After some delay from my FLGS, I finally received the fifth adventure pack of the Ered Mithrin cycle today and I integrated most of the player cards into my decks. There are some really strong cards here, that will remain relevant for a long time. This pack focuses a bit more on the Hobbit trait, which hasn’t seen a lot of development since Mountain of Fire. I am willing to argue that this pack will be very important for those looking to pick up The Black Riders as well, as these cards tie in thematically and mechanically with the cards in that Saga box. Let’s take a closer look at the player cards and the quest itself.
Oh Bilbo, he was our very first hero outside of the Core Set, and while he was popular back in the day, it was mostly out of necessity and his powerful effect. But with no synergy with the Hobbit trait and a relatively high threat compared to his stats, he didn’t find his way into many Hobbit decks. While this is pretty accurate when looking at Bilbo’s personality after the events of The Hobbit, it still pains me. This new version of Bilbo was a pretty welcome surprise, as it puts Bilbo Baggins back on the map, now in a more Burglar-style role than his Lore counterpart.
While the designers have kept his stat line identical to the old version, there is now a way for Bilbo to boost his stats through his ability. Whenever Bilbo is committed to the quest, you may choose an enemy in the staging area. Until the end of the phase, Bilbo gets +X willpower, where X is the threat value of the selected enemy. This already puts Bilbo at 3 willpower easily, provided there are enemies in the staging area. It can even become higher with the scenarios that keep an enemy in the staging area for the majority of the game, like Celebrimbor’s Secret, Intruders in Chetwood, and so many more scenarios. Then, on top of the willpower boost that Bilbo gets, you get to damage the enemy if you quest successful during that phase. While it generally only is 1 point of damage, players can even boost it to 2 damage if the enemy is guarding a card. Note that this does not work with Traps or other attachments, only with enemies specifically guarding a card. While this can be an objective, like in Hunt for Gollum, it can also be any of the guarded player cards that have been thrown into the packs of this cycle. Should those turn over an enemy as a guardian, then Bilbo will be able to deal significant damage to it during the quest phase, as long as the players quest successfully. Bilbo really makes these cards work, by both compensating for the added threat, and potentially getting the attachment early. While he doesn’t solve the problem if there is a location guarding the attachment, it is at least a nice addition to the archetype. The rest of the stats on Bilbo aren’t very impressive, and he will need some help in the form of attachments and allies like Barliman Butterbur and Bill the Pony if you want to keep him alive in a direct damage or archery heavy quest. But with Sting in this pack as well, you will be able to see a lot more of Bilbo with his new version.
Silvans have always been shorthanded when it comes to defensive characters, and while Thranduil solved that issue in the hero department, the allies were still relying on Defender of the Naith, who isn’t exactly a great ally. Luckily, the Greenwood Defender comes in this pack and has some decent stats that are meant for defending several attacks. His 0/0/2/3 stat line for 3 cost is a bit lacking, but luckily Silvans have their ways of reducing the cost of their allies through O Lorien. The stats can also be boosted through Celeborn, making the defender a very decent 1/1/3/3 for 2 Leadership resources. On top of this, you get an amazing effect that last until the end of the round in which the Defender entered play. It does not exhaust to defend until the end of the round, making him a perfect defender in case a player is engaged with a lot of smaller enemies like Goblins. While the Defender doesn’t have the highest defence value, it can be increased through attachments like Cloak of Lorien, and the effect of Arwen allows the defender to also defend for other players with the Sentinel keyword. This makes the defender a very hardy Silvan ally that can take multiple hits before he falls. Should the defender be damaged, he can be healed through Silvan Tracker, assuming you exhaust him to attack later (even when dealing no damage, you can still declare him as an attacker). This ability to not exhaust also protects the ally against shadow effects that make it impossible for the defender to ready until the end of the round, which is a nice bonus to have. This ally will be going into my Silvan deck, and he will do great things, I’m sure! Even outside a Silvan deck, the defender would do well. Dunedain decks could also really use this guy, although they have less ways to bounce him in and out of play, but the Elf-guide event in this pack can help to resolve that.
Now we come to one of the most bonkers cards in the pack, and even the cycle. It was about time that we got the old Gaffer in card form in this game, and he does not disappoint. The Gaffer’s stas are nothing special, but a point of willpower for 2 cost in Lore is decent enough, especially if you are also getting his effect out of it. The effect is the real reason that you are playing Gaffer Gamgee, as he helps the Hobbit deck a lot with avoiding enemy attacks. You may return Gaffer to your hand to choose an enemy in play with a higher engagement cost than your threat. Then, that enemy can’t attack you until the end of the round. This is incredibly useful as it allows you to Feint any enemy that engaged you through other means than engagement checks. So if you are unprepared for an attack because an enemy automatically engages the first player or something, you now have an answer to it. Even if that enemy makes multiple attacks, Gaffer cancels all of them. You don’t even have to discard Gaffer to do so, allowing you to recycle him continuously. If you equip your Lore hero with Resourceful or any other resource acceleration, you can keep cycling Gaffer each round to keep an enemy from attacking. It feels like the old Hama-Feint lock, but with the restriction of the enemy having a higher engagement cost than your threat. I am sure that this ally will find his way into many Hobbit decks, and perhaps even Dunedain and mono-Lore decks as well, as it is not restricted to the Hobbit archetype at all.
The stats on this Dwarf ally look a bit lacking, as Spirit usually has 2 cost allies with 2 willpower. But even at 3 cost, this Dwarf will do a nice job at allowing your deck to quest hard. His 2 hitpoints also make him survive longer than Ethir Swordsmen and Galadhrim Handmaidens against treacheries. And let us not forget that Spirit Dwarves are the faction of mining, so resources should be easy to obtain for this guy. But now we come to his ability, which makes the next attachment played by the group cost 2 resources less. This is not limited to 1 cost, so players will be able to play cards for free through this effect. An obvious combo would be with the Armour of Erebor from this very pack, which now becomes free. This all makes the Toymaker basically cost 1 resource, for very decent stats, especially if you are playing with Leadership Dain. But should you not have an attachment you want to play this round, then the next player will be able to benefit off of the reduction in cost for attachments. Trap decks and Dale decks especially will like this cost reduction. Combined with Damrod, players could get free Forest Snares going, and Dale decks can put out 2 cost attachments on their own allies, saving resources to play more allies or other cards. The Toymaker is a nice multiplayer card with a very strong effect, though communication with your team would be advised. Dwarves also have a lot of 2 cost attachments that can sometimes be difficult to play straight away, like Hardy Leadership and King Under the Mountain. This ally will help to get those cards into play with ease, accelerating the Dwarf swarm archetype as well. Can’t wait to see this guy appear in modern Dwarf decks.
This really is Bilbo’s pack, and as such, his trusty sword (it’s more of a letter-opener really) is also in this pack. Sting is the Tactics guarded card in this cycle, and can only be guarded by an enemy, not by locations or treacheries. This is great, because this automatically allows players to use Bilbo for his effect. Sting is free, and can only attach to Hobbit characters. Besides being trait restricted, it also fills a Restricted slot on the hero, as is usual for Weapons. When attached, the hero receives a +1 to willpower, attack, and defence. This is amazing for Hobbits, who tend to have low stats to start with. On top of that, a Tactics card granting willpower is always a good choice for your deck, especially if you are going in mono-Tactics. Since this card will often go on Bilbo himself, I will note that he suddenly becomes worth his threat when calculating the boost that his weapon provides, 9 stats for 9 threat! But there is more to this weapon than just the stat boosts, though that would sell the attachment on its own to me already. Sting will allow the attached hero to deal a damage to an enemy after the attached hero is declared as an attacker or defender against that enemy. This works the same way as Gondorian Spearman and Spear of the Citadel works, in that it will cancel the attack if the enemy is killed through this effect. Combine this with a Direct Damage deck or even Bilbo’s ability alone, and you will be able to deal with smaller enemies very easily. The effect is also repeatable, so if the attached hero has a way of readying or has Hour of Wrath triggered, the players can deal massive amounts of direct damage to enemies engaged with them. This is a very strong tool for the Hobbit deck, and I might just integrate it in my Direct Damage deck.
Here’s a question for you: Do you like playing ally Arwen for her ability but are often in conflict with her hero version? Well, then this attachment is for you! At 2 cost, this Armour attachment can go on Dwarves and Dale characters and provides them +1 defence and the Sentinel keyword. Being able to grant allies this keyword is going to be amazing, though players will be restricted to only allies from the Dwarf or Dale archetype. However, Dwarves can really use some more attachments that help with defence, as that has been a problem with the archetype in the past. Soldier of Erebor and Erebor Guard are both good defenders who can now defend across the board. But really, this attachment is made for Dain Ironfoot. He has been criticized before about his lack of a Sentinel keyword, but that can now be helped with this attachment. Dale characters can also make good use out of an Item attachment that grants them the Sentinel keyword and an extra point of defence. Guardian of Esgaroth can now for instance defend across the board, while also receiving the boost from this attachment. Stacking even more attachments on him (as you do when playing Dale) will make him a very capable defender, who can easily ready with To Arms! Spirit has been getting a bunch of good defence options lately, so this is a welcome addition. The only downside is that it does not go on characters that aren’t Dwarves or Dalesmen, so it won’t become as big a staple as ally Arwen, but at least it offers a solution. Remember that when combined with the Erebor Toymaker in this pack, the attachment becomes free, which is great value for a Dwarf deck!
Like with Warrior Sword in the previous pack, the art on this card may seem familiar because it has been introduced in the digital game before it got added to the attachment in this pack. We’ll have to look forward to seeing this happen more often with new art from the DCG. The Round Shield is a 0 cost Tactics attachment that can go on every character. This makes it perfect for Dale decks, for the same reason as Spare Hood and Cloak got added back when the Deluxe came out. But beyond that, having this restricted attachment will be useful for defenders in other archetypes as well. The Shield offers some protection against attack-increasing shadow effects, which are quite common. When a shadow card triggers, the character will get +2 defence for that attack if they exhaust the Round Shield. This is a lot like Tides of Fate, which is a toolbox card to bring when defending in scenarios with a lot of shadow effects (Carn Dum is a great example). The +2 defence will likely not matter when you are dealing with other types of shadow effects, because if it did and there was no shadow effect, then your ally would take damage. It is a good safety attachment for your defender, but does take up a Restricted slot. Like I said, the Dale archetype loves these flexible, 0 cost, Item attachments to put on their characters. This can turn a normal ally into a somewhat capable defender, especially if you are also playing with Silver Lamp in your deck. Use that card to know what shadow cards will have effects and will give that character +2 defence. It is not the greatest card in the pack, but will be a welcome addition to any Armoury Style decklist. I feel that Gondor will have some good allies to use this on, like Defender of Rammas and Gondorian Spearman, giving a little more safety to those characters.
This card got spoiled in the preview article and has made sure that all Hobbit decks can now safely reside in Secrecy until the heat death of the universe. While powerful, the Shirefolk is also very thematic, with a perfect quote as flavour text explaining why bringing Hobbits would lower the threat of your group. But let’s get down to the actual card. The Shirefolk is a neutral Event that costs no resources, making it already very flexible and easy to include in any deck. However, it does come at the restriction that it can only be played if all of your heroes have the Hobbit trait. This is less of a problem than you might think, as Hobbits tend to work best if all of your heroes are a Hobbit. So while this card is restricted to the archetype, it will likely be an auto-include in every Hobbit deck from here on out. The actual effect is that the player gets to lower their threat by 4. This is so little text, but so big of an impact to the way that Hobbit-Secrecy decks are going to be structured. 4 is enough to make a decent jump down and puts this event on par with Elrond’s Counsel. With no restrictions, players will be able to play this event multiple times per phase if they have multiple copies in their hand. This can make the Hobbit deck very sneaky, but also allows the players to include Bilbo more in their decks without suffering from his high threat/stat ratio. This will be one of the cards that will be in the top 5 strongest cards from this cycle I believe, purely for how it makes Hobbits so much more playable.
“Ho! Ho! Ho! to the bottle I go. To heal my heart and drown my woe.” A perfect piece of flavour text for a card that we will get to see a lot of in Hobbit decks. As this is kind of a Hobbit themed deck, this second Hobbit event revolves around card draw, which is often required for most decks to keep up with the encounter deck. While not useless outside of a Hobbit deck, it does become a lot better if you have at least one unique Hobbit who enjoys a Drinking Song. The event is free and allows you to make a mulligan during the middle of the game. The player counts the number of cards in their hand and then shuffles all of the cards in their hand into the deck. They then draw as many cards as they just reshuffled. Should the player own at least 1 unique Hobbit character, then they may draw an additional card on top of that. This is a great way to do a reset of your hand if you didn’t get the cards you wanted during the start of the game. Later in the game, it is a way to try and get some other cards and shuffle back some extra copies of unique characters or attachments that are in your hand. There are some draw-backs to this card though, since you can’t select any cards to keep in your hand. While you won’t discard the cards, it may be a while until you see that one card in your hand again. The card isn’t perfect, but if you are not happy with the cards in your hand at that moment, it does offer a soft reset of your hand.
Let me start by mentioning that the art of this card was done by John Howe, who’s work on Tolkien art is phenomenal. The card itself matches the level of artwork, as I am sure it will become a new staple for Silvan decks, and a new way to bring back more allies to your hand. The event is free and allows the player to return any Silvan ally they control to their hand in exchange for a resource on any hero. No, this doesn’t have to be a Silvan hero, and no, it doesn’t have to be a hero that you control. This is a form of resource smoothing that will be great to keep the Silvan engine going for a while longer. Having this in Leadership makes perfect sense, as it is a form of resource acceleration, and you are very likely to have a resource match with Celeborn and/or Thranduil in your Silvan deck. The event isn’t even restricted to an amount per phase/turn, so you could do some recycling of allies to keep this event going. Save some resources by returning Galion to your hand and use that extra resource together with O Lorien or Man the Walls to play a more expensive ally from your hand early in the game. You can even start recycling the event with Galadhrim Weaver, making sure you have enough resources to continue playing allies each round. The event also allows for some resource smoothing to Galadriel, if she is your only hero with a Spirit or Lore match. This can get you those off-sphere allies quicker. Finally, the event can also be used to give resources to other players at the table. This can help fund their efforts towards their own synergy. A single resource goes a long way, and returning Silvans to your hand is a very small price to pay.
When I first read the article on the quest, I thought it would be a revision of Flight from Moria, with different quest stages that you want to keep cycling through. While I was ok with that design decision, as I don’t play Flight from Moria that often, I wanted a bit more mixed into the quest. And boy, did the developers deliver. This quest will have you reforge the broken sword Wormsbane while trying to clear out the Goblins occupying the mountain. And instead of avoiding the big bad enemy in the staging area, the players are forced to defeat it if they want to win the scenario.
The quest is really fun to play and doesn’t drag as long as the previous scenarios like Framsburg or the Withered Heath. There are still a lot of locations that you have to carefully read before you start the game, else you may be confused at what your eventual goal is. I found the reforging of Wormsbane to be a very cool mechanic that felt really thematic.
The narrative of this scenario was also one of the best we’ve had for a while. One of the heroes is pretty hesitant of entering Gundabad with a broken blade, making for a pretty fun dynamic between members of your party. I hope this style continues in the next pack.
UPDATE: Apparantly, the two locations Dagnir’s Hoard and Throat of the Mountain need to be added to the Caves deck at the beginning of the game. This is an issue that will be added in the new FAQ, but does influence your games drasticly. Good thing too, otherwise you could reveal a 7 threat location turn 1.
With the fifth pack now reviewed, we turn our gaze upon the conclusion of the cycle. Radagast and his beasts will make an appearance during the Fate of Wilderland scenario, rounding out the Ered Mithrin cycle. I hope the pack gets released soon, so that we can get the new Deluxe box by the time that GenCon comes around the corner.