Card Spotlight: Renewed Friendship
LOTR LCG has distinguished itself from the rest of FFG’s stable of card games by emphasizing cooperative over competitive play. Rather than facing off against your fellow players, you must instead work with them to successfully stave off the dangers of the encounter deck. However, within that framework, there is a spectrum of cooperation, ranging from players running decks that work fairly independently of each other to designing builds that are meant to work in lockstep. In this Card Spotlight, we’ll be looking at an effect that is meant to encourage players to actually provide tangible support to each other in the form of attachments: Renewed Friendship. Leaving aside concerns for cooperation, however, this article series is a space where we must be fair, yet ruthless, in separating the bright, gleaming gems from the dull, lifeless coasters. Which category will Renewed Friendship fall under? Read on and find out!
Renewed Friendship is a 0-cost Spirit event that was released as part of The Redhorn Gate Adventure Pack. It has the following game text:
Response: After another player plays an attachment on a hero you control, you may (choose 1): ready 1 of that player’s heroes, have that player draw 1 card, or lower that player’s threat by 2.
When a fellow player does you the kindness of gifting you an attachment, you can use Renewed Friendship to return the favor in the form of readying, card draw, or threat reduction. Is this effect any good? First off, let me get the obvious out of the way, this event can’t be used in pure solo play and thus is an automatic coaster in that situation. In multiplayer, on the other hand, there are some intriguing possibilities for this card. Oftentimes, when looking at a card effect with multiple sentences or clauses, I often find it helpful to break it down into individual pieces to help me determine its worth. For example, if we were to pretend that Renewed Friendship was a 0-cost event that simply allowed another player to ready a hero, draw a card, or lower their threat by 2, would this be a worthy inclusion? I would have to say that in many cases, the clear answer is yes. While a Spirit player is often flush with threat reduction effects, other decks may not be so lucky. Being able to drop another player’s threat by 2 for no cost is a modest bonus but undeniably useful in many cases. Similarly, a card draw of 1 won’t necessarily knock your socks off at first glance, but it can be useful to provide options for deck types that didn’t or can’t include draw of their own. The readying effect is perhaps the most potentially powerful when you first look at this card, and then disappointing when you realize the implications of the timing of Renewed Friendship. Since you can only activate this card when another player plays an attachment, this means that you can only ready another player’s hero during the planning phase (barring a card that allows you to play an attachment during another phase, such as Vilya). This makes the readying effect quite limited in scope. Still, altogether, the effects of this card are both useful and reasonable for 0-cost.
Now, we can bring in the condition of this card for discussion, which acts as its real “cost”: that another player must put an attachment on one of your heroes. This clause limits the flexibility of this card, and could possibly prevent you from playing it when it is most needed. Instead, you have to rely on another player including an attachment in their deck that is suitable for your heroes, drawing that attachment, and having the resources available and being willing to spend them to play it. Therefore, you are really looking at a set of three conditions that need to be met to allow Renewed Friendship to function. How often does this actually happen in multiplayer games? This is something we need to answer before we can determine if this event is even feasible. I can’t answer definitively, as it really depends on the players and decks involved, but generally, in the multiplayer games I’ve been involved in, you can count on at least 1 or 2 attachments being played across the board to another player. However, as the owner of Renewed Friendship, you need to be able to count on those attachments coming your way, and not to some other player, and that you will have this event in hand when it happens.
With all this in mind, I have to conclude that one of the substantial drawbacks of this card is that it requires intentional and thoughtful deck building for it to function consistently. You can certainly throw it into any old multiplayer situation and hope for the best, and it will hit now and then, but if you really want Renewed Friendship to be reliable, which you probably will if you’re including it over other cards, then you need to do some pre-planning with your fellow players. This is not an insurmountable obstacle, but definitely something to keep in mind.
In order to facilitate such planning, I’m going to explore some possible ways that you can strategize to get the most out of Renewed Friendship. As with other such lists, this is not meant to be an exhaustive recounting of every possibility (I rely on you, thoughtful readers, to provide your own insightful uses), rather I hope to provide a starting point that can get the ball rolling in your brain if you are even thinking about trying to make this card work. Here are the greatest hits:
* Elrond/Vilya: There are a couple of different ways to make this combination work. One possibility is that, as the Elrond player, rather than running Vilya in your deck, another player will include it for you. The idea is that they will play it on Elrond, and you will reward their effort with threat reduction or a free card (as mentioned before, the readying effect is of more limited utility because of timing issues). Since Vilya is neutral, any deck can run it, and perhaps the best combination would be for a high-threat combat deck to be your partner in this endeavor, as they can gain some much-needed threat reduction. In this case, they are essentially paying 2 resources (the cost of Vilya) for a 2 threat decrease, which is not the best deal, but it might be worthwhile against quests that really ramp up player threat. Another option, and probably the better one, is to essentially reverse this partnership. The Elrond player exhausts to use Vilya to put an attachment into play, and places it on another player’s hero. That player then uses Renewed Friendship to ready Elrond. Since Vilya can put an attachment into play outside of the planning phase, this set-up can actually make viable use of Renewed Friendship’s readying effect. Usually, you’re using other readying effects in an Elrond/Vilya deck, but Elrond is such a useful hero (great quester/defender, as well as Vilya user) that extra actions for him are usually never wasted.
* The Tank: Another way to maximize Renewed Friendship is to look to exploit situations where certain heroes tend to be consistent targets for other player’s attachments. What I have noticed is that “tank” heroes, with Beregond perhaps being the pre-eminent example, receive attachments from other players more than any other hero type. The reason why is clear: if they have sentinel, they can defend for all players, thus helping to solve combat problems for everyone. So a Spirit player with Unexpected Courage or a Leadership player with Cram will often throw it on the biggest tank on the board to ensure that a particular hero can defend multiple times per turn. Similarly, defense-boosting or hit points-boosting attachments will often find their way to the tank. For this reason, it makes perfect sense for the player who controls a defensive powerhouse to include Renewed Friendship in their deck. The one drawback of this set-up is that a tank player will often not be including Spirit, and many times is more in need of card draw and threat reduction than being in a position to spend card slots to give it to someone else. Still, this option is a possibility.
* The Killer: Similar logic applies as with the tank. Attacking heroes with ranged are often popular targets for other players’ attachments, who can see the benefit of throwing weapons on to a character that can attack any engaged enemy on the board.
* Glorfindel’s Toys: Glorfindel has a couple of toys that are often must-includes in many situations: Light of Valinor and Asfaloth. There are certain situations where a player runs Glorfindel, but doesn’t include a resource match for one of these attachments, thus opening up the opportunity for another player to provide one of these useful cards and for a Glorfindel player to include Renewed Friendship. Perhaps the most common set-up is for one player to run Spirit Glorfindel, and for a Lore player to include Asfaloth. In this situation, when Asfaloth is played on Glorfindel, Renewed Friendship can be used to reward that selfless play. In particular, a Lore player often is in need of threat reduction but doesn’t have many options available to achieve it.
* Dunedain Attachments: The Dunedain attachments (Dunedain Mark/Dunedain Warning/Dunedain Cache/Dunedain Quest/Dunedain Signal) provide stat boosts of various kinds to heroes. One aspect of these cards that is sometimes forgotten is that you can pay 1 resource to move them from one hero to another (including one controlled by another player). With this effect in mind, a player could place one of these attachments on one of his heroes, while the player with Renewed Friendship is waiting to draw the card or holding off until the right moment. Then, when the time is right, the player with the Dunedain attachment can spend 1 resource to move it onto a hero controlled by the Renewed Friendship player. If the original player really wants it back, then it can always move again (if the new hero has a Leadership icon, that is). The benefit of this approach is that it allows you to choose the right time for Renewed Friendship, while still getting the best use out of an attachment.
* 0-cost Attachments: The benefit of using 0-cost attachments to activate Renewed Friendship is that neither player has to spend resources to get this combo working. Some great candidates are Blood of Numenor, Gondorian Fire, Cram, and Expert Treasure Hunter.
* (Planning) Action Heroes: What I’m talking about here are those heroes that have useful actions that can be activated during the planning phase by exhausting. Such a hero can use their ability, then the controlling player can provide an attachment to the Renewed Friendship player, who can then ready that hero. The likely candidates are Denethor (scry and then ready, right before questing) and Beravor (card draw during planning is great).
* Secrecy: When playing secrecy, threat reduction is obviously at a premium. While there are certainly a few options that you can include to keep yourself under the secrecy threshold, fortune may decide that you are stranded without any such effects in sight. Ensuring that another player included Renewed Friendship in their deck gives you yet another alternative for threat reduction in such an eventuality. You do have to throw an attachment to that player, but in return you buy yourself another precious 2 points off your threat.
With our investigation almost complete and multiple possibilities explored, it is almost time to deliver the final verdict on Renewed Friendship. Due to its very nature, this card will not be everyone, and is certainly not appropriate for every deck type. It is meant to be used by someone who is generally orienting themselves and their decks to provide support to other players. There are a few aspects to this event that make it worthwhile, in my opinion. First, like Miruvor or Gandalf, it offers multiple bonuses to choose from, which increases the utility of this card, as it can always provide something you need, no matter the situation. The second strength of Renewed Friendship is that it can help cover for the weaknesses of another player’s deck. That Tactics meathead deck that is smashing enemies but might potentially ruin the game for everyone by threating out? It can get some threat reduction. That resource-rich Leadership deck that is struggling to get cards into its hand? It can gain an extra card. The final positive of this card is that it can encourage players to put attachments on your heroes! More importantly, it can change the way players think about building decks, so that they move beyond just including attachments that benefit their own heroes but also think about those that might work well with other player’s heroes as well. All in all, I wouldn’t rate Renewed Friendship as one of the most powerful cards, and its effects are certainly understated. It also requires a level of planning that is not always appealing. Still, I can’t relegate a card that has clear utility and a fairly unique place in the game to the trash heap. That is why Renewed Friendship will earn the coveted title of gem.