Deck Building

This page contains some rudimentary advice on how to construct a deck for the Middle-Earth Customizable Card Game. MECCG is a decidedly more complicated game than most other CCGs, and a newcommer to the game might find the task of deck construction to be a bit thorny. Experienced players will likely scoff at this advice; this is not for you. Rather, this is advice for novices or folks who have trouble paring down the size of their decks (like me).

Note that I only address Hero decks here, as I never got into playing Minions. (I just don't like playing the bad guys.)

Core Resource Cards

Firstly, let's tackle the problem of which regions, sites, characters, and Marshalling Point cards you should be playing. It all boils down to basically one thing: location is everything.

Choosing your Sites

The first step in getting started is to pick an area on the map where you will do most of your travelling. You should confine it to about 6-12 regions which are all adjacent. If you spread out your sites, it will take longer to move around and makes you more suceptible to being roadblocked. Some areas suggest themselves: Mirkwood, Dragon Country, Gondor, Rivendell, etc.

Gather all the site cards in those regions. Find the nearest Haven and include it. You may end up with a handfull, but you will thin them out later. In the final analysis, you should only need about a dozen sites, so take this opportunity to shrink the area you will travel in. It might help to organize them by: item sites, faction sites, and information sites.

Choosing your Marshalling Point Cards

The next thing to do is to select Marshalling Point (MP) cards playable at the sites you will visit. These need to be appropriate. If you have no hoard sites, you shouldn't include any items that require a hoard site. Likewise, if there are no Information sites, you will not be able to play Information MP cards (such as Dreams of Lore). Also, remember that you need a blend of the different categories of points so that your opponent's points don't get doubled for a particular category). You should end up with about 10 MP cards that total around 25 points. (All you need is 20, but it's good to stay on the safe side.)

Breaking it Down

In general, shoot for:

This leaves 3 empty slots. Fill them as you wish. This allow you to play more factions, more allies, mor items, etc.

Notes on Items

A few more words need to be said about items. You should try to cover the following bases:

You will need one site card per MP card (10) plus 2 or three more just to be on the safe side (i.e. if one gets tapped because of a Fell Winter.) Take this opportunity to thin your site deck a bit.

Rules of Thumb for MP Cards

"Generic" MP cards are more easily played than site-specific cards. Glamdring is easier to play than the Book of Mazarbul because Glamdring can be played at any Major Item site whereas the BoM can only be played at Moria. Likewise, Noble Hound is easier to bring into play than Leaflock because the Hound can be found at any Border Hold whereas Leaflock can only be played at Wellinghall. Site-specific factions are unavoidable (but Roac the Raven or Old Road can help).

Non-unique MP cards are "safer" than unique cards because if your opponent has already played it, you won't be able to unless you can find a way to get your opponent's card off the table. A Sword of Gondolin is "safer" than Orcrist because the SoG is non-unique. Unique items do, however, typically grant higher bonuses, so there is a tradeoff there.

Allies with movement restrictions require more attention to the site deck than non-restricted allies. Restricted allies usually have better bonus-game effects, so there is a tradeoff.

Factions and Allies do not give corruption points, items do.

Choosing your Characters

In general you want to play characters that have home sites in the traveling area you picked earlier. This allows them to join your traveling companies more easily. Or to quickly bring in a faction at their home site.

You should probably include the home site for each of your starting characters whose home site is located within your starting geographical region.

Size Matters

Character cards can be roughly broken down into three categories: Low-Mind characters (those with a mind attribute of 1, 2, or 3), Medium-Mind characters (those with a mind attribute of 4, 5, or 6), and High-Mind characters (those with a mind attribute, of 7 to 10).

Here are some rough proportions for character selection:

From this pool you will decide which characters will be in the starting party (discussed below), and which ones will go into the deck. Remember that the more characters you have in your deck, the less likely you will be to draw a resource card, so keep it slim. A starting pool of a dozen (give or take) is about right. If there are some characters that you think you won't need, put them in your sideboard instead of your deck.

You might bring in some out-of-towners (i.e. characters whose home site is not in the geographic area you selected at first) to accomodate these size guidelines.

General & Direct Influence

The rationale for the above breakdown is for helping you make the best use of your direct influence. General Influence is a limited source (20) and, with few exceptions, cannot be increased. (Saw Further and Deeper w/o a Wizard and Emerald of Doriath are the only ways I know of.) Direct influence, by contrast is a much more flexible resource: there are numerous items that grant DI bonuses (Red Arrow, to name but one); some resource cards grant additional DI (such as Helm of Her Secrecey); many characters start with some DI; and some characters have "specialized" DI that can be used against specific races or characters (such as Thorin or Arwen).

Your starting party will probably have one of each type of character (High, Medium, and Low), and the High-Mind character will probably be able to dominate the Low-Mind character right away. After retrieving your DI bonus item (see above), the High-Mind character will be able to dominate the Medium-Mind character. A starting Minor Item that grants DI bonuses or a character with race-specific DI bonuses might allow the High-Minder to control the Med-Minder right away. In some cases, you may be able to get the Med-Minder to dominate a High-Minder! (such as Arwen dominating Aragorn.)


The characters you pick need to have a variety of different skills so as to round out your company. If you are deficient in a skill area, your game will suffer.

The most important skills to have are listed in order:

(Some might quibble about where I ranked Sage and Scout.)

Warrior is not included in the list because it is impossible to avoid, being by far the most common skill. That having been said, it is always a good idea to have Warriors in your company for Warrior-only Items and Risky Blow, Lucky Strike, and Dodge support cards.

As before, you might bring in some out-of-towners (i.e. characters whose home site is not in the geographic area you selected at first) to accomodate these skill guidelines.

Dealing With The Weak Guys

You will quickly encounter the problem of what to do with the weaker characters in your group. There are several strategies that boil down to one (double-edged) question: do you need to keep the weak guys around for any special services they provide (such as the Hobbit pack-horse for high-corruption items or burgling sites), or can you afford to throw them away?

Make a decision now about which weak guys are important and which aren't and plan accordingly.

Picking a Starting Party

Four characters is a good size for the starting party, give or take one. Be sure to have one tough guy (High-Mind) at least one Ranger in the group, and probably a Scout.

If you play with the optional starting home site rule, you can start your party at one of the sites in your deck rather than Rivendell, which can help speed things up.

What About the Other Characters?

What you basically want to do with the remaining characters you selected is clone your starting party twice, such that you have a 1st string, 2nd string, and 3rd string line. The 1st string is your starting party, the 2nd string goes in your deck, and the 3rd string goes in your sideboard.

Choosing Your Wizard

The travleing area and MP items you selected should tell you what Wizard you should choose. If you're doing rings, Gandalf is a good choice, for Palantri, Saruman is a good choice. If you're going through lots of Wilderness areas, Radagast is a good choice. If your MP items will require big combinations, Pallando is a good choice.

Choosing Your Starting Minor Items

These can be broken down based on who will use the items: a weak character that you want to protect or a tough character that you want to beef up even further. There may be some special-purpose considerations as well.

Good starting Minor Items for weak characters who you want to stay alive
Shield of Iron-Bound Ash (arguably the best Minor Item because it gives bonuses to two stats.)
Elven Cloak (good cancellation card)
Star Glass (another good cancellation card)
Dagger of Westernesse
Healing Herbs (preparing for the worst)
Good starting Minor Items for tough characters
Black Arrow (make it easier to kill big creatures)
Dagger of Westernesse (max prowess is 8)
Cram (keep the tough guy untapped)
Special-purpose Minor Items
Elf Stone (if you're playing with Elves and you can make use of the DI bonus right away)
Horn of Anor (if you're playing a Faction-heavy deck)
Cram (if your main travelling area is a ways away from Rivendell and you're in a hurry to get there, i.e. Mordor, Gondor, Dragon Country)
Athelas (if you're starting with Aragorn)
Healing Herbs (if you're starting with Ioreth)

Rules of Thumb for Minor Items

If you forsee corruption as an issue (i.e. you're playing with Dwarves) you may want to choose starting minor items that can be discarded (Cram, Healing Herbs).

If a minor item won't help you, don't use it. Minor items give corruption points but no Marshalling Points. If the starting Minor item won't help you attain your MP cards, choose some different ones that will help you.

Remember that some Minor items can be "upgraded" (such as Dagger of Westernesse -> Barrow Blade or Star Glass -> Phial of Galadrial), making them more useful and simultaneously giving you an MP.

Achieving Harmony

Getting the Core Cards taken care of is something of a balancing act. You might find yourself sifting and sorting a bit. Stay focused by not worrying about the resource support (non-MP) cards or hazards just yet. Remember to keep it slim: 10 MP cards, about a dozen sites, and about a dozen characters (this includes the starting party).

There should be a unity to the cards you choose: characters should have home sites where factions are playable, all sites should be within two or three regions of each other, and the starting minor items should help you get it all done. It may seem a bit involved at first, but the more familiarity you gain with the gards, the easier it becomes.

Doors of Night / Gates of Morning

Before you get started on the rest of your deck you need to make a decision about something that will affect the course of the whole game: Whether to play with a Gates of Morning strategy or a Doors of Night strategy. You really should pick one or the other, otherwise you surrender to your opponent control over the time, the weather, and the site path. The area you've decided to travel will help you make the decision as to whether you'll choose Doors or Gates.

After you choose Doors or Gates, you will devote up to 5 cards from either your resource portion or your hazard portion (or both). If you go with Doors of Night, most of the cards you devote to the Doors strategy will come from your hazard portion, if you go with Gates, most of the cards you devote to Gates will come from your resource portion. Be on the lookout for any card that has a secondary effect if Doors / Gates is in play because it makes the card more playable.

You should probably have one card to cover the other side of the equation though, just to keep your bases covered. Example: If you decide to go with Gates, you might just include a Praise to Elbereth, just to make sure you have some bonus if your opponent gets his Doors strategy in place before you can get your Gates strategy going.

Keep in mind that many Environment cards are long events which can be difficult to bring into play, because you can end up shooting yourself in the foot. Remember that anything that hurts / helps you will hurt / help your opponent too. Also remember that Echo of All Joy can make one Gates-related resource long event permenant and Will of Sauron can make all Doors-relates hazard long events permenant.

Reasons for Choosing Gates of Morning

The primary reasons for going with Gates of Morning is to:

  1. Improve the site path, thereby making it harder for your opponent to play hazard creatures.
  2. Give you some advantage in combat.
  3. Help vs. Corruption.

You would probably want to go with a Gates strategy if

Gates of Morning Support Cards

Making the site path more "good"
Fog (both sides toward the middle)
Combat Advantage
Cloudless Day (defender always chooses strikes)
Dark Quarrels (# strikes from any attack reduced by half)
Clear Skies (+2 to prowess)
Sun (all hazards & auto-attacks are -1 to prowess)
Not at Home (reduce # strikes in auto attack by 2)
More Alert Than Most (# strikes from attack that chooses defending characters is reduced by 2)
Vanish in the Sunlight (reduce prowess of Undead / Nazgul)
Star of High Hope (I think)
Other good Gates cards
The Cock Crows (discard any hazard permenant event)
The Sun Unveiled (discard all hazard permenant events on a character)

Reasons for Choosing Doors of Night

The primary reasons for going with Doors of Night is to:

  1. Make the site path more evil, thereby making it easier for you to play hazard creatures on your opponent.
  2. Boost the playability / prowess of hazard creatures.
  3. Enhance a roadblock strategy.

You would probably want to go with a Doors strategy if

Making the site path more evil
Morgul Night (long: middle to lower)
Fell Winter (long?: upper to middle)
Choking Shadows (short: middle to lower)
Gloom (short: upper to middle)
New Moon (upper to middle)
(*) Withered lands (short: both sides toward the middle)
Enhancing a Roadblock Strategy
No Way Forward (reduce region movement to 2)
Foul Fumes (shadow / dark in site path forces return, unless Ranger)
Long Winter (long)
Winds of Wrath (seas)
Drowning Seas
Boosting the playability / prowess of hazard creatures
Dragon's Desolation (if you're playing with Dragons)
Rank Upon Rank (Men / Giants)
Clouds (+2 to each hazard creature)
Night (+1 to prowess of attacks, -1 to prowess of Men / Dunadan)
Minions Stir (+1 to prowess / strikes of Orcs)
Other Doors-related hazard cards
Shadow of Mordor (increases hazard limit)
Eye of Sauron (boosts prowess of auto-attacks)
Resource cards that work well when Doors is in play
Praise to Elbereth

Resource Utility Cards

After you've picked your core cards and decided on doors or gates, you should have chosen around 10-15 resource cards already. You should now pick about 20 support cards (2 for every 1 MP card) that will help you get your MP cards.

Some Rules of thumb on event types

Basic-Utility Resource Cards

The following table contains some resource cards that are useful in nearly any deck. They are divided into categories that address common tactical situations that you will likely always have to deal with. Especially good ones have a light yellow background.

Combat Related
Risky Blow
Lucky Strike
Cancellation - These should be used primarly to cancel auto-attacks
Dark Quarrels
Many Turns and Doublings
Riddling Talk
Houses of Healing
Help with Corruption / Factions
A Friend or Three
New Friendship
Elf Song
Help with Movement
Fair Travels in... (Chose this based on your travel area. Wilderness is usually the most useful)
Secret Entrance
Secret Passage
Milking a Site
Thorough Search
Lucky Search
Card Manipulation
Smoke Rings
Secret News
Far Sight
A Chance Meeting (you should have one of these for every three characters in your deck)
Marvels Told (every deck needs at least two)
And Forth He Hastened

What's Left?

You should now have 5-10 empty slots left. Try to pick cards that you think will help cover a weak area (such as corruption) or a blind spot. You could just fill the empty spaces with more general purpose cards. Some other good choices are cards that are race or character specific (i.e. Skin Changer for Beorn) Look below at Choosing Cards for Your Sideboard for further ideas.

Core Hazard Cards

Let's now tackle the problem of making the Hazard portion of your deck. The key point to remember is that the hazard portion must not conflict with your resource portion. This is especially true for the creature portion, but applies to other parts as well.

Another point: the guidelines presented here are for a general-purpose Hazard deck. As such, I try to cover all the bases. You could probably achieve a more deadly hazard portion by focusing in more tightly on one area (such as corruption) at the expense of neglecting another (such as roadblock).

Hazard Creatures

Council of Lorien rules state that you need to have at least 12 creatures, so these can be considered the "Core" cards of the hazard portion of your deck, analagous to the Marshalling Point cards in the resource portion.

The best way to make a creature portion is to pick a certain class of creature (such as Drakes, Men, Orcs, Undead) and then pick cards that are variations on that theme.

Your priorities in selecting creatures are:

  1. Frequency of Play: You want to be able to get them out of your hand quickly. To that end, you don't want to have to work at making them playable. Remember that the most common region type is Wilderness and the most common site type is Ruins / Lairs.
  2. Covering the Bases: You don't want to leave a "blind spot" for any particular region. Cover the most common regions / sites first (Wilderness & Ruins are the most common region / site), but make sure you have some coverage for Border / Free and Shadow / Dark (and possibly even Costal). You may be able to cover some of the extreme ends of the spectrum with non-creature cards (such as Lost in Free Domains).

Good General-Purpose Creatures

Regardless of what creature theme you chose, the following creatures are often good choices because they help cover blind spots (keyable to areas you may have missed) and are usually readily playable:

Keyed to Wilderness / Ruins
Cave Drake
Neeker Breekers
Watcher in the Water (also Costal)
Rain Drake (also Costal)
Keyed to Free / Border Lands
Keyed to Shadow / Dark Domains
Corpse Candle (also forces a corruption check)
Little Snuffler (prevents Scout cards from being played)
Any Nazgul

Half Creatures

"Half Creatures" are dual-purpose cards that function either as creatures or as permenant events. Examples include: Nazgul, Dragon Ahunt / At Home Manifestations, and other creatures like Shelob, Spider of the Morlat, and the Balrog. Per Council of Lorien rules, these count as half a creature toward the total 12 so you could have 10 regular creatures and 4 table creatures.

An advantage with half-creatures is that you can put down on the table as soon as you draw them.

One strategy in choosing half-creatures is to enhance the creature theme you have already selected. For example, if you're going with Wolf / Spider / Animal creatures, choose Dwar of Waw, Shelob, Barinax at Home and Spider of the Morlat as your half-creatures. There's almost always a Nazgul and a Dragon At Home card that can help enhance your creature selection.

Another strategy is to choose half-creatures that have good general-purpose effects. Good examples are Uvatha the Horeseman (let's you retrieve a hazard card from the discard pile) and Anduphanel (make a character tap).

You probably want to have a couple Nazgul because they are so versatile. In addition to whatever permenant event effects they have, they can always be played keyed to Dark Domains / Holds, a Fell Beast or Morgul Horse support card can make them playable at Shadow lands and they can be used to bring in a card from the sideboard.

Creature Enhancement Cards

These are short / long / permenant event cards that help improve your creature portion. The following are examples of various different types of creature enhancements.

There are other creature support cards that don't fit neatly into the above categories.

You should probably choose about 5-10 creature enhancement cards. Some creatures need more enhancing than others.

Hazard Utility Cards

The following table lists some Basic utility cards are cards that most decks should not be without. After you've selected your creature, half-creature, and creature support cards, you should have chosen about 20-25 out of 40. Pick about 10 or so from this list to help fill in the remaining slots. The points made earlier about short events vs. long events also apply here. Entries with a light yellow background are especially useful.

Long Winter
Foul Fumes
Chance of Being Lost
No Way Forward
Auto-Attack Enhancers
Arouse / Awaken / Incite Denizens (ruins, higher FoP)
Arouse / Awaken / Incite Minions (shadow / dark, lower FoP)
Eye of Sauron (all, long event, so be careful)
Fell Winter (border, long - be careful)
Lure of Nature
Lure of the Senses
Lure of Expedience
Lure of Creation
Despair of the Heart
Force a Corruption Check
Weariness of the Heart
Ren the Unclean
Increase Hazard Limit
Two or Three Tribes Present
Lost in... (Wilderness has highest FoP)
Muster Disperses
Foolish Words
Call of Home
Gnaw with Words
Card Manipulation
Mouth of Sauron
Aware of Their Ways
An Unexpected Outpost
Uvatha the Horseman
Twilight (you gotta have at least 2 in every deck)
Call of Home (target Rangers / High DI characters)
Fell Beast (if you're playing with Nazgul, and why wouldn't you?)
Fury of the Iron Crown (good general-purpose creature enhancer)
Many Sorrows Befall

Harmonizing the Hazard Portion

As with the core / resource portion, putting the hazard portion together is something of a balancing act. Familiarity helps. Organizing your collection helps too. Soon you'll see some patterns emerge. Some examples of hazard strategies that work in harmony are:

Choosing Cards for Your Sideboard

Cards that belong in your sideboard are:


Following this advice, you should have a deck constructed like so:

[up to 30] Core Cards
12 Site cards
12 Characters: 4 for your starting party, 4 in your deck, and 4 in your sideboard. (possibly more)
2 Starting Minor Items
2 copies of the same Wizard. Optionally, one different Wizard in your sideboard.
10 Marshalling Point Cards
2 Factions
2 Weapons
1 DI item
1 Cancelation / Armor
1 Ally (Noble Hound)
1 Miscellaneous (Rescue Prisoners)
2 Others (whatever's handy)
[5] Gates of Morning (unless going with Doors of Night)
2 copies of GoM
2 or 3 Gates-related cards
optionally, 1 Echo of All Joy to make one permenant.
[5] Doors of Night (unless going with Gates of Morning)
2 copies of DoN
2 or 3 Doors-related cards
optionally, 1 Will of Sauron to make them permenant.
[25-30] Resource Utility Cards
5 Combat Helpers (Risky Blow, Lucky Strike, Block, Dodge, Houses of Healing)
3-4 Corruption Helpers (A Friend or Three, New Friendship)
4-5 Cancellation
4-5 Movement / Site helpers
2 Chance Meeting
2 Marvels Told
1 Smoke Rings (or Far Sight)
maybe 2-4 Char / Race specific or Faction helpers
maybe a few "contingency" cards. These will probably go in your sideboard.
[20-25] Core Hazard Cards
10 Creatures
4 Half-Creatures (2 of these will prolly be Nazgul)
6-11 Creature Enhancers
[15-20] Hazard Utility Cards
5 Roadblock (including Auto-Attack enhancers)
5 Corruption
5 Something to get his cards off the table (Muster Disperses, Call of Home, Twilight) or recyle yours (Mouth of Sauron)
maybe 5 To cover blind spots. These will probably go in your sideboard.

Like all other rules, these are made to be broken. With any luck, it will help you with deck construction.

Ideal Scenario

Ideally, when it's your turn you should be able to play around 5 cards:

Ideally, when it's your opponent's turn you should be able to play around 5 cards: