First Impressions: The Fate of Wilderland

We’ve already arrived at the final adventure pack of this cycle: The Fate of Wilderland, where you must face Urdug and his legions of Orcs that try to reclaim Gundabad now that Dagnir is dead. This pack introduces Radagast as a hero and brings a lot of Creature synergy to the table, sparking a new synergy with the less sentient creatures of Middle Earth. This pack will round out the cycle by completing some synergies that were developed during the past year, and will finish the narrative of the Ered Mithrin cycle.

The pack got delayed for a month or so before I could buy it, so the review is a bit later than usual. I have been wanting to play with these cards for a while now, and needed some games before sharing my thoughts.

Player cards

Hero

Radagast

Well, he is finally here. And since I have been dubbed the Rada-guest of many colours, I would love to analyze this guy a bit more in depth.

We finally got another Istari hero, and I am glad that Radagast has made it to the game in a character that doesn’t go to the binder straight away. He is a relatively high threat hero for Lore, but makes up for this with a nicely even stat line, and some good abilities. You are able to use Radagast’s resources to pay for Creatures of any sphere (as there are several in this pack), allowing you to make a mono-Lore Eagles deck when you pair him with Elrond. The other effect on Radagast is his Response. After you play a creature, Radagast no longer exhausts to commit to the quest. This leaves him ready for combat, for which he has decent defensive stats. You might want to increase his defence and hitpoints here and there, using for instance Elf-friend+Cloak of Lorien, and Ent-draught. You can also use Radagast for his trait. You may exhaust him for Word of Command (which is in sphere) to find any card in your deck. This can be some combo piece for him, or another ally for his Response next turn. While there isn’t a lot of Istari synergy yet, there are some cards like Wizard’s Pipe that Radagast can use in order to draw more cards with Messenger Raven. Here’s hoping for some more Istari synergy in future expansions!

Allies

Loyal Hound

This ally is great! It has been a while since we have seen any damage cancellation or redirection effects, so getting more is always nice to have. This creature ally is in sphere with Radagast and will be free with his Staff’s ability. The Hound cannot have attachments, which makes sense, as there won’t be that many attachments that would be well suited for this ally. The stats on this ally are pretty generous for a 2 cost Lore ally, allowing you to quest for 1 point, or to attack for 2 points. Low cost Lore allies with some good attack strength like this will tend to find their way into many decks, just look at how Quickbeam is doing. The fact that this Hound is also non-unique helps him, allowing you to have 3 in play at the same time (bonus points if you’re going to name them Grip, Wolf, and Fang). The real power of this card lies in its ability though, where you can discard this ally in order to cancel 2 damage that was just dealt to a hero you control. While damage cancellation like this is great, just look at Honour Guard, there are a few restrictions here. First, the Hound is only loyal to you, and it can’t absorb damage from heroes of other players. The damage can also not save your allies, but that will be a more obvious limitation. Play this ally in Archery quests, allowing it to soak 1 point by itself, and then 2 points by discarding it after it has quested or something. This will get you the best deal out of this ally, which I will be playing a lot of in my Ranger decks, as well as my Radagast deck.

Bywater Shirriff

Yes, I am still a little pissed that this ally isn’t Wilyador, as that would have been the perfect card to throw into this pack. But hey, maybe next time. I will polish up my Palantir in order to look for more eagles in the future cycle. In the meantime, we are stuck with this non-unique Tactics Hobbit ally that has an decent stat line for 2 cost. 1/1/1/2 makes this ally survive at least some direct damage, and the one willpower is decent for mono-Tactics decks. Where this ally really shines, is with his ability. When you are engaged with an enemy with a higher engagement cost than your threat, the Shirriff gets +1 to all stats, besides hitpoints. This pushes the Shirriff into the solid ally category, as 2 willpower for 2 cost in Tactics is great! This ally also works well with the Hobbit trait, which after last pack has a consistent method of keeping your threat low. This ally also is a great target for Tom Cotton, where this ally can become a solid 4 attack ally in Tactics. I can see this ally being a regular inclusion in many Hobbit decks, especially those that are now running the new Bilbo hero and need some more Tactics cards for their resource spread. During my games, this ally has generally been questing or attacking enemies that were denied attacks by Gaffer Gamgee. I am reminded a lot of the Eregion Survivor, who is very similar to this ally, except for the Noldor archetype. So I am using this ally in the future as well, but am still looking for that Wilyador ally that would have made much more sense in this pack. I am also curious to see if this Shirriff trait is going to go somewhere in the future.

Messenger Raven

This Messenger Raven was a part of the partially spoiled cards back when this pack was announced. It is providing us with a very cheap ally, and another Creature ally for Radagast to work with. The Raven cannot be used to attack or defend, leaving players with only willpower to really use. The Raven will usually be questing for one, but also has its uses for committing to tests. Sailing in particular will love a cheap ally you can get out on the board early. The Raven also has another use, where players can return the Raven to their hand during the Refresh phase in order to name a card type. The Raven’s controller can then select a player to look at the top card of their deck. If the looked at card is the same type as was named, then that player can draw that card. If it isn’t the same card, that player must discard it. This ability strikes me as a bit of a grief move, where you can force players to discard cards from the top of their deck. This reminds me of Keen-Eyed Took, which hasn’t seen play in a long time. This ally does however allow players to draw cards, and provides Radagast with a cheap way to not exhaust to quest. When more Creature synergy is introduced, perhaps this ally will see more play in my decks. I do like that the Ravens of Erebor have finally received an ally, as we only really had an event up to now.

Attachments

Mithril Shirt

The final Guarded player card of this cycle is of course the mithril shirt that Frodo and Bilbo wore during their adventures. Unlike the Boon and Treasure version of this shirt, this one does not grant a boost to defence or hitpoints. Instead, it only grants the wearer with Toughness 1. While it doesn’t actually say that, it is the short version of this card’s text. Whenever damage is dealt to the wearer, that damage gets reduced by 1. This is nice for a free point of Archery that can be absorbed, and is also nice to have together with Raven-winged Helm on your defender. This is possible, as the Shirt is not restricted to a trait, and doesn’t even fill a Restricted slot. Spirit Beregond, Erkenbrand, Grimbeorn, Frodo, and many other defenders are a good fit for this shirt. This shirt will enter play in the staging area, where it can only be guarded by a location. This means that it doesn’t work well with the new Bilbo hero. However, Spirit has various ways to quickly clear the attached location through location control cards, freeing up the Shirt for your defender. I won’t say that it is as good as the other Guarded cards in this cycle, but it is still nice to play on somebody’s defender if you can nuke the location with a Mirkwood Explorer for instance.

Radagast’s Staff

Every Wizard needs his walking stick, and Radagast’s is very powerful for his synergy with Creatures. Like Gandalf’s Staff, Radagast’s has three abilities, all of which deal with Creatures. The least powerful is probably the ability to push Creature enemies back to the staging area. While this can set up some Trap or direct damage combo’s, you will likely want to use the staff for other purposes. The ability to lower the cost of a Creature you play by 2 allows you to get your money’s worth for the staff on the turn you play it. While there are some problems with playing 0 cost off-sphere allies now, there will likely come a fix to this issue in the future, as Caleb did intend you to be able to play 0-cost off-sphere allies like that. The final ability of the staff is to ready a Creature ally. This is amazing with a buffed up Eagles of the Misty Mountains, but it can also ready another character for that final point of attack that you needed. A readying effect like this also allows you to quest with the Riddermark’s Finest, and use their ability in the same turn (which is a waste of the Staff, but hey, the option is there). All in all, the staff is an auto-include with Radagast, and would even work with the ally version. Though I don’t think the ally will see any play anymore.

Events

The Great Hunt

We were missing a Thicket-of-Spears like restriction on a Lore card, but now we have one! This event can only be played if you pay its cost using resources from 3 heroes. This immediately shuts down any cost reducers like Good Meal, as you’d then no longer pay from 3 resource pools. In return for these 3 Lore resources you are able to discard any non-unique enemy from the staging area during the Combat phase. Note that this will mean that it did not engage anyone the phase before. But if the enemy is still in the staging area, you can straight up discard it. I probably don’t have to mention how amazing this is for mono-Lore decks trying to beat Journey along the Anduin. If your threat is low enough, then you can discard the Hill-Troll on turn 1. This makes the first stage a lot easier. The Great Hunt is also useful for Intruders in Chetwood, where an Orc War Party starts in the staging area. This tough enemy must also be out of play for you in order to win, for which this card offers a great solution. There are many other scenarios where you will have some tough enemies in the staging area, who you can discard straight away with this event. It does have the draw back that you have to have 3 heroes with a Lore resource icon who all have resources in their pool, but with scrying and planning, you can save yourself a nasty encounter. Remember the Combat action though, you can’t discard during the quest phase to save you some threat up in the staging area. This card also works well with other cards that push enemies back to the staging area like Mablung and the Guardian of Ithilien. Since I play a lot of low-threat Mono Lore decks, I will be including this card in my decks!

Gwaihir’s Debt

Since Sneak Attack Gandalf is such a powerful combo, the devs have included another card that does the same thing, but better. Gwaihir’s Debt will require you to already have an unique Istari and an unique Eagle ally in play, so this event will require some other cards to get going. For Istari, we have Gandalf, Radagast, and Saruman. For Eagles, we have Gwaihir, Meneldor, Landroval, and the Wilyador objective from Journey to Rhosgobel (yes, you can play this card if you control the objective, which makes it easier to play). After you play Gwaihir’s Debt, you can search your top 5 cards for either an Eagle or Istari ally and put them into play. This can save you a lot of resources to put a high cost ally into play, but you will have to scry the top 5 cards of your deck in order to be sure it will hit. An Istari hero with Wizard’s Pipe will be amazing with this card. After you’ve shuffled the deck, you get to enjoy the new ally for the entire round instead of the phase, giving you the possibility to use a high cost ally for A Very Good Tale as well. If the ally is still in play at the end of the round, it gets put into your hand. There you can either play it next round, or switch it to the top card of your deck again with Wizard’s Pipe and keep the cycle going. This card will be included in my Eagle decks, as you can pretty reliably sneak an Eagle into play this way. The Istari requirement is limiting, but there are more targets for it now.

The King’s Return

This card is great for decks that are running a lot of the new Guarded attachments. This 1 cost event allows players to search their deck for a Guarded card and put it into play directly. This means that you are not paying extra for the event, as playing the attachment would usually cost resources as well. Since you can search your entire deck, you can free up some deckspace by only bringing one copy of the Guarded attachments you want. This helps in allowing you to play cards like Necklace of Girion in multiple physical decks at the same time, with enough consistency that you are going to find it. For Sting, this event does increase the cost to get the attachment into play. But since you’d otherwise have to dig through your deck in order to find it, one resource is a small price to pay. I feel that the archetype needed a card like this to make it easier to find these attachments early, allowing you to benefit from them for longer. I have used this event successfully in a deck that played several different Guarded attachments, and it has its uses. You obviously don’t use this card outside the archetype, but it is nice to find these more powerful cards early.

Reforged

This is a card that was spoiled recently, but really got my attention. It is Stand and Fight, but for attachments instead of allies. Why this is a good thing, I will hope to explain here. First of all, making this in the same sphere as Bard son of Brand is nice, allowing you to play a lot of attachments and getting them back through either his effect, and through this event. Second, this card really helps in recycling attachments that need to be discarded in order to be used. Think of Lembas, Miruvor, Good Meal, and Cram (really all the food things, I should probably get a sandwich). Returning these attachments from your discard pile is difficult, and only cards like Erebor Hammersmith and Second Breakfast could do this. The fact that this event can target attachments deeper in your discard pile is extremely useful in case treacheries like Leaves on Tree discard more than one. The real benefit I see in this card is that players who like the Woodmen synergy can now play attachments on locations outside of the planning phase. For the Woodmen synergy, this is amazing, as there are not always good targets for your attachments, and if the location is explored, you generally don’t see the attachments ever again. But now, you can play Reforged, returning a Woodmen’s Clearing to be played on a location just revealed. This can help to fuel Familiar Lands to lower the location’s threat or South Away if you can’t deal with the travel cost of that location. This went straight into my Woodmen deck, and I think it will remain there for a long time. For those of you hoping to cycle the Record attachments, be prepared to cough up 4 resources for it, as no cost reduction is active while it is in the discard pile. I’m just glad that this card doesn’t target Item attachments only, which would restrict things a lot.

The Quest

The final quest of this cycle is quite different than the others that we have seen during the cycle. It is a lot faster paced, which is a welcome sight after quests like Framsburg, Gundabad, and Withered Heath that could last a long time. This quest however, has a time limit where the Goblins will win if you don’t take out their leader early. This leader is Urdug, who you might remember from Roam Across Rhovanion. He and his army want to reclaim the mountain, and you stand in their way. A big battle ensues where you have to kill Urdug before the Goblins swarm you.

This quest reminds me somewhat of Helm’s Deep, as you don’t really make progress on the quest cards, and advancing them is a bad thing. The Goblins will advance these stages through their objective card, which gathers progress throughout the game through various means. The players on the other hand, have their own objective where they must gather enough resources to allow them to challenge Urdug. This management of tokens will require some math and careful planning, but if you stay on top of things, you should be fine. I have beaten the quest once with a brand new Radagast deck, and it performed well. You really gotta be ready to deal with combat from the get-go, but shouldn’t forget about willpower either. Failing the quest will put more progress on the stages for the Goblins.

As for strategy, a full strategy article will follow eventually (in about 2 cycles worth of time), but here are a few tips for having the most chance against this quest. The first is to bring side-quests. You don’t put progress on the main stage, so side-quests really are the way to go. Any spilt over progress can go towards these side-quests, giving you an edge over your opponents. You also need to be ready to spam out combat-capable allies quickly. Eagles are a logical choice, especially the cheaper ones. You can focus your deck a bit more on combat than questing, as there aren’t many locations to worry about, except for that X/X location that will bite you in the butt during the late game. Keep track of all triggers, and don’t forget to manage the tokens on both objectives. More info will follow in the dedicated article, but this should help you on your way.


And that concludes my first impression of the final pack of this cycle. It has been a great cycle with a lot of traits seeing development. I am eagerly looking forward to what the new cycle will bring, but I am still debating whether or not this First Impressions series will continue for that cycle. With the player card review series now covering these cards, I would much rather have Silblade discuss these cards in depth. But who knows, perhaps I will have more time on my hands once the new Deluxe rolls around. For now, I am happy to have concluded this cycle, and hope there are many more cycles to come that have great cards like this cycle had.

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