Ranger of Cardolan

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


[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:

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.


‘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


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.


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


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


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

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.