Player card review: The Drúadan Forest

We have a very quality and jacked adventure pack. With The Steward’s Fear behind us, we can look into The Drúadan Forest, where the mysterious Woses await us. We can rest from all the Orcs and Harads. But…there are Woses the better option to encounter? Very soon, you find out that the hopes of an easy playthrough were false.

Summary review

Hero

Leadership sphere

Tactics sphere

Spirit sphere

Lore sphere

Neutral sphere


Hero

Mirlonde

After getting Elrond in Shadow and Flame, the next Lore hero Mirlonde looks more like an ally than a hero in terms of stats. Indeed, 2 Willpower, 2 Attack, 1 Defense, and 3 Hit Points indicate that Mirlonde probably won’t be used primarily for questing, attacking, or defending. Well, she may contribute to your effort, but she is not a powerhouse of your actions in the first instance. This hero has another strength. All players who like Lore sphere and wish to play more Lore heroes might consider Mirlonde as the part of their deck. She reduces the starting threat of all heroes with the printed Lore resource icon by 1. You know that you will control the game better with less overall starting threat: you can better choose your enemy, avoid mass engagement of enemies, and avoid the bothersome consequences connected with a high threat. Overall, keeping a low starting threat is a good advantage and can be part of some player’s strategies. Secrecy decks are one example of a strategy that benefits from a low starting threat. Within this environment, Mirlonde could play a key role for low starting threat. At best, your starting threat will be 17 – for 4 rounds, you can use certain cards for their Secrecy costs. You can count with me: 7 threat of Mirlonde +  6 threat of Bifur and + 7 threat of Denethor minus 3 starting threat thanks to Mirlonde’s ability. You certainly know that for being able to play a proper Secrecy deck, you won’t do without cards with threat reduction (The Galadhrim’s Greeting, Elrond’s Counsel, Gandalf, etc.) for keeping your threat under 20 as much as possible. Thus Mirlonde is not a self-saving solution for Secrecy decks. 

Anyhow, I see Mirlonde’s ability good for any deck where you decide to play with more than 1 Lore hero. 3 Lore heroes logically provide the best output because you reduce your starting threat by 3. Lore heroes with high starting threat (Elrond, Aragorn, Glorfindel) tend to be the best target for Mirlonde’s ability, because you reduce their cost for the amazing abilities they control. Her ability doesn’t affect heroes with attachments which adds other spheres of influence icons (Songs) because they do not have the printed Lore resource icon.

The question is, how much do you value her threat-reducing ability against the abilities and stats of other Lore heroes? Apart from the ability, Mirlonde won’t offer much, just reasonable Willpower and Attack. But she is not perfect in any of the actions. If I play the Lore sphere, I would try to get Elrond into play because he is universally a fantastic hero. Or Denethor, who can scry the encounter deck… and then it depends on which scenario and strategy you want to play (Aragorn, Bifur, Beravor). Except for decks with 2 or 3 Lore heroes, Mirlonde won’t provide you a significant help or strengthening. I would really hesitate to play her in decks where she is the only Lore hero.

Final rating


Leadership sphere

Forlong

While The Steward’s Fear was the adventure pack of cheap Outlands allies with boosting effects of different stats (Willpower, Attack, Defense, and Hit Points), Forlong comes as somebody who fully uses all these boosts. The unique symbol at his name hints a lot – if only 1 copy of this character is allowed to be in the game, then we can look forward to a quality and strong ally.

As other good allies, Forlong is not for free – you need 3 Leadership resources to summon him. He owns 1 Willpower, 1 Attack, 1 Defense, and 3 Hit Points. Almost under-average default stats for a 3-cost ally you shouldn’t take too seriously since he belongs among Outlands characters. He is boosted by Warrior of Lossarnach, Knights of the Swan, Ethir Swordsman, and Anfalas Herdsman. With access to all these allies (mainly thanks to Hirluin the Fair), you easily boost Forlong to a level that rather reminds me of a hero than an ally. However, Forlong doesn’t accept these boosts passively: he can fully use his improved stats. When you control Outlands allies from all 4 spheres, Forlong will ready at the beginning of each phase. You could think that it takes some time to use him as was intended. After all, you need Outlands allies from the other 3 spheres (Forlong is Leadership ally, so with him, you control Outlands ally from Leadership sphere). However, that is not an insurmountable issue; Hunter of Lamedon with Imladris Stargazer can help you to get desired Outlands allies into play quickly. The benefit from Forlong’s ability is far bigger than the fact you must build a suitable Outlands army around him, which will take some time. Readying boosted Forlong at the beginning of each phase is just fantastic. Primarily, you can use his Willpower in the Quest phase, then use his Defense or Attack in the Combat phase. He is a very versatile ally who can adapt to various situations. He reminds Leadership Aragorn or Prince Imrahil, but you don’t need any resources or leaving characters. Everything you need is to control Outlands allies from all spheres.

Nevertheless, you have to take care of Outlands allies and keep track of how many and which ones are present. It is nice to have Forlong ready for many actions, but if you somehow lose the only Outlands ally from the given sphere, Forlong’s ability stops triggering. Don’t forget.

I must point out one exclusive usage of Forlong – when he encounters Haradrim Elite. This enemy is as annoying as he looks. With 4 Attack, he can complicate your defensive and offensive plans because he forces you to choose one character to defend during the Quest phase. If he engages you that round, he will strike for a second time. Forlong can put an end to his rampage – he will defend his attack, ready in the Combat phase, and then defend him again or attack him. Find out if you are going to play against Haradrim Elite; Forlong might be a good shield against his efforts. 

Final rating


Strength of Arms

Each of the 4 spheres in The Drúadan Forest has one representative, which specializes within monosphere decks. It’s quite a courageous tactic to have cards that work only in monosphere decks, but each card will help you if building a mono-Leadership/Tactic/Spirit/Lore deck is a good idea or just a waste of your time.

Strength of Arms from the Leadership sphere is the first example of such a kind of card. You have to control heroes with only the printed Leadership resource icon (Song of Kings won’t help you). For 2 cost, you can ready all allies in play. Such effect takes me back to the times of the Core set, where I was analyzing Grim Resolve. You probably haven’t played this card for a long time since 5 cost is a massive portion of resources. For the most part, it can’t find a spot within your deck anymore, despite its clear power. Strength of Arms is something like “Grim Resolve Light.” It costs 3 resources less, so within a monosphere Leadership deck, you won’t have any issue playing it. Being able to ready all allies in the game definitely belongs among very powerful effects. You can massively push through the Quest phase, then ready each ally in the game and prepare for the battle. Or build a massive defensive wall against attacking enemies and then launch a big counterattack. It gives you the freedom to decide how many characters you will send to quest, defend, and attack.

The power of Strength of Arms depends on the number of allies in play, of course. If you rather rely on improving heroes’ stats and allies are not so important to your game (which would be a bit odd :)), then this event is not made for you. If you answered, “yes, allies are important for me, and my strategy is based on them,” Strength for Arms might be a big improvement for you. But the last and most crucial question is: is Strength of Arms worth it for playing a Leadership monosphere deck/deck with only Leadership heroes? Can the Leadership sphere offer you enough quality for proper playing?

Against the Shadow cycle introduced Outlands synergy. It is strongly recommended to have access to all spheres and play Outlands allies from each sphere because of 1) their passive effects improving different stats, and 2) Forlong. Luckily, the Leadership sphere provides you great support for playing an Outlands deck because of Hirluin the Fair. From his resource pool, you can pay for Outlands allies from any sphere of influence. It is enough when you attach Steward of Gondor to him, and you gain an almost bottomless supply of resources and Outlands allies. Moreover, you will, by the way, gain a good immunity against very bothersome The Master’s Malice and reduce the power of Orc Arbalesters significantly.

Certainly, monosphere decks have their own weaknesses, like not being able to use cards from other spheres and being dependent on other players/cards, which add resource icons (Songs, A Good Harvest, etc.). However, the Leadership sphere shows that a mono-Leadership deck doesn’t have to be a bad idea. You should be okay. Strength of Arms assures you will.;)

Final rating


Tactics sphere

Mighty Prowess

I have already mentioned that I have a big soft spot for cards with damage-dealing effects. For my taste, there is still just a minimum amount of cards with this kind of effect (Thalin, Gondorian Spearman, Hail of Stones, Spear of the Citadel, and a few more.). After all, who wouldn’t celebrate when they can hurt or destroy an enemy without a battle? LOTR LCG is not based on dealing-direct-damage effects, and cards with this effect are quite rare. That’s why the 1-cost Tactics attachment Mighty Prowess caught my attention.

Attach it to a Tactics hero only and just one copy per hero: these are strict rules for even playing Mighty Prowess. After your attached hero attacks and destroys an enemy, you deal 1 damage to any other enemy with a shared Trait. Just a little explanation here: your hero attacks and destroys Southron Mercenaries, who is Harad. You deal 1 damage to any other Harad enemy in game (wherever he is located) like Haradrim Elite or Mumak

Before you consider including this card in your deck, you should inspect the encounter deck you are playing against. Mighty Prowess excels in situations where you have a good choice among enemies with a shared Trait + when the targeted enemy has a few Hit Points, ideally connected with some troublesome effect. I’m talking about enemies like Zealous Traitor and Pickpocket; I am reminded of Goblin Scout or Goblin Archer from previous cycles. These enemies share one common characteristic: they have a few Hit Points, but facing them brings you some negative consequences; alternatively, you cannot engage enemies optionally (that again brings you some negative consequences). The point is that you use the killing of one enemy to hit or even destroy another enemy who controls troublesome effects.

Honestly: you don’t even need to know the enemy composition of the encounter deck. Mighty Prowess will always do a good job in any deck against any scenario because dealing direct damage without penalty is among the most powerful and most useful effects in LOTR LCG. Above, I have just described what the ideal target might look like. However, it doesn’t mean you cannot improve its efficiency or make up some interesting combos. Firstly, for “finishing” a targeted enemy, you can add other dealing-damage cards. I have already mentioned the king of this discipline, Thalin. But Thalin takes a precious “hero-slot,” now you might wish to play with more desired heroes, like Beregond or Legolas. It might be better to look for some event, like Hail of Stones or Fresh Tracks, just shoot your targets from a distance, from a safe place. Mighty Prowess, combined with Gandalf, will kill enemies with even 5 Hit Points. Users of Lore decks can also try to combine it with Infighting, but it might be a bit overcomplicated.

Every option is…well, an option. But when you play Legolas and simultaneously own any card with ready-character effect (Unexpected Courage), then I consider Mighty Prowess for a must-have card. Why? Simply: when Legolas destroys the enemy, he puts 2 progress tokens on the current quest (or active location). Readying effects will repeat this ability (so in total, you place 4 progress tokens). Combine it with the possibility of damaging other enemies with the same Trait, and you gain a very interesting, powerful combo, which helps you 1) make progress and 2) hurt or get rid of enemies. Legolas is a very viable target for Mighty Prowess because you can improve his Attack very easily, with Rivendell Blade and Rivendell Bow, therefore increasing the chance of destroying an enemy. Tactics Boromir (due to his readying ability) is also a good target for Mighty Prowess.

Final rating


Trained for War

Now on the scene comes the event, which forces you to scratch your head pensively. “And what should I do with it?” you might ask. Well, the fun thing is, I won’t give any hint or clear answer – because I just don’t know.:) I can describe to you how this Tactics event works and when it might be useful. Nevertheless, I won’t speak from my own experience because I have a big reservation about the practicality and usefulness of this card.

What Tactics sphere offers us for this new 2-cost Tactics event, called Trained for War? Firstly, like previous Strength of Arms, for even being able to play it, you have to control just heroes with a printed Tactics resource icon. Forget about using Song of Battle, which would make you a Tactics Hero from a non-Tactics one. This won’t work, and the same is true for other cards with the “gaining-resource-icon” effect. However, this necessary premise shouldn’t be a problem because the Tactics sphere is well played in monosphere mode. LegolasBeregond, and another Tactics hero are my very frequent choice when playing a Tactics deck. I consider the monosphere Tactics deck very useful due to the generation of a sufficient number of Tactics resources and due to Thicket of Spears – a great helper against enemy formations.

Trained for War adds the Battle keyword to the current quest – until the end of the phase, you are allowed to use Attack instead of Willpower for questing, only if the current quest doesn’t have the keyword Siege. As you know, Battle and Siege change a bit of the logic of the Quest phase – instead of properly using Willpower, you must use Attack (Battle) or Defense (Siege). I honestly don’t like when I see these keywords because you must use your characters for a purpose, which they weren’t designed for. That means you can’t use them where they are needed. But you are too small a master to change the strictly given quest rule.  

Another story is when you should voluntarily use the card, which adds the Battle keyword. According to my theory, this was primarily designed for the Tactics sphere to gain greater Independence in the matter of questing. Every player knows from the times of Core set that the Tactics sphere has a great weakness in the inability to quest effectively. We have some exceptions, like Legolas’s ability, but the Tactics sphere generally lacks any mechanism to deal with this weakness. The only option is certainly to mix a Tactics deck with another sphere (primarily Spirit) or play multiplayer games. OR try Trained for War which pretends that your Tactics characters can quest. Trained for War changes the logic, and instead of using Attack for dealing as much damage to enemies as possible, the Attack serves as the tool for effective questing. It sounds like a devil plan – the enemy won’t count that your Tactics deck can massively push through the quest because of Tactics characters, the otherwise specialists in combat. Imagine Gimli as the quest king instead of fragile Éowyn.:)

It has one major HOWEVER – when you commit Tactics characters to the quest, you will hardly find enough combatants to attack that round. The best combatants will stay exhausted, unable to take part that round in attacking effort. Two facts follows from this: 1) you can use Trained for War only in time of peace, where you are not seriously endangered by enemies (which happens quite seldom during this cycle), or 2) you can send only a few of the best combatants, with some ready-effect cards optimally. The worst idea you could do would be to send a massive wave of attackers on the quest while unable to properly react (=defend and attack) in the Combat phase. Moreover, Trained for War is only a one-time event, so relying on this card as your main questing tool within a monosphere Tactics deck would be foolish.

To summarize it: Battle keyword I consider to almost be a negative effect – you can’t use proper questers, who commonly can’t do anything else. Instead, you use your attackers who can’t join combat that round. That’s one of the reasons why The Siege of Cair Andros belongs among the hardest scenarios – its quest alternates between Siege and Battle keywords, so classic questers are useless. Trained for War wants you to do this voluntarily. If you have read the lines above, you have correctly guessed that it isn’t one of the best ideas.

Final rating


Spirit sphere

Silvan Refugee

According to comments of LOTR LCG fans, the Spirit ally Silvan Refugee provokes intensive debates about the usefulness of this card. I didn’t even know about the controversy because, from my sight, Silvan Refugee is among cards with a “self-harming penalty for a good characteristic.” This feature is known for many other card games – it prevents certain powerful cards from breaking the game’s balance. One type of “self-harming penalty” is discarding or destroying your card after usage. It reliably kills any threat to game balance. And it is self-destruction that characterizes Silvan Refugee.

This ally’s core strength consists of the ratio of cost to stat – you pay just 1 resource for 2-0-0-1. The payoff is obviously very advantageous for players; there are only a few cards where you get more than you pay for, for example, Escort from Edoras (I’m going to return to this ally for a few lines because he has much in common with Silvan Refugee). If Silvan Refugee hadn’t been limited anyhow, you actually could ignore any other Spirit ally, where the ratio of cost to Willpower would be equal to 1:1. Such otherwise good West Road Traveller would have lost the sense. Therefore, game designers have decided to set the limitation for Silvan Refugee in terms of “passive self-destruction.” What does it mean? Active self-destruction forces you to destroy or discard the card immediately after usage, after triggering the effect, and nothing could change that (Vassal of the Windlord or Escort from Edoras). Then we have cards, which you either discard or you pay some cost (Winged GuardianTrollshaw Scout). All these cards have “active self-destruction” effects, either unconditional or with some kind of payment. “Passive self-destruction” effect awaits for some condition to trigger, like a ticking bomb. You can use the card almost without limits, but when certain conditions occur, you must discard/destroy that card. The trigger for Silvan Refugee is another character leaving the play, no matter if that character left the play as destroyed or due to some effect.

And we are getting to the cause of the community’s debate. Is Silvan Refugee worth it for playing when you must discard it after another character leaves the play? The “trigger” happens quite frequently – after all, enemies of Against the Shadow cycle are so strong that playing the game without loss of any character is almost impossible, even without consideration of direct-damage-dealing treacheries like The Master’s Malice. In fact, you won’t do without chump blockers who will defend you against such monsters as Orc Vanguard or Mumak. You might rely on Outlands synergy, where many Warrior of Lossarnach with Anfalas Herdsman can create persistent tanks from Outlands characters (hmm, that’s a very interesting environment for Silvan Refugee, I guess :)). Still, it is an almost certain thing you will be losing your characters, which means Silvan Refugee will be leaving play. However, 1 Spirit resource for 2 Willpower is definitely worth it, even if that ally leaves the game after 2-3 rounds. “It would be a waste of card spot in my deck,” someone could argue. I’d answer yes, that is true in cases where you 1) have allies with “active self-destruction” effects, 2) face combat-heavy scenarios (The Siege of Cair Andros), 3) play multiplayer games, where the chance of leaving the character is far higher. On the contrary, Silvan Refugee is the “hero” in decks, where you rely mainly on hero-defenders (Beregond) and/or within multisphere decks, where paying the single resource for an ally with 2 Willpower is like the treasure brought from heaven. It greatly helps your resource management, which Silvan Refugee burden only minimally.

!SPOILER! Additionally, Silvan Refugee has another positive: the Silvan trait. Despite the fact that the progression style of playing it says nothing about the quality of this card (because Silvan synergy practically doesn’t exist until now, with exceptions like Silvan Tracker, Rivendel Bow, and few others), be sure your interest in Silvan Refugee will raise with upcoming cards with Silvan synergy, for example, Celeborn, The Tree People or Feigned Voices. But you have to wait until The Ring-maker cycle for these to arrive.

Silvan Refugee is just a “light” version of a 2-cost Escort from Edoras who quests for 4. On the other hand, when you commit Escort from Edoras on the quest, you are 100% sure it was his last action in the game. However, if you play carefully and tactically well, Silvan Refugee can stay in the game for a longer time. Therefore, Silvan Refugee I would consider for a more available ally, with a very advantageous ratio cost vs. output and even more persistent than Escort from Edoras could ever be.

So back to the question: should I recommend Silvan Refugee to you for your Spirit decks? Except for the specific environments mentioned above, where Silvan Refugee would be considered for a one-time ally for just a single round, this new Spirit ally offers perfect service almost for free. So I say yes, definitely.:)

Final rating


Against the Shadow

The card, which carries the name after whole cycle, should be special in something. Against the Shadow is definitely special card, or more precisely, special Spirit event. But I haven’t said yet, if I mean it in negative or positive sense.

After a quick view of this card, you find out it is another card for a monosphere deck, in this case, the Spirit deck. So I briefly point out that you can play this card only if your heroes have a printed Spirit resource icon; no Song of Travel would help you circumvent this requirement. Now, what’s this card all about: Spirit characters can use their Willpower instead of Defense until the end of the round. This should mainly cause your Spirit characters, which commonly lack high Defense, to now defend enemies.

This should remind you of something, something you met very recently. Yes, I am talking about Trained for War, which works in a very similar way. The main essence of both events is to use the strength of certain spheres (for Tactics high Attack, for Spirit high Willpower) for action, where the spheres lack the quality (for Tactics questing, for Spirit defending and combat in common). On the paper, it sounds like a very smart and original way how to overcome the main weaknesses of the given spheres. After all, who wouldn’t wish to improve the activities which frequently used to be the main Achilles heel of the given spheres? I’m for any help in questing for Tactics sphere and fighting for Spirit sphere because it would free your spheres from specific limitations, especially in single-player games (in multiplayer games, this is not an issue as much). I like it when some spheres are specialized in any activity, that’s for sure: but if we are considering monosphere decks, we must admit that some monosphere decks in single-player games are not very playable. You will quest with Tactics sphere and fight with Spirit sphere with great difficulties.

With such limits, Trained for War and Against the Shadow might help us. I will just briefly remind you what I said at Trained for War’s own review: it attempts to change the logic and change the classic attackers into questers for one phase. However, you will then lack the attackers for the activity they were originally made for. Against the Shadow is no different: you will change natural questers into defenders, but then you are logically missing questers, who meanwhile have defending duties. It looks very grotesque when you defend an enemy with Éowyn (who, by the way, can improve its “defending skills” by its ability :)). It might work… but in specific situations. For example, when making progress is not necessary (which happens quite rarely), and you must face engaged enemies who threaten you. OR simply, when you are occurring in quest with Siege keyword, so you can’t use Willpower to quest. Then I would say yes, Against the Shadow could be useful and could do quality work.

However, I guess if it is not far simpler and effective to just defend with defenders (so invite characters from other spheres, or look for some true (and rare) defenders within Spirit sphere like Elfhelm) and let Spirit characters do their job which they were made for. Thus, you wouldn’t have to solve the logical consequence of how to manage questing when your best questers are sent against enemies. If Against the Shadow was meant to persuade me for playing a mono-Spirit deck… no, this card won’t persuade me unless I would play two- or more-handed game where I can mix more monosphere decks. Even after that, I would be very, very hesitant to play with this card and even include it in the sideboard when I have simpler options that defend well.

Final rating


Lore sphere

Harbor Master

If you had enough cards with clear effects and would like some brainstorming, I recommend you pick Harbor Master, the Lore ally for 3 cost. He has 1 Willpower, 2 Attack, no Defense, and 2 Hit Points. He has the Noldor trait, so you can start to think about cards with Noldor synergy, like Rivendell Bow or Rivendell Blade. Both Tactics Weapons improve Attack output, so it should serve a 2-Attack Harbor Master well… or not? Surprisingly, Harbor Master does not specialize in attack but in defense. You read correctly – Harbor Master with 0 Defense is a defender.

After any card effect adds resource(s) to the hero’s resource pool you control, this ally gains +1 Defense until the end of the round. This ability lacks any limit, so feel free to use as many resource-generation cards as you want. Harbor Master looks like Théodred or Thalin from the Core set – these characters are intended for actions for which they lack stats. Harbor Master has default Defense 0, so you wouldn’t guess at all that his main task is to protect you from enemies. Yet, his ability clarifies it clearly – he will get +1 Defense for each effect, which adds a resource to the resource pool of your hero. Don’t think about resources added in the Refresh phase because that’s not resources added due to some card effect. 

Without any inbuilt limitation, Harbor Master can defend with, for example, 4 Defense if you are good enough to play 4 cards with resource-generation effect. Thus, it logically makes this ally the potential candidate for A Burning Brand, which protects you against shadow effects. It sounds very well, but are you able to build a good deck with enough resource-generation cards?

Before you start to search among possible combo-cards, I should warn you that the ability of Harbor Master totally ignores the cards, which move with resources between heroes. In a wider sense, it can’t be considered for resource-generation cards because actually, you don’t generate anything; you just move with already-existed resources. So cards like Errand-rider or Parting Gifts have zero effect on Harbor Master. On the other side, Steward of Gondor, Wealth of Gondor, or Gaining Strength are typical cards, which trigger the Harbor Master’s ability. Do we have any other choice? Yes, I have already mentioned him – Théodred. Whenever he quests, he adds 1 resource = boost Harbor Master’s Defense by 1. Glóin is another example of a resource-generation card.

Cool, what do we have next? What about the Secrecy-friendly attachment Resourceful? The opinions on this card differ within the community. Someone says it is valid for Harbor Master’s ability; someone contradicts it. The same debates arise with Bifur, who literally “pay 1 resource from a hero’s resource pool to add 1 resource to Bifur’s resource pool”. The interpretation has far to be very clear, but here are my suggestions. Resourceful counts as a resource-generation card, despite it literally says it “collects 1 additional resource during the resource phase”. It fulfills the precondition of resource generation; thus, as I understand it, it should clearly trigger Harbor Master’s ability. As for Bifur, a bit of vague text can be understood as resource-movement rather than resource-generation. The effect works in that way (one hero loses a resource, while Bifur gains one), but on the other hand, the ability states Bifur adds 1 resource to his resource pool, thus even here, Harbor Master’s ability should boost the Defense by 1. Feel free to leave your own opinion on this matter in the comments. I think that each player can have a bit different view on this.

Nevertheless, I think that if we want to work with a quality defender, we have better options than Harbor Master with overcomplicated ability, which widely relies on big adjustments of your deck.

Final rating


Advance Warning

After the pretty useful Strength of Arms and pretty bad-designated Trained for War and Against the Shadow, the Lore event Advanced Warning is the last card that needs heroes from the one sphere for their usage. I would say that the Lore sphere has a nice precondition for being played as a monosphere deck because Lore characters are, in general, quite good and self-sufficient in any action. With 3 Lore heroes, you can afford many quite expensive but useful Lore cards. Lastly, if your deck is reigned by Elrond, then you have access to allies from each sphere, which I consider a great advantage. To summarize, I don’t see any issue in playing a mono-Lore deck, which could invite Advance Warning to your deck.

For 2 cost, you won’t allow enemies to pass into your engagement area – in other words, enemies don’t do engagement checks until the end of the phase. If from the encounter deck you reveal multiple enemies with lesser Engagement cost than is your threat, you would surely wish to avoid uncontrollable battle. Holding your enemies within the staging area, however, has its pitfalls. The most evident issue is that you have to somehow deal with higher Threat Strength in the next round, which would have been reduced in a normal way. Despite the fact engaged enemies can overcome your defense and threaten your heroes, I’m more afraid of too high a Threat Strength in the staging area. If you don’t quest successfully and increase your threat, then you can encounter even more enemies than without using Advanced Warning the previous round. At least, it does not say anything about you can’t engage enemies by your choice (however, it would be a bit against the logic of Advanced Warning).

Some enemies hurt you considerably if you let them engage you, Zealous Traitor or Lossarnach Bandit, for example. Advanced Warning may delay their arrival into your engagement area and gives you a chance to deal with them another way, like by playing Gandalf. Or if you frequently do some staging-area-management and target the staging area with your cards (like Dúnhere, Damrod, Hands Upon the Bow, Hail of Stones), I can easily imagine some good combos with Advanced Warning.

!SPOILER! Lore Faramir belongs among others who can profit from this event.

But to be honest, for over 90% of Lore decks, Advanced Warning is not a good choice. It is strongly dependent on the situation in the staging area and played scenario. From my point of view, I rather play some Traps like Ranger Spikes, which can deal with enemies within the staging area without worrying about their Threat Strength. Alternatively, I would rather “invite” enemies into my engagement area, where I can use against them, such as Feint or Thicket of Spears.

Final rating


Neutral sphere

White Tower Watchman

For monosphere decks, we are obtaining a bonus from the Neutral sphere: White Tower Watchman. This Gondor ally for 3 cost has very nice defense potential: 1-0-2-3. For the ally, I have to nod appreciatively. His Gondor trait may improve his Defense even more; just remind the cards Behind Strong Walls or For Gondor! (beware, Gondorian Shield can be attached only to Gondor heroes). 1-2 additional Defense will make from White Tower Watchman a reliable non-chump blocker, able to survive more rounds.

!SPOILER! With Sword of Morthond, White Tower Watchman gains access to all advantages connected with Outlands trait. For a defensive purpose, the greatest profit will result from the presence of Warrior of Lossarnach and Anfalas Herdsman.

White Tower Watchman is mainly considered for the ally of monosphere decks (though nothing prevents you from adding him into dual- and trisphere decks). If each controlled hero belongs to the same sphere of influence, any damage from undefended attacks can be assigned to this ally instead of the hero you control. One big note here: unless the events like Strength of Arms or Trained for War, you can use the trick by adding a resource icon to a hero. Therefore, various SongsSword that was Broken, Vilya, and other cards with “gaining-resource-icon” effects can be used for the purpose of White Tower Watchman’s ability because the word “printed” is missing.

The loss of a hero belongs among the biggest danger that can happen to you during the play. In the most general sense, every player should protect their heroes as much as possible. After killing the hero, it is common that the game ends because his loss totally subverts your strategy and chances to win over the scenario at the same time. Losing a hero during undefended attacks belongs among the “type of death,” which (in most cases) you can influence pretty well. Only the bad estimation of the situation and underestimation of the enemy could cause the hero’s death unless you hadn’t another choice than to leave the attack undefended. Certainly, there are situations where you hadn’t a choice, and the last blow was made by some nasty shadow effect, which strengthens the enemy’s attack. Either the loss of the hero happened due to bad luck, or due to your underestimation of the situation, White Tower Watchman is here to save your…. chances.:)

The effect works clearly: all damage, which should be assigned to the hero due to an undefended attack, will be dealt to White Tower Watchman. No matter if 1 or 5 damage, this ally fully protects your hero, at least for one undefended attack. The good thing is that he can defend and trigger his ability in the same round, which I consider quite a key element. Another perfect but not obvious advantage of this ally is missing the unique symbol. If you are able to get 3 copies of White Tower Watchman into the game, then you have in overall 3 new chances for your otherwise endangered hero. 

As for cards, whose primary task is to save the life of a hero (Fortune or Fate, Landroval), White Tower Watchman seems as most useful and best-designated. Both previous “saving-hero” cards are very expensive and impractical. On the contrary, White Tower Watchman as a Neutral ally won’t burden your resource management, and he can do good defensive work. I just cry that his ability only triggers if you play with heroes sharing the same resource icon. However, when I build some monosphere decks or decks where all heroes will share the resource icon, White Tower Watchman is a clear choice for incorporating into the deck. He will defend me against evil, and “by the way,” he might save the hero’s life.

Final rating


Summary review

Hero

So Mirlonde… yes or no? 🙂 I can write a simple one-word answer, but if I’m thinking about heroes of LOTR LCG, nothing is clear. In very rare cases, you can make a statement, “this hero is complete trash, don’t use her,” because almost every hero has at least one field where he excels. Mirlonde is a great choice if you play mono-Lore deck and you are interested in lower starting threat – you reduce the starting threat by 3 (if you play with 3 Lore heroes). If you don’t care about starting threat or play a deck with just one Lore hero (two Lore heroes is the very threshold), then I don’t see any reason for playing her. I have already pointed out that she reminds me of a better ally but not a fully-developed hero. 2-2-1-3 doesn’t look very impressive, and her ability only reduces the threat. The only real reason for playing her outside of the above-mentioned possibilities is her Silvan trait, which is considered a powerful trait with lots of synergy cards, but not at this moment. If you want to try out Silvan deck once, don’t set Mirlonde aside too much because you might pick her in the (not very far) future.

Final rating

Allies

It is quite difficult to characterize the allies of The Drúadan Forest in a general way. Each ally has its own specifics and works well under different conditions. Silvan Refugee is the most universal ally of them all. For 1 resource, you gain ally with 2 Willpower, but when any character leaves the play, you must discard Silvan Refugee as well. Generally speaking, the ratio of the cost vs. output surpasses even this penalty, so I don’t see any problem in including this ally into (any) Spirit deck. White Tower Watcher may operate in any deck as well, with completely ignoring his ability. But it is the ability, which induces you to add him into monosphere decks. There you can save the life of your hero, threatened by the undefended attack. On the other hand, Harbor Master needs a specific environment if you want to develop his defending potential. You probably won’t build anything meaningful without the help of the Leadership sphere, where you have a wide choice of cards with resource-generation effects. But this too overcomplicating way of bringing up a quality defender prevents his more universal usage, unfortunately. Forlong is the “hero” of Outlands deck. Assuming you can get into play Outlands allies from all spheres, Forlong, boosted by abilities from his Outlands comrades, can turn into a very efficient, powerful character, able to quest and battle with enemies without limitation. However, it demands you will carefully manage the Outlands allies on the board since, without controlling Outlands allies from each sphere, his value is reduced, though not completely destroyed. 

Final rating

Events

Here I won’t have any problem finding a common feature – all events aim at monosphere decks. Each event, however, differs in ability to persuade you to start to think about a monosphere deck. Such Against the Shadow is an event that won’t probably persuade at all. Spirit sphere belongs among perfect supporting sphere, best fit within dual-, maybe trisphere decks. In a monosphere version, it primarily loses fighting efficiency. You won’t find many expensive cards worth playing here (that belongs among the main reasons why you should actually play monosphere decks). Against the Shadow won’t change your mind about that. Trained for War behaves similarly – it won’t persuade you to use mono-Tactics decks more. Unless Spirit sphere, Tactics deck works brilliantly in monosphere form, thanks to cards like Thicket of Spears. So even if you regularly play a mono-Tactics deck, Trained for War will stay outside of the party.

A bit different situation offers Strength of Arms. As for me, it is the only card from the foursome, which could tempt me to try the mono-Leadership deck, despite that I don’t regularly play it. Readying each ally in play for 2 cost sounds very compelling. I would start to explore the options of mono-Leadership decks…

And Advance Warning? Mono-Lore deck I consider for suitable choice, characters within this deck are quite self-sufficient and can perform any activity. Not making the engagement checks might be worth it within a deck, which actively works with the staging area. And that right time for building such a strategy hasn’t come yet. So at this moment, I wouldn’t recommend Advance Warning to play outside of the mentioned strategy.

Final rating

Attachments

This will be brief because The Drúadan Forest brought us only one attachment, Mighty Prowess. Yes, I fully recommend playing this attachment because it costs only 1 resource and deals direct damage to one enemy. You can’t make up a situation where it could be worthless. So… what are you waiting for?

Final rating

Overall evaluation

If you expect that player cards from The Drúadan Forest fit the needs of this scenario, I warn you: it won’t offer anything useful for the mechanism, which the scenario is built on – the sufficient resource management. But it offers a new companion into an Outlands deck and also provides new possibilities for monosphere decks. The most powerful I consider Strength of Arms, which is my TOP CARD of this pack. Despite that, you may use it only in a monosphere deck, so it has much more narrow usage than Mighty Prowess; the resulting effect deserves big attention. Readying each ally in play for just 2 resources can save you a lot. It is more practical than overpriced Grim Resolve, which readies all characters but for 5 resources. For swarm decks, for example, Outlands decks, Strength of Arms is a rare jewel.

While I could sing praising odes on Strength of Arms, for Against the Shadow, I would hum the sad ballad. This SHEEP CARD attempts to make for one round from trueborn questers jacked defenders. And it looks promising to defend with Willpower, which Spirit allies have traditionally high. However… who will remain for questing when you enlist the best questers into the fighting army? If you plan to send only the weakest questers to the fight, then this event won’t be worth it. Isn’t it simpler to just bring some real defenders? And, what I see most crucial – does it even worth playing mono-Spirit deck because of this event actually? I answer resolutely: no. Against the Shadow isn’t a good persuasive element for monosphere decks.

If you want to ask which sphere is THE MOST ENRICHED SPHERE of The Drúadan Forest, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second. From my perspective, Forlong and Strength of Arms makes very good publicity of the Leadership sphere within this adventure pack.:) About Strength of Arms, I spoke a lot. Forlong shines in a heavy-Outlands deck, where you can raise from him enormously quality character comparable to the best heroes, as for stats. 

The Drúadan Forest won’t become the unforgettable adventure deck that you would have to get. If you are not interested in monosphere decks or Outlands synergy, hasn’t caught your heart, this pack doesn’t offer any other powerful card. Well, Mighty Prowess is an attachment that I often use in a Tactics deck because I actually get limitless direct-damage-dealing effects, which I consider the most useful effect in the whole card game. But it is not something I couldn’t do without (unless the previous pack, The Steward’s Fear, where I would be willing to buy this pack only because of Gondorian Shield; everything else was just a little bonus :)). I can live fully without Mirlonde, Harbor Master, Silvan Refugee, and probably White Tower Watchman.

Final rating

TOP CARD

SHEEP CARD

MOST ENRICHED SPHERE

LEADERSHIP SPHERE

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