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The Morgul Vale: Allies Review

by on December 2, 2013

Theoden has been probed, prodded, and reviewed to within an inch of his life. However, he is not the only character to inhabit The Morgul Vale pack, and the remainder of this motley assemblage needs the same treatment. While the verdict on Theoden was mixed, we’ll have to see where the allies in this AP fall on the power spectrum. Without further ado, let’s review!

ALLIES

* Pelargir Ship Captain (Leadership Ally, 2 cost, 1 willpower, 1 attack, 0 defense, 2 hit points):

The Pelargir Ship Captain is the second Gondorian ally in this cycle that allows a player to transfer resources between heroes (counting Heirs of Numenor) . I speak, of course, about Errand-rider, and any Pelargir_Ship_Captainanalysis of Pelargir Ship Captain will have to take that ally into account as well. While similar to Errand-rider’s ability, Pelargir Ship Captain’s effect is significantly different in its trigger and power level:

Response: After Pelargir Ship Captain enters play, move 1 resource from the resource pool of a hero you control to another hero’s resource pool.

Taken purely on its own merits, this is a useful ability, although not earth-shattering. Resource transfer is an underrated effect that has two main uses. First, it can allow a player to transfer resources between heroes of different spheres, serving as a “smoothing effect”. This facilitates multi-sphere play and is especially useful to spread the wealth from a hero that has resource generation of some kind in play. It also is an alternative to songs or cards like Narvi’s Belt or A Good Harvest. Second, this type of effect can serve as a means for players to transfer resources between their heroes in a multiplayer game. This can allow resources to go exactly where they are needed at a particular moment, so that a player that is 1 resource shy of playing that key card can get it out on the table one turn earlier than might otherwise be possible.

Now that it has been established that the Pelargir Ship Captain’s effect is useful, the question is whether it is redundant. Comparing the Captain to the Errand-rider, the latter is clearly superior in most respects. It is cheaper (1 resource vs. 2 resources) and repeatable (exhaust to trigger rather than put into play to trigger). The one area where the Captain is superior is its stats, where it has 1 willpower and 1 defense, while the Errand-rider has a fat zero in those categories. Since the Captain only triggers once and isn’t exhausting to use his ability, then you can actually use him for combat or questing, unlike the Errand-rider, making him a good fit if you’re looking more for small doses of resource transfer rather than continual usage. Still, the Errand-rider seems to be a better choice in almost every situation. As we’ve discussed elsewhere in this blog, the difference between 1 cost and 2 cost is also greater than it appears.

Of course, there is nothing to say that you can’t use both in a deck for maximum resource flexibility. Also, with the release of Visionary Leadership in this pack, which grants a +1 willpower boost to all Gondor characters, we have to start analyzing Gondorian allies in the same way we analyze Dwarven allies (i.e. with Dain and without). With Visionary Leadership on the table, the Pelargir Ship Captain provides 2 willpower for 2 cost, which is always a great bargain, but it’s dependent on getting an attachment in play. This makes this ally more inconsistent than an ally that gives you 2 willpower out of the gate. Also, there are other cards in this same cycle that also live in the resource transfer neighborhood (Envoy of Pelargir is a good example).

More than anything, it is this redundancy within the same cycle that lessens the Captain’s value, in my opinion. Still, it can fill a hole if you’re trying to put together a Gondor deck, especially with Visionary Leadership, and its ability is useful. Keep in mind that since the effect triggers whenever it enters play, it does’t rely on being payed for conventionally, so you could theoretically use Sneak Attack to get multiple uses out of this ability, but if you used that valuable card for such a marginal use, then I might have to revoke your playing license permanently (only kidding…kind of). As I said earlier, there’s certainly no reason you can’t play the Captain and the Errand-rider (or some other similar card) if you’re looking to go heavy on resource manipulation effects, but in many cases you’ll probably only want one or the other.

Versatility: ♦♦♦◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦◊◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦◊◊◊◊

* Ered Nimrais Prospector (Lore Ally, 2 cost, 1 willpower, 0 attack, 1 defense, 2 hit points):

Shockingly, the Dwarf trait continues to get support in the Against the Shadow cycle. Even just from the perspective of having another cheap Lore Dwarf that can help push you to that critical 5 Dwarf Ered_Nimrais_Prospectorthreshold, this ally is worth the cost of admission. However, it’s when you take a moment to look at his ability that things get really interesting:

Response: After Ered Nimrais Prospector enters play, discard the top 3 cards of your deck. Then, choose and shuffle 1 card from your discard pile back into your deck.

The first question that might pop into the head of a player when looking at this ability might be, “Why the heck would I want to discard cards from my deck?”. The benefit, shuffling any 1 card from your discard pile back into your deck, seems marginal. However, there are some intriguing possibilities here for those players who like to get a bit tricksy:

1) Combination with Hidden Cache: Hidden Cache is a whole ‘nother can of worms that will likely demand a long entry of its own. However, for now it’s enough to know that Hidden Cache is also part of The Morgul Vale AP and generates 2 resources when it is discarded from your deck. The Ered Nimrais Prospector thus provides a means of hopefully discarding copies of the Hidden Cache and generating resources. This makes fine thematic sense as well, with the Prospector digging for “resources” in the mountains and success not being guaranteed (unless you have a handy Imladris Stargazer lurking about, that is).

2) A sneaky form of card draw: The card pool has evolved enough that there are now several options for bringing back cards from the discard pile, from Stand and Fight to Dwarven Tomb to Erebor Hammersmith to the various sphere books/scrolls that have been released. Putting cards into your discard pile is a way of gaining access to them, just as traditional card draw gives you access by putting them into your hand. The difference of course is that the discard pile approach requires some intermediary cards to allow the cards to actually be played. However, this is a perfectly viable approach, especially when paired with other enablers of a “discarding engine” like A Very Good Tale, Well-Equipped, Zigil Miner, King Under the Mountain, Emery, etc. Of course, Will of the West would be an important part of this deck type in order to re-shuffle everything once all the discard tricks have been used (just make sure you don’t go too crazy and discard your Will of the West itself or your recycling cards!).

3) Circuitous form of recursion

The Ered Nimrais Prospector also provides an option for recycling cards, albeit in a delayed and inconsistent matter. To make this work, you would play the Prospector once a card you want to recycle has ended up in the discard pile. This will of course throw away other cards, but your real concern is with getting the chance to shuffle 1 card from your discard pile into your deck. Once the card is back in your deck, you will now have the opportunity to draw it again, but this strategy is probably only worthwhile if you have strong card draw effects available.

As you can see, the Prospector’s ability certainly can come in handy, and even helps to solidify an emerging deck type: the “discard draw engine”. Since the ability activates when the Prospector enters play, it will trigger even if this ally is put into play by A Very Good Tale, Sneak Attack, or some other similar card effect.However, the Prospector probably will not be appealing to those players who prefer a more straightforward approach to the game. In terms of simply being a body, the Prospector is fairly mediocre, but with Dain in play, you are looking at 2 willpower for 2 resources (as mentioned with the Pelargir Ship Captain, this is always a good deal). One issue I see is that there are already so many strong Dwarf options out there that the Prospector might struggle to compete.

However, this ally is highly intriguing in one respect that I haven’t explicitly mentioned yet: as a form of resource generation for Lore, which badly needs it. Since Hidden Cache is neutral, you can run the Prospector and that event together to give some much-needed resources to Lore (Gildor can help set up the combination as well). For you overachievers out there, I have a homework assignment: create an Ered Nimrais Prospector/Zigil Miner/Imladris Stargazer/Hidden Cache resource generation and recycling deck with a miner theme.

I’ll end this entry with a touch of lore, as I was intrigued enough to dig into the Prospector’s place in Tolkien’s legendarium. Ered Nimrais is the Sindarin name for the White Mountains, the important mountain range that lies between the lands of Gondor and Rohan. There isn’t clear information (that I was able to find anyway) concerning the presence of Dwarves in the White Mountains before the War of the Ring. However, there was definitely a settlement afterwards, when Gimli led some of his people to settle the Glittering Caves behind Helm’s Deep. Whether there was a large settlement or not, it does seem quite likely that Dwarves did go to the White Mountains to mine and prospect, as when have you ever known a Dwarf to pass up a perfectly good mountain? This ally represents one of those Dwarves seeking his fortune in the Ered Nimrais, and thus actually makes sense in terms of a Dwarven character showing up in the “Gondor cycle”.

Versatility: ♦♦◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦◊◊

Conclusion

With the allies now exposed and evaluated, TftC continues its charge through the Morgul Vale player cards. The Pelargir Ship Captain is an unremarkable ally with a decent ability that will certainly find a place in Gondor decks. The Ered Nimrais Prospector is an intriguing card whose true value and utility will become clear only in a few months, as players really see how well its experimental applications work in practice over the long term. While what we have seen from these allies is interesting so far, methinks the true power and interest lies ahead in the attachments and events.

 

*A special shout-out to Dan from Hall of Beorn for setting up hallofbeorn.com, a replacement for lotrlcg.com, which greatly facilitates the writing of these articles

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10 Comments
  1. Great write-up! I have to say, the Captain is a real disappointment. Using the handy, dandy new hallofbeorn.com as a reference, we’ve gone through this whole cycle with only one proper Gondor soldier (Knight of Minas Tirith). The rest are weeny civilians and Rangers.

    I’d really hoped to field a strong army of Gondorians marching to war (reference the art on Strength of Arms). We kind of got that with Outlands, but I was truly expecting something else for Gondor. Subtlety is nice, but Gondor was renowned for its armies; not its Custodians and shipwrights.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Indeed, I doubt many of us expected before this cycle began to load up on Gondorian craftsman, envoys, and various other civilians rather than soldiers. Perhaps when the Return of the King Saga Expansions come out, we’ll see the true might of Gondor, but that’s probably several years down the road. Until then, we’ll have to content ourselves with the likes of the Captain. Couldn’t we have at least gotten a ship to go along with him though?

  2. Tonskillitis permalink

    More evidence of power creep with the ship captain. I think he has the same cost and stats as the guard of the citadel from the core set with a potentially decent ability added on. Unless the guard’s warrior trait becomes active sooner or later, there’s nothing to recommend him. Incidentally, it always nettled me that the guard didn’t even manage to have 1 point of defence, I mean come on he is a guard! I think I need to start making some house rules to address this gross inaccuracy. Okay, rant over. Nice article…

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That’s a great point. Guard of the Citadel was marginal before, but now he’s been completely replaced, and how weird is it that some random ship captain is equal in combat ability to a freakin’ Guard of the Citadel?! Denethor really needs to hire some new guards up there, if that’s the case. Fortunately, the Defender of Rammas actually lives up to his name…

  3. Nice touch with Ered Nimrais Prospector’s lore!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks! I do need to touch on lore more often, especially with these obscure characters.

  4. Karlson permalink

    I would have to agree with you with the underwhelming Ship Captain; I wish we would have gotten another warrior ally for Gondor for the Leadership sphere rather than Tactics.

    I was extremely excited with I was shuffling through the new cards in this pack and saw the Ered Nimrais Prospector, though. I just have a soft spot for Dwarves in this game, I suppose. After I read his ability, I must admit that I was a bit disappointed again. I’ve never implemented scrying upon my own player deck into my games so I didn’t think I’d be using his ability at all, but you did bring up some interesting ideas… A mono-Lore deck that had the Scroll of Isildur attachment in play could take full advantage of the Prospector’s discarding ability to play an event (such as Mithrandir’s Advice) that the Prospector discarded. And if you do, by chance, happen to discard Hidden Cache from your deck, then you’re in the money as well.

    I do like the idea of having the Prospector rely on luck (rather than an unlikely friendship with the Imladris Stargazer) and I plan to tailor a Lore Dwarf deck to see how efficient he is at mining my player deck.

    Excited for the next two entries on the Morgul Vale cards!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Nice! I’d love to hear how your miner deck goes, and I respect your principled aversion to using Imladris Stargazer to maximize things. After all, I don’t know if any self-respecting Dwarf miner would let some puny Elf tell him how to do his business!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. The Morgul Vale: Attachments Review | Tales from the Cards
  2. The Morgul Vale: Events Review | Tales from the Cards

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