Having played a lot of Under the Ash Mountains recently has pushed me to appreciate the cards in this game that allow you to recur some cards from your discard pile. This allows you to last longer against quests like Under the Ash Mountains and Deadmen’s Dike, where you will automatically lose if your deck is ever empty. Since this is not a loss-condition in other scenarios, there aren’t that many ways to recur cards as in other cardgames. But with the Noldor discard mechanic, and the Dwarven Mining mechanic, it would be nice to fill your deck back up with cards so that you can keep your engine going. That’s where these cards will come in, as they return cards to your hand or to your deck from your discard pile. This doubles their usage, and allows you to replay some effects that you used earlier. Not all recursion effects are created equally though, and in this article, we will go over the best cards that allow you to get cards back from your discard pile.
Since players aren’t eliminated from the game if they run out of cards in most scenarios, recursion didn’t get much attention in the early life of the game. With limited card draw and no real engines to mill your deck, the recursion effects of the early card pool weren’t often required, as you never drew through your deck anyways. But with more powerful card draw effects being released as the game went on, and with the introduction of the Dwarven Mining and Noldor Discard archetypes around the time of cycles 5 ,6, and 7, many of these effects have been finding their way into decks again. Some decks go through their cards so quickly, that it will be worthwhile to keep filling your deck with cards again, giving you some more fuel for your mechanics. We will be going over all spheres and their most powerful recursion effects in order, but note that we won’t be covering all of the effects in this article. For a full list, check this link.
Spirit is probably the best sphere to use for returning cards to your hand or to your deck. This has been the case since the very beginning of the game, and has remained pretty much unchanged ever since. If you are running Noldor or Dwarven Mining in your deck, chances are that you are running at least one Spirit hero as well, probably even more! As there are so many options for recursion in Spirit, I will only cover one of each type, event, attachment, and ally.
In each and every deck that runs through its cards too quickly for its own good (looking at you Erestor decks) you will probably be including a copy of this event. For the cost of just one resource in Spirit, this Core Set card allows you to reshuffle your entire discard pile back into your deck. This resets your deck completely, returning to its original size minus the cards you have in your hand and that are in play. Because this loop could be repeated indefinitely with two copies of Will of the West, you now have to set this event out of play whenever you use it. But that does not take away that running multiple copies of this event can continously reset your deck, providing fuel to Noldor and Dwarven archetypes. At such a cheap cost and with few drawbacks, it is worth considering in any Lore/Spirit build as it simply resets your deck. It is in fact so powerful, that during Under the Ash Mountains, the quest specifically prevents players from using events like this to reset their deck. This would otherwise break the difficulty of the game, like it did with Deadmen’s Dike. The event can also target any player, which is nice if you draw it during the late game but don’t need it yourself. If others have things in their discard pile that they need to get back, then play the event to choose the other player. This is quite rare, since decks usually target themselves for this, but at least the option is available.
The Dwarven discard mechanic really needed a way to bring back discarded cards to their deck. Silver Harp and many other recursion cards weren’t fitting for the discard engine of the Dwarves, as they return cards to your hand, and not your deck. That’s where the Dwarf Pipe comes in. This cheap 1 cost attachment can go onto any Dwarf character and allows them to exhaust the Pipe in order to put a discarded card back on the bottom of their deck. This allowed Dwarven Mining decks to recycle cards like Hidden Cache to get a ton more resources, but also made sure that they didn’t have to rely on Will of the West for their recursion. The Pipes also have the benefit of being Pipe attachments, which opens up a few events for the Dwarves to use. Smoke and Think is a good way to get some of the more expensive Dwarf allies into play, without requiring the exhaustion of the Pipes. Since the Dwarf Pipe can attach to any Dwarf, it is easy to play even outside of a Dwarf deck. If you are playing a quest that discards a lot of your cards from the top of the deck, you might want to include an Ered Luin Miner or two, so that you can get them into play for free. You can then have them equip a Dwarf Pipe to refill your deck with cards that are being discarded by quest effects or by your own greed to mine away at your own deck. With the Pipe not being Restricted and since it can go on allies too, it is easy to splash in if you are running some Dwarf characters. It gives your deck much more time before it eventually runs out of cards.
The Silvan elves also have their own recursion in the form of an ally. The cheap Galadhrim Weaver doesn’t offer a lot in terms of stats or abilities, as she only has a point of willpower and cannot attack or defend. Instead, she is one of the best targets for Silvan bouncing events, that draw her back to her owner’s hand. Since the Weaver is so cheap, you can replay her with ease, and each time she enters play, she will allow you to shuffle the top card of your discard pile back into your deck. Play with some more Silvan tricks, and the Weaver will now also have an extra point of willpower and doesn’t exhaust to quest during the round she enters play, which is fantastic. You will want to recycle her often, bringing back a card from the top of your discard pile each time you play her. The two downsides to her is that you will need more than just the ally to make her repeatable, and that you have limited control over what card goes back into your deck. She only takes the top card, meaning that the top card of your discard pile better be worth recurring, otherwise you might need to time playing her more carefully. The ally is weak, but if you manage to repeat her ability over and over again, you will get much more use out of the cards you bring back. An excellent ally, who can even be used outside of Silvan decks if you really want to.
While less powerful than Spirit when it comes to recursion, Lore has always had faster card draw. As such, it tends to go through its deck rather quickly. Because of that, it is recommended that you add some recursion into your deck so that you will have more cards to draw for your effects.
The Core Set had a lot of recursion cards in it, perhaps because the starting decks were so small for players to begin with. One way to recur some attachments is with the Erebor Hammersmith. When you play this ally, you can choose a player to return their top most attachment in their discard pile back into their hand. This can help any player to get back some important attachment that they were missing, but is also a nice way to bring back some attachment that need to be discarded in order to be used, like Haradrim Spear, Cram, and Lembas. The effect on the Hammersmith isn’t repeatable though, and could fail in the early game if nobody has discarded an attachment yet. But even then, you get an amazing ally for just 2 Lore resources. The Hammersmith is non-unique but still has 3 hitpoints, which is amazing value. He can defend quite well against smaller enemies, having just 1 defence but his decent pool of hitpoints can soak up some damage. Being a Dwarf also gives the Hammersmith plenty of attachments to benefit from and he can even receive buffs from Leadership Dain Ironfoot and Hardy Leadership. In the early days of the card pool, this will be a great ally to have, though he isn’t as popular in later decks. In order to really benefit from his recursion, you (or your fellow players) will need to have plenty of attachments in your discard pile. A Dwarf deck doesn’t often have this, since Ring of Thror and Well-Equipped will attach those discarded attachments to your characters. But the Erebor Hammersmith is a good failsafe and can even soak an attack or two after he has done his thing. Great value for a sturdy ally.
The Lore version of Anborn is an expensive card for Trap decks, but it is a critical one to keep the trap-spam going. Trap decks tend to go through their attachments quickly, especially when you play with a Master of the Forge or two to dig your deck for traps. And after the attached enemy is defeated, you discard the attached Trap cards. This can leave Trap decks empty-handed if the quest drags on for too long, so you need some repeatable recursion for the deck. That is where Anborn comes in. He allows you to exhaust him in order to return one Trap card from your discard pile to your hand. While exhausting Anborn means that you won’t be using his stats that round, it is a nice action to take at the end of the round, if you didn’t have to use Anborn. You can also use readying effects on him to repeat his recursion, as there is no limit on how many Traps he can return from the discard pile to your hand. This gives the Trap deck the ability to continue their shenanigans during the late game of the quest as well. It gets even better if you are running Anborn with the Messenger of the King contract, which allows you to start with him as a hero (bypassing his 4 cost in Lore) for a reasonable cost of 8 threat. This gives him more options to ready with attachments, though his readying is restricted to once per phase from the contract. But the recycling of Traps is amazing for those specific decks, and if you don’t need the recycling, then Anborn still has some fantastic stats to use, and he can also equip some Ranger or Gondor specific attachments like Ranger Bow to be of more use when not needing to attack. Great ally for Trap decks, though outside of them, it is difficult to justify his high cost.
Leadership’s tendancy to play a lot of allies can result in having quite some of those allies die and end up in the discard pile. Luckily, the sphere has some solid recursion cards to get those allies back. Many of these are trait-exclusive though, like To Me! O My Kinsfolk! for Dwarves, Gúthwinë for Rohan, and Men of the West for Outlands. Since these cards are so niche, they cannot really be considered staples, as they won’t do anything outside of their respective archetype. They are still worth including though!
While the event isn’t that popular, it is one of the more effective ways to recycle attachments. It is a better version of Erebor Hammersmith, as this event allows every player to take the top card of their discard pile for an attachment and add it to their hand. While you have no control over what attachment you return, it is nice that it targets each player. This can help to spread the love a little during quests that discard attachments often (like Druadan Forest). This event is also thematic if you return some food attachments back to your hand that you have to discard in order to use. Good Meal, Miruvor, Cram, and Lembas make for a nice meal that you can have another go at, while getting their rewards again. The event is fairly cheap too, considering that it can bring back 4 attachments. The only problem is that you need to be sure that you are going to be losing attachments during your game to warrent this card a spot in your deck. Otherwise this card is just a waste of space. But for what it does, Second Breakfast does it well enough for its cost. And to top it all off, the art on the card was by Magali, so that’s another reason to include this card in your deck if you need to recycle attachments!
Tome of Atanatar (and other Record attachments)
All Record attachments deserve a spot on this list, as they are all pretty much the same, just suited for different spheres. The Record attachments are quite expensive, but having some heroes with a matching sphere icon, the attachments become a lot cheaper. They are also all unique, so you can only recur one event before you have to play the Tome of Atanatar again. The reason why these record attachments fall under the Recursion mechanic, is because they not only let you play an event from your discard pile as if it were in your hand, but they then also place that event on the bottom of your deck, so you get to draw it again some day. This is mainly meant to prevent you from spamming one event over and over again (Sneak Attack, A Test of Will, Daeron’s Runes, or Feint) but it has the nice benefit that it fills your deck back up again so you can play it later on. If your deck is drained of cards anyway, you’ll be drawing it very quickly after you’ve used the Record attachment, which has been one of the ways that the game was broken in the past, with infinite resource loops. But with a few patches, the game has nerfed that strategy and the Record attachments have been balanced ever since. They are usually an auto-include in any deck that has 3 heroes of the same sphere, as the attachment will only cost one resource of that sphere. It can also be justified for 2 resources if you need to recur some important events. I personally have run Tome of Atanatar in a Council of the Wise Silvan deck with 2 Leadership heroes (Thranduil and Celeborn). Sure, the event I intend to recycle is made more expensive this way, but the contract helps to balance it, and the event I recycle only has one copy in the deck. This way you get to potentially play it 3 times, which is quite important in a Council of the Wise deck. In terms of what Record attachments are best, there really is no winner here, as they are basically all the same attachments, just for a different sphere. It’s easy to put into a mono-sphere deck to give yourself some extra event recursion.
Tactics doesn’t have a lot of recursion, but rarely needs it. It doesn’t often run out of cards in its deck in a mono-Tactics deck, and Spirit is splashed in easily. Tactics does have the Eagle and Beorning archetypes that each have some trait-specific recursion, but outside of their archetypes, that is not considered a staple. Tactics instead focuses more on recurring events above anything else. This allows them to use those events more often that just once per copy, which is very useful for some events.
What’s better than playing Feint? Playing Feint on each and every enemy as long as you have cards in your hand! At least, that was one of the combos that Hama decks were known for back in the day, alongside some other events that he lets you recycle whenever he attacks an enemy. Hama’s ability got nerfed in a patch to protect future Tactics events from being recycled over and over again, allowing you to now only do his recurring ability three times per game. This has reduced the reliability of Hama decks, but they are still a lot of fun as Rohan got some new attachments for Hama later in the game. He is not the best hero in the game, but he was critical to early victories over Durin’s Bane during the Shadow and Flame scenario. He allows you to bring back a Tactics event from your discard pile to your hand whenever he is declared as an attacker. This can be triggered early in the round with effects like Battle-fury or Hands Upon the Bow if you make him Ranged. But using Quick Strike or his regular attack window also works to trigger his response. Note that Hama doesn’t have to kill an enemy in order to use his response, he only needs to be declared as an attacker. This allows you to reuse some events, giving you a maximum of 6 uses out of an event per game, which is amazing for some of the events in the cardpool. I haven’t seen Hama being used in recent decks, but in the early life of the game, he really was a staple at times.
The most recent card on the list, but it is a way for Tactics to recycle their discard pile without having to rely on owning a specific archetype. Technically, any Tactics deck can play Nori and recycle their discard pile through him destroying enemies. You will need to give Nori some attachments that buff his attack strength, because 2 isn’t going to kill a lot of enemies. But give him some weapons and use some events like Khazad! Khazad! and you can kill enemies with ease. In fact, using Nori with the Messenger of the King contract can be a reliable way to get more cards back from your discard pile, though this is more effective in a Dwarf-heavy deck that allows you to discard cards more freely. The good thing about Nori in any case is that his effect isn’t limited to once per round or phase. So if you manage to kill multiple enemies with him by readying him up, then you can put more cards back into your discard pile each round. Combine Nori with Tactics hero Merry, and you will have an easier time readying Nori before attacking enemies again with him. This makes it a more reliable way to get cards back into your deck, but will take a fair chunk of your deck to make it work. But it is still an interesting tactic to use, and a quirky mechanic to surprise your teammates with when playing a multiplayer game. The lack of a Warrior trait does hurt Nori a bit though, as that prevents him from using some useful attachments like Warrior Sword or Raiment of War. But being a Dwarf, he’ll have access to Dwarrowdelf Axe, which is more than enough for Nori to be better at defeating some enemies.
Besides the one card that I will explain in depth, Neutral recursion is only a thing for Harad with Kahliel’s Headdress. This attachment is powerful, but only in a Harad deck, so I won’t be covering it in this article, as it is too niche. But an auto-include for any Harad deck though, as it is quite powerful!
While I can’t exactly call the White Council a staple, or anything close to it, it does allow players to shuffle the one card of their discard pile back into their decks. The card you shuffle back in doesn’t have to be the top card, so you can select what card you would like to have back into your deck. The White Council is more of a multiplayer event, and not a very popular one at all, but it is very flexible and certainly deserves a spot in most decks with a small card pool that somehow includes the Dunland Trap. Even if you do not need the recursion, the event allows you to draw a card, gain a resource (the one you used in solo to afford this event, but at least it can go on a different hero), or ready a hero. The event is a nice toolbox card that offers a little bit of everything, including some recursion if you really need it. In higher player counts, the event becomes more expensive, but the other players get to select one option as well. I like the flexibility of this event, but this isn’t one you are going to add to a deck designed around recuring cards.
I hope this list will help those of you that are struggling with Deadmen’s Dike and Under the Ash Mountains to give your deck some extra cards to prevent you from losing that way. I will be looking forward to writing some more Staple articles really soon, so if you have any suggestions on what mechanics to cover, feel free to let me know!