Bill the Pony

  • Card Talk Season 5 Episode 32
    • Video episode
    • Audio episode

The pack pony that can’t carry anything in the game.

Background

Bill was the only pony for sale in Bree after all the horses and ponies were let loose from The Prancing Pony’s stable. Barliman bought from Bill Ferny to replace Merry’s ponies and gave it to them as they left Bree. Sam well cared for Bill until he had to be let loose at the West gate of Moiria. After The One Ring’s destruction, Sam and Bill were reunited in Bree.

Card Theme

The cost reduction when Sam is in play is very thematic. Sam demonstrated significant feeling and concern for the poor pony. He insisted Bill continue on the journey with them as they left Rivendell. He did not want to leave Bill outside Moria pleading with Gandalf to take the pony with them. Returning to Bree, he expressed that he had worried about Bill many times since their parting at Moria what became of Bill.

The hit bonus Bill gives Hobbits is not very thematic. Most hit point bonuses in the game come from armor attachments like Citadel Plate, Ring Mail, Ancestral Armor, and more. These make sense in that they protect people effectively making them more durable in combat. Ent Draught is another attachment that gives hit points that makes sense considering it makes trees and people healthier and taller. In that line of thinking, Bill carrying the hobbits provisions heled keep them healthy. Still it feels like that is a stretch.

Another complaint about the card’s theme is that Bill can’t have attachments. He is used as a pack animal. He should be able to carry certain item attachments like Spare Hood and Cloak or Spare Pipe at least. Arguably he still shouldn’t be able to use them, but maybe having the ability to put item attachments facedown under his card to stow them. It could at least be useful for the hand size hate in Ringmaker. Seems like a wasted opportunity to make him more thematic and interesting of a card.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Hobbits

Hobbits often have less hit points that characters in other traits. This is most evident with the hobbit heroes that typically have 2 hit points. The only hobbit heroes with more are Sam, Tom Cotton, Fatty Bolger, and both Baggins sphere versions of Bilbo. Giving them more hit points increases their chances of survival particularly in quests with a lot of direct damage.

Fellowship

Bill qualifies as a unique character for the Fellowship contract. Getting one out for free with Sam in play can help it flip faster. This is very helpful considering it requires 9 unique characters in play. Then once it flips each character gets +1 willpower, attack, and defense. This can turn Bill into a very efficient 2 willpower and 2 attack ally. It is also one of the very few ways to buff him because of the “cannot have attachments” restriction.

Messenger of the King

Unfortunately this is a nonbo with Bill. Bill can’t have attachments and since Messenger of the King has to attach to make a unique character into a hero it won’t work on Bill.

Quest Specific

If you playing Hobbits in the Haradrim cycle or the LOTR Saga then Bill is great to have along. Many of the quests feature archery. Direct damage for several rounds combined with the low hit point pools of Hobbit heroes leaves little margin for error.

Ring Rating

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 Bill at 7 rings. He’s basically a Guard of the Citadel that is unique, with a significant drawback, a narrow conditional discount, and a tribal bonus. Unless you’re playing Hobbits and/or Sam Gamgee, there’s little reason to play Bill. It is very nice that the bonus helps offset one of the primary weaknesses of Hobbits.

  • Dave – 5
  • Grant – TBR
  • Ted – 5
  • Matt – 7
  • Micah – 4
  • Average 5.25

External Links

Sample Decks

Bond of Hobbitship by Dave Walsh

This is solo hobbit deck. There are no cards that are ranged (sorry Hobbit Archer) or sentinel. If you have never tried to play hobbits, this may be a great place to start.

The fun of this deck is that you aren’t necessarily looking for anything in particular in your opening hand to get the deck going. You may need something quest specific, but this deck really relies on the versatility of the hobbits to get you going.

Main Deck

Hero (4)
Frodo Baggins (Conflict at the Carrock)
Merry (The Black Riders)
Pippin (The Black Riders)
Sam Gamgee (The Black Riders)

Contract (0)
1x Bond of Friendship (The Fortress of Nurn)

Ally (20)
2x Bilbo Baggins (The Road Darkens)
2x Bill the Pony (The Black Riders)
2x Boromir (The Road Darkens)
2x Farmer Maggot (The Black Riders)
2x Gaffer Gamgee (Mount Gundabad)
2x Gandalf (Core Set)
2x Quickbeam (The Treason of Saruman)
2x Rosie Cotton (The Mountain of Fire)
2x Treebeard (The Antlered Crown)
2x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)

Attachment (18)
2x Boots from Erebor (Khazad-dûm)
2x Dagger of Westernesse (The Black Riders)
2x Fast Hitch (The Dead Marshes)
2x Hobbit Cloak (The Black Riders)
2x Red Book of Westmarch (The Land of Sorrow)
2x Ring Mail (The Long Dark)
2x Spare Pipe (The Land of Sorrow)
2x The Arkenstone (The Withered Heath)
2x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)

Event (12)
2x A Test of Will (Core Set)
2x Hasty Stroke (Core Set)
2x Peace, and Thought (Shadow and Flame)
2x Raise the Shire (The Mountain of Fire)
2x Sneak Attack (Core Set)
2x The Shirefolk (Mount Gundabad)

4 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to The Fortress of Nurn

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

The Revolving Door Fellowship by BGamerJoe

From the deck description:

The goal is to get to 9 characters as soon as possible, but you have to be careful to not include too many cheap and easy allies or you’ll be pretty disappointed with your final Fellowship when you arrive. Also, I found that playing a Fellowship deck can become boring later in the game if you get your nine in place. You continue to draw allies you can’t play and planning phases become non-existent in solo or very tedious in multiplayer. I tried to put together a deck where there’s a balance of allies that are easy to get into play quickly to get you closer to 9 and expensive heavy-hitters that make the Fellowship powerful when you get there. The other theme of the deck is flexibility. Gandalf, Ghan, and Folco all have ways to leave play and Timely Aid, Sneak Attack and A Very Good Tale all let you get characters into play outside the standard planning phase. This means that even after you reach the magic number of 9, you can continue to upgrade your fellowship as opportunity presents itself and you can also “patch up” your fellowship during the quest or combat phase if a quest effect takes out an ally and leaves you with less that 9 characters. I’ve found it entertaining to play in solo and multiplayer and the power level is high enough to complete a wide variety of quests.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Folco Boffin (The Dungeons of Cirith Gurat)
Frodo Baggins (A Shadow in the East)
Pippin (The Black Riders)

Contract (0)
1x Fellowship (A Shadow in the East)

Ally (28)
1x Bill the Pony (The Black Riders)
1x Ceorl (Temple of the Deceived)
1x Eldahir (The Thing in the Depths)
1x Faramir (Core Set)
1x Firyal (The Mûmakil)
2x Gaffer Gamgee (Mount Gundabad)
2x Gandalf (Core Set)
1x Gandalf (Over Hill and Under Hill)
1x Ghân-buri-Ghân (The Flame of the West)
1x Gildor Inglorion (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
1x Gimli (The Treason of Saruman)
2x Gléowine (Core Set)
1x Haldir of Lórien (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
3x Henamarth Riversong (Core Set)
3x Ioreth (A Storm on Cobas Haven)
1x Mablung (The Land of Shadow)
1x Merry (A Shadow in the East)
1x Quickbeam (The Treason of Saruman)
1x Rosie Cotton (The Mountain of Fire)
2x Treebeard (The Antlered Crown)

Attachment (5)
3x Resourceful (The Watcher in the Water)
1x The Arkenstone (The Withered Heath)
1x The One Ring (A Shadow in the East)

Event (18)
3x A Very Good Tale (Over Hill and Under Hill)
3x Drinking Song (Mount Gundabad)
3x Sneak Attack (Core Set)
1x The Free Peoples (Beneath the Sands)
3x The Master Ring (A Shadow in the East)
2x The Shirefolk (Mount Gundabad)
3x Timely Aid (The Redhorn Gate)

3 Heroes, 51 Cards
Cards up to A Shadow in the East

Sideboard

Attachment (3)
3x Elf-stone (The Black Riders)

Event (6)
3x Daeron’s Runes (Foundations of Stone)
3x The Ruling Ring (A Shadow in the East)

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Reinforcements

  • Player Card Categories 
    • Mustering
    • Mono Sphere Required

It’s a double Sneak Attack!

Background

There is no flavor text to link the card to a specific event in the books. There are a few specific instances of reinforcements arriving it could relate to.

  1. The arrival of Dain and his dwarves from the Blue Hills to reinforce Thorin and his company at Erebor while besieged by the Men of Dale and Elves of Mirkwood.
  2. Gandalf, Erkenbrand, the Rohhrim they gathered, and the Hurons reinforcing Theoden at Helm’s Deep.
  3. The Rohirrim reinforcing Gondor at The Battle of Pelennor Fields.
  4. Also at The Battle of Pelennor Fields, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and the Gondor’s armies from the southern fiefdoms.

The art depicting Gondorian soliders is likely referring to the arrival of Aragorn with the southern fiefs’ armies.

Card Theme

Placing 2 allies into play definitely fits with more troops arriving to aid those already engaged in battle. Those troops leaving soon after seems a little of mismatch. More likely in a battle reinforcements would relieve the battle weary troops that they could fall back, rest, and rejoin the battle later. If the mechanism allowed returned any 2 allies controlled by the player that would be more thematic, but also incredibly more powerful.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Allies with Enters Play or Leaves Play Abilities

There are many allies with abilities that trigger when they enter and/or leave play. The effects they can provide encompasses just about anything a player could want to trigger. The Core Set gave players card draw, condition removal, direct location progress, direct damage, enemy engagement, direct damage, and threat reduction all as enters play abilities. It expanded over the years to include action advantage, card search, resource smoothing, resource acceleration, discard recursion, card search, encounter control, defense reduction, engagement control, and healing.

What sets this card apart from Sneak Attack is twofold. It brings in 2 allies and they don’t have to be from the same player. This can lead to some great coordinated effects. Meneldor and Woodland Courier can be used to explore a 5 quest point location. Marksman of Lorien can lower an enemy’s defense to improve the effectiveness can Knight of Minas Tirith‘s engage and attack ability. Mablung or Son of Arnor can pull down an extra enemy for Sarn Ford Sentry‘s card draw.

I’d be remiss without mentioning Core Set Gandalf because Reinforcements a double Sneak Attack, and Gandalf + Sneak Attack cemented Sneak Attack as a Leadership staple. Reinforcements + Gandalf alone isn’t quite the value that Sneak Attack is. Three Leadership resources to draw 3 cards, lower threat by 5, or deal 4 direct damage to an enemy and use Gandalf’s 4 willpower, attack, or defense for a phase still isn’t bad. For example, the threat reduction is on par with Favor of the Valar and only 1 less for Galadhrim’s Greeting. It is just not as great of value as the one cost Sneak Attack. The real value of Reinforcements + Gandalf is when played with Galadhrim Weaver.

Discard Recursion

Galadhrim Weaver easily enables recurring Reinforcements turn after turn. A player only needs to make sure to have 2 copies of Reinforcements. After playing the first one, play the second with Galadhrim Weaver to shuffle the first one back into the deck. It becomes more reliable as a player draws out their deck or if Galadhrim Minstrel is used to search the top 5 for the shuffled in copy. Tome of Atanatar is another option that is in sphere with Reinforcements. It is not quite as easy to get Reinforcements to recur endlessly since Second Breakfast is needed to get Tome to put Reinforcements back into the deck more than 3 times each game.

Triggered Abilities by Characters Entering or Leaving Play

Aside from the effects you can get back by putting 2 allies into play, there are some cards that trigger effects when one enters or leaves play. Valiant Sacrifice is one of the few options for card draw in Leadership. Tactics Eomer, Leadership Prince Imrahil, and Gwaihir heroes all benefit from Reinforcements being played to activate their attack boosting or readying effects. Eagles of the Misty Mountains like Eomer can gains additional combat power although getting the ally back to hand can be better in many situations. Defender of the Naith with its readying works well if a player plays Reinforcements during combat preferably after it had defended once.

A Very Good Tale

This card can basically have Reinforcements give a player 2 allies that will stick around longer than a phase. A player only needs to exhaust the 2 allies from Reinforcements for A Very Good Tale’s action. The player can use high cost allies and potentially get high cost allies because Reinforcements will put any 2 into play for 3 resources.

Readying

Using 2 high cost powerful allies for 1 phase is a pretty good deal. Using 2 high cost powerful allies twice in a round is even better. Narya can ready both allies put into play and boost their combat stats. Strength of Arms also can be a good possibility considering its 2 cost and also requires 3 Leadership heroes. Grim Resolve and The Free Peoples could also ready both allies, but are very expensive and unlikely to be played with a 3 cost event.

Nonbo – Play or Play from Hand

One distinction to watch for in the ability text of card is when it says “play” or “play from hand”. These will only trigger if player paid the card’s resource cost to play it from their hand. Putting the card into play which the rules considers different won’t trigger these abilities.

Nonbo – Ents

All the Ents enter play exhausted. Putting them into play means they can’t be used for anything besides as targets for direct damage effects. Quickbeam is the notable exception since he can be readied at the cost of 1 damage on himself.

Ring Rating

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 Reinforcements at 5 rings. It can be very powerful when a deck is built around it. I’ve played some decks that recur it several times. They’re fun toolbox decks that can find an answer to what many quests throw at them. The 3 cost of the event itself often means that decks that focus on playing it don’t build up much of a board state without some resource acceleration.

The 3 cost and restriction that 3 heroes pay for it means it can’t just be slotted into any deck. While Sneak Attack can put a single ally into play for a single Leadership resource. This is much easier to include in a deck even if there is minimal Leadership resources.

Still it is a very multiplayer friendly card because the effect is not limited to the controlling player. Players that coordinate their decks in a fellowship can make the best use of this. Particularly with many running the non-unique Silvans and/or Eagles to double up on their enter play effects.

  • Joe – 7
  • Dave – 6
  • Grant – TBR
  • Ted – 3
  • Matt – 5
  • Average – 5.25

External Links

Sample Decks

Cirdan’s Support Group by The Purple Wizard

A multiplayer support deck that uses Reinforcements to put Beorn ally, Core Set Gandalf, Leadership Faramir ally, or Elrond ally into play wherever they’re needed.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Balin (On the Doorstep)
Círdan the Shipwright (The Grey Havens)
Théodred (Core Set)

Ally (15)
2x Beorn (Core Set)
2x Elrond (The Road Darkens)
3x Errand-rider (Heirs of Númenor)
2x Faramir (Core Set)
3x Gandalf (Core Set)
1x Glorfindel (Flight of the Stormcaller)
2x Imladris Stargazer (Foundations of Stone)

Attachment (22)
1x Heir of Mardil (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
3x King Under the Mountain (On the Doorstep)
1x Magic Ring (The Crossings of Poros)
3x Narya (The Grey Havens)
3x Silver Harp (The Treachery of Rhudaur)
3x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)
2x Sword-thain (The Dread Realm)
3x Tome of Atanatar (The Blood of Gondor)
3x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)

Event (13)
3x A Test of Will (Core Set)
3x Reinforcements (The Treachery of Rhudaur)
1x Second Breakfast (Conflict at the Carrock)
3x Sneak Attack (Core Set)
3x We Are Not Idle (Shadow and Flame)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to The Crossings of Poros

Sideboard

Hero (1)
Erkenbrand (The Antlered Crown)

Ally (7)
2x Ceorl (Temple of the Deceived)
2x Háma (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Northern Tracker (Core Set)

Event (4)
3x Legacy of Númenor (The Voice of Isengard)
1x Will of the West (Core Set)

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

The Great Hunt

  • Cycle
    • Ered Mithren
  • Set
    • Fate of the Wilderland
  • Player Card Categories 
    • Mono Sphere Required

The Great Ship Killer!

Background

The picture of the White Hart and the flavor text refer to in The Hobbit when an deer knocks Bombur into the enchanted stream. Shortly after they hear a great hunt going on. Knowing Tolkien’s interest in Western and Northern European folklore, this is likely a reference to The Wild Hunt. The Wild Hunt is a type of mythological story common in Northern Europe with a hunting party comprised of Gods or supernatural beings.

The more direct reference is to the White Hart most notably appearing in Arthurian Legend. The Hart is hunted by King Arthur and his knights but has an uncanny ability to evade them.

The appearance of the White Hart, the implications of Mirkwood as a magical place with the enchanted stream, and similarity in name are why I think Tolkien alludes to The Wild Hunt. It also fits with his interest in mythology and attempting to create a mythological stories with The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings.

Card Theme

The effect of destroying a non-unique enemy matches the idea of a great hunt that would culminate in the death of the pursued creature. It doesn’t match the passing reference to the possibility of a great hunt proposed by Bilbo and the Dwarves in The Hobbit. Especially as they do not kill the deer and the White Hart also has a great ability to elude hunters in legend.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Resource Smoothing

The nice part about this card compared to previous cards that require mono-sphere is it doesn’t require the printed resource icon on each hero like Strength of Arms or Advanced Warning. Song of Wisdom or A Good Harvest can make it possible to play The Great Hunt. Any heroes or unique allies with Messenger of the King that also have a Lore hero version with Thorongil can pay for The Great Hunt. Galadriel and Aragorn can also gain Lore through Nenya and Ring of Barahir. This makes it a bit more flexible than the Against the Shadow cycle mono-sphere cards.

Cost Reduction

The drawback to this version of mono-sphere card, is the 3 resources have to be paid. All cost reduction cards then cannot combo or a nonbo with The Great Hunt. It is especially unfortunate for Hobbit decks considering A Good Meal and Leaf Brooch are great cost reduction options.

Low Threat Heroes and Engagement Control

The second reason that it unfortunate the Hobbit cost reduction is a nonbo is the advantage of putting The Great Hunt in a low starting threat deck. The Great Hunt can only target an enemy in the staging area, but it can only be played after engagements during the combat phase. Hobbit heroes in particular work well because they’re all fairly low starting threat. Folco Boffin that is a Lore hero helps keep them even lower since he can be 4 threat with 2 other Hobbit heroes. The Shirefolk is a great threat reduction card that lowers threat slightly more than Elrond’s Counsel and still costs 0. In other mono-Lore builds Woodmen’s Clearing or Lore Aragorn are going to be the best threat reduction options.

Lore isn’t limited to just threat reduction for controlling engagements. Advanced Warning was mentioned earlier that lets the player skip engagement checks for a phase. Lore also cards that increase engagement costs of enemies with Lore Pippin hero, Take No Notice, and Mablung ally.

Scroll of Isildur

Scroll of Isildur is the best combo with The Great Hunt. This allows players to possibly play each copy 3 times in a game. That is up 9 non-unique enemies just discarded from play. The recursion can be taken further with Erebor Hammersmith or Second Breakfast to bring Scroll of Isildur back from the discard pile. That is not far fetched considering how much card draw Lore has available between Drinking Song, Daeron’s Runes, Mithrandir’s Advice, Peace and Thought, Deep Knowledge and more.

Quest Specific

The game even since the beginning of the game has made strong non-unique enemies. Most notoriously is the Hill Troll players have in the staging area at the start of Journey Along the Anduin. The Great Hunt can get rid of it right away. Marsh Adder in the Wilderlands encounter set can also make an appearance in Journey and it is not easy to deal with its fairly high 7 hit points. Chieftain Ufthak similarly has tough defense and hit points compared to most other enemies in the core set. Both are better to not engage as each attack they make increases a player’s threat or their attack. Most surprising, however, is that the Nazgul of Dol Guldur in Escape from Dol Guldur is not unique and vulnerable to The Great Hunt. Discarding it and not risking having to discard an ally due its second forced effect is a great value.

Another good target for The Great Hunt are Mumaks. They’re often not unique but very strong with a lot of hit points. On top of that they have a limit on how much damage they can take each round. The Great Hunt bypasses that limitation and gets rid of the Mumak in a single round!

Intruders in Chetwood in the Angmar Awakened cycle sets up using The Great Hunt very well. First of all the quest, makes it so there are no engagement checks perfect for setting up targets. Second, the quest starts with an Orc War Party in play. It is a strong enemy that prevents enemies in the staging are from taking damage and the players from winning the game. There is also another strong orc enemy, Angmar Captain that is better to not to engage if at all possible. It’s forced effect can make it attack twice in a single combat with its 5 attack! Both enemies have 3 threat which is not easy to just quest over. Reducing staging area threat by 3 is going to help questing more than playing most allies since few have 3 or more willpower.

The best value for The Great Hunt is discarding ship enemies. This is because many of them have the Boarding keyword. Boarding X says, “When a ship-enemy with the Boarding keyword engages a player from the staging area, reveal the top X cards from the Corsair Deck and put the revealed enemies into play, engaged with that player.” Discarding a ship enemy then not only gets rid of 1 enemy engagement, but often times 2, 3, or even 4 enemy engagements. Ship enemies only appear in Voyage Across Belegaer, Flight of the Stormcaller, A Storm on Cobas Haven, A City of Corsairs, and The Hunt for the Dreadnaught. In those 5 scenarios, it can do a lot of work.

Ring Rating

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 The Great Hunt at 5 rings. The effect can be incredibly powerful. In some scenarios, it can make them much, much easier. The core set offers the earliest examples of this with advancement of quest prevented by Hill Troll in Joureny Along the Anduin and the Nazgul in Escape from Dol Guldur. Normal strategy would be to build up to deal those enemies in combat. The Great Hunt offers an alternative. There are a couple scenarios like Intruders in Chetwood and Dungeons of Cirith Gurat where enemies don’t make engagement checks and having other ways to get them out of play is very useful. Lastly, getting rid of ship enemies with Boarding is just amazing value.

That all said, the requirement to pay for The Great Hunt from 3 different heroes resource pools is limiting. It doesn’t necessarily require 3 Lore heroes to play since resource smoothing does work to fulfil the requirement. It does mean it can’t be played in a Grey Wanderer deck and cost reduction is not an option. The cost reduction nonbo is an issue for mono-Lore. Lore doesn’t have much resource acceleration available unless playing secrecy for Resourceful and/or Grima. Outside mono-Lore then there is a bit of additional setup required with the smoothing to be able to play it. It also is just an event. Even if Lore has a ways to recur it a substantial number of times. It will discard one enemy per turn. A strong attacker with a few attachments could achieve the same effect without the 3 resources per turn cost.

I’ve found it to be a good effective card for solo or multiplayer. It just doesn’t see widespread play because of the cost and requirement to pay the cost from 3 different heroes resource pools.

  • Dave – 3
  • Grant – 5
  • Ted – TBR
  • Matt – 5
  • Average – 4.33

External Links

Sample Decks

Victory via a Burglary Side Quest by Matt Kell aka kattattack22

Questing deck for multiplayer leveraging the willpower boosting on Treebeard, Thurindir, and Rossiel in early to mid game. While also providing some encounter control with victory display events.

Burglar’s Turn provides some strong attachments to further boost willpower and comabt ability. Many can be easily passed out to other players.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Rossiel (Escape from Mount Gram)
Thurindir (Race Across Harad)
Treebeard (The Treason of Saruman)

Contract (0)
1x The Burglar’s Turn (Wrath and Ruin)

Ally (28)
3x East Road Ranger (The Wastes of Eriador)
2x Firyal (The Mûmakil)
2x Ghân-buri-Ghân (The Flame of the West)
2x Gléowine (Core Set)
2x Henamarth Riversong (Core Set)
2x Mablung (The Land of Shadow)
3x Mirkwood Explorer (The Thing in the Depths)
2x Mirkwood Hunter (The Ghost of Framsburg)
2x Quickbeam (The Treason of Saruman)
2x Robin Smallburrow (The Drowned Ruins)
3x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)
3x Wellinghall Preserver (Across the Ettenmoors)

Event (21)
3x Gildor’s Counsel (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
3x Leave No Trace (Escape from Mount Gram)
3x None Return (Across the Ettenmoors)
3x Out of the Wild (Road to Rivendell)
3x The Door is Closed! (The Treachery of Rhudaur)
3x The Great Hunt (The Fate of Wilderland)
3x The Hidden Way (The Withered Heath)

Player Side Quest (3)
1x Explore Secret Ways (Race Across Harad)
1x Gather Information (The Lost Realm)
1x Scout Ahead (The Wastes of Eriador)

3 Heroes, 52 Cards
Cards up to Wrath and Ruin

Sideboard

Attachment (14)
1x A Burning Brand (Conflict at the Carrock)
1x Celebrían’s Stone (Core Set)
1x Durin’s Axe (Wrath and Ruin)
1x Elven Mail (The Three Trials)
1x Ent Draught (The Treason of Saruman)
1x Glamdring (Roam Across Rhovanion)
1x Magic Ring (The Crossings of Poros)
1x Mirkwood Long-knife (The Sands of Harad)
1x Mithril Shirt (The Fate of Wilderland)
1x Necklace of Girion (The Wilds of Rhovanion)
1x Orcrist (Fire in the Night)
1x Ring of Barahir (The Steward’s Fear)
1x Stone of Elostirion (Under the Ash Mountains)
1x The Arkenstone (The Withered Heath)

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

The Greatest Hunt by Seastan

A low threat mono-Lore deck dedicated to recurring The Great Hunt. Resource acceleration and card draw ensures it has everything to keep the recursion going. I’ve done something similar with Marcelf’s Love of Drinking Song sideboarding in The Great Hunt. It is highly effective.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Bilbo Baggins (The Hunt for Gollum)
Folco Boffin (The Dungeons of Cirith Gurat)
Pippin (The Black Riders)

Ally (16)
3x Erebor Hammersmith (Core Set)
2x Firyal (The Mûmakil)
1x Gaffer Gamgee (Mount Gundabad)
1x Gléowine (Core Set)
1x Guardian of Ithilien (The City of Corsairs)
1x Henamarth Riversong (Core Set)
1x Mablung (The Land of Shadow)
1x Quickbeam (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Robin Smallburrow (The Drowned Ruins)
1x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)
1x Wellinghall Preserver (Across the Ettenmoors)

Attachment (12)
3x Resourceful (The Watcher in the Water)
3x Scroll of Isildur (The Morgul Vale)
3x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)
3x Sword-thain (The Dread Realm)

Event (22)
3x A Good Harvest (The Steward’s Fear)
3x Bartering (The Wilds of Rhovanion)
3x Daeron’s Runes (Foundations of Stone)
3x Drinking Song (Mount Gundabad)
3x Mithrandir’s Advice (The Steward’s Fear)
3x The Great Hunt (The Fate of Wilderland)
3x The Shirefolk (Mount Gundabad)
1x Will of the West (Core Set)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to The Fate of Wilderland

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Gwaihir (Hero)

  • Player Card Categories 
    • Enters Play
    • Leaves Play

The art doesn’t show him with a tiny crown, but the card demonstrates why he deserves it.

Background

Gwaihir is the most prominent Eagle of the Misty Mountains which are the descendants of Manwe’s servants in the First and Second Ages, the Great Eagles. He is only one of three Eagles to be named in the trilogy along with Landroval and Meneldor. The first mention of Gwaihir is when Gandalf explains to Frodo how he was rescued from Orthanc. His second mention is in yet another Gandalf telling tale of his exploits this time to Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas. This one relating that Gwaihir carried him from the mountaintop where he slew the Balrog after being returned to life to Lothlorien and then did some scouting for him along the River Anduin. Gwaihir makes his third appearance as one of the three eagles to fly to Fields of Cormallen and eventually Mount Doom to rescue Sam and Frodo after The One Ring’s destruction.

Card Theme

The readying Gwaihir whenever an Eagle enters or leaves play as Gwaihir preparing to swoop down on some enemies right after another eagle gets out of the way. It could also show Gwaihir being a lead from the front type of leader to the Eagles. He’s not going to let them go in alone against the forces the Shadow. He’s going to be right there with them divebombing the orcs.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Eagle Allies

The more Eagle allies you or the other players run in your decks, the more times you can ready Gwahir. The primary ones for this are Eagle Emissary, Vassel of the Winglord, Wilyador, and Winged Guardian since they can discard themselves. This also synergizes well with returning Descendent of Thorondor and Meneldor to hand with Born Aloft, Meneldor’s Flight, or Flight of the Eagles to maximize their enter and leave play effects.

Put Ally into Play

Another way to ready Gwaihir is to just put the Eagle allies into play. Sneak Attack from the core set is the staple card of this effect. It works great for a combat phase ready especially if Gwaihir committed to the quest. The ally is put into play to ready Gwaihir and he’ll ready at the end of combat when the ally is returned. Horns! Horns! Horns! is a Doomed alternative, but then it shuffles the ally into the deck rather than returning it to the player’s hand. Gwaihir’s Debt offers an is in sphere option to ready him twice in combat. The requirement to have an Istari and Eagle in play can be a little restrictive unless using hero Radagast, Gandalf, or Saruman. It’s also not as consistent since it is from the top 5 of the deck.

More general ally mustering cards like A Very Good Tale, Send for Aid, Timely Aid, Vilya, and The Red Arrow can also help get another Eagle ally into play. Like Gwaihir’s Debt, they are not as reliable since it is possible to whiff if there isn’t one near the top of the deck.

Stand and Fight also offers a way to put an Eagle ally into play outside the planning phase. Akin to the ally mustering effects, the ally won’t necessarily leave play triggering another ready. It does have the added bonus of being able to bring back one of the self discarding Eagles.

Unrestricted Attachments

Gwaihir’s constant effect keeps him from readying in the refresh phase is drawback to offset his readying ability. Unexpected Courage can offset this drawback and help Gwaihir function in the mid to late game if the supply of Eagle allies runs short.

Gwaihir’s other constant effect that he can’t have restricted attachments and his biggest drawback compared to other Tactics heroes. Tactics has the most restricted attachments of any of the spheres and most are centered on making characters better in combat. Gwaihir has a strong attack with decent defense and hit points, but he is prohibited from many of the best attachments to increase them. There are still a few options to help him be a better defender and attacker. Ent Draught, Self Preservation, and Lembas can give him some additional hit points and healing to help survive attacks with just his base defense. Dunedain Warning even with just one copy attached gets his defense up to 4 and on par with Beregond. Dunedain Mark gives a way to boost his attack further. He can even wield the Black Arrow to gain +5 for a single attack. He probably has to carry the arrow in his talons and just release it at target during a swoop down to “launch” it, but it could work. These few options, however, aren’t the best way to boost his attack and defense.

Support of the Eagles

Support of the Eagles is the best unrestricted attachment for Gwaihir. It is in-sphere. The bonus it gives is based on an Eagle ally’s stats so it synergizes already running many Eagle allies. The bonus lasts until the end of the phase meaning it can be exhausted at the beginning of combat to get a boost from Vassel of the Winglord, Wilyador, or Winged Guardian. Those allies can be used then to block or attack. Timed just right, this can give let Gwaihir defend and attack several times in a single combat phase. For example, Gwaihir could defend an enemy, then Winged Guardian defends another, the Guardian leaves play, Gwaihir readies, Gwaihir attacks an enemy, Vassel of the Winglord attacks another enemy, Vassel is discarded, Gwaihir readies, and is ready to attack another enemy. Even if there isn’t another enemy engaged with the Gwaihir player, he has ranged to attack across the table.

Ring Rating

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’m going to rate Gwaihir at 4 rings. My initial rating for him was 5 because he’s a better multiplayer hero. I have played him solo and he is fine with enough Eagle allies and at least one Unexpected Courage that he can consistently ready at least once a turn. He is a hero you really need to build around. It effectively limits him to Eagle decks which tend to be low on willpower and combat oriented. In true solo, where the deck needs to handle all aspects of the quest can be too limiting. That he has both Ranged and Sentinel reinforces that he is stronger in a multiplayer setting. In multiplayer especially if another player also has Eagle allies, he can be incredibly good.

What pushed him into a 4 for me is the fun factor. He introduces a lot of interesting timing decisions to the Eagle archetype. Smart play with cards like Sneak Attack and Gwaihir’s Debt can make Gwaihir play like pre-errata Tactics Boromir. This really makes Eagles play a bit more like Silvans with the Eagles swooping in and out of play. Late game with a built up Eagles of the Misty Mountains and a Support of the Eagles, Gwaihir can take some beefy enemies alone. He’s a really fun hero for fans of Eagles and those that want to capitalize on them leaving play besides just with Eagles of the Misty Mountains.

  • Dave – 3
  • Grant – 5
  • Ted – TBR
  • Matt – 4
  • Matthew Dempsey – 1

External Links

Sample Decks

Slippery… Eagles? by Dave Walsh

Eagle deck designed to benefit from them entering and leaving play with Gwaihir and Tactic Eomer. Leadership Frodo provides a way to ready Gwaihir if needed.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Éomer (The Voice of Isengard)
Frodo Baggins (A Shadow in the East)
Gwaihir (The Land of Sorrow)

Ally (18)
3x Descendant of Thorondor (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
3x Eagle Emissary (The Land of Sorrow)
3x Eagles of the Misty Mountains (Return to Mirkwood)
2x Meneldor (Roam Across Rhovanion)
2x Radagast (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
3x Vassal of the Windlord (The Dead Marshes)
2x Wilyador (The Land of Sorrow)

Attachment (18)
2x Gúthwinë (The Mountain of Fire)
2x Necklace of Girion (The Wilds of Rhovanion)
2x Rod of the Steward (Flight of the Stormcaller)
2x Rohan Warhorse (The Voice of Isengard)
3x Secret Vigil (The Lost Realm)
3x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)
1x Strength and Courage (The City of Ulfast)
2x Support of the Eagles (Return to Mirkwood)
1x The One Ring (A Shadow in the East)

Event (15)
3x Flight of the Eagles (Roam Across Rhovanion)
3x Meneldor’s Flight (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
3x Sneak Attack (Core Set)
3x The Eagles Are Coming! (The Hunt for Gollum)
3x Valiant Sacrifice (Core Set)

3 Heroes, 51 Cards
Cards up to The Land of Sorrow

Sideboard

Ally (3)
3x Eagle of the North (Roam Across Rhovanion)

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Rohan and Eagles Race Wainriders by Matt Kell

This deck uses ALEP’s Last Alliance contact and has a readying focus so that the heroes are available for the appropriate racing test in Challenge of the Wainriders. Westfold Horse-Breaker in particular is key. You can use the contract in order to get Gwaihir to ready along with Eowyn or Thengel. Once Light-footed Steed is on one of them, all the heroes can ready from the discard.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Éowyn (Core Set)
Gwaihir (The Land of Sorrow)
Thengel (ALeP – Children of Eorl)

Contract (0)
1x The Last Alliance (ALeP – Children of Eorl)

Ally (25)
3x Escort from Edoras (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
3x Gamling (The Land of Shadow)
1x Grimbold (The Flame of the West)
1x Meneldor (Roam Across Rhovanion)
2x Morwen Steelsheen (ALeP – Children of Eorl)
2x The Riddermark’s Finest (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
1x Théodwyn (ALeP – Children of Eorl)
3x Vassal of the Windlord (The Dead Marshes)
3x Westfold Horse-breaker (The Hunt for Gollum)
3x Wilyador (The Land of Sorrow)
3x Winged Guardian (The Hunt for Gollum)

Attachment (16)
3x Golden Shield (The Flame of the West)
3x Horn of the Mark (The City of Ulfast)
3x Light-footed Steed (ALeP – Children of Eorl)
2x Snowmane (The Land of Shadow)
3x Thrór’s Key (On the Doorstep)
2x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)

Event (9)
3x A Test of Will (Core Set)
3x Flight of the Eagles (Roam Across Rhovanion)
3x The Eagles Are Coming! (The Hunt for Gollum)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to ALeP – Children of Eorl

Sideboard

Hero (1)
Éowyn (The Flame of the West)

Ally (3)
3x Eagle of the North (Roam Across Rhovanion)

Attachment (6)
3x Ancient Mathom (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
3x Born Aloft (Conflict at the Carrock)

Event (3)
3x Ride to Ruin (The Hills of Emyn Muil)

Deck built on RingsDB.

Gwaihir Gets The Bling by bobbymcbobface

A deck designed solely to see how many useful attachments could put on Gwaihir.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Bilbo Baggins (Mount Gundabad)
Gwaihir (The Land of Sorrow)
Radagast (The Fate of Wilderland)

Ally (19)
3x Descendant of Thorondor (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
3x Eagles of the Misty Mountains (Return to Mirkwood)
2x Landroval (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
3x Meneldor (Roam Across Rhovanion)
2x Messenger Raven (The Fate of Wilderland)
3x Vassal of the Windlord (The Dead Marshes)
3x Winged Guardian (The Hunt for Gollum)

Attachment (21)
1x Black Arrow (On the Doorstep)
2x Fast Hitch (The Dead Marshes)
1x Magic Ring (The Crossings of Poros)
1x Mithril Shirt (The Fate of Wilderland)
2x Necklace of Girion (The Wilds of Rhovanion)
3x Radagast’s Staff (The Fate of Wilderland)
1x Song of Travel (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
2x Sting (Mount Gundabad)
2x Support of the Eagles (Return to Mirkwood)
1x The Arkenstone (The Withered Heath)
2x Wizard Pipe (The Road Darkens)
3x Woodmen’s Clearing (The Withered Heath)

Event (10)
3x Flight of the Eagles (Roam Across Rhovanion)
2x Gwaihir’s Debt (The Fate of Wilderland)
3x Meneldor’s Flight (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
2x The Eagles Are Coming! (The Hunt for Gollum)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to The Land of Sorrow

Sideboard

Ally (3)
3x Eagle of the North (Roam Across Rhovanion)

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Gleowine

  • Player Card Categories 
    • Card Draw
    • Rohan
    • Messenger of the King Heroes

Admit it, you cracked open the Core Set (or Revised Core Set) for the first time, saw Gleowine, laughed at the artwork, and immediately thought “surely this card can’t be very good.” However, as is the case with many things in life, one of the golden rules of The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is to not immediately judge a book, or card, by its cover. Or even first impressions. There are multiple facets to a review of Core Set cards that launched the game over 10 years ago including considerations such as its impact in the early card pool/quests as well as how the card ages as the card pool grew and matured. Gleowine is no exception, and many of these points, among others, will be examined in this review.

Background / Lore

Not much is known about Gleowine. He is only mentioned briefly in The Return of the King after the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. He was King Theoden of Rohan’s minstrel who accompanied him from Edoras to Gondor during the Ride of the Rohirrim to come to Gondor’s aid against the enemy. In the wake of the epic battle’s conclusion, Gleowine penned a song memorializing Theoden (which the flavor text of his card refers to). An interesting fact is that the name Gleowine means “music friend.”

Out of doubt, out of dark, to the day’s rising
he rode singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
Hope he rekindled, and in hope he ended;
over death, over dread, over doom lifted
out of loss, out of life, unto long glory.

– Gleowine, The Return of the King

Alternate Art (ill. unknown) Alternate Art (by Beorn)

Card Theme

While Gleowine the minstrel was not counted on to fight with the Rohirrim or lead the charge into battle, he would have provided support via his comforting and invigorating songs in the halls of Edoras or in the rear lines of battle, always near Theoden the king. This is reflected in his unimpressive stats yet very helpful ability.

Minstrel

When considering thematic uses for Gleowine, the best place to start is his traits. First, we’ll start with Minstrel. Interestingly, he is one of 2 cards in the game with the Minstrel trait. Any guesses who the other one is??? Rivendell Minstrel is…..somehow not traited Minstrel. That honor goes to the Galadhrim Minstrel. So if you’re hoping to build a deck using the Minstrel archetype, hate to burst your bubble.

Rohan

Gleowine’s Rohan trait, however, now there’s a well-developed archetype. So how well does Gleowine fit into a Rohan deck? Not amazing, surprisingly, for a couple of reasons. First, his sphere. As a Lore ally, he obviously will need a hero with the Lore resource icon. There is only one Lore Hero with the Rohan trait: Grima. This is actually not a bad hero to combo off of for Gleowine as long as you are prepared to offset the threat increase from Grima, since the cost of the extra cards Gleowine will draw you can be reduced by 1 once per round. The problem is Grima is better suited for Doomed decks, not Rohan. This leaves you needing to add a Lore resource icon to another Rohan character with cards like Song of Wisdom or A Good Harvest, or else using a non-Rohan Lore hero in your Rohan deck. Not terrible options, but this leads to the second drawback of Gleowine in a Rohan deck.

Rohan decks are built around the mechanic of discarding Rohan characters (i.e. allies) for various benefits such as attack boosts, willpower boosts, readying, etc. If you can get Gleowine into play in a Rohan deck, you can discard Eomund to ready Gleowine and draw a card more than once that round, which is great! If one of your heroes is Theoden, Gleowine only costs 1 when you play him, which again is fantastic and even thematic. The rub comes from the fact that Gleowine is a Rohan ally you want to keep in play as long as possible to get maximum card draw, which goes against the ally discard mechanic of the Rohan archetype. More on this later.

So to answer the question of how well Gleowine fits into a Rohan deck in one word: meh. He will help you draw your essential cards faster and can have his cost reduced to 1 by both Grima and Theoden, and several allies being discarded will allow you to ready him and draw you another card, but you also have to consider how you’re going to get him into play with the dearth of Lore Rohan heroes. And when he is in play drawing you cards, you aren’t going to want to discard him to trigger those beneficial Rohan boosts.

My final comment on theme is that I think the designers should have created a Spirit version of Gleowine later in the card pool as the archetype matured. Perhaps with a Quest Action where you could exhaust him to add +2 WP to a questing Rohan hero (+3 if that hero is Theoden or Eomer) or something like that. This would have been much more fitting thematically for the King’s minstrel.

Card Synergies and Interactions

General Deckbuilding

We’ve looked at Gleowine in a thematic Rohan deck, so now let’s give him a more holistic look when considering putting him in a deck. I’ll show my cards up front (pun intended) and say he is amazing! Card draw is a crucial component of deck building, for if you are top decking your way through a quest then you are likely going to lose. You need a way to get those key cards out as quickly as possible, and Gleowine will provide any deck consistent, repeatable card draw. For the cost of only 2 Lore resources, you get exactly that with this guy. The earlier in the game you can get him on the table, the greater ROI for those 2 resources and the better off you’ll be with more cards in your hand. If you already have card draw elsewhere in your deck such as Daeron’s Runes, Deep Knowledge, Beravor, etc., and you don’t draw Gleowine until the late-game, then he is probably a win-more card at that point.

Next, his stats. 1 WP, 0 attack, 0 defense, and 2 HP adds up to 3, which at face value appears to make Gleowine overcosted by 1 given the standard ally cost of Stat Total divided by 2 = Cost. His ability, though, is where he actually will provide a benefit over time. Think of it this way: if you consider 1 resource to draw one card as a standard cost throughout the game on various cards (Campfire Tales, Hidden Cache, etc.), then Gleowine nets you a benefit after drawing you only 2 cards. You can commit him to the quest in a pinch if you are desperate for more WP, but only do that as a last resort. His ability can often draw you the card you need that same round to quest successfully. For new players this could mean getting Radagast’s Cunning, Secret Paths, Sneak Attack or Gandalf in your hand before the quest phase, which can be more beneficial to you in the Quest phase than Gleowine’s 1 WP. Do not attempt to defend with him unless you are in dire need of a chump blocker, as his 0 defense and 2 HP will almost never survive any enemy attacks in this game.

One other consideration when including Gleowine in your decks is ally readying. This might not be a good first choice since the number of cards that ready allies is slim to none, but one such card is Grim Resolve, which new players will have access to right away in the Core Set. This will ready not just Gleowine to draw you another card, but every character on the table will gain action advantage that round. Other ally readying options include Brand Son of Bain, Narya attached to either Cirdan the Shipwright or Gandalf, The Free Peoples, Leather Boots, Spare Hood and Cloak, and Faramir. Most players find, though, that you don’t get too far beyond the Core set when you start some better card draw options (i.e. Ancient Mathom, Daeron’s Runes, Foe-Hammer, Deep Knowledge) to also include in their decks rather than looking for ways to ready Gleowine.

What I love about Gleowine is that there is literally not a single deck you wouldn’t want him in. His cost is low, Lore is a top notch sphere (rated the community’s favorite sphere in Card Talk’s 2021 Superlative February poll), every single deck will benefit from card draw, and one of the most amazing things about Gleowine is that he is equally as effective in solo and multiplayer!

Messenger of the King Contract

Here’s where things get even more bonkers. Let’s just say there is a reason Gleowine placed 4th out of 83 eligible targets for the contract in Vision of the Palantir’s December 2021 poll on best MotK heroes. Because Gleowine is a unique ally, he is an eligible target for the Messenger of the King contract. For those unfamiliar, this contract allows you to search your deck for a unique ally during Setup who then loses the ally card type and gains the hero card type. To determine that now-hero’s starting threat, you simply add up their total WP, attack, defense, and HP and that is their starting threat. They are now a hero and function in every way as one.

For Gleowine this means a few things. First, he is now a 3 threat Lore hero. That is among the lowest heroes in the game and tied with Smeagol. With so many good Secrecy cards being in the Lore sphere (e.g. Risk Some Light, Noiseless Movement, Out of the Wild, etc), being a 3 threat Lore hero helps with this plus he can help you draw those cards faster.

Second, as a Lore hero he allows you to deckbuild knowing you are going to be most likely drawing an extra card every round, which opens up your options (i.e. you can feel free to include less card draw when building your deck). Finally, he has a variety of readying options now! Unexpected Courage is the most obvious, but you can now include other readying cards such as Cram, Steed of the Mark, Westfold Horsebreaker, Lembas, Miruvor, etc. that can only ready heroes.

The final consideration of Gleowine as a MotK hero is that he is now a 3rd option to consider among card draw heroes, the other 2 being Beravor and Bilbo Baggins who are both also Lore heroes. I’ll briefly compare him with each. Beravor is no doubt a solid hero and is quite versatile with a balanced stat line and her Dunedain and Ranger traits. She can also target a player of your choice like Gleowine can, and provides 2 cards to his 1. However, she is a whopping 7 threat higher than Gleowine, and her ability was errata’d to “limit once per round.” You have no such restrictions with Gleowine. As for our old friend Bilbo Baggins, that 9 threat looks even worse than usual compared to Gleowine’s 3. They both have 1 WP and 2 HP, but because Bilbo has 1 attack and 2 defense where Gleowine has 0 for both, some players like to Voltron Bilbo with attachments. This is not advisable with Gleowine! Both draw you one card each round reliably, where Gleowine’s ability is an action and Bilbo’s is passive. Not a huge deal, but advantage Gleowine here as you can choose which player gets the extra card, whereas Bilbo is restricted to only granting that extra card to the first player and only in the resource phase, which can be a disadvantage in multiplayer. VERDICT: Gleowine is better than Bilbo and can often be better than Beravor, depending mostly on whether or not you want her traits or stats for the quest you’re building for.

Combos and Nonbos

Combos: Some of the best combos with Gleowine can be found in the Core Set/early card pool. He works perfectly with Eowyn by replacing the card you discard to use her ability each round. An even better combo is Eowyn + Stand and Fight + Gleowine where Gleowine draws you extra cards, and you can then select one from the glut of carts that is likely now in your hand to discard for her ability, and finally use Stand and Fight to put it into play using her resources. Another combo is Protector of Lorien + Gleowine for the same reason: he simply gives you consistent card draw to provide a glut of cards in your hand to use Protector of Lorien to great effect. Another card to combo with him is Daeron’s Runes. You have to discard a card from your hand after drawing 2 cards, and having Gleowine to provide that extra card draw gives you plenty of options (hopefully a duplicate unique).

Nonbos: As mentioned above, his ability allows him to still be helpful to a Rohan deck, but he is not helpful to the archetype’s mechanism of discarding Rohan allies to trigger boosts elsewhere because you don’t want to lose his card draw! Eomer, Lothiriel, Eothain, Ride to Ruin, and many others are great cards to include in a Rohan deck, but there are so many other cheap allies you can include to fuel these abilities that won’t negatively impact you like discarding Gleowine would.

Quest Specific

The only quests you definitely want to avoid bringing Gleowine along to are The Fords of Isen as well as The Dunland Trap, both from the Ringmaker Cycle. These quests contain the dreaded Dunland encounter sets that punish you for drawing cards and/or having a lot of cards in your hand.

Other Considerations

  • Ability Timing – Some encounter deck analysis will help you get an idea of whether or not you can use Gleowine to draw a card anytime you want, or if you need to be more careful on timing. Some classic early cycle examples of nasty cards that can quickly take out Gleowine if you aren’t careful are the Necromancer’s Reach and Dark and Dreadful treacheries. These cards deal 1 damage to each exhausted character, even if they’re exhausted for a different reason than being committed to the quest (Dark and Dreadful will kill Gleowine outright if the location is a Dark location). The key in these examples is to use Gleowine’s ability AFTER the quest phase. If you are playing a quest with encounter cards like these, a helpful suggestion is to use his ability during one of the Combat Phase action windows. This way you get the card draw right before he refreshes for the next round.
  • Solo or Multiplayer? – I already touched on this above, but Gleowine is amazing in both solo and multiplayer. In solo games he obviously only draws you a card as the only player, but in multiplayer you can decide who you want to draw the card and when. Some turns it could very well be you that you choose to draw a card for yourself, but it is always nice to give your fellow adventurers a hand and spread the card draw wealth when you can.

Ring Rating

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.

The beauty of Gleowine is in the card’s simplicity and versatility (notice I didn’t mention the artwork in there). It’s a simple action: “Exhaust Gleowine to choose a player. That player draws 1 card.” While new(er) players will likely include him in more decks than veteran players will, he is absolutely a card that has stood the test of time. His ability is consistent in that you can use it every single round. It’s repeatable because there are no restrictions on how many times per phase or round you can use it. He’s in a sphere that has many of the best cards in the game. He only costs 2 resources. He can go into literally any deck and be effective. He is as helpful to a solo player as he is in a multiplayer game. The addition of the Messenger of the King contract breathed new life into him and opened up many new and exciting deckbuilding options with him as a hero, to the point the community thinks of him as a top tier target for this contract. To me, the MotK factor boosts him from a good card to a great card. Will you include him in every deck? No. Should he be a consideration for including at least 1x when building a deck though? Absolutely!

  • Dave – 4
  • Grant – 3
  • Ted – 3
  • Matt – 2
  • Eric – 2
  • Average – 2.8

Sample Decks

Deck name and creator

“YOU get a card! And YOU get a card! And YOU get a card!” – stone_of_eric (me)

https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/26846/yougetacardandyougetacardandyougetacard-1.0

“Stealthlands” – jvader

https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/18426/stealthlands-1.0

“Love of Drinking Song” – Marcelf

https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/16418/loveofdrinkingsong-1.0

Erebor Hammersmith

  • Player Card Categories 
    • Discard Pile
    • Played from Hand
    • Recursion

Tremendous value for cost ally that is great to recur attachments.

Background

The Hammersmith is one of Durin’s folk or a Longbeard Dwarf. The Longbeards are the only Dwarves introduced in The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings although there are other clans of Dwarves descended from the original 7 fathers created by Aule. The Dwarves of Erebor originally came Khazad-Dum or Moiria after being driven out in the First Age. Erebor in the books is known for having been occupied by the Dragon Smaug during the Third Age not long prior to Sauron’s return.

Card Theme

Many attachments in the game are items. The Hammersmith then could be seen as repairing those items in the discard pile. Once repaired, it is then it can be used again in play. A similar logic seems to be applied to the Reforged card from the Vengeance of Mordor cycle. A thematic disconnect, however, is that neither card is limited to attachments with the Item or Artifact traits. They can bring back Titles like Steward of Gondor or Skills like Self Preservation.

There is also a nice tie in with the Dwarf Mining mechanism that discards cards from a player’s deck. even though it was not developed later cycles. The Erebor Hammersmith lets players dig in their discard pile for “treasure”. Akin to the mining effects dig through the deck for “treasure” like Hidden Cache.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Single Use Attachments

There are some very useful attachments that a player can play and then later discard for an effect. Erebor Hammersmith can get extra uses out of these cards. In the same sphere, there are several one time healing attachments such as Lembas, Athelas, and Healing Herbs. Lembas will even ready the hero it is attached to making it a favorite for defending heroes. Cram and Miruvor are other one time readying effects that are useful to recur. Thror’s Map is another good in sphere option that can let players avoid a travel effect.

A favorite of Pippin players are the Record attachments. These let you play an event from your discard pile then put it back on the bottom of the deck. Getting these attachments back can set up playing the same even at the same event several times over the course of the game. It then becomes feasible to get Gandalf’s ability nearly every turn by replaying Reinforcements and/or Sneak Attack. Risk Some Light in Lore is another popular event to play over and over to control the encounter deck. In true solo players, it can make the game significantly easier.

Attachments that can go on enemies, locations, or quest cards are also good targets, such as, Ancient Mathom, Ranger Provisions, The Long Defeat, or Secret Vigil. This is because they are discarded when the attached enemy, location, or quest card leaves play. Many have strong effects due to the additional requirement of exploring the location, completing the quest card, or defeating enemy it is attached to.

Traps

These are very similar to the single use attachments although typically these provide ongoing effects. Ambush is the exception since it is discarded to allow the player(s) to attack the enemy before defending. Once the enemy is defeated, Erebor Hammersmith can bring them back to be used again.

Discard Effects

There two forms of this. In the Core Set, there was only the discard from hand kind. Protector of Lorien and Eowyn in particular let you discard cards from your hand for a temporary stat boost. There was a little bit of synergy here as a player could discard an attachment and Erebor Hammersmith could get it back.

The other kind of discard effect has players discarding cards from the top their deck. This is often referred to as “mining” or “milling” (milling is the common term for this in Magic the Gathering) despite the designers calling it “delving” in an FFG livestream in early 2022. Mining effects work better with Erebor Hammersmith because the more that is discarded from the deck, the more options the Hammersmith has to put into your hand. The ability paired with mining then acts like card search and draw.

Dwarf Tribal

Dwarf allies have many ways they can become better. The primary one is Leadership Dain Ironfoot that boosts both willpower and attack of all Dwarves when he is ready. Hardy Leadership can give the Hammersmith and all other Dwarves +1 hit point. On top of those global boosts, there are attachments like Boots from Erebor, Ring Mail, and Armor of Erebor that can go on a Dwarf character. The Hammersmith’s 3 hit points lends itself to being built up into a secondary defender.

Put in Play Effects

Sneak Attack, Stand and Fight, A Very Good Tale, To me! O my kinsfolk!, and similar cards that put allies into play don’t trigger the Hammersmith’s ability. The response says, “After you play,” which is different from putting an ally into play per FAQ 1.16. Put into play effects then are a nonbo with the Erebor Hammersmith.

Quest Specific

There are many quests where the Hammersmith’s ability will be very helpful since effects that discard attachments or attachment hate is sprinkled throughout the game. There are a couple stand out quests where this can help more than others. The first is Foundations of Stone. There is a part of the quest where players have to discard all Item, Weapon, and Armor cards. That is going to be most attachments that players typically use and the Hammersmith can help get them back.

Journey Up the Anduin, The Withered Heath, and Roam Across the Rhovanion all feature Weighed Down that can destroy attachment heavy decks. It attaches a hero and forces the player to discard an attachment from that hero each time it readies. Erebor Hammersmith won’t get rid of Weighed Down. He can at least mitigate the damage by retrieving the most important attachment.

Lastly, Deadman’s Dike and Under the Ash Mountains discard cards from the top of a players deck. Players can leverage this with Hammersmith to pull out an important attachment if the encounter mines it from their deck for them.

Ring Rating

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 Erebor Hammersmith at a 2. He is tremendous value for stats. I’ve played him a bit more recently in the Revised Core Set campaign, and he is one of the few allies that can defend a 2 or 3 attack enemy and survive most of the time. On top of that, He is a Dwarf. Dain, Hardy Leadership, and Dwarf character attachments can all make him better. He is quite cheap at only 2 Lore resources. Lore doesn’t have much in sphere resource acceleration. This means that players typically have to play on the resource curve and load up on efficient allies.

On top of all this, he has an incredibly useful and versatile ability to return an attachment from the discard pile. This ability only got better with Dwarf Mining effects becoming more prevalent in the card pool. Attachments being discarded directly or indirectly by the encounter deck only gives it more opportunities to shine. If you’re playing Lore, Erebor Hammersmith is always near the top of the list to be included.

  • Dave – 3
  • Grant – 3
  • Ted – 3
  • Matt – 2
  • Average – 2.75

External Links

Sample Decks

Dwarf Swarm without Khazad Dum by kattattack22

Basic strategy is get 5 Dwarves down for resource acceleration and card draw. Legacy of Durin is good to get out early for more card draw. A Very Good Tale and Fili are your main enablers.

Sideboard is for tweaking the deck as this is a little light on allies than I’d like for A Very Good Tale. Also the Lure of Moiria and We Are Not Idle combo isn’t what it used to be.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Dáin Ironfoot (Return to Mirkwood)
Ori (Over Hill and Under Hill)
Thorin Oakenshield (Over Hill and Under Hill)

Ally (21)
2x Dori (Over Hill and Under Hill)
3x Erebor Hammersmith (Core Set)
2x Fili (Over Hill and Under Hill)
3x Gandalf (Core Set)
2x Glóin (On the Doorstep)
1x Kili (Over Hill and Under Hill)
3x Longbeard Elder (Foundations of Stone)
2x Longbeard Orc Slayer (Core Set)
3x Miner of the Iron Hills (Core Set)

Attachment (11)
1x Celebrían’s Stone (Core Set)
3x Cram (Over Hill and Under Hill)
2x Hardy Leadership (Shadow and Flame)
2x Legacy of Durin (The Watcher in the Water)
3x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)

Event (18)
3x A Very Good Tale (Over Hill and Under Hill)
3x Daeron’s Runes (Foundations of Stone)
3x Lure of Moria (Road to Rivendell)
3x Parting Gifts (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
3x Sneak Attack (Core Set)
3x We Are Not Idle (Shadow and Flame)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to On the Doorstep

Sideboard

Ally (7)
2x Bifur (On the Doorstep)
2x Bombur (Road to Rivendell)
1x Fili (Over Hill and Under Hill)
1x Kili (Over Hill and Under Hill)
1x Longbeard Orc Slayer (Core Set)

Attachment (1)
1x Legacy of Durin (The Watcher in the Water)

Event (6)
3x To me! O my kinsfolk! (On the Doorstep)
3x Valiant Sacrifice (Core Set)

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Pickaxes and Pipes (Dwarven Miners) by Mr. Underhill

A mining deck with many similar costed cards to increase chances of Zigil Miner gaining resources blindly.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Dáin Ironfoot (Return to Mirkwood)
Gandalf (The Road Darkens)
Nori (Over Hill and Under Hill)

Ally (24)
2x Arwen Undómiel (The Watcher in the Water)
3x Bilbo Baggins (The Road Darkens)
3x Blue Mountain Trader (The Dunland Trap)
3x Erebor Battle Master (The Long Dark)
2x Erebor Hammersmith (Core Set)
3x Ered Luin Miner (Temple of the Deceived)
2x Ered Nimrais Prospector (The Morgul Vale)
3x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)
3x Zigil Miner (Khazad-dûm)

Attachment (22)
2x A Burning Brand (Conflict at the Carrock)
3x Dwarf Pipe (The Mûmakil)
2x Dwarven Shield (The Sands of Harad)
3x Gandalf’s Staff (The Road Darkens)
1x Hardy Leadership (Shadow and Flame)
2x King Under the Mountain (On the Doorstep)
3x Narvi’s Belt (Khazad-dûm)
3x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)
3x Wizard Pipe (The Road Darkens)

Event (4)
3x Hidden Cache (The Morgul Vale)
1x Will of the West (Core Set)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to The Mûmakil

Sideboard

Ally (3)
3x Miner of the Iron Hills (Core Set)

Event (4)
2x Smoke Rings (The Black Riders)
2x Untroubled by Darkness (Khazad-dûm)

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Barliman and Robin by Marcelf

Mono Lore Secrecy with significant resource acceleration and recursion to play efficient and big allies. End game is to replay Risk Some Light over and over.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Bilbo Baggins (The Hunt for Gollum)
Folco Boffin (The Dungeons of Cirith Gurat)
Pippin (The Black Riders)

Ally (17)
1x Barliman Butterbur (The Black Riders)
3x Erebor Hammersmith (Core Set)
1x Firyal (The Mûmakil)
1x Gaffer Gamgee (Mount Gundabad)
1x Gandalf (Over Hill and Under Hill)
1x Ghân-buri-Ghân (The Flame of the West)
1x Gildor Inglorion (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
1x Henamarth Riversong (Core Set)
3x Ithilien Lookout (The Dunland Trap)
1x Mablung (The Land of Shadow)
1x Quickbeam (The Treason of Saruman)
1x Robin Smallburrow (The Drowned Ruins)
1x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)

Attachment (13)
1x Fast Hitch (The Dead Marshes)
3x Love of Tales (The Long Dark)
3x Resourceful (The Watcher in the Water)
3x Scroll of Isildur (The Morgul Vale)
2x Sword-thain (The Dread Realm)
1x The One Ring (A Shadow in the East)

Event (20)
2x Bartering (The Wilds of Rhovanion)
3x Deep Knowledge (The Voice of Isengard)
3x Drinking Song (Mount Gundabad)
3x Mithrandir’s Advice (The Steward’s Fear)
2x Peace, and Thought (Shadow and Flame)
3x Risk Some Light (Shadow and Flame)
1x The Ruling Ring (A Shadow in the East)
3x The Shirefolk (Mount Gundabad)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to A Shadow in the East

Sideboard

Ally (7)
3x Loyal Hound (The Fate of Wilderland)
2x Mirkwood Explorer (The Thing in the Depths)
2x White Tower Watchman (The Drúadan Forest)

Event (2)
2x The Evening Star (The Grey Havens)

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Eleanor

Extra treachery cancelation hero that shines in multiplayer.

Background

Eleanor is a FFG created character with the Gondor and Noble traits. If the traits weren’t enough of a clue, her art shows her wearing a diadem. It even looks reminiscent of the Aragorn’s crown in Peter Jackson’s Return of the King.

Card Theme

Eleanor’s ability to cancel a treachery and reveal a new encounter card doesn’t match the abilities of most Gondorian heroes. Heirs of Numenor really started to establish the Gondor trait being linked to resources and resource acceleration with Leadership Borormir giving an attack bonus when he has a resource in his pool and Tactics Beregond discounting Armor and Weapon attachments. Other Gondor cards expanded on this theme with more resource acceleration like Wealth of Gondor, Mablung hero, Captain’s Wisdom and Leadership Denethor

.

Eleanor’s ability is similar to Lore Denethor‘s ability to look at the top card of the encounter deck and either put it on the top or bottom. There weren’t any more Gondor themed encounter control cards until the Gondorian Rangers and Traps in Against the Shadow and then it was limited to Lore. Eleanor’s ability is more aligned with the Spirit sphere’s encounter cancellation cards like A Test of Will and Hasty Stroke. I think this is largely a result of the initial design not being as centered around traits as what eventually developed in larger expansions.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Defense Bonus

Defense is Eleanor’s only stat besides hit points greater than 1. At 2, it is sufficient for the Core Set scenarios where many enemies have 2 attack and there is even 1 attack enemies. Gondorian Shield since it gives +2 defense to Gondorian heroes turns her into a decent defender. Blood of Numenor is a solid option in the Spirit sphere and works well with all the resource acceleration options for a Gondor deck. Eleanor’s low threat of 7 also makes it possible to pair it with Resourceful. Still even with these significant defense boosts, Eleanor’s 3 hit points keeps her from being a great primary defender.

Readying

Readying is good if a player wants to use Eleanor as a defender in addition to her ability. Unexpected Courage, of course is the quintessential readying card. Miruvor also is a decent option to ready Eleanor after using her ability. It can even add a resource to Eleanor for use with Blood of Numenor.

More Encounter Control

Eleanor can become an adequate defender, but it is really her ability that is most useful considering how much build up she needs. Utilizing it alongside more encounter control, can shut down the worst the encounter has to offer. This strategy is usually limited to multiplayer since it leaves little room in a deck for cards to aid in questing and combat. In Spirit, there’s A Test of Will and Hasty Stroke. A Watchful Peace can also control the encounters by recurring an innocuous locations. Lore, however, will need to be added for more direct encounter manipulation and cancelation. Lore Denethor, Risk Some Light, Out of the Wild, and Scout Ahead can either move or outright remove the worst cards from the encounter deck. Lore also has Leave No Trace and None Return like Out of the Wild that can add cards to the victory display but only after dealing with them at least once. This, however, opens the possibility of canceling another copy of that encounter card with The Door is Closed!

Quest Specific

Eleanor can be useful in many quests considering all of them have treacheries. The first two cycles more so than later cycles. Shadows of Mirkwood included many that dealt direct damage to heroes and allies that could lay waste to a players board state. Massing at Night in multiplayer especially at 3 and 4 players can be overwhelming. Roasted Slowly and Gollum’s Bite are outright hero killers.

The Darrowdelf cycle, however, it is almost a requirement to bring Test of Will. The Hazards of the Pit set that is part of many of the scenarios includes the notorious Sudden Pitfall that can easily take out a hero if there are no other questing characters to discard. Crumbling Ruin in the same set can also often result in the loss of an ally and even a hero if they don’t have an ally instead. Watchful Eyes also in one of the deluxe sets means many additional encounter cards or not being able to use a hero. Then there’s Road to Rivendell with not 1 but 2 terrible treacheries to watch out for. The infamous Sleeping Sentry that has ended many a game when A Test of Will is not available to cancel it. Then there’s Orc Ambush that as Ted pointed out in Superlative February covering the best and worst encounter cards not only can give bring a ton of enemies into play late game, but surges on top of it.

These cancel or lose type treacheries are part of why the first few cycles can be very “swingy” for new players. If you don’t see them in your game, the scenario can seem very easy. If you get one or two at the wrong time, it can be very difficult if they don’t end the game outright.

Ring Rating

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 Eleanor at 6 rings. I think she’s dropped off in importance as the card pool has grown and scenario design moved away from treacheries having such a large effects. In the first couple of cycles, I would have rated her a 3 especially in multiplayer. She doesn’t do a lot for a player turn to turn without significant investment in building her up. She’s got it covered, however, when you really need to cancel Massing at Night or Crumbling Ruins. The more players you add, the more likely that a treachery will show up to wreck havoc on the players. Later cycles treacheries are less prevalent and the effects are more manageable. Part of that is just having more options in deckbuilding. More allies have more than 1 hit point to absorb direct damage. Threat reduction options expanded even beyond Spirit. Lore encounter control options have grown in number. There are even more ways to return heroes to play.

  • Dave – 6
  • Grant – 5
  • Ted – TBR
  • Matt – 6
  • Average – 5.33

External Links

Sample Decks

The Nope Deck by Qwaz

This deck is entirely devoted to controlling the encounter deck. Eleanor cancels treacheries, Balin cancels shadows, and Damrod helps trap enemies. On top of that, victory display cards remove the nastier encounters.

The Nope Deck

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Balin (On the Doorstep)
Damrod (The Land of Shadow)
Eleanor (Core Set)

Ally (3)
3x Errand-rider (Heirs of Númenor)

Attachment (14)
3x Forest Snare (Core Set)
3x King Under the Mountain (On the Doorstep)
3x Ranger Spikes (Heirs of Númenor)
3x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)
2x Thrór’s Map (Over Hill and Under Hill)

Event (31)
3x A Test of Will (Core Set)
3x Daeron’s Runes (Foundations of Stone)
3x Deep Knowledge (The Voice of Isengard)
3x Gildor’s Counsel (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
3x Hasty Stroke (Core Set)
3x None Return (Across the Ettenmoors)
3x Out of the Wild (Road to Rivendell)
3x Power of Orthanc (The Voice of Isengard)
3x The Door is Closed! (The Treachery of Rhudaur)
3x We Are Not Idle (Shadow and Flame)
1x Will of the West (Core Set)

Player Side Quest (2)
1x Gather Information (The Lost Realm)
1x Scout Ahead (The Wastes of Eriador)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to The Land of Shadow

Sideboard

Ally (6)
3x Miner of the Iron Hills (Core Set)
3x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)

Attachment (13)
3x A Burning Brand (Conflict at the Carrock)
3x Entangling Nets (Temple of the Deceived)
3x Song of Wisdom (Conflict at the Carrock)
3x Thrór’s Key (On the Doorstep)
1x Thrór’s Map (Over Hill and Under Hill)

Event (9)
3x A Good Harvest (The Steward’s Fear)
3x Dwarven Tomb (Core Set)
3x Heed the Dream (Flight of the Stormcaller)

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Horseback Archer

Horseback Archer, a nostalgic core set card. Anyone who’s played the classic Tactics deck from the original core set has held this card in their hand. At the time it was somewhat of a special card as it was one of two ally cards including the “Ranged” keyword. Furthermore, it has a fair line of stats, as far as core set cards are concerned, and only cost 3 resources to put into play. Horseback Archer is also one of three Rohan allies in the core set, and one of three allies with the “Archer” trait. Add that to the cool artwork and Horseback Archer becomes an instant classic. Or does it? A quick show of hands, how many people still use Horseback Archer? As the game had aged, so had the meta and power creep. The question now becomes has Horseback Archer aged like fine wine, or like the ruins of Weathertop or the Dead Marshes? Let’s take a look, shall we?

Background / Lore

It is evident in the lore that horseback archers actually existed. The quote on the card references The Two Towers, specifically from “The Uruk-Hai” chapter. We all now the scene. Merry and Pippin are held captive by Uglúk and his band of Uruk-Hai near Fangorn while on their way to Isengard. They stop for camp, have a little “disagreement” with the orcs from Mordor, talk about what’s on the menu for dinner, and then next thing you know it they’re surrounded by the Rohirrim who could care less about Uruk dinner etiquette. Well, that’s how Peter Jackson told the story anyway. In the movie I don’t recall a single horseback archer in that scene. They are in the books, though. The book reads:

“A few of the riders appeared to be bowmen, skilled at shooting from a running horse. Riding swiftly into range they shot arrows at the Orcs that straggled behind, and several of them fell; then the riders wheeled away out of the range of the answering bows of their enemies, who shot wildly, not daring to halt.”

—The Two Towers

Here we get a glimpse of Rohirrim tactics demonstrated by the horseback archers. In their effectiveness they provided the shock value needed to allow Merry and Pippin escape. I’m sure Eomer slaying Uglúk helped too, but that will be for another review. In any case we get a strong sense of the important role of the horseback archer, both in the above quoted text and in the battle of Pelennor fields.

Card Theme

Horseback Archer fits quite nicely in some of the Rohan-themed battles in the game. For example, they would most certainly be thematic in “The Uruk-Hai” and “Battle of Pelennor Fields” quests where they are specifically mentioned in the book. The trouble may come if you’re trying to build around them. In which case you will be up against a challenge. First off, you are going to want to ensure you’re playing multiplayer to make use of Horseback Archer’s “Ranged” keyword which is strongly tied to their theme. Merry and Pippin would be excellent choices for heroes in the adjacent deck if playing a thematic multiplayer game. Unfortunately, Horseback Archer cannot wield any bow in the game which ends up being a thematic setback. Somehow they forgot how to use the “Bow of Yew” used by their ancestors I guess? It ends up being reasons like these that the use of Horseback Archer in thematic builds might be based on quest theme versus effectiveness. 

Now, that is not to say there aren’t any thematic options for Horseback Archer. You could really throw them in any Rohan deck with special consideration for multiplayer games. For this you’re going to want to include ***Theoden who allows Horseback Archer to enter at a reduced resource match. Playing him this way makes his cost palatable whereas the 3-cost is hard to justify at times. The goal here would be to put him into play solely for his Ranged keyword which could make quite a big impact in many scenarios. 

Speaking of the Ranged keyword, you could also make a thematic Ranged deck. There is something like 20 Ranged allies in the game across all four spheres. Luckily for Horseback Archer there are several Tactics heroes and allies with the same keyword which would make it a viable option in bigger multiplayer games. The Horseback Archer might be among the more expensive allies with the keyword but it also has good stats to trade off making. This makes him a good deal if you can afford it. Ideally, you are including several allies with Ranged along with several attachments which boost their attack. All of this could add up quickly if the players can control the board state for long enough. Just make sure there is a good questing deck along for the ride!

Card Synergies and Interactions

While thematic options are not too middle-earthshattering, how about general deckbuilding? Horseback Archer is a great addition to early deckbuilding where ranged and Tactics are needed. You could throw him in a lot of decks to achieve combat across the board. Full disclosure: we are going to have to get pretty creative and a bit silly to make him work well. The problem is his value decreases the farther you get into the game. Why? Because later on you get cards like ***Fornost Bowman and ***Marksman of Lorien who are both 3-cost allies with Ranged and perform other functions that often make a bigger difference AND have access to better attachments and synergies. Still, Horseback Archer has a solid 2 attack which is wonderful in the right situation. The only thing you would need to do is add to his attack somehow.

There are a few options to add to Horseback Archer’s combat effectiveness. When trying to recall attachment cards I was surprised to find there were no “attach to a character with ranged” cards that he was eligible to wield. Luckily there are still some good options that I will highlight below.

Spear of the Mark

Spear of the Mark is thematic option, just not in terms of what an “archer” might wield. It does increase his attack by +1 which would significantly increase his value. If you can find a way for him to attack the staging area that would be a +2 boost which ends up doubling his attack. ***Hands Upon he Bow and ***Ithilien pit could be extremely useful combos here as well.

War Axe

War Axe grants you a general increase of +1 attack and +2 with another restricted attachment. That’s potentially a +4 base ranged attack if you have a Spear of the Mark and attacking the staging area. Sure, it takes a few combos but I’d have to say it’s worth it!

Raiment of War

Not quite as powerful in terms of boosting attack but very powerful in boosting overall combat effectiveness. Raiment of War is sometimes a card just sitting in your hand if you already have one out. Attaching it to Horseback Archer would mean you give it the ability to perform a ranged attack better and give yourself the option to defend with 2 defense and 4 HP. Not bad! I would only consider this option if I were playing Spirit Theoden as 5 resources is spendy.

Hands Upon the Bow

No Ranged character is complete without it!

Other Obscene Combos

Keep in mind these are not the most ideal combos. With that being said we are here to have a bit of fun while this game destroys our morale and bank account! So why not have a bit of fun with it? And what better fun than going full Voltron with a Spear of the Mark, War Axe, ***Self Preservation, ***Spare Pipe, and ***Valiant Determination? Better yet, break out that ***Elf-friend and load him up with things like ***Bow of the Galadhrim, ***Rivendell Bow, and ***Rivendell Blade. Amplify this with ***Hands Upon the Bow! Let’s get Rhovanion Wild in here!

Quest Specific

There are not many specific quests that come to mind that Horseback Archer is a “must include” card. I think it really comes down to what your objective is. Multiplayer clearly poses the best scenario where he becomes viable. I personally only use him in Rohan or Ranged archetypes beyond my early days in the game. Let us not forget the thematic quests such as “The Uruk-Hai” and “The Battle of Pelennor Fields” which would make Horseback Archer quite appropriate to use, but still not necessarily a must.

Ring Rating

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 think Horseback Archer deserves a complex analysis for his ring rating. We have to consider the following variables: use for new players, multiplayer, Rohan decks, and general deckbuilding. 

  • I feel Horseback Archer is a solid option for new players and should be used as a decent attacker and emergency defender. He deserves a 3 for newer players (in part because of a lack of overall options). 
  • Multiplayer, especially a Ranged theme deck, is perhaps his best inclusion. He gets a 4 here for utility. 
  • For Rohan decks, Horseback Archer should really only be included if you need a Ranged or Tactics character, or need more allies in general. A 6 here.
  • For general deckbuilding, he gets a 9. Sorry bud, there are just too many better options. Thankfully for you there are worse options too!
  • This all averages out to a 5.5. If we round up we get a 6 which I feel is fair all things considered.
  • Dave – 10
  • Grant – 8
  • Ted – 9
  • Joe – 6
  • Average – 8.25

External Links

Sample Decks

Deck name and creator

short deck description

Core Gandalf

  • Player Card Categories 
    • Card Draw
    • Direct Damage
    • Threat Reduction
    • Enters Play

The most thematic Gandalf and so powerful that it’s a challenge to not include him in a deck.

Background

Gandalf is one of five Istari, Maiar emissaries in the form of old men, sent to Middle Earth by the Valar in the Third Age. They were sent to help the elves and men against Sauron. He traveled the Westlands extensively combing to know the men, elves, dwarves, and hobbits. In the books, he is the architect of the plan to burgle treasure from Smaug and eventually remove the dragon. He recruits Bilbo Baggins to be that burglar. Then it is in Lord of the Rings, Gandalf learns Biblo’s magic ring that he discovered during the adventure with Thorin’s company is The One Ring forged by Sauron. Gandalf is the one to advise Frodo to leave the Shire initiating the chain of events leading to the formation of the The Fellowship of the Ring, the ring’s destruction, and Sauron’s ultimate defeat.

Card Theme

The biggest thematic element is that Gandalf only remains in play for a round. Just like the books, Gandalf shows up, helps tremendously, and is gone again for a while. Just take The Hobbit for example, Gandalf mysteriously disappears right before Thorin’s Company is captured by trolls and reappears later to free them. He leaves them again later at the beginning of Mirkwood to deal with the Necromancer. Then rejoins the narrative after Smaug is defeated and the Dwarves, Men of Dale, and Elves of Mirkwood are having a stand off over the ownership of Erebor’s treasure.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Put into Play and Return Ally to Hand Effects

Sneak Attack + Gandalf, the core set combo that cemented Sneak Attack as a Leadership staple and delivers tremendous value. It is so good, I’ve written and Dave made a video about it before in the Core Set Combo series For the low, low cost of one Leadership resource the player can draw 3 cards, lower threat by 5, or deal 4 direct damage to an enemy. Additionally you get to use Gandalf’s 4 willpower, attack, or defense for a phase. The value is very apparent comparing the cost of card draw, threat reduction, and direct damage on other cards. For example, Galadhrim’s Greeting can reduce a single players threat by 6 for 3 cost. Sneak Attack and Gandalf can reduce threat by nearly the same amount for a third of the cost.

There are a few more cards that can let players put Gandalf into play temporarily much like Sneak Attack and get additional triggers of his enters play abilities. Horns! Horns! Horns! is arguably a Doomed version of Sneak Attack costing 2 threat instead of resource and shuffling the ally into the deck instead of returning it to hand. Still a great way to get Gandalf into play cheaply especially if using the threat reduction which then it becomes a net reduction of 3 threat and can use Gandalf for a phase. Reinforcements is a double sneak attack for decks with 3 Leadership heroes, A Good Harvest, or some other resource smoothing. Gwahir’s Debt is a little trickier since Gandalf would have to be in the top 5 cards, but still an option particularly in an Eagle deck giving it more potential uses. Lastly, Born Aloft while free, doesn’t put Gandalf into play. A player can use it on a full cost Gandalf, get to use him for nearly the entire round and then return to hand during the action window in the refresh phase.

Ally Readying

Gandalf’s limitation of being in play for 1 round often means players aren’t able to take advantage of his amazing stat line. Readying effects that target allies or characters fix that issue. The Core Set gave players using Leadership Ever Vigilant to ready a single ally and Grim Resolve to ready all characters. As the game progressed many single target and global readying effects have been added. Narya (attached to Cirdan in this case) is very powerful to use with allies that already have strong stats since it further boosts their attack and defense. Flame of Anor is limited to Istari, but can make for huge attack if a high cost card is mined from the player deck. Leadership Faramir hero like Narya offers a repeatable ally readying effect rather than rely on one time events.

Stand and Fight

Stand and Fight notoriously is not a combo or nonbo in card game parlance with Core Gandalf. The first FAQ clarified that Stand and Fight can only target allies that belong to a sphere. Neutral cards do not belong to any of the spheres and therefore Gandalf is not an eligible target.

Ring Rating

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 Core Set Gandalf at 1. His power is very apparent with 4s across all his stats which few heroes has equal printed values in either willpower, attack, and defense and only 1 surpasses in printed attack. On top of these amazing stats, he gives players 3 fantastic choices for an enters play effect. He’s neutral which means any deck can play him without having to plan in resource smoothing. Core Set Gandalf is what Magic the Gathering players would call a bomb card. He has such a big effect on the game that it change the course of it. It is a testament to that card that veterans often talk about getting tired of putting this version of Gandalf into decks. He’s so good there’s often no reason to not include him and became seen as a crutch in deck builing to the point veterans will avoid using him.

  • Dave – 2
  • Grant – 2
  • Ted – TBR
  • Matt – 1
  • Average – 1.67

External Links

Sample Decks

Play Gandalf Every Turn by Dale Stephenson

A combo deck that uses The Elvenking + Elf-friend + Bard Son of Brand to be able to play Gandalf every turn. Basically the player plays Gandalf and attaches Elf-friend to him. Later The Elvenking can return Gandalf to the player’s hand. Bard Son of Brand’s ability returns Elf-friend to the players hand. Steward of Gondor + Arwen or Steward + Necklace of Girion supplies the 6 resources to be able to play Gandalf and Elf-friend round after round.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Arwen Undómiel (The Dread Realm)
Bard son of Brand (The Wilds of Rhovanion)
Thranduil (Fire in the Night)

Ally (8)
1x Galion (Fire in the Night)
3x Gandalf (Core Set)
1x Henamarth Riversong (Core Set)
1x Legolas (The Treason of Saruman)
2x Marksman of Lórien (The Drowned Ruins)

Attachment (17)
2x Ancestral Armor (Roam Across Rhovanion)
1x Cloak of Lórien (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
1x Dúnedain Remedy (The Drowned Ruins)
3x Elf-friend (The Treachery of Rhudaur)
1x Mithril Shirt (The Fate of Wilderland)
1x Necklace of Girion (The Wilds of Rhovanion)
1x Self Preservation (Core Set)
2x Staff of Lebethron (The Land of Shadow)
3x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)
2x The Elvenking (Fire in the Night)

Event (25)
2x A Test of Will (Core Set)
3x Elf Guide (Mount Gundabad)
3x Elrond’s Counsel (The Watcher in the Water)
3x Elven-light (The Dread Realm)
3x Feigned Voices (The Three Trials)
3x Island Amid Perils (The Nîn-in-Eilph)
3x Reforged (The Fate of Wilderland)
3x Sneak Attack (Core Set)
2x The King’s Return (The Fate of Wilderland)

Player Side Quest (1)
1x Gather Information (The Lost Realm)

3 Heroes, 51 Cards
Cards up to The Fate of Wilderland

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Cirdan’s Solo Support Group by The Purple Wizard

This deck is designed to play Reinforcements multiple times through recycling the discard pile with Will of the West. It also features Cirdan and Narya to ready and boost the allies Reinforcements puts into play.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Balin (On the Doorstep)
Círdan the Shipwright (The Grey Havens)
Denethor (Flight of the Stormcaller)

Ally (18)
1x Arwen Undómiel (The Watcher in the Water)
1x Beorn (Core Set)
2x Elrond (The Road Darkens)
3x Envoy of Pelargir (Heirs of Númenor)
1x Erestor (The Long Dark)
3x Galadriel (The Road Darkens)
3x Gandalf (Core Set)
1x Gimli (The Treason of Saruman)
1x Glorfindel (Flight of the Stormcaller)
1x Orophin (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
1x Squire of the Citadel (The Blood of Gondor)

Attachment (20)
2x Armored Destrier (Temple of the Deceived)
3x Dúnedain Warning (Conflict at the Carrock)
3x King Under the Mountain (On the Doorstep)
3x Light of Valinor (Foundations of Stone)
3x Narya (The Grey Havens)
3x Silver Harp (The Treachery of Rhudaur)
3x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)

Event (12)
3x A Test of Will (Core Set)
1x Captain’s Wisdom (The Thing in the Depths)
3x Reinforcements (The Treachery of Rhudaur)
3x Sneak Attack (Core Set)
2x Will of the West (Core Set)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to Temple of the Deceived

Sideboard

Ally (3)
1x Beorn (Core Set)
2x Squire of the Citadel (The Blood of Gondor)

Attachment (4)
1x Magic Ring (The Crossings of Poros)
2x Tome of Atanatar (The Blood of Gondor)
1x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)

Event (4)
2x Legacy of Númenor (The Voice of Isengard)
1x Second Breakfast (Conflict at the Carrock)
1x Will of the West (Core Set)

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Citadel Plate

  • Player Card Categories 
    • Hit Point Bonus
    • Burglar Treasure

The best pure hit point boost.

Background

The only description of what the Guard of the Citadel is wearing describes their robe or tabard they and helmets.

The Guards of the gate were robed in black, and their helms were of strange shape, high-crowned, with long cheek-guards close-fitting to the face, and above the cheek-guards were set the white wings of sea-birds; but the helms gleamed with a flame of silver, for they were indeed wrought of mithril, heirlooms from the glory of old days. Upon the black surcoats were embroidered in white a tree blossoming like snow beneath a silver crown and many-pointed stars. This was the livery of the heirs of Elendil, and none wore it now in all Gondor, save the Guards of the Citadel before the Court of the Fountain where the White Tree once had grown.

J. R. R. Tolkien. The Lord of the Rings, Return of the King, Chapter 1: Minas Tirith

Assuming the Guards of the Citadel would wear plate armor isn’t a bad assumption. Particularly as the quoted passage notes the guard gets mithril helms handed down from their old glory days. Plate armor if well maintained could be passed down over the years as well.

Card Theme

The hit point bonus provided by the armor is a little bit of thematic miss. The defense stat prevents characters from taking damage to their hit points. Plate armor is designed to deflect slashes of swords and other bladed weapons to keep them from the wearer’s flesh. A defense bonus would seem more appropriate. Players can imagine that instead the armor allowing a character to survive more attacks because of the protection it provides is how it ties to the bonus hit points.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Gloin

Gloin has the biggest combo with Citadel Plate. More hit points means Gloin can take more damage and gain more resources in a single round. Additionally, the more hit points he has the bigger the attack he can take. Two Citadel Plates and he can take undefended attacks from many of the biggest boss enemies in the game. It is even possible to get Gloin to take all attacks undefended. Citadel Plates are key to that to have plenty of hit points to absorb many attacks. The second piece is to have enough repeatable healing. Warden of Healing boosted with Elrond hero can handle this once Gloin has a Lore resource icon via either Narvi’s Belt or Song of Wisdom. Then Gloin’s resources can be spent to ready Warden to heal each point of damage taken. Song of Mocking and/or Vigilant Guard allows damaged deal to another player’s hero(es) to Gloin.

Gimli

Gloin’s son has the most straightforward combo with Citadel Plate. His ability scales with the more hit points he has. Two Citadel Plates means his attack can get all the way up to 14 with 12 damage on him.

Defenders

Heroes with good defense can always benefit from additional hit points. Not quite as good as more defense as hit points are gone once damage is taken until a hero is healed. Still there are some heroes with good defense but not many hit points like Denethor, Amarthuil, and Fastred. An unfortunate strong shadow or chain of shadows could kill them.

More hit points is also helpful for Erkenbrand‘s ability to cancel shadows. More hit points increases the number of uses without needing healing. Beregond + Citadel Plate can also set up playing another expensive attachment like Ancestral Armor and Resourceful on another hero with his 2 cost discount.

Quest Specific

Quests with lots of Archery and other direct damage effects it is helpful to have more hit points to take the additional damage. This ensures the heroes can survive until they have healing on the board an/or a good action window. Watcher in the Water has many attacks from tentacles that can become undefended on a hero. The Against the Shadow, Haradhrim, and Vengeance of Mordor cycles have quite a bit of archery. The Lord of the Rings saga quests starting in Treason of Saruman features Archery quite heavily.

Ring Rating

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 Citadel Plate at 7 rings. Citadel Plate is the best pure hit point boost in the game. The others only add one or two hit points. It can take several attachments to equal the effect of one Citadel Plate. Bonus hit points aren’t quite as good as defense, but it can still be very useful particularly combined with healing. Then there is the Gloin Combo. You can build up Gloin to take several undefended attacks without Citadel Plate, but it gets so much better with Citadel Plates. Gloin can take huge attacks from bosses and all other enemies without much trouble and generate resources all the while. It takes a while to set up but very much worth it. As much fun as that combo is, Citadel Plate is very expensive for a stat that while essential isn’t as important to boost as the others. Defense and healing typically are better to build up to improve characters chances of survival since hit points don’t refresh on their own.

  • Dave – 8
  • Grant – 8
  • Ted – TBR
  • Matt – 7

External Links

Sample Decks

DúneGlóin by Seastan

A Gloin resource acceleration deck using his resources for Dunedain allies.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Elrond (Shadow and Flame)
Glóin (Core Set)
Mablung (The Nîn-in-Eilph)

Ally (20)
3x Dúnedain Hunter (The Lost Realm)
2x Dúnedain Watcher (The Dead Marshes)
2x Fornost Bowman (The Dread Realm)
2x Galadhrim Minstrel (Trouble in Tharbad)
3x Gandalf (Core Set)
3x Master of the Forge (Shadow and Flame)
2x Warden of Annúminas (The Lost Realm)
3x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)

Attachment (15)
3x Citadel Plate (Core Set)
3x Narvi’s Belt (Khazad-dûm)
3x Self Preservation (Core Set)
3x Song of Mocking (The Dead Marshes)
3x Song of Wisdom (Conflict at the Carrock)

Event (15)
3x A Good Harvest (The Steward’s Fear)
3x Daeron’s Runes (Foundations of Stone)
3x Deep Knowledge (The Voice of Isengard)
3x Peace, and Thought (Shadow and Flame)
3x Sneak Attack (Core Set)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to The Dread Realm

Sideboard

Ally (2)
1x Fornost Bowman (The Dread Realm)
1x Warden of Annúminas (The Lost Realm)

Attachment (3)
3x Boots from Erebor (Khazad-dûm)

Event (3)
3x We Are Not Idle (Shadow and Flame)

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.