It has been a while since we’ve had a new pack released, so it came as a bit of a surprise to many of us when we suddenly got more spoilers of this pack and the next, on top of the Mount Gundabad announcement. I did not get the scoop this time, apparently Dutch retailers are slowing down their release schedule as well. Regardless, I just got this pack in my hands a few days ago, so it is time to review the cards and the quest inside!
At long, long last, one of the final big names in the legendarium finds his way into the game. We have been asking for Thranduil for a long time now, and now he is finally here. Apparently, Thranduil was designed way back in the Ringmaker cycle during the Silvan hype (hence the Magali art) but got pushed back until this pack out of fear of Silvan overdose. But with Thranduil now in our hands, the Silvans have a dedicated defender on their hands. Thranduil is pretty good as a defender, with a solid 3 defence and 4 hitpoints he is somewhere between Denethor and Dain. You will have to heal him eventually, but with a Silvan Tracker or two in play, you can reliably heal Thranduil when needed. In terms of defence boosting cards, the Silvan trait is a bit lacking, since they focus more on Ranged attacks. Still, Cloak of Lorien is a nice match, and with Thranduil being Noble, even Ancestral Armour would be great!
I cannot stress how nice Thranduil’s effect is. You get to play any Silvan ally from your hand during the combat phase. While you still have to pay full price (unless O Lorien didn’t get used this round) you do not require a resource match for that ally. This opens the Quad-Sphere Silvan synergy open, which is nice if you are running Thranduil with two heroes from different spheres. Some nice combinations with his ability are the Tactics Silvan allies, who now know for sure that they have a target they can potentially kill before it attacks. Other allies include Greenwood Archer, who can ready Thranduil to do another attack. Players can also play a cheap (dare I say 0-cost) Silvan ally and immediately return it to their hand with Feigned Voices to cancel another enemy attack for little cost. Remember that Thranduil’s ability is not like Sneak Attack, you actually get to keep the ally you play with his ability! I am sure that more combos will come up as players explore Thranduil some more. He does seem a bit restricted to the Silvan archetype though, he is not what I’d call a splash hero.
First time we’ve seen a Beorning in bear-form, and I would not want to be the Orc who is standing in its way. While 5 cost in Tactics may seem steep for such an ally, remember that the Beorning Skin-changer can lower that cost dramatically. This really seems like an ally you would want to bring to a Goblin type quest, where you can pulverize enemies with this bear alone. The Creature trait actually gives Radagast another target as well! In all truth, you will want this ally to be in play during the combat phase, where it can either defend an attack and hit right back with his effect, or he can attack twice. His ability to ready such a high cost ally is very useful in a pinch, though you will have to shuffle him back into your deck afterwards. This can be a big resource investment, which Tactics cannot sustain without certain cards (especially if you are running Grimbeorn, as he eats his own resources). I have played with this ally already, and did find him to be a strong defender, with the ability to hit back if needed.
I mentioned this ally earlier, and since I have already played him in a Silvan deck, I feel like Galion is going to be worthwhile in most Silvan decks. His 0 cost makes him outshine allies like Henamarth and the Silvan Refugee, Galion is now the best target for any “return to hand” events (or attachments) in the Silvan deck. Right out of the gate Galion is worthless, only having a single hitpoint. However, his own ability gives him 1 point of willpower until the end of the round, after which he becomes too drunk to have any willpower. Stack this effect with Celeborn and Galadriel, and suddenly you have a 2 willpower ally for free that doesn’t exhaust. Granted, this still lasts until the end of the round, but there is some real power in this ally. You can nearly always play Galion, and while he may be weak, and can’t attack or defend, he will become the engine of the Silvan synergy in the future. Using Tree-people to return him to hand after questing in exchange for Haldir or Rumil will be amazing for your cost curve, though it requires a bit of luck. The biggest downside to Galion is the fact that he is unique. But even then, you can have him absorb a point of Archery damage, and play the next copy in your hand during the next round, starting the cycle of bonuses again!
Forest Road Traveler
As a fan of the Woodmen synergy, I can always use some more allies to strengthen the archetype. The Forest Road Traveller doesn’t solve some of the issues of the trait though, but is strengthened by it. Out of the gate, the ally has respectable stats for his cost, albeit a bit meh. 1 attack and 1 defence isn’t going to do much, but I like the 2 hitpoints on him, gives him some survivability. The strength of the Traveller lies in his unlimited passive effect, which grants him +1 to his normal stats for each attachment on the active location. Having just one of those attachments on the active location already makes him far better, and he gets crazy when you start adding more attachments. This ally focuses on having a lot of attachments on one location, making the ally very powerful. The fact that he is not unique means that 1 attachment can nett you +3 stats if all three allies are on the table. There is in my mind a way to cheat this guy into becoming a powerhouse. It would involve stacking all your location attachments on one location, and then travelling there during the travel phase. This makes the Forest Road Traveller a great ally to have for the combat phase. During the next turn, before questing, play The Hidden Way to swap the attachment heavy location with one out of the encounter deck. This lets you preserve the combo for more than one combat phase. Bonus points if you keep travelling to the attachment heavy location with South Away, lowering the threat of all players by a lot. The fact that this guy is unlimited opens up some great options, making him a 5/5/5/2 is easy if you draw the correct cards. The downside to this is that you don’t get to benefit from the attachments on the location like Ancient Mathom or Woodmen’s Clearing. This is the cost of having some pretty cheap but strong allies. For general use though, this ally will require some specific scenario, or else you need some attachments in your deck for locations.
Before we start talking about the card itself, it is worth pointing out that the art is to honour Caleb’s 5 years of work for FFG. In that time, he has taken great care of the game, and it is rewarded with his face on one of our allies. The ally itself isn’t half bad either and strengthens the bond between Dunedain and the side-quest mechanic. At 4 cost in Neutral, Thalion is competing for the same spot as Treebeard in most decks. The balanced stat-line of 2/2/2/3 are worthy of hero stats, making him very versatile in any situation. But that is not all, Thalion loves side-quests, so he gets better as you clear more side-quests. If you have one of them in the victory display, then Thalion will ready at the beginning of the combat phase. This allows you to commit him to tests, the quest, or have him exhaust for an encounter card effect, and still have him ready for combat. If the players double down on clearing side-quests and clear 3, Thalion goes into his final form. In this form, he loses the ally type, and gets the hero type, without losing his previous ability. On top of that, this new hero will gain the sphere of every side-quest in the victory display. This can let you have up to 5 heroes now (Sword-thain another unique character) and with Thalion potentially getting multiple spheres, he is great for smoothening out your resources in any deck. He does take some time to get going, but in the late game, he will eventually pay for himself, and can even get you access to other spheres if you fellow players are also playing side-quests. In all, this is a solid character that will be seen in plenty of scenarios that have a lot of side-quests, such as this scenario.
More boots for your characters, who were walking barefoot through Middle Earth up to this point. For the cost of one Lore resource, you can attach this Item to a Lore or a Ranger character. When attached, the character gets to ready when a location is revealed from the encounter deck. This is a great way to reliably your Rangers in a multiplayer game. It is a good way to reliably ready outside of Wingfoot, which is unique. Having your Rangers ready can allow you to have your characters ready for combat or for other tricks like Guarded Ceaselessly or other events. There really isn’t a downside to a cheap readying attachment for allies as well. Good targets are Aragorn, Sulien, or other Rangers. Remember that this can also attach to other Lore characters, including Ents. This could ready your Wellinghall Preservers and Wandering Ents as well, giving you a lot of action advantage when a location is revealed. This attachment will be stronger in higher player counts, and against some specific scenarios over others. The Item trait means that you can even get some Dale buffs, though the attachment is also vulnerable to Foundations of Stone and Dunland Trap quest effects. But in high location scenarios, this will be included in my decks!
This card got spoiled a while ago in the announcement article, but it is still great to get those cards in hand. Orcrist is the second of the unique weapons this cycle, with Sting coming up in Mount Gundabad. It is the Leadership Guarded card of this cycle and is relatively cheap at 1 cost in Leadership. When you play the card, you’ll have to play it in the staging area, guarded by a location or an enemy. Once the location is explored or the enemy defeated, you get to claim Orcrist and put it on a hero of your choice. The card will act as a Weapon attachment that is restricted. The attachment grants the hero a +2 attack buff and when the hero destroys an enemy, the controller gets to add a resource to the attached hero’s resource pool. More resources in Leadership is always welcome, as this attachment can pay for itself. I also like that the response isn’t limited to once per phase, so if you have means of readying the hero with Orcrist, you can get multiple resources per round with this. There are a lot of heroes who can use this weapon to effect. Some good targets are Leadership Boromir, who can really use those resources. Leadership Aragorn is also a good target. But this weapon is also good for your off-sphere hero in a multisphere deck. Just add this weapon to whoever is attacking, and you can always use the resources. Na’asiyah is another strong hero for this weapon, using her resources to boost attack or defense during the next round (or the next attack). I know that the Guarded cards are not ideal in some quests, but try them out sometimes as 51st cards in your decks.
Thranduil is really rocking the braid in the art of this attachment, which is great, as this attachment is mostly designed for him. The Elvenking allows you to be less dependent on event cards to return Silvan allies to your hand, but offers to ready the hero when you exhaust the Title and retun any Silvan ally to your hand. This is a great free way to ready a Silvan hero at minimal cost, as you will likely want to return an ally that no longer has their first round bonuses anymore. Ideal targets would be allies like Galion, or any other Silvan from who you would want their bonuses again. This can vary between a Galadhon Archer for that last point of damage when you play it again, or a Handmaiden if you need a lower threat. Having this attachment on the table will make it so that you will always have a reliable way to return an ally to your hand. You could even play them again during the combat phase with Thranduil, or wait until next round. Optimal targets for this attachment are Thranduil (multiple defences) or Legolas (multiple points of progress on the quest). Other heroes like Argalad and Rossiel are also possible, but not as powerful as the Elvenking himself, and his heir. I found this card to be really useful in a Silvan deck, but also in my Silvan Snipers deck, though access to Leadership is difficult for that deck.
Another Tactics trap, and I am very happy that this sits next to Followed in my binder, but that is just the OCD in me that is pleased. Outmatched will have to be played in similar fashion to Followed, where it is played into your play area. There it will attach to the next enemy that engages you (if they are not immune). Once attached, Outmatched will boost the Ranger/Hobbit synergy that acts on enemies having attachments (Ranger Spear and the new Bilbo hero for instance). Outmatched does more than that though. The trap will ready the character who defends the attached enemy after the enemy resolves his attack. This allows you to repeatably defend against that enemy, basically allowing you to ignore the enemy and keep him engaged. The trap is a discount Forest Snare but this does come at a cost though. The enemy will still make an attack, and your defender can take damage from the attack. On top of that, you have the uncertainty of the shadow card from that enemy, which can lead to a potential dead defender. My best guess is that you want to make sure that this trap attaches to a low attack enemy or an enemy with Entangling Nets on it. That way, you can keep defending the weak enemy with your defender, and have them ready for other attacks or attacking back. I am starting to see a pattern with these traps though, and am looking forward to seeing more Tactics traps in the future. It is not the strongest card in the pack, but I know people who will be delighted by more trap cards.
This actually is the only event in the pack, which was pretty noticeable, guess more attachments and allies are being focused on during this cycle. Quicker than Sight is another “Return Silvan ally to hand” event, which is highly appreciated for most Silvan players. Having more of these abilities allows you to keep bouncing your allies between the table and your hand. The event has the response where you can return a Silvan ally to your hand to cancel a shadow card that just triggered. This makes it sort of a Hasty Stroke, but at the cost of 0 resources, except for the cost of the ally. Ideal targets for this would be Galion, as you won’t be using him for the other Spirit event Island Amid Perils. You can even play the ally you returned to hand with Thranduil during the combat phase, losing you essentially nothing but the cost of the ally and the event card. This event does require you to play a Spirit hero though, which is not something that Silvans do well. Spirit Legolas is actually the only real Spirit hero for the trait, though Galadriel gets an honorary mention. In all, I think this event will be a great way to cancel shadow effects, without using up your copies of Hasty Stroke. It is also nice to see that your allies are essentially becoming resources this way, which is more reliable than having resources in your hero’s pools. Another nice little combo with this card is that the Defender of the Naith, who might have defended the attack, will ready when you return a Silvan ally to your hand with this event, potentially defending another attack.
Fire in the Night is a single quest card scenario, which tries to distract you by throwing multiple side-quests at you that you must beat. Beating these side-quests will not only stop terrible effects from happening but will also give you some bonuses at the same time. Not all side-quests are the same though, and the order in which they turn up will determine how bad the dragon Dagnir will be during the next turn.
The quest has you facing off the dragon during the entire quest, with the ultimate goal being to deal enough damage that the dragon retreats. During this time, you will also have to protect the settlement from the flames. Each turn, Dagnir will make an attack against the quest card, which can only have 50 damage. Starting with a 7 attack Dragon in the staging area can be tough, but you don’t have to really deal with her until you have completed 3 side-quests. This gives you some time to build up, but you really should focus on getting rid of some of those side-quests first. This will not only get rid of the passive effects, but will also determine how much damage you can deal to Dagnir per round. Since she is immune to all other kinds of effects, your early game will need to clear some side-quests, while the later part will be you facing of the dragon and defeating it. The tipping point is at 3 side-quests when Dagnir starts attacking each player as well. While all of this is going on, the settlement will continue to burn as well, reminding me a lot of Minas Tirith, Lake-town, and Annuminas during their quests. You can declare defenders against these attacks though, which will save you from having the town burned to the ground. The characters will likely die though, with excess damage spilling over to the quest card.
The quest is tough in solo, and I have not yet tested it in multiplayer, though I’d expect it to be easier with more characters on the board to chump to the dragon. The official difficulty of 7 doesn’t really say much, but at least it is supposed to be harder than previous quests. latter worth it to bring with you to this quest. Don’t bother bringing your own side-quests, but cards that interact with side-quests are worthwhile. Legacy Blade, Thalion, and Thurindir will all benefit from the 8 side-quests in this scenario. Since you are questing against side-quests for the majority of the game, you will want to maybe bring East Road Rangers as well, as they get their willpower bonus at all times. Another thing to note about the encounter cards is the stunning art on all of them. I really like the way the artists have made some of the artwork seems so realistic, it really stands out.
Overall, I like this mid-cycle boss fight and am looking forward to the next adventure pack: The Ghost of Framsburg, which will be a Dwarf heavy pack!