During their adventures in the lands of Middle Earth the heroes of The Lord of the Rings Living Card Game can get caught in a web, get sacked, have to endure freezing cold, attract local trouble, have to deal with old hatreds, be in need of rest, get possessed, catch terrible fevers or fall into evil. In gameplay terms this translates into condition attachments, that can get quite dangerous should you find yourself in a situation with no means of removing them.
The inclusion of condition removal effects in player decks dates back to the core set days, where the Miner of the Iron Hills was included to give players a way to deal with the treachery Caught in a Web, which could put a serious dent into your available actions. For a long time, this ally was the only way for players to deal with condition attachments. Only with the release of Voice of Isengard and The Road Darkens did players got more ways to deal with these kinds of encounter card effects. Since then, only two more cards of this type have been released, bringing the total up to a number of just five cards available. While condition attachments don’t show up in every scenario and some decks can be capable of defeating a scenario by just powering through the effects of the condition, cards that offer condition control, while not quite a staple in every deck, certainly make a sideboard staple to be swapped in should the players find the conditions of a specific scenario too punishing. In this article, I will go over the different card available, their usefulness and their applicability in specific decks.
Miner of the Iron Hills
A strange card theme-wise (How exactly is a miner dealing with local trouble?), this card was the only way for players to remove condition attachments for the first three entire cycles. If you include this card in your deck, his measly 0/1/1/2 stat line will usually translate to be played for his effect and then serve as a chump-blocker after that. With the increasing amount of punishment for chump-blocking after the first couple of cycles, his value in that role gets diminished somewhat. However, since condition removal will usually be swapped in for a specific deck anyway, he still makes a good inclusion for quests, where that is not the case. He also makes a good addition in decks taking on Flight of the Stormcaller and A Storm on Cobas Haven, in which he can be used to discard Raging Squall and Taking on Water respectively and serve as an additional character for sailing tests afterwards.
Since the Miner is a Dwarf, he also makes the best form of condition removal in dwarf decks, adding to the synergy of this archetype. With Dain Ironfoot on the table, he attacks for a decent two attack and with Hardy Leadership in play, he can potentially defend a weaker enemy without getting destroyed. After Legacy of Durin has been played, the card will also replace itself, making the addition of the Miner of the Iron Hills to the sideboard of any dwarf deck an even easier decision.
Power of Orthanc
With the release of Voice of Isengard, players got the first alternative to remove condition attachments from play. Playing on the Doomed theme of this expansion, the effect of this card will raise each player’s threat by two but offers the option to each player to discard a condition attachment in exchange. While being able to discard multiple conditions from play simultaneously is certainly powerful, playing this card can be hard to time properly. When including this card in a deck, it is best to assume that you will in the best case discard two condition attachments at the same time, planning on using this even for just one. This can be hard to justify in a pick-up game, but if you’re planning on using this card as your tech against a specific quest, it can make an excellent inclusion. The reasons why this card is so strong and makes such a good sideboard card are its low cost, that will help you get it out immediately should you need it, and its sphere. Having lots of threat reduction available in-sphere certainly makes the inclusion of this card an easier choice. If you have access to Spirit, this will usually be the best card to add to your sideboard to swap in for use against condition attachments.
Among the options for condition removal, this is the card that might find its way into player decks outside of teching against a specific quest the most. Released in The Road Darkens, Elrond offers the player the choice between healing all damage on a hero, discarding a condition attachment or having each player draw one card before he leaves at the end of the round. While he is around he will also be able to contribute to questing (which you will probably use him for should you not desperately need an extra body for defence). The main problem with including him as your main option of condition control is his high cost. Lore is not exactly the most resource-rich sphere and having to pay three for removing a condition and an ally that will leave play at the end of the round will seem too expensive in a lot of decks. Being a Noldor ally, you can of course use To the Sea, to the Sea to lower his cost, thus lowering his barrier of entry. He also makes a good target for a Sneak Attack in a Lore/Leadership deck, to quickly discard a condition outside the planning phase and using his stat line for other things in the same phase. The last problem with planning to use him as your primary form of condition removal stems from the fact that he is unique, which means your access to him will be blocked if he is already on the table in his hero form.
The third card in the Lore sphere, this card cements the central role of Lore in the management of conditions. On paper, this card seems like a versatile card to include in any Lore deck. After you play it, it will be around for the moment when you need it, not only offering the possibility to remove a condition attachment, but also heal all damage from a character. If you have this on the table, you probably want to attach a revealed condition attachment to an already damaged character to make the most out of its full card text, solving two problems in one go.
One important thing to note about this card is, that it will only discard a condition from the character you are targeting. This means that conditions attached to a quest card (like Old Hatreds or Haunting Fog) or a location (like Dunlending Ambush) cannot be removed by this effect, which makes it of more limited use.
The other big issue of this card is, that it has to attach to a character with the Dúnedain or Healer trait. Right now there are only five characters in the game that have the Healer trait printed on them. One of those characters is ally Elrond, who is not an option to attach this to, because of him leaving at the end of the round. This leaves you with the options of Warden of Healing, Galadhrim Healer, Imladris Caregiver and Ioreth. Luckily, you will usually have one of this allies in your decks, if you’re running Lore anyway. Still, it can be annoying if you draw into Athelas without having drawn one your healers, making this essentially a dead card in your hand. You will also have to exhaust the character attached to Athelas in order to trigger its effect. Since you will still be able to heal some damage, this should not be an issue even if attached to the Warden or Ioreth, although the Galadhrim Healer and the Caregiver make better targets, because they do not have to exhaust to trigger their effects.
With regards to the Dúnedain trait you probably will not want to include Dúnedain characters in your deck just to attach this card to them; even more so, because it will just amplify the problem of not drawing into them. If you’re building a Dúnedain deck with access to Lore anyway (Note that the only Dúnedain heroes in Lore are Beravor, Thurindir and Aragorn all of which don’t offer much in terms of Dúnedain synergy.), this is certainly a good card to include, even though you will be planning to use the stats of your characters for other things most of the time. And of course, if you plan for it, it is also an option for another player to attach this to one your Dúnedain characters or vice-versa.
Bulwark of the West
A very recent addition the card pool with Crossing of Poros, this card for the first time offers condition removal within Leadership. (Now Tactics is the only sphere that has no option for condition control available.) It costs no resources, although you will have to discard an ally you control. Outside of effects triggering from discarding allies, you can always discard characters like a Snowborn Scout or similar cards to remove a condition for a very low cost. It is also worth mentioning that you do not have to exhaust the character. This means that you can discard, for example, Gandalf before he gets discarded at the end of the round anyway and remove a condition in the process.
Of course, this card really shines in decks that are built around allies leaving play anyway. Its effect can trigger the abilities of Prince Imrahil and Eomer, you can use it with Eomund or Squire of the Citadel and get eagle allies attached to your Eagles of the Misty Mountains. In a Rohan deck, the cost of using this card will be even lower if you have Gamling on the table and can return the ally to your hand. (The main problem with this last option is, that most dedicated Rohan decks do not include Leadership.) With all these different options, Bulwark of the West certainly makes a good option to consider when choosing condition control cards for your sideboard.
Do you want to lose your friends? In that case, there are numerous other uses for the cards mentioned above. Since there are lots of player cards that are condition attachments, removing them with these cards can make an excellent grief move. Prime targets are Unexpected Courage, Light of Valinor, Legacy of Durin and Blood of Numenor. Doing this is, of course, not recommended and I won’t be responsible for any kind of hurt your friends will inflict on you.
While the options to remove condition attachments from play are certainly limited, these cards are all worth thinking about when building your deck. You probably don’t want to include them in your general deck just for the chance of playing a quest with a nasty condition, but including one of these options in your sideboard to swap in when needed is a great option of quickly being able to tech against a particular quest.
This concludes the condition discarding options that the game has to offer. They can be lifesavers in the right quests, but tend to end up in sideboards since not all quests have a use for these cards. In the next staples article, we will discuss the cards you can use to scry your own deck. This rapidly accelerates your deck and allows you to draw into your combo’s faster than usual.