The art of smoking pipeweed is a common practice among various races in Middle Earth. Wizards do it, Dwarves do it, and Hobbits have based a part of their economy on it! So it wasn’t a huge shock when Pipe and Pipeweed traited cards eventually made their way into the game. While it may seem weird to light up a pipe halfway through your battle with the balrog, there is nobody stopping you from doing so. So in this article, let’s take a look at the Pipes and what their archetype is like.
The pipe archetype got introduced quite early in the game’s life, with The Black Riders and The Road Darkens but with just Hobbit and Wizard pipes, the archetype didn’t get much development. Later in the game’s life, some more factions got their pipes, and towards the end, the archetype finally got a generic pipe to help out other characters. it is not the biggest trait developed in the game, so it is easy to get all the pipes with just a handful of expansions. The following expansions support the Pipe trait, get the ones in bold first.
- The Black Riders (Hobbit Pipe, Smoke Rings)
- The Road Darkens (Bilbo Baggins, Wizard Pipe)
- The Mumakil (Dwarf Pipe)
- The Black Serpent (Dunedain Pipe, Old Toby)
- The Land of Sorrow (Spare Pipe, Smoke and Think)
The Pipe archetype is more of a supportive archetype, and as such, can be found in the Spirit and Lore spheres. Spirit is the main sphere for this archetype though, as the majority of pipes is in that sphere, as well as 2 out of 3 events and the card that fetches your pipes quickly. Lore can be skipped entirely, although if you have access to it, then throwing in Old Toby can be useful. It is not required to tailor your deck towards Lore though, as a mono-Spirit deck can do most things that the Pipe deck does by itself. There is also a Neutral card that can be used with Istari characters, of which 2 of their heroes are in Lore, so there is a decent chance you will end up with a Lore-Spirit hybrid deck, preferably with 2 Spirit heroes.
Leadership and Tactics do not have any support for the Pipe mechanic, but do offer some targets for other pipes found in Lore and Spirit. You can splash these in your deck for a little variety in your deck, but remember that it will be harder to pay for Pipe-related cards if you are missing your resource match.
The pipes themselves don’t have a lot of synergy with each other, but do share some similarities. They are cheap attachments that don’t fill a Restricted slot but are usually limited to one per character. The pipes themselves tend to allow the user to exhaust them for a benefit that is usually related to the other player cards in the deck. The exception to this is the Hobbit Pipe, which can only be triggered to draw a card when your threat gets reduced. The other pipes allow you to interact with your deck by placing cards on the bottom of your deck after they have been discarded from the top (Dwarf Pipe) or you can put a card on the bottom from your hand to draw a new card (Dunedain Pipe). This interaction with your deck can allow you to search more easily for the cards you need, while also keeping your decksize large. Pipes are great for quests that try to drain your deck (Deadmen’s Dike, Under the Ash Mountains) or for quests that focus on the bottom card of your deck (Drowned Dead encounter set from the Dreamchaser cycle).
Not all Pipes interact with your bottom card of the deck though. Wizard Pipe lets you swap a card from the top of your deck with one from your hand. This is useful for several decks, such as decks that run Gandalf hero who lets you see the top card of your deck, or Elrond+Vilya which lets you play the card for free.
The pipes are also used for a number of events that trigger from having cards in play. These events don’t require you to exhaust any pipes, but instead allow you to do various things based on how many pipes you have in play at once. This can heal your characters, drop your threat, increase willpower, draw you a bunch of cards, or lower the cost to play the next card by a lot. These events tie in well with Pipe decks, and are a good reason as to why you should be playing a lot of Pipes in the same deck.
Synergy with other traits
While the synergy between pipes isn’t fantastic, the attachments do synergize well with other archetypes. This is usually connected with the race that can equip the pipe, such as how the Dwarf Pipe allows a Dwarf deck to keep its mining archetype alive for longer by allowing you to put the discarded cards on the bottom of your deck instead of in your discard pile. This allows you to recur cards like Hidden Cache for extra uses down the line.
The Hobbit Pipe also helps the Hobbit trait. The Hobbits tend to use a lot of threat reduction events to keep their threat below the engagement costs of enemies in order to receive their buffs. Their pipe allows them to draw a card whenever they use threat reduction events like The Shirefolk, which helps them to get their cards out faster. The Spare Pipe also helps Hobbits, as it gives the attached character an additional hitpoint. Hobbits don’t tend to have a lot of hitpoints, so this is a great way to allow them to survive a hit in case you don’t have access to Bill the Pony. Hobbits also have Bilbo Baggins, who fetches a pipe from your deck whenever he enters play. The synergy between these two traits is the strongest for the Pipe trait, and Pipe decks tend to have a focus towards Hobbits.
The archetype isn’t that large, so it is difficult to name staples and “bad” pipe cards. But there are some cards that are better than others in any archetype, and for Pipe deck, you really are going to need Bilbo Baggins. This 2 cost Spirit ally allows you to fetch a Pipe from your entire deck when you play him and add it to your hand. You don’t get to play the Pipe right away, but with Pipes being pretty cheap, it shouldn’t be difficult to play it either in the same turn or the next one. Bilbo allows you to quickly find your pipes, which can be crucial in certain cases, like for Istari decks that rely on getting Wizard Pipe out quickly. Even if you don’t want to focus your deck on Pipes, Bilbo is still a good card, with 2 willpower for 2 cost in Spirit. He can also fetch a single copy of Hobbit Pipe from your deck to place it on him in case you ever do lower your threat from event cards. This makes him self-supportive for any deck that can run him, and allows Spirit to draw some extra cards, which is something it tends to struggle with. For 2 cost, you now get a nice pair of cards to draw some extra cards if you really want to and have the ability to lower your threat with events.
Speaking of events, the new Smoke and Think event is also great for more dedicated Pipe decks. This 0-cost event allows you to lower the cost to play any card by the number of Pipes you currently control. This can usually lower the cost by 1 or 2 in the early game, but if you are running 3 copies of a trait specific pipe and 3 copies of Spare Pipe, it suddenly allows you to lower the cost by 6! That means that you can get a free Brok Ironfist into play, which is about as much as I am willing to pay for him. Of course, this event relies on you getting your Pipe attachments out quickly, but the added card draw or recycling of cards from your hand with the pipes you get early can allow you to quickly find the pipes in order to make this event worth while. Smoke and Think has no restrictions to how low you can reduce the cost, nor does it restrict what sort of card you can reduce the cost of. This allows any deck to pay for some expensive allies or for big events during the mid to late game.
“Bad” pipe cards
Again, with so few cards in the archetype, the air-quotes around “bad” are important here. All cards in the archetype work well with each other, but the two Lore cards deserve a spot on here just because they force the Pipe deck to go dual-sphere. Dunedain Pipe isn’t a bad card by any means and allows you to replace bad cards in your hand for cards that might be useful in that situation. It is also a nice way to get rid of duplicates of uniques. However, it doesn’t really have synergy with the Dunedain trait. I do see this Pipe being splashed in sometimes on Beravor and Loragorn, but it usually isn’t a part of a dedicated Pipe deck, just because most of the events are in Spirit instead of Lore.
The Lore event Old Toby also doesn’t make it into many decks because of its sphere, but also because of its cost. 2 cost in Lore is quite expensive, especially if your Pipe deck only has 1 Lore hero in it. However, in a Hobbit deck, you could run Good Meal to lower the cost by 2, at which point, the event is quite good a few turns in. In return, you do get to heal one point off of your heroes who have a pipe attached. You also get to draw a card for each Pipe attachment you control, which can be quite big. The fact that you don’t heal allies who have a pipe does hurt a little for the decks that rely on Spare Pipe to boost the hitpoints on a defender. This event would have been a nice way to heal off that damage from a character like Jubayr or Erebor Guard, but the healing only applies to heroes. Still, it is nice to draw a lot of cards with this event during the later stages of the game. The event still has a place in some Pipe decks, but requires a little more work to be effective in decks that don’t run Lore.
What the archetype is missing
While I think most smoking races have their own pipe at this point, we are lacking a lot of pipeweed. The books give us a lot of different Pipeweed names that are missing from the game at this point. Getting more events like Long-bottom Leaf would be a nice way to expand the trait a little and give Pipes more purpose. Getting more allies that react with having pipes attached would be nice, though I don’t think it is needed. But I would like to see more effects that trigger on having Pipes in play, so that it becomes attractive to play multiple pipes in the same deck.
With the trait not really being able to fuel an entire deck, there is no “One Pipe deck to rule them all”. But I hope the following decks that include pipes are enjoyable to use and give you a fun new trait to work with.
- [List will be updated when Land of Sorrow releases new Pipe cards]
With this trait now covered, I will be working on completing the updates to other traits on the blog as well to get them in line with the recent cardpool. I’ll also start working on an article for the Master trait, which should be a lot of fun. This month will focus a lot on traits, so there might be fewer articles overall.