Core Gandalf

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

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


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

Card Theme

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

Card Synergies and Interactions

Put into Play and Return Ally to Hand Effects

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

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

Ally Readying

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

Stand and Fight

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

Ring Rating

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

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

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

External Links

Sample Decks

Play Gandalf Every Turn by Dale Stephenson

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

Main Deck

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

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

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

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

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

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

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Cirdan’s Solo Support Group by The Purple Wizard

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

Main Deck

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Folco Boffin

Mirlonde for Hobbits not that they needed one.


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


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

Secret Vigil – Community Review

by Jason Meyer

  • Card Talk Episode TBD
  • Cycle
    • Angmar Awakened
  • Set
    • The Lost Realm 

  • Player Card Categories 
    • Staging Area Threat Reduction
    • Threat Reduction


I suppose since the quote comes from Aragorn from The Fellowship of the Ring, it’s meant to bring one back to this idea of Dunedain Rangers keeping a vigil on the many Free Peoples. That’s a reassuring thought, when thinking of the many dangers outside the more populated areas of Hobbiton and Bree.

Card Theme

Thematically, it’s spot-on for me because it’s a Secret Vigil, observing an enemy in the staging area (so it’s seen as less of a Threat), and then while it’s engaged, one has determined some of its weak spots, and upon killing it, the death of such a high threat enemy has emboldened the cast of characters to regain some hope in their endeavor, and are able to move forward with less of that sense of impending doom that comes with much of Middle-Earth adventuring (at least in this game).

Card Synergies and Interactions

Bond of Friendship & Grey Wanderer Contracts

I would have liked this card to work better at helping one stay in Secrecy, but I’ve found that (to kill) an enemy while in Secrecy, I tended to have Hobbits or a Spirit Glorfindel; and it just hasn’t quite worked. Instead, I’ve liked this, like in my Bond of Friendship decks, for when I needed an extra Tactics card. Also, I’ve liked having this in some Grey Wanderer decks with a single hero that has high attack power (Legolas, Gandalf) to help me stay at pretty low Threat for a few more rounds.

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.

For only 1 Tactics resource, I’ve been finding this card to be pretty useful. It’s an attachment that can be played on any enemy, so if the (-1) Threat would be helpful in the Staging area (and often questing with Tactics is difficult) that’s good. But it can be attached to even an Engaged enemy, so if there’s an Ungoliant Spawn, Mumak, Giant Centipede, or some other high Threat enemy that is about to be killed, the Threat reduction kicks in. I know Dave is primarily a solo player, but I play 2-handed; and since Secret Vigil reduces EACH player’s Threat by that enemy’s printed Threat. In Tactics, Threat reduction is very beneficial. Also, that it’s a 1 cost, it has made its way into Bond of Friendship decks I’ve made. That the player can choose where it goes, makes it stand out from the typical attachments that can be put on enemies, so there’s less of a chance of this being accidentally attached to some 1-Threat enemy.

  • Jason – 5
  • Dave – TBD
  • Grant – TBD
  • Ted – TBD
  • Matt – TBD

Sample Decks

20210806_Bond_Dwarf by Jason Meyer

Main Deck

Hero (4)
Bifur (Khazad-dûm)
Dáin Ironfoot (Return to Mirkwood)
Nori (Over Hill and Under Hill)
Thorin Stonehelm (Wrath and Ruin)

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

Ally (21)
1x Bofur (Over Hill and Under Hill)
1x Bombur (Road to Rivendell)
1x Dwalin (On the Doorstep)
2x Dwarven Sellsword (The Drowned Ruins)
2x Erebor Hammersmith (Core Set)
2x Erebor Toymaker (Mount Gundabad)
2x Ered Luin Miner (Temple of the Deceived)
1x Fili (Over Hill and Under Hill)
2x Gandalf (Core Set)
1x Glóin (On the Doorstep)
1x Kili (Over Hill and Under Hill)
2x Longbeard Map-Maker (Conflict at the Carrock)
1x Miner of the Iron Hills (Core Set)
2x Veteran Axehand (Core Set)

Attachment (16)
2x Boots from Erebor (Khazad-dûm)
2x Cram (Over Hill and Under Hill)
2x Dwarrowdelf Axe (Khazad-dûm)
2x Secret Vigil (The Lost Realm)
2x Song of Battle (The Dead Marshes)
2x Song of Wisdom (Conflict at the Carrock)
1x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)
1x Warrior Sword (The Ghost of Framsburg)
2x Woodmen’s Clearing (The Withered Heath)

Event (13)
2x A Test of Will (Core Set)
1x Ancestral Knowledge (Khazad-dûm)
1x Beorn’s Hospitality (Core Set)
2x Bulwark of the West (The Crossings of Poros)
1x Dwarven Tomb (Core Set)
2x Feint (Core Set)
2x Hasty Stroke (Core Set)
2x Sneak Attack (Core Set)

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