Dunhere + Quick Strike is questing and combat twofer combo. Quick Strike being an action let’s a character attack an eligible enemy during any action window. Dunhere because he can attack into the staging area makes it possible to attack an enemy revealed during staging in the subsequent action window. Dunhere then can kill the enemy and remove its threat from the staging area. This pseudo questing by removing staging area is one of the few ways to the Core Set has to adjust the outcome of the quest phase like Eowyn’s and ally Faramir’s abilities. The second benefit is then a player doesn’t have to defend against an attack from the enemy. Some enemies that are better to target than others. Dol Guldur Orcs have no defense and only 3 hitpoint so Dunhere doesn’t need help to kill them. Hummerhorns can kill a hero when it engages a player and killing it in the staging avoids the 5 direct damage effect. Chieftan Ufthak gets more attack power every time he attacks and keeping him from attack because a player never has to engage him can be a huge benefit.
Giving Dunhere more attack, of course, makes this combo more reliable. In the core set, there are only a few cards that can and none in Spirit unfortunately. Tactics appropriately has the most with Dwarven Axe, Blade of Gondolin, and Blade Mastery. Blade of Gondolin‘s is conditional on the enemy being an orc, but it trades that off to help with questing by placing progress. Leadership only offers For Gondor! which is not efficient to use it for just Dunhere.
Gloin + Self Preservation creates a resource acceleration engine that rivals or even can exceed Steward of Gondor. Gloin gains a resource for each point of damage taken. Self Preservation heals 2 damage from him each turn. Many of the enemies have 2 attack in the core set. Gloin defending or even being assigned damage from undefended attacks can generate 1 – 3 resources per turn with one Self Preservation. Self Preservation doesn’t a limit per character or Restricted keyword. This means you can have multiple copies on him and generate more resources. Attachments like Citadel Plate also in the Core Set make this even easier. He then can take up to 7 damage before needing to heal. This let’s player do the healing more efficiently since there might be times when Gloin only has 1 damage but it is prudent to heal him before taking another attack considering shadows might add attack power to an enemy.
Of course there are other cards in the Core Set that can heal too. Daughter of Nimrodel is a solid alternative because it also can heal 2 damage on a hero per turn. It is just vulnerable to direct damage and ally discard effects. Lore of Imladris also works for a one time heal. It’s value is best when Gloin has a Citadel Plate or 2, and it can heal a lot of damage netting more resources than the 2 cost to play it. The Revised Core Set also has the Valor Boon card that can heal a damage when attached hero attacks. Gloin can take an undefended attack, attack the enemy, and heal 1 damage while also gaining resources!
Timing and Shadow Considerations
One thing to be aware of in using this combo is when to heal Gloin since Self Preservation, Daughter of Nimrodel, and Lore of Imladris are all actions. There are 2 action windows during an enemy attack but before damage is place you can heal. The distinction between the two is very important if he’s already damaged and what shadow effect you might face. The 6.4.1 action window is right before you reveal the shadow card and the other is right after. Right before is important if there are shadow effects that deal damage to the defending character. Direct damage on a shadow effect is placed as soon as it is revealed. If Gloin only has 1 hit point left, best to heal him before chancing that the Shadow could deal that 1 damage. If there’s attack boosts but no direct damage, a player can heal him after the Shadow is revealed in the 6.4.2 action window. This is because the 6.4.3 step is when damage is calculated from enemy’s attack + shadow + less defender’s defense and then placed.
Another consideration in using Gloin with the Core Set and Shadows of Mirkwood cycle is being careful in taking undefended attacks. It’s a great value to get resources and action advantage, but in the first cycle there’s a large risk. Many of the shadow effects are worse if the attack is undefended. Shadow cancelation like Hasty Stroke or shadow scrying with Dark Knowledge can make it safer to take those undefended attacks.
Eowyn + Stand and Fight is a way to smooth resources or “splash” an off-sphere card or cards (this means include cards that don’t match any of your heroes) in the Core Set. Eowyn’s ability let’s any player discard any card from your hand for +1 willpower. If a non-neutral ally is discarded, it can be targeted by Stand and Fight and put into play. They don’t have to be Spirit, but you have to use Spirit resources to pay for them.
For example, you can include ally Beorn in Leadership & Spirit decklist from the Revised Core rulebook. Discard him to give Eowyn +1 willpower during the quest phase. Later during the combat phase, play Stand and Fight for 6 Spirit resources to put Beorn into play ready to defend or attack. There is another example that can be a great tactical play to counter the 5 threat 1 quest point location Brown Lands. In the action window after staging, discard Snowbourn Scout to Eowyn’s ability, then play Stand and Fight targeting Snowbourn Scout, and place a progress on Brown Lands to explore it.
A common mistake made with this combo is trying to target Core Gandalf. Stand and Fight says, “the chosen ally can belong to any sphere.” This phrasing has confused many players as it seemed to mean Stand and Fight could target any ally, but it is actually a restriction. The first FAQ ruled that neutral cards do not belong to a sphere making neutral allies ineligible targets.
Another important rules distinction is that Stand and Fight puts the ally into play but it is not considering “playing” the ally. The combo then is very helpful in quests like Escape from Dol Guldur that limit the number of allies you can play per round. It also means that cards like Erebor Hammersmith that have effects that trigger when you play the card, putting them into play with Stand and Fight doesn’t trigger the ability.
Gimli’s attack bonus scales with the amount of damage he can take. Each Citadel Plate then increases his maximum attack by 4. Two Citadel Plates increases his hit points to 13. At 12 damage, he has 14 attack power! This can help tremendously against the Hill Troll and other beefy enemies in the Core Set. Once he takes 9 damage, Gimli has 11 attack. That is enough for him to kill the Hill Troll in one shot considering its 2 defense and 9 hit points. One Citadel Plate and he can even take an attack from the troll without dying in the process.
This is similar to the Sneak Attack + Gandalf combo. You don’t get a bevy of additional options like Gandalf. You do get to use Beorn’s strong combat stats for the entire phase. He has hero level defense and more hit points than any hero other than his own hero version. He can block and most likely survive to return to your hand. If you don’t need him to block, you can activate his action ability to attack for 8. Then you can return him to your hand thanks to the resolution of Sneak Attack and Beorn’s ability both of occurring at the end of the phase. When effects would occur simultaneously, the first player gets to choose the order of resolution per FAQ 1.02.
This isn’t a combo in the classic sense since the player can’t control when Eastern crows will show up. This is more of scenario tech. FFG clarified in the first FAQ that Thalin’s ability triggers before Surge and any when revealed effects of enemies:
Thalin CORE 6 When an enemy card is revealed from the encounter deck, Thalin’s ability resolves before any keyword or “When Revealed” card effects on the encounter card
LOTR LCG FAQ 1.1
This means his ability kills the crows and surge doesn’t get a chance to trigger and reveal an additional encounter card.
A core set combo with Thalin worth mentioning is Gondorian Spearman. If an enemy has 2 hit points Thalin will damage them for 1. Then Gondorian Spearman can block that enemy and kill it with its direct damage ability before step 6.3 when it would deal damage to the spearman.
The main drawback to Forest Snare is you usually have to take an attack from an enemy before you can play it on them. This is because it can attachments can only be played during the Planning phase. Engagement happens a few phases later in the turn. Players then have to engage the enemy during the engagement phase, endure the attack in the following phase., and finally next turn can snare the enemy.
Son of Arnor fixes all of that. He lets the player engage an enemy when he enters play. Note this doesn’t have to be in the staging area. It can be an enemy engaged with another player. Still to avoid an attack ideally you’re pulling an enemy down during planning to immediately put Forest Snare on it. You can do this even more cheaply with Sneak Attack to put the Son of Arnor into play, engage an enemy, and then snare it.
This is fantastic tech for Journey Along the Anduin for the Hill Troll. The troll’s 6 will outright kill most heroes in the core set even without shadows. Chump blocking with an ally isn’t ideal since any excess damage becomes threat. Staying low on threat, then using Son of Arnor to engage the troll and snare it avoids any threat gain or potentially dead heroes. The Troll then can be dealt with over several turns as the player builds up their board state. The player(s) can basically choose when to advance to Stage 2 when they’re ready for it.
One of the more obvious combos in the core set. Aragorn can ready after questing by spending a resource. Theodred can give a questing hero a resource. You trigger Theodred’s response to give Aragorn a resource. Then use it for Aragorn’s response to ready him. It works since responses all happen at the same time. This then let’s the first player choose the order the responses occur. In solo that will always be the player controlling Aragorn and Theodred. In higher player counts, generally will happen this way since the game is cooperative. That is unless someone is trying to grief the other players and makes it so it doesn’t work by reordering the effects.
The most well known and arguably the most powerful core set combo. At the cost of 1 Leadership resource you can put Gandalf into play and trigger his response for 3 cards, 4 damage to an enemy, or reduce your threat by 5. This alone makes one of the best ways to get card draw, direct damage, or threat reduction in the game and especially in the core set
Card Draw Effect
Aside from Beravor and Gleowine, this combo provides the best one time card draw effect prior to Foundation of Stone’s Daeron’s Runes. The other options within the core set are relatively expensive or conditional. Lorien’s Wealth in Lore costs 3 to draw the same 3 cards. Gandalf’s Search also a Lore event costs at least 1, but no matter how much you spend you only draw 1 card. In the same Leadership sphere as Sneak Attack, there is Valiant Sacrifice. It is similar in cost but it only draws 2 cards and an ally has to leave play. While this condition makes it more difficult to play, it combos with Sneak Attack + Gandalf. It can be played when Gandalf returns to hand at the end of the phase for Sneak Attack.
The direct damage is an incredibly useful effect and the flexibility on the timing of playing Gandalf makes it more so. You can play the combo at the beginning of the quest phase to kill an enemy and then quest with Gandalf. You can also play them at the action window after staging to kill an enemy and reduce staging area threat. It is less efficient since you can’t commit Gandalf to the quest and use his willpower. Still it can mean the difference between questing successfully or not. Another good time to play it after staging is when you are short a few progress to clear an active location or quest stage. Finally, another great time to play this combo is the action window at the beginning of the combat phase. You can potentially kill an enemy so it doesn’t have to be defended, or at least get it down to where you can kill it that turn. This also works well with Gondorian Spearman. If Gandalf can get the enemy down to 1 hit point, then the Spearman’s ability will kill it before its attack resolves. On top of it all, Gandalf can bring his 4 defense or attack to bear against an enemy.
The threat reduction particularly is important as Leadership is easier to pair with other spheres thanks to the resource acceleration of Steward of Gondor. One Leadership resource for 5 threat reduction is much cheaper than the only other big threat reduction card in the core set, Galadhrim’s Greeting.