It has been a while since we have had a new pack released, and while some people got their hands on this pack early, mine just arrived. So that means that it is time for a quick impression article on the player cards in the pack as well as a quick review of the quest. Remember that a full analysis of the quest will eventually appear on the blog, but it may take a while before the blog catches up on that quest.
We get a second version of one of the most powerful Dwarf cards in the game, Dain Ironfoot. But where the Leadership version is the cornerstone of the Dwarf-Swarm archetype, this new version works well with the Mining archetype that is being developed currently. Dain has his old stats which make him a great defender, but what is different now is that he has his rightful Noble trait. This allows you to play some events off of him, as well as getting an Ancestral Armor on him for additional defensive capabilities. That is not to say that Dain isn’t a great defender without attachments. His ability allows you to discard up to 3 cards from the top of your deck and raise his defence value by 1 for each card you discarded. This allows you to make him a 6 defence hero without needing to draw into any attachments or events, which is amazing. If you are building a mining deck or a Caldara deck, you are not really all to fuzzed about discarding cards from your deck anyway, so it will be a great way to defend big enemies in the early game (a certain Hill-Troll comes to mind). I feel like this hero is a worthy addition to the hero roster and that it doesn’t remove Leadership Dain in many standard Dwarf decks. He makes a great defender for Spirit, which is great to have. Mining decks will have to choose between the two Dains, but both options have been viable for a while, so you can mix things up and see which version of Dain you enjoy the most.
This was one of the cards that hasn’t gotten spoiled early, so the discussion on whether this is a good card is still up for debate. Players will look at the 5 cost and be scared straight away, as this is a late game ally at best. However, the Soldier of Erebor is still cheaper than Brok Ironfist, and has some proper stats, especially if you play him with Leadership Dain. 3 attack and 3 defence make him a combat orientated ally, capable of both dealing out a hit and absorbing one. The Soldier’s ability even allows you to do both, as his ability allows you to ready him at the cost of discarding the top 3 cards of your deck. This makes the Soldier a great mining tool as well, allowing you to more quickly find your Hidden Cache’s and Ered Luin Miners. I don’t actually need this ally in my Dwarf deck though, as I already have strong defenders and ultra strong attackers (Erebor Battlemasters), and my deck is getting mined often enough. His 5 cost in Leadership will also mean that you will have to wait a while before playing him, and once he does come out, you have likely already won the game, but need to get to the finish. I will admit that the Soldier is a great target for A Very Good Tale, but in the end, I tend to favor other cards over him during deckbuilding
This is a card that I proxied a few months ago for using him in my Woodmen deck, so I already had some experience with the ally before getting my hands on the pack. The Hunter is almost identical to ally Haldir, except he is non-unique and lacks the Sentinel keyword. However, while the Hunter has a base cost of 4 Lore resources, I can guarentee you that you will never actually pay 4 resources for him. It is very easy these days to stack the active location with free or low-cost attachments, which lowers the cost to play this ally. Without restriction as well! So you can get free Mirkwood Hunters out if you have all your attachments on one location and then travel to that location. This then allows you to win a great deal of resources by getting these allies on the board, before you explore the location. When on the table, the Mirkwood Hunter is quite a versatile ally, capable of taking a hit or dealing damage across the table. This helps the usually support type Woodmen deck to help in combat. The Hunters also quest for a fair amount, making them useful when there is no combat to be had. Like with the Soldier of Erebor, the Hunter is a great target for A Very Good Tale, allowing you to get some high cost allies in for cheap, though you will need a resource match in order to play the event. All in all, I like this ally in my Woodmen deck, and it certainly has its uses in other decks as well, especially against scenarios where the encounter deck also has locations with attachments.
What is with the high cost on the allies in this pack? Descendant of Girion is the second 4-cost ally in the pack, and that is even the lowest cost! Oh well, let’s continue with this guy. Like the Mirkwood Hunter, the Descendant of Girion has a 2/2/2/X statline, but has one less hitpoint and lacks any keywords that make him useful in battle. Instead, the Descendant of Girion has an ability that allows you to reduce the cost to play Item attachments on the Descendant by 1. While the high cost of this ally can be forgiven in a deck that also runs King of Dale, I am not really too amazed by the ability on this ally. I have a host of other Dale allies that are much better to equip attachments to, like Guardian of Esgaroth. And with some attachments already costing no resources, there aren’t a lot of Items I would like on this ally. But consider you also run Long Lake Trader, and the ally suddenly becomes better. Now, you can play 1 cost Items on the Descendant and then move them to another ally, paying no resources for the attachment itself. And since the Descendant will often have no attachments, he will trigger Brand’s ability to draw a card more often than not. I will not admit that this ally is perfect, as it is quite an investment to get this resource engine going in the early game. But he has some uses for moving attachments away from him and onto other characters, saving you resources for other things.
We all knew that a card like this would come out eventually, as the art was already spoiled in the DCG and we haven’t had a generic sword in a while. This 1 cost Weapon will be amazing for those players that love to engage a lot of enemies and keep them engaged, also known as Dunedain players. This weapon goes on any Tactics or Warrior character, making it accessible to both heroes and allies. When attached to a character, that character gains +1 attack for each enemy engaged with him. Understandably, this card got limited to +3, otherwise, people could get allies with insane attack stats if players used The Hammer-stroke. It should also be noted that the Warrior Sword is Restricted and limit 1 per character, so no dual-wielding. I find this weapon to be great on heroes as well, as there aren’t many weapons that can potentially give you a +3 attack boost for just 1 cost. And since you are always engaged with an enemy when you attack (unless you attack with Ranged), you are bound to get at least some use out of the weapon. On top of that, the Weapon doesn’t exhaust, making it a good target for Sterner than Steel, Foe-hammer, or Goblin-cleaver. I can see players putting this on allies like Fornost Bowman as well, making for a very deadly Ranged character if you have some enemies engaged. The traditional trap deck where you can Forest Snare 3 enemies engaged with you will allow you to get the maximum potential out of this weapon.
Oh look, it is Light of Valinor for allies, must be great right? Well… while the Valiant Determination attachment looks cool on paper, it is a bit harder to justify in practice. 2 cost for a Spirit attachment that isn’t an Item (so fewer Dale shenanigans) is quite a steep price for which you can easily get another ally down. So you really need a good target that has both 2+ willpower (as 2 cost spirit characters usually have 2 willpower themselves) and has a use in either the combat phase or has to exhaust for its effect. That is not to say that there are no great targets for this card. Sulien, Faramir, Guardian of Esgaroth and even Bofur are very good targets for this attachment as they have good stats for the combat phase or a great ability that needs them to exhaust. This way, you can get both. It should also be noted that not exhausting to quest can be a great way to keep a certain character safe from treacheries and quest effects. And with Valiant Determination still counting as an attachment for allies, it can boost the Dale deck, though cheaper ally attachments are out there and would probably serve you better. I am still a bit on the fence about this attachment, and hesitant to include it in my deck. What are some good targets for it that you’ve found? (Also, after playing a lot of Breath of the Wild these past few days, I can relate to the art!).
I was amazed at the announcement that we were getting another Ring of Power in this game. This time it was one of the Seven that got handed to Durin III by Celebrimbor himself and remained in the hands of Durin’s Folk until the downfall of Erebor. Canonically, this ring should already be claimed by Sauron at this point, but it is fun to have a slightly alternative future with this if it grants us an attachment of this power. The Ring of Thror is a guarded attachment, for either a location or an enemy, so the same rules apply as with the other guarded attachments. Being a 1 cost Neutral card allows you to play this card in most decks, as long as you have a Dwarf hero to who it can attach. This is the biggest restriction on the ring, being unable to play it on non-Dwarf heroes. But with Dain in this new pack, there is a growing pool of eligible characters to who the ring can attach. When attached, the Ring of Thror allows the attached hero to ready at the cost of exhausting the ring and discarding the top card of that player’s deck. This makes it another useful mining tool, and a very cheap way to ready a hero during any phase. I can see Core Set Gimli taking advantage of this, defending an attack, receive some damage, and then ready to hit back with the ring. On top of this readying ability, if the discarded card from the action is an attachment, you get to play it for free immediately. This is amazing if you can hit it consistently, getting armour attachments out for free. I have also seen a deck already that uses this ring to get attachments out on locations for the Woodmen deck. I feel that this added benefit will require some scrying of your own deck to get the most use out of it, but I really like the mechanics and hope to hit some Ancestral Armour with it someday.
The Events in this pack are pretty strong as well. The first to be analysed is one that I can see going into many Armoury decks, and I have already put it in the same deck as Warrior Sword to see if I can get some use out of it. Swift and Strong will allow you to do a one-time Rohan Warhorse on any character at the cost of exhausting a Weapon on that character. The attached character is then readied and get +2 attack for its next attack this phase. This is a great card to have if you don’t have that many weapons that need to exhaust for their ability. Being able to ready your attacker after they destroyed a small enemy only to get a +2 to their attack on the next enemy is a great way to clear out bigger targets on the table. I can see this working for Ranged characters as well that have Weapons like Bow of the Galadhrim or Warrior Sword and then getting that +2. The downside to the event is that you will have to pay a resource for it, and that the character must first destroy an enemy without the bonus. On top of that, Tactics loves to exhausts its Weapons for cards like Foe-hammer, so you will have to decide what you want to do with the limited number of Weapons on the table. I haven’t gotten to trigger the effect yet, but I can see this being really useful to clean up an engagement area worth of enemies.
Man the Walls is a relatively early game card that you’d like to see in your opening hand. In the late game, I can see people just discarding it since they either have enough resources already, or they have all of their allies out already. Regardless, this free Leadership event must be played during the Planning phase and can only be played once per round for the group. Once played, the event will lower the cost to play the next ally of each player by 1. This can save the group up to 4 resources in total, and might just give players the possibility to either play an expensive ally early or play multiple allies during that planning phase. Since there is no limit to the cost reduction, 1 cost allies can even come in for free, allowing decks to swarm more easily. This effect can also stack with other cost reducers like O Lorien for Silvan decks, potentially lowering the cost of the first ally by 2. However, there is a catch to this event to prevent the players from being able to crush the quest with their new army. The allies that got their costs reduced are not able to quest this round. This limits the number of allies you can actually bring into play to those used for their ability or their effectiveness in the Combat phase. Luckily, any second or third ally you play can quest normally as you paid full price for them. I am hesitant to include this in many of my decks, though my Outlands deck loves being able to swarm allies even more. Drawing this late game will do nothing, but at least the event is free. This is also a great way to troll other players that want to quest hard, as the cost reduction is not optional, so the first ally cannot quest, even if they are willing to pay full price for it. This is a niche card, but it can contribute to swarm style decks as long as you draw it in time.
This event got spoiled a while ago and I have discussed it during my Woodmen article earlier this month. Familiar Lands is a great tool to lower the threat in the staging area if you build for it. This can either mean running location attachments yourself or going against a quest where locations get encounter card attachments, making them vulnerable to this event as well. For 1 Lore resource, the players will be able to lower the threat of each location in the staging area with an attachment by 2. Since this is not limited, players could even play extra copies in case the location lock is hurting them a lot. I like how this event tries to make Woodmen deck to spread out their attachments, and how it could work well with Guarded cards as well if you happen to attach a location to your Guarded card. However, outside of a Woodmen deck and a quest that has attachments for its locations, this card is not going to do much. It does require a fair bit of setup, and as a recent Twitter poll has decided, players are more likely to put their attachments on a single location to get better stats on their Forest Road Travellers and get their Mirkwood Hunters for next to nothing. It is good location control tech though and will be extremely useful against location lock. Try it in your Woodmen/location deck and see for yourself.
The Ghost of Framsburg is a quest that reintroduces a mechanic we have seen in the past: the Discover keyword and the Loot objectives. Players may remember this from their playthroughs of the Ruins of Belegost Print on Demand scenario. This quest has less loot items and has a linear quest card setup, making it easier to go through the quest than Belegost. It does make it less replayable than Belegost though, which was one of its biggest draws to players.
The quest is pretty enjoyable as you try to discover 3 pieces of loot in the forgotten ruins of Framsburg. I like the setting and that it builds on the little information of the Eotheod we have from the Appendices. The narrative does remind me a little of the sack of Menegroth of the First Age, but I could see it happen.
One of the biggest things to watch out for in this quest is your threat. You will be raising your threat by small amounts numerous times during the quest, making you creep close to the 50 threat limit. Try to run Spirit Ally Elfhelm for maximum efficiency here, and bring other threat reduction cards in order to engage enemies on your own terms and not get swarmed after you travelled.
Read the rulesheet as well, since the Loot and Discover mechanic is the same as in Belegost, but it may have been a while since you played that quest. There are certain ruling on how you have to reveal Hazard cards and what to do when you reveal Loot through normal staging. Once you’ve read the rulesheet, you can probably keep track of the rules from there on.
Another thing to note about this quest is that it can take a long, long time. If you thought that Withered Heath was the longest quest in this cycle, think again. The quests progress when you have a certain number of Loot objectives in play, but digging those out can take a while, especially in lower player counts as you are not revealing as many cards per round. The quest does give you ways to fish those cards out, but finding that last card for the final stage can take a long time. I have heard people going for 18 rounds before facing the Shade and winning the game. During these rounds, your threat is climbing quickly as well, making it very important that you keep an eye on your threat tracker.
And finally, I just want to mention the big cliffhanger in the narrative in the final line. I sure wonder how we are going to beat that dragon now in the next Adventure Pack. I hope this quick impression article is somewhat in line with your thoughts, but I’d be interested to hear if you have found other uses for the cards I mentioned.