Redemption at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields!


This week I rejoined Brandon, Sean and Chad on the Cardboard of the Rings Twitch for our second attempt at a four player game of the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. With power decks in hand, we narrowly held off the hosts of Mordor and tasted victory. I brought an updated version of my Aggro Caldara deck and it performed admirably. Be sure to check out the stream for a rousing victory and a most entertaining game.

Posted in Aggro, Cardboard of the Rings, Community, Fun, OCTGN, Strategy, The Grey Company, Twitch, Videos | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Battle of the Pelennor Fields was a Massacre


I was fortunate enough to join the guys from Cardboard of the Rings on Twitch for an epic game of The Battle of the Pelennor Fields. I brought one of my favorite support decks which features Beorn, Bifur and Mablung. This quest is brutally difficult and Minas Tirith ultimately fell to the armies of Sauron – but not before Beorn slew a War Mûmak with his own two paws. Despite the defeat, I had an absolute blast playing with everyone. We’ll try again next week, hopefully with more success.

Posted in Cardboard of the Rings, Community, Deck Lists, Multiplayer, OCTGN, Screenshot, Strategy, Twitch, Videos | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Alternate Art: Zero is not Nothing


As much as I enjoy making mono-sphere decks, there is always the temptation to go the other direction and include three or even all four spheres in a deck. There are so many good cards spread across spheres that it is often difficult to narrow your choices down. Thankfully, the card pool now has a wide variety of zero cost cards to make multi-sphere decks less risky of a proposition. What’s more, some of these cards (I’m looking at you A Very Good Tale and Daeron’s Runes) happen to be among the most potent cards in their respective spheres.

Assuming you already have the sphere match, zero-cost cards function as a sort of glue; they help to hold all of the pieces of a multi-sphere deck together. This is not to say that these cards aren’t also valuable in more focused decks with only one or two spheres, their low costs and high impact just makes them all the more important in a deck which is splitting its attention among many disparate facets of the game. With that in mind, I wanted to make a bit of a present for anyone else in the community who appreciates the value of free cards.

What follows are alternate art versions of just some of my favorite 0-cost cards. This follows in the tradition of my previous post with alternate art staples, only this time we focus on cards which can slot easily into a wide variety of decks – thanks to their bargain prices. It speaks volumes about the state of the meta-game that so many of these cards are at the heart of many of the game’s most popular decks. It remains to be seen whether newer entrées, cards like Dúnedain Remedy, will similarly become staples. I have long been a fan of cards with that kind of efficiency and versatility. As a bonus, I’ve included a few heroes at the end of the list, since many people enjoyed my alternate art hero cards inspired by the art of Magali Villeneuve. I hope that you enjoy these cards, and as always you can contact me if you are interested in printable versions. Don’t forget, you can’t always judge the value of a thing by how much it costs.

All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost; The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

dunedain-remedy-front-face a-very-good-tale-front-face gondorian-fire-front-face foe-hammer-front-face blood-of-numenor-front-face elronds-counsel-front-face expert-treasure-hunter-front-face deep-knowledge-front-face good-meal-front-face hidden-cache-front-face elfhelm-front-face legolas-front-face beregond-front-face bifur-front-face

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Bear Draft v3: Card Pool


Over the long weekend, the Austin LotR LCG group met and we had the opportunity to test the latest version of the Bear Draft. For the first time, we included the optional Signature Squad rules which I detailed in an earlier post. Being able to choose a General and receive 6 additional cards was a well-received tweak to the existing draft format. Players enjoyed being able to focus a strategy that was already present in their decks, or even add one that might have been lacking.

By it’s nature a draft pool is limited, so everyone is not going to be able to include 3 copies of each staple card in their deck. These constraints are a big part of the fun of draft – it forces you out of your comfort zone as a deck-builder and player. Still, players want to feel like their draft decks have some kind of strategic and thematic cohesion, and Signature Squads and Havens both allow for this.

argaladBecause of time constraints we decided not to include the optional Haven cards, but I hope to test those out in the near future. All told, we drafted a wide array of decks, including a staging area control deck built around Argalad. It was exciting to have my first exposure to this new hero be in a draft game.

The card pool for this game has slowly but steadily grown to the point where a limited format like draft is not nearly as difficult to play as it once was. In particular, the unique allies released in the last couple of Saga expansions have provided a notable improvement to the pool of available characters.

With so many characters appearing as both heroes and allies in multiple spheres, one important change to the games rules for draft is the uniqueness rule. Unique characters and attachments apply to each player rather than the entire group. This allows a player to play the Legolas ally while another player already controls the hero. With the number of duplicate unique cards in this game it would be very difficult to avoid this problem. In any case, the constraints of a limited card pool seem to more than make up for relaxing such a fundamental rule.

Before drafting player cards, we first drafted heroes. We took 1 copy of each hero printed to date, shuffled them up, and dealt out (mostly) even piles to each player. Since we didn’t want to eliminate any heroes, it was decided to allow for some players to receive larger piles than others. While this meant that some players ended up with one extra hero in their draft cards, it avoided having anyone’s favorite hero removed from the pool accidentally. With heroes drafted, we moved on to the main event of the Bear Draft, drafting the player cards.

glorfindel-allyWhat follows is a list of the player cards included in Bear Draft v3. Cards are divided into three rarities: common, uncommon and rare. Common cards have 3 total copies in the pool, uncommon cards have 2 copies and there is only a single copy of each rare care in the card pool. While this might at first seem too limiting for making a variety of decks, remember that Signature Squads and Havens both afford six additional cards for each player.

With 512 total player cards in the draft pool, cards are shuffled and built into 16 card “packs”. Players then receive 4 such packs and draft them over four successive rounds. To keep things interesting we alternate passing cards clockwise and counter-clockwise with each subsequent round. When all is said and done, players have 64 player cards drafted. From there each player has the chance to improve their decks through the optional rules which I’ve outlined in previous articles.

Gandalf-CoreOf their drafted heroes, each player will select up to 3 (so far no one has had the guts to run a 2 hero deck, but it may yet happen). With heroes selected, players can then choose a General and receive the Signature Squad for that General. Then, players can choose a Haven and receive its corresponding haven cards. Any of these bonus cards are optional, so players can include any or all of them in their decks. If they feel that there deck is strong enough, people can even opt out of receiving bonus cards entirely. Lastly, we gave each player the option of adding one copy of Core Set Gandalf and 1 resource Song card to their decks.

The minimum deck size for draft is 40 cards. We have found that this size is easy to meet with a starting pool of 64 cards plus bonus cards. In our latest draft, I even took a risk and fielded a 50 card deck which faired well. We chose a quest on the easier side of the difficulty scale, again because draft decks tend to be less powerful. That said, there is no reason why you could not play draft decks against a more difficult scenario, to truly put your drafting and building skills to the test. Variant game formats like draft are something which I’ve always enjoyed in card game, and its an enjoyment that seems to be shared by many in my local playgroup. I’m interested to hear other players’ perspectives on the card pool, rarities and bonus features of this exciting format. Those with interest in draft are encouraged to leave me comments and feedback below!

Leadership (120 total cards)

Common x3 (36 total cards)


Errand-rider Naith Guide Warrior of Lossarnach Dwarven Sellsword


Steward of Gondor Dúnedain Mark Dúnedain Warning Cram


Sneak Attack A Very Good Tale Gaining Strength Campfire Tales

Uncommon x2 (64 total cards)


Squire of the Citadel Weather Hills Watchman Warden of Helm’s Deep Pelargir Ship Captain
Herald of Anórien Snowbourn Scout Dúnedain Watcher Guardian of Arnor
Veteran of Osgiliath Longbeard Elder Silverlode Archer Son of Arnor
Gimli Faramir Orophin Galadriel


Hobbit Cloak Rod of the Steward Armored Destrier Visionary Leadership
Heir of Mardil King Under the Mountain Heir of Valandil O Lórien!


Captain’s Wisdom We Are Not Idle Feigned Voices Valiant Sacrifice
For Gondor! Tighten Our Belts Legacy of Númenor Anchor Watch

Rare x1 (20 total cards)


Halbarad Anborn Bill the Pony Glóin Fili
Forlong Erestor Ingold Ceorl Eldahir


Narvi’s Belt Dúnedain Signal Dúnedain Cache Celebrían’s Stone Sword that was Broken


Grim Resolve Lure of Moria Reinforcements Timely Aid Descendants of Kings

Tactics (120 total cards)

Common x3 (36 total cards)


Vassal of the Windlord Defender of Rammas Derndingle Warrior Knight of the Swan


Gondorian Shield Rohan Warhorse Dagger of Westernesse Raiment of War


Feint Quick Strike Hands Upon the Bow Sterner than Steel

Uncommon x2 (64 total cards)


Veteran Spearman Gondorian Spearman Honour Guard Westfold Outrider
Galadhon Archer Winged Guardian Booming Ent Fornost Bowman
Dúnedain Hunter Eagles of the Misty Mountains Erebor Battle Master Marksman of Lórien
Bofur Legolas Skinbark Grimbold


Captain of Gondor Blade of Gondolin Bow of the Galadhrim Rivendell Blade
Citadel Plate Spear of the Citadel Gondorian Fire Dwarven Axe


Foe-hammer Hold Your Ground! Behind Strong Walls Horn’s Cry
Boomed and Trumpeted The Eagles Are Coming! Skyward Volley Hail of Stones

Rare x1 (20 total cards)


Beorn Landroval Guthlaf Rúmil Gwaihir
Beechbone Farmer Maggot Boromir Déorwine Azain Silverbeard


Elven Mail Ring Mail Great Yew Bow Rivendell Bow Horn of Gondor


 Close Call  Straight Shot Hour of Wrath  Revealed in Wrath Thicket of Spears

Spirit (120 total cards)

Common x3 (36 total cards)


Galadriel’s Handmaiden Imladris Stargazer West Road Traveller Ethir Swordsman


Miruvor Unexpected Courage Ancient Mathom Light of Valinor


A Test of Will Hasty Stroke The Galadhrim’s Greeting Elven-light

Uncommon x2 (64 total cards)


Westfold Horse-breeder Escort from Edoras Zigil Miner Galadhrim Weaver
 Sailor of Lune Wandering Took Westfold Horse-breaker Northern Tracker
 Bofur Elven Jeweler Pelargir Shipwright Rhovanion Outrider
Arwen Undómiel Háma Lindir Elfhelm


Hobbit Pony Hobbit Pipe Silver Harp To the Sea, to the Sea!
Steed of Imladris Steed of the Mark Snowmane Blood of Númenor


Stand and Fight Fair and Perilous Dwarven Tomb Island Amid Peril
Tides of Fate Elwing’s Flight Free to Choose Elrond’s Counsel

Rare x1 (20 total cards)


Éomund Kili Dwalin Bilbo Baggins Sam Gamgee
Gamling Emery Damrod Prince Imrahil Glorfindel


Livery of the Tower Song of Earendil Silver Lamp Herugrim Ring of Barahir


Lords of the Eldar Scouting Party Will of the West Fortune or Fate Shadows Give Way

Lore (120 total cards)

Common x3 (36 total cards)


Erebor Hammersmith Warden of Healing Wandering Ent Anfalas Herdsman


Protector of Lórien Forest Snare Self Preservation Ranger Spikes


Daeron’s Runes Deep Knowledge Heed the Dream The Evening Star

Uncommon x2 (64 total cards)


Ithilien Tracker Daughter of the Nimrodel Galadhrim Minstrel Wellinghall Preserver
Ithilien Archer Sarn Ford Sentry Erebor Record-keeper Master of the Forge
Longbeard Map-maker Silvan Tracker Rivendell Minstrel Mirkwood Explorer
Gléowine Dori Elrond Quickbeam


Legacy of Durin Lembas A Burning Brand Entangling Net
Asfaloth Wingfoot Cloak of Lórien Ent Draught


Secret Paths Peace, and Thought Arrows from the Trees Distant Stars
Entmoot The Tree People Noiseless Movement Mithrandir’s Advice

Rare x1 (20 total cards)


Henamarth Riversong Gildor Inglorion Anborn (TBoG) Mablung Galdor of the Havens
Haldir of Lórien Bifur Barliman Butterbur Ghân-buri-Ghân Robin Smallburrow


Ranger Bow Fast Hitch Thror’s Key Expert Treasure-hunter Elf-stone


Quick Ears Take No Notice Word of Command Out of the Wild Advance Warning

Neutral (32 total cards)

Common x3 (9 total cards)

Envoy of Pelargir Resourceful A Good Harvest

Uncommon x2 (16 total cards)

Defender of the Naith Guardian of Rivendell Ered Luin Miner Ranger of Cardolan
Treebeard Elf-friend Sword-thain Hidden Cache

Rare x1 (7 total cards)

Saruman Radagast Good Meal Keys of Orthanc
Favor of the Valar Strider The Seeing-stone
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Bear Draft v3: Havens


The sheer volume of media based upon, or at least loosely inspired by, Tolkien’s writing is impressive. It speaks to the depth and detail of Tolkien’s world that there can be so many different, not to mention excellent, interpretations of Middle-earth. For some of us grey-beards, this fine LCG is not our first foray into a Tolkien-based card game. Middle Earth Collectible Card Game, by Iron Crown Enterprises holds a dear place in my heart, as I know it does for some others in the community.

At this point I believe it is fair to say that this game has far surpassed all other card games set in Middle-earth. Between deluxe cycles, Saga campaigns, Fellowship and Gen Con quests, there truly is something for everyone. The attention to detail continues to be what impresses me the most. As a lifelong fan of Tolkien, it is the little touches that remind me that the designers of this game, unlike many franchise-based games, have a deep affection for the source material.

MECCG LórienEven so, there are some elements from Middle-earth CCG that I miss. One of the aspects of that game that I really enjoyed was the way that locations had an impact, both geographically and in terms of the kinds of allies you could recruit. This allowed for a wide variety of deck strategies, and helped keep your enemy guessing about where you might travel next. I’ve taken inspiration from Middle-earth CCG’s concept of strategic locations in Middle-earth with this wrinkle to my latest draft format.

The idea is simple: after players have finished drafting, they will have the option of selecting a haven from which there party of heroes begins their quest. This takes places immediately after players select their General and add his signature squad to their draft cards, so the decision adds to the strategy of how you will finish building your deck.

Wellinghall-PreserverHavens are thematically and strategically tied to the group of beings which inhabit them. For example, Wellinghall is filled with Ents and Ent-related cards. On the other hand, Meduseld is where you will find the Rohirrim and their majestic steeds. Imladris is where you can find the household of Elrond have-Elven. Likewise the Grey Havens of Lindon house the shipwrights who take the Noldor to the undying lands. Any take of refuge from the horrors of the world would of course be incomplete without mentioning The Shire, bustling with the indomitable Hobbits.

Starting with whichever player last picked their General, players will choose a Haven from the list below and add those cards (in the specified quantity) to their draft cards and the signature cards for their General. All havens include six cards, just like signature squads, and players are encouraged to choose a haven which matches well with their choice of hero. For example, selecting Celeborn as your General and then choosing to start in the Haven of The Naith makes all kinds of sense.

Unless otherwise specified (e.g. x2 or x3), haven cards come with only a single copy of each card. Just as with signature squads, havens do not allow you to break deck-building rules of 3 per card by title, so players should keep that in mind when they are selecting. Each of these cards is optional – you can play with as many or as few haven cards (from your selected haven) as you want. With a wise choice, many haven cards will be beneficial to your overall strategy. As a final option, players can choose not to begin at a haven at all and take a more Ranger-like approach. Instead of receiving haven cards, these itinerant players gain one copy of Core Set Gandalf and 2 songs from this list: Song of Kings, Song of Battle, Song of Travel and Song of Wisdom.

For those interested in variant format and draft, be on the lookout for the final article in the series of Bear Draft v3, in which I detail the new draft pool. In the mean time, happy travels through Middle-earth – may you found yourself in many happy havens to rest your weary feet!

The Shire

Bree: Bill the Pony x2, Hobbit Cloak, Staff of Lebethron, Taste it Again!, Timely Aid
Bamfurlong: Farmer Maggot, Ring Mail, Dagger of Westernesse, Halfling Determination x2, Unseen Strike
Bag End: Bilbo Baggins (The Road Darkens), Hobbit Pipe x2, Smoke Rings x2, Hobbit-sense
Buckland: Curious Brandybuck, Wandering Took, Hobbit Pony x2, Elevenses x2
The Prancing Pony: Barliman Butterbur, Robin Smallburrow, Fast Hitch x2, Expert Treasure-hunter, Take No Notice
Chetwood: Strider x2, Resourceful x2, Vanish from Sight x2


Weather Hills: Dúnedain Signal, Dúnedain Cache, Dúnedain Mark, Dúnedain Warning, Dúnedain Remedy, Dúnedain Message
Amon Sûl: Halbarad, Guardian of Arnor x2, Son of Arnor, Heir of Valandil, Roheryn
Fornost: Dúnedain Hunter x2, Fornost Bowman x2, Tireless Hunters x2
Annúminas: Greyflood Wanderer x2, Warden of Annúminas x2, Northern Tracker x2
The Old Road: A Burning Brand, Elf-stone, Weather-stained Cloak, Strider’s Path x2, Quick Ears


Hall of Beorn: Glóin, Fili, Kili, Cram, A Very Good Tale, Second Breakfast
Bee Pastures: Beorn, Beorning Beekeeper, Honour Guard x2, Close Call x2
Rhosgobel: Radagast, Gwaihir, Winged Guardian, Eagles of the Misty Mountains, Support of the Eagles, The Eagles Are Coming!
Emyn Fuin: Henamarth Riversong, Mirkwood Runner x2, Silvan Tracker x2, Secret Paths

Erebor (and The Iron Hills)

Lonely Mountain: Glóin, Fili, King Under the Mountain, Hardy Leadership, “To Me! O My Kinsfolk!” x2
Gates of Erebor: Bofur, Veteran Axehand x2, Dwarven Axe x2, Heavy Stroke
Dale: Rhovanion Outrider x2, Celduin Traveler, Warden of Arnor, Scouting Party x2
Iron Hills: Erebor Record Keeper, Miner of the Iron Hills x2, Bifur, Legacy of Durin, Ancestral Knowledge


Trollshaws: Erestor, Rivendell Scout, Dawn Take You All! x2, Swift and Silent x2
The Bruinen: Trollshaw Scout, Watcher of the Bruinen, Rivendell Blade, Rivendell Bow, Elven Mail, Revealed in Wrath
Last Homely House: Elrond (The Road Darkens), Imladris Caregiver, Master of the Forge x2, Vilya, Lore of Imladris
Hithaeglir Foothills: Glorfindel (Flight of the Stormcaller), Woodland Courier x2, Elrond’s Counsel x2, Lords of the Eldar
Hidden Refuge: Arwen Undomiel, Imladris Stargazer, Ring of Barahir, Tale of Tinuviel x3


Dimrill Stair: Longbeard Elder x2, We Are Not Idle, Durin’s Song x3
Nanduhirion: Veteran of Nanduhirion, Longbeard Sentry x2, Dwarrowdelf Axe x2, Khazad! Khazad!
Zirakzigil: Zigil Miner x2, Ever My Heart Rises, Hidden Cache x2, Thror’s Key
Dimrill Dale: Longbeard Record-keeper, Longbeard Map-maker, Dori, Thror’s Map x2, Ancestral Knowledge


Orthanc: Saruman, Keys of Orthanc, Legacy of Númenor, The Wizards’s Voice, Power of Orthanc, Deep Knowledge
Wellinghall: Treebeard (The Antlered Crown), Quickbeam, Wandering Ent x2, Ent Draught, Entmoot
Derndingle: Treebeard (The Antlered Crown), Beechbone x2, Skinbark, Booming Ent, Boomed and Trumpeted
White Council: Gandalf (Core), Gandalf (Over Hill and Under Hill), Radagast, Saruman, Elrond (The Road Darkens), Galadriel (The Road Darkens)


The Naith: Galadriel (The Road Darkens), Orophin, Naith Guide, O Lórien! x2, Feigned Voices
Borders of Lorien: Rúmil, Marksman of Lórien, Galadhon Archer x2, Pursuing the Enemy x2
The Nimrodel: Haldir of Lórien (A Journey to Rhosgobel), Galadhrim Minstrel, Daughter of the Nimrodel, Lembas, Tree People, Waters of the Nimrodel
Cerin Amroth: None Return, Leave No Trace, The Door is Closed!, Out of the Wild, Keen as Lances x2
Caras Galadhon: Galadriel’s Handmaiden, Galadhrim Weaver, Nenya, Mirror of Galadriel, Island Amid Peril, The Galadhrim’s Greeting
Golden Wood: Woodland Courier, Lórien Guide, Children of the Sea x2, Lay of Nimrodel x2


Minas Tirith: Denethor, Ingold, Steward of Gondor, Rod of the Steward, Visionary Leadership, Captain’s Wisdom
Map Room of the Citadel: Emery x2, Map of Earnil, Shadows Give Way x2, Against the Shadow
Tower of the Citadel: Knight of Minas Tirith x2, Book of Eldacar x2, Thicket of Spears, White Tower Watchman
Library of the Citadel: Master of Lore x2, Palantir, Scroll of Isildur, Mithrandir’s Advice x2
War Room of the Citadel: Tome of Atanatar x2, Strength of Arms x2, Reinforcements x2
Houses of Healing: Ioreth x2, Warden of Healing x2, Healing Herbs, Athelas
Rammas: Boromir, Defender of Rammas, Gondorian Shield, Captain of Gondor, Gondorian Fire, Behind Strong Walls
Osgiliath: Faramir, Herald of Anorien, Veteran of Osgiliath, Visionary Leadership, For Gondor!, Grim Resolve
Ithilien: Anborn, Mablung, Ithilien Lookout, Ambush, Entangling Nets, Forest Patrol
Dol Amroth: Prince Imrahil (The Flame of the West), Emery, Pelargir Shipwright, Ethir Swordsman, Will of the West x2
Morthond: Forlong, Warrior of Lossarnach, Ethir Swordsman, Sword of Morthond, Lord of Morthond, Men of the West
Pelennor: Horseback Archer x2, Guthlaf, Westfold Outrider, Spear of the Mark  x2


Gulf of Lhûn: Erestor, Warden of the Havens x2, Mariner’s Compass x2, Anchor Watch
Ered Luin: Blue Mountain Trader x2, Ered Luin Miner x2, Hidden Cache x1, Well-equipped x1
Mithlond: Mithlond Sea-watcher x2, Grappling Hook x2, Skyward Volley x2
Lune: Lindir, Sailor of Lune, “To the Sea, to the Sea”, Elven-light, Elwing’s Flight, Lords of the Eldar
Lindon: Galdor from the Havens (The Treachery of Rhudaur), Lindon Navigator, Narya x2, Explorer’s Almanac, Evening Star


Harrowdale: Snowbourn Scout x2, Éothain, Sneak Attack, Mutual Accord x2
Westfold: Grimbold, Déorwine, Westfold Outrider, Rohan Warhorse, Charge of the Rohirrim, Forth Eorlingas!
Meduseld: Gléowine x2, Rumours from the Earth x3, Isengard Messenger
Hornburg: Gamling, Háma, Elfhelm, Snowmane, Steed of the Mark, Mustering the Rohirrim
Edoras: Eomund x2, Escort from Edoras, The Riddermark’s Finest, Ride to Ruin, Astonishing Speed

As a reward for those who’ve made it this far, here is the latest animal helper to join us at the Hall of Beorn: his name is Kitty.


Posted in Card Lists, Community, Deck Building, Fun, Game Variant, Strategy, Theme | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

The Might of Caldara

Caldara - Passing of the Grey Company Round 2

This photo was from a game that we played last night against The Passing of the Grey Company, at our local Austin LotR LCG group. It must seem unbelievable, but it captures the end of my second planning phase. Prince Imrahil, in addition to having amazing art, is the last piece to catapult Caldara decks into the upper echelon. I’ve built an Aggro Caldara deck, inspired by the one I used last night, that you can check out over on RingsDB.

Prince-Imrahil-FotWOne of the nice things about card games is that, every once in a while, the randomness falls in your favor. In over 20 years of playing card games, last night’s game was one of the best starts I’ve ever had – in any game. There is a rush when your deck gets the perfect draw and is firing on all cylinders, with everything is playing out exactly as you planned. It more than makes up for the frustrating defeats and false starts of past games. In a way, I’m glad that made changes to the deck that I used last night, because there was no way for that collection of cards to ever again achieve such a start. For those who are curious about the details, I’ve reposted them here from the deck description.


The setup for The Passing of the Grey Company allows you to raise your threat by 3 in order to gain an additional resource on each of your heroes. Whether or not you decide to take these extra resources, you have to discard your hand at the end of the first planning phase. Both of these changes to the normal setup proved to be instrumental to a wonderful turn of events. Caldara decks are pretty unique, in that forced discard actually ended up being beneficial.

I opened my first planning by playing Emery for free, and got lucky when she discarded Glorfindel, Damrod and Prince Imrahil from the top of my deck. With six resources, I then played Sword-thain on Emery and paid for an Imladris Stargazer (in retrospect, I should have played the Stargazer first and used her to setup Emery – but it worked out anyway). Next, I discarded Caldara to put Glorfindel, Damrod and Prince Imrahil into play (Emery being a hero allowed me to put 3 allies into play). I discarded Elven-light to give a resource to Arwen. At the end of that planning, I had to discard A Test of Will, Ethir Swordsman and two copies of Pelargir Shipwright.

On my second, with no cards in my hand, Prince Imrahil showed just how powerful he is with Caldara. Thanks to Elven-light and the Stargazer, I was able to draw into Fortune or Fate and a Northern Tracker. I discarded the Northern Tracker to Arwen, then played Fortune or Fate to return Caldara to play. She was not long for play however. I immediately discarded her again, which turned Prince Imrahil back into a hero and put me at 4 Spirit heroes (thanks to Emery). This allowed me to put Northern Tracker, Ethir Swordsman and two copies of Pelargir Shipwright into play on my second turn. For essentially the entire game I had ~25 willpower to commit to the quest.

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Hero Showdown


I was traveling when my compatriots in the Grey Company where recording the Hero Showdown episode, but I wanted to add my voice to the discussion here. Below are my top three heroes for each sphere, along with my seven favorites (to round out a top 10). I then discuss one overrated hero that I consider less useful than their reputation might suggest. Finally, I complete each sphere with my least favorite hero.

It goes without saying that these ratings are more reflective of my deck-building and play style than any sort of objective metrics. Still, I am interested to hear other players’ feedback about my choices. My opinions about many of these heroes have evolved over time and I have no doubt that future cards and play experiences will continue to change my perspective. Add your voice to the discussion in the comments below.


Sam Gamgee.
Sam-Gamgee-Front-FaceBefore Leadership Denethor was released, Sam was my first choice for splashing a Leadership hero into a deck. His primary stat to threat ratio is amazing, providing a major questing boost to any deck. The fact that he comes with his own free ally and has an ability which is powerful and easy to trigger is what pushes him over the top. He even has some fun toys in the form of Hobbit Cloak, Staff of Lebethron and Taste it Again!, if you want to make him the focal point of your strategy. He works as the lynchpin to a Hobbit deck or simply a supporting character in some other archetype, which makes him an excellent fit for a great many decks. Believe it or not, other than Tactics Boromir I have never had one hero do so much in a single round (hint: There is no per-round limit to his ability).

Aragorn-Front-FaceThe original captain for any deck with Leadership. His readying ability would be expensive for any other sphere, but Leadership has no shortage of resources. This is especially true now that Captain’s Wisdom exists because this version of Aragorn has the Noble trait. Thanks to readying, his stats are all useful so he can easily fill any role within a deck. In sphere access to powerful artifacts like Celebrían’s Stone and Sword that was Broken are what really pushes him over the top. He sits at the center of many of the game’s most powerful archetypes. In decks that include other spheres, you also gain access to the game-breaking might of Blood of Númenor and Gondorian Fire.

Denethor-Front-FaceFor anyone who might be skeptical of just how amazing Leadership Denethor is, I encourage you to try him out. The early game boost that Denethor provides is breath-taking. I can’t even count the number of times he has allowed me to drop powerful cards on the first turn. These are cards which I would not otherwise have been able to afford with the usual allotment of 3 resources.

Leadership has the best resource acceleration and many of the best global boost attachments, so being able to play one of these cards on the first turn puts your decks in the driver’s seat. Early game survival is one of the absolute keys to most quests, which is why Denethor’s setup ability is so important. In the late game, his secondary ability to move resources to other Gondor heroes ensures that you are never stuck with money in the wrong place. Versatility combined with early game strength make Denethor a force to be reckoned with.

Other Favorites

Dain Ironfoot


Erkenbrand-TAC-smallThis might be a controversial choice – especially after the release of the Armored Destrier. Still, I feel that it takes too many cards to make Erkenbrand work as your primary defender. I would certainly rather he had 1 attack or 0 willpower and 4 defense instead. I never want to be using him for questing or attacking. Leadership and Lore, which you are essentially forced into if you want to keep using him, is an awkward combination for Rohan decks.

If I’m not running a Rohan deck then there are better dedicated defenders to choose from, even in the Leadership sphere. Without the Gondor trait, Erkenbrand cannot take full advantage of Gondorian Shield and is instead left with cards like Dúnedain Warning and the Armored Destrier. The destrier is an odd fit as he already has shadow cancelation so you are basically doubling up on that ability. Unfortunately, in-trait armor cards like Golden Shield provide him very little benefit. His stats and ability clearly mark him as a defender, yet I feel like Erkenbrand requires too many cards in my deck to use effectively in that role.

Least Favorite

HalbaradHalbarad is okay, but his ability is pretty minimal for a hero. He can be amazing in the right Dúnedain deck, but outside of that he is mediocre for his threat cost. It’s a compliment to the Leadership sphere that its lesser heroes are this good. Still, I will often drop him in favor of Amarthiúl in my Dúnedain decks.

The added smoothing and resource acceleration, along with more a appropriate stat distribution, makes Amarthiúl the superior option unless you really need that 1 extra willpower for questing. Because of Sword that was Broken (a staple of most any Dúnedain builds), it is difficult for me to rationalize Halbarad over Amarthiúl. Even with these criticisms, Halbarad is a hero which I actually find cause to use in some decks, so he fairs better than my least favorite heroes from other spheres.


Beorn-Front-FaceAnyone familiar with my deck-building style will notice that there are three pillars which form the basis of most all of my decks. Resource acceleration, card drawing and action advantage. With very few exceptions, the best decks in the game are all going to feature these three facets in some fashion. Often, the game-breaking decks take one or more of these concepts and push it to extremes.

As I mentioned in my discussion of Denethor above, the early game is a critical time for most decks. Until you have mustered supporting allies, or attached critical attachments to your heroes, or built up your hand with game-saving events, you are at your most vulnerable. A hero with built-in action advantage on defensive and a massive attack stat is an invaluable asset for the early game. Alongside any other 3-attack hero (the standard for any good attacker), Beorn can kill all but the biggest enemies in a single round. Being able to deal with these early threats – without support from any other cards in play – will see you through until your deck’s primary strategy comes on board. Even quests with archery or direct damage are no problem as Beorn has the largest hit point pool of any hero. I’m obviously biased when it comes to this hero, but anyone who doesn’t recognize that he is top tier has simply never used him in the right quests (e.g. Massing at Osgiliath).

Mablung-Front-FaceAt this point the theme with my choices for favorite heroes should be fairly apparent. Of any Tactics hero, Mablung has the most consistent resource acceleration. He is one of the few Tactics cards of any kind which helps, and with the recent errata to Horn of Gondor his value has only increased. His ability can be triggered in each phase, which means that with a bit of creativity you can easily maximize his strengths.

Thanks to the relatively new Dúnedain archetype, engaging an enemy can bring multiple benefits, which makes Mablung pair very well with other heroes like Amarthiúl and Tactics Aragorn. His traits are both useful and his well-rounded stats are a benefit. Some players will complain about a hero with 2’s in each of their main stats. The argument goes that these stats are “wasted”. While I can see their point when it comes to heroes with a single obvious role, but I actually prefer versatility when it comes to my support heroes. With the ability to wield Gondorian Fire on the Attack, Gondorian Shield and Behind Strong walls on defense, or simply quest for 2, Mablung is one of the most versatile Tactics heroes.

Boromir-Front-FaceAfter all of this talk about the importance of action advantage, my final choice for favorite Tactics hero is a fait accompli. Tactics Boromir remains the single most powerful hero in the game when it comes to action advantage. As the card pool widens, and the number of options for threat reduction continues to grow, the son of Denethor becomes ever stronger. His traits provide an embarrassing number of options for boosting his already excellent stats. Essentially every weapon and armor which is not limited to some racial trait works perfectly with Boromir.

In particular, anything which boosts his stats for more than one attack is a huge win as Boromir can keep swinging until no enemies are left standing. He is so powerful in combination with combat boosts that there are even rumblings in the community about potential errata. The prevalence of resource acceleration, in concert with multiple copies of Blood of Númenor and Gondorian Fire, practically makes Boromir invincible. Even if you take the unconventional route and choose not to make Boromir the focus of a deck, his ability is always useful – especially in scenarios with multiple exhaust effects. The number of times he has single-handedly turned a losing situation into victory is almost mind-numbing.

Other Favorites

Brand son of Bain


Bard the Bowman.
Bard the BowmanBard is nice in multiplayer, but it takes too much effort to make Great Yew Bow consistent that it feels wasted. Unfortunately, he doesn’t work well with most other weapons. Because the bow exhausts, it doesn’t pair with any of the Weapon-related events. Assuming you do have some other weapon, you can take advantage of Straight Shot, but this is an all-or-nothing kind of strategy and many enemies now have three or more defense.

Trying to use Elf-friend to give him access to Rivendell Blade is simply too finicky for my play style. If I’m not using elves and I want a Ranged Tactics hero for multiplayer, I much prefer his grandson Brand (even with the questionable art). With 2 willpower, he can serve as a quester, but this is a dubious role for a Tactics hero with an 11 starting threat. For a dedicated attacker who isn’t central to my deck, I would much prefer one of the many Tactics heroes with 9 starting threat.

Least Favorite

DoriThis is another example of a hero whose ability is too limited and his stats are too lackluster for the threat cost. When you are using him in his primary role, he basically gets no benefit from Dain – which is a cardinal sin in most Dwarf decks. If his ability was just a bit less constrained he could be good, but Tactics has far too many options for combat support to waste a hero slot on a so-so ability.

Even Dori’s sentinel keyword is strange as it overlaps with his primary ability. If his stats were a bit more asymmetrical (say 1 attack and 3 defense), his ability might have real value, but as it stands he requires additional cards to offset the cost of a hero action. It is also worth noting that ally Dori’s ability has everything that this card lacks. You can use it after damage is assigned, and it can even redirect damage to heroes like Beorn who are otherwise difficult to affect. I would much rather a player bring ally Dori to the table than this version.


Arwen Undómiel
Arwen-UndómielThanks to Elven-light, Arwen gives you both card draw and resource acceleration in Spirit. Obviously she is not as consistent of a resource engine as Leadership can build, but the she gives you access to all of the Spirit staples along with all of the Noldor tricks – quite a potent mix.

Again, you will notice that her ability works from the first round. Early-game strength is a theme in many of my favorite heroes. Arwen is one of the few heroes, in fact, who is completely unhindered by a bad opening hand. Her limitation of targeting only Noldor and Aragorn might at first seem too harsh, but she can give resources to herself and she opens the potential for viable decks Spirit decks without Leadership for resource acceleration. This archetype simply did not exist outside after the errata of Zigil Miner.

Galadriel-Front-FaceThe lady of Lórien is deceptively powerful. Consistent card draw and threat reduction are not to be discounted. Even without her ring, the action advantage for ally-heavy decks means that she has an immediate impact on the game. Her ability is not limited to you, which makes her a welcome sight in multiplayer games.

She is a foundational piece of a very strong Silvan archetype, yet has the low threat cost and flexibility to fit into so many different decks. Add to all of this the underrated quest control of Nenya and the amazing search capabilities of her Mirror, and Galadriel is one of the most potent Spirit heroes. Some players might mistake her inability to directly participate in the key phases of the game as a weakness, but really Galadriel is the ultimate support hero.

Glorfindel-FoSIt was difficult choosing between Glorfindel and Éowyn, but I ultimately chosen Glorfindel because his stats and supporting cards are so consistently useful. Éowyn can use cards like Herugrim and Golden Shield, but making her into a well-rounded hero takes much more work for her than it does for Glorfindel. For the longest time, he was the only hero in Spirit who provided combat prowess without requiring some other trickery.

Glorfindel excels at multiple facets of the game and as much as the fatigue of overuse is real, he remains the best choice for a wide range of decks. Asfaloth continues to be the standard by which all other location-control is judged. Light of Valinor is criminally low-cost action advantage which completely negates his one weakness. Lastly, his meager 5 starting threat makes Glorfindel far more versatile than even recent heroes in terms of the decks that he supports. Until more Hobbits were introduced, Secrecy decks with 3 heroes simply did not exist without Glorfindel. He is probably the best “glue” hero in the game.

Other Favorites



Idraen-smallI’ve used her in a fair few decks now, and I honestly find that I am looking to replace her in many of them. Like Lanwyn, her readying ability can be difficult to consistently trigger in some scenarios. Certainly you can pair her with location control to make this easier to manage, but have still be burned by a lack of (non-Immune) locations in play to choose from. Her stats are useful, no doubt. Still, her starting threat is high for Spirit, so she changes the kind of deck that I end up making with her.

If I’m looking for 3 attack strength Glorfindel and Lanwyn seem like better choices in many decks. Of the trait-specific title attachments, I consider Warden of Arnor to be the weakest, so that is certainly not a mark in her favor. Her traits can be useful, but it still feels resource intensive to use resource acceleration and Blood of Númenor to turn her into a defender. I have no doubt that she will make an appearance in Scouting Party decks, but I still prefer Lanwyn for that trait so that I can keep my threat low and just focus on questing. I’m not saying that she is bad, but I just feel like her ability is not as consistent as I would like and her starting threat forces me to build the kind of decks that I would rather make using other spheres.

Least Favorite

Fatty Bolger
fatty-bolger-tbr-smallNot much to say here. His ability can help in multiplayer, but the Hobbit archetype is so strong at questing that this strategy does not make a whole lot of sense. Thanks to Hobbit Pony and cards like Elevenses, it is now possible to control exactly how much willpower is committed to the quest.

In a way, his ability implies that you are failing at questing, otherwise the cost is too high. If you’re already questing successfully there is no way that you want to pay 3 threat for 3 additional progress. Spirit gives you so many less-expensive ways to go about boosting your quest progress, even after staging. Regardless of threat reduction and Hobbit Pipes, consistent threat raising is far too steep a cost when other Hobbit heroes bring so much more archetype synergy to the table.


Elrond-SaFThis will not be a very controversial choice, but even before you talk about his Ring, Elrond is one of the most powerful heroes in the game. Boosting healing will always be strong, especially so when direct damage remains a near-constant presence in modern quests. Being able to pay for allies from any sphere makes him the cog that runs a plethora of amazing and unique decks.

With his stats and the Lore sphere he has the capability to be a stellar quester or defender (and no slouch as an attacker). You can of course attach Vilya and include any kind of deck scrying to transform Elrond into a game-breaking hero. In reality, he is incredibly versatile and powerful even without any supplemental cards. His high threat is perhaps his only downside, but the advantages that he brings to the table make it worth it, and you can always surround him with lower threat supporting heroes.

Pippin (TBR)He is probably my favorite “glue” hero. At the bargain cost of 6 threat, he gives you access to the Lore sphere. He has a built-in card draw ability himself, so even if you only a few Lore events with him your deck just gained a ton of consistency. He slots perfectly into a Hobbit deck that wants to pick its enemies carefully and then benefit from optional engagement. Even if he is the lone Hobbit in your deck, he still improves the control that players exert over the staging area.

Like all Hobbits, his stats are weak, but he spends most of his time questing, a skill at which he excels. Pippin pairs particularly well with other Lore heroes like Haldir that want to avoid engagement and snipe enemies from the staging area. In addition to Hobbit-only decks, he facilitates cards like Take No Notice, In the Shadows and now Arrows from the Trees. A cheap and versatile hero with innate card draw is a welcome addition to most any deck.

Erestor-Front-FaceNot many heroes single-handedly create a new archetype overnight. Erestor is undoubtedly one of the most unique heroes in the game. While his drawback at first looked questionable, now that the Noldor strategy has become more clear Erestor has truly come into his own. With so many cards that either play from the discard pile, or gain benefits from other cards in the discard pile, the idea of quickly discarding your entire deck suddenly seems pretty appealing. One of my favorite aspects of Erestor is the way that he makes niche cards and combinations viable.

A great example of this is Keeping Count. This was a card which I always dismissed as garbage, because even with all of the search and card draw effects in the game it was just too difficult to make that card work. When you start with the sheer card drawing might of Erestor, and bolster it with other free card drawing effects like Daeron’s Runes and Deep Knowledge, it suddenly becomes almost impossible not to see multiple copies of Keeping Count. A card which was essentially unplayable is now consistently a factor in my silly Erestor-based experiments. This card is but one example of the power of card draw. Other players have found a wide variety of ways to exploit Erestor’s ability, and I have no doubt that future cards will only add to his potential.

Other Favorites

Haldir of Lórien


Treebeard-ToS-smallI have a few decks which feature hero Treebeard, and I enjoy them quite a bit. I still feel like he is overrated as a hero because his ally version is such a perfect design. To say nothing of amazing stats, being neutral and generating multi-purpose “Ent” resources each turn makes the ally version of Treebeard a perfect splash in almost any deck. Even if you have no other Ent characters, you can use his resources to ready himself every other round.

Hero Treebeard is much like hero Beorn to me – a giant killing machine. While that is fun, the cost is high and it requires a very specific deck focus. Without built in action advantage, you end up having to dedicate ton of deck space to both healing and readying, otherwise Treebeard is not being used to his full potential. I enjoy the design of the Treebeard hero and I will continue to tinker around with decks that use him, but the existence of his ally version is always going to put him at the losing end of an unfavorable comparison.

Least Favorite

Faramir (AoO)I really wanted to like this version of Faramir. It’s not for a lack of trying, but I just have never been able to make a Faramir deck with which I was truly satisfied. His combination of starting threat and stats makes for an awkward deck. Perhaps the upcoming focus on two-hero decks will bring some support for him (my most consistent deck featured him and Sam Gamgee as my only heroes), but I’m not going to hold my breath.

Now with Damrod, I feel like Lore Gondor/Ranger decks have a much more consistent and powerful way to attack into the staging area than trying to setup some combo with Faramir. It is true that Faramir can be very powerful in the right multi-player scenarios, but his fundamental strategy strikes me as far too niche for such a high profile character. Either version of Leadership Faramir seems far superior in most cases.

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