A Test of Will

The staple Spirit card to rule them all.

Background

It’s difficult to point to a single character or event in the books that this would apply to because really its a theme in Lord of the Rings. Frodo’s will is consistently tested by the ring on the journey to Mordor. Gandalf and Galadriel are tempted but ultimately pass the test when Frodo offers it to them. Boromir’s will is eventually broken by its promise of a means to save his people. The will of the free peoples are tested as they are betrayed and beset on all sides against what seems overwhelming odds.

Card Theme

Treacheries in this game can be thought of like a plot twist. The game can seem to be heading in one direction then suddenly there is a Piercing Cry. The heroes must summon their will to fight off Dread and Despair. Their will is continually tested as the road darkens with the Devilry of Saruman and his Orcs of the White Hand. All the while resisting The Lure of the Ring until they reach the Foul Fumes of Mount Doom.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Encounter Control

A Test of Will can basically reduce the number of cards revealed in a turn by 1 as long as it is a treachery. Lore with Gildor’s Counsel can do in a more straightforward fashion. Lore also has many other ways to mitigate what the encounter deck can throw at the players. Out of the Wild and Scout Ahead can put the most punishing encounter card of the top 5 in the victory display. This can set up The Door is Closed to cancel not only treacheries (and their keywords which A Test of Will can’t do), but any encounter card in the victory display. None Return and Leave No Trace can ensure that a bad enemy or location that the players destroyed or explored doesn’t make a repeat appearance.

Additionally there are some encounter filtering effects like Lore Denethor in the core set that can put an encounter card on the bottom of the encounter deck. Risk Some Light does much the same except players can choose one of the top 3. The Hidden Way and Wait No Longer let players choose a location or enemy, respectively, from the top 5 cards to replace a card revealed during staging. Plus, these cards put the location in the active slot or engaged keeping staging area threat under control. Eleanor and Balin can also replace a treachery or shadow revealed. These filtering effects help players mitigate the randomness of the encounter deck bypassing the worst effects for ones that are hopefully easier to deal with. Players combining all of these cards can have a strong measure of control over the encounter deck as they’ll either always be choosing the least harmful effect or having the means to remove or cancel it.

Nonbos

There are a couple cards that seem like they should work with A Test of Will but don’t due to the timing framework.

Map of Eardindil

Map of Eardindil can’t be used to recur A Test of Will. It is an action to use the map to replay A Test of Will from the discard and there are no action windows during staging when most treacheries are revealed. It still doesn’t work even if you reveal a treachery during the Planning Phase when there are action windows presumably through something like A Desperate Path. This is because per FAQ 1.37 on timing of effects, “players should use this order of resolution: passive abilities first, Forced effects second, Response actions third”. Each effect has to pass their priority (to borrow some Magic: The Gathering terminology) before actions can be used. This means that by the time you can use Map of Earindil’s action, the window to play a response is closed.

A Good Harvest

As mentioned earlier, there isn’t any action windows during staging. If you planned to splash A Test of Will into a deck without a Spirit hero, A Good Harvest it won’t be able to help do so on as needed basis. A Good Harvest would have to be played before staging since it is an action either at the action window after 3.1 Quest Phase begins or 3.2 Commit characters to the quest. A risky play just for the chance to cancel a when revealed effect without some encounter scrying especially in lower player counts.

Quest Specific

A Test of Will will be useful in any quest since all of them still have treacheries with When Revealed effect. The Khazad-Dum cycle, however, it is almost a requirement to bring Test of Will. The Hazards of the Pit set that is part of many of the scenarios includes the notorious Sudden Pitfall that can easily take out a hero if there are no other questing characters to discard. Crumbling Ruin in the same set can also often result in the loss of an ally and even a hero if they don’t have an ally instead. Watchful Eyes also in one of the deluxe sets means many additional encounter cards or not being able to use a hero. Then there’s Road to Rivendell with not 1 but 2 terrible treacheries to watch out for. The infamous Sleeping Sentry that has ended many a game when A Test of Will is not available to cancel it. Then there’s Orc Ambush that as Ted pointed out in Superlative February covering the best and worst encounter cards not only can give bring a ton of enemies into play late game, but surges on top of it.

Ring Rating

Card Talk uses the highly scientific yet arbitrary scale of 1 ring for the card to rule them all to 10 to be cast back into the fiery chasm from whence it came.

There’s no denying A Test of Will is 1 ring rating card. One Spirit resource to stop some of the worst effects the encounter deck can do to players is amazing. Especially in the early cycles when the encounter design threw more varying levels of difficulty at players. Treacheries could act more like a “bomb” card for the encounter deck. Later cycles treacheries and the occasional when reveled on an enemy work more to grind away at a player’s board state, but canceling one that would take out a key part of it is still important.

  • Dave – 1
  • Grant – 1
  • Ted – 1
  • Matt – 1

External Links

Sample Deck

Really you can find just about any deck with a Spirit hero and some without that include Test of Will. There’s is one deck that takes encounter control to another level.

The Nope Deck by Qwaz

This is a multiplayer encounter control support deck. It runs Balin and Eleanor to provide ways to mitigate treacheries and shadows right off the rip. The full victory display suite to get ride of the worst encounter cards and double up on cancelation with both A Test of Will and The Door is Closed!

The Nope Deck

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Balin (On the Doorstep)
Damrod (The Land of Shadow)
Eleanor (Core Set)

Ally (3)
3x Errand-rider (Heirs of Númenor)

Attachment (14)
3x Forest Snare (Core Set)
3x King Under the Mountain (On the Doorstep)
3x Ranger Spikes (Heirs of Númenor)
3x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)
2x Thror’s Map (Over Hill and Under Hill)

Event (31)
3x A Test of Will (Core Set)
3x Daeron’s Runes (Foundations of Stone)
3x Deep Knowledge (The Voice of Isengard)
3x Gildor’s Counsel (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
3x Hasty Stroke (Core Set)
3x None Return (Across the Ettenmoors)
3x Out of the Wild (Road to Rivendell)
3x Power of Orthanc (The Voice of Isengard)
3x The Door is Closed! (The Treachery of Rhudaur)
3x We Are Not Idle (Shadow and Flame)
1x Will of the West (Core Set)

Player Side Quest (2)
1x Gather Information (The Lost Realm)
1x Scout Ahead (The Wastes of Eriador)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to The Land of Shadow

Sideboard

Ally (6)
3x Miner of the Iron Hills (Core Set)
3x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)

Attachment (13)
3x A Burning Brand (Conflict at the Carrock)
3x Entangling Nets (Temple of the Deceived)
3x Song of Wisdom (Conflict at the Carrock)
3x Thrór’s Key (On the Doorstep)
1x Thror’s Map (Over Hill and Under Hill)

Event (9)
3x A Good Harvest (The Steward’s Fear)
3x Dwarven Tomb (Core Set)
3x Heed the Dream (Flight of the Stormcaller)

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Spirit Théoden

Théoden is the king of Rohan, and perhaps the king of cost reduction. He has a clear role of getting out your Rohan allies efficiently. As is commonly known, Rohan has a strong theme of discarding allies in exchange for card effects. Théoden helps soften the blow of losing an ally by having it cost less. Additionally, one can build up a good sized army of Rohan allies of any sphere with Théoden’s strong resource smoothing and cost reduction features. Let the mustering begin!

Background

Théoden king, the Lord of the Mark of Rohan. He is the seventeenth king of Rohan and plays a prominent role in The Lord of the Rings. During the war of the ring he is under the spell of Saruman before Gandalf shows to free him from said spell. After this he comes to his senses and immediately thwarts Rohan in action against the evil forces of Saruman, and then Sauron. He famously calls for the mustering of Rohan and eventually presses his Rohirrim forward to the Battle of Pelennor Fields. His iconic speech closes with battle cries of death. He does meet his own death in the fields of Pelennor and in doing so leaves behind a legacy of redemption and glory.

Card Theme

Thedoen’s ability matches his theme quite well, specifically the mustering theme. His ability allows a player to reduce the cost the first played Rohan ally to zero. This is much like his attempts to rally his army in Tolkein’s work. Théoden’s ability is not great by shear power, but by numbers. The idea here is a Rohan ally swarm attempting to get any able-bodied warrior into the battle. Such a theme mimics the desperation to form forces to fight the enemy in both the Battle of Helm’s Deep and Pelennor fields.

Thematic Deckbuilding Ideas

The beauty of deckbuilding with Théoden is he can be dropped in any thematic Rohan deck. In fact, there are pages upon pages of deck ideas on RingsDB demonstrating exactly this. He is going to fit best into a Rohan themed deck with many allies and some high-cost allies, ideally both. This is a huge bonus if you love running Rohan. Any time you can drop a Westfold Horse-breeder for 0 resources, or an Eomund or Gamling for 2 you’re at a major advantage. A Spirit Elfhelm for 3 resources? Yes, please.

Other than his high threat there’s hardly any reason to exclude him in a Rohan swarm deck. His sentinel ability makes him a great defender in multiplayer which also has a thematic flare of it’s own. While Théoden boasts great stats, his value does drop outside of Rohan themed decks due to his specialized nature. Dave and Grant explain more about this in the podcast episode.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Théoden is priviledged into having access to tools specific to him. Snowmane and Herugrim both have added bonuses if you attach them to Théoden. Golden Shield is another thematic fit. Théoden can host all three due to Snowmane losing the restricted keyword when attached to Théoden. It’s clear these were developed with him in mind. Snowmane provides a free readying ability barring a successful quest. Herugrim provides and awesome base of +2 attack bonus while Golden Shield provides a fortifying base of +2 defense bonus. An Unexpected Courage ensures Théoden can utilize both of his combat attachments.

Gamling and Guthwine‘s ability to recur Rohan allies sets Théoden for a nonstop swarm. Speaking of swarm, Mustering the Rohirrim can help dig for any Rohan ally within the top 10 cards of your deck. The one resource you spend doing this is negated by Theoden’s cost reduction.

Feel like making Theoden a powerhouse attacker? Add Herugrim to him as well as a Steward of Gondor and a Song of Hope. Boost that willpower and swing away. Do the same with Golden Shield.

Finally, we can refer to Card Talk’s episode on Théoden and Théodred. I love Dave’s (rather insistent) idea of using both heroes’ ability to double resource smooth. The Rohan swarm could be never-ending with this duo. Want to take it a step further? Add Grima for maximum resource smoothing.

Quest Specific

I’m not sure there’s any specific quest Théoden is going to excel in specifically. The only immediate exception I can think of is Voyage across Belegaer where Nárelenya essentially has the same ability as Théoden.

I might suggest staying away from quests which start off combat-heavy. The reason for this is Théoden’s high threat level. For example, we all know what we have to deal with turn one during Journey Along the Anduin if your threat is over 30. Even with a great cost reduction ability it’s hard to build a board state in a situation like this.

Ring Rating

I’d ring Théoden a 3. He’s reached elite status in Rohan decks but is lackluster outside the archetype. He has good stats and the sentinel ability to help his cause but its not enough to make him a versatile hero overall. He’s high specialized and highly effective in Rohan decks which is the primary reason I give him a three. I keep him at a three because there’s no reason to consider building with him outside the Rohan archetype unless you do some Three Hunter’s shenanigans. Oh, and I freely admit I’m quite partial to Rohan!

  • Dave – 4
  • Grant – 3
  • Joe – 3
  • Average – 3.33

External Links

Sample Decks

A Sword-day: Arise, Arise, Riders of Théoden! – Devaresh

A Rohan swarm deck featuring Théoden and his attachments.

A Sword-day: Arise, Arise, Riders of Théoden!

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Éomer (The Voice of Isengard)
Éowyn (Core Set)
Théoden (The Treason of Saruman)

Ally (23)
3x Elfhelm (The Mountain of Fire)
2x Éomund (Conflict at the Carrock)
2x Escort from Edoras (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
1x Gamling (The Land of Shadow)
3x Riddermark Knight (The Dungeons of Cirith Gurat)
2x Rider of Rohan (Beneath the Sands)
3x Steward of Orthanc (Race Across Harad)
2x West Road Traveller (Return to Mirkwood)
3x Westfold Horse-breeder (The Voice of Isengard)
2x Westfold Outrider (The Voice of Isengard)

Attachment (14)
3x Firefoot (The Dunland Trap)
2x Golden Shield (The Flame of the West)
3x Gúthwinë (The Mountain of Fire)
2x Herugrim (The Treason of Saruman)
2x Snowmane (The Land of Shadow)
2x Song of Kings (The Hunt for Gollum)

Event (13)
3x A Good Harvest (The Steward’s Fear)
1x Astonishing Speed (Return to Mirkwood)
3x Elven-light (The Dread Realm)
3x Keen as Lances (Escape from Mount Gram)
3x Open the Armory (The Dungeons of Cirith Gurat)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to The Dungeons of Cirith Gurat

Sideboard

Ally (15)
3x Déorwine (Temple of the Deceived)
3x Elfhelm (The Dead Marshes)
3x Gandalf (Core Set)
3x Háma (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Rider of the Mark (Road to Rivendell)

Attachment (4)
3x Favor of the Valar (The Battle of Carn Dûm)
1x Song of Kings (The Hunt for Gollum)

Event (6)
2x Hasty Stroke (Core Set)
2x Mustering the Rohirrim (The Hunt for Gollum)
2x Ride to Ruin (The Hills of Emyn Muil)

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Wise Horse Lords of Rohan – Card Talk

A Council of the Wise deck focused on swarming. This deck combos with Théodred for increased resource smoothing.

Wise Horse Lords of Rohan

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Éowyn (The Flame of the West)
Théoden (The Treason of Saruman)
Théodred (Core Set)

Contract (0)
1x Council of the Wise (Under the Ash Mountains)

Ally (22)
1x Ceorl (Temple of the Deceived)
1x Déorwine (Temple of the Deceived)
1x Elfhelm (The Mountain of Fire)
1x Éomund (Conflict at the Carrock)
1x Éothain (The Dread Realm)
1x Escort from Edoras (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
1x Gamling (The Land of Shadow)
1x Grimbold (The Flame of the West)
1x Guthlaf (The Blood of Gondor)
1x Háma (The Treason of Saruman)
1x Horseback Archer (Core Set)
1x Riddermark Knight (The Dungeons of Cirith Gurat)
1x Rider of Rohan (Beneath the Sands)
1x Rider of the Mark (Road to Rivendell)
1x Rohirrim Scout (Challenge of the Wainriders)
1x Snowbourn Scout (Core Set)
1x The Riddermark’s Finest (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
1x Warden of Helm’s Deep (The Antlered Crown)
1x West Road Traveller (Return to Mirkwood)
1x Westfold Horse-Breaker (The Hunt for Gollum)
1x Westfold Horse-breeder (The Voice of Isengard)
1x Westfold Outrider (The Voice of Isengard)

Attachment (8)
1x Armored Destrier (Temple of the Deceived)
1x Golden Shield (The Flame of the West)
1x Gúthwinë (The Mountain of Fire)
1x Herugrim (The Treason of Saruman)
1x Horn of the Mark (The City of Ulfast)
1x Snowmane (The Land of Shadow)
1x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)
1x Windfola (A Storm on Cobas Haven)

Event (23)
1x A Test of Will (Core Set)
1x A Very Good Tale (Over Hill and Under Hill)
1x Astonishing Speed (Return to Mirkwood)
1x Battle-fury (The Drowned Ruins)
1x Captain’s Wisdom (The Thing in the Depths)
1x Charge into Battle (Wrath and Ruin)
1x Charge of the Rohirrim (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
1x Desperate Defense (The Flame of the West)
1x Dwarven Tomb (Core Set)
1x Feint (Core Set)
1x Forth Eorlingas! (The Morgul Vale)
1x Gaining Strength (The Steward’s Fear)
1x Helm! Helm! (The Treason of Saruman)
1x Last Stand (Flight of the Stormcaller)
1x Mustering the Rohirrim (The Hunt for Gollum)
1x Parting Gifts (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
1x Ride Them Down (The Antlered Crown)
1x Ride to Ruin (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
1x Sneak Attack (Core Set)
1x Stand and Fight (Core Set)
1x The Muster of Rohan (Challenge of the Wainriders)
1x Valiant Sacrifice (Core Set)
1x We Do Not Sleep (The Dead Marshes)

3 Heroes, 53 Cards
Cards up to Under the Ash Mountains

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.