- Card Talk Season 1 Episode 15
- Shadows of Mordor
- Core and Revised Core Set
- Player Card Categories
- Direct Damage
- Encounter Control
Fun in the early scenarios that is largely left behind as the scenario meta made direct damage less powerful
Thalin is an FFG created hero. He was created for the Core Set and unfortunately FFG didn’t create a backstory for him. It wasn’t until later cycles that FFG created characters were given a back story included in the rules insert. The flavor text comes from a song Gimli sings about Darrowdelf’s old glory while the Fellowship is traveling through Moria.
I don’t think there is a thematic link especially as this a FFG created character. Additionally, direct damage effects are spread around various traits and isn’t exclusive to Dwarves.
Card Synergies and Interactions
More Direct Damage
Thalin’s ability alone typically won’t destroy an enemy in a single round. Some quests early in the game’s life had a many 1 or 2 hit point enemies like Journey Along the Anduin, Return to Mirkwood, The Seventh Level, We Must Away Ere Break of Day, or Over the Misty Mountains Grim. Later scenarios, the norm was enemies with 3 or more hit points. In those, more is needed if a player wants to destroy an enemy with direct damage.
Tactics is full of direct damage options. Gondorian Spearman came in the Core Set with Thalin which worked well together for 2 hit point enemies. Thalin could do a damage when they came out, and Spearman would knock them down while defending. Spear of the Citadel on Gondorian Spearman can make this even better with another damage to take out 3 hit point enemies. Galadhon Archer, Descendent of Throndor, and Rumil have direct damage effects are like Gandalf ally from the Core Set dealing direct damage when they enter play. Tactics Bilbo has a similar ability to Thalin although it targets only 1 enemy and they already need to be in play. Then with his trusty sword, Sting, Bilbo can deal a direct damage in combat. Dwarves also have Darrowdelf Axe and Thorin Stonehelm that can do some additional direct damage while attacking. There are also many event based ones like Swift Strike, Heavy Stroke, Hail of Stones, and Goblin-Cleaver just to name a few.
Lore is the other main sphere with direct damage effects. Argalad can team up with Thalin to deal 1 damage to an enemy in the staging area provided he has enough attack power to reduce their threat to 0. Expecting Mischief in particular is very similar to Thalin since it triggers to deal 2 damage when an enemy is revealed. There are also a couple thematically tied to the Ithilien Rangers like the trap, Poisoned Stakes. It unfortunately deals 2 damage at the end of the round. Arrows from the Trees also can deal damage to enemies in the staging area and more when Tactics resources are spent, but the players have to avoid engaging any enemies. Both given the timing and needing or better to avoid engagement don’t work quite as well with Thalin.
Thalin’s ability only triggering when he quests doesn’t offer a lot of synergy out of the box. It might have been Nate French’s intent to make players agonize over the decision to quest with him or keep him ready for combat. It could be to give players another good target for Celebrian’s Stone to make him into a 3 willpower questor. The only in sphere option readily available to boost his willpower is Tactics Theoden, but his bonus is only +1. Leadership Dain provides a similar bonus along with +1 attack making Thalin a pretty good attacking hero.
The better willpower bonuses are going to come from contracts. Forth, the Three Hunters can add up to 4 to Thalin’s willpower provided he can get 4 restricted attachments and a Golden Belt. Tactics having more restricted attachments than any other sphere, this is easily achievable. Fellowship offers +1 once there are 9 unique characters in play. Grey Wanderer doesn’t provide a direct bonus, but it does allow players to put Strider into play right away giving +2 as long as there are 5 or less characters in play.
Encounter scrying effects can be useful in determining if questing with Thalin is a good idea to do or not. Especially if there are enemies already engaged and the players might need to utilize his 2 attack or defense.
The first 2 cycles and The Hobbit Sage offer many opportunities for Thalin to shine. There are a number of enemies like Eastern Crows that have 1 hit point and surge. Thalin’s ability destorys these enemies as they are revealed stopping any keywords including surge. Against the Shadow had 1 enemy that Thalin could take out easily. Then it wasn’t until Race Across Harad that there was another 1 hit point enemy Thalin could work his magic (or I guess axe) on. The Hunt for the Dreadnaught also featured a 1 hit point Corsair.
Intruders in Chetwood, Dungeson of Cirith Gurat, The Uruk-Hai, and Helm’s Deep are all ones to avoid using Thalin in. Intruders in Chetwood enemies can’t be damaged while Orc War Party is in play. The quest starts with one in play and there are 2 others in the encounter deck. More often than not, enemies won’t be able to take damage. Dungeons of Cirith Gurat during the second stage when the players have to avoid engaging enemies for 2 turns, Thalin weakening them would be quite beneficial except they’re all immune to damage. The Uruk-Hai and Helm’s Deep many of the enemies have the toughness X keyword that cancels the first X damage any time damage is dealt to them. Bilbo’s damage then will just get canceled every time it is used against them.
Card Talk uses the highly scientific yet arbitrary scale of 1 ring for the card to rule them all to 10 to be cast back into the fiery chasm from whence it came.
I rate Thalin at 7 rings. He was good early in the life of the game when his ability had more a function. The development of the game to higher hit points and his inefficient stats make him fairly niche.
Normally, I would try to argue more about my view on the ring rating. Instead I am going use Thalin to discuss about how the game has developed over the years. Thalin is a good example the game’s roots in Magic the Gathering. There part of the design is giving players “answers” to different threats. A player plays a big creature (similar to LOTR LCG ally), another player can cancel it with a counter spell, kill the creature with direct damage, force them to discard it with creature removal, or even remove it from the game. The early life of the game was similar, a treachery is going to wreck your board state, better have the “answer” A Test of Will to cancel it. Hill Troll or Cheiftan Ufthak attacking are problematic for the player to defend easily, then cancel the attack with Forest Snare or Feint.
Thalin was the answer to surging low hit point enemies. One the first FAQs clarified he could stop surge. Stopping surge and getting rid of an enemy (albeit a weakling one that is mostly a nuisance) is a huge value! The Hobbit and Darrowdelf still had some of this. Afterwards, there were only 3 enemies with 1 hit point. This combined with his low willpower, very few willpower boosting options in sphere, and increase in anti-direct damage abilities in quests and enemies lead to decline in value. Staging area attack with attack boosts became a much better option. While many staging attack abilities can’t get around immune to player card effects either, the attack boosts work just fine in combat. Not to mention attack bonuses can get high enough to get past toughness or can’t direct damage.
Power creep in player cards (Darrowdelf especially) meant that encounter cards had to have power creep as well to keep the game difficult especially for veteran players. Enemies got more hit points, immunity to damage while the staging area, immunity to player card effects, or other effects like toughness that lowered the effectiveness of certain cards. In a competitive card game like Magic, this sort of thing is to be expected. The Meta (how good certain cards or decks are against the field of other card and decks) shifts as new sets come out. The Living Card Game format not being collectible and not that many cards coming out in each expansion means that cards shifting in effectiveness can be a bit of a bummer. Particularly as a card or deck type might never get other helper cards to make them effective again.
The positive side of the changes with some original answer cards becoming less effective is the game evolved into a better overall play experience. Cancel or lose cards became very rare. Each encounter became a little tougher to deal with. Easy encounter cards that could possibly do nothing to the player became just as rare as cancel or lose cards. Playing the game became more an even difficulty that felt more fair because a game typically wouldn’t just fall apart an hour in due to a single terrible encounter card reveal.
The game has moved on from the days when Thalin could make really good use of his ability. His one willpower wasn’t good even then. It is a drag now with higher threat on many cards. His combat stats are mediocre at best. Fortunately, all those older quests where he can shine still exist.
- Dave – 5
- Grant – 5
- Ted – TBR
- Matt – 7
Tank and Spank by Tale from the Cards
Thalin, Argalad, and a few direct damage allies soften up enemies for Beregond with a Spear of the Citadel.
Argalad (The Drowned Ruins)
Beregond (Heirs of Númenor)
Thalin (Core Set)
1x Azain Silverbeard (Flight of the Stormcaller)
1x Bofur (Over Hill and Under Hill)
2x Derndingle Warrior (Escape from Mount Gram)
3x Galadhon Archer (The Nîn-in-Eilph)
1x Ghân-buri-Ghân (The Flame of the West)
3x Gondorian Spearman (Core Set)
3x Honour Guard (The Wastes of Eriador)
1x Legolas (The Treason of Saruman)
1x Mablung (The Land of Shadow)
2x Master of the Forge (Shadow and Flame)
1x Quickbeam (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)
3x Bow of the Galadhrim (The Nîn-in-Eilph)
3x Gondorian Shield (The Steward’s Fear)
3x Lembas (Trouble in Tharbad)
3x Ranger Spikes (Heirs of Númenor)
3x Spear of the Citadel (Heirs of Númenor)
2x Behind Strong Walls (Heirs of Númenor)
3x Daeron’s Runes (Foundations of Stone)
3x Goblin-cleaver (Over Hill and Under Hill)
2x Hail of Stones (Road to Rivendell)
3x Heed the Dream (Flight of the Stormcaller)
3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to The Drowned Ruins
Decklist built and published on RingsDB.