This article was in large part written by community member Banania, who is active in forums and groups, but also does amazing work for the LOTR LCG Quest Companion here: http://lotr-lcg-quest-companion.gamersdungeon.net/. If you haven’t seen this resource before, be sure to check it out and leave a difficulty rating on quests you have played. Especially the new quests can use your feedback to hone in on an accurate community difficulty rating. This will also be the first article in a line of 7, talking about the new contract cards and how these change the way you build your decks. With that said, on to the review of this contract!
Messenger of the King (MotK) has a Setup ability that lets you grab an unique non-neutral ally from your deck, adding all of their three stats and Hit Points as an equivalent threat cost.
The newly spoiled contract Messenger of the King just added infinite replayability to an already infinitely replayable game by giving the players the possibility to upgrade any non-neutral unique ally in the game into a hero, a tenfold increase in deckbuilding options with a single card.
Upgrading an ally into a hero isn’t a total novelty in the player card pool, as ally Prince Imrahil and Thalion had already built-in abilities to become heroes and the attachment Sword-Thain could already promote an unique ally to the hero status. While Sword-Thain is powerful on its own, it requires resources and a good amount of setup. You first have to find it and the target ally in your deck, delaying the process. It also fills up those precious deckspaces and costs resources. However, MotK gets you that hero in play from the get-go and thus modifies in depth the way you build your deck in the first place, with one caveat: setup timing.
Timing (and how the contract can whiff)
Let’s get the timing issue out of the way first. That setup ability triggers after you have drawn your starting hand, meaning if you draw every copy of the wanted unique ally, you might be forced to mulligan or consider it an auto-loss. If your mulliganed hand still has every copy of your unique ally, you’re basically screwed.
In all honesty, I’m not a fan of this recent ruling about when the timing of contract setup coming after the starting hand and encounter deck setup, that came up to prevent the players from putting Guarded (X) attachment into play (at no Guarded cost) with the Grey Wanderer contract. Sadly, that (in my opinion unwarranted-panic) ruling makes it possible for Messenger of the King to whiff. We’ll see how the designers address that in a near future, I would myself appreciate (and accept) soft rulings about how the contracts were “intended” to work, instead of trying to find a generic rule as to when the setup abilities really trigger in this game (a can of worms!). Barring that setup timing issue, the contract is an absolute insanity, and I love it.
If you happen to get through the setup timing, once the unique ally is a hero it now collects a resource matching their printed sphere of influence. It also gains “Attached character cannot be readied more than once per phase.” preventing the unlimited use of Action on certain allies that are currently unlimited (like Gléowine and Leadership Faramir).
Now, let’s take a look at viable (those marked with a ) / not-too-viable options for Messenger of the King (MotK).
Before I delve into specific comments, some generic thoughts:
- Let’s not forget that neutral allies are ruled out: Gandalfs (Core Set & Over Hill and Under Hill), Treebeard (The Antlered Crown), Radagast (A Journey to Rhosgobel), Saruman (The Voice of Isengard), Wilyador (The Land of Sorrow), Thalion (Fire in the Night) and Tom Bombadil (Wrath and Ruin).
- I won’t be considering some total non-bos: Leadership Galadriel (The Road Darkens), Lore Elrond (The Road Darkens) or Bill the Pony (The Black Riders, since he cannot have attachments)
- I will still be considering the other non-bos, like unique allies having “entering play” abilities irrelevant during setup or self-discarding abilities, because of the following:
- What this contract does (in the end) is giving us heroes in a 1 to 13 threat cost, but mostly around 6-9, with a decent amount of 4 and 5. Most allies have a pretty tight stat-line, with less wasted stats as you would encounter on standard heroes. A massive injection of low-threat heroes is welcome in the card pool, as it always opens more deckbuilding possibilities.
- Finally, those low threat costs are bound to revive Secrecy, and most archetype could fall into Secrecy range (less than 20 threat) fairly easily, when Ioreth or Galion are only 1 threat cost.
I have prepared “MotK” proxies if you want to use them instead of the contract attached to the ally. If you happen to stumble upon the original art of each unique ally, please send me an email at mathieu.smartin_at_gmail.com so I can update them.
With 14 unique allies to choose from, we could expect a fine selection of new Gondorian heroes. That doesn’t disappoint, especially in the “low-threat-quester” department that the trait was severely lacking for years (well, at least before Lothiriel came out). Trap decks and Valour Gondor are not forgotten and we now perhaps have the best healer in the game.
Leadership Faramir (8 threat cost) ~ brings a low-threat questing-focused hero to Gondor, that was before the arrival of Lothiriel one of their main weaknesses. Since the days of the Core Set, Faramir has been one of the most popular 4-cost allies, for his Action can be triggered during action window 3.3, after Staging and before Quest Resolution, to adjust your questing willpower if need be. Faramir is a natural pick in any questing Gondor we might see popping (alongside Lothiriel), the combination between Spirit and Leadership being one of the most potent willpower providers. Bearing the Ranger trait and at a low 8 threat cost, Faramir could also see some use in Trap decks that focus on out-questing and killing enemies in the staging area, an archetype that had historical difficulties to be top tier since Gondor was lacking low threat questers. He is also one of the reasons why the heroes can only be readied once per phase, since otherwise players would end up using his ability over and over again during quest phase to boost willpower even more. It is still possible with the ally, but the hero is now limitted to two times in the quest phase.
Lore Faramir (8 threat cost) ~ A very situational Response at best (but not useless, if you want for example to engage Bill Ferny during setup of A Knife in the Dark and dealing him to damage) and no other ability, MotKing Faramir will mostly be a stat decision. However, outside of dedicated Rangers of Ithilien decks, the standard card pool is already providing enough high quality heroes for that threat or less, and in a Ranger deck, MotKing Lore Anborn will always be better.
Ioreth (1 threat cost) ~ Ioreth is now fueling her own ability, with the resource she generates each turn, as a hero. She’s still mostly stat-useless, but for 1-threat cost, let’s not be too picky! She will allow a fairly good amount of two-heroes line-up to start in Secrecy (below 20 threat). Her 1 Hit Point is a little fiddly, but we now have (a few) tools in the card pool to remedy that, namely the Citadel Plate (a bit expensive), Ent Draught (requires an Ent) and Spare Pipe (out of Ioreth sphere). However, since you won’t be questing with Ioreth (unless someone’s playing a willpower boosting attachment on her or Visionary Leadership is on the table, and you’re willing to take the risk!), she probably will just be here a supporting hero. That level of healing from the start is unprecedented, and she will probably shine in any deck that relies heavily on damage, like Gloin jank or Treebeard hero decks.
Boromir (9 threat cost) ~ Ally Boromir was always intended to support the Hobbit “higher engagement cost than your threat” so he’s definitely not going to fuel your Valour decks, but I see two direct uses for him: 1) in a Leadership-Tactics Ranger engagement Gondor deck with Mablung, Faramir and Leadership ally Anborn, to help early defending, 2) with Tactics Merry and Lore Pippin, in a very thematic Hobbit combat build (even if you lose the ability to play events like The Shirefolk). I actually look forward to using him in that setup. Engage an enemy that’s got +2 engagement cost and draw a card thanks to Pippin, defend with Boromir + Raiment of War. If you take damage, all the better, because you ready Boromir (you have Lore so a probable access to healing). Then strike with Merry and his Dagger of Westernesse, readying Boromir in the process (if he wasn’t already, because the limitation of one readying per phase will matter here).
Mablung (5 threat cost) ~ His Response will mostly be useless, except in niche scenarios in which you don’t want to be engaged with an enemy from the start (for instance Escape from Umbar), but a point can be made for his 2 willpower for 5 threat, as the third hero of a full Gondorian Ranger of Ithilien deck, since I’ve been using Lore Pippin for years for that. With Damrod and Faramir it’s 25 starting threat, low enough to turtle and trap! His Gondor and Ranger traits will also bear more synergy with the deck than Pippin (whose passive ability compensate for the -1 threat, but with a virtually useless ability if your plan is not to engage enemies). This is a but a niche use though, because you’ll likely always to MotK Anborn over Mablung.
Lore Anborn (8 threat cost) ~ Obviously one of the best MotK target, as Trap cycling is all Lore Damrod needs to get consistent card draw. Making him a hero definitely brings the Trap archetype to a different level. Cannot wait to try it! Of course, his Action requires exhaustion, at the expense of his sizable attack strength. You might want to include some readying. Steed of the North will do well in such situations, readying him whenever you end up needing his 3 attack because an enemy engaged you.
Leadership Anborn (8 threat cost) ~ If it were possible to have both Lore and Leadership Anborn elevated to hero status at the same time, the Trap deck would become insane (if it’s not already). Anborn could make a good third hero for any direct damage line-up, or provide Leadership access in a Rangers of Ithilien deck. However, ally Anborn was always meant to be paired with Leadership Faramir (or any way to ready him) so as to benefit from his damaging Response but also his fine attack strength. As with his Lore counterpart, you will have to find a way to ready Anborn to get the most out of him.
Prince Imrahil (9 threat cost) ~ is a clear nonbo. You can still use him for stats, or if you’re somehow building a Spirit centric Outlands deck and plan to attach Prince of Dol Amroth to him. Otherwise, as a Spirit (and usually quester) hero, his daughter Lothiriel will always be better, and cheaper in threat cost.
Emery (6 threat cost) ~ apart from Ioreth, she’s now your lowest threat cost Gondor hero, but she doesn’t do much. No ability, not a great quester, not a great defender, even with a Gondorian Shield. No real reason to include her, except I guess, being able to play her outside of a mono-Leadership deck!
Damrod (7 threat cost) ~ considering the hero version is the cornerstone of his own archetype, that Gondor is now not lacking low-cost Spirit hero and that Damrod’s self-discarding ability would be a YOLO move at best, I expect to see MotK Damrod to be a very rare pick for the players.
Ingold (5 threat cost) ~ Can deliver an impressive three willpower for five threat, as long as all the heroes have a resource in their resource pool which shouldn’t be too complicated with any Gondorian line-up.
Denethor (9 threat cost) ~ Why would you ever choose MotK Denethor over his Leadership Hero version? 1 threat cost more, evasive statline, self-discarding effect that’s bound to happen very often. If you badly need the willpower in Leadership, consider including Ingold.
Derufin (6 threat cost) ~ Again a self-discarding ability, and not a very good one with that, as Ally Derufin is already quite overlooked (for good reasons in my opinion). His starting Ranged keyword and low threat can be handy, but I feel like there are better targets for MotK.
Angbor the Fearless (5 threat cost) ~ Arguably already one of the best Gondor allies, Angbor will also shine as a hero in a dedicated Valour Gondor deck. My usual lineup is Denethor and his sons, but the 30 threat cost hefty cost condemns you to find Pillars of the Kings in your starting hand or mulligan if you want to get its full drawing potential of 4 cards. Angbor would let you start at 26 threat for the same questing capacity as Faramir for instance, and easy early action advantage. The deck would be a bit less sturdy as Faramir’s 5 Hit Points sometimes allow me to defend, but Angbor is definitely worth considering.
Noldor & Silvan
I feel like Noldor and Silvan were already in a fine place concerning hero selection. You will at least be able to add some variety in your line-ups, in a less thematic way (MotK Arwen) or more (MotK Glorfindel or Galdor). Gildor Inglorion is bound to become Elrond’s Vilya decks favourite buddy and we’re now unlimited in our twin Elladan and Elrohir pairings.
Arwen Undomiel (5 threat cost) ~ When Arwen hero was released, everyone claimed it would be the end of the ally, and I partly agreed, because Arwen hero + Elven-Light is such a strong easily splashable combo, or cornerstone to Aragorn-centered, twin (Elrohir+Elladan) decks and of course generic Noldor deck. Now MotK Arwen is returning to the fray. The extra buff of defense and Sentinel keyword she can provide from turn 1 can be invaluable. Defense is after all the less affordable stat to boost and Sentinel the most useful keyword, especially since the first enemy attacks can be tough to handle. There’s no loss in her stat line, and she’ll be questing for 2 while giving her stat buff.
Henamarth Riversong (3 threat cost) ~ The ally was already a player favourite in a solitaire environment, and making it a hero for only 3 threat is certainly going to add to several archetype that require (or benefit) from scrying: trap builds, Haldir of Lorien builds, victory display or Secrecy. The only drawback is his 1 Hit Point, making it very vulnerable to encounter direct damage. Fortunately, you’ll find in-sphere (Ent Draught) or in-trait (Elven Mail) ways to give Henamarth the few extra Hit Points that might save him.
Legolas (8 threat cost) ~ Hero Tactics Legolas was good, yes. But MotK Legolas is insane: his threat cost is one less than the hero version, just for the loss of a Hit Point that wasn’t even so important since Legolas was never your primary defender. 3 Hit Points is enough to sustain a bit of encounter and/or Archery damage. Legolas still has Ranged and as Silvan hero, is eligible to all his usual toys (Rivendell Blade, Blade of Gondolin, Bow of the Galadhrim), but instead of making progress (which was nice), he’s drawing you a card each and every time you’re killing an enemy. While he will be limitted by the contract, he will still be a reliable source of cards in the sphere. Use a Rohan Warhorse and/or Hands Upon the Bow for even greater effect.
Rumil (7 threat cost) ~ Well, for 1 more threat, you can have Legolas instead of Rumil whose statline is less focused and whose ability will whiff (because he won’t be played from your hand). Not a valid target in my opinion.
Glorfindel (11 threat cost) ~ With the same useful stats as his hero counterpart (willpower and attack), MotK Glorfindel will be an interesting pick for any Noldor deck that’s taking advantage of having too many cards, with Erestor, Cirdan and the like. His readying was already limit once per phase, so the MotK limit won’t hurt as much. It also gets around needing Light of Valinor on Glorfindel, like you would want with his 5 threat cost Spirit hero version, allowing other heroes, like Cirdan, to get the attachment.
Gildor Inglorion (11 threat cost) ~ A very versatile hero that will greatly help Elrond+Vilya deck, since you won’t even have to find an Imladris Stargazer in the first place, he’s also smoothing your card choice with Lore Erestor (if you want to save a card you have in hand for the next turn) and of course with Gandalf. Gildor also has a balanced stat line-up that could be put to good questing or defending use. His ability will require him to exhaust, but doing this after he has quested with Light of Valinor attached would be a good way to get more use out of him.
Haldir of Lorien (9 threat cost) ~ Sadly, for the exact same threat cost as the (same sphere) standard hero version, he’s way inferior. He stills bear the Sentinel and Ranged keywords, and out of the two, the Sentinel may be the most interesting since Silvan and Noldor are not known for providing that ability. However, his stat line is a bit feeble to rely on him to be a sturdy primary defender.
Erestor (6 threat cost) ~ Would pair amazingly with his Lore Hero version. But honestly, he doesn’t even need to. Erestor has always been a very good ally, 2 willpower to contribute to the quest while still being able to cycle through your deck. He’s not exactly giving you card draw, but replacing a second unique you have in hand with something more useful is clutch and a great glue ability, especially for 6 threat cost. Noldor lacking Leadership heroes, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Erestor make an appearance in a lot of decks.
Lindir (7 threat cost) ~ Sadly, you already have a starting hand of 6 cards when the contract setup triggers, so Lindir’s Response whiffs. Include him for stats, but I still think he would be put to better use in your standard Noldor decks.
Orophin (6 threat cost) ~ An interesting statline, even if you wouldn’t get any benefit from his Response. Given the options we have in the card pool for a good Silvan Leadership hero, I’m not sure Orophin is worth it, unless you want a mono-Leadership Silvan deck. The extra Ranged is also nice, but Silvan decks tend to need more spheres besides Leadership to get all of their cards out. He is best used in ally form so that he can retrieve some fallen allies from your discard pile.
Galdor of the Havens (9 threat cost) ~ Obviously a great target for any Noldor lineup, saving one of your cards each turn. You know can use Arwen’s ability on turn one without nagging at your hand slowly while waiting for an Elven-Light to show up. The choise between MotK Galdor and his Hero version will be tough!
Elladan (7 threat cost) and Elrohir (7 threat cost) ~ Finally opens any sphere combination between the twins (well, I guess except Spirit/Lore, unless two different players run MotK Elladan and MotK Elrohir), and it is nuff said. I will wait to see what the players come up with! Obviously their built-in readying ability won’t be useful for quests with no Orcs enemies, but the static stat boost provided and the quality of the boosted heroes will compensate. You also get these heroes at a reduced threat cost so since they get their static buff with both of them in play. Excellent picks for a more combat-style Noldor deck.
Galion (1 threat cost) ~ His threat cost will be good enough to make it into secrecy decks wanting another Spirit hero. However, Galion will just sit there, not doing much apart binge drinking the King’s wine and collecting a resource in the process. As per Ioreth or Henamarth, it might be a good idea to plan for a few extra hit points to keep him alive. He is also a decent target for Silver Circlet, since all Galion will do is quest or exhaust for effect from the encounter deck. He does block a vital part of the Silvan engine, which revolves around using him as fuel for the Elvenking and Silvan events. Include plenty of other cheap allies to make up for this.
Wiglaf (8 threat cost) ~ As his Response won’t trigger because you’re not playing Wiglaf from MotK, you won’t. At only 8 threat cost, he helps mitigate Brand’s 11 threat cost and can provide you with early flexibility as you’ll be able to ready Wiglaf. The only downside here is the sphere, as you won’t be able to play King of Dale on turn one if your lineup is Brand, Bard and Wiglaf. With both King of Dale and Bard giving you the resource smoothing you need, I always was happy with the usual player’s choice for third hero: Lanwyn or Beravor I believe being the most common. But overall, Wiglaf is a really decent target, with a more reliable readying ability than Lanwyn.
I feel like Rohan is the most MotK-boosted trait. Gamling is the Rohan discard enabler, and Eothain its beneficiary. Gléowine is good no matter what and Déorwine is provided a decent defender (alongside Fastred) that Rohan was a bit lacking of.
Gamling (6 threat cost) ~ I suspect Gamling will now be a first fine-choice for the Rohan discard deck. The discard mechanic has always suffered from the lack of draw (either in the form of returning to hand, fetching back from discard pile or actual draw). The recently released Horn of the Mark is already a great addition to the card pool, but starting off with Gamling’s ability is game changing, all the more if you can build up his readying capabilities to abuse his ability once per phase. Saving Rohan allies in different phase is actually quite common: the Escort From Edoras during quest phase, the Westfold Outrider during the combat phase, or Eomund whenever you want (and actually readying Gamling…). Cycling your Spirit Théoden-discounted allies with Gamling will soon be a very powerful and viable strategy, especially if you also use Horn of the Mark, that could be the primary attachment for Gamling.
Gléowine (3 threat cost) ~ Probably the most spectacular MotK hero, 3 threat for a Lore resource and card draw (only limited to once per phase by the contract). If you’re not drawing, his statline doesn’t justify anything else than contributing 1 willpower to the quest, so you’ll mostly be using his Action. I won’t be entering the details of the many cards that could ready Gléowine, but each one of them is worth paying attention too, because in theory, you could draw 7 extra cards a round. Gléowine doesn’t fit the Rohan deck a lot though, as Lore is the one sphere that the trait hasn’t focussed on. However, he can pay for Muster of Rohan, and sphere granting songs would be good on him as well. I expect Gleowine to turn up in many other builds though.
Spirit Elfhelm (8 threat cost) ~ His stat-line is a bit weird for a spirit hero, as he’s not an amazing quester and won’t be a sturdy defender either. He can be your swiss knife, especially teching against quests that raise your threat a lot. Plenty of readying would be advised on him, just so you can maintain his ability. Having Elfhelm from the start of the game can help players save a lot of threat.
Eomund (6 threat cost), Grimbold (6 threat cost), Hama (7 threat) ~ Nothing to say here since it’s highly unlikely you’ll trigger their Response or Action (except in a YOLO move). If anything, and as mentioned before, any of those allies would be worth considering for stats only if you need a low-threat-cost hero of that sphere to counterbalance the threat cost of your two other heroes.
Ceorl (5 threat cost) ~ A hero that can be passed around the table is very interesting and I’m curious what the community will do with that! There are certainly janky swanky shenanigans I cannot come up with apart from a well timed 4-heroes Justice Shall be Done or getting the contract Fellowship player an extra hero. You will have to pair him up with a Spirit hero to make use of his ability.
Deorwine (7 threat cost) ~ His statline, Sentinel keyword, low threat cost and shadow control ability is just too good. As a hero, Deorwine will be a straightforward defender, especially since it’s not the strongest ability of Rohan characters. As a hero, Déorwine is now able to wield more weapons and pieces of armor to help the players defend well in the early game. He is a bit of a discount Beregond, but with built in shadow cancellation.
Eothain (8 threat cost) ~ If a player has elevated Gamling to hero status and is playing a Rohan discard deck, then I would consider Eothain for the second player. His 2 willpower/2 attack will have good chances to both be used every turn for a fairly low threat cost. On his own, as he’s directly tied to the mechanics of Rohan discard, I feel like Gamling will always be the first target for MotK, relegating Eothain back to his ally version (which is already nice).
Guthlaf (6 threat cost) ~ Let’s get this straight: for 1 more threat, you can pick Deorwine. Include Guthlaf for different stats if you want (or if that extra threat will get you to Hill Troll limit), that’s the only thing I can find to say.
There are only a few Dunedain unique allies. They’re all worth considering in my opinion, but Súlien will surely see the most play.
Halbarad (9 threat cost) ~ As per Tactics ally Boromir, Halbarad was always meant to support the “higher engagement cost than your threat” Hobbit mechanics. I would say he’s a nice pick for such a deck, except that, as per Boromir, you lose the ability to play all-Hobbits events, except for Take No Notice or In the Shadows. As far as the mechanic goes, losing the ability to play The Shirefolk is quite compensated by his ability.
Súlien (7 threat cost) ~ As Idraen’s sister (yeah, I totally made that up), MotK Súlien is an amazing addition to the card pool. As a generic rule, I think the Dunedain were lacking low threat good questing heroes, and Súlien perfectly fits that role, with a good 3 Willpower to start with and a location-control ability to lower down the threat in the staging area, as long as you can ready her. She’s also a Scout and as such eligible to the Warden of Arnor attachment (in sphere) and the Map of Rhovanion. The map is Lore, but so is Sulien’s ability so she will be a good companion of Beravor. One of the most exciting targets! Dunedain were lacking Spirit heroes anyways.
Eldahir (8 threat cost) ~ Could be a very interesting choice in a Dunedain Leadership/Lore line-up. With enough defensive stat boost (he’s sadly not eligible to the Hauberk of Mail), he’s giving you direct shadow control access, especially if you can scry further the shadow cards with Dark Knowledge (in sphere for his ability, and the loss of willpower won’t be too painful). You can also save up for Ancestral Armor on him, making him an even better defender!
Quickbeam, Leaflock, Skinbark, and Beechbone are really interesting targets as a second or third Ent hero and have actually threat cost close to standard heroes (due to the nature of their statline) that will be offset by their starting exhaustion (well… except for Quickbeam). Starting any quest with an exhausted hero can be a bit tricky, so you have to plan for that.
Quickbeam (9 threat cost) ~ In my opinion just relegated Tactics hero Quickbeam to the bike spokes (unless you badly want access to Tactics, in which case I might argue for Beechbone instead). MotK Quickbeam will play just like his ally version, and will be just as powerful, fueling the “damaged Ent” mechanics from turn 1, for a very reasonable threat cost, and at the ready!
Leaflock (7 threat cost) ~ his projected statline is really good since you don’t pay threat for his initially non-existent willpower. In a deck with Treebeard and Quickbeam you can get his willpower to 2 in the first turn and you shouldn’t have much trouble maintaining it at 4 with all those “take damage to do something” Ent allies. A solid pick.
Skinbark (9 threat cost) ~ would be fun against quests crammed with Orcs. I have not delved into statistics here, but Orcs with 4 Hit Points or less is surely the majority. Something to consider, but probably a bit niche outside quest-teching.
Beechbone (9 threat cost) ~ a very valid target in my opinion to replace Hero Quickbeam, especially with an Ent Draught, if you can live through the first turn with Beechbone exhausted. He will be a great tool to deal with high defence enemies, as his effect can do a good deal of damage to these enemies. Do keep a Wellinghall Preserver around to heal him up though.
Beorn (13 threat cost) ~ Obviously, you’ll never want to trigger his Action, or as a YOLO move in the last combat phase of your game (truthfully, if shuffled back into your deck, he can always come back as… an ally), but you will of course include Beorn for its incredible statline. You will want to balance out his threat cost with less costed heroes, but 13 threat cost isn’t something unknown in the game. As his son Grimbeorn, Beorn will be able to benefit from Beorn’s Rage and the full pool of defensive/offensive weapons to turn him into the absolute beast (he is anyway). This is the most debatable ally/hero on this list, as his threat is significant, but you do get a 6 HP hero out of it. Your call.
MotK Hobbits will just be your fine selection of very low threat heroes, allowing easy Secrecy line-ups… but it’s not everything: Pipe deck, mono-Spirit Hobbit, Hobbit-jump and “higher-engagement-cost-than-your-threat” strategies will all find something to add to their pool.
Bilbo Baggins (4 threat cost) ~ As his Response will trigger upon him entering play with MotK’s setup effect, MotK Bilbo Baggins is a natural pick for any Pipe deck, and a great companion (thematically enough) to Istari that want to get the Wizard Pipe out as soon as possible. There’s no loss of stats here, as you’ll send him to quest.
Rosie Cotton (4 threat cost) ~ Rosie’s ability is already self-limited to once per phase, so there’s no real downside as turning her into a hero. Rosie Cotton as a hero can more easily build up her willpower and readying, making her a very versatile hero in any Hobbit build. There have been famous decks before that upgraded Rosie to a hero, but now you don’t have to worry about finding either her or Sword-thain to make this work, allowing you to add more willpower-boosting effects to the deck.
Sam Gamgee (6 threat cost) ~ Should be a valid choice in a mono-Spirit Hobbit deck alongside Merry and Frodo Baggins. The ally was obviously made to support that deck, triggering off of Frodo’s ability (or cards like Song of Earendil) to the expense of a Spirit resource. Mono-Spirit Hobbit might struggle a bit with resources though.
Odo Proudfoot (5 threat) ~ Just as Bilbo is an early enabler for Pipe decks, Odo Proudfoot can be an early enabler for Hobbit-jump deck, fetching an extra Hobbit ally in your hand at the beginning of the game. Sadly his card draw is not repeatable as it would be in ally version jumping in and out, but then again, stats versus cost is worth considering. I would say the downside is the even stat-line, Odo being neither or good quester or fighter.
Gaffer Gamgee (3 threat cost): Another self-discarding ability that might be a late game lifesaver, but apart from that, the real interest in Gaffer Gamgee is his starting threat cost of 3, that will put most Hobbit decks into Secrecy range for a while, if you’re not playing Spirit or Leadership, at which point for 1 threat more I think Rosie or Bilbo would be better target, even stat-wise.
Halfast Gamgee (5 threat cost) ~ A threat cheap leadership Hobbit hero that quests for 2 and comes with a free resource? Yes please. Any Secrecy Hobbit deck will love him.
Robin Smallburrow (5 threat cost) ~ A definitive valid target in the classical Hobbit strategy of keeping enemies engagement cost high up. At only 5 threat cost and no stat loss, he’s a decent quester for 2 willpower and has an ability that doesn’t require exhaustion.
Farmer Maggot (5 threat cost) ~ While it would be cool to have more Tactics Hobbit heroes, it feels like ally Tactics Pippin will always be a better target for hero promotion, as Farmer Maggot’s ability will at most be a corner-case use in scenarios you’re starting engaged with an enemy (if possible with an higher engagement cost than your threat). Farmer Maggot will always be better off played as an ally in a Hobbit jump deck, boosted by Tom Cotton for example.
Merry (4 threat cost) ~ As his ability will whiff on setup, selecting Merry as your MotK is just a matter of threat cost versus stat. The issue being Rosie has the exact same stat and threat cost, except she has an actual useful ability. Let’s face-it, you won’t ever choose Merry over Rosie, especially with other versions of him being more powerful.
Pippin (4 threat cost) ~ Pippin would be the lowest threat Tactics hero of the game, with both abilities relevant to a “higher engagement cost than your threat” Hobbit build. Definitely a great companion to Tom Cotton. Equip him with some Weapons to get amazing striking power at low threat.
Barliman Butterbur (5 threat cost) ~ is a clear nonbo. I don’t even think his ratio threat cost / useful statline is good, so I wouldn’t use him as a valid target ever. His Bree trait also doesn’t have any synergy to speak of, and would counter his own ability even. Play him in a lineup that includes any other Hobbit heroes.
Dwarfs have a lot of unique allies you could choose from, but sadly most of those 5-ish-something-happens Dwarves won’t be of any use as heroes (except, again, for low threat costs). Still a few decent new heroes to be found!
Gimli (9 threat cost) ~ I would venture MotK Gimli is now our best version of Gimli. Sentinel, in-built (easy) readying, well balanced stats that can be further booster by Leadership Dain. Then again, too bad we cannot run MotK with The Three Hunters, because MotK Gimli would be my pick in any thematic line-up.
Tactics Bofur (7 threat cost) ~ MotK Tactics Bofur just opened on his own the Weapon deck archetype. With a reliable way to draw Weapons, you can expect to get the most out of the Weapon-related events, the first one being Foe-Hammer that’s now guaranteed not to sit in your hands many turns waiting for one of your 18 Weapons to show up on the top your deck. Sadly, only one contract is allowed by player, so you won’t be able to use Bofur as an attachment fetcher in a Three Hunters build (ok, that might be overkill anyway). Still a wonderful addition to the hero pool!
Dori (7 threat cost) ~ MotK Dori can help Gloin jank deck if you went over your head (because you won’t actually get the resources on Gloin, it’s a bit of a nonbo, but you also don’t want Gloin to die) and a Beorn-centric deck.
Spirit Bofur (7 threat cost), Fili & Kili (both 5 threat cost) ~ Nothing to say here since it’s highly unlikely (or per se impossible in case of the twins) you’ll trigger their Response or Action (except in a YOLO move). If anything, and as mentioned before, any of those allies would be worth considering for stats only if you need a low-threat-cost hero of that sphere to counterbalance the threat cost of your two other heroes.
Azain Silverbeard (7 threat cost) ~ Well, if you now don’t have to pay for that guy, he’s definitely worth it, generating himself the resource you need to trigger his action. He’ll be very interesting in a direct damage deck, probably now Thalin’s best friend and best pick as second Tactics hero, instead of Gimli for instance. No lost stats here. You can now also give Azain weapons like Durin’s Axe to double down on the damage dealt to other enemies. Orcrist can also be used to fuel his ability.
Gloin (7 threat cost), Dwalin (7 threat cost) and Bifur (7 threat cost) ~ Gloin and Bifur are vastly inferior to their hero counterpart (who both are in the same respective sphere as their ally version), and their Response won’t trigger during setup. Not valid targets. Dwalin can be included for stats and will likely be Sentinel at some point, but with no active ability, he will only see play for his low threat cost. These allies are best included as allies to accelerate the Dwarf Swarm.
Brok Ironfist (9 threat cost): He was already one of the worst allies in the game (if not the worst, apart from a corner case use in a Dwarf Fellowship contract deck, to have a safeguard against the loss of one of your 9 walkers), and he remains not very exciting to say the least. As a silly achievement, you could replace MotK Brok with ally Brok if he comes to die. Definitely not a valid target. He will save you 6 resources though, but there are other ways to do that (Timely Aid outside of Secrecy is also cheaper)
Bombur (4 threat cost) ~ I would argue MotK Bombur isn’t a bad pick for a low-threat access to Lore when playing the Dwarrowdelf cycle, where you’re bound to reveal Underground locations. Otherwise, the other Lore Dwarf heroes will always be better (card draw, resource smoothing…).
Nori (6 threat cost) ~ A decent start-off balance for Thorin Oakenshield, with a low threat cost. MotK Nori could find his way in dedicated Tactics Dwarf decks only for his stats, but otherwise, his evaluation is the same as in his ally form: the effect doesn’t justify the cost. Starting with Nori as your hero at least won’t deprive you of those resources.
Forlong (6 threat cost) ~ Is one of the best ally to be MotKed, of course in a pure Hirluin Outlands deck, benefitting from all those Outlands ally buffs that will end up readying him a the beginning of each phase, making him a quester, fighter and good target for all those events and attachments requiring the exhaustion of the attached character. Give Forlong the Noble trait with Diligant Noble, and he can use his readying in the planning phase to make you a ton or resources with Captain’s Wisdom. The limit on 1 ready per phase from the contract lines up perfectly with Forlong’s ability, so you don’t have to waste any readying effects on him.
What I like in the possibility of turning those 3 unique allies to heroes is that it opens new thematic builds alongside Kahliel and Na’asiyah, for a full “southerners” line-up. Otherwise, all those abilities are so powerful it’s actually ridiculous we get them in hero form, so I don’t think they’ll see much play outside of a pure Harad deck for myself, but I’m sure the community won’t have the scruples! And as well you should!
Firyal (9 threat cost) ~ Is turning every solitaire play into easy mode. Simple as that. We know Harad doesn’t bear a lot of synergy with other traits other than itself, but her ability itself justify her inclusion in any line-up. She’s period the best hero in the game. Pairing Firyal with Sméagol could also help you avoid those Stinker treacheries! You will also be avoiding the first card surging for the rest of your game!
Jubayr (9 threat cost) ~ Is turning the combat phase into easy mode. With the availability of Warrior defensive attachments we now have (Hauberk of Mail, Raiment of War…) and its built-in shadow control, he can become a real beast very quickly. I can see him with Armored Destrier becoming an amazing defender.
Yazan (9 threat cost) ~ Probably the most “underwhelming” Harad ally. He’s still very good of course but Jubayr and Firyal are so good it pales in comparison, probably also because pumping up Yazan’s attack will be less easy than Jubayr’s defense. The Haradrim Spear should help with that, at least.
Landroval (9 threat cost) ~ Again, highly unlikely you’ll trigger Landroval self-discarding ability in a non-YOLO move. Well at least, he would get back to your hand and you could play it again as a standard ally, but you definitely won’t build around his ability… The real value of Landroval is in its threat cost: with the newly spoiled Gwaihir hero, there has been a lot of discussion about the value of the king of the Eagles. One of those opinions (which I share) is that his threat cost is a bit high especially considering his negative unreadying ability (although that can be compensated quickly). We might also see an-eagle centric attachment counterbalancing that, but for now, we have to do with what we have. And what we have is Gwaihir’s Debt, an amazing attachment that’s sneak-attacking expensive Eagles or Gandalf. That event is great but needs an unique Istari and unique Eagle. Having Hero Gwaihir alongside Hero Radagast allows the use of this event from the start, but at the cost of 24 threat for only two heroes. Considering Landroval instead of Hero Gwaihir lowers it to 20 threat, gives you a late-game safeguard ability, a good turn-one attacker, and allows you to play Gwaihir ally and Meneldor. I’m not saying it’s perfect, but it’s something to consider, since Landroval has always been the weakest eagle unique ally, usually a 1-of in dedicated builds (outside of Hero Beorn teching). By the way: Landroval cannot save himself, sorry folks.
Gwaihir (10 threat cost) ~ As his ability would whiff and you can use Landroval for 1 threat less if you want a turn one access to Gwaihir’s Debt, I would say Gwaihir is never a good target for that contract. Especially since his hero version is released in the same pack, I would suggest giving that a try instead.
Meneldor (7 threat cost) ~ As a hero, his Response would place 2 progress tokens on a location in play (if any), but you would lose the benefit of multiple uses of that Response. As per my Landroval comments, Meneldor could be a good pick to offset Radagast+Gwaihir’s threat cost, especially if you need early willpower.
Ghan-buri-Ghan (4 threat cost) ~ As the letter X is worth 0 when you setup the contract, the Wose chieftain will always be 4 threat cost, and will be a solid quester as soon as you have an active location (that sometimes happens as soon as quest setup actually). His ability would be a YOLO move, but it’s always nice to have on the table. Hey, MotK is giving us the first Wose hero of the game. Especially during quests with the Caves deck or quests like Into the Pit that start with a 7 threat location active, this is a great hero for early willpower!
If you do deceide to run any of these allies as heroes, and you don’t draw all of them in your opening hand, then here is a link to all of the alt art hero versions of these allies that are worth putting into your deck. This helps to differentiate them from their ally versions and brings some new artwork to your deck. The link features all of the heroes featured as pictures in this article, and several extra! Feel free to print these out yourself. More might be added in the future if the final packs include some worthy allies.
The following decks make use of the contract. Try them out for yourself to get a feel for these unique style of decks that upgrade allies right away.