Happy holidays to everyone visiting the blog. We’re distributing the books and dice from our successful Kickstarter of Fearsome Wilderness the Roleplaying Game, and can’t wait to hear about everyone’s experiences with it! We also have a project coming in early 2023, and potentially a second one for later in the year.
Meanwhile, over the Epic Duels Discord, we had an involved discussion over 32 days before Christmas on the 32 LOTRED decks and it’s worth sharing the results here. This is just how I personally feel about these decks. I think all of these decks are good, but originality, especially pushing the envelope, matter a lot to me. So, to a lesser degree, do movie moments, characters, and playing figures, but all weigh in that feeling. With that out of the way, here are the 32 LOTRED decks:
31. Bolg – The discussion led to some revisions that I’m excited about, but I’d still say basically the same things I’d say about Azog.
30. Tauriel – Same as above about The Hobbit and the figure, but I really like this as a ranged support deck and “shot specialist” theme. Others on the discord said they like it because it’s highly accessible.
29. Bard Bowman – The 4th out of 8 decks from The Hobbit at the bottom, and again, it’s mostly a reflection of the movies, though 3 of the other 4 decks from The Hobbit are top-11. I think Bard’s deck cleverly combines aspects of Han with Chewie, while adding the very interesting THRUSH card.
28. Gothmog – Some of his deck concepts, like powering up with his troops and bringing them back from the dead, are so common now that this deck seems unoriginal even though these concepts weren’t so old at the time. I’m also not crazy about my figure for him and that matters.
27. Theoden – I have a mounted Theoden with mounted Rohirrim for a very nice table presence, and the deck itself is fine but there’s nothing remarkable about it.
26. Great Goblin – Another deck from The Hobbit, I like this deck and had him ranked kind of high, but after another look at his deck I think it was too high. I refined several of the concepts in this deck in the C-3P0 Golden God deck, so then I applied those lessons back to the Great Goblin and issued some recent updates, most importantly, he now starts with a full 4 Goblin minors on the board. Using Goblins is fun, killing Goblins is fun, so he’s fun.
25. Lurtz – I like his addition to the films, his role as all-ranged support is rare and vital in LOTRED, and we made a pretty nice deck for him. But, he lacks punch, and the way CRUEL BLADE and ALIVE AND UNSPOILED work are a bit clunky.
24. Faramir – Like Lurtz, he’s extremely useful as an all-range support deck but lacks punch, unless you can pull off an epic VALIANT CHARGE, a really fun card that can propel him to a great game.
23. Gandalf & Pippin – I lowered this one quite a bit after discussing with the others. Fun, with good card names, but undeniably overpowered for this set and without any particular combos or path to victory. Great offense, defense, direct damage and takes away your actions, Gandalf does it all, that’s his path. Pippin is his only weakness, and not enough of one.
22. Sharku – From this point on, they’re all really fun decks. As with Theoden, I have mounted figures for Sharku so he’s a ton of fun for me. The deck is suitably simple, straightforward and entertaining. Great for what it is.
21. Treebeard – With a theme around movement actions and restrictions, his cards probably wouldn’t work with other titles or for other characters, but they are very fun for him. This is the lowest ranked of the 6 decks from the Legends set, because it’s a particularly fun set.
20. Isildur & Elendil – A really fun, really strong deck from the Legends set, but bordering on OP himself unless he’s specifically facing Sauron, who he’s designed to do especially well against.
19. Frodo & Sam – This was an extremely difficult deck to get right, because there are so many boxes you have to check: Sting, Mithril, and the power of the ring, Sam being strong, but Frodo being capable of winning without him. I think it came together pretty well, not in a standout way, but more interesting than, say, Gandalf, or a lot of decks. I moved this deck up after discussing it, as I think I was penalizing it for being difficult during the design process but that’s not legit criteria.
18. Boromir & Denethor – An outstanding deck design, in my opinion, and others believe that the “attack value is equal to the amount of damage taken” concept behind BLOOD OF GONDOR is one of the best in Epic Duels history. It’s only as low as 18 because I’m penalizing it for being heavily dependent on a Star Wars design, essentially being the same as the Quinlan Vos deck. What makes LOTRED special is that the decks generally are not based on a SWED deck but are original for that character. The concept fits Boromir too well to go in another direction and it works really well for him and for Denethor.
17. The Balrog – Another from Legends, the Balrog of Morgoth has a great overall design, but I’m not crazy about single character decks and I think he has played a bit weaker than intended, so I made some adjustments that I’m excited about. Give him a try!
16. Elrond – Elrond is one of several decks I like so much, I made a SWED version of it, Sifo Dyas in this case. But, like the others, many of the themes and card names don’t work as well when applied to a character other than who the deck was originally made for. Elrond’s unique, game-altering abilities are made for him, and it’s fun to wield that kind of power.
15. Sauron the Dark Lord – Intentionally OP af, but we’ve seen that he’s not really able to take on 2 opponents for very long, and can only do so much to carry a weak teammate. So play him because he’s loads of fun, and grades out stronger than the original, unaltered Obi-Wan, only this time it makes sense.
14. Aragorn & Arwen – A tad OP for this set, with ARMY OF THE DEAD a potential NPE, and the deck revolves around a single card in SHARDS OF NARSIL REFORGED, a bit more than I like. All that stated, it delivers on the things you want to see Aragorn and Arwen do, and is fun and balanced to play. Though it’s tough, it’s hardly unbeatable.
13. Eowyn & Merry – Gives the set some badly needed girl power. Designed to face off with the Witch King specifically, but also a very flexible and fun deck with several tricks up its sleeve. I moved her down in the ranking a bit after discussing with the others.
12. Witch King of Angmar – The Witch King has a classic bad guy deck, combining Vader-like direct damage melee ability with Emperor-like discarding and other scary effects, including the MORGUL BLADE.
11. Thorin – This is also based heavily on a SWED deck, but the reason I don’t penalize it so much is because the Thorin deck is, in my opinion, the best version of it. The concept is the “attack again” mechanic from the Rich Pizor Asajj deck, which is part of the 10YA set, and with another example seen in my Sora Bulq deck. Except, Thorin is a better character for the “attack again” mechanic, which is loads of fun when you can pull it off, and his deck is better organized around that concept than the others I mentioned.
10. Bilbo Baggins – A very fun, elegant deck where the bread-and-butter STING also factors into the path to victory when combined with Bilbo’s cards with “Invisibility” in the title. The invisibility cards stack together for strong effects in a way that’s similar to the way the Unmatched Little Red Riding Hood stacks cards with the same symbol for strong effects. I made an Ahsoka deck based off of this one.
9. Eye of Sauron & Mouth – A fun and interesting deck that doesn’t quite play like anything else. CORRUPTION is clever concept that just doesn’t work as well for the Freedon Nadd SWED deck I created around it, as it does for the Eye of Sauron, who can beat you without ever moving. I changed this deck’s ranking more than any other after discussing with the group, moving it up 9 spots. The characters may not be the ones you want to see the most, but the design is top-10 in this set.
8. Saruman & Grima – “Sorcerer Boba” combines the sorcerer-like ability to move opponents, with the Boba-like ability to do splash damage from his fireball. Put it together with Grima’s nasty ability to force discards with LEECHCRAFT and Saruman’s own ability to force discards with the WAY OF PAIN and this deck is always a good time, worthy of Sir Christopher Lee.
7. Gollum & Shelob – Just putting them together made them fun, and Shelob does the WEB and STINGER things that you would expect from her. But, getting a Gollum-y feeling deck was a challenge, and coming up with DECEPTION and TREACHERY took some trial and error, but I think we got there.
6. Cave Troll – I’ve probably seen more fun had with this deck than with any other. He’s a blast to play with, but he’s also really fun to play against because you can just wail on him, but it takes using all your good offensive cards to finally bring him down. Others have used this design, with group attacks and big attacks with penalties, as a template for “boss” decks that can take on multiple decks at a time.
5. Smaug – A group effort, this deck is one with some very obvious strengths like a trio of A9s, a trio of D10s, plus other nasty attacks, direct damage and movement. But it also has the game’s most prominent weakness in WEAK SPOT REVEALED, making him a deck you can beat if things go well for you. He can also stomp you in just a few turns.
4. Uruk-hai Army – Robert Moore probably did more to pioneer the 2-major concept than anyone else I can remember. He had a fun Nute & Haako deck and came up with most of this deck. I value the way this design opened up more designs for me, and this one helped me go on to 2-major decks like San Hill & Wat Tambor, and Ozzel & Piett. This one is unique in the way the “second major” is an absolute wrecking ball, while the other major is actually the key to the deck.
3. Eomer – A set of 3 pairs of cards, 6 total, forms some of the most fun combinations I’ve seen in Epic Duels, and in a way that works so well for mounted horse lords, better than it does for Enfys Nest and friends on speeder bikes. That leaves 6 other cards to give him all the fun you need to have, and I have mounted minis for him too.
2. The Nazgul – A breakthrough design for me, putting a trio of identical characters together to share a single deck, which later helped me put together the Dark Troopers. Something similar is seen in the Unmatched Raptors deck. Although this plays a little weaker than I intended, it has good cards and a path to victory that make it fun every time it comes out.
1. Legolas & Gimli – Called “the greatest two-personality custom deck of all time” by Aaron, aka Darth Wolverine of Comic Book Duels. The design wins by not trying to do too much. It’s about their COMPETITION and using that card to make Gimli strong and Legolas quick, while leaving enough card slots to fill out with character-defining moves like BOW OF GALADHRIM and MY AXE IS NOTCHED.