This post will be talking about spoiled cards. If you don’t recognise the cards I’m talking about, you can follow this link to find all the announcement articles: https://www.fantasyflightgames.com/en/news/tag/the-lord-of-the-rings-the-card-game/
The cards which have already been released can of course all be found on the Hall of Beorn card search.
Well, I did say after the first time that I was going to possibly make a habit of talking through anticipations, so here we are again. Looking forward to coming releases.
So when I did this last we were only just into the Angmar Awakened cycle. Pretty much everything I was anticipating turned out as I expected – The first half of the cycle was fun but not that thematically interesting to me, while the second half was amazing both on theme and gameplay (though I didn’t predict the massive difficulty hike of Carn Dum). Dunedain, Noldor and Victory display mechanics have all turned out to be pretty great. Erestor gave a lot of things a massive shake-up as expected, but less expectedly this was followed by perhaps even bigger shake-ups caused by the appearances of first Arwen and then Denethor. Of course in both cases they do very well when combined with Erestor. One thing which hasn’t turned out quite as I anticipated is Sword-thain. I thought I would be all over Sword-thain when it was released, but in fact it turned out more like Erestor, where it’s a very potent option when I pull it out in certain contexts, but mostly I don’t really think about it. Crazy good for Caldara decks though, and that was one of the things I was anticipating, though I didn’t get round to actually updating my Caldara deck to put it in there for quite a while.
And of course, The Grey Havens was released. Now I’ve mentioned that I love the Dunedain, and as such I didn’t really think FFG could top the excitement I felt on seeing the announcement of The Lost Realm, but they did. Partly because for whatever reasons, Cirdan the Shipwright is one of my favourite minor characters. Partly because the Havens are very much associated with those feelings of mystery and magic which really grab me, being as they are the point from which elves leave to sail to Valinor; and then of course there was the big hook of us sailing to the ruins of downfallen Numenor, and of course a big part of my love of the Dunedain is down to the Numenorean association (which I feel much more with them than with the Gondorians), so it caught me on those grounds as well. And I was really not disappointed.
The last cycle and a half at this point has been giving us amazing quests and tremendously fun player cards on the gameplay side of things, and the last cycle’s worth of content has really held up on the theme end of things for me, so it’s a really good time to be me playing this game (the Dream-chaser cycle like Angmar Awakened did start out a bit more mundane before building to the more mystical sort of stuff on reaching the island, but the added lure of the sea meant it still grabbed me thematically more than just walking around Eriador). And it looks like we’re definitely continuing this trend, exploring the drowned ruins of an ancient temple, then fighting off a Corsair attack on Cobas Haven and finally pursuing the Corsairs back to their home to recover the mysterious artifact.
And then the next deluxe. Now as I mentioned, I felt after Lost Realm that they couldn’t top the level of excitement and anticipation I got from that announcement only to be proven wrong by Grey Havens. I then hesitantly said it again, and this time I was right. Harad doesn’t hold the same level of interest for me as the Havens and sailing off to Numenor. That being said, I’m still really excited for this next deluxe for a couple of reasons. One is the story, the fact that where previously there has always been a clear gap between cycles where having finished one set of tasks our heroes head off to a different part of Middle Earth where they’ll pick up a new line of quests, in this case there is no such gap – the new line of quests is us attempting to get back home having effectively stranded ourselves in Umbar. No downtime, just straight onward. The other thing which excites me is that more than any previous cycle this is moving into pretty much entirely unknown territory. Tolkien wrote very little about Harad to my knowledge, so there’s a lot of scope for new and interesting stories to be told. It’s also a totally new setting for the game, and the announcement article featured a load of really interesting stuff both for the coming player cards and quests.
Oh, and also there’s a saga expansion coming. That’s pretty exciting I guess. I’m generally much more interested in seeing spoilers for player cards rather than encounter cards, and certainly I’m not so into hearing how whole quests play out in advance in general – and I doubt I’m alone in those feelings. But if there’s any quest where I think people will excited to hear about how it works, it has to be Pelennor Fields. That battle is a huge culmination of everything on one side of the story of Lord of the Rings, and it needs to be correspondingly epic in the game. Fortunately it looks like it is. And yes, Tactics Eowyn. Now personally, I have to say I wasn’t champing at the bit for there to be a Tactics Eowyn the way a lot of people were. If she just stayed as the Spirit version only forever, I would’ve been OK with that. That being said, Tactics Eowyn is really cool. I’m very glad they still kept her with the same stats rather than changing them because Tactics can’t have willpower, because while it does make sense to represent Eowyn as a martial character, her great moment in the battle, killing the Witch-King, was still much more down to her strength of will more than her particular combat skills – where no-one else could stand against the aura of fear exuded by the Captain of the Ringwraiths, she was the only one who stood fast beside Theoden. She’s going to be an interesting one to build with, since mostly she’ll just be a 6 threat super-powerful quester in Tactics rather than a combat powerhouse. It’ll be interesting to see just how much use her second ability will get in practice. It also amuses me that they specifically closed it off against Desperate Alliance shenanigans with “Limit once per game for the players as a group.” Or to put it another way, “Limit once per game, no really we mean it this time.”
Now last time I picked out four different ways a new/spoiled card can really grab you – it can inspire you to a particular combo; it can fit a particular mechanic that suits your playstyle; it can be something you’ve previously wished was in the game; or it can be something which simply represents a massive meta-shift which you can’t help but be excited to see.
For the first type I struggle to think of anything really. Ways to get more out of Tactics Eowyn perhaps. Getting her a Dunedain Cache and playing Hour of Wrath so that she can wipe the board with 10 attack in a given round would be pretty neat. Alternatively giving her Unexpected Courage and Herugrim as you sometimes do with the Spirit version would mean she could be a more consistent combat presence and then on that one round have two attacks, one at 14 and one at 10.
For the second category again there’s not much. Of course it’s difficult for me to pick something which really fits my playstyle because my playstyle is to be constantly switching between a large array of different decks. Only a couple of things really caught my eye as being real boons to a specific deck type – one was Entangling Nets for Dunedain and Trap decks, and the other was the partially spoiled Knight of the White Tower for Leadership Gondor decks. For Dunedain obviously they’re another way to keep enemies safely engaged, while for a Trap deck they’re a trap that can actually combine with other traps. For instance if you get an enemy on Poisoned Stakes you kind of want to just wait until it bleeds out, but then either it’s contributing threat or it’s attacking you. Throw out Entangling Nets at the same time and it hitting you becomes less of an issue. As to the Knight, as I commented on the FFG forums, despite the fact Gondor is supposed to be strong on defence (representing the way they stood for so long against the shadow of Mordor), that only really applies in-game if you play Tactics, or Spirit for Blood of Numenor, while all the best Gondor stuff is in Leadership, which mostly has to resort to chump-blocking. The Knight of the White Tower will thus make a nice change to that by providing Leadership Gondor with a bit more of a sturdy defender.
The third and fourth categories are where the real bounty is here. So third category first, cards which I wished existed and now do. Narya of course I was very keen on, to the point where I designed a custom Narya for a TftC contest which bears a striking resemblance to the actual one we got. Ally Glorfindel, not in and of himself but for the fact he’s our first 5-cost Spirit ally so he goes great with Caldara. Revealed in Wrath, the ability to temporarily blank enemy text boxes has been on my LotR LCG wishlist for some time. Strider I suspect is the closest we’ll ever get to an official equivalent of the First Age Solitary Outlaw. I was wishing a little while back that the Dwarven mining archetype had more cards that specifically worked with it, and then along comes the Ered Luin Miner. And then there are a few generic ones, where I’m really happy we have gotten and are getting more decent options for healing (Galadhrim Healer, Imladris Caregiver, Ioreth), location control (Explorer’s Almanac, Mariner’s Compass, The Evening Star, Mirkwood Explorer, Woodland Courier, Hithlain), and side-quests (The Storm Comes). For many people Tactics Eowyn falls into this category, though as noted, not so much for me except in that she lets Tactics quest better which is nice.
And the fourth category, of big meta-shifting cards, I already mentioned Arwen and Denethor. Elven-light could also go in that category, as I think could Heed the Dream. Tactics Eowyn could go here of course. One people might not expect is hero Elfhelm – I don’t think he’s necessarily the most powerful of heroes, but the way his ability works means that having him anywhere on the table naturally increases the value both of Mounts and of any means of gaining additional resource icons (Songs being the most generic of course). The general trend of cards with extra abilities activated by the players spending resources as a group can push the meta more towards the co-operative aspects of the game, and the indication of multi-trait synergy cards to come in the next cycle (like Unlikely Friendship) may add more variation to deckbuilding as it incentivises decks which aren’t purely focused on a single trait. Finally, there’s one card which, like Sword-thain, will not be something you pull out all the time, but which is sure to make a big splash any time it does hit the table, and that of course is Justice Shall be Done. Between the capacity for huge final pushes to win the game, shenanigans with decks deliberately sacrificing themselves to bolster everyone else, and the possibility of multiple decks running this so they can Message from Elrond the other copies over to a single player, and this has the potential to be a big meta-shift just by the fact that it becomes a valid option.
Finally, as with last time let’s quickly go over the other cards which are currently spoiled but not released for some quick thoughts.
Flame of the West – As someone who likes to support their saga heroes by e.g. giving Aragorn all his toys, the new Fellowship Aragorn looks great. I don’t generally get into cards which haven’t been fully spoiled since any speculation on them tends to be fairly baseless, but I will note that the partially spoiled event Sterner than Steel has got to be something pretty cool since it’s the box art, and I will also reiterate what I’ve said elsewhere, that I’m pretty confident based on the previewed artwork that the second hero is Beregond, in either Spirit or Leadership. Personally I’m hoping Spirit so we get maximum sphere-bleed in a single box, but either way I’m pretty excited.
The Drowned Ruins – The Dwarven Sellsword should be pretty cool. Apart from anything else, he helps Dwarf decks get up to 5 Dwarves faster, while providing some strong stats in the early-game for that low cost (kind of like a lesser version of Sneak Attack Gandalf, in one card). Marksman of Lorien looks like a great addition to Silvan and non-Silvan decks. Also a 2hp Silvan so works with Silvan Tracker and archery damage or similar; and is great for if you want to pull off some Straight Shot shenanigans. The others I mentioned as things I’ve wanted to have in the game, more decent location control and something more to incentivise less than 3 heroes.
A Storm on Cobas Haven – Knife-work looks interesting. The initial effect sounds great in principle, but in practice you won’t usually be engaged with that many enemies that it becomes really useful. The secondary effect is better, but this still seems most likely to fit into decks with interesting combos like Hammer-stroke or Tactagorn or lots of Ranged (plus readying/Hour of Wrath) to get lots of kills and draw lots of cards. Alternatively maybe a Dunedain deck that has a bunch of engaged enemies powering its stuff could use this to draw out a load of its deck by killing them off at an opportune moment. Ioreth I mentioned as being another good source of healing, I’ll add to that that she’s the one I most feel could potentially replace the Warden of Healing in some of my decks. Also she’ll work great in my Trap deck since that likes to get an early Sword-thain but doesn’t care who gets it so the cheaper the unique ally the better.
The City of Corsairs – Inspiring Presence should be an interesting one. Will presumably work well in a hero-centric setup, and a hero-centric setup is liable to have a fairly high threat hero to trigger it with. Screw Prince of Dol Amroth, I hate Outlands. The big deal here though is the hero. There are some who call him… Tim…rahil. Tactics Imrahil looks like potentially a very shenanigan-y hero. Especially since his ability relates to his traits and you can give him more traits. Like say, give him the Silvan trait and trigger all those enters play abilities. Then return them to your hand rather than shuffling them back in so the ability has effectively drawn you a card as well. Timrahil decks which either return the allies to hand or kill them off should draw pretty well since he’ll be thinning out the deck. There are too many great options to cover all of them but I’m just going to quickly mention ally Beorn since triggering his attack boost gets him shuffled back into your deck at the end of the phase, which Timrahil already has you do.
The Sands of Harad – Unlikely Friendship as I mentioned above starts to open up some nice deckbuilding space for being less trait-focused. Or I guess you could just put Elf-friend in your Dwarf deck and then play it. Vigilant Dunadan will go nicely in any deck which makes reasonable use of side-quests, such as e.g. this one. The Storm Comes I like just because I like side-quests, but it’s also a really interesting effect. It’ll work nicely for decks which like to bring in out-of-sphere allies with effects like Elrond, A Very Good Tale, Sneak Attack/Reinforcements, Herald of Anorien or of course A Good Harvest. It’s also interesting in that it’s the first side-quest we’ve seen which isn’t limit 1 per deck. You can run 3 copies if it’s something you want to depend on. Given the recent burst of enthusiasm the community has seen for Good Harvest, a side-quest which gives everyone in the game a limited Good Harvest every round sounds pretty great to me.
There’s too much here for me to summarise it any way other than “The game is looking great and I’m really excited for the future.” So there you go, that’s my conclusion. Looking forward to all these upcoming releases. Everything is awesome.
OK, so I was literally just about to post this when someone pops into Discord and links the latest news article so now we’re going to talk about that.
Honestly, as excited as I was for him, I’m not sure how impressed I am with Spirit Beregond. On the other hand, Galadriel has demonstrated that a threat which never goes up can be a big deal. There may well be shenanigans to be had with Secrecy decks. And of course we must not forget that Beregond’s real ability is just having 4 defence. Still noticeably more excited about the other cards though. Sterner than Steel gives Tactics a way of dealing with shadow effects, which has been one of its biggest issues for some time I would say. Golden Shield can pair up with Herugrim to make Eowyn (or Theoden) a one woman (or man) questing and combat machine so long as you’ve got the necessary readying effects. And while Tactics is getting willpower and shadow cancellation, Spirit is getting defence and damage cancellation, with Beregond coming alongside Desperate Defence, which compares pretty well to Behind Strong Walls (the ready isn’t automatic if the attack is too strong, but the defence boost is better), and Livery of the Tower going very nicely on a hero with resources to spare (because e.g. they have Steward of Gondor and you only have so many cards to play). Though as chrsjxn pointed out in Discord, it does rather suggest that they might be nerfing Blood of Numenor, since otherwise why bother? (Except for the ability to cancel archery or other direct damage).
The big one for me though is ally Imrahil. The phrasing of Prince of Dol Amroth implied the existence of an ally Imrahil, and he really doesn’t disappoint. Far superior to Brok Ironfist as a potential hero substitute, since he actually is a substitute hero rather than just an OK ally. He’s going to be really bonkers in Caldara decks though. As soon as he turns up suddenly you always have 3 heroes even while Caldara’s in the discard. This would now be my pick for a card which immediately inspires me to a combo and fits a mechanic that suits me. That said, Caldara decks are getting ridiculously good at this point, I kind of feel like they didn’t need the extra boost. Still going to enjoy the power up.
…alright, now unless another news article goes up in the next few minutes, I am done with this, and even more excited than I was before. Hope you are too!