Deck Spotlight: Palantir Support
[One of the great things about having a second blogger on TftC is that it provides an alternative perspective on cards, strategies, decks, and the game itself. Here, Sting gives his own take on the Palantir, as well as a deck to accompany it. -Ian-]
I was excited to see the new card Palantir, which came out recently in the Assault on Osgiliath pack, and I couldn’t wait to put it in my deck. For those of you who have read the books, I don’t think I need to explain how iconic and powerful the Palantir is in the Lord of the Rings world. For those who don’t know, the Palantir (which could be translated into English as “television”) represents one of several magical dark orbs that the kings of Middle Earth could use to keep an eye on their far reaching domains. They could also be used to send messages back and forth. Sometime during the far past the orbs were thought to have been completely lost, but it turned out that at least three remained. One of them ended up getting passed down to Denethor, who was serving as the Steward of Gondor. Another was used by Sauron, the dark lord of Mordor. The third was recovered by Saruman in Orthanc. Denethor and Saruman were using the Palantir to track the progress of evil, but Sauron was looking back at them and corrupting their minds. Eventually Saruman joined forces and Denethor went crazy and set himself on fire. After that, one of the Palantir was passed on to Aragorn, who used it to foresee a major attack from Mordor. Aragorn proved that he was very strong willed and pure of heart because Sauron was unable to influence or corrupt him.
Thus the Palantir, when made into a card, has a lot of history and flavor to live up to. The card does this in several ways. First, you must attach it to a Noble. Then, you look three cards deep into the encounter deck. The risk of using the card is captured by a mechanic in which you have to name a card type and hope that you see cards that match the type named. This might kill you, giving you up to six threat, or it might help you, letting you draw up to three cards. This card is high risk, high reward, just like in the story. Because of the high risk many people have suggested that the card is about as valuable as a piece of toilet paper. If you put it into your deck, many have said, you are more likely to end up as Denethor than Aragorn. Despite the danger, I have decided that I want to gaze into the dark crystal and prove that I can overcome the darkness.
Let me explain a few of the reasons why this card is so good. Scrying is one of my favorite effects, and Henemarth Riversong is my vote for one of the most overpowered and indispensable cards ever printed. The problem with scrying, so far, is that it is not very good once you go beyond single player. In fact, has anyone noticed that the game, in general, is much harder in team play? Anyway, scrying is extremely powerful because it allows you to fully quest when locations are coming. It allows you to hold back exactly the right amount of combat strength when enemies are coming . Finally, it allows you to avoid or mitigate potentially devastating “when revealed” effects. Does everyone remember Exhaustion from A Journey to Rhosgobel? Yeah, I think you do. That was such a nasty card that it single cardedly made Eleanor and Denethor totally legit heroes. It also revealed just how good scrying can be. If you can see Exhaustion coming you skip the questing, take a little hit on threat level, and move on. That is a far better result than losing all your questing characters.
There is another quest that demonstrates the power of scrying, The Watcher in the Water. That quest goes from brutally difficult and unpredictable to mildly challenging with the simple addition of Riversong. Scrying lets you know whether or not to attack the Grasping Tentacle. Scrying lets you breeze through the Doors of Durin like it ain’t no thing. Frankly, Watcher in the Water is basically the scrying or Riversong quest.
I would love to see decks and quests with more of this give and take. The problem, of course, is that once you add a second and third player you have to look two or three cards down the road in order to make scrying effective. Enter the Palantir. Now let me address the debate over this card. Rather than think it through endlessly, I just sat down and built a deck around this card and played a few quests. Let me be the first to let you all in on a little secret. There is no question; Palantir is an incredibly powerful card. It is not even close.
Let me explain why. To start with, Palantir IS a card drawing engine. When the card was reviewed here we find this quote, “In judging the value of this card, it is important to treat it for what it is: a scrying instrument. If you look at it as a card drawing engine, then it surely would be bonkers to use this thing, as there are so many other good options for card draw that don’t require you to raise your threat by such obscene amounts.” This quote totally makes sense, and I agreed with it until I started actually playing with the card. I quickly learned that not only is it a good card drawing engine, but it is one of the best in the game. Seriously. Now the threat cost is real, but if you can deal with it, then it is a substantial boost. The reason is simple. Most encounter decks only run a few treacheries, so there is no reason to ever name that type. So it comes down to locations and enemies. Most quests have more enemies, so you just always name enemy and you will most likely hit one or two every single time. One or two extra cards a turn? Yeah, that’s pretty good for a one resource attachment. Not only that, but you see three cards deep. Unless you are playing a three or four player game, that means that many times you will actually already know what the top card is when you activate the Palantir. When you know that, then the Palantir seems like a no-brainer. Let me put it this way, if the Palantir said this: “raise your threat by 2 to look at the top 3 cards of the encounter deck and draw 2 cards” would you think it was worth it? Well, many times that is exactly what it does. The six threat result from a total whiff is far more rare.
Another huge reason why Palantir is awesome is that it is colorless. Card drawing and scrying without going green? You got it buddy! Now I know it costs an insane amount of threat, but how would you like Palantir on tactics Boromir? A red deck with green flavor vision sounds pretty sweet. The deck I feature below is mono-spirit. Normally a blue deck must splash green to be truly viable. Not anymore.
A final reason that Palantir is awesome is that it DOES combo well with other scrying or encounter deck control effects. You might think that having both Denethor and Palantir available (or Riversong) would be overkill, but it’s not. In fact, the multiple layers of scrying only make each other better. Riversong can let you know what is on top so the card drawing is better. Palantir can let you know if its better to use Denethor’s ability or hold him back for blocking.
But wait, there’s more! Do you guys remember Ravens of the Mountain? Probably not, because the card isn’t very good… except when you have the Palantir in play. Let’s say you are in a two player game and you activate the Palantir and see two gigantic spiders! Or maybe it’s the dreaded Mumak or assassin! It’s early in the game and you are not ready yet. There is nothing you can do; you’re done for! Well, actually, you just spend a resource to shuffle the encounter deck and look at the top card, probably adding some progress to the current quest to boot. You can face those bigger threats later when you are ready. Yeah, that sounds useful. There are also other cards like Needful to Know or Out of the Wild, which suddenly seem playable because you remove the guesswork.
Yeah, but I know there are objections out there. It takes a hero to exhaust it. It has to be on a Noble hero, which turns out to be kind of annoying. So, let’s address who to put it on. Clearly, the Palantir needs to go on a hero that is functionally more like an ally, somebody who is small and weak without much of an ability. Mirlonde would be great, or Bifur, or Pippen. Each of those heroes can dedicate themselves to gazing into the dark globe and you would hardly miss them. The problem, of course, is that none of those heroes are Noble. Not only that, but the threat cost of using Palantir pretty much demands that you have at least some blue. This means that a weak blue Noble is the best option (though not the only option). Well blue only has three Noble heroes: Eowyn, Eleanor, and Glorfindel. Eowyn needs to be questing as much as possible, so she is out. Glorfindel is too good, even with the Light of Valinor, because of his 3 attack. So, that leaves us with Eleanor–my pick for the best hero on which to put the Palantir.
The other one I considered was Thorin Oakenshield in a Dwarf deck because Nori can keep threat low, but all the good Dwarf decks, in my opinion, are green. Nori really needs all those cheap green Dwarves to work well, and Thorin is also too powerful to exhaust for the ability. (By the way, why is Dain Ironfoot not a Noble? Just a question I have.)
So once I decided to build the deck around Eleanor and the Palantir, things began to fall into place. Here is the deck I ended up with:
3x Imladris Stargazer
3x Zigil Miner
3x Minis Tirith Lampwright
3x (Core) Gandalf
3x Northern Tracker
3x Pelargir Shipwright
3x Riddermark’s Finest
1x Arwen Undomiel
3x Light of Valinor
2x Map of Earnil
2x Unexpected Courage
3x A Light in the Dark
3x Elrond’s Counsel
3x The Galadhrim’s Greeting
3x Test of Will
2x Stand and Fight
1x Dwarven Tomb
1x Will of the West
So let me explain a few things about the deck. First, as you will notice, I don’t have any cards other than blue. This makes the deck a strictly scrying and questing deck. It is not built for single player, but rather, it is intended as the questing arm of a two player team. Glorfindel gives it some attack power and there are a lot of chump blockers and four cost Rangers, but mainly this deck will manage locations, quest, and tell other decks what is coming. The reason the deck is blue should be obvious; cards like Galadhrim’s Greeting are there to lower threat so that Palantir has no drawbacks. Gandalf will be played to lower threat and Stand and Fight will bring him back, with the Map of Earnil bringing back even more threat reduction. The only resource acceleration is the classic Stargazer/Miner combo (which is still crazy good, even with the errata). Stargazer also helps other people sort their decks. The only card in the deck that actually combos with the Palantir is the Lampwright, which is surprisingly helpful. Again, this deck is not intended as a primary deck, but as a support. As a matter of fact, if you noticed the Light in the Dark, and this had you scratching your head, I will let you in on a little secret. This deck works extremely well with a Ranger/trap deck, like the one found here.
Basically, the trap deck focuses on killing the enemies. The scrying lets your partner know what trap to throw down, or when to use Expecting Mischief. The Palantir and Denethor complement each other. On top of that, the trap deck will eventually hit a bunch of locations and get buried. That’s when Norther Tracker and The Riddermark’s Finest swoop in for the rescue. Unexpected Courage can and will usually be played on the stronger Lore heroes, and, when the locations are light, Northern Tracker makes a great target for a Ranger Bow, as well as Damrod.
I’ve already play-tested the combo of the decks together, and they work shockingly well. The major drawbacks are a slightly slow start, the lack of resources for the Lore deck, and the fact that if you do not see Palantir, the deck is not good enough. The deck combo is definitely a slow control style, but once lockdown is achieved, victory is inevitable. Above all, the decks are a lot of fun and feel synergistic. I would love to see a third deck added in.
Until next time, delight yourself in the slaying of spiders,