The Shirefolk

  • Player Card Categories
    • Threat Reduction

The Hobbit Enabler

Background

Hobbits came to settle The Shire from Bree in 1601 of the Third Age after getting permission from Arthedain’s King Argeleb II. In thirty years Hobbits from elsewhere in the Arnorion splinter kingdoms and Dunland came to settle until most Hobbits lived there. Shire Hobbits by the time of the quest to reclaim Erebor had become a heavily agrarian peaceful society if very sheltered. The Shirefolk were known for enjoying simple pleasures of food, smoking, and socializing.

Card Theme

One of the defining qualities of Hobbits in relation to the other races is how they’re overlooked. Part of that is their own doing in avoiding the “big folk” and the insularity of the Shire-folk. The other part of it is the underestimation of the other races. Part of that underestimation stems from the Hobbits avoiding becoming involved the other events of Middle-Earth. Another is that the Hobbits love of the more simple pleasures of life instead of great works of industry. Lastly as well is their short stature seeming as “almost like children” to most men. It is very fitting then that threat reduction is tied to cultural identity of The Shire-folk. Threat is intended to represent the attention of Sauron on the heroes and direct his forces to the great perceived threats. The Hobbits lacking any formal military, lack of widespread industry for armaments, disinterest in the geopolitics of Middle-Earth, and location far in the West made them particularly unthreatening to Mordor.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Hobbit Engage an Enemy with Higher Engagement Cost than Threat Bonus

This is where The Shirefolk really shines and obviously meant to. The Black Riders introduced this mechanism with Hobbit Cloak, Dagger of Westernesse, Lore Pippin hero, and Sam Gamgee hero to name a few. The danger to a Hobbit deck then is a low engagement cost enemy or massive threat gain. The Shirefolk counters both of those and fits into any configuration of Hobbit heroes and help to get those bonuses.

It also came in the same pack as Gaffer Gamgee that also shored up one of the biggest weaknesses of the Hobbit deck, defense. As long as threat is low and a player can spare Lore resources a round, that is one attack canceled every round or at worst every 2 rounds. It’s amazing and The Shirefolk can help keep it consistently happening.

Secrecy

The problem with Secrecy when introduced in Darrowdelf was that there few hero line ups that could have 3 heroes starting at 20 threat or lower. Hobbits fixed that with more good heroes at 6 or lower threat. Still it relied on getting good resource acceleration early with Resourceful and/or Timely Aid in hand early. Most times a player would be in secrecy for a few turns at most. The Shirefolk among other threat reduction introduced later made it easier to extend that window into the midgame. Hobbit decks with Elevenses, The Shirefolk, Smoke Rings, and Spirit Merry have many ways to keep utilizing Secrecy discounts throughout the entire game.

Pipes

Most specifically Hobbit Pipe. Hobbit Pipe turns threat reduction events into draw 1, 2, or 3 cards. A zero cost neutral event that helps the Hobbits do what they do best and draw more cards, it’s great! The Card draw then can help a player find Spare Pipe that can help find another The Shirefolk. There is really good synergy here to help keep the pipe engine moving and get some discounted powerful allies thanks to Smoke and Think.

Song of Eärendil

Song of Eärendil is a multiplayer focused card, but can be extremely powerful with Hobbits. As mentioned earlier, Hobbits have many ways to reduced threat. Spirit Merry in 3 to 4 player games can easily be reducing the Hobbit player’s threat by 2 – 4 per turn alone. Shirefolk only gives more means to offset using the second response liberally. In scenarios with a lot of threat raising effects, the Hobbit deck with this Song becomes a threat control support deck. It is not unheard of a Hobbit deck like this to keep everyone in the game and end with threat lower than its starting level.

Quest Specific

The Shirefolk is great to use in any quest with a lot of threat raising effects or Doomed. Later cycles in particular added more do X or raise threat effects. The Crossing of Poros for example has a Stage 2 that required allies to be exhausted when they enter play unless a player raises their threat by 1. The King’s Quest Stage 1 has players add a location to the staging area or raise their threat. Vengeance of Mordor cycle also hits players’ threat hard. The Power of Mordor encounter set featured in a few of the scenarios has a Doomed 5 card, another card will reduce a player’s threat elimination level by 5, and one raising threat for drawing cards.

Earlier cycles have a few stand out scenarios where threat reduction is a great idea. Shadow and Flame in the Darrowdelf cycle has players start at 0 threat and the Balrog has an engagement cost of 1. If a player can keep threat at 0 then they’re not engaged with Durin’s Bane and don’t have to take its attack. Trouble in Tharbad requires player to reduce their threat to 0 before advancing to a later stage of the game. It has a way for players to get there, but more threat reduction can help speed the game along.

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 The Shirefolk at 4 rings. It is a top notch enabler of the Hobbit strategy. It is neutral and zero cost so it can go into any Hobbit deck that uses all Hobbit heroes. The amount of threat taken off is better than most threat reduction cards except for Galadhrim’s Greeting, Lore Aragorn, and Core Set Gandalf. This helps ensure the Hobbits get their bonuses for engaging higher engagement cost enemies. The only downsides really is that it can’t be played outside Hobbit decks and it can’t be recurred with Record attachments. It’s niche tribal card but one that really helps do what it wants to.

  • Dave –
  • Grant –
  • Ted –
  • Matt – 4

External Links

Sample Decks

The Rise of the Hobbit Tacticians by Dave Walsh

Dave took it upon himself to build a Hobbit deck using only Tactics Hobbit heroes.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Bilbo Baggins (Mount Gundabad)
Merry (The Black Riders)
Tom Cotton (The Mountain of Fire)

Ally (18)
1x Beechbone (The Battle of Carn Dûm)
2x Booming Ent (The Antlered Crown)
2x Derndingle Warrior (Escape from Mount Gram)
2x Farmer Maggot (The Black Riders)
2x Gandalf (Over Hill and Under Hill)
3x Master of the Forge (Shadow and Flame)
1x Quickbeam (The Treason of Saruman)
2x Rosie Cotton (The Mountain of Fire)
3x Treebeard (The Antlered Crown)

Attachment (20)
3x Dagger of Westernesse (The Black Riders)
3x Ent Draught (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Fast Hitch (The Dead Marshes)
3x Friend of Friends (The Mountain of Fire)
3x Protector of Lórien (Core Set)
3x Song of Wisdom (Conflict at the Carrock)
2x Sting (Mount Gundabad)

Event (18)
3x Daeron’s Runes (Foundations of Stone)
3x Drinking Song (Mount Gundabad)
3x Entmoot (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Raise the Shire (The Mountain of Fire)
3x The Shirefolk (Mount Gundabad)
3x Unseen Strike (The Redhorn Gate)

3 Heroes, 56 Cards
Cards up to Mount Gundabad

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Three Hobbit Hunters for Antlered Crown by kattattack22

Forth, the Three Hunters deck utilizing the low Hobbit starting threat to build up and eventually get some strong guarded attachments.

Three Hobbit Hunters for Antlered Crown

Hero (3)
Bilbo Baggins (Mount Gundabad)
Pippin (The Black Riders)
Sam Gamgee (The Black Riders)

Contract (0)
1x Forth, The Three Hunters! (The City of Ulfast)

Attachment (44)
1x Arod (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Blade of Gondolin (Core Set)
2x Celebrían’s Stone (Core Set)
3x Dagger of Westernesse (The Black Riders)
3x Dúnedain Quest (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
3x Fast Hitch (The Dead Marshes)
3x Friend of Friends (The Mountain of Fire)
1x Glamdring (Roam Across Rhovanion)
3x Golden Belt (Challenge of the Wainriders)
3x Hobbit Cloak (The Black Riders)
1x Magic Ring (The Crossings of Poros)
1x Necklace of Girion (The Wilds of Rhovanion)
3x Protector of Lórien (Core Set)
3x Ranger Spikes (Heirs of Númenor)
2x Ring Mail (The Long Dark)
2x Staff of Lebethron (The Land of Shadow)
2x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)
1x Sting (Mount Gundabad)
1x The Arkenstone (The Withered Heath)
3x Woodmen’s Path (Roam Across Rhovanion)

Event (6)
3x Hobbit-sense (Encounter at Amon Dîn)
3x The Shirefolk (Mount Gundabad)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards

Deck built on RingsDB.

Palantir – Community Review

by Erik Miller

  • Player Card Categories 
    • Card Draw
    • Encounter Scrying
    • Encounter Control
    • Burglar Treasure

Background

It’s a big shiny ball that men, Hobbits, and corrupt wizards like to stare into. Too bad only Nobles can use it in the game.

Card Theme

The theme is spot on. Look into the future, and you may be rewarded …. or cursed.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Grey Wanderer, Risk Some Light, Lore Denethor, Needful to Know, Celduin Traveler, Ithilien Lookout, Far Sighted

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 Palantir got a lot easier to use with the Grey Wander contract (although it can still to be fun to use with low starting threat heroes), making its value increase since it first came out. With the contract, your threat starts low, you can start with the Palantir in play, and you can ready after using the Palantir. There are also secrecy cards that let you peek at the top cards of the encounter deck when in secrecy. This makes your hit rate with the Palantir increase. With three players, you know exactly what cards you will be getting. In solo, you can set yourself up for multiple rounds. And, even if you don’t know what’s coming the fun of guessing the card type and revealing could (maybe) make up for any threat increase you end up taking.

  • Erik – 4
  • Ian Martin – 5
  • Dave – 7
  • Grant – 7
  • Ted – TBR
  • Matt – 6
  • Average – 5.8

CON LGrn – To Scry or not to Scry by Erik Miller

Grey Wanderer Denethor with a few different ways to scry and control the encounter deck.

CON LGrn – To Scry or not to Scry

Main Deck

Hero (1)
Denethor (Core Set)

Contract (0)
1x The Grey Wanderer (Challenge of the Wainriders)

Ally (20)
3x Celduin Traveler (The Nîn-in-Eilph)
2x Firyal (The Mûmakil)
2x Gandalf (Core Set)
1x Gléowine (Core Set)
1x Haldir of Lórien (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
1x Henamarth Riversong (Core Set)
3x Ithilien Lookout (The Dunland Trap)
1x Mablung (The Land of Shadow)
2x Mirkwood Explorer (The Thing in the Depths)
1x Quickbeam (The Treason of Saruman)
1x Treebeard (The Antlered Crown)
2x Wandering Ent (Celebrimbor’s Secret)

Attachment (8)
1x Dark Knowledge (Core Set)
1x Gondorian Shield (The Steward’s Fear)
1x Palantir (Assault on Osgiliath)
3x Resourceful (The Watcher in the Water)
2x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)

Event (19)
3x Far-sighted (Challenge of the Wainriders)
2x Gildor’s Counsel (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
3x Needful to Know (The Redhorn Gate)
3x Risk Some Light (Shadow and Flame)
2x Shadow of the Past (Return to Mirkwood)
1x Swift and Silent (The Dunland Trap)
2x The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core Set)
3x Timely Aid (The Redhorn Gate)

Player Side Quest (3)
1x Double Back (Escape from Mount Gram)
1x Gather Information (The Lost Realm)
1x Scout Ahead (The Wastes of Eriador)

1 Hero, 50 Cards
Cards up to Challenge of the Wainriders

Sideboard

Ally (11)
2x Anfalas Herdsman (The Steward’s Fear)
3x Ethir Swordsman (The Steward’s Fear)
1x Ithilien Tracker (Heirs of Númenor)
1x Robin Smallburrow (The Drowned Ruins)
3x Silvan Refugee (The Drúadan Forest)
1x Treebeard (The Antlered Crown)

Attachment (2)
1x Elf-stone (The Black Riders)
1x Strider (The Drowned Ruins)

Event (13)
3x Daeron’s Runes (Foundations of Stone)
3x Drinking Song (Mount Gundabad)
1x Gildor’s Counsel (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
3x Out of the Wild (Road to Rivendell)
1x Shadow of the Past (Return to Mirkwood)
2x The Hidden Way (The Withered Heath)

Deck built on RingsDB.

Forth, The Three Hunters! – Community Review

by Jonathan Gillies

  • Player Card Categories 
    • Healing
    • Willpower Bonus

Background

The contract references Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas pursuing the Urak-Hai after the breaking of the fellowship in The Two Towers.

Card Theme

This card harkens back to the core of The Lord of the Rings where a few brave souls can change the fate of the world. Rather than relying on hordes of allies swarming. Your three heroes must be brave and bold enough to risk this journey alone. But are given significant aid from the Valar and their gifts (cost-reduction), blessings (willpower boosting) and their healing (yeah still healing). I can really see how the developers wanted to create that feeling of a small band of heroes working alone to overcome the armies and traps of the enemy as they sprint across locations.

Card Synergies and Interactions

This contract combos with strong heroes that can get the most out of its boosting by being capable fighters and questers. As such it requires and works best with as much readying as you can throw at it: Leadership Aragorn, Spirit Legolas, Leadership Frodo, and Sam Gamgee are all excellent candidates for this contract. Arguably and ironically (since he is dead by the time of this contract’s namesake) Tactics Boromir is the best hero to make this really work with his ability to ready often throughout all phases of the game and help you with hide, escape, sailing, fortitude, racing and other tests. He’s always ready for you.

Anything else that helps with giving your few characters more actions such as Light of Valinor, Unexpected Courage x3, Shadowfax, Magic Ring, Steed of the North, Steed of the Mark, Rohan Warhorse (lots of mounts here), readying events and all of those delicious food-readying items are key to include.

Heroes that draw cards will help you get this contract flipped sooner and Erestor can do often do it round 1.

This deck excels in most quests because it completely ignores any effects that harm allies. And while you get to entirely avoid any treacheries, enemies or other hindering affects that target allies, this also can make quests where you have an objective ally you have to protect become extremely hard and create more auto loss events. Likewise when you are always defending with heroes shadow effects that discard the defending character are often game over in that moment.

Also Pelennor Fields, while beatable, absolutely requires having Will of the West in your starting hand as you have no allies to be put into play. Meaning your entire deck is discarded on the second phase and you skip right to the third much harder one. Also Wind-Whipped Rain and other discard all attachments you control are game-Enders. But still overall the benefits far outweigh the negatives of this contracts deck-building requirements. Also Ranger Summons or other players sending you their allies (looking at you Rider of the Mark and Blue Mountain Trader) is a great way to sneak in some allies into your deck. As there is no restriction on side B of the contract or gaining allies through other means.

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.

Alright hear me out here. I have been playing a Forth, The Three Hunters Gandalf, Spirit Legolas and Tactics Boromir deck for a solid year and a half now as I have been taking on every single quest in the game with the same deck, no changes or substitutions. And I can honestly say that this card is a 1, it’s the one contract to rule them all.

Firstly it completely opens up a new style of play that wasn’t really practical before. This is something the contracts were meant to do generally, but this one takes the cake for sheer power and changing up the game to the point that it almost feels like a different game entirely. Traditionally in our lovely game you are trying to build up an ally swarm as quickly as you can and then once you have raised the shire (or perhaps all of middle earth) you can casually walk through the game with your horde of allies both unique and not. This contract limits you to your three heroes only, and suddenly this game shifts from a classic strategy game horde builder to a classic dungeon crawler. This also feels so much more thematic as often it’s the work of a few heroes against the forces of the enemy that wins the day. You have to choose strong heroes because that’s all you have to take on the horrors of the enemy. Then with your heroes you slowly progress through the quest looking for more loot (oops I mean items, loot is another deck right?) to make your heroes stronger. Once you have two restricted attachments per hero suddenly your heroes becomes super powered, charged with willpower bonuses and by the end your fully levelled up mecha-warrior heroes battle their way to the finish.

Now next let’s talk about power, Bond of Fellowship is great to start with an extra hero, and Perilous Voyage helps with card draw and some crazy fun on the B side, but this contract is hands down the strongest of the lot. You are given an cost reduction of 1 for each of your heroes first restricted attachment EACH ROUND! That is essentially three free resources a round (or 4 with saga heroes) if your deck is full of restricted items (which it should be!). Helping to increase your board state is incredibly helpful and just ask Beregond how much he likes his cost reduction. So three extra resources a round of purchasing power is a great way to accelerate the often most difficult part of quests which is getting your engine going. And if you aren’t hurting for questing too badly you can even delay flipping your contract a few rounds to further utilize this early game acceleration.

But what happens when you flip that contract? All of a sudden you get a willpower boost for EACH restricted attachment on your heroes. And 2-4 extra willpower per hero makes questing a breeze for the second half of the game. Also you get the added benefit of a built in healing of 1 on each of your heroes a round. This greatly boosts your characters survivability as you have no chump blocking allies around.

But wait there’s more! While attachment-hating quests can completely ruin your burglar’s turn decks, and Escape From Dol Guldur ends your grey wandering before it begins, this contracts negative is actually a benefit. Think about the standard flow of the game traditionally. You are trying to increase your board state to build up your engine and then power through the quest as you deal with enemies that pop up and clear locations. The encounter deck always wants to attack you by filling the staging area with locations, swarming you with enemies (or strong attacks/damage), stealing your cards/resources, blocking your questing and finally attacking your board state. So many treachery cards and enemies specifically target allies. As they assume every player has some. When you don’t have allies at all, then a good chunk of the encounter deck more often then not will simply miss in their attempts to hurt you. This gives you more time to further build up your board state and be able to crush whatever remains.

One must also talk about the weaknesses of this contract to balance out the sheer power of it. And while you get to entirely avoid any treacheries, enemies or other hindering affects that target allies, this also can make quests where you have an objective ally you have to protect become extremely hard and create more auto loss events. Likewise when you are always defending with heroes shadow effects that discard the defending character are often game over in that moment.

Also Pelennor Fields, while beatable, absolutely requires having Will of the West in your starting hand as you have no allies to be put into play. Meaning your entire deck is discarded on the second phase and you skip right to the third much harder one. Also Wind-Whipped Rain and other discard all attachments you control are game-Enders. But still overall the benefits far outweigh the negatives of this contracts deck-building requirements. Also Ranger Summons or other players sending you their allies (looking at you Rider of the Mark and Blue Mountain Trader) is a great way to sneak in some allies into your deck. As there is no restriction on side B of the contract or gaining allies through other means.

When playing with this contract you do need to make sure you have a ton of readying so Unexpected Courage x3, Shadowfax, Magic Ring, Heroes that ready other heroes, and all of those delicious food-readying items are key to include. And Tactics Boromir is permanently glued to this contract for me for all of the cards that need you to exhaust a character outside do the traditional questing and fighting phases including but not limited to hide, sailing, and escape tests.

All in all this contract is the best example of how one single card can completely change how a game is played, how it feels and how it turns a novelty idea in the before-contract times into one of the most powerful archetypes in the game. That is why this card is a 1 to me and it’s extremely hard for me to not just always want to build another Forth, Three Hunters deck.

*for reference,
https://www.ringsdb.com/decklist/view/18333/thethirdagegba3hunterstheonedeck-2.0

TLDR: This contract completely changes the entire gameplay feel, takes the teeth out of the encounter deck since there are no allies to harm, and gives you crazy early game resource acceleration and second half power questing.

  • Jonathan – 1
  • Dave – TBR
  • Grant – TBR
  • Ted – TBR
  • Matt – TBR
  • Average – 1

The Third Age GBA (3 Hunters THE ONE DECK!) by Christian_Medic

this is the deck I have beaten every single non-nightmare quest in the game with, and a share of nightmares that I have as well:

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Boromir (The Dead Marshes)
Gandalf (The Road Darkens)
Legolas (The Sands of Harad)

Contract (0)
1x Forth, The Three Hunters! (The City of Ulfast)

Attachment (38)
1x A Burning Brand (Conflict at the Carrock)
1x Arod (The Treason of Saruman)
2x Blade of Gondolin (Core Set)
1x Blood of Númenor (Heirs of Númenor)
1x Captain of Gondor (The Antlered Crown)
3x Dagger of Westernesse (The Black Riders)
2x Dwarven Axe (Core Set)
1x Favor of the Valar (The Battle of Carn Dûm)
1x Gandalf’s Staff (The Road Darkens)
3x Golden Belt (Challenge of the Wainriders)
1x Gondorian Fire (Assault on Osgiliath)
3x Gondorian Shield (The Steward’s Fear)
1x Light of Valinor (Foundations of Stone)
1x Livery of the Tower (The Flame of the West)
1x Magic Ring (The Crossings of Poros)
1x Miruvor (Shadow and Flame)
1x Raiment of War (The Thing in the Depths)
1x Rohan Warhorse (The Voice of Isengard)
1x Shadowfax (The Treason of Saruman)
1x Silver Circlet (Wrath and Ruin)
1x Steed of the Mark (The Morgul Vale)
1x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)
1x Strider (The Drowned Ruins)
1x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)
2x Unexpected Courage (Two-Player Limited Edition Starter)
1x Vigilant Guard (A Storm on Cobas Haven)
2x War Axe (The City of Ulfast)
1x Wizard Pipe (The Road Darkens)

Event (10)
1x Dwarven Tomb (Core Set)
1x Elven-light (The Dread Realm)
1x Foe-hammer (Over Hill and Under Hill)
3x Open the Armory (The Dungeons of Cirith Gurat)
1x Power of Orthanc (The Voice of Isengard)
2x The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core Set)
1x Will of the West (Core Set)

Player Side Quest (2)
1x Double Back (Escape from Mount Gram)
1x Gather Information (The Lost Realm)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to Challenge of the Wainriders

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

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.

Sword-thain

Before there was Messenger of the King, there was Sword-thain.

Background

The term sword-thain is used only a few times in the books. We first see it used when Theoden offers to have Merry ride with him and act as his squire.

You shall be my esquire, if you will. Is there gear of war in this place, Éomer, that my sword-thain could use?

Book 5, Chapter 2: Passing of the Grey Company

It subsequently only comes up again when Theoden dismisses Merry as his pony will not be able to keep up on the ride to Minas Tirith. In the context used, it seems to be a formal title for a squire. The historical thane or thegn, however, was a lordly title similar to a knight. The term largely used prior to William the Conqueror’s conquest of England. A period of history that Tolkien studied and took inspiration from.

Card Theme

The card refers to Merry joining Theoden’s service, but in the previous chapter Pippin swears his sword to Denethor. Prior to this, the readers had not seen them really demonstrate martial prowess. If anything they had fallen into trouble in The Old Forest, in the barrows, and captured by orcs. Granted, they managed to convince the Ents to march on Isengard, but still that them being persuasive. It is once they join the armies of Gondor and Rohan and participate in the Battle ofPelannor Fields and rescue Faramir from the pyre that they become much more heroes in their own right. The change is apparent when they return to the Shire. They can easily push past gate guards, shirriffs, and turn back waylaying ruffians through shows of confidence. The Sword-thain card then represents the turning point where they “level up” much as the card promotes an ally into a full blown hero.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Resource or Attachment Acceleration

Now Sword-thain at 4 cost is fairly expensive. Even if the effect of gaining another hero is well worth it. You’re not going to play it first turn without some resource acceleration. Leadership Denethor hero, Steward of Gondor, and Legacy of Numenor are a couple options for getting it out first turn, but they require Leadership.

Bartering - Lore Event - 0 cost - Planning Action: Choose a ready player attachment on a character you control. Return that attachment to its owner's hand to reduce the cost of the next attachment played this phase by X, where X is the chosen attachment's cost.

First, I’d like to thank Marcelf over at Ringsdb for putting me onto this combo with his Barliman and Robin deck. Bartering the 0 cost Lore event offers a couple interesting options for putting it into play on the cheap. If you are running all Lore heroes or couple heroes of one sphere with a Lore hero, you can play the record attachments for 1 or 2 cost. Use Bartering to return it to your hand then play Sword-thain for free since the discount is by the printed cost. Lore offers some very low cost unique allies like Ioreth and Henamarth Riversong that can be played first turn with it. Then you can start gaining an additional resources.

Another option is to utilize Tactics Beregond’s discount on Weapon and Armor attachments. Basically any 2+ cost weapon or armor on him will let Bartering discount Sword-thain. Citadel Plate, Spear of the Citadel, Raiment of War, and Raven Winged Helm are good options to transfer the discount.

There are a couple other options for getting Sword-thain into play without paying the full 4 cost, but they are limited to dwarves.

Well-Equipped can put it into play for free onto a unique Dwarf. There’s certainly no shortage of targets with 9 of the 13 dwarves in Thorin’s Company represented by allies. Bofur even has 2 different versions. Outside The Hobbit Saga expansions, Gimli ally, Azain Silverbeard, and even the infamous Brok Ironfist.

Ring of Thror requires a Dwarf hero to use. Unlike Well-Equipped, the attachment that is discarded can go on any non-neutral unique ally.

Sneak Attack

Many unique allies are higher cost. Another way to get a Sword-thain hero is to Sneak Attack one into play. Then attach Sword-thain to it before the end of the phase. It won’t return to your hand anymore because it is no longer an ally. You can use this with other temporarily put an ally effects into play, such as, Horns! Horns! Horns! and Gwaihir’s Debt. Although with the latter you will be limited to Gwaihir and Landroval since Sword-thain can only be used on non-neutral unique allies.

Effects that Scale with the Number of Heroes

There are a number of cards that the effect is based on the number of heroes. Usually they require they belong to a particular sphere or have a named trait. Chief among these is Caldara.

Caldara can return an ally from the discard for each Spirit hero the player controls. A Sword-thain hero counts for this effect allowing you to return 3 allies with Sword-thain. You can even get up to 4 if Spirit Prince Imrahil is in play since he instantly becomes a hero when Caldara is discarded.

Another mono-Spirit favorite is Pelargir Shipwright. It’s willpower is equal to the number of Spirit heroes you control. This means with a Sword-thain Spirit hero, it has 4 willpower rivaling that of Eowyn and Cirdan.

I mentioned earlier the record attachments can be played for 1 or 2 cost. This is because Tome of Atanatar, Scroll of Isildur, Map of Earnil, and Book of Eldacar cost 1 less for each hero of the matching sphere. It’s possible to make these cost 0 once Sword-thain hits play.

Mithrandir’s Advice can draw a card for each Lore hero. This card in a mono-Lore deck with Sword-thain can draw nearly as many cards as Peace and Thought without having to exhaust 2 heroes. Then a free Scroll of Isildur can recur it for you.

Tactics Merry and Frodo’s Intuition similar to the others do more for each hero you have. The difference being that their effects are based on the number of Hobbit heroes rather than the sphere. Frodo’s Intuition overlaps with another kind of scaling effect by giving each hero +1 willpower. These card don’t explicitly scale like those mentioned. Instead these get better the more heroes you have because they affect each one. Tighten Our Belts, Legacy of Numenor, and We Are Not Idle can all garner up to 4 resources with a Sword-thain hero. Hour of Wrath when in Valour (threat is 40 or higher) will let all heroes attack and defend without exhausting. Captains of the West will boost all Noble heroes’ willpower and have them quest without exhausting. While Captains of the West is trait restricted, there are many unique Noble allies that make great Sword-thain heroes.

Unique Allies

While it is a requirement of the card, there are definitely some better targets than others. Generally, the unique allies with strong combat stats or very useful abilities are top targets. Jubayr is a good example of both. His strong defense and ability to discard a shadow makes a solid defending ally. Once he is a hero additional attachments open up like Dunedain Warning and Armored Destrier that can turn into a defender for the entire table. Tactics Nori is one where his combat stats aren’t stellar and making him a hero can help make his ability more reliable. Then he can have great attack boosting attachments like Dagger of Westernesse or War Axe. He could even have a Rohan Warhorse to possibly destroy 2 enemies and get 2 cards from the discard on the bottom of the deck.

Speaking of readying, there are more options for readying heroes than allies. This is great for allies with great abilities that trigger by exhausting like Leadership Faramir and Rosie. Faramir could add 2 or more willpower to a player’s questing characters. Rosie has always had potential to use her ability multiple times a round thanks to Fast Hitch, but opens up to running her without Lore. Additionally, willpower boosting attachments like Celebrian’s Stone and Fireside Song can make her ability even more powerful.

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 Sword-thain at 3 rings. The 4 cost can be a big ask especially without some resource acceleration. There are a couple ways, however, to play it on the cheap. When built around it, you can get some really great mileage out that extra hero. It can really improve the effectiveness of unique allies with strong abilities like Rosie and Leadership Faramir. It even opens up some unique ally turned hero voltron builds. Especially as it doesn’t have the readying limit that Messenger of the King does. There is also a fun factor to this card. If your favorite character for some reason isn’t a hero but an ally. Then you can make them one. There are fun builds out there that aim to get 5 – 7 heroes or at least near hero allies. These usually have 3 normal heroes, a Sword-thain hero, Thalion, Treebeard, Over Hill and Under Hill Gandalf, and/or Radagast. Sword-thain won’t fit into every deck, and it is on the expensive side. Despite those drawbacks, it offers a lot of deck building possibilities.

  • Dave – 6
  • Grant – 4
  • Ted – 7
  • Matt – 3
  • Average – 5

Sample Decks

Barliman and Robin by Marcelf

Sword-thain is a major piece of resource acceleration in this deck. Scroll of Isildur is used for Bartering Sword-thain or Resourcefuls into play. The Scrolls are important to play and use to recur Risk Some Light over and over again. Getting to be free also helps accelerate resources.

Barliman and Robin

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Bilbo Baggins (The Hunt for Gollum)
Folco Boffin (The Dungeons of Cirith Gurat)
Pippin (The Black Riders)

Ally (19)
1x Barliman Butterbur (The Black Riders)
3x Erebor Hammersmith (Core Set)
1x Firyal (The Mûmakil)
1x Gaffer Gamgee (Mount Gundabad)
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 Henamarth Riversong (Core Set)
3x Ithilien Lookout (The Dunland Trap)
1x Mablung (The Land of Shadow)
2x Mirkwood Explorer (The Thing in the Depths)
1x Quickbeam (The Treason of Saruman)
1x Robin Smallburrow (The Drowned Ruins)
1x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)

Attachment (12)
1x Fast Hitch (The Dead Marshes)
3x Love of Tales (The Long Dark)
3x Resourceful (The Watcher in the Water)
3x Scroll of Isildur (The Morgul Vale)
2x Sword-thain (The Dread Realm)

Event (19)
2x Bartering (The Wilds of Rhovanion)
3x Deep Knowledge (The Voice of Isengard)
3x Drinking Song (Mount Gundabad)
3x Mithrandir’s Advice (The Steward’s Fear)
2x Peace, and Thought (Shadow and Flame)
3x Risk Some Light (Shadow and Flame)
3x The Shirefolk (Mount Gundabad)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to Mount Gundabad

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Aggro Caldara v4 by Beorn

Post-errata Caldara deck utilizing Noldor discard to fill the discard pile with targets for Caldara’s ability.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Arwen Undómiel (The Dread Realm)
Caldara (The Blood of Gondor)
Círdan the Shipwright (The Grey Havens)

Ally (30)
1x Elfhelm (The Dead Marshes)
3x Emery (The Blood of Gondor)
1x Escort from Edoras (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
1x Gamling (The Land of Shadow)
2x Glorfindel (Flight of the Stormcaller)
1x Háma (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Imladris Stargazer (Foundations of Stone)
3x Jubayr (The Mûmakil)
3x Northern Tracker (Core Set)
3x Pelargir Shipwright (Assault on Osgiliath)
3x Prince Imrahil (The Flame of the West)
1x Rhovanion Outrider (Temple of the Deceived)
1x Súlien (The City of Corsairs)
1x Westfold Horse-Breaker (The Hunt for Gollum)
3x Zigil Miner (Khazad-dûm)

Attachment (9)
2x Light of Valinor (Foundations of Stone)
3x Narya (The Grey Havens)
1x Steed of Imladris (Across the Ettenmoors)
3x Sword-thain (The Dread Realm)

Event (11)
3x A Test of Will (Core Set)
1x Dwarven Tomb (Core Set)
3x Elven-light (The Dread Realm)
2x Hidden Cache (The Morgul Vale)
2x Stand and Fight (Core Set)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to The Mûmakil

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Ring around the Rosie (saga) by TheChad

Chad of Cardboard of the Ring’s LOTR Saga deck that makes Rosie the Sword-thain hero. Then boosts her willpower with Celebrian’s Stone, Fireside Song, etc.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Merry (The Wastes of Eriador)
Pippin (The Black Riders)
Sam Gamgee (The Black Riders)

Ally (18)
1x Bill the Pony (The Black Riders)
2x Celduin Traveler (The Nîn-in-Eilph)
3x Gandalf (Core Set)
2x Ithilien Lookout (The Dunland Trap)
3x Master of the Forge (Shadow and Flame)
1x Quickbeam (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Rosie Cotton (The Mountain of Fire)
1x Treebeard (The Antlered Crown)
2x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)

Attachment (18)
1x Celebrían’s Stone (Core Set)
3x Fast Hitch (The Dead Marshes)
2x Fellowship of the Ring (The Road Darkens)
2x Fireside Song (Beneath the Sands)
3x Friend of Friends (The Mountain of Fire)
2x Resourceful (The Watcher in the Water)
1x Song of Hope (The Black Serpent)
1x Staff of Lebethron (The Land of Shadow)
3x Sword-thain (The Dread Realm)

Event (15)
3x A Test of Will (Core Set)
3x Elevenses (The Thing in the Depths)
3x Frodo’s Intuition (The Black Riders)
3x Sneak Attack (Core Set)
3x Timely Aid (The Redhorn Gate)

3 Heroes, 51 Cards
Cards up to The Mountain of Fire

Sideboard

Attachment (5)
3x Hobbit Cloak (The Black Riders)
2x Hobbit Pony (The Wastes of Eriador)

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Big Hero Six by Zeromage

This deck aims to have 6 heroes in play or at least 4 heroes and 2 hero-like allies in play (Gandalf and Treebeard).

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Beravor (Core Set)
Círdan the Shipwright (The Grey Havens)
Denethor (Flight of the Stormcaller)

Ally (24)
1x Arwen Undómiel (The Watcher in the Water)
3x Envoy of Pelargir (Heirs of Númenor)
3x Erebor Hammersmith (Core Set)
3x Errand-rider (Heirs of Númenor)
1x Faramir (Core Set)
3x Galadriel’s Handmaiden (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
3x Gandalf (Over Hill and Under Hill)
1x Glorfindel (Flight of the Stormcaller)
1x Henamarth Riversong (Core Set)
3x Treebeard (The Antlered Crown)
2x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)

Attachment (13)
3x Ent Draught (The Treason of Saruman)
1x Gandalf’s Staff (The Road Darkens)
1x Light of Valinor (Foundations of Stone)
3x Narya (The Grey Havens)
1x Shadowfax (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)
1x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)

Event (13)
3x Daeron’s Runes (Foundations of Stone)
3x Dwarven Tomb (Core Set)
3x Elrond’s Counsel (The Watcher in the Water)
2x Gaining Strength (The Steward’s Fear)
2x The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core Set)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to Flight of the Stormcaller

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

Guided by Fate

  • Player Card Categories 
    • Encounter Control
    • Discard Pile

Finally a card that really enables player encounter cards like Ranger of the North, Winds from the Sea, Eagles of the North, and Tom Bombadillo!

Background

The phrase, “guided by fate” shows up in the Two Towers when Gishkanah is killed right before he can kill Merry and Pippin.

“Grishnákh flung himself on the ground flat, dragging the hobbits under him; then he drew his sword. No doubt he meant to kill his captives, rather than allow them to escape or to be rescued; but it was his undoing. The sword rang faintly, and glinted a little in the light of the fire away to his left. An arrow came whistling out of the gloom: it was aimed with skill, or guided by fate, and it pierced his right hand. He dropped the sword and shrieked. There was a quick beat of hoofs, and even as Grishnákh leaped up and ran, he was ridden down and a spear passed through him. He gave a hideous shivering cry and lay still.” – The Two Towers, Chapter 3: The Uruk-hai

This is a bit of deus ex machina with the well timed arrow and a random rider of Rohan saving the Hobbits from an untimely demise. The art of Gandalf and one of the Eagles is more representative of another bit of deus ex machina from The Hobbit. That is the eagles’ timely rescue of Bilbo, Gandalf, and Thorin’s Company from the trees they sought refuge in but their goblin pursuers had set fire to.

The title of this card alludes to a greater theme in Lord of the Rings of the roles of fate and free will. There are many instances where the choices the characters make end up serving a greater purpose. Bilbo a seemingly happy hobbit homebody chooses to join Thorin’s Company. In doing so finds a magic ring that had long remained hidden eventually leading to its destruction and that of Sauron. Radagast unwittingly lures Gandalf into Saruman’s trap for him. As a result of Gandalf’s eventual escape when Galadriel sends Gwaihir to look for him, they are alerted to Saruman’s treachery and fall into shadow. Aragorn to prove himself worthy of Arwen, works hard to become a leader of men and the true heir of Isildur. He then is just the leader Gondor needs as the Steward falls into madness and death to stand against Mordor and draw attention away from the ringbearer.

This is all built into Middle Earth. Nowhere more clearly than “The Music of Ainur” within The Simarillion that is Middle Earth’s creation myth. Iluvatar, the god figure, creates the Ainur from his thoughts to sing the song that would become Arda or Middle Earth. One of the most powerful of them, Melkor the the eventual big bad of the First and Second Ages, attempted to subvert and corrupt the song. Iluvatar, however introduces new themes that subsume Melkor’s music into them. After the song ends Iluvatar says about it,

“And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.” – The Simarillion, Ainulindale

It’s clear here that while the people and even spirits of Middle Earth have free will, it is all guided by fate to fit into the larger plan.

Card Theme

The card theme of the seeming fortuitous event that helps our heroes is extremely fitting. Especially as the mechanism makes the encounter player cards more likely to appear when they’re needed. That it is at the direction of the players reinforces the agency of fate in steering the ultimate destiny of Middle Earth. One seeming mismatch in theme is the art doesn’t correspond to the event in the books where the title is used. The art, however, ties into the eagles theme of player cards in Fire of the Eastement adventure pack. As mentioned earlier, the eagles also are often found to show up when needed most.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Player Encounter Cards

There are currently 4 events that can shuffle a set aside player card with the Encounter keyword, Ranger Summons, Flight of the Eagles, Flight to the the Sea, and Tom Bombillo!

Flight of the Eagles and the associated Eagle of the North given the eagle theme of the pack, are the main intended combo piece. They’re arguably the most useful pair of the player encounter cards. Flight of the Eagles is 0 resource cost and gets an eagle to leave play. This is a very useful effect for many eagle cards like Descendant of Thorondor, Meneldor, Eagles of the Misty Mountains, and Gwairhir (both hero and ally versions). On top of that, Eagle of the North is a strong attacking ally and good at questing especially for the generally willpower poor eagles and Tactics in general.

The other 3 events don’t do anything other than shuffle in a set aside card. Ranger of the North with its direct damage or progress can help get rid of a troublesome enemy or location. It’s stats are good and flexible and the ranged and sentinel gives it additional utility in multiplayer. Wind from the Sea is the only one with a shadow effect which makes for an interesting decision on when to use the action on Guided by Fate hoping to reveal it during staging or as a shadow card.

Encounter Control & Scrying

There are some player cards that can help make sure that whichever card Guided by Fate shuffled into the top 5 is the one revealed, or at least let a player know when to expect it. Denethor from the core set and Risk Some Light both are not let you see the top 1 and 3 cards, respectively but move a card to the bottom of the encounter deck. Firyal likewise can discard the first of the 5 encounter cards if it isn’t the desired one. Far-sighted will let a player see where the card is shuffled in at among the top 5. Henamarth Riversong and Rumor from the Earth only take a look at the top card, but for true solo players this is sufficient to determine if the card shuffled in by will be revealed during staging.

On the flip side, Guided by Fate can help set up certain encounter control cards. Prime among them are Wait No Longer and The Hidden Way. Guided by Fate’s action can ensure they do not whiff. Additionally the players can ensure that a weaker enemy or less troublesome location is put into play as well as revealing 1 less encounter card.

Dunedain Hunter and Pathfinder

Similar to Wait No Longer and The Hidden Way, a player can ensure these allies will always find an enemy or location and can enter play.

Victory Display

Out of the Wild and Scout Ahead combo really well with the action ability on Guided by Fate. Much like A Shadow of the Past, players can set up these cards to remove a particular card from the encounter deck since the encounter discard pile is public knowledge. Best part is it repeatable for victory display fellowships.

Quest Specific

Guided by Fate is a boon for quests with objective cards that don’t get shuffled back in when discarded or revealed as a shadow. The Hunt for Gollum and A Journey to Rhosgobel back in the first cycle are early examples with Signs of Gollum and Athelas objectives. Both are important to successfully completing the quest and having to discard one as a shadow can extend the game. In the case of the Athelas it could mean the difference in winning the scenario if the players can’t find enough to completely heal Wilyador.

The Ghost of Framsburg and The Ruins of Belegost are later quests where players are searching for Loot objectives and have the game go long if they’re discarded. The Ghost of Framsburg at least provides a location that can attach a Loot objective in the discard to an enemy. The Ruins of Belegost, however, Loot can only be found through the Discover X keyword. Locations with Discover have the players look at the top X cards to reveal 1 Loot Card and 1 Hazard card when it becomes the active location. If revealed any other way, they are just discarded. Guided by Fate can be a way get those Loot cards back into the deck right before the travel phase.

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 remember being very excited when I got Lost Realm for Ranger Summons and possibly getting a Ranger of the North from the encounter deck. A 2/2/2/3 ally for 1 cost seemed incredible. Playing it true solo, I learned you can’t count on it showing up particularly any time soon in a game. Guided by Fate fixes that issue for those cards and makes them much more playable. There are also a number of other use cases with encounter control cards, zero cost Dunedain allies, and quests where the players need to find certain objectives.

I rate Guided by Fate at 6 rings. All those use cases considered, they’re not universal. A more general application would be just to try recurring some less problematic encounter cards. I think, however, that the other encounter control options like Firyal, Denethor, or victory display cards would be better and more consistent at avoiding the worst the encounter deck has. Still if you’re going to run player encounter cards, this a fantastic enabler particularly for true solo players.

  • Dave – Thumbs up
  • Grant – Thumbs up
  • Ted – Thumbs up
  • Eric – Thumbs up
  • Matt – 6

A note on the podcast hosts’ ratings, when they recorded the episode on the card it was a spoiler. Fire in the Eastement had not released. They gave the card their spoiler impression thumbs up or thumbs down. It has subsequently come out, and I feel comfortable giving Guided by Fate a preliminary ring rating.

External Links

Sample Decks

Eagles and Dunedain by SchadenfreudeNE

A Dunedain and Eagles alliance featuring 2 Rangers of the North and an Eagle of the North.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Alagos (ALeP – Fire on the Eastemnet)
Aragorn (The Lost Realm)
Faunith (ALeP – Fire on the Eastemnet)

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

Ally (29)
2x Andrath Guardsman (The Mûmakil)
2x Chieftain of the Skies (ALeP – Fire on the Eastemnet)
2x Dúnedain Hunter (The Lost Realm)
2x Eagle Emissary (The Land of Sorrow)
3x Eagles of the Misty Mountains (Return to Mirkwood)
2x Meneldor (Roam Across Rhovanion)
2x Messenger of Manwë (ALeP – Fire on the Eastemnet)
3x Northern Bowmaster (Under the Ash Mountains)
3x Ranger of Cardolan (The Wastes of Eriador)
3x Vassal of the Windlord (The Dead Marshes)
2x Veteran Eagle (ALeP – Fire on the Eastemnet)
1x Wilyador (The Land of Sorrow)
2x Winged Guardian (The Hunt for Gollum)

Attachment (7)
3x Golden Crown (ALeP – Fire on the Eastemnet)
2x Guided by Fate (ALeP – Fire on the Eastemnet)
2x Support of the Eagles (Return to Mirkwood)

Event (14)
2x Breath of Arda (ALeP – Fire on the Eastemnet)
3x Flight of the Eagles (Roam Across Rhovanion)
3x Hidden Roosts (ALeP – Fire on the Eastemnet)
3x Ranger Summons (The Lost Realm)
3x The Eagles Are Coming! (The Hunt for Gollum)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to ALeP – Fire on the Eastemnet

Sideboard

Ally (6)
3x Eagle of the North (Roam Across Rhovanion)
3x Ranger of the North (The Lost Realm)

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Envoy of Pelagrir

  • Card Effect Categories 
    • Resource Acceleration
    • Resource Smoothing
    • Enters Play

A flexible cheap efficient ally that was necessary early in the life of the game. Now in the larger card pool, it’s a fine filler or resource smoothing card.

Background

Pelagrir is the primary coastal city of Gondor located along the Anduin. An envoy based or from Pelagrir makes sense as the envoy can board sailing or river ships to travel to many places in Middle Earth. Most notably in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Aragorn lead the dead men of Dunharrow against the corsairs of Umbar that had taken the city.

Card Theme

Steward of Gondor back in the core set introduced the resource acceleration mechanism to the game. Heirs of Númenor as the first Gondor focused deluxe expanded on the Gondor trait having resource related mechanisms. Envoy of Pelagrir and Errand-Rider both gave it ways to move resources around. Wealth of Gondor gave it another acceleration option, and Leadership Boromir boosted ally attack while he had a resource. This is a nice way to represent the manpower and materials at Gondor’s command. It makes a lot sense as the kingdom was the largest and strongest of the free peoples during the later years of the Third Age.

Envoy of Pelagrir and Errand-Rider both provide another great thematic representation of the mechanism of moving resources from one hero to another. Both are traveling around and interacting with the various peoples of Middle Earth. The Pelargir Ship Captain, introduced later in the cycle, continued the thematic link of traveling allies with a resource smoothing ability that isn’t limited to just Gondor or Noble. Squire of the Citadel is another later example of the thematic link. Although it is not as obvious as the prior examples considering the squire would need to leave play first to basically move the resource to a different Gondor hero. Still a squire could be expected to run messages for their knight and it can tie in.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Gondor Global Boosts

Envoy is a pretty good value with 1 willpower and attack for essentially 1 resource. You can get more stats with Leadership Boromir hero or For Gondor! boosting its attack. Gondor has many good allies for combat.

I tend to think of Envoy as a cheap questing ally. Especially since it’s easy to boost its willpower with Visionary Leadership, Leadership ally Faramir, and even Sword that was Broken on Aragorn.

Bond of Friendship

The Envoy fits in well with this contract’s deckbuilding restrictions considering you have to include at least 5 neutral or Saga sphere cards. There aren’t as many neutral card options as the regular 4 spheres. It’s ability to smooth resources between Gondor and Noble heroes is even better value with the mandatory quad sphere build.

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 the Envoy at 5 rings because it is one the best filler cards. I could see a a strong argument for 4 on that basis. I just find that being a good or even great filler usually gets cut from my deck. In larger card pool, I often find better choices for the particular deck I’m building. Even Gondor swarm has many great cheap options that are competing for space like Solider of Gondor, Herald of Anórien, Defender of Rammas, or Knight of Belfalas.

When it came out, the Envoy was fantastic. It was just the kind of card the game needed for the small card pool, a flexible ally that could go in any deck. Also it could make your early game much better by giving a hero that one resource needed to play another card in the same turn especially in dual sphere decks. Now, there are better cheap allies for most decks and better resource smoothing options. It still is useful, but not as universally as it was back in Against the Shadow.

  • Dave – 5
  • Grant – 4
  • Ted – 5
  • Matt – 5
  • Average 4.75

External Links

Sample Decks

A Family of Leaders by emorlecallor

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Boromir (Heirs of Númenor)
Denethor (Flight of the Stormcaller)
Faramir (The Land of Shadow)

Ally (29)
1x Anborn (The Land of Shadow)
2x Citadel Custodian (Heirs of Númenor)
3x Envoy of Pelargir (Heirs of Númenor)
3x Errand-rider (Heirs of Númenor)
3x Gandalf (Core Set)
3x Herald of Anórien (Trouble in Tharbad)
1x Ingold (The Wastes of Eriador)
2x Pelargir Ship Captain (The Morgul Vale)
3x Squire of the Citadel (The Blood of Gondor)
3x Veteran of Osgiliath (Escape from Mount Gram)
2x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)
3x White Tower Watchman (The Drúadan Forest)

Attachment (12)
3x Rod of the Steward (Flight of the Stormcaller)
3x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)
3x Tome of Atanatar (The Blood of Gondor)
3x Visionary Leadership (The Morgul Vale)

Event (10)
3x A Very Good Tale (Over Hill and Under Hill)
1x For Gondor! (Core Set)
3x Sneak Attack (Core Set)
3x Strength of Arms (The Drúadan Forest)

Player Side Quest (1)
1x Send for Aid (The Treachery of Rhudaur)

3 Heroes, 52 Cards
Cards up to Flight of the Stormcaller

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Radagast and Radagast’s Staff

The hero and attachment the Eagles deck needed.

Background

Radagast is one of the wizards sent from Valinor to be an emissary of Manwë and the Valar to the peoples of Middle Earth. It is said that that he was a greatly interested in plants and animals although his knowledge of them was second to Gandalf. He lived for a time in Rhosgobel, a small settlement between the Carrock and the Old Forest Road of Mirkwood. As a result, he and Beorn knew of each other as Beorn considered him not bad for a wizard in The Hobbit. He was also a noted friend of the great eagles. He was also used as a pawn by Saruman to bring Gandalf to Orthanc, Whereupon Saruman imprisoned Gandalf preventing from returning to The Shire to inform Frodo what he learned of The One Ring.

Card Theme

Radagast’s interest and friendship with the various beasts of Middle Earth are represented heavily in his abilities and those of his staff. His resource smoothing and the staff’s resource acceleration for creatures reflect bringing those friends to his aid. Whether having them act as spies, carrying messages, or sending Gwaihir to rescue Gandalf from Orthanc. This also ties into his ability to quest without exhausting when a creature is played. As mentioned in the earlier examples, Radagast is able to cover a lot of ground with the help of his bird and beast allies.

The last ability to return a creature enemy to the staging area I don’t think has a thematic link to the books. It seems more to be inspired by The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug movie directed by Peter Jackson. In the movie, shadowy forms of giant spiders can be seen while Radagast is trying to heal a sick hedgehog. It is only after he draws out the magical sickness the spiders apparently retreat.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Creature Allies

The obvious one here to take advantage of Radagast’s Staff cost reduction and readying, the hero’s ability to smooth resources, and get him to quest without exhausting. The creatures allies available in the game can give a deck a suite of card draw as well as potential answers to enemies, locations, and direct damage. Eagles are the primary contingent of creature allies in the game. Vassal of the Windlord, Winged Guardian, and Wilyador are cheap efficient attacking and defending allies. Their discard effects feed The Eagles of the Misty Mountains to create mid to late game combat behemoths.

Additionally, Descendent of Thorondor‘s direct damage when entering and leaving play can take out enemies in the staging area making combat easier as well as providing pseudo-questing by removing some staging area threat. Meneldor has a similar enters and leaves play ability except for placing progress on locations. Using as many Eagle allies as possible makes The Eagles Are Coming! into a more reliable way to draw multiple cards.

The non-Eagle allies provide the other utility effects to round out a creature deck. Messenger Raven can generate card draw by successfully naming the player card type on top the player deck. Wizard Pipe can reliably set this up. That it returns the raven to hand allows Radagast to reliably quest without exhausting for 1 resource per turn. Riddermark’s Finest can be discarded for location progress for another location control option. Loyal Hound’s damage cancellation and can stop direct damage effects helps make defending with Radagast safer. The insurance in defending is helpful considering the only Lore defensive bonus he can have is Protector of Lorien.

Return Ally to Hand Effects

Meneldor’s Flight, Born Aloft, Flight of the Eagles, and Gwaihir’s Debt much like the core set Sneak Attack let you get extra triggers on the Eagles enter and leave play effects. Particularly useful for Descendent of Thorondor, Meneldor, and even ally Gwaihir if you want to get an Eagle ally back. Normally playing those 3 allies multiple times would be difficult considering their 3, 4, and 5 cost. Radaghast’s Staff makes it much more reasonable to get an extra play or two out of them. Returning creature alies to hand also make sure you have one to play each turn to trigger Radagast’s action advantage.

Defense Bonus

Radagast’s 3 defense stat puts him into the top tier of Lore hero defenders with core set Denethor, Treebeard, and Elrond. He’s in sphere for one of the best shadow control cards in the game, A Burning Brand. If Radaghast is the primary defender, being able to cancel a shadow effect every turn is always going to be good. Unfortunately, the only in-sphere defensive boost he can have is Protector of Lorien. Lore has enough card draw to provide the means to reliably boost his defense higher with it.

Tactics, however, has some additional defense boosting options, and if playing Eagles then a player is likely to include a Tactics hero as well. Gondorian Shield and Round Shield can are nice cheap options to put Radagast in the 4+ defense that is often necessary in many quests.

Word of Command

Word of Command let’s you search your deck for any card to add to your hand, but the requirement of exhausting an Istari carries a heavy opportunity cost. Gandalf and Saruman heroes and allies versions have great stats that players typically want to use. The ally versions tend to not stay in play more than a round. Radagast ally doesn’t have those drawbacks but is very expensive at 5 cost. This means you’re not going to get use its effect early in the game when it would be the most useful. Radagast’s ability to quest without exhausting after playing a creature makes Word of Command easier to play in the early game. Especially in true solo where after questing there may not even be any enemies for combat.

Quest Specific

One ability of Radagast’s Staff haven’t mentioned much yet is that it can return a creature enemy to the staging area. It’s easy to overlook since many earlier player cards triggered off the Orc and Goblin traits. There are a lot of creature enemies in the game. The core set alone has King Spider, Wargs, Hummerhorns, Ungoliant’s Spawn, Marsh Adder, Forest Spider, Black Forest Bats, and Eastern Crows.

This ability can be a game saver if Attercop, Attercop is revealed in Return to Mirkwood. Attercop’s 8 attack is difficult for many decks to deal handle, but the 2 threat is easier to quest over. Wastes of Eriador has exclusively Warg enemies that are also have the Creature trait. The Day / Night mechanism in that quest can make it easy to get overwhelmed with too many enemies and having a way to send one back to the staging during Night could be very useful. The Múmakil has exclusively creature enemies some with very nasty abilities. The staff can do some great work in it by sending back a Territoral Ape when the active location has 4 threat or help to avoid gaining a Strangling Python as an attachment or having Giant Centipede blank a hero’s textbox

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 Radagast hero at 4 rings. Built in action advantage, good defense stat in Lore so can have A Burning Brand. The hero with his Staff basically makes the creature ally deck work. Downside is he is a little higher threat at 11. Even that isn’t too difficult to get into a deck especially with the Lore Hobbit heroes or Mirlonde. This all makes him a very solid hero, but you need at least some creature allies to leverage the hero’s abilities. Outside a deck without creature allies, Radagast still can be a decent Lore defender.

Radagast’s Staff I rate at 3 rings. The cost reduction makes it Steward of Gondor for creature allies. This makes it one of the best trait based resource accelerators. Amazing value for the more expensive Eagle allies and Giant Bear. It also can ready those strong allies like Eagles of the Misty Mountains. Without creatures allies, the staff seems to take a bigger hit in utility than the hero. The only ability that can be used then is the return creature enemy to the staging area. This ability is more useful than it seems at first glance. The game is rife with spiders, bats, wolves, crows, scorpions and other creature enemies it can return to the staging area.

Overall, I like the Staff better than the hero. The staff with its cost reduction and readying of creature allies is fantastic in an Eagles deck. You don’t even need the hero to use it. You can use it with Radagast ally which doesn’t completely offset his high cost, certainly makes it more playable.

The on the other hand, I have trouble with using as a primary defender. Part of it is the lack of traits to give him some of the stronger defensive attachments like Ancestral Armor or Armored Destrier. Another part is I wish he had a Tactics icon to be in sphere with many of them and could get Support of the Eagles. It is thematic that he is Lore and there are songs, but it would have been easier if he had just been a Tactics hero. I also think his overall Istari package of staff and creature allies isn’t as widely useful or interesting as the Gandalf and Saruman heroes. It is nice that he is lower threat than either of the other 2, but really if I’m playing this hero it’s to facilitate playing expensive Eagle allies. Everything after that is a nice bonus to take advantage of.

Hero

  • Dave – 5
  • Grant – 5
  • Ted – 2
  • Matt – 4
  • Average – 4

Staff

  • Dave – 5
  • Grant – 5
  • Ted – 2
  • Matt – 3
  • Average 3.75

External Links

Sample Decks

The Eagles Are Coming! by radAGHAST 

This deck aims to swarm the board with Eagles utilizing the discount from Radagast’s Staff and Hirgon’s ability after questing succesfully.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Éowyn (The Flame of the West)
Hirgon (Beneath the Sands)
Radagast (The Fate of Wilderland)

Ally (31)
3x Descendant of Thorondor (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
3x Eagle of the North (Roam Across Rhovanion)
3x Eagles of the Misty Mountains (Return to Mirkwood)
3x Gandalf (Core Set)
2x Gwaihir (Trouble in Tharbad)
2x Landroval (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
3x Loyal Hound (The Fate of Wilderland)
3x Meneldor (Roam Across Rhovanion)
3x Vassal of the Windlord (The Dead Marshes)
3x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)
3x Winged Guardian (The Hunt for Gollum)

Attachment (6)
2x A Burning Brand (Conflict at the Carrock)
1x Magic Ring (The Crossings of Poros)
3x Radagast’s Staff (The Fate of Wilderland)

Event (16)
3x Daeron’s Runes (Foundations of Stone)
3x Flight of the Eagles (Roam Across Rhovanion)
3x Gwaihir’s Debt (The Fate of Wilderland)
1x Justice Shall Be Done (A Storm on Cobas Haven)
3x The Eagles Are Coming! (The Hunt for Gollum)
3x Word of Command (The Long Dark)

3 Heroes, 53 Cards
Cards up to The Fate of Wilderland

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Mono-Lore of the Eagles by The Purple Wizard

An Eagle centric Vilya deck that adds in some of the best questing and support allies from Lore and Spirit. It also utilizes Protector of Lorien to make Radagast into a serious defender with the extra cards drawn by Erestor.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Elrond (Shadow and Flame)
Erestor (The Treachery of Rhudaur)
Radagast (The Fate of Wilderland)

Ally (34)
1x Arwen Undómiel (The Watcher in the Water)
3x Descendant of Thorondor (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
3x Eagles of the Misty Mountains (Return to Mirkwood)
1x Ered Nimrais Prospector (The Morgul Vale)
2x Firyal (The Mûmakil)
3x Gandalf (Core Set)
1x Ghân-buri-Ghân (The Flame of the West)
2x Glorfindel (Flight of the Stormcaller)
1x Gwaihir (Trouble in Tharbad)
1x Landroval (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
3x Loyal Hound (The Fate of Wilderland)
1x Mablung (The Land of Shadow)
3x Meneldor (Roam Across Rhovanion)
3x Vassal of the Windlord (The Dead Marshes)
3x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)
3x Winged Guardian (The Hunt for Gollum)

Attachment (15)
2x A Burning Brand (Conflict at the Carrock)
1x Favor of the Valar (The Battle of Carn Dûm)
2x Protector of Lórien (Core Set)
3x Radagast’s Staff (The Fate of Wilderland)
1x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)
3x Vilya (Shadow and Flame)
3x Wizard Pipe (The Road Darkens)

Event (5)
3x The Evening Star (The Grey Havens)
1x The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core Set)
1x Will of the West (Core Set)

3 Heroes, 54 Cards
Cards up to The Fate of Wilderland

Sideboard

Ally (15)
2x Ered Nimrais Prospector (The Morgul Vale)
2x Ghân-buri-Ghân (The Flame of the West)
1x Gwaihir (Trouble in Tharbad)
3x Imladris Stargazer (Foundations of Stone)
1x Jubayr (The Mûmakil)
1x Landroval (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
3x Northern Tracker (Core Set)
1x Quickbeam (The Treason of Saruman)
1x Robin Smallburrow (The Drowned Ruins)

Event (4)
2x The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core Set)
2x Will of the West (Core Set)

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.