Reinforcements

  • Player Card Categories 
    • Mustering
    • Mono Sphere Required

It’s a double Sneak Attack!

Background

There is no flavor text to link the card to a specific event in the books. There are a few specific instances of reinforcements arriving it could relate to.

  1. The arrival of Dain and his dwarves from the Blue Hills to reinforce Thorin and his company at Erebor while besieged by the Men of Dale and Elves of Mirkwood.
  2. Gandalf, Erkenbrand, the Rohhrim they gathered, and the Hurons reinforcing Theoden at Helm’s Deep.
  3. The Rohirrim reinforcing Gondor at The Battle of Pelennor Fields.
  4. Also at The Battle of Pelennor Fields, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and the Gondor’s armies from the southern fiefdoms.

The art depicting Gondorian soliders is likely referring to the arrival of Aragorn with the southern fiefs’ armies.

Card Theme

Placing 2 allies into play definitely fits with more troops arriving to aid those already engaged in battle. Those troops leaving soon after seems a little of mismatch. More likely in a battle reinforcements would relieve the battle weary troops that they could fall back, rest, and rejoin the battle later. If the mechanism allowed returned any 2 allies controlled by the player that would be more thematic, but also incredibly more powerful.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Allies with Enters Play or Leaves Play Abilities

There are many allies with abilities that trigger when they enter and/or leave play. The effects they can provide encompasses just about anything a player could want to trigger. The Core Set gave players card draw, condition removal, direct location progress, direct damage, enemy engagement, direct damage, and threat reduction all as enters play abilities. It expanded over the years to include action advantage, card search, resource smoothing, resource acceleration, discard recursion, card search, encounter control, defense reduction, engagement control, and healing.

What sets this card apart from Sneak Attack is twofold. It brings in 2 allies and they don’t have to be from the same player. This can lead to some great coordinated effects. Meneldor and Woodland Courier can be used to explore a 5 quest point location. Marksman of Lorien can lower an enemy’s defense to improve the effectiveness can Knight of Minas Tirith‘s engage and attack ability. Mablung or Son of Arnor can pull down an extra enemy for Sarn Ford Sentry‘s card draw.

I’d be remiss without mentioning Core Set Gandalf because Reinforcements a double Sneak Attack, and Gandalf + Sneak Attack cemented Sneak Attack as a Leadership staple. Reinforcements + Gandalf alone isn’t quite the value that Sneak Attack is. Three Leadership resources to draw 3 cards, lower threat by 5, or deal 4 direct damage to an enemy and use Gandalf’s 4 willpower, attack, or defense for a phase still isn’t bad. For example, the threat reduction is on par with Favor of the Valar and only 1 less for Galadhrim’s Greeting. It is just not as great of value as the one cost Sneak Attack. The real value of Reinforcements + Gandalf is when played with Galadhrim Weaver.

Discard Recursion

Galadhrim Weaver easily enables recurring Reinforcements turn after turn. A player only needs to make sure to have 2 copies of Reinforcements. After playing the first one, play the second with Galadhrim Weaver to shuffle the first one back into the deck. It becomes more reliable as a player draws out their deck or if Galadhrim Minstrel is used to search the top 5 for the shuffled in copy. Tome of Atanatar is another option that is in sphere with Reinforcements. It is not quite as easy to get Reinforcements to recur endlessly since Second Breakfast is needed to get Tome to put Reinforcements back into the deck more than 3 times each game.

Triggered Abilities by Characters Entering or Leaving Play

Aside from the effects you can get back by putting 2 allies into play, there are some cards that trigger effects when one enters or leaves play. Valiant Sacrifice is one of the few options for card draw in Leadership. Tactics Eomer, Leadership Prince Imrahil, and Gwaihir heroes all benefit from Reinforcements being played to activate their attack boosting or readying effects. Eagles of the Misty Mountains like Eomer can gains additional combat power although getting the ally back to hand can be better in many situations. Defender of the Naith with its readying works well if a player plays Reinforcements during combat preferably after it had defended once.

A Very Good Tale

This card can basically have Reinforcements give a player 2 allies that will stick around longer than a phase. A player only needs to exhaust the 2 allies from Reinforcements for A Very Good Tale’s action. The player can use high cost allies and potentially get high cost allies because Reinforcements will put any 2 into play for 3 resources.

Readying

Using 2 high cost powerful allies for 1 phase is a pretty good deal. Using 2 high cost powerful allies twice in a round is even better. Narya can ready both allies put into play and boost their combat stats. Strength of Arms also can be a good possibility considering its 2 cost and also requires 3 Leadership heroes. Grim Resolve and The Free Peoples could also ready both allies, but are very expensive and unlikely to be played with a 3 cost event.

Nonbo – Play or Play from Hand

One distinction to watch for in the ability text of card is when it says “play” or “play from hand”. These will only trigger if player paid the card’s resource cost to play it from their hand. Putting the card into play which the rules considers different won’t trigger these abilities.

Nonbo – Ents

All the Ents enter play exhausted. Putting them into play means they can’t be used for anything besides as targets for direct damage effects. Quickbeam is the notable exception since he can be readied at the cost of 1 damage on himself.

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 Reinforcements at 5 rings. It can be very powerful when a deck is built around it. I’ve played some decks that recur it several times. They’re fun toolbox decks that can find an answer to what many quests throw at them. The 3 cost of the event itself often means that decks that focus on playing it don’t build up much of a board state without some resource acceleration.

The 3 cost and restriction that 3 heroes pay for it means it can’t just be slotted into any deck. While Sneak Attack can put a single ally into play for a single Leadership resource. This is much easier to include in a deck even if there is minimal Leadership resources.

Still it is a very multiplayer friendly card because the effect is not limited to the controlling player. Players that coordinate their decks in a fellowship can make the best use of this. Particularly with many running the non-unique Silvans and/or Eagles to double up on their enter play effects.

  • Joe – 7
  • Dave – 6
  • Grant – TBR
  • Ted – 3
  • Matt – 5
  • Average – 5.25

External Links

Sample Decks

Cirdan’s Support Group by The Purple Wizard

A multiplayer support deck that uses Reinforcements to put Beorn ally, Core Set Gandalf, Leadership Faramir ally, or Elrond ally into play wherever they’re needed.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Balin (On the Doorstep)
Círdan the Shipwright (The Grey Havens)
Théodred (Core Set)

Ally (15)
2x Beorn (Core Set)
2x Elrond (The Road Darkens)
3x Errand-rider (Heirs of Númenor)
2x Faramir (Core Set)
3x Gandalf (Core Set)
1x Glorfindel (Flight of the Stormcaller)
2x Imladris Stargazer (Foundations of Stone)

Attachment (22)
1x Heir of Mardil (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
3x King Under the Mountain (On the Doorstep)
1x Magic Ring (The Crossings of Poros)
3x Narya (The Grey Havens)
3x Silver Harp (The Treachery of Rhudaur)
3x Steward of Gondor (Core Set)
2x Sword-thain (The Dread Realm)
3x Tome of Atanatar (The Blood of Gondor)
3x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)

Event (13)
3x A Test of Will (Core Set)
3x Reinforcements (The Treachery of Rhudaur)
1x Second Breakfast (Conflict at the Carrock)
3x Sneak Attack (Core Set)
3x We Are Not Idle (Shadow and Flame)

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

Sideboard

Hero (1)
Erkenbrand (The Antlered Crown)

Ally (7)
2x Ceorl (Temple of the Deceived)
2x Háma (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Northern Tracker (Core Set)

Event (4)
3x Legacy of Númenor (The Voice of Isengard)
1x Will of the West (Core Set)

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

Ranger Bow

  • Player Card Categories Willpower Bonus
    • Direct Damage
    • Staging Area Attack
    • Ally Attachment

A tool for Ranger decks looking to dispatch enemies in the staging area which is easier said than done.

Background

The flavor text points the Ranger Bow as those carried by the Rangers of Ithilien. In fact, the text is from when Frodo and Sam first met the rangers after their capture:

If they were astonished at what they saw, their captors were even more astonished. Four tall Men stood there. Two had spears in their hands with broad bright heads. Two had great bows, almost of their own height, and great quivers of long green-feathered arrows. All had swords at their sides, and were clad in green and brown of varied hues, as if the better to walk unseen in the glades of Ithilien. Green gauntlets
covered their hands, and their faces were hooded and masked with green, except for their eyes, which were very keen and bright.

The Two Towers, Book 4, Chapter 4: Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit

It is later revealed these rangers are selected from people descended from Ithilien’s former residents. They secretly cross the Anduin to engage in guerilla tactics to harry the forces of Mordor.

Card Theme

The direct damage into the staging area is very thematic to the Rangers of Ithilien. Their job is set up ambushes and harass the enemy at every opportunity then fade away back into their secret hiding places. Keeping low threat or otherwise avoiding engaging enemies to damage them outside of direct combat represents their tactics very well.

Card Synergies and Interactions

Cheap Ranger Allies

The Ranger Bow of course requires a ranger character to use it. While ranger heroes are certainly an option, allies are better as heroes tend to have strong stats or abilities that require them to exhaust. Top ally candidates are Guardian of Ithilien, Ithilien Tracker, Ithilien Lookout, and Andrath Guardsman. All are or can be 1 or 2 cost making them cheap to play. Aside from Ithilien Lookout, they all have 1 stat scores that won’t be terribly missed if exhausted to use the bow.

Guardian of Ithilien is the first choice since can help get an enemy back up into staging but after it enters play, its utility is diminished. It could be useful for a chump block but with a Ranger Bow it provides more value turn after turn. The one direct damage into the staging area can allow it to damage an enemy on its own. It it kills an enemy, this could possibly reduce threat in the staging area for some pseudo questing.

Ithilien Tracker is a good second choice also with its one attack that won’t be missed. It’s ability can be hit or miss since it is an action that has to be triggered prior to staging. Ithilien Lookout is another useful inclusion for a secrecy deck with its cost lowered to one. While it has a more useful 2 attack than the others, the bow is a good option for it while avoiding engagements. Andrath Guardsman similar to the Guardian of Ithilien loses utility once played. The bow gives it some ongoing utility.

Engagement Control, Threat Reduction, and Return to Staging Area

All of these types of cards can help keep enemies in the staging area for Ranger Bow. The method just differs slightly. Engagement control cards like Take No Notice, Advance Warning, Mablung ally, and Lore Pippin hero, Noiseless Movement, and Rohirrim Scout either increase the engagement cost of enemies or prevent engagement.

Threat reduction helps keep you below the engagement of enemies so they don’t come down at all. In Lore with Ranger Bow there are only 2 options, but they’re great. Woodmen’s Clearing at 0 resource cost can lower your threat by 3 once the location it is attached to is explored. Location control effects are quite prevalent in Lore making this fairly easy to do. Lore Aragorn, which I like to think of as Strider because of the art, is the other option. His refresh action to reset your threat to its starting level is the biggest threat reduction effect in the game. Of course these are not the only options even in mono-Lore. There are a couple neutral options like core set Gandalf ally and Keen as Lances that work well too. There are more neutral cards and in other spheres. I’ll cover them later as they overlap with other synergies.

If you can’t avoid engagement there are cards to return them to the staging area. Guardian of Ithilien is a great double duty card here. It sends an enemy back up to the staging area and is a ranger for the Ranger Bow to go on. Best case is you’ve damaged an enemy the previous round, return it to the staging area with Guardian, and then shoot it dead with Ranger Bow. Another double duty card is Fastred hero. Not only will he send an enemy back, but he will also reduce threat for doing so.

Ithilien Archer and Terrible to Behold are other options but are just not worth it. The archer is expensive at 3 cost. It’s 2 attack usually isn’t going to damage an enemy on its own. If you can damage an enemy, you might as well try to kill it since that means the attack already has been defended. Terrible to Behold at least cancels the attack and returns it, but as the cost of exhausting a Noble character. At that point you might as well have defended the attack.

Hobbits

Hobbits can work quite well with the bow. They offer some of the lowest threat cost heroes in the game, additional threat reduction, and engagement control. Particularly in the Lore sphere with Ranger Bow. As mentioned earlier, hero Pippen its chief among them for increasing engagement cost of enemies per Hobbit hero you control. Folco Boffin also in the lore sphere is a great choice because his threat cost can be 4 when you’re running only Hobbit Heroes. Plus he can be discarded for an emergency threat reduction. The last in sphere option, Bilbo Baggins, is less optimal than others considering his 9 threat cost. He’s not bad when paired with Pippin and Folco for 19 starting threat, and more card draw is never a bad thing.

A couple of the spirit Hobbit Heroes also have very useful abilities to to pair with Ranger Bow. Spirit Merry with his threat reduction ability can help keep Heroes below the engagement cost of enemies. Spirit Pippin can send an enemy back up to the staging area to make it a target for the Bow. They also provide Spirit access for many threat reduction cards like Galadhrim’s Greeting, Smoke Rings, and the more Hobbit specific Elvenses. Lastly but certainly not least is The Shirefolk if using all Hobbits.

Robin Smallburrow offers another way to increase engagement cost of enemies. It’s a bit conditional with having to travel, but the increase by quest points can be significant. Particularly in later cycles when locations were given more quest points to counter direct location progress effects like Asfaloth.

Other Direct Damage and Staging Area Attack

Ranger Bow dealing only 1 damage means it is unlikely to kill an enemy in a single turn. Even with 2 or 3 copies out unless you’re playing earlier scenarios where enemies could have 1 or 2 hit points like Shadows of Mirkwood, Darrowdelf, or The Hobbit Saga. More cards with these effects make this strategy more effective and consistent. Heroes like Thalin from the Core Set, Argalad, and Tactics Bilbo can all do a direct damage to enemies in the staging area. Argalad besides being in sphere is the most flexible as his ability is an action that can be triggered after staging. Bilbo and Thalin on the other hand have to quest to get the damage. A number of allies also have direct damage effects typically from entering play like the Core Set Gandalf, Descendent of Thorondor, Galadhon Archer, and Rumil. There are some thematic options as well with Forest Patrol, Poisoned Stakes, Leadership Anborn ally, Arrows from the Trees, and Lore Faramir ally.

The other route is to use heroes that can attack directly into the staging area either to soften up or finish off targets of the Ranger Bow. Haldir hero, Dúnhere and Leadership Éomer all have staging area attack built in. They also have the staging area attack specific attachments, Bow of the Galadhrim and Spear of the Mark, to make them very effective at attacking into the staging area. Great Yew Bow and Hands Upon the Bow can allow any ranged hero to attack into the staging area as well.

Quest Specific

Ranger bow will really shine against enemies like the Core Set’s Goblin Sniper and Khazad-Dum’s Orc Drummer. High engagement cost, low hit points, and an incredibly annoying ability while they’re in the staging area. Little surging enemies in later cycles similar to Ered Mithren’s Stray Goblin are also good targets. It creates action advantage by not having to defend them and gets a little threat out of the staging area.

Quests to not bring the Ranger Bow against are definitely Intruders in Chetwood, Dungeson of Cirith Gurat, and Helm’s Deep. Intruders in Chetwood enemies can’t be damaged while Orc War Party is in play. The quest starts with one in play and there are 2 others in the encounter deck. More often than not, enemies won’t be able to take damage. In Dungeons of Cirith Gurat, enemies guarding objectives are immune to player card effects during stage 1. They’re often guarding objectives since they will capture allies as objectives. The second stage when the players have to avoid engaging enemies for 2 turns Ranger Bow would be great, except they’re all immune to damage. Helm’s Deep many of the enemies have the toughness X keyword that cancels the first X damage any time damage is dealt to them. Ranger Bow’s damage then will just get canceled every time it is used against them.

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 Ranger Bow at 7 rings. It can be useful, but you have to build in some encounter control, low threat, or return to staging area effects to use continually. Otherwise, it just softens up enemies when engaged and there are attack boosting attachments that would be a better use of deck space. The 1 direct damage isn’t enough to kill an enemy at least every other turn without 2 copies in play. This direct damage also is generally outclassed by staging area attack. Dunhere, Haldir, and Leadership Eomer can all get their attack up to kill an enemy in a single turn with a couple attachments. It is not unplayable, but the card pool generally has better options for what this is trying to do.

  • Dave – 8
  • Grant – 9
  • Ted – 7
  • Matt – 7
  • Average – 7.75

Sample Decks

Ye Olde Ranger Trap Deck by Matt Duckworth

The main idea is enemy manipulation in staging. The focus is to either trap enemies as they come into play, or use Ithilien Archer or Mablung to bounce select enemies you engage back into traps in staging. As you are laying traps and trapping enemies, Damrod functions to both accelerate resources and fuel additional card draw. The main attack power comes from Faramir, who is boosted both by sticking enemies in staging with low threat and Ranger Spikes, as well as equipping Dagger of Westernesse.

Ye Olde Ranger Trap Deck

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Damrod (The Land of Shadow)
Faramir (Assault on Osgiliath)
Mirlonde (The Drúadan Forest)

Ally (22)
2x Anborn (The Blood of Gondor)
2x Gandalf (Over Hill and Under Hill)
1x Henamarth Riversong (Core Set)
2x Ithilien Archer (Encounter at Amon Dîn)
2x Ithilien Lookout (The Dunland Trap)
2x Ithilien Tracker (Heirs of Númenor)
3x Mablung (The Land of Shadow)
3x Master of the Forge (Shadow and Flame)
2x Mirkwood Pioneer (The Nîn-in-Eilph)
3x Rivendell Minstrel (The Hunt for Gollum)

Attachment (23)
2x Ambush (The Land of Shadow)
2x Dagger of Westernesse (The Black Riders)
2x Forest Snare (Core Set)
2x Ithilien Pit (Encounter at Amon Dîn)
2x Poisoned Stakes (The Blood of Gondor)
2x Protector of Lórien (Core Set)
2x Ranger Bow (Assault on Osgiliath)
3x Ranger Spikes (Heirs of Númenor)
3x Secret Vigil (The Lost Realm)
1x Song of Battle (The Dead Marshes)
2x Wingfoot (The Nîn-in-Eilph)

Event (6)
2x Distant Stars (Escape from Mount Gram)
2x Forest Patrol (Assault on Osgiliath)
2x Mithrandir’s Advice (The Steward’s Fear)

Player Side Quest (1)
1x Scout Ahead (The Wastes of Eriador)

3 Heroes, 52 Cards
Cards up to The Black Riders

Decklist built and published on RingsDB.

Smoke Screen Alliance by Matt Kell (kattattack22)

A Ranger Hobbit Last Alliance deck also featuring Pipes. General game plan is mulligan for Hobbit Pipe(s). Multiple if possible. Once some Hobbit Pipes are in play use the threat reduction events to draw cards. Last Alliance provides some resource acceleration throughout the game. Smoke and Think helps pay for the high cost Ranger allies.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Aragorn (The Watcher in the Water)
Frodo Baggins (Conflict at the Carrock)
Pippin (Encounter at Amon Dîn)

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

Ally (20)
1x Bilbo Baggins (The Road Darkens)
2x Cautious Halfling (Wrath and Ruin)
2x Curious Brandybuck (The Wastes of Eriador)
2x Gaffer Gamgee (Mount Gundabad)
3x Guardian of Ithilien (The City of Corsairs)
2x Ithilien Tracker (Heirs of Númenor)
1x Mablung (The Land of Shadow)
2x Northern Tracker (Core Set)
1x Odo Proudfoot (Under the Ash Mountains)
2x Ranger of Cardolan (The Wastes of Eriador)
1x Robin Smallburrow (The Drowned Ruins)
1x Sam Gamgee (The Thing in the Depths)

Attachment (13)
3x Dúnedain Pipe (The Black Serpent)
3x Hobbit Pipe (The Black Riders)
3x Ranger Bow (Assault on Osgiliath)
3x Spare Pipe (The Land of Sorrow)
1x Thorongil (The Fortress of Nurn)

Event (18)
3x Deep Knowledge (The Voice of Isengard)
3x Drinking Song (Mount Gundabad)
3x Smoke and Think (The Land of Sorrow)
3x Smoke Rings (The Black Riders)
3x The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core Set)
3x The Shirefolk (Mount Gundabad)

3 Heroes, 51 Cards
Cards up to ALeP – Children of Eorl

Sideboard

Hero (5)
Aragorn (Core Set)
Aragorn (The Lost Realm)
Aragorn (The Fortress of Nurn)
Frodo Baggins (A Shadow in the East)
Pippin (The Black Riders)

Ally (14)
2x Bilbo Baggins (The Road Darkens)
1x Cautious Halfling (Wrath and Ruin)
1x Curious Brandybuck (The Wastes of Eriador)
2x Elladan (The Mountain of Fire)
2x Elrohir (The Mountain of Fire)
1x Gaffer Gamgee (Mount Gundabad)
1x Odo Proudfoot (Under the Ash Mountains)
1x Ranger of Cardolan (The Wastes of Eriador)
1x Robin Smallburrow (The Drowned Ruins)
1x Sam Gamgee (The Thing in the Depths)
1x Súlien (The City of Corsairs)

Event (7)
3x Elrond’s Counsel (The Watcher in the Water)
3x Old Toby (The Black Serpent)
1x Will of the West (Core Set)

Deck built on RingsDB.

Ranger Bow Target Practice by Jim H (teamjimby)

A Secrecy deck with scrying and card draw to support using Ranger Bow.

Main Deck

Hero (3)
Glorfindel (Foundations of Stone)
Mirlonde (The Drúadan Forest)
Pippin (The Black Riders)

Ally (19)
1x Bilbo Baggins (The Road Darkens)
3x Celduin Traveler (The Nîn-in-Eilph)
3x Guardian of Ithilien (The City of Corsairs)
2x Henamarth Riversong (Core Set)
3x Ithilien Lookout (The Dunland Trap)
1x Ithilien Tracker (Heirs of Númenor)
1x Mablung (The Land of Shadow)
3x Master of the Forge (Shadow and Flame)
2x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)

Attachment (16)
1x Asfaloth (Foundations of Stone)
1x Hobbit Pipe (The Black Riders)
3x Light of Valinor (Foundations of Stone)
3x Poisoned Stakes (The Blood of Gondor)
3x Ranger Bow (Assault on Osgiliath)
2x Ranger Spikes (Heirs of Númenor)
3x Resourceful (The Watcher in the Water)

Event (14)
3x A Test of Will (Core Set)
3x Daeron’s Runes (Foundations of Stone)
3x Elrond’s Counsel (The Watcher in the Water)
3x Risk Some Light (Shadow and Flame)
2x The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core Set)

Player Side Quest (1)
1x Scout Ahead (The Wastes of Eriador)

3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Cards up to The City of Corsairs

Sideboard

Ally (1)
1x Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)

Attachment (3)
1x Asfaloth (Foundations of Stone)
1x Ithilien Pit (Encounter at Amon Dîn)
1x Ranger Spikes (Heirs of Númenor)

Event (4)
3x O Elbereth! Gilthonial! (Shadow and Flame)
1x The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core Set)

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.