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Encounter at Amon Din: Player Cards Review

by on July 19, 2013

The Encounter at Amon Dîn is available in stores, and loyal LOTR LCG players everywhere have been enjoying the quest to save villagers from a band of marauding Orcs. Of course, the release of a new AP means new player cards, and nothing stirs more debate and discussion among players than the relative merits of these additions. As always, I’ll be throwing my hat into the ring, providing my own take in this brand new edition of TftC’s Player Cards Review! This time around, I’m shaking up my rating system a bit. Previously, I simply gave each card an overall rating out of 4. However, I found that this was an extremely limited way of assessing player cards, and I wanted something that could provide a more rounded view. Therefore, each card will now be rated according to three categories: versatility (how many different kinds of decks can this card work in and how applicable is it to various types of scenarios), efficiency (how much power does this card provide compared to its cost), and uniqueness (how many other cards provide a similar ability). Hopefully, this more detailed rating system will be more useful for readers; I know it will definitely be easier for me to judge cards in this way, rather than trying to come up with one rating that encompasses all of these aspects. I’ve also expanded the range of ratings to 5 instead of 4.


PLAYER CARDS

The first two Adventure Packs of the Against the Shadow cycle took very different approaches to expanding the card pool. The Steward’s Fear focused on the Outlands trait and providing players with an almost self-contained deck type that is outrageously powerful. On the other hand, The Druadan Forest emphasized mono-sphere support and a collection of player cards that were more subtle in their effects. Let’s take a look at what the Encounter at Amon Dîn has to offer in comparison.

Pippin (Spirit Hero, 6 threat, 2 willpower, 1 attack, 1 defense, 2 hit points):

After a long wait, we finally have a third Hobbit hero to accompany Bilbo and Frodo. Pippin hails from the Spirit sphere, and has the low stats (especially hit points) that are typical of the other Hobbit heroes we have seen. Of course, this does have the added benefit that Pippin contributes only 6 threat, which means that he can round out a variety of different decks. His ability allows him to push an enemy back into the staging area after it engages with the controlling player in exchange for a 3-point increase in threat. In many ways, this turns the existing meta-game on its head, as thus far an enemy returning to the staging area has been seen as something to avoid (i.e. best exemplified by the hateful Wargs). Pippin, by contrast, courts this outcome and uses it as a tool to prevent enemy attacks. When this hero was first spoiled, I must admit that I was immediately underwhelmed, feeling that while avoiding an attack (rather, delaying it) is undoubtedly useful, it comes at the cost of a considerable threat gain and having to deal with that enemy’s threat in the staging area next turn. The other limitation is that Pippin’s ability can only be used if the other heroes are Hobbits as well. However, I do see more clearly now how Pippin might prove useful, but it requires very focused deck building and more development from future expansions. In particular, there is great potential in pairing a Pippin Hobbit deck with a Ranger traps and ranged deck (possibly a Lore/Tactics combination). Pippin can shove enemies back into the staging area to fall into traps or be picked off with cards like Hands Upon the Bow and the Great Yew Bow (or a hero like Dunhere). Obviously, since both Pippin and Frodo have abilities that raise threat, tons of threat reduction effects will be necessary. One handy attachment for this purpose, tailor made for Hobbits, is Good Meal, which lowers the cost of an event that matches a Hobbit hero’s sphere by 2. Hobbits can discard this attachment to play The Galadhrim’s Greeting for only 1 resource, and can then use Dwarven Tomb to recycle it. Including a bunch of willpower will also be essential to deal with enemies that have been left in the staging area or put there by Pippin, especially if the Hobbit deck is running solo. I feel that there is potential here with Pippin (and I do like his 2 willpower for a low threat cost), but I’m trying to decide if it revolves around Hobbit synergy in general or this hero in particular. A Hobbit deck is definitely possible at this point, but needs more help to be counted among the ranks of the more powerful builds.

Versatility: ♦◊◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦◊◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

* Denethor (Leadership Ally, 4 cost, 3 willpower, 1 attack, 2 defense, 3 hit points):

The ally version of Denethor has already generated a considerable amount of discussion, with many feeling that his ability (I suppose disability is more appropriate) makes him not worth the cost and ultimately a disappointing representation of such a notable character. In terms of pure stats, Denethor justifies his cost, with an amazing 3 willpower, solid 2 defense, and hearty 3 hit points. However, he suffers a penalty of 1 willpower for each hero that has damage on them. If that wasn’t bad enough, if Denethor ever has 0 willpower (i.e. all 3 heroes have damage on them) then he is discarded. So is Denethor worth the cardboard he is printed on? 4 cost for a hero-like 3 willpower is a great deal, especially since this ally is in the Leadership sphere, which is usually flush with resources. It also provides peace of mind that Denethor has enough hit points and defense to absorb some attacks and damage when necessary. However, his card text definitely requires some planning and forethought. A treachery that deals damage to all characters or all exhausted characters (which would would damage all heroes) can cut Denethor down quickly, as can archery. Including healing is thus obviously integral to supporting Denethor, especially if you are facing the aforementioned effects. Ironically, Denethor perhaps works best in a deck with Aragorn, who can use the Sword that was Broken to grant +1 willpower to all characters. This would allow Denethor to stay in play even if all heroes were damaged (although his utility would of course be much reduced). Of course, all this has not yet definitively answered the question of whether Denethor is worth including or not. The other unique 4-cost Leadership allies are Faramir and Erestor. Faramir has identical stats except for 1 less willpower, but has an amazing global willpower boost ability (for one player). Erestor has stats that are considerably lower than Denethor’s, but at least provides a useful card draw ability. At the end of the day, that’s the main issue with Denethor, you get a character with strong stats but nothing else (except for the potential for lower stats), while other allies have stats that are perhaps not as strong but they also bring essential abilities to the table. For that reason, Denethor is certainly not useless, but I have a hard time recommending him over other options. As a side note, I do enjoy the theme of this card, however, with Denethor literally losing his will as the tide turns against the heroes.

Versatility: ♦♦◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦◊◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦◊◊◊

* Minas Tirith Lampwright (Spirit Ally, 1 cost, 0 willpower, 0 attack, 1 defense, 1 hit point):

My feelings for this card will always be tied up with my joy at getting a chance to spoil it. As such, it is hard to be totally objective about it. If you haven’t read it already, you might want to take some time to read my spoiler article here to get an idea of my thoughts about the utility of this ally and potential uses for him. After more time to consider this character, and some experience actually using him in decks, I will say that my opinion has cooled on him a bit. With so many other useful Spirit allies, it is hard to find space for the Lampwright when his ability (having a chance to cancel the card revealed by a “surge” keyword by discarding this ally) may not always hit and may have a smaller impact on the game than other effects. However, I still do believe that this ally has a place in decks, because he is currently the only way to deal with surge (other than Thalin’s killing of surging crows). There is no denying that certain quests really lay the “surge” on thick, and most of us probably have experienced a moment when it has turned the tide of a quest for the worst. It also is extremely important to note that the Minas Tirith Lampwright is only the second 1-cost Spirit ally in the card pool (the other being the recently released Silvan Refugee). The benefit of having a cheap chump blocker for the Spirit sphere shouldn’t be dismissed too quickly.

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦♦

* Ithilien Archer (Lore Ally, 3 cost, 1 willpower, 2 attack, 1 defense, 2 hit points):

I’m excited by having yet another Lore ranger in the card pool. The Ithilien Archer has respectable stats for a 3-cost ally, so it’s really his ability that makes players stand up and take notice. For when the Archer attacks and damages an enemy, that enemy may be returned to the staging area. Oh Ithilien Archer, are you a Warg in disguise? It is truly ironic that we are at a point in the development of the player card pool that an effect that used to reside on encounter card effects now resides on an ally. This type of ability was discussed at length in the entry on Pippin, as essentially this is the same type of effect, just triggered in a different way (by damaging an enemy as opposed to raising threat; I definitely prefer this trigger). Of course, Pippin’s ability triggers before combat, so that it essentially prevents an enemy attack, while the Ithilien Archer’s takes place afterwards. This means that the main purpose of the Ithilien Archer is not to prevent combat, as with Pippin, but to push enemies into traps in the staging area or allow for the playing of an event like Advance Warning that holds enemies there (although you could use Quick Strike to use the Archer to prevent combat, but the enemy would have to have less than 2 defense). For example, if there is an unattached Ranger Spikes in the staging area, you could use the Ithilien Archer to damage a particularly nasty enemy, and then push it right into the Spikes, preventing it from engaging again. With the likely release of more traps and effects that impact enemies in the staging area and/or interact with the “ranged” keyword, the value of the Ithilien Archer will increase. Currently, I probably would be likely to choose one of the other great 3-cost Lore allies that are available over the Ithilien Archer, although it should be noted that Haldir of Lorien is the only other ally in this sphere with ranged. Also, since this character has the Gondor trait, he can benefit from Leadership Boromir’s ability and potentially have an attack of 3. Ithilien Archer has great potential, but that potential is not yet fully realized.

* Note: Keep in mind that the Ithilien Archer’s ability is a response, so you are never forced to push an enemy back into the staging area after damaging it. You can trigger it only when it will be useful for you. 

Versatility: ♦♦◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦◊◊

* Lord of Morthond (Leadership Attachment, 1 cost):

Poor Outlands, so woefully underpowered and badly in need of additional support. I am, of course, being sarcastic, as the Outlands synergy is this game’s version of an overnight hit or viral success. The Lord of Morthond is a Leadership attachment that makes Outlands even better by allowing you to draw 1 card every time you play a Spirit, Lore, or Tactics ally. It does constrain Outlands a bit by requiring you to play a mono-Leadership build, but this can be easily done while still getting the most out of the trait. Simply attach the Lord of Morthond to Hirluin the Fair (or any other Gondor or Outlands Leadership hero for that matter), and any time you use Hirluin’s ability to play a non-Leadership ally, you can gain an extra card. What makes this especially powerful is that card draw is the key to speeding up the pace of an Outlands deck, and thus negating the one, and possibly only, weakness of this deck type. Lord of Morthond makes this a breeze (especially for a mere 1 resource). Would Lord of Morthond be worth including in a non-Outlands deck? Well, you would have to obviously splash in other spheres using songs or Aragorn and his attachments, and at that point, you might as well splash in some card draw effects from elsewhere as well. For my money, this is strictly an Outlands attachment, and a very good one at that.

Versatility: ♦◊◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦♦

Uniqueness: ♦♦◊◊◊

* Book of Eldacar (Tactics Attachment, 4 cost):

This is the first in what is sure to be a series of attachments for each sphere that allows for the recursion of events from that sphere. The Book of Eldacar allows you to play a Tactics event in your discard pile as if it was in your hand, at the cost of discarding this attachment. You also get to put the event on the bottom of your deck, giving you the chance to use it again if you can draw through your deck (of course, with Tactics this is a substantial challenge, so you are essentially getting 1 extra use out of that event). The way this card is set up definitely encourages mono-sphere or near mono-sphere play, as the cost of this attachment is discounted by 1 resource for each hero you control with the printed Tactics icon. With 3 Tactics heroes, the Book of Eldacar only costs 1 resource. Of course, you must take into account that the real cost of the total recursion effect is the cost of the Book of Eldacar itself plus the cost of the card you want to recycle. Still, when thinking in terms of the Tactics sphere, there are plenty of events, many of which are low-cost, that make including the Book of Eldacar worthwhile (Feint, Foe-hammer and Hands Upon the Bow are at the top of my list). The value of this attachment is perhaps reduced by the availability of Hama, who can bring back events for no cost (other than the burning of a card) and continuously, whereas other spheres perhaps are lacking this ability completely. However, not every deck that includes Tactics will want to include Hama, so the Book of Eldacar provides another option. Overall, the Book of Eldacar is a must-include in a mono-sphere Tactics deck that relies heavily on certain events. With 2 Tactics heroes and a cost of 2, this attachment still may be worthwhile, although I would be hesitant. If you are only running 1 Tactics hero, I couldn’t seen including the Book at a cost of 3.

Versatility: ♦♦♦◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦◊   (Depending on number of Tactics heroes)

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦◊◊

* Ithilien Pit (Lore Attachment, 1 cost):

Yesss, another trap has arrived. This one is the cheapest yet, compared to a cost of 3 for Forest Snare and a cost of 2 for Ranger Spikes. Ithilien Pit works in a similar way as Ranger Spikes, with a player dropping it into the staging area, and it attaching to the next eligible enemy that enters the staging area. An enemy with Ithilien Pit attached to it can be attacked by any player, no matter who it is actually engaged with or whether or not it is in the staging area. Note that, unlike Ranger Spikes, Ithilien Pit does not prevent an enemy from making engagement checks (the enemy somehow manages to drag the pit along with it, I’m assuming). There are several uses for the Ithilien Pit. First, it can be used to enable a powerful high engagement cost enemy to be picked off in the staging area before it can ever attack players (this is obviously assuming that said enemy does not have an immunity to attachments). In fact, the Pit is the strongest card yet available for making attacks on enemies in the staging area, in that, unlike Hands Upon the Bow or Great Yew Bow, which allow for an attack by only one character, this trap allows all characters to jump into the fray. However, the drawback of this card, compared to those events, is that it is difficult to reliably place it on a specific enemy, unless you include scrying effects or time it just right to trap a big bad enemy that enters the staging area upon reaching a certain quest stage. The other use of the Ithilien Pit is to allow an enemy that engages with a player to be attacked by all other characters on the board. I feel that Ranger Spikes is perhaps more consistently useful than the Ithilien Pit, as I have rarely regretted ever playing a copy, no matter who gets trapped by it (although fortune certainly does play a role here as well), and this is reflected by its higher cost. However, the Pit can certainly allow for enemies to be dispatched much more quickly. I should mention that the Pit becomes more powerful as you add more players to the game, though even in solo play it is not useless, because of its potential for enabling staging area shenanigans.

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦◊◊

*  Gondorian Discipline (Tactics Event, 0 cost):

This 0-cost Tactics event allows you to cancel 2 points of damage that have been dealt to a Gondor character. In essence, this is a form of healing for the Tactics sphere, in that it gets rid of damage on a character, although it does have a subtle difference in that it cancels the damage as it is dealt rather than removing it afterwards. My assumption, due to the wording on the card, is that this would prevent any effects that trigger when that particular enemy damages a character. Is this event worth including? It really is a tough question to answer. On the one hand, a deck that include Tactics probably has great defensive options, especially with newer Gondor-focused cards like Beregond and the Gondorian Shield. In many Tactics decks nowadays, damage to characters is few and far between, leaving aside archery, treachery, and shadow damage. In fact, this is what I see as the primary use for Gondorian Discipline: shadow-cancellation. In general, I have found that the one weakness of strong defensive Tactics decks is shadow effects that cause damage or boost attack unexpectedly. Gondorian Discipline can effectively neutralize these effects, preserving that crucial defensive ally for future rounds, or perhaps saving a hero from unexpected death (if they have the Gondor trait, that is). As such, I feel like this event is highly situational, more so than it appears at first glance. I could imagine using Gondorian Discipline in the following situations:

– When facing a scenario with tons of attack-boosting shadows and no other shadow-cancellation available

– When facing a scenario with tons of archery and/or other direct damage effects from the encounter deck, and no healing available

– When facing a scenario with direct damage  effects in the encounter deck, and 1-hit point allies that you have a pressing need to protect for quest-specific reasons

The fact that this event is 0-cost, and can be recycled with Book of Eldacar and/or Hama does make it more appealing, as you could continually nullify a lower-level attack, preserving an ally over several rounds. However, I might want to spend my recycling on Feint and just prevent the attack altogether, even for 1 extra resource.

Versatility: ♦♦◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦◊◊

* Small Target (Spirit Event, 1 cost):

No matter my particular feelings about the actual usability and power of this card, I will always feel that it is nothing but awesome. An event that allows you to turn one enemy against another is amazing, and is certainly uniquely satisfying. When you declare a Hobbit hero as a defender against an enemy attack, you can play Small Target and choose another enemy as the potential new target of this attack. If the attacking enemy’s shadow card has a shadow effect, then it resolves as normal. However, if the shadow card has no shadow effect, then it resolves on the enemy that you designated as the new target instead. To be effective, this event relies on a smallish set of circumstances: having a Hobbit hero that is a strong defender, using Dark Knowledge to peer at the shadow effect, and benefiting from fortunate circumstances (having no shadow effects show up when you really need this card to work, having enemies in play that will make for a good situation, etc.). I do like that Dark Knowledge has been given a new life by this event, and I feel that it can play an important role in Hobbit decks that might have trouble dispatching enemies through more conventional means. The cost is fairly appropriate for the potential power of the effect, adjusting for its random nature. I don’t think I would include this card without Dark Knowledge, as potentially wasting 1 resource on a flip of the coin does not appeal to the power gamer side of me, although my affection for the “gambling” moments of the game have led to me blindly taking a flyer on this event  either in desperate circumstances or when the game was coming to a close anyway. One potential combination I am wondering about is using Dawn Take You All to discard a facedown shadow from an enemy, then using Small Target against that enemy’s attack. In theory, there is no shadow card to reveal and thus no shadow effect, so it should activate. Similar thinking does work to avoid triggering the forced effect on Wargs, however I’m a bit unclear on the applicability here. From what I can tell, it is a legal play.

Versatility: ♦◊◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦♦

* Hobbit-sense (Neutral Event, 2 cost):

This event can only be used if you are using an all-Hobbit collection of heroes, and prevents all enemies engaged with you from attacking, while stopping you from attacking them in turn. Obviously, this fits well with the overall Hobbit theme of avoiding attacks and traditional combat altogether. The efficiency of Hobbit-sense is enhanced by the fact that it is neutral, as dual-sphere Hobbit decks (Spirit/Lore) and eventually tri-sphere Hobbit decks won’t have trouble paying for it. However, there is also a drawback to Hobbit-sense not belonging to a sphere, and that is that the series of event-recycling attachments for each sphere, beginning with Book of Eldacar, will not be able to retrieve this event. I have no doubt this is intentional, in order to prevent a continual “Hobbit lock”, in imitation of the “Hama lock” using Thicket of Spears. So while you could theoretically pull down a bunch of enemies and then avoid combat with them using a couple of copies of Hobbit-sense, eventually you will have to deal with them. Perhaps this event can buy you time to gather together a set of tricks to deal with enemies, but it may be a risky game to play. The cost of 2 does make sense, as it is 1 resource cheaper than Thicket of Spears, which is appropriate since Hobbit-sense replicates that effect (preventing all engaged enemies from attacking), while including a drawback (you can’t attack enemies). Of course, you could use Pippin to push enemies back to the staging area when you eventually run out of copies of Hobbit-sense, but the considerable threat gain (3 points for each enemy) you would have to take on doesn’t make this the most realistic strategy. Overall, this is an event that works decently in a Hobbit deck built using the current card pool, but such a deck is not quite powerful enough yet. With the release of more Hobbit cards in the upcoming Black Riders expansion, the value of Hobbit-sense may dramatically increase in the near future.

Versatility: ♦◊◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦◊◊◊

Conclusion

The past two Adventure Packs had collections of player cards that coherently addressed a particular theme (Outlands and mono-sphere). Encounter at Amon Dîn is a bit more of a mish-mash, and this has positive and negative aspects. On the one hand, it avoids the “love it or leave it” phenomenon, where if you don’t like Outlands, for example, then you are out of luck. Instead, this pack provides support for Hobbit, Gondor, mono-Tactics, Outlands and Ranger decks. This versatility does have the benefit of building up more traits at once and pleasing more players simultaneously, but slows down the growth in power of any particular trait (such as Gondor). Overall, this is an intriguing set of cards for those who like to play with interesting and unexpected card combinations and build subtle synergies, but for those who are looking to pick up straightforward power cards, that may have to wait for the last few packs of the cycle.

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14 Comments
  1. Glaurung permalink

    A bit a mess with a player cards in this pack. Denethr is really useless guy, couple of hobbits good cards………Not impressive at all. Quest also not look really exiting. this pack even worse then previous one. SF was good, last 2 packs bring quality down. After Brilliant HON new cycle bring quality down………. But i hope for Assault and Morgul vale……Blood of Gondor also didn look very promising but i can be wrong here.

  2. rekath16 permalink

    What di you mean with “Uniqueness”?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      For the uniqueness rating, I am looking at how many other cards in the card pool provide a similar ability or effect. If a card has a high uniqueness rating, that means that there aren’t many other cards that provide a similar effect.

  3. Landroval permalink

    Hi

    I was looking at Book of Eldacar last night. I’m not convinced that you need to pay for the event again. it is certainly ambiguous, but discarding the Attachment seems to be ‘the cost’ and ‘playing it as if you played it from your hand’ seems to be the benefit.

    I don’t have the card in front of me but i felt quite sure you got the second go for free. If so, this is particular good for Thicket of Spears. And also, it seems to make sense: the book in the illustration and the trait put ot over as some kind of war manual.

    What do you think?

    Another thing: if you have Bofur and/or Eagles are Coming,you will have the opportunity to shuffle your deck, and perhaps jiggle the event in question close to the top.

    • Glaurung permalink

      Yes is say play it as from hand or something like this. So yes you should to pay a cost.
      Most powerful will be a leadership tome. One more sneak attack and Gandalf combo!?
      Wow in mono leadership it can be very powerful. each sneak attack you can play 2 times. or maybe even 3 times per game if you come t the bottom of your deck. Gandalf every round! Sounds like broken rule.

      • Landroval permalink

        woh woh woh! easy there – i think its only tactics events which are eligible!

        My reason for thinking that you do not need to pay is that you can discard the attachment at a point when you have no resources to spend.

        This would enable a set-up with less than three tactics heroes to access cards like Thicket of Spears.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Ok, Caleb responded to my clarification request, and here’s the word:

      “When you use the Action on Book of Eldacar, it allows you to “play any (tactics) event card in your discard pile as if it were in your hand.” That means you have to pay that event’s cost just like you would if you played it from your hand.”

  4. TalesfromtheCards permalink

    Hmm, I was originally unsure as to whether you have to pay the cost or not, ultimately deciding that you do, but it is a bit ambiguous. We’ll have to get some clarification on it.

    Also, I believe Glaurung was referring to the fact that we’re eventually going to get one of these things for each sphere, so the Leadership version will let us recycle Sneak Attack!

    • Landroval permalink

      Tactics have had Hama for a while so it is not a new thing – but it is a kind of unique thing.

      I don’t believe you will get it for Leadership, sneak attack being the reason.

      And you will not get it for Spirit either (Ghaladrim’s Greeting, Elronds Council).

      Lore? Maybe

      Two things bugging me at the moment are:

      – can i play Trained for War in Pure-Solo Hobbit Quests?
      – i am struggling with the concept of putting Steward of Gondor on a dwarf; but i have no problem putting it on an elf, Rohan, or any other type of character!

      I find the implied thematic restraints of the Hobbit quests a real pain in the backside!

    • Landroval permalink

      No!!!

      Oh well, would have been nice to have some mild resource accelaration built in there; you would never get a benefit of more than six resources in a single game (unless you used attachemnt recyclying)

  5. If you look at the Easy Mode manual (http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/ffg_content/lotr-lcg/support/easy-mode/LOTR_Easy_Mode.pdf), you can see Denethor in the background of the image for Trained for War. It sure looks a LOT like this new Denethor card. Just sayin’

  6. sweetnesswhachacha permalink

    Small target is maybe the best thematic player card there is, I love it! I hope it works on practice, I’m always leary about wasting a card, resources, and having my plans unravel…

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