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.

Gleowine

  • Player Card Categories 
    • Card Draw
    • Rohan
    • Messenger of the King Heroes

Admit it, you cracked open the Core Set (or Revised Core Set) for the first time, saw Gleowine, laughed at the artwork, and immediately thought “surely this card can’t be very good.” However, as is the case with many things in life, one of the golden rules of The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is to not immediately judge a book, or card, by its cover. Or even first impressions. There are multiple facets to a review of Core Set cards that launched the game over 10 years ago including considerations such as its impact in the early card pool/quests as well as how the card ages as the card pool grew and matured. Gleowine is no exception, and many of these points, among others, will be examined in this review.

Background / Lore

Not much is known about Gleowine. He is only mentioned briefly in The Return of the King after the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. He was King Theoden of Rohan’s minstrel who accompanied him from Edoras to Gondor during the Ride of the Rohirrim to come to Gondor’s aid against the enemy. In the wake of the epic battle’s conclusion, Gleowine penned a song memorializing Theoden (which the flavor text of his card refers to). An interesting fact is that the name Gleowine means “music friend.”

Out of doubt, out of dark, to the day’s rising
he rode singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
Hope he rekindled, and in hope he ended;
over death, over dread, over doom lifted
out of loss, out of life, unto long glory.

– Gleowine, The Return of the King

Alternate Art (ill. unknown) Alternate Art (by Beorn)

Card Theme

While Gleowine the minstrel was not counted on to fight with the Rohirrim or lead the charge into battle, he would have provided support via his comforting and invigorating songs in the halls of Edoras or in the rear lines of battle, always near Theoden the king. This is reflected in his unimpressive stats yet very helpful ability.

Minstrel

When considering thematic uses for Gleowine, the best place to start is his traits. First, we’ll start with Minstrel. Interestingly, he is one of 2 cards in the game with the Minstrel trait. Any guesses who the other one is??? Rivendell Minstrel is…..somehow not traited Minstrel. That honor goes to the Galadhrim Minstrel. So if you’re hoping to build a deck using the Minstrel archetype, hate to burst your bubble.

Rohan

Gleowine’s Rohan trait, however, now there’s a well-developed archetype. So how well does Gleowine fit into a Rohan deck? Not amazing, surprisingly, for a couple of reasons. First, his sphere. As a Lore ally, he obviously will need a hero with the Lore resource icon. There is only one Lore Hero with the Rohan trait: Grima. This is actually not a bad hero to combo off of for Gleowine as long as you are prepared to offset the threat increase from Grima, since the cost of the extra cards Gleowine will draw you can be reduced by 1 once per round. The problem is Grima is better suited for Doomed decks, not Rohan. This leaves you needing to add a Lore resource icon to another Rohan character with cards like Song of Wisdom or A Good Harvest, or else using a non-Rohan Lore hero in your Rohan deck. Not terrible options, but this leads to the second drawback of Gleowine in a Rohan deck.

Rohan decks are built around the mechanic of discarding Rohan characters (i.e. allies) for various benefits such as attack boosts, willpower boosts, readying, etc. If you can get Gleowine into play in a Rohan deck, you can discard Eomund to ready Gleowine and draw a card more than once that round, which is great! If one of your heroes is Theoden, Gleowine only costs 1 when you play him, which again is fantastic and even thematic. The rub comes from the fact that Gleowine is a Rohan ally you want to keep in play as long as possible to get maximum card draw, which goes against the ally discard mechanic of the Rohan archetype. More on this later.

So to answer the question of how well Gleowine fits into a Rohan deck in one word: meh. He will help you draw your essential cards faster and can have his cost reduced to 1 by both Grima and Theoden, and several allies being discarded will allow you to ready him and draw you another card, but you also have to consider how you’re going to get him into play with the dearth of Lore Rohan heroes. And when he is in play drawing you cards, you aren’t going to want to discard him to trigger those beneficial Rohan boosts.

My final comment on theme is that I think the designers should have created a Spirit version of Gleowine later in the card pool as the archetype matured. Perhaps with a Quest Action where you could exhaust him to add +2 WP to a questing Rohan hero (+3 if that hero is Theoden or Eomer) or something like that. This would have been much more fitting thematically for the King’s minstrel.

Card Synergies and Interactions

General Deckbuilding

We’ve looked at Gleowine in a thematic Rohan deck, so now let’s give him a more holistic look when considering putting him in a deck. I’ll show my cards up front (pun intended) and say he is amazing! Card draw is a crucial component of deck building, for if you are top decking your way through a quest then you are likely going to lose. You need a way to get those key cards out as quickly as possible, and Gleowine will provide any deck consistent, repeatable card draw. For the cost of only 2 Lore resources, you get exactly that with this guy. The earlier in the game you can get him on the table, the greater ROI for those 2 resources and the better off you’ll be with more cards in your hand. If you already have card draw elsewhere in your deck such as Daeron’s Runes, Deep Knowledge, Beravor, etc., and you don’t draw Gleowine until the late-game, then he is probably a win-more card at that point.

Next, his stats. 1 WP, 0 attack, 0 defense, and 2 HP adds up to 3, which at face value appears to make Gleowine overcosted by 1 given the standard ally cost of Stat Total divided by 2 = Cost. His ability, though, is where he actually will provide a benefit over time. Think of it this way: if you consider 1 resource to draw one card as a standard cost throughout the game on various cards (Campfire Tales, Hidden Cache, etc.), then Gleowine nets you a benefit after drawing you only 2 cards. You can commit him to the quest in a pinch if you are desperate for more WP, but only do that as a last resort. His ability can often draw you the card you need that same round to quest successfully. For new players this could mean getting Radagast’s Cunning, Secret Paths, Sneak Attack or Gandalf in your hand before the quest phase, which can be more beneficial to you in the Quest phase than Gleowine’s 1 WP. Do not attempt to defend with him unless you are in dire need of a chump blocker, as his 0 defense and 2 HP will almost never survive any enemy attacks in this game.

One other consideration when including Gleowine in your decks is ally readying. This might not be a good first choice since the number of cards that ready allies is slim to none, but one such card is Grim Resolve, which new players will have access to right away in the Core Set. This will ready not just Gleowine to draw you another card, but every character on the table will gain action advantage that round. Other ally readying options include Brand Son of Bain, Narya attached to either Cirdan the Shipwright or Gandalf, The Free Peoples, Leather Boots, Spare Hood and Cloak, and Faramir. Most players find, though, that you don’t get too far beyond the Core set when you start some better card draw options (i.e. Ancient Mathom, Daeron’s Runes, Foe-Hammer, Deep Knowledge) to also include in their decks rather than looking for ways to ready Gleowine.

What I love about Gleowine is that there is literally not a single deck you wouldn’t want him in. His cost is low, Lore is a top notch sphere (rated the community’s favorite sphere in Card Talk’s 2021 Superlative February poll), every single deck will benefit from card draw, and one of the most amazing things about Gleowine is that he is equally as effective in solo and multiplayer!

Messenger of the King Contract

Here’s where things get even more bonkers. Let’s just say there is a reason Gleowine placed 4th out of 83 eligible targets for the contract in Vision of the Palantir’s December 2021 poll on best MotK heroes. Because Gleowine is a unique ally, he is an eligible target for the Messenger of the King contract. For those unfamiliar, this contract allows you to search your deck for a unique ally during Setup who then loses the ally card type and gains the hero card type. To determine that now-hero’s starting threat, you simply add up their total WP, attack, defense, and HP and that is their starting threat. They are now a hero and function in every way as one.

For Gleowine this means a few things. First, he is now a 3 threat Lore hero. That is among the lowest heroes in the game and tied with Smeagol. With so many good Secrecy cards being in the Lore sphere (e.g. Risk Some Light, Noiseless Movement, Out of the Wild, etc), being a 3 threat Lore hero helps with this plus he can help you draw those cards faster.

Second, as a Lore hero he allows you to deckbuild knowing you are going to be most likely drawing an extra card every round, which opens up your options (i.e. you can feel free to include less card draw when building your deck). Finally, he has a variety of readying options now! Unexpected Courage is the most obvious, but you can now include other readying cards such as Cram, Steed of the Mark, Westfold Horsebreaker, Lembas, Miruvor, etc. that can only ready heroes.

The final consideration of Gleowine as a MotK hero is that he is now a 3rd option to consider among card draw heroes, the other 2 being Beravor and Bilbo Baggins who are both also Lore heroes. I’ll briefly compare him with each. Beravor is no doubt a solid hero and is quite versatile with a balanced stat line and her Dunedain and Ranger traits. She can also target a player of your choice like Gleowine can, and provides 2 cards to his 1. However, she is a whopping 7 threat higher than Gleowine, and her ability was errata’d to “limit once per round.” You have no such restrictions with Gleowine. As for our old friend Bilbo Baggins, that 9 threat looks even worse than usual compared to Gleowine’s 3. They both have 1 WP and 2 HP, but because Bilbo has 1 attack and 2 defense where Gleowine has 0 for both, some players like to Voltron Bilbo with attachments. This is not advisable with Gleowine! Both draw you one card each round reliably, where Gleowine’s ability is an action and Bilbo’s is passive. Not a huge deal, but advantage Gleowine here as you can choose which player gets the extra card, whereas Bilbo is restricted to only granting that extra card to the first player and only in the resource phase, which can be a disadvantage in multiplayer. VERDICT: Gleowine is better than Bilbo and can often be better than Beravor, depending mostly on whether or not you want her traits or stats for the quest you’re building for.

Combos and Nonbos

Combos: Some of the best combos with Gleowine can be found in the Core Set/early card pool. He works perfectly with Eowyn by replacing the card you discard to use her ability each round. An even better combo is Eowyn + Stand and Fight + Gleowine where Gleowine draws you extra cards, and you can then select one from the glut of carts that is likely now in your hand to discard for her ability, and finally use Stand and Fight to put it into play using her resources. Another combo is Protector of Lorien + Gleowine for the same reason: he simply gives you consistent card draw to provide a glut of cards in your hand to use Protector of Lorien to great effect. Another card to combo with him is Daeron’s Runes. You have to discard a card from your hand after drawing 2 cards, and having Gleowine to provide that extra card draw gives you plenty of options (hopefully a duplicate unique).

Nonbos: As mentioned above, his ability allows him to still be helpful to a Rohan deck, but he is not helpful to the archetype’s mechanism of discarding Rohan allies to trigger boosts elsewhere because you don’t want to lose his card draw! Eomer, Lothiriel, Eothain, Ride to Ruin, and many others are great cards to include in a Rohan deck, but there are so many other cheap allies you can include to fuel these abilities that won’t negatively impact you like discarding Gleowine would.

Quest Specific

The only quests you definitely want to avoid bringing Gleowine along to are The Fords of Isen as well as The Dunland Trap, both from the Ringmaker Cycle. These quests contain the dreaded Dunland encounter sets that punish you for drawing cards and/or having a lot of cards in your hand.

Other Considerations

  • Ability Timing – Some encounter deck analysis will help you get an idea of whether or not you can use Gleowine to draw a card anytime you want, or if you need to be more careful on timing. Some classic early cycle examples of nasty cards that can quickly take out Gleowine if you aren’t careful are the Necromancer’s Reach and Dark and Dreadful treacheries. These cards deal 1 damage to each exhausted character, even if they’re exhausted for a different reason than being committed to the quest (Dark and Dreadful will kill Gleowine outright if the location is a Dark location). The key in these examples is to use Gleowine’s ability AFTER the quest phase. If you are playing a quest with encounter cards like these, a helpful suggestion is to use his ability during one of the Combat Phase action windows. This way you get the card draw right before he refreshes for the next round.
  • Solo or Multiplayer? – I already touched on this above, but Gleowine is amazing in both solo and multiplayer. In solo games he obviously only draws you a card as the only player, but in multiplayer you can decide who you want to draw the card and when. Some turns it could very well be you that you choose to draw a card for yourself, but it is always nice to give your fellow adventurers a hand and spread the card draw wealth when you can.

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.

The beauty of Gleowine is in the card’s simplicity and versatility (notice I didn’t mention the artwork in there). It’s a simple action: “Exhaust Gleowine to choose a player. That player draws 1 card.” While new(er) players will likely include him in more decks than veteran players will, he is absolutely a card that has stood the test of time. His ability is consistent in that you can use it every single round. It’s repeatable because there are no restrictions on how many times per phase or round you can use it. He’s in a sphere that has many of the best cards in the game. He only costs 2 resources. He can go into literally any deck and be effective. He is as helpful to a solo player as he is in a multiplayer game. The addition of the Messenger of the King contract breathed new life into him and opened up many new and exciting deckbuilding options with him as a hero, to the point the community thinks of him as a top tier target for this contract. To me, the MotK factor boosts him from a good card to a great card. Will you include him in every deck? No. Should he be a consideration for including at least 1x when building a deck though? Absolutely!

  • Dave – 4
  • Grant – 3
  • Ted – 3
  • Matt – 2
  • Eric – 2
  • Average – 2.8

Sample Decks

Deck name and creator

“YOU get a card! And YOU get a card! And YOU get a card!” – stone_of_eric (me)

https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/26846/yougetacardandyougetacardandyougetacard-1.0

“Stealthlands” – jvader

https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/18426/stealthlands-1.0

“Love of Drinking Song” – Marcelf

https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/16418/loveofdrinkingsong-1.0

Horseback Archer

Horseback Archer, a nostalgic core set card. Anyone who’s played the classic Tactics deck from the original core set has held this card in their hand. At the time it was somewhat of a special card as it was one of two ally cards including the “Ranged” keyword. Furthermore, it has a fair line of stats, as far as core set cards are concerned, and only cost 3 resources to put into play. Horseback Archer is also one of three Rohan allies in the core set, and one of three allies with the “Archer” trait. Add that to the cool artwork and Horseback Archer becomes an instant classic. Or does it? A quick show of hands, how many people still use Horseback Archer? As the game had aged, so had the meta and power creep. The question now becomes has Horseback Archer aged like fine wine, or like the ruins of Weathertop or the Dead Marshes? Let’s take a look, shall we?

Background / Lore

It is evident in the lore that horseback archers actually existed. The quote on the card references The Two Towers, specifically from “The Uruk-Hai” chapter. We all now the scene. Merry and Pippin are held captive by Uglúk and his band of Uruk-Hai near Fangorn while on their way to Isengard. They stop for camp, have a little “disagreement” with the orcs from Mordor, talk about what’s on the menu for dinner, and then next thing you know it they’re surrounded by the Rohirrim who could care less about Uruk dinner etiquette. Well, that’s how Peter Jackson told the story anyway. In the movie I don’t recall a single horseback archer in that scene. They are in the books, though. The book reads:

“A few of the riders appeared to be bowmen, skilled at shooting from a running horse. Riding swiftly into range they shot arrows at the Orcs that straggled behind, and several of them fell; then the riders wheeled away out of the range of the answering bows of their enemies, who shot wildly, not daring to halt.”

—The Two Towers

Here we get a glimpse of Rohirrim tactics demonstrated by the horseback archers. In their effectiveness they provided the shock value needed to allow Merry and Pippin escape. I’m sure Eomer slaying Uglúk helped too, but that will be for another review. In any case we get a strong sense of the important role of the horseback archer, both in the above quoted text and in the battle of Pelennor fields.

Card Theme

Horseback Archer fits quite nicely in some of the Rohan-themed battles in the game. For example, they would most certainly be thematic in “The Uruk-Hai” and “Battle of Pelennor Fields” quests where they are specifically mentioned in the book. The trouble may come if you’re trying to build around them. In which case you will be up against a challenge. First off, you are going to want to ensure you’re playing multiplayer to make use of Horseback Archer’s “Ranged” keyword which is strongly tied to their theme. Merry and Pippin would be excellent choices for heroes in the adjacent deck if playing a thematic multiplayer game. Unfortunately, Horseback Archer cannot wield any bow in the game which ends up being a thematic setback. Somehow they forgot how to use the “Bow of Yew” used by their ancestors I guess? It ends up being reasons like these that the use of Horseback Archer in thematic builds might be based on quest theme versus effectiveness. 

Now, that is not to say there aren’t any thematic options for Horseback Archer. You could really throw them in any Rohan deck with special consideration for multiplayer games. For this you’re going to want to include ***Theoden who allows Horseback Archer to enter at a reduced resource match. Playing him this way makes his cost palatable whereas the 3-cost is hard to justify at times. The goal here would be to put him into play solely for his Ranged keyword which could make quite a big impact in many scenarios. 

Speaking of the Ranged keyword, you could also make a thematic Ranged deck. There is something like 20 Ranged allies in the game across all four spheres. Luckily for Horseback Archer there are several Tactics heroes and allies with the same keyword which would make it a viable option in bigger multiplayer games. The Horseback Archer might be among the more expensive allies with the keyword but it also has good stats to trade off making. This makes him a good deal if you can afford it. Ideally, you are including several allies with Ranged along with several attachments which boost their attack. All of this could add up quickly if the players can control the board state for long enough. Just make sure there is a good questing deck along for the ride!

Card Synergies and Interactions

While thematic options are not too middle-earthshattering, how about general deckbuilding? Horseback Archer is a great addition to early deckbuilding where ranged and Tactics are needed. You could throw him in a lot of decks to achieve combat across the board. Full disclosure: we are going to have to get pretty creative and a bit silly to make him work well. The problem is his value decreases the farther you get into the game. Why? Because later on you get cards like ***Fornost Bowman and ***Marksman of Lorien who are both 3-cost allies with Ranged and perform other functions that often make a bigger difference AND have access to better attachments and synergies. Still, Horseback Archer has a solid 2 attack which is wonderful in the right situation. The only thing you would need to do is add to his attack somehow.

There are a few options to add to Horseback Archer’s combat effectiveness. When trying to recall attachment cards I was surprised to find there were no “attach to a character with ranged” cards that he was eligible to wield. Luckily there are still some good options that I will highlight below.

Spear of the Mark

Spear of the Mark is thematic option, just not in terms of what an “archer” might wield. It does increase his attack by +1 which would significantly increase his value. If you can find a way for him to attack the staging area that would be a +2 boost which ends up doubling his attack. ***Hands Upon he Bow and ***Ithilien pit could be extremely useful combos here as well.

War Axe

War Axe grants you a general increase of +1 attack and +2 with another restricted attachment. That’s potentially a +4 base ranged attack if you have a Spear of the Mark and attacking the staging area. Sure, it takes a few combos but I’d have to say it’s worth it!

Raiment of War

Not quite as powerful in terms of boosting attack but very powerful in boosting overall combat effectiveness. Raiment of War is sometimes a card just sitting in your hand if you already have one out. Attaching it to Horseback Archer would mean you give it the ability to perform a ranged attack better and give yourself the option to defend with 2 defense and 4 HP. Not bad! I would only consider this option if I were playing Spirit Theoden as 5 resources is spendy.

Hands Upon the Bow

No Ranged character is complete without it!

Other Obscene Combos

Keep in mind these are not the most ideal combos. With that being said we are here to have a bit of fun while this game destroys our morale and bank account! So why not have a bit of fun with it? And what better fun than going full Voltron with a Spear of the Mark, War Axe, ***Self Preservation, ***Spare Pipe, and ***Valiant Determination? Better yet, break out that ***Elf-friend and load him up with things like ***Bow of the Galadhrim, ***Rivendell Bow, and ***Rivendell Blade. Amplify this with ***Hands Upon the Bow! Let’s get Rhovanion Wild in here!

Quest Specific

There are not many specific quests that come to mind that Horseback Archer is a “must include” card. I think it really comes down to what your objective is. Multiplayer clearly poses the best scenario where he becomes viable. I personally only use him in Rohan or Ranged archetypes beyond my early days in the game. Let us not forget the thematic quests such as “The Uruk-Hai” and “The Battle of Pelennor Fields” which would make Horseback Archer quite appropriate to use, but still not necessarily a must.

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 think Horseback Archer deserves a complex analysis for his ring rating. We have to consider the following variables: use for new players, multiplayer, Rohan decks, and general deckbuilding. 

  • I feel Horseback Archer is a solid option for new players and should be used as a decent attacker and emergency defender. He deserves a 3 for newer players (in part because of a lack of overall options). 
  • Multiplayer, especially a Ranged theme deck, is perhaps his best inclusion. He gets a 4 here for utility. 
  • For Rohan decks, Horseback Archer should really only be included if you need a Ranged or Tactics character, or need more allies in general. A 6 here.
  • For general deckbuilding, he gets a 9. Sorry bud, there are just too many better options. Thankfully for you there are worse options too!
  • This all averages out to a 5.5. If we round up we get a 6 which I feel is fair all things considered.
  • Dave – 10
  • Grant – 8
  • Ted – 9
  • Joe – 6
  • Average – 8.25

External Links

Sample Decks

Deck name and creator

short deck description

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.

Background

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

Sideboard

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.

Brok Ironfist

  • Player Card Categories 
    • Leaves Play
    • Messenger of the King

The Core Set’s consolation prize for losing a hero.

Background

Brok Ironfist is a FFG created character. He is presumably one of Durin’s Folk or a Longbeard Dwarf. The Longbeards are the only Dwarves introduced in The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings although there are other clans of Dwarves descended from the original 7 fathers created by Aule.

Card Theme

Brok is not a thematic card aside from being a character created for the game. His ability doesn’t match the damage for a bonus of Gloin and Glimi from the Core Set. Much less the have 5 Dwarves in play mechanic of Thorin’s Company introduced in The Hobbit expansions and mining developed in Against the Shadow and later cycles. I speculate that Brok’s ability is tangential to the damaged Dwarves get a bonus theme since if they get too damaged, you can put Brok into play for free. Especially as it seems from Veteran of Nihuadon that it was a mechanism intended to be developed for the Dwarf trait that later switched to Ents.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Leadership Dain Ironfoot

Brok with Dain in play stats 3/3/1/4 stats that are more in line with his cost. The comparison to the only other 6 cost ally, Beorn, is much closer. Then Brok is only 2 stat points lower than him. I suspect part of the reason Bork costs 6 is because of Dain. The designers have mentioned in interviews that player cards in a cycle are all developed at the same time.

Fellowship Contract

In the same vein as Leadership Dain (mining reference intended), the Fellowship contract can boost Dain’s stats to rival that of many good heroes that have 2 non-hit point stats of 3 like Glorfindel. Dwarves of likely one of the few traits in the game to have enough unique allies to fulfill the contract without including one of the other Middle Earth races. A player could even get 4 willpower and 4 attack with Leadership Dain boosting him as well.

A Very Good Tale

A Very Good Tale can be another way to put Brok into play cheaply besides his own ability. The real value is from exhausting Brok to determine how many resources worth of allies you can put into play. alone he ensures Beorn or Gandalf (Core or Over Hill and Under Hill versions) are eligible. A 2 cost ally exhausted as well then you can usually guarantee just about combination of 2 allies can enter play. Even great value can be extracted if Brok is put into play with Sneak Attack or To Me! O my Kinsfolk!

Flame of Anor

A great use of Brok is actually to not play him, but to discard him. Flame of Anor gives an Istari like Gandalf, Saruman, or Radagast +6 attack. A player could get Saruman in particular to an extremely high attack combining this play with The One Ring with Strength and Courage for +5 attack (15 attack). A War Axe, Golden Belt, and Legacy Blade with 3 completed side quests for an additional +6 (21 attack). Dunedain Marks could bring the final total all the way up to 24 attack. Setting up Brok to be discarded is not difficult with Imladris Stargazer to reorder the top 5 or Wizard Pipe to put him on top.

Messenger of the King

A player could make Bork a hero with Messenger of the King and start with him in play. If Dain is in play, he only has 1 less hit point than Thorin Oakenshield, but costs 3 less threat. Granted, you wouldn’t get a useful ability which would be the big downside. Especially considering the large number of other Dwarf hero options with very useful abilities like Balin.

Quest Specific

The first two cycles and The Hobbit Saga expansions included many encounter cards that were outright Hero killers. In the Core Set, players had to watch out for taking too much direct damage from Necromancer’s Reach and Evil Storm. Not to mention Hummerhorns dealing 5 damage to a hero when engaged or 1 damage to each character when revealed as a shadow. There are also a few shadow effects that become worse on an undefended attack that is often necessary in the early game.

The Darrowdelf cycle even more notoriously included effects that can outright discard a hero if the player(s). Not just as the when revealed effect but also in the shadow effect! A free ally with hero level stats won’t completely offset the loss, but it is still something that might let a player limp to the end of the quest.

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 Bork at 8 rings. He’s undoubtedly expensive for the stats you get unless Leadership Dain is in play. Partly it is due to core set where the cost curve was slightly higher. Later expansions lowered overall cost curve with many efficent 2 cost allies. Also he’s in Leadership and Leadership cards tend to be a little more expensive. It is the sphere with the best and most resource acceleration and as a result Leadership cards tend to be a little more expensive. Another consider I’m sure was that he was developed with Dain.

Still, he has hero level stats as many of them have a couple 2’s in willpower, attack, or defense. Only Dain, Thorin Oakenshield, and Thorin Stonehelm having a 3 stat that isn’t hit points. His ability isn’t one that you want to plan for. Especially since The Houses of Healing and Fortune or Fate both cost 5 and don’t provide much of discount to play him. It can still be a nice consolation prize if you lose a hero particularly in the late game when resources may not be needed as much. The stats to make the last questing push can be key to securing victory.

I think that Brok is consigned to being considered one of the worst cards in the game by the community for a few big reasons. First that he came out in the Core Set without Dain. This was compounded by that Dain came out in the last pack of the cycle with a huge gap of time between the Core Set and the first AP. Players had a long time to form an opinion without a major boost card. Second, the only other 6 cost card in the game is ally Beorn that comes with two major stats at 3 and more printed hit points than any player except his hero version. On top of all that, Beorn has an amazing ability that is a huge help against the biggest enemies in the core set. Lastly, the cost curve ended becoming lower with more good 2 cost allies and no more 6 cost cards.

Is Brok the worst card in the game? I don’t think so. Discarding him to Flame of Anor is a least one really good way to use him. Playing him as an ally with Dain on the table is not bad, but it is a big investment. Particularly when Dwarves are extremely well developed trait with many different ally options.

  • Dave – 10
  • Grant – 10
  • Ted – TBR?
  • Matt – 8
  • Average – 9.3

Sample Decks

Deck Tech: Dwarf Starter Deck by chrsjxn

A limited purchase Dwarf Swarm deck using cards only from the original Core Set, Return to Mirkwood, and Khazad-Dum.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Bifur (Khazad-dûm)
Dáin Ironfoot (Return to Mirkwood)
Gimli (Core Set)

Ally (24)
1x Brok Ironfist (Core Set)
2x Daughter of the Nimrodel (Core Set)
2x Erebor Hammersmith (Core Set)
3x Erebor Record Keeper (Khazad-dûm)
2x Faramir (Core Set)
3x Gandalf (Core Set)
2x Gléowine (Core Set)
1x Henamarth Riversong (Core Set)
1x Longbeard Orc Slayer (Core Set)
2x Miner of the Iron Hills (Core Set)
3x Veteran Axehand (Core Set)
2x Veteran of Nanduhirion (Khazad-dûm)

Attachment (10)
2x Blade of Gondolin (Core Set)
1x Celebrían’s Stone (Core Set)
3x Dwarrowdelf Axe (Khazad-dûm)
2x Self Preservation (Core Set)
2x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)

Event (16)
3x Durin’s Song (Khazad-dûm)
2x Feint (Core Set)
3x Khazâd! Khazâd! (Khazad-dûm)
2x Lórien’s Wealth (Core Set)
2x Quick Strike (Core Set)
2x Sneak Attack (Core Set)
2x Valiant Sacrifice (Core Set)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to Khazad-dûm

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

The Company of Brok Ironfist by Durin’s Father

A mega stat boosting deck with Leadership Dain, Fellowship contract, and The Arkenstone.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Bifur (Khazad-dûm)
Dáin Ironfoot (Return to Mirkwood)
Thorin Oakenshield (Over Hill and Under Hill)

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

Ally (16)
1x Azain Silverbeard (Flight of the Stormcaller)
1x Bofur (Over Hill and Under Hill)
1x Bombur (Road to Rivendell)
1x Brok Ironfist (Core Set)
2x Dori (Over Hill and Under Hill)
1x Dwalin (On the Doorstep)
2x Fili (Over Hill and Under Hill)
1x Gimli (The Treason of Saruman)
2x Glóin (On the Doorstep)
2x Ioreth (A Storm on Cobas Haven)
2x Kili (Over Hill and Under Hill)

Attachment (18)
1x Ancestral Armor (Roam Across Rhovanion)
2x Armor of Erebor (Mount Gundabad)
2x Armored Destrier (Temple of the Deceived)
2x Cram (Over Hill and Under Hill)
2x Dúnedain Remedy (The Drowned Ruins)
2x Hardy Leadership (Shadow and Flame)
2x King Under the Mountain (On the Doorstep)
2x Legacy of Durin (The Watcher in the Water)
2x Narvi’s Belt (Khazad-dûm)
1x The Arkenstone (The Withered Heath)

Event (16)
3x A Very Good Tale (Over Hill and Under Hill)
3x Daeron’s Runes (Foundations of Stone)
3x Durin’s Song (Khazad-dûm)
2x Lure of Moria (Road to Rivendell)
3x To me! O my kinsfolk! (On the Doorstep)
2x We Are Not Idle (Shadow and Flame)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to A Shadow in the East

Sideboard

Ally (2)
1x Arwen Undómiel (The Watcher in the Water)
1x Bofur (The Redhorn Gate)

Event (3)
3x Parting Gifts (A Journey to Rhosgobel)

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Wielders of the Three by Master of Lore

A Three Elven Rings deck full of powerful unique allies that Vilya can put into play. Narya can ready and boost them. Extra copies can fuel a big attack from Gandal with Flame of Anor.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Elrond (Shadow and Flame)
Galadriel (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
Gandalf (The Road Darkens)

Ally (20)
2x Arwen Undómiel (The Watcher in the Water)
3x Beorn (Core Set)
2x Bilbo Baggins (The Road Darkens)
2x Brok Ironfist (Core Set)
2x Faramir (Core Set)
2x Gildor Inglorion (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
3x Master of the Forge (Shadow and Flame)
2x Treebeard (The Antlered Crown)
2x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)

Attachment (22)
2x A Burning Brand (Conflict at the Carrock)
2x Expert Treasure-hunter (On the Doorstep)
2x Gandalf’s Staff (The Road Darkens)
2x Light of Valinor (Foundations of Stone)
2x Narya (The Grey Havens)
2x Nenya (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
2x Protector of Lórien (Core Set)
3x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)
3x Vilya (Shadow and Flame)
2x Wizard Pipe (The Road Darkens)

Event (8)
2x Elrond’s Counsel (The Watcher in the Water)
3x Flame of Anor (The Road Darkens)
2x The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core Set)
1x Will of the West (Core Set)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to The Grey Havens

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Firyal – Community Review

by Daniel King

  • Player Card Categories 
    • Encounter Control
    • Encounter Scrying
    • Messenger of the King

Background

Firyal was created as means of fleshing out the Harad characters. In the book/movie they are the bad guys, but there is a line from Sam where he wonders if the Harad man that he just saw slain was really a bad guy or if he would have rather stayed home. We get a string of Harad heroes for the game and I love that.

Card Theme

Firyal is meant to be an efficient scout and quester, which her ability emphasizes.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Player Encounter Cards

She can potentially combo with player cards that generate encounter cards like Tom Bombadillo! and Flight of the Eagles.

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.

Firyal is the best lore hero in the game. As a primarily solo player I find her ability to filter the top of the deck to be incredibly useful. In solo play you have to do everything on your own. You have to be able to quest, defend and attack on any given turn. Firyal allows you to get rid of something that you can’t handle that turn. If you have an enemy still engaged with you from the previous round, you might use Firyal’s ability to get rid of an enemy from the top of the deck in hopes of seeing a location. She can also help you get rid of those impossibly difficult treacheries if you don’t have a test of will in hand or want to save it. Finally, because she is a unique ally, she is a great target for the contract, Messenger of the King. Having her amazing ability and 3 will power from turn one is a great deal for 9 threat.

  • Daniel- 2
  • Dave – 3
  • Grant – 3
  • Ted – 2
  • Mark Chan – 3
  • Matt – 2
  • Average – 2.5

Sample Decks

Firyal is pretty good by Daniel King

Well rounded deck featuring Firyal as a hero with a fair amount of location control.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
(MotK) Firyal (Messenger of the King Allies)
Beregond (The Flame of the West)
Glorfindel (Foundations of Stone)

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

Ally (21)
2x Arwen Undómiel (The Watcher in the Water)
1x Elfhelm (The Dead Marshes)
3x Erebor Toymaker (Mount Gundabad)
1x Firyal (The Mûmakil)
2x Gléowine (Core Set)
2x Henamarth Riversong (Core Set)
2x Northern Tracker (Core Set)
2x Quickbeam (The Treason of Saruman)
2x Théodwyn (ALeP – Children of Eorl)
2x Treebeard (The Antlered Crown)
2x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)

Attachment (21)
2x A Burning Brand (Conflict at the Carrock)
3x Ancient Mathom (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
2x Asfaloth (Foundations of Stone)
2x Blood of Númenor (Heirs of Númenor)
3x Light of Valinor (Foundations of Stone)
3x Protector of Lórien (Core Set)
2x Song of Wisdom (Conflict at the Carrock)
3x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)
1x Warden of Arnor (The Three Trials)

Event (8)
3x A Test of Will (Core Set)
3x Elven-light (The Dread Realm)
2x Hasty Stroke (Core Set)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to ALeP – Children of Eorl

Deck built on RingsDB.

Warden of Healing – Community Review

by James Byun

  • Player Card Categories 
    • Healing

Background

Part of the healers of Gondor as written in Return of the King. They are attending the wounded after the Battle of Pelenor fields, so it makes sense they would heal multiple characters.

Card Theme

Not especially tied to Gondor’s trait of increasing willpower, resource acceleration, or traps.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Elrond

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.

This is the best healing card in the game due to it’s versatility. Cards previous to this either were one use or focused on a single character. Often, you will have damage spread out among heroes and allies, so having a character that can heal as an action creates so much flexibility. The ability to pay 2 lore resources to ready again lets you heal throughout the round. Combine this card with Elrond, and you effectively don’t have to worry about losing any character. Only reason not to use this card is if you are not running Lore or for theme.

  • James – 2
  • Dave – 2
  • Grant – 1.5
  • Ted – 1
  • Matt – 2
  • Average – 1.7

Andrath Guardsman – Community Review

by Vardaen

  • Player Card Categories 
    • Attack Cancellation

Background

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

Card Theme

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

Card Synergies and Interactions

Vardaen’s Combo

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

Editor’s Note

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

Ring Rating

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

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

Sample Decks

Dunedain reborn by dkayringsdb

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

Main Deck

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

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

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

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

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to Race Across Harad

Sideboard

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

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

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Mirkwood Explorer

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

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

Background

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

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

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

Card Theme

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

Card Synergies and Interactions

Ally Readying

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

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

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

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

Location Attachments

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

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

Player Guarded Cards and Burglar’s Turn

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

Other Direct Location Progress Effects

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

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

Quest Specific

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

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

Ring Rating

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

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

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

Sample Decks

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

Location Busters by The BGamerJoe

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

Main Deck

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

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

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

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

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

Sideboard

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

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

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

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Ranger of Cardolan

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

Background

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

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

Card Theme

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

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

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

Image credit to The Mad Hobbit blog

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

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

Synergies and Interactions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peak Power

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating, Conclusion

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

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

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

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