Starter Decks are ready-made simple decks that are intended to be easy enough for brand-new players to pick up and play. Each set typically had two starter decks, each one focusing on different cultures and strategies, so one could conceivably purchase both with a friend and get a good taste of what the game as a whole had to offer.
Starter decks were also used in Sealed formats as a foundation for deckbuilding to be supplemented by other random cards, meaning that starter decks tended towards generic flexibility rather than fine-tuned specialization.
To offset the fact that veteran players would not need an introduction to the game, Decipher included 2 exclusive nonfoil P-rarity cards in each starter pack that were not obtainable in booster packs. Also, for most sets, Decipher packed 3 random rares with each starter deck, giving collectors additional reason to purchase them (it was sometimes cheaper to buy boxes of starters instead of boxes of boosters; each box of starters included 36 rares vs the 32 of a booster box.)
In Battle of Helm's Deep and Ents of Fangorn, Decipher did away with the random rares and instead included 3 predetermined rares, with the idea being to make sure that included rares went according to the theme of the starter deck (predetermined rares also saved printing costs, as it allowed the entire deck to come from one print sheet instead of two.) Fixed rares annoyed players, as it removed the incentive for veterans to purchase the decks, and it drastically reduced the value of the 6 rares affected in each set. With The Return of the King Decipher reverted to the original random rare distribution for starter packs.
Starter Rules Differences
The rules included in each Starter Rulebook were slightly different from the rules used in more standard formats, mostly to reduce the overall complexity and make one's first game go faster. These differences include:
- Play ends at site 7 (instead of site 9)
- Players flip a coin to determine play order (instead of blind-bidding burdens)
- Decks only have ~50 cards in their draw deck (instead of the requisite 60 minimum)
- Decks sometimes have different numbers of Free Peoples and Shadow cards (instead of the required exactly even amount)
- Players may shuffle their discard pile into their deck once per game upon running out of cards in their draw deck (this rule has no analogue in normal play; once the deck runs out, that player continues play with no further cards)
All starter decks were built with these differences in mind, but with an eye on upgradability (and as a minor marketing enticement for players needing to pad these decks with a few extra cards to make them legal to use). The starter rules in turn are tailored to typically only include the rules and rulings for cards included within starter packs.
Deluxe Starter Sets
For The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, Decipher also released Deluxe starter sets, which besides including a starter deck also had booster packs from each set in that block as well as a card box and glass tokens (to use for Twilight Tokens and Wounds). Unlike other starter sets, Deluxe starters did not include starter-only cards. Due to the inclusion of boosters, a Deluxe Rulebook was included in lieu of the Starter Rulebook, to make sure that players would have access to all the rules if needed. No Deluxe Starter Set was released for any other block.
LOTRO Starter Decklists
Starter decks that were included in the Lord of the Rings Online TCG game client had their lists modified to make the decks tournament legal. In most cases, this just meant adding more cards to the list, but in some cases in The Return of the King starters they also removed cards in a rebalancing attempt. In one notable case, Kill Them Now (4C156) was removed from the Ents of Fangorn Faramir starter deck, as there aren't actually any Trackers in that deck to use this card with (it was replaced with Ferocity (4C151) ).
GEMP Starter Decks
Starter decks are used as part of the card pool in sealed deck leagues on GEMP. The official Decipher starter decks (listed below) are used in most of the leagues, but there are two leagues that use custom starter decks: one based around Towers Standard and another based around Movie Block. Decklists for those two leagues can be found at Towers Standard Sealed and Movie Block Sealed, respectively.
Starter Deck Lists
As the starter deck lists are too large to all include on a single page, they have been divided up on a page per block. It should be reasonable to pit any deck from a given block against any other deck within that block, though it's usually best to pit them against their mate within the same set.
The decklists below indicate the actual cards that were included with each physical box, warts and all. Any alterations made by the corresponding LOTRO list are indicated with strikethrough for removals and bold for additions (in their own section at the end).
- Starter Decks/Fellowship Block
- Starter Decks/Towers Block
- Starter Decks/King Block
- Starter Decks/WOTR Block
- Starter Decks/Hunters Block