The Revised Core Set and Starter Decks are introducing a wave of players to the game and they represent the perfect starting point for anyone new to LCG adventures in Middle-earth. These products offer a wealth of cards to support several archetypes, but it’s not possible to include every powerful card from the decade-long life of the game. What follows is a list of 5 powerful cards which are not available in the Revised Core or any of the Starter Decks.
Warden of Healing (The Long Dark)
An enduring quality of the game is that there are multiple viable strategies for most quests. One deck might take a “control” approach, slowly developing a dominant board state and using treachery and shadow cancelation to avoid the worst of the encounter deck. Another deck might feature an “aggro” approach, with high threat cost and powerful heroes that hit the encounter deck early and often, before the quest can setup an antagonistic board state. Regardless of the strategy, a deck needs 1 and 2 cost cards which support the strategy. A bargain at 2 cost, the warden has remained a staple for the life of the game.
Healing is often, though not always, found in control-centered decks and Warden of Healing is the most powerful form of repeatable healing. When he was first released, the ability to ready him by spending 2 Lore resources was not used much. Other than attaching Steward of Gondor to a Lore hero, there just wasn’t an easy way to generate that many Lore resources. Dedicating that many resources to healing is risky, as it often takes away resources from other cards and abilities. Later, decks emerged around hero Glóin where the readying ability of the Warden became essential, creating a sort of healing and resource acceleration loop which was constrained only by the dwarf’s maximum hit points and the attack strength of engaged enemies.
The Warden is too efficient as is, even without ever using his readying ability. As an ally with 1 hit point, the only real real danger is that a treachery which discards or deals direct damage to allies can eliminate him. Knowing the quest you are playing is critical. If Necromancer’s Reach is in the encounter deck, wait to use the Warden until after the quest phase. If there are effects which discard allies, make sure to play the Warden second, after some more expendable ally has already been mustered.
Arwen Undómiel (The Watcher in the Water)
Sentinel defense is an invaluable ability in multiplayer, especially when pairing a “support” deck which wants to avoid combat with an “aggro” deck which is specifically designed for engaging and destroying enemies. Sometimes, multiple enemies are engaged at once, and the support deck has to engage an enemy that it’s not prepared to defend. Other times, a deck which is not designed for combat is better able to mitigate the forced engagement effect on a particular enemy.
The great thing about Arwen is that she can give Sentinel and the defense boost to any character, regardless of which player controls them. Even in solo the defense boost is still welcome. Also, 2 resources is the sweet spot in terms of cost for questing characters with 2 willpower. The fact that she has 2 hit points makes her that much more effective as a quester, because treacheries and other encounter card effects which deal 1 damage won’t destroy her immediately.
As if Arwen were not already powerful enough, both of her traits are underrated. The Noldor trait allows you to use To the Sea, To the Sea! to reduce Arwen’s resource cost. You can also use cards like Lords of the Eldar and Elrond’s Counsel to boost her stats. The Noble Trait, while less obviously helpful, interacts with several interesting cards. Well Warned and Proud Hunters are two events which require a unique Noble character, and both can be useful in decks paired with Arwen.
Dagger of Westernesse (The Black Riders)
Most weapon and armor attachments can only be given to characters with a specific sphere or trait. This makes a generic weapon like Dagger of Westernesse, which can be attached to any hero, that much more useful. To maximize the attack bonus you will need to keep your threat lower, which makes it especially effective in Hobbit Secrecy decks.
Tactics Merry, from the Black Riders saga expansion, is the perfect hero to wield the dagger, but it can also be used to great effect in Rohan decks attached to a hero like Dúnhere. Thankfully, Tactics now has multiple ways to reduce your threat. Cards like Secret Vigil and Hidden Roosts (ALeP) can be used to keep your threat below the engagement cost of enemies and gain full advantage from your daggers.
For many decks, trait-specific weapons are useless for other decks. In a multiplayer game, this means that extra weapons can become dead cards in your hand. This should never be a problem with the Dagger of Westernesse, as it can be played on any attacker controlled by another player. This versatility only applies to multiplayer games, but it is worth consideration as establishing a powerful dedicated attacker is a critical prerequisite for many combat-focused decks.
Armored Destrier (Temple of the Deceived)
Shadow cancellation is invaluable, all the more so as it is relatively rare. Many decks rely on a single powerful “tank” defender. Such a defender will undoubtedly be facing several attacks, often within the same round. This becomes even more of a problem later in the game, when player threat is higher and all enemies revealed will engage on the turn they enter play. This leaves aggro decks, which feature powerful heroes with high threat cost, in danger of being overrun by a horde of enemies.
Armored Destrier is one of the most powerful solutions for dealing with hordes of attackers because it pairs readying with shadow cancellation. Some enemies, in particular, become more dangerous when they are dealt specific shadow effects. Even with armor attachments, a “tank” only has so much defensive strength. Armored Destrier lets you remove the shadow for a high attack or high-risk enemy, while readying you after blocking a less dangerous attacker.
Ordinarily, the Restricted keyword would detract from the value of the Destrier, as it takes up a coveted slot from other defensive attachments. The Three Hunters contract changes this equation, because of how it interacts with the Restricted keyword. With the A-side active, this card can often be played at reduced cost, which is critical as you want to get it on your defender as quickly as possible. Both the A and B sides of the contracts grant your heroes an additional restricted slot, leaving plenty of room for other powerful attachments.
Treebeard (The Antlered Crown)
Ents are a powerful archetype, but their action disadvantage can be a critical flaw in some quests. Ally Treebeard helps mitigate the problem of Ents entering play exhausted. The resources he gains can either be used to reduce the cost to muster an Ent ally, or ready one which is already in play. Theses resources can be used to pay for Ents of any sphere, making Treebeard the ultimate captain for Ent decks.
It’s a bit ironic that the ally version of Treebeard is a more effective lynchpin for Ent decks than his hero version. Even so, Treebeard does not require that you include any other Ents in your deck. Any excess resources he accrues can be used to ready him – effectively every other round. There is no limit to the number of times you trigger his readying ability, so you are free to save up a whole forest of resources and then use them in one crucial round.
Other than Gandalf, you will not find an ally with more impressive stats than Treebeard. His 3 defense and 5 hit points make Treebeard especially well suited to act as a dedicated defender. Assuming you have at least 2 resources saved up, defending with Treebeard does not prevent you from using his 4 attack in a counter-attack. With stats like his, Treebeard is clearly at his best in combat. However, 2 willpower is enough to make him useful as a quester in an emergency. Regardless of how he is utilized, Treebeard is one of the most powerful allies in the game.