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A beginners guide to Co-Op

Lord of the Rings WasteMaLife

Lord of the Rings: The Card Game (LoTR) is a deck construction game at heart. Hey, BTW.. is anyone else pissed that the term "deck building" was stolen form the TCG community by that game Dominion to name its new genre as "Deck Builders"?... anyway.. LoTR is a deck construction game, much like the other LCGs. The big difference of course is that this game is a Co-Op and not a duelling game.

This leads many new players and even some vets to grossly misunderstand the basics of deck construction for this game that guides the creation of strong Co-Op decks. A misconception that is exacerbated by the fact that for the official solo player rules there is a completely different methodology to construct decks than there is for Co-Op.

The basic crux of the point I will slowly labor over here is that; this is a Co-Op game in every sense, and from now on I'll only be talking about Co-Op unless I say otherwise. Anyway, when you build two decks for LoTR you are not building two decks. You are building a single deck, that two players use. This is the core of the entire problem many players have with LoTR. In fact, generally if a deck is good at the solo game it is by definition an inefficient Co-Op deck.

So lets more accurately redefine the term "Decks". When I talk about a "deck" I mean every player card between all players. So a single "deck" for a 2 player game consists of 2-6 Heroes + 100 Cards at a minimum. Now lets define each individual player's cards with the term "Hands". So a 2 player deck contains 2 hands. Player 1 is "Hand 1" and player 2 is "Hand 2".

Now anyone with some understanding of deck construction games in general understands that what makes a great deck function is card synergies and combos which fire among the various cards you choose to build the deck out of in the first place. The strength of the deck is directly linked to how well these synergies and combos play off each other and how fast you can get them to fire. This exact methodology works in a LoTR deck, but remember the individual hands of the deck are not in a vacuum, they are directly linked and these combos and synergies needs to flow between both hands, not just on a single hand as with a normal one player deck.

There are 4 types of cards in LoTR. Hero, Allies, Attachments and Events. The only cards that need to be contained in a specific hand are Allies and Heroes. Every other card in the game. Every other card can be cast from one side of the table to the other. There is no reason for any of these other cards to exist in any particular hand beyond the restrictions of resourcing.

This week we will look at some basics of co-op and briefly touch on hero synergy.

Co-Op Basics

The first thing to think of when designing the hands of your deck is to think about the functional needs of the game itself. A deck needs to do various things to be able to complete the quest regardless of your fancy synergies, combos, your choice of allies, quest requirements and whatever.
  • You need to quest every turn to generate the needed power to to quest successfully.
  • You need to defend vs enemy threats during combat.
  • You need to be able to attack those threats and destroy these enemies, through combat or DD (Direct Damage)
  • You need to either be quick or be able to manage threat to some degree.

These basic functions are the core of any LoTR deck and they need to be considered when you try to construct one. Yet remember in a Co-Op game the individual hands of the deck do not need to cover all these bases. In fact it can greatly improve the power of your deck for each hand to specialize in a few tasks and completely ignore the other tasks, leaving them to be handled by the other hand, and visa versa.

The core idea behind all deck construction is dilution. A deck wants to fire as fast as possible in a certain way to be as powerful as possible, but to make the deck consistent you need to be able to handle a variety of game states, some of which you may not even encounter in a given game. This versatility allows the deck to handle more situations and increases your win ratios, but these situations only show up now and then, so these cards can often become completely dead draws. The more versatile your deck, the weaker the synergies and combos become that power it.

It is a balance. To much protection and the entire deck is weak and your win rate drops. If it is to high it can not handle enough situations and your rate drops.

So this general rule of dilution can be used to empower the individual hands, as you no longer need each hand to handle all the basic game requirements. So you are reducing the versatility of each hand, witch increases its power.

The most basic of the hand set ups for 2 players is for one hand to handle combat and the other to handle questing, and threat reduction. Leaving support to be equally shared between both hands, for as we have already talked about all attachments and events are not required to be held in the hand that is the intended target. You can place support attachments designed for a combat hand in the quest deck, ensuring the combat deck gets a stronger draw on cheap chump blockers. You just cast it form the quest hand and target the combat hand. The end result is that you have 2 hands, each one extremely good at some aspects of the game and this is the key to stong LoTR decks.


Heroes are the main focus in the LoTR-LCG and are the crux of any deck. Imagine a deck construction game, like say Netrunner and your most powerful card doesn’t need to be drawn. In fact you have access to it from the start of the game at all times. The single most common mistake in deck construction for LoTR is to focus hero selection on resource icons or theme. Now theme is a different article all together and one not important to me, for this article I'll be focusing on how to make the best decks, not thematic decks.

Resource icons are obviously important but not nearly as important as picking Heroes that compliment each other. If you can find a cool combo that bounces between your hands on your heroes alone you are well on the way to building a great deck before adding any other cards.

So in your hero selection, your first thoughts should not be the "jobs" the hand is going to cover. Instead just like selecting any other card for your deck you should be looking at synergy or combos. After you have your synergistic or combo-ie heroes selection, you now look at the hand's job because cross casting will allow you to put in what you need for each hand on either hand and dilution will allow both hands to be strong at what job they are designed for.

That's it for this time, thanks for reading and check in next time when I continue my series on co-op deck building.
  • Lovecraft, agktmte, UncertainSage and 4 others like this


It's great to see Lord of the Rings LCG getting some love. They recently released it in Brazil, so it is good to have a guide for begginers. :)
yay lord of the rings article! I was thinking of doing a series because this game deserves a series but glad you got it going (:
Good stuff for beginners.

"In fact, generally if a deck is good at the solo game it is by definition an inefficient Co-Op deck"

Though you are correct to state decks need to be optimized for co-op play, I'm feeling this often doesn't always impact its efficiency in solo play. Great co-op decks can still be good at solo, so not sure which 'definition' you're basing yourself on. There's just some cards in the game that you can't use in solo.

I'd be great to dedicate another article to contextual deckbuilding based on the quest at hand, which is also quite important.
I have four decks that i made for our local LCG nights that work great together. one is primarily quest, the other is direct damage, the other is support and the final is a ranged/sentinel deck to protect the support. i haven't tuned them in a long time but they work great on most quests.

and they are great to teach other people the game with and i don't mind sharing!
is anyone else pissed that the term "deck building" was stolen from the TCG community by that game Dominion to name its new genre as "Deck Builders"?

Well, it does seem to add confusion - I see a lot of posts where uneducated people lump Dominion-type games and LCGs together and cannot seem to comprehend the difference between them. This then leads to the spreading of misleading information by these same people.

Anyway... Our group plays multiple LCGs including Lord of the Rings. Two of us are the main collectors for the game and they usually build the decks for everyone, although occasionally I will use an online deck builder and email a list to one of them to assemble for me. Either way, they provide the cards and in most cases design all the decks together to function as a team.

This is a critical point. You cannot just throw 3-4 decks together and expect them to work well against a tough scenario. You'll probably be fine against the easy ones, but most of what we play are either Nightmare mode or quest that have a reputation for being difficult. We don't usually tailor the decks specifically to a particular quest though. If it seemed necessary, we might start doing so, but in general designing 4 decks that synergize well and having them piloted by experienced players appears to be sufficient for all but maybe the very worst Nightmare scenarios.
Not to mention if you walk in to play with others and everyone has their own deck and the same heros. kind of hard to play when you need to reconstruct things and fight over who gets Legolas.
"A misconception that is exacerbated by the fact that for the official solo player rules there is a completely different methodology to construct decks than there is for Co-Op."

Where are these official solo player rules you speak of?
Mar 07 2014 01:17 PM

Where are these official solo player rules you speak of?

I think he's just referring to the official rulebook way of playing solo as opposed to playing two-handed solo.
Mar 13 2014 03:32 AM
Just got.the game last week. This is the first article on deck building that compared with my experience. I stopped looking for combos and looked to keen in on synergies between the heroes and decks. (Yes the two are different). Im general there are four necessities, threat mitigation and questing and combat, Defend and attack.
I have have better win odds trying to focus a single hand/deck on one or two of these and the other deck focuses on the remaining.

Nonetheless I still have a lot of toying around to do. Fun game. Lots sof options.

You make many good points, but you're not entirely accurate when you say that heroes and allies are the only cards which are deck-specific.  There are some events which are as well (e.g. Elrond's Council can only reduce the threat of the player playing it).


I make decks for my husband and I to play two-handed and take full advantage of our ability to play attachments on each others' characters and help each other with events - but there are limitations.  Certainly less so than when I build myself solo decks though!  (Some of our decks actually solo really well; others really need the boost from the other deck.)