A Look Into Middle-Earth’s Arsenal: Part Two
Last time we examined the basic and advanced applications of the Blade of Gondolin and Dwarrowdelf Axe. In this installment, it is time to dig into Elrond’s arsenal, placing the spotlight on the Rivendell Blade and Rivendell Bow.
* Rivendell Blade
Like the Dwarrowdelf Axe, this is a weapon with a racial restriction, only this time it is restricted to those of the Elven persuasion. The text of the card states that it can only be attached to a Noldor or Silvan character. The Rivendell Blade has one ability: it lowers the defense of the enemy who is being attacked by 2. While a simple enough effect, I find the potential applications of this effect intriguing, and it currently is the only player card that can lower an enemy’s defense (as opposed to simply boosting a character’s attack). For this reason, it has become one of my favorite weapons.
Basic applications: At its most basic level, you can get away with equating the Rivendell Blade’s effect to a +2 attack bonus (as long as the enemy being attacked by the Rivendell Blade has a defense of 2 or higher). A +2 boost is extremely powerful and can turn the character it is attached to into a powerhouse attacker. However, the fact that the effect is actually -2 defense to the enemy and not +2 attack to the character is an important distinction that has both positive and negative implications. On the negative side, the bonus does not stack well, because unless the enemy has a defense of 4 or higher (quite rare) than the extra reduction is lost. Also, as previously mentioned, if the enemy has a defense of 0 or 1, the Rivendell Blade’s value is diminished or completely lost. On the other hand, a positive aspect of this effect is that the reduction of the enemy’s defense lasts not just for the current attack but until the end of the phase. This is where the advanced applications will come into play.
Who to use it with: The Rivendell Blade, like the Dwarrowdelf Axe, can be used with allies as well as heroes, as long as they are either Noldor or Silvan. For heroes, this gives you a choice between Glorfindel (from either sphere), Elrond, Legolas, Elladan, or Elrohir. All are viable candidates. Legolas obviously benefits from the Rivendell Blade, as he does from most weapons, as it allows him to kill enemies more quickly and make use of his ability more often. Either Glorfindel, with a high starting attack of 3, is also a good choice for this weapon. Elrond and Elrohir, however, since they tend towards defensive roles, would probably not make best use of the Blade. Leaving aside heroes, when we start thinking about allies as potential wielders of this weapon, this is when things start getting really interesting. There are three strong candidates, once you eliminate those that are more suited to questing, defending, or using special abilities: Trollshaw Scout, Haldir of Lorien, and the Silverlode Archer. Characters with ranged are essential to get the maximum benefit and versatility from the Rivendell Blade, as they can attack an enemy on the other side of the board, ensuring that the Blade always has an available target. Haldir and the Silverlode Archer both meet this condition, in addition to having the desired base attack of 2. My favorite choice of the three, however, is the Trollshaw Scout. Not only is it ranged, but it does not exhaust to attack. This means that it can theoretically use the Rivendell Blade on every enemy engaged with a player, as long as you have the cards to keep it in play. Pairing the Trollshaw Scout/Rivendell Blade with some means of card draw, such as Bilbo, Beravor, or Gleowine, can give you the capability to sweep the board of enemies when they start to pile up. The cheap cost of 1 for the Rivendell Blade also means that this is a pretty easy combo to put into play.
Advanced applications: The true value of the Rivendell Blade comes in weakening and ultimately defeating enemies with high defense values. Unfortunately, the fact that each player can only attack an enemy once per turn, combined with the limitations of engagement, means that this lowered defense essentially translates to an attack bonus (as ranged wielders or beneficiaries of the Rivendell Blade can attack with the engaged player or on their own, with the result being exactly the same either way). The ability to keep an enemy’s defense lowered for the entire phase only comes into play in certain special circumstances. One such instance is any scenario that involves an enemy that is engaged with all players. So far, there is only one such enemy in the game: Durin’s Bane in the Shadow and Flame AP, and the Rivendell Blade’s ability comes into its own in this quest. Whenever the player controlling the Rivendell Blade is the first player, he can attack the Balrog, lowering its defense from a tough 3 to a cuddly 1. Any subsequent players can then pile onto Durin’s Bane, taking advantage of its weakened armor (or whatever the Balrog equivalent may be). Hopefully, there will be more enemies in the future like this one, so that the Rivendell Blade can further distinguish itself from other weapons. There are a couple of other situations where lowered defense can be utilized. They all require card combinations and their value is debatable, but I reveal them to you for consideration:
1) A Light in the Dark + Dunhere: I like this combo because it makes use of a card that I normally never use: A Light in the Dark. The combo works like this. A Rivendell Blade-wielding character, possibly together with other heroes and/or allies, attacks an enemy, thus lowering its defense. Then A Light in the Dark pushes the weakened enemy into the staging area, allowing a player controlling Dunhere to finish the move off. Dunhere gets to use his +1 attack, which with the -2 to the enemy’s defense from the Blade, adds up to a net bonus of 3. Not bad at all.
2) Hands Upon the Bow + Dunhere: This one is similar to the last combo. Use Hands Upon the Bow at the beginning of combat to allow the character holding the Rivendell Blade to make an immediate attack on an enemy in the staging area. With a -2 defense, and +1 attack given by this card, you are again looking at a net bonus of 3. Then, when Dunhere makes his attack upon the same enemy, he will benefit from the -2 defense as well, possibly eliminating or severely damaging a pesky and tough enemy in the staging area.
3) Sneak Attack + Son of Arnor: This one is a long shot and probably not worth the use of a Sneak Attack. However, it is perfectly viable if some brave soul wants to try it out, and might even be worth it against a key foe. The player controlling the Rivendell Blade makes an attack upon the target enemy, preferably with as many characters as possible, lowering the target’s defenses. A second player then uses Sneak Attack to bring out Son of Arnor, pulling the weakened enemy across the table to engage with it. This player’s allies and heroes can then pile up on the target as well, taking full advantage of the weakened defense. I hereby dub this combo the Witch-King killer™.
* Rivendell Bow
Like the Blade, the Rivendell Bow can only be attached to a Noldor or Silvan character. There is one little additional wrinkle, in that Aragorn can also use this weapon as well. It has two potential abilities, depending on the character it is attached to:
1) If the character does not have ranged, it gains ranged.
2) If the character does have ranged, it gains +1 attack to any ranged attacks.
Obviously, it goes without saying that this card is essentially useless if playing a pure solo game (other than to use a card like Hands Upon the Bow).
Basic applications: The first use of the Rivendell Bow is to serve as a cheaper and more versatile version of the Dunedain Cache. That Leadership attachment costs 2 resources and gives any hero ranged. The Rivendell Bow, by contrast, costs only 1 resource and can give any character ranged. The second use of the Bow is to make an already ranged character even more effective. Of course, in order to make this weapon worth its inclusion, you will want to build decks that make maximum use of ranged attack. Including the Bow in a combat deck that is designed to protect a weaker, questing-focused deck is a good example.
Who to use it with: Which characters could make good use of the ranged ability? Aragorn, with his high attack value, and special invitation to use this weapon despite the racial restriction, is the first obvious choice. Since he already has sentinel, Rivendell Bow makes Aragorn into an all-purpose hero who can attack or defend against any enemy engaged with any player. Glorfindel and Elladan, Elven heroes with attack values of 3, can benefit from ranged as well. The one ally who might be worth attaching the Bow to is the Mirkwood Runner. His ability (ignoring the enemy’s defense when attacking alone), despite being useful in some circumstances, is fairly limited in its utility, as usually you will want to gang up on most enemies and not just one lone ally with an attack of 2. However, giving the Mirkwood Runner ranged allows him to use his ability on an enemy engaged with another player, causing an automatic 2 damage and still allowing that player to attack the same enemy with multiple characters. The Rivendell Bow thus transforms a lukewarm ally into a powerful tool for consistent direct damage. As for the ranged characters who can benefit from the Bow, Legolas and Trollshaw Scout are the best choices, for the same reasons listed above for the Rivendell Blade (it lets Legolas kill enemies quicker to make progress; Trollshaw Scout can make multiple attacks).
Advanced applications: Rivendell Bow really comes into its own when paired with another weapon. To see what I mean, imagine Legolas armed with a Rivendell Bow and a Rivendell Blade. When making a ranged attack, he would be attacking for 4, while the targeted enemy would have -2 to its defense, resulting in a net value of 6! Again, of course this full effect only applies if the enemy has 2 defense or higher. As stated before, to really make effective use of the Rivendell Bow, you need to make sure that your decks are designed to facilitate and maximize the use of ranged attacks. A strategy using a combat-focused deck combined with a low-threat deck that can manage exactly when enemies engage is the perfect combination, as the non-combat deck can engage enemies one-by-one to be picked off by the Rivendell Bow. Here again the Son of Arnor could prove useful, strategically pulling an enemy across the board in order to put it in the sights of the bow. Obviously, with so much of a focus on ranged, including Hands Upon the Bow is a no-brainer as well.
With the Rivendell weapons now explored, the third installment will put the Dwarven Axe and Spear of the Citadel under the microscope.
Readers, I’d love to hear any interesting uses that you have found for Rivendell Blade or Rivendell Bow, sound off below!.