What follows are five often overlooked cards that can be particularly effective in the Heirs of Númenor scenarios. With Battle and Siege quests, massive enemies, and some truly brutal treacheries, the Heirs of Númenor has forced players to reevaluate their decks and, in some cases, make wholesale changes to some long-held deck-building strategies. The cards that follow may not fit into a given deck, but the strategies that they embody and efficiencies that they possess are worth considering. As many have noted, the HoN quests are not easy, so every potential advantage is worth exploring.
Shadow of the Past
If the deck lists posted in various LotR forums are any indication, Shadow of the Past does not see a whole lot of play. At a cost of 2 for a seemingly minor effect, even if it is considered for encounter deck manipulation, it doesn’t seem to often make the cut. This card, however, underscores a very important consideration that many players neglect to make about encounter decks. Smaller encounter decks (I’m looking at you, Into Ithilien) have something that I like to call “density of nastiness”. With larger encounter decks, you are far less likely to see any given treachery or other game-changing “when revealed” or “shadow” effect. With well tuned decks, and by questing at the appropriate pace, you can often power through a scenario before you ever see any of the nastiness lurking in the encounter deck.
This sort of aggressive questing is much harder to do with small encounter decks that are packed with bad, and worse, surprises. It’s all well and good to say, “you need to quest heavily” when strategizing for Into Ithilien. However, when an early Southron Support dumps two Haradrim into the staging area, on top of the quest-killing bats that you just revealed, you are going to be hard-pressed to simply hold your ground, much less quest successfully. A strategy of just having each player include 3 copies of A Test of Will in their deck is an overly simplistic strategy. Many of the worst cards in the HoN quests have abilities that cannot be cancelled by A Test of Will (or Eleanor). Whether it is the doomed on Southron Support, or the surge on Blocking Wargs, or the Forced effect on Haradrim Elite, canceling when revealed effects is only half of a solid strategy for dealing with these quests.
The power of cards like Shadow of the Past is that they are proactive instead of reactive. Rather than passively wait for a card with a “when revealed” effect that you can cancel (all the while you are being shot full of arrows), Shadow of the Past allows you to take a more innocuous card and ensure that it takes the place of the Mumak or Morgul Spider that you otherwise would have seen next round. Certainly this kind of encounter deck manipulation has somewhat diminished effectiveness in multiplayer games, but the fact that you get to chose which card you will see again, depending on your deck’s strategy, is very powerful.
Forest Bat, for example, can be an exceedingly annoying card, especially with such a razor-thin margin for error when questing in these scenarios. But a deck that includes Thalin, chump-killer extraordinaire, cares not a whit about bats. As long as Thalin is questing, the Bats become a blank encounter card. In a scenario as difficult as Into Ithilien, encounter cards with no effect are the holy grail. The only thing more fun than watching Thalin dismiss some pesky Bats with a swat of his axe, is using Shadow of the Past so that you can repeat the process next round.
It’s been some time since Kazad-dum gave us Durin’s Song, one of the best stat-enhancing events in the game. Though often overshadowed by tactics events such as Khazad! Khazad! (appropriately, also released in Khazad-dûm) and (giggle inducing) Heavy Stroke, Durin’s Song remains one of the most versatile and affordable tools for Dwarf deck. One of the most important things to keep in mind when playing an LCG, is to read the cards carefully. One, single, very important word separates Durin’s Song from the pretenders, and elevates it to a truly powerful card. I’ll give you a hint, it’s the last word in this card’s text.
Because the effect of Durin’s Song last until the end of the round, and it boosts each of a Dwarf hero’s stats by a hefty 2 points, this card is simply amazing in the Heirs of Númenor. Need an “unexpectedly” courageous Gimli to quest and then kill a Southron Company during combat? No problem. Thalin needs a bite of Cram between bat-swatting and blocking some Haradrim? Sounds good. This card combined with dwarf heroes and any one among a plethora of means for standing heroes is absolutely stellar. In previous articles, I have emphasized the importance of looking for synergy while deck-building. Traits, particularly the Dwarf trait, are an easy and natural way to build these kinds of synergies into you deck. Another concept that I mentioned before, and will be the focus of an upcoming article, is the idea of versatility.
Of all the good things about this card, one of the most important is its inherent versatility. Do you need a few extra willpower to push through the 3rd stage of Into Ithilien? Or perhaps you need some critical protection against a nasty shadow effect that is about to finish off your defending hero? Or maybe you just need a little bit more strength in your counter-attack to finish of that Mumak? In the right deck, with ways to ready a Dwarf hero multiple times, you can get all three of these benefits from a single use of this card. The balancing act of having the right kinds of characters to commit to Battle, Siege and “traditional” quests is one of the real challenges to Heirs of Númenor. To give you an idea of just how powerful this card is, it is one of the very few cards that remain effective, even after a ill-timed doomed card changes Approaching Cair Andros into a Siege in the middle of the quest phase.
The introduction of new cards can sometimes shed light on an existing strategy that was always viable. A great example of this is the only weapon included in the Heirs of Númenor. Spear of the Citadel, for 2 Tactics resources, makes any tactics character just like a Gondorian Spearman on defense. For extra fun, you can actually attach the Spear of the Citadel to a Gondorian Spearman and watch him automatically kill any attacking enemy with 2 or fewer hit points, against which he is declared a defender. This ability to kill attackers before their attack even resolves is an excellent way to deal with enemies that have a high attack and low hit points. Along with Feint, killing an attacker on the defense remains Tactics’ best way to deal with potentially devastating shadow effects.
As tough as Beregond with a Citadel Plate might seem, a misfortunate reveal of Haradrim Elite’s shadow effect can ruin your day. It’s bad enough having to block a Mumak once, but having it attack again immediately, before you even have a chance to counter-attack, can be downright awful. This is where direct damage is much more powerful than simply boosting your character’s stats. By killing an attacking enemy before its attack even resolves, you avoid a potentially nasty shadow card (or cards) that was dealt to that enemy, along with any onerous forced effects that may trigger after that enemy attacks. On top of that, direct damage ignores an enemy’s defense, so a lowly spearman can fell even the toughest enemy, as long as you soften them up a bit first.
This is where Swift Strike comes in. In a deck with Thalin committed to the quest each turn, each enemy is going to come into play (assuming that it survives), with 1 damage already on it. If you combine cards like Gondorian Spearman and Spear of the Citadel with a well-timed Swift Strike, you can take down those pesky ambushing Haradrim Elite before you even get to the end of the quest phase. It might seem expensive for 2 resources, but the value of killing enemies on the defense should not be underestimated. By killing an enemy with a defender, you not only avoid the shadow effects from that attacker, you also free up a character that would have been exhausting to counter-attack that enemy. Each of the HoN scenarios can absolutely flood you with enemies, these seemingly small efficiencies of saving one ready character here or there, can make all the difference when the game comes down to the critical rounds.
A Watchful Peace
It probably sounds strange to describe a card as “overlooked” when it has just been released, but this card seems to have been greeted, for the most part, with indifference. To be sure, there are more powerful, high-profile spirit events, but this card actually represents something fairly unique for this sphere. Up to this point, Spirit has had few if any ways to manipulate the encounter deck. This card provides and inexpensive way to control what the top card of the encounter deck is, and it does so in a way that has high-synergy with other staples of the Spirit sphere. Cards like Northern Tracker, Lorien Guide and The Riddermark’s Finest
These location control cards have a lot of synergy with A Watchful Peace. Committing Northern Tracker to the quest can explore a location in the staging area, by responding with A Watchful Peace we can control the first shadow card that will be revealed in the ensuing combat. By waiting to trigger this response until a location with no shadow effect is explored, we can ensure that our defending characters do not face an unpleasant surprise. In the rare event in an HoN quest where there aren’t any engaged enemies, you are prepared for the first revealed card next round.
Few Spirit characters have good defense or defensive-oriented abilities, so the ability to control which shadow card your defending characters are facing is very useful for this sphere. In the right circumstances, this card can be better than Hasty Stroke. Not only do you ensure that a harmless shadow card is revealed, but by moving a card destined for the discard pile back to the top of the deck, you give yourself more time before you have to deal with the powerful “when revealed” and “shadow” cards still in the encounter deck. In the HoN scenarios, the difference between victory and defeat will often come down to one game-changing round. In these scenarios, the ability to delay negative encounter effects is of vital importance.
Out of the Wild
For many legitimate reasons, Secrecy has never really caught on. It seems like an idea that the designers started to explore, and then just sort of abandoned in an unfinished state. The current slate of Secrecy cards makes it very difficult to design an effective strategy centered around the 20 threat secrecy threshold, particularly with the new scenarios in HoN that have huge enemies engaging and attacking the players so quickly. Some decks will splash a secrecy card here or there (Resourceful is great in an Elrond/Vila/Stargazer deck, an early Timely Aid in a deck with threat reduction can be amazing), but, for the most part this is not a strategy that sees much play.
While secrecy may not be a viable all-encompassing strategy, there are certainly secrecy cards worth considering, especially as the power of treacheries and other “when revealed” effects continues to escalate. Out of the Wild is a great example of a card that can help combat the likes of Blocking Wargs and Southron Support. It is important to point out that many of the treacheries in HoN combine surge or doomed with a “when revealed” effect. This means that even if you have A Test of Will or Eleanor ready to cancel this effect, the card will still surge or raise your threat. Using Out of Wild in concert with one of Lore’s many scrying abilities (Denethor, Henemarth Riversong, Rumour from the Earth, Risk Some Light, or Needful to Know) allows you to avoid all of the negative effects on a card, because you never draw it in the first place. This becomes even more powerful with small encounter decks, not only because you were more likely to see these power-treacheries in the first place, but also because you won’t see the card even after the encounter deck runs out and gets reshuffled.
With a cost of 3 resources, this card might seem too expensive for this effect. Being secrecy you can still run Lore/Spirit deck with 3 heroes including Glorfindel (FoS) to ensure that your starting threat is in the low 20’s. Then, with spirit cards like Elrond’s Counsel or Galadhrim’s Greeting you can lower your threat to enable you to play Out of the Wild for one resource. As a bear, I can only count to 8, but spending 1 resource to remove a Blocking Wargs from the encounter deck seems like a pretty good deal.
Even if your starting threat does not allow for a secrecy strategy, there are other options to mitigate the cost of this card. After eating a Good Meal, Bilbo Baggins allows you to play this card for it’s secrecy cost, regardless of your current threat. Heirs of Númenor also gives us the Master of Lore, who not only helps you play Out of the Wild, but other powerful-but-expensive Lore cards as well. In a dedicated Lore deck, the master makes it much more viable to include otherwise expensive cards like Forest Snare, Self Preservation, Lorien’s Wealth and Gildor’s Counsel (another great card for HoN quests). If your deck includes Lore heroes and you want something more than just threat-cancellation as support, you should consider looking for help Out of the Wild.