Staples: Location control

Location control is a mechanic in the game that is very close to my heart. I will gladly ditch the Tactics sphere in order to play more cards that interact with locations. But between all of the various cards that swap active locations, discard locations, and place progress, some are stronger than others. In this article I will try and list some of the most important location control cards in the game for each sphere. These should help you to resolve the threat in the staging area caused by locations, as well as removing the possibility of getting location locked.

Location Control

The ability to deal with locations outside of just the Travel phase is almost demanded. Since you can only travel to one location per round by default, revealing more than one location per round can cause them to pile up. This in turn adds so much threat to the staging area that it is difficult to overcome it and make progress. This continues until the players threat out, which is called Location Lock. This is one of the least fun ways to have to end a game, as you are just watching the threat pile up in the staging area. In order to prevent this, there are several cards that allow you to move locations around, and place progress on them in order to clear the locations.

Lore

I wasn’t sure what sphere to cover first, as both Lore and Spirit have really strong cards for location control. So I went with my favourite sphere first, which happens to be Lore. Lore enjoys a powerful representation of location control through the Woodmen synergy, as well as some cards that work well with Noldor decks. A proper location control deck also has Spirit splashed in, although a mono-Lore deck will be better equipped to take on enemies as well.

Asfaloth

We start this list with a card that is the chief contributor to why we have so few (non-immune) 2 quest point locations in the game anymore. Asfaloth is the mount of Glorfindel and was released in the second cycle, back when we didn’t have that many options to deal with locations yet. However, this 2 cost Mount attachment allowed any Elf to place a single progress per round on a location of choice. If that Elf happened to be Glorfindel, he got to place 2 points of progress instead. This turned Asfaloth into a location killing machine, as you could just point and click whatever location you wanted to discard. This was especially useful in combination with Cave Torch and other location control tools, but Asfaloth was also a great help against the Brown Lands location and other 1-2 quest point locations. Because of Glorfindel’s popularity in the Dwarrowdelf cycle, Asfaloth got included in nearly all line-ups, as it was a certain 2 progress on any location, including the active one.

Nowadays, Asfaloth is still kicking around, but people have somewhat grown tired of it. There hasn’t been any errata directly targeting this card, but the number of 3+ quest point locations has increased, making Asfaloth less useful in modern quests. The popularity of ally Glorfindel has also limitted this Mount, as it cannot attach to this version of Glorfindel unless that Glorfindel becomes a hero. Players can still use this Mount to great efficiency in the first 2 cycles though, and combined with other location control cards, Asfaloth can give you just the final points of progress you might need to clear a location and make some progress.

The Evening Star

There aren’t many great events for location control, but this one does see a regular appearance in many Noldor decks that try make some progress on several locations at once. As a part of the Grey Havens Deluxe, the Evening Star gets stronger the more copies of it are in your discard pile. This means that at 2 cost in Lore, you get to place between 2 and 6 points of progress, targetting different locations if you choose to. Combine this with the Noldor synergy of discarding cards more easily, and you are able to get a lot of progress on the board quickly. When played, the Evening Star allows you to pick different locations, so little progress goes wasted on a single location. The problem is that you do have to find your copies quickly, though Elven-light and Erestor can help with that.

The good thing about this event is that it is not exclusive to Noldor though. A mono-Lore deck can draw into these events really quickly, and if they save up some resources, they can play these one after another, placing a lot of progress in a single round. Other discard options like Protector of Lorien can also fuel this event outside the Noldor trait, so it is definitely worth including in your deck. You do have to bring all 3 copies though, as cutting it down to 2 severely hurts its potential. If you trigger this event with Scroll of Isildur though, you get the maximum potential out of the event, with 8 progress in groups of 2 being distributed among locations in play. That is a sure way to clear some locations in the staging area and avoid that location lock. Even better, this returns a copy to your deck for you to eventually play again. Also, I am a huge fan of this card’s art!

Mirkwood Explorer

Before the Woodmen trait became a thing, we had a few allies here and there that hinted at a location control synergy. The most useful of these allies in my opinion is the Mirkwood Explorer. This ally is expensive, but without a limit to his ability, he can be used to instantly nuke a location if you want to. The Mirkwood Explorer starts off like any other ally, but whenever you quest successfully with him, you get to place a progress on him. You can then use his second action later on to move all progress from him to any location in play. This includes the active location, which can allow you to trigger some attachments you placed on it.

While this guy will not rescue you immediately if you are already locked with locations, he is nice to get out early and simply quest with him. With you getting an extra point of progress (almost) every round, you can explore locations right away after a few rounds. Getting more of these Explorers on the table will give you even more progress to place each round. And remember that you continue to receive their willpower while doing this. Should you need to use their ability during the same round they quested in, you might want some ally-readying effects like Ever Vigilant or Leadership Faramir hero. This is not the most flashy ally, but once he has built up enough progress while questing on the background, he can be a real lifesaver for the team. Remember that you do have to move all progress to a location, so it might be more efficient to use him once he built up 4-5 progress and take care of a medium sized location before starting the cycle again. Learn the encounter deck a little with this ally.

Honourable mentions

Spirit

As I mentioned, Spirit is also a sphere that has a lot of great location control cards. In the early life of the game, Spirit was focussing a lot on cards that place progress on locations, which resulted in some cards that are perhaps a little broken if they weren’t so expensive. Still, a mono-Spirit deck will be able to pump out a lot of progress on locations, and has even received some ways to bypass travel costs. For a true location control deck though, try splashing in some Lore too.

Thror’s Key

With its Map counterpart being nerfed, Thror’s Key still remains as one of the most useful attachments to bring if you are up against some nasty locations. The Key is played on your heroes but can be moved to any location that gets added to the staging area. This means that you won’t be able to deal with locations that are already in the staging area before the Key hits the table, unless you switch those locations around a little. When attached to a location, Thror’s Key will immediately blank that location’s text box. This is an auto-include against any quest with locations that have X threat. This X is generally defined in the text box, making the location 0 threat for the rest of the game. It also prevents nasty buffs to enemies, can ignore keywords on the location (but not traits), and can even explore locations with X for their quest points, as a 0 quest point location is explored immediately. This makes it the ultimate tech against those nasty X/X locations.

The downside to this attachment is that it is unique. Once one key hits the table, no others can be played. This means you will first have to explore the keyed location before playing the next one. Exploring the location is made easier thanks to a blank textbox though, as there are now no Travel costs to worry about. Another downside is that immune locations are still unaffected, though that is a negative shared with all other player cards. Knowing what locations are the real threat in this scenario will help you to avoid moments where you wished you saved the key for another location. You also cannot blank When Revealed effects on locations, as those trigger before you can attach the key to that location.

Heirs of Earendil

This relatively new event is a bit more restrictive for the deck you are playing, as it requires you to have an unique Noldor and an unique Dunedain character in play. This can be done through your lineup (Idraen + Glorfindel is a common combo), or you can get some cheaper unique allies on the board quickly to satisfy this event’s rules. Once you have the characters required, at the cost of 1 Spirit resource, you can raise your threat by X to discard a non-unique location from the staging area, where X is the printed quest points on that location. This is a straight up discard, so no “When explored” triggers go off, which is nice for locations like Ancient Causeway from the Angmar Awakened cycle. The fact that this card doesn’t use the Doomed keyword allows you to take all of the threat by yourself, while no-one else suffers the consequences. It can also remove more threat from the staging area if the location has more threat than quest points, famous example being the Brown Lands.

As you are playing a Spirit deck with this event, you will likely have means to drop your threat again, which balances this event out. I often run this event if I meet the trait requirements, but with Elf-friend being able to grant anyone the Noldor trait, it is quite easy to get out as long as you have a Dunedain hero (again, Idraen is perfect). This point and click method of straight up discarding a location is very powerful, as long as you have means to counter the increase in threat you are gaining. Engaging enemies is something a location control deck tends to avoid, unless you are playing Expert Trackers.

Northern Tracker

Right out of the Core Set, this ally has been known to solve all your location problems as long as you quest every round with him. The effect of the Northern Tracker is amazing, but you do pay a steep cost for it. At 4 resources, this is one of the most expensive non-unique allies in the game, together with 3 others (Erebor Guard, Warden of Annuminas, and Descendent of Girion). 4 resources in Spirit in difficult to get, unless you are exploiting Dwarven Mining cards. In return, you get a Dunedain Ranger ally that places a progress on all locations in the staging area when he commits to the quest. Stack this with a few copies of the Tracker in play, and locations will no longer form a problem. However, you don’t get much else outside of that effect at 4 cost. The Tracker only has 1 willpower, and Dunedain have very limited ways to boost that. The other stats on the Tracker are good for Spirit, especially in the early life of the game, but you have a problem. The Tracker should commits to quest each round in order to get the maximum use out of himself. This means that you do not get to use his other stats, except perhaps his 3 hitpoints saving him from some direct damage.

This negative can be resolved through a few other cards though. Hero Galadriel helps the Northern Tracker to remain ready in order to use his ability and his combat stats. You can also use Valiant Determination for this, though that attachment is pretty expensive and there might be better targets. Another way to bring out this ally more consistently would be to lower his cost through Heir of Valandil, or through Sneak Attack, Reinforcements, Caldara, or Lothiriel if she gets the Ranger trait. All in all, this ally will tear through locations like they’re nothing, especially if you get multiple copies out. The developers have tried to nerf this ally somewhat by boosting quest points on locations, and making some immune while in the staging area. But if you are able to afford these Trackers in your deck, you’ll have to bring a few with you to your multiplayer game.

Honourable mentions

Leadership

Leadership has some tricks for location control, but it really isn’t anything to make a complete deck with. A sprinkle of allies and attachments across various other traits is all it has, but they are worth considering if you have Leadership in a Lore/Spirit deck as well.

Snowbourn Scout

Ah, good old Snowbourn Scout, the first ever chumpblocker we got out of the Core Set. Who knows how many Scouts have fallen victim to an enemy attack? Anyway, they make this list thanks to their enter play ability, which is somewhat backwards with his archetype. You would expect something like this from a Silvan ally (like Woodland Courier), not from a Rohan ally. Regardless, when this ally enters play, he places one point of progress on any location. This can be active, or in the staging area. After that, the Scout has done what he came here to do, and can chump an attack afterwards. It’s quick, it’s simple, and it can still make a lot of difference when repeated. Nowadays, the Scout can be free with Spirit Theoden, and can be returned through Gamling or Guthwinë. This gives you a discardable ally nearly every round, allowing you to trigger several abilities, like Imrahil and Eomer, while continuously making progress on locations.

While there have been some quests recently that punish chumpblocking, the earlier quests are far more in favor of this method of defending. The ally doesn’t have amazing stats, but you can always play this ally when you draw him during the resource phase (assuming you have a resource match). And having allies leaving play this way can be an entire engine to your deck through cards like Horn of Gondor and Valiant Sacrifice! A good little card that does its task well, and is nice to have in your hand.

Mariner’s Compass

To be honest, I kinda neglected this attachment when it first came out. Seeing how Leadership has little means to take care of locations, I rarely ran Leadership in my Location Control decks, and in Leadership decks, I tended to quest too hard to really care about locations. But with the Dale archetype needing more attachments on allies, this Compass has become more interesting. Especially on allies like North Realm Lookout, who doesn’t exhaust to quest, this attachment is really useful. The attachment can only attach to Leadership and Scout characters, since those would the only ones smart enough to pack a Compass. When attached, it gives the character the ability to exhaust itself and the attachment in order to search the top 5 cards of the encounter deck for a location, and switch it with a location in the staging area. This can only be done before the Travel phase, and will reshuffle a bad location into the encounter deck in return for a more friendly location. This is ideal in scenarios where you are looking for a specific location, such as the Forest Grove during A Journey to Rhosgobel.

The attachment is mostly used just to trigger the Dale synergy in my decks, being a cheap way to get extra willpower on some allies. But the ability to shuffle away locations that would limit your travelling possibilities is really useful. Like how City Street in Steward’s Fear won’t let you travel anywhere else. Of course, you still have to get lucky with your draws, as you only get to see your top 5 encounter cards. But the Compass can definitely work in your favour!

Ranger Summons

This event gets on the list as it is the only way you are getting a Ranger of the North ally into the encounter deck. The event itself is not a location control card, but the ally it puts in, is. So I will briefly cover the event, and then move on to the ally. So, this event can only played when controlling a Dunedain hero, and costs a single resource to put the Ranger of the North into the encounter deck. The event is then removed from the game, so you have to run 3 copies of the event to bring in 3 copies of the Ranger. Leadership and Dunedain is an easy match to find, with heroes like Aragorn, Halbarad, and Amarthiul being natural fits. It’s not difficult to get this event into play, as it is also a Signal, making it easy to find with Weather Hills Watchman.

On to the ally itself then, which is why the event appears on the list. The ally is shuffled into the encounter deck, making it difficult to find in the early game, but once the encounter deck is running low on cards, you can find this ally pretty consistently. He can come out as a shadow card, which isn’t too great, but at least he’ll be reshuffled. Once revealed, the Ranger of the North will surge, but will also deal 2 damage to an enemy or 2 progress to a location in play. This one-time effect may seem weak, but it is a nice bonus stacked upon getting a decent ally and an extra surge trigger for Lanwyn to trigger off of. With 2/2/2/3 for stats, this ally is worth an easy 4 resources, and is quite versatile with both the Ranged and Sentinel keyword. This makes me compare the Ranger to ally Haldir a lot, except he also has a When Revealed effect and is not unique. This ally is great fun to bring to the table, and the little bit of progress he places can turn out to make a difference in some scenarios.

Tactics

Tactics really isn’t the sphere you want to use for your location control, as there are very few options for you. Despite this, it is the only sphere with a hero with a location control ability built in, where other characters would need allies or attachments. Still, a Tactics location control deck is not something coming soon. Tactics is also limited to mostly making progress when killing enemies, so it’s not ideal to bring such cards to Emyn Muil.

Legolas

Core Set Legolas was among the first set of heroes ever revealed. Back then, he was one of the only characters capable to make progress on the quest, as Core Set Tactics had next to no willpower. Still, Legolas was able to explore locations through his ability, which places 2 points of prgress each time he kills an enemy. Combine this with Blades of Gondolin and Arod, and he can start to really place a lot of progress on the main quest and locations in the staging area. These days, Legolas has seen 2 new versions, of which his ally version competes most often for his uniqueness slot in decks. Still, Legolas is a popular hero who can quickly place more progress on the quest with weapons and readying effects like Rohan Warhorse. The fact that he isn’t limited to once per round/phase makes him a useful boost for your Tactics decks. You could even get him up to high attack strength, and then play Hour of Wrath to make insane amounts of progress while killing most enemies in the staging area. Legolas has a wide variety of tools he can use, seeing how his sphere, traits, and printed Ranged keyword give him access to a ton of Weapons.

In the end, it is no wonder we still see this hero around the community in many decks. His alt art version gave him a boost in popularity as well, and is mainly the reason I run him in a deck. But he has competition from other versions of himself, so you may have to swap him out for heroes like Bard the Bowman if other players want to run ally Legolas in their Tactics deck for the card draw.

Meneldor

When I said that all Tactics location control cards would require an enemy to be killed, I wasn’t considering this Eagle ally. Meneldor has no reason to be in Tactics, except for the fact that his entire archetype doesn’t want to leave the Tactics sphere. Meneldor is a unique Eagle ally costing 3 resources, but makes up for that with 2 willpower and the ability to place 2 progress on any location when he enters and leaves play. This means you get 4 progress out of him, plus an action, which will likely be questing. Meneldor can be a double use Asfaloth in a single round, who can clear 3-4 quest point locations with relative ease. Getting rid of Meneldor may be the biggest obstacle, but the Eagle synergy has plenty of cards to help you out, such as Flight of the Eagles and Born Aloft. You can also deal Archery damage to Meneldor, or use his action to defend an attack. And if there isn’t a valid location in the staging area for his ability, just keep him in play longer! A great ally to include in any Tactics-heavy deck that can afford him.

Honourable mentions

Neutral

Other than Ranger of the North, who I already covered in the section on Ranger Summons (since you can’t have one without the other), there are no ways to splash in a Neutral card that places progress or that moves locations around. But with every sphere having at least some cards that deal with locations, you are spoiled for choice.


That rounds out a list of cards to bring if you are fighting off location lock during your (multiplayer) playthrough. There are several archetypes that will work well with this mechanic, such as a Caldara deck, Noldor deck, and Woodmen deck. Try those out and you’ll be cutting through locations with ease.

No cards were hurt in the creation of this articles thumbnail. No need to call Card Protective Services like last time. These cards are safe in sleeves of binders most of the time. For proof on this, see this article.

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