This is another thought which occurred to me during the run of the Hero Championship – picking out heroes as the best in a certain category (quester/attacker/defender being the most obvious of course). Now of course one of the interesting points is that being the best at a certain thing doesn’t necessarily mean that a hero is going to do well in the Hero Championship, or even in a single criterion version of it like my purely power-based one I did in my last post. But it’s interesting in and of itself, so here we go, for the first and possibly only time, the Warden of Arnor Hero Awards!
Firstly, I’m just going to give a quick rundown of the categories I arbitrarily decided to include and how I’m defining them. As a general note I’ll mention that my nominations for each category are not necessarily my picks for the top 4 in that category, but rather they are picks of four heroes who fit the category for different reasons – it’s more interesting that way than to just name heroes who work in a similar way when one is manifestly better than the others in that respect.
These are kind of the most obvious categories. Which heroes are the best at filling each of the three central roles in this game, of questing, attacking and defending?
Also sort of self-explanatory, but much more susceptible of other interpretations than mine. I struggle to define this one other than by its name, it’s for the hero who is most versatile in terms of the roles they can fill, the options they can enable, the scope of possibilities they open up.
This is something which a lot of people would associate with versatile as well, and indeed my inclusion of it is partly to serve as a counterpoint to the Most Versatile category. This is for heroes who are versatile in a different way – for the heroes who fit in the most different decks, while demanding little or nothing to accommodate them into the existing deck concept. Heroes who you can pretty much just drag and drop into any deck you like and make it work.
This is the other and more direct counterpoint to Most Universal, the heroes who simply don’t work unless you build specifically around them. It should be noted that being demanding is not necessarily a downside, as such heroes can do a lot for you if you do go to the effort of building around them, but this merely acknowledges the existence of that effort.
Most Likely To Give Players A Headache
This is for the heroes whose abilities lead to the most complicated plays, with the most diverse factors floating around that players can easily lose track of, figuring out the intricacies of the timing involved, the precise order things need to be done in for optimal results, and so on until the less in-depth players may prefer to simply take a painkiller and swear off that hero forever as not worth the required mental effort.
Most In Need Of Cloning
For the heroes whose uniqueness clashes are the most painful to have to deal with.
Of all the awards, this is the one where the winner was the most obvious. Indeed, I struggled to pick other nominations who weren’t just obviously inferior. This is partly what led to my stipulation that the nominations represent different routes to the same end rather than just doing exactly the same thing but some better than others.
Nominations: Eowyn (Sp), Theoden (Ta), Treebeard, Lanwyn.
Spirit Eowyn was a premier questing hero right out of the Core Set. There would be no other hero with 4 willpower until the fourth cycle, and not one who could use that 4 willpower without an attachment until the fifth Deluxe expansion. On top of that Eowyn’s willpower can be simply boosted by discarding from hand, and this is a co-operative ability which gains additional power in multiplayer to the point where Eowyn can potentially quest for 8. Plus, between duplicate uniques and more recent discard shenanigans with Noldor, discarding a card sometimes isn’t really even that much of a cost.
Tactics Theoden was an awkward hero on release, but that wasn’t entirely because his ability wasn’t effective so much as it wasn’t wanted. Like Eowyn’s, Theoden’s ability scales into multiplayer, to the point where theoretically it could be providing an extra 12 points of willpower (13 with Sword-thain), though I wouldn’t fancy my chances against many quests with four mono-Tactics decks. Regardless that the theoretical maximum wouldn’t be such a great idea, it is a useful ability, more so now than when he was released, and I have long been a defender of Tactics Theoden. While it’s not all him, that ability can supply a decent amount of willpower, making Theoden a different kind of good questing hero than Eowyn.
Treebeard only has an innate willpower of 2, but by taking damage he can boost this potentially to 7, though this will require either healing or a hit point boost. Without either of those things he can still boost to 6 willpower, and this is irrespective of player-count, so in solo he can exceed Eowyn’s starting questing power. Of course the drawback lies in the need for healing.
Lanwyn is perhaps an odd choice here, but again, her willpower can be boosted, potentially to 6, depending on encounter card draws – since it triggers off Surge, she gets boosted often when you most need her to be. Or of course she can ready instead, which is likewise not to be sniffed at. And of note is that while it’s not under the players’ control, her boost on the other hand doesn’t cost the players anything like Eowyn’s discards or Treebeard’s damage; nor is it deck-specific like Theoden’s Tactics focus.
Honourable mention: Dain Ironfoot
In a similar vein to Tactics Theoden, Dain can provide a lot of willpower though not it’s not all him. I would’ve still picked Eowyn over him for her early-game questing potential, but in fact I didn’t nominate him because of course while he provides a lot of willpower he doesn’t generally quest himself and thus I don’t really consider him a quester.
And the winner is… Eowyn!
Yeah, this one was obvious. I tried to make it a bit more interesting by going for more off-beat heroes based on willpower boosts rather than just the other heroes who also have 4 willpower but can’t boost it, because that would just be clear cut in Eowyn’s favour. In the end though, I couldn’t pick this one any other way.
There’s a bit more variation here, as the manner of an attack can be more varied than the manner of questing, and those variations mean there’s more to consider than simply raw statistical superiority.
Nominations: Gimli (Ta), Beorn, Haldir of Lorien, Aragorn (Ta).
Gimli is the classic hulking hero from the Core Set and has yet to be surpassed in that regard. With the exception of Gondorian Fire (which can work on any hero with Steward or In Service) I don’t think Gimli can be beaten for hero attack at his full power level. At this point it’s possible without too many complications to boost him to 17 hit points for a potential 18 attack. The drawback is it takes some significant setup in playing those hit point boosts and actually getting the damage on him.
Beorn has the highest base attack value of any hero in the game. Bard is effectively there at Ranged against most enemies and Eomer gets there easily enough, but Beorn has no conditions on his attack, it’s just there right from the off.
Haldir’s attack is just 3 Ranged, which isn’t exactly uncommon at this point. But what sets him apart from other strong attacking heroes who share that stat+keyword combination is his ability. They say the best defence is a good offense, and Haldir is the clearest embodiment of that attitude in this game, with that ability letting you kill an enemy before it attacks or potentially even before it engages a player. Any time you kill an enemy you are saving future defences which would otherwise need to be made against it, with Haldir you can skip even the first defence.
Tactics Aragorn once again is only 3 attack, and doesn’t even have the Ranged keyword. On the other hand, his passive defence reduction to all engaged enemies effectively functions as an attack boost not only to him, but even to attacks you make without involving him. His other ability on the other hand offers a similar utility to Haldir’s if you can make multiple kills in a round, allowing you to skip some defences by only engaging those enemies after enemy attacks are over for the round. Not to mention it also counteracts his lack of Ranged.
Honourable mentions: Dain Ironfoot, Treebeard.
Dain for basically the same reasons as I mentioned in his honourable mention for questing.
Treebeard obviously can be a very potent attack option, but I felt that in essence he can be seen as pretty similar to Gimli, but not as potent, so Gimli got the nomination.
And the winner is… Aragorn!
Gimli has the highest potential but requires significant setup to get there, while all the others are powerful attackers from the get-go. Beorn has higher basic attack, but Aragorn’s defence reduction can potentially make up the difference, and he also brings in some of w Haldir-esque pre-emptive factor. Meanwhile Haldir is the superior pre-emptive kill hero, but Aragorn has that defence reduction working for him giving you a boost on the effective attack power and can potentially once set up pull off multiple pre-emptive kills per round which Haldir can’t. He’s kind of a mixture of the two and has advantages over both of them, and he’s faster starting than Gimli.
The significant distinction in the defence question tends to be between number of defences and quality of defences and that distinction forms a pretty clear 2/2 split in my 4 nominations.
Nominations: Boromir (Ta), Elrohir, Beregond (Ta), Erkenbrand.
Boromir obviously can defend as many time as you like if he has the threat. There’s a reason getting him a Gondorian Shield can be such a big deal. His innate defence is only 2, though, so setup is required before he really achieves that potential. The other question mark lies over how many defences you really need – there’s definite potential for Boromir to just be superfluous.
Elrohir gets his nomination on a similar principle to Boromir. Assuming Elladan is in play he has higher base defence, though he requires setup to reliably get access to the readying he needs. Although the question of that readying being superfluous may still arise. On the other hand any round when you don’t need it lets you save for those when you do, and spending resources isn’t a potential hazard to you the way threat raises can be. Of course I tend to bring up in the context of Boromir that threat really isn’t so much of a downside as it used to be with plenty of threat reduction available, but it still can be one.
Beregond obviously is the classic defender, the only hero in the game with 4 defence. Tactics Beregond is a superior defender to his Spirit version because his cost reduction makes it easier to make him a better defender (the threat reduction from Spirit is also useful though, just doesn’t make him better at defending). On pure stats obviously he’s the best defender, but he doesn’t have that innate readying.
Erkenbrand doesn’t have the readying of Boromir or Elrohir, and he has less defence than Beregond. But what he has which none of the others has innately, is shadow cancellation. Of course it costs him taking damage, but the random nature of shadow cards can be the most dangerous aspect of combat in this game.
Honourable mentions: Frodo Baggins, Beorn.
I wouldn’t pick Beorn as on quite the same level as these others as a defender, but the ability to defend without exhausting is a pretty big deal and so he deserves mention just for his ability to soak up a bunch of attacks in the early game before other defenders are established.
Frodo I actually forgot about while writing up this category otherwise I might have given him a nomination. The ability to take damage as threat means he can defend absolutely anything and survive (or indeed, take anything undefended and survive). Having finished writing the whole article I’m not going to go back and rethink my nominations now, but I’m putting in this honourable mention and noting that Frodo is an incredibly powerful defender.
And the winner is… Beregond!
I made the point that lots of defences can be superfluous depending on the number of enemies. At this point of course there are also more options for readying your defenders when you really need to. Above all though, what you really need in your best defender to my mind is quality of defence. Most significantly, having that strong defence right out the gate from the very start of the game can be a big deal. The difference made by 1 more defence is a really big deal, and the really devastating shadow effects aren’t common enough for Erkenbrand’s inherent cancellation to overcome that difference in a value judgement. Depending on the quest I could see this one being argued otherwise than I have, but I do personally stand by this choice.
Just as this was a difficult category to define, so too it was a difficult one to pick the nominations. In one respect I could have simply looked for balanced statlines since they obviously mean a hero can fill multiple of the basic roles (quester/attacker/defender), but versatility in abilities can be rarer, and tends to be most easily found in the form of flexible resource generation or card draw, since then there’s obviously a lot of versatility in either what the cards are that you’re drawing or what you’re spending the resources on.
Nominations: Aragorn (Ld), Elrond, Gandalf, Erestor.
Aragorn of course is a classic versatile hero. The 2/3/2/5 statline makes him a reasonable prospect for any of the basic roles, especially with the Sentinel keyword as well. Besides that, he has his suite of attachments which in addition to other useful effects (two of which benefit questing, one defence, and one attack) grant him access to all four spheres of influence if you want them (of course you could do the same to any hero with Songs but these are multi-purpose). Tactics Aragorn clearly has more of a combat focus, specifically attack; but the threat reset of Lore Aragorn offers a lot of potent options and is never going to be useless, while Core Aragorn’s readying is not the best value but gives you an immediate means of having him pull double duty and more significantly being in the Leadership sphere gives him easy access to those attachments. In the end I gave the nomination to the Core version for that easier attachment access, but I could easily make a case for Loragorn as well.
Elrond likewise has a powerful statline which suits him quite well to participating in any of the main areas of the game. The boost to healing doesn’t really add to versatility, but it doesn’t point you in a particular direction as healing is pretty generic. The ability to pay for allies of any sphere though is a massive deal because a lot of decks are built significantly around what allies they use and so being able to take allies from any sphere massively increases your options. Finally Vilya. Vilya once again lets you disregard resource matches and play any card from any sphere in your deck; but more than that, because it plays it from the top of your deck it also accelerates the deck so you see more cards in total, letting your deck do more; and it plays the card for free. Some setup is required, but mostly all you need is Vilya itself and an Imladris Stargazer, leaving plenty of room for whatever it is you’re using Vilya to bring in. The amount of options Vilya can open up is staggering, and that’s on top of Elrond’s own innate versatility, making him a tremendously powerful contender in this category. Vilya can let you focus on just about anything, but even without it just having Elrond can let you focus on anything so long as its based around allies.
I just talked enthusiastically about the versatility offered by Elrond since he can pay for allies of any sphere – Gandalf can pay for any card of any sphere, not just allies. I also mentioned while talking about Vilya that playing from the top of your deck effectively accelerates your draw and thus lets your deck do more – Gandalf can do this as well, innately, potentially as often as once a phase if you have a bunch of events stacked on top of your deck. You don’t get the cards for free like with Vilya, but on the other hand you don’t have to draw and play an attachment, and nor do you need to exhaust your powerful hero. Gandalf also has the versatile statline such that he can fill any role, and some useful attachments which support different possibilities. The Wizard Pipe obviously is simply enabling his own ability, but then Gandalf’s Staff provides flexible resource generation and card draw, effects which are useful to making any deck work better; then there’s Shadowfax, which by providing Ranged and Sentinel as well as readying very much supports a potential deck based around the strongly statted hero, but on the other hand Narya supports more of a heavier ally focus. The options are incredibly extensive.
Erestor of course has that classic generic balanced statline, which does again support use in any role, and his ability falls into the sort of category I raised in the introduction – he draws you cards, but then those cards could be anything you like, thus making him an incredibly versatile who can fit into pretty much any deck type you care to devise.
And the winner is… Gandalf!
There’s not much I can say here which I didn’t already say above. The scope of what you can do with player cards is ever expanding, opening up more new and exciting options, and Gandalf is a hero with the innate ability to let you play absolutely any card in the game under the right conditions. Put simply, Gandalf can let you do literally anything that it’s possible to do in this game, and thus I consider him the clear pick for the Most Versatile Hero.
For this category I decided to deliberately choose one nomination for each of the four spheres. Obviously a more universal hero is inevitably going to be a supportive glue hero. There’s a definite trend towards the kind of resource-smoothing which can help such a hero cope with being the only hero of their sphere in a deck, also towards fairly low threat, and also of course towards willpower since (barring Battle and Siege quests) that’s always useful in any deck.
Nominations: Bifur, Sam Gamgee, Arwen Undomiel, Eowyn (Ta).
Bifur is a hero who can easily slot into any deck which needs a Lore hero. Low threat cost of 7, a respectable 2 willpower, and his ability not only demands nothing from you but in fact can ease your deckbuilding by enabling you to use some higher cost Lore cards than would generally be practical for the number of Lore heroes you have. Bifur is never a bad choice.
Sam Gamgee is a fan favourite partly just because he’s much-loved as a character, but he’s also a great hero. 8 threat is the lowest you can get out of a Leadership hero, his ability if you can trigger it can help you deal with what otherwise be some pretty rough combat situations, by granting both stat boosts and action advantage, and even without that he contributes an impressive 3 willpower. It’s the last factor which caused me to give him the nomination over the other two 8 threat Leadership heroes and their extra resources – their stats are less universally useful than that willpower, so many decks may prefer to have that stronger questing out of the gate.
Arwen was a big deal as soon as she was released and has only continued to be more so as people have gotten more used to her. It seems a bit odd that of my one-per-sphere nominations in this category the highest threat is the Spirit hero, but she’s still only 9. I just made the point talking about Sam that in the end I picked his starting advantage of 3 willpower over the resource generation of his competitors, but here Arwen has 3 willpower and also generates resources, albeit at a cost of cards. But cards are a fairly readily available resource, and then there’s Elven-light. Once you draw Elven-light you can potentially choose to change Arwen’s ability to “Draw an additional card every round.” Elven-light doesn’t get really insane until you combine it with more discard effects and more resource generation of course, but Arwen is enough to get you started, and it’s pretty potent even just at that level. And pretty much no deck in this game doesn’t like to have more resources and cards.
Eowyn’s much anticipated Tactics incarnation is a huge boon to the Tactics sphere and its wider applicability to different decks, in particular solo decks. (Effectively) 6 threat for 4 willpower is an insanely good ratio of threat to stats, and of course willpower is the most universally applicable of a character’s stats. Of course if you trigger her once-per-game ability you go back up to a still impressive but more sane 9 for 4, but then you’ve also gotten the use of that +9 attack, and sometimes wanting to be rid of an early enemy you can defend but just aren’t ready to kill just yet is likewise a fairly universal problem for decks to face.
Honourable mentions: Theodred, Denethor (Ld).
I brought these up when talking about Sam – the extra resources are tremendously useful and these two heroes are correspondingly very universally useful, but their stats aren’t up to quite so much. One of these two might in many decks be a better choice than Sam, but Sam would likely still work for a lot of those decks, while I think there are a decent number of decks where the loss of starting willpower from swapping out Sam would be a problem.
And the winner is… Arwen Undomiel!
Even though she’s (effectively) the highest threat of my nominations, the incredible value she provides for that threat cost of good willpower plus resource generation (innately) and card draw (with Elven-light) makes her just so at home in pretty much any deck you care to imagine. And if you are worried about that threat cost, well she’s in the sphere with all the threat reduction, so while you start higher you may well end up lower in the long run than decks using these other universal heroes.
Three of my nominations for this category were really easy to pick, the fourth took more thought while skimming through the list of all the heroes. I stand by the nomination though, he’s not particularly less demanding, just less high profile than the other three.
Nominations: Gloin, Dunhere, Boromir (Ta), Caldara.
Gloin is excessively powerful, as we’ve been aware for a while, but to get him up to full immortal resource-spewing god status requires that you devote a fair amount of your deck to boosting his hit points and healing him after he takes damage. It’s well worth it obviously, but it can’t be denied that it requires devoting a fair amount of deckspace to establishing that setup before you can start spending it all on whatever you choose.
Dunhere was the less obvious pick here, and indeed his demanding nature comes in a slightly different form – he needs attack boosts to work really well, obviously, and low threat or trickery to ensure enemies stay in the staging are for him to charge them. But the big reason he got a nomination here is for the impact on multiplayer, because unlike any of the other nominees here, Dunhere effectively places demands on all decks in multiplayer, not just that of the person playing him. Everyone needs to be low threat for Dunhere to do his thing unless trickery is involved.
Boromir decks have for some time now been considered basically the top of the overpowered heap. There’s a lot you can do with almost unlimited action advantage, but getting it to work for you can be quite demanding. The obvious point lies in the downside of Boromir’s ability – you need threat reduction to counter the increases. But beyond that, you also need to make those actions worth using. If he’s going to be defending over and over and over using his ability to ready, then 2 defence will not generally be enough, and 3 attack won’t kill many enemies without help. So you need to focus on boosting those stats up, with the most common approaches to this being Blood of Numenor/Gondorian Fire and a bunch of resource generation. Other options exist obviously but whatever you go for it’s clearly a significantly demanding approach.
Caldara is clearly a pretty demanding hero. For one thing, she pretty much mandates that you play mono-Spirit. On top of that, obviously for her to work properly you have to include a decent number of useful Spirit allies for her to trigger on, plus Fortune or Fate, and then some means of discarding cards from hand or deck so she’ll have targets. And then if you’re discarding from deck you risk losing useful cards so you need more recursion effects to get them back. This is also one of the most powerful decks around at this point, but there are a lot of things you need to include to make it work properly.
Honourable mentions: Hama, Theoden (Ta), Rossiel.
Hama demands a decent number of Tactics events to recycle, and good card draw so you always have things to discard after you recycle them.
Tactics Theoden only boosts Tactics heroes, so you need to have some decent questing Tactics heroes to get proper use out of him, and/or have some other use for your willpower, like Herugrim and/or the Golden Shield (though admittedly those work very well with Theoden himself).
Rossiel obviously basically requires you to run the victory display cards for her to work properly, plus potentially some readying to use both her willpower and her defence.
None of these are quite on the same level as my actual nominees though in my opinion.
And the winner is… Caldara!
This was a very difficult one for me to pick, but in the end, Dunhere’s demanding nature is only really a big deal in multiplayer, and even there are at least some high engagement cost enemies; meanwhile Boromir and Gloin are very demanding if you want to build the top tier overpowered decks with them, but they can function just fine at a lower level of demanding and still be entirely viable. Meanwhile, Caldara’s demanding nature is basically just to get her ability to work at all.
Most Likely To Give Players A Headache
This is in some ways a tricky one to call, partly because there’s no simple metric by which to judge if one deck’s shenanigans are more complicated than another’s, and also because I personally really enjoy messing around with the complicated tricksy plays and don’t get as mixed up or frustrated by the complexities. I must admit, I was slightly tempted as a joke to nominate Spirit Pippin and say he gives players headaches trying to figure out how the designers ever thought he was a good design, but I decided against it.
Nominations: Brand son of Bain, Hama, Caldara, Gandalf.
Brand is of course one of my personal favourite heroes. That extra action he grants each time he kills something at Ranged can of course be invaluable in allowing the group to get an additional kill or maybe an extra utility action. When you get up into higher player counts with lots of enemies on the board though, figuring out where it’s best to direct Brand’s attack and ready for maximum efficiency, bearing in mind the intricacies of timing which can be involved in Ranged attacks, can lead to some very complicated combat calculus, as anyone can attest who watched the CotR stream where this happened against Raid on the Grey Havens. Direct quote: “This is what Brand does to the board, I just want that to be known. I like him, but he makes my head hurt!”
The confusion with Hama of course lies in the decisions of what events to pull, and sometimes weird timing things because Hama’s ability triggers when he’s declared as an attacker whereas other cards such as Foe-hammer aren’t triggered until the enemy is destroyed. If you set up a deck which gets Hama multiple attacks then obviously it just starts to multiply up the complexity as you’re playing events and recycling them and playing them again and taking advantage of multiple different action windows and so on.
Caldara is also not above some weird timing shenanigans, indeed they make up one of the reasons she was already good even before things got ridiculous with Sword-thain. Figuring out the timing of “OK, so I quest with Caldara, then discard her to bring in these allies, play Fortune or Fate to bring her back ready, she can defend a weak enemy and then I can discard her again to get more allies to kill my enemies,” and similar have been some of my favourite times playing this game, but I can’t deny that the intricacies involved are not the easiest thing to wrap your head around – and that’s on top of the fact that playing a Caldara deck kind of inherently requires a bit of a different mind-set than most other decks you could be using, this being one of the reasons it took a while for her to really catch on.
The whole idea of ‘Gandalf Guy’ and his 10 minute Planning phases is kind of an in-joke in the community, but it’s not without some basis in reality. For one thing, Gandalf’s ability being limit once per phase can lead to one of those rare cases where you actually do something during the Resource phase rather than everyone just going straight into Planning. And then there’s the whole debate of playing from top of deck, shifting something else to top of deck with Wizard Pipe, potentially using Gandalf’s Staff to add a resource to play something else, or draw a card in the hopes of finding something more useful. Oh and then of course we can complicate it further by adding in Imladris Stargazers, and Masters of the Forge, and Gildor Inglorion, and Word of Command if we want to go all out until we’re searching and shuffling our deck 2 or 3 times, rearranging it a couple of times, and playing things before after and during all of this. The reputation is somewhat deserved.
And the winner is… Gandalf!
After rewatching the relevant bit of CotR twitch I seriously considered giving this to Brand, but Brand’s headache-inducing status only really comes out at higher player counts as I said, while Gandalf is complicated all the time. Of course further up the post I awarded him Most Versatile, and in that light this isn’t too surprising. Indeed one would expect that being able to play literally any card in the game would lead to some complicated decision-making even before we got into the precise mechanism through which those cards are played.
Most In Need Of Cloning
Obviously picking potential nominees for this one was easy, since there still aren’t that many hero uniqueness clashes, and then I just had to fine down the list to the ones I thought were more significant. Of note is that I will also be considering ally versions as I judge this one, since they clearly impact the significance of the clash. Also of course, some more thoughts on this subject can be found in my post specifically about uniqueness clashes.
Nominations: Aragorn, Gandalf, Legolas, Grima.
Aragorn is the most duplicated hero, with three regular versions and two Saga versions. So that’s six quests where none of the standard Aragorns can be used at all, and even outside of that his three different versions seriously risk competing with each other. Leadership Aragorn is mostly just likely to turn up as a strong hero intended to power up and do everything. Lore Aragorn can do that as well but also his threat reset can be crucial to a deck’s strategy if it expects to raise its threat a lot with e.g. Boromir, Frodo, or OHaUH Gandalf. Tactics Aragorn on the other hand is the best hero attacker in the game and thus may be much in demand for combat decks.
Gandalf obviously can be a bothersome uniqueness clash. Personally I mostly would just like people to not complain when I bring out hero Gandalf or OHaUH Gandalf, I don’t get too bent out of shape over not being able to use Core Gandalf myself. Other people still place more significance on him though obviously. Either way, any time you bring out one of the more permanent forms of Gandalf it’s very likely to at least require someone to sideboard something.
Legolas I have kind of the opposite experience to with Gandalf. I potentially wish I could ignore uniqueness or that other people would stop using the hero because I much prefer the ally version of Legolas in the majority of cases, and he may well be my primary card draw in a Tactics deck so the presence of the hero causes me some serious issues as to deck consistency. Spirit Legolas has yet to cause me any uniqueness clash issues, but then he’s very new so I’m sure it’ll start happening there as well.
Grima I put here sort of as the token nod to those occasions when the encounter deck blocks your hero selection. In Fords of Isen – the first quest of the box in which Grima was released – you cannot use the hero because he’s an objective ally. And then it’s also impossible to play out what I think would be an interesting “what if” scenario imagining that Grima chose to be loyal to Theoden instead of Saruman, because the Treason of Saruman rulesheet forbids you using Grima (or Saruman) for any of the quests in it, and of course in Road to Isengard he appears as an enemy. To some this may not perhaps be such a big deal, but it irks me, and any additional restrictions on campaign deckbuilding can potentially be irksome in general.
Honourable mention: Arwen Undomiel.
Ally Arwen was a massive staple of Spirit decks for ages. Then hero Arwen came along and now she’s a massive staple of Spirit decks. The ally is still very good but the hero is much more often seen (there’s a reason I picked her as the Most Universal Hero in the game), and for all that ally Arwen used to feel indispensable, we seem to manage just fine without her. Honestly this honourable mention is less because I think this uniqueness clash is such a big deal than it is to note that until hero Arwen actually arrived I was sure it would be.
And the winner is… Aragorn!
In the end, there’s no way I could pick anyone else for this category. Versatile centrepiece of so many decks, Saga hero for six quests and three standard versions in different spheres, and I think people will be very surprised if we don’t get a Spirit Aragorn as well at some point. He’s the clear stand-out winner as far as I’m concerned.
And there you have it. I just want to reiterate at this point that being the best or one of the best at a certain specific thing doesn’t mean that these heroes are necessarily better than other heroes in general, just to pre-empt potential comments about some of my more unusual choices. Even leaving that aside though, I’m sure some of you reading this would have picked different winners, so feel free to tell me that I’m wrong. Do you think I unfairly snubbed any heroes by not nominating them for certain categories? Are there any other categories you think I should’ve included? Any other thoughts? Hope you enjoyed reading this in any case.