Card Spotlight: Spare Hood and Cloak
I hope you all enjoyed that pigskin battle yesterday between the Zigil Miners and the Eastern Crows. Now, we’re onto bigger and better things: namely another TftC Card Spotlight! In previous installments, I sang the praises of the Longbeard Elder and relegated Ever Onward to coaster status. Having looked at an ally and an event so far, this time we’ll be looking at one of the newer attachments in the game: Spare
To begin with, the Spare Hood and Cloak has the kind of card text that you need to read a few times to make sure that you understand exactly how it works. So let’s break it down, line by line. Line 1 reads:
Attach to a character.
So far I’m onboard and liking this. If you’ve read my Middle-Earth’s Arsenal series, you’ll know that I quite enjoy attachments that can be used by allies as well as heroes. This being true for Spare Hood and Cloak, its utility increases quite a bit. Ok, on to the next piece of text:
Exhaust Spare Hood and Cloak and exhaust attached character to ready another character.
Of particular note here is that the attached character must exhaust as well as the attachment card itself. So this is not a Steward of Gondor or Unexpected Courage situation where only the attachment exhausts when it is used. This is the hidden cost of the card (it technically costs nothing but space in your deck). Now that we understand that reality, the final line of text is on its way:
Then, attach Spare Hood and Cloak to that character.
Ah, the plot thickens. So banish all thoughts of having one chump character exhaust over and over to ready one of your more useful allies or heroes. The Spare Hood and Cloak gets around the board more than a Wandering Took. So we need to keep in mind that if you are planning on using the Cloak consistently (why bother otherwise?), then you will be losing out on one character’s worth of actions most turns in order to pass off the hot potato. That is, unless you have other readying effects available, but then you are using them to facilitate the movement of the Cloak instead of for other purposes.
With the text dissection and cost analysis out of the way, we are left with the more important question: What can you actually use this card for? One way to think about it is as a repeatable version of Common Cause, which allows you to exhaust 1 hero to ready another hero. Of course, the difference here is that Spare Hood and Cloak is a permanent card and allows you to bring all characters, not just heroes, back from exhaustion, as previously mentioned. In my mind, Spare Hood and Cloak is the type of card that when you take it out of the box it makes you stop and say, “That seems like a cool effect,” but then from there you can go one of two ways:
1) Throw it in a deck and figure out how to use it when it shows up.
2) Spend the rest of the afternoon scribbling out diagrams and possible scenarios to figure out how to best use it.
At the end of the day, I suppose either approach is acceptable. Hey, who am I to judge? But in general you’ll probably have better results with choice #2, as this is a card that benefits from and allows for strategic planning. Along those lines, make sure that you include Spare Hood and Cloak in a deck with allies that have abilities that require them to exhaust. The logic here is that when you need a more potent dose of one of those abilities on a given turn, the Cloak (and the character it is attached to) can exhaust to provide a double helping. Of course, then it will have to be passed off and the process will have to be repeated in a different direction on some other turn. Let’s look at some examples to see how this actually could look in practice.
You have a Warden of Healing and Errand-rider in play. The Warden is currently sporting the Cloak. On a particular turn, you don’t have much need for healing, so you exhaust the Errand-rider to transfer a resource from, let’s say one of your Leadership heroes to your sole Spirit hero. Then you exhaust the Warden and Cloak, readying the Errand-rider and allowing it to exhaust one more time to move yet another resource to that Spirit hero. The Errand-rider now dons the Cloak. With this all being done in the planning phase, now your Spirit hero has an extra 2 resources, whereas without the Cloak it would only have 1 additional resource. The Warden is exhausted, but since you didn’t need healing and his stats aren’t exceptional anyway, that’s a small price to pay for possibly allowing you to play a Spirit card that you wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. Then, on a future turn when you are not as needy for resource transfer but have some built-up damage on your characters, you could repeat the same process the other way, allowing the Warden to heal 4 damage in one turn (instead of 2)!
Now let’s imagine that you have Faramir and Master of Lore in play as allies, with Faramir holding the Cloak. On a particular turn, you really need to pump out some Lore allies and aren’t in dire need of questing power. You can exhaust Master of Lore to lower the cost of playing Lore allies by 1, exhaust Faramir and the Cloak to ready the Master, and then exhaust him one more time to boost the discount to 2. Suddenly, you are able to play all those 3-cost Lore allies in your hand for a meager cost of 1. You could potentially put 3 allies on the board whereas otherwise you could only put out 1 or 2 on that given turn. Game-changing indeed. Next turn, with the Master wearing the Cloak and there not being as dire a need for Lore resource help, Faramir can exhaust to pull his +1 willpower to all characters trick. Then the Master and Cloak exhausts, and Faramir can repeat his ability a second time for a net bonus of +2 willpower to all characters! Yes, yes, go ahead and build your Faramir/Master of Lore/Spare Hood and Cloak decks, I’ll be here patiently waiting…
Back now? Fantastic. I could go on enumerating countless examples, but I think those will suffice. A few additional pointers about the Spare Hood and Cloak:
1) Character abilities that are repeatable in one turn or stack the more you use them (Master of Lore, Faramir, Warden of Healing, etc.) provide the most bang for your buck. However, note that you can also use the Spare Hood and Cloak to ready a character when you want to both use their ability and have them ready for questing or combat.
2) For simplicity’s sake, my examples only outlined interactions between 2 characters. However, you could have the Cloak rotating between multiple characters, planning out a sequence of uses that will give you what you most need when you most need it (as much as you can predict such things in this game).
3) Even though you may have plans for the Spare Hood and Cloak, it can also bail you out of an unexpected tight spot by allowing you to ready a hero for combat. Just keep in mind that if you don’t want that Cloak to be gathering dust, you will need an opportunity to allow that hero to exhaust to pass it off later. For this reason and for using the Cloak in general, having other readying effects in play dramatically increases its effectiveness. A hero with Fast Hitch or Unexpected Courage, or Tactics Boromir, can simplify matters a bit.
4) Just imagine the fun when more than one Spare Hood and Cloak comes into play (it is not unique, so this is a legit possibility)!
As you can imagine by this point, revealing my end verdict on Spare Hood and Cloak will be the most anti-climactic moment since Smaug was felled by a single arrow. Spoiler Alert! This card is a gem. To wrap up, I’ll give you a sense of some more of the possibilities just to whet your appetite:
* Arwen Undomiel: Note that according to the text of Arwen, she gives a character +1 defense every time she exhausts. Using the Cloak technique to double her actions means she could give out a +2 defense boost (or separate +1 buffs). Of course, the only problem with this usage is that you would have to do without Arwen for one turn to allow her to hand the Cloak off to someone else.
* Gleowine: Draw 2 cards instead of just 1 when you really need to get something from your deck.
* Master of the Forge: Having trouble finding that attachment you need (Vilya perhaps?). The Spare Hood and Cloak lets you go fishing twice (the Master’s text requires you to shuffle the deck after searching, so you wouldn’t just be looking through the same 5 cards).
* Zigil Miner: Try your luck twice in one turn and bring back the good old days (bad old days?) of Ziggy resource showers.
The value of this card is that even after everything I’ve said, I still feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of what the Spare Hood and Cloak can offer. To be fair, it does have its weaknesses. There will be times when the Cloak gets stuck on a character that you just can’t afford to exhaust to pass the attachment off and you’ll feel like it’s not pulling its weight. This is where a quick disposable readying attachment like Miruvor or Cram can really come in handy to pull the wrench out of the gears and get things moving again. But this is also a reason why generally it is a good idea to base your Spare Hood and Cloak strategy around allies, unless you have a consistent way to ready your heroes (Unexpected Courage, Fast Hitch, Light of Valinor, etc.).
I don’t want to portray the Spare Hood and Cloak as all awesome, all the time. What it does do is change the timing and potency of your abilities, and that can be deceptively powerful. One might wonder, isn’t it better to simply have your Warden of Healing and Master of Lore use their abilities every turn? Perhaps. However, a 2 resource Master of Lore discount in one turn does have a different impact than a 1 resource discount over the course of 2 turns. Also, keep in mind that there are fluctuations in how much you need certain abilities throughout the game. The Spare Hood and Cloak allows you to make use of those allies who might otherwise be sitting idle on a given turn, in order to get more of what you do need, whether it’s combat, healing, card draw, or any number of effects. The Spare Hood thus balances or flattens out the fluctuations in the utility of your characters. As mentioned before, it also allows situational readying of key characters at crucial junctures. So my final piece of advice is to try it out, build some decks around it, and see how it works out for you. It’s not for everyone, but its utility is clear.
Readers, as always, I love to hear your thoughts. I’m sure there are some clever uses of the Spare Hood and Cloak that I haven’t even dreamed of yet. Feel free to share below!
From → Card Spotlight