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Card Spotlight: Dark Knowledge

by on February 18, 2013

dark-knowledge-coreThere are certain cards that consistently live in the sleeves of my binder, never emerging to see the light of day. The card that I am spotlighting today, Dark Knowledge, is definitely in that category. I may have used it a few times in the days when the only cards existing were those that came with the Core Set, but since then Dark Knowledge has lived a lonely existence. One of the things I really enjoy about doing these Card Spotlights is getting the chance to revisit such neglected cards, and taking the time to figure out whether they are getting a raw deal or whether their exile is justified. Sometimes we get stuck in routines of deck building, and default to our favorite cards, giving others the cold shoulder. Is Dark Knowledge a useless card? Or is it a secret powerhouse? In short, is it a gem or a coaster?

Dark Knowledge is a Lore attachment that can be placed on any hero. It the only attachment currently that has a built-in stat decrease as a drawback, with the attached hero getting -1 to his or her willpower. So what grand power is granted to compensate for this flaw? “Exhaust Dark Knowledge to look at 1 shadow card that was just dealt to an enemy attacking you.” My first impression when I read that text was, “Oh…..that’s it? Got anything darker?”

I will say that I like the overall theme of the card. The notion that gaining this dark knowledge saps your willpower, and perhaps makes you more vulnerable to corruption (threat) as well, is very thematic and ties in to a lot of the central themes of Tolkien. However, is the gameplay effect worthwhile enough to justify the inclusion of this card in a deck? We have to answer that question in the context of a post-A Burning Brand world. Most players today would ask themselves why in the world they would ever pay for and spend deck space on a card that allows you to simply look at your impending doom instead of one (ABB) that lets you just outright cancel it (sure, Dark Knowledge is 1 resource cheaper, but that’s not really a consideration given how much more powerful A Burning Brand is in comparison). This is especially true considering that both cards are in the Lore sphere. There is no doubt that A Burning Brand essentially tossed Dark Knowledge into the bonfire of obsolescence for many players. Still, in the interest of giving Dark Knowledge its Card Spotlight due, I will give the matter a bit more thought.

In order to have utility, there would need to be some benefit to peeking at a shadow card instead of simply cancelling it. While Dark Knowledge does not let you do anything to a shadow card other than look at it, there is certainly an advantage to a burning brandknowing what is coming. Since you get to peek at the shadow card before you make decisions about who is going to be defending, Dark Knowledge gives you information that is invaluable in deciding whether you can risk a hero to defend, whether you will have to sacrifice an ally, or whether it is possible to take an attack undefended. This is something that A Burning Brand cannot do. For example, let’s imagine that you are engaged with a 2 attack enemy. In one example, you have Lore Aragorn with A Burning Brand attached. You would really like to take the attack undefended to keep Aragorn ready to counterattack, but if the shadow card dealt to the enemy boosts its attack, it would kill one of your heroes. In that case, you can either gamble a bit and take the risk blind, or play it safe and defend with Aragorn and A Burning Brand, which will cancel the shadow card, and lead to no damage or ill effects. However, now imagine that Aragorn has Dark Knowledge instead of A Burning Brand; you could look at the shadow card dealt to the enemy and see that it has no effect. In that case, you could confidently take the undefended attack, and leave Aragorn ready. This is actually a situation that comes up quite often, depending on your particular gameplay approach. If you often find yourself taking undefended attacks strategically in order to gain an action advantage, then Dark Knowledge could actually prove useful. With multiple engaged enemies, Dark Knowledge only allows you to look at one shadow card, so you would have to base that choice on which attack you needed the most information about in order to guide your defensive strategy.

So we’ve established a base case that Dark Knowledge has some utility. Now, what would really improve its chances of being included in decks is if it had synergy with anysmall-target other cards. With that in mind, please allow me to introduce you to an upcoming card: Small Target. This is a clear case where knowing the contents of the shadow card that is dealt is absolutely integral to making Small Target function consistently instead of simply hoping that it will. Currently, Dark Knowledge is the only attachment or card effect that lets you look at a shadow card rather than simply cancelling it (which would not be of any help to Small Target). Therefore, I would submit that a deck that includes Small Target practically demands the inclusion of Dark Knowledge as well.

*I will pause here to say that effects that let you scry the top cards of the encounter deck also may allow you to know shadow cards in advance, depending on the number of players and how adept you are at mentally mapping out the turn sequence. However, Dark Knowledge would still be more adaptable and reliable than most of these.*

Beyond Small Target, Dark Knowledge could work well with A Dawn Take You All, as it would give you information to help guide your choice of which shadow card to cancel
instead of selecting blindly. However, this would beg the question of why you would need two cards to do the job of one (A Burning Brand). Thus, in my opinion, this would not be a worthwhile combo, and unfortunately there is not anything else in the card pool currently that would give a greater benefit to knowing the content of a shadow card rather than cancelling it. The outlook for Dark Knowledge synergy appears a bit grim.

There are, however, a few encounter cards that have come out recently, specifically in the Over Hill and Under Hill Saga Expansion, that do have some interesting implications for Dark Knowledge’s utility. The Wild Wargs and Great Gray Wolf both wild wargshave forced effects that take place if they are dealt a shadow card with a “riddle” printed on it. Note that these are forced effects on the enemy card itself and not shadow effects, and thus A Burning Brand would be powerless against them (even though they occur during the shadow resolution step). The Wild Wargs gain +2 to attack when their forced effect triggers, while the Great Gray Wolf sends all Creature enemies back to the staging area after the combat phase. This is a sneaky way, on the part of the scenario designers, to bypass the power of A Burning Brand and other shadow-cancelling effects by introducing forced effects that essentially operate as shadows. I expect to see more of this type of thing in future scenarios, and overall I think it is a positive as long as it is not overused. Returning to the card under the spotlight, Dark Knowledge would allow you to know whether or not these forced effects would trigger, while A Burning Brand would be completely useless. The question is whether or not this knowledge would be useful. In the case of the +2 attack to Wild Wargs, you would be able to assign a defender to that enemy knowing exactly what its final attack power would be, whereas knowing that the Great Gray Wolf was returning all Creatures before it attacked would not be any different than finding out when shadow cards are normally revealed. It is important to remember though that A Burning Brand would still cancel any actual shadow effects dealt to these enemies.

*This is my rules interpretation of how these enemies work. As far as I know, as long as they are dealt shadow cards with a riddle printed on them, then their forced effect triggers, regardless of whatever happens to any shadow effect on the card.*

Where does this leave us at the end of our exploration? For some reason, I hesitate to dump Dark Knowledge into the trash. Knowledge is certainly power in this game, and sometimes an underrated commodity at that. The two most dangerous moments for players are during staging and during the resolution of shadow effects. Dark Knowledge gives you a small advantage in the latter. The -1 willpower is not as significant as it appears, as it just means that you will attach Dark Knowledge to a character that will never be questing. While I have been pitting DK against A Burning Brand throughout this entire article, there is nothing stopping you from putting both in a deck. This may seem like overkill, but I want to emphasize that Dark Knowledge does give you something that A Burning Brand can’t: foreknowledge to guide your choice of defender. With both in hand, combat would be a far less scary experience. Still, most decks will not have space for two attachments that deal with shadow effects, and if you asked me to choose at gunpoint, I would pick A Burning Brand every single time. For that reason, and because I will hold myself to not sitting on the fence, I will give Dark Knowledge the dreaded status of coaster. However, this verdict comes with an important caveat: Dark Knowledge becomes a gem once Small Target comes out and they can be paired together in a deck. I also anticipate that future player card and encounter card effects will increase the utility of Dark Knowledge. So with that said, don’t use Dark Knowledge for kindling quite yet.

Verdict: Coaster (with gem potential in the future)


What do you all think, readers? What’s your verdict on Dark Knowledge? Any decks that it has proved useful in?


From → Card Spotlight

  1. Timothy permalink

    From this article, it appears the designers continually tweak the meta game. That’s good news, because it shows that they are paying attention to how the game is playing out with gamers. But do they do this a lot or only in certain circumstances?

    After the many expansions that have been released, it’s inevitable that a number of cards are either not designed well, or they are but the designers haven’t opened up their possibilities yet.

    Have the designers continually gone back on these lonely cards making them a bit more useful, or are they mostly tweaking the meta games?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Good question. I’m not entirely sure how much the designers purposefully go back and try to open up possibilites for old cards, and how much such openings are “happy accidents” as the result of creating new effects. So far, I’m pretty happy with how things are being handled.

  2. OnkelZorni permalink

    I disagree on your final judgement though I see your point. Knowing if I can take an attakc undefended is in some decks a key element. For example if you want to power up Gimli or Coin-Gloin (what I’m experimenting with). In my opinion “Dark Knowledge” does not deserve being a coaster, though I must admit that it neither deserves the status as a gem. The truth lies in between.

    But thanks again for your great work and this cardreview. The quality of your articles have a very high standard. Looking forward to your next posts.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Out of the cards I’ve reviewed for the Card Spotlights so far, this was the first one that I wanted to give a neutral verdict, because I think it has enough utility to not truly be a coaster. Still, I’m holding myself to not being neutral and to choose one way or another. In a world without A Burning Brand, I would have called it a gem. I am actually tempted to give DK a chance in the near future, and see how it works with the current card pool. Thanks for the kind words, by the way!

  3. I quite liked Dark Knowledge. That is, until Brand showed up. Which was pretty fast.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Definitely, it only took two AP’s.

  4. Glaurung permalink

    Dark Knowledge work perfectly with Gloin+ 2 Armor and Some healing attachment or Warden of healing. you take attack undefended put damage on Gloin make a lot of resources and heal him.
    Since with 2 armor Gloin can take 12 damage you can make every round 5-6 resources easy. This deck working quite well and this is kind of old idea.
    But personally i dont like a control decks cose too boring. If i design this game i exclude all ideas maniputaion with encounter cards. Cose when you know what is coming next make game more boring in my opinion. Specially in solo game.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      You’re bringing it back to the old days, Glaurung! Dark Knowledge, Self Preservation and the Gloin engine was a classic combo during the Core Set. I haven’t used it in a long while, but I’m tempted to give it another go with some of the new healing cards that have come out since then (like the Warden). I personally like encounter manipulation cards, but I do find that it does take some of the sense of danger out of the game. The mono-Lore and mono-Leadership decks I’ve been running together with no treachery-cancellation do have me on the edge of my seat though!

  5. Thaddeus permalink

    I’ve included Dark Knowledge in a deck a few times. Pretty much exclusively in decks with Denethor since a) he’s Lore, b) he doesn’t usually quest anyway, and c) it just felt thematic. However, I don’t think that I ever played it once. I’d just always have something else I’d rather use the Resource for. It would invariably go to the discard pile to boost Eowyn or the like.
    I suspect that it will see more use once we get Small Target, but I’m not generally a fan of combo that really require two or more cards to be effective, especially when they’re in different Spheres.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That’s always a key consideration: how much do you want to rely on cards coming up versus just having consistent effects you can rely upon? Still, I will definitely try it a few times just because it will be uniquely satisfying to see one enemy clobber another.

    • Isn’t that what combo in LotR LCG is? ‘Two or more cards’ interacting for a bigger effect?

      On the side note, talking about combos in this game is a bit funny, because LotR players use that word for obvious two- or three-card interactions. Whereas in MtG, a combo is where you, for example, play four cards to search your deck for two cards to get one card into play and then use it to do something else. And all that happens as one chain of events, one phase. Like Dragonstorm, like Legacy Format’s no-land decks.

      ‘Sneak Attacking’ Gandalf or using Dark Knowledge to see what’s coming up to use Small Target isn’t much of a combo for me. Putting 5 attachements on Gloin to make him a monster defender/resource generator is more like it.

  6. legolas18 permalink

    I think you should do Brand son of Bain as your next spotlight… hehe

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I am determined to make use of Brand one day! With Bard coming out, I’m going to build an all-archer deck and see how it goes.

  7. RobOz permalink

    Not sure this was mentioned, so I’ll toss it out. DK’s drawback is a bit less relevant in the HoN quests since you’ll be using Attack and/or Defense for your questing much of the time. Then consider how devastating many of the Shadow effects in these scenarios are and how much pressure is put on the players via enemies makes DK’s ability a tad more appealing. I still think it’s a fairly weak card compared to ABB, but putting one or two into a Lore deck might worthwhile for HoN. Knowing which enemy(s) you can let through or need to block could just buy you the turn you need to break through these scenarios.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      A fair point. The margin between victory and defeat is so small in the HoN scenarios that every little advantage can be consequential. I think DK is the kind of card that you just have to throw back in some decks and see how it does in the current card pool.

  8. joezimjs permalink

    If you knew that the Great Grey Wolf had a riddle shadow card, you could use A Light In The Dark to send it back instead of all creatures.

  9. MrTeal permalink

    Another potential use of this card is with Rider of the Mark (multiplayer). The big drawback to Rider of the Mark is that there is no action window during step 3 of combat, so you can’t use it on a shadow card once it has been revealed. If you can peek at the shadow card ahead of time with Dark Knowledge, you can use Rider of the Mark to discard a nasty shadow effect before the card is revealed and resolved and get the benefit of the Rider’s stats every turn.

  10. Sweetness Whachacha permalink

    Some good points about a card relegated to the binder. Small target is both a great thematic card and interesting game play, it is one of the most unique effects in the game so far! That being said it feels too easy to whiff, and too clunky to bring another card like dark knowledge to combo with, if it was a hero action, like merry or pippin has the small target text on their cards, then dark knowledge all day long!

  11. Anardil permalink

    I think the biggest advantage Dark Knowledge has over ABB is that it isn’t restricted to Lore. ABB can go on an ally, which is handy, but Dark Knowledge can be pretty handy on, for instance, Beregond (either one), who has no willpower to start with.

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