Mirkwood Explorer

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

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

Background

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

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

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

Card Theme

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

Card Synergies and Interactions

Ally Readying

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

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

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

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

Location Attachments

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

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

Player Guarded Cards and Burglar’s Turn

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

Other Direct Location Progress Effects

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

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

Quest Specific

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

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

Ring Rating

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

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

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

Sample Decks

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

Location Busters by The BGamerJoe

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

Main Deck

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

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

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

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

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

Sideboard

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

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

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

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Meneldor

  • Player Card Categories 
    • Location Control
    • Enters Play
    • Leaves Play
    • Messenger of the King

Background

Meneldor is one of the Eagles of the Misty Mountains that are descended from Thorondor. Thorondor was the leader of the servants of Manwe, the Great Eagles in the First and Second Ages. More specifically, Meneldor is one of the three eagles to fly to Mount Doom to rescue Sam and Frodo after the Battle of the Morannon.

“Side by side they lay; and down swept Gwaihir, and down came Landroval and Meneldor the swift; and in a dream, not knowing what fate had befallen them, the wanderers were lifted up and borne far away out of the darkness and the fire.” –The Return of the King, Chapter 4: The Field of Cormallen

Meneldor along with Gwaihir and Landroval are the only named eagles in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Card Theme

Knowing that Meneldor was one of the Eagles to rescue Sam and Frodo, it would seem like his card should have an effect to return an ally or hero to play or at least back to hand for an ally. The problem is there are already eagle cards with those effects.

Meneldor’s Flight in fact already references Meneldor and has an effect that can “rescue” an Eagle ally from play. Landroval and Born Aloft represent are more thematic to those three as they can rescue any hero or ally. The of course to complete the trio, Gwaihir ally can also return an Eagle ally from the discard pile. The rescue theme then is well covered.

The earlier mention of Meneldor in the same chapter then seems to be the inspiration for the location progress mechanism:

“‘The North Wind blows, but we shall outfly it,’ said Gwaihir. And he lifted up Gandalf and sped away south, and with him went Landroval, and Meneldor young and swift. And they passed over Udûn and Gorgoroth and saw all the land in ruin and tumult beneath them, and before them Mount Doom blazing, pouring out its fire.” –The Return of the King, Chapter 4: The Field of Cormallen

This isn’t the first time that the Eagle’s ability to quickly traverse Middle-Earth is demonstrated. In the Hobbit, they also carried Thorin’s Company from the Misty Mountains to The Carrock. Progress in the game is intended to represent the characters traveling and exploring Middle Earth. It is still very fitting then to have one of the Eagles represent their ability to swiftly travel across Middle-Earth. Meneldor who is called out as swift in the passage is fitting then to have ability to place progress directly on a location.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Put into Play and Return Ally to Hand

Sneak Attack from the core set covers both effects and rightfully is the staple card to bounce allies with enter and/or leave play effects. Sneak Attack + Meneldor will place 4 progress on a location making it the location control version of Sneak Attack + Gandalf. Alternatively, Horns! Horns! Horns! can also make both triggers happen but then Meneldor is shuffled into the deck. Gwaihir’s Debt is another way to trigger both effects that is limited to Eagles or Istari. The requirement to have an Istari and Eagle in play can be a little restrictive unless using hero Radagast, Gandalf, or Saruman. It’s also not as consistent since it is from the top 5 of the deck. Horns! Horns! Horns! shuffling a copy back into your deck could even help set up Gwaihir’s Debt later especially late game when the deck is thinner.

Meneldor’s Flight, Born Aloft, Flight of the Eagles, and much like the core set Sneak Attack let you get extra triggers on the Eagles enter and leave play effects. Discard recursion effects like Gwaihir ally, Stand and Fight, and To the Eyrie are even better at getting to double up on Meneldor’s response considering he can chump block first.

Effects that Trigger off Leave Play

There are a number of cards that also combo with bouncing Meneldor in and out of play. Gwaihir hero and Leadership Prince Imrahil heroes both get to ready when he leaves play. Gwaihir can also ready when he enters play that can make him ready for combat if Meneldor is Sneak Attacked into play after Gwaihir is committed to the quest. Tactics Eomer can get a nice attack boost. Valiant Sacrifice can provide some additional card draw and is in the same sphere with Sneak Attack and Horns! Horns! Horns! to help set it up. Pre-errata Horn of Gondor could provide a resource for bouncing Meneldor since it triggered off a character leaving play. The errata making when a character is destroyed still provides some benefit, but no longer combos with the return ally to hand effects.

Eagles of the Misty Mountains

In order to reliably utilize all the bouncing effects, you will likely want to run more than a single copy of Meneldor. This means there’s a good chance with him being a unique the second or third copy could be a dead draw. The Eagles of the Misty Mountains allow the extra copies to be useful once the first one is attached to bolster the Eagle of the Misty Mountains.

Direct Location Progress

In sphere, Tactics Legolas Hero and his mighty steed Arod can build on this part of Meneldor’s effect. Especially if you include many of the previously mentioned cards to bounce him in and out of play. There’s also the Beorning Guardian, but the effect can only be triggered after he destroys an enemy. On top of that the progress is conditional on the enemy’s threat, and you have to discard him. It’s a little too conditional with a fairly high cost of 3 resource ally with a hero level attack stat of 3.

Spirit does have many options with Northern Tracker, Spirit Aragorn Hero, Lórien Guide, Steed of Imladris, Woodland Courier, and Backtrack. Woodland Courier in particular has some synergy with the put into play and return ally to hand effects as it places progress when it enters play. Lore also has many cards with this effect, such as, Mirkwood Explorer, The Evening Star, and Asfaloth. Leadership, unfortunately, only has Snowbourne Scout and Longbeard Elder. While the Snowbourne Scout also benefits from Sneak Attack and similar cards, it is usually not worth the cost. At 3 cost, he is a little pricey to include in a dual sphere deck with more direct location progress effects.

Guarded X Cards

Meneldor can help free any of the Guarded X cards that are guarded by a location. He can likely do so in a single turn if combined with a bounce effect as many locations have 4 quest points or less.1 Unfortunately, the two Tactics ones, Sting and Durin’s Axe can only be guarded by enemies. The good news is there are neutral ones. Necklace of Girion in particular is helpful in an Eagle focused deck for the willpower boosting and resource acceleration. Stone of Elostirion as one of the two that has to be guarded by a location Meneldor can help get into play. It also is in sphere with hero Radagast that is often played with Eagles since his staff provides strong resource acceleration and readying for eagle allies.

Quest Specific

Hills of Emyn Muil is notorious for being the first location focused quest. Location lock is really the only threat in the quest and any way to place progress on locations in the staging area is a good idea. The Antlered Crown’s locations all have Time X with effects that trigger if they’re not explored in 2 or 3 turns.

The Haradrim cycle featured many locations that have forced effects when they become the active location. Among others with costly Travel effects. The Mumakil Although there are some counters to direct location progress like Gates of Iron that prevents progress being put on locations in the staging area.

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 Meneldor at 3 rings. I really do think of him as the location control equivalent of Sneak Attack + Gandalf. Few cards can drop 4 progress on a location at one time like that. Besides Sneak Attack, there are quite a few ways to bounce him in and out of play to get the effect. The 3 cost isn’t the easiest if you have pay full cost each time but in a deck with Radagast and his staff, Steward of Gondor, or Hirgon it is very reasonable.

Then there are his stats. Two willpower in Tactics is very good for that sphere. He’s an auto-include in mono-Tactics that wants to do any questing. The two attack is nice too, but I often find that I wish it was lower to give him more willpower or hit points. Speaking of hit points, two is always good to see on ally. It gives just a little bit of margin to take direct damage effects like Necromancer’s Reach or Archery.

If there is any complaint that I have about the card, it is that he’s unique. When playing him without any return ally to hand effects, you won’t trigger his effect more than once a game usually. His willpower is just too good to chump block with him just for another 2 progress. That is until you draw another copy or have an Eagles of the Misty Mountains in play. Even then, it may not be worth it in opportunity cost since he costs 3 resources.

Overall, he’s a great card. The willpower and location control effects were still needed in Tactics even in the full card pool. It was needed even more so for Eagles that are fantastic at combat but had little to no questing power for the longest time. Lastly, he’s just fun to play when you can bounce him in and out of play to clear some troublesome locations.

  • Dave – 3
  • Grant – 3
  • Ted – 2
  • Matt – 3
  • Average – 2.75

Footnotes

  1. I sampled approximately 140 locations from Shadows of Mirkwood, Darrowdelf, Ered Mithren, and Vengence of Mordor cycles found the average to be slightly less than 4 quest points. Also 4 quest points was the most common.

External Links

Sample Decks

Slippery… Eagles? by Card Talk Dave

Dave takes his expertise in bouncing Silvans in and out of play and applies it to an Eagle deck.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Éomer (The Voice of Isengard)
Frodo Baggins (A Shadow in the East)
Gwaihir (The Land of Sorrow)

Ally (18)
3x Descendant of Thorondor (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
3x Eagle Emissary (The Land of Sorrow)
3x Eagles of the Misty Mountains (Return to Mirkwood)
2x Meneldor (Roam Across Rhovanion)
2x Radagast (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
3x Vassal of the Windlord (The Dead Marshes)
2x Wilyador (The Land of Sorrow)

Attachment (18)
2x Gúthwinë (The Mountain of Fire)
2x Necklace of Girion (The Wilds of Rhovanion)
2x Rod of the Steward (Flight of the Stormcaller)
2x Rohan Warhorse (The Voice of Isengard)
3x Secret Vigil (The Lost Realm)
3x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)
1x Strength and Courage (The City of Ulfast)
2x Support of the Eagles (Return to Mirkwood)
1x The One Ring (A Shadow in the East)

Event (15)
3x Flight of the Eagles (Roam Across Rhovanion)
3x Meneldor’s Flight (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
3x Sneak Attack (Core Set)
3x The Eagles Are Coming! (The Hunt for Gollum)
3x Valiant Sacrifice (Core Set)

3 Heroes, 51 Cards
Cards up to The Land of Sorrow

Sideboard

Ally (3)
3x Eagle of the North (Roam Across Rhovanion)

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

#justiceforBilbo by Pirate Brahm

Main Deck

Hero (3)
(MotK) Bilbo Baggins (Messenger of the King Allies)
Gandalf (The Road Darkens)
Radagast (The Fate of Wilderland)

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

Ally (23)
2x Arwen Undómiel (The Watcher in the Water)
3x Erebor Toymaker (Mount Gundabad)
2x Giant Bear (Fire in the Night)
3x Loyal Hound (The Fate of Wilderland)
2x Meneldor (Roam Across Rhovanion)
3x Messenger Raven (The Fate of Wilderland)
3x The Riddermark’s Finest (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
2x Vassal of the Windlord (The Dead Marshes)
3x Wild Stallion (Roam Across Rhovanion)

Attachment (19)
2x A Burning Brand (Conflict at the Carrock)
3x Expert Treasure-hunter (On the Doorstep)
2x Gandalf’s Staff (The Road Darkens)
1x Narya (The Grey Havens)
3x Radagast’s Staff (The Fate of Wilderland)
2x Shadowfax (The Treason of Saruman)
1x Silver Circlet (Wrath and Ruin)
2x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)
3x Wizard Pipe (The Road Darkens)

Event (18)
3x A Test of Will (Core Set)
3x Daeron’s Runes (Foundations of Stone)
3x Drinking Song (Mount Gundabad)
3x Flame of Anor (The Road Darkens)
3x Hidden Cache (The Morgul Vale)
2x The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core Set)
1x Will of the West (Core Set)

3 Heroes, 60 Cards
Cards up to Messenger of the King Allies

Sideboard

Ally (4)
2x Ghân-buri-Ghân (The Flame of the West)
2x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)

Attachment (2)
2x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)

Event (6)
3x Bulwark of the West (The Crossings of Poros)
3x Word of Command (The Long Dark)

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.