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Card Spotlight: The End Comes

by on April 30, 2013

This very special edition of the Card Spotlight comes at the request of TftC reader, OnkelZorni. His suggestion to put the spotlight on The End Comes is a great choice, as this is one of the few cards in the existing pool that I have not included in a single deck. It is quite an odd card with an ominous sounding name and evocative artwork. Most have consigned it to the junk pile, but as always, the Card Spotlight will shine through the thickest cobwebs and into the mustiest corners in search of truth, justice, and the TftC way. At the end of the article, we must decide: Is The End Comes a gem or a coaster?

First things first. What kind of card is The End Comes and what does it do? The End Comes is a neutral theendcomesevent with a cost of 0. It has the following card text:

Response: After a Dwarf character leaves play, shuffle the encounter discard pile back into the encounter deck.

This is essentially a form of encounter deck manipulation, in that it allows you to reshape the composition of the encounter deck. There are a few aspects of this card that strike me as strange:

1) It requires a Dwarf character to leave play. I realize that this is related to the theme of the card, with flavor text and art connected to the discovery by the Fellowship of Balin’s tomb. In this regard, it makes complete sense, but it does limit when exactly you can play it. For a card that already has a fairly limited set of occasions when it is useful, this additional limitation does not help its case. Granted, in Dwarf decks, there often will be Dwarf characters leaving play anyway, but what if you’re not running a Dwarf deck? What if you would like to play this card at a time of your choice rather than when a Dwarf character leaves play, which is likely to be during combat (or perhaps after using an event like Sneak Attack or To Me! O My Kinsfolk!)?

2) More importantly, the effect itself is quite odd, because usually a full encounter deck and an empty discard pile is not a good thing. As cards get revealed off the top of the encounter deck and the discard pile fills up, it becomes easier to “count cards” and have a good idea of what cards won’t be showing up anymore and which still remain. In a sense, the encounter deck thus becomes more predictable, which is always a huge advantage in this game. Ultimately, the encounter deck will be re-shuffled anyway, once it runs out of cards (and possibly after you have that one awesome combat phase where enemies can’t have shadow cards because there are none left in the deck), so why waste space in your deck to make this happen a little earlier?

Well, there always are reasons behind the cards the designers create for this game. Whether or not those reasons justify the inclusion of a card is another matter entirely. To determine that, let’s examine the possible uses for The End Comes, and, at the end of the day, we’ll have to determine whether those uses have created a convincing enough case to spare The End Comes from the fate of being a coaster. Here are some potential situations where The End Comes might prove useful:

1) Certain treacheries move enemies (or other cards) from the discard pile into play. Keeping the discard pile empty thus becomes a way of preventing this from happening. An example is Orc Ambush, a treachery orc ambushfrom the Road to Rivendell pack, which states that “If there are no Orc enemies in the staging area, return all Orc enemies in the encounter discard pile to the staging area, if able.” Obviously, if there are tons of orcs in the discard pile, you could be in a whole world of hurt. The End Comes can then be key in making sure that the discard pile remains free of a pile-up of orcs, just in case this particular treachery emerges. Since The End Comes itself also was released in the Road to Rivendell pack, it is possible that this was the main use that this card was designed for, but of course we can’t know that for sure. Another example of this situation is A Suspicious Crow from the Over Hill and Under Hill set, which reveals and puts into play the top card of the discard pile when it itself is revealed. This effect can be absolutely maddening, and if you are not playing with Thalin, who can cancel out these crows, then the End Comes is a way of pre-empting this effect by clearing out the discard pile.

There are a few problems with using The End Comes to deal with these types of situations, however. First, including A Test of Will is a far more flexible and reliable way of dealing with such “when revealed” effects. Second, The End Comes will only temporarily provide a solution, as the discard pile will soon start filling up with more cards. Unless you have scrying effects to check when encounter cards that interact with the discard pile are coming, you will be left using The End Comes in the dark and hoping it pays off (in that light, using The End Comes with a Lore scrying deck makes the most sense). The third issue is that clearing the discard pile does nothing against those treacheries and “when revealed” effects that cause you to bring out a card from the discard pile or encounter deck.

2) Another important use of The End Comes is to bring back objectives that are discarded. Back in The Hunt for Gollum quest, one of the most infuriating aspects of that scenario was to see Clues (the possession of which is a victory condition) get discarded as shadows, meaning that you would sometimes get stuck rifling through the ithilien guardianencounter deck for what seemed like eternity. If you really got unlucky, you would have to wait to cycle through the whole deck, so that the Clues would get re-shuffled and you would have another chance to draw them. The End Comes is a way of speeding up this process and preventing a long slog. A related, but slightly different situation, emerges in those quests that involve objective allies that can come off the encounter deck either during staging or as shadow cards, having positive effects in both instances. An example is the Ranger of Ithilien from Massing at Osgiliath, who can either become an ally or deal 2 damage to the attacking enemy when dealt as a shadow card. The same is true of the Ithilien Guardians from Into Ithilien, which similarly can either become allies or deal damage as a shadow. The problem is that once such friendly objectives die or are discarded, then their much-needed support is lost. Using The End Comes is a way of getting them back into the mix much sooner than if you waited for the entire encounter deck to recycle.

Again, however, there are some limitations and obstacles to using The End Comes for this purpose. One is that there are only a few quests where this is actually applicable, putting this card into corner-case territory. However, that’s usually not enough for me to disregard a card entirely, as I am willing to build decks for corner-case situations, but I know that some players rather build decks that can apply to a wide variety of quests, and The End Comes is clearly not for made for broad applicability. Second, and more damaging, in my opinion, is that there is a better card for this particular purpose: Shadow of the Past. SotP is also a neutral event, and for the cost of 2 resources it allows you to put the top card of the encounter discard pile back onto the top of the encounter deck. It does cost you resources, whereas The End Comes is free, but it can be used during any action window (meaning it’s not reliant on a Dwarf character leaving play), and it gets you the card you want as soon as the next staging step, as long as that card is on top of the discard pile.

3) Finally, The End Comes can allow you to strategically “reset” an encounter deck that has become stacked against you. What do I mean by this? I mentioned earlier that oftentimes as a game progresses, and the encounter deck thins out, you develop a pretty good idea of what has emerged already and what is left. Sometimes it may become clear that what is left in the encounter deck is pretty nasty. Perhaps your staging and shadow discards have been extremely heavy with locations and treacheries, meaning that the encounter deck is dense with enemies. Perhaps you used O Elbereth! Gilthonial! to put a big baddie on the bottom of the encounter deck, and you know it is there waiting to wreak havoc. Perhaps a card that forced you to search through the encounter deck for an enemy has given you an exact idea of what is left, and you don’t like what you see at all. In these cases, using The End Comes can allow you to dilute an encounter deck that has become particularly potent by resetting it to its original state and its original probabilities. This is the use of The End Comes that probably has the most potential, but is also the most difficult to control. There is no guarantee that when you use The End Comes for this purpose that the encounter deck won’t get shuffled in a way that completely destroys you. On the other hand, maybe luck smiles upon you, and you end up with far more favorable staging draws over the next few turns than you would have otherwise.

While this sounds rather nebulous, I can certainly imagine situations where I might take a chance on this effect benefitting me. In a recent play-through of Into Ithilien, I was doing pretty well and had made it to the final stage, but the success of my quest rested on the edge of a knife. When Southron Support was revealed, I was forced to look through the discard pile and encounter deck for a Harad enemy. What that allowed me to do was to check what was left in the encounter deck (even though I had to reshuffle, I still could see which cards were there). My hopes for winning sunk a little bit, as I saw another copy of Southron Support, two copies of Blocking Wargs (when all three of my heroes were one damage away from death and with no healing in sight), a Mumak, an Umbar Assassin (with my threat at 42), and a few other enemies. It was pretty clear that I was in a no-win situation. I didn’t have The End Comes, and I ended up losing the quest by a single progress token. If I would’ve had The End Comes, I could have re-shuffled the discard pile back into that particularly potent deck, and dramatically increased my probabilities of success. Maybe I would’ve drawn terrible cards anyway after the re-shuffle, but I now also had the chance to draw some locations or less damaging effects, whereas otherwise I had zero chance of this happening.

That about sums up the major uses for The End Comes. I have no doubt that further situations will be created by future quests and new mechanics, but for now, this is what we have. I have to say that given situations like the Into Ithilien experience I mentioned above, I am almost tempted to give The End Comes a surprising “gem” status. In that type of situation, it is almost unmatched in its ability to fundamentally reshape the probabilities and the possibilities of the encounter deck in a way that no other card can (Out of the Wild might let you pull a card out, and Risk Some Light might let you move some cards around, but neither can turn a 30% game-ending/60% horrible/10% decent encounter deck into a 10% game-ending/40% horrible/30% decent deck in one broad stroke). However, and this is where some of the limitations of the card come into play, in that Into Ithilien situation, I had no Dwarf character that could leave play and thus activate the effect, meaning that it would have been a dead card anyway. It is for this reason that I must condemn it to the coaster collection. Other key factors in this decision are the fact that the other uses of The End Comes are quite specific and isolated, Shadow of the Past is superior in retrieving objectives, and re-ordering/re-shaping effects like Out of the Wild, Risk Some Light, and Denethor are more effective in almost all cases (except those when an encounter deck has become so dense with nastiness that are you left re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic). As with other cards that I have given coaster status, this does not mean that it is useless, just that its uses, combined with its limitations, are not enough to justify giving up space for it in your deck.

Verdict: Coaster

Note: It struck me right after publishing this, that I forgot another very relevant use of The End Comes for a recent quest: negating Collateral Damage. That card, which causes you to discard cards from the encounter deck and raise your threat by 2 for each location, gets worse with each copy of it already in the discard pile. Using The End Comes to clear out a discard pile full of Collateral Damages fits into use #1 above, but would be especially helpful for Peril in Pelargir, enough that it warrants a special mention here.

 

Readers, are there any special uses for The End Comes that you have found? Would you/have you ever included The End Comes in a deck?

If you would like to suggest a card for me to cover in a future Card Spotlight, feel free to let me know in the comments below or using the Contact TftC page.

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24 Comments
  1. Thaddeus permalink

    You forgot about Bofur, the Spirit Dwarf that you can play during the Questing Phase who returns to your hand after you’ve quested successfully. He would be the most reliable card to combo with The End Comes.
    Not that he makes up for the other failings of the card…
    For some time, I’ve wanted to make a deck that specialized in Encounter Deck manipulation and Shadow of the Past was a card that I wanted to include, but The End Comes has never been on the list. You’ve pointed out a few tricks I hadn’t considered before though; the next time I get around to making that deck and IF it has a significant dwarf presence (especially Bofur), then I *might* consider including The End Comes.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Good call, Thaddeus, Spirit Bofur would be perfect for this card (he’s great for triggering all kinds of effects actually). There always seem to be a lot of “ifs” and “mights” when it comes to The End Comes, and I feel the same way. Eventually, I’m going to throw it into a deck just to see what happens.

  2. Thaddeus permalink

    I’ve never included The End Comes in a deck, but I’ve tried Shadow of the Past. The best use I’ve gotten from it so far is discarding it to boost Eowyn. 😛

  3. OnkelZorni permalink

    Many thanks for your detailed review. Things are as I’ve thought and it’s still the only card I don’t like and never want to use (except there will be quests or player cards that benefit from larger encounter decks)

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thank you for the suggestion to spotlight this card! While I could imagine using it as an experiment, I just can’t imagine what card I would possibly want to take out to make room for it.

  4. gaudyls permalink

    i’ve used shadow of the past in a few decks. I’ts not a wide use card but its very useful against some quest: knowing what shadow card is going to come in a undended (or defended) atack, retorning an objective card, …

    • scwont permalink

      I’ve found it quite useful as well. As with all encounter deck manipulation effects, it is most effective in solo, mono-deck play and its usefulness drops off sharply once you have more decks/players.

      Since its a Neutral card and its effect is unconditional, it can of course go into any deck. The best candidates are mono-sphere decks and any other decks which are less well-rounded, and therefore more likely to want control over the type of encounter cards they face. For example, I found it quite useful in a mono-Spirit deck which was obviously better equipped to handle locations than enemies, and which also had a strong 2-cost theme to support the use of Zigil Miner.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I agree, Shadow of the Past is useful, and, as I mentioned here, much better than The End Comes. As scwont said, it is most useful in solo play, when you can essentially control staging for a turn by putting something back on top that is relatively harmless (probably a location). If I was going to do a spotlight on Shadow of the Past, it would get a gem status from me!

  5. joezimjs permalink

    Just a friendly reminder to add this to the Deck/Card Spotlight page 🙂

  6. Thaddeus permalink

    At two cost Shadow of the Past just seems too expensive for only being situationally (and temporarily) useful. I haven’t successfully used it yet, but I have been wanting to try it again.

  7. heavykaragh permalink

    The Dwarf limit is to big to make it really usefull. If it was limited to any character leaving play…
    On Shadow of the Past, I used it on the early days to control Shadow card deals.

    • Youdge permalink

      I guess this card could be useful for The Watcher in the Water in order to “dilute” the number of Tentacle cards in the encounter deck…

  8. Raynor permalink

    I had always looked at this card and considered it completely worthless but recently we were playing redhorn gate and we were near the very end of the quest deckquesting at a controlled rate when we accidentally pushed just a little too far… ended up having to shuffle 3 copies of snow storm into an encounter deck 3 cards in size. That made the chance for negative two quest and instant death as a result far too high. Made me reconsider the possibilities for this card. There are several quests where key points in the quest trigger a set of atrocious treachery cards be added to a usually severly diminished encounter deck. Its a card I could really see adding one of to experiment in a encounter debuff deck.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Hmm, thanks for sharing that example. I definitely could see how it would be useful in that situation. I’m tempted to give it a go against Into Ithilien with a resource-rich deck, just to test its “debuff” usability, but my tendency to want to power game is getting in the way.

  9. hilariouslijah permalink

    This card could also be useful in Into Ithilien, to reduce the nastiness of Blocking Wargs.

  10. Sechen permalink

    In We Must Away Ere Break of Day, sometimes you are on the verge of winning by burning through the entire encounter deck, but you haven’t managed to get the purse and key yet, you could use this card to keep stalling.

    Pretty niche case, but I’ve actually been in that situation more than once before. As an added bonus, you really should be running dwarves in that quest, and the problem comes up pretty late, so you don’t need many copies of this card.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks! That’s a good one. This card seems to live and die by the niche case, which means it’s generally worthless but can have great value in certain circumstances (like the one you mention). I’m sure more will pop up in the future as the game goes on.

  11. I agree with this article.

    I see Denethor (like your discussion about O Elbereth! Gilthonial!) as one hero that also works somewhat with this card, depending on how often you use his ability. You then know exactly how bad the end of the encounter deck will be, and then can restack the deck in an attempt to avoid dealing with those cards during some critical phase of the quest.

    I’m guessing I still have a hard time seeing ever including more that 1-2 copies, even if encounter deck knowledge and manipulation is a big part of my strategy.

    • plus, how awesome from a theme standpoint for Denethor to use such a card, “Against the Darkness that awaits us at the end of the deck, there can be no victory!”

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      The synergy with Denethor is something I hadn’t thought of, and it would work well to avoid the nastiness collecting at the bottom of the encounter deck. Like you said, though, it’s always so hard to make room for a card like this!

  12. I guess the nice part is that I see it as a card you would really only use once per game, so maybe, one or two copies if you are stacking the bottom of the encounter deck with nastiness. Still, it’s situational and very much a coaster.

    I have to say I’m drawn to cards like this. Whoever designed it must have had some benefit in mind.

  13. GrandSpleen permalink

    I realize I’m really quite late to the party here but…

    After losing to 1-handed Redhorn Gate twice with a spirit/leadership Dwarf deck, I read this post and thought it might be a good idea to include The End Comes in the deck to lower the chance of (yet another) Snowstorm loss.

    This time Snowstorm still came out, but I had A Test of Will ready. However, Fanuidhol and Celebdil were in the discard pile, which meant I had a really long slog ahead of me if I were ever to reach 5 victory points. I sacrificed an ally and played The End Comes, and got Fanuidhol during staging 2 or 3 rounds later. Woohoo! My first time ever using this card, and it directly contributed to the win.

    Afterward I took it straight out of the deck.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That’s awesome! Your last two sentences in quick succession made me laugh though.

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