The threat counter serves as a sort of time counter for the majority of the game. It forces players to make progress and not stall forever, building up the decks. For most cases, the players are defeated once their threat reaches 50, but there are some quests that play around this limit a little. Any quest with the Dire keyword pushes your threat elimination level-up to 99 and the Trouble in Tharbad quest lowers your threat elimination level further down as Time counters get removed. In order to reduce your threat, the game has provided players with a variety of threat reduction cards. Some of those are more powerful than others. So let’s discuss the defining cards that revolve around:
The big sphere where the Threat reduction cards can be found is obviously Spirit. Ever since the Core Set days, this sphere has been relied upon for reducing the threat of players by means of The Galadhrim’s Greeting. As the game developed further, the other spheres got a few cards of their own to reduce threat in a deck that doesn’t run Spirit. These cards tend to be less versatile or revolve around a certain archetype. But in the end, out of the 30 threat reducing cards, only 7 are not in Spirit. So this article might well be a bit shorter than usual.
This may seem like an odd card to start off this list with, but Elfhelm is one of the most consistent means of threat reduction you can get. While he is ready, the controlling player gets to reduce his threat by 1 after raising it because of an encounter card effect. This effect does not trigger on Doomed effects on player cards, nor at the end of the round since that is a standard threat raise and is not on an encounter card. It also doesn’t work with the effect on Tactics Boromir, since that would be broken, even post-errata.
Elfhelm is great because he does not need to do anything in order to get this passive ability. He just sits there, ready for you to use him during combat. It may seem a bit expensive, but with Spirit Theoden, he is only a 3 cost ally who can also absorb some Archery damage. Elfhelm is also a good target for Spare Hood and Cloak, as he can pass them around if he is unexhausted at the end of the round. The fact that Elfhelm doesn’t have to do much in order to get his threat reducing ability is improved even further by not having a limit on his ability. If you are getting Local Trouble attached to a hero, the entire attachment is negated with Elfhelm, allowing you to use the hero as you please. Over the course of an entire game, Elfhelm can lower your threat more than playing several copies of threat reducing events.
The downside of Elfhelm is the fact that he is named Elfhelm. While not widely popular, he also has a Hero version and a Tactics ally version that can get into play. If you are relying on lowering your threat consistently with the Spirit version, you might want to warn the Rohan or Mount deck controllers. This version of Elfhelm doesn’t really play along nicely with the Rohan trait, though it can still be an excellent ally to bring with you in a Hobbit/Secrecy deck.
This card has not seen its like in the recent card pool. It came out during a time where player cards were poorly balanced in the player’s favour. This event is the real definition of that poor balance, but I am not complaining. Elrond’s Counsel is likely the most powerful form of threat reduction in the game since it costs 0 resources and only requires you to play with a unique Noldor character. Arwen, Glorfindel, and Elrond are just some of the characters you can run in the deck to make this card work, even in their ally forms (not recommended for Elrond). While you have a unique Noldor in play, you can use this event to lower your threat by 3 and gain a point of willpower on a character. Important to note is that you cannot give the willpower to the unique Noldor character if it is your only one. In the early life of the game, this could be an issue if you only sent ally Arwen to the game, but it is a minor point. It will be rare to meet these conditions.
The threat reduction of 3 might not be as big as a jump when compared to a solo Galadhrim’s Greeting (lower your threat by 6), but 3 is enough to safely go below some engagement costs. It can also allow you to hide below the Secrecy threshold for a few turns. On top of this, you also get a willpower boost on a character until the end of the phase. This can be useful for committing to the (normal) quest, but also for Sailing/Hide/Escape tests that also require willpower. Usually, the cost for a point of willpower is 2 resources (Favor of the Lady, Dunedain Quest), but now you can get it for free. Granted, it is only for the phase, but you simply can’t beat the low cost of 0 resources.
There is really no downside to adding this card to your deck if you are running Spirit and at least 1 unique Noldor character. While it doesn’t synergize with the Noldor trait very well, it is still a great card to draw off of the top of your deck during most games.
From the day we all received our Core Sets, it was obvious, Gandalf is one of the most versatile allies in the game full stop. While I already covered him in the Card Draw article, he returns in this article since one of the options you get when he hits the table is to lower your threat by 5. While this is not as great a bargain as a Solo Galadhrim’s Greeting, he will also contribute his stats to your board state for the round. Gandalf has been a staple in many decks that require threat reduction if the deck does not contain access to Spirit or Lore. Tactics and Leadership players, in particular, have used this ally often to make use of his threat reduction in their decks. Note that the other version of Gandalf works in the opposite direction, it actually increases your threat, making him more of a staple in decks that run other means of lowering threat.
Heroes with adjusted starting threat
While this is not active threat reduction, it can help the players to start at a much lower threat cost while keeping their stats. Usually, the threat cost of a hero is equal to the sum of his stats (willpower, attack strength, defence strength, hitpoints), but there are some heroes that deviate from this rule. Beorn has a lot more stats than his threat cost should allow, but his caveat is that he is immune to attachments and player card effects. Spirit Glorfindel has a much lower threat cost than his stats allow, but he is “restricted” by having to raise your threat by 1 each time he exhausts to commit to the quest. This makes him a sort of early game threat reduction but can become a nett increase in threat at the end of the game. This would be the case if Light of Valinor wasn’t introduced in the same pack as the hero, but that is a rant for a different time.
Lore absolutely shines in having heroes with adjusted starting threat. Mirlonde lowers the cost of each Lore Hero you control by 1, allowing for a small 3 threat bump if you are playing Mono-lore with her. This effect is great to reduce the starting threat of your more expensive Lore heroes like Elrond and Treebeard. The new Folco Boffin hero from the previous cycle does the same trick, but now with any Hobbit heroes. This helps them out significantly as Hobbits can really use a low starting threat to pay for Secrecy cards and build up to tackle the quest in their own way. Folco is also one of the biggest jumps in threat reduction as you are able to discard him to reduce your threat by 7. This is a great emergency threat reduction and can also be used to jump back down into Secrecy at the cost of a hero. By getting some copies of Resourceful, you will likely never even miss Folco after he leaves.
Another awesome Lore hero that reduces your threat by possibly the biggest amount in the game is Lore Aragorn (Loragorn). His ability lets you drop back down to your starting threat level during a refresh phase. While his ability is only limited to once per player, he will a great reset-button halfway through your game. His ability also allows players to handle the Doomed keyword on player cards better, allowing for a very solid first turn.
Tactics Eowyn is another hero who’s initial threat cost is lower than her stats since you are required to reduce your starting threat by 3 during setup. This makes her an incredible 4 willpower hero at the cost of only 6 threat. She is one of 2 ways to reduce your threat in Tactics, and with Secret Vigil not being as popular, you will likely encounter her more often. She has become a great asset to the players because of her willpower in the Tactics sphere, her low initial threat, and her “I am no man” ability which is a great bargain to get rid of some tough enemy.
When looking through the card pool, there was something that struck me: there is no way to reduce your threat with the Leadership sphere. Not just the heroes with lower threat than their stats (not without other cards in play), but there are also no events, allies or attachments that help the Leadership sphere out by reducing its threat. 7 cycles of sphere bleeding have yet to come up with a card for that sphere to reduce the threat of a mono-Leadership player. Sure, that player can borrow cards from other spheres and play them with A Good Harvest, but I still found it odd that there are no cards yet to reduce your threat in this sphere. The one card that Leadership can reliably use is Sneak Attack in combination with Gandalf. In the future, I am sure that we will get a card that might reduce your threat by the cost of an ally that just got destroyed. This would be in line with a couple of other sphere bleeding cards like Valiant Sacrifice or Bulwark of the West.
Other great threat reducing cards to consider
- Galadriel’s Handmaiden: Solid willpower and a little bit of threat reduction
- Galadriel: Allows you to stabilize your threat
- Free to Choose: Doomed 5? I don’t think so!
- Galadhrim’s Greeting: Reduce by 6 for myself or 2 for everyone?
- Merry: “Boy, I hope I reveal an enemy this round with a lot of threat”
- Favor of the Valar: When you pushed your luck and Aulë sends you back to finish your task
- Elevenses: Math, so much math
- Nori: Swarm my pretties, SWARM
This concludes the Threat Reduction staple overview if you feel like I missed any cards that you consider staples, feel free to let me know. In the meantime, I will be doing some more Staple and Trait reviews while co-authors are working on bringing you the start of the LOTR Campaign. The Ringmaker cycle has also started, so stay tuned for the occasional article on those quests. If you would like to contribute to the blog, feel free to send me a message with what kind of articles you would like to make.
No cards were hurt while making this article’s front picture