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Deck Spotlight: Palantir Support

by on August 29, 2013

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[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 palantirkill 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:

Heroes:

Eleanor
Eowyn
Glorfindel

Allies:

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
1x Damrod
1x Elfhelm

Attachments:

3x Light of Valinor
3x Palantir
2x Map of Earnil
2x Unexpected Courage

Events:

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,

Ishallcallusting

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21 Comments
  1. Yeahhh this article is right up my alley! Some great ideas and takes on how to use the palantir GREAT ideas! 🙂 I came to the same conclusion about who to use it on. In my first build I totally forgot to account for the noble bit and only had Eowyn representing the nobles. Didn’t use the palantir at all!

    My friend and I were actually going to try the same thing you suggested – combo palantir deck with Trap deck. A light in the dark was not something I had thought of before. Good idea!

    A side note though, last errata I checked read:

    “Stand and Fight cannot return neutral allies from the
    discard pile, as neutral cards do not belong to “any
    sphere.”

    So Gandalf would not work here.

  2. ishallcallusting permalink

    What?? I was not aware of that errata. That is so lame! Maybe Stand and Fight doesn’t make the cut then, or maybe its used to bring back the Lampwright…

    • raynor2013 permalink

      Yeah it seems rather a silly errata especially considering gandalf works with sneak attack and born aloft, both having fairly similar effects in that they recycle his abilities.
      Anyway, another note. I have found including one or two copies of Ring of Barahir useful. Boosts eleanor to 5 hp

      • Traekos77 permalink

        Ring of Barahir is unique, so only one can be in play!

      • raynor2013 permalink

        Palantir is an artifact so playing a ring on her pushes the hp to 5. You don’t need two in play at once.

  3. mndela permalink

    Stand and Fight cannot put into play neutral allies, because its text end so: (The chosen ally can belong to any sphere of influence). Is is known that neutral allies cannot belong to any sphere.

    Palantir has also other good thing: if you play alone or with other friend (no more than one), next round maybe you know some of these cards (for example, if the last round there wasn’t combat so any shadow card), then you can “repeat” to say the name card would be better for you.

    • “The chosen ally can belong to any sphere of influence”
      I understand the Errata exists, but it feels to me this is a misuse of English. Can is not an imperative, and as such allows options outside it’s remit.

      “Dunhere can attack enemies in the staging area when he attacks alone.”
      If the above card is clear that it cannot target a neutral ally in the discard pile then it is clear that Dunhere cannot attack an engaged enemy not in the staging area if attacking alone. Which of course is nonsense.

      I would suggest for a more enjoyable game experience (if you are ok with this) ignore this Errata’s restriction. I would also ignore Nori’s errata, and change Master of Lore’s to “this effect cannot be applied to the same named card more than once per phase” to have the old master back, without the infinite combo.

      It just seems more fun this way!

  4. Arlecchino permalink

    This is a great in depth look at a potential throw away card. You make such a great argument not only for the card itself, but also for the value in decks that are support decks or ones that think outside the box. It’s the thing I love best about this game and the LOTR LCG community. There is value seen in decks that aren’t in the Dwarf or Outland mode. This game becomes about the fun of creating and using different types of decks and builds rather than number crunching out the uber deck and just playing with that. Thanks!

  5. Mike D (Pharmboys2013) permalink

    good article; glad to see the palantir getting the respect it deserves

  6. Landroval permalink

    RE: Boromir – Potential Threat Cost is just too high to put this in a solo/mono tactics-based deck. I want to reduce threat by 6 not raise it!

    However, a Boromir/Denethor/Aragorn(Lo) deck could be potent and thematic. (but starting threat is 31?). I suppose what you really want is to combine it with the Earandil/Wandering took and another player.

    The point about using it once and then using it again being much easier, is fine, but what if you see 1 Treachery 1 Location 1 Enemy. What then? you have to stop using it for a few turns. You may see a chain of cards which is high threat location + surge > a strong enemy a > devastating shadow effect on a treachery. Knowing about it may help but unless you have some appropriate cards in your hand to deal with that then raising your threat by 4 will just be salt in the wound.

    Great article btw.

    Given the little i have seen of it, I suspect that the next cycle after Numenor will include some quests which make this card indespensible.

  7. I think you have successfully made the first ‘Scout’ deck! They go and check things out and the Rangers come up behind and set the traps. Pretty cool.

    And I made a post over on the FFG boards about Dáin’s apparent lack of nobility, and most agreed it was just an oversight. Hopefully he’ll get some errata love at some point.

    • Traekos77 permalink

      Dain would be the perfect hero for Palantir. Leave him ready until the after combat, use the palantir and then have him ready again for the next round.

      • Matt permalink

        Using the Palantir is a Planning Action (can only be used during the Planning phase). Great thought though!

  8. mndela permalink

    One question: only the player who has attached the Palantir can see the next top 3 cards of the encounter deck or all players in game can see them?

    • Technically, only the player with Palantir can see them, and he/she isn’t allowed to say what they are, but since the “table talk” rules are somewhat lax, you can give descriptions of the cards, and at the very least, they can know how many of the type of card you named that are in those three cards, since they’ll see the card draw/threat effects.

  9. ishallcallusting permalink

    @Landroval I agree that if you want to put Palantir on Boromir you need major threat reduction and three color is not really an option. If we go with your idea that you pretty much have to splash blue. You can use Rivendale Minstrels to fetch songs of travel and play your wandering took, etc. Then you can play song of earandil on your partner’s hero. You would then have to have a blue partner. Then they could finally see a Rider of the Mark bounce back and forth between players! By the way, you can play Gladhrim’s greeting to lower a partner’s threat by 6. It could be done.

    As for your other point. Yes you can end up in situations where you have no answer, but those situations would be there anyway. It is always better to know what is coming. Also, as I said in the article, you can use the Ravens of the Mountains to shuffle the encounter deck. So there is an answer 🙂

    @mndela I think that technically only the player who controls the Palantir sees the cards, but then that player can talk and tell people what is coming or what to do. I don’t care much for rules that restrict interaction between players and generally ignore that stuff, but you can stickle if you like.

    Thanks all for your comments and thoughts 🙂

  10. One suggestion: since this deck is meant to be played along side a Ranger/Trap deck, and both decks need to keep their threat low, then Song of Earendil can be used to try to keep the threat somewhat level between the two decks so that neither deck gets too high.

  11. sweetnesswhachacha permalink

    Haha, I just mentioned in the last article many similar thoughts on the Palintir! Thanks for the article, my big takeaway would be Boromir, he’s a threat increaser, but you can ready him again after scrying. The downside on Eleanor is that you can’t use her treachery cancellation after you exhaust her to scry, but I suppose whoever you put it on will be useless until you could get an unexpected courage on them. Although you could put in on glorfindel (with light of valinor), and just use the ability at the end of the round to see the next rounds staging…

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Deck Building 101: Card Draw | Tales from the Cards
  2. Deck Building 101: Scrying | Tales from the Cards
  3. Deck Spotlight: Galadriel Gets A Palantir | Tales from the Cards

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