In economic terms, a living card game acts just like a market. As the card pool grows, some cards gain in value, while others diminish. In some cases a new card will provide a boost to existing cards that had seemed worthless. For example, Leadership Boromir along with Visionary Leadership make underwhelming cards like Guard of the Citadel suddenly worth playing. Other times, an existing card ends up filling a niche which didn’t exist before. Think of how well Protector of Lórien works in the Fords of Isen to help you control your hand size and avoid the worst effects from Dunlendings.
Unique cards in particular are susceptible to the whims of the market as they are mutually exclusive. If I want to use Leadership Boromir as one of my starting heroes, I cannot then use Tactics Boromir nor can anyone else who wants to play with me. In extreme circumstances, old heroes in one sphere will lose tremendous value because of a new hero with the same name that is released later. Glorfindel from the core set is the prime example of this.
With multiple great spoilers of cards that feature or support the Silvan trait, it is apparent that The Ring-maker Cycle will usher in some new archetypes for the woodland folk. This article is a brief summary of cards that look to be more valuable in the context of these new archetypes. As with any market, some of the perception of value is entirely subjective. For those that agree or disagree with these choices, you are encouraged to share your perspective in the comments below.
One of the consistently overlooked allies in the core set, there has been little reason to include the Silverlode Archer in many decks. While his ranged ability can be useful in multi-player games, his relatively high cost and seemingly anemic stats mean that there are almost always superior choices for Leadership decks. Other than Elrohir, there has not been a Leadership hero to use a foundation for any kind of Elf-themed deck. The sons of Elrond mostly belong to their own archetype anyway, so this archer has been collecting dust for quite a while.
With the impending release of Celeborn and Galadriel, this card suddenly has all sorts of utility. With those two heroes, it will be possible to quest with the Silverlode Archer for 2 the round it enters play, and still have a 3 strength ranged attack ready for the combat phase. Those are some truly amazing stats. Also, being from the leadership spheres there is resource acceleration so that his 3 cost will not seem so expensive after all. Lastly, his ranged keyword can be useful, even in solo play because cards like Rúmil and Rain of Arrows require this ability.
An area where elf decks have always struggled is resource acceleration. Lore and Spirit, are the two most common spheres for Silvan and Noldor cards (with Tactics a distant third). These bring card drawing and healing, along with threat reduction and all sorts of tricks for the staging area. However, it can be difficult to pay for many of the expensive allies. Elrond and Vilya help quite a bit, but his high threat cost can make it challenging to fit the lord of Imladris into some decks. As you can see from my recent White Council deck, including all of the most powerful Elven heroes into one deck has dire consequences for one’s starting threat.
This is where Gaining Strength comes into the discussion. With Celeborn, Naith Guide and Orophin to come, Leadership will be a part of many Silvan decks. Steward of Gondor is always a strong choice, from a strategic standpoint. As we discussed on the most recent episode of The Grey Company, some players prefer more thematic choices in the deck-building. Since the Steward is a title given to descendants of Húrin, it doesn’t make too much sense for it to be held by an elf.
For those that want to build a more thematic deck, or just want the extra challenge, Gaining Strength is a great choice for resource acceleration. Because of the various heroes involved, Silvan decks look to be multi-sphere in nature. Being able to add a resource to any hero that already has two resources, this card will help to pay for some of the more costly cards of this archetype. If theme is less of a priority, both the Steward and Horn of Gondor are solid choices, as this archetype looks to have allies entering in leaving play with great frequency.
An old staple, Sneak Attack has been a popular card since players first opened the core set. This is not so much a case of a card gaining any sudden popularity, as a staple card being given yet another bit of utility. With so many of the Silvan power coming from allies entering play, the ability to put any ally in play for only 1 resource will be quite important for this archetype.
In particular, allies like Rúmil will benefit from this card. At four cost in the Tactics sphere, this brother of Haldir is not easy to play. However, his response can be incredibly powerful, especially with so many elves that feature the Ranged keyword. His stats are excellent on their own, but boosted by Celeborn he becomes absolutely amazing. With low defense and hit points, Silvan allies would seem to make a weak archetype for combat, but Rúmil can dispel this myth all by himself. It is exciting to imagine him killing the toughest enemy engaged with you and then questing for 3. If you use Sneak Attack, you can potentially repeat this same trick, the very next turn.
Of all the non-treasure swords in the game, Rivendell Blade has always been a personal favorite. For 1 cost, and not being limited to heroes, this weapon is just so effective at stopping tougher enemies. As the game evolves, more and more enemies have 3 and 4 defense. Being able to drop this defense allows groups of weaker allies to actually damage or even kill these enemies. Once the first round boost from Celeborn and Galadriel wears off, groups of weaker allies is precisely what a Silvan deck is left with.
Weapons that are not limited to heroes are valuable because heroes often have different roles within a deck. An obvious example is Galadriel. The lady of the woods cannot participate in combat. She leaves it to her loyal subjects to protect the woodland realm. Haldir of Lórien is one of her scouts and remains an excellent choice for wearing a Rivendell Blade. His brothers, Rúmil and Orophin, should likewise benefit from one of these swords.
Less illustrious than the blades of Rivendell, the bows from that realm also have their uses. Like the sword that shares its make, the Rivendell Bow can be attached to allies. While it is limited to one per character, the bow is actually not restricted. This may seem irrelevant right now, but it is safe to assume that some form of armor attachment will be released for elves. If this does prove true, it becomes a very real possibility to load up a super ally like Haldir with a sword, a bow and some armor.
The idea of boosting allies until they approach the level of heroes in strength is one of the things that intrigues me about this new Silvan archetype. Dwarves, Gondor and Rohan call all be quite powerful, collectively, but none of these allies amounts to much on their own. It is an appealing idea to have an ally bedecked with weapons and armor, going forth as a champion to face the forces of Mordor. Again the ranged keyword enters the discussion as this weapon can either boost the attack of allies like Haldir, Rúmil and the Silverlode Archer, but it can also give Ranged to a powerful Silvan (Mirkwood Runner, perhaps) that would otherwise lack this ability.
Rain of Arrows
Just in case it hasn’t been emphasized enough already, the Ranged keyword is receiving some much-needed attention in the Ring-maker cycle. On the average, Silvan characters have low defense and hit points, this will mean the Silvan decks need to get creative about how to kill enemies before them have a chance to do too much damage. Compensating for a decks’ weaknesses, or shielding, is something that has been discussed on this blog before.
For Silvan decks, this shielding will be particularly important as we want to emphasize the strengths of questing, comes into play effects and unique character abilities. Unfortunately, swarms of low-strength but low engagement cost enemies can wreck the best-laid plans of a Silvan leader. Even with the temporary defense boost from Celeborn, most Silvan allies have only 1 hit point and won’t last long in a fight. Being able to use their ranged ability to put damage on enemies before combat is important. By itself, this card won’t be killing much but crows, but combined with the responses of cards like Rúmil and Gandalf this card can kill enemies before they strike.
The Silvan Refugee is an interesting case of a more recent card that has a mixed relationship with this new archetype. On the one hand, being able to pay 1 resource for an ally that quests for 3 on the first turn is pretty amazing. Unfortunately, all is not ideal with this card. A central strategy of Silvan decks will be for allies to constantly enter and leave play. For whatever reason, this frightens the Silvan Refugee away and into the discard pile.
If she returned to your hand that would be amazing, but instead she is discarded after any character leaves play. This is problematic in a Silvan deck where it will be a given that characters are leaving play on a regular basis. Still, the Silvan Refugee’s stock is on the rise for the sheer power of a 3 willpower ally for 1 resource. Even if she never sticks around to do anything else, this is still an excellent benefit for the cost. With Galadriel, she even stays ready and can then be used as a chump blocker during combat. It is important to remember to only play one Silvan Refugee at a time if you plan on chump blocking, otherwise this can be a very costly strategy.
Yet another forgotten ally from the core set, the Lórien Guide has long been overshadowed by the mighty Northern Tracker. Certainly it cannot be argued that the tracker’s ability is more useful in scenarios with lots of locations. Still, high-willpower decks will will often be able to keep the staging area relatively free of locations. In this case, being able to put extra progress on the active location is actually more useful that putting progress on locations in the staging area.
Regardless of the relative merits of the Lórien Guide and her Dúnedain brethren, the Silvan trait and two hit points make her useful in any Silvan deck. What’s more, “class” stats like Ranger, Warrior and Scout are finally starting to receive some attention in the game. There is an excellent chance that the Scout trait on this card could end up being useful.
Balancing resources is one of the real challenges of multi-sphere decks. With so many heroes to choose from, it is a given that any Silvan deck includes at least two spheres. For any such decks that include Spirit, Miruvor is a must-have. Not only does it provide cheap readying for these powerful heroes, and boost their already impressive willpower, but it provides essential resource-smoothing.
Combined with effects like Gaining Strength above, this can rapidly accelerate the resources of one hero and allow for playing more expensive allies and attachments. Miruvor has particular synergy with Galadriel as it can be returned to the top of your deck and draw again. While this particular combo is not the most efficient, particularly when you are looking for other cards from your deck. Still, it can be used in a pinch to ready multiple heroes or give an extra willpower boost. Just knowing that you always have the option to trade resources for these effects makes a deck more versatile.
One of the more controversial heroes since her release, players seem to either love Mirlonde or ignore her completely. I have always hoped that her trait would become more useful, and it is encouraging to have my intuition validated. The Silvan archetype looks to be a viable one very soon.
While her primary ability has always been useful in mono-Lore decks, it is her stats and trait that should make her a staple in Silvan decks. Having 7 threat cost, even in a deck with no other Lore heroes, makes Mirlonde the perfect “splash” hero. With so many other powerful heroes with much higher threat cost, you don’t necessarily want your starting threat to be too high. Also, the 2 attack and willpower should not be discounted. With readying, she can contribute in multiple ways to any game. Lastly, she has great synergy with the Silvan Tracker, another card that looks to be staple in Silvan decks.
Henamarth Riversong has always been one of the most efficient allies in the game, providing excellent stats for such a minimal cost. As if that were not enough, his ability is second only to Denethor when it comes to scrying. With so many tricks in the Lore sphere which depend on knowing what is coming from the encounter deck, this ability really is quite powerful.
Regardless of the ability, the potential for this card with cards like Celeborn and Galadriel is what is really exciting. Questing, attacking and then using his ability to scry before the next round are all possible with this one card. The Lore sphere looks to be very important to help Silvan decks field expensive allies, as it gives access to cards like Elf-stone and The Tree People.
The Silvan Tracker has always been one of those cards that hinted at such tremendous potential, but a potential that always seemed unfulfilled. Finally, it looks like we will get a chance to see what this card can do. Between Celeborn, Mirlonde, Haldir and his brothers, we finally have enough Silvan allies with enough hit points to really put this card to the test.
Make no mistake, free healing is amazingly powerful. This is especially true with Celeborn and Galadriel in play, because Silvan allies will have good stats and the ability to perform multiple actions in a round. In this case, you will not want to waste exhausting a Daughter of the Nimrodel to heal (and she only heals heroes anyway), when you can let the Silvan Tracker’s ability heal them automatically at the end of the round. This strategy is particularly effective against archery, where you get to control exactly how much damage is assigned to which allies. One last note is that this card works wonders with Elrond in play, potentially healing your entire Silvan army during each refresh phase.