Bill the Pony

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

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

Background

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

Card Theme

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

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

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

Card Synergies and Interactions

Hobbits

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

Fellowship

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

Messenger of the King

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

Quest Specific

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

Ring Rating

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

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

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

External Links

Sample Decks

Bond of Hobbitship by Dave Walsh

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

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

Main Deck

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

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

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

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

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

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

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

The Revolving Door Fellowship by BGamerJoe

From the deck description:

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

Main Deck

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sideboard

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

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

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Citadel Plate

  • Player Card Categories 
    • Hit Point Bonus
    • Burglar Treasure

The best pure hit point boost.

Background

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

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

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

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

Card Theme

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

Card Synergies and Interactions

Gloin

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

Gimli

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

Defenders

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

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

Quest Specific

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

Ring Rating

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

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

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

External Links

Sample Decks

DúneGlóin by Seastan

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

Main Deck

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

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

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

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

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to The Dread Realm

Sideboard

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

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

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

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

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.