for Rhudaur is infamous for having allied with the dark forces in Angmar against its sister-kingdoms. What dark treachery awaits them here?

Getting clued in

This quest pulls several mechanics from other quests together into an elegant package. The first Stage has the Time 5 keyword, essentially putting you on a 5 round clock before you are forced to move on to Stage 2. During that time, you are given 3 Side Quests to complete, each of which has its own downsides when it’s the current Quest. Completing one of these Quests provides you with the opportunity to collect a Clue Objective (found on the flipside of the Side Quest card) each of which gives you an advantage for the rest of the quest. In Nightmare mode, each quest also has a set of 3 encounter cards which get shuffled into the encounter deck if you fail to complete it by the time you reach Stage 2. As has been the case for the past several quests, you get the aid of the Objective-Ally Amarthiúl to help you as you try to clear these Side Quests.

Quiet the Spirits, which has 16 quest points, deals with Enemies. While it’s the current quest, Undead Enemies (all the Enemies in this quest are Undead) auto-engage the player with the highest threat, but still contribute their threat to the staging area as they do so. You get a bonus 2 progress on this Side Quest every time you kill an Enemy, too. On its flipside is Daechanar’s Brand, a Weapon Attachment that can be claimed by a Hero or Amarthiúl, granting them +1 attack against Undead Enemies—and as much as the “Undead-only” qualifier is mechanically superfluous, I love how it adds to the theme of the item. Failing to complete this Side Quest before the timer runs out shuffles 3 copies of Apostate of Angmar into the encounter deck, a high-threat Enemy which prevents you from attacking the final boss while you’re engaged with it, forcing you to deal with it before you can win.

Sift Through the Debris, clocking in at a whopping 18 quest points, deals with Locations. While it’s the current quest, Locations get +1 threat. Clearing a Location (Active or in the Staging Area, no matter which Quest is the current quest) gives you a bonus 2 progress on this Side Quest. Its flipside is Heirloom of Iârchon, which can be attached to a Hero or to Amarthiúl to give them +1 willpower. Failing to complete this Side Quest in time results in 3 copies of Secret Antechamber being shuffled into the encounter deck, a Location which prevents you from placing more than 5 progress on the main Quest as long as it’s in the Staging Area. That can be super nasty if it shows up at the wrong time when you’re hoping to make a final push to end the game!

Decipher Ancient Texts, with 14 quest points (the smallest of the bunch) is a little more of a mixed bag than the other two Side Quests. While it’s the current quest, Allies get -2 willpower—making all but the most expensive Allies pretty much useless for questing. You can pay 1 resource to place 1 progress on this quest up to 3 times per round, so if you come close to clearing it but fall just a little short you might be able to pony up some cash to make the difference. Its flipside is Orders from Angmar, which you can give to a Hero or Amarthiúl to give them +1 defense against Undead Enemies. Failing to complete this quest adds 3 copies of the Treachery Life Drain to the Encounter deck, a Sorcery card (which triggers the boss’ special ability, as we’ll see in a moment) that deals itself as a Shadow Card to Thaurdir, giving him +3 attack and a chance to gain an extra 3 hit points if he kills his victim. This seems like the least painful of the three shuffle-ins, if you ask me, since at the very least it doesn’t add any threat when you reveal it and you have a chance to prepare for it.

But before you can even start making progress on any of these three Side Quests, you’ll have to deal with the starting Active Location, The Great Hall, and its 8 quest points. That can be a lot to push through early in the game! Furthermore, once you clear it each player must discard the top 5 cards of the encounter deck and fetch an Undead Enemy found there to add to the Staging Area. It’s worth trying to clear it quickly, though, and trying to make some progress on at least one of the starting Side Quests, since some encounter card effects, like the Shadow Effect on Curse of the Years, can punish you for not having claimed a Clue Objective yet.

If you manage to survive to Stage 2 (hopefully with at least one Clue in hand) then you’re ready to face your final test: Thaurdir. As in previous quests, he’s still Indestructible, but you must place enough damage on him that you would kill him to win the Quest. And that’s not so easy to do, since every time a Sorcery Treachery is revealed he heals 3 damage and makes an immediate attack against the first player (and at 6 attack, he’s a heavy hitter). Furthermore, you have to make 30 progress on the final quest Stage to win—although you get a 5 progress discount for every Clue you managed to recover during the previous Stage. Any Side Quests you failed to complete during the previous Quest Stage are removed from the game at this point—whatever is done is done.

There are a lot of strategic decisions to make during this quest, especially surrounding which of the Side Quests you’ll go after first. But the time limit on the first Stage really keeps things moving along quickly, such that it’s likely to be over—win or lose—in fewer than ten rounds. Any solo deck that hopes to win against Treachery of Rhudaur needs to ramp up quickly. Here’s what I came up with:

Deck: Summon the Dúnedain

“Where now are the Dúnedain, Elessar, Elessar?
Why do thy kinsfolk wander afar?
Near is the hour when the Lost should come forth,
And the Grey Company ride from the North.
But dark is the path appointed for thee:
The Dead watch the road that leads to the Sea.”

Gandalf, The White Rider, The Two Towers

Theme: Beravor gathers the Dúnedain

Hero (1)
Beravor (Core Set)

Contract (0)
1x The Grey Wanderer (Challenge of the Wainriders)

Ally (25)
3x Dúnedain Wanderer (Road to Rivendell)
3x East Road Ranger (The Wastes of Eriador)
2x Gandalf (Core Set)
3x Greyflood Wanderer (The Three Trials)
1x Halbarad (The Flame of the West)
3x Northern Tracker (Core Set)
3x Ranger of Cardolan (The Wastes of Eriador)
3x Sarn Ford Sentry (The Lost Realm)
1x Thalion (Fire in the Night)
3x Vigilant Dúnadan (The Sands of Harad)

Attachment (5)
3x Resourceful (The Watcher in the Water)
1x Song of Kings (The Hunt for Gollum)
1x Strider (The Drowned Ruins)

Event (19)
3x A Very Good Tale (Over Hill and Under Hill)
3x Daeron’s Runes (Foundations of Stone)
3x Deep Knowledge (The Voice of Isengard)
2x Gaining Strength (The Steward’s Fear)
3x Heed the Dream (Flight of the Stormcaller)
2x Taking Initiative (The Redhorn Gate)
3x Timely Aid (The Redhorn Gate)

Player Side Quest (1)
1x Gather Information (The Lost Realm)

1 Hero, 50 Cards

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

Inspiration

I’m sure it’s possible to beat this quest without clearing any of the 3 Side Quests during Stage 1, spending that time instead building up for a blow-out round or two once Stage 2 hits—but I didn’t want to do that. I really wanted to find a solo deck capable of consistently getting at least 1 Clue, since striving for them seems most in the spirit of the quest. That’s far easier said than done, however, as the starting Location has 8 whole quest points on its own, and that’s before you get to the 14-18 progress needed to clear a Side Quest. That’s a lot to ask of a solo deck, especially when you’re also dealing with all the other things the encounter deck is throwing at you.

I went through a few failed Noldor concepts before I decided to try Dúnedain instead. I found that their Allies’ well-rounded stats were helpful in this quest, since you end up oscillating between having to put out large amounts of willpower some rounds and needing lots of stats for combat in others. But Dúnedain Allies are expensive, and I found that Heir of Valandil wasn’t consistent enough in this quest to ensure that I could get my engine running in the first couple of rounds. I had to be able to amass an army regardless of whether the encounter deck threw Enemies or Locations my way (and Treachery of Rhudaur can easily go either way.)

Looking through the list of Contracts that I hadn’t tried yet sparked an idea: one way to get expensive Allies down on round 1 is through the classic Secrecy combo of Timely Aid (to bring in an expensive Ally for only 1 resource) and A Very Good Tale (which uses expensive Allies to bring in even more expensive Allies). This was a great combo back in the day, but there were so few Hero combinations that could stay under 20 threat long enough that I essentially forgot about it. But with the release of The Grey Wanderer, we now have a new way to reliably get keep those Secrecy bonuses active: single Hero decks.

My first tests (using Leadership Aragorn) were promising, but I found that I needed a bunch of card draw to ensure I actually saw the two necessary cards of my two-card combo in the first couple of rounds of the game. I switched to Lore Aragorn, which helped by allowing me native access to Lore’s many card draw options—but I still found that it wasn’t enough to consistently dump down a Dúnedain army before the end of round 5. It was great when it worked, but just as often it fizzled. I almost abandoned the idea to search for something else, when I remembered Beravor from all the way back in the Core Set days.

Suddenly, everything clicked into place. She synergized amazingly with the free ready provided by The Grey Wanderer, giving me a minimum of 3 cards drawn per turn for essentially no cost. Card draw chained into card draw, giving me my key combo on round 1 almost every time. The deck was ready!

The play’s the thing

Win ratio: 5 / 5

For as much trouble as this quest was giving me before I switched to Beravor, I certainly didn’t think I was going to pull off a 100%-win rate. But as it turns out, card draw wins games.

Every game played the same way: I’d spend a round or two searching for my combo pieces and playing down as many Allies as I could. Multiple copies of A Very Good Tale tend to stack up pretty quickly, so it was common for me to have 20+ resources-worth of Allies down on the board by round 3, ready to tear through the quest. East Road Ranger, who gets extra willpower when questing against a Side Quest, was the MVP during this first part of the quest, consistently providing 3 willpower for only 3 resources. Honorable mention goes to Northern Tracker, who prevented Location lock more than once. It wasn’t too hard for me to get 3 copies of him down at once to totally shred the Locations in the Staging Area and keep it clear for good.

Depending on whether more Locations came out or more Enemies, I would always clear either Sift Through the Debris or Quiet The Spirits on round 5—usually by a landslide. In one game I even managed to clear both by the end of round 4! But generally, my willpower would only start to snowball with enough time to take down one of them. Decipher Ancient Texts, which effectively only counts Hero willpower was out of the question for a one-Hero deck, so I always let that one be.

During the second Stage, Vigilant Dúnadan became the star of the show. If the encounter deck hadn’t provided me with an extra Side Quest of its own, I was always able to fetch and clear Gather Information to ensure there was a Side Quest in the Victory display to turn on his ability to defend without exhausting. There are a bunch of 2- and 3-attack Enemies in this quest (and one, Undead Thrall, is even Indestructible with no way to get rid of it) so having an easy defensive solution for all of them was great.

Against the larger Enemies (including Thaurdir) I would rely on chump blocking to keep me alive. Now that I was going against a Main Quest instead of a Side Quest, the East Road Rangers were less useful and so they were generally the first to go. It felt weird using 3- and 4-cost Allies as chumps, but I didn’t usually have to survive long. By this point, it only took me a couple of rounds to amass the progress and damage I needed to wipe Thaurdir’s undead grin off his face.

After five nearly identical games, I felt I had well and truly mastered the quest.

Final thoughts

I had a ton of fun with this one. Treachery of Rhudaur is one of my favorite quests in normal mode, and Nightmare mode just leans in on all the things that make the original fun. The choice of which of the three starting Side Quests to go after is an interesting strategic decision that you are constantly having to reevaluate, and the added consequences for failing to complete one of the Side Quests only drives those decisions home harder. The ticking clock keeps things moving, ensuring that the quest won’t drag on too long, and providing a sense of tension. Both mechanically and thematically, it’s a great quest.

I’m pleased with the deck I built for this one, too. It’s thematically tight and manages to have a different feel from any of the other Dúnedain decks I have built in the past. It’s a powerful generalist deck, too. I’ll be bringing this one along with me the next time I get an opportunity to play a multiplayer game outside of the home. (Which at present seems like a distant fantasy… but I digress.)

I have a feeling that my days of consistent wins are ending, however, for The Battle of Carn Dûm looms near. Infamous for being perhaps the hardest quest in the game, I can’t imagine what terrors await me in Nightmare mode. Wish me luck, friends—I’m going to need it.

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