Being one of the largest factions in the game, it is time to take a closer look at the Gondor trait. The trait is pretty basic, as it usually goes with Human factions, but the Gondor trait has some strong cards that can really make for some powerful decks. It is also an easy faction to understand, making the trait friendly to newer players.
Who are the Gondorians?
The Gondorians are the inhabitants of the southern Numenorian kingdom and have been fighting the forces of Sauron for most of their lives. Being the nation that is under constant threat of Mordor, Harad, and Umbar, the people have formed a strong military and are very capable warriors, compared to other humans. It is important to note that in this game, there is a sub-group of Gondor: Outlands. As these Gondor characters do not share the Outlands trait, it is assumed that most characters come from Eastern Gondor, in the area near Minas Tirith.
Better get your wallet out for this, as there are a lot of Gondor cards mixed into a multitude of expansions for the game. The trait was around since the Core Set and had some strong development during the Against the Shadow cycle. Over the course of recent cycles, some more strong Gondor heroes have been released that can be found in many decks today. They received another wave of cards during the Vengeance of Mordor cycle, linking the trait closer to Valour. If you are buying for this trait, consider the expansions in bold first:
- Core Set
- A Journey to Rhosgobel
- The Dead Marshes
- The Long Dark
- Heirs of Numenor
- The entire Against the Shadow cycle
- Trouble in Tharbad
- The Nin-in-Eilph
- Wastes of Eriador
- Escape from Mount Gram
- Flight of the Stormcaller
- A Storm on Cobas Haven
- The City of Corsairs
- Beneath the Sands
- A Shadow in the East
- Wrath and Ruin
- The City of Ulfast
- The Land of Shadow
- The Flame of the West
- Two Player Limited Edition Starter Box
- Defenders of Gondor Starter deck
While the archetype spans all 4 spheres of influence, some are more represented than others. The main synergy that people think of with Gondor is in Leadership, where many heroes and other cards help the synergy of resources. But the other spheres also have a lot of cards from the trait. Spirit has the sisters Eleanor and Caldara representing them and have a couple of tricky allies in their sphere that can be good (Prince Imrahil) or bad (Minas Tirith Lampwright). Lore is mostly represented by the Rangers of Ithilien and the healers of Minas Tirith. The Tactics sphere would be the second sphere that people include with their Gondor decks. This sphere has most of the combat-related cards related to the armies of Gondor and the Guards of the Citadel.
You can easily make a multi sphere deck with the Gondor trait, though mono-sphere decks including the Gondor trait could also be powerful. Mono-Lore would be a Ranger-Trap deck, Tactics would have solid direct damage and attacking/defending capabilities, and Leadership would be swimming in resources that it can use to pump out more allies. Leadership is also the sphere that would be performing best at a threat above 40, thanks to some recent cards. Spirit would be swarming the board with allies as well, thanks to Lothiriel and Caldara reducing the cost to play these allies.
The synergy with Gondor revolves around resources, both in the form of coins (actual in-game resources) and as allies (human resources). Let’s break down the money one first.
The resource acceleration of any Leadership deck with Gondor cards is pretty powerful. You have Denethor who starts with extra resources to fund the early game, and you have cards like Wealth of Gondor, Gaining Strength and Envoy of Pelargir that grant resources when played. All of this helps Gondor to hoard a lot of resources, but what to do with them? Well, luckily Gondor has several cards that benefit from you having resources in your heroes’ resource pools. Leadership Boromir grants Gondor allies a +1 attack buff whenever he has a resource on him. Visionary Leadership does the same with but with willpower. Heir of Mardil allows the attached hero to ready after a resource is added to its pool, and there are a number of ways to spread the wealth. Errand-Rider and Pelargir Ship Captain allow you to move resources around between heroes and players. Having more resources left over after planning is what Gondor is about, especially if you have a Leadership-themed Gondor deck. That doesn’t mean it is exclusive to Leadership though. Tactics Mablung also helps in generating more resources, and the Horn of Gondor adds a resource whenever a character is destroyed.
This leads us nicely to the human resource synergy of the Gondor trait. If there is ever a chumping faction, it is Gondor. You get a lot of very cheap (0 to 1 cost) allies that you can play straight away (Envoy of Pelargir, Minas Tirith Lampwright, Emery, Guardian of Ithilien, Squire of the Citadel, Errand-rider, Ioreth, Citadel Custodian). However, once in play, most of these allies aren’t so great, especially without buffs. But should they leave play, then a second synergy will kick in. When a character leaves play, Gondor has a surprising amount of triggers that help their board state. The Horn of Gondor will grant attached hero a resource, Leadership Imrahil readies, Valiant Sacrifice grants the player some more cards (technically not a Gondor only card, but you do see it used a lot). And even the allies are cooperating. Squire of the Citadel will grant the player their resource back, potentially allowing the first synergy to kick off again. The fact that Gondor is more of a chumping faction ties in thematically with the madness of Denethor who throws away lives by trying to hold at Osgiliath against Mordor. It is an interesting synergy that proves successful against quests that doesn’t punish chumping as much.
More recent expansions from the Vengeance of Mordor cycle (chiefly found in the first two APs of the cycle) strengthened the bond between the Gondor archetype and the Valour mechanic. When you are above 40 threat, some allies like Angbor the Fearless, Soldier of Gondor, and Veteran of Osgiliath become more powerful. And while attachments like the Shining Shield and Valiant Sword aren’t mentioning Gondor in their text box, they are a perfect match for the trait and its many Noble heroes. Gondor decks do often struggle with keeping their threat stable, so a new event: Pillars of the Kings, helps with getting to 40 threat and staying there for a long time.
Synergy with other traits
Gondor does not stand alone in the fight against Sauron, it can function fine on its own, but has some allies that can stand with them. The first one is obvious: Rohan. There are a number of Gondor/Rohan cards out there that allow the two factions to play well with each other. Mutual Accord will grant any Rohan character the Gondor trait, and vice versa. This stems from the ancient oath that was sworn between the Steward and the King of the Rohirrim. While not super powerful, it is a pretty thematic card. Slightly more powerful is Guthlaf, who gets cheaper when a Rohan hero is in play and becomes even more worth it when a Gondor hero is in play as well.
Another faction that Gondor works well with are the Dunedain. This is because of their shared Numenorian heritage, making them able to wield weapons like the Sword of Numenor. Both factions also get access to Gondorian Fire and Blood of Numenor, two cards that are very powerful when played on a character who is hoarding all the gold. This match between the two factions is strengthened by the fact that there are Rangers in both factions. This makes for interesting decks between the two factions if you want.
Lastly, the Outlands of Gondor play well with their motherland too. Most Outlands decks have Gondor cards in them, and the Hunter of Lamedon even has both traits. This was corrected soon after the developers noticed how strong it would be for the other characters to have both traits too. However, the Sword of Morthond can still grant any Gondor character the Outlands trait, and any Gondor and Outlands hero can become the Lord of Morthond. Prince Imrahil should actually also be an Outlands hero instead of Gondor, so the developers threw in Prince of Dol Amroth to rectify that mistake.
There are just so many Gondor cards that it is difficult for me to just pick a few, but I will try anyway, let me limit it to one of each type though. For the hero slot, there were a couple of contenders, but I had to go with Leadership Denethor (hero). He helps the Gondor synergy a lot in the early game by starting out with more resources. Other than that, he is also a decent defender, especially if you are not running the Tactics sphere in the same deck. The flexibility that Denethor gives to an early Gondor deck is amazing, allowing you to always play Steward of Gondor on the first turn if you draw it into your opening hand. While picking this hero for your deck does restrict you from picking the Lore hero version or the Leadership ally, both of those options are not as powerful to the Gondor trait itself in my opinion. His rapid resource acceleration almost makes you forget that Denethor can also move resources to other Gondor heroes. This can allow other players to get some more resources if they need them or can boost your own heroes for effects like Blood of Numenor and Gondorian Fire. Since resources are the cornerstone of the Gondor archetype, having that added flexibility is a nice thing to have. New Gondor heroes like Hirgon are also finding their way into many decks, so feel free to include other Gondor heroes in your decks, Denethor isn’t the only solid Gondor hero.
The most staple-worthy ally with the Gondor trait was also a tough pick, as the Warden of Healing, Envoy of Pelargir, and Defender of Rammas would all fit the spot here as well. But the crown goes to ally Faramir, a Core Set classic. His ability for emergency willpower is just such a power move that can save you another round at a stage. His ability grants any player +1 willpower to all of their characters until the end of the phase. This is not only useful for regular questing, but also for Hide tests, Escape tests, and Sailing tests that tend to happen in the same phase as well. The fact that his ability isn’t restricted to once per anyway is also exploitable, and the main reason why you will sometimes encounter players questing for more than 100 willpower. Faramir isn’t all-powerful though, at 4 resources he is quite an investment. Besides his ability, he is not really a staple in any other ways, due to his relative low attack and defence stats, especially for 4 resources.
When it comes to attachments for Gondor, there is one that is still dominating the charts these days: Steward of Gondor. But since you are probably aware of how powerful the card is, let me mention some of the less powerful cards for Gondor that are still worth to include in your decks. These range from Gondorian Shield for you defenders, to Visionary Leadership if you need more willpower on top of Faramir. Gondorian Fire and Blood of Numenor are also worthy inclusions if you are focusing all your resource generation on one hero. There have been some powerful decks in the elder days where Tactics Boromir was attacking and defending for 20 and wiping the board clean of enemies.
For events, there are not as many for Gondor. There are some resource granting ones that are useful to fuel abilities, but those aren’t staple worthy. There is one card though that will boost your Gondor deck to even higher levels: For Gondor! This 2 cost Core Set card is often overlooked but is very useful during the combat phase if you have enough characters left standing. All characters around the board will get +1 attack, which is nothing to sneeze at, but on top of this, Gondor characters on the board get +1 defence. Not only can this prevent characters from dying, it also allows you to boost your characters during a Siege or Battle quest. If Leadership Boromir is in play with a resource on him, then your Gondor allies have +2 attack and +1 defence, making every single ally capable of attacking enemies engaged with you. The event can be repeated, but is a bit expensive to do so in the early/mid game.
“Bad” Gondor cards
Not all cards in this trait can be amazing, there are some duds here and there. These cards don’t get used because of a conflict in uniqueness (Denethor ally for instance). Or because they are just bad in general (Denethor ally for example). So our first “bad” card is clearly the uncooperative ally version of the steward. At 4 cost, he is quite the investment, but you do get a 3 willpower ally out of that can take a hit or two. His ability, however, is not really beneficial to the players. Denethor gets -1 willpower for each damaged hero that the controlling player owns and gets discarded when his willpower reaches 0. This makes him a poor option in an Archery heavy quest, as he is likely to be discarded. There are some ways to avoid discarding him, such as running only 2 heroes or using Visionary Leadership, but that still doesn’t excuse his high cost and marginal stats. There are better options out there if you have a free slot in your Gondor deck. You are likely running a hero version of him anyway.
I don’t think I have ever seen anyone play Linhir Sea-captain in a deck, making him a less than stellar inclusion within the trait. At 3 cost in Spirit, you would have hoped to have a bit more willpower or hitpoints than 2, but that would disappoint you with this ally. On top of this, you will have to pay his full cost out of one hero’s resource pool in order to get any benefit from him. This benefit is that the Spirit hero and the Sea-captain do not exhaust to quest for this round. This is similar to the Naith Guide, only that the effect extends to the ally as well. While this is good in order to avoid damage on characters and have some extra action advantage, there isn’t really anything else that the Sea-captain can do besides questing. He has 0 attack and doesn’t make for a good defender either. Based on what hero you picked to pay for him, that hero might also not be good for anything other than questing, like Spirit Eowyn. Other heroes like Cirdan and Theoden have their own ways to ready or not exhaust to commit to the quest that avoids playing this ally. Sneaking this ally into play doesn’t trigger anything either. In my eyes, this ally is the worse when it comes to those that have to be paid for by one hero (others being Master Ironsmith and Knight of the White Tower).
I did mention that Mutual Accord was a nice and thematic card to give Rohan and Gondor some mixing of the traits. There are however not many players who play this event. There is an argument to be made for this event though, especially if one player has a Gondor deck, and the other a Rohan deck. Playing the event will give the Rohan deck more willpower through Visionary Leadership, and grants the Gondor player any benefits that would otherwise be exclusive for Rohan characters, like We Do Not Sleep. It is interesting to have this combination of cards go off, but it seems to be too rare for it to matter. The fact that the event only lasts until the end of the phase is also not ideal. But hey, at least it is free!
There are a multitude of decks out there for you to try that use Gondor cards. You can play them with other traits as well, but a pure Gondor deck can be powerful too. Try some of these out, but don’t be afraid to find (or build) another deck with Gondor heroes. There are a bunch of combinations out there that work and can be a lot of fun to play.
So finishes one of the largest traits I had yet to cover on the blog. It was nice seeing these cards again, and I hope it has been useful to you. If you have suggestions on what trait or mechanic to cover next, let me know!