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Card Spotlight: Ravenhill Scout

by on July 3, 2013

Welcome to this latest edition of the Card Spotlight, as we continue our eternal quest to wade through the card pool, unearthing hidden gems and hopeless coasters along the way. This time we’ll be looking at an ally from the Lore sphere, one that usually has a hard time breaking into players’ decks: the oft-forgotten Ravenhill Scout.

Usually what first sparks my interest in subjecting a particular card to the spotlight is realizing that I have never, or seldom, used it in any of my decks. This holds true for the Ravenhill Scout, as this character has yet to make an appearance on my table, despite my frequent use of Lore in general, and mono-Lore in particular. Is this treatment justified? Or have I done great harm to a loyal ally? The score must be settled, once and for all!

In a game currently dominated by Dwarves, Elves, and Men from Rohan and Gondor, the Ravenhill Scout is something different: a Man of Dale. He costs 3 resources, and provides the following ability:

Action: Exhaust Ravenhill Scout to move up to 2 progress tokens from 1 location to another location.

Thus, we are essentially looking at an ally that provides location management assistance. Before we delve too much into this ability, though, let’s take a look at his stats to see if they justify his cost all on their own. For a cost of 3, you are getting no questing help (0 willpower), with 1 point in both attack and defense. He does have a meaty 3 hit points, which can be quite useful in soaking up random archery or treachery damage, as well as providing a buffer to defend against enemy attacks and survive.

Let’s compare these stats to a few other 3-cost Lore allies to get a sense of his value (I’ll leave out the unique ones who tend to be a bit more powerful than your average ally):

* Both the Silvan Tracker and Longbeard Map-Maker have 1 willpower, attack, and defense, and 3 hit points. The Ravenhill Scout is pretty close to this level, but is missing the 1 willpower.

* Mirkwood Runner has 1 willpower, 2 attack, and 0 defense, with 2 hit points. The Ravenhill Scout is actually equivalent to this, if you simply add up all the stat points of each card, including hit points (5 for both). There is something to be said for where stats are distributed of course, as the Mirkwood Runner provides strong attack power that is a bit more rare in Lore, while many allies in this sphere share the 3 hit points of the Scout (36% with 2 attack power vs. 55% with 3 hit points).

* Master of Lore has 1 willpower, 0 attack, and 1 defense, with only 1 hit point. The Ravenhill Scout clearly has superior stats to this card, although the Master of Lore has a more powerful and versatile ability (especially pre-errata).

* Daughter of the Nimrodel has 1 willpower, 0 attack, and 0 defense, with only 1 hit point. Again, The Ravenhill Scout has better stats, with this again perhaps being justified by the Daughter having a stronger ability.

In terms of just stats, the Ravenhill Scout is worse than 40% of the other Lore allies (including the unique ones), roughly equivalent to 20%, and better than 40% of them. This puts it firmly in the respectable zone and away from the cellar.  However, again I must stress that where the stat points are concentrated is important. The Ravenhill Scout can’t help in questing, and may contribute to push an attack over the edge, but mostly his stats place him in the realm of meat shield and pin-cushion (low defense and high hit points).

Phew! That’s enough statistics and numbers talk for now. Let’s finally tackle this card’s ability, as that oftentimes plays a bigger role in deciding whether or not to include an ally than their stats. The Scout is an interesting enigma, in that although he has a location management effect, he doesn’t actually generate any progress tokens to be placed on locations on his own. Instead, he merely transfers those progress tokens that have already been generated from one location to another. What possible uses could there be for such an ability?

1) One of the most effective combinations would probably be to use the Ravenhill Scout in conjunction with Northern Tracker. The Northern Tracker puts 1 progress on each location in the staging area when it commits to the quest, slowly chipping away at all of them at once. The Ravenhill Scout can come into this picture to focus that progress more tightly, so that you are able to get rid of specific locations more quickly. For example, if you had three locations in the staging area, and the Northern Tracker has put 1 progress token on each, you could exhaust the Ravenhill Scout to move 1 of those tokens to the location you want to get rid of first (you would then be left with one location with 0 tokens, one with 2 tokens, and one with 1 token). Throw in Asfaloth/Glorfindel to the mix, and you could potentially get rid of a 4 quest point location from the staging area in one move. Of course, this all would require a quite heavy focus on location management, to the detriment of other effects. As such, I imagine it being a strategy that is heavily scenario-specific, restricted to those that are heavily weighted towards locations (The Hills of Emyn Muil, The Steward’s Fear, The Hunt for Gollum, etc.).

2) You can also use Ravenhill Scout to do the exact opposite of #1: spreading out progress tokens that are bunched up on one location (perhaps from effects like Asfaloth, Ride to Ruin, or The Riddermark’s Finest). One reason to do this could be to set-up Northern Tracker to take care of multiple locations at once when it next commits to the quest.

3) One clue to the possible uses of a player card is often provided by remembering which Adventure Pack it was released in, as sometimes cards are created to deal with the specific challenges of a scenario. In this case, the Ravenhill Scout was part of The Redhorn Gate AP, a scenario that definitely demands location management effects. For those who haven’t played The Redhorn Gate in awhile, during the first 2 quest stages, Caradhras, a 3 threat and 9 quest point location, sits in the staging area. It can’t be traveled to until the third quest stage makes it the active location. One possible use of The Ravenhill Scout is thus to move progress tokens from the active location to Caradhras while it is in the staging area. Using this trick, you could potentially get rid of Caradhras before it even becomes the active location and exerts its nasty effect (questing characters get -1 willpower while it is the active location). Of course, this would take away from your progress towards the active location/quest stage, but it is an option. Thus, the Ravenhill Scout can help move progress from locations where you are able to place it easily (the active location) to locations that are harder to touch but you need to get rid of because of a detrimental effect/high threat. (However, note that you can’t use this ability to circumvent the “immune to player card effects” that exists on some locations.) Of course, other effects like Asfaloth and Northern Tracker can do the same thing, so the Ravenhill Scout is reserved for those situations when you really need to dump a ton of progress on one location in a hurry.

4) Related to #3, a variation of the active location to staging area location transfer, is to use the Ravenhill Scout to move progress tokens placed on the active location by Legolas‘ ability (and/or the Blade of Gondolin) to a location in the staging area that you are interested in clearing out. This could potentially be useful in eliminating a location from the staging area so that it doesn’t count against questing next turn or one that has a harmful effect while it is in the staging area (or in play) and you don’t want to wait to first get rid of the active location, then travel to the target location, and then wait another turn to blast through it.

5) Finally, Ravenhill Scout allows for the possibility of stockpiling progress tokens on a location with high quest points (again, with the help of Asfaloth, Northern Tracker, etc.), using them as a “bank” that can be transferred to other locations that are eventually revealed into the staging area.

With those reasons outlined, the well has run dry, although readers can feel free to correct me if I failed to notice a painfully obvious or cleverly subtle use. Perhaps in the future, there will be cards that allow you to do something more with progress tokens on locations, but that is just speculation for the present. So with the whole picture complete, where does the Ravenhill Scout lie in the grand scheme of things?

I really want to find a way to love this card, if nothing else because it has the extremely rare Dale trait. Still, I find it hard to recommend the Ravenhill Scout. It is not that it is useless (see the above five uses for proof), very few cards in this game deserve that title. Rather, like other cards that I have saddled with the “coaster” label in this article series, it is simply eclipsed by other similar card effects and/or doesn’t do enough to justify its use beyond a quite limited set of scenario-specific uses.

What I would say is that the Scout is probably far more likely to be useful in a 3 or 4 player game than in a pure solo or 2 player game. With more players in the game, there is the greater chance that someone else might be running unique location management tools like Asfaloth or Thror’s Map, which means that the Ravenhill Scout might be a way to bring this ability into your deck in the absence of those effects. Of course, you still are left with a ton of other non-unique options to choose from: The Riddermark’s Finest, Lorien Guide, Northern Tracker, Ride to Ruin, etc. That’s really the big problem with Ravenhill Scout: it’s at least fourth or fifth place if you were to make a power ranking of location management effects, and how often will you be loading up on just this one type of card ability? Perhaps in a situation where you are only running Lore and not including Spirit, then Ravenhill Scout might be a way to make up for the absence of some of that sphere’s location control (of course, you’d then miss out on the best synergy opportunity it has, which is with Northern Tracker). Bringing it back to the positive aspect this card’s multiplayer utility for a moment, more players does mean more locations revealed, which translates to more potential targets and uses for the Scout than might come up in a 1 or 2 player game. Also, if other players are hogging up the unique 3-cost Lore allies, like Bifur and Dori, the Ravenhill Scout can serve as a useful body in terms of pure stats.

That all being said, I must steel myself for the coming verdict. Ravenhill Scout, I’m afraid you must get used to lying in a prone position and keeping the moisture off table surfaces, because I dub thee coaster. If a brave reader wants to create an amazing Ravenhill Scout deck that blows my socks off and makes me eat my words like a tasty morsel of lembas bread, I will gladly issue that challenge. For now though, keep your appetite whetted for treasure hunting, and keep your eyes out for the gems in dusty and neglected places.

Verdict: Coaster

 

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18 Comments
  1. Vladimir permalink

    There is one more possible use for the Ravenhill Scout related to your fourth point – to slow your own advancement. If you have quested for more than you needed or if the active location is about to be cleared, you can use him to move progress from the active location to any other, effectively slowing your progress and giving you time to prepare for stage 2.

    • Vladimir permalink

      Sorry, I have submitted the post earlier than it was complete. The stage 2 was meant to be in Conflict at the Carrock, where it is strongly recommended to quest slowly and gain sufficient strength to take on the trolls.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks, Vladimir. That is definitely one that I missed, and could be a potentially helpful use for those quests where you need to take it slow (We Must Away ‘Ere Break of Day is another good example).

  2. Landroval permalink

    I love the Artwork. Love the Trait. But his power is too weak. It only moves your progress ‘sideways’ and does not provide true ‘advancement’. i have tried hard to love him; but failed. A pretty useless card in my book.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Me too, I really want to love this card for many reasons, and I do my best in these Card Spotlights to try to talk myself into declaring a card a gem, but in some cases there’s just too much evidence stacked against it, and this is one of those cases.

  3. Tiandes permalink

    With the ever growing card pool and the fact that pretty much every player stick to a 50 cards deck.

    Sorry but this guy miss his chance, unless there is a scout or dale oriented strategy coming at some point in the future…

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I would love to see a Dale synergy at some point in the game, but sadly I fear that, if it ever comes, it will be far, far in the future. There are too many other traits that need some attention first.

  4. ishallcallusting permalink

    Good article.

    There is a correction; on the Redhorn Gate scenario if you send Caradhras to the victory display before it becomes the active location then when the game instructs you to make it the active location you are supposed to take it out of the victory display and make it active. This was made clear in the FAQ and errata. So, unfortunately you cannot entirely bypass the effect, but you can get it to where you only need one more progress, then let it become active and immediately nuke it.

    In a three/four player game where locations can be a real problem, the scout/tracker combo is actually pretty impressive.

    I would like to see an article on Power in the Earth, but I am afraid it will only have one word: coaster. 🙂

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks for the correction, that is a point in the FAQ that completely slipped my mind. Getting it to within one progress would be near enough, though, to be extremely useful.

      I’ve thought of doing Power in the Earth as a Card Spotlight, but you are only too right, a one-word response would be the only fitting tribute to that one. In fact, I would have to probably invent a harsher version of coaster.

  5. I played a game with a fellow who used the Scout to knock out the Bridge and First Hall (nasty effects) from Into the Pit. That was very nice, though I suppose it might have been against the errata or something.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Hmm, interesting. It does seem like being a secret weapon against those horrible unique locations is one of his main reasons for existing.

  6. Traekos77 permalink

    A possible combination of strength: Ravenhill Scout + Path of Need. Ravenhill Scout progress token movement can help keep a location *active* for longer. If Path of Need is attached (to the active location) then one or two more rounds (of the active location staying around) would be of enormous benefit. The downside is the low probability of getting the combination working (due to there only being one Path of Need card in a deck).

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks Traekos77 for bringing this up. Originally, I was going to include the Path of Need combo in the article, but decided it has such a low chance of being successfully set up that I should just leave it out. But I think it’s important to have it here for the sake of completeness. It definitely is something that could work, and would be an amazing moment if you were able to pull it off, but would take a lot of doing.

  7. Thaddeus permalink

    The Path of Need combo occurred to me too, but with only one copy of Path of Need in a deck, and it being a different sphere it’s not an easy combo to pull off. Even if you do, the benefit is pretty sketchy and often not worth while. (You have to get Progress tokens on the Active location, but not enough to explore it AND you have to be in a position where you don’t want to progress or at least have a priority of fighting enemies.)

    I’d be WAY more likely to include the card in a deck if it was 2 cost. 3 is just way too much for such a limited ability and lackluster stats.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Agreed, the 3 cost really kills this card. At 2 cost, I would definitely be more likely to give it a shot. That leap from 2 to 3 cost though is so huge in this game.

  8. ishallcallusting permalink

    I like that Path of Need combo. Perhaps with Word of Command… Yeah, its getting a little complicated.

  9. The new AP, The Encounter at Amon Din, has made me give the Ravenhill Scout another look. In a multiplayer game, there may be several copies of Burning Farmhouse in the staging area, and each of those locations is losing a villager every turn. A Northern Tracker can place one progress on each copy, but then the Ravenhill Scout can shift that progress to save a number of villagers in one location instead of watching helplessly as villagers keep dying.

    Granted, it is an extreme corner case, but I do like how quest mechanics are making us revisit old cards.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I agree, I think I’m a bit of a card optimist, in that I really want to love every card, so when new quests bring up new uses, that makes me happy.

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