Smoke and Think

  • Player Card Categories 
    • Cost Reduction

Background

Pipe-weed originally grew in Numenor. The Numenorians brought it to Middle Earth. It was the Hobbits though that domesticated and started smoking it in pipes. The practice spread via Bree because it was a crossroads town.

Card Theme

Many of the resource acceleration cards in the game represent Middle Earth’s material wealth. These include cards like Steward of Gondor, Zigil Miner, Traffic from Dale. Many of the cost reduction cards are thematically tied to knowledge and thought. Master of Lore and Erebor Toymaker are prime examples.

The Song attachments of To the Sea, To the Sea and O Lorien! also arguably can be tied to this theme. The record attachments since they reduce their own cost represent this as well.

It is also fun to think about the characters all being drawn together to sit around and smoke a pipe. Granted this card can help play other cards besides allies. The high cost unique allies like Gandalf and Gimli as we see them do so in the books.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Pipes

Obviously the more pipes you have the better this card is. Spare Pipe, Hobbit Pipe, and Dunedain Pipe all help draw Smoke and Think to get it into play. Wizard Pipe plus Gandalf hero has great synergy with Smoke and Think. The Wizard Pipe can set up Gandalf to play it from the top of the deck even if you don’t have a Spirit hero. Gandalf can also make use of the cost reduction in any phase with his ability which can be great to play some high cost yet powerful events like Galadhrim’s Greeting or Grim Resolve. Dwarf Pipe doesn’t have much synergy other than it being in the same sphere and keeping Smoke and Think in the deck if a mined away by a Zigil Miner or Spirit Dain.

High Cost allies

Once two or three pipes are play, Smoke and Think accelerate resources at rate similar to Steward of Gondor. Gandalf hero with his resource smoothing and strong stats works well with Hobbits, Dwarves, and/or Dunedain to make it possible to get 5 or 6 pipes in play that can make even the most expensive cards like Beorn ally and Brok Ironfist cost 0. This burst of resource acceleration is fantastic with high cost unique allies like Firyal, Jubayr, Legolas, or Treebeard. These allies have hero level stats and strong abilities that can make a huge difference if played early. Even a 2 or 3 cost discount can help to play them without having to save up for multiple turns.

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 Smoke and Think at 4 rings. It can have a pretty big effect. It takes a good amount of setup to get there however. It is also is limited because it is an event. Repeatable resource acceleration like Steward of Gondor, Zigil Miner, and O Lorien! will provide more value over the course of the game. If used to bring in a high cost yet strong ally like Treebread, Beorn, or Glorfindel then it is worth the effort. It can also be hard to count on with only 3 copies in the deck. Fortunately, card draw and search cards like Spare Pipe and Heed the Dream can help a player find it when they have a high cost card in hand.

  • Dave – 4
  • Grant – 2
  • Ted – 3
  • Matt – 4
  • Average – 3.25

Sample Decks

Smokin’ Sidequest Gandalf! by Matt Kell (kattattack22)

Pipe deck also featuring dwarf mining and side quests with underground location tech for Beneath the Sands.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Dáin Ironfoot (The Ghost of Framsburg)
Gandalf (The Road Darkens)
Thurindir (Race Across Harad)

Ally (13)
1x Bilbo Baggins (The Road Darkens)
2x Bombur (Road to Rivendell)
3x Ered Luin Miner (Temple of the Deceived)
1x Glorfindel (Flight of the Stormcaller)
3x Northern Tracker (Core Set)
3x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)

Attachment (23)
2x Dúnedain Pipe (The Black Serpent)
2x Dwarf Pipe (The Mûmakil)
3x Ever My Heart Rises (The Long Dark)
2x Gandalf’s Staff (The Road Darkens)
1x Narya (The Grey Havens)
2x Ring of Thrór (The Ghost of Framsburg)
2x Shadowfax (The Treason of Saruman)
1x Silver Lamp (The Voice of Isengard)
3x Spare Pipe (The Land of Sorrow)
3x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)
2x Wizard Pipe (The Road Darkens)

Event (15)
3x Hidden Cache (The Morgul Vale)
3x Old Toby (The Black Serpent)
3x Smoke and Think (The Land of Sorrow)
3x Smoke Rings (The Black Riders)
3x Will of the West (Core Set)

Player Side Quest (4)
1x Double Back (Escape from Mount Gram)
1x Gather Information (The Lost Realm)
1x Rally the West (The Black Serpent)
1x Scout Ahead (The Wastes of Eriador)

3 Heroes, 55 Cards
Cards up to The Land of Sorrow

Sideboard

Ally (9)
3x East Road Ranger (The Wastes of Eriador)
3x Ethir Swordsman (The Steward’s Fear)
3x Rhovanion Outrider (Temple of the Deceived)

Attachment (1)
1x Ring of Thrór (The Ghost of Framsburg)

Event (9)
3x The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core Set)
3x Well-Equipped (The Blood of Gondor)
3x Word of Command (The Long Dark)

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Master Baggins by TheChad

Hobbit Pipe deck that pumps out strong unique allies with Smoke and Think.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
(MotK) Bilbo Baggins (Messenger of the King Allies)
Frodo Baggins (Conflict at the Carrock)
Sam Gamgee (The Black Riders)

Contract (0)
1x Messenger of the King (The Land of Sorrow)

Ally (20)
1x Arwen Undómiel (The Watcher in the Water)
1x Bill the Pony (The Black Riders)
3x Celduin Traveler (The Nîn-in-Eilph)
1x Erebor Toymaker (Mount Gundabad)
1x Erestor (The Long Dark)
1x Faramir (Core Set)
3x Gandalf (Over Hill and Under Hill)
1x Gimli (The Treason of Saruman)
1x Glorfindel (Flight of the Stormcaller)
1x Jubayr (The Mûmakil)
1x Prince Imrahil (The Flame of the West)
1x Rosie Cotton (The Mountain of Fire)
1x Súlien (The City of Corsairs)
1x Treebeard (The Antlered Crown)
2x Wild Stallion (Roam Across Rhovanion)

Attachment (14)
1x Gandalf’s Staff (The Road Darkens)
3x Hobbit Pipe (The Black Riders)
2x Narya (The Grey Havens)
1x Red Book of Westmarch (The Land of Sorrow)
1x Resourceful (The Watcher in the Water)
2x Shadowfax (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Spare Pipe (The Land of Sorrow)
1x Wizard Pipe (The Road Darkens)

Event (17)
2x A Test of Will (Core Set)
2x Dwarven Tomb (Core Set)
1x Free to Choose (Trouble in Tharbad)
3x Smoke and Think (The Land of Sorrow)
2x Smoke Rings (The Black Riders)
3x The Shirefolk (Mount Gundabad)
3x Timely Aid (The Redhorn Gate)
1x To Arms! (The Wilds of Rhovanion)

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

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Spare Pipe

  • Player Card Categories 
    • Ally Attachment
    • Burglar Treasure
    • Card Search
    • Hit Point Bonus
    • Played from Hand

Fantastic card in the pipe deck, but otherwise just a filler.

Background

Pipe-weed originally grew in Numenor. The Numenorians brought it to Middle Earth. It was the Hobbits though that domesticated and started smoking it in pipes. The practice spread via Bree because it was a crossroads town.

Card Theme

The first part of the card is a huge thematic miss. While Tolkien indicated pipe-weed isn’t exactly tobacco it is related. The US Surgeon General has warned people for decades that smoking can lead to lung cancer. Gaining a hit point implying the character is healthier is completely backwards to what we know about smoking. The second part at least makes sense given Smoke Rings, Smoke and Think, and Old Toby are events. Once a character has a pipe, they’re going to want some leaf for it and start smoking it right away.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Smoke and Think

This is the card Spare Pipe was made for. It came in the same adventure pack. All the other pipes are trait restricted. Having a pipe for any character, in sphere, provides a universally good bonus, and helps you find Smoke and Think is everything a player wants to maximize the cost reduction. Between Hobbit Pipe, Wizard Pipe, Dunedain Pipe, and Dwarf Pipe that’s 12 cards to help maximize its effect. Fifteen cards adding in Spare Pipe. It can be difficult to fit four different traits into a single deck. Spare Pipe makes Smoke and Think possible to run in deck with just one of the associated traits. It is pretty efficient in one that can run 2.

A great example is a Dwarf Mining deck with Hero Gandalf. He already worked well with Dwarf mining decks. This is because Gandalf would let the player know at least of the cards to be minded. Then he can set up mining cards with Wizard Pipe. Dwarf Pipe being able to put one of those mined on the bottom of the deck fits right into this deck type too. Already that is 4-6 pipes in the deck to help get a decent cost reduction with Smoke and Think. Spare Pipe’s bonus hit point also won’t be amiss another great Dwarf Mining hero, Spirit Dain.

Hobbit Pipe

Spare Pipe enables the Hobbit Pipe threat reduction engine created by this card. Spare Pipe can help find a threat reduction event like the aforementioned Smoke Rings, Galadhrim’s Greeting, or The Shirefolk to draw additional cards. Smoke and Think added in gives it the additional resource acceleration component to play powerful allies like Glorfindel and Beorn to make up for their generally lower stats.

Old Toby

Old Toby like Smoke and Think became much better with Spare Pipe. It became a lot easier to have heal 1 damage on a wider range of heroes. Then to draw multiple cards. Especially at 2 cost it needs to draw 2 cards to have the same cost benefit as Lórien Wealth. It has to draw in the range of 4-6 cards to match the likes of Mithrandir’s Advice. It can however reach that level with some Spare Pipes among the other trait based ones.

Gloin

Gloin hero can turn into a monster resource engine and “defender” the more hit points he has. I say defender loosely in that usually he will be soaking undefended attacks. Spare Pipe provides another means of boosting those hit points besides the usual includes of Citadel Plate and Ent Draught. It can be a good early game option especially if paired with card draw events. Then it can help Gloin resource generation and near invincibility combos.

Dale

Spare Pipe could easily slot into a Dale deck. Dale is usually going to run some Spirit to utilize King of Dale. It doesn’t provide much for the Dale deck than an additional attachment for Guardian of Esgaroth. Many of the Dale allies have 2 or more hit points. Most Dale decks want to maximize the number of allies and attachments to draw cards from Brand son of Bain. There usually isn’t much room for events for Spare Pipe to pull out of the top 5.

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 Spare Pipe at 6 rings. It is a fine card. The +1 hit point is always useful. It is very flexible since it can go on any character. It likely will replace itself when played searching the top 5 cards for an event. It really enables the pipe engine with Hobbit Pipe and Smoke and Think. Outside of Pipe focused and maybe Gloin decks it is pretty marginal. Especially in Spirit that is overloaded with good cards.

  • Dave – 3
  • Grant – 3
  • Ted – 3
  • Matt – 6
  • Average – 3.75

Sample Decks

Deck Bond of Hobbitship by Dave Walsh

A Hobbit good stuff Bond of Friendship deck.

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.

Love of the Halfling’s Leaf by MrSpaceBear

Selection from the Ringsdb deck description:

This deck makes fantastic use of Smoke and Think along with the pipes for hobbits, dwarves, and wizards. In total, there are 7 pipes in the deck. The Spare Pipe can go on just about anyone, but Dáin Ironfoot is typically the first target for extra hit points. The pipes are all functional in this deck. Wizard Pipe is key to swap the top card that you want onto the top of your deck (to then Discard with Dáin Ironfoot, play with Gandalf’s ability, or mill with a Zigil Miner/Well-Equipped). The Hobbit Pipe helps to empower Smoke and Think as well as draw some cards when Smoke Rings is played later in the game. Dwarf Pipe is amazing in this deck. It should be churning through the deck quickly. Use the Dwarf Pipe to put the key pieces back on the bottom to find again. This can be key allies like Faramir in quests where high willpower is needed. It can be A Test of Will in multiplayer games where extra cancels may be needed. The Spare Pipe is a tutor for an event and helps to fuel Smoke and Think.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
(MotK) Bilbo Baggins (Messenger of the King Allies)
Dáin Ironfoot (The Ghost of Framsburg)
Gandalf (The Road Darkens)

Contract (0)
1x Messenger of the King (The Land of Sorrow)

Ally (19)
1x Arwen Undómiel (The Watcher in the Water)
3x Ered Luin Miner (Temple of the Deceived)
1x Faramir (Core Set)
1x Firyal (The Mûmakil)
1x Gimli (The Treason of Saruman)
1x Glorfindel (Flight of the Stormcaller)
1x Legolas (The Treason of Saruman)
2x Northern Tracker (Core Set)
3x Rhovanion Outrider (Temple of the Deceived)
1x Súlien (The City of Corsairs)
1x Thalion (Fire in the Night)
3x Zigil Miner (Khazad-dûm)

Attachment (18)
1x Ancestral Armor (Roam Across Rhovanion)
1x Armor of Erebor (Mount Gundabad)
3x Dwarf Pipe (The Mûmakil)
1x Expert Treasure-hunter (On the Doorstep)
1x Gandalf’s Staff (The Road Darkens)
1x Hobbit Pipe (The Black Riders)
1x Inner Strength (Wrath and Ruin)
1x Shadowfax (The Treason of Saruman)
2x Silver Circlet (Wrath and Ruin)
2x Spare Pipe (The Land of Sorrow)
3x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)
1x Wizard Pipe (The Road Darkens)

Event (18)
3x A Test of Will (Core Set)
3x Hidden Cache (The Morgul Vale)
3x Old Toby (The Black Serpent)
3x Smoke and Think (The Land of Sorrow)
2x Smoke Rings (The Black Riders)
2x Well-Equipped (The Blood of Gondor)
2x Will of the West (Core Set)

Player Side Quest (1)
1x Double Back (Escape from Mount Gram)

3 Heroes, 56 Cards
Cards up to The Land of Sorrow

Sideboard

Ally (3)
1x Lórien Guide (Core Set)
1x Northern Tracker (Core Set)
1x Treebeard (The Antlered Crown)

Attachment (1)
1x The One Ring (A Shadow in the East)

Event (1)
1x Well-Equipped (The Blood of Gondor)

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Andrath Guardsman

by Vardaen

  • Player Card Categories 
    • Attack Cancellation

Background

Let’s talk lore. Who is this guardsman, and what is the Andrath? The Andrath is a geographical feature in Arnor. Its a long defile between the Barrow-downs and the South Downs through which the North-South Road (or the Greenway) passed. Its south of Bree, and at various points it was controlled by both The Enemy and the Dunedain. It is a great tactical location that could control travel north-south in the region. The other option was to travel through the Barrow-downs, which as Frodo found out was not without great peril. In fact in Unfinished Tales the Black Captain stays at the Andrath setting up a camp rousing the Barrow-Wights from there and sending out patrols. So this Ranger is guarding this ‘pass’ keeping foes from reaching Bree and the Shire by bottle necking them there.

Card Theme

It is a theme home run for his effects. So for two resources (in Leadership!) you can effectively feint a non-unique enemy but also have an ally on the table to quest or defend with. Don’t be like the Hobbits and forget about the Rangers that have long kept the peace possible.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Vardaen’s Combo

Sneak Attack, in sphere feint for Leadership decks that don’t have Tactics. You get double duty, you can stop 1 enemy from attacking, and then block with him for another enemy!

Editor’s Note

Vardaen’s Combo doesn’t work as written. You would need to play Andrath Guardsman from your hand to cancel an attack. Born Aloft would let you reuse him to get an additional attack cancelation. You don’t get to cheaply chump block though. I’ve taken the liberty to create Bandrath Guardsman to enable Vardaen’s Combo.

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.

  • Dave – 3
  • Grant – 4
  • Ted – TBR
  • Vardaen – 4
  • Matt – 6
  • Average – 4.25

Sample Decks

Dunedain reborn by dkayringsdb

Dunedain centric deck utilizing several attack cancelation cards to build up engaged enemies and leverage Heir of Valandil.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Amarthiúl (The Battle of Carn Dûm)
Aragorn (The Watcher in the Water)
Beravor (Core Set)

Ally (20)
3x Andrath Guardsman (The Mûmakil)
1x Eldahir (The Thing in the Depths)
3x Fornost Bowman (The Dread Realm)
3x Guardian of Arnor (The Battle of Carn Dûm)
2x Halbarad (The Flame of the West)
3x Ranger of Cardolan (The Wastes of Eriador)
3x Sarn Ford Sentry (The Lost Realm)
2x Vigilant Dúnadan (The Sands of Harad)

Attachment (24)
3x A Burning Brand (Conflict at the Carrock)
3x Armored Destrier (Temple of the Deceived)
3x Dúnedain Warning (Conflict at the Carrock)
3x Forest Snare (Core Set)
3x Heir of Valandil (The Lost Realm)
2x Self Preservation (Core Set)
1x Steed of the North (Race Across Harad)
2x Sword that was Broken (The Watcher in the Water)
1x The Day’s Rising (The Antlered Crown)
3x The Long Defeat (The Battle of Carn Dûm)

Event (6)
3x Coney in a Trap (The Mûmakil)
3x Descendants of Kings (Escape from Mount Gram)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to Race Across Harad

Sideboard

Ally (11)
3x Dúnedain Hunter (The Lost Realm)
3x East Road Ranger (The Wastes of Eriador)
2x Northern Tracker (Core Set)
1x Vigilant Dúnadan (The Sands of Harad)
2x Warden of Annúminas (The Lost Realm)

Attachment (16)
3x Athelas (The Lost Realm)
3x Entangling Nets (Temple of the Deceived)
2x Silver Lamp (The Voice of Isengard)
2x Song of Travel (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
3x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)
3x Warrior Sword (The Ghost of Framsburg)

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Folco Boffin

Mirlonde for Hobbits not that they needed one.

Background

Folco Boffin is a friend to Frodo. He that helps Frodo load up his belongings in a cart for the move from Bag End to Crikhollow. After they finished and had lunch, Folco returned home.

Card Theme

What little screen time Folco has in the books fits pretty well his abilities. Frodo’s move is cover for him to head East and travel to Rivendell. Folco, unwittingly, assists in that deception as seemingly just another Hobbit helping his friend move. Nothing out of the ordinary at all. He even returns home after helping and having lunch with his friends. Nothing there to draw the attention of Sauron. This is consistent with the idea of threat being the awareness of Sauron and his minions to the activities of our heroes. The more heroic and active in opposing to this plans, the more threatening they are to Sauron.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Secrecy

Folco’s low base starting threat makes it fairly easy to put him in a 3 hero line up to start with 20 or less threat. Just looking at heroes with effective starting threat cost of 7 or less there are 10 unique possibilities. 13 options including other sphere versions of the same character. This isn’t counting the low threat options available thanks to Messenger of the King contract.

  • Bifur
  • Eleanor
  • Tactics Eowyn
  • Fatty Bolger
  • Leadership Frodo Baggins
  • Spirit Frodo Baggins
  • Spirit Glorfindel
  • Spirit Merry
  • Tactics Merry
  • Mirlonde
  • Spirit Pippin
  • Lore Pippin
  • Smeagol

Roughly half of these listed above are Hobbits that makes Folco even cheaper. This extends the time you have in Secrecy or more flexibility to include a higher threat cost hero.

You can then utilize 2 great resource acceleration cards Resourceful and Timely Aid. Although you will need Leadership for Timely Aid it can very much worth it wirh expensive but powerful allies like Treebeard and Beorn. Both who are great ally defenders for the generally low defense and low hit point Hobbits.

Even if you are sticking to mono-Lore Secrecy is on a few great Lore cards providing even more resource acceleration from the discounted cost. Ithilien Lookout is a very solid combat ally with its 2 attack and tremendous value at 1 cost. The ability to discard an enemy from the encounter deck is very helpful for the squishy low hit point Hobbit heroes. Then there are 2 of the best encounter control cards, Out of the Wild and Risk Some Light. Needful to Know is another Secrecy Lore card, but even free the chances of reducing your threat after raising it one are not great. Woodmen’s Clearing is a much better option that always costs 0.

Hobbit Engage an Enemy with higher Engagement Cost than your Threat Bonus

Folco’s low starting threat, particularly with other Hobbit heroes, facilitates the Hobbit abilities centered on engaging enemies with higher engagement cost than your threat. Most important among these and in sphere for Folco, Gaffer Gamgee. Attack cancelation is huge for the generally low defense and low hit point Hobbits. The only other in sphere effect is Lore Pippins card draw which drawing more cards is almost always good.

Out of sphere, many of these abilities are simple stat boosts like that of Leadership Sam, Tactics Pippin, Hobbit Cloak, Dagger of Westernesse, Taste it Again!, Hobbit Archer, and Bywater Shirrif. You also get readying effects from Sam, Pippin, and Taste it Again! There’s a little ally mustering from Odo Proudfoot and Raise the Shire. After that it’s a few miscellaneous effects like Farmer Maggot’s direct damage, Tom Cotton’s resource smoothing, and shadow cancelation from Staff of Lebethron.

Houses of Healing

If you want to take advantage of Folco’s sacrifice ability, Houses of Healing is a good in sphere option to bring him back immediately after. The 5 cost is high but easily reduced with the number of Healer characters available in Lore. Elrond, Ioreth, Warden of Healing

Fast Hitch

Quest Specific

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 Folco at 4 rings. He’s a solid hero for enabling Secrecy or the Hobbit engagement mechanism. It’s not difficult to get his threat cost down to 4 or 5. Not quite the stats for cost value of Spirit Glorfindl but still a free stat or 2. His stats are very efficient as well with 2 willpower, 2 attack and 2 hit points. Equally good at questing or attacking. A decent target for Fast Hitch to leverage both of those stats. He also offers some emergency threat reduction by sacrifing him. Easy to bring him back with Houses of Healing in the same sphere.

His low threat cost consistently makes him a third hero choice when building Secrecy Hobbits. It’s also for that reason he’s rather limited to those type of decks. Alone he is just a Lore Hobbit hero at 6 cost putting him in direct competition with Lore Pippin. Lore Pippin in most cases is going to be better for the card draw. There are some 2 hero decks that run him for the single Lore resource then sacrifice him first turn, but they’re fairly niche.

I also find his efficiency rather boring. After setup, he’s just going to help with questing or attacking. He doesn’t have an interesting ability that you can trigger throughout the game or build around like many of the other Hobbit heroes. He just serves a particular role in deck building and does it well.

  • Dave – 4
  • Grant –
  • Ted – 6
  • Matt – 4

Sample Decks

Deck name and creator

short deck description

Leadership Elfhelm

Elfhelm gives stat-boosts to heroes with mount attachments
  • Player Card Categories 
    • Willpower Bonus
    • Attack Bonus
    • Defense Bonus

Background

If you’re solely a LOTR fan of the Peter Jackson films you may be wondering who this “Elfhelm” guy is and why you haven’t heard of him before. Well, that is because they pretty much cut him out of the story for the theatrical release. In the books he has a much more prominent role. Elfhelm eventually became the Marshal of the East-Mark. He was present at the Battle of the Ford of Isen where Theodred had fallen to the forces of Isengard. He later appears in Rohan’s ride to Gondor and fights in the Battle of Pelennor fields. While riding to Gondor he is actually aware of Eowyn’s presence and even supplies her with Theodred’s sword – the sword which would inevitably become the Witch-King’s demise. In the lore we see Elfhelm riding to and fro, making haste to where his king, or Gandalf, needs him most. This is presumably the theme behind his card abilities as well as his stats clearly boost the heroes around him.

Card Theme

Elfhelm is a lord of Rohan. And like any faithful Rider of the Mark he is well-trained in the art of horseback combat. It’s only natural that a lord of Rohan synergizes with the mount sub-archetype. While this sub-archetype is not as fleshed out as the typical Rohan discarding archetype it does have its benefits. Especially if you appreciate passive, versatile abilities. With Elfhelm you get a +1 boost hero to stats when that hero is equipped with a mount attachment. With the exception of Lore, each hero on the table with an attached mount will get at least one stat boost correlating to their sphere. This has the potential to increase hero stats dramatically for all players. Whether you’re building for an epic multiplayer Helm’s Deep game, or just “horsing” around solo, Elfhelm has his place on the table. Or in the stable? Okay, enough with the dad jokes… let’s “mount” up and see what Elfhelm has to offer.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Thematic Deckbuilding Ideas

Elfhelm’s hero version is pretty cut-and-dry in that mounts are needed to make him work. This concept is great in terms of theme and lore. Rohan is unique and powerful in Middle-Earth because of their horseback capabilities. Elfhelm helps reinforce this by rewarding the use of mounts. This reward comes in the form of +1 attack for Tactics heroes, +1 willpower to Spirit heroes, and +1 defense to Leadership heroes. A noteworthy mention is that his ability specifically excludes the Lore sphere. I have seen many people talk about house ruling the inclusion of the Lore sphere to include +1 HP. There is only one Lore Rohan “hero” which is Grima. This could be an indicator his intention may be to boost his Rohirrim comrades. You know, the ones who are not corrupt. While mount cards are what make him work, a potential drawback is how Elfhelm’s ability relies on extra cards to make him work. This can take up valuable deck space. Luckily, there are many useful mount-traited cards in the game. Not all of them are Rohan-themed though there are many thematic options. More on that later.

If you are going for a thematic Elfhelm/Mount deck you are obviously making room in your deck for mounts. Another common strategy is to include Song cards to grant additional spheres for heroes. I see this as particularly thematic when you envision a Rohirrim charge and the accompanying battle cries and chants. For that reason, song cards not only help boost an Elfhelm deck but align with a thematic Rohirrim charge. Much like what we see in the infamous scene of the “Ride of the Rohirrim” in the lore. It is fitting then that Burst into Song is in sphere with Elfhelm, boasts Rohan artwork, and has an incredibly thematic quote from the books:

“And then all the host of Rohan burst into song, and they sang as they slew, for the joy of battle was on them, and the sound of their singing that was fair and terrible came even to the City.”

Okay, now a show of hands: who wants to immediately go and build a thematic Elfhelm/Rohan deck after reading that? I know I do.

Deckbuilding Considerations

We already know Elfhelm can really only work when you give dedicated space in your deck to mounts. Count a few more spaces dedicated to songs and perhaps another two for Burst into song. Here we see the biggest limitation to Elfhelm decks – he requires a LOT of deck space to make him truly thrive. With this being the case, I see him as a great multiplayer hero where you can be the support role. You bring all the mounts and songs and your entire fellowship can benefit. When deciding to bring Elfhelm you will undoubtedly need to answer the question, “Are the mounts going to offer that much of an advantage to justify their use.” Let’s evaluate some thematic options as well as some other popular hero choices to see if Elfhelm can really help them.

Mounts

Rohan has many mounts specific to them. They are all worthy of adding into an Elfhelm deck. Notable cards include:

Snowmane: Give Theoden his steed, boost his willpower, and allow him to get ready for combat. If you use his Tactics version you get an even better combat boost. 

Armored Destrier: Use on Elfhelm himself to boost his defense stat and offer shadow cancellation. Better yet, give it to his buddy Erkenbrand for better stats and advantage.

Firefoot: Could Eomer possibly become a more powerful attacker? Why, yes he can! Because he gets an additional attack if you equip him with Firefoot thanks to Elfhelm.

Rohan Warhorse: What’s that? Giving Eomer more attack with Firefoot wasn’t enough and you want him to attack twice? Or you want to slap it on Tactics Eowyn for a double 11 attack swing? Rohan Warhorse can make it happen!

Windfola: The queen of questing, Spirit Eowyn, gets an extra willpower for one resource. That allows her to accrue two willpower for one resource and a guarantee she will not be removed from any questing thanks to Windfola’s ability. 

Steed of the Mark: A great option for whoever wins the “I get to use Steward of Gondor” debate. 

Not all of your fellowship will be using Rohan of course. Some of the best non-Rohan and mount synergies include:

Arod: For any tactics hero to boost attack and improve the chances of gaining that extra progress token. 

Armored Destrier: Denny and this steed are good friends. Elfhelm is also in sphere for this card if playing solo. 

Asfaloth: Especially for Spirit Glorfindel.

Hobbit Pony: especially for Spirit Merry with Fast Hitch or Unexpected Courage.

Firefoot: Basically any Tactics hero. But Grimbeorn loves him the most!

Shadowfax: Make Gandalf stronger (when equipped with his ring).

Roheryn and Steed of the North: Aragorn loves his horses as much as any of his other toys. He will be boosted an additional stat (attack) if you use Roheryn on his Leadership or Spirit versions. 

Non-Mounts

Song of Battle/Kings/Travel: Grant additional spheres for heroes for extra stat boosts. 

Burst into Song: Nearly an auto include if you run songs. Use it after defending but before attacking. After all, who doesn’t like singing while they slay? 

Westfold Horse-Breeder: Great mount search and acceleration. 

Charge of the Rohirrim: Even more boosts for heroes with mounts?! What are you waiting for? Ride out and meet them!

Forth, The Three Hunters: This contract *elevates* Eflhelm significantly in solo. I’d argue Three Hunters actually makes Elfhelm not only viable in solo, but close to top tier. You don’t have to worry about putting allies on the board and can focus solely on mounts and songs. No to mention Elfhelm becomes a good dedicated defender with Armored Destrier in a Three Hunter’s build. 

Sword-Thain: You get another hero with boosted stats if you attach a mount.

Quest Specific

Given the stat-boosting nature of Elfhelm’s ability you could throw him into any scenario. I personally think he does not play great in solo unless you run him in a Three Hunter’s deck. There are many scenarios which simply do not allow for setup time. If you are running three spheres it becomes even more difficult to accomplish this and get allies on the table. In my experience this ends up being overwhelming (location lock or enemy swarming) and sometimes frustrating.I would argue that Elfhelm shines most in a multiplayer game where he can throw his boosts around the table. So long as others are including mounts in their decks Eflhelm’s ability only increases in strength with higher player counts. This might make epic multiplayer games that much more epic. It’s this type of versatility that allows Elfhelm to potentially excel in most scenarios rather than specializing in any one. With a little coordination your fellowship can gauge what types of mounts and songs are best suited for the scenario and voilà! You’re ready to ride!

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.

  • Dave – 8
  • Grant – 6
  • Ted – 5
  • Matt – 5
  • Joe – 6
  • Average – 6

I have to give Elfhelm a 6 overall. It pains me because I’m clearly biased towards loving Rohan cards. The fact of the matter is he just is not a top tier hero and is often too cumbersome in solo. I will say he is a strong multiplayer hero. As long as another player can offer combat help in the early stages of the game Elfhelm could be a deciding factor in whether or not victory is achieved. The contrast for grading solo vs. multiplayer is quite a large spread for me. I’d give him a 6 for solo (Forth, Three Hunters! saves him from a 7) and a 4 for multiplayer. Unfortunately for Elfhelm, he rides as a middle-of-the-road hero at the end of the day. Still, he is a fun hero to play in the right circumstance!

Sample Decks

Rohan’s Mighty Hunters by The BGamerJoe

A thematic Rohan 3 hunters deck featuring Elfhelm as the defender.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Elfhelm (Temple of the Deceived)
Éowyn (Core Set)
Théoden (The Morgul Vale)

Contract (0)
1x Forth, The Three Hunters! (The City of Ulfast)

Attachment (39)
3x Ancestral Armor (Roam Across Rhovanion)
3x Ancient Mathom (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
3x Armored Destrier (Temple of the Deceived)
1x Celebrían’s Stone (Core Set)
1x Dúnedain Warning (Conflict at the Carrock)
3x Golden Shield (The Flame of the West)
2x Herugrim (The Treason of Saruman)
2x Round Shield (Mount Gundabad)
2x Silver Circlet (Wrath and Ruin)
1x Silver Harp (The Treachery of Rhudaur)
3x Snowmane (The Land of Shadow)
2x Song of Travel (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
2x Steed of the Mark (The Morgul Vale)
3x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)
3x War Axe (The City of Ulfast)
3x Warrior Sword (The Ghost of Framsburg)
2x Windfola (A Storm on Cobas Haven)

Event (11)
3x A Test of Will (Core Set)
2x Elven-light (The Dread Realm)
3x Foe-hammer (Over Hill and Under Hill)
3x Well Warned (The Sands of Harad)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to The City of Ulfast

Sideboard

Attachment (5)
3x Raiment of War (The Thing in the Depths)
1x Silver Harp (The Treachery of Rhudaur)
1x Steed of Imladris (Across the Ettenmoors)

Event (6)
3x Sterner than Steel (The Flame of the West)
3x The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core Set)

Player Side Quest (1)
1x Rally the West (The Black Serpent)

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Earth, Wind, and Firefoot by TheChad

A Grimbeorn + Firefoot deck using Elfhelm’s bonus and other attachments to power up Grimbeorn’s attack.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Elfhelm (Temple of the Deceived)
Éowyn (Core Set)
Grimbeorn the Old (The Withered Heath)

Ally (17)
3x Arwen Undómiel (The Watcher in the Water)
2x Beorn (Core Set)
3x Beorning Skin-changer (The Withered Heath)
2x Gandalf (Core Set)
2x Giant Bear (Fire in the Night)
2x Honour Guard (The Wastes of Eriador)
3x Westfold Horse-breeder (The Voice of Isengard)

Attachment (25)
3x Ancient Mathom (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
1x Arod (The Treason of Saruman)
1x Dúnedain Remedy (The Drowned Ruins)
3x Firefoot (The Dunland Trap)
1x Hauberk of Mail (The Wilds of Rhovanion)
1x Miruvor (Shadow and Flame)
2x Necklace of Girion (The Wilds of Rhovanion)
3x Orcrist (Fire in the Night)
1x Snowmane (The Land of Shadow)
1x Song of Kings (The Hunt for Gollum)
1x Steed of Imladris (Across the Ettenmoors)
3x The Day’s Rising (The Antlered Crown)
2x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)
2x Windfola (A Storm on Cobas Haven)

Event (6)
2x Hasty Stroke (Core Set)
1x Quick Strike (Core Set)
3x Sneak Attack (Core Set)

Player Side Quest (2)
1x Double Back (Escape from Mount Gram)
1x Gather Information (The Lost Realm)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to Fire in the Night

Sideboard

Hero (1)
Hirgon (Beneath the Sands)

Ally (3)
3x Wild Stallion (Roam Across Rhovanion)

Attachment (9)
3x Armored Destrier (Temple of the Deceived)
3x Steed of the Mark (The Morgul Vale)
3x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)

Event (6)
3x Beorn’s Rage (The Withered Heath)
3x Open the Armory (The Dungeons of Cirith Gurat)

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Mirkwood Explorer

  • Player Card Categories 
    • Location Control
  • Artist
  • Kim Sokol

Need to explore 1 location in a single fell swoop, call the Mirkwood Explorer.

Background

In The Hobbit, a great grey wolf tells the wargs sitting below Thorin’s Company and Gandalf up in some pine trees about the woodmen.

In spite of the dangers of this far land bold men had of late been making their way back into it from the South, cutting down trees, and building themselves places to live in among the more pleasant woods in the valleys and along the river-shores. There were many of them, and they were brave and well armed, and even the Wargs dared not
attack them if there were many together, or in the bright day.

The Hobbit, Chapter 6: Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire

Card Theme

The ability on the Mirkwood explorer fits with the little we know of the woodmen. As a group of men venturing into what is new lands to them, they would need explorers to scout out areas for resources and future settlements. The explorer’s 2 willpower is good for non-unique ally as questing is often intended to represent the players traversing the lands of Middle-Earth. He also can also help clear other locations with his ability.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Ally Readying

Ideally players will want to quest and have the option of using Mirkwood Explorer’s ability in the same turn. The 2 willpower is quite significant for an ally. The option to explore a location revealed during staging can mean the difference between questing successfully or not. It is even more valuable in multiplayer. Fortunately, there is an in sphere card that synergizes well with the explorer, Leather Boots.

It is cheap, in sphere, repeatable, and the explorer will ready if a potential target for its ability is revealed in staging. If a location isn’t revealed, Leather Boots makes the explorer a valid target for To Arms! as another way to ready them. Spare Hood and Cloak also opens the option of using To Arms!, but more importantly can be a repeatable source of readying on its own. It does take Long Lake Trader that can move it to another ally, but the trader is also in Lore and not that hard to manage.

Another readying option in Lore is Woodmen Lore that is limited to the Woodmen trait and will require at least one location attachment in play. Elwing’s Flight is a questing two for with the explorer because it will boost its willpower and let it use its ability. The last single ally readying event Ever Vigilant from the core set is an option open to every player.

Global readying from Grim Resolve, Strength of Arms, and The Free Peoples can work too. Especially it is a good idea to have all characters quest and then play one of the above to ready them all for combat. These can easily be played in the action windows after committing characters for the explorer to use his ability.

Location Attachments

Aside from the requirement of Woodmen’s Lore, there is one location attachment that makes the explorer’s ability much, much more efficient. Woodman’s Path reduces a location quest points to 1. Normally it can take several turns of questing successfully to get enough progress to explore a single location. Woodmen’s Path reduces the time to a single turn.

This can be pretty important especially when paired with the seris of attachments that have an effect when a location is explored. Ancient Mathom draws 3 cards, Elf-Stone musters an ally, Ranger Provisions accelerates resources, Woodmen’s Clearing reduces threat, and Put Off Pursuit trades an enemy for a location. Timing when the attached location is explored is important since all of them except Put Off Pursuit only gives the benefit to the first player. The Explorer’s ability to place progress is an action giving the player control when it is explored and the effect is triggered.

Player Guarded Cards and Burglar’s Turn

In a similar vein to the location attachments, the Explorer’s ability can explore a location guarding a player Guarded X card. Stone of Elostirion and Mithril Shirt as the only Guarded (location) cards work best with the explorer. Many of the others are Guarded (enemy or location) where the Explorer can possibly help get them under a player’s control. The contract Burglar’s Turn also rewards players for exploring locations with item and artifact attachments. Although it only works if the players travel to a location and explore the location while it is active. Still the explorer can use it ability to help clear the active location faster and claim the loot.

Other Direct Location Progress Effects

As mentioned earlier, it can take several turns for the Mirkwood Explorer to build up enough progress to clear a location. Combining it with more cards that also directly progress to location shorten the time to explore a particular location significantly. Lore has a number of other cards that can put progress on a location. While not all are great, Lore has the best one, Asfaloth that for an action can always add 1 progress to a location or 2 if playing with Glorfindel. The Evening Star is second only to the Mirkwood Explorer in Lore for placing the most progress on any location at one time considering it starts at 2 for the first copy. Then by the third copy it places 4. Expert Trackers is the only other one that can place progress on any location and not just the active. It is very conditional since it is a response to enemy engagement. Then the amount of progress is dependent on the threat of the engaged enemy. On top of it all, you have to exhaust a scout or ranger character.

Spirit has more options with Northern Tracker, Riddermark’s Finest, Rhovanion Outrider, Spirit Aragorn Hero, Woodland Courier, and Backtrack. Leadership, unfortunately, only has Snowbourn Scout.

Quest Specific

The Brown Lands in Journey Along the Anduin, Conflict at the Carrock, The Dead Marshes, and Return to Mirkwood is a great target for the explorer’s ability. He will need only 1 progress saved up to eliminate 5 threat from the staging area. Emyn Muil as the first location heavy quest with 22 locations to only 12 enemies, every location control card can do a lot of work.

The Haradhrim cycle is full of locations that players don’t want to travel to. Many have nasty forced effects when they become the active location. This circumvents many location control effects like Thror’s Map that avoid travel effects. Towering Dunes in addition to its Forced effect even limits Northern Tracker’s effectiveness. The explorer, however, could clear the way for the tracker. Lastly, the cycle features 2 locations, Pitch Black Tunnel and Desolate Land, with threat equal to the number of characters controlled by a player. Exploring those locations as soon as they come out especially late game can avoid a disastrous threat raise.

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 Mirkwood Explorer at 4 rings. It is a solid questing ally with a very useful location control ability. The only negatives are that it has to exhaust to transfer its accumulated progress and its 3 cost. There are a number of good options to mitigate the exhausting requirement. Even without readying, there are situations where using its ability can add more to questing than 2 willpower will. The 3 cost outside of mono-Lore or significant resource acceleration typically keep it from a first turn play. Generally the earlier it can be played, the better to start accumulating progress. There are a few lower cost 2 willpower allies and location control cards, but this one does both. It usually is in consideration for inclusion when I’m playing Lore.

  • Dave – 3
  • Grant – 3
  • Ted – 3
  • Matt – 4
  • Average – 3.25

Sample Decks

https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/7949/location-busters-1.0

Location Busters by The BGamerJoe

A multiplayer location control deck with some combat ability thanks to Spirit Glorfindel and Idraen’s action advantage.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Bifur (Khazad-dûm)
Glorfindel (Foundations of Stone)
Idraen (The Three Trials)

Ally (14)
1x Bilbo Baggins (The Road Darkens)
2x Eryn Galen Settler (Race Across Harad)
3x Mirkwood Explorer (The Thing in the Depths)
3x Northern Tracker (Core Set)
1x Quickbeam (The Treason of Saruman)
2x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)
2x Westfold Horse-breeder (The Voice of Isengard)

Attachment (18)
3x Ancient Mathom (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
2x Asfaloth (Foundations of Stone)
1x Dúnedain Pipe (The Black Serpent)
3x Elf-stone (The Black Riders)
2x Explorer’s Almanac (The Grey Havens)
3x Light of Valinor (Foundations of Stone)
1x Magic Ring (The Crossings of Poros)
2x Steed of Imladris (Across the Ettenmoors)
1x Warden of Arnor (The Three Trials)

Event (18)
3x A Test of Will (Core Set)
3x Backtrack (Race Across Harad)
2x Dwarven Tomb (Core Set)
3x Elrond’s Counsel (The Watcher in the Water)
2x Elven-light (The Dread Realm)
3x Heirs of Earendil (The Dungeons of Cirith Gurat)
2x Tale of Tinúviel (The Dread Realm)

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

Sideboard

Ally (8)
3x Dunedain Pathfinder (Race Across Harad)
2x Ranger of Cardolan (The Wastes of Eriador)
3x Rhovanion Outrider (Temple of the Deceived)

Attachment (2)
1x Silver Lamp (The Voice of Isengard)
1x Thrór’s Key (On the Doorstep)

Event (10)
3x Coney in a Trap (The Mûmakil)
3x Daeron’s Runes (Foundations of Stone)
1x The Free Peoples (Beneath the Sands)
3x Well Warned (The Sands of Harad)

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Zigil Miner

  • Artist
    • Magali Villeneuve
  • Pre-errata
    • Action: Exhaust Zigil Miner and name a number to discard the top 2 cards of your deck. If at least one of those cards has a cost equal to the named number, choose a hero you control. That hero adds resources to his resource pool equal to the named number.

Extremely thematic resource acceleration card. Pre-errata it rivaled even Steward of Gondor. Post-errata it is still fantastic and fun.

Background

Zigil is the Dwarven or Khuzdul word for silver. The Silvertine mountain in the Misty Mountain range is known as Zirakzigil to the Dwarves. Mostly notably, Gandalf defeated the Balrog on its peak, The Silverlode river that runs through Lothlórien is also called Zigil-nâd.

Card Theme

First, I will refer to the discarding cards from the top of a player deck from here on out as mining. This card was the first player card to utilize discarding cards from the top of player’s deck. Subsequent cards with this mechanism, like Ered Nimras Prospector, have consistency linked it to mining and the Dwarves. I also can’t help but note how similar this is to the Magic the Gathering short hand, milling, for the same mechanism. As a long time Magic player, I really appreciate this because it’s not a hard switch to make.

I think matching this mechanism to the Dwarves and their love of mining is a perfect thematic match. Discarding from your deck you don’t know you don’t know what you’ll find until you start digging. That is at least without some tools to aid you. I’m not a mining expert, but I know that modern day tools allow for scanning underground to find likely mineral deposits. Similarly in the game players have a few options to see what their top card(s) are or even choose them.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Player Deck Scrying and Manipulation

Imladris Stargazer, Gildor Ingorion ally, and Wizard Pipe all provide players with the ability to manipulate the top card(s) of their deck. Imladris Stargazer and Gildor are great for setting up Zigil Miner because they can reorder the top 5 and 3 cards, respectively. This let’s the player choose both cards that will be mined. Gildor has the added bonus of letting a player swap a card from their hand to the top. This can be very useful to make use of duplicate unique cards along with a couple other uses I’ll cover later. Wizard Pipe can also choose the top card by swapping from hand much like Gildor. It doesn’t provide the ability to scry the player deck on its own. Typically that comes from Gandalf hero’s ability to play with the top card revealed. Still this can at least ensure the miner provides 1 resource using his ability.

Hidden Cache and Ered Luin Miner

These two cards are designed to be mined. Hidden Cache offsets the nerf Zigil Miner received from its errata down to 1 resource per card with a matching cost. Ered Luin Miner is not an efficient ally for 3 cost, but great value when put into play for free. If you have the misfortune to draw them, then Gildor and Wizard Pipe can put them back on top.

Discard Recursion

There are two card effects that I classify as discard recursion. The first takes cards from the discard pile and either puts them directly into play or into a player’s hand. The other puts cards from the discard pile back into the deck.

There are quite a few cards that can pull cards back from the discard pile. Stand and Fight, Caldara, Reforged, To me! O my kinsfolk!, all can put one directly into play. Last one is a a crossover since the ally is put on the bottom of the deck at end of the phase and shares the Dwarf theme. Dwarven Tomb, Erebor Hammersmith, and Second Breakfast can all return a card to a player’s hand. Four of these are even in the first cycle for progression players to combo with the miner.

Recursion cards that take cards from the discard pile and put them into play or hand can turn Zigil Miner’s ability into pseudo-card draw or tutoring. For example, the miner could mine an Erebor Hammersmith and Unexpected Courage. Stand and Fight then could target the Hammersmith and put it into play. Hammersmith could put Unexpected Courage into a player’s hand. This a fairly optimized example, but very possible. Stand and Fight, Reforged, To me! O my kinsfolk!, and Dwarven Tomb can target any non-neutral ally, non-neutral attachment, Dwarf ally, or Spirit card, respectively. Aggressive use of Zigil Miner’s abililty with multiple copies in play only increases the number of possible targets in the discard pile for each card.

The downside to mining ability of course is running out of cards in your deck. Fortunately, the core set provided the ultimate means of refilling it, Will of the West. Once the entire discard is back into the deck, the player is free to mine or draw those cards again. Later cards like Dwarf Pipe, Tactics Nori, and Galadhrim Weaver only put 1 card back into the deck at a time. The use of them ends up being more tactical to shuffle in the most useful card(s). The upside is dead cards like duplicate unique ones don’t have to be returned to the deck.

The Record attachments of Map of Earnil, Tome of Atanatar, Scroll of Isildur, and Book of Eldacar cover both discard recursion effects. They let you play an event in your discard pile. Then put it back on the bottom of your deck. Map of Earnil and Tome of Atanatar also can replay the recursion identified earlier.

Cards with the Same Cost

Another way to make the miner’s ability very consistent is just to build your deck with cards that all have the same cost. Two or three cost are generally the best to use for this. There are a lot of options at those costs particularly for allies (see table). Those costs are high enough that Zigil Miner’s resource acceleration is still useful, but not so high that slows down early game tempo. Even just building mostly of the same cost card and playing the odds of what is left in your deck can work well.

CostCountAlly Count
01695
127926
2228129
3146104
46747
53318
622
Count is player card results returned by Hall of Beorn search for that cost on November 27, 2021. These numbers may include double counts due to reprinted cards in the Limited Edition Two Player Starter and Revised Core Set.

Quest Specific

In the Saga quests, you have the option in Helm’s Deep to take the Poisoned Counsels burden. If drawn, you have to discard your hand. Zigil Miner offers a way to avoid drawing it. In the Ered Mithren cycle, there is a treachery with a similar effect. Lost in the Wild when it is revealed it goes directly to a player’s hand and discard your hand when a card is played. Gildor or Wizard Pipe plus the miner, however, can put it on top of a player’s deck and mine it away.

There are a couple quests where if your deck runs out, you lose and Zigil Miner is not a good idea. Deadman’s Dike in the Lost Realm is the first. You can play Will of the West or a larger deck to play around the loss condition and still use the miner if you want. There are few encounter card effects, however, that are based on cards in your discard pile. For example, the shadow effect on Dark Sorcery will discard the defender if there is a copy of that ally in your discard pile.

The other is Under the Ash Mountains. It’s even more punishing than Deadman’s Dike. It forces the players to mine down to 40 cards. This one doesn’t allow events to shuffle cards from your discard pile back into your deck barring Will of the West. The quest will mine a minimum of 2 cards per turn from your deck but often more.

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 Zigil Miner at 2 even post-errata. It provides solid resource acceleration in Spirit. It is not difficult to make reliable either with Imladris Stargazer or just building your deck with all or mostly cards with the same cost. You can easily get bonus ally and resources with Ered Luin Miner and Hidden Cache. It also can provide pseudo-card draw when paired with Stand and Fight, Reforged, and Dwarven Tomb that are all in-sphere. If you don’t need the miner’s ability, it has 1 willpower and attack so it can help out with questing or attacking as needed. In a pinch, it can even chump block. The only downsides are it is not neutral and its 1 hit point that makes it vulnerable to direct damage effects like Necromancer’s Reach. If I’m playing Spirit, Zigil Miner is always under consideration for the deck.

  • Jeremy – 2
  • Dave – 6
  • Grant – 3
  • Ted – 2
  • Matt – 2
  • Average – 3

Sample Decks

The Dain and the Discard by Dave Walsh

This Dwarf mining deck is more focused on using Gandalf to set up putting attachments into play with Well-Equipped and Ring of Thror. Still Zigil Miner plays a role to accelerate resources to

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Dáin Ironfoot (The Ghost of Framsburg)
Gandalf (The Road Darkens)
Glóin (Core Set)

Ally (15)
2x Erebor Guard (The Sands of Harad)
2x Erebor Toymaker (Mount Gundabad)
3x Ered Luin Miner (Temple of the Deceived)
3x Ethir Swordsman (The Steward’s Fear)
2x Gimli (The Treason of Saruman)
1x Glorfindel (Flight of the Stormcaller)
2x Zigil Miner (Khazad-dûm)

Attachment (21)
2x Gandalf’s Staff (The Road Darkens)
2x King Under the Mountain (On the Doorstep)
1x Magic Ring (The Crossings of Poros)
2x Narya (The Grey Havens)
1x Orcrist (Fire in the Night)
1x Ring of Barahir (The Steward’s Fear)
2x Ring of Thrór (The Ghost of Framsburg)
2x Shadowfax (The Treason of Saruman)
1x Silver Lamp (The Voice of Isengard)
2x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)
3x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)
2x Wizard Pipe (The Road Darkens)

Event (18)
3x Durin’s Song (Khazad-dûm)
3x Hidden Cache (The Morgul Vale)
3x The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core Set)
3x Untroubled by Darkness (Khazad-dûm)
3x Well-Equipped (The Blood of Gondor)
3x Will of the West (Core Set)

3 Heroes, 54 Cards
Cards up to Mount Gundabad

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Love of the Halfling’s Leaf by MrSpaceBear

This is a really interesting combination of the mining and pipes archetypes. I have based a few different decks off this one.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
(MotK) Bilbo Baggins (Messenger of the King Allies)
Dáin Ironfoot (The Ghost of Framsburg)
Gandalf (The Road Darkens)

Contract (0)
1x Messenger of the King (The Land of Sorrow)

Ally (19)
1x Arwen Undómiel (The Watcher in the Water)
3x Ered Luin Miner (Temple of the Deceived)
1x Faramir (Core Set)
1x Firyal (The Mûmakil)
1x Gimli (The Treason of Saruman)
1x Glorfindel (Flight of the Stormcaller)
1x Legolas (The Treason of Saruman)
2x Northern Tracker (Core Set)
3x Rhovanion Outrider (Temple of the Deceived)
1x Súlien (The City of Corsairs)
1x Thalion (Fire in the Night)
3x Zigil Miner (Khazad-dûm)

Attachment (18)
1x Ancestral Armor (Roam Across Rhovanion)
1x Armor of Erebor (Mount Gundabad)
3x Dwarf Pipe (The Mûmakil)
1x Expert Treasure-hunter (On the Doorstep)
1x Gandalf’s Staff (The Road Darkens)
1x Hobbit Pipe (The Black Riders)
1x Inner Strength (Wrath and Ruin)
1x Shadowfax (The Treason of Saruman)
2x Silver Circlet (Wrath and Ruin)
2x Spare Pipe (The Land of Sorrow)
3x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)
1x Wizard Pipe (The Road Darkens)

Event (18)
3x A Test of Will (Core Set)
3x Hidden Cache (The Morgul Vale)
3x Old Toby (The Black Serpent)
3x Smoke and Think (The Land of Sorrow)
2x Smoke Rings (The Black Riders)
2x Well-Equipped (The Blood of Gondor)
2x Will of the West (Core Set)

Player Side Quest (1)
1x Double Back (Escape from Mount Gram)

3 Heroes, 56 Cards
Cards up to The Land of Sorrow

Sideboard

Ally (3)
1x Lórien Guide (Core Set)
1x Northern Tracker (Core Set)
1x Treebeard (The Antlered Crown)

Attachment (1)
1x The One Ring (A Shadow in the East)

Event (1)
1x Well-Equipped (The Blood of Gondor)

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Everything* Costs 2 by Seastan

The deck contains 41 cards that cost 2. Galdor to help find Zigil Miner on the first turn. Then uses Zigil Miner and Arwen to accelerate resources for a swarm of cheap allies. Elven-Light can also use those resources to draw extra cards a turn.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Arwen Undómiel (The Dread Realm)
Beregond (Heirs of Númenor)
Galdor of the Havens (The Grey Havens)

Ally (29)
1x Bilbo Baggins (The Road Darkens)
3x Envoy of Pelargir (Heirs of Númenor)
2x Erebor Hammersmith (Core Set)
2x Ered Nimrais Prospector (The Morgul Vale)
3x Ethir Swordsman (The Steward’s Fear)
3x Galadhon Archer (The Nîn-in-Eilph)
2x Galadriel’s Handmaiden (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
1x Gléowine (Core Set)
3x Honour Guard (The Wastes of Eriador)
2x Mithlond Sea-watcher (The Grey Havens)
1x Quickbeam (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)
3x Zigil Miner (Khazad-dûm)

Attachment (11)
2x Protector of Lórien (Core Set)
2x Ranger Spikes (Heirs of Númenor)
2x Raven-winged Helm (The Wastes of Eriador)
2x Spear of the Citadel (Heirs of Númenor)
3x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)

Event (10)
2x Elven-light (The Dread Realm)
3x Hidden Cache (The Morgul Vale)
3x The Evening Star (The Grey Havens)
2x Will of the West (Core Set)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to The Grey Havens

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Sword-thain

Before there was Messenger of the King, there was Sword-thain.

Background

The term sword-thain is used only a few times in the books. We first see it used when Theoden offers to have Merry ride with him and act as his squire.

You shall be my esquire, if you will. Is there gear of war in this place, Éomer, that my sword-thain could use?

Book 5, Chapter 2: Passing of the Grey Company

It subsequently only comes up again when Theoden dismisses Merry as his pony will not be able to keep up on the ride to Minas Tirith. In the context used, it seems to be a formal title for a squire. The historical thane or thegn, however, was a lordly title similar to a knight. The term largely used prior to William the Conqueror’s conquest of England. A period of history that Tolkien studied and took inspiration from.

Card Theme

The card refers to Merry joining Theoden’s service, but in the previous chapter Pippin swears his sword to Denethor. Prior to this, the readers had not seen them really demonstrate martial prowess. If anything they had fallen into trouble in The Old Forest, in the barrows, and captured by orcs. Granted, they managed to convince the Ents to march on Isengard, but still that them being persuasive. It is once they join the armies of Gondor and Rohan and participate in the Battle ofPelannor Fields and rescue Faramir from the pyre that they become much more heroes in their own right. The change is apparent when they return to the Shire. They can easily push past gate guards, shirriffs, and turn back waylaying ruffians through shows of confidence. The Sword-thain card then represents the turning point where they “level up” much as the card promotes an ally into a full blown hero.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Resource or Attachment Acceleration

Now Sword-thain at 4 cost is fairly expensive. Even if the effect of gaining another hero is well worth it. You’re not going to play it first turn without some resource acceleration. Leadership Denethor hero, Steward of Gondor, and Legacy of Numenor are a couple options for getting it out first turn, but they require Leadership.

Bartering - Lore Event - 0 cost - Planning Action: Choose a ready player attachment on a character you control. Return that attachment to its owner's hand to reduce the cost of the next attachment played this phase by X, where X is the chosen attachment's cost.

First, I’d like to thank Marcelf over at Ringsdb for putting me onto this combo with his Barliman and Robin deck. Bartering the 0 cost Lore event offers a couple interesting options for putting it into play on the cheap. If you are running all Lore heroes or couple heroes of one sphere with a Lore hero, you can play the record attachments for 1 or 2 cost. Use Bartering to return it to your hand then play Sword-thain for free since the discount is by the printed cost. Lore offers some very low cost unique allies like Ioreth and Henamarth Riversong that can be played first turn with it. Then you can start gaining an additional resources.

Another option is to utilize Tactics Beregond’s discount on Weapon and Armor attachments. Basically any 2+ cost weapon or armor on him will let Bartering discount Sword-thain. Citadel Plate, Spear of the Citadel, Raiment of War, and Raven Winged Helm are good options to transfer the discount.

There are a couple other options for getting Sword-thain into play without paying the full 4 cost, but they are limited to dwarves.

Well-Equipped can put it into play for free onto a unique Dwarf. There’s certainly no shortage of targets with 9 of the 13 dwarves in Thorin’s Company represented by allies. Bofur even has 2 different versions. Outside The Hobbit Saga expansions, Gimli ally, Azain Silverbeard, and even the infamous Brok Ironfist.

Ring of Thror requires a Dwarf hero to use. Unlike Well-Equipped, the attachment that is discarded can go on any non-neutral unique ally.

Sneak Attack

Many unique allies are higher cost. Another way to get a Sword-thain hero is to Sneak Attack one into play. Then attach Sword-thain to it before the end of the phase. It won’t return to your hand anymore because it is no longer an ally. You can use this with other temporarily put an ally effects into play, such as, Horns! Horns! Horns! and Gwaihir’s Debt. Although with the latter you will be limited to Gwaihir and Landroval since Sword-thain can only be used on non-neutral unique allies.

Effects that Scale with the Number of Heroes

There are a number of cards that the effect is based on the number of heroes. Usually they require they belong to a particular sphere or have a named trait. Chief among these is Caldara.

Caldara can return an ally from the discard for each Spirit hero the player controls. A Sword-thain hero counts for this effect allowing you to return 3 allies with Sword-thain. You can even get up to 4 if Spirit Prince Imrahil is in play since he instantly becomes a hero when Caldara is discarded.

Another mono-Spirit favorite is Pelargir Shipwright. It’s willpower is equal to the number of Spirit heroes you control. This means with a Sword-thain Spirit hero, it has 4 willpower rivaling that of Eowyn and Cirdan.

I mentioned earlier the record attachments can be played for 1 or 2 cost. This is because Tome of Atanatar, Scroll of Isildur, Map of Earnil, and Book of Eldacar cost 1 less for each hero of the matching sphere. It’s possible to make these cost 0 once Sword-thain hits play.

Mithrandir’s Advice can draw a card for each Lore hero. This card in a mono-Lore deck with Sword-thain can draw nearly as many cards as Peace and Thought without having to exhaust 2 heroes. Then a free Scroll of Isildur can recur it for you.

Tactics Merry and Frodo’s Intuition similar to the others do more for each hero you have. The difference being that their effects are based on the number of Hobbit heroes rather than the sphere. Frodo’s Intuition overlaps with another kind of scaling effect by giving each hero +1 willpower. These card don’t explicitly scale like those mentioned. Instead these get better the more heroes you have because they affect each one. Tighten Our Belts, Legacy of Numenor, and We Are Not Idle can all garner up to 4 resources with a Sword-thain hero. Hour of Wrath when in Valour (threat is 40 or higher) will let all heroes attack and defend without exhausting. Captains of the West will boost all Noble heroes’ willpower and have them quest without exhausting. While Captains of the West is trait restricted, there are many unique Noble allies that make great Sword-thain heroes.

Unique Allies

While it is a requirement of the card, there are definitely some better targets than others. Generally, the unique allies with strong combat stats or very useful abilities are top targets. Jubayr is a good example of both. His strong defense and ability to discard a shadow makes a solid defending ally. Once he is a hero additional attachments open up like Dunedain Warning and Armored Destrier that can turn into a defender for the entire table. Tactics Nori is one where his combat stats aren’t stellar and making him a hero can help make his ability more reliable. Then he can have great attack boosting attachments like Dagger of Westernesse or War Axe. He could even have a Rohan Warhorse to possibly destroy 2 enemies and get 2 cards from the discard on the bottom of the deck.

Speaking of readying, there are more options for readying heroes than allies. This is great for allies with great abilities that trigger by exhausting like Leadership Faramir and Rosie. Faramir could add 2 or more willpower to a player’s questing characters. Rosie has always had potential to use her ability multiple times a round thanks to Fast Hitch, but opens up to running her without Lore. Additionally, willpower boosting attachments like Celebrian’s Stone and Fireside Song can make her ability even more powerful.

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 Sword-thain at 3 rings. The 4 cost can be a big ask especially without some resource acceleration. There are a couple ways, however, to play it on the cheap. When built around it, you can get some really great mileage out that extra hero. It can really improve the effectiveness of unique allies with strong abilities like Rosie and Leadership Faramir. It even opens up some unique ally turned hero voltron builds. Especially as it doesn’t have the readying limit that Messenger of the King does. There is also a fun factor to this card. If your favorite character for some reason isn’t a hero but an ally. Then you can make them one. There are fun builds out there that aim to get 5 – 7 heroes or at least near hero allies. These usually have 3 normal heroes, a Sword-thain hero, Thalion, Treebeard, Over Hill and Under Hill Gandalf, and/or Radagast. Sword-thain won’t fit into every deck, and it is on the expensive side. Despite those drawbacks, it offers a lot of deck building possibilities.

  • Dave – 6
  • Grant – 4
  • Ted – 7
  • Matt – 3
  • Average – 5

Sample Decks

Barliman and Robin by Marcelf

Sword-thain is a major piece of resource acceleration in this deck. Scroll of Isildur is used for Bartering Sword-thain or Resourcefuls into play. The Scrolls are important to play and use to recur Risk Some Light over and over again. Getting to be free also helps accelerate resources.

Barliman and Robin

Main Deck

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

Ally (19)
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)
2x Mirkwood Explorer (The Thing in the Depths)
1x Quickbeam (The Treason of Saruman)
1x Robin Smallburrow (The Drowned Ruins)
1x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)

Attachment (12)
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)

Event (19)
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)
3x The Shirefolk (Mount Gundabad)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to Mount Gundabad

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Aggro Caldara v4 by Beorn

Post-errata Caldara deck utilizing Noldor discard to fill the discard pile with targets for Caldara’s ability.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Arwen Undómiel (The Dread Realm)
Caldara (The Blood of Gondor)
Círdan the Shipwright (The Grey Havens)

Ally (30)
1x Elfhelm (The Dead Marshes)
3x Emery (The Blood of Gondor)
1x Escort from Edoras (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
1x Gamling (The Land of Shadow)
2x Glorfindel (Flight of the Stormcaller)
1x Háma (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Imladris Stargazer (Foundations of Stone)
3x Jubayr (The Mûmakil)
3x Northern Tracker (Core Set)
3x Pelargir Shipwright (Assault on Osgiliath)
3x Prince Imrahil (The Flame of the West)
1x Rhovanion Outrider (Temple of the Deceived)
1x Súlien (The City of Corsairs)
1x Westfold Horse-Breaker (The Hunt for Gollum)
3x Zigil Miner (Khazad-dûm)

Attachment (9)
2x Light of Valinor (Foundations of Stone)
3x Narya (The Grey Havens)
1x Steed of Imladris (Across the Ettenmoors)
3x Sword-thain (The Dread Realm)

Event (11)
3x A Test of Will (Core Set)
1x Dwarven Tomb (Core Set)
3x Elven-light (The Dread Realm)
2x Hidden Cache (The Morgul Vale)
2x Stand and Fight (Core Set)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to The Mûmakil

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Ring around the Rosie (saga) by TheChad

Chad of Cardboard of the Ring’s LOTR Saga deck that makes Rosie the Sword-thain hero. Then boosts her willpower with Celebrian’s Stone, Fireside Song, etc.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Merry (The Wastes of Eriador)
Pippin (The Black Riders)
Sam Gamgee (The Black Riders)

Ally (18)
1x Bill the Pony (The Black Riders)
2x Celduin Traveler (The Nîn-in-Eilph)
3x Gandalf (Core Set)
2x Ithilien Lookout (The Dunland Trap)
3x Master of the Forge (Shadow and Flame)
1x Quickbeam (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Rosie Cotton (The Mountain of Fire)
1x Treebeard (The Antlered Crown)
2x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)

Attachment (18)
1x Celebrían’s Stone (Core Set)
3x Fast Hitch (The Dead Marshes)
2x Fellowship of the Ring (The Road Darkens)
2x Fireside Song (Beneath the Sands)
3x Friend of Friends (The Mountain of Fire)
2x Resourceful (The Watcher in the Water)
1x Song of Hope (The Black Serpent)
1x Staff of Lebethron (The Land of Shadow)
3x Sword-thain (The Dread Realm)

Event (15)
3x A Test of Will (Core Set)
3x Elevenses (The Thing in the Depths)
3x Frodo’s Intuition (The Black Riders)
3x Sneak Attack (Core Set)
3x Timely Aid (The Redhorn Gate)

3 Heroes, 51 Cards
Cards up to The Mountain of Fire

Sideboard

Attachment (5)
3x Hobbit Cloak (The Black Riders)
2x Hobbit Pony (The Wastes of Eriador)

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Big Hero Six by Zeromage

This deck aims to have 6 heroes in play or at least 4 heroes and 2 hero-like allies in play (Gandalf and Treebeard).

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Beravor (Core Set)
Círdan the Shipwright (The Grey Havens)
Denethor (Flight of the Stormcaller)

Ally (24)
1x Arwen Undómiel (The Watcher in the Water)
3x Envoy of Pelargir (Heirs of Númenor)
3x Erebor Hammersmith (Core Set)
3x Errand-rider (Heirs of Númenor)
1x Faramir (Core Set)
3x Galadriel’s Handmaiden (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
3x Gandalf (Over Hill and Under Hill)
1x Glorfindel (Flight of the Stormcaller)
1x Henamarth Riversong (Core Set)
3x Treebeard (The Antlered Crown)
2x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)

Attachment (13)
3x Ent Draught (The Treason of Saruman)
1x Gandalf’s Staff (The Road Darkens)
1x Light of Valinor (Foundations of Stone)
3x Narya (The Grey Havens)
1x Shadowfax (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)
1x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)

Event (13)
3x Daeron’s Runes (Foundations of Stone)
3x Dwarven Tomb (Core Set)
3x Elrond’s Counsel (The Watcher in the Water)
2x Gaining Strength (The Steward’s Fear)
2x The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core Set)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to Flight of the Stormcaller

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Ranger of Cardolan

TL;DR A versatile neutral ally well positioned for unexpected combat requirements.

Background

[In] the wild lands beyond Bree there were mysterious wanderers. The Bree-folk called them Rangers, and knew nothing of their origin. They were taller and darker than the Men of Bree and were believed to have strange powers of sight and hearing, and to understand the languages of beasts and birds. They roamed at will southwards, and eastwards even as far as the Misty Mountains; but they were now few and rarely seen. When they appeared they brought news from afar, and told strange forgotten tales which were eagerly listened to; but the Bree-folk did not make friends of them.
—The Fellowship of the Ring, Book 1, Ch 9, At the Sign of the Prancing Pony

The Ranger of Cardolan was released during the Angmar Awakened cycle which featured heavy development of the Dunedain archetype. These descendants of the kingdom of Arnor are capable of an aggressive, combat focused style of play as they seek to protect and guard those more vulnerable, and happen to be able to tell a good tale now and again. As such, Ranger of Cardolan makes an excellent contributor to this style of play.

Card Theme

If you’ve played the Angmar Awakened Cycle (which is likely since that’s where this card originates), you’ve been exposed to a fair smattering of Dunedain history. However, it isn’t intuitive to piece the scraps together solely from playing the card game. Hence a brief (and hopefully accurate) review of the foundational historical pieces of Arnor, of the Northern Kingdom of the Dunedain.

Following the defeat of Sauron in the War of the Last Alliance, the rule of Arnor is assumed by Valandil, Isildur’s only surviving son following the Disaster of the Gladden Fields. Thereabout eight uneventful centuries pass until the unity of Arnor is splintered into three kingdoms: Arthedain, Rhudaur and Cardolan.

Arthedain was in the North-west and included the land between Brandywine and Lune, and also the land north of the Great Road as far as the Weather Hills. Rhudaur was in the North-east and lay between the Ettenmoors, the Weather Hills, and the Misty Mountains, but included also the Angle between the Hoarwell and the Loudwater. Cardolan was in the South, its bounds being the Brandywine, the Greyflood, and the Great Road.
—The Return of the King, Appendix A, “The Númenorean Kings”, “Eriador, Arnor, and the Heirs of Isildur”

Image credit to The Mad Hobbit blog

The chronicle of tales shows that the dread realm of Angmar was established and Rhudaur fell under it’s control. Cardolan allied with Arthedain to hold back the evil forces, but it was eventually overwhelmed and it’s royal line destroyed. A band of survivors took refuge in Tyrn Gorthad (Barrow Downs and Old Forest region) where they interred the Last Prince of Cardolan (possibly the tomb Frodo encounters) where they endured for two centuries; but eventually they were ravaged by the Great Plague and perished, allowing the evil wights of Carn Dum to possess the barrow region. Upon rescuing Frodo, Tom Bombadil remarks of his memory of the fallen people of Cardolan; to what extent he interacted with these people is unknown, but he was certainly present and contemporary with them, and may have had friendly relations.

It is speculative to suggest this ally card represents a faint, unbroken lineage of Cardolan Dunedain. Rather, it likely depicts rangers of intact Arthedain descent who are stationed, posted, or positioned in regions of the former Cardolan kingdom (additionally, similar for the Sarn Ford Sentry). Nevertheless, card’s ability is a thematic success for to spring into play from the shadows in order to protect others.

Synergies and Interactions

Let’s establish one thing at this point, the stats on the Ranger of Cardolan are quite good. A combined nine stats for four resources is cost effective and it’s neutral (non-)sphere to boot. There are a good number of heroes that have a 2/2/2 statline as well as several allies in the “Vilya Champions” group. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to call it the strongest non-unique neutral ally in the game (although there are interesting cases to be made for Guardian of Rivendell, etc).

Researching this card provided a lot of different clever uses for Ranger of Cardolan. But its high stats are a bit of a drawback when it comes to all of the effects that Ranger of Cardolan could trigger. If a card effect requires you to exhaust an ally/Dunedain/Ranger, then there is almost always a lower stat ally that could fit the bill (provided they are actually in play). These come at the opportunity cost of not being able to use its stats, which we’ve verified, are quite good.

To establish just a couple other points on the card’s ability that will come up later. “After you engage an enemy” is not limited to the Engagement phase. This could be triggered during non-traditional phases for engagement such as planning, questing, combat, etc. Also note, when triggering the ability, Ranger of Cardolan stays in play until the end of the round (i.e. the very end, after the refresh phase); you could get several uses out of this card over the course of the round with various readying effects available, or even in the narrow window after it refreshes but before the round ends and is discarded.

I’ll briefly acknowledge some combo’s that are viable, but on fringe of productive. Expert Trackers has an interesting combo to engage an enemy, bring in the Ranger of Cardolan and exhaust it place progress on a location; but it’s not really that productive since a different Scout/Ranger could be used to exhaust and our Ranger of Cardolan could be used to help deal with the enemy. He’s only here for a limited time, let’s make the most of it. Similarly, attachments on the Ranger of Cardolan could be useful, but that means you’re not using his ability (although very much still viable), and as before, other allies may be better targets.

There’s another set of combos that are intriguing, but still only situationally applicable because several pieces may need to be in place.

  • Descendants of Kings: more ways to get uses out of Dunedain stats/actions and you’ll likely have enemies engaged if you trigger Ranger of Cardolan’s ability
  • Tale of Tinuviel: always takes some finesse since it’s not providing action advantage. Since the stat boosting lasts until the end of the phase, extra readying is needed to get maximize the benefit (say from: Descendants of Kings)
  • Dunedain Hunter: an alluring gamble to directly take on an extra enemy to get a strong ally in play for not cost. Sometimes that enemy is more than you can handle right away, and the Ranger of Cardolan could help double-team that enemy if necessary. Plus, played during the planning phase, it gives you more opportunities to get an extra use.
  • Wait no Longer: a similar combo as previous, play during planning and appreciate exactly what extra enemy you are dealing with this round. However, it starts to get a little bit expensive to pull off.
  • Heir of Valandil: a perfectly acceptable way to reduce the cost once you’ve got some enemies engaged. Appreciate the flexibility to play Ranger of Cardolan this way if you missed the opportunity to trigger the response, of if you have Ranger of Cardolan back in your hand later in the game when the response isn’t as needed.
  • Mablung (hero): while he doesn’t share the right trait with the Ranger of Cardolan to trigger its ability, Mablung effectively defrays the cost of putting the Ranger into play during any phase.

Now to the substantive analysis, putting Ranger of Cardolan against the two staple 1-cost cards dealing emergency/unexpected combat:

Feint
Completely shuts down an attack and no secondary effect triggers: no shadow card, no forced effect related to the attack, etc.

Sneak Attack
Allows ‘enters/leaves play’ effects to trigger. If the ally survives, it could be paid for conventionally during the next planning phase, or a second sneak attack during a later phase of the same round.

Ranger of Cardolan
One resource cost is not specific to a sphere. Ally remains until the end of the round. Card is shuffled into owner’s deck for potential reuse. Takes up less ‘deck space’ with the integrated ability.

Objectively, Feint and Sneak Attack deserve their spots among the most popular and abused effects from the core set. But looking comparatively at the Ranger’s ability, would Feint and Sneak Attack be improved if they were neutral (non-)sphere? Would Feint and Sneak Attack be improved if they were shuffled into their owner’s deck after use (say, conditionally if no shadow effect was dealt to the target enemy)? The fine print to shuffle back into the owner’s deck can be incredible if there is sufficient card draw in a Dunedain deck.

The Ranger of Cardolan can be an excellent archery damage soak, effectively healing itself as it leaves play (also true for Sneak Attack). But it is also significant card economy, as it takes up half the space in your deck as a Sneak Attack and the corresponding ally.

Clearly there are some restrictions on Ranger of Cardolan. Controlling a Dunedain hero is much more limiting than being able to pay for one tactics or lore resource based on any hero lineup; there’s only six Dunedain heroes by name, and a couple more Messenger of the King candidates. But there is quite a bit of sub-archetype flexibility here: the multifaceted Aragorn, Idraen with location control, Thurindir (and Thalion) with side quests, and Beravor with card draw support. It also is only triggerable at the moment you engage an enemy; while that usually is the most impactful moment to have use of an extra ally, it lacks the flexibility to enter play if that isn’t the case.

Sidebar: Thalion mirrors the Ranger of Cardolan. Differing only in ability and unique status, they share the same card type, stats, cost, traits and sphere. It would really be a bonus achievement to trigger Ranger of Cardolan if your only Dunedain hero was Thalion after three side quests have been cleared.

Peak Power

Here we go; you’ve been looking for that overpowered combo to abuse the encounter deck with. Here we go! It was an unexpected surprise when I found the quote at the head of this article that mentioned when the Rangers would appear in Bree they “told strange forgotten tales which were eagerly listened to“.

Alright, you’re smart. You’ve probably known this combo was coming all along. But let’s go over some extra abuses of A Very Good Tale when used in the refresh phase before Ranger of Cardolan is discarded at round’s end. If you’ve snuck it into play using only one resource, you’ve got a chance to get excellent value out of that one resource.

To be explicit, all characters will ready during step 7.2 and then A Very Good Tale is playable during the action window between 7.4 and 7.5. Exhausting an ally, especially one with a high printed cost, that is about to leave play maximizes A Very Good Tale’s already potent resource acceleration and card draw effect.

Remember, there is that sneaky little action window after all cards ready and before the round ends

Here’s an extra achievement to unlock for yourself: pair Ranger of Cardolan with another ally leaving play at the end of the round. Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel and Saruman, while costly, all have powerful when enters play effects that you can squeeze one more use out of before they depart. Combined with Ranger of Cardolan, they can bring in a pair of high cost allies. Frankly, a pair of Rangers makes a perfectly viable combo on their own.

Dwarven Sellsword and Wilyador similarly leave play at the end of the round, but they are remarkably cheap allies whose value decrease the longer you keep them hanging around; what better than to play them on the cheap, yet get another stable ally into play as they leave (however, you are compromised to a total cost of incoming allies at five resources, but still plenty of respectable allies can be brought in this way).

Backing off “Peak Power” for a moment, imagine blanking the textbox on Ranger of Cardolan; gone is the ability, but also the restriction. Is it still worth playing? Consider how playable a neutral ally is in a tri-sphere deck.

Consider also if a Bond of Friendship contract is played. Per the setup restriction, ten non-sphere cards need to be included in your deck and, with four heroes, paying for a four cost ally doesn’t require any forethought or resource hoarding. As good as they are, a strong neutral ally is much more playable than one belonging to a specific sphere. (And if you really want a third neutral ranger, remember Thalion.)

Rating, Conclusion

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 Ranger of Cardolan has a lot of strengths. As a neutral ally, it can fit in almost any deck. Its statline is versatile and above average per stat to resource value/ratio. With a Dunedain hero, it can bounce into play many times during a game especially as an emergency combatant and archery soak.

With a mature card pool, it can’t always get included, but it’s certainly worthy of consideration in many decks even if its ability isn’t triggerable.

  • Dave – 4
  • Grant – TBR
  • Ted – 5
  • My rating – 3
  • Average – 4.00

Lore Anborn

  • Player Card Categories 
    • Recursion
    • Discard Pile
    • Messenger of the King

An ally with an ability built for the Traps archetype that is a little too expensive in resource and opportunity cost.

Background

‘Now I have him at the arrow-point,’ said Anborn. ‘Shall I not shoot, Captain? For coming unbidden to this place death is our law.’

The Two Towers, Book 4, Chapter 6: The Forbidden Pool

Anborn is one of the Ithilien Rangers under the command of Faramir. He is the one to spot Gollum lurking around the Forbidden Pool. As the quoted above, he keeps an arrow trained on Gollum ready to shoot while Faramir questions Frodo about Gollum.

Card Theme

Anborn’s ability puts him into the Gondor Rangers trap archetype developed during Against the Shadow. This is very thematic to the Rangers of Ithilien. They’re a guerrilla force to harass the enemy at every opportunity, but they’re vastly outnumbered. Traps and ambushes to quickly take out the enemy and then fade away back into their secret hiding places to avoid any sort of counterattack. Anborn has a strong attack stat to help kill enemies in one attack. If not needed on the attack, he can get a trap back to help set up their next offensive.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Traps

Of course with his ability you can get more uses out of Ithilien Pit, Poisoned Stakes, and Ambush. These often will end up in the discard as they facilitate killing the attached enemy. Entangling Nets can also be a good one to get back if used to lower an enemy’s defense.

Ranger Spikes and Forest Snare often won’t need to be retrieved since they can effectively remove an enemy from the game. There are some cases where you will need to kill the trapped enemy anyway. For example, putting a Forest Snare on the Hill Troll in Journey Along the Anduin is a great way to deal with it. You only have to defend it once before throwing the trap on. (Son of Arnor can get it engaged during planning to avoid even the one defense, but it’s harder to pull off.) Then you can kill it over the course of a few turns without too much trouble.

Followed is another where hopefully you don’t need to bring it back with Anborn. He does allow you to put out there and if it attaches to a low threat enemy, just kill it, get Followed back, and replay it.

Readying

The biggest drawback to Anborn’s ability is that you need to exhaust him. This prevents you from using his 3 attack that turn. There may be times when you don’t need his 3 attack because no enemies revealed or another player has combat covered. Still being able to attack and use his ability is better.

There are a fair number of options for readying Anborn. Leather Boots is cheap, in-sphere and can be made more reliable with cards like The Hidden Way and Dunedain Pathfinder. Leadership Faramir hero is a very thematic choice. Anborn’ and Leadership Faramir hero combos well with the Ambush trap since you get to attack when the enemy is engaged. You will just want to plan ahead and use his ability during the Travel phase action window.

Narya can be another great card for readying Anborn. Not only does he ready but he gets a boost to his best stat, attack. His defense is also boosted to 2. This with his 3 hit points makes him into a decent defender for a 2 or 3 attack enemy.

Spare Hood and Cloak is a little trickier to make into a reliable source of readying. Fortunately, Long Lake Trader that can move it to an a weaker ally or an ally that doesn’t need to exhaust like North Realm Lookout is also in Lore.

There are some ally readying events like the core set Ever Vigilant. To Arms! can be especially useful if already running Leather Boots and/or Spare Hood and Cloak. Swift and Strong is a bit more conditional and is better if you have a second target to attack. This is because it will buff his attack to 5! This can really help clear the board of enemies especially if Anborn has a Ranger Spear.

Grim Resolve, Strength of Arms, and The Free Peoples offer global readying. Most likely you won’t be playing these to get Anborn to attack and use his ability. Still he can contribute his 1 willpower if needed to quest and then readying with everyone else for combat. Alternatively, if it’s a heavy combat quest, getting to attack twice for 3 is always good.

Messenger of the King

The contract can make Anborn into an 8 threat cost hero. He already has stats on par with core set Legolas. His trap recursion ability can help set up a draw engine with Damrod hero. Especially if using the traps mentioned earlier that will end up the discard pile frequently. He’s a decent choice for a thematic Rangers of Ithilien build. Thematic considerations aside, Legolas ally outshines him for the contract. Same threat cost and an ability that provides card draw just for killing enemies is much more efficient.

Once he is a hero, there are many more options to ready him. In sphere there is Wingfoot and Lembas. Out of sphere, there is the core set staple Unexpected Courage, Steed of the North, Leadership Gimli hero, Cram, and Magic Ring. Wingfoot and Steed of the North like Leadership Faramir hero mentioned earlier take some planning to use his ability before readying given they are triggered effects.

Ranger Spear

Anborn is one of the best Ranger allies to attach this to. Yazan and Vigilant Dunadan are the only other Ranger allies with a base attack of 3. Most of the Ranger heroes only have attack of 2 for that matter. His ability will help make the +2 attack bonus more reliable.

Quest Specific

His 3 attack can be helpful in quests that have battle questing like those in Heirs of Numenor and the first part of Battle of Carn Dûm. If you give him Ranger Spears, any quests where enemies are guarding cards like Escape from Dol Guldur or the Hobgoblin enemy in the Ered Mithren cycle, he can attack for 5-7 even without traps in play.

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 Anborn at 7 rings. I admit this has a lot to do with my disappointment with trying to fit him into a Trap deck. He’s too expensive to be more than a mid to late game card. That’s likely when you’ll need to get back some traps. Unfortunately usually at that point you should be set up to not need them anymore. This because the best ones to recur, Ithilien Pit, Poisoned Stakes, and Ambush are better early when threat is low and can control engagement better. Erebor Hammersmith then at 2 cost is better to get one of those back early. The trap archetype also is now very full with the addition of Tactics traps and Emyn Arnen Ranger. Anborn tends to be a one of if he makes the cut at all.

I think really what he offers is the 3 attack stat. He’s basically the Lore version of Legolas Ally with a worse ability. The only other ally in Lore with 3 attack is Quickbeam. If not building Mono-Lore, he has some stiff competition from other 4 cost allies like Treebeard and Northern Tracker.

I haven’t played with him as a Messenger of the King hero, but I just don’t see his 8 threat is really low enough to help with keeping a trap deck’s threat low to avoid engagement. I think you’re better off just using the other low threat Lore heroes to get into Secrecy or the likes of Gleowine to get threat as low as possible. Also for the threat cost, there just some better options like Tactics Legolas ally with a more universally useful ability.

  • Dave – 8
  • Grant – 5
  • Ted – 7
  • Matt – 7
  • Average – 6.75

Sample Decks

Ketaroz’s Forest Masters

I originally found this deck back on the FFG forums years ago. Hints below copied from the original thread.

  • Do not hold traps in your hands, keep staging area always with a trap.
  • Keep summoning allies whenever you can.
  • Gandalf will mostly be used as a End Game move or threat control.
  • Engage often and voluntarily.
  • Quest are the hard part, be smart, normally heroes quets and allies fight.
  • Activate Aragorn skill around threat 43.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Aragorn (The Watcher in the Water)
Faramir (Assault on Osgiliath)
Mirlonde (The Drúadan Forest)

Ally (30)
3x Anborn (The Blood of Gondor)
3x Elrond (The Road Darkens)
3x Erebor Hammersmith (Core Set)
3x Gandalf (Core Set)
3x Gildor Inglorion (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
3x Haldir of Lórien (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
3x Ithilien Archer (Encounter at Amon Dîn)
3x Wandering Ent (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
3x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)
3x White Tower Watchman (The Drúadan Forest)

Attachment (17)
3x Forest Snare (Core Set)
3x Lembas (Trouble in Tharbad)
3x Poisoned Stakes (The Blood of Gondor)
3x Ranger Bow (Assault on Osgiliath)
3x Ranger Spikes (Heirs of Númenor)
2x Wingfoot (The Nîn-in-Eilph)

Event (3)
3x Mithrandir’s Advice (The Steward’s Fear)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to Celebrimbor’s Secret

Deck built on RingsDB.

Bear Traps of the King by GrandSpleen

A multiplayer combat deck featuring Anborn as The Messenger of the King.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
(MotK) Anborn (Messenger of the King Allies)
Beorn (Over Hill and Under Hill)
Damrod (The Land of Shadow)

Contract (0)
1x Messenger of the King (The Land of Sorrow)

Ally (16)
1x Anborn (The Blood of Gondor)
3x Defender of Rammas (Heirs of Númenor)
3x Honour Guard (The Wastes of Eriador)
3x Landroval (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
2x Legolas (The Treason of Saruman)
2x Master of the Forge (Shadow and Flame)
2x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)

Attachment (29)
3x Ambush (The Land of Shadow)
3x Dagger of Westernesse (The Black Riders)
3x Entangling Nets (Temple of the Deceived)
2x Favor of the Valar (The Battle of Carn Dûm)
3x Ithilien Pit (Encounter at Amon Dîn)
3x Outmatched (Fire in the Night)
2x Raiment of War (The Thing in the Depths)
3x Ranger Spear (The City of Corsairs)
2x Rohan Warhorse (The Voice of Isengard)
3x Song of Battle (The Dead Marshes)
2x Vigilant Guard (A Storm on Cobas Haven)

Event (5)
3x Daeron’s Runes (Foundations of Stone)
2x Foe-hammer (Over Hill and Under Hill)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to Messenger of the King Allies

Sideboard

Attachment (4)
1x Favor of the Valar (The Battle of Carn Dûm)
3x Woodmen’s Clearing (The Withered Heath)

Event (3)
3x Keen as Lances (Escape from Mount Gram)

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Endless Ambush by Seastan

As the title suggests, the deck is all about recurring Ambush with Anborn.

Endless Ambush

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Aragorn (The Watcher in the Water)
Damrod (The Land of Shadow)
Glorfindel (Foundations of Stone)

Ally (16)
3x Anborn (The Blood of Gondor)
2x Henamarth Riversong (Core Set)
3x Master of the Forge (Shadow and Flame)
3x Treebeard (The Antlered Crown)
2x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)
3x Wellinghall Preserver (Across the Ettenmoors)

Attachment (19)
3x Ambush (The Land of Shadow)
3x Asfaloth (Foundations of Stone)
2x Forest Snare (Core Set)
3x Light of Valinor (Foundations of Stone)
3x Ranger Spikes (Heirs of Númenor)
3x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)
2x Wingfoot (The Nîn-in-Eilph)

Event (15)
3x A Good Harvest (The Steward’s Fear)
3x A Test of Will (Core Set)
3x Daeron’s Runes (Foundations of Stone)
3x Deep Knowledge (The Voice of Isengard)
3x Heed the Dream (Flight of the Stormcaller)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to Flight of the Stormcaller

Sideboard

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

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.