The Wilds of Rhovanion marks the inception the Dale archetype, distinguished among deck styles in its focus on attachment-heavy decks and allies pulling serious weight while the heroes provide support. Dale has aspects in common with previous archetypes – for example, some Vilya builds were attachment heavy. Still, this is the first time in the game’s history when the focus of player card attachments shifts from heroes to allies. To help with deck-building, Hall of Beorn Card Search has a new category for ally attachments. In addition, I’ve found the time to wrap my massive paws around a pen and ramble some musings about cards which may see new relevance – or increased usage – with the Dale archetypes.
For obvious reasons, this version of the lady of the Golden Wood is overshadowed by the hero. To be clear, building a multiplayer deck around this card is a recipe for frustration. With the power of hero Galadriel, including in some of the popular Dale builds, there is a good chance your ally will never hit the table. All hope is not lost, however. Assuming you can get the ally into play, she can be an incredibly effective solution for finding your critical attachment and getting it into play quickly.
I made excellent use of ally Galadriel in my Leading Dale to Glory deck; she helps get King of Dale up and running as quickly as possible. Full disclosure, that deck was more of a proof of concept to see if I could use Lord of Morthond outside of an Outlands deck. It should not by any means be considered standard for the archetype. On the contrary, there are several more consistent and thematically appropriate versions of the Dale deck which should be considered before my fanciful ursine thought experiments.
All that said, Leadership is essentially a requirement in all Dale decks – because of the potency of Brand Son of Bain. Any deck with Leadership is going to have resource acceleration, at which point a three cost ally that drops amazing attachments into play for free starts to look pretty appealing. The fact that she quests for three and then soaks archery for a round is what I would call a nice bonus. With the draw power of Leadership Brand son of Bain, being able to stack the top of your deck even becomes useful. You can put the other attachments on top to give yourself maximal card draw.
Raiment of War
I’ve been a proponent of this card from the moment it was first spoiled. While filling up both restricted slots might at first seem a steep price, the stat boost that this card gives for only two resources makes it one of the most efficient attachments in the game. Besides, once the attached character has become effectively invincible, your wont often need a second attachment for them anyway.
The bonus defense and hit points make this a natural fit for characters who spend most of their time on the defensive end of combat. However, don’t ignore the value it can bring to offensive allies. On characters like Warrior of Dale, the Weapon trait provides a net +2 attack bonus and Ranged. Also, his 5 total hit points make him an worthy archery soak.
At first glance, having the requirement of attaching to a Warrior character might seem like a serious limitation. While this might be true in other archetypes, a Dale deck’s best targets for Raiment have the Warrior trait, so this is not at all an issue. Having Item, Weapon and Armor traits gives it the ultimate versatility. The most consistent decks feature cards which solve multiple problems.
Many of the game’s best weapons cost only a single resource. At twice the cost, Raiment carries the risk that you won’t have the ideal target in play, since Dale mostly wants to equip allies over heroes. Then we face a dilemma, attach it to a less ideal target or wait until we draw our Redwater Sentry. Thankfully, Dale lets you have your cake and eat it too. Long Lake Trader allows us to move a Raiment from character to another. I like to think of this as a Trader literally taking the shirt off some poor lookout’s back, only to hand the sweaty garment to an incredulous sentry, who looks on in disgust.
Spare Hood and Cloak
Just when we become set in our ways, thinking the metagame has gone stale and all that is left is polishing around the edges – a new deluxe expansion comes and turns our world upside down again. Like a squad of football hooligans trashing an Ikea, The Wilds of Rhovanion overturned the status quo and broke our assumptions. Outside of a few purpose-built questing powerhouses, which used it to take maximum advance of ally Faramir’s ability, Spare Hood and Cloak hasn’t seen much play in recent decks. Even with a recent uptick in usage from Dale decks, it still sits at 2 rings out of 5 based on RingsDB usage.
Thanks to the strength of everyone’s new favorite Spirit ally, I have little doubt that Spare Hood and Cloak’s days as an over-looked card in the past. While he lacks the combat prowess of his brethren the Sentry and Warrior, North Realm Lookout has solid stats and excellent action advantage. My favorite attachment for the Lookout is Spare Hood and Cloak. Assuming you are running the new Brand Son of Bain, the Lookout with a Cloak will quest for 3 without exhausting. Once the quest phase is over, you can use him to help out with a counter attack – or even chump block in a pinch. Best of all, you have him ready with a cloak to help another character ready.
When you have your Redwater Sentry girded with Raiment of War he becomes a most effective defender. More than one round of combat has been saved by exhausting a Lookout and passing his Spare Hood and Cloak to a Sentry, who can then defend another attack. Likewise, there are times in multiplayer when another player just needs one more ready character to finish off an engaged enemy or perform some other action. Being in a position to provide that aid makes Dale an wonderful support deck. Remember, as long as you are passing the cloak between your own characters it will never get stuck, because you can always use a Long Lake Trader to move it back to your Lookout on the next turn.
Master of the Forge
This choice should come as a surprise to no one. Long before the Dale archetype was even a twinkle in Caleb’s eye, Master of the Forge was one of the best repeatable search actions available. Any deck with attachments and access to Lore should seriously consider this paragon support ally. As if Master of the Forge wasn’t effective enough already, Dale had made him even stronger.
Not to beat the same drum, but Brand son of Bain’s card draw effect is critical to the Dale archetype. By fetching your best attachments each round, Master of the Forge essentially super-changes this already potent engine. The fact that there is no limit to the sphere, cost, or traits of the attachment fetched by Master of the Forge makes him perfect for Dale decks. On the rare instances when his effect fails to find an attachment (this should be rare in attachment-heavy Dale decks), you at least get to shuffle your deck to reset for the next round.
In the early game, while you are still scrambling to get setup, you can use Master to search for 0 cost attachments. The first of these which you attach to each character will allow you to draw another card. By the mid-game, you should have a better established board presence, including some form of resource acceleration or cost reduction. At that point, you can use the Master to search for specific attachments to handle whatever challenge the quest is posing.
A nasty condition attachment might mean you search for an Athelas. Perhaps the threat of location lock in the staging area requires location control like Arod, Thror’s Key, or Mariner’s Compass. An excess of archery or direct damage treacheries might necessitate Dunedain Remedy, Self Preservation, or Magic Ring. Last, but certainly not least, the mid and late game often bring boss enemies. These larger enemies often require extra armor and weapon attachments to support overmatched characters. The Master of the Forge is equally adept at retrieving the these weapons and attachments.
At the risk of sounding facetious, Narya is an excellent fit in any deck with at least two allies. Like all rings of power, Narya’s potency comes at a cost. Only Círdan the Shipwright and Gandalf can wield this ring, which immediately eliminates this card as an option for many Dale decks. However, the repeatable ally readying provided by this card should seriously be considered for the Dale archetype – such is the potential for total board dominance.
As a fan of multiplayer, it is worth pointing out that a “pure” Dale deck can always be paired with another deck which features the power of Narya, sitting across the table. One of the lesser acknowledged aspects of this ring is the granting of access to the Leadership sphere. Círdan is the natural target for Narya in multiplayer, unless you want to be Gandalf guy. With his access to the Spirit sphere, you have the foundation of a deck with access to Leadership and Spirit – the two most important spheres for many Dale decks.
The stat boost provided by Narya is clearly intended for the combat phase (barring less common out-of-phase attacks). However, the readying effect should not be underestimated. The card pool is brimming with support allies like Lake Tower Trader, Master of the Forge, Imladris Stargazer, Warden of Healing and Errand Rider. Some rounds, you might have combat well in hand, but direct damage might have your allies on death’s door. Getting an extra use out of a Warden of Healing might be the key to your allies’ survival. Another favorite support ally which I like readying is Honour Guard. Because his ability is a response just make sure that you ready him between two different attacks – then he can reduce damage from each of them.
Open the Armory
An equipped Dale ally is a force to be reckoned with. Even if they fall to the enemy Bard son of Brand can return their attachments to your hand, sparing you from a serious tempo hit. The key here is getting the attachments into play, on your Dale allies, as quickly as possible. Redwater Sentry and Warrior of Dale are impressive allies when they have their respective armor and weapons attachments. Without this equipment, they’re fairly mediocre in their intended roles.
Before I heap further praise, I must voice my skepticism of the Valour Action on this card. On its face, a free Weapon or Armor from the top 5 cards of your deck is clearly powerful. However, the Galadriel ally that I highlighted above can perform this same effect on turn one, with fewer limitations. Obviously this card does not have the cost of Galadriel, but I would expect to have resource acceleration online by the late game so the cost difference is moot.
The chimeric nature of Valour cards remains illusory to me. My decks feature many card with Valour effects, but I typically either use the main effect throughout the game, or I wait until the late game for the payoff of the Valour Effect. I don’t typically use both effects on the same “Valour” card. In the case of Open the Armory, this is not a problem. The ability to pull the most important Weapon or Armor from the top 10 cards of your deck, especially in the critical early rounds, is what makes this card so useful. For those who have read this far, it should come as no surprise that my favorite target for this card is Raiment of War. As a bear who does not require clothing, I appreciate the irony that battle clothing is my favorite attachment.