Knowledge is power, especially in this game where certain encounter cards can ruin your day. Knowing what comes off of the encounter deck and adjusting your board state accordingly can be a very powerful tool in this game. To look and interact with the top card(s) of the encounter deck is known as scrying and will be the topic of this article.
Over the years, multiple cards have interacted with the encounter deck, providing valuable intelligence on what cards are on top of the encounter deck. This does not only influence the cards revealed during staging but can also be important to see what enemies will get a shadow card. Ever since the Core Set days, scrying has been one of the spearpoints of the encounter deck. The Core Set itself even gave two powerful scrying characters, Denethor (DeneCore/DeneLore) and Henamarth Riversong. In the years that followed, the Lore sphere has had an almost absolute monopoly on this mechanic, with the odd Leadership and Spirit card thrown into the mix. It is time to see what player cards are considered to be scrying staples, and which card you can better leave in the binder.
The absolute pinnacle of scrying comes in the form of this weak looking, 1 cost Silvan ally. Don’t be fooled by his stats though, he rarely uses them. You play this ally solely for his ability and his very low cost. Henamarth allows you to exhaust him to look at the top card of the encounter deck. This tells you exactly what the next card will be, and how much threat will be added to the staging area this round. In true solo, Henemarth allows you to have complete control over the staging step for that round unless a card surges. Since you will have to exhaust him in order to scry the top card, he is left vulnerable to treachery cards like Necromancer’s Reach. Therefore, I suggest you use him at the end of the combat phase so that he can be ready at the start of the next round.
When looking at the Silvan synergy, he is also a very strong card. His 1 cost makes him easy to put into play. You can then use effects like Tree-people to trade him for a better ally (after he exhausted to peek at the top card), return him to hand with Feigned Voices to cancel an attack or bring him back to deal a damage to all enemies engaged with a player with Pursuing the Enemy. After you have done any of these tricks, you will be able to put him back into play during the next round because of his low cost. Trading him for allies like Haldir of Lorien is a great deal and makes Henemarth all the more powerful.
In the end, there are some caveats to him. First of all, he is unique, making him clog up your hand if you have multiple copies in your hand. He also blocks any other persons Henemarth from entering play. Luckily, he is an FFG created character, so there is no other version of him in the card pool at the moment. Second, he only scries one card deep. While this is great for a single player, his usefulness is reduced a little in multiplayer. Lastly, he can only look at the top card of the encounter deck, but not interact with it. The Denethor hero in the Core Set could not only look at the top card of the encounter deck but also move it to the bottom of the deck if the card was particularly nasty. Sure, now you don’t know what the next card is, but the chances of it being another copy of that terrible card you just put on the bottom are slim (though not 0).
While Henemarth came to us in the very beginning of the card pool, Firyal is a more recent addition, being a Lore ally from the Mûmakil Adventure Pack. She boasts impressive stats and her Harad trait offers even better willpower with Kahliel’s Headdress. Her ability is what really shines through though. After Firyal commits to the quest, you get to see the top card of the encounter deck. Then, if you do not like the card, you may discard it. This saves you from having to reveal it again at some point until the encounter discard pile is shuffled back into the encounter deck. This is a lot better compared to Denethor, who only delays the inevitable. On top of this all, she commits her 3 willpower to the quest, which is nothing to sneeze at. Where Henemarth gave you the option to either commit him to the quest or scry the top card, Firyal does both. Even her uniqueness is not a big problem, as Harad decks are capable of discarding Harad allies from the player’s hand in order to do a variety of things.
The only real problem with Firyal is her high cost. Lore resources aren’t as easy to come by, making it difficult to bring her out without cheating her into play. If you are playing a mono-Lore deck, it will take 2 resource phases to bring her out, stalling your deck. While there are some ways around this (Master of Lore), they are quite limited.
Celduin Traveller / Ithilien Lookout
These two allies should really be put together, as they are direct clones of each other besides stats and what they scry for. The Celduin Traveller is actually the only Spirit card in the card pool at the moment that does any sort of scrying. Both allies favour Secrecy players where they become decent 1 cost allies. When either ally enters play, the controlling player may look at the top card of the encounter deck. Then, if they played an Ithilien Lookout and the top card is an enemy, they may discard it. The same holds true for the Celduin Traveller, but now with locations. Both allies delude the encounter deck a little or give the player the knowledge about what card is on top of the encounter deck for the next planning phase. Since they can only do this ability when they enter play, the scrying ability is not repeatable. However, this does leave the characters ready to do other things in the game such as attacking or questing.
With your blog being named after this artifact, it is hard to not give it a review when it pops up. This unique Seeing-Stone is actually a pretty nice tool to use in a solo game if you have enough threat reduction. The Palantir is limited to only go on Noble heroes due to thematic reasons (not everyone can look into it and remain unharmed, right Pippin?). During each Planning phase, the Palantir is available to be exhausted to look at the top 3 cards of the encounter deck. Before you do, you must name a card type (Enemy, Location, Treachery, Objective or Side-quest). Then, you get to see the top three cards and draw a card off of your deck for each encounter card that matched your named type. For every card that didn’t, you must raise your threat by 2.
This artifact can allow you to look quite far into the future, and while it may not interact with any of the cards, you will be able to see what cards are revealed during staging (even for multiplayer games) and what enemies will get what shadows. The Palantir also allows you to get some more card draw if you named your encounter card type correctly. I will advice checking my Staples review on threat reduction to see what cards you should include to negate the big gain in threat if named it wrong. Lore Aragorn is a great option. Always look at the distribution of card types in the encounter deck and what cards are in play to have the biggest chance of hitting.
With the Palantir being a Neutral card, it offers some scrying ability to Tactics (which has nothing else) and Leadership (which only has Longbeard Elder). As long as you can pay the cost of looking ahead in the encounter deck, you will benefit greatly from knowing what you will be facing in the future.
Other Scrying cards to consider
- Rumour in the Earth: Actually a great, free way to scry the encounter deck, one turn of free Henemarth
- Needful to Know: Too risky for most Secrecy decks, could scry a treachery
- Risk some Light: Awesome card to use in Secrecy, allows you to reorganise the encounter deck to your liking. Not as great a card outside the Secrecy threshold.
- Longbeard Elder: Scrying and potential progress on the current quest. Good in Dwarf Swarms
- Interrogation: Great thematic card for your Trap decks, allows you to bypass some nasty card.
- Ravens of the Mountains: Good way to make progress on the quest if you reveal a high threat location or enemy. Useless against treacheries.
This concludes my look at the Scrying mechanic and the most used cards in the card pool today. If you have very strong feelings for one of the cards I left out, feel free to comment them down below. Next time, I will look at the cards that can be used to scry your own deck and move some cards around to trigger various effects.
No cards were hurt in the making of this article’s pictures