Most characters have to exhaust in order to quest, defend, attack or trigger abilities. On top of this, some encounter cards and some quests also have you exhaust a number of characters to fulfil certain conditions. This leaves the character unusable until the next refresh phase (if you are lucky). In order to get around this limitation of 1 action per round, the game offers certain attachments and events that can ready characters. There are also a host of heroes and allies who do not have to exhaust for certain abilities or have built-in readying effects. In this article, I will go over some of the most popular and most used readying effects in the card pool.
For the early parts of the game, all spheres had at least some sort of readying that was available to that sphere. Over the past few cycles though, Spirit and Leadership have been getting out more and more of these abilities. I will, therefore, cover this mechanic per sphere, as all the spheres have a slightly different way of readying characters. Tactics, for example, readies characters more frequently in the combat phase, and Spirit in the quest phase. With that said, let’s dive into the first sphere:
This is one of the two main spheres when it comes to readying effects, alongside Spirit. Leadership readying effects can focus on either one hero, with effects like Cram or Heir of Mardil or the effects can target a group of allies. This would tie in well with the swarming capabilities of the sphere, now your army of allies is ready to do even more actions. Examples of this kind of readying are usually faction based, like Descendant of Kings for Dunedain or Lure of Moria for Dwarves.
This is probably the best known and most flexible readying effect for Leadership. It just flat out readies all characters in the game, both allies and heroes. Sure, you are paying 5 resources for this card, but if any sphere can generate that amount of resources, it is Leadership. This card is amazing since it will allow players to quest with all (or most) of their characters for an insane push of willpower. Immediately after they have committed to the quest, use Grim Resolve to ready all characters before staging to avoid direct damage effects like Necromancer’s Reach. You then have enough ready characters to deal with combat on the same turn. This single card has saved many multiplayer games for me where everyone quested past the location lock and still had characters ready to beat the enemies in that scenario. There is also next to no downside to the effect, except for its steep price. But if you are playing mono-Leadership, those resources are replenished without too much effort.
If you are looking for similar effects like this but don’t want to pay the full 5 cost for it, consider using Strength of Arms to ready each ally in the game. This way you can keep your heroes back, and only quest with allies. This effect is a bit cheaper but will require printed Leadership Icons on all of your heroes.
Spirit is also a great sphere for readying effects. Cards like Light of Valinor basically ready a Noldor after questing, but it is worded such that Spirit Glorfindel doesn’t have to use his trigger. There are also plenty of other readying abilities in this sphere that are trait-specific, like Elevenses, and Ever my Heart Rises. But when talking about Spirit with readying effects, 1 card jumps out among the others.
A Core Set classic that allows any hero (with the exclusion of Beorn) to ready at any point during the round. This Condition is also not restricted and non-unique, so having 3 copies in your deck is justified. The ability to ready any hero gives this attachment a lot of flexibility, which results in it finding its way into many decks. Need Beregond to do another defence? Unexpected Courage. Do you need Tactics Aragorn ready to attack the next enemy you just engaged? Unexpected Courage! Do you want Treebeard to quest and attack? UNEXPECTED COURAGE!
There are a few downsides to this attachment, though they are very minor. 2 Spirit resources are hard to come by unless you are playing with a Spirit heavy deck, Spirit has next to no resource acceleration, so this attachment is likely everything you will be playing that round. Second, there are as of yet no real ways to find Condition attachments outside the generic cards that let you search for an attachment or a card in general. Ally Galadriel, Master of the Forge, and Gather Information will still work, but you might want to find other cards instead. Since this is a Condition attachment, griefing players may want to discard it with their Power of Orthanc, so that is 2 resources down the drain. Though it is unlikely such a player will be in your group, it should be noted in case you bring this in a deck to a convention and the mood is a bit jolly.
Overall, this card is certainly justified of its staple title. A lot of early game decks relied on this card for action advantage and it is still a popular choice in multi-trait decks or when playing multiplayer.
Lore isn’t too concerned about readying effects, which causes mono-Lore decks to lend some readying from other spheres. Wingfoot is a great card but requires scrying of the encounter deck to be completely accurate. Ents are actually the main focus of Lore when it comes to readying, with Quickbeam and The Dam Bursts. However, there is one card among them that is an auto-include in many Hobbit decks, and it has been a part of the card pool for a long time.
When it was first released, Fast Hitch had very few targets and was panned as an unnecessary card, except to make Frodo Baggins quest and defend. But since the Black Riders box and the expansion of the Hobbit trait in the game, Fast Hitch has become a staple in that trait. The 1 cost Lore attachment can fit any Hobbit character and not just heroes. This makes it a good fit on Rosie Cotton or Ally Sam Gamgee. But on heroes, this attachment really shines. It can save questing Hobbits from taking damage from Necromancer’s Reach type treacheries and can ready them for combat. Since most Hobbits are well suited for questing, having a few extra committed to the quest and then ready them with the Hitch, is a great way to increase your number of actions during a round. At just 1 cost, Fast Hitch is a very cheap way to ready your Hobbits. Since it is also not restricted or unique, you can have as many readying abilities as you want on a single Hobbit character. This makes Tactics Merry a great hero to dispatch of a lot of enemies together with another hero.
The way Tactics readies, is by not exhausting in the first place to do things. Most of the readying effects in the sphere are aimed at the combat phase. Characters like Vigilant Dunedan and Beorn do not exhaust to defend, making for a good wall against swarms of smaller enemies. But the sphere also has some ways to ready characters that do have to exhaust to defend. Behind Strong Walls and Hold your Ground are some good ways to ready your (Sentinel) defenders. Attackers will be held ready by Rohan Warhorses if they manage to kill an enemy. But when talking about readying in Tactics, there is just 1 guy we have to mention.
Of course, we were going to mention this guy. Not only was he crucial to the early life of the game, but he was só powerful, that he eventually got nerfed so that he can only ready once per phase. This is still a powerful effect that lets you at least quest and attack/defend with him every turn. Boromir is also an easy target for shadow effects or travel costs that require you to exhaust a character. However, he is no longer the powerhouse he once was, with Gondorian Fire and Blood of Numenor and wrecking everything engaged with you. I mean, there is a reason why a Boromir deck is the highest rated deck on RingsDB at this moment.
Boromir’s readying comes at a cost though, while it is built in, it requires you to raise your threat by 1. While this is initially a low cost, it builds up over time. With Tactics having very little threat reduction, it makes threating out much more of a threat. This will require a Boromir deck to have some access to Spirit or other threat reducing cards. Another problem with Boromir is that he will require a couple of attachments to work. Gondorian Shield takes care of the defensive issues, but to attack he will require some attachments like Dunedain Mark, Gondorian Fire, or Sword of Numenor.
There are quite a few readying abilities in the Neutral category that can be used in a wide variety of decks. Though some cards are limited to certain decks, some cards are great to include a few copies of. Narya is a very powerful attachment that will allow you to ready up to 2 allies across the board who then also get buffs to attack and defence for the rest of the phase. During combat, this is a great tool to get additional defenders ready or to ready Ranged characters to attack more than 1 enemy per round. Another good ring to bring (hey it rhymes!) is the Magic Ring. Though it is only a 1 off in your deck, the flexibility it provides is amazing. It allows a once per round ready much like Tactics Boromir. If you do not need the ready, you can also exhaust the ring for a resource or to heal the attached character. But one ally really stands out as an auto-include for himself and his readying ability.
This 4 cost Neutral ally is one of the more powerful allies in the current card pool after the round he enters play. His big pool of hitpoints allows him to soak up some Archery damage or turn him into a decent defender combined with his natural 3 defence.
His 4 base attack will also come in handy during the combat phase to kill a small enemy on his own or to combine his attack with others to bring down a bigger foe. The strength of Treebeard comes from his ability to collect resources during the resource round. Not only can these resources be used to pay for any Ent cards (including Ent-draught on himself if you have a Lore resource match), but they can also ready any Ent character on the board, including himself. Though this costs 2 of Treebeard resources, it does cause him to have 3 actions every 2 turns if you aren’t readying him by other means. This flexibility can come in handy to not only commit Treebeard to the quest but also have him ready for combat. Though the initial investment in him is high, 4 resources for an exhausted ally, he is quick to pay himself back. In a dedicated Ent deck, he will also serve as a fourth resource pool to pay for Ent allies, but he also gets more targets for his ability. This makes him crucial to get out early, as he really boosts that deck to the next level.
And so concludes this look at the readying staples of the card pool. Are there any I missed? If so, feel free to comment below with the cards you find to be excellent at readying either themselves or other characters. Next time I will be discussing cards that peak into your own deck and rearrange it to your liking. This type of scrying accelerates a deck by getting combos online faster.
No cards were hurt while making this article’s thumbnail.