You have beaten many ugly thugs from Pelargir. You have successfully ambushed the company of Southrons and scatter their troops. And finally, you have defended the walls of Cair Andros and fend off the attack of the Orcs and Southrons. Now Denethor, the Steward of Gondor, wants you for one task which can sound quite boring and not so heroic. You have to find clues about arising treachery within the walls of Minas Tirith. However, you don’t know which Villain in the nook of Minas Tirith is awaiting you.
The common hero of the common people, that’s how Hirluin the Fair could be called. He has very modest stats and looks like a shy guy; however, he can grow up into a real superhero in the right deck. It’s like in his default state, he is Clark Kent, while in the right deck, he changes into Superman.
8 starting threat within the Leadership sphere, where the average starting threat is 10 until now, is the perfect value. The last Leadership hero with the same value was Théodred from the Core Set. His stats, however, can arouse a little commotion. 1 Willpower, 1 Attack, 1 Defense, and 4 Hit Points? These are values of allies but not of heroes. 1-1-1-4 definitely looks really awful.
But Hirluin the Fair has the trait Outlands; that’s his greatest advantage. How on Middle-earth will it help him? As Outlands, he has access to various boosts, like that from Warrior of Lassarnach (+1 Defense), Knights of the Swan (+1 Attack), Ethir Swordsman (+1 Willpower), and Anfalas Herdsman (+1 Hit Point). Each of these allies boosts himself and other Outlands characters. Hirluin the Fair (like other Outlands characters) swells up with stats and is becoming… the superhero on the player side. Theoretically, if all copies of mentioned Outlands allies would be on the board, the maximum possible stats Hirluin the Fair can have are 4-4-4-7. That would exceed even the strongest heroes. Of course, in practice, you hardly ever get on the board every Outlands ally; more likely, you will end the scenario before that could happen. Still, for boosting Hirluin the Fair (who, by the way, owns Ranged keyword), you need a loooot of Outlands allies. The first question you may ask is how to bring Outlands effectively into play? Do you remember Heirs of Númenor? There we met Hunter of Lamedon – ally who reveals the top card of your deck, and if you have revealed Outlands, you keep it. With Imladris Stargazer, you can effectively bring some Outlands into play without relying on luck during the draw.
How expensive can the strategy be, based on playing Outlands allies? Is it worth adjusting the whole deck because of one hero? All Outlands allies introduced in The Steward’s Fear have a maximum cost of 2. That’s definitely good news because every round (or every second round), you should be able to play 1 Outlands ally minimum, even in trisphere decks. Certainly, you probably wouldn’t have room to play anything else, but then it’s more about prioritizing what you need more in the given moment. However, see that Outlands allies come from 4 different spheres. With the single deck, you would have to play a trisphere deck, plus somehow assure access to the fourth sphere (for example, due to playing Songs from Shadows of Mirkwood or the newest neutral card, A Good Harvest). It is clear that bringing all possible Outlands allies into the game can be quite a big, limiting issue. Thus the usefulness of Hirluin the Fair doesn’t look very promising, does it?
Luckily, Hirluin the Fair has a passive ability, which enables you to play Outlands allies of any sphere from his resource pool. It gives you desired access to the other spheres without needing additional cards. Thanks to this, you can play Hirluin the Fair even in single-player games and add as many Outlands allies as possible, no matter their spheres. Since you may play Outlands allies from Hirluin the Fair’s resource pool, the only thing you need to secure is resources. The general cure Steward of Gondor will fix it, but you can certainly use other resource-generation cards, like Gaining Strength, Wealth of Gondor, or Resourceful.
This new Leadership hero is another example of the card, which shines if you adjust your deck in its favor, but is totally useless outside of his narrow usage. However, because Outlands are (except for Gondor) the strong theme within Against the Shadow cycle, I wouldn’t hesitate to try him. If you remember well, in the previous cycle, we relied on swarm-Dwarf decks (= decks with lots of Dwarves). Their strength came from their numbers (Dáin Ironfoot, Erebor Battle Master). From my point of view, Outlands offers a much more straightforward, simpler, and more available way to boost characters with the specific trait. And if the power of Hirluin the Fair comes from the number of his very cheap comrades, whose boosting ability is passive (so they just needs to sit in the game and nothing else), then I say yes, Hirluin the Fair is definitely the viable option for playing even very tough scenarios of Against the Shadow.
Warrior of Lossarnach is the first Outlands ally from The Steward’s Fear. He owns the same attributes as Ethir Swordsman – he has 2 cost and even stats 1-1-1-1. Until here, nothing special – with blank text, I’d say he is a below-average chump blocker. But his passive ability changes his usefulness fundamentally. Each Outlands you control, heroes and allies, gains +1 Defense. Note that the boost gains even Warrior of Lossarnach himself.
2 cost for +1 Defense to all Outlands characters is totally fine for me, despite that we have got other Outlands allies, who have a similar effect for just 1 cost (Knights of the Swan, Anfalas Herdsman). As I said in previous reviews already, in my eyes, Defense was always a bit more important stat than Attack. Simply, you must defend enemies, survive their attacks, then you can worry about attacking. So the number of viable defenders will always affect that with how many characters you can attack. From this view, Warrior of Lossarnach may dramatically influence not only your “defendability” but also the course of the Combat phase itself, in general. As you find out, enemies from the new cycle hit quite hard, I would consider 3 Attack for the standard, but often you must parry even higher Attacks. You may have some Gondor stars on your side, like Beregond or Defender of Rammas, and support them by good Gondor events (Behind Strong Walls, Gondorian Shield, For Gondor!). But boosting Defense by events is often only a temporary, short-time solution. Warrior of Lossarnach offers you the helping hand during defending for a minimum cost and effort.
1 copy of Warrior of Lossarnach itself doesn’t manage too much. It begins to be interesting when you get at least 2 copies of Warrior of Lossarnach onto the board – each Warrior of Lossarnach would have 3 Defense, which is very promising. In combination with Anfalas Herdsman (who boosts +1 Hit Point to each Outlands character), you get a strong army of defenders for several Leadership resources (overall, with all copies of this ally in play, you will pay 6 resources for +3 Defense to all Outlands). Don’t forget that Warrior of Lossarnach also targets Hirluin the Fair, whose stats are also adjusted by him since he belongs among Outlands. With some Warrior of Lossarnach and Anfalas Herdsman, he can become a very strong defender. However, since this hero has Ranged, I personally see him mostly as a hero with great offensive potential.
The last thing I should mention is that Warrior of Lossarnach greatly helps you with questing during stages with Siege keyword. You might lose some defending power, but you can effectively quest and try to get over the quest.
If you wish more resource-acceleration cards like Wealth of Gondor from Heirs of Númenor, pay attention now. The new Leadership event for sympathetic 0 cost called Gaining Strength adds to a hero’s resource pool 3 resources, but you must discard 2 resources from that hero’s resource pool. It’s not as easy to get these resources as with Wealth of Gondor, isn’t it? Wealth of Gondor’s effect targets only Gondor heroes, so it also has a kind of limitation. Gaining Strength is not limited by a certain hero’s trait – firstly, you must gather 2 resources on one hero to discard them and then add 3 resources to him. Overall, through this complicated process, you actually gain a single resource.
The precondition of having 2 resources on one hero to gain 1 additional resource means in practice that Gaining Strength demands little preparation. Gathering 2 resources on one hero isn’t a big problem, but it means that in a proper round without other resource-generation cards, you may use Gaining Strength every second round. In monosphere decks, this issue is the least; in trisphere decks, the greatest. The reason is that within trisphere decks, you gain 1 resource of the given sphere each round, which you can’t immediately use if you plan to play Gaining Strength. For example, if you want to play Gaining Strength on the Spirit hero (in a trisphere deck), you must do without playing a potential A Test of Will or Hasty Stroke. If I should choose between playing A Test of Will or waiting for one round to play Gaining Strength, I’d definitely choose A Test of Will, which can prevent some disaster. Gaining Strength has a nice-to-have effect, which can wait if more serious threats appear.
In the context of other resource-generation cards, like Steward of Gondor, Resourceful, Horn of Gondor, etc., Gaining Strength belongs to the average ones, slightly worse than Wealth of Gondor. Wealth of Gondor only works with Gondor heroes – I think that while playing Against the Shadow cycle, it shouldn’t be a problem because Gondor synergy is the newly developed trait, which players can use properly now. You don’t need to wait at a certain moment; you just choose your Gondor hero. Above mentioned attachments are better because they generate resources in the long term – until you wouldn’t have to discard them or the attached hero dies. Of course, then we have really odd resource-generation cards like Love of Tales or errata’d We Are Not Idle, which are very specific. You won’t probably include them in most decks. From that follows, Gaining Strength, not a bad card; it finds a spot in any Leadership deck. However, you can only help yourself since you can only target your hero (Wealth of Gondor can target Gondor heroes of any player). And what is most important – are you willing to free precious spots in your deck for Gaining Strength, which actually generates 1 resource in a bit of a complicated way? I’m not sure about that. Personally, I found out that skipping this event didn’t harm me much and that I can do without it quite comfortably.
The second Outlands ally, introduced in The Steward’s Fear, is Knights of the Swan. This Tactic ally costs only 1 resource, but for that, you gain almost nothing: 0-0-0-1. In such a state, Knight of the Swan could be good only for chump blocking like whipping-boy. However, when this ally enters play, he immediately gains +1 Attack because “Each Outlands character you control gets +1 Attack.” 1 cost for 1 Attack for each Outlands character you control is surely a very nice exchange. The strength of each Outlands character lies in their numbers, so 3 copies of this ally will add in total +3 Attack for each of Outlands. For killing common enemies in The Steward’s Fear, you need between 4-6 Attack, so even with two copies of Knights of the Swan, you should be able to get rid of the enemies quite comfortably. What could surprise you is that with this ally in play, the best attackers will become Warrior of Lossarnach and Ethir Swordsman, allies who add Defense and Willpower. Each of them has 1 Attack already, so they can reach up to 4 Attack each. Same as Hirluin the Fair, whose Ranged predestines him to be a good attacker. Because Hirluin the Fair’s resource pool, you can pay for Outlands from any sphere; you don’t actually need to play a Tactics hero. Plus, 1 cost for Knights of the Swan won’t burden Hirluin the Fair’s resource pool at all. Knights of the Swan can also improve your questing if a scenario with the Battle keyword is present.
One could think that Knights of the Swan might support Warrior of Lossarnach/Ethir Swordsman in attacking effort. After all, they can reach up to 4 Attack, as mentioned. However, you must defend prior to attacking. And both allies can also reach up to 4 Defense, while Knights of the Swan may reach only up to 3 Defense. It implies that Warrior of Lossarnach and Ethir Swordsman are also better defenders, so you should use them primarily for defending duties. Knights of the Swan (with Hirluin the Fair and Anfalas Herdsman alternatively) should then arrange the attacking duties.
!SPOILER! Another viable attacker would also be Forlong from the next adventure pack.
This ally should be the firm part of any Outlands deck, like other Outlands allies introduced in The Steward’s Fear. For a very cheap cost, you can easily build an army able to conquer common enemies. Hirluin the Fair will benefit from this ally the most because he has high attacking potential with the Ranged keyword. Don’t forget that each Outlands ally introduced in the current adventure pack boosts only characters you control. Therefore, the interplay support between players is not possible, unfortunately.
I’m happy to introduce one of the most iconic cards of the whole cycle: Gondorian Shield. I bet that this piece of Armor will help your hero many times to survive the strong and deadly attacks of Sauron’s servants.
In the beginning, I just briefly mention all previous attachments, which specialize in Defense-boost. Wait, you can’t recall any attachment with Defense-boost? Well, it’s no coincidence. LOTR LCG hasn’t introduced many Defense-boost attachments yet. You would count them on the fingers of one hand. Count with me: Dúnedain Warning, Support of the Eagles, Ring Mail, and Blood of Númenor. In total, we have 4 attachments boosting Defense, from which 2 are very specific (for proper functioning, Support of the Eagles needs Eagles and Ring Mail needs Dwarves or Hobbits), and Blood of Númenor is a bit meh for an attachment, relying on improved resource generation. Dúnedain Warning is the only really universal Defense-boosting attachment. Yes, we also have some Hit-Points-boosting attachments, which extend the lives of your characters. But Defense refreshes, while Hit Points not so much (until you heal some damage). Therefore, on attachment like Gondorian Shield, we are waiting for a very, very long time.
You can attach it only to heroes, and it is Restricted. Thus, you carefully must choose your bearer of Gondorian Shield because only one spot for Restricted attachment will remain on that hero. For 1 cost, Gondorian Shield adds to your hero 1 Defense. Well, that is not unprofitable. But we already have Dúnedain Warning, which additionally can be moved onto another hero for 1 resource. So, what special is about Gondorian Shield? It boosts its bearer by +2 Defense if the attached hero has the Gondor trait. 1 cost for 2 Defense is an absolutely cool exchange – everything you need is to have Gondor hero. Do you consider it a considerable issue? I do not, and I explain to you why. It’s no secret that Gondorian Shield targets mainly Beregond. This hero can be proud of 4 Defense, and if you add to him Gondorian Shield, he will have a stronger defense than walls of Minas Tirith.:) 6 Defense is absolutely insane value for the hero, with which you can defend the biggest, strongest, and the most enraged enemies without fearing you would lose that hero. Okay, maybe I overstated this because such Orc Vanguard (unboosted with shadow effect) would kill Beregond in 2 rounds. But Attack 6 and less, you can defend without any issue. If you want to secure the life of Beregond, you can always attach to him Citadel Plate.
Gondorian Shield is the perfect Armor for Beregond also due to his ability, which reduces the cost of the attachment by 2. What about other Gondor heroes? Both versions of Boromir would have 4 Defense; that’s a significant portion of Defense. Tactic Boromir could additionally get involved in more actions when he can be readied for 1 raised threat. Denethor would have 5 Defense. With A Burning Brand, 5 Defense would protect you from many common enemies, like Southron Company, which very often reaches 5 Attack. 4 Defense of Eleanor and Prince Imrahil would surely help you a lot. Moreover, Prince Imrahil behaves similarly to Tactic Boromir because he can get involved in more actions during one round.
Gondorian Shield is a must-have for Beregond in any case. It also boosts other Gondor heroes very considerably. As for other non-Gondor heroes, I wouldn’t hesitate to attach Gondorian Shield even to them. Still, you get 1 Defense for 1 cost, and each point in Defense counts.
The spirit sphere is coming with its own Outlands ally, Ethir Swordsman. He costs 2 resources for which you get default 1-1-1-1 (like Warrior of Lossarnach). And because he is the Spirit ally, you certainly won’t be surprised that he boosts Willpower, the main stat of the Spirit sphere. Each Outlands character you control gains +1 Willpower.
Willpower is even slightly more important than Defense (which is slightly more important than Attack). It can indirectly determine how the Combat phase will look like and with whom you will fight that round. Logically, if you pass through questing successfully, you can get rid of a location, maybe during the quest stage, and direct yourself closer to the victory. If you fail during questing, your threat will increase, and you might encounter a more deadly and nastier enemy with higher Engagement cost. It follows that Ethir Swordsman, who boosts Willpower, could be considered the most important Outlands ally at all. When one enters the play, he boosts himself by +1 Willpower, so for 2 cost, you get an ally with 2 Willpower. That’s just fantastic because if you remember well (and I pointed out on it few times), some cards offer you less Willpower than you pay (often in ratio 2:1). The Favor of the Lady, Dúnedain Quest, Éomund, Rider of the Mark can serve as some examples. Other cards have a more advantageous ratio: Arwen Undómiel and West Road Traveller. They are very good allies mainly because of the ratio of Willpower to cost 1:1. But none of them adds Willpower to other characters. A certain exception is Untroubled by Darkness, the Spirit event, which adds +1 Willpower to all Dwarves and +2 instead if the active location is Underground or Dark. So in certain situations, you get for 2 cost global +2 Willpower, but it is valid only for Dwarves and only if a location with a certain trait is active. As you can see, Ethir Swordsman has a unique spot among this kind of card because you get a Willpower boost for minimum effort.
Moreover, if you get all copies of this Spirit ally into the game, each Outlands gains +3 Willpower. That’s a massively powerful boost. See the difference between the swarm-Outlands strategy and Dáin Ironfoot, who boosts the Willpower (and Attack) of Dwarves. Dáin Ironfoot is a brilliant, powerful hero, but your boost is completely wiped when he has to exhaust. On the other hand, when you lose one of 3 Ethir Swordsman, you still have 2 others who boost the rest of Outlands. That’s the main power and advantage of Outlands allies in common. Their strength is in number, and if you lose one of them, it won’t harm your tactic significantly.
The Willpower boost of Ethir Swordsman can come in nothing only in one situation – if the current quest has Battle or Siege keyword. You have to pay attention, which scenario you play and how frequently you have to deal with Battle or Siege quest. It’s obvious that, for example, in The Siege of Cair Andros, Ethir Swordsman’s boost is quite useless. Still, I would play Ethir Swordsman even in this scenario because they can get the boost from other Outlands allies.
Artifact items are pretty rare and unique attachments in LOTR LCG (at least in non-Saga expansions). You probably haven’t thought about it yet, because why should you care? When you want to play Ring of Barahir, you will search for previous Artifact attachments because it creates an interesting synergy with them.
Like every introduced Artifact before, Ring of Barahir is unique – no more than one piece of it you can have on the board. So, what Ring of Barahir can do? You can attach it only to a hero. The hero will get +1 Hit Point for each attached Artifact attachment to him (so even for Ring of Barahir). And if the attached hero is Aragorn, he will also get the Lore resource icon.
Ring of Barahir consciously targets “tanks” – heroes with great defending potential. Gimli, Denethor, Dáin Ironfoot, Beregond – these and more heroes would be great targets for gaining additional Hit Points. Now, we must count how many Artifacts we actually have. From the Core set until now, we have 5 Artifact attachments: Celebrían’s Stone, Horn of Gondor, Sword that was Broken, Vilya, and of course Ring of Barahir.
!SPOILER! In Assault on Osgiliath, we will get another Artifact, Palantir from the Neutral sphere.
I think that getting all the mentioned attachments into the game would be really hard and more or less random because we don’t have any cards that would enable us to search for Artifacts. 3 of 5 Artifact has something in common: they create synergy with Aragorn. It follows that the best target for Ring of Barahir and other Artifacts would be Aragorn from Tactic sphere, which would gain all sphere resource icons, so you could play from his resource pool any card. Unfortunately, we don’t have a Tactic version of Aragorn yet.
!SPOILER! You must wait for him until the expansion The Lost Realm, which means 2 next expansions beyond.
Anyway, I don’t think you should play an “Artifact deck” because of gaining multisphere Aragorn. We have a better and more effective way to play cards of different spheres from Aragorn’s resource pool (Songs, A Good Harvest). Primarily, you would want to play Artifact deck because of 1) obtaining “the main effects” of the cards and 2) boosting Hit Points by Ring of Barahir. Aragorn (every version of him) boosted by Celebrían’s Stone, Sword that was Broken, and Ring of Barahir would turn into 4-3-2-8. That’s an extremely powerful, universal hero able to do anything. The clear advantage would have Leadership Aragorn: his ability enables you to ready him after committing him to the quest for 1 resource. This “superhero” can be improved by another Artifact, Horn of Gondor, from which Aragorn could gain additional resources, useful for his ability (and then he would have 9 Hit Points).
Vilya is the only Artifact Aragorn cannot use at all. You might think that Elrond would be a better target for Ring of Barahir and other Artifacts. With all available Artifacts, Elrond would have 5-2-3-9, which’s slightly better than Aragorn’s boosted stats. Elrond couldn’t get the effect of gaining Spirit sphere resource icon (Celebrían’s Stone) and +1 Willpower to all characters you control (Sword that was Broken). Losing the effect from Sword that was Broken could make you feel bad, but losing the effect from Celebrian’s Stone, you don’t have to regret it since Elrond’s resource pool lets you play allies of any sphere. The main problem is that Elrond is not so dexterous of a hero as much as Leadership Aragorn. Elrond misses the “readying ability”; you would have to rely on Unexpected Courage. And what is more important – Vilya always exhausts your Elrond. So the great stats of Elrond would come in vain. Okay, play with both Elrond and Aragorn at the same time, and you could attach Artifact according to the current situation. But it has one very negative impact – both heroes have a very high starting threat, which would attract a lot of attention right from the beginning of the game.
I haven’t used Ring of Barahir yet, because it has a really narrow specialization: you need Artifacts and Aragorn. I like the idea of getting X Hit Points per some type of card, but Artifacts are not actually a very viable option due to their rarity and their effects, which targets mainly Aragorn.
The last Outlands ally of this pack is Lore Anfalas Herdsman. This guy costs 1 resource, and his stats won’t astonish you: 0-0-0-1 are just stats for chump blocking. The same stats has Knights of the Swan, but same as him and other Outlands allies introduced in this pack, Anfalas Herdsman boosts himself and others, so he actually never has 0-0-0-1 on the board. Anfalas Herdsman boosts Hit Points, and like the other Outlands allies, +1 Hit Point goes to each Outlands character you control.
It might not be so evident, but Hit Points are a very, very important stat. Characters with 1 Hit Point are only one step away from death. It is enough when you reveal some damage-dealing treachery, some nasty shadow effect, or if you are under Archery attack and your 1-Hit Point characters head into the discard pile. Why should you build your swarm army of Outlands, able to reach great results in questing, attacking, and defending, when one Zealous Traitor can completely wipe all of them out? The lack of Hit Points is a weakness of many good characters, and encounter cards try to utilize this weakness as much as possible. You, as a player, have very limited options on how to prolong the viability of your characters. Citadel Plate, Boots from Erebor, or Ring Mail might help some of your characters (mainly Dwarves and Hobbits), but none of them can aim any Outlands ally. Any global Hit-Point-boosting effect practically does not exist. However, Anfalas Herdsman is the ally who solves the vulnerability of Outlands characters. With one copy of Anfalas Herdsman, Outlands characters may avoid instant kill from 1-damage-dealing effects (Zealous Trait). With 2 and 3 copies of Anfalas Herdsman, each Outlands would have 3-4 Hit Points – that reliably protect your allies from most of the dealing-damage effects. With Warrior of Lossarnach, each Outlands character can become a very firm wall, which won’t be pulled down after every single enemy’s attack.
From Anfalas Herdsman’s presence don’t profit only Outlands allies, but also Hirluin the Fair. If he gains the full boost from every Anfalas Herdsman, he can reach up to 7 Hit Points. Combined with Warrior of Lossarnach, this hero can defend with up to 4 Defense and 7 Hit Points – the stats are close to fully boosted Beregond. That’s a very impressive and nice potential of a hero with 8 starting threat and default stats 1-1-1-4. 🙂 Certainly, in the practice game, you hardly reach the ideal situation, so the reality will look less pompous: in a common game, with all Outlands characters included in your deck, Hirluin the Fair will have more likely 2-3-2-5, 3-2-2-6, or something like that. Still, these stats are very good for a common hero.
It should be your duty to inlcude 3 copies of Anfalas Herdsman within any Outlands deck. It boosts a stat, which can be overlooked at the first sight, but realize that he makes your strategy, based on swarm-Outlands characters, far more viable.
If you love cards with drawing-cards effect, then pay attention now. Mithrandir’s Advice is Lore event for 1 cost, which enables you to draw 1 card for each hero with printed Lore resource icon you control. Simply, with 1 Lore hero, you draw 1 card, with 3 heroes, you draw 3 cards, always you pay just 1 cost.
I’d say that we still lack the high-quality cards with drawing-cards effects, with one honorable exception: Daeron’s Runes. This event will, in short, give you 1 card for free, and it doesn’t have any preconditions you would have to fulfill; in terms of cost versus payoff – just cool. Mithradir’s Advice can prevail over Daeron’s Runes once you play with at least 2 Lore heroes. Why exactly 2 Lore heroes when the trade-off is actually the same? Although Daeron’s Runes enables you to draw 1 card for free, before that, you must choose one card from the 2 top cards of your deck. The unselected card will be discarded. On the other hand, for Mithrandir’s Advice, you will pay just 1 resource (which will always be available, at least at the start of the planning phase), and you draw 2 cards for 2 controlled Lore heroes. You won’t discard any card. The situation in the monosphere Lore deck is even more beneficial because for 1 cost you draw 3 cards, which is the best trade-off in the whole game. Therefore, in a monosphere Lore deck, Mithrandir’s Advice is a must-have card in any case. Well, at least in scenarios, which don’t force you to discard cards from your deck – in such an environment, Mithrandir’s Advice would actually work against you. By coincidence, The Steward’s Fear is the scenario where the usage of Mithrandir’s Advice is a big question because of such encounter cards like Telemnar’s Bane and Up in Flames.
However, how often do you think you will play a Lore monosphere deck? That’s another important question. The circumstances don’t force you to play Lore monosphere deck very frequently. Since the Lore cards have stopped being overpriced, you don’t have to play with 3 Lore heroes anymore.
!SPOILER! Advance Warning from the next adventure pack won’t change your mind to use Lore monosphere more frequently, in my point of view.
Playing with 2 Lore heroes is enough for including this Lore event. 1 cost for 2 cards works well. If you plan to play with the single Lore hero, then I would prefer Daeron’s Runes. Note that Mithrandir’s Advice’s effect will trigger only for each Lore hero with a printed Lore resource icon. So if you thought that you could bypass the precondition of Mithrandir’s Advice by playing Song of Wisdom or Narvi’s Belt, I must disappoint you – these cards don’t influence Mithrandir’s Advice anyhow. The hero from a non-Lore sphere, with attached Song of Wisdom or Narvi’s Belt, still misses the printed Lore resource icon and will miss it forever.
The neutral sphere is a bit underdog of LOTR LCG. Players primarily care, which of the 4 main spheres they should choose and how many cards of each chosen sphere they should include in the deck. The Neutral sphere stays aside of interest, you probably automatically pick up 3 copies of Gandalf, and that’s it. With the new expansion, the Neutral sphere gets useful and interesting. I talked about Envoy of Pelargir in the last review already, the great cheap Neutral ally, and now it is time to introduce the new great Neutral event, A Good Harvest.
You name a sphere. You can spend resources from the resource pool of any hero when you are playing the cards from the named sphere. It lasts until the end of the phase. Moreover, this card is completely free. I really admire this utility, which can ease your life. Many players might underestimate the usefulness of A Good Harvest, but it greatly helps you in non-monosphere decks. Within dual- and trisphere decks, you have to rely on the sufficient number of resources of the given sphere. Many times you come under pressure when you would need to play some card, but you lack enough resources from the given sphere. Without any thinking, you can always resolve it by variable Songs from Shadows of Mirkwood, choose Dwarf and play with Narvi’s Belt, or use the services of Errand-rider or Parting Gifts and move resources wherever you want. So, you have some options. But A Good Harvest offers you the easiest option you can make up – you just name the sphere and then play the cards of the given sphere from any resource pool. In the simplicity is power; in the simplicity, you find the genius. When one hero lacks resources, and you have another hero, who is overflowed by resources, you just simply use the resources from his resource pool. You avoid the nasty limitation of missing resources of the right sphere when you need play cards from that sphere.
However, that’s not the only usage and great thing about A Good Harvest. With this Neutral event, you can play cards from the sphere, which a hero on the board does not represent. For example, you have a mono-Tactics deck, but you can also play Steward of Gondor. Or Unexpected Courage. Or Daeron’s Runes. Whatever. Until now, if you wished to play some really “core card” (which should occur in any deck), you had to also choose and play with the hero of the given sphere. Or rely on the above-mentioned options (Songs, Narvi’s Belt). A Good Harvest enables you to have 0 heroes from the sphere, where your desired card belongs. I consider it for massive upgrades and great news. From now and with A Good Harvest, you can finally include into your deck Steward of Gondor, Unexpected Courage, and other powerful cards, no matter which heroes you have chosen for playing.
It is true that using such a strategy can sometimes be a bit tricky. Imagine you draw your desired card… but you don’t have A Good Harvest in your hands. Then the desired card is actually becoming a dead card. That’s something you don’t really want to happen. There is no specific strategy of how to avoid such a situation. Still, I can advise you to try to get A Good Harvest right in the opening hand. If you are unsuccessful, try mulligan. It’s better to have prepared A Good Harvest and wait for your desired card than to own your desired card and lack A Good Harvest.
Not all heroes are so brave, so strong, so smart, and so redoubtable as Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Gandalf… Some heroes came from the people, the common men, and women, which don’t inherit great war battle skills, but they fight with their heart and reasonable determination. This is the accurate description of Hirluin the Fair, the hero of people. He won’t make enemies afraid of him by himself: he lacks good fighting skills, defending skills and can’t even serve as a good quester. But he is Outlands. And the more Outlands you get on the board, the stronger hero starts to grow up under your hands. Moreover, you can pay the Outlands of any sphere from his resource pool.
That’s the moment when enemies will start to shudder and maybe escape from the battle. Supported by the mass of Outlands, Hirluin the Fair can do anything and can face anyone. Of course, outside of Outlands deck, he remains the poor hero with lost potential.
NOTE: Don’t take the “thematic” description of Hirluin the Fair too seriously, since, in the LOTR universe, Hirluin was actually honored Lord of Pinnath Gelin (country in the western Gondor) and a great warrior in Battle of the Pelennor Fields.;)
The allies of The Steward’s Fear can be summarized into a single word: Outlands. What this trait say about the quality or usefulness of these allies? I’ll answer by another riddle: in number is power. It doesn’t worth it to occupy with every new introduced Outlands from this pack, because all of them work absolutely the same: the more Outlands you play, the stronger army you have got, because of gaining more boost: Willpower (Ethir Swordsman), Attack (Knights of the Swan), Defense (Warrior of Lossarnach) and Hit Points (Anfalas Herdsman). It’s as simple as it sounds. Therefore, don’t try to include just one of the Outlands into your deck or just a few copies because you would waste their potential.
Fortunately, the greater variability of effects is among events. A Good Harvest is the number one event of this pack because you can really use it within any deck. The perfect usage is evidently in dual- and trisphere decks, but more importantly, you may include cards of the sphere, which is not represented by any hero.
Mithrandir’s Advice substitutes Daeron’s Runes if you play with at least 2 Lore heroes. And Gaining Strenght? In a bit complicated way, you can obtain 1 more resource. But before that, your hero must have 2 resources already. Wealth of Gondor is surely a simpler and more accessible generator of resources.
Gondorian Shield improves your Tactic deck very significantly, especially if you own a Gondor hero. And who is the better candidate for this attachment than the king of defending, Beregond? With or without Beregond, we have finally get attachment-boosting Defense, usable for any hero, and that’s something we have missed from the very beginning of LOTR LCG. As for Ring of Barahir, I would pick this attachment only if I intend to play Aragorn, combined with some specific attachments (Celebrían’s Stone, Sword that was Broken).
The Steward’s Fear introduces the power of Outlands in all its beauty. Warrior of Lossarnach, Knights of the Swan, Ethir Swordsman, Anfalas Herdsman, and of course Hirluin the Fair are the basic stone of any serious Outlands deck. From this list, it would be enormously difficult to choose the best one. Nevertheless, none of them I see as TOP CARD of this deck. The title of “the best” belongs to the outstanding attachment, Gondorian Shield, which I have already described only in superlatives, and quite deservedly. The SHEEP CARD of this pack might not be evident at first sight because no card in this pack clearly fails. From my point of view, Ring of Barahir will be the least used card from The Steward’s Pack, but not directly because of uselessness or some drastic weakness. More likely, this attachment is very specific. It creates a very interesting but also very narrow synergy with Artifact attachments. Artifacts are quite rare, and 3 of 5 (with Ring of Barahir included) works more specifically with Aragorn. On the other hand, its effect +1 Hit Point for each attached Artifact I evaluate very positively.
I might surprise someone, but I see a Neutral sphere for THE MOST ENRICHED SPHERE. A Good Harvest itself might be neglected to compare to Gondorian Shield. However, the Neutral sphere has given us the most useful event until now (Shadow of the Past requires a good knowledge of the scenario and luck, of course). It also makes the different spheres more accessible.
As I said, The Steward’s Fear is a synonym for Outlands trait and synergy. Now you understand the power and usefulness of Hunter of Lamedon from Heirs of Númenor. But more importantly, within the single adventure pack, you almost get the complete army of characters, who cooperate and boost one between each other. You may use it as a weapon and your advantage against the nasty scenarios, which wait for you.