With the closing of the Ring-maker cycle and the beginning of 2015, we can see the first hint of a new Ent archetype. There aren’t quit enough cards yet to make a full deck, but what we do have is undeniably powerful. The spoilers for The Lost Realm, we know that the next deluxe expansion and cycle will be focusing on the Dúnedain trait. As with past cycles, we can no doubt look forward to support for other decks as well. Other than Aragorn, the rangers of the North have received only intermittent attention, so it is good to hear that the refugees of Arnor are about to be thrust into the spotlight.
With that in mind, there are a handful of cards in the Leadership sphere that look like they will work well with many of of these Ent cards or in the upcoming Dúnedain decks. In the case of both of these traits, they are already spread across multiple spheres, so it makes sense to use Leadership for support to bind these disparate themes into a workable whole. It is also worth noting that what little Dúnedain with have in the game so far is mostly concentrated in the Leadership sphere. As with any new cycle, I am excited to see what players do with the new player cards – the card pool is now getting to the point where we have the freedom for some truly divergent strategies. Leave a comment to let me know which of these cards you use the most, or if you disagree with any of the choices, or have a favorite card that you feel was missed. Like you, I eagerly await the release of this new expansion!
First of all, credit goes to reader Mathieu Martin for bringing this card to my attention. This is a Core Set card that I never gave much thought to – it seemed too limited in the early card pool. With the introduction of Ents, all of whom have excellent stats but enter play exhausted, this card has new-found utility. In addition, the game has quite a sizable number of powerful allies at this point.
Most decks have at least one of these powerful unique characters in their company. Faramir, Bofur, Boromir, Beorn, Damrod, Elfhelm, Anborn, Haldir, Gildor, either version of Gandalf and even the seldom-used Saruman are all used to support the heroes and make decks more effective. Another great choice for this card is Treebeard, but it even be effective with the other, lesser Ents. The fact that many of these characters have abilities that require them to exhaust (most notably Faramir) is another reason why this card can sometimes be more useful than hero readying effects.
Event-based readying that is limited to allies might at first seem inferior to a card like Cram, but there are some notable advantages to Ever Vigilant. For one thing, it is not vulnerable to the attachment hate that is becoming increasingly common. In addition, more powerful allies continue to be released and find their way into decks, meaning that readying an ally can often have similar benefit to readying a hero. In addition, Ever Vigilant allows you to wait and see which character needs to be readied, rather than make that decision during the planning phase. Lastly, any multi-player game without the hero version of Gandalf is bound to have ally versions of the wizard coming into and out of play. 1 resource to get a second action for Gandalf (even one controlled by another player) is a great deal.
Son of Arnor
One thing that we can already deduce from the spoilers, is that engagement effects are going to be useful for Dúnedain. Having a solid Dúnedain attacker that also allows us to pull enemies from the staging area to trigger our other effects seems like a wise strategy. With 2 hit points, he won’t die immediately to most direct damage treacheries which is a nice bonus. His stats may seem underwhelming for 3 resources, but his effect is only going to become more useful, and it is easy for Leadership to the gain addition resources to pay his cost.
With more mustering effects Sneak Attack and A Very Good Tale to put allies into play, having a response that does not require him to be played from your hand becomes a very important distinction. If you want to get tricky, he can even be brought into play after enemy attacks to act as a sort of Feint. Because the engaged enemy has missed its opportunity to attack, you will have a round in which to attack the foe without risking any retaliation. There is no way to know yet whether or not his trait will have any value, but it certainly helps from a thematic perspective.
As a general rule, allies with 2 attack strength are important, especially in Leadership where most allies need a boost of some sort in order to have that kind of attack strength. It is always good to have the strength to ensure that you can finish off an enemy when you need to. Granted, a dedicated Dúnedain deck might want to leave them around to take advantage of other effects, but it is still important to have the option. I suspect that playing a Dúnedain deck is going to be a delicate balance between keeping enemies engaged to benefit from your characters’ abilities, and avoiding being overrun by too many opponents. An ally that allows you to pull an enemy out of the staging area and has the stats to help you kill it is going to play a useful role in your company.
To this point, Aragorn is the only Dúnedain who can easily get ranged thanks to the Rivendell Bow. Ranged is becoming vital in multi-player games as you want to maximize action efficiency. This is especially true when paired with dedicated questing decks that lack the sufficient martial strength to finish off an engaged enemy. It will be important for another deck that is more combat-focused (like most Dúnedain decks will be), to be able to help out.
As I have mentioned in previous articles, Dúnedain Cache also has the advantage of being movable to another hero as an action. Many players forget about this effect on the card, but it can actually be quite useful – if you can spare the extra resource. One trick with this is to have a hero attack with ranged, then after they are exhausted you can pay 1 to move the cache to another hero who has not yet attacked. This hero can then make a ranged attack against a different enemy. This is not the kind of strategy that makes sense every round, but in a pinch it can be very useful. Not having to worry that you’ve pick the wrong target is one of the real advantages of the Signal (and Item) Dúnedain attachments.
Have a cost of 2 resources might at first seem expensive, but Leadership at this point has an abundance of options for resource acceleration. Also don’t discount the versatility of this card – unlike other attachments that grant ranged or a ranged-like ability it has no trait or sphere-based limitations. Not many attachments can go on any hero, so the fact that the Dúnedain-themed ones all have this quality allows you far more freedom in your hero choices. With other archetypes – most notably Hobbits like Lore Pippin and Sam Gamgee – featuring abilities that trigger off of engagement, it will be interesting to see the kinds of hybrid-Dúnedain decks that players devise with these new cards.
Tighten Our Belts
This is anther example of a useful Leadership card without any trait limitations. It is perhaps the best single-card resource acceleration solution for a multi-sphere deck, particularly in the early rounds when decks tend to ramp slowly anyway. It should be pointed out that the wording of this card only discourages “spending” of resources, it does not prevent moving resources with Errand-rider, Pelargir Ship Captain or Parting Gifts.
It also does not prevent you from playing 0 cost cards as these do not require you to spend any resources. With the new 0 cost Dúnedain Hunter, it will soon be possible to play allies without reducing the benefit of this event. Depending on the urgency of the additional resources, there is no reason why you can’t simply use it to gain 1 or 2 resources instead of the full 3 (assuming you really need to pay for something that round).
With Gríma, you can even play a single 1 cost card and still reap the full benefit from this card. Another nice thing about this card is that you wait to the end of the round to play it. This means that if something unexpected happens and you have to spend a resource to play A Test of Will, Feint or Hasty Stroke, you can choose to hold off on playing Tighten Our Belts until another round when it will have maximal benefit. Regardless of when you choose to use it, gaining resources on multiple heroes is a very important benefit for multi-sphere decks.
Herald of Anórien
This is another card that will work great with Ents. Both of the non-unique Ent allies that we have so far can be brought into play with the herald. This card will only get better as more low-cost allies are released. The fact that the Ents come into play exhausted doesn’t seem like so much of a drawback when you are getting them for “free” with this card.
The doomed cost can be a factor, but this ally is not entirely useless even without his ability. The Gondor trait is valuable, all the more so with Captain Boromir and Visionary Leadership. It can even be used as a chump blocker when your threat is too high to make doomed is not an option. This idea of trading threat for the advancement of your board state is becoming a more common theme in the game, which I talked about in my look at the growing utility of Aggro cards. Like Tighten our Belts above, this card has great versatility for multi-sphere archetypes. Since Ents are already in 2 different spheres, this coupled with A Very Good Tale will be an effective way to muster the tree-herders without putting all of the resource burden on your heroes. For that matter, this effect allows you to include Ents in your deck even if you don’t have heroes that match their sphere.
In the bear’s opinion, the doomed player cards in the Ring-maker cycle itself have been somewhat underwhelming compared to those in the Voice of Isengard. Greyflood Wanderer is decent, though better in scenarios that fill the board with locations. Still, Herald of Anórien is the best of the bunch because of the tremendous versatility that he provides. Some of the best allies in the game are 2 cost and bringing a second character into play provides numerical superiority that is essential for survival. If the newly-mustered ally can take advantage of the global boosts that Leadership has to offer then the strength of this card is only magnified. A cost of 2 threat is not trivial, to be sure, but the early and mid game are so often a pitched battle between the players and encounter deck to establish board supremacy that this effect will often be more than worth the cost.