We leave behind the deep and dangerous forests of Mirkwood and handed over the unpredictable Gollum to King Thranduil. Now the whole new adventures await us, far away from Mirkwood forests. The White Council sends us to the Mines of Moria, to find Balin, who establishes there a colony of Dwarves. However, since that time nobody has heard of him. Your mission is find out, what happens in Moria. You maybe discover more than you would wish…
This is the beginning of the first expansion, Khazad-Dum. Because we will be moving in deep mines, dark undergrounds or even the highest mountains, the aid from Dwarves is coming. They were born and live in such places, they are at home there. Prepare for entering of Dwarf army, which will protect you and lead you not merely through the mines of Moria.
The rank of Spirit heroes is expanded by the first hero of Khazad-Dum at the same time, Dwarf named Dwalin. 9 starting threat belongs to the higher value in the Spirit environment, however, on a global scale, it’s an average (good) value. After Dúnhere, it’s the second Spirit hero, who redirected attention from the questing to the combat duties. Unlike Dúnhere, he fulfills his task more stubbornly and reliably, but I will talk about it later. Dwalin owns 1 Willpower, 2 Attack, 2 Defense and 4 Hit Points. Like other Dwarves in Khazad Dum, he works in two modes: with and without Dáin Ironfoot. Non-boosted Dwalin doesn’t impress or offend. With ready Dáin Ironfoot on the board, he changes into 2-3-2-4 Dwarf, able to quest fairly and attack perfectly. From these stats, I will highlight his attack potential, not because of the value itself, but also due to his subsequent ability.
Dwalin is the specialist in killing Orcs – “Orcslayer”. It is illustrated by interesting Response: “After Dwalin attacks and destroys an Orc enemy, lower your threat by 2.” Orcs are very common kind of enemies in a lot of scenarios from Dwarrowdelf cycle.
!SPOILER! With exception of The Watcher in the Water, where we are facing omnipresent Tentacles, or in Foundations of Stone, where in dark secluded places are lurking Nameless.
You can utilize their presence in own profit. Firstly, you can get rid of annoying “little” Orcs like Goblin Swordsman or Goblin Scout. In cooperation with Thalin, you also can destroy by a single smash Goblin Spearman and Stray Goblin. All of them are suitable targets for Dwalin’s axes. I would also recommend Unexpected Courage, so you can decrease your threat even by 4 if you kill two Orcs at the same time. Secondly, due to the frequent killing of Orcs, you can significantly decrease your threat. Dwalin’s ability may compensate the high overall starting threat, for example, if you decide to play with Dáin Ironfoot and Gimli (=32 starting threat). As we know, the lower threat means greater freedom in choosing an enemy during the engagement. You have better control over your situation. And if you like the counting of the final score, it helps you reach better results. Dwalin’s ability partially substitute the Spirit event Galadhrim’s Greeting, which was (with Gandalf, of course) the only reasonable way, how to effectively decrease your threat.
In times of peace, you surely can utilize his 2 Willpower (with Dáin Ironfoot) and “move your ass” through the dungeons of Khazad-Dum. Contrarily, during the raging fights, when enemies have numerical superiority, with half-closed eyes, you can defend 1-2 attacks, but shadows effects in Khazad-Dum are too dangerous (Chance Encounter, Goblin Tunnels, Sudden Pitfall, A Foe Beyond) and you shouldn’t risk such a good attacker.
Why do I evaluate Dwalin more positively than Dúnhere? Dúnhere’s ability needs to keep enemies in the staging area (can be a tough task, though in Khazad-Dum, with enemies like Goblin Scout, he could be useful). That’s the main restriction, which could hinder you. Dwalin just needs Orcs for his ability, and in most scenarios, that’s not a problem. Besides, after destroying Orc you also get a nice bonus in the form of a decreasing threat. All in all, though Dwalin is rather a specialist in attacking than questing, his ability makes from him the rightful member of the Spirit sphere.
The Lore sphere is well-known for the issue with resources. Expensive cards and the inability to effectively generate resources without the help of other spheres complicates the usage of this sphere. You either have to build purely the monosphere Lore deck, include only cheap Lore cards or search for help in other spheres, like Leadership (Steward of Gondor, Narvi’s Belt) or Neutral sphere (Song of Wisdom). Bifur has the ambition to change this and make from the Lore sphere fully-fledged sphere, where we don’t have to be afraid of cards with 3 and more cost. How? Let’s check him more closely!
The stats remind me of Bilbo Baggins (1-1-2-2). The only difference lies in a really good starting threat (7) and better Willpower (2) with one more Hit Point (3). In a “Dáin Ironfoot mode”, we can enjoy 3-2-2-3, so we have something to do with high-quality quester. He probably won’t utilize his 2 Defense and 3 Hit Points, eventually empowered by A Burning Brand, because he will be still “on the questing journey”. And now, we are getting to his interesting Action – you choose any hero on the board and move from him 1 resource to Bifur. You can use it once per round and additionally, any player may trigger this ability. So any player can voluntarily move the resource from his hero to Bifur, which can be under the control of another player. I consider that for revolutionary innovation – Bifur’s controller doesn’t have to wait for his round and pray if some free resource has left. If anybody won’t utilize all resources, one he can gift to Bifur. Suddenly, in one round and with Bifur as the only Lore hero you can pay a 2-cost card, during two rounds you can pay even a 4-cost card – this possibility would look in Shadows of Mirkwood cycle like sci-fi (or a fantasy :)). I don’t need to tell you, how the resource generation will improve if you include to the deck with Bifur more Lore heroes…
So with Bifur in the game, you may put aside cards like Song of Wisdom. Steward of Gondor you may attach to another hero, who needs it more urgently. And as Dwarf, he can profit from the Dáin Ironfoot’s presence. Is any negative connected with Bifur at all? I barely think of anything. As the hero with 3 Hit Points, you must take care of damaging treacheries, which hurts more than in the previous cycle. One Dark and Dreadful with active Dark location can cause that you will be damn careful and prudent in order that Bifur wouldn’t die. You should have access to some healing cards, for any case. It would be shame to lose such a awesome Dwarf.
In tandem with Bifur, the first Leadership attachment of Khazad-Dum is coming: Narvi’s Belt. After these all “Dúnedain attachments” we are finally encountering something new and non-overfamiliar. And why I mention the Lore Dwarf Bifur exactly? You will find it out below.;)
Firstly, we should introduce Narvi’s Belt itself. For acceptable 2 cost, we have got the unique attachment, which can be attached only to Dwarves – in Khazad-Dum, we hardly may speak about restriction, because Dwarves are common kind of characters. Narvi’s Belt then owns this Action: “Exhaust Narvi’s Belt to give attached hero a resource icon of your choice until the end of the phase.” We are obtaining almost unlimited tactical options. Narvi’s Belt enables to play a card from any sphere during the chosen phase: Leadership, Tactic, Spirit, and Lore. This attachment means the indisputable help in trisphere decks, where the value of resources from each sphere is enormously great. Also in dualsphere decks, where one sphere is represented by only one hero, Narvi’s Belt fulfills its role flawlessly. It is also possible to include cards from spheres, which are not represented by any hero at all. In my point of view, this attachment makes Songs needless – Narvi’s Belt may add to hero any sphere icon you need. At the same time, you save the free place for other wished cards. In other and funny words, Narvi’s Belt is like the package, all-in-one “multi-Song“. Because of that, even Rivendell Minstrel loses its importance and firm ground under his feet (also, Dwarves, boosted by Dáin Ironfoot, are another reason, which makes Rivendell Minstrel more or less useless, at least from the view of Willpower).
Now I’m getting to thing with Bifur. Why I have mentioned him? Because the nature of Bifur directly prods us into attaching Narvi’s Belt to him. Narvi’s Belt should follow the hero with improved resource generation – like Bifur, who generates them through the other heroes. They make a good and reliable combo. Except for Bifur, Narvi’s Belt can be attached to Glóin, who generates resources on the basis of damage tokens, or hero with already attached Steward of Gondor.
!SPOILER! In Secrecy decks, heroes with attached Resourceful are other good targets for Narvi’s Belt.
I just want to warn you that if you decide to attach Narvi’s Belt to Bifur, you should also equip him with some “Hit-Points-booster” (due to Bifur’s 3 Hit Points). We know very well Citadel Plate, but also Boots from Erebor can do its job quite reliably. You then prevent awkward surprise, if some treachery beats your Bifur and Narvi’s Belt with him.
Just don’t ignore one rule connected with this attachment. If you want to use some event with Response effect, like A Test of Will, you have to exhaust Narvi’s Belt (to gain Spirit resource icon) in a proper action window, so in this case, before the staging begins, not during the staging.
Important question: do you think Dwarves can sing? Well, it looks like very bizarre, if you imagine a singing Dwarf, at least within the fantasy field. However, as we have seen in The Hobbit movie, where Thorin Oakeshield with other Dwarves were The Misty Mountains Cold singing, these little dumpy creatures possess this ability. And when we look at the Leadership event Durin’s Song, we know this is true.
Prepare 1 resource, for which you may play this event. Target one Dwarf hero; that hero gains +2 Willpower, +2 Attack, and +2 Defense until the end of turn. Look at two details, which you can overlook easily. To be honest, during the writing of this review I realized that I was playing this very simple event wrong. The one thing is that you have to target Dwarf hero, not any Dwarf character. The second thing is that Durin’s Song lasts the whole round, not only a single phase. In Khazad-Dum, it is assumed you will go with at least a couple of Dwarf heroes. However, I consider as a bit shame it doesn’t concern also Dwarf allies. Durin’s Song would then obtain greater versatility. But never mind, the important effect is reflected in boosting itself. Gaining +2 to all stats for just 1 resource is just amazing. Do you remember some previous “boosters”, for example For Gondor! from the Core set? For 2 cost you gained +1 Attack for all characters and +1 Defense for all Gondor characters. I don’t want to judge For Gondor! unfairly, but 2 cost for +1 Attack and maybe +1 Defense for characters with a certain trait seems more situational and less usable.
!SPOILER! Within 2 first cycles, I didn’t For Gondor! use until Heirs of Númenor and Against the Shadow cycle with all these Gondor characters came.
In this comparison, Durin’s Song hasn’t any competitor from the previous cycle. Boosted Dwarf hero may quest, attack and defend, anything you need. Even if the hero has 0 Willpower, Attack or Defense, Durin’s Song boosts him sufficiently for any of these activities. I very much appreciate the versatility of this card regarding all boosted stats, you don’t have to solve, which stat would be handy for you. Moreover, Durin’s Song prods us into boosting of Dwarf hero with attached Unexpected Courage. The potential of this combo is evident, the result is magnificent and, what is most important, practical – nothing like, “you may do that if you have that and if the situation is favourable”. No, just use Durin’s Song on any Dwarf hero with attached Unexpected Courage and you can do anything and anytime you want.
3 copies of Durin’s Song in any Dwarf deck I consider for the standard. If you need help during questing, or you face some strong enemy and you need boost Defense, or you need to overcome enemy’s defense, Durin’s Song will support your effort.
It would be boring if every player card was great, strong, useful and respected. Even bad and weak player cards have own place among others because it brings some variability to the game. Their existence is at least interesting, if not beneficial. The game becomes “authentic”. And one of these cards is coming right now: Ever Onward.
Both heroes and all Leadership cards from Khazad-Dum until now were very useful. The same can’t be said about Ever Onward with quite daring 3 cost. A player would think that event with such cost must be something unique, especially in the Leadership sphere, where events with 1 cost (2 cost at most) are standard. Judge yourself: after player(s) quest(s) unsuccessfully, you may choose one player. That player won’t raise his threat. Well, this card is counting with something you try to prevent under all circumstances – raise your threat during questing. Sometimes it doesn’t matter, raising threat by 1, 2 or 3 doesn’t mean a catastrophe and you may continue further without hesitation. However, when you quest unsuccessfully, it also can mean you are in trouble. It is because of you firstly didn’t count your Willpower against Threat Strength in the staging area well? Did you count with some “Willpower reserve”? Did encounter deck surprise you suddenly and unpleasantly? Or are you already in an unenviable situation, where encounter deck crushes you with overall Threat Strength and with each round the problem is escalating? The answer is important: if you count bad or don’t keep some reserve, it’s not the problem of the encounter deck or your deck – you just have to pay more attention and think more deeply, like a chess player, not like a player of the video game. In this case Ever Onward doesn’t worth for including into deck. On the other side, if you are in deep trouble with overall Threat Strength, the culprit is probably in your deck composition. Of course, big bad luck may happen as well, but from the experience, a deck with improper player cards with regard to the concrete scenario can break your neck repeatedly. In this case, Ever Onward also doesn’t belong to the right solution, just adjust your deck somehow else. The only situation, where Ever Onward may help you even for its 3 cost, is when encounter deck really surprise you without any warning. You know that: sometimes encounter deck shows during staging such a deadly “cocktail” of encounter cards that you are just astonished, shocked. Only there Ever Onward may save you reasonably. You then should choose player, who is endangered by increasing threat at most – either player with the already high threat, or player with support/non-combat deck. Certainly, this event shines in a solo deck, where you automatically choose yourself and don’t increase your threat at all.
But I consider this usage for very specific. In most cases, Ever Onward remains unused in your hands as the feed for Éowyn or Protector of Lórien at best. You really should think about the deck building and adapt to it properly with regard to the played scenario than just rely on the unreliable event.
Scenarios of Khazad-Dum demands not only average warriors but also some true heavyweight. We have got Beorn and Eagles, but we need some fresh blood, Dwarf at best. Veteran of Nanduhirion fulfills the mentioned characteristics. But does he succeed in our eyes, and mostly important, in our decks?
4 cost in the Tactic sphere shouldn’t surprise us, even if I very wish some cheaper ally – many allies from the previous cycle were noticeably expensive (Descendant of Thorondor, Landroval, Eagles of the Misty Mountains). This Dwarf you won’t send on a quest (0 Willpower), but you gladly send him to the battle – 3 Attack is a very good value for an ally. 2 Defense is okay and with 3 Hit Points, he shouldn’t be considered for a chump blocker. Well, it depends… 3 Hit Points isn’t a very accurate stat. Veteran of Nanduhirion has a very strange passive ability – he comes to the play with 1 damage token on him. At this moment, I agree that thematically it fits – Dwarf, which is considered for a veteran, for an experienced Warrior with many scars from countless battles, “deserves to be valued” by damage token. Yeah, with Dáin Ironfoot on the board, Veteran of Nanduhirion attacks with 4 Attack – that’s not stat of a greenhorn.:)
But to be more serious, damaging own ally belongs to the very odd and useless things I have seen until now, especially when this ally is not for free (read 2 cost and lower). I would understand this “handicap”, when you would play a very good ally for very low cost, as the acceptable restriction for the good balance in the game. Remember Vassal of the Windlord with 3 Attack and Ranged keyword for only 1 cost? I am really good with his leaving from the game after the attack resolves, it is an adequate cost for his perfect stats. Another, but less understandable example is Dark Knowledge – attached hero gets -1 Willpower. For that, you may look on any shadow card dealt to an enemy. This restriction doesn’t make sense in comparison with A Burning Brand, which automatically cancels shadow effects and you don’t get any “debuff”. But Veteran of Nanduhirion shouldn’t get any debuff for 4 cost. Spending 4 resources for him is the sufficient cost and the player shouldn’t be treated more than that, because except good stats, Veteran of Nanduhirion doesn’t own any special ability.
!SPOILER! Moreover, Veteran of Nanduhirion will be completely overshadowed by Erebor Battle Master arrival. Cummulative increasing strength with each Dwarf ally under your control outperforms Veteran of Nanduhirion in any case.
Of course, you can heal that 1 automatically dealt damage by some healing card, like Glorfindel, but you really shouldn’t bother yourself with that.
The advice is clear – just try Veteran of Nanduhirion in a really heavy-Dwarf deck to try his potential, how he behaves in real situations, and how “painful” is that 1 damage on him from the start.
Because we occur within Khazad-Dum expansion, almost every card is related to trait Dwarf. The Tactic attachment called Dwarrowdelf Axe isn’t an exception. It even replaces one older Item and Weapon, which we know very well because it accompanies us through the whole Shadows of Mirkwood cycle – Dwarven Axe. But about this, I am going to talk later.
Your task is simple. Find a free place in your Dwarf deck for 2-3 copies of Dwarrowdelf Axe. When you get it in your hands, save 1 Tactic resource. Look for some Dwarf character (note, not only hero!), who already hasn’t attached 2 Restricted attachments, because Dwarrowdelf Axe is Restricted. Attach to him. You get +1 Attack as a passive effect. Very good exchange 1 cost for 1 Attack, nothing remarkable, but also nothing awkward. Wait, the text continues – it’s not only about that +1 Attack, which we have already seen at Dúnedain Mark. It has also Response, which automatically deals 1 damage to the defending enemy after the bearer of Dwarrowdelf Axe attacks him. Dear friends note that +1 Attack and dealing also 1 damage to an enemy can’t be interchanged by +2 Attack. It’s not definitely the same and so Dwarrowdelf Axe has a different position than Dwarven Axe. Why? Dwarven Axe boosts your character by 2 additional Attack, but it doesn’t guarantee you an enemy get some damage from it. If the enemy has high Defense, like Cave-troll, it’s hard to hurt him. A single attack of an average attacker, like Glóin, with Dwarven Axe can fail, and he wouldn’t even scratch Cave-troll at all. Of course, this is theory. In practice, you wouldn’t attack with Glóin alone, if you know that you won’t damage your enemy. You would attack in a group with other characters. And don’t forget Dáin Ironfoot, who should be auto-included in any heavy-Dwarf deck and who boosts another +1 Attack. But compare to Dwarrowdelf Axe attached to Glóin, who attacks Cave-troll. 1 damage to this enemy is guaranteed in any case. It doesn’t matter, how high Defense the enemy owns – he will be hurt every time. Well, there are enemies, which can complicate it for you, like Patrol Leader. If Patrol Leader should get damage, you must discard the top card from the encounter deck. If the discarded card is an enemy, he cancels the incoming damage. In the case of Dwarrowdelf Axe, if you overcome his Defense and damage him in the “classic way”, then you have to discard even 2 cards from the encounter deck – 1 card for the “classic” damage from the attack and 1 card for that 1 damage, which should be automatically dealt to an enemy. But Patrol Leader is rather an exception. Generally, 1 damage is always guaranteed.
Now let’s clear one rule puzzle, which concerns directly the Response of this attachment: WHEN you apply that 1 automatic damage? Immediately after you declare the attacker or after resolving attack? This can be confusing for some players because it seduces us to deal damage immediately after you declare and exhaust the attacker. According to FAQ, “after character (enemy) attacks” means that “These effects resolve immediately after step 4 of enemy attack resolution.” (FAQ 1.2, p. 6). So in other words, after determining the combat damage the Response of Dwarrowdelf Axe triggers and deals 1 damage. It can be the issue for Dwalin, whose Response decreases threat after he destroys Orc. Dealing damage from Dwarrowdelf Axe isn’t part of Dwalin’s attack, so if that dealt 1 damage destroyed Orc, you can’t decrease your threat by 2. From this view, attaching Dwarrowdelf Axe to Dwalin may make you lose reducing the threat.
However, Dwarrowdelf Axe should be part of any Dwarf deck, where it should replace Dwarven Axe. Dwalin might not be happy from wearing this Weapon, but any other Dwarf can bear it with pride.
Khazad! Khazad! That is battle shout you will use frequently during the fight within the whole Dwarrowdelf cycle. What special is about this Tactic event? Well, first of all, not many Tactic cards cost 0. This belongs to rarity within the Tactic sphere. Recall that we know only Stand Together (interesting, but impractical and narrow event), The Eagles Are Coming! (essential event for any Eagle deck) and Meneldor’s Flight (probably the worst card ever before the update, interesting for Vassal of the Windlord and Winged Guardian after update). Add the quite needless attachment Born Aloft and we have the complete set of 0-cost cards, which generally, except The Eagles Are Coming!, don’t worth it much.
Khazad! Khazad! looks like a sheer phenomenon. It has an Action, which adds +3 Attack until the end of the phase to any Dwarf character. You can just say: wow! Getting +3 Attack for free to any Dwarf? How powerful this event is! Such Attack value will help you significantly to overcome Defense of the enemy and destroy him. With Khazad! Khazad! in your hands you feel much more confident. And with ready Dáin Ironfoot on the board, the overall boost is +4 Attack for free, and you mustn’t pay any resource for that. Cool!
As we have already experienced within Khazad-Dum, many cards just replace the older and oftentimes the weaker and more expensive versions from the previous cycle. Dwarrowdelf Axe will push Dwarven Axe out of your mind. Durin’s Song will replace more expensive For Gondor!, though Durin’s Song aims only a single character. Songs, which add resource icons (for example Song of Battle) will make way for far more reliable Narvi’s Belt. Ancestral Knowledge means final knockout for Strength of Will. And finally, Khazad! Khazad! perfectly replaces Blade Mastery, where for +1 Attack (and +1 Defense) you have to pay 1 resource. Some could say, that each of the mentioned cards works only with Dwarves, while their older alternatives can be played within any deck – they are not trait-dependent. Yeah, that’s absolutely true. But in progression style, who would play without the help of Dwarves, without all these amazing cards, which ease your game during Khazad-Dum and Dwarrowdelf cycle? The burning truth is you haven’t many other viable options at this moment, even if you don’t like Dwarf theme. Maybe you can try to get through the new scenarios with Eagle deck or Rohan deck, but Dwarf deck is much more reliable, effective and powerful, even with only Dwarf cards from Shadows of Mirkwood cycle + Khazad-Dum.
So, any Dwarf deck shouldn’t do without Khazad! Khazad!. I consider this event for must have in your decks because you will be searching for the substitute of this card hardly. +3 Attack for free – that speaks for itself.
The Spirit sphere can’t stay behind the Tactic sphere and it brings own Dwarf ally named Zigil Miner. You should note that Zigil Miner is actually the first Dwarf ally in the Spirit sphere at all and the last sphere, which until now hasn’t any representative of this race. Will Zigil Miner be a good and successful “premiere” and will he fulfill our expectations?
Considering only stats and cost, players won’t be too astonished. 2 cost is a quite average cost in the Spirit sphere. Stats 1-1-1-1 are well memorable, but they don’t indicate any specialization. Dáin Ironfoot will change Zigil Miner into capable quester and attacker (2-2-1-1). So until now, Zigil Miner would hardly appeal to us. He, however, has very long game text, which on the contrary indicates some a bit complex ability. Similarly to some previous reviews, I’m going to divide the ability into standalone parts for better understanding.
“Action: Exhaust Zigil Miner and name a number to discard the top 2 cards of your deck.” Except for the one-time cost, the working of Zigil Miner’s ability is conditioned also by his exhausting. Good to know that “discard Zigil Miner” is missing, unlike at The Riddermark’s Finest. But the main part of this text is name a number to discard the top 2 cards of your deck. But what number we should say? One, five, ten, one hundred? We still miss the meaning of the naming number at this moment. We just know that Zigil Miner causes discarding the top 2 cards from our decks. Prepare for the possibility you discard some precious card.
If at least one of those cards has a cost equal to the named number, choose a hero you control. The next part specifies, which numbers we should say at the beginning. The uttered number should match the cost value of discarded cards, so from 0 to 6. We still don’t know, what does it actually mean, but it will be somehow related to one of our hero we choose.
For each card that matches the named number, add 1 resource to that hero’s resource pool. The number was uttered, 2 cards were discarded and one out hero was chosen. The final part explains, for what is this whole process. If we say “two” and 2 cards has 2 cost, then we add to one our hero 2 resources, that is the maximum number of resources Zigil Miner can generate in one go. When we say “two” and only 1 card has 2 cost, then we add only 1 resource to a given hero. Naturally, if the cost of the cards doesn’t match the named number at all, we won’t get any resources, additionally, discarded cards come to nothing.
One could think if it is not easier to generate resources on the basis of the cost itself. You maybe won’t believe that, but Zigil Miner has originally worked exactly in this way. So instead of adding resources for each card, which matches the named number, you gain resources equal to the named number. For example, you generated 5 resources, because you said “five” and discarded Fortune or Fate, which costs 5. And if you discard two 5-cost cards? Then you generate 10!!! resources in one round. As you see, the number of generated resources can be insanely exaggerated. I would even talk about “destroying the balance” of the game, especially if we own cards, which manipulate with the cards from the player’s deck or use scrying (Gandalf’s Search, Keen-eyed Took). But until FAQ 1.3, that was a reality. For me, it’s incomprehensible that designers didn’t realize the true abilities of pre-errata Zigil Miner during the card creation.
!SPOILER! Especially, when in the same cycle will come Imladris Stargazer, which even supports and amplifies the ability of Zigil Miner.
But let’s talk about the present and valid version of Zigil Miner. He offers another way how to alternatively generate resources. It’s good that this new attempt is coming in the Spirit sphere, where the resource acceleration wasn’t present until now. For the proper working of Zigil Miner, we should include cards, which scry and/or manipulate with our deck, as I have already said above. We have some options from the previous cycle, but Gandalf’s Search seems like the strongest and most effective option. However, if we want to create combo Gandalf’s Search-Zigil Miner, we must have access to the Lore sphere. Moreover, the number of generated resources might not pay off, if we pay for Gandalf’s Search 3 and more resources. If you wish a better and more elegant way, how to use Zigil Miner effectively, look at the !SPOILER! above and you find out, which card creates the perfect combo with this Dwarf.
I claim Zigil Miner for a quite successful first Spirit Dwarf. As a decent “resource factory”, it can make your resource management better. Any additional resource is a small victory for any sphere, except the Leadership sphere. The recipe how to improve the ability of this Dwarf lies in the supportive cards, which can scry your deck. Without them, you would blindly guess the cost of the top 2 cards, which would lead to needlessly thrown cards. You can also increase your chance to generate resources by a building deck with a high ratio of cards with the given cost.
Dwarves are used to moving in pitch-black darkness, because they live and work under the mountains, deep in the mines, caves and giant underground cities. Like Khazad-Dum, also known as Moria, where now lurks unspeakable horrors. Orcs are nothing in the comparison with other evils hidden in the darkness and hungrily waiting for your fellowship of heroes. The main task of this new Spirit event is to avoid all kinds of horror by speed up your progress in darkness, where Dwarves, as your guides, will play a key role.
Untroubled by Darkness needs for its proper function Dwarves, as many other cards from Khazad-Dum. It boosts each Dwarf by +1 Willpower until the end of the phase. However, if you face an Underground or Dark location as the active location, your Dwarves gain +2 Willpower instead. For that, you pay only 2 resources.
You will undoubtedly use this event during the Quest phase, when you will control a bigger number of Dwarves, able to be sent to quest. With Dáin Ironfoot on the board, practically every Dwarf can quest, no matter of their default Willpower values. More Dwarf characters you send to a quest, more Willpower Untroubled by Darkness may generate. However, you should primarily take into consideration the text in the bracket, which can offer you a great advantage. Dark and Underground active locations can unwittingly serve you as good helpers during the speed-up of your progress. You tend to get rid of many Dark and Underground locations from the staging area. Branching Paths adds +1 Threat Strength to each Dark location in the staging area. Goblin Tunnels, present in the staging area, removes 1 progress token for each Goblin, which is revealed from the encounter deck. And Lightless Passage and Zigil Mineshaft have too high Threat Strength for just letting them in the staging area without noticing. Probably only Dreadful Gap is an unsuitable active location due to its many quest points. All in all, all mentioned locations can become a suitable catalyst for the massive push through the quest. +2 Willpower for each Dwarf is a really significant boost and you have at the same time a very high chance to complete the current Quest. I would save Untroubled by Darkness for some specific Quests, like The Fate of Balin or A Way Up, or during the “location lock”.
!SPOILER! The key role will this event play in the scenario Foundations of Stone, after the Quest Washed Away!, because the speed of your progress can be the question of life and death, when you are divided from other players by violence.
I have to compare Untroubled by Darkness with the previous Spirit event with a very similar effect, where only the trait you target differs – Astonishing Speed. Judge yourself: 3 cost for +2 Willpower for all Rohans until the end of the phase. The cost doesn’t please you. You add +2 Willpower to each Rohan in the game in any case, that’s okay. But I think that the “right drive” is on the side of Untroubled by Darkness because Dwarf decks are even now more consolidated and reliable than Rohan decks. A big credit for that has Dáin Ironfoot with his global, passive ability, while Rohan lacks for such influencer (although Éowyn is one of the best heroes at all, she lacks any synergy and she doesn’t interact with characters on the board). On the other hand, I see the main issue with Untroubled by Darkness in limitation – outside of Khazad-Dum and Dwarrowdelf cycle, the contribution of this event is barely half.
Untroubled by Darkness is the event with high quality, which fits perfectly in Dwarf decks. You change your enemy (read here “location”) onto your “ally”, which works for you, against the scenario. Dwarves just can’t get lost in the darkness, because Dark and Underground locations are their natural home. So utilize it!
Next to Erebor Hammersmith, Miner of the Iron Hills and Longbeard Map-Maker, we are meeting the new Dwarf from the Lore sphere, Erebor Record Keeper. We are used to pretty expensive Lore allies, like Haldir of Lórien or Gildor Inglorion (the cheapest Lore allies comes only from the Core set). The 1 cost of Erebor Record Keeper must naturally take us aback. We certainly need some very cheap ally, which you could play anytime and for which you needn’t save a great amount of resources. We have already Henamarth Riversong – but he is unique, so you can’t summon 3 copies of him at the same time. This doesn’t concern Erebor Record Keeper at all. We finally get non-unique cheap Lore ally and I consider that for a small victory.
From 1-cost ally you shouldn’t expect high stats, so don’t be sad from only 1 Willpower and 1 Hit Point. The presence of Dáin Ironfoot, who boosts Willpower by 1, is somehow supposed, so 1 cost for 2 Willpower sounds quite decent. The passive effect of this Dwarf leaves no one in doubt that he belongs among quester: he cannot attack or defend. This limitation leaves us totally cold if we look only at default Attack and Defense. However, Dáin Ironfoot boosts also Attack. And if we need to do some “mass attack” with everything we have, you have to let this ally aside, he won’t help you.
The mentioned passive ability isn’t the only game text Erebor Record Keeper is showing to us. His Action gives the helping hand to other Dwarf characters because for exhausting Erebor Record Keeper and paying 1 resource you choose any Dwarf in the play and ready him. I can say that Dáin Ironfoot will be veeeeery thankful for this Action if conditions force him to exhaust.:) But Dáin Ironfoot isn’t the only one Dwarf suitable for this useful ability. Readying of character belongs to the strongest effects in the game, as we find out from cards like Unexpected Courage, Prince Imrahil or Boromir. Keeping Erebor Record Keeper back for using his Action isn’t a bad idea at all if it helps to a stronger Dwarf to step in the game twice in one round (like defending and then immediately attacking Gimli). This Action also creates a nice combo with Ancestral Knowledge, the event which exhausts Dwarf to placing progress tokens.
However, I ask the question already asked at Longbeard Map-Maker from the previous cycle: does the paying of 1 resource worth it within the Lore sphere, where we save every resource? With Bifur arrival, it seems that the burning question about lack of Lore resources is finally resolved (then Longbeard Map-Maker would deserve some justification from my hard critics :)). Well, the answer is: yes and no. Certainly Bifur partially “repairs” the biggest problem of the Lore sphere: not having resources on expensive cards. With Bifur we have almost always 1 resource guaranteed – you can save it for Erebor Record Keeper’s ability. But there is one big BUT. It comes under spoiler, however, players should know at least one thing: Khazad-Dum offers other (and sometimes better) ways, how to ready character.
!SPOILER! To be more concrete, let’s move to the second adventure pack, Road to Rivendell, where we encounter Lure of Moria. Nope, that is not a better or cheaper way, how to ready characters, but only another way. The difference lies in a scale of effect – Lure of Moria readies all Dwarf characters. It costs you 3 resources, however. The Spirit sphere generally offers better alternatives: Arwen Undómiel, Miruvor (they even concern non-Dwarf characters, so you may use them in any deck) and Ever My Heart Rises. All of these cards have one denominator: except their cost for playing, you won’t pay any additional resource for their “readying effect”, so from the economic sight, they outdo Erebor Record Keeper.
Still, Erebor Record Keeper works more sparingly in compare to Longbeard Map-Maker. Longbeard Map-Maker can demand more resources for proper working – for each 1 resource you get +1 Willpower. But Erebor Record Keeper may ready any Dwarf, whose stats you can utilize in any phase, for only 1 resource. Nothing more he demands. So I am always willing to pay for the ability of Erebor Record Keeper than Longbeard Map-Maker.
Even if you won’t use Erebor Record Keeper’s ability, he will be welcomed ally in any stage of the game, mainly in the early game. 1-cost allies are pretty rare, so you shouldn’t spurn him. With his ability, he will become very interesting tactical variegation, but I would advise you to add Bifur for a soft and continuous usage.
Quite a long time has passed since I was thinking about the usefulness of Strength of Will – card with 0 cost, but with a complicated and situational effect. You had to fulfill some preconditions to put on active location just 2 progress tokens. This mechanic returns in Khazad-Dum in the Lore event called Ancestral Knowledge.
Within the Lore sphere, 1 resource for an event is a very good cost. Its Action enables place 2 progress tokens on the active location if we exhaust some Dwarf. If active location owns trait Underground or Mountain, instead of 2 progress tokens you put 4. That’s a solid bunch of progress tokens, don’t you think? And don’t worry: in Khazad-Dum from 16 locations only one lacks one of the mentioned traits (East-gate), so placing 4 progress tokens is practically guaranteed. It needs one Dwarf, which can be exhausted. Since Dwarves are the most common kind of characters in Khazad-Dum, even this precondition shouldn’t be an issue within the Dwarf deck.
I think it’s a big shame that this effect influences only active location. Can you imagine the great advantage of placing 4 progress tokens to any location in the staging area? Such Fouled Well or Lightless Passage wouldn’t make you trouble anymore with their high Threat Strength in the staging area. Unfortunately, Ancestral Knowledge targets only active location and I think it shares with Strength of Will sort of “unfilled potential”. On the other hand, I appreciate the missing of the limitation, present at Strength of Will: after you travel to a location. You don’t have to wait on the moment of traveling, you just put progress tokens on the active location whenever you need.
It’s clear that Ancestral Knowledge will shine in Dwarrowdelf cycle. Some locations in future own traits Underground or Mountain as well, so you may keep this event for your future adventures. You just must know the traits of locations within the chosen scenario in order to not being unpleasantly surprised that Ancestral Knowledge is totally unusable.
It is also good to think about the right timing for this event. A good timing comes when you need to get rid of the active location and choose another location as active. This occurs after you complete the revealing of encounter cards when you know the overall Threat Strength in the staging area. If the overall Willpower won’t be enough for exploring an active location, Ancestral Knowledge may resolve your trouble. The trouble lies, of course, in “location lock” possibility. The second right timing can occur when you need to push progress within the current Quest. You can decide to explore an active location anytime before the staging. If you send the sufficient number of questers and no active location stands in your way, then you may finish the current Quest and move further. Certainly, we have to take into account what we reveal during the staging, how high Threat Strength we will face OR if some revealed location doesn’t fill the “empty place” (like Dreadful Gap).
Ancestral Knowledge offers another option of location control. With cards like Secret Paths, Radagast’s Cunning or Strider’s Path, the Lore sphere allows us to manipulate with locations and control the overall Threat Strength in the staging area. Ancestral Knowledge contributes to it by the generation of progress tokens in a decent number. You just shouldn’t forget that outside of Dwarrowdelf cycle you have to pay attention to location traits, present in the chosen played scenario.
The tradition mustn’t be broken – we meet the new Neutral card, which also belongs to the important part of deckbuilding. Boots from Erebor is the newest contribution to the Neutral sphere and the final card of whole Khazad-Dum at the same time.
Back in Shadows of Mirkwood, with each adventure pack, we were getting new “Dúnedain attachment”. This kind of attachments specialized in boosting different stats (Attack – Dúnedain Mark, Defense – Dúnedain Warning, Willpower – Dúnedain Quest) and adding keywords (Ranged – Dúnedain Cache, Sentinel – Dúnedain Signal). Only boosting of one stat is missing, it didn’t get its own “Dúnedain attachment” – Hit Points. The only card addressing on Hit Points was Citadel Plate, Tactic attachment for a very high 4 cost. We don’t have any cheaper version… until now.
Boots from Erebor adds +1 Hit Point and can be attached only to Dwarf or even Hobbit character. And because right humanoid characters have only one pair of legs, you can’t attach Boots from Erebor in more copies to a single character (the question is, how a character can wear 2 copies of Citadel Plate, which lack, except Restriction keyword, similar limitation :)). The very positive news is that you don’t have to pay for this attachment any resource, it’s totally free and it’s totally good.
I am very happy we are finally meeting the cheaper alternative of Citadel Plate, which can’t be omnipresent and which costs many resources. I also appreciate that Boots from Erebor isn’t a part of Leadership, but Neutral sphere, so you may use it no matter with which sphere you play. And that 0 cost… wow, just putting onto your character feels good. The only limitations lie in “once per character” (understandable and logic) and that only Dwarves and Hobbits can wear it. Okay, just reconcile you won’t attach it to Rohans or Eagles (very funny picture), for example. Nevertheless, within Khazad-Dum and Dwarrowdelf cycle, where is more Dwarves than rats, it doesn’t matter. Outside of this cycle and Dwarf decks, you still can utilize Boots from Erebor within decks with some Hobbits. Like Bilbo Baggins – this poor guy with 2 Hit Points and 1 Defense will welcome any Hit-Points-booster. And if you don’t equip this little fellow with awfully heavy Citadel Plate (you heartless!!!), Boots from Erebor will fit him perfectly. He at least will become a bit resistant to some treacheries with dealing damage.
And as for the Dwarves, there you can attach Boots from Erebor to anybody. The biggest joy will have Glóin and Gimli, who work with the number of damage tokens on them. Also defending Dwarves, where the higher probability of being damaged occurs, are very suitable targets. But even non-defending Dwarves, such as Bifur or Thalin, can utilize this attachment to be better resistant to damaging treacheries, which draw them nearer to death. So don’t hesitate and include Boots from Erebor to any Dwarf or Hobbit deck you make. It won’t cost you anything.
The Lore and Spirit spheres urgently need the new heroes, new faces. Not just because of the Leadership and Tactic sphere gained one more hero (Boromir and Dáin Ironfoot). Both spheres have weaker or more specific heroes, who don’t fit any scenario (see Eleanor, Dúnhere, Glorfindel and Bilbo Baggins), and until now we hadn’t any substitute for them.
Dwalin is coming as the first non-Shadows-of-Mirkwood hero, who is rushing to help us and expand the ranks of Spirit heroes. Instead of a professional quester, we have got professional “Orcsalyer” – the Spirit great warrior. He will excel in every combat, where you fight with Orcs. And if he kills Orc, you will be rewarded by minus 2 threat. So you can see, that even non-primary activity of the Spirit sphere (Combat) can be adjusted to the “Spirit interpretation” (=threat reduction).
Bifur, on the other hand, has got very desirable ability: he “generates” resources. Yeah, it’s not the resource generation in the true sense of the term, because he moves it from another hero to himself. However, the important thing is you get the resource into the Lore sphere. And the Lore sphere has expensive cards, undoubtedly. With Bifur, you partially remove this issue and you can afford more expensive cards than these with 2 cost.
The heroes of Khazad-Dum have really succeeded. They have enriched their spheres and they should be your new companions within Khazad-Dum, if not in the whole Dwarrowdelf cycle.
Veteran of Nanduhirion, Zigil Miner and Erebor Record Keeper – the complete “Dwarf squadra” of allies in Khazad-Dum. While I am a bit sad that the Leadership sphere has got the raw deal with allies again, I am broadly satisfied with the offered allies. Well, with some objections, which are related to Veteran of Nanduhirion. This sturdy Dwarf might be a quality attacker, but you pay for him twice: 4 cost and 1 damage token when he enters play. To be honest, that’s an unacceptable cost for such an expensive ally. Possibly 4 Attack, boosted by Dáin Ironfoot, won’t save it. You would pick up this guy only if you don’t have another alternative for an expensive, but a strong ally.
But the other 2 allies should make you happier. Zigil Miner “has borrowed” the mechanic from the Leadership sphere (resource generation) and tries to become independent on other spheres. Okay, he won’t generate resources in a great amount and won’t become independent, because he needs some scrying events from the Lore sphere. But with some goodwill and tactics, you may make a reliable “resource factory”. Erebor Record Keeper will make happy all fans of the Lore sphere because it is just second Lore ally with 1 cost. Except for questing, the readying of other Dwarves belongs to his specialty.
Dwarf allies of Khazad-Dum generally fulfill our expectations. Actually, we profit from each Dwarf due to the presence of Dáin Ironfoot. But Zigil Miner and Erebor Record Keeper also came with interesting abilities, which worth for noticing.
A very good reputation accompanies events from Khazad-Dum as well. Only Ever Onward strays from the right path because players shouldn’t count with “unsuccessful questing”. And if everything goes well, according to your plan, then Ever Onward is absolutely needless.
On the contrary, other events I wouldn’t hesitate to include in my decks at all. They share unquestionable usefulness, cheapness… and working with Dwarf characters. Maybe we hadn’t obtained the most universal events, usable in any deck, but Dwarfs love these events. Boosting of Willpower (Untroubled by Darkness), Attack (Khazad! Khazad!) or everything (Durin’s Song) you learn very quickly to fully exploit. Maybe not automatically, but at least frequently you should make a free place also for Ancestral Knowledge. Shortly, Khazad-Dum offers for the whole cycle an excellent base in terms of events.
If you expect that at Khazad-Dum attachments we witness the decrease in quality, I can calm you. On the contrary – attachments surpass everything we have met in Khazad-Dum until now. Every single attachment is enormously important in any Dwarf deck – as attached to your characters, you will feel the difference. Okay, it might look a little bit funny to talk in this manner, if we look at Boots from Erebor: attachment which adds only +1 Hit Point. But admit…+1 Hit Point for free to any Dwarf or Hobbit, what would you want more?
Narvi’s Belt and Dwarrowdelf Axe are different weights, both substitute their alternative, older versions. In the case of Narvi’s Belt, we are talking about Songs, which add a resource icon (Song of Wisdom, Song of Battle, Song of Kings, Song of Travel). You don’t need them anymore – Narvi’s Belt can make for you any sphere you want. As for Dwarrowdelf Axe, your Dwarf character gains +1 Attack and 1 damage you always deal to a defending enemy. Always. It is a more powerful effect than just adjusting +2 Attack like Dwarven Axe.
Without any of these attachments, you shouldn’t play, at least during Dwarrowdelf cycle. They are cheap and strong. They are reliable and own pretty powerful and useful effects, which you want to attach to your Dwarf characters. In other words and in overall, attachments are the strongest point of Khazad-Dum.
Dwarves – this theme will accompany us during the whole Dwarrowdelf cycle. It’s because we will be moving within the environment, where Dwarves are at home. It begins by the entrance to Moria, continues by the searching of Balin on the Seventh Level and ends by the hasty rush before The Nameless Fear, the most powerful being we have met.
And because we have already obtained the king of Dwarves, Dáin Ironfoot, who cooperates with all these small creatures, it is somehow automatically supposed you will use him frequently. From now, we work with all Dwarves in “Dáin Ironfoot mode”, where each Dwarf gains globally +1 Willpower and +1 Attack, if Dáin Ironfoot is ready. Your main task is to keep this hero ready as long as you can because if he becomes exhausted, all Dwarves occur in “non-Dáin Ironfoot mode”, so in their default, weaker form.
As TOP CARD, I choose between 2 cards: Bifur and Narvi’s Belt. While Bifur influences the whole Lore sphere and the management of Lore resources, Narvi’s Belt influences… the whole game of one player. Totally. If you can pay resources from any sphere you choose, it enormously eases the playing of cards in multisphere decks. You don’t have to be afraid of creating dual- or trisphere decks, because Narvi’s Belt will arrange the availability of spheres. So you solve only the number, not sphere icon of resources. Narvi’s Belt is for me TOP CARD of the new expansion.
In Khazad-Dum we would find only very few cards, which are trash. Every card has own value – we would vainly search for a typical SHEEP CARD. In such strong competition, only 2 cards I would voluntarily remove from my decks due to their doubtful usefulness: Ever Onward and Veteran of Nanduhirion. I admire the strength of Veteran of Nanduhirion – he is the classic strong ally to the mid- and late game, “elite ally” as I would say in the Core set. 3 Attack (4 with Dáin) worth for noticing. However, dealing 1 damage to own ally, which costs you many resources? What’s the idea? However, if you get him into play, he will work fine. The same cannot be said about Ever Onward, which I claim for SHEEP CARD. Unless you play a solo game, where you count with a high probability of questing failure (you shouldn’t accept such strategy and possibility), then Ever Onward remains in your hands forever, unused and useless.
And THE MOST ENRICHED SPHERE? Every sphere shows its powerful champion(s) and every sphere was enriched by the set of new cards, no doubts. It’s especially hard to choose THE MOST ENRICHED SPHERE of Khazad-Dum. But this time, I won’t pick the best sphere of a given expansion/adventure pack, where we find also TOP CARD. Narvi’s Belt from the Leadership sphere is maybe the best contribution of this expansion, but the combination of Dwarrowdelf Axe and Khazad! Khazad! encourages me to see the Tactic sphere as THE MOST ENRICHED SPHERE. One of the best Weapons and one of the most efficient event-boosters will improve the game of Tactic’s users to a great extent. They can even make a deadly combo between each other. Veteran of Nanduhirion doesn’t belong among the best allies we have got, but according to me, he is slightly more usable than Ever Onward.
The overall strength of the cards of Khazad-Dum is amazing, don’t matter, if we see it from the view of spheres or kinds of cards. The Dwarf theme is made stronger and more compact with the Khazad-Dum arrival. Even though the hard scenarios await us, we are excellently prepared for the new challenges.