The second time we cover an Elven trait, this time it is the tree-dwelling, lesser elves that have not seen the light of the trees: The Silvans. This trait was properly fleshed out during the Ringmaker cycle where they established themselves as the trait that bounces allies from your hand and into play. This gave them a very active playstyle in which players can trigger multiple effects when Silvan allies enter or leave play. Let’s take a look at the Trampoline Elves.
Who are the Silvans?
If an Elf lives east of the Misty Mountains and is not named Galadriel, the game considers it to be a Silvan Elf. This includes the Sindar elves (Celeborn, Thranduil, and Legolas). We might even get to see some of the Avari as a standalone trait at one point, but for now, I will state that any Avari Elves will also count as Silvans.
From the cards we have right now, there are 2 factions within the Silvan Trait. The Woodland Realm, with characters like Legolas, Argalad, and Woodland Courier. And the Galadhrim of Lothlorien, with characters like Celeborn, Haldir, and Defender of the Naith. These two factions do not specify in anything yet, and tend to play as if they were a single faction.
The Core Set gave us 5 Silvans to start with, and during the Mirkwood cycle, the trait got some allies. But the real strength of the Silvans came in the Ringmaker, where Celeborn, Naith Guide, and Tree-People gave us the core of the Silvan synergy in just the first pack! The Dwarrowdelf cycle did not give any specific Silvan cards, but some of the Noldor cards in that cycle can be used on Silvan characters. The Silvan trait has gotten a few extra cards since the Ringmaker cycle, and got some new life blown into it when Thranduil finally arrived halfway through the Ered Mithrin cycle. That cycle also gave the archetype more allies and bouncing events to work with, rounding out the archetype as close as complete as it can be. The following packs contain Silvan cards, but get the packs in bold first if you want to get the best Silvan deck with a few expansions.
- Core Set
- A Journey to Rhosgobel
- The Dead Marshes
- Return to Mirkwood
- The Drúadan Forest
- The Dunland Trap (Celeborn, Naith Guide, Tree People)
- The Three Trials
- Trouble in Tharbad (Haldir, Lembas, O Lorien, Pursuing the Enemy, Galadhrim Minstrel)
- The Nin-in-Eilph
- Celebrimbor’s Secret (Galadriel, Galadriel’s Handmaiden, Orophin, Cloak of Lorien)
- Escape from Mount Gram
- The Treachery of Rhudaur
- The Dread Realm
- The Drowned Ruins (Argalad, Marksman of Lorien, Hithlain, Woodland Courier)
- The Sands of Harad
- Fire in the Night (Thranduil, The Elvenking, Galion, Quicker than Sight)
- Mount Gundabad
- City of Ulfast
- The Treason of Saruman
- Elves of Loríen starter deck (Silvan deck right out of the box)
While the Silvans can choose from all 4 spheres, and having plenty of Neutral cards too, their heroes are mostly found in Lore and Leadership. Spirit only saw a Silvan Hero during the Sands of Harad expansion, which is quite late. The strength of the Silvans lies in playing allies from many spheres though, as Thranduil opened up the access to playing allies of any sphere during the combat phase. The balance of which spheres to use depends on the kind of deck you want to build. The Silvans can make for solid willpower questing with Leadership and Spirit, or deal a lot of direct damage and Ranged attacks with Tactics and Lore.
Each sphere brings something to the table for the Silvans, so playing it mono-sphere is usually not the way to play them unless you pair it with other traits. Here is an overview of what Silvans can do in each sphere, but I will stress that you should play at least 2 spheres in the same Silvan deck, preferably 3 or 4 spheres plus their good Neutral cards.
- Leadership: Readying, not exhausting, and resource acceleration (Greenwood Archer, Greenwood Defender, Naith Guide, O Lorien, Elf Guide)
- Lore: Scrying, healing, victory display, and card draw (Henamarth Riversong, Galadhrim Healer, Galadhrim Minstrel, Woodland Sentry, Rossiel)
- Tactics: Attack power, ranged characters, and direct damage (Rumil, Marksman of Lorien, Galadhon Archer)
- Spirit: Willpower, location control, and threat reduction. (Galadriel’s Handmaiden, Hithlain, Lorien Guide).
The Silvan trait has to do with abilities to get allies in for cheap, trigger an ability, and then use another ability to get those allies back into your hand after they have done their thing. This synergy is one of the reasons why Horn of Gondor got an errata around this time. The allies are quite cheap, especially when you have cards like O Lorien that reduce the cost of your first ally each round. On top of the action that your allies grant you, your allies will also gain a boost to their stats if you are running Celeborn. This makes your allies much more useful during the round they enter play. In order to return these allies to your hand, the Silvan trait offers many events that will require you to return any Silvan ally from play in order to for example lower your threat, cancel a shadow card, deal 1 damage to each enemy engaged with a player or search your deck for another Silvan ally and put it into play. This last one, Tree-People, is a vital piece of the machine to keep your allies boosted with Celeborn.
While the Silvans may be strong on the willpower and the offence, they are a bit lacking in defensive strength. Most allies only have a single hitpoint, which makes them vulnerable to some treacheries. There aren’t that many big defenders in the archetype, but Thranduil, Defender of the Naith, and especially Greenwood Defender can help you to defend several enemies in case you need it. Silvans also get access to some useful defensive attachments like Cloak of Lorien to help out a little. For heavier combat scenario’s, you may find yourself chumping with some of your allies. This is ok, as they have done their job after they entered play. Use Orophin to try and return any Silvan character to your hand from your discard pile if you are forced to chump block.
This leads to another style of playing that the Silvans tend to use: Engage as few enemies as possible. This is easy in multiplayer games, as your fellow players can defend some of the enemies that are revealed from the encounter deck. The Silvans are best used at range. A lot of characters have the Ranged keyword, and some cards will want you to not attack an enemy engaged with you. Galadhon Archer, Bow of the Galadhrim, and even Haldir of Lorien will want you to have enemies either engaged with other players or in the Staging Area.
The Victory Display synergy I usually tend to combine with the Silvan synergy. Not only are a majority of those cards Silvan based (either in art or name), but Rossiel, who is the main hero in that synergy is also a Silvan. Now, this synergy is worthy of another article, but it is the reason why so many Silvan Heroes are Lore Heroes. A Mono-Lore deck tends to run a Silvan Hero like Haldir, Rossiel, Mirlonde or Argalad. This makes some of the more costly Silvan characters more affordable (Silvan Tracker and Woodland Sentry).
Synergy with other traits
The Silvan trait is best used in a deck truly dedicated to bouncing your allies between the table and your hand. Because of this, there is little room for synergy with other traits. The Silvans and Noldor share a couple of cards that can go on either trait. Children of the Sea, Elven Mail, and Cloak of Lorien are just a couple. Besides that, other traits can benefit from the Silvan synergy by attaching Elf-friend to a hero. This is particularly useful on Tactics Imrahil, as he will be able to use his effect with Silvan allies.
Galadriel is considered by most people to be a very good Noldor character to play alongside a Silvan deck. Not only does she provide a Spirit resource icon (and Lore with Nenya), her ability allows your fresh Silvan characters to not exhaust to quest. Combine this with the buff they get from Celeborn, and you will have committed quite some willpower, without exhausting anyone.
There is another trait that Silvans tend to like, but this is not a trait found on player cards (not even Ents): Forest. When playing a scenario that has a lot of Forest locations, Silvan decks get a little boost whenever such a location is active. This can be seen with cards like Woodland Courier and Cloak of Lorien. However, this boost is useless during quests like those in the Dwarrowdelf cycle, where there is no Forest to be seen. Do some encounter deck analysis before you start adding these cards to your deck.
There are so many good Silvan cards that I probably won’t name them all. However, some cards stand out above the others as great cards. For the Heroes, Celeborn is the most in touch with the trait. He will boost all Silvans globally during the round they enter play. This makes the allies stronger than they are on their own. You can even get a 3 willpower ally out for just 1 Spirit resource icon with this effect.
The many events that bounce Silvans back to your hand are also auto includes in most Silvan decks, though I tend to use some more than others. Tree-People is probably the best out of them all, with the ability to trade a low-cost ally for a much more expensive character like Haldir or Rumil. In the second place, Feigned Voices takes care of any enemy that you cannot defend against (and isn’t immune to player card effects). The other 2 events are also nice to include but fulfil a smaller part in a standard Silvan deck.
Another useful event that is a little different than the standard 0 cost Return-a-Silvan-to-your-hand events is the Host of the Galadhrim event. This Neutral 4 cost event will return all Silvan allies you control to your hand, after which you play all of them again. This is amazing for several reasons, but will require you to hang on to the event until you have enough allies on the field to make it worthwhile. The event triggers all enter-play abilities on the allies again, getting you a ton of extra cards, extra damage on enemies, or resets on ability timers. If Celeborn is on the table, then all those allies get their stats boosted for the rest of the round, and if Galadriel is one of your heroes, she allows all those allies to quest without exhausting. This means that you can make a massive push against the encounter deck if you can afford the event. Definitely worth considering in a Silvan deck.
Henamarth Riversong is one of those cards that is included in any true solo deck which has access to Lore. He will be able to scry the next card off of the top of the encounter deck, so you know what you will be dealing with during the quest phase. I would advice using his effect after staging, as he is very vulnerable to direct damage. Because he is a very cheap Silvan character, he is mostly used in Silvan decks as fodder for Tree-People. You will be able to play him again from your hand in most cases, and any other ally you get with the event is a better trade when comparing stats.
Silvan Tracker is also a very good ally, though he is quite expensive. Whenever Silvan Tracker readies, you get to heal 1 point of damage from all Silvan characters in the game. Though the allies usually don’t take damage, this effect can heal a tremendous amount of Archery damage if it is dealt to Silvan heroes.
“Bad” Silvan cards
There are just a couple of cards that haven’t seen much play since the early days of the game. These cards do not synergise well with other Silvans and are simply too expensive for their effects and stats. The Silverlode Archer got overshadowed by a cheaper ally with an ability, Greenwood Archer. Characters like Daughter of the Nimrodel, Mirkwood Runner, and Lorien Guide are just too expensive to be used in any deck that can draw from a wide card pool. These allies only really come into play when you have a small cardpool or are playing with the Council of the Wise contract, which limits you to 1 copy of each card in your deck. At that point, you only play such allies for their traits, but with buffs and cost reduction cards, they aren’t terrible, just not on the same level as some other allies in the trait.
The Silvan Refugee is a card which has sparked a lot of debate in the community. Her Forced effect is very counter-intuitive to the Silvan synergy, but her willpower to cost ratio is unlike any other character. Usually, you would pay 2 or 3 resources to get 2 willpower out, but now you get to spend 1 resource for 3 willpower with Celeborn. Try and use Children of the Sea to make that 5 willpower.
What the Archetype is missing
The Silvan trait covers a ton of aspects of this game with its own cards thanks to the size of their card pool. There is an event or ally for nearly everything that the game can throw at you, so you can make a wide variety of Silvan decks to cover different quest mechanics. With that said, the trait does lack one vital stat that keeps them from being overpowered, their hitpoints. Silvan allies are very weak and will drop by the hundreds if a direct damage treachery or shadow effect is triggered. You won’t be able to cancel all of those direct damage effects, so you will end up taking damage. Silvans do have enough healing options, including the Silvan Tracker, but since most allies have just 1 hitpoint, healing will come too late for most allies.
This means that the trait could do with either a damage cancellation event/ally or with a way to boost their hitpoints. Silvan allies can make use of cards like Spare Pipe and Squire’s Helm, but attachments on Silvan allies isn’t a great idea as they tend to leave play often, taking their attachments with them. Some sort of global hitpoint buff like Bill the Pony and Hardy Leadership for Hobbits and Dwarves would improve the survivability of Silvan allies and make them die less often. This also solves a defence issue that the trait has had for a long time. Getting swarmed with many weaker enemies used to be a problem until the Greenwood Defender came along, but if you don’t have him, then defending several attacks with other allies is a bit of a pain.
Here are a couple of Silvan decks that might give you a bit of a taste how the trait plays out. I have also added a deck I use a lot which combines the ranged capabilities of the Silvan trait with the Traps.
Honestly, I could go on about my personal favourite archetype at the moment, but nobody would want to read an article over 10.000 words in size about a single trait and how great most of the cards in that trait are. The archetype is a staple in my deckbox and I often play it, maybe I just like playing a ton of cards over and over again, which is what Silvans allow you to do. Let me know what you think about the trait and what you think is still missing from the archetype that could be added in the future.