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A Balrog, of Morgoth

The Balrog is one of the most iconic monsters in Tolkien lore, and is just as famous within the realm of the LotR-TCG. There are few strategies that center around the Balrog itself, as he was most popular in Fellowship Block, and all versions available in that time period restrict him only to Underground sites, which is fairly crippling. However, use of the iconic The Bridge of Khazad-dûm (1C349) , which in Fellowship block was mandatory (as there were no other site-5 sites) means that he makes a great splash minion for almost any deck. The Bridge reduces his cost to a mere ( post-Shadows), and he can be pulled from the draw deck, for a 17-strength, 5-vitality, damage +1, fierce ball of dark flame incarnate. Your opponent would need a strength-9 character just to survive one skirmish, and with two you can many times guarantee either the death of your opponent's strongest companion, or at least two of the weakest so they can no longer be used as fodder.

In Towers Block a version of the Balrog that was not limited to the underground was released, and from then on all versions offered bonuses while underground, but without absolutely limiting it. The post-Shadows version of the Bridge is not quite so potent, but it still offers a reasonable discount if none of the other Balrog-playing cards are available.

If you do decide to build a deck around the Flame of Udun, there are a handful of cards you can use to improve his effectiveness. The Balrog's Sword (2R50) and Whip of Many Thongs (2R74) combined offer a staggering 4 strength increase, pushing the overwhelm resistance threshold to 11, and offering card discard in the Whip. Final Cry (2R57) offers direct wounding (saving a Fierce skirmish for some other poor chap), Durin’s Tower (6R77) limited pumps, Must Do Without Hope (2U68) lays on the burdens, and Fill With Fear (2U56) and Dark Fire (2U54) offer counters to two possible threats - Gandalf and directed Archery. Power and Terror (2U70) offers a site-agnostic cost-reduction, which of course can allow you to play this scourge more frequently.

Still, this is only half the consideration; no Balrog deck, no matter how good, will subsist on its own; you can only fit a maximum of 4 copies of the Balrog in, and without any real recycle you're not going to win with just that except against a fantastically underprepared opponent. Even all of the cards that work with the Balrog are not necessary for every deck, as they are too unfocused.

The obvious pairing is Moria Swarm (since some versions of the Balrog require Moria spotting or offer a discount if you do), with the Swarm covering the numbers and the Balrog bringing the heavy beat-down. Other pairings are possible, but in almost all other setups, the Balrog will play second fiddle to whatever the rest of your Shadow is doing.

When playing against the Balrog, there are a handful of ways to handle him. Direct wounding / directed Archery can certainly do the trick in the absence of Fill With Fear (2U56) , but the most common manner of dealing with the Balrog in Fellowship block (which is the block you are most likely to run into him) is to lose the fight in a way that costs as little as possible. This might be done through avoiding the skirmish altogether, through the use of Hobbit Stealth (1C298) , Gandalf's Staff (2R22) , or it might be done by playing Armor (1C92) on Boromir, Lord of Gondor (1R96) or a sufficiently tanked-up Aragorn. When all else fails, you can always use the "speed bump": a Thrarin, Dwarven Smith (1U27) , Sam, Son of Hamfast (1C311) , or Pippin, Hobbit of Some Intelligence (1R307) can absorb one whole skirmish and leave the rest of your fellowship pristine. Unless you have the ability to pump a character up to 20+ consistently, you will probably not be able to rely on actually winning the skirmish to handle our favorite fiery friend.

List of Cards with the Race of Balrog[edit]

Portrait Name Game Text
The Balrog, Durin's Bane (2C51) Damage +1. Fierce.

While you can spot The Balrog, discard all other minions. Skip the archery phase. Discard The Balrog if not underground.

The Balrog, Flame of Udun (2R52) Damage +1. Fierce. To play, spot a Orc.

Discard The Balrog if not underground.

Shadow: Exert The Balrog and remove to play a Orc from your discard pile.

The Balrog, Terror of Flame and Shadow (6R76) Damage +2. The twilight cost of The Balrog is –3 if you can spot a minion. The Balrog cannot be assigned to skirmish companions or allies of strength less than 6.
The Balrog, The Terror of Khazad-dum (12R79) Damage +1.

While The Balrog is at an underground site, it is fierce and cannot take wounds or be exerted.

The Balrog, Demon of Might (19P18) Damage +2. Fierce.

While at an underground site, skip the archery phase, the maneuver phase, and The Balrog cannot be assigned to skirmish companions of strength 6 or less. ​

Cards That Use the Race of Balrog[edit]

Strictly speaking, no cards use the Balrog race. Below are listed all the cards which name "The Balrog" by name as a card title.

Portrait Card Name Culture Card Type Game Text
The Balrog's Sword (2R50) Moria Artifact • Hand Weapon Bearer must be The Balrog.

It is damage +1

This weapon may be borne in addition to 1 other hand weapon.

Dark Fire (2U54) Moria Condition To play, spot The Balrog.

Plays on Gandalf.

Each time the fellowship moves, Gandalf must exert.

Fill With Fear (2U56) Moria Condition Plays to your support area.

While you can spot The Balrog, skip the archery phase.

Maneuver: Exert The Balrog to discard a ranged weapon.

Final Cry (2R57) Moria Event Response: If a skirmish that involved The Balrog bearing Whip of Many Thongs is about to end, wound a companion in that skirmish twice.
Must Do Without Hope (2U68) Moria Event Maneuver: Exert The Balrog to add a burden.
Power and Terror (2U70) Moria Event Shadow: Reveal any number of Orcs from your hand to play The Balrog. Its twilight cost is -2 for each Orc revealed.
Whip of Many Thongs (2R74) Moria Artifact • Hand Weapon Bearer must be The Balrog.

Skirmish: Exert The Balrog to discard a helm, shield, or armor borne by a character The Balrog is skirmishing.

Durin’s Tower (6R77) Moria Condition At sites 2 and 3, The Balrog’s twilight cost is –3. Skirmish: Discard this condition to make a unique minion strength +3.
Whip of Many Thongs, Weapon of Flame and Shadow (12R80) Moria Artifact • Hand Weapon Bearer must be The Balrog. It is fierce.

When you play this artifact, the Free Peoples player reveals his or her hand and discards all Free Peoples cards from hand that have a twilight cost of 1 or less.

Terror at Its Coming (V1_32) Moria Condition • Support Area Each time the fellowship moves, you may reveal The Balrog from your hand to add .
The Darkness Grew (V1_35) Moria Condition • Support Area Shadow: Stack a item from hand here.

Shadow: Spot The Balrog to take a card stacked here into hand.

The Bridge of Khazad-dûm (1C349) Site Site Underground. Shadow: Play The Balrog from your draw deck or hand; The Balrog’s twilight cost is -6.
The Bridge of Khazad-dûm (12U186) Site Site Battleground. Underground. The Balrog is twilight cost –3.

Unloaded Keywords
Race Decipher [Raceless] • BalrogCreatureDwarfElfEntHalf-trollHobbitMaiaManNazgûlOrcSpiderTreeTrollUruk-haiWizardWraith
Player's Council CrowEagle
Hobbit Draft Game BirdDragonEagleGiantGoblin
Decipher BattlegroundDwellingForestMarshMountainPlainsRiverUnderground
General Decipher BesiegerCorsairEasterlingEngineFellowshipFortificationKnightMachine • [Mounted] • PipeweedRangerRing-boundSearchSouthronSpellStealthTaleTentacleTrackerTwilight • [Unbound] • ValiantVillagerWeatherWarg-rider
Player's Council Pony
Hobbit Draft Game BurglarCunningWise