Mirkwood Explorer

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

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


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


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


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.