Nightmare Review – The Seventh Level

It’s been a while since I’ve played Nightmare mode and I’ve decided its time to start playing it again! I will doing reviews of the Nightmare quests I play and comparing them against the original quests. First off is one of my favorite Nightmare quests: The Seventh Level!

First off the original quest is an absolute cake walk these days with the powerful and expansive player card pool we currently have. It would take a LOT of bad luck for my decks to actually lose a game of The Seventh Level as it just so tame compared to current or modern quests. That being said it is still a great quest albeit one on the easier side.

The theme behind the quest is that you have entered Moria and are currently searching for the Chamber of Records and any signs of Balins Colony. You discover the Dwarves fate and get trapped in the Chamber attacked by a swarm of Orcs. The mechanic that brings more enemies out of the encounter deck at the end of the staging round was a great early mechanic that really captures the theme of being outnumbered and swarmed perfectly. The fact so many of the enemies in this quest are on the smaller side not only adds to the theme but also means that even with many enemies in play it still does not get too hard as all the enemies are easily killed and usually easy to defend against as well.

The Nightmare version sort of changes this and adds some slightly tougher enemies and effects that make even the weakest of foes a real thorn in your side by making them immune to player cards or invulnerable to death! It also ramps up the second stage and adds a nasty location and especially nasty boss enemy you must overcome to make the horde of Orcs swarming you a lot harder to beat. The new mechanic is placing resources on Goblin enemies which allows them to become stronger or immune to damage/player events. The highest number of resources on a Goblin enemy is also directly tied to the Boss enemy and his effect. I have noticed over all my games with this Nightmare quest that this new mechanic can quite easily whiff or fail and so long as you get lucky and/or move fast you can avoid resources stacking up on Goblin enemies. If encounter cards do not come out in the right order or together you may not see very many resources on Goblins at all. If you don’t see any Pit Goblins, Deep Mines , Orc Taskmaster appears when there are no Goblins in play, you don’t travel to any copies of Western Hall, no copies of Balin’s Doom are revealed during a turn that there are Goblins in play and there are no Goblin enemies that engage players before you clear Chamber of Records you could theoretically avoid a single resource being placed on a Goblin enemy. This isn’t going to happen in multiplayer but in Solo I could see this happening from time to time. Even when this quest doesn’t manage to combo its cards together properly it is still no joke as the new enemies have decent stat lines and you do need to muster a fair bit of willpower during Stage 2 to actually get through the swarm. Also even without any boost at all Overseer Maurul is still a very worthy boss as he has a huge pool of hitpoints.

I played two games against the Nightmare version of this quest. One yesterday and one today and I managed a win against both! The first was a somewhat close one and I got insanely swarmed towards the end but by dispatching Overseer Maurul over two turns and questing to victory the next I achieved victory even with all the various enemies still engaged. Early game I was easily able to take out foes as they appeared but eventually certain Goblins had resource tokens stopping them from taking damage and others were just falling out of the encounter deck. Just to test the decks after I achieved victory on the last round I still played a last round of combat with enemies still in play and was able to not only defend safely against the horde but managed to cut it down by about half. I managed to destroy one of the two Cave-Trolls and had the other engaged for the majority of the game which definitely didn’t make things easier. Other than a few worrying turns my decks were able to keep control and grind out a win without too much hassle.

The second game was actually harder and a had a really rough start that I may have even lost had I not been able to cancel a copy of Beats and Echoes. I got swarmed hard and a copy of Taskmaster and Balin’s Doom added resources to multiple Goblin enemies. One particular round in which Orc Horn-Blower appeared during staging was especially nasty and was the same round Beats and Echoes appeared, this was easily the critical moment AND round of the entire game. I was able to overcome this onslaught and get things back on track and managed to clear the staging area after a few more turns ready for Stage 2. Although the first half of this game was far more difficult the second half was a ton easier. I easily destroyed Overseer Maurul again as he had no boost the first turn he appeared (two copies of Undisturbed Bones were revealed during staging on the turn I advanced to Stage 2 and staging was empty) so I did a whopping 11 damage to him and then used Gandalf the following turn to finish him off. I then quested to victory the next round so only had to trigger Stage 2B’s effect twice.

Now I will go over the actual encounter cards that the Nightmare version of this quest includes and my experience with them over the course of my two games:
Overseer-Maurûl.jpgFirst off is Oversee Maurul who is the boss enemy in the Nightmare version of this quest. He is an absolute beast but is not immune to player card effects and CAN receive attachments. It is essential to destroy him as quickly as possible as he can have extremely high stats and has a huge pool of hitpoints. He can on occasion stay at his base 3/3/3 stats though so long as you prevent Goblins with resources being in play when you arrive at Stage 2. This is fairly luck based and just depends what encounter cards are revealed but you can definitely help achieve this by clearing enemies as fast as possible. I had this happen in my first game and he stayed at his base stats of 3/3/3 when I arrived at Stage 2 as there was only an Orc and Troll enemy in play alongside Overseer Maurul so nothing was boosting him. On the following turn he was boosted up to 7/7/7 however so after him destroying a defensive ally during his attack I had to commit every offensive character to take him out. I had already placed 9 damage on him the previous round so I had to do the last 3 which meant I had to muster up 10 attack strength /deduction to defense. My old strategy to deal with him was to slap a Forest Snare on him after defending against his initial attack and then slowly whittling him away until he is destroyed. This seems pretty cheap though so instead I took him on directly in these two games (also Forest Snare is no longer in my sideboard).  In the first as I mentioned above he was very tame on the first turn he appeared but an absolute monster on the following round. Luckily I was able to dispatch him that second round or he would have posed a very serious and immediate threat to my victory.
During the second game he was a joke and didn’t even get to attack once with boosted stats. I almost killed him in one hit and placed 11 damage doing the final point with Gandalf’s ability the following turn. Just goes to show how weak he can be so long as you have a strong board state/empty staging area.

Chamber-of-Records.jpg

Chamber of Records is the new location that becomes the active location as soon as you arrive at Stage 2. It has a fairly decent 8 progress points so isn’t the easiest location to clear which is nasty because you want to get rid of it as quickly as possible. While it is still in play Goblin enemies with at least 1 resource are immune to player events such as Feint or direct damage events like Goblin Cleaver. It also gives 2 resources to any Goblins when they engage a player. This boosts Maurul, stops them from taking damage for longer if an Orc Taskmaster is in play or gives them extra attack if a Goblin Skirmisher is in play.

During the first game all this card did was provide an extra two resources to a copy of Pit Goblin when it engaged me as I was not able to clear it quickly and only placed 6 of 8 progress at first. I cleared it the following turn though and it stopped any other extra resources being added to Goblin enemies. During the second game it added two resource to two Goblin enemies instead of one: Chieftain of the Pit and Goblin Spearman. Both fell in battle that same round (due to lack of a Taskmaster in play) and because I had already destroyed Maurul he didn’t get any boost either.

orc-taskmaster

Orc Taskmaster is potentially the nastiest addition minus Overseer Maurul to the Nightmare version of this quest. The Taskmaster is a fierce foe in its own right with a nasty 4 attack AND defense and a high 6 hitpoints as well. Its abilities are the real issue however as he adds a resource to every Goblin in play when he is revealed and far worse stops damage from being done to Goblins so long as they have resources on them (removing a resource each time it is dealt damage instead).  Suddenly with this guy in play all those weak Goblin enemies don’t seem anywhere near as tame or easy to deal with. This guy can keep enemies in play several extra turns which is awful considering enemies can pour out of the encounter deck during this quest especially on Stage 2. If you kill the Orc Taskmaster however his ability goes away. He sits in staging whipping and motivating the Goblins at his 44 threat engagement level however so you need to optionally engage him or have a very high threat level to deal with and destroy him to remove his effects. Essentially you need to decide whether you can afford each Goblin enemy to stick around that much longer or if you really need to just take a Taskmaster on and destroy it.

With some extreme luck during the first game I only had one Taskmaster appear during a turn no goblins were in play (adding no resources) and then his second ability was only affecting a single Pit Goblin with four resources who I had no intention of destroying anyway. I simply ignored the Taskmaster and his measly one threat and quested to victory. Had he appeared on a critical turn or earlier on however he would have posed a very serious threat. I got very lucky in this regard. I had a copy of Taskmaster appear during quest setup on the second attempt alongside a Goblin Swordsman. This was an awful start and Goblins kept getting resources through other effects. I had to dispatch the Taskmaster with a huge attack then sneak attack Gandalf the following turn so that I could get rid of his effect and start dispatching the Goblins. After he fell I managed to kill all the Goblins in play over the following two turns and got things under control. Had I not had the firepower to get rid of him I may have been in some serious trouble.

Pit-Goblin.jpg

Pit Goblin is an interesting enemy. It provides itself with resources and although it is on the smaller side like the various enemies that already exist in the non-nightmare version of this quest it does have a very nasty 3 threat. Its self resource ability means that in combination with cards like the Taskmaster, Skirmisher and Chamber of Records the Pit Goblin can be quite a fearsome foe. The shadow effect that adds a resource to Goblin enemies is also a bit boost to the new mechanic of this quest. I only encountered a single Pit Goblin in the first game and just more or less ignored it and defended against it without counter attacking as it had 4 resources and a Taskmaster was in play so it wasn’t going to take damage any time soon. During the second game I saw two Pit Goblins both of which were easily destroyed as their resources were not giving them any buffs.

Goblin-Skirmisher.jpg

Goblin Skirmisher is like the Taskmaster and boosts all Goblin enemies with resources on them. Instead of stopping them from take damage though he gives them +1 attack for EACH RESOURCE. This can nasty as hell and can give all Goblins multiple extra points of attack. These guys need to be cleared as fast as possible to get rid of that buff. Multiple copies do not stack but if multiple copies are in play you need to kill them all to get rid of that effect. The fact he is a Goblin himself (unlike the Taskmaster) means he receives his own buff. When these guys have resources on themselves and a Taskmaster is in play as well you are borderline screwed and really need to dish some serious damage out to get yourself back in the game and actually destroy some foes. Killing the Taskmaster first then destroying each Skirmisher seems the optimal way to go but this would obviously depend on your situation. In my first game only one of these guys appeared late game buffing a Pit Goblin from 2 to 6 attack which in of itself was pretty damn nasty. I managed to kill him off quickly with no resource on him (the Skirmisher) removing his effect from play. During the second game I had a copy appear fairly early buffing several enemies including himself, it was also protected by a Taskmaster. This was a seriously bad situation to be in and thanks to a Sneak attack Gandalf I manged to destroy the Taskmaster after already attacking him the previous turn and once he fell the Skirmisher was the next target. I suffered several points of damage on heroes thanks to the Skirmishers boost directly but I was able to fairly quickly heal this damage.

Deep-Mines.jpg

Deep Mines adds a resource to Goblins that enter play when it is in the staging area. A critical part of the new mechanic and strategy this nightmare quest throws against you.
Do not leave the Deep Mines in staging as those resources will quickly combo with other encounter cards to severely punish you. So long as you quickly travel to these locations though you can avoid their effect doing very much and hopefully it will only add a single resource or two. If you have a copy of Deep Mines in staging during Stage 2 you could potentially reveal four or so enemies and have to add a resource to each and every one. The 6 progress points certainly help to slow you down as well. I didn’t see a single copy of this location during the first game which was great. During the second game I cleared two copies of Deep Mines and both copies managed to place a least a single resource on a Goblin before being traveled to.

Western-Hall.jpgWestern Hall! There had to be a card in this nightmare quest that turned those resources on Goblins into extra threat and this is that card. To travel there you have to add a resource to each Goblin in play and because its ability is still active even if its the active location this means the two parts of this card combo together. Four threat on a location is pretty nasty too. Traveling to this location on a key turn where it will not add many resources to Goblins is essential and seeing this card at the wrong time could be devastating. I had one copy appear during my first game very early on. I traveled there and cleared it quickly and because nothing that actually combos with resources on Goblins was in play at that time the two goblins it added resources to were quickly dispatched and this location did pretty much nothing. I didn’t see this location during the second game.

Balin's-Doom.jpg

Balin’s Doom. The art of this card is amazing and shows the moments before the actual death of Balin in the Dimrill Dale outside of Moria. All it does is add resources to Goblins both when revealed as a treachery or shadow card. This obviously helps the Nightmare deck place resources on Goblins faster and more efficiently so that they can receive the various buffs for having resources. The quest also makes you shuffle any copies in the discard pile back into the encounter deck when you reach Stage 2 which is pretty nasty.

Each copy that appeared in my first game had little to no effect and I managed to avoid them doing much damage. I had them appear as shadow cards for Overseer Maurul and Cave Troll on multiple occasions and neither of those enemies are Goblins so this keep whiffing as a shadow card which I was extremely grateful for. During the second game however I had a Balin’s Doom trigger at an awful moment when Goblins already had one resource on them and this just further boosted both their attack AND damage resistance as both a Taskmaster and Skirmisher were in play. I almost canceled this but chose not to and this was essentially the most critical moment of the game as I then cancelled Beats and Echoes which appeared a few cards later during the same staging round (Orc-Horn Blower surged into Balin’s Doom surged into Goblin Tunnels, Horn-Blower reveals Goblin Skirmisher and the last card revealed is Beats and Echoes… what a awful turn of staging).

Beats-and-Echoes.jpg

Beats and Echoes is sort of one of those must-cancel type treacheries. It can add several new enemies the to staging area which in combination with Stage 2B’s inbuilt ability can be instrumental in being completely swarmed by enemies. So long as each player is already engaged with a Goblin however this card loses much of its power. You could potentially reveal no enemies from its effect or only one if you get lucky so it isn’t always devastating but usually this card is brutal and you want to cancel it if possible. Enemies already swarm out of this deck very quickly so you don’t need a card like this bringing them out even quicker. I only saw one copy during my first game (saw it as a shadow a few times) and I managed to cancel it with Test of Will. During the second game I saw this card twice, the first time I cancelled it and most likely would have lost had I not and the second time I saw it and could not cancel it I got very lucky and literally all it added to staging (even though it revealed the full four cards as neither deck had a goblin engaged) was a Goblin Archer. Even though this card is so hit and miss it can appear at a time when you are already overwhelmed by foes and it can bring enemies such as Taskmaster or Skirmisher into play buffing all enemies. It is more or less must cancel or at least definitely is when you are already overwhelmed.

Conclusion

Overall I would say that this Nightmare deck makes a very early and easy quest for this game much more difficult and much more fun. Although still not the hardest quest it makes you actually want to replay The Seventh Level as you won’t just completely crush it.
It is a little bit swingy as you can have a game with little resources on Goblins and not see most of the cards that buff them for having resources or you can have a game where resources pile up on Goblins and this makes them near unkillable and much stronger attack wise. You do only have to kill Maurul who is not a goblin however so you can dispatch him and quest to victory ignoring the horde of goblins. You do have to survive and stand against them until you achieve this however which is no easy task.

My first game was fairly straightforward and although there were a few worrying moments overall I smashed it. The second game had a really rough start and had I not drawn better starting hands and drawn better cards over the course of the game than the first game I might have very well lost. Had I not cancelled that early copy of Beats and Echoes I surely would have lost as it would have brought several more enemies into play (the following 3 cards were dealt as shadow cards and all of them were enemies.. one of which was another Taskmaster….) and I already had several in play very early on. I could barely defend against everything and counter attack as well so had Beats and Echoes triggered I would have been screwed. I very nearly cancelled a copy of Balin’s Doom that appeared on the same turn so I am EXTREMELY lucky I decided not to!

The player voted difficulty of the regular version of this quest on the Quest Companion is 4.2/10 (http://lotr-lcg-quest-companion.com/khazad-dum-quest-the-seventh-level.html). It is quite hard to give a difficulty rating as everyone is going to have a different experience based on the decks they use but if I had to I would say that the Nightmare version perhaps brings the difficulty up to a 6.5 roughly. It still definitely isn’t the hardest quest but is nowhere near as easy as the original. Hope you enjoyed the review!
I had a blast playing this nightmare quest and it is definitely one of my favorites. Next time I hope to tackle and review Nightmare Trouble in Tharbad.

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