During the Ered Mithrin cycle, a new set of cards was introduced with amazing abilities. However, these 7 cards all come with the Guarded (X) keyword, which means that when you play them, they attach to either a location or enemy in play. Exploring the location or defeating the enemy will allow you to get the card attached to your heroes, after which you get you big bonus. This means that the Guarded cards come at an extra cost besides resources, however, if you play some other cards with the Guarded card synergy, you might be able to get these cards out faster.
What are Guarded cards?
Guarded player cards are some of the most powerful artifacts in Middle Earth during the end of the Third Age. These include a Ring of Power, various weapons from the First Age, the Arkenstone, a shirt made of mithril rings, a Palantir and a jeweled necklace. These items are all unique and come with amazing abilities or buffs to the character(s) they attach to. The downside to these cards is that in order to play them, you have to play them into the staging area. You then discard cards from the top of the encounter deck until a card is discarded with the type as specified in the (X) keyword on the guarded card. These are usually locations and enemies, although Sting can only be attached to an enemy, and the Mithril Shirt only to a location. All other encounter cards are discarded and do not resolve anything. This makes Guarded cards able to discard nasty treacheries on top of the encounter deck, as long as you know that they’re coming.
Another thing to note with these guarded cards is that there is no way to play them without resolving their keyword. Let me just say that again: THERE IS NO WAY TO PLAY THESE CARDS WITHOUT RESOLVING THEIR GUARDED (X) KEYWORD! This means that after Well-Equipped discards the attachment, you may put it into play, but will have to move it to the staging area and resolve its Guarded(X) keyword. The only way to play these attachments without having the Guarded cost go off, is by using the Burglar’s Turn contract. Even then, the attachments will first go on an encounter card, as you do not technically play them from your hand. This is a viable strategy, as it allows you to avoid the extra encounter cards, but the contract does shape your deck for you, since you cannot include attachments in your deck.
After the Guarded card has been put into play and has its encounter card, the players must either explore the attached location, or defeat the attached enemy. In the meantime, the extra encounter card will be adding its threat to the staging area, so it is advised to look for an oppertune moment to play your guarded cards. Ideally, you want to play these at the start of the game, so you get your bonuses out quickly. However, you might not be set up for an additional encounter card at that point, so waiting a turn or 2 may be a better strategy. Look for a window where the staging area is empty, and you can bring out enough willpower to overcome the extra threat you are about to add. Scrying the top card of the encounter deck might also be a good idea, as that gives you a clue as to what you might be attaching to the Guarded card. Upon defeating the attached encounter card, you may claim the attachment and place it on one of your heroes.
Guarded cards were introduced in the Ered Mithrin cycle, where each sphere got one attachment, and the others were distributed to the Neutral part of the card pool. The archetype saw some development in the Vengeance of Mordor cycle, but only with 2 added attachments and the Burglar’s Turn contract. There are no packs in bold for this archetype, as you can get equal value out of each pack on the list in terms of guarded attachments.
- The Wilds of Rhovanion
- The entire Ered Mithrin cycle
- Wrath and Ruin
- Under the Ash Mountains
The Guarded cards can be found in all 4 spheres, with 3 Neutral cards in there as well. This makes them splashable into any deck that might need some of the boosts, and also means that players should either play a multi-sphere deck in order to get most of these attachments out, or play Bard son of Brand in order to play all sphered Item attachments with a resource match. The only non-item Guarded card (Ring of Thror) is Neutral and can therefore be played regardless of it not having the correct trait. All spheres are also capable enough to get these Guarded cards out quickly. Leadership has The King’s Return, which is an event that finds your Guarded cards and plays them immediately, regardless of sphere or cost. You do still have to trigger the Guarded (X) keyword though. Tactics has the new version of Bilbo Baggins to take care of enemies that are guarding cards. He can swiftly deal a lot of damage to enemies guarding cards, while also being able to get some more willpower out. Spirit gets a boost through the Ring of Barahir, which boosts hitpoints on a hero for each Artifact attached to that hero. Since all these Guarded cards are Artifacts, you can quickly get an additional boost out of them. Lore (and Spirit too) can quickly explore locations guarding player cards with location control cards. This saves you a round of travelling and gets you your attachments out earlier than usual. Lore and Tactics each have one additional Guarded attachment, thanks to the Vengeance of Mordor cycle adding a couple to the card pool.
In the end, there is no wrong lineup of heroes when it comes to guarded cards. Look at which ones you want to include in your deck, and what other player cards can help you with getting them. You generally don’t make a non-Burglar’s Turn deck that includes more than 2 of these cards, so with the Neutral attachments included, you can get a proper Guarded attachment deck in about every sphere.
There isn’t really much synergy to be had with this mechanic, since your goal is to get at least one of these attachments out on the table as quickly as possible. There are some tools that accelerate this process, but there is no deep synergy between the attachments and other cards. The King’s Return can quickly go through your deck and play whatever Guarded card you want right away. This is nice to play off-sphere Guarded cards and to save resources on other heroes. There aren’t any other player cards that directly synergize with the Guarded cards, besides the Bilbo synergy I spoke of earlier. With the Guarded cards being a rather new mechanic, there aren’t that many cards that support it (yet). Your best bet is to include a way to kill enemies in the staging area (Hands Upon the Bow, Rohan, or Direct damage) and a way to clear locations as quickly as possible (location control cards, especially progress placing ones).
Synergy with other traits
There are some traits that benefit more from these Guarded cards in general, but most can fit into any deck. An exception is that Ring of Thror can only go to a Dwarf hero. This helps that hero to ready and get more attachments out, and boosts the Dwarven mining synergy as well!
Hobbits make for good burglars, which makes them work great with these Guarded cards. Bilbo Baggins in his new Tactics form is the real star here, capable of dealing 2 points of damage to any enemy guarding a card in the staging area. This can get you your copy of Sting out more quickly, which only goes on Hobbit heroes. Doesn’t have to be Bilbo though, as heroes like Tom Cotton really likes Sting as well.
Finally, there is a bit of synergy with Glamdring and Gandalf, but that is just to allow any ally Gandalf to also wield this weapon. This is the only case of an ally taking a Guarded card, and was only done for lore reasons. It is not very wise to attach this weapon to Gandalf allies, as one leaves play at the end of the round, and the other will leave play as well if you no longer want to suffer a high threat raise at the end of each round.
To be fair, all these cards are amazing, and worthy of the staple catagory. But during a poll where the first 7 cards can be voted on, it is clear that some are more popular than others. The most popular is the very first Guarded (X) attachment we got: Necklace of Girion. At just 1 cost in Neutral, this attachment can be played whenever you draw it, and will discard cards from the top of the encounter deck until a location or an enemy is discarded. Upon defeating that encounter card, the player who played the Necklace can attach it to one of their heroes. That hero gets a +2 buff to willpower, and receives an additional resource during the resource phase. The Necklace of Girion is pretty much Celebrian’s Stone and Resourceful rolled into a single attachment. It is also not restricted, and can go onto any hero. This attachment pays for itself after a single round, and is probably best on your quester. Combo’s with this card include a Sword-Thained Rosie Cotton, or a Rohan hero with Golden Shield/Herugrim to boost other stats as well!
“Bad” Guarded cards
As all Guarded cards have their uses, none can be considered “bad” in my eyes. Still, the community is less enthausiastic about the Mithril Shirt than the other attachments in the card pool. The Mithril Shirt is a one-size-fits-all piece of armor that can go onto every hero, but will be most effective on defenders. It can only be guarded by a location, which is not a big problem for Spirit. That sphere has enough location control cards to pump out some progress on that location or to make it active quicker through West Road Traveller. Upon receiving the Mithril shirt, the attached hero can cancel the first point of damage dealt to it. There is no limit on this, unlike cards such as Raven-winged Helm. This makes the Shirt ideal for defenders like Spirit Beregond, as an extra layer of defence. It can also go on Spirit Frodo, allowing him to raise your threat by 1 point less, as he took less damage. The fact that this shirt has no limit means you can also use it to lower Archery damage by 1, and can tank some direct damage encounter cards with your questers. While it is not restricted, the Mithril Shirt is a bit…underwhelming in the eyes of the community. Where other cards had stat buffs plus a cool ability, the Shirt only has the ability. If the shirt would have given +1 defence and/or +1 hitpoint to the attached character, it would have been more on par with the likes of other Guarded cards. But this card is still a nice extra layer of protection for your heroes, and I’m glad this iconic shirt made it into the game as a player card.
What the archetype is missing
As the archetype was only developed in cycle 8, it hasn’t had the time to be expanded upon too much. The ninth cycle did add two new attachments, but added little to support getting the attachments out quickly. But the biggest thing that I personally would like to see is some more unique attachments with the Guarded (X) keyword. We only have 9, and there are a lot more unique weapons and artifacts in the world that haven’t been added yet. Many people had hoped to see Anduril as a Guarded attachment for Aragorn, so that would be an option.
Besides that, the attachments are powerful enough on their own to have them in your deck, and are worth defeating an encounter card for. I don’t think there is much that can be added to the game to make this easier, other than perhaps a location counterpart to Bilbo. If a new Woodmen hero could for instance place progress on a location with attachments, it would help out the problem of guarded attachments leading to location lock.
Like I said, these Guarded cards can go into any deck, as their mechanic takes up very little deckspace. Still, here are some decks you might want to explore to get a sense of how fast you can get these cards on the table.
So ends the review on these Guarded (X) cards. They are a powerful tool to bring to the table, but are offset by the fact that you have to face an additional enemy or location. This might not always be worth it, but given the right conditions, you can benefit off of these cards immensly. You can also grief the table by playing 4 of these cards during round one, adding 4 more encounter cards to the staging area, and then claiming all the rewards for yourself. I wouldn’t recommend it, but hey, you do you.