A Look Into Middle-Earth’s Arsenal: Part Three
Here we are at Part 3 of A Look Into Middle-Earth’s Arsenal. The last two weapons remain, and despite coming last, they will receive the full Tales From the Cards treatment. Read on to discover subtle and not-so-subtle uses of the Dwarven Axe and Spear of the Citadel.
* Dwarven Axe
One of the oldest weapons in the game, along with the Blade of Gondolin, the Dwarven Axe is also probably the most straightforward. Strangely enough, despite its misleading name, there is no racial restriction on this weapon. Any hero can use it to gain a +1 bonus to attack. However, Dwarves do gain an added benefit, as they gain +2 to attack instead.
Basic applications: The Dwarven Axe helps you to kill enemies quicker and to progress faster in battle stages. There is not much more you need to know. Hey, like I said, it is a a very uncomplicated weapon.
Who to use it with: This weapon is limited to heroes, but since there is no racial restriction, there are a wide variety of candidates to choose from. Who is best suited for the Dwarven Axe? Well, as with the other weapons previously discussed, it makes sense to attach the Axe to characters who will be taking an attacking role. First, let’s examine the Dwarven possibilities. The Axe costs 2 resources, which is more than every other weapon except the Spear of the Citadel, so in order to get full value for what you spend, it is best to use it only with Dwarves. Gimli is the first to spring to mind, and the +2 attack bonus on top of his hulking ability can transform him into an absolute monster (even more powerful with Dain in play). Throwing a Khazad! Khazad! and/or Durin’s Song on top of this combo can ensure that he instantly defeats most enemies in the game in one turn. Beyond Gimli, Thorin Oakenshield is a great choice, as he has the highest starting attack of any Dwarf hero, with the Axe boosting him up to 5 (equal to Beorn). The final possibility would be Dwalin, in order to feed his orc-killing binge. However, since Dwalin’s ability is situational, this combination only is useful for those orc-heavy quests. Is it ever worth it to attach the Dwarven Axe to a non-Dwarf? Ordinarily, I would say no, as the cost is a bit too high for my taste. However, there is value in the fact that it is not racially restricted. Men and Hobbits cannot use the Rivendell Blade or Rivendell Bow (with the exception of Aragorn), and the Blade of Gondolin only gives an attack bonus against orcs. Thus, the Dwarven Axe is the sole opportunity for those races to gain a bona fide universal attack bonus from a weapon. To make this weapon worth the resources you are spending on it, heroes who can ready like Boromir or Prince Imrahil would be necessary. It might also be a smart choice to give the Axe to Dunhere, so he can attack enemies in the staging area at 4 instead of 3. I wouldn’t recommend using the Dwarven Axe with Elves, as the Rivendell Blade would overall be a better and cheaper weapon for them.
Advanced applications: There aren’t many, as again, this is a what-you-see-is-what-you-get type of armament. The Heirs of Numenor box, however, with its new battle mechanics, has made attack-boosting items more valuable than they ever have been before. With this in mind, the Dwarven Axe can not only help with combat, but make sure that quest progress is quicker as well. Remember the Gimli/Dwarven Axe/Dain combination I mentioned earlier? Now imagine that set-up leading to Gimli contributing 9 or 10 towards questing each turn (as long as the stage is a battle). The Axe can help other heroes to be better battle questers as well, just not to the same insane level. Beyond the Heirs of Numenor quests, the Dwarven Axe also synergizes well with cards that play on attack values. Heavy Stroke, which doubles the damage a single Dwarf character inflicts, will obviously be more effective with the Axe increasing the amount of damage dealt. The two weapon-related cards introduced by The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill also would be worth including with a Dwarven Axe deck: Foe-hammer and Goblin-cleaver. The first can give some much-needed card draw to Tactics players, with the Axe helping to make sure that the condition of destroying an enemy is satisfied. The latter card just requires the simple exhaustion of the Dwarven Axe to cause a handy bit of direct damage.
* Spear of the Citadel
Did I say Rivendell Blade was my favorite weapon? Well, Spear of the Citadel certainly gives it a run for its money. In fact, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that the Spear is potentially the most powerful weapon in the game, especially if you build your deck around it. This weapon has absolutely no racial restrictions, and works exactly the same for Dwarves, Elves, Men, or Hobbits. It is, however, the first weapon to have a sphere restriction, as only Tactics characters can make use of it. The Spear has just one ability:
When the character holding the Spear is declared as a defender, the attacking enemy suffers an automatic 1 damage.
This is the first defensive weapon that has been introduced into the game so far, and therefore creates some new uses and potential recipients.
Basic applications: The most basic use of the Spear of the Citadel is just to attach it to the hero that will be your designated defender, and enjoy the direct damage that trickles in every time that hero defends. If you are not able to kill the attacking enemy outright, you at least have the peace of mind of knowing that they will eventually be defeated simply through the normal process of defending. Since the Spear is not limited to heroes, it can also be used with allies as well. It is limited to only 1 per character, and usually you will only have 1 dedicated defending hero, so any copies past the first one would be well-spent on allies that are tough enough to survive at least for a few rounds. In fact, out of all the weapons in the game, I would say that this one is the best suited to use with allies.
Who to use it with: This time we will see some different names emerging as candidates, since we are looking for natural defenders now instead of attackers. The number one hero to use the Spear of the Citadel with is Beregond, quite fitting since both cards came out in the Heirs of Numenor box. With his printed defense value of 4, Beregond is the best natural defender in the game. Not only that, but his special ability lowers the cost of all weapons placed on him by 2, meaning that he can attach the Spear for free. Beyond Beregond, there are only a couple of Tactics heroes that are well-suited for a defending role. Boromir is one that can benefit from the Spear, as although he usually is thought of as an attacking hero, his readying ability also allows him to defend multiple times in a turn, getting maximum usage out of this weapon (his defense of 2 is respectable as well, although a Dunedain Warning would make this even better). Don’t forget that you have the option of playing a Song of Battle onto a strong defending hero from another sphere, like Dain, Denethor, Elrond, or Frodo, allowing you to attach the Spear of the Citadel onto them. As far as allies go, the Spear can be used by any Tactics character, however there are a few that stand out as the best choices. Resources should never be thrown away lightly in this game, so the last thing you want to do is waste 2 resources on attaching the Spear of the Citadel to an ally who is going to die in one turn, or spend all of their time questing or attacking instead of defending. By contrast, the Defender of Ramas, with his amazing defense value of 4, is a perfect fit. However, he is easily killed with only a single hit point if something does get past his defenses, so you have to to choose enemies carefully and avoid shadow effects as much as possible. The Gondorian Spearman already inflicts 1 damage when he defends, so if he has a Spear of the Citadel on top of that ability, then he will deal 2 damage each time instead. Having the sentinel ability makes this combination even better. However, and this is a big if, his low defense of 1 and lone hit point make him extremely vulnerable. The best strategy would be to keep him out of combat, only declaring him as a defender in order to finish off enemies who have 2 hit points left. The final worthwhile choice is the Watcher of the Bruinen, who is a little bit stronger than the Gondorian Spearman (2 defense, 2 hit points), and as long as you have cards to burn, he can defend and use the Spear multiple times per turn.
Advanced applications: Including copies of the Spear of the Citadel to create incidental direct damage opportunities is a perfectly acceptable approach. However, you can take it to the next level by incorporating the Spear into a deck that really focuses on purposeful direct damage and building synergies with this weapon. Including Thalin with a Spear-centered deck makes perfect sense, as with Thalin dealing 1 damage to every enemy that is revealed, and the holder of the Spear (hold your giggles) adding on an additional point, almost all foes will start off with 2 points of damage on the first round they enter play. The event Swift Strike only ups the ante, piling on another 2 points of damage when a defender is declared for a total of 4. For similar reasons, Expecting Mischief, which often ends up getting cut from my decks, would also pair well with the Spear of the Citadel. Goblin-cleaver is an even better choice in my book, as it costs nothing, only requiring you to exhaust the Spear (keeping you from using this combo more than once per turn) to cause 2 points of damage to an enemy with which you are engaged. This ability to choose the target is another reason why I prefer it over Expecting Mischief, not to mention the fact that E.M. can completely whiff if no enemies are drawn. The overall point here is that building a direct damage deck that synergizes well with the Spear can lead to a situation where many enemies are dead before they even get to attack once. If not, they will at least be severely weakened so that it only takes 1 or 2 turns to finish them off. With enemies boasting more and more hit points as the game develops, this direct damage ability does not diminish in value, rather it is helpful in reducing the amount of time tough enemies stick around. Quests featuring low hit point enemies of course are prime fodder for this weapon as well (meaning pretty much any scenario with lots of orcs). The last thing I’ll mention is that the Dwarrowdelf Axe can work well with the Spear of the Citadel, especially in situations where an enemy with a high defense value is reduced to 1 hit point left thanks to the Spear, allowing a single character to execute the finishing blow even if they can’t penetrate the defense with their normal attack. As time goes on, and more and more direct damage effects are introduced to the game, this card will become even more powerful. In fact, the designers will have to be careful so that things don’t spiral out of control until they are broken. For now, though, feel comfortable that the 2 resources spent on the Spear of the Citadel are well worth the cost.
With the weapons done, the penultimate installment of this series will examine the two pieces of armor that are currently available in the game: Citadel Plate and Ring Mail. Which type of armor is better? Stay tuned next time to find out.
Readers, what are your thoughts on the Dwarven Axe and the Spear of the Citadel? Out of the six weapons that you can choose from, which is currently your favorite? Which do you think is the most powerful overall?