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Deck Building 101: Card Draw

by on September 9, 2013

gandalf_in_the_shire_w1

The Deck Building 101 series continues with the second in a collection of bite-sized articles, each covering one particular deck ability/effect. Today’s piece happens to be a little less bite-sized than advertised, however, as I am taking a look at card draw, which has quite a strong representation in the card pool. If you missed the last edition, which dealt with healing effects, then the goal of these articles is to provide an overview, for each card ability/effect, of the existing options in the game, the costs/benefits of each, and the potential combinations that suggest themselves. On the menu today is a healthy helping of card draw.

Introduction

As we discussed last time, healing is an undoubtedly useful effect, but one that can also be left out of a deck completely given one’s preferences or the needs of a particular scenario. Card draw, by contrast, is one of the most essential abilities in the entire game, one which you leave completely out of your decks at your own peril. In fact, as I detailed in the original article of the Deck Building 101 series, card draw and resource generation are perhaps the two most important effects around, primarily because they allow everything else to function. The more cards you have in your hand, the more options you have and the more likely you are to have critical cards available to you that can swing the tide of the game or enable your strategy to function. It’s all well and good to have a finely tuned deck and a killer game plan, but if all those perfect cards and combos are stuck in your deck, then it won’t really mean anything in the end. Anyone who’s played this game also know that when you get a card out makes a huge difference as well. Thus, card draw helps you to get needed cards out more quickly, ideally in the critical first few rounds, so that you are able to build up the advantages of your deck over those of the encounter deck. Learning to use and incorporate the right card draw effects for your deck therefore becomes an extremely vital deck building skill, and really understanding the options that are out there is a key piece of card knowledge.

Options

* Note: I decided to leave out the card draw options from the Black Riders set, as I’m saving those for my upcoming review of that expansion. I also decided to leave Core Gandalf out, even though he serves as a form of card draw.

* Bofur (Tactics Ally, 3 cost, 2 willpower, 2 attack, 0 defense, 3 hit points) [Over Hill and Under Hill]

Action: Exhaust Bofur to search the top 5 cards of your deck for 1 Weapon attachment. Add that card to your hand and shuffle the other cards back into your deck.

“Fetch”-type abilities, embodied by a card like Bofur, are not always thought of as card draw, but they certainly fit the bill. What makes them different is that they involve searching for a card with a particular trait. If a card with that trait is foundbofur within the designated number of cards, then you get the card draw. If not, then it’s a miss. Bofur is a superb ally, whose 2 willpower is HUGE for a Tactics-based deck (3 with Dain in play). As a card draw effect, he plays a key role for a weapons-heavy Tactics deck, as this sphere doesn’t have much in the way of traditional card draw. Bofur helps grab weapons, which not only is important to get useful attachments into play more quickly, but it also potentially brings a non-weapon card you want 1 card closer to the top. The biggest drawback of Bofur is that you have to exhaust him to use his ability, which sometimes hurts when you need him for questing or combat. The other downside is that his fetching action can sometimes miss completely, and this can be helped either by heavily stacking the deck with weapons or using player card manipulation effects (Imladris Stargazer, Gildor Inglorion, etc.)

Pros: Repeatable, helps weapons-focused decks to get up and running more quickly, great ally, one of the few options open to Tactics

Cons: Action can miss completely, have to exhaust a strong ally to use, only draws weapons, cost of 3 is somewhat expensive

Combines well with… weapons, Foe-hammer, Goblin-cleaver

Use if… You are running plenty of weapons in your deck. You want Bofur as an ally/you like his stats. You are running a mono-Tactics or Tactics-heavy deck and need card draw.

Erestor (Leadership Ally, 4 cost, 2 willpower, 0 attack, 1 defense, 3 hit points) [The Long Dark]

Action: Choose and discard 1 card from your hand to draw 1 card. (Limit once per round.)

Erestor is a Leadership ally that provides an underrated card draw effect. Of course, the most significant downside of this card is the high cost of 4. On the other hand, you get a decent quester (2 willpower) with a strong bank of hit points (3). What I personally like about Erestor’s ability is that it doesn’t require you to exhaust him. So you can quest with him and get card draw each turn. Of course, there is a cost to this card draw, as you have to discard 1 card from your hand to activate it. Still, this can be quite useful, as you simply use it when you need it. Many times you are left staring at the cards in your hand, wishing you had something else that’s in your deck. This is where Erestor comes in, as you can get rid of what you don’t want to try to draw what you need. It’s also worth bearing in mind that Leadership has a variety of different card draw effects, although they are less powerful than the Lore ones. A useful approach is to combine these different Leadership effects in one deck.

Pros: Repeatable, decent ally, doesn’t require exhausting a character

Cons: Requires a card to be discarded, expensive

Combines well with… other card draw effects, unique allies and attachments

Use if… You want to include a variety of card draw effects. You want a decent questing ally. You are running a mono-Leadership or Leadership-heavy deck.

* Foe-hammer (Tactics Event, 0 cost) [Over Hill and Under Hill]

Response: After a hero you control attacks and destroys an enemy, exhaust a Weapon card attached to that hero to draw 3 cards.

The first important note about Foe-hammer is that it is one of the few options for card draw in the Tactics sphere. This alone makes it valuable. On top of that, it is a 0-cost event that yields a fantastic 3 cards! In exchange for this bounty, you have tofoe-hammer satisfy a few conditions: you must have a weapon in play, you must attack and destroy an enemy, and a hero holding a weapon must participate in that attack. These are not insurmountable obstacles, especially for Tactics, but it does limit when and how often you can use this event to draw cards, as well as which decks are compatible (obviously, you need a deck with weapons, and attacking weapons at that). However, almost all Tactics decks nowadays should include copies of Foe-hammer, that’s how essential it is.

Pros: Free, draws 3 cards, one of few options for Tactics

Cons: Requires a weapon to be in play, requires an enemy to be destroyed, requires a weapon-holding hero to participate in enemy destruction

Combines well with… weapons, high-attack characters, ranged

Use if… You are playing a mono-Tactics or Tactics-heavy deck. You have included several weapons in your deck. You plan on engaging in plenty of combat.

* Taking Initiative (Leadership Event, 0 cost) [The Redhorn Gate]

Action: Discard the top card of your deck. If the discarded card’s printed cost is equal to or higher than the number of characters you control, draw 2 cards and deal 2 damage to any enemy.

This is potentially a very powerful card draw effect that is hampered by its limitations. Ideally, Taking Initiative is really designed to be used with Secrecy builds where you are only using 1 or 2 heroes. Think about it this way, even if you discard a card with 5 cost from the top of your deck, that only leaves room for 2 allies to be on the board if you have 3 heroes in play. There’s no guarantee you’ll discard something that high, which makes this card extremely risky, unless you are running player deck manipulation through Imladris Stargazer or Gildor Inglorion. If you can make this card work, not only do you get 2 cards for free, you also get to deal 2 damage to an enemy. Unfortunately, it generally is only feasible if you can get it in your hand in the early turns, when you don’t have a bunch of characters on the board (or if you are running a deck that doesn’t rely on getting a bunch of allies into play).

Pros: Free, draws 2 cards, also deals damage, supports secrecy

Cons: Can potentially miss, becomes less feasible as a game progresses, potentially limited to secrecy or builds that don’t rely on allies

Combines well with… Imladris Stargazer, Gildor Inglorion

Use if… You are playing a secrecy deck with 1 or 2 heroes. You are playing a deck with few allies. You have included Imladris Stargazer or Gildor Inglorion.

* Lorien’s Wealth (Lore Event, 3 cost) [Core Set]

Action: Choose a player. That player draws 3 cards.

Lorien’s Wealth was a decent card draw effect in its day, but it has been outpaced by newer cards. The main problem with this event is that it costs 3, which is quite expensive. Sure, you get to draw 3 cards, but you are essentially paying for cards on a 1-for-1 basis. The main problem is that Lore has plenty of other available card draw effects that are more cost-effective. On the bright side, Lorien’s Wealth can provide a nice burst of options to a player that really needs it.

Pros: Draws 3 cards, can provide card draw to another player in multiplayer

Cons: Expensive (3-cost), outpaced by other card draw effects

Combines well with… resource generation

Use if… You are going for maximum card draw and want to include many different effects.

* Gleowine (Lore Ally, 2 cost, 1 willpower, 0 attack, 0 defense, 2 hit points) [Core Set]

Action: Exhaust Gleowine to choose a player. That player draws 1 card.

One of the original card-drawing effects, Gleowine has perhaps lost some of his luster with the proliferation of other such effects in the game. Still, this minstrel does have a part to play yet. At first glance, Gleowine doesn’t provide great value, as he gleowinecosts 2 and only draws 1 card. However, if you are able to keep him in play over several turns, then he definitely becomes worth the cost, essentially providing an extra card every turn. Even better, in multiplayer games, you can choose which player gets the draw, which allows you to help whoever has the most need. As an ally, Gleowine is not very impressive. He can provide a tiny bit of help in questing, with his 1 willpower, but is otherwise fairly useless. One positive aspect of Gleowine is that he has 2 hit points, rather than just 1, which allows him to survive damage-dealing effects from the encounter deck. Still, the danger of using allies for card draw is that they can be killed/destroyed far more easily than an attachment. Note that since Gleowine is Rohan, he can benefit from any Rohan-based effects, such as Astonishing Speed bumping him up to 3 willpower.

Pros: Repeatable, moderate cost (2 resources), can choose which player gets the card in multiplayer

Cons: Poor ally, potentially vulnerable to destruction

Combines well with… Astonishing Speed, Mustering the Rohirrim, Spare Hood and Cloak

Use if… You are playing multiplayer and want to spread out the card draw. You want a cheap ally to go along with the card draw. You can benefit from Rohan synergy.

* Master of the Forge (Lore Ally, 2 cost, 0 willpower, 0 attack, 1 defense, 1 hit point) [Shadow and Flame]

Action: Exhaust Master of the Forge to search the top 5 cards of your deck for any 1 attachment and add it to your hand. Shuffle the other cards back into your deck.

In many ways, Master of the Forge is an underrated ally, but he can provide a lot of value in an attachment-heavy deck or one that relies on certain attachments to function. As with most other fetch-type forms of card draw, the Master allows you to look at the top 5 cards of your deck, in this case, in search of 1 attachment. So essentially this ally provides a draw of 1 card for a cost of 2 resources, but this action is repeatable. Searching for attachments is a fairly broad target, so usually you should find at least 1 eligible card, but it may not be the one you want or one that is even useable. Other times, it may miss completely. Filling your deck with attachments is one way to maximize the utility of this card; using player deck manipulation via Imladris Stargazer or Gildor Inglorion is another. As an ally, Master of the Forge’s stats leave much to be desired (the low hit points in particular can leave him vulnerable to destruction), but his ability can help get that copy of Vilya/Light of Valinor/Steward of Gondor out that much faster. Since the target of the fetch is so broad, however, the Master of the Forge is quite flexible and can find use in everything from a mono-Lore trap deck to a weapons-focused combat build.

Pros: Repeatable, moderate cost (2 resources), broad target for the fetch, flexible, enables strategies that rely on specific attachments

Cons: Poor ally, potentially vulnerable to destruction, can completely miss or fetch something that is useless

Combines well with… attachments

Use if… You are running an attachment-heavy or attachment-dependent deck. You will have player deck scrying available. You want to get attachments out quickly.

* Hunter of Lamedon (Lore Ally, 2 cost, 1 willpower, 1 attack, 1 defense, 1 hit point) [Heirs of Numenor]

Response: After you play Hunter of Lamedon from your hand, reveal the top card of your deck. If it is an Outlands card, add it to your hand. Otherwise, discard it.

The Hunter of Lamedon provides a very specific kind of card draw. When you play it from your hand, it can potentially draw an Outlands card from the top of your deck, but if the revealed card happens to be anything else, then it is discarded. The Hunter thus helps Outlands decks function by bringing Outlands allies into your hand, but it has the potential of missing. On the bright side, if you do whiff, then at least you are 1 card closer to actually reaching an Outlands character. The ally itself is decently priced and becomes massive, as all Outlands allies do, once such a deck gets running. Imladris Stargazer and Gildor Inglorion can allow this card to always hit.

Pros: Reasonable cost (2), helps facilitate Outlands synergy

Cons: Can potentially miss, one-time card draw

Combines well with… Outlands allies, Imladris Stargazer, Gildor Inglorion

Use if… You are running an Outlands deck.

* Bifur (Lore Ally, 3 cost, 1 willpower, 2 attack, 1 defense, 3 hit points) [On the Doorstep]

While you control at least 5 Dwarf characters, Bifur gains: “Response: After you play Bifur from your hand, draw 2 cards.”

This is one of a few card draw options that focus on Dwarves. Bifur is moderately expensive (3-cost), but not only do you get 2 cards, you also get an ally with strong stats. The only downside is that you have to reach the threshold of controlling 5 Dwarf characters before Bifur provides card draw. This ally works so well because Dwarf decks depend on getting Dwarves out quickly, and Bifur not only rewards you for doing exactly this, but potentially brings more characters into your hand.

Pros: Provides 2 cards, compatible with Dwarven synergy, strong ally

Cons: Moderately expensive (3-cost), requires 5 Dwarf characters, can stall if you can’t meet the threshold

Combines well with… Bombur, Legacy of Durin

Use if… You are playing a Dwarf deck with Lore.

* Expert Treasure-hunter (Lore Attachment, 0 cost) [On the Doorstep]

Response: After attached hero quests successfully, name a card type and discard the top card of your deck. If the discarded card is the named type, take it into your hand.

When it was first released, this card inspired some debate  as to whether it was a good source of card draw or not. From my experience, and that of other players, I think it has been pretty definitively decided that this is an awesome effect. The built-inexpert treasure hunter weakness of this card as a source of card draw is that it’s risky. If you guess the wrong card type, then you end up discarding something from your deck, rather than drawing it. There are certainly ways to mitigate this risk, such as using the ever-popular Imladris Stargazer or Gildor Inglorion to peek at the top cards of your deck, so you know which type to guess. Even without such deck scrying, you can get use out of this card simply by guessing the type that you most need at the moment. If you’re looking for that Steward of Gondor, say “attachment”, so that if it is revealed, it will go into your hand. If it’s something else, oh well, but at least you didn’t trash the card you most want at the moment. You can also base your guess on the card type that is most prevalent in your deck. All in all, despite the luck factor, this attachment is a brilliant source of card draw, as it is 0-cost and triggers almost every turn (unless you happen to not quest successfully, of course). Note that you can stack multiple copies of this card onto the same hero or multiple heroes, leading to a crazy amount of card draw per turn.

Pros: Free, repeatable, multiple copies can be in play

Cons: Possibility of discarding a card, random factor (unless you have deck scrying)

Combines well with… Imladris Stargazer, Gildor Inglorion, Keen-Eyed Took

Use if… You are also running Imladris Stargazer or Gildor Inglorion. You want card draw but don’t want to have to pay for it. You know there are a few cards in your deck that you need to draw quickly.

* King Under the Mountain (Leadership Attachment, 2 cost) [On the Doorstep]

Action: Exhaust King Under the Mountain to look at the top 2 cards of your deck. Add 1 to your hand and discard the other.

Another of the Dwarf-centric card draw effects, King Under the Mountain is arguably the most powerful. In fact, it is one of the most potent card effects in the game. While this attachment costs 2 resources, it is endlessly repeatable, doesn’t require the exhausting of any characters, and avoids any other hidden costs as well. Once it is in play, all you have to do is simply exhaust it each turn to draw 1 card (you draw 2, but have to discard 1, for a net draw of 1). Being able to draw the top 2 cards, even though you have to discard 1, is beneficial because it gives you a couple of options to choose from, rather than taking what you get. The downside of this card is that you may have to discard something that you really want to keep if you end up pulling 2 great cards at once. However, this is a small price to pay for endlessly repeatable card draw.

Pros: Repeatable, provides 2 options, doesn’t require exhausting characters, reasonable investment (2-cost)

Cons: Limited to Dwarf heroes, might be forced to discard a card you want, draw can’t be given to another player

Combines well with… Imladris Stargazer, Erebor Hammersmith, Stand and Fight

Use if… You are running a deck with a Dwarf hero and Leadership.

* Ancient Mathom (Spirit Attachment, 1 cost) [A Journey to Rhosgobel]

Response: After attached location is explored, the first player draws 3 cards.

This is one of the best, if not the best, card draw options for the Spirit sphere. It is a cheap attachment, and only requires you to explore a location, which should be happening fairly often anyway. Thus, the card draw is a bit delayed with Ancient Mathom, but is powerful in that it provides 3 cards for just 1 resource. The one weakness of this attachment is that it is dependent on location exploration, which means that it can be stuck in your hand if there are no locations in play or can end up trapped on a location if you are struggling to explore it. Including card effects that allow you to quickly explore locations and/or manipulate the encounter deck can work well to maximize your usage of Ancient Mathom. Keep in mind that the card draw goes to whoever the first player is when the attached location is explored, meaning that in multiplayer, while you can mostly plan which player gets the cards, it can sometimes be unpredictable.

Pros: Cheap (1-cost), can provide draw to other players in multiplayer, draws 3 cards, provides a reward for exploring locations

Cons: Might not give the draw to the player you want in multiplayer, dependent on drawing and exploring locations

Combines well with… Asfaloth, Northern Tracker, Ride to Ruin, The Riddermark’s Finest

Use if… You are running Spirit. You are including location management/exploration effects. You want the flexibility of giving card draw to other players.

* Campfire Tales (Leadership Event, 1 cost) [The Hunt for Gollum]

Action: Each player draws 1 card. 

This Leadership event is a moderate card draw effect that becomes more powerful depending on how many players are in campfire talesthe game. In solo play, you are paying 1 resource for 1 card, which is not that great, but could be useful in certain cases, if you have no other card draw effects available. Compare this to a 4-player game, where you are paying 1 resource for 4 cards. They’re not all going to you, as the player playing it, but it is never a bad thing to increase available options for everyone. As an event, you can play this card during any action window, meaning that it can be used to try to create some escape routes or generate some needed cards when you are pressed to the wall during any phase. Overall, this card is much better in multiplayer than solo.

Pros: Can be played during any action window, cheap, provides card draw for all players in multiplayer

Cons: Only provides 1 card for 1 resource in solo play

Combines well with… other players

Use if… You are playing multiplayer (especially 3 or 4-player games). You are running a mono-Leadership or Leadership-heavy deck without Dwarves.

Gandalf’s Search (Lore Event, X cost) [Core Set]

Action: Look at the top X cards of any player’s deck, add 1 of those cards to its owner’s hand, and return the rest to the top of the the deck in any order.

The best aspect of Gandalf’s Search is that you can pay for what you need. If you only want to look at the top card and draw it, you can just pay 1 resource. However, if you want to search through more cards, then you can certainly do that, but it can get quite expensive (for example, paying 5 resources to look at the top 5 cards). Thus, Gandalf’s Search is not the best card draw effect around in terms of cost-effectiveness or power, but it does help when you are trying to draw a specific card. Note that you can use this card to enable another player to search through the top cards of their deck in multiplayer.

Pros: Can pay for what you need, can help you look for a specific card, can provide draw and search for another player

Cons: Can become expensive to look through several cards

Combines well with… resource generation

Use if… You need to find specific cards that are absolutely integral to your deck. You like the idea of paying for what you need.

* Valiant Sacrifice (Leadership Event, 1 cost) [Core Set]

Response: After an ally card leaves play, that card’s controller draws 2 cards.

This card draw effect fits in well with decks built around allies leaving play. Of course, between chump blockers getting valiant sacrificedestroyed and Gandalf leaving play, most decks in general can benefit from Valiant Sacrifice at some point. The key is to have it in hand and 1 Leadership resource available at the right moment. Overall, drawing 2 cards for 1 resource is a good deal. Including allies like Escort from Edoras, that leave play as a matter of course, or using Sneak Attack to pop characters in and out, are two great ways to set the stage for Valiant Sacrifice. The biggest downside of this card is that the draw is dependent on something that you might not always have control over. Note that you can use Valiant Sacrifice to give the card draw to another player when one of their allies leaves play.

Pros: Cheap (1-cost), provides 2 cards, provides a benefit for losing an ally, can be used to give draw to another player

Cons: Requires an ally to leave play, might not be able to draw when you most need it

Combines well with… Escort from Edoras, Sneak Attack, Gandalf, chump blockers

Use if… You are playing a style that relies on allies consistently leaving play. You are including characters that automatically leave play. You are also including Sneak Attack.

Mithrandir’s Advice (Lore Event, 1 cost) [The Steward’s Fear]

Action: Draw 1 card for each hero you control with a printed Lore resource icon. 

This is potentially one of the most powerful card draw effects in the game, especially when it is played in a mono-Lore deck. In this situation, you can draw 3 cards for only 1 resource. Thus, Mithrandir’s Advice is cheap, powerful, and doesn’t require exhausting any characters or discarding any cards. The main downside of this event is that its power decreases with fewer Lore heroes; with 2, Mithrandir’s Advice is still playable, however with just 1, then you’re probably better off looking elsewhere (Daeron’s Runes, for example). The other limitation of this card is that it can’t provide card draw for other players. Beyond those weaknesses, Mithrandir’s Advice is an amazing card draw effect.

Pros: Cheap (1-cost), draws 3 cards in a mono-Lore deck

Cons: Mostly limited to decks with 2 or 3 Lore heroes, can’t draw cards for another player

Combines well with… Lore heroes

Use if… You are playing a mono-Lore or Lore-heavy deck.

Mustering the Rohirrim (Spirit Event, 1 cost) [The Hunt for Gollum]

Action: Search the top 10 cards of your deck for any 1 Rohan ally and add it to your hand. Then, shuffle the other cards back into your deck.

This is a “fetch”-type form of card draw, in this case searching for a Rohan ally. From what I have seen of player decks around the web, Mustering the Rohirrim is not very popular, but I believe that it can certainly play a role. As with the other fetch effects, it is limited by the trait it searches for, meaning that this event must be used in a deck that includes plenty of Rohan allies. There are some positive aspects to Mustering the Rohirrim. Most importantly, it provides card draw for Spirit, which still doesn’t have too many options at the moment in that department. It also searches the top 10 cards of your deck, rather than the top 5, as many of the other fetch effects do, which gives you a strong chance of finding at least one card that you can draw (provided you are focusing on Rohan). Of course, even with 10 cards, there still is the danger of missing and not drawing anything at all. The cost of 1 is relatively cheap, but might dissuade you from including this event (0 cost for looking at the top 5 might get more love). As far as how to conceive of this card, when you draw it into your hand, it essentially replaces itself with a Rohan ally for a cost of 1, thus effectively increasing the frequency with which you can play such characters.

Pros: Cheap (1-cost), searches top 10 cards, provides needed card draw for Spirit

Cons: Limited to Rohan-heavy decks, might be better as 0-cost, only gives you 1 card for 1 resource, you could possibly miss

Combines well with… Rohan characters

Use if… You are playing a Rohan deck. You are running a Spirit-heavy deck.

We Are Not Idle (Leadership Event, 0 cost) [Shadow and Flame]

Action: Exhaust X Dwarf characters to add X resources to a hero’s resource pool and draw 1 card.we are not idle

Sometimes it is easy to only remember the resource generation aspect of We Are Not Idle, but this Dwarf-focused event also provides a free card. In fact, you can forego the resources (and exhaustion of characters) altogether and just grab the 1 card this event provides. For 0 cost, this is a perfectly reasonable move. Of course, you can collect some extra resources while you’re at it, if you have Dwarf characters to spare. You might wonder why you would include a card that essentially replaces itself. Why not just include something else you will want to draw (assuming you’re not that interested in the resources)? Well, the benefit of this card, like others of its kind, is that it essentially makes your deck smaller.

Pros: Free, provides 1 card, can also generate resources

Cons: Can’t provide card draw to other players, takes up a deck spot

Combines well with… Dwarf characters

Use if… You are running a Dwarf deck. You want to make your deck smaller. You are interested in generating resources along with card draw.

* Legacy of Durin (Lore Attachment, 1 cost) [The Watcher in the Water]

Response: After you play a Dwarf character from your hand, draw 1 card.

This attachment is obviously meant to be used in Dwarf decks, and this is its main drawback: it can only be used effectively in one type of deck. That aside, for such decks, Legacy of Durin is a must-include. Since most Dwarf decks are based around quickly putting Dwarves into play, you can count at getting at least 1 extra card per turn (more once your resource generation really gets going). One important note is that Legacy of Durin only activates when you play a Dwarf from hand, meaning actually paying the resources for it, not when one is “put into play” through various card tricks (so this excludes Fili/Kili, for example). The cost of 1 is reasonable for the amount of card draw you can get out of this attachment. When you pair it with the card-drawing Dwarf hero extraordinaire, Ori, then you’ll soon be swimming in cards.

Pros: Low cost (1), can net several cards per turn, synergizes well with Dwarf style of play

Cons: Practically limited to Dwarf-heavy decks, dependent on playing from hand, can stall if you’re not able to get Dwarves out

Combines well with… Ori, resource generation, Dwarf characters

Use if… You are running a Dwarf deck that includes Lore.

Lord of Morthond (Leadership Attachment, 1 cost) [Encounter at Amon Dîn]

Response: After you play a Lore, Spirit, or Tactics ally, draw 1 card.

This is essentially the Outlands version of Legacy of Durin. The main restriction of this attachment is that it can only be used in a mono-Leadership deck, which seems strange given that it only grants a card when you play a non-Leadershp ally. Of course, Hirluin the Fair, the Outlands hero, can use his resources to pay for Outlands allies of any sphere, which is the main way of getting the most out of Lord of Morthond (you can also use songs to splash other spheres, but that takes awhile to get up and running). This attachment is fantastic because Outlands decks rely on getting allies into play as quickly as possible. Lord of Morthond is perfect for this because it rewards you for playing an ally by potentially drawing another ally. The main drawback of this card is that it can only really be used effectively in a mono-Leadership Outlands deck.

Pros: Cheap (1-cost), can net several cards per turn, synergizes well with Outlands style of play

Cons: Practically limited to mono-Leadership Outlands decks, dependent on playing from hand

Combines well with… Hirluin the Fair, songs, Outlands allies

Use if… You are running a mono-Leadership Outlands deck.

* Daeron’s Runes (Lore Event, 0 cost) [Foundations of Stone]

Action: Draw 2 cards. Then, discard 1 card from your hand.daeron's runes

Without venturing into hyperbole, this is one of the best card draw effects in the game. What makes this card outstanding is that it is 0-cost for 2 cards, and although you can look at it as a net of 1, since you have to discard 1 card, you get to choose which one to trash from your entire hand. This gives you a level of control over your destiny, and most of the time, you’ll be able to find something you can live with losing. So if you draw 2 fantastic cards with Daeron’s Runes, you can keep both of them and get rid of something in your hand that isn’t pulling its weight at the moment. What this card does is essentially make your deck smaller, as when you get it into your hand, it will immediately replace itself with another card (plus another). This meaningfully improves the consistency of your deck. There are no real drawbacks to Daeron’s Runes, other than that you have to discard a card.

Pros: 0-cost, allows you to choose which card is discarded, makes your deck smaller, draws 2 new cards

Cons: Requires 1 card to be discarded from your hand

Combines well with… unique allies and attachments (discard fodder)

Use if… You are running Lore.

* Peace, and Thought (Lore Event, 1 cost) [Shadow and Flame]

Refresh Action: Exhaust 2 heroes to draw 5 cards.

This is a swing-for-the-fences type of card, as it draws 5 cards for only 1 resource, which is the most powerful card draw effect around. At the same time, it has the substantial drawback of requiring 2 heroes to be exhausted. There are ways of getting around this cost, primarily by including readying effects. Another possibility is using scrying to figure out exactly when you can afford to hold 2 heroes back from questing (and combat) for a whole turn. Since it only costs 1 resource, you can use just include 1 Lore hero in a deck and still easily pay for this card, thus providing substantial card draw for a variety of decks (Leadership or Spirit with their readying effects would be a good pairing with a sole Lore hero). Due to its exhaustion requirement, this event is perhaps not as popular as other card draw effects, but it is certainly worth the effort if you can get beyond that cost. Peace, and Thought is particularly effective in decks that depend on getting allies out quickly (Dwarves or Outlands), but 5 cards can help any type of deck out, particularly in the early game. Note that this can only be played during the refresh phase.

Pros: Cheap (1-cost), draws 5 cards

Cons: Requires exhausting 2 heroes

Combines well with… Unexpected Courage, Light of Valinor, Cram, Denethor, Risk Some Light, Henamarth Riversong

Use if… You are running a deck with readying/scrying effects. You need to get allies (or other cards) out quickly. You want huge doses of card draw.

* The Eagles Are Coming! (Tactics Event, 0 cost) [The Hunt for Gollum]

Action: Search the top 5 cards of your deck for any number of Eagle cards and add them to your hand. Shuffle the other cards back into your deck.

The Eagles Are Coming! is a fairly niche form of card draw, but can be effective within those limitations. In Eagle decks, this event can pull Eagles cards (which is not limited to allies, it can actually draw other copies of this card!) from the top 5 cards of your deck. What is notable about this card is that, unlike other fetch effects, it doesn’t just draw 1 card of the target trait, but “any number” of them. So theoretically, if all 5 cards in the top cards of your deck were Eagle cards, you could draw them all! Of course, practically this is not very likely, but you do have the opportunity to draw multiple cards for 0-cost. Another strength of this event is that it provides much-needed card draw for the Tactics sphere. The weakness is that it can potentially miss completely. You also can only really use it in a highly-focused Eagle deck.

Pros: Free, can potentially draw multiple cards, provides draw for Tactics

Cons: Can miss completely, limited to Eagle decks

Combines well with… other Eagle cards

Use if… You are running an Eagle deck.

* Palantir (Neutral Attachment, 1 cost) [Assault on Osgiliath]

Planning Action: Exhaust Palantir and attached hero to name a card type and look at the top 3 cards of the encounter deck. For each of those cards that matches the named type, draw a card. For each of those cards that does not match the named type, raise your threat by 2.

The Palantir has been discussed quite a bit recently here at Tales from the Cards, so I’m not going to spend much time on it here. If you’re interested, check out the conversations here and here for more Palantir love (and hate). Looking at this attachment strictly as a card draw effect, since that is the focus of this article, the Palantir has a few great aspects. The most important is that it is neutral, so it can provide much-needed draw for spheres that don’t have a ton of options available. Probably the best candidate is Spirit, which doesn’t have much card draw and has the threat reduction effects necessary to mitigate the Palantir’s penalty for guessing incorrectly. The other positive is that this card can draw multiple cards per turn (depending on how lucky you get) and provides another important benefit at the same time: scrying the top 3 cards of the encounter deck. So you’re really getting two abilities in one here. The biggest weakness of the Palantir is obvious: it is risky and random and can skyrocket your threat if you’re not careful. Another cost of this attachment is that you have to exhaust a hero every time you use it. The Palantir is the kind of card you build a deck around (threat reduction effects, encounter deck scrying to minimize threat gain, readying effects for the attached hero, etc.), rather than throwing 3 copies into any old build.

Pros: Neutral, provides powerful scrying as well as card draw, repeatable, can draw up to 3 cards per turn, low-cost (1)

Cons: Risk of substantial threat gain, requires building a deck around it, requires exhausting a hero

Combines well with… The Galadhrim’s Greeting, Elrond’s Counsel, Risk Some Light, Denethor, Henamarth Riversong

Use if… You are running Spirit and want some card draw. You are interested in scrying as well. You are willing to build a deck around the Palantir.

* Bilbo Baggins (Lore Hero, 9 threat, 1 willpower, 1 attack, 2 defense, 2 hit points) [The Hunt for Gollum]

The first player draws 1 additional card in the resource phase. 

Bilbo Baggins is a card drawing hero extraordinaire. The Bilbo vs. Beravor debate has been covered elsewhere on several bilbo bagginsoccasions, including in this blog, so I’ll focus on the strengths and weaknesses of this card in its own right, as compared to all other card draw effects. The main benefit of Bilbo Baggins is that he provides card draw from turn one automatically without having to play any other cards. The card draw he provides is a passive effect, which means that it just happens, without you having to worry about exhausting a character or paying a resource. This is one of the best aspects of Bilbo. It is both a blessing and a curse that the extra card goes with the first player (in solo, this is a moot point, and Bilbo provides extraordinary card draw). It is great that the card draw is shared around in multi-player, but in some cases, you might prefer it to stay with you (it’s ok, you can admit it, I won’t tell your gaming group) or that it goes to someone other than the first player. The biggest weakness of this card is that it takes up a hero slot, and Bilbo has poor stats and a relatively high threat.

Pros: Don’t have to draw or play a card to use, spreads out the card draw in multiplayer, works automatically

Cons: Takes up a hero slot, has low stats and high threat, can’t choose which player gets the card draw

Combines well with… Fast Hitch, A Burning Brand

Use if… You want guaranteed card draw from turn one. You want all players to get extra card draw in multiplayer. You want to build on Hobbit synergy. You are playing solo and want an extra card every turn.

* Beravor (Lore Hero, 10 threat, 2 willpower, 2 attack, 2 defense, 4 hit points) [Core Set]

Action: Exhaust Beravor to choose a player. That player draws 2 cards. Limit once per round.

Beravor is still an amazing card-draw hero, despite being one of the original Core Set heroes. The benefit of Beravor is that her card draw is repeatable (once per turn), providing 2 cards each time. You don’t have to pay any resources or play any cards to use this effect, which is great, but you do have to exhaust Beravor. It is this requirement that is the biggest weakness of Beravor, and finding ways to ready her makes her a much better hero. Beravor’s card draw can be given to any player, which is nice flexibility in a multiplayer game. She does take up a hero slot and has a relatively high starting threat (10), but at least you get well-balanced stats.

Pros: Doesn’t require playing a card, free, provides 2 cards, draw can be given to other players in multiplayer, has well-balanced stats

Cons: Requires exhausting a hero, takes up a hero slot

Combines well with… Unexpected Courage, Cram, Miruvor, Common Cause

Use if… You are including readying effects. You want a balanced hero along with your card draw. You want the flexibility of providing card draw to other players in multiplayer. You want guaranteed card draw available from turn one.

* Ori (Lore Hero, 8 threat, 2 willpower, 2 attack, 1 defense, 3 hit points) [Over Hill and Under Hill]

If you control at least 5 Dwarf characters, draw 1 additional card at the beginning of the resource phase.

Ori is surely one of the most powerful Dwarf heroes around, and provides outstanding card draw for Dwarf decks. Like Bilbo, orihe automatically provides an extra card each turn, but unlike our famous Hobbit hero, he provides decent stats (especially with Dain in play) and starts with 1 less threat. In addition, the extra card always goes to the controlling player. The main weakness of Ori is that you have to hit that threshold of 5 Dwarf characters before Ori’s card draw effect can activate. If your opening hand is not favorable, it might take a few turns before you can put out 2 Dwarf characters (assuming you’re playing 3 Dwarf heroes, which you should with Ori). You can get around this by including low-cost Dwarf allies that are easy to get onto the table quickly. Of course, you can also use Bombur (he counts as 2!) as well. Another thing to watch out for is that if your allies get wiped out, you can drop back below the 5 count and lose the extra card.

Pros: Provides automatic card draw, decent stats (especially with Dain), synergizes well with Dwarf play style

Cons: Takes up a hero slot, requires 5 Dwarf characters to activate, can stall if Dwarf characters don’t hit the table fast enough

Combines well with… Bombur, Dwarf characters

Use if… You are running a deck that is heavy with Dwarf allies. You are using Dain Ironfoot. You are including effects that can get Dwarf allies out quickly.

Final Recommendations

There are so many card draw effects in the existing card pool, and their value rises and falls depending on the type of deck you are running, that it isn’t possible to single out one as the best. I can safely say that Daeron’s Runes is one of my favorites, as it is free, flexible, and effective in a wide variety of decks. Dwarf decks can benefit from a few different extremely powerful card draw effects, that are designed to work with Dwarf synergy, which makes this deck type potentially one of the strongest card draw engines around. A final note is that fetch-type forms of card draw (i.e. The Eagles Are Coming!, Master of the Forge, Mustering the Rohirrim, etc.) are limited by their very nature, but perhaps deserve more attention than they often receive.

With this bit of card knowledge now under your belt, hopefully you will feel well prepared to make thoughtful decisions about which card draw effects to include in your decks and in what quantities. As the Deck Building 101 series continues, we will next take a look at scrying.

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21 Comments
  1. Great article. I have recently become more fond of one of the original card-drawing effects: Valiant Sacrifice. While I was not too impressed with this card, upon opening the Core Set, it has really improved with age. Between Prince Imrahil, Eagles, and now Eomer all triggering on the same thing, this card looks like a good deal, with very little downside.

  2. speedy permalink

    Great article! I don´t even know that there are such a great card draw effects possible for dwarfs (I am rather focusing on men of the west).
    Valiant sacrifice is autoincluded in my decks (Imrahil and chump blockers for the most time). I like Gleowin too, especially if you get him in first turns. And Mithrandir´s advice in decks with at least two Lore heroes (Glorfindel, Denethor, Theodred – great success in Into Ithilien).

  3. ishallcallusting permalink

    I enjoyed this article quite a bit. For my money, Legacy of Durin is the best card draw effect in the game. I mean, you try to take a balanced approach by including drawbacks, but essentially the drawback is that you are forced to build a really powerful deck (dwarf deck) around it. That’s not much of a bummer. Honestly, in my favorite dwarf build I go with Ori and Legacy and I have to cut all other card drawing because I end up drawing too many cards that I can’t play.

    Also, since you are including fetch type cards, which one could argue are not really card drawing, then you forgot to mention Word of Command, which is not very good, but could be good later as more Istari characters come on line. Right now, either version of Gandalf is just too valuable to exhaust for fetching a card, even the exact card you need.

    Although… maybe you could exhaust core Gandalf to fetch another core Gandalf just to get his “entering play” effect. Or you could use Sneak Attack to play a core Gandalf to exhaust to get a second Sneak Attack! Hmmmm, maybe there is more than meets the eye.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      The Dwarf draw engine is truly insane. Many times I can easily draw through my entire deck.

      Word of Command is definitely an intriguing card. I decided to leave it out, as it is almost in another category than card draw, though I could see how it could fit in. One great option is that you can exhaust Gandalf to use Word of Command during the action window that takes place during the refresh phase (and after characters ready). So you can use Gandalf as normal for a round, he readies, then you can exhaust him to use Word of Command. Then, he pops out of play at the very end of the round, after that action window. For some reason, I still haven’t included Word of Command in a ton of decks, but it definitely has a role to play.

      • Traekos77 permalink

        True, Word of Command is an a unique category of enhanced card draw. I’d say Rivendell Minstrel (and Fili/Kili) is in that same category. Flawless Fetch perhaps?

      • TalesfromtheCards permalink

        Flawless Fetch, I like it. Yeah, I decided to leave out all the cards you mentioned, as Flawless Fetch does seem different than card draw (although I could understand the argument for including it as well). I think they’ll form their own category.

  4. onobones permalink

    I look forward to the addition of Deep Knowledge to this list. I’m salivating at the prospect of running it with 3x Daeron’s Runes and 3x Mithrandir’ Advice. Throw in three Scrolls of Isildur, and things could get out of hand (or into hand) very quickly.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Deep Knowledge is going to be absolutely nuts! 2 cards for every player for 0-cost…I don’t even know what to say (I know, I know, it’s not truly free with the doomed, but I still share your excitement)

  5. For single player, having Bilbo around is really, really good. With the recent boost to the Hobbit pool, I think he might be an easier sell, even multiplayer.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Agreed. Bilbo solo is still a great choice. I’ve become really attached to my Merry, Sam, Pippin (Lore) Hobbit deck, but I could easily sub in Bilbo for Pippin to fill that Lore slot, especially when playing solo with one deck.

  6. Matt permalink

    I agree with Beorn, as I too have a new appreciation for Valiant Sacrifice. Really one of the more underrated cards in the game, and the fact that more people don’t include it in decks is astonishing. As for Word of Command, for the cost (5 for the current Istari in the game, plus the 1 resource for the card, plus the card slots it takes up), there really isn’t a card in the game that is worth all of that, in my opinion.

    My final thought on this article has to do with Mustering the Rohirrim and The Eagles are Coming!. These cards are so similar, yet The Eagles are Coming! is just so much better. I hope that Rohan gets some form of fetch or card draw that is better than Mustering the Rohirrim with the new expansion and cycle coming out.

    Overall, great article!!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks! The Eagles fetch is definitely much better, especially since you can grab any number of Eagles cards not just 1. Even if it was limited, I think I still prefer 0 cost to look through top 5, rather than 1 cost to look at the top 10. For fetch cards, I really want them to be free.

      • Landroval permalink

        Eagles are far more limited in their scope than the Rohirrim as they cannot really Quest in a cost-effective way. So having more of them in hand for free kind of balances out. Great combo with Hama. 3 x Eagles and 2 x Foe Hammer are normally sufficient card draw in a tactics eagle deck.

        I think i have used Bofur’s weapon fecth ability once in the many games i have played with him. His questing ability is just too precious for Tactics.

        Good tips on Expert Treasure hunter (hadn’t realised you could stack on three copies) and i also hadn’t realised the embedded cantrip in we are not idle. Good cards, but Legacy of Durin + Daeron’s Runes are normally more than enough in a dwarf deck.

        Thanks for the article.

  7. mndela permalink

    I like Foe-Hammer with Hama. It’s amazing. Do you imagine? Maybe draw 3 cards each round.
    I like Word of Command (3copies) with Radagast. To get: Path of Need, and also uniques (and uniques in deck also) strong allies as Landroval (Radagast could cost it after), Beorn, Gildor…

    Path of Need with Second Breakfast, Hammersmith… to return it, or Strider’s Path, Thror’s Map… are a good combo. The dificult thing is to get Path of Need (unique in deck), so Word of Command with Radagast (or Gandalf, of course), is good.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Path of Need is one card that I’ve always wanted to spend time building a deck around, but I’ve always gotten distracted by something else. One of these days I’ll get to it!

  8. Any suggesttion on what proportion of card draw to include?

    I have found, so far, that card draw is moederately important. In many custimizable games you draw to get some overly powerful affect into hand. But LoTR LCG seems to favor buidling balance across all cards. 50 card decks is a bit large for many(most?) Scenarios.

    My main use for drawing is to prevent stalls. And thisis why its still important. I have been trying to buikd decks with 3-5 card draws, Beravor decks obviosly different.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That’s a great question, and a great point about LoTR LCG rewarding overall consistency more than grabbing a particular card (barring a few niche decks). In general, I would say a minimum is 2 different card draw effects with 3 copies worth each. So you can think about a draw-poor Tactics deck including Foe-hammer and Gandalf, for example, or Spirit using Ancient Mathom and Gandalf. Those spheres/decks with more options should probably ramp up to 3-4 different effects with 3 copies each. It definitely depends on your deck and strategy. I have run decks with only 1 draw effect, but you can be in danger of stalling if luck doesn’t favor you.

  9. KaZeFin permalink

    Great article! Though didn’t see some of cards which have a card draw effect, say hobbit pipe, I would have liked if you had taken a notice about cards which are not repeatable: They also need to be draw from deck. If you do not include them then you would have draw some other card. E.g you just draw valiant sacrifice and an opportunity to play it appears immediately. You then draw 2 cards. If you didn’t have valiant sacrifice in your deck you would have draw the first card you draw when you played valiant sacrifice. Meaning in that in lorien’s wealth you technically pay 1,5 resource per card. In normal situation this holds true.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      There are definitely some card draw effects missing here, such as Hobbit Pipe, simply because they were released after I wrote the article! Unfortunately, these card-specific articles will get more and more out of date as time goes on, but hopefully they provide a basic primer. And maybe I will update them at some point. You make a good point about the need for non-repeatable effects to be drawn from the deck and how this affects their overall value.

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