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.

Ranger Bow

  • Player Card Categories Willpower Bonus
    • Direct Damage
    • Staging Area Attack
    • Ally Attachment

A tool for Ranger decks looking to dispatch enemies in the staging area which is easier said than done.

Background

The flavor text points the Ranger Bow as those carried by the Rangers of Ithilien. In fact, the text is from when Frodo and Sam first met the rangers after their capture:

If they were astonished at what they saw, their captors were even more astonished. Four tall Men stood there. Two had spears in their hands with broad bright heads. Two had great bows, almost of their own height, and great quivers of long green-feathered arrows. All had swords at their sides, and were clad in green and brown of varied hues, as if the better to walk unseen in the glades of Ithilien. Green gauntlets
covered their hands, and their faces were hooded and masked with green, except for their eyes, which were very keen and bright.

The Two Towers, Book 4, Chapter 4: Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit

It is later revealed these rangers are selected from people descended from Ithilien’s former residents. They secretly cross the Anduin to engage in guerilla tactics to harry the forces of Mordor.

Card Theme

The direct damage into the staging area is very thematic to the Rangers of Ithilien. Their job is set up ambushes and harass the enemy at every opportunity then fade away back into their secret hiding places. Keeping low threat or otherwise avoiding engaging enemies to damage them outside of direct combat represents their tactics very well.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Cheap Ranger Allies

The Ranger Bow of course requires a ranger character to use it. While ranger heroes are certainly an option, allies are better as heroes tend to have strong stats or abilities that require them to exhaust. Top ally candidates are Guardian of Ithilien, Ithilien Tracker, Ithilien Lookout, and Andrath Guardsman. All are or can be 1 or 2 cost making them cheap to play. Aside from Ithilien Lookout, they all have 1 stat scores that won’t be terribly missed if exhausted to use the bow.

Guardian of Ithilien is the first choice since can help get an enemy back up into staging but after it enters play, its utility is diminished. It could be useful for a chump block but with a Ranger Bow it provides more value turn after turn. The one direct damage into the staging area can allow it to damage an enemy on its own. It it kills an enemy, this could possibly reduce threat in the staging area for some pseudo questing.

Ithilien Tracker is a good second choice also with its one attack that won’t be missed. It’s ability can be hit or miss since it is an action that has to be triggered prior to staging. Ithilien Lookout is another useful inclusion for a secrecy deck with its cost lowered to one. While it has a more useful 2 attack than the others, the bow is a good option for it while avoiding engagements. Andrath Guardsman similar to the Guardian of Ithilien loses utility once played. The bow gives it some ongoing utility.

Engagement Control, Threat Reduction, and Return to Staging Area

All of these types of cards can help keep enemies in the staging area for Ranger Bow. The method just differs slightly. Engagement control cards like Take No Notice, Advance Warning, Mablung ally, and Lore Pippin hero, Noiseless Movement, and Rohirrim Scout either increase the engagement cost of enemies or prevent engagement.

Threat reduction helps keep you below the engagement of enemies so they don’t come down at all. In Lore with Ranger Bow there are only 2 options, but they’re great. Woodmen’s Clearing at 0 resource cost can lower your threat by 3 once the location it is attached to is explored. Location control effects are quite prevalent in Lore making this fairly easy to do. Lore Aragorn, which I like to think of as Strider because of the art, is the other option. His refresh action to reset your threat to its starting level is the biggest threat reduction effect in the game. Of course these are not the only options even in mono-Lore. There are a couple neutral options like core set Gandalf ally and Keen as Lances that work well too. There are more neutral cards and in other spheres. I’ll cover them later as they overlap with other synergies.

If you can’t avoid engagement there are cards to return them to the staging area. Guardian of Ithilien is a great double duty card here. It sends an enemy back up to the staging area and is a ranger for the Ranger Bow to go on. Best case is you’ve damaged an enemy the previous round, return it to the staging area with Guardian, and then shoot it dead with Ranger Bow. Another double duty card is Fastred hero. Not only will he send an enemy back, but he will also reduce threat for doing so.

Ithilien Archer and Terrible to Behold are other options but are just not worth it. The archer is expensive at 3 cost. It’s 2 attack usually isn’t going to damage an enemy on its own. If you can damage an enemy, you might as well try to kill it since that means the attack already has been defended. Terrible to Behold at least cancels the attack and returns it, but as the cost of exhausting a Noble character. At that point you might as well have defended the attack.

Hobbits

Hobbits can work quite well with the bow. They offer some of the lowest threat cost heroes in the game, additional threat reduction, and engagement control. Particularly in the Lore sphere with Ranger Bow. As mentioned earlier, hero Pippen its chief among them for increasing engagement cost of enemies per Hobbit hero you control. Folco Boffin also in the lore sphere is a great choice because his threat cost can be 4 when you’re running only Hobbit Heroes. Plus he can be discarded for an emergency threat reduction. The last in sphere option, Bilbo Baggins, is less optimal than others considering his 9 threat cost. He’s not bad when paired with Pippin and Folco for 19 starting threat, and more card draw is never a bad thing.

A couple of the spirit Hobbit Heroes also have very useful abilities to to pair with Ranger Bow. Spirit Merry with his threat reduction ability can help keep Heroes below the engagement cost of enemies. Spirit Pippin can send an enemy back up to the staging area to make it a target for the Bow. They also provide Spirit access for many threat reduction cards like Galadhrim’s Greeting, Smoke Rings, and the more Hobbit specific Elvenses. Lastly but certainly not least is The Shirefolk if using all Hobbits.

Robin Smallburrow offers another way to increase engagement cost of enemies. It’s a bit conditional with having to travel, but the increase by quest points can be significant. Particularly in later cycles when locations were given more quest points to counter direct location progress effects like Asfaloth.

Other Direct Damage and Staging Area Attack

Ranger Bow dealing only 1 damage means it is unlikely to kill an enemy in a single turn. Even with 2 or 3 copies out unless you’re playing earlier scenarios where enemies could have 1 or 2 hit points like Shadows of Mirkwood, Darrowdelf, or The Hobbit Saga. More cards with these effects make this strategy more effective and consistent. Heroes like Thalin from the Core Set, Argalad, and Tactics Bilbo can all do a direct damage to enemies in the staging area. Argalad besides being in sphere is the most flexible as his ability is an action that can be triggered after staging. Bilbo and Thalin on the other hand have to quest to get the damage. A number of allies also have direct damage effects typically from entering play like the Core Set Gandalf, Descendent of Thorondor, Galadhon Archer, and Rumil. There are some thematic options as well with Forest Patrol, Poisoned Stakes, Leadership Anborn ally, Arrows from the Trees, and Lore Faramir ally.

The other route is to use heroes that can attack directly into the staging area either to soften up or finish off targets of the Ranger Bow. Haldir hero, Dúnhere and Leadership Éomer all have staging area attack built in. They also have the staging area attack specific attachments, Bow of the Galadhrim and Spear of the Mark, to make them very effective at attacking into the staging area. Great Yew Bow and Hands Upon the Bow can allow any ranged hero to attack into the staging area as well.

Quest Specific

Ranger bow will really shine against enemies like the Core Set’s Goblin Sniper and Khazad-Dum’s Orc Drummer. High engagement cost, low hit points, and an incredibly annoying ability while they’re in the staging area. Little surging enemies in later cycles similar to Ered Mithren’s Stray Goblin are also good targets. It creates action advantage by not having to defend them and gets a little threat out of the staging area.

Quests to not bring the Ranger Bow against are definitely Intruders in Chetwood, Dungeson of Cirith Gurat, and Helm’s Deep. Intruders in Chetwood enemies can’t be damaged while Orc War Party is in play. The quest starts with one in play and there are 2 others in the encounter deck. More often than not, enemies won’t be able to take damage. In Dungeons of Cirith Gurat, enemies guarding objectives are immune to player card effects during stage 1. They’re often guarding objectives since they will capture allies as objectives. The second stage when the players have to avoid engaging enemies for 2 turns Ranger Bow would be great, except they’re all immune to damage. Helm’s Deep many of the enemies have the toughness X keyword that cancels the first X damage any time damage is dealt to them. Ranger Bow’s damage then will just get canceled every time it is used against them.

Ring Rating

Card Talk uses the highly scientific yet arbitrary scale of 1 ring for the card to rule them all to 10 to be cast back into the fiery chasm from whence it came.

I rate Ranger Bow at 7 rings. It can be useful, but you have to build in some encounter control, low threat, or return to staging area effects to use continually. Otherwise, it just softens up enemies when engaged and there are attack boosting attachments that would be a better use of deck space. The 1 direct damage isn’t enough to kill an enemy at least every other turn without 2 copies in play. This direct damage also is generally outclassed by staging area attack. Dunhere, Haldir, and Leadership Eomer can all get their attack up to kill an enemy in a single turn with a couple attachments. It is not unplayable, but the card pool generally has better options for what this is trying to do.

  • Dave – 8
  • Grant – 9
  • Ted – 7
  • Matt – 7
  • Average – 7.75

Sample Decks

Ye Olde Ranger Trap Deck by Matt Duckworth

The main idea is enemy manipulation in staging. The focus is to either trap enemies as they come into play, or use Ithilien Archer or Mablung to bounce select enemies you engage back into traps in staging. As you are laying traps and trapping enemies, Damrod functions to both accelerate resources and fuel additional card draw. The main attack power comes from Faramir, who is boosted both by sticking enemies in staging with low threat and Ranger Spikes, as well as equipping Dagger of Westernesse.

Ye Olde Ranger Trap Deck

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Damrod (The Land of Shadow)
Faramir (Assault on Osgiliath)
Mirlonde (The Drúadan Forest)

Ally (22)
2x Anborn (The Blood of Gondor)
2x Gandalf (Over Hill and Under Hill)
1x Henamarth Riversong (Core Set)
2x Ithilien Archer (Encounter at Amon Dîn)
2x Ithilien Lookout (The Dunland Trap)
2x Ithilien Tracker (Heirs of Númenor)
3x Mablung (The Land of Shadow)
3x Master of the Forge (Shadow and Flame)
2x Mirkwood Pioneer (The Nîn-in-Eilph)
3x Rivendell Minstrel (The Hunt for Gollum)

Attachment (23)
2x Ambush (The Land of Shadow)
2x Dagger of Westernesse (The Black Riders)
2x Forest Snare (Core Set)
2x Ithilien Pit (Encounter at Amon Dîn)
2x Poisoned Stakes (The Blood of Gondor)
2x Protector of Lórien (Core Set)
2x Ranger Bow (Assault on Osgiliath)
3x Ranger Spikes (Heirs of Númenor)
3x Secret Vigil (The Lost Realm)
1x Song of Battle (The Dead Marshes)
2x Wingfoot (The Nîn-in-Eilph)

Event (6)
2x Distant Stars (Escape from Mount Gram)
2x Forest Patrol (Assault on Osgiliath)
2x Mithrandir’s Advice (The Steward’s Fear)

Player Side Quest (1)
1x Scout Ahead (The Wastes of Eriador)

3 Heroes, 52 Cards
Cards up to The Black Riders

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Smoke Screen Alliance by Matt Kell (kattattack22)

A Ranger Hobbit Last Alliance deck also featuring Pipes. General game plan is mulligan for Hobbit Pipe(s). Multiple if possible. Once some Hobbit Pipes are in play use the threat reduction events to draw cards. Last Alliance provides some resource acceleration throughout the game. Smoke and Think helps pay for the high cost Ranger allies.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Aragorn (The Watcher in the Water)
Frodo Baggins (Conflict at the Carrock)
Pippin (Encounter at Amon Dîn)

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

Ally (20)
1x Bilbo Baggins (The Road Darkens)
2x Cautious Halfling (Wrath and Ruin)
2x Curious Brandybuck (The Wastes of Eriador)
2x Gaffer Gamgee (Mount Gundabad)
3x Guardian of Ithilien (The City of Corsairs)
2x Ithilien Tracker (Heirs of Númenor)
1x Mablung (The Land of Shadow)
2x Northern Tracker (Core Set)
1x Odo Proudfoot (Under the Ash Mountains)
2x Ranger of Cardolan (The Wastes of Eriador)
1x Robin Smallburrow (The Drowned Ruins)
1x Sam Gamgee (The Thing in the Depths)

Attachment (13)
3x Dúnedain Pipe (The Black Serpent)
3x Hobbit Pipe (The Black Riders)
3x Ranger Bow (Assault on Osgiliath)
3x Spare Pipe (The Land of Sorrow)
1x Thorongil (The Fortress of Nurn)

Event (18)
3x Deep Knowledge (The Voice of Isengard)
3x Drinking Song (Mount Gundabad)
3x Smoke and Think (The Land of Sorrow)
3x Smoke Rings (The Black Riders)
3x The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core Set)
3x The Shirefolk (Mount Gundabad)

3 Heroes, 51 Cards
Cards up to ALeP – Children of Eorl

Sideboard

Hero (5)
Aragorn (Core Set)
Aragorn (The Lost Realm)
Aragorn (The Fortress of Nurn)
Frodo Baggins (A Shadow in the East)
Pippin (The Black Riders)

Ally (14)
2x Bilbo Baggins (The Road Darkens)
1x Cautious Halfling (Wrath and Ruin)
1x Curious Brandybuck (The Wastes of Eriador)
2x Elladan (The Mountain of Fire)
2x Elrohir (The Mountain of Fire)
1x Gaffer Gamgee (Mount Gundabad)
1x Odo Proudfoot (Under the Ash Mountains)
1x Ranger of Cardolan (The Wastes of Eriador)
1x Robin Smallburrow (The Drowned Ruins)
1x Sam Gamgee (The Thing in the Depths)
1x Súlien (The City of Corsairs)

Event (7)
3x Elrond’s Counsel (The Watcher in the Water)
3x Old Toby (The Black Serpent)
1x Will of the West (Core Set)

Deck built on RingsDB.

Ranger Bow Target Practice by Jim H (teamjimby)

A Secrecy deck with scrying and card draw to support using Ranger Bow.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Glorfindel (Foundations of Stone)
Mirlonde (The Drúadan Forest)
Pippin (The Black Riders)

Ally (19)
1x Bilbo Baggins (The Road Darkens)
3x Celduin Traveler (The Nîn-in-Eilph)
3x Guardian of Ithilien (The City of Corsairs)
2x Henamarth Riversong (Core Set)
3x Ithilien Lookout (The Dunland Trap)
1x Ithilien Tracker (Heirs of Númenor)
1x Mablung (The Land of Shadow)
3x Master of the Forge (Shadow and Flame)
2x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)

Attachment (16)
1x Asfaloth (Foundations of Stone)
1x Hobbit Pipe (The Black Riders)
3x Light of Valinor (Foundations of Stone)
3x Poisoned Stakes (The Blood of Gondor)
3x Ranger Bow (Assault on Osgiliath)
2x Ranger Spikes (Heirs of Númenor)
3x Resourceful (The Watcher in the Water)

Event (14)
3x A Test of Will (Core Set)
3x Daeron’s Runes (Foundations of Stone)
3x Elrond’s Counsel (The Watcher in the Water)
3x Risk Some Light (Shadow and Flame)
2x The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core Set)

Player Side Quest (1)
1x Scout Ahead (The Wastes of Eriador)

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

Sideboard

Ally (1)
1x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)

Attachment (3)
1x Asfaloth (Foundations of Stone)
1x Ithilien Pit (Encounter at Amon Dîn)
1x Ranger Spikes (Heirs of Númenor)

Event (4)
3x O Elbereth! Gilthonial! (Shadow and Flame)
1x The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core Set)

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Fast Hitch

A card so nice, they reviewed it twice (at least).

TL;DR It’s a Hobbit staple.

Background

Hobbit stats are rubbish: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever, about that. If you’re of the persuasion the first statement would read better with the word “stats” omitted, then you are probably off to find a better use of your time. Unless you’re getting into extended fan-created content (ALEP: The Last Alliance Contract) from here on, the following discussion is clearly in the context of Hobbitish application.

Card Theme

The source material for Fast Hitch comes from Sam and Frodo’s journey through the Emyn Muil. Our beloved podcast hosts appreciated this context the first time around, but a veil of forgetfulness had passed over all of them by the second time they discussed this card. Please reference The Two Towers: Chapter 1. The Taming of Smeagol to delight yourself with the fullest quotation.

After the elven rope gifted to Sam by Galadriel comes loose:

Sam did not laugh. “I may not be much good at climbing, Mr. Frodo,” he said in injured tones, “but I do know something about rope and about knots. It’s in the family, as you might say. Why, my grand-dad, and my uncle Andy after him, him that was the Gaffer’s eldest brother he had a rope-walk over by Tighfield many a year. And I put as fast a hitch over the stump as any one could have done, in the Shire or out of it.”

Even though an internet search today for fast hitches will result predominately in towing hitches, the demographic most interested in them is unsurprising: Farmers (and tangentially modern farming certainly relies on fast tow hitches to quickly attach and unattach equipment from tractors). The ability to quickly secure loads, equipment, or produce is key to agrarian values and skills that just such a Gamgee Hobbit family would have prided themselves on and found essential to efficiently cultivating lands.

Hopefully, it is obvious why knotting knowledge and the ability to quickly fasten loads would thematically represent action advantage for Hobbits. In the source material, the fact the elven rope loosens itself and returns to its owner is a sore point for Sam, but it also allows them to continue their quest sooner, without having to leave the rope behind.

Of note, in knot tying theory, a hitch is a knot used to fasten a rope to another object. Clearly an accurate use in this circumstance. Another thematic win is achieved by designing this card for the Lore sphere; from the core rules, “the sphere of Lore emphasizes the potential of a hero’s mind. Intellect, wisdom, experience, and specialized knowledge are all under the domain of this sphere.” A small quibble is it would have been nice if there was a Gamgee hero with the printed Lore icon; a MotK Gaffer is the closest we come.

Synergies and Interatcions

In the greater context, Fast Hitch compares most directly with the core staple Unexpected Courage; attachments that provide a repeatable readying effect. Note that Fast Hitch can be used on any character, not just heroes.

It’s easy to ask, “name a Hobbit that’s not a good target for Fast Hitch?” Clearly they all are, but one must consider the opportunity cost that exists. Because of this, there are clearly better targets for the readying. Also, should multiple Fast Hitches be stacked on a single character, or should they be spread around.

There exist two main strategies for building for Fast Hitch: you are planning to sufficiently boost a Hobbit’s stats to make the extra actions pay off or you are planning to use actions that require a character to exhaust. But let it be stated, Rosie Cotton merges these two strategies in powerful ways.

Stat Boosting

  • Characters that have above average or stat boosting abilities: Sam Gamgee (Leadership), Tom Cotton, Tactics Merry
  • Attachments for boosting Hobbits: Hobbit Cloak, Staff of Lebethron, Sting, Ring Mail, Friend of Friends, etc as well as plenty of others (i.e. play an off-theme Steward of Gondor, then Gondorian Shield becomes quite effective)
  • Events for boosting: Halfling Determination (best for combat as you might get multiple uses out of the boost).

Ability Triggers

Characters with abilities you may want multiple uses of:

  • Firstly, MotK Rossie Cotton: if her power isn’t self-evident, more in the next section.
  • Tactics Merry: top attack potential for Hobbits, with an attacking buddy they can really mow down the enemies. Top thematic points for pairing with a partner deck triggering Tactic Eowyn’s ability. You will have to figure out some potential ranged damage though (partner attack w/printed range, Dunedain Cache, etc.)
  • Spirit Merry: even though Hobbit Pony may do it better, questing-readying-triggering is quite effective.
  • Other more niche cases include Spirit Pippin and Tactics Bilbo Baggins

Peak Power

If your ambition is to feature Fast Hitch in the most powerful ways, building around MotK Rosie Cotton is your objective. Making Rosie a hero (yes, Sword-thane is similarly viable, but requires considerably more resources to set up), opens her up to all willpower boosting effects that target heroes (consider Fireside Song, Red Book of Westmarch, Celebrian’s Stone, Necklace of Girion, Stone of Elostirion, Strider, Courage Awakened, Hobbit Pipe + Smoke Rings, etc.). Having multiple hitches on Rosie will allow her to quest, then ready and exhaust to boost another questing Hobbit, while finally readying and exhaust to boost a combat hobbit. Not to mention all the decision points of whether you want to trigger her ability; you might want to limit your progress, while a big enemy reveal might have you prioritizing combat. It is still incredibly strong even if you can’t get her willpower boosted.

Defending enemy attacks is always a vital part of this game. As such, our defense capable Hobbits can greatly benefit from Fast Hitch: Sam Gamgee, Tom Cotton, and Spirit Frodo.

Even though Hobbit decks tend to be tri-sphere, you still must have access to Lore. There are only 3 printed heroes that are Lore Hobbits. While A Good Harvest, Song of Wisdom, or intentional discarding an attachment and playing it with Reforged can work, they are probably a bit too big of a momentum hit unless you’re utilizing those cards in other ways to facilitate your deck. Also note, the Bond of Friendship contract plays nicely with a couple of Fast Hitches. Additionally, Fast Hitch is a nice inclusion for many of the saga quests, since the extra hero is often a Hobbit and may have some nifty utility in the quest.

Rating, Conclusion

Even though their stats are rubbish, a pleasant side effect is that giving Hobbits action advantage through Fast Hitch doesn’t feel overpowered. Many decisions underlie skillful play of this card that is thematically appropriate for the hiding in the shadows, tricksey Hobbit archetype.

You knew it before you read all this, Fast Hitch is a near auto-include in any Hobbit deck. There are many shenanigans yet to be uncovered if you’ve extended your LCG experience with the ALEP fan content; the Last Alliance contract opens up the Hobbit trait to any other trait archetype.

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: w/Hobbits 1, w/out Hobbits 10: overall 5

Grant: 3

My rating: 4 — I agree with Dave’s logic to split the difference between it’s usefulness with or without Hobbits; but as the card pool grows beyond the official FFG releases, there are more ways to use Fast Hitch than a strictly pure Hobbit deck.