Pursuing Gollum to the south, the heroes were lead to the Hills of Emyn Muil, but there the leads grew cold. Somewhere in this region, Gollum is hiding, and the heroes must explore carefully to regain the trail and resume pursuit.
We have already fought the strongest monsters and tried to resist the most deadly treacheries. The last type of danger, which awaits us, is embodied in locations. Yes, even locations can represent the evil force, which prevents us to fulfill our task. Prepare that The Hills of Emyn Muil dishes out many locations, with which you have to deal with. But the journey isn’t easy. Just in front of you are showing up the hills of Amon Hen and Amon Lhaw, which are ready to aggravate your exploration of many locations. Don’t get lost in the hills, or you won’t ever find the right way…
Before we will hit the road, for each of adventure pack or expansion I announce these categories of cards:
- TOP CARD – the best card, which really is a success and you should try to include it to your decks
- SHEEP CARD – the opposite of TOP CARD. The weakest card, which really isn’t a success and you should try to avoid it
- MOST ENRICHED SPHERE – sphere, which profits from the new set of cards at most. Heroes are not included in this category.
The Tactic sphere is the last sphere, which gets own “post-Core” hero. Brand son of Bain, the hero with a noble name, will try to gain our attention and persuade us about his quality. But the analysis will be merciless and I’m going to search for every weakness he would show. It’s nothing personal; he is just coming to the demanding company with great names and abilities. Someone strong would have to force us to switch him with Gimli, Legolas or Thalin.
With 10 starting threat, he becomes the hero with the second highest starting threat. Still, I don’t see this value as something terrible. We may celebrate his 2 Willpower because it reaches the above-standard value within the Tactic sphere. And Tactic sphere lacks for the capable questers. Next, 3 Attack is also quite an impressive stat that is able to deal enemies good damage. And finally, 2 Defense with 3 Hit Points says about Brand son of Bain very clear information – don’t use him for defending, unless it isn’t necessary. Not bad with his stats, he outperforms Thalin, for example, in this respect. I’m also very glad we have got another Ranged character, so even Legolas is gaining own competitor. From the view of stats, Brand son of Bain fulfills the more versatile role, whereas Legolas is the specialist only for the combat.
The key characteristic of every hero is certainly ability. Not only stats, but mainly good abilities can win the combat, the questing and the game itself. Let’s look at his Response closer. It says: “After Brand son of Bain attacks and defeats an enemy engaged with another player, choose and ready one of that player’s characters.” The first obvious thing is that this hero excels only in multiplayer games. I’m sorry, solo players – you would use only his good stats, the rest is unusable in a solo environment. Nobody from heroes is until now limited in such way – even Ranged Legolas has the solo-friendly ability.
Now let’s interpret his a bit complicated ability. Brand son of Bain attacks the enemy engaged with another player. The attack causes an enemy’s death. You choose for some exhausted character of that player and ready him.
UPDATE: Let’s imagine that you could attack with Brand son of Bain only during your turn. You would find out that his ability works very specifically and not every round you can profit from it. Why? Because it would strongly depend on when Brand son of Bain comes to his turn. If the owner of this hero plays as the last one, in the majority of cases the ability would come to nothing. Additionally, Brand son of Bain could ready only very specific allies and heroes. Due to his ability, you would ready a character in the Combat phase during attacking – so it is supposed that affected character can attack well. In other words, Brand son of Bain would ready a good attacker. And why you would exhaust a good attacker before? Either they would have to be good quester and also attacker (Prince Imrahil, Glorfindel), or good defender and good attacker as well (Northern Tracker). This limitation would hurt Brand son of Bain really badly because you would have to fulfill very specific preconditions.
However, Ranged characters have one big advantage compared to others – they are able to attack during the round of other players. Yes, it is a trap, which I completely forgot. So you can attack during your turn and then everything above is valid. OR you can attack during the turn of other players, which results in the following facts: 1) it doesn’t matter, when Brand son Bain attacks, and 2) you don’t need specific allies. To the second point, you just need a good attacker, which can attack twice (on two engaged enemies); you can attack with Beorn once and simultaneously with Brand son of Bain, which participates in the attack (so these two characters aren’t in the same team). If Brand son of Bain is the part of the attack, which kills an enemy, then you can ready Beorn again and attack another engaged enemy. Yeah, it looks a bit complicated. Now imagine, you would have attached Unexpected Courage to Brand son Bain…J
I have to confess to something – I realize the usefulness of this Tactic hero thanks to the community, which directs me to the correct understanding of this ability (hi, Amicus Draconis! J). It’s the proof, how much the community in LOTR LCG is important. And that if I see some card as the bad or useless card, either it is my own opinion, OR I just didn’t understand or I missed the right mechanics of that card. And as you see in this case, you have to READ really carefully or REMEMBER the rules, which are quite complex in this card game. Anyway, Brand son of Bain can excel only in the multiplayer environment, where he does his work well IF he can kill the enemy. Sometimes you just can’t make it. And sometimes you have to make up some smart strategy to the proper working of his ability. And this combination still doesn’t belong to my favourite “cocktail”, which would stimulate me to use him often. I personally prefer more straightforward heroes, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include him to your deck and try to develop his full potential.
It’s almost unbelievable, but after 3 adventure packs, we finally encounter the first non-Core Leadership ally at all. Until now, we had to deal with the set of Core allies like Guard of the Citadel, Snowbourn Scout, Faramir, and others. We hadn’t any other choice, so you surely watch for the new ally with impatience. So how good is this Keen-eyed Took?
Brief inspection won’t make you happy, unfortunately. Just look at stats of this Hobbit: for 2 cost you get 1 Willpower, no Attack, no Defense and 2 Hit Points. The first thing I thought was: are you kidding me? We finally got the new reinforcement, but with such creepy stats? To be honest, I was very, very disappointed. Even Guard of the Citadel or Silverlode Archer looks like elite soldiers next to him. I know, compare the professional fighters with a common Hobbit. The difference should be noticeable, from the view of the theme. But must we really satisfy with only 1 Willpower and 2 Hit Points for 2 cost? 1 cost less and I would say: well, he isn’t the Terminator, but I don’t expect miracles. The cost just doesn’t correspond with the quality of stats. You may slightly increase your Willpower strength during the questing or use him as chump blocker. “Cool”, isn’t it?
Let’s leave his stats and look at his ability. More precisely, one Response and one Action. One by one, first I’m going to aim at the Response. After this ally comes into a play, you may reveal the top card of each player’s deck. Keen-eyed Took offers you a knowledge, which next cards await you and other your comrades. Knowledge is power, as we guess right. But this isn’t the whole story – we must read the second ability of this ally in order to fully understand his potential. When you play his Action, you return Keen-eyed Took to your hands. For this act, you discard the top card from each player’s deck. Why we should wish such a thing? I mean, discard own card and cards of other players from the top of decks?
If you discard some card from the top of the deck blindly, then it wouldn’t make a sense certainly. Keen-eyed Took works well with scrying cards – cards, which enable you to look at X cards from the top of your deck. It’s shame that Denethor hasn’t ability aimed for your deck, but encounter deck. However, we find other scrying cards. The oldest of all, Gandalf’s Search, is a good example. You look at X top cards, keep one card in your hands and return the rest to the top of the deck in any order. If you know that one of that returned cards is useless for you, then Keen-eyed Took can help you to get rid of this card. The same logic could be applied to the ability of the new Lore ally Gildor Inglorion: scry – order – discard. Thanks to his ability you can get to wished cards faster.
Personally, I rather welcome his Response than his Action. For me, the moment of revealing the top card is more important to me. I can make a plan or use this knowledge in favor of some cards with special effects.
!SPOILER! The frequently mentioned card in this context is Zigil Miner, for the more certain supply of resources. But the best combo I can think up is with Vilya – thanks to scrying of Keen-eyed Took you can play the top card for free. Marvelous thought, when you can play Gandalf or some very expensive ally for free!
Keen-eyed Took doesn’t belong to jewels, must be said. But I understand his potential, which may be used in combo with cards with variable effects. I like his Response, it’s far more universal and useful to know about your top card, then to discard that card. Besides, his returning to hands I perceive as one of the negative. However, I must confess that I often overlook this little guy because I didn’t know, how to utilize him properly. Although Keen-eyed Took won’t set in many decks, with the well-considered strategy he may provide you an interesting advantage.
Rear Guard belongs to one of the cards, at which I haven’t much to say. It’s the 1 cost Leadership event, which concentrates on heroes committed to a quest. During the questing, you are allowed to add temporarily +1 Willpower to all heroes, which were sent to a quest. However, it’s not for free – one of the Leadership allies must pay with life. It ranks among other “sacrificing cards”, like Westfold Horse-Breaker, Beorning Beekeeper or The Riddermark’s Finest (in certain sense also Valiant Sacrifice). It really depends, how good effect compensates the loss of the given character. From the past we know, that some cards don’t worth for it (Beorning Beekeeper), while some cards yes (Valiant Sacrifice). The usability of the effects of Westfold Horse-Breaker and The Riddermark’s Finest depends highly on the concrete situation.
So how beneficial is Rear Guard? I dare to mention another card, For Gondor!, where more influenced characters = more power. The same is valid for Rear Guard – more heroes committed to a quest mean more added Willpower. From this view, I see Rear Guard more viable in multiplayer games. In the solo environment, effectiveness is the smallest. 3 heroes (=3 Willpower) sent to a quest should be the minimum for this effect, if possible. The life of an ally for just 2 Willpower doesn’t worth it, because you voluntarily get rid of one “body”, which can defend (or attack). Even Snowbourn Scout or Guard of the Citadel deserve to be sacrificed for a good amount of Willpower. Note that the effect of boosting Willpower remains for just one phase. The death of an ally is (often) permanent state.
On the other hand, the good timing of Rear Guard can decide about your success or failure during questing. Look at Faramir – you should wait with his Action until the moment when you know that it isn’t enough to make progress. When does this moment happen? There is one action window, which can be utilized to your advantage; after revealing all encounter cards but right before the quest resolution. Then you should use Faramir’s Action for the massive boost of Willpower. As for Rear Guard, which works identically – sacrifice the least useful Leadership ally in this window and boost Willpower of each questing heroes. Of course, you have to count up, if boosted Willpower is enough for making progress. There is nothing worse than sacrifice ally needlessly.
Rear Guard is something like a “hybrid” of cards For Gondor! and Beorn’s Hospitality. The success of For Gondor! depends on the number of influenced characters, whereas the otherwise good effect of Beorn’s Hospitality targets only heroes. Moreover, you have to sacrifice an ally, more precisely Leadership ally. This “cocktail” of mechanics makes from Rear Guard the event with more disadvantages than advantages. Though Leadership sphere would need some Willpower booster, the effect of Rear Guard leaves me completely cold.
Even The Hills of Emyn Muil didn’t bring us a cheap Tactic ally. After Beorning Beekeeper and Landroval comes Descendant of Thorondor – Eagle for 4 cost. Cheap Tactic allies are starting to be a scarce commodity.
The cost of this Eagle doesn’t correspond with his stats strength. 1 Willpower, 2 Attack, 1 Defense and 2 Hit Points should belong to ally with 3 cost, not 4. You have to even admit that in other respects horrible Beorning Beekeeper has better stats than Descendant of Thorondor. It hurts. Even Faramir from the Leadership sphere and Northern Tracker from Spirit! sphere has better stats for that cost and I consider this fact for a sad thing.
Descendant of Thorondor may serve us as the very, very expensive attacker with 2 Attack, but terrible stats are partially redeemed by his ability. I’m skipping the part about “he cannot have restricted attachment”, because it is a standard “restriction” of each Eagle we have met so far. The key ability lies in his perfect Response. When Descendant of Thorondor comes into play, he hits an enemy in the staging area for 2 damage. Same happens, when he leaves the play. As I said, I love direct damaging in LOTR LCG – it’s a safe and effective way, how to hurt or kill enemies. Thalin, Longbeard Orc Slayer, Gondorian Spearman, Beorning Beekeeper, Rain of Arrows… all these cards deal damage to enemies. And with all these cards Descendant of Thorondor may create a deadly combo. You can build a strategy based purely on direct damaging and Descendant of Thorondor should be integral to this strategy. This Eagle may dispose of the enemy with 4 Hit Points all by himself. That’s a great amount of damage and shouldn’t be ignored.
Players could arise the question: what means “leaves the play” in this case? Does this effect trigger only during destroying of this ally (similarly as at errata of Horn of Gondor), or really every time he leaves the play (for example during the effect of the card such Sneak Attack)? Don’t worry, Descendant of Thorondor hasn’t got any errata – it means he deals damage anytime he leaves the play. So he is suitable target for in other respects terrible Meneldor’s Flight. But rather you should think about combo Descendant of Thorondor-Sneak Attack. For 1 Leadership resource, you deal in overall 4 damage to any enemy in the staging area. Imagine that during one single phase you can get rid of enemies such as Wargs, Hummerhorns, Goblin Sniper, King Spider, Mirkwood Flock, and other very nasty foes. It’s really helpful and as a side effect, you can decrease the amount of Threat Strength in the staging area at the same time.
This Eagle won’t probably appear in non-Eagle decks or non-direct-damaging decks. His ability is very powerful and useful, but I think it doesn’t worth it if it is used as the random, one-time effect. The cost is too high for this. So Descendant of Thorondor needs the support of other right cards, he needs to work in good combos and/or be the part of some synergies. Radagast should be surely included with him in a deck. Thalin could extend the amount of damage. And Meneldor’s Flight or Sneak Attack can ease the entry/leaving part of his ability. Without a good strategy, you just can’t utilize Descendant of Thorondor to the full.
There are cards, which are amazing and you almost can’t imagine the game without them. Then there are cards, which are just good or just bad, or they work in a certain strategy. And finally, there are cards, whose existence you just don’t understand. This case could be applied to Meneldor’s Flight, at least at first sight.
0 cost of this event is the best part, unfortunately. The worse awaits us directly in Action: “Choose an Eagle ally. Return that character to its owner’s hand.” If you rejoiced that you could return Eagle ally from the discard pile, I must stop your pleasure – Meneldor’s Flight returns only Eagles in a play, though it isn’t said in the text. As the rulebook states it clearly: “Card effects do not interact with cards in an out of play state unless the effect specifically refers to that state.” Forget about this desired effect, Meneldor’s Flight can’t do that. What else could this event do?
Could Meneldor’s Flight return for example Winged Guardian, just before the Forced effect resolve? We then could “bypass” the necessity of paying 1 Tactic resource or discarding from play.
!UPDATE! At this point, the usage of Meneldor’s Flight has changed. Originally I stated: “Unfortunately, it’s not possible. If you use this event on Winged Guardian before resolving the attack of enemies, the attack would become undefended. And after resolving the attack of enemies, Winged Guardian would have been gone already, because forced effects trigger as soon as certain circumstances arise; before any responses or actions could happen.” This is not true anymore. According to new rules updates, it IS possible to return Winged Guardian to hands before triggering his forced effect, because between determining combat damage and the end of attack lies action window, which originally wasn’t obvious (see https://community.fantasyflightgames.com/topic/296981-saving-the-eagles/)
!SPOILER! It also concerns Vassal of the Windlord, who originally couldn’t be returned by Meneldor’s Flight’s effect, but now you are allowed to use it this way.
There always exists one Eagle ally, which makes a useful combo with Meneldor’s Flight – Descendant of Thorondor. Remind his ability: when he enters or leaves the play, he deals 2 damage to 1 enemy. Okay, the entry of this Eagle can’t Meneldor’s Flight influence. But it can cause the “peaceful” leaving. After that, you can deal 2 damage, without the necessity of destroying Descendant of Thorondor.
!UPDATE! With the new possibilities of using this event, Meneldor’s Flight was a little bit redeemed. Winged Guardian and Descendant of Thorondor (and moreover one SPOILER ally) are suitable targets. Still, this event has very specific usage, focused on just three Eagle allies. The rest of Eagles aren’t suitable targets, not even fully damaged Landroval. Now, I wouldn’t claim Meneldor’s Flight as the worst card ever, as stated originally. Although this event has own light side, the dark side is more obvious – very specific usage for a few chosen ones, moreover, you have to pay for returned Eagles once more. So take the free cost of Meneldor’s Flight with caution – you actually will pay a higher price than this event shows you at first sight.
With the arrival of The Riddermark’s Finest, I declare the crisis of lack of Spirit allies for resolved. From the original 3 types of allies, we are now reaching the number 7 and that’s a good bunch of allies, from which we can choose.
The new Spirit ally has 2 cost, for which we get 1 Willpower, 1 Attack, 0 Defense and 2 Hit Points. He’s similar to another Spirit ally we have met in Hunt for Gollum – Westfold Horse-Breaker. The Riddermark’s Finest has 1 additional stat point in Hit Points, no Defense stat and 1 Attack – these are differences between them. They share 1 Willpower, 2 cost, and traits: Creature and Rohan. So both are good targets for Radagast’s ability and cards, which use Creature synergy.
The Riddermark’s Finest greatest weapon is his Action. After you exhaust him and at the same time discard him, you can place 2 progress tokens on any location in the game. Where I praised Westfold Horse-Breaker for the absence of the exhaustion, here I am a bit disappointed that our new ally misses this “detail”. It means in short that you have to save The Riddermark’s Finest and let him ready for his Action in order to use it. It makes from Westfold Horse-Breaker quite unique character – you needn’t exhaust him for using his ability.
Anyway, the most important part is the following: you place 2 progress tokens on any location. If from any reason was Strength of Will still the part of your decks, I think that at this moment you don’t need this event anymore – it has become useless. Why do I think so? Compare it yourself: you have Strength of Will and The Riddermark’s Finest in your hand. For a right triggering effect of Strength of Will you must: 1) travel to a location, 2) own Spirit character, 3) which must be ready. For fulfillment of these preconditions, you add 2 progress tokens to a location, where you have just traveled. Now, you play The Riddermark’s Finest. It’s not for free, but at least you have an ally, for which you can think up some tasks – questing, attacking or chump blocking. For triggering the effect of The Riddermark’s Finest you must: 1) have ready this ally, 2) discard this ally, and 3) nothing. If you fulfill these preconditions, you add 2 progress tokens on any location. It makes a big difference if you add progress tokens to any location or to the location, where you are currently traveling. The ability of The Riddermark’s Finest provides you great freedom. You can decide yourself, where to put 2 progress tokens and so you may get rid of some troublesome location: Necromancer’s Pass, Great Forest Web, The Old Ford, The East Wall of Rohan and other locations with 2 and fewer Quest Points. You naturally may hesitate to travel to some of these locations because of their negative effects, though the decreasing of overall Threat Strength in the staging area would come in handy. The Riddermark’s Finest can resolve your dilemma. Thanks to his Action, you don’t have to travel to such locations anymore.
I’m finding out some negatives of this Rohan – mainly in the necessity of being ready for his ability and limited options, how to use him effectively in other actions. Still, this ally belongs to my most favourite Rohan allies from the whole Shadows of Mirkwood cycle. Despite preconditions for triggering his ability, I like The Riddermark’s Finest more than Westfold Horse-Breaker. His stats are slightly better, but also putting 2 progress tokens on any location I utilize more often than readying a hero. However, other players can see it reversely. It depends, which utility fits more to your personal strategy.
Like the ability of The Riddermark’s Finest wouldn’t be enough, we encounter another card with “placing-progress-tokens” effect. This time it’s about 1-cost event called Ride to Ruin. Its Action offers us placing overall 3 progress tokens on a location we choose. For that action, we have to pay by the life of 1 Rohan ally.
It’s not a coincidence that we have got 2 cards with “placing-progress-tokens” effect within The Hills of Emyn Muil – the scenario, where exploring locations is the main content. The arrival of The Riddermark’s Finest and Ride to Ruin make it very easy. Placing 3 progress tokens is until now (meaning until The Hills of Emyn Muil) the biggest contribution of progress tokens by one specific effect. This event may clear from the staging area locations like Gladden Fields, Mountains of Mirkwood, River Langflood or The North Stair by itself (of course, you may target these locations, if they are active). Until now you had to rely on cards with weaker effects (Blade of Gondolin, Legolas, Strength of Will) or hope for creating combos (Legolas with attached Blade of Gondolin). Ride to Ruin will help you to completely get rid of locations with 3 and fewer Quest Points or significantly decrease the value Quest Points required for complete exploring. Don’t forget that locations immune to a player card effect, like The Carrock, resist your attempts to place the progress tokens onto it. The only way how to explore “immune locations” is during the “classic” questing, when the location is active.
The only evident negative, or rather cost of this card is the necessity of sacrificing of 1 Rohan ally. So in the process of deckbuilding, you must count with this limitation and include some Rohan allies. However, I consider this event a bit more usable than cards with Eagle synergy. We encounter only several Eagle allies, while the ranks or Rohan allies are much wider. On top of that, you find Rohan allies through all spheres – so you can sacrifice Rohan allies as Snowbourn Scout (Leadership), Horseback Archer (Tactic), Gléowine (Lore) and of course many Spirit Rohan allies like The Riddermark’s Finest (no, he can’t make the “super combo” with Ride to Ruin, if you plan to place overall 5 progress tokens ;)), Westfold Horse-Breaker and others. The life of Rohan allies doesn’t worth for it if targeted Rohan ally is too strong or valuable (Escort from Edoras). Finally, with getting Rohan ally on the board can help you the perfect and reliable Spirit event Mustering the Rohirrim. OR you may utilize more “bizarre” way to increase the number of Rohan allies – by the attachment Nor am I a Stranger.
Though Ride to Ruin doesn’t appear in my decks very often, I fully accept its strength. Placing 3 progress tokens belongs to quite strong and useful effect, you just have to include a couple of Rohan allies, suitable for sacrifice.
Now it’s time to introduce you one of the most powerful allies in a whole Shadow of Mirkwood cycle, who looks like Leonardo da Vinci; he can do everything you remember. 3 Willpower, 2 Attack, 3 Defense and 3 Hit Points are absolutely crazy stats for an ally. No wonder he costs 5 Lore resources, but in this case, the cost corresponds with the overall strength of ally. Damn, I would even understand 6 cost for this super-ally. The only ally, who could be compared to him, is Beorn (1-3-3-6). Brok Ironfist isn’t even the same league (2-2-1-4). However, both allies have 6 cost, not 5 as Gildor Inglorion, so this ally leads the way.
Let’s back to Gildor Inglorion’s stats, because it would be a shame to skip this very interesting part and the main advantage of him. 3 Willpower doesn’t own any ally and from heroes, only Glorfindel and Éowyn reach this value (Éowyn has an even higher value). In short, Gildor Inglorion hasn’t any competitor among allies in the questing discipline. You will feel his contribution during Quest Resolution very perceptibly. 2 Attack won’t get lost either, though it is his weakest stat from all. Still, many allies would envy his offensive skills. And finally, 3 Defense will stop the majority of common enemies, so he may make the impassable “defensive duo” with equally great Denethor. Attach this ally A Burning Brand urgently… just friendly advice.;)
As it wouldn’t be enough, Gildor Inglorion gets the quite complex ability, which says: “Exhaust Gildor Inglorion to look at the top 3 cards of your deck. Switch one of those cards with a card from your hand. Then, return the 3 cards to the top of your deck, in any order.” Well, and we are encountering it again – great stats vs. useful ability. Which you would prefer? Alas, Gildor Inglorion doesn’t belong among heroes, so forget about all solving Unexpected Courage. We don’t own any version of this attachment for allies yet, therefore we have to pick one-time solutions like Ever Vigilant or Brand son of Bain.
!SPOILER! Later we can rely on the hero Faramir, which can create a very powerful combo with Gildor Inglorion.
But that’s a common issue of all characters with abilities, which demand the exhaustion. Let’s examine closer his more important part of his ability. He allows you to look at the top 3 cards of your deck and return them in any order. First, thanks to this ability, events like The Eagles Are Coming! and Mustering the Rohirrim may become far more effective because you know about the next 3 cards, which are coming. Second, any cards with drawing effect (Lórien’s Wealth, Gandalf’s Search) will become more effective. Again, you know what is coming. And if you don’t like cards, which await you? Then you might use a bit controversial Keen-eyed Took, which may discard the top card from the deck. So the least usable card you should put on the top and then use Action of Keen-eyed Took.
!SPOILER! Third, this ability is a mighty ally for the incredibly powerful Vilya. Look at the top 3 cards, choose the best card (and the most expensive, if able) and use the Vilya’s Action. On this, you may build the whole strategy.
The ability has one more thing, which I didn’t mention. You switch one of the revealed cards with one from your hands, then you put them on top of the deck in any order. I’m repeating – it provides you great tactical options, which include the set of cards in your hands. If you know about the card, which you don’t need currently, you may “hide” it to your deck for later drawing. Or use Keen-eyed Took, who discards it.
I really, really hate Gildor Inglorion from one simple reason – in most cases, I’m not able to use his super-stats and his useful ability in the same round. Not without any readying effects, which aims at allies. It hurts me very badly when I have so many options that I may do with him, but I have to decide, what I will prefer. Otherwise, Gildor Inglorion can hardly find a competitor among allies, at least not in (and that’s a little and innocent spoiler) Shadows of Mirkwood cycle. Yes, he costs 5, it’s hard to get him into play because we are moving in the Lore sphere – the environment of resources shortage. But this ally worth for it. If you can resolve a bit resource generation, don’t hesitate and enrich your deck by Gildor Inglorion.
And Gildor’s name will follow us even to the next card, which is the Lore event called Gildor’s Counsel. We have already met magnificent Gildor Inglorion, who was able to manipulate with our decks and hands and decides, in which order the cards will come. The same character is reflected in our new event, where he even influences the encounter deck. How? Playing this card means you reveal 1 less card from the encounter deck in the current (Quest) phase, just before characters are committed to a quest. The minimum of revealed card from encounter deck must be 1. This whole magic must be paid with 3 Lore resources.
The biggest issue with this card is its cost. If you resolve it, then you can expect a very useful card, which, naturally, can create impressive combos. But let’s begin from scratch. Its Action says it without any doubts; you reveal 1 less card from the encounter deck. Pure solo players should leave this card, it’s not built for them because you have to reveal at least 1 card. If you don’t occur in a specific part of scenario (for example Anduin Passage in Journey Along the Anduin), Gildor’s Counsel won’t help you in any way. In a multiplayer environment, the situation begins to be more interesting. Paradoxically, the best environment for this card is for 2 players, because with more players in the game the effect is too spread. 4 players almost don’t recognize the difference between 3 or 4 cards revealed. However, 2 players will feel the change immediately. If you reveal Rockslide and you can’t cancel it, the impact may hurt you, but you probably will cope with it. The second Rockslide, revealed during the same staging, will break your neck for sure. Same is valid for all hard scenarios, where every revealed card from the encounter deck may decide about your success or failure (Escape from Dol Guldur, Journey to Rhosgobel).
As I have indicated, Gildor’s Counsel is created for combos. And what stronger combo could be created than with cards, which “scry” the encounter deck? In 2 players you perfectly will know, with which card you will be dealing with. Denethor is natural combo partner for Gildor’s Counsel. Scry the top encounter deck before Quest phase and if it isn’t a horrible card, play Gildor’s Counsel. No surprise would take place.
!SPOILER! The best combo, which I can present you from my experience, is probably with Risk Some Light. You scry the top 3 cards of the encounter deck, put 1 to the bottom of the encounter deck, the rest you return in any order. It’s very effective for Gildor’s Counsel because you know what awaits you two rounds ahead.
I shortly comment on the first overlooked game text (precondition) of this event. Play Gildor’s Counsel at the beginning of the Quest phase, just before you will send characters to a quest. It prevents you to decide on the base of just revealed cards from the encounter deck. I consider it as the fair precondition. It also prevents you to use Gildor’s Counsel during other phases like during Combat phase, where you could influence the number of dealt shadow cards to enemies. So I admire that this event has very clear interpretation, which doesn’t need an additional explanation in FAQ or the community.
The appearance of Gildor’s Counsel in your deck should depend on the presence of other, supporting cards, like Denethor or Henamarth Riversong. Cards with “scrying” just develop the full potential of this interesting and useful event, which offers you the unconventional option, how to fight with encounter deck.
Okay, here I make the exception. In what and why? Because through Shadows of Mirkwood cycle we will get 4 almost identical cards, which belong to a neutral sphere. The difference between them is about one word (or symbol, more precisely). It’s not like the difference between Secret Paths and Radagast’s Cunning, or among the Leadership “Dúnedain attachments” coming in Shadows of Mirkwood cycle (sorry for that little unmarked spoiler :)), where the difference in the text could be minimal, but with considerable dissimilar impact on the game. I couldn’t make up 4 unique reviews for 4 nearly identical cards, so I wrote 4 identical reviews for each Song card (except the very last block with own part of review). I hope you won’t consider it for the deficiency of my inventiveness.;)
Song of Travel is the neutral card. That means you don’t have to take into consideration the sphere of influence. You can pay its 1 resource from the pool of any hero. For this price, you get an attachment, which changes the sphere of influence of the attached hero. Or more precisely, the attached hero gains another sphere of influence. A hero can pay for cards from its original sphere of influence, but also for cards from the sphere of influence written on the attachment. Let’s explain it on the example. You control Legolas who belongs to the Tactic sphere. Attach him Song of Travel and you may pay the Spirit cards from him as well. It’s like you gain another Spirit hero with the difference that you are free to decide, if you pay for Spirit or Tactic cards, from a single hero. Suddenly you realize that the common problem with “not enough resources” within some sphere you can at least partially resolve by this kind of effect. It’s cheap, it’s simple and it’s an effective way, how to deal with the lack of resources of some sphere. It’s the matter of course that “discarding attachments” effect of some encounter cards means great menace for every Song attachment. So I recommend you to include to your deck more copies of this card.
For this kind of cards is just Rivendell Minstrel created. You don’t have to wait for the drawing of this Song. If Rivendell Minstrel is present at your hand, her ability helps you to dig through the deck for the desired Song card and add it to your hand. Then you can profit from its effect.
If I say that I haven’t any problem with the lack of resources in the Spirit sphere, I would be a great liar. Though I commonly consider Spirit sphere for the “resource-friendly sphere”, you can easily occur in a situation, where you suffer from resources scarcity. It happens, when you have “high-ally” based Spirit deck (meaning: deck with more allies than other types of cards). If you run Spirit deck mainly due to its events and/or attachments, you should be safe. However, if you build the dual sphere deck, where the Spirit sphere is dominant, I would think about including Song of Travel.
UPDATE: Brand son of Bain is a hero after a long time, which I personally don’t use. I see his ability as quite hard and too complicated, unable to have a simple and universal usage. For solo players he is useless, but in multiplayer he can excel and ready some good attacker, which could attack twice in the same round. His potential grows in the hand of experienced strategist, however new players could have a problem with his quite advanced ability.
Among allies, we can find real diversity with regard to their usefulness and strength. The weakest representative comes from the sphere, where we have already waited from Core set on any new ally. But the Leadership sphere won’t offer you any brawler. Keen-eyed Took has almost zero value concerning his stats. We haven’t met any weaker ally for 2 cost than this Hobbit. You would touch him only in case of chump blocking or for his uncommon ability. On the other side, we encounter the “half-hero” – Gildor Inglorion. If he had been promoted to “hero rank”, I wouldn’t have been angry with it, on the contrary. I would gladly switch him for Brand son of Bain. Ally, who can significantly help you in any effort, and additionally can look the top 3 cards from your deck and return them in any order, is just remarkable. Only that 5 cost can cause you the problem with getting him into a play. The same issue affects Descendant of Thorondor. With 4 cost and together with other Eagles, the resources generation and acceleration became the essential requirement, whether in the form of Steward of Gondor, Horn of Gondor, Glóin-Parting Gifts, or Radagast. For that, you gain ally with direct damaging the enemies – 2 damage during arrival, and 2 damage during leaving. In a totally different way works the last ally, The Riddermark’s Finest. With him, you take in advantage putting progress tokens on locations. Nothing more useful you could encounter in The Hills of Emyn Muil, but even in other scenarios, this ally can save you worries about unwanted locations.
I regret quite weak Leadership ally. After so much waiting on the new Leadership ally we haven’t got true help or enrichment. But Lore sphere may be happy with Gildor Inglorion’s arrival and other spheres also can’t complain. Two scryings, 1 direct damaging and 1 progress tokens generating – these are options of allies from The Hills of Emyn Muil. Everyone can choose their own.
When I said “the events of The Hills of Emyn Muil”, I don’t think of Rear Guard, Ride to Ruin or useful and good Gildor’s Counsel. I think of the event from the opposite “bad spectrum”; Meneldor’s Flight.
!UPDATE! Until recently, it was pure garbage, I would say colloquially. Outside of combo Descendant of Thorondor-Meneldor’s Flight, this event hadn’t chance to appear in your decks. I believe that with the newly discovered possibilities, players will try this unknown event in the combos with Winged Guardian (!SPOILER! and Vassal of the Windlord). But I think many players won’t find it out at all and will play (or rather not) with Meneldor’s Flight in the old way, where this event hasn’t any value-added.
Other events don’t misbehave, because each of them is related more or less to the questing and making progress. It’s logical when The Hills of Emyn Muil aims at questing and exploring locations. Events perfectly hit the right time, when to appear, yet none of them are key cards outside of this scenario.
The only attachment in The Hills of Emyn Muil is Song of Travel – no other sphere brings some new attachment, not even any new from the Dúnedain’s family. The evaluation is limited just on Song of Travel, which could (not) come in handy. It purely depends on the composition of Spirit cards in your deck.
The theme of the scenario finally corresponds with the set of player cards. The Hills of Emyn Muil is from 90% about questing and exploring locations. It is good that we find in this pack variable ways, how to deal better with such a task.
However, this scenario doesn’t belong to the most favourite – players start to avoid it when they complete the final task for the first time. Then they never look back again. But skipping the purchase of The Hills of Emyn Muil wouldn’t be very wise. Why? You would lose one of the strongest and most powerful allies in Shadows of Mirkwood. As I have already mentioned in its own review and overall allies review, Gildor Inglorion will amaze any player by its quality and versatility. I won’t repeat his strengths and merits the third time – it’s needless to repeat it over and over again. But it won’t be surprising for you all if I pronounce Gildor Inglorion for TOP CARD. I think that this decision doesn’t need additional comments.:)
Losing allies like The Riddermark’s Finest and Descendant of Thorondor wouldn’t be also very clever. They contribute to different strategies by own qualities – more precisely, strategies based on direct hitting of enemies or clearing locations by progress tokens generation. If one of the strategies is your favourite, then including them to your deck is your duty.
!UPDATE! Will Meneldor’s Flight, the original unquestionable king of all SHEEP CARDS, deserves this title after rules update? Well, it isn’t the worst card ever made at this moment. Still, I feel that Meneldor’s Flight falls behind every player card of The Hills of Emyn Muil, even behind Rear Guard or Keen-eyed Took, which would otherwise compete for the title of SHEEP CARD. The reason is very specific usage, aimed just for only 3 Eagles, and the necessity of repetitive paying that returned Eagles, which affects your resource management.
Again, I had the trouble with choosing one sphere for MOST ENRICHED SPHERE. And again, I was deciding between two finalists – how else than Lore and Spirit sphere. Though I realize that in this category Lore sphere have won twice already (Hunt for Gollum, A Journey to Rhosgobel), I must objectively state that the Lore sphere came with great cards again. Gildor Inglorion and Gildor’s Counsel, which influences the number of revealed cards from the encounter deck, can’t be just overlooked. On the other side, it’s good that one of the weakest spheres from the Core set is regularly subsidized with good and quality cards.
Also, the Spirit sphere gets own good reinforcements. After all, The Riddermark’s Finest and Ride to Ruin generate progress tokens to a decent extent, and you may count with their effect almost in any Spirit decks. The rest of spheres isn’t that good, unfortunately, including the questionable hero Brand son of Bain.
I’m not an exception – The Hills of Emyn Muil doesn’t belong to my most favourite scenarios. However, thanks to my progression style of playing, I have met this scenario anytime I have created the new deck(s). I test the viability of each deck in every scenario. And I must state that I can’t imagine the cardpool without all the good cards mentioned above. Though these cards are quite expensive in overall, their cost is compensated for their quality. Even if their number is exceeded by the number of average, specific and/or simply bad cards.
LORE SPHERE (GILDOR INGLORION + GILDOR’S COUNSEL)