Despite having one of the most popular songs of all time, the Eagles reside mostly in the high peaks of the Misty Mountains. These flying Deus (dei?) ex machina birds have been introduced in the very first cycle of the game and haven’t been seen since, except for the introduction of Gwaihir in the Ringmaker cycle. The Eagles are powerful, but still not developed enough to make a full deck around. However, a couple of the Eagle cards are still being used in present-day decks as cheap defenders or attackers.
Who are the Eagles?
This is pretty well defined, as there is just one race and only one place where the Eagles originate from. All Eagles also have the Creature trait, which gives them something in common with Horses. The Creature trait also gives the Eagles access to Radagast, who is quite useful in getting the Eagles out, and keeping them healthy.
The Eagles have dominated the Tactics cards of the first cycle, with at least 1 card per AP. It was quiet for a long time afterwards, with only ally Gwaihir being introduced to the cardpool halfway through the fourth cycle. But during the Ered Mithrin cycle, the Eagle and Creature trait got some new life pumped into it with Radagast and his staff. New allies and events also helped. Finally, during the Vengeance of Mordor cycle, the Eagles got their own hero and their final bits to complete the archetype. The following packs are important to get for Eagles, with the most critical cards printed in bold.
- Hunt for Gollum
- Conflict at the Carrock
- A Journey to Rhosgobel
- The Hills of Emyn Muil
- The Dead Marshes
- Return to Mirkwood
- Trouble in Tharbad
- Roam Across Rhovanion
- Fate of Wilderland
- The Land of Sorrow
Eagles are as Tactics as can be. They haven’t dipped into any other sphere at all since their release, and no, Neutral isn’t a sphere. They can be played outside a Tactics decks as Radagast and Elrond allow for a mono-Lore Eagle deck if you want something else. But the majority of the allies will require a Tactics resource icon. The combat abilities of the Eagles make them a good inclusion in most Tactics decks. They are very cost-efficient with high starting stats. Examples of this are the Vassal of the Windlord, Winged Guardian, and Wilyador, all of whom have solid stats for their cost.
The eagles have a very bouncy nature. They have a lot of abilities that trigger on them entering or leaving play. Descendant of Thorondor is a perfect example of this. When he enters and leaves play, you may deal 2 damage to an enemy. This is basically the same amount of damage as Gandalf but at a lower cost. Meneldor works in the same way, but with 2 progress when he enters and leaves play. The two cheap allies, Vassal of the Windlord and Winged Guardian are glass cannons. These allies have incredible stats for their cost, but they have to leave play after they attack or defend. Winged Guardian can stay in play if you pay an additional resource, so if you are swarmed with enemies, you can keep him in play for longer.
The idea of Eagles leaving play is enforced with the vanila named card Eagles of the Misty Mountains. After an Eagle leaves play, you may attach that eagle to the flock, and the flock becomes stronger. This can really get out of hand, with one Eagles of the Misty Mountains having 7 attack and defence. Having these stats and Support of the Eagles can turn your heroes into absolute beasts. Another way that you would want to return Eagle allies is through Flight of the Eagles, which in turn brings an Eagle of the North into the encounter deck for you to draw into eventually.
The only hero for the Eagle trait, Gwaihir, also benefits from Eagles entering and leaving play all the time. Since Gwaihir doesn’t ready on his own during the refresh phase, you really need to be cycling Eagle allies constantly to ready him up. But with cheap allies and card draw provided by The Eagles are Coming! you will have enough allies to play in order to keep the synergy going.
The Eagles are very good characters to have commited to Battle or Siege quests. They do not have to be discarded after they commit to the quest, which improves their staying power.
Synergy with other traits
Eagles do not really have a lot in common with the regular traits. The only other trait besides Eagle and Creature that they synergise with is the Istari trait. This got introduced in the very first cycle through the Radagast ally, but when he became a hero, the connection between Istari and Eagles became better. Gwaihir’s Debt even requires the two traits being in play at the same time in order to trigger the event.
The Eagles are Coming! is the card you really want to dig for. This card will allow you to fetch a lot of your eagle cards from your deck. You can also fish out any other copies of this card to repeat the process as the event also has the Eagle trait. This event will allow you to find a large portion of your allies early. It also solves the card draw issue that many Tactics decks have if they are not using Foe-hammer. Since Eagle decks are mostly interested in allies, you can quickly fill your hand with them.
The main trio of big-stat-low-cost Eagles are worth including in many mono-Tactics decks. This trio is made up by the Winged Guardian providing defence, Vassal of the Windlord providing attack, and Eagle Emissary providing willpower. While all three of these are quite fleeting, they can be used as emergency allies in case you need their stats that one time. The Guardian and Emissary can even be kept in play if you keep pumping Tactics resources into them.
Meneldor is an amazing Eagle character, as he provides good willpower in Tactics, making him good in other Tactics heavy decks as well. His ability, which places 2 progress when he enters and leaves play, is also great for Tactics, as they sorely lack location management that doesn’t require you killing an enemy.
“Bad” Eagle cards
Not all of the Eagle cards are amazing, unfortunately. The event To The Eyrie is very expensive in terms of resources and requires that you exhaust an Eagle ally on top of it. This returns you an ally that was just destroyed. This is an insane cost for a pretty sub-par effect and is not recommended to be used in any Eagle deck. If you want allies back into your hand, you can better run Meneldor’s Flight, Born Aloft, or Flight of the Eagles. Those options are cheaper or get you something useful in return.
Most of the other Eagle cards are good enough to include in an Eagle deck, though some people might not end up using Gwaihir and/or Landroval since they are quite expensive. If you have Radagast’s Staff, you can still lower the cost, plus the fact that they are unique opens up Gwaihir’s Debt if you also have an Istari character. But if you are running the hero version of Gwaihir, then the ally version is worthless to you.
What the archetype is missing
With the introduction of a hero and more cheap Eagle allies in the Land of Sorrow expansion, the Eagle trait has got most bases covered. They do need to include an Istari character for maximum potential to include healing and cost reduction, but even without that, the trait works fine. Damage cancellation Eagles would be a nice addition to the trait, as that is something that Tactics does more often than straight up healing. That way the Eagles can pull a Hedwig and absorb damage to prevent more important characters from getting damaged. For nearly all other aspects of the game, they have a solution, aside from threat reduction. But Tactics has never been big on threat reduction, so including it with the Eagles isn’t really fitting. Bit strange to lower your threat when a giant Eagle flies overhead.
The one thing we will need, is a Tiny Crown attachment for Gwaihir, especially now that he has a hero form.
A good quest to test your Eagle decks is A Journey to Rhosgobel. A lot of the cards in that quest require you to have eagles in play. Try it sometimes!
For more information, check out this post from The Hall of Beorn about the Eagles as characters in the lore.