As with every card game, some cards are better than others. Some are even better than good cards, putting them in a special rank above all others. These widely used cards are used often in a multitude of decks and have become standard tools for players to beat many scenarios. These top-tier cards are what are called Staples. In this next ramble that occurs inside my head, I will discuss what cards are the best in terms of what they do. I will also see what cards got nerfed into the ground with errata’s and which cards from the Core Set people will still see used in modern decks. To start off this kind of new series, I wanted to tackle one of the biggest aspects that most decks should have:
We start this list with one of the main things a deck should do, generate resources to fund the cards in your hand. Having more resources than the 3 you generate each turn is a good way to accelerate your deck by pumping out allies faster. This can put you ahead of the encounter deck, making the quest less of a challenge. From the Core Set, the Leadership sphere has been the go-to sphere for resource generation. This brings us to the first staple card many players still use to this day:
This Leadership event has been crucial to many players starting from the first cycle onwa…. just kidding, we all know what card we are talking about: Steward of Gondor. This card is absolutely nuts and is still a card people are putting at least 2 copies off in many decks. Besides generating a constant 2 additional resources per turn, this card pays for itself by allowing players to trigger the effect immediately. Besides that, the attachment isn’t restricted, is not often targetable because of its Title trait (no washing away during Foundations of Stone or being robbed during The Dunland Trap) and even grants the attached hero the Gondor trait. This has become more important as cards like Leadership Hero Denethor and Visionary Leadership have come out. The attachment also solves a bit of resource smoothing in a two-sphere deck, where you can put the Steward on the off-sphere hero.
Because this card is unique, and many decks rely on it, players often find themselves with the discussion which hero should get Steward of Gondor. Players would be better off playing alternative cards to play in order to generate more resources. Here are a few examples:
- Leadership: Wealth of Gondor, Gaining Strength, Legacy of Numenor, Captains Wisdom
- Tactics: Horn of Gondor, Mablung, Proud Hunters
- Spirit: Zigil Miner+Imladris Stargazer, Hero Arwen Undomiel
- Lore: Hero Bifur, Love of Tales, Grima
- Neutral: Keys of Orthanc, Magic Ring, Keen as Lances
Now some of these cards are corner cases and will require you to build around a little. But these decks may prove to be more fun than to just exhaust Steward of Gondor each time and prevent others from getting their much-needed resources. If you do decide to play Steward of Gondor, spread the wealth around a little with Errand-riders.
Horn of Gondor
Here we have an interesting card, as it was quite powerful when it was first released. Players would get resources every time a character would leave play, thereby funding their replacement during the next planning phase. This all changed when the Ringmaker cycle introduced the new Silvan mechanic. This relied on getting Silvan characters in and out of play in order to trigger effects. This would cause Horn of Gondor to become insanely powerful as it would trigger a million times per round, fueling the ability to get more resources on one hero that could allow players to pump out even more allies. This loophole got fixed before it could get out of hand with an errata. This stated that players would only get a resource if a character was destroyed. This prevented players from getting free Sneak Attacks and a host of other shenanigans.
But even with this new errata’d version, Horn of Gondor will still do some excellent work in multiplayer games where characters tend to be used as chump blockers or to absorb lethal amounts of Archery damage. Shadow and Flame, Siege of Cair Andros, and Assault on Dol Guldur are all perfect scenarios for this. Sure, the Horn has been nerfed, but it is still unlimited resources if you can fuel it with the blood of your allies. A nice example of this is Squire of the Citadel who has the same effect written in his text box. Now, this 1 cost ally will generate 2 resources when you chump with him. That is just a great deal.
A nice card to go along with the Horn is Valiant Sacrifice. Why not turn a dead character into two replacement cards in order to have some cards in hand which you can afford with the host of resources you have collected?
The Horn does have some drawbacks. It is a unique card, meaning that only 1 player can benefit from it at a time (otherwise that would be insanely broken!). It is also restricted, meaning that your hero will only have 1 additional slot left for other restricted attachments. In most cases, this isn’t a big deal, unless you want the Horn on a character like Beregond.
Arwen is a recent addition to the staple pool, as she got introduced as the final hero of the Angmar Awakened cycle. But she has been a vital tool for supplying the Noldor (and Aragorn, people tend to forget him) with resources. She does this by discarding cards from your hand, which is something that Noldor do best. Combine this effect with cards that can be played from the discard pile like Glorfindel, Elven Light, and Lords of the Eldar. This extends your hand to your discard pile, where your cards are safe from discarding effects. It also provides a good piece of tech against Dunland enemies that get boosted accordingly with the number of cards in your hand.
Arwen’s trouble lies in the fact that she is a very popular character in the game, if people aren’t playing her Hero version, they like to add her ally version to their decks instead. This ally version of Arwen is a good splashable character that adds a boost to defence and grants players the Sentinel keyword. There are a lot of characters that rely on her this way to get the Sentinel keyword over a Dunedain Signal. This can cause players to have a confrontation, where one player wants to run a deck with Arwen as a hero, while another relies on her to boost a defender.
I wouldn’t really say that Grima is a staple in many decks, but I do enjoy playing around with his Doomed effect in a solo game. In a way, cost reduction can also be seen as resource acceleration, but in reverse. In this regard, Grima is one of the few cards that can lower the cost of any card, regardless of type, trait or sphere. Combine his effect with Keys of Orthanc to even gain a small benefit when playing 1 cost cards. Grima can lower the costs of cards even down to 0, making him a nice fit to bring with other cost-reducing heroes like Hirgon and Spirit Theoden.
While I really like playing with Grima, he does have a few drawbacks. Mainly, his Doomed will force players to either play solo or provide the other players with some sort of threat reduction. He is not a character you can bring to a pickup game without informing the others. Grima is also a little restricted as you can only lower the cost of cards once per turn. Players should also note that the effect is an Action that triggers on the first card you play after the effect. This might screw up some of the timing on a few cards. Also, note that Grima is an enemy during the Saga expansions so you won’t be able to rely on him forever.
The final card I will talk about today is the Neutral attachment Magic Ring. I have had the privilege of getting Crossings of Poros early, so I have played around with this ring for a while now. And man is it powerful. Not only is it non-unique, it is also not Restricted, allowing players to wield some other attachments alongside the Ring. While the ring can be used for a lot of abilities, it does require that player to raise their threat by 1 whenever they use the ring. It isn’t Doomed, so this ring is a better fit in multiplayer decks. The restriction of this attachment comes in the way of only having 1 copy in your deck and allowing just one copy on a hero. But these days there are just so many ways to find a 1-off card in your deck. Gather Information, Heed the Dream, and using Master of the Forge will make sure that you are able to find this ring, no problem.
This ring will allow players to do the same as Keys of Orthanc but will be a bit more flexible. It takes up less space in your deck and can allow a hero to ready or heal a point of damage if the resources aren’t needed that turn. This attachment will surely get used a lot in future decks. The downside is that progression style players have a long way to go before they can use this ring in their decks.
While resource generation and cost reduction are vital to many decks, often only a few of the cards are used. This is likely because these attachments are the least restricted and therefore the most reliable ways to get those precious resources. Comment down below on what resource acceleration you like to use as an alternative for these staples.
I am hoping to continue this kind of mini-series in the future by covering the staples from different game mechanics, next time: card draw.