Key Concepts: Splashing

bear_splashing

While mono-sphere decks can be very powerful, a deck is often even more effective if you include one hero from another sphere. Adding just a bit of another sphere is known as splashing. The reason why splashing can improve a deck is because the second sphere helps to address the weaknesses of the primary sphere. In this article we will look at 4 heroes, one from each sphere, which are good candidates to be splashed into your decks. In addition, we will discuss supporting cards which compliment these heroes and can easily be integrated with existing strategies.

Balin

balins_tomb_print
The ill-fated last King of Moria brings a lot of options to a deck. Just looking at his stats, it is apparent that Balin is not a much of a warrior. This will be a recurring theme in the heroes we discuss, they won’t do everything well. A splashed hero can have a glaring weakness, because that role is expected to be filled by the other heroes in your deck.

While Balin might not be much in a fight, he has many other useful skills. With 2 Willpower and the all-important Dwarf trait, Balin can be a solid quester. As a bonus, his ability does not require him to exhaust, so you can use him wherever he is needed and still be able to trigger his response later in the round. His two defense is not bad, especially for a Dwarf, and cards like Ring Mail and Dunedain Warning can be used to improve him in this role.

More so than his stats, Balin is useful for his ability. Even at this point in the game, there are only so many ways for dealing with shadow cards. Yet shadow cards are getting more and more troublesome. Only a fraction of cards in an encounter set will even have a shadow effect, which means that some games you will get lucky and not have many problems with shadow cards. Combat tricks like Feint and direct damage (Gondorian Spearman, Spear of the Citadel, etc.) can also help with this. Still, there will be games when a powerful shadow effect is triggered at an inopportune time.

This is where Balin is so valuable. Even repeatable solutions to shadow effects like A Burning Brand have a downside. You have to draw A Burning Brand, you have to pay the two resources, and you have to attach it to a Lore hero. What is more, you have to hold that hero back and use them to defend against the attack with the powerful shadow effect that you wish to cancel. With shadow cards being dealt facedown, and scenarios where multiple enemies are engaged simultaneously, this is not always possible.

Having Balin around can save a hero from death. Equally important, knowing that you have his ability on hand can free you to play more aggressively and take undefended attacks. Many of the more recent quests are designed to prevent the kind of “turtling” strategy that goes with cards like A Burning Brand. In contrast, including Balin will allow you to commit more characters to the quest and shorten the game. The fewer rounds you spend, the less likely you are to face game-breaking encounter cards.

The fact that his ability costs a resource is not as much of a problem as it might at first seem. As Ian recently pointed out over at Tales from the Cards, Leadership is the richest sphere. Including Balin in a deck will give you access to such resource generation effects as Steward of Gondor, Gaining Strength and Legacy of Númenor. We Are Not Idle can also be used with Balin, even if your deck doesn’t include any other Dwarves. Errand-rider, again not the most thematic choice, can also be good strategically to move resources from another hero to Balin before you enter combat.

As with any Leadership Dwarf, Balin provides access to one of the best card drawing effects in the game: King Under the Mountain. He also lets you use Narvi’s Belt, which can be important when you are splashing him into a deck with more expensive cards. You don’t want to be stuck with a bunch of non-Leadership cards in your hand while leadership resources pile up on your Balin. For decks that don’t include Spirit, Balin also lets you use Sneak Attack with Gandalf, which can be a great way to keep your threat low.

Legolas

Legolas-MagaliVilleneuve

The son of Thranduil and prince of Mirkwood offers a very unique ability in Tactics. Of all the encounter card types, locations provide the greatest challenge to the sphere. As anyone knows who has every tried to play A Passage Through Mirkwood with the core set Tactics deck, location-lock is a very real danger. Being able to clear the active location by killing enemies is a tremendously useful ability.

The Ranged keyword has become an increasingly useful ability. Cards like Hands Upon the Bow, Great Yew Bow and even Rain of Arrows all require this keyword. As we discussed on episode 6 of The Grey Company Podcast, ranged can be essential in multi-player games. Since other players will often have decks which focus more on questing or support, being able to defeat enemies that are not engaged with you is important for the combat-oriented deck which splashes Legolas.

With the spoiler for Haldir’s brother Rúmil, we can look forward to even more support for the Ranged keyword in the Tactics sphere. Rúmil will pair very well with Legolas in combat, in addition to having 2 willpower to aiding with questing. It will also be easy to add Vassal of the Windlord to any deck with Legolas, further bolstering a Ranged strategy. Once Rúmil is released, I can see a new Ranged Silvan archetype that should be a lot of fun to play. Legolas will be at the heart of this new type of deck.

Naturally Tactics provides the a bevy of powerful weapons to the Sindarin elf (I know that the card says otherwise, but Legolas and his father Thranduil are both Sindarin – not Silvan). Blade of Gondolin, Rivendell Blade, Great Yew Bow and Black Arrow are all excellent options. With the majority of enemies in recent releases having 2 or more defense, Rivendell Blade continues to grow stronger. Black Arrow is perfect as a “giant killer”. Since it targets Legolas, it works against enemies that are immune to player card effects and cannot have attachments.

In addition, Rohan Warhorse can be particularly effective, especially in scenarios with a good mix of enemies and locations. As always, a deck which includes several weapons will want to consider also featuring Foe-hammer and possibly even Goblin-cleaver and Bofur. Card drawing effects are rare in Tactics, and at a cost of 0, Foe-hammer is perfect for splashing. Lastly, events like Hands Upon the Bow and Rain of Arrows are inexpensive and work particularly well with Legolas.

Eleanor

Eleanor by Magali

Treacheries are one of three main encounter card types, and yet there are only two cards in the game which provide true treachery cancelation. Splashing Eleanor into a deck immediately gives you access to both of these two treachery cancelation effects. Also, and this is quickly becoming more important, Eleanor features the Gondor trait. Thanks to some powerful cards in the Heirs of Númenor and the Against the Shadow cycle, it is possible to make Eleanor useful in other roles.

 

On our latest episode of The Grey Company podcast, we discussed how unique Spirit’s unique place within the game. Treachery cancelation is one of the effects which is unique to the Spirit sphere. By including Eleanor and A Test of Will, your deck can handle scenarios with game-ending treacheries. Even in scenarios with less troublesome treacheries, Eleanor allows you to switch one encounter card type for another. For example, if a treachery comes up, but you have plenty of solutions for locations and enemies, you can trigger Eleanor’s response. Odds are pretty good that the next card will be something that is easier to deal with than the treachery.

On rounds when a treachery is not revealed, or you choose not to cancel one, Eleanor should have something else to do with her action. Arwen Undomiel (another great card to splash), Blood of Númenor and Gondorian Shield (if your deck includes Tactics), are all great for boosting defense. This works well with her ability, as you will leave her ready to cancel a treachery in any case. With backup from cards like Hasty Stroke and Silver Lamp, you use Eleanor as a defender, without worrying about a unexpected shadow effect.

Two other skills which are fairly unique to Spirit are questing support and threat reduction. For splashing, you will want to focus on low-cost allies, so Silvan Refugee, Westfold Horse-breeder and even Minas Tirith Lampwright can all be good options. As mentioned previously, Arwen Undomiel is probably the best spirit ally to splash into any deck. Her high willpower and defense boosting can really help to fill the gaps in a strategy. With all of this extra willpower, Ancient Mathom becomes an option for providing some helpful card drawing.

Arwen also happens to be a unique Noldor character, which allows you to splash the most cost-effective threat reduction: Elrond’s Counsel. The Galadhrim’s Greeting is certainly more powerful, but at 3 resources it is much harder to splash that card into a multi-sphere deck. Rounding out the inexpensive support cards from the Spirit sphere we have action advantage from Miruvor and Unexpected Courage. One other card that is worth considering for location control is Thror’s Key. At a cost of 1 resource, this attachment is a bargain, and it can help you deal with locations that would otherwise be too dangerous to travel to or explore.

Bilbo Baggins

bilbo_baggins_by_anthonyfoti-d39ou8t

Even with the card hate in The Voice of Isengard, card drawing effects are still a very important part of the game. Even after the entire Ring-Maker cycle is complete, there will only be a few scenarios which punish a player for drawing extra cards. Bilbo Baggins is more than an efficient form of card drawing, the little Hobbit has a number of tricks up his sleeves. In a solo deck, Bilbo represents an extra card each round, absolutely free. This benefit is lessened in a multiplayer game, as each player will not be receiving this benefit every round. Still, Bilbo opens up access to inexpensive card drawing effects like Daeron’s Runes, Deep Knowledge, Expert Treasure-hunter and Peace, and Thought.

Peace, and Thought would seem to have a very big drawback – requiring you to exhaust two of your heroes during the refresh phase. Indeed, in most decks this is too steep of a cost. Thanks to Fast Hitch, exhausting Bilbo to pay for Peace, and Thought is no longer a hardship. Fast Hitch obviously has other uses, allowing the Hobbit to the commit to the quest and still help on defense.

While Bilbo might not seem like the obvious choice for a defender, the Lore sphere provides several options to help. A Burning Brand is the first go to choice for any Lore deck with a dedicated defender. Another card which pairs perfectly with Mr. Baggins is Protector of Lórien. The extra cards that he provides can be used to pay to boost his defense. If you happen to have Fast Hitch on our intrepid Hobbit, he can even take advantage of this card for both questing and defense. If your deck happens to include Tactics, another excellent option for Bilbo is Ring Mail.

Healing is another important element that Bilbo provides to decks without another Lore hero. Warden of Healing is the best choice for a splashing, because he only costs 2 resources. Still, some decks will want to look to alternatives for healing, depending on their other heroes. For example, a deck featuring Glóin will want to consider using Self Preservation or Daughter of the Nimrodel.

Yet again, Fast Hitch comes in handy, as it allows Bilbo to exhaust in order to use Healing Herbs. This combo works particularly well in Dwarf decks, as Erebor Hammersmith can be used to return the attachment for additional uses. Two last attachments which are perfect for splashing with Bilbo would be Elf-stone and Thror’s Key. They actually work together quite well; the Key allows you travel without ill effects and then Elf-stone can put into play an expensive ally from any sphere, for no extra cost.

Posted in Key Concepts, Strategy, The Grey Company, Theme | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Key Concepts: Traits – Rohan

rohirrim_by_cg_warrior-d4muehz

With the card pool expanding slowly but surely, more traits are starting to gain relevance. In our last look at traits, we reviewed the many powerful effects available to Dwarf decks. While not as fundamental as spheres, traits are still quite an important consideration when building a deck. For those that prefer to make more thematic decks, traits are as essential for preserving some sense of narrative. When examining the Rohan trait, we are going to look at each of the heroes with this trait, and discuss some cards that work well with each character.

Dúnhere

DunhereThanks to some new weapons, Dúnhere has seen a resurgence of late. Dagger of Westernesse seems like it was practically made for Dúnhere, as it gives him a consistent means for attacking with enough strength to damage tougher enemies. Spear of the Mark is an even more thematic choice, with a similar potency when attached to Dúnhere. Rohan Warhorse also works well with Dúnhere, as it makes it possible for him to potentially kill multiple enemies in the staging area during the same round. Westfold Horse-breeder is another natural fit, especially for decks that want to include the Warhorse.

Forth Eorlingas has ushered in a new archetype for Rohan: staging area attack. Still, Dúnhere remains that best option for this strategy – even over more powerful Tactics heroes with the Rohan trait. In particular, the fact that he belongs to the Spirit sphere gives you more deck building options. His starting threat of 8 makes it easier to design low-threat decks. You can pair him with high-willpower allies like Escort from Edoras and West Road Traveler. If you include Éowyn for questing you will be able to afford more powerful threat-reduction cards like The Galadhrim’s Greeting. This combination of low threat and high willpower should allow you to keep enemies in the staging area where Dúnhere can safely deal with them.

 Éomer

Eomer-smallWhile not technically Rohan-related, Éomer fits perfectly into Rohan deck. With all of the allies which feature discard effects, and chump blockers like Snowbourn Scout and Westfold Horse-breeder, he has plenty of opportunities to trigger his response. In particular, the new Westfold Outrider works well with the son of Eomund. If you discard the Outrider and trigger its effect after enemies have attacked you can avoid dangerous enemies. Éomer gets his bonus and the newly engaged enemy does not have a chance to do anything before it gets cut down.

Rohan deck archetypes are filled with these kind of pseudo-combos, which incidentally are a lot of fun to play. The ultimate combo ally with Éomer is his father. When Éomund leaves play, Éomer and all other Rohan characters ready. Éomer gets his bonus and then, aided by a Rohan Warhorse or other readying, can go on a vengeance-fueled killing spree. Another great option for readying the son of Éomund is the Westfold Horse-breaker.

For one resource, the Rohan Warhorse give Tactics a consistent form of readying - a welcome addition to aggressive and weapon-heavy decks. Thanks to his ability, Éomer can often kill enemies with his bare hands. This helps save a restricted slot for the Warhorse. As with other decks that feature the Warhorse, Westfold Horse-breeder pairs well with Éomer. It’s especially fun using cheap allies as fodder once you’ve taken advantage of their “comes into play” response.

Éowyn

EowynSince the core set, the shield-maiden of Rohan has in large part defined where the Rohan trait fits into the game. Rohan has always excelled at questing, and when it comes to willpower Éowyn is still the best. It is important to note that not only does Éowyn provide tremendous questing power, but she also gives access to the Spirit sphere for cards like Escort from Edoras and West Road Traveler. In short, Éowyn is the optional choice for a Rohan deck that wants to focus on questing.

Spirit in general, and Rohan in specific has access to a multitude of readying options. Unfortunately Éowyn‘s one-dimensional stats make her a poor choice for readying in most scenarios. There are exceptions, as some quest involve making additional tests with the willpower stat, outside of the quest phase. Two good examples of this are The Dead Marshes with escape tests and A Shadow of the Past from The Black Riders, with hide tests. In these specific cases, being able to take actions with Éowyn multiple times in a round is invaluable.

Otherwise, it makes the most sense to play to her strength and bolster Éowyn‘s already impressive willpower. A few powerful global effects are particularly effective in this regard. Astonishing Speed will allow Éowyn to quest for an astounding 6 willpower, without even discarding additional cards. Mutual Accord can also allow her to share the benefits of a Gondor hero with Visionary Leadership. As both Gondor and Rohan continue to get stronger as archetypes, Mutual Accord becomes more and more viable as an option for thematic, and powerful, multiplayer decks.

Last but not least, high willpower makes it easier to clear locations. Éowyn’s high willpower and ability allows you to make exactly the amount of progress needed to explore the active location. Rohan has several cards which can help. West Road Traveler will allow you to change the active location, while avoiding costly travel effects. The Riddermark’s Finest and Snowbourn Scout also help with spot location removal. A Watchful Peace can even be paired with these cards to enable a sort of encounter deck control. Whatever strategy you utilize, Éowyn is at the heart of any quest-heavy Rohan deck.

Gríma

grima-smallWhile his ability does not specifically benefit Rohan decks, his sphere is quite useful. Providing access to Lore, with Gléowine and a multitude of other card drawing options can fill one of the common gaps of many Rohan decks. He also has 2 defense, which is practically unheard of Rohan characters. Equipped with A Burning Brand, Gríma can even make a decent defender, something that Rohan decks seldom have.

Still the real reason to parlay with the one known as Wormtongue is his unique ability. Keys of Orthanc is basically an auto-include with this hero, as you should be triggering his ability on a regular basis. This is especially true in the early game when resources are at such a premium and cost reduction has a far more dramatic effect on the outcome.

While Gríma’s ability has no specific synergy with existing Rohan archetypes, it does make multi-sphere Rohan decks much easier to design. Being able to play more expensive ally and event cards without having multiple heroes from that sphere is a truly underrated ability. Even being able to play key events like Feint or A Test of Will for no cost can be a life-saver.

It should be mentioned that one must be careful when using his ability to reduce the cost of response effects. Because his ability is an action, you must use it preemptively. For example, you could trigger his effect before the staging step during the quest phase. If a treachery was subsequently revealed, you could play A Test of Will with doomed 1, for no cost. If you had neglected to trigger his ability before staging, it would be too late to use it after a nasty treachery was revealed, because there is no player action window. In any case, regardless of how you use his ability, the King’s counselor can be an important part to multi-sphere Rohan decks.

Because of a renewed interest in staging area attacks and other interesting combat effects, there are now two main Rohan archetypes: quest rush and combat trickery. Gríma makes it possible to create a hybrid deck, which combines elements from both of these major archetypes. His ability is so flexible, that it is entirely possible he will feature in future archetypes as well. His power comes with a cost, and while his ability is certainly useful, it is debatable how wise it is to include him in multi-player games. Having a hero whose ability raises everyone’s threat each round is not necessarily a welcome thing for other decks. Use doomed player card effects with caution.

Háma

HamaThe ultimate tactician, Háma remains the most efficient option for recycling powerful Tactics cards. With the release of Forth Eorlingas!, Háma now has a Rohan-themed card which he can recycle in addition to the staple Tactics events. Making these event work is a delicate balance. You will probably need two Tactics heroes to help pay for the card, but you will also want a Spirit hero to keep your threat low enough for this strategy to work. Attacking the staging area is very powerful in theory, but it takes careful threat management to ensure that you can keep the enemies from engaging immediately. Tactics is not exactly known for being good at threat-reduction.

Another new card that has a lot of synergy with Háma is The Rohan Warhorse. Assuming there are multiple eligible enemies, you can attack multiple times with Hama and trigger his event recycling each time. Used with Foe-Hammer, this combination can provide tremendous card advantage. Outside of Eagle decks, Tactics decks typically lack any sort of card drawing, so this particular combo is not to be ignored.

For a Tactics hero, Háma has a relatively low starting threat of 9, which makes it easier to splash him into multi-sphere decks than heroes like Éomer or Théoden. Still, you will need to include several Tactics events in your deck in order to take advantage of his ability, so this requires a careful balance. The good news is that his stats are excellent for his assigned role. With the help of a weapon, Háma can often kill enemies all by himself.

The fact that he can bring back event cards to make his job easier just makes him that much more of a one-man army. Outside of the first version of Boromir, Háma is one of the most efficient Tactics heroes in the game. I am looking forward to future Tactics events which bolster Rohan strategies - the doorward of Meduseld will be ready to aid his King in battle.

Théoden

theoden-smallSadly, Théoden has very little synergy with other Rohan characters. While he can boost the willpower of Éomer and Háma, it makes little sense to do so. Both of these heroes have abilities that require them to attack, so a willpower boost is better used in other mono-Tactics decks, or in specific multi-player scenarios.

It is odd to me that one of the best heroes to use with the king of the Rohirrim is Thalin – a Dwarf! Still, a Tactics hero with Sentinel and 3 willpower is quite versatile, so it is possible to make the King a part of your Rohan decks. His high threat cost can be a bit of a challenge to having a safe starting threat, thus he does represent a puzzle for deck building.

Of all of the Rohan heroes, Théoden is probably the best fit for the Steed of the Mark. Assuming you can solve the resource acceleration issue, possibly with the help of his son Théodred, the King of Rohan is exactly the kind of hero that you want to use multiple times. Obviously, from a purely strategic standpoint, Unexpected Courage (or as we refer to it among the Grey Company: Expected Courage) is the better choice. As Caleb mentioned in his latest Second Breakfast article, every player plays the game with a different set of motivations. For those that wish to emphasize theme over pure strategic advantage, Steed of the Mark is undoubtedly the better choice for Théoden.

One last highly thematic card that can work strategically with Théoden is Mutual Accord. With good defense and hit points and the sentinel keyword, Théoden can take advantage of global effects like For Gondor! and Light the Beacons and become a formidable defender. It is undeniable that with the current card pool, the son of Thengel takes concerted effort to include in a deck. Personally, I am hoping for a different version of Théoden that ties more directly into existing Rohan archetypes. Still, it is possible to make this version work – it just takes some creative deck designs. For a thematic look at the King of Rohan, check out the latest article from The Master of Lore.

Théodred

TheodredThe Son of the king, Théodred provides something that is not available anywhere else in the Rohan archetypes – resource acceleration. Since questing is such a fundamental part of most Rohan decks, it is trivial to trigger Théodred‘s ability. Being able to provide extra resources to one of your questing heroes is an invaluable effect, and one that Rohan is uniquely suited to take advantage of.

Combined with cards like Gaining Strength and even cost-reduction from GrímaThéodred makes it possible for Rohan decks to consistently pay for more expensive global effects like We Do Not Sleep. Pairing these powerful events with a Gondor deck and Mutual Accord, it is possible to create single game-winning rounds. Even if you want to include non-Rohan characters, his sphere and ability make cards like Grim Resolve an option.

Even those who want to avoid these all-or-nothing kind of decks can find benefit from Théodred. His low starting threat makes him a great choice for splashing into multi-sphere decks with more powerful heroes. His ability works perfectly in this regard, providing extra resources to help smooth out an unexpected glut in on sphere. Leadership also grants access to some great readying effects and ally mustering that facilitates powerful Rohan-specific combos. For example, Sneak Attack with Éomund in the quest phase will allow you to safely commit all of your Rohan characters to the quest. However you use him, Théodred remains a valuable “glue” hero for stitching various Rohan strategies together. The fact that his ability works on other players’ heroes makes him perfectly suited for multi-player games, as well.

Posted in Key Concepts, Strategy, Theme | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Friendship Is Magic

Image

 

“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.”
—Paulo Coelho

After giving it a lot of thought, I’ve decided to take The Hall of Beorn in a new direction. The Lord of the Rings, with thousands of years of mythology, language and culture, just doesn’t hold a candle to the magical world of My Little Pony. Friendship truly is magic. The collectible card game for My Little Pony is far and away the best game I have ever played. From looking at the reviews on BGG, I’m not the only one with this opinion.

My first exposure to my new obsession was at GenCon last year. At first, I was skeptical. How could any card game capture my interest the way the Lord of the Rings LCG has? In a word, My Little Pony is perfection. The deck building has depth, the card art would make the Renaissance masters jealous, and the mechanics are more fabulous than a dump truck filled with glitter. Now I find myself thinking of ponies with my every waking moment. When I close my eyes, Twilight Sparkle is there, staring back at me. As I drift off to sleep, with visions of magical goodness prancing through my head, she nuzzle my cheek and whispers “join us”.

My-Little-Pony-CCG

So now I must take the leap and embrace my destiny. I am finally ready to shout it to the world, to proudly announce that I love My Little Pony! Since urban dictionary does not yet have a word for giant bears who plays My Little Pony, I have decided to invent one. Bearony is a admittedly a bit awkward as portmanteaus go, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it. Hello everyone, my name is Beorn and I’m a Bearony.

So what is to become of The Hall of Beorn? Have no fear, those who share my love of MLP TCG have come to the right place. You will find the same in depth coverage, strategy and meta-game discussion. Just as I did with LotR LCG, there will be a focus on community, with contests, polls and yummy recipes. Now, the site will just be 20% cooler – with magical friendship and sparkly happiness sprinkled over everything.

The old articles will stay online, for those sad few that are stuck in the dreary lands of J.R.R. Tolkien’s feeble imagination. The more enlightened among you, who embrace the magic of friendship, can look forward to coming announcements about exciting new features: Pony Express (news), Glitter Madness (strategy), and Beorn’s Floral Arrangements (art), just to name a few. I’ve begun talks with the other members of The Grey Company and they’ve agreed that My Little Pony TCG represents the future of card games. We haven’t come up with an official name yet, but so far The Glitter Company is our best idea for a new Podcast name. If anyone has any magical ideas, feel free to leave them in the comments.

Posted in Community, Fun, News | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Deck: Ride Them Down!

The_Ride_of_the_Rohirrim_by_AbePapakhian

Ever since Hammer-stroke was released, I’ve been wanting to create a deck that makes use of such a unique and powerful effect. Now that The Voice of Isengard has given us such a majestic mount, we have what we need to start to develop out this archetype. This deck will represent the Ride of the Rohirrim at the Battle of Pelennor Fields. Just us with that history-making battle, our goal will be to leave none of the enemy alive. While a bit less thematic, the obvious choice for a hero to utilize this strategy is Tactics Boromir. Not only does his sacrificial ability deal damage to each enemy engaged with us, but his action advantage should help keep us alive long enough to set up the big combo.

This second point is critical because we want to maximize the effect of Hammer-stroke. It doesn’t make sense to pay 2 resources for that event if we are only engaging one extra enemy. The idea is to survive to the mid-game, when there are multiple enemies in play – either in the staging area or engaged with other players. Then, we wind the Horn of Gondor and let all of the enemies come to us. As should be painfully obvious from the list, this deck is not designed for solo play.
The Hammer-Stroke
In fact, the nature of The Hammer-stroke is that it gains in power for each enemy in play and thus is more powerful in a 4 player game than a 2 player game. Because of the focus on combat, this deck is obviously not a good fit for scenarios that are light on enemies (e.g. The Hills of Emyn Muil) or those with a single boss enemy which is immune to player card effects (e.g. The Lonely Mountain). What it is good at doing is killing enemies, lots of enemies.

There are several interesting synergies at play in this deck, beyond the obvious “Boromir saves the day” option. One of the more intriguing heroes from The Black Riders, Merry is a power-house in all-Hobbit decks. In this deck, he might seem like a puzzling choice. With a starting attack of 1, any other Tactics hero would be superior to our Hobbit friend, from a brute force standpoint. The power of Merry is not when he acts alone, but when he attacks with other heroes. In particular, Háma and Merry make a perfect pair, especially when they are on horseback.

Gondorian Shield (small)Each of the attachments in this deck has a specific target. Gondorian Shield obviously belongs on Boromir. Combined with his ability to ready, the son of Gondor makes him a formidable defender. Spear of the Citadel can either go on Boromir, or Gondorian Spearman, if one is available. Again, the idea is to engage all of the enemies and then immediately kill as many of them as possible. Both Háma and Merry will want to ride a Rohan Warhorse while Boromir would prefer to walk. Rivendell Blade goes on a Trollshaw Scout, and can aid greatly in the challenge of killing a tougher enemy. The Daggers will go on Háma and Merry and the Horn can be held by whoever does not already have two restricted attachments.

Foe-HammerThanks to Foe-hammer and Háma, it is possible to end up with a fistful of card in your hand by the time you are ready for The Hammer-Stroke. In this case, Trollshaw Scout is an amazing ally because he can attack each of the enemies you are facing, at the cost of a card for each extra enemy. At first glance, this might seem like a waste, but when you think about what tactics does, trading 1 card in your hand (and no resources) for a dead enemy is exactly the kind of bargain you want to strike. Remember that duplicate cards can be discarded to Háma.

Support of the EaglesSupport of the Eagles is the trump card in this deck. At three resources it is certainly expensive, but it can allow you to turn Boromir into a 6 attack tank that participates in every attack. Ideally, you will have Thicket of Spears on hand to avoid all enemy attacks, but Support of the Eagles and Gondorian Shield can easily give Boromir 8 defense. As a worst case, Boromir can block every single attack.

While this will obviously raise your threat considerably, the intent is to only do this once. After the board has been cleared of enemies, the other players should be able to quest to victory without hindrance. Regardless of which attachments you are able to deploy, it will often not even be necessary to sacrifice Boromir. This deck can muster a truly massive level of combat strength.

FeintThe events here include many of the usual suspects, with some omissions. Feint is notably absent from this list, and it is refreshing to make a Tactics deck without that card. Ultimately, one could make the argument for that card to be included, especially with Háma present. However, this deck is designed to scale. Paying 3 resources to avoid 8 enemy attacks is a much better deal than paying 1 resource to avoid a single attack.

The driving goal of this deck is to spend the first few rounds building up, and then spring into action. Once we have enough of our combos in place, and there are enough enemies in play, we bring The Hammer-stroke and kill everything on the board. As strategies go, this is known as a “glass cannon”, but when this deck finds its mark, it can be a quite a sight to behold.

The cards that make up the heart of this deck: The Hammer-stroke, Support of the Eagles and Thicket of Spears are all quite expensive. This is the other reason why this deck is not meant to be played solo. A Leadership deck with resource acceleration and cards like Errand-rider, Wealth of Gondor or Parting Gifts will be a tremendous boon to getting this deck running. Good luck, and don’t stop the charge until you see the whites of their eyes!

HamaMerry (TBR)Rohan-Warhorse-VoI-small

Heroes:
Boromir (TDM)
Háma (TLD)
Merry (TBR)

Allies: 18
Vassal of the Windlord x3
Gondorian Spearman x3
Trollshaw Scout x3
Winged Guardian x3
Bofur (TH:OHaUH) x3
Eagles of the Misty Mountains x3

Attachments: 17
Dagger of Westernesse x3
Gondorian Shield x2
Horn of Gondor x2
Rivendell Blade x2
Rohan Warhorse x3
Spear of the Citadel x2
Support of the Eagles x3

Events: 15
Foe-hammer x3
Goblin-cleaver x3
The Eagles Are Coming! x3
Rain of Arrows x2
The Hammer-stroke x2
Thicket of Spears x2

Posted in Deck Lists, Fun, Strategy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Beorn’s Favorites: 5 Great Glue Cards

Bear with Honey

With the release of The Voice of Isengard, the book has been closed on the Against the Shadow cycle. Doomed effects with no resource cost, cost reduction from Gríma’s ability, and powerful neutral cards have all brought the focus back to multi-sphere decks. Certainly, many of the new cards will work well in mono-sphere decks, but the combination of low cost and resource acceleration opens up the potential for new deck archetypes which did not exist before.

One of the topics I’ve mentioned on The Grey Company is the concept of glue cards. Just as their name implies, glue cards help hold a deck together. If your deck is a building, unique characters and expensive attachments are the bricks and foundation, but mortar is necessary to keep the structure from falling apart. Glue cards are not the high profile cards, they aren’t talked about much on the forums, but they nonetheless form a vital part of any successful deck. Because there are more moving part in a multi-sphere deck, glue cards are even more important. What follows are 5 glue cards that should work particularly well in multi-sphere decks.

Envoy of Pelargir

Envoy of PelargirQuesting and attack are two of the most important aspects of the game. For all but the most specialized decks, having  a deck which handles these two areas of the game is a requirement. Unfortunately, for all spheres but Spirit, willpower is hard to come by. Leadership comes a close second, thanks to heroes like Dain Ironfoot and Sam Gamgee, as well as powerful global boosts. Still these unique cards are expensive, and take time to setup.

Likewise for combat, non-Tactics spheres will have to spend more resources to get allies with a decent attack strength. Even a Tactics deck will often want to save up, since many of their best allies cost 4 resources. Thanks to the large number of heroes with the Gondor or Noble trait, the Envoy of Pelargir has an effective cost of 1 resources in most decks. Technically, you have to spend the 2 resources before getting one back, but this just means that you pay for the Envoy before buying anything else. The envoy is particularly useful in a multi-sphere decks, where moving a resource from one hero to another can help you to pay for that critical two-cost card.

The last detail of Envoy of Pelargir, one that is becoming increasingly powerful, is the Gondor trait. Thanks to the new version of Boromir and Visionary Leadership, Gondor allies are finally started to receive some well-deserved support. With Rohan seeing more attention in the Ring-maker cycle, Mutual Accord might even find a place in some decks. In this case, the emissary from Pelargir could even benefit from Rohan synergy.

It is important to note that the Envoy can work just fine in non-Gondor decks, so you don’t have to use them for their trait – that is more of a bonus. So many of the best heroes have the Noble trait, appropriate given the rich heritage of the various bloodlines in Tolkien’s legendarium. Even a deck with only a single Noble hero can make use of the Envoy, and how they use this ally can depend on what their deck needs. A Tactics-heavy deck might want to add some willpower. A Leadership deck can use the envoy as a foot-soldier and their response bolster’s the sphere’s resource moving sub-theme. A Spirit deck won’t need the willpower, plenty of other allies fill that role, but the envoy can help with combat, or serve as a chump blocker.

Errand-rider

One of the interesting new deck themes to emerge from the Against the Shadow cycle is the concept of leaving extra resources on a hero. Boromir, Visionary Leadership, Blood of Númenor and Gondorian Fire all require that a hero have spare resources in their pool. Fortunately, this archetype is aided by plenty of resource acceleration. Steward of Gondor, Wealth of Gondor, Gaining Strength and now Legacy of Númenor all help to quickly build a reserve of resources onto your heroes.

Errand-RiderEven so, there are times in a multi-sphere deck where you will need resources from one sphere more than others. Technically, even a mono-sphere deck can benefit from the ability to move resources, as heroes like Boromir and Balin require you to build resources on a specific hero. Regardless of the specific need, the most flexible and repeatable form of resource movement in the game is Errand-rider. Sure their non-existent stats make them useless for most questing or combat situations, but ideally you won’t be needing them for these tasks. Thanks Gondor-related boosts, it will sometimes even be possible to use an Errand-rider to deliver some pain, right to the enemy’s door.

Smoothing the resources in a multi-sphere deck is one of the most important facets to keeping things running efficiently. You don’t want to end up with a bunch of Lore cards in your hand and only Leadership resources available. The Errand-rider is a near guarantee that your resources will be where they are needed most. In a multi-player game the Errand-rider allows you to get resources to the player with the key card in their hand. I cannot tell you how many times Errand-rider has effectively helped to pay for The Galadhrim’s Greeting that kept everyone with a safe threat threshold.

One last, and underrated, detail of our messenger friend is his 2 hit points. With more an more scenarios featuring Archery (or some near equivalent), having extra hit points to spare is a valuable asset. You don’t always want to put all of the direct damage from the encounter deck onto your heroes. This can leave them vulnerable to subsequent treacheries and shadow effects. Being able to spread out damage onto low-cost allies like the Errand-rider, without losing them, is another reason why this card is so useful.

Halfling Determination

Thanks to the collection of powerful and low-cost heroes from The Black Riders, Hobbits are now a major archetype. Even decks which don’t exclusively feature natives of the Shire can benefit from the presence of one of these intrepid characters. Lore Pippin works quite well in a Ranger-themed deck, aiding in the ongoing struggle to keep enemies in the staging area. Sam Gamgee is one of the best “splash” heroes in the game, providing 3 willpower and an amazing ability for the bargain price of only 8 threat. For non-Saga scenarios Frodo remains one of the best low-cost defensive options for Spirit, especially with all of the threat reduction available. Tactics can even make use of Merry. Sure, without his friends he is less than formidable in a fight, but two willpower for 6 threat can be a real benefit to a deck with otherwise high-threat heroes.

As much as these heroes fit well into all sorts of decks, there is one area where Hobbits struggle. Low strength and defense stats can make it a challenge to use many Hobbits in combat. Sure, Merry shines in a dedicated Hobbit deck. Likewise, Frodo can be amazing as a defender in the right heavy-Spirit decks. Still, there are times when the Witch-king of Angmar wants to do bad things, and it helps to have more than a set of pots and pans as defense.

Halfling-Determination-TBRThis is where Halfling Determination comes into the picture. Using Samwise Gamgee, gardener extraordinaire, as our example, let’s look at how this card can be used to maximal effect. Knowing that we don’t want to wait for trouble to sneak up on us, we can optionally engaged our enemy. Samwise readies and already his ire is up at the thought of  his master in trouble. With his trusty Hobbit Cloak, Sam is already a formidable 4 defense against the enemy. But the Witch-king is no slouch. We need something more to be able to withstand this enemy’s attack. Thanks to Samwise’s Halfling Determination, he can weather the onslaught of the Witch-king without flinching.

If we happen to have a readying effect on hand, like some tasty Cram, Sam can even counter-attack. With Halfling Determination also boosting his attack, and with the help of a Dagger of Westernesse, Samwise the Brave will be able to damage the Witch-king of Angmar, all by himself. To be fair, this is an idealized situation, but the versatility of this card is certainly apparent. Even a mono-Tactics deck can make use of this card, as the prospect of committing Merry to the quest with 4 willpower is welcome in a deck that will often lack for questing strength.

Westfold Horse-breeder

It is an encourage sign to see the Mount trait gain in importance in the game. After all, horses have some rather important roles in the tales. Even loyal Bill the Pony is vital to the Fellowship in their journey to the Misty Mountains. As a Bear, and shameless killer of orcs, I have a fondness for everything that walks on four-legs. Except Wargs, of course, they need to all die in a blaze of wizard-fire.

Westfold-Horse-breeder-VoIAppropriately, mounts are some of the more useful attachments in the game. Asfaloth remains, undeniably, the most efficient location-control available in the game. Newly released, Rohan Warhorse is an essential part of any heavy-Tactics deck that plans on doing a lot of killing. Even the Steed of the Mark, lowliest of the mounts, has a place in decks with resource acceleration.

Lore has plenty of ways to fetch Asfaloth, but Spirit and Tactics are decidedly less friendly when it comes to providing a means to call your horses. In this context, Westfold Horse-breeder is the perfect compliment. Being able to pay 1 resource to immediately search 20% of your deck for a Mount is quite a deal. With the strength of Asfaloth and the Warhorse alone, this effect is worth 1 resource.

The fact that Westfold Horse-breeder gives you a useful ally in the bargain is really quite amazing. While a single willpower might at first seem unimpressive, one simply has to look at Tactics to see how expensive that stat can truly be. This ally not only provides an excellent chance to pull a power-card, but can be used very round to bolster your questing efforts. With the Rohan trait, it can even receive benefit from cards like Astonishing Speed, or Éomund’s untimely (yet somehow inevitable) demise. In an emergency, our poor stable-hand can even take an Orc Scimitar to the face, though that seems a most unfit end for such a cherubic character.

Daeron’s Runes

Daeron's RunesCard drawing effects will always be one of the most important “glue” effects in the game. Your deck can include the best cards in that game, but if you are only drawing one of those cards per round, some scenarios are going to bully you into submission. If you don’t want to be the kid crying on the playground, it is wise to bring along multiple means for drawing cards, to defend yourself from the encounter deck’s depravations.

While some might look at Deep Knowledge, from The Voice of Isengard, as their go-to form of card drawing, this is less good as a “glue” effect. Unless a deck features Spirit threat-reduction effects, or Lore Aragorn, the risk of raising your threat every time you want to draw additional cards can start to become overwhelming. Even in a deck built to deal with this, Deep Knowledge can often have the same effective outcome as Daeron’s Runes. The reason for this is simple: duplicate unique cards.

Because many of the most powerful cards in the game are unique, a typical deck will include two or three copies of these cards, to ensure that they are readily available. While this is great for consistency, it tends to choke your hand with a bunch of duplicate cards. This is where Deep Knowledge is not always better than Daeron’s Runes. Sure, in a deck with 50 different cards, drawing 2 cards and keeping both is always better than drawing two and then having to discard a card from your hand. The question is: how often are you going to draw a duplicate with those 2 cards from Deep Knowledge? If your deck has enough copies of unique cards, the odds become pretty good that some of those extra cards you draw from Deep Knowledge are just dead in your hand.

For this reason, Daeron’s Runes is the better choice as a general “glue” card. You certainly can’t argue with the price, and with The Voice of Isengard introducing some serious hate against large hand-sizes, the Runes can even be an advantage. Because you don’t actually net a card when using Daeron’s Runes (it’s more accurate to think of it as a deck-filtering effect than a card drawing effect), it is one of the only Lore “card-drawing” effects which you can safely include against scenarios like The Fords of Isen.

Sure, there will be times when Deeper Knowledge, or other, more expensive effects are the better choice. Mono-Lore is a prime example because Mithrandir’s Advice is amazing in such decks. However, as a general rules, and particularly in multi-sphere decks where resources are at a premium, Daeron’s Runes is one of the best ways to hold your deck together and ensure that it runs at maximum efficiency.

Summary

There are many different criteria for what makes a great “glue” card. One of the things that you will notice in my choices is that they are all low-cost. It doesn’t make sense to use platinum as the insulation of your house. The glue is the cheap stuff that holds all of the fancy expensive stuff together. That is precisely why it has such a short, funny-sounding name.

This goes without saying, but not every great glue card belongs in every deck. Obviously a deck without Hobbits wouldn’t include Halfling Determination. Likewise, Envoy of Pelargir becomes a lot less desirable in a deck that features no Gondor or Noble heroes. Just like its real-world analog, the idea of glue is not that you use as much as possible. Glue in your deck is like salt in your food. Too much, and you won’t have room for anything else – so the whole thing turns into a mess. Too little,  and everything falls apart, into a boring collection of individual ingredients. The most important thing about glue cards is to remember that they are an essential part of any effective deck. The big shiny unique cards may take all of the glory – but it is the glue cards, working tirelessly behind the scenes, that put you in a position to win.

Posted in Card Lists, Discussion, Strategy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Contest Winner: Raiding the Kitchen of Orthanc

Image

I don’t know why I didn’t think of this idea sooner. Judging this contest is as happy as a bear can be – there has been so much good food to eat! Mrs. Beorn and I want to extend a very big thank you to everyone who submitted a recipe. We have enjoyed trying out all of the various delicious meals.

Unfortunately, we cannot award the prize to everyone, but there were many deserving entries. In particular, I would like to give honorable mention to the Spanish Omelette, Sauerbraten, Maple Syrup Salmon, Mushrooms and Bacon, Chicken Paprikash, and the Shepherd’s Pie. To say that I have eaten well over the last week and a half would be quite an understatement.

Of all the dishes we tried, the absolute best was the Aromatic Lamb Shanks. A hearty congratulations to shaungamer! Your recipe was so delicious that Mrs. Bear and I were even talking about it the next day. Please contact the hall at your earliest convenience so that we can arrange to ship your copy of The Voice of Isengard. Thanks again to everyone who entered and be on the look out for another exciting contest from the Hall of Beorn. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go take a nap, all of this food has made me sleepy.

Sleeping-Bear

Posted in Community, Contest, Fun, Recipe | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Good Cause

Image

As some of you may know, when I’m not patrolling The Carrock, I make my home in Austin, Texas. Tragically, two people were killed last night during the SXSW festival. My wife was at the festival and thankfully decided to go home early for the night. It is moments like these that remind us just how fragile life is. One minute, people are laughing and talking and having fun, and the next two lives are extinguished. I work downtown and going into work this morning was like being in a dream, everyone wordlessly sharing the knowledge of the tragedy, and respect for those killed and injured.

This site is about games, and having fun, so I don’t often bring up “real life” issues. The fact of the matter is that more than twenty people were injured in this event, some of whom are in critical condition. Medical bills cost money, and in some cases the injuries sustained will be with the victims for the rest of their lives. For anyone who knows people in Austin, who has attended SXSW, or even just wants to do something helpful for other human beings in need, I encourage you to donate.

https://www.austincommunityfoundation.org/?nd=donate_detail&donation_id=2831&return_nd=donate

Any money donated will go to the victims and their families. I promise I won’t turn this blog into some spammy demand for money, but I feel very strongly about this issue. Life is more important than just fun and games, and sometimes it is appropriate to acknowledge that and do what you feel is right. Thanks to anyone who reads this, and decides to help in any way they can.

Posted in Community | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment