After “combat sphere” and “leading sphere” comes to a scene sphere, which sidelines the combat aspect absolutely and provides us the advantage in another way. And Leadership or Tactic sphere couldn’t help you in “that way” to such extent, as Spirit sphere. The fight isn’t engaged only in the “combat area” right before your characters, but also in the staging area, where you, however, needs to fight in a different manner. Willpower is sort of weapon, which enables you to generate the progress tokens. And progress tokens is needed during the walkthrough of any scenario. If you are searching for great Willpower Strength, search in “Spirit waters”. You also should run this deck, if you wish to control the encounter deck, your threat level and/or return some cards from discard piles.
- The Galadhrim’s Greeting
- Strength of Will
- Hasty Stroke
- Will of the West
- A Test of Will
- Stand and Fight
- A Light in the Dark
- Dwarven Tomb
- Fortune or Fate
We finally got the best quester ever to our hands, without any doubts. Thanks to Éowyn on your journey, you don’t have to solve the problem with questing anymore. Éowyn is your questing champion and you should guard her as the most precious gem. So 9 starting threat is the average value, but what is not average at all, is Willpower – 4 is absolutely an amazing value for the hero in the Core set, where only character possessing 4 Willpower is mighty Gandalf. 1 Attack, 1 Defense and 3 Hit Points show you obviously that anything else than questing with her would be pure madness.
And her questing potential can be even higher if you use her action: each player can discard one card from his hand per round and add +1 Willpower to her for each discarded card. It’s valid until the end of the phase. In the multiplayer with 4 players, Éowyn is able to quest with maximum 8 Willpower! What are you saying that? It’s a little bit crazy and also a little bit unfair to poor encounter deck. But don’t worry, with each scenario the requirements for Willpower strength will be higher and higher, which means her service will be more and more valuable.
Éowyn is the natural target for Willpower-adjusting attachments. I mention excellent Celebrían’s Stone, which increases her Willpower by 2, or less magnificent The Favor of the Lady, which has the same cost but adds only 1 Willpower. Whether Éowyn gets any of these or other Willpower-adjusting attachments, she becomes a unique, irreplaceable quester, able to make the massive number of progress tokens each round. Note that Éowyn has a trait Rohan, which means her potential expands even a little bit more with further adventure packs.
What you should take into account in regard to her stats, is her relative fragility. 3 Hit Points is an actually poor reserve for unexpected situations, so you have to pay close attention to some treacheries and effects from the encounter deck, which can otherwise cause the complete destruction of your perfect plans. Very common cards you will encounter during adventures are The Necromancer’s Reach and Dol Guldur Orcs. Both cards cause damages to characters, which were sent to a current quest (due to their exhaustion or the action of the questing itself). Due to their troublesome effect, you could pay a very high cost for sending her alone, if you won’t be careful. I have experienced many times when Éowyn traveled to my discard pile because of my inattention or just pure foolishness, game over has come shortly after. You have to take good care for her.
After you become accustomed to playing with her regularly, it is difficult to get rid of her from your decks. To be honest, I personally have a problem to not include her to some of my deck, because 4+X Willpower gives you priceless support. If I want to make a deck from Spirit sphere, then Éowyn is very logical choice – no other Spirit hero has such amount of Willpower and it doesn’t change even many adventure packs and expansion further. Without her, questing is a bigger challenge and you have to find another way, how to assure successfully questing.
I read many reflections across LOTR LCG community that Eleanor is underrated, not very much used hero. I don’t use her too often as well either. But why should we bother with her? Because under her unimpressive appearance with insignificant stats hides a great hero, who is able to save you from some menaces of the encounter deck and literally can save your game.
What makes me happy from her stats is undoubtedly the 7 starting threat. That means, in other words, the lowest starting threat from all heroes in the Core set. With her, you are on a good way to start a game with overall low starting threat. In Journey Along the Anduin, your main task is keeping your overall starting threat below 30, or the Hill Troll engages you in the first round, what usually means great complication or directly a dead hero. Eleanor allows you take to your journey two heroes with high starting threat – and we know that heroes with high starting threat, like Aragorn or Gimli, have either brilliant stats or powerful abilities. Next stats of Eleanor don’t look so well. With 1 Willpower you won’t quest too much, with 1 Attack you won’t attack too much and with 2 Defense and 3 Hit Points… you may help with defending against some weak enemies, though she belongs to fragile heroes like Éowyn, so you should save Eleanor for her real role. “Response: Exhaust Eleanor to cancel the “when revealed” effects of a treachery card just revealed by the encounter deck. Then, discard that card. and replace it with the next card from the encounter deck.” Seems complicated at first sight, but behind long text hides useful ability, as I said at the beginning of this review. First, the good news is you have to exhaust Eleanor, but ability doesn’t require a resource. Why is that important? Because you are able to use it during setup, just before resource phase, where you normally can’t influence what is revealed from the encounter deck, and where you are vulnerable against cards revealed from the encounter deck. It is the advantage compared to A Test of Will, which you can’t use before the resource phase. Second, you don’t have to wait for drawing A Test of Will and save one resource for it – the ability is repeatable every round as long as Eleanor lives, for free and requiring only exhausting Eleanor. Third and maybe the most important – Eleanor can save you against some really nasty treacheries, which bother you. And believe me, with each new scenario her presence is becoming more desirable due to the existence of some horrible treacheries.
Apart from the bright side, the response has own dark side as well. Eleanor can cancel “when revealed” effect just from treacheries, not from enemies or locations. It would be nice negate “when revealed” effect from Dol Guldur Orcs, King Spider or Ungoliant’s Spawn, but Eleanor won’t deal with these. A Test of Will has the power to do so. The most serious issue connected with Eleanor is actually the second part of her ability: after you discard treachery with “when revealed” effect, reveal and replace it with the next card from the encounter deck. In the English version, the text ends here, while in my mother language text goes on: resolve any “when revealed” effect of that new card (also in LOTR FAQ). So her ability is something like keyword Surge but caused by your own character. It is a little bit risky – you can reveal even worse card then you have just canceled before that. From this sight, A Test of Will is more practical and without any “dark side”.
When I have written so long review for Eleanor, it would be worth to think about adding her to some of my deck. Éowyn, Gimli, Legolas, Aragorn… I exactly know their strengths and use them often in my decks. But Eleanor should deserve the attention as well, because of her undeniable benefit in scenarios with lots of bad treacheries.
According to the rulebook, Spirit sphere “emphasizes the strength of hero’s will.” When we look at Éowyn or majority of Spirit allies, Willpower is the dominant stat. Attack and Defense don’t play in a Spirit sphere great role, we have other spheres specialized on that. Dúnhere is an exception here – it’s a Spirit hero focusing on combat.
8 starting threat pleases players, who are interested in low starting threat. As we saw at Éowyn and Eleanor, low starting threat is the main characteristic of Spirit heroes, so in the context of that, nothing special or exceptional. But what is a little odd at first sight is the distribution of stats. 1 Willpower for Spirit hero is something like 1 Attack for Tactic hero. 2 Attack won’t excite you or disappoint you and 1 Defense with 4 Hit Points show that Dúnhere can defend weak attacks, but not regularly. As I said at the beginning, this hero is a combat specialist. Not with only 2 Attack, but with +1 Attack, which he gets after attacking alone in the staging area. Okay, 3 Attack doesn’t look so embarrassing. I would say it’s a respectful portion for a Spirit hero. Let’s quickly analyze all enemies from the encounter deck you can meet in the Core set. There are overall 19 different enemies. 5 from them are tough and dangerous enemies with a high threat, Defense or big portion of Hit Points. Life of these creatures would Dúnhere cut for a long time, if ever. 14 enemies remain with maximum 5 Hit Points and 1-2 Defense so Dúnhere would kill them in 2 rounds at the latest. It seems that this hero can make a great job in the cleansing of the staging area (mainly for killing such scoundrels like Goblin Sniper, Wargs or Hummerhorns with a very deadly forced effect). However, 9 of these creatures have at the most 25 threat, so you very probably engage them during engagement checks before you can attack them first (if you don’t have a card like Quick Strike). That means after enemy engages you, Dúnhere’s ability isn’t valid anymore and you can attack that engaged enemy only for the default value of Attack. So you have to hold enemies in the staging area as long as you want to use Dúnhere’s ability properly. And that’s not easy at all because you would have to meet one of the following preconditions: 1) keeping your threat level very low, or 2) owning cards with the effect of returning enemies to the staging area (A Light in the Dark). You also have to count with the “side-effect” of keeping or returning enemies to the staging area – you should assure the sufficient Willpower to break the amount of threat of enemies in the staging area when you will be questing.
As you see above, Dúnhere is maybe the specialist in combat, but he needs the specific deck for working his ability properly. For maximizing his potential I strongly recommend some Attack-adjusting attachments (Dwarven Axe) or events (Blade Mastery). I read on forums some questions about interesting synergy Dúnhere–Unexpected Courage. I like this combo, however, remember that you cannot attack the same enemy twice during the same combat phase.
Well, after a couple of games with Dúnhere in monospheres deck, I wasn’t persuaded by his usefulness. On the contrary, he wasn’t somehow competitive, because enemies, which he could beat easily, have engaged me earlier than he even could attack (Misty Mountain Goblins, King Spider). And enemies, which have stayed in the staging area, were too invincible for him (Chieftan Ufthak, Dungeon Jailer). So, monosphere environment isn’t suitable for him. And in dual- or trisphere I would rather pick up other heroes than him. Dúnhere’s style of battling is… let’s say non-traditional. And you need a special deck for him in order to increase his usefulness.
Spirit sphere gives us its first ally, who is not “vanilla-ally” at all, on the contrary of the first Leadership (Guard of the Citadel) and Tactic ally (Veteran Axehand). We somehow sense that Spirit allies should play the main role in questing because actually whole Spirit sphere is specialized in questing. Is this premise true for Wandering Took?
2 cost for this Hobbit is a good start. Not expensive, ready to go into a play in first rounds. Now, the Willpower of this Spirit ally is amazing… 1? Huh, 1 Willpower for Spirit ally? That’s actually unexpected, we could expect value at least 2. Okay, let’s finish his stats. Number 1 is identical for Attack and Defense, only Hit Points show us value 2. Well, for 2 cost is Wandering Took decent average ally (with overall stats strength = OSS 5). Remember the same 2-cost Guard of the Citadel with 1-1-0-2 (OSS 4), and we have to admit that allies can have worse stats. Although Wandering Took doesn’t represent the Spirit sphere… sufficiently, he still doesn’t make a shame. He can’t do anything well, but at least 1 Defense and 2 Hit Points don’t automatically mean K.O.
Let’s move to Wandering Took’s action, which is interesting definitely. You can give control of Wandering Took to another player. You reduce your threat by 3 and raise 3 threat of player, who took your Took.:) Okay, I haven’t tell you that Spirit sphere is also master of threat control. We have another similar effect in Spirit sphere, like The Galadhrim’s Greeting, but this is the first ally, who can affect your and others threat. Sorry Wandering Took, you are really true Spirit ally, even without strong Willpower. We shouldn’t also forget on official FAQ, where this action was errata’d. You can use this action only Once per round. So forget the chain reaction, where 4 players would change control of Wandering Took among them multiple times in one round. You see that this action doesn’t make any sense in the solo game, where it doesn’t work. In 2 and more players it starts to be more interesting. Imagine a situation, where you hit some critical level of threat, for example 40. 40 engagement cost has Marsh Adder or very troublesome Hummerhorns with his horrible instant-kill-effect (in general). Your mate has threat level 36. You then are allowed to give control of Wandering Took to your mate, reduce your threat level to 37 and raise your friend’s threat level up to 39 at the same time. Therefore, you were saved from these creatures and even your friend won’t encounter them this round. Of course, this is an ideal situation. You could also have a lower threat level than your friend and it would be a question, if you can dare to reduce your threat level even lower, meanwhile another player would be fighting with a high threat level. It depends on the concrete situation, distribution of forces on the board and of course good timing – it is best to use this action after staging and before encountering when everything is set, but enemies are still waiting in the staging area.
Wandering Took’s action needs to be explained in some ways more in-depth (because you are not changing control of some ally every day, are you?).
1) When you change control of Wandering Took, from that moment he is controlled by the player, who took him “under his wings”. Any cards, which refers to “ally’s controller” (Valiant Sacrifice) means the player, who is controlling the Wandering Took now, not player, who initially have played him.
2) You can choose the potential Wandering Took’s new controller as you wish. Nothing like “player clockwise or counter-clockwise”.
3) If you change the control of Wandering Took during his defending, Wandering Took isn’t removed from the combat. He is still considered as a defender.
4) If you hand over Wandering Took to a player with threat level 47, you automatically sentence that player to “game over”.
5) Finally, the favourite one: when Wandering Took is discarded due to some effect, he goes to discard pile of his original owner, not of his present controller! This can be important because of cards like Will of the West.
As we can read above, Wandering Took has pretty interesting action, where you must know some details from rules in order to right playing. His action is useful to the extent, with which deck you are playing and what is your strategy so not every deck would welcome him. Stats are average, but from the Core Spirit sphere, you can’t choose from many allies. When more options are available, I’m glad to replace him with another ally. At least, his Hobbit trait makes him a little bit more valuable, when you get to some Hobbit-synergies.
Through forest comes to us mysterious second Spirit ally named Lórien Guide. Thumbs up for the faithful image with enigmatic atmosphere, I like it. Though I can’t say the same thing about the characteristics of this card.
If you get Lórien Guide to your hand, prepare for paying 3 Spirit resources. That’s a bunch of resources. For this cost, I would expect good stats and/or useful ability. We are reviewing the Spirit ally and yet the Willpower stat (only slight 1!) is more than under-average, as we have seen at Wandering Took. With 1 Attack you hardly send him to seal the combat with an enemy. And 0 Defense and 2 Hit Points is worse than average too. To be honest, with 3 cost it’s terrible stats. These stats owns Guard of the Citadel, who costs 1 resource less and I have considered him as an expensive ally! What then is this ally with 3 cost? I know, that 3 cost allies in Core set are not somehow strong or first-rate (Son of Arnor, Silverlode Archer), but at least the distribution of stats they have better than Lórien Guide. He is really at the level of Guard of the Citadel but with 1 cost higher, and in my point of view, that are wrong initial parameters.
What it could save, are traits (Silvan-synergy is going to appear, fortunately) and of course the ability. In this case, we are talking about response. When you send Lórien Guide to a quest, you place 1 progress token on the active location. What are you saying that? Is this ability worth for paying 3 cost for this ally with miserable stats? I don’t think so and I’ll explain why. First, you must commit this 1-Willpower ally to a quest, so again – character have to do something, for what he is not born from the view of stats. Second, you place only 1 progress token. Third, that progress token you can’t put anywhere you like, but only on the active location. Fourth, the active location is the least suitable target for placing progress token. Why? You surely welcome to have a choice of putting progress token. Active location or location in the staging area. Unfortunately, you have no choice, unlike Snowbourn Scout, with whom you can put progress token wherever you want (location) and for this variability of choice, you pay only 1 resource!
I can’t remember any situation, where the active location causes you deep trouble from the view of a big amount of quest points…
!SPOILER! actually, locations from future packs and expansions, like Impassable Bog or Dreadful Bog, could be that danger, for which should be Lórien Guide created. But if you get so far with your card pool, you will have better options in these times.
Well, after all, in some way, ability can serve to the limited extent as “location-lock” prevention. If threat amount in the staging area is so high, that you can’t overpower it by your Willpower Strength and you can’t get rid of the active location, yes, Lórien Guide is able to get you out from such mess. You would have to control 2-3 Lórien Guide at the same time to make it work well. 2-3 progress tokens to an active location in one round sound pretty nice. However, 2-3 Lórien Guide cost overall 6-9 resources! For such amount of resources, you can pay far better and more useful cards (for example 2 copies of Northern Tracker, who can cleanse the staging area from too many locations and help you from “location lock” very effectively).
Advice at the end of the review: let Lórien Guide be when you have a better option. It’s an awfully expensive and useless ally, with bad stats and questionable ability. Try him in a couple of games and you probably will agree with me. I’m sorry, Lórien Guide, you stay in my binder.
Northern Tracker. What an unexceptional name for an ally. But when we look at his cost and stats, we immediately find out that he is not common, chump-blocking ally. This is first and last Spirit ally from the Core set, which I would call as an “elite” – uncommon expensive ally with solid stats and/or great ability. Northern Tracker has both – solid stats and great ability. It’s a little bit odd that the Core Spirit sphere doesn’t offer us any unique ally, as we met in Leadership (Brok Ironfist) or Tactic sphere (Beorn). Actually, it wouldn’t make sense here, because Spirit sphere in Core set has only 3 kinds of allies and any unique ally would limit even this small number of allies.
Northern Tracker is a quite expensive ally – 4 cost for each Northern Tracker. But for that, we get the amazing bunch of stats: 1 Willpower, 2 Attack, 2 Defense and 3 Hit Points. It reminds me ally Faramir, who has very similar stats (2-1-2-3) and I have called him “half-hero” last time. Northern Tracker meets the parameters of half-hero as well. Damn, you can Attack good and you can defend VERY good. Confess you guys, you wouldn’t say that Northern Tracker is Spirit ally – with his stats he wouldn’t be lost even in the Tactic sphere.
But I astonish you twice: you will almost always commit Northern Tracker to a quest! But why, if he has tiny 1 Willpower? You know the answer: it’s because of his ability. Very, very powerful ability. His response tells us its story: “After Northern Tracker commits to a quest, place 1 progress token on each location in the staging area.” The funny thing is that ability is not far from the response of previous Lórien Guide, where I have quite mercilessly criticized it. The beginning is same: After ally commits to a quest, place 1 token… Putting 1 progress token to exactly given place (locations)? I’m not overwhelmed by it. But Northern Tracker’s ability is much, much powerful version of that from Lórien Guide. You place 1 progress token on each location in the staging area. You read well and no, don’t search in official FAQ for errata for Northern Tracker – there isn’t any errata for this card (at least today). Also, no unique symbol is present, so 2 copies of Northern Tracker in a game are able to generate 2 progress tokens to each location in the staging area during 1 round (3 Northern Tracker on the board has very minimal probability to appear). With that, every location in the staging area would be discarded in a few rounds. Brown Lands or Necromancer’s Pass won’t be a menace for you anymore. You have also discovered the answer on “location-lock”, feared situation in the staging area. Northern Tracker prevents any location-lock. It’s a fantastic effect, which you utilize in many scenarios, mainly in heavy-locations scenarios. Just remember: when you have explored the location, any effect connected with explored location triggers in the same way as if you explore that location in the classic way (Mountains of Mirkwood).
Northern Tracker has a very positive reputation in the community, even though he costs 4 resources. This is a necessary payment for the almost clear staging area. You will pay this cost because the feedback is incredibly strong. And when you don’t have anything to clear, you may use his great stats for attacking or defending. What a marvelous Spirit ally!
Core Spirit sphere has a very limited number of allies, but as for the events we have a great choice. Total 9 Spirit events can enrich our Spirit decks and The Galadhrim’s Greeting (what a complicated name :)) is our first Spirit event, which I’m going to review.
First Spirit event and straight 3 cost – it could astonish us. 3 cost isn’t low payment so I would expect some quite influential effect. We get the action, which causes the reducing threat of one player by 6 or the reducing threat of two players by 2. Well, the reducing threat is one of the most useful effects in a game, because you are fighting not only with enemies, locations, and treacheries but also with the constant danger in form of increasing your threat level. The higher threat level you have, the worse consequences you should expect. The Galadhrim’s Greeting moves your threat level back significantly – if you choose the first option. This event shines undoubtedly in the solo environment. In multiplayer games you are standing before a little bit arguable decision: reduce the threat of one player by 6 or globally reduce the threat of all players in the game, but by a much lower value of 2? I wouldn’t pay 3 cost for reducing 2 threat (although for each player). Globally every player can enjoy the effect of this event, but only for 2 rounds at the most. I think that reducing 2 threat for 3 cost doesn’t worth it in any case. Maybe in some extremely rare situation when all players have threat level 49 you could play The Galadhrim’s Greeting in this manner. Otherwise, I estimate that in 90 % of cases you will choose the first option. Reducing 6 threat for 3 cost is more than good trade-off, even better than playing Gandalf for 5 cost and reducing your threat by 5.
!SPOILER! This card is a great help for decks, which try to keep threat level as low as possible. For example Secrecy decks, which you start to build with next expansion, Khazad-Dúm, or on the contrary for the decks, which somehow works with the threat by increasing it in exchange for some effect (Boromir, who ready yourself by increasing threat by 1), therefore threat accelerates faster than normal.
But you needn’t include The Galadhrim’s Greeting to the deck due to some special strategy. In Journey Along the Anduin, you very quickly face the challenge, how to beat the main antagonist Hill Troll. Hitting 30 threat means this giant comes to you and starts to devastate your defending lines. So it is quite needful to delay the 30 threat until that you are prepared for fighting with Hill Troll. The Galadhrim’s Greeting is the best way, at least in the Core set, how to keep the Hill Troll in safe distance from you for a sufficient time. Finally, keep in mind of one “rule-detail” – it’s not legal to use this event after you hit 50 threat. When this happens, it’s game over immediately.
Threat reduction is desired aspect of any game and The Galadhrim’s Greeting excellently embodies this kind of useful effect. For me, it’s a little bit schizophrenic card, because either you can use it in amazing form, or in poor form, all for the same cost. If I could reduce 3 threat of each player, then I would stand before the interesting dilemma, which effect I should choose, because “3 for 3” is a good trade-off. However, we must accept the real form of this event. Then I recommend you to use this card only in order to the reducing 6 threat of one player and simply forget that you have another option at all.
Silhouettes of characters are slowly walking to the top of the snowy peak of a mountain, while a blizzard rages around. They are maybe on the brink of strength, yet the peak is not far and can be reached. In this crucial moment, the Strength of Will is necessarily needed. With that, you can reach impossible.
No, I don’t describe you the journey of Edmund Hillary on Mt. Everest, but the thematic image of the new Spirit event called Strength of Will. For playing this card with a very nice illustration you won’t pay anything. It’s free cost. You will use this card after you travel to any location. At that moment you may exhaust one Spirit character and place 2 progress tokens on that location. It reminds me of some cards, like Rain of Arrows, where before you can trigger this effect, you have to fulfill some preconditions. In this case, count with two (actually three): travel to a location and exhaust character, which in addition must be from Spirit sphere. It’s hard with this type of cards – it prevents you to use it universally and in any case, you have to wait for a proper moment, time and conditions, then you may play that card. Don’t understand me wrong, I don’t think that these cards are crap in general. If their effect and cost are reasonable, I don’t have any problem to go along with it. Especially at Strength of Will, I would accept it without reservation, if the effect was a little bit modified. But we are not living in the perfect world and we can’t want to just perfect cards.
Let’s look at it closer and analyze it piecewise. First, after you travel to a location. The easy part, you should just wait on a travel phase and watch for a moment, when you travel to any location. For myself, I would skip this precondition entirely and directly go to the second part: exhaust a Spirit character. Thematically I understand this precondition: who else should find the strength of will than Spirit character? Practically, you are limited by the number of available Spirit character. I think that Eleanor would be the great target for Strength of Will because you won’t use her ability every round. Then she becomes unused and you are free to use her for this effect. From allies, Wandering Took can also serve as a suitable target. If you do this, then you get to the final effect: place 2 progress tokens on that location. Here I can imagine better effect, to be honest. Placing 2 progress tokens wouldn’t be bad if you at least can avoid the traveling effect of some locations (Necromancer’s Pass or Great Forest Web). Placing 2 progress tokens on active location without triggering of traveling effect would be undoubtedly useful. Nevertheless, such effect Strength of Will misses. I also would welcome the possibility of choice, if I can place these 2 progress tokens anywhere.
Lórien Guide is more or less character version of Strength of Will, yet you have to count with 3 cost at Spirit ally and with this event, you won’t pay any single resource. This is the main advantage of Strength of Will. Because of the writing of this review, I couldn’t resist and I have played a couple of games with this event, how it works in practice. I must admit that this event helped me during traveling to some locations (for example, Enchanted Stream and so I got rid of 2 threat in the staging area for free). Still, I noticeably felt the necessity of use Strength of Will on other locations with higher threats and/or worse traveling effect (Necromancer’s Pass). However, I had to choose between two “evils” – triggering the traveling effect of the location or let it be in the staging area and somehow manage the threat of that location in the next quest phase. Therefore I think that including this event depends on the presence of suitable locations, which you meet in a scenario.
This review is going to be the tough one. The benefit of this card is so evident and straightforward that no misunderstanding can appear. Hasty Stroke belongs to key cards, which you should have in your arsenal if you decide to build any Spirit deck. With it, sooner or later you find out that it makes your life a lot easier.
1 cost for Hasty Stroke is very good in itself. The amazing response of this event fits on one and half line. It can’t be clearer – you cancel a shadow effect just triggered during combat. As you surely know, the shadow effects are the unpredictable element of surprise (or shock). You can use tactics against enemies facing you and/or your friends and make up some genius plan. But without knowing or foreseeing of shadow cards every plan is able to fail. Your enemies can get +X Attack, discard your attachments or allies, exhaust in addition X number of your characters and other very annoying effects. In extreme cases, shadow cards are able to ruin your game completely. So any element to control shadow cards is welcomed. Although Hasty Stroke doesn’t give you any knowledge about shadow cards, it doesn’t need it. Because it cancels them entirely. When you reveal such shadow effect, which has the potential to destroy your plans, you pull out Hasty Stroke as an ideal shield, which protects you.
In time, you discover other cards with very usable “shadow-control” effects.
!SPOILER! For example, from the allies, Dúnedain Watcher and Rider of the Mark, from events Dawn Take You All, and from the attachments, you surely fall in love with mighty Burning Brand.
But Hasty Stroke is first of its kind and the most universal. Everything you need is to possess Spirit deck or at least the ability to play Spirit cards. Then you can go to rest and wait in peace for the possible nasty shadow effect, which you can cancel, as it is revealed.
One danger may occur if you hold this darling in your hand. The worst thing, which can happen to you, is canceling wrong or unsuitable shadow effect. If you reveal any more dangerous and troublesome shadow effect and you have already “depleted” your Hasty Stroke, then you should scold yourself for not waiting for a better opportunity for playing this event. For preventing this situation you have to know the content of the encounter deck perfectly. Some shadow cards have just unimpressive and quite harmless effects (Iron Shackles or Misty Mountain Goblins I would wish to get as shadow cards), while others I look out for pretty nervously (King Spider or Driven by Shadow go away, please).
There is nothing more to say about Hasty Stroke. I can’t make up any idea, why you should NOT include this card in your Spirit deck. Maybe for a bigger challenge? Then good luck: any heavy-shadow-card scenario causes you the true nightmare.
On scene comes an event, which I don’t know much. I would almost say that I have forgotten this card if I didn’t write the review about all player cards. Why Will of the West doesn’t belong to an important element of our decks?
Don’t search for a reason in cost, because 1 cost can’t harm you. Rather read the action: “Choose a player. Shuffle that player’s discard pile back into his deck.” Moreover, add the official errata ”Remove Will of the West from the game.” In this case, errata doesn’t hurt this card somehow significantly, because there will be very few occasions to play it more than once. However, remember that eventually another played Will of the West won’t return the previous played Will of the West back to your deck, because it doesn’t sleep in your discard pile but out of the play, where you can’t interact with it anymore.
The recycling of cards from your or another discard pile isn’t futile effect – some great events, allies or attachments deserve their glowing moments multiple times. In the previous review, we have talked about Hasty Stroke, and in the next review, A Test of Will is waiting for us. All these cards are so special for their effects that returning them to a play would be very helpful. In Spirit sphere, we have another event with similar effect, but far more practical – Dwarven Tomb. You may choose any Spirit card and return it to your hand. But why I should return it with whole discard pile because of one Spirit card? I aim this question on Will of the West. Why should I give you my preference and what are you good for?
I’ll stop pretending that the task of Will of the West is returning one specific card back. Not at all, you play it because of returning the whole pack of cards. Some of them are valuable for you more, some of them less, but if you have already played all copies of A Test of Will or Hasty Stroke, why you shouldn’t use their services again, with some other good cards? The tricky part lies in digging through the deck to wished cards. If you haven’t some draw-card effects, then you must wait and hope for a good draw.
When I have touched the draw-card effect, this is exactly situation or kind of strategy, where Will of the West takes an important role. Beravor, Valiant Sacrifice, Gléowine, Lórien’s Wealth – all these cards cause thinning of your deck and with sufficient amount of resources you are throwing one card for another. You know it, events go to the discard pile, some allies don’t survive, and occasionally some encounter card coerces you to discard attachment or even discard cards from your hands. “Chimney” of your discard piles slowly grows, some significantly super cards are gone and you have to “restart” your deck. Now is the chance for a bit shining moment to play Will of the West. Though after triggering of its effect you must remove Will of the West from the game, your pack of cards is back and you can start from the beginning. And don’t forget that heroes can’t return by this effect, because “hero cards in the discard pile are ignored, as hero cards cannot move to a player’s hand or deck.”
It is very clear that you play this event in the late game. Playing it during early or mid game, when your discard pile is slim like a model, is waste of Will of the West.
!SPOILER! For more experienced players, you surely meet some scenarios, where your deck is “endangered species.” Remember on Return to Mirkwood and treachery called Wasted Provisions. Discarding 10 cards (or 5 from shadow effect) is pretty “thieving” effect. Will of the West is able to negate the effect of Wasted Provisions and return all back, where it belongs.
In my point of view, Will of the West takes its place either in special decks or in specific scenarios (there isn’t much of them). It returns cards in a “big style”. You nevertheless have to get the good cards back from a fresh new deck to your hands and I don’t see it as an easy task. Finally, you must wait to a late game, when your discard pile is fulfilled of cards. But it is greater probability you win or lose the game earlier than the proper moment for Will of the West comes.
If you don’t include this card into your deck, then you will probably lose. If you include this card into your deck, you will probably win. What is it? Some super-card in LOTR LCG universe? Do such card really exist? My answer is… unfortunately NO. But A Test of Will, and you should remember this name, is very close to meaning “the best and most powerful”. Steward of Gondor was King among the attachments and A Test of Will plays the same role among events. You can believe it or not, condemn my words as too presumptuous. But the truth is that A Test of Will is able to save your entire game. Many times. Trust me.:)
Okay, if I haven’t convinced you about the usefulness of A Test of Will, then skip this praises and let’s jump to the analyzing of effect. A Test of Will has a response. It cancels “when revealed” effects of just revealed card from the encounter deck. The important words are “from the encounter deck.” I have totally missed this text and have used it even for quest cards, what is absolutely wrong. You cannot cancel for example revealing encounter cards per player (Ambush on the Shore from Journey Along the Anduin).
Otherwise, I admire you can cancel “when revealed” effect from any encounter cards: enemies, locations and of course treacheries. Treacheries are the most frequent targets for playing A Test of Will because they are just the most dangerous and unpredictable type of encounter cards. In my point of view, Core treacheries are only tasting of what will really come in other adventure packs and expansions. However, treacheries like The Necromancer’s Reach, Pursued by Shadow or Eyes of the Forest belong to cards, which you don’t want to encounter. You can raise an objection that Eleanor is able to cancel treacheries as well, so this event is not so special. But as I have said in Eleanor’s own review, she has two disadvantages: 1) you can cancel with her only “when revealed” effect of treacheries, and 2) you must replace that discarded card by revealing of another card. A Test of Will hasn’t any disadvantage or inconvenient precondition, except “one-time effect” – when you cancel “when revealed” effect, it’s gone. Well, if you have got Dwarven Tomb, you may take it from the discard pile and use it again. What else Eleanor can’t manage, is canceling effects from enemies (Ungoliant’s Spawn, King Spider), eventually locations (but no location from Core set is possessed by “when revealed” effect). With Eleanor, you are vulnerable to this kind of cards. Not so with A Test of Will.
There are overall so many “when revealed” effects that I guarantee you will welcome this event as salvation with each next adventure pack and expansion. Effects, which are able to tear apart your plans and armies, can be stopped by A Test of Will. And this event doesn’t get older even these days. Its usage is so universal, simple and powerful that I can hardly imagine to play the Spirit deck without A Test of Will. I won’t say anything more… the acts speak for this card.
Previous cards set a high standard. Next card, called Stand and Fight, attempts to gain our attention as well. Will this event stand in competition with other Spirit event? Remember this question, because at the end of the review I will come back to it.
X-cost for Stand and Fight is interesting, variable value. It depends on you, how strong this event can be. This presumption is, of course, valid for each X-cost cards, so we can assess the strength of Stand and Fight after reading the action: “Choose an ally with a printed cost of X in any player’s discard pile. Put that ally into a play under your control (The chosen ally can belong to any sphere of influence).” Because of pretty long game text let’s analyze it in parts.
1) Choose an ally with a printed cost of X in any player’s discard pile… The first sentence of this effect answers, for what is good the X-cost of this event. Do you want to “resurrect” Gondorian Spearman or Wandering Took? Pay 2 resources for this card. Or do you want to play again with brawlers like Longbeard Orc Slayer or Northern Tracker? Pay 4 resources. As you see, I intentionally mention allies from different spheres. Why? Just wait, I’ll get to it in a couple of rows. It’s a quite important aspect of this card. Now we just have to note, that you can return ally from any discard pile. The possibilities of Stand and Fight expand a lot with this text. In this rare case, you are allowed to interact with the discard pile of anyone else and take any ally you choose. Almost “any” (I will explain it in a while as well :)). So in practice, if your deck lacks some attacker, defender or quester, you can resolve it by Stand and Fight, which pull out the chosen ally from the chosen discard pile. It offers you to use tactics more and cover your weaknesses to some extent.
2) Put that ally into a play under your control. When you choose your or other’s ally, you put him under your control. You are allowed to quest with him, attack with him, defend with him and, of course, use his actions. Encounter cards, which refers to “ally you control”, are concerned for him too. But technically, you are only his controller, not his owner. So when that ally would be discarded, put him in discard pile of his original owner. Read the rulebook, page 25: …“A player “controls” all cards that he owns, unless another player or the encounter deck takes control of the card through a game effect. Any time a card leaves play, it reverts to its owner’s hand, deck, or discard pile…”
3) The chosen ally can belong to any sphere of influence. Finally, I can explain the allies mentioned above. The best thing about Stand and Fight appears in a moment of choosing ally itself. You can choose ally from any sphere of influence: Spirit, Tactic, Leadership or Lore. So for paying Spirit resources, you are able to command for example mighty Beorn or Brok Ironfist. Alas, there is one exception, which doesn’t allow you to put allies into a game by Stand and Fight – according to official FAQ all Neutral allies are outside from reach of this event, because “…as neutral cards do not belong to “any sphere”. I know that this limitation hasn’t avoided the displeasure of some players in the community, because returning Gandalf from discard pile would be a veeery desired effect. But rules are set and calling Gandalf into the game by Stand and Fight would be the illegal action.
Ok, I return back to my earlier question – will this event stand in competition with other Spirit event? I think…yes, absolutely. Though its effect doesn’t influence the whole way of the game to such extent as A Test of Will or Hasty Stroke, Stand and Fight proves to be useful, flexible event. You can “resurrect” almost any ally from any “graveyard” (using in the slang of Magic the Gathering) for fighting on your side, what is a great effect. You should not forget this card in your card pool, because it doesn’t deserve it.
At the beginning I’m telling to you: “Expect something new, what we haven’t met until now.” Some new way, how to manipulate with the encounter cards. What new can offer us A Light in the Dark, when have got a couple of amazing Spirit events before?
If you were habituated to pay for Spirit events from 0 to 1 resource (excepting The Galadhrim’s Greeting for 3 cost), then you should accept a little bit more expensive event, to be more precise 2 cost. It’s odd, but this is the first Spirit event for such cost. It has an action, which allows you to choose the enemy engaged with any player. Then you return the chosen enemy back to the staging area. So we have here the more costly version of Tactic Feint – both events prevent the engaged enemy to attack you or your friends, what is cool because you are able to help any player, who needs to pull out of trouble. I consider this card as very suitable for multiplayer games.
But the way, which A Light in the Dark chooses to solve this problem, is different from Feint. When an enemy engages you, you won’t command him to “stop attack!” as Feint does, but you do it in a more evasive way – by moving enemy back to staging area. Well, you can get rid off some troublesome foe like Hill Troll or Ungoliant’s Spawn for at least one round and prepare yourself in next round. However, I bet that you immediately realize the one main problem, which accompanies A Light in the Dark. Threat strength in the staging area will be increased by the amount of moved enemy. That is not a trivial issue. If you return for example mentioned Ungoliant’s Spawn to the staging area, prepare to somehow boost your Willpower Strength at least by 5. You should use this event in a moment when you have a sufficient amount of Willpower in order to avoid failure during questing. If you run Spirit deck, then this assumption is expected. But you know… the game rarely is going according to the plan. So universal using of this event is at least arguable.
However, I know one hero, who can profit from A Light in the Dark. I would even say he makes a combo with this card. Dúnhere has a special ability to attack enemies in the staging area, moreover, he gains +1 Attack. You can try to think up strategy with returning enemies back to the staging area, where Dúnhere is able to fight with them and strike them down. It is recommended to include some Attack boosting cards like Blade Mastery or Blade of Gondolin, then combo Dúnhere + A Light in the Dark could work.
In my point of view, A Light in the Dark is one of the weakest Spirit event in Core set (if I don’t count Will of the West and Strength of Will). Playing this card needs to combine it with proper strategy (Dúnhere) or ensure your Willpower Strength. In the second (and other) case, returning enemy to the staging area is not a big advantage. You evade the fight, but instead of it, the enemy threatens you in the staging area. In a critical moment, A Light in the Dark can save you. But rather don’t rely on it, or you make your problem somewhere else.
How to describe in at least 450 words the effect of the event, which is even clearer than Hasty Stroke or A Test of Will? Maybe I should make the exception and satisfy with any length of this review. You will see that effect of Dwarven Tomb, the eighth Spirit event in the order, is primitively easy.
For 1 little cost, you play event with action, which enables you to return 1 Spirit card from your discard pile to your hand. The game text ends here. How to analyze it more?:) Well, you surely remember event Stand and Fight, which has a very similar effect – returning card (ally) from discard pile into a play. Three differences occur between both events: 1) from which discard pile you return a card, 2) place, where a card returns, and 3) to which sphere of influence the given card belongs. On the contrary of Stand and Fight, with Dwarven Tomb you must give up the idea of “resurrection” of card from any discard pile and you can aim only the Spirit cards. It doesn’t matter, however – it is compensated by freedom of choosing any kind of Spirit card. You need ally, event or attachment? Just pick anything you want and need. That’s the power of Dwarven Tomb. Otherwise, chosen Spirit card won’t return directly into a play, as we are used to it at Stand and Fight, but into your hands. To play it you have to pay the proper cost for the chosen card again. This understandable effect can’t surprise us, because everything else (like putting chosen card directly into a play) would break a game balance and make Dwarven Tomb absurdly overpowered. Note, that there exists one kind of Spirit cards, which Dwarven Tomb can’t resurrect in any case – heroes. If you lose Éowyn, Eleanor or Dúnhere, Dwarven Tomb won’t help you to get them back, because heroes are only cards, which stay in your discard pile no matter if you play Dwarven Tomb or Will of the West. For resurrecting of heroes we must look for very specialized cards and in Core set, we meet only one – Fortune or Fate.
I am very very, very unhappy with one aspect connected with Dwarven Tomb, and it has nothing to do with its effect. In a single Core set, you will find only one Dwarven Tomb. No more. This violent limitation is nonsense because one copy of such an important card in the whole deck is just lost. And if you want to include Dwarven Tomb into some sort of strategy, then you have to get more Core sets. Magnificent effect of Dwarven Tomb will otherwise become the work of a “happy accident”. Because of that, you may decide to leave aside Dwarven Tomb and pick something less glamorous, but mainly in more copies and with greater chance to get it into your hands. And I see it as a great shame. which reduces indisputable usefulness of this nice event.
“Damn, not again, please! I have lost a hero!” Maybe you have experienced it many times. You are planning, counting, thinking, pretending and hoping that you won’t pull out from the encounter deck some feared card. But it comes. Some nasty treachery, enemy or shadow effect pops up from the encounter deck and causes the death of your hero. It hurts. It always hurts. Primarily if the end is within range. Loss of hero very commonly shatters your plans in bases and affects your entire game unchangeably. Oftentimes it is followed by a quick game over or your surrender. Can anything prevent or save your hero and therefore save your game? Prevention is a little bit more complicated because it demands some sort of anticipation, which consists of good knowledge of your deck, the encounter deck and played scenario, and good orientation on the board. However, the rescue of a hero from the discard pile is a more straightforward way, how to get your important character back to action. But how can you manage it, if Dwarven Tomb or Stand and Fight haven’t such power to do it? Only some “elite-event” is able to “touch” your hero and make him alive again. You may be shocked that you won’t find such an event in the Lore sphere, known for healing abilities and where I would personally search for it. No, Spirit sphere gives us an event called Fortune or Fate.
As the proper “elite-card” you should be prepared for paying many resources. In this case save 5 Spirit resources in order to play Fortune or Fate, because that’s how much it will cost you a hero resurrection. And unlike Grim Resolve or Beorn’s Hospitality, which can help you a lot, but it hasn’t any permanent effect, saving a hero has a deep impact on the game, in positive meaning. Of course, it doesn’t save you before losing another hero. But if a game develops in a way, where you are losing heroes one by one, then the game has been already broken and you probably won’t prevent your defeat.
You choose the player, who put hero from his discard pile back under owner’s control. In other words, back to the game. This is the action of Fortune or Fate and I will discuss its effect more deeply. The good news is, you can choose a hero from any discard pile. So as Stand and Fight, Fortune or Fate is the good buddy in the multiplayer environment and helps in an unselfish way. One interesting fact implies from Fortune or Fate: it answers to all uncertain players, where you should put your hero. Remove him from the game? Not at all. He belongs to discard pile, though in common circumstances you can’t return him back (Will of the West). Another good news, or rather recommendation, is the timing of Fortune or Fate. If you lose your hero, it is in your interest to get him back into the game as soon as possible. Don’t wait for the next round. If a hero falls during the combat phase, call him at the end of the combat phase or at least during the refresh phase. It’s simply because of getting new resource during the resource phase.
Do you think up some bad news about Fortune or Fate? I don’t, but some hardcore players can raise an objection: “if you include to your deck card, which returns your hero back to the game, then something wrong is with your strategy.” You should definitely avoid losing a hero, by all means, that’s the thing all players agree on. And if you have really lost a hero, then you have made a mistake somewhere. OR you have become a victim of unhappy coincidence, where the encounter deck has played very harshly. Even the best plans can be ruined by powerful combos, which can the encounter deck pour out.
Is the including of Fortune or Fate into a deck sin, pointlessness or true help? Well, I won’t lie to you that in many cases this “elite-event” with 5 cost becomes in your hands “dead card” – just redundant card with no real usage. However, have you played all these hard-to-beat scenarios? For example Escape from Dol Guldur? Or another, even tougher scenario?
!SPOILER! Hello Balrog from Shadow and Flame! You shall not pass!!!
I don’t consider Fortune or Fate as pointlessness, redundancy or even cowardice. This costly event doesn’t belong to every scenario you play – but in scenarios with high difficulty, it is able to save your ass. Include it in the sideboard. You may need its help.
We have finally reviewed all Spirit allies and events in order to get to the last type of player cards, attachments. We can enjoy 3 Spirit attachments and the first, which comes to our sight is The Favor of the Lady.
The first Spirit attachment costs 2 and has no Restricted word. Majority of attachments in the Core set has printed this word, which means some sort of limitation. So good point here. You can attach it only to a hero and the main effect fits in 5 words: Attached hero gains +1 Willpower. No less or more. The effect is so obvious that I will take it more widely. In Spirit sphere, you rely on strength of Willpower, effect cancellation, generating progress tokens, replaying cards and working with discard pile. However, the key specialty from all of these specific abilities is strength and boosting of Willpower. The Favor of the Lady meets the requirements “to be the proper Spirit card.“ However, if you get for 2 cost only +1 Willpower, isn’t something wrong? You surely wouldn’t use for example Dwarven Axe, if the text in brackets about bigger boosting of Dwarf character didn’t exist. Then I ask politely, why I have got a more expensive card than it really deserves? It confuses me a bit, it looks like Willpower is something more valuable than Attack or Defense. If so, then I haven’t understood, why Celebrían’s Stone costs same as The Favor of the Lady, but adds +2 Willpower and moreover favours in some way Aragorn? I’m sorry, but I haven’t answer for you.
!SPOILER! And it won’t be the last time we meet this odd phenomenon. Dúnedain Quest looks like the copy of The Favor of the Lady, but in Leadership version. On the contrary, Dúnedain Mark and Dúnedain Warning cost 1 resource less, for the same amount of the stat boost.
If you decide to give a chance to this attachment after all, which hero will welcome it at most? Generally, who commits to a quest. I would boost preferentially heroes with little Willpower, who specializes in questing – for example Thalin and Théodred. Sending them on the quest with 2 Willpower is value, for which they needn’t be ashamed. But if you want to boost someone like Éowyn, don’t hesitate too much and make from her even better quester.
I feel that searching for any positives of this attachment is a quite difficult task for me because I’m not a big fan of The Favor of the Lady. When you own only Core set, you haven’t many options in deckbuilding, so you surely won’t avoid the testing this card because of limited possibilities. However, I rather recommend you to save your resources for something more useful and replace The Favor of the Lady as soon as possible.
I hate to say it, but after one pretty weak Spirit attachment our second Spirit attachment called Power in the Earth is downright bad. Maybe the worst attachment in the whole Core set. It’s shame that after very good events from Spirit sphere and some good allies we must suffer from horrible attachments.
The best thing on this card is probably the mysterious picture. Watch the picture carefully, because you apparently won’t have many opportunities to admire it. Power in the Earth has 1 cost, so at least playing this won’t hurt you so much. Unlike the majority of attachments you don’t attach this card to heroes or allies, but to a location, what is the pretty rarity in LOTR LCG. And what happens with chosen location, when you attached it by Power in the Earth? It loses 1 Threat Strength and because we are talking about attachment, it’s the permanent effect. At least until some moment, I’m going to explain it later. Getting -1 Threat Strength is a very insignificant effect, it weakens a location in staging area minimally. In practice, you almost don’t distinguish any difference. It may work accumulatively – with the maximum of 3 copies of Power in the Earth, Threat Strength of one location can be reduced by 3. Not bad, imagine Necromancer’s Pass or Gladden Fields, which contribute no Threat Strength in the staging area, so you can ignore them during the whole game. And if you somehow explore the attached location, you can take Power in the Earth from discard pile due to the ability of Erebor Hammersmith.
It all sounds quite interestingly. But I was talking about the advantages of this attachment only in theory. How often have you got 3 copies of Power in the Earth at the same time? What is the probability of using combo Power in the Earth and Erebor Hammersmith? And is really Power in the Earth worth for Hammersmith’s ability? Isn’t better to just increase your own Willpower Strength to overcome Threat Strength in staging area?
Reducing Threat Strength isn’t a bad thing by itself, I really believe that this effect might be good… if it were taken for the right end. After changing Power in the Earth into something more powerful, like “location gets -2 Threat Strength”, “location gets –X, where X is the number of players”, or in the ideal world “Threat Strength of attached location is 0,” then I would say “it is worth for trying this card.” I wouldn’t be angry with the higher cost of such adjusted attachment. However, Power in the Earth reduces Threat Strength of location by 1 and that’s just awfully small value. In the Lore sphere, we discover event-version of this effect, called Secret Paths. And though it is only one-time matter, the significance of Secret Paths is far distant from Power in the Earth. This attachment can’t compete with anything else. Everything you add to your Spirit deck is better than Power in the Earth.
Are you unhappy with what you got for Spirit attachments until now? You might be, but fortunately, the last Spirit attachment saves the good reputation of this sphere and brings us the ace among all attachments, Unexpected Courage.
I introduce you Unexpected Courage very briefly: it has 2 cost, it can attach only to heroes and has an action, which allows you to ready the attached hero. I want to tell you about this card many things, which you should realize and remember. In my opinion, the readying character is the most desired effect in LOTR LCG at all. Yes, we have excellent cards with amazing effects, like Feint or immortal A Test of Will, the great support for resource-generation Steward of Gondor, powerful Willpower booster Celebrían’s Stone or quick summoning of allies in critical moment Sneak Attack. Steward of Gondor is the god-like card at the beginning of the game, but somehow redundant in the late game, where you don’t know, how to utilize all these resources, if you miss cards in your hands. Celebrían’s Stone is perfect attachment, but with good Willpower-army, especially in Spirit sphere, it is something extra, what you actually needn’t have. Sneak Attack creates super-combo with Gandalf, but in combination with other “common” allies, its effect is disputable. And Feint and A Test of Will are super-events only in specific situations – during combat or revealing encounter card with “when revealed” effect. On the contrary of all these cards, the Unexpected Courage has the most versatile effect, with which you can meet. Readying a hero is good from many, many reasons, it is not the coincidence that in the majority of other reviews you read still one recommendation, which is repeated like some kind of almighty mantra: use Unexpected Courage. Do you have a problem with questing, attacking or defending? Use Unexpected Courage. Do you need to use some ability of hero and after that use him for another action? Use Unexpected Courage. Do you await from encounter deck some troublesome treachery, which punishes exhausted characters, like The Necromancer’s Reach or something worse? Use Unexpected Courage. Do you need to neutralize annoying Condition like Caught in a Web? Use Unexpected Courage. Do you…
We can think up a bunch of different situations, where Unexpected Courage saves a day. Or at least, makes your game more pleasant and it doesn’t matter if you play solo or multiplayer. Everyone can profit from Unexpected Courage because you are not limited by additions like “hero you control.” And the hero, who needs it at most, can obtain Unexpected Courage from anyone. If I emphasize some heroes from Core set, who serve as great targets for Unexpected Courage, I mention Aragorn, Beravor, Gimli, Legolas, Denethor, Glorfindel, and some others. Generally, you should attach it to universal, multifunctional heroes with good, non-specific stats (Aragorn, Gimli), or on the contrary to some heroes with specific tasks (Legolas), or heroes with special abilities, which you can repeat or you welcome that heroes in other roles (Beravor, Denethor).
One of the best Core cards has the same weakness as for example the great Dwarven Tomb. Either satisfy with only one copy of Unexpected Courage or buy another Core set. Maybe this limitation is understandable here, because Unexpected Courage has such super-effect, that in more copies in single set it might be too overpowered. Some players from the community consider this attachment as really overpowered card, which “deserves” errata: for example unique symbol or limit “one in the whole deck.” I can’t agree with such opinions, I think that Unexpected Courage works well in a way it is designed. Even Unexpected Courage isn’t immune against some troubles from encounter cards (discarding-attachment effects) and can be used only once per action, the exhausting of Unexpected Courage “protects” the balance of the game.
When I look at heroes from Spirit sphere, it raises the conflicting feelings in me. On the one hand, we get the queen of questing, Éowyn, which is just unbeatable regarding the Willpower strength. Thanks to her attribute she becomes in Spirit sphere almost essential, “auto-included” in a deck. Then we get Eleanor, hero, who is undoubtedly very useful, she has interesting and helpful ability to cancelling effects of treacheries. Yet she doesn’t reach such level of popularity as Éowyn, she stays in her shadow. It is also because of her under-average stats, which doesn’t worth it too much. And finally, Dúnhere tries to gain our attention by the uncommon ability, which enables him to attack enemies in the staging area. No offense, Dúnhere, I think you can do good work if you have somehow boosted attack through effects of attachments or events (because 3 Attack isn’t still hit parade). But you work too specifically and in addition in some chosen scenarios. I bet that you won’t let enemies from some scenarios in the staging area, not even because of Dúnhere. Why? Because scenario can be designed in such a way, for which the intentional leaving of enemies in the staging area could mean very unpleasant consequences for you. In these cases, classic engaging of enemies can be a more viable way, how to deal with given scenario, but you need a capable attacker. And Dúnhere is not a capable attacker, if combat takes place in your engagement area, he has too average stats, unfortunately. Also, too many enemies, which Dúnhere could seriously hurt or kill, engage you before you could attack into the staging area, because of their low engagement cost.
From this point of view, in Core set you definitely will use Éowyn, with other heroes I am not so sure. They are scenario-depended, but certainly, they are not universal heroes for any situation. So I evaluate Core heroes as the unbalanced group of characters, where one rules, others take a back seat.
The almost identical situation, as at heroes, occurs at Spirit allies. The difference lies just in one thing – one of the allies isn’t scenario-depended or hasn’t some specific abilities. He is just as bad as it is. Now I’m talking about Lórien Guide, the dead ally from the very beginning, with odd ability, which is in addition “crowned” by absurdly expensive cost. Sorry, I won’t pay 3 cost for 1-1-0-2 (that is stats of Guard of the Citadel for 2 cost!) and for ability, which allows me to put single progress token on the active location. With little skills and experiences, you should be able to generate a sufficient number of progress tokens to explore active location completely, even without the ability of Lórien Guide. Wandering Took is an average ally, not bad and not awesome if you include him to your deck. For 2 cost you get good, average stats, which doesn’t excel in any way. And ability can be useful in multiplayer games, in solo games it’s like Wandering Took hasn’t any ability. So no winner, no loser. On the other hand, Northern Tracker will take your breath away. 4 cost, in this case, doesn’t play any role, because the ability is just superb. And I wonder why it hasn’t got an errata or at least it hasn’t got the unique symbol. 2-3 Northern Trackers are whopping cleaners of locations in the staging area, they haven’t any competitors in this discipline.
I don’t remember the time when Lórien Guide was in my deck. Maybe in the beginning, because you lack wide choices and you are glad for ANY Spirit ally in the Core set environment. Wandering Took is an ally of the kind like “yeah, why not, I haven’t better 2-cost Spirit ally for now.” And Northern Tracker knows my decks very well because he very often appears in them. So again, unbalanced choice of Spirit allies is awaiting us in Core set.
Among Spirit events belong the most important cards, which provide us a big portion of control over the game. Just because of some of them it is really hard to run a game without Spirit deck. The absolute top is incomparable A Test of Will, event cancelling the “when revealed” effects. This card sometimes decides about your winning or losing, without exaggeration. Very similar influencing event Hasty Stroke is also a very powerful card, which on the other hand decides about life or death of your characters by cancelling shadow effects. Then we surely include some copy of The Galadhrim’s Greetings specializing in decreasing your threat or threat of others. I consider this event as a key in some scenarios, where increasing of threat can remove you from the game more quickly than some enemies could do that. It’s cruel that amazing jewel among Spirit events, Dwarven Tomb, occurs in single Core set just in one copy. Returning any Spirit card to your hands is quite desired effect. The effect of Dwarven Tomb is imitated by event Stand and Fight, but it concentrates on returning allies from any sphere (excluding neutral sphere). I think that this event also deserves some place in our Spirit decks. On the border of usefulness stands event with hefty 5 cost Fortune or Fate, which should miss in proper decks, if you don’t plan to lose your heroes. However, in the extremely hard scenario, you can utilize this card and have opened back door, if something bad happens to your heroes. Now some unusable or inconsistent cards are coming. A Light in the Dark works in combo with Dúnhere, but outside of this symbiosis you hardly attempt to keep enemies in staging area voluntarily – more enemies in staging area mean more overall threat strength and that’s not the situation, which you should support. Will of the West and Strength of Will are cards, for which I haven’t any motivation to add them to my decks.
Great Spirit events will join your journey from the Core set and will travel with you for a long time, other Spirit events will fall into oblivion very quickly. Fortunately, the first group of events outnumbers the second group, so you have a really wide choice among solid and useful Spirit events. Just choose some of them!
Symbol of the Spirit attachments of Core set is just one – Unexpected Courage. The effect of this card makes from it one of the most universal and most used attachments from all spheres. It has another, but the same perfect impact in the game as Steward of Gondor – once you play this card and attach it to right hero, lots of things will be easier for you. Questing and defending, questing and attacking, defending and attacking, or doing any from these actions and triggering own ability – doing such actions in one round provides you with an incredible set of options. Grandly speaking, you “gain one more hero,” because usage of Aragorn twice (or three times, considering his action) changes the distribution of forces to the benefit of you until you control Unexpected Courage. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing about the remaining attachments. The Favor of the Lady is expensive Willpower booster and Power in the Earth… the existence of this attachment is a mystery for me a little bit. But not every card can be amazing. The variety of usefulness is the main feature of any card game.
However, if from 3 attachments 2 are bad, then I consider the Spirit attachments in Core set (as a whole) for a disappointment. If Unexpected Courage wasn’t present, then it would be a real failure. Attachments are the biggest weakness of the Core Spirit sphere.
When I’m thinking about it, Spirit sphere from the Core set has the weakest material for deckbuilding from all spheres and you hardly create the functional monosphere Spirit deck, which would beat all Core scenarios. No, this sphere lacks Attack and quality Defense, it relies only on questing. So an additional sphere for supporting is necessary, rather Spirit deck should be built as a support deck. Spirit-Tactic deck or compromise Spirit-Leadership deck aren’t bad combinations at all.
Core Spirit sphere benefits mainly from the events, which are just remarkable and very helpful in any situations (Hasty Stroke, A Test of Will, Dwarven Tomb…). And excluding extraordinary Éowyn and Northern Tracker, the Spirit sphere can’t offer us anything great. Some situational cards, some average cards, and some trash cards. Still, if you love this sphere and you want to play good games, combine it with another sphere and wait for a couple of next adventure packs. You will see that injured reputation of Spirit is going to be remedied.