With the last clash against Durin’s Bane, the Dwarrowdelf cycle (note: always including Khazad-Dum expansion) ends and it is time to make a complex summary. This time I’m going to make a different, more structured, and sophisticated overview, however. Shadows of Mirkwood cycle is mainly typical of the presence of the Core set, which is made by a rich selection of player cards. From the varied collection of cards, there is no problem to choose and announce THE WORST and THE BEST cards from all different types of cards (heroes, allies, events and attachments) and across all the spheres. But the choice of THE BEST and THE WORST ally from the Leadership sphere, for example, isn’t exactly valid as we have got only 3 of them in Dwarrowdelf. Thus, I have left the evaluation of all types of cards within different spheres. Instead, I simply choose and announce THE BEST and THE WORST PLAYER CARD of the given sphere. Heroes will get its own announcement. It’s clear that the choice is subjective, although I’m trying to approach the evaluation as most objective as possible.
The article is divided into 5 main sections, where I evaluate each sphere separately. Within each sphere, I also evaluate each card type separately (allies, events, attachments) for a clear arrangement. At the end of each section, I have added the fast overview of cards divided by their cost, because I think this simple information can be also useful for new players.
Another change concerns the capture of key mechanics and archetypes of this cycle. For new players, who are searching for cards with certain mechanics/trait, it is big facilitation, when they know, which cycle can provide them cards with the desired mechanics/trait. However, this overall evaluation isn’t about the detailed analysis of the given traits and mechanics. For more information, don’t hesitate to check it here: https://visionofthepalantir.com/archetype-analysis/
Finally, I also made a brief summary of each sphere + the final summary, which will reflect the Dwarrowdelf cycle as a whole. I will try to illustrate the main good and bad aspects of this cycle.
So enough of more introduction, let’s get to it
Key mechanics and traits
- Leadership allies
- Leadership events
- Leadership attachments
- Leadership overall evaluation
- THE BEST LEADERSHIP CARD
- THE WORST LEADERSHIP CARD
- Tactic allies
- Tactic events
- Tactic attachments
- Tactic overall evaluation
- THE BEST TACTIC CARD
- THE WORST TACTIC CARD
- Spirit allies
- Spirit events
- Spirit attachments
- Spirit overall evaluation
- THE BEST SPIRIT CARD
- THE WORST SPIRIT CARD
Final conclusion of Dwarrowdelf cycle
Key mechanics and traits
There is no doubt that the trait Dwarf is the main pillar, on which the Dwarrowdelf cycle stands. You can’t avoid Dwarves – they are everywhere. The theme of Dwarves is so strong and convincing that many players will create decks based on this trait. It’s not definitely the first synergy, which players meet. Just remind all these Eagles and Rohans, which were introduced in Shadows of Mirkwood cycle. The main difference lies in their quantity across spheres. While Eagle theme is Tactic-exclusive (with the exception Neutral Radagast) and Rohans are mostly the matter of Spirit sphere, Dwarves intervene in every sphere, including the Neutral one. So no matter which sphere you want to run, you can choose Dwarves as the main theme. The second difference I see in a really sophisticated, plotted, and variable strategy at the same time that Dwarves use to achieve their goal. It’s good to compare them to Eagles and Rohans. Making Eagle deck means simply put as many Eagle allies as possible + some Eagle events, which work on the basis of returning characters back to hands. Nothing complex. Rohans rely on a couple of allies, few heroes, and some events, which in overall attempt to boost the game progression. In my point of view, building the Rohan deck within Shadows of Mirkwood is not too viable. However, Dwarf theme offers you many ways, how to play the game. You can build a Dwarf deck, which relies on the number of Dwarves you get into play (=aka swarm deck), but also you can boost their stats, mainly Willpower and Attack, by events (Durin’s Song, Khazad! Khazad!), attachments (Dwarrowdelf Axe) or even by passive effects of characters (Dáin Ironfoot). You can accelerate your progression by generating more progress tokens (Ancestral Knowledge). You can ready one (Ever My Heart Rises) or all Dwarves (Lure of Moria). Or you can draw cards on the basis of incoming Dwarves (Legacy of Durin). In short, you can use different strategies and combine them, no matter which sphere you choose. This is a great strength and advantage against previous trait-depended strategies.
I must also point out that almost any Dwarf decks is connected one card: Dáin Ironfoot. Everything begins and ends at this hero, who came one cycle earlier. He has an unquestionable key position due to his (maybe overpowerful) ability, which boosts every Dwarf in the game by +1 Willpower and +1 Attack. It is Dáin Ironfoot from whom Dwarves draw their strength. Each Dwarf deck should contain this hero.
It’s good to not forget that from Dwarrrowdelf arises also Noldor-synergy. 10 new characters (6 allies, 4 heroes), 1 event, and 4 attachments have something in common with Noldors and that’s not a few. The synergy mainly focuses on boosting of Noldor characters (Rivendel Blade, Rivendell Bow) and 2 of Noldor cards mainly aim at Glorfindel (Light of Valinor, Asfaloth). The remaining Elrond’s Counsel can reduce threat and boost Willpower at the same time.
I love the idea of Secrecy. To keep an eye on your threat and hold it below some threshold for playing much cheaper cards than for their “normal cost”. I can feel the satisfaction of playing a powerful card for the fraction of the cost. The main problem is that you lack the heroes, who could provide you below 20 starting threat and who would be somehow competitive at the same time. With the choice of heroes we have now, it’s impossible to make a viable Secrecy deck UNLESS you sacrifice the spot for 1 hero, playing with just 2 heroes. As I have tested many times, the solution with 2 heroes isn’t bad or unplayable. You can finish in this mode any scenario, maybe except for Shadow and Flame.
Because the Dwarrowdelf cycle comes with up to 8 Secrecy cards, it would be a shame to just skip it and wait for Hobbits from future saga cycles (mainly The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill, and The Black Riders).
Elrond + Vilya (+ Imladris Stargazer)
You read it well – the whole strategy can revolve around just 2 cards. In this case, the hero Elrond and his attachment Vilya can order the form of the deck. If you want to make use of these cards, you can count on a mixture of healing, allies from any spheres, expensive and powerful cards, and cards scrying your own deck. Of course, you can skip one of the possible parts of this mixture and play without healing cards, for example. The important thing is that Elrond’s ability allows you to utilize such mechanics.
The key aspect of this combo is playing any card for free. Have you always wished to play with Gildor Inglorion, Haldir of Lórien, Beorn (or Brok Ironfist, when we are in Dwarf-aimed cycle :)), but you just couldn’t afford to pay for them? Vilya can fulfill all your desires. You just possibly can’t do without Imladris Stargazer, who does this strategy viable and efficient at most.
To a lesser extent we can find here other trait-dependent mechanics, generally represented by 1-2 cards. The fan of Hobbits can add (ugly) Short Cut and (nice) Good Meal to their Hobbit decks. I have never played with a deck based on Songs. But Love of Tales can generatesome resources due to playing Songs. Except for sphere-adjusting Songs from the previous cycle, you also gain quite a nice Song of Eärendil and Dwarf event Durin’s Song. Finally, the Dwarrowdelf cycle contains many Mountains and Underground locations. On this trait are specialized few cards, which can make your progression easier. It’s certainly because of the natural connection between Dwarves and earth or rock.;). Bombur, Ancestral Knowledge, Untroubled by Darkness (aiming Underground and Dark locations) and Ever My Heart Rises. These cards are rather exclusive to the Dwarrowdelf cycle, almost unplayable outside of this cycle because you won’t meet many scenarios with locations of these types.
Every time I wonder, why the Dwarrowdelf cycle, the home of Dwarves, has got from in overall 8 heroes only 2 Dwarf heroes. Bifur and Dwalin from Khazad-Dum are the new additions to Dwarf family, where we already have Gimli, Thalin, Glóin, and of course the king of kings Dáin Ironfoot. To be honest, I rather take Dwarf heroes from the previous cycle than to try to find a free spot for the new ones, but the personal preference won’t prevent me to evaluate this duo in relation to Dwarf theme at least shortly.
Bifur and Dwalin won’t shock players by stats, but if Dáin Ironfoot will be in a game, I wouldn’t consider it for the more serious issue. Their low starting threat is a very pleasant bonus. As for their abilities, let’s talk about Bifur firstly. You can afford to play more (expensive) cards from Bifur’s resource pool if you often use his ability. It’s not resource-generation ability – you only move the resources from point A to point B. Because of that, Bifur has a good relationship with resource-generation cards, like Steward of Gondor, alternatively Horn of Gondor, Resourceful, or Glóin.
If you add Dwalin to your battle ranks, you surely plan the regular reduction of your threat by killing Orcs. Well, you should know, which scenario contains a reasonable number of Orcs. In The Watcher in the Water, Dwalin won’t be useful too much. Otherwise, if you assure that Dwalin will kill Orc every time he attacks, you can slowly reduce your threat each round.
Still, I cannot get rid of the impression that the new Dwarves are lagging behind the old gang from the previous cycle. They don’t add any “wow” effect to the game, it’s just “well, that’s not bad… but will I find a free spot for any of them?” On their defense, I must admit that the Spirit and Lore sphere lacks any Dwarf heroes, so we can be glad we have got any at all.
Dwarrowdelf cycle gives us one of the strongest heroes we have met. You will probably use them for a long time due to their “timelessness”. But on the other side, some of the heroes you may put away during this cycle already. Well, let’s a look at them.
The last 2 adventure packs brought two very powerful heroes, who deserve great respect: Elrond and Spirit version of Glorfindel. Elrond is a classic high-tonnage hero with a bunch of stats (and high starting threat) and superb abilities. You can send this hero to the quest or to battle – he won’t embarrass you ever. From his resource pool, you can pay allies from any spheres and in addition, any healing effect causes 1 extra healed damage. Add him Vilya and you have got a character, who can change the whole game. No more words are needed. Spirit Glorfindel is a new phenomenon of hero, which we have already met, but within a different sphere. A long time ago, Lore Glorfindel has arrived already, but he wasn’t very popular due to his ability and very high starting threat. If you have removed him from decks already, I guess the Spirit Glorfindel will please you much more. 5 starting threat is amazing value, even lower than Hobbit heroes have. The low starting threat is compensated by his Forced effect, but this limitation you can elegantly bypass with Light of Valinor. As Noldor, Glorfindel welcomes attaching Rivendell Blade and helps you in the combat a lot. And of course, I shouldn’t forget on Asfaloth, which puts 2 progress tokens on any location if attached to this hero.
Dwarrowdelf also brought a very interesting concept of two heroes, where each supports another one: Elrohir and Elladan. I like the idea of cooperating heroes, it brings to the game both originality and very interesting possibilities. Elrohir excels in defending when Elladan is in the game (+2 Defense) and vice versa, Elladan is a great attacker when Elrohir is in the game (+2 Attack). From that follows it would be non-sense to play with just one of the “brothers”. As Noldors, they could be a good aim for some Noldor-cards, like Rivendell Bow or Rivendell Blade. With some resources you could afford to spend, both heroes serve either as a repetitive defender or repetitive attacker. Yeah, if you have saved some resources, why not use them? The main issue with them is that you need both heroes in the game. So you must reserve 2 hero spots for them. In a solo game, it could painfully limit you. However, both brothers make a great team mainly in multiplayer games.
Then you probably have experienced deja-vu when you have met Aragorn… but in the Lore version. Possibly you have already put the original Aragorn from the Leadership sphere aside due to the existence of more practice heroes. But Lore Aragorn will induce you to try Aragorn-hero again. Instead of readying itself for 1 resource during the questing, you can completely reset your threat to the default point, where you began. You then don’t have to care about the threat generation too much, because you will have always “the reset button” ready. If I should choose between those two versions of Aragorn, I would pick the Lore one, definitely.
The last, a bit neglected hero is Tactic Háma, who has become the victim of merciless errata. As any other errata, it cripples him, but the question is, if his ability wasn’t too powerful, when he just came out. The never-ending comeback of Tactic events from the discard pile to your hands seems like a decent disturbance of game balance. Such constant cycling of Thicket of Spears would provide you with an unbeatable shield, through which enemies couldn’t hurt you at all. It sounds absurdly overpowered. On one side I welcome some restriction to this ability, while on the second side, after the third usage of his ability only quite useless “paperweight” will be left to you.
LOW STARTING THREAT (8 and less): Bifur, Glorfindel
MEDIUM STARTING THREAT (9-10): Dwalin, Elladan, Elrohir, Háma
HIGH STARTING THREAT (11 and more): Aragorn, Elrond
THE BEST HEROES: ELROND + GLORFINDEL
It’s very hard to choose the best of the best when both heroes are really unique and powerful. Therefore, I have exceptionally decided to announce 2 BEST HEROES of the Dwarrowdelf cycle – Elrond and Glorfindel.
THE WORST HERO: HÁMA
The main, unlucky victim of errata makes from him the hero you will be often overlooking. Even his trait Rohan won’t help you to get him involved in some interesting synergy.
The lack of non-Core allies lasts up to Road to Rivendell. From this adventure pack, the number of Leadership allies grows very slowly and timidly. Still, we don’t get the too wide choice – Dúnedain Wanderer is the ally of Secrecy decks, Erestor is a unique and quite expensive ally and Longbeard Elder belongs rather to Dwarf decks. So I think that the shortage of practical Leadership allies persists.
I love Dúnedain Wanderer within Secrecy decks. He is an amazing ally in the early game – you have got really strong help, with the wonderful trade-off (1-2-2-2 for just 2 cost) + Sentinel and Ranged. Secrecy decks want this ally, but outside of them, you really shouldn’t search for him a free spot. 5 non-Secrecy cost for him is just too much.
Longbeard Elder is a kind of ally with a big question mark. Boosted by Dáin Ironfoot, he will quest with 3 Willpower and that’s a good portion of Willpower. He also owns “questing ability”, which enables you to add 1 progress token on the current quest or to decrease his Willpower by 1 until the end of the phase. Ability, which rewards you or punishes you (but in both cases to a lesser extent), is not the real aspect, which would convince me to add this ally to (any) Dwarf deck. I would pick him because he is 1) Leadership Dwarf (the only useful one, maybe except for Longbeard Orc Slayer), 2) not very expensive Leadership ally and 3) a decent ally, if paired with Dáin Ironfoot. Nothing more or less.
Before many scenarios, I’m considering to add Erestor to my deck, because I would like to utilize his ability. The card exchange might bring you an advantage. However, the final result is uncertain – you might also get nothing useful from the deck. On the contrary, you would have to discard maybe even more useful card from your hand. The combination of cost, uniqueness and a bit unreliable ability discourages me to play with him in common.
LOW COST (0-2): Dúnedain Wanderer (Secrecy cost)
MEDIUM COST (3): Longbeard Elder
HIGH COST (4-6): Erestor, Dúnedain Wanderer (non-Secrecy cost)
Dwarrowdelf cycle offers a very good portion of Leadership events – 8 in overall. They could be simply divided into 3 groups: Dwarf events, Secrecy events and the others.
The fans of Dwarf decks will be interested in 3 events. 2 of them, Durin’s Song and Lure of Moria will appear in every Dwarf deck due to their universality, I suppose. When the boost of Dáin Ironfoot isn’t enough, you can boost one of your Dwarf characters by stats, which he needs at the moment. +2 to all stats for 1 cost sounds really good. Moreover, as the card with Song trait, you can easily find it by Rivendell Minstrel or add 1 resource for its playing, when Love of Tales is in the game. The second Dwarf event, Lure of Moria, worths it in the multisphere decks with lots of Dwarves in-game. It explicitly shines in situations, when you are suddenly ambushed by many enemies and you wouldn’t have enough ready forces to repulse their attack (due to sending some of the Dwarves on the quest). As for We Are Not Idle… I would say it has the best moments beyond itself. The errata has considerably hurt the efficiency of this event and I wouldn’t add this card even because of free card it offers.
Timely Aid and Taking Initiative aims at Secrecy decks. Playing any reasonable Secrecy deck is possible only with 2 heroes at the moment. Taking Initiative utterly supports that idea and it can reward the player by 2 cards + 2 damage to any enemy. Timely Aid is possibly the strongest card with Secrecy theme at all because playing any ally for free will save you time and resources. It’s like the one-time form of Vilya.
From the rest of the events, I would highlight Fresh Tracks, which deals 1 damage to revealed enemy and so it may well work with Thalin. The other two events (Ever Onward, Grave Cairn) don’t belong among significant or essential cards and you probably forget on them during their arrival time.
LOW COST (0-2): Durin’s Song, Fresh Tracks, Grave Cairn, Taking Initiative, Timely Aid (Secrecy cost), We Are Not Idle
MEDIUM COST (3): Ever Onward, Lure of Moria
HIGH COST (4-6): Timely Aid (non-Secrecy cost)
Leadership attachments are everything, just not modest. All of them are unique and they have various and spectacular effects, which have a goal to influence the whole game.
Khazad-Dum offers us Narvi’s Belt, which tends to replace more ponderous Songs from Shadows of Mirkwood cycle. It contains each of these Songs – Players can play a card from any sphere. You only need Dwarf hero to whom you can Narvi’s Belt attach. It provides you with a great ratio of flexibility and creativity as for deck building.
Other Leadership cards have also a great impact on the game, but they work more specifically, so they might be a good part of the sideboard decks. Hardy Leadership adds +1 Hit Point to all Dwarves in game, which may come in handy mainly for Dwarf heroes, who welcome any Hit Point boost. Sword that was Broken should be the part of your deck when you run Lore Aragorn. He gains the access to Leadership sphere and each character under your control gains +1 Willpower – I see it as a huge advantage, from which can profit even non-Dwarf characters.
Path of Need seems like a very powerful card, which you should add anytime you are playing with the Leadership sphere. But I wouldn’t recommend this card, to be honest. How willing are you to play card for 4 cost, which profits from attaching active location as long as possible? Isn’t it counterproductive, when you try to get rid of active location as soon as possible due to preventing location lock? I’m sorry, but I don’t see any big positives on this card.
LOW COST (0-2): Narvi’s Belt, Hardy Leadership
MEDIUM COST (3): Sword that was Broken
HIGH COST (4-6): Path of Need
Leadership overall evaluation
To be honest, while I saw Leadership sphere within Shadows of Mirkwood as a bit indeterminate “neither fish nor fowl” sphere (except for aiming at resource generation mechanism and Signal attachments), in Dwarrowdelf cycle it tries to dutifully expand the Dwarf and Secrecy theme. Another common element of the Leadership sphere in this cycle is boosting stats. But is there some card, without which you couldn’t play reasonably? I don’t really think so – every card is optional, not mandatory. Is it then a good idea to play this cycle WITHOUT Leadership sphere? Since this sphere is the homeland of Dáin Ironfoot, which is rather “must-have” than “nice-to-have” (if you are running Dwarf deck), then you probably won’t avoid this sphere. And if you run Leadership sphere, it would be a shame to not add to your deck cards like Narvi’s Belt, Durin’s Song or Lure of Moria Yet, it won’t prevent me to see the Leadership sphere as the weakest sphere of this cycle in overall.
THE BEST LEADERSHIP CARD: NARVI’S BELT
The funniest thing is that I award this title to Narvi’s Belt, which I personally use minimally. I somehow can do without this card quite well, but on the other hand, I see the great advantage in it. Narvi’s Belt easily surpasses any sphere-adding Song from the previous cycle. Thanks to this attachment, you can play a card from any sphere. The only thing you need is a good generation of resources on a hero, which holds Narvi’s Belt. So attaching Steward of Gondor to that hero should be the matter of course.
THE WORST LEADERSHIP CARD: WE ARE NOT IDLE
I won’t spare We Are Not Idle. Its errata’d version is really bad. Every another errata’d card has at least limited usage, but it does not concern this event. I wouldn’t exhaust X Dwarf heroes for just X resources at all, because ready heroes are much useful for me. Moreover, we own Steward of Gondor, which can laugh at We Are Not Idle. And drawing 1 extra card for free isn’t persuading aspect, which would prompt players to add this card. Sometimes the fate (meaning errata) can be very fickle and cruel.
The ranks of allies are extended by just 4 allies, from whom 2 are Dwarves. Veteran of Nanduhirion arrives in Khazad-Dum already, but his adding to Dwarf deck is not a certain thing. Except for Dwarf trait and quite an impressive stats (which are anyway partially discredited by -1 Hit Point), you have no serious reason, why you should play with him at all. The next Dwarf ally you encounter 4 adventure packs later. Erebor Battle Master seems like an ally on steroids and even errata doesn’t hurt his reputation too much. He is the reason, why you should try to play with as many Dwarf allies as possible. You then gain really good attacking commando, which can deputize any hero.
The next allies are Noldor characters with the same effect – they won’t exhaust during defending (Watcher of the Bruinen) or attacking (Trollshaw Scout), but you must discard them unless you discard one card from your hand. They might become an important part of your deck if you plan to upgrade them with Rivendell Bow or Rivendell Blade, but you would have to also add some cards with card-drawing effect (Campfire Tales, Daeron’s Runes). In a common deck without proper support, they serve only as one-time reinforcements. I would rather play with Dwarves or Eagles instead of them.
LOW COST (0-2): Watcher of the Bruinen, Trollshaw Scout
MEDIUM COST (3): Erebor Battle Master
HIGH COST (4-6): Veteran of Nanduhirion
All Tactic events from Dwarrowdelf cycle share similar effects: they boost Attack of characters or deal direct damage to the enemy. So if you have expected something else from Tactic events, look rather into another sphere.
3 Tactic events work very similarly: Khazad! Khazad!, Unseen Strike and Heavy Stroke. They add +3 or +X damage to the given character, only preconditions for that differs. From this trio, I evaluate Khazad! Khazad! as the best event, because for free your Dwarf gains +3 Attack. This event shouldn’t miss in any Dwarf deck. Heavy Stroke needs really big default Attack. Like from heavy-injured Gimli or boosted Erebor Battle Master. This card excels in epic fights with very strong and sturdy enemies (Durin’s Bane). Unseen Strike looks like a good event within Secrecy environment. However, Secrecy decks try to hide and avoid battles, not search for them. Also, Tactic sphere is the least suitable sphere for Secrecy decks. In normal decks, the precondition for having an enemy with higher engagement cost than is your threat can be quite limiting. Dwarrowdelf cycle is known for very bothersome enemies with quite low engagement costs. So Unseen Strike can be useful in the early game when your threat is moving around 30 threat.
Hands Upon the Bow adds Attack like the mentioned events as well, but still, I would put this event aside due to its peculiarity. It aims at Ranged character and targets an enemy in the staging area, so you can get rid of some weak, but bothersome enemy (Goblin Scout, Mountain Warg) and thus decrease the overall Threat Strength. It’s probably automatic-included card when you play with Legolas.
Hail of Stones works absolutely differently than previous events. Fans of direct-dealing damage obtain another tool how to “fight without a fight”. To be honest, I wasn’t persuaded about the quality of this card due to the “exhausting-characters-cost”. But after a couple of games, I have to admit that this card can help you a lot, especially if it can kill the enemy with low Hit Points (Goblin Swordsman, Goblin Spearman, Goblin Scout).
LOW COST (0-2): Khazad! Khazad!, Hail of Stones, Hands Upon the Bow, Heavy Stroke, Unseen Strike
MEDIUM COST (3):
HIGH COST (4-6):
Same again, as allies and events – you will meet here cards focused on Dwarves and Noldors. Every attachment here, with one exception, has a very good quality.
If you need to improve Dwarf’s Attack, Dwarrowdelf Axe should take up the spot of much older Dwarven Axe. If you need to improve Dwarf’s Defense, Ring Mail could serve you well and additionally, your Dwarf (or Hobbit) gains +1 Hit Point. I take these cards in Dwarf deck for granted.
The same thing is valid for Rivendell Bow and Rivendell Blade but within Noldor or Silvan decks. I auto-include these cards when I’m playing with Legolas. However, even Glorfindel, Elrohir or Elladan are good targets for both attachments. Rivendell Bow is just natural attachment for Legolas because he already owns Ranged keyword, thus he will get additional +1 Attack. Other non-ranged characters just gain Ranged keyword and no Attack boosting. Rivendell Blade, on the other hand, fits any Noldor or Silvan attacker without any difference.
I don’t know how to justify the existence of Keeping Count. I haven’t seen so useless card in the Tactic sphere from the times of Meneldor’s Flight (which, in the meantime, has improved its usability after rule clarification). Just look at other Attack-boosting cards. Any of them are far more useful than Keeping Count.
LOW COST (0-2): Dwarrowdelf Axe, Keeping Count, Ring Mail, Rivendell Blade, Rivendell Bow
MEDIUM COST (3):
HIGH COST (4-6):
Tactic overall evaluation
From Tactic sphere, we often expect the massive improvement of combat skills. Within Dwarrowdelf cycle that means the massive improvement of combat skills on the basis of Dwarf trait. I’m then very surprised that we are getting only single useful Tactic Dwarf ally, Erebor Battle Master. So in this context, I consider that for obvious disappointment, because you then must rely only on Veteran Axehand from the Core set. But Tactic events and attachments have a perfect quality. They give us many options on how to improve our attacking effort.
THE BEST TACTIC CARD: KHAZAD! KHAZAD!
I can’t help myself, but 0 cost for +3 Attack is so sexy and powerful boosting that I just can’t overlook it. This simple card saved me many times because I had a far higher probability to get rid of an enemy, with which I didn’t have to deal with later. This event is the real champion of any Dwarf deck.
THE WORST TACTIC CARD: KEEPING COUNT
On the second side of the barricade stands one bizarre attachment with very complicated effect, which doesn’t offer you any reasonable advantage in the result. I rather rely on cards like Khazad! Khazad!, Dwarrowdelf Axe, Rivendell Blade or Heavy Stroke than to count the different number of resources between two copies of Keeping Count.
It’s the Spirit sphere, which in Dwarrowdelf cycle offers the biggest number of quality allies. 2 Dwarves, 2 Noldors and one member of Rohan family will seek for your favour. Any common element for all Spirit allies is missing – each ally has unique task and skills.
Zigil Miner and Bofur should be the firm part of any Dwarf deck with access to the Spirit sphere. Bofur will please you because of good questing potential, which you may gain for a just single resource under certain circumstances. Otherwise, you would have to spend 3 resources for him. Even so, he worths it when you also play with Dáin Ironfoot. Zigil Miner is a good universal ally, primarily able to quest, with Dáin Ironfoot in the game. When you need additional resources, you can utilize his ability. However, I would recommend you to join him Imladris Stargazer, who is universal solution anytime when you need to scry own deck. Vilya, Daeron’s Runes, Timely Aid, Gildor Inglorion, Gandalf’s Search and many other cards with drawing-effect are the natural companions and sometimes integral part of Imladris Stargazer, who is also very perspective in future expansions. This ally celebrates real success. The high-quality Arwen Undómiel will also appear in player’s decks frequently. Despite she is a unique ally, from sending her to the quest one of your characters will gain +1 Defense and Sentinel keyword, which I consider for a very useful effect, mostly in time of war.
The last ally Rider of the Mark a bit sinks into oblivion in the company of other, more famous Spirit allies from Dwarrowdelf cycle. However, he poses the alternative option on how to deal with shadow cards, though he is a bit resource-dependent… or I say it directly, expensive and unreliable.
LOW COST (0-2): Zigil Miner, Arwen Undómiel, Imladris Stargazer, Bofur (ability)
MEDIUM COST (3): Bofur (without ability), Rider of the Mark
HIGH COST (4-6):
Untroubled by Darkness is the only addition within Dwarf theme. It fulfils the expectations of good Dwarf-Spirit event because it massively boosts Willpower for all Dwarves. Underground or Dark active location increase the boost, which might be considered for a huge advantage. However, the knowledge about location composition of the given scenario is needed due to the fact, that in many scenarios, outside of the Dwarrowdelf cycle, locations with these traits completely miss.
Elrond’s Counsel is a perfect event, which needs only one thing: a unique Noldor character. When you play with Noldor hero, this event shouldn’t miss in your deck, because it is a far cheaper version of The Galadhrim’s Greeting.
As for Renewed Friendship, I have no clear opinion on this event, because it works specifically – your deck relies on obtaining attachment from another player, who will get a small reward from you. It really depends on your heroes and attachments of other players and on the given situation.
The Secrecy events I left at the end. Neither Out of Sight, or O Elbereth! Githonial! would not persuade me to run Spirit-based Secrecy deck. Both cards contradict the sense of Secrecy decks, whose main task lies in avoiding combat. So encountering more enemies within Secrecy deck shouldn’t occur at all (Out of Sight) and increasing your threat on the level of the banished enemy is disproportionate punishment, which can be solved once only by Lore Aragorn (O Elbereth! Githonial!). And in non-Secrecy decks using these cards could be understood for the act of sabotage.
LOW COST (0-2): Untroubled by Darkness, Elrond’s Counsel, Renewed Friendship, Out of Sight (Secrecy cost), O Elbereth! Githonial! (Secrecy cost)
MEDIUM COST (3):
HIGH COST (4-6): Out of Sight (non-Secrecy cost), O Elbereth! Githonial! (non-Secrecy cost)
Among Spirit attachments, we get very valuable items, like Light of Valinor, but also other attachments are not bad. Practically, every Spirit attachment has a very good quality.
Certainly, the best Spirit attachment and one of the strongest Spirit card of the Dwarrowdelf cycle is mentioned Light of Valinor. Non-exhaustion of Noldor/Silvan hero, when committed to the quest, sounds very useful all by itself. However, if attached to Spirit Glorfindel, you will get very natural, powerful combo, which totally erases Glorfindel’s weakness he has: the increasing threat by 1 during committing him to the quest. Glorfindel may do the quest and be involved in the combat at the same time. As a hero with 3 Attack and Noldor trait (so he can be improved by Rivendell Blade, for example), you gain complex, universal and powerful hero with very low starting threat.
Two other attachments cause readying character. The first one is Ever My Heart Rises, which readies attached Dwarf character and reduces threat by 1. However, it needs to travel to Mountain or Underground location. It’s number one card for any deck, where Dwarf hero has the questing duty (Thalin). The second one is Miruvor, which may ready character, but also it can do other small tricks. Any of these little tricks you can rotate thanks to the option allowing to return Miruvor back onto the deck.
Song of Eärendil belongs to more complex attachments with the possibility to do inventive combos. Some of them were broken (with Wandering Took, Boromir), thus they were repaired by making some restrictions (=once per round). Otherwise, players can use this attachment to occasionally reduce the threat of another player with Secrecy deck. However, if you are not planning to use Song of Eärendil for some specific combo, I would rather free its post for something less specific.
LOW COST (0-2): Ever My Heart Rises, Light of Valinor, Miruvor, Song of Eärendil
MEDIUM COST (3):
HIGH COST (4-6):
Spirit overall evaluation
Did the Spirit sphere fulfils expectations about “master of questing”? I say yes: Glorfindel, Bofur, Arwen Undómiel, Elrond’s Counsel, Untroubled by Darkness… yeah, these cards will improve your questing effort with no doubts. But I especially appreciate the solid number of cards with readying-effect: Light of Valinor, Ever My Heart Rises, Miruvor, Renewed Friendship. Why is it so important? Because readying effects belong to the most powerful effects in whole LOTR LCG and that is valid globally, in every game, in every situation. Readying already exhausted hero is like you play with an additional hero. It’s like two heroes in one. He can do multiple actions, and many times it can mean the difference between victory and defeat because in the final result, the number of ready characters always matters. Exhausted characters mean almost no actions, no questing, no fighting, no playing the game. That’s why cards with readying effects are essential and desired in any type of deck. That’s why the Spirit sphere in the Dwarrowdelf cycle has in common a high quality (with exception the Secrecy cards).
THE BEST SPIRIT CARD: LIGHT OF VALINOR
Imladris Stargazer, Light of Valinor, Arwen Undómiel. It’s a tough task to find “the best” among the top 3 cards of Spirit sphere and one of the most powerful cards of the Dwarrowdelf cycle. But finally, I have decided to choose Light of Valinor as the best spirit card. Attached to hero, it allows you to send the hero to the quest without any complications or restrictions, while you are free to use him also in attacking/defending duties. Like I said few lines above: it’s like you get two heroes joined in one. Glorfindel is, of course, the best choice for Light of Valinor, yet not the only one.
THE WORST SPIRIT CARD: OUT OF SIGHT
Why to play this card in Secrecy deck, when your mission is to NOT HAVE enemies in your engagement area at all? And for full 5 cost? No way! Out of Sight surpasses in uselessness even O Elbereth! Githonial!, which at least makes sense in certain situations.
As for Lore allies, we are interested in one characteristic: the cost. The Core set and Shadows of Mirkwood cycle bring us many, however expensive allies, who put a strain on resource management within the Lore sphere the most. The situation with allies in this cycle has improved: we have got 1x 1-cost ally, 2x 2-cost allies and 2x 3-cost allies. The maximum cost under 4 I consider for evident progress.
The cheapest ally Erebor Record Keeper, surprises us by simplicity, which orders him to quest only. With Dáin Ironfoot, 2 Willpower for just 1 cost looks very promising. He also owns a bit expensive ability, which can ready any Dwarf character. The second (and last) Lore Dwarf is Bombur, who unfortunately hinders us due to weak (or very specific at best) ability. About quality stats, I can’t even talk.
Then we meet Ravenhill Scout with a bit useless ability, which only moves the progression tokens and not generates them.
Both 2-cost allies belong to the best we have seen in the Lore sphere until now. Master of the Forge is the magnet for attachments. It even doesn’t need the help of Imladris Stargazer, because after each scry this ally shuffles the deck and your searching for attachment can continue. He is the main tool of how to get into the game Asfaloth or Vilya faster. Then we encounter probably the best healer of all times: Warden of Healing. Such Daughter of the Nimrodel can’t compete with this ally at all and should be put aside. Warden of Healing can heal 1 damage from up to 2 characters, and he can use this ability more than once if you are willing to pay 2 Lore resources. Make a combo with Elrond and your heroes cannot die.
LOW COST (0-2): Erebor Record Keeper, Master of the Forge, Erebor Record Keeper
MEDIUM COST (3): Bombur, Ravenhill Scout
HIGH COST (4-6):
In overall, I am a fan of Lore events of this cycle. Almost all events have in overall good quality and are useful in practice.
Ancestral Knowledge from Khazad-Dum is the only event creating synergy with Dwarf trait. Very powerful in games with Mountain and Underground locations, and satisfactory without these locations.
Drawing-card effects belong to the main characteristics of the Lore sphere, and in Dwarrowdelf cycle we can utilize two cards with such effect. Peace, and Thought tries to show its dominance on the basis of spectacular effect: drawing 5 cards for just 1 cost. But another cost (exhaustion of 2 characters) prevents to use this card more globally. Without some cards with readying-effect, the cost for 5 cards is too high. Far more practice and useful effect owns Daeron’s Runes, which enables you to draw 2 cards for the cost of discarding any 1 card. From all cards with a drawing-card effect, I find Daeron’s Runes for the most useful.
Short Cut is the only Lore event, which I wouldn’t recommend you to use. The synergy with Hobbit and the very uncertain result makes from Short Cut one of the most useless Lore cards in the Dwarrowdelf cycle.
Players can wonder that the Lore sphere also brings us a very unique card, which creates the synergy with very famous but also forgotten trait: Istari. Word of Command in short aims at Gandalf (or Radagast alternatively). Gandalf, known for his “wow-effect” anytime he enters the play, gains another powerful effect: you can search for any card in your deck and add it to your hand. I see this effect much stronger than The Eagles Are Coming!, Mustering the Rohirrim, Master of the Forge or other cards with searching-effect, because you are not limited by the number of cards within which you can search for a certain card. And furthermore, you are not limited what you may search at all. It’s completely in your charge. This card is just jewel.
Lore sphere is the biggest donator of Secrecy cards, moreover pretty useful Secrecy cards. Each of these events works somehow with the encounter deck and tries to utilize the encounter deck on your behalf. Thanks to Needful to Know, you can hold your threat under 20 to be in “Secrecy mode”. You just need any card with scrying effect (Rumour from the Earth is enough). Out of the Wild can get rid of some nasty encounter card, which would enter the play. Finally, Risk Some Light simply scry encounter deck and move one from three encounter cards to the bottom of the encounter deck.
LOW COST (0-2): Ancestral Knowledge, Daeron’s Runes, Needful to Know, Out of the Wild (Secrecy cost), Peace, and Thought, Risk Some Light (Secrecy cost), Short Cut, Word of Command
MEDIUM COST (3): Out of the Wild (non-Secrecy cost), Risk Some Light (non-Secrecy cost)
HIGH COST (4-6):
From 4 Lore attachments, we have got one, which stands out above others: Asfaloth. It’s amazing attachment for Glorfindel and very effective weapon against locations. This Glorfindel’s horse allows you to absolutely freely decide about putting progress tokens wherever you want them. You can get rid of active location faster and make the free spot for another. Or you can put progress tokens on the locations in the staging area to decrease the Threat Strength or to avoid location with nasty Travel effect. It’s far simpler and cheaper way how to manage with locations than to play expensive Northern Tracker and move progress tokens by Ravenhill Scout. Asfaloth is the best tool for location management at all. You may also appreciate that this attachment can generate (though less) progress tokens even without Glorfindel in play.
Legacy of Durin makes the synergy with Dwarf trait. I view the drawing card for each played Dwarf character as a clever idea, how to prompt or motivate players to play as many Dwarf allies as possible. Just don’t forget this 1-cost attachment is unique (cheaper unique cards are quite rare).
The usefulness and strength of Lore attachments gradually decrease. Healing Herbs seems like a good healing card, but it has closer to one-time events like Lore of Imladris. At least, Lore of Imladris doesn’t force you to exhaust healed hero, who additionally must be from the Lore sphere. The usefulness of this card is controversial at best.
The last Lore attachment is Love of Tales. The degree of usefulness is probably the same as at Healing Herbs. Only the Lore hero can carry this attachment and you will add resources on the basis of played Song cards. That means Song of Kings, Song of Wisdom… all these Songs, which were already beaten by Narvi’s Belt. The only usable Songs at this moment are Durin’s Song, maybe Song of Eärendil. I think that the promising resource-generation effect is belittled by type of cards, which it targets.
LOW COST (0-2): Asfaloth, Healing Herbs, Legacy of Durin, Love of Tales
MEDIUM COST (3):
HIGH COST (4-6):
Lore overall evaluation
As for Dwarf theme, the Lore sphere develops this trait least (excluding Neutral sphere). You find here some good Dwarf cards (Erebor Record Keeper, Ancestral Knowledge, Legacy of Durin), however, I doubt that the Lore sphere should be the main sphere within which you could play Dwarves. The Lore sphere is good supporting “side-sphere”, but not the lead sphere. On the contrary, the Lore sphere offers high-quality cards with Secrecy theme, which aims at manipulation with the encounter deck. Otherwise, you find here the lead cards as for progress-tokens-generation (Asfaloth) and healing (Warden of Healing). To sum up, I evaluate the Lore sphere as more accessible and self-sufficient than it was in the Core set or Shadows of Mirkwood.
THE BEST LORE CARD: WARDEN OF HEALING
We have got cards, which are masters in their own field. Warden of Healing is one of them. Even if you don’t plan to actively focus on healing, it worths to add Warden of Healing to any Lore deck, especially if you are playing with Elrond, who boosts his efficiency in an unimaginable way.
THE WORST LORE CARD: SHORT CUT
I will have mercy with Bombur this time.:) Why didn’t I choose him for the worst Lore card? Because despite he has horrible stats and abilities, in the Dwarrowdelf cycle he can be a bit useful. He works like permanent Secret Paths, though only on Underground locations. Short Cut doesn’t offer you any advantage, it can cause you even more troubles and get you into the worse situations. That Bombur cannot. Because of that, I evaluate Short Cut for the real mistake of the Lore sphere.
All Neutral cards and overall evaluation
The Neutral sphere isn’t rich on cards – you find here 4 attachments, only 1 event and no ally. Therefore, I don’t see the reason to divide Neutral sphere into more sections and so I will sum up all cards under just one chapter.
Let’s look, how this sphere contributes to the Dwarf theme. Boots from Erebor has a minor, but pleasant boosting effect. It’s a good choice for fragile Dwarf or Hobbit heroes (Bifur, Bilbo Baggins, Frodo Baggins) or even sturdier Dwarf heroes, who work with number Hit Points (Gimli, Glóin). The End Comes probably doesn’t deserve to comment anyhow, I apologise. Such a tragedy I haven’t seen for a long time. The theoretic advantages are overcome by practice disadvantages.
Resourceful is a good drive motor for any Secrecy deck. You have got something like “Secrecy-version” of Steward of Gondor. I would even consider this attachment when playing non-Secrecy deck, because gaining +1 resource each round looks very promising.
Good Meal arrives in the time when Hobbits are rather sleeping. With no new Hobbit heroes, you won’t probably think about creating Hobbit deck at this time. Yet, the effect of Good Meal belongs to very useful effects, which can save you some resources.
Then, we have Vilya, which is the chapter all by itself. Elrond’s attachment will puzzle us because playing any card for free you can’t just ignore. I think that the appearance of this card will induce you to seek the way, how to effectively incorporate Vilya into your functioning deck. That won’t do without some changes of your deck, of course: Elrond, Imladris Stargazer, Master of the Forge, Steward of Gondor maybe Unexpected Courage… you should prepare your deck for Vilya’s incoming if you want to use it any reasonable.
Though the Neutral sphere was always understood as the support sphere at best and it hasn’t any ambition to change the form of decks, it offers for sure much more practice and useful cards than Shadows of Mirkwood cycle. The usefulness of individual Neutral cards is very variable: from the champions (Vilya) to poor caricatures (The End Comes). But I appreciate that the Neutral sphere attempts to contribute to the main themes of the Dwarrowdelf cycle, though it completely forgot Noldor synergy.
LOW COST (0-2): Boots from Erebor, Good Meal, The End Comes, Vilya, Resourceful (Secrecy cost)
MEDIUM COST (3):
HIGH COST (4-6): Resourceful (non-Secrecy cost)
THE BEST NEUTRAL CARD: VILYA
Everything important was already mentioned: Vilya can just change your opinion, how to play the game. Though Vilya is not self-saving, it can help you to surmount many scenarios.
THE WORST NEUTRAL CARD: THE END COMES
On the contrary, The End Comes can broaden your horizon, how the card should not look like. Unless you lose some key encounter card, most frequently some objective (like Gollum in The Dead Marsh), The End Comes won’t help you anyhow. Moreover, you must wait on leaving Dwarf effect, that forces me to laugh. I hope that The End Comes never comes.
Final conclusion of Dwarrowdelf cycle
The second whole cycle is behind us and we have got a plenty of new cards, some very powerful, some very miserable. This is by the way valid for any expansion, but how I evaluate the Dwarrowdelf cycle in overall? What it brings, how it is doing with the comparison with the previous cycle and is it worth to buy this expansion?
We already know, what new Dwarrowdelf cycle introduced and developed: Dwarf and Noldor trait and Secrecy mechanics. The fans of synergies can create the first real trait-based decks since Eagles and Rohans were mostly limited to the single sphere. The basic stone of any Dwarf deck (Dáin Ironfoot), however, didn’t arrive in Dwarrowdelf cycle, but in Shadows of Mirkwood. That I personally view as the biggest surprise and oddness in LOTR LCG. As for the strength and usefulness… does Dwarrowdelf cycle offers you viable and reasonable cards for Dwarf decks? Definitely. In practice, you can choose for playing Dwarves whichever sphere you wish to play with. Though I see the multisphere Dwarf decks as the best choice.
Noldors are a bit unexpected champions of this cycle since you get many Noldor heroes and many useful, interesting cards with Noldor synergies.
Secrecy is the first non-trait-dependent mechanic we have met. I very like the idea of Secrecy mechanism, though if you want to play with it, you must do without one hero. I think that many players won’t be willing to do it, so they let this mechanism sleeping until some new heroes with very low starting threat appear (like Hobbits from Saga expansion).
And what about other cards? Are they also good, have they so universal usage, that you could play them anywhere and anytime? Sure: you will obtain one of the best healer (Warden of Healing), one of the best location clearer (Asfaloth), one of the best attachments (Vilya, Light of Valinor) and one of the most powerful heroes (Glorfindel, Elrond). Because of that, I would surely recommend you to buy this expansion with its adventure packs, even though you are not a fan of progression style of playing.
The Redhorn Gate
Road to Rivendell
The Watcher in the Water
The Long Dark
Foundation of Stone
Shadow and Flame
Final rating of the whole cycle
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