The Morgul Vale: Events Review
It’s hard to believe it, but the time has come already to wrap up TftC’s review of The Morgul Vale, thus bringing an end to the reviews for this cycle as well. Soon enough, it will be time to usher in the new, with the coming of the Voice of Isengard at the beginning of the new year! Still, there is the small matter of putting the events of The Morgul Vale under the microscope. Last time around, we determined that the attachments were the true stars of the show, but the events may have something to say about that claim. Do these new additions to the card pool warrant a place in your decks, or will they be new basement roommates for Power in the Earth?
* Forth Eorlingas! (Tactics Event, 2 cost):
I discussed this card some in my latest Deck Spotlight entry, but this new event deserves some additional attention. Forth Eorlingas! allows Rohan heroes other than Dunhere to attack the staging area:
Combat Action: Each Rohan hero can be declared as an attacker against enemies in the staging area this phase.
I have to say that this is one of my favorite cards in the whole cycle. This is not to say that it is the most powerful, but there is something so satisfying about unleashing a charge of heroes against unsuspecting foes in the staging area. Still, the limitations of this card raise some important questions as to its utility.
First, the cost of 2 is reasonable for the effect, but it can be expensive in certain decks. Second, since the effect only applies to Rohan heroes, and since there are currently only a limited number of Rohan heroes available, Forth Eorlingas! will only be effective within a small set of decks and hero combinations. If it had granted the ability to attack the staging area for all Rohan characters instead of just heroes, then it would undoubtedly be more powerful, but would have necessitated a higher cost as well. The final limitation, and the most important of them all, is that Forth Eorlingas’ effect is a combat action, and thus is limited to the combat phase. This means that it can only be played after enemies have already come down from the staging area during the encounter phase, removing some of the potential targets. With this in mind, Forth Eorlingas! is best used in decks that start at a low-threat and/or uses cards like Fresh Tracks, A Light in the Dark, or traps to keep enemies in the staging area.
If you are able to direct this event against a single enemy or perhaps several enemies in the staging area, then it can have a magnificent impact. The best part of attacking enemies in the staging area is that it is an opportunity to destroy foes without having to bother with defending. This negates the danger posed by shadow card effects and helps to preserve your allies (and heroes). However, this event has a limited impact at the moment and probably is more of a niche card simply because of the small selection of Rohan heroes available (note: you can use Nor Am I A Stranger here to allow a non-Rohan hero to participate in the fun) and the difficulty of keeping one’s threat below enemy engagement cost. Using Forth Eorlingas! requires building a specific kind of deck if you want it to work consistently and effectively, and including cards to facilitate it will take up valuable deck space. However, this is an event that will become more powerful over time. We know, for example, that we will soon have a powerful Tactics Rohan hero, Eomer, who could attack into the staging area for 5 with Forth Eorlingas!. Even better, the Rohan Warhose could allow him to do this twice during the same phase, if his first attack destroy an enemy! Combine a Warhorse-riding Eomer with Dunhere, throw some copies of Spear of the Mark into the mix, and enemies will be scurrying away in fear.
* Lay of Nimrodel (Spirit Event, 1 cost):
Some events attempt to cover up for the weaknesses of a sphere, while others accentuate its strengths. Lay of Nimrodel definitely falls into the latter category:
Action: Choose a Spirit hero. Until the end of the phase, that hero gets +1 for each resource in its resource pool.
On first glance, it might be tempting to say, “Does Spirit really need another card that boosts willpower?”. In addition, one inherent problem with this card is that Spirit is weak in resource generation, and so any particular Spirit hero is probably not flush with resources, unless they’ve received assistance from Steward of Gondor or resource transfer affects. Savvy players might also wonder whether it’s wise to waste deck space and resources on a card that provides a temporary willpower boost rather than an attachment that can provide a more permanent effect.
However, while such analysis is not incorrect, I do think it misses the mark a bit. In my experience, willpower-boosting events are some of the most useful and underrated cards in the game, as they can be played during that crucial action window between staging and quest resolution. How many times have you finished staging and found yourself just a few willpower points shy of clearing out that location or quest stage? How many times have you unexpectedly found yourself facing the prospect of a failed questing phase and a threat increase and wished you had a bit more willpower to make up the difference? One of the reasons Eowyn has always been such a valuable hero is because she has provided this ability to boost willpower after staging, during that pivotal moment when know exactly what you need. Protector of Lorien has been an ever-present attachment, especially in the early life of this game, for a similar reason.
If we assume that the target of Lay of Nimrodel has perhaps 2-3 resources on it in an average case, then that is an additional 2-3 wilpower for 1 resource. In my opinion, that’s not a bad deal at all, especially because of the aforementioned flexibility of timing (i.e. you can use it when you know you will need it). Players also certainly have the option of attempting to maximize this bonus even further by saving up resources on a Spirit hero over the course of several rounds. Caldara, for example, could be a good candidate, as she has the Gondor trait and could benefit from Gondor resource cards like Wealth of Gondor or Envoy of Pelargir.
A big question is whether Lay of Nimrodel is superior to similar options in the sphere. Upon looking at the card pool, you might be surprised to find that there actually isn’t a ton of direct competition for the role that Lay is filling. Let’s look at some of the other possibilities, and figure out how Lay of Nimrodel compares to them:
* Astonishing Speed: This is an expensive card, but one that can certainly bring the goods when it comes to a huge willpower bonus for one round, and will likely exceed what Lay of capable of in the majority of cases. However, it is essentially restricted to Rohan decks. Lay of Nimrodel is both more flexible and cheaper, which are both important considerations.
* Untroubled by Darkness: This card is a good contender for a future Card Spotlight, as it receives almost no attention. Like Astonishing Speed, this is an event that provides a powerful willpower buff because it applies to all characters that share a particular trait. However, that is also its weakness, as it limits the flexibility of Untroubled by Darkness (in this case, making it only usable by Dwarves). Again, Lay of Nimrodel is a cheaper and more flexible option.
* Elrond’s Counsel: This is a tough comparison as Elrond’s Counsel is truly an amazing card, providing a threat reduction of 3 and an additional 1 willpower, all for zero cost. It can only be used if you have a unique Noldor character available, which does limit its applicability, and will only ever give you a boost of 1. Between the two events, I would definitely say that Elrond’s Counsel is the better card, but Lay of Nimrodel is the better willpower boosting effect.
* Children of the Sea: In terms of pure efficiency, Children of the Sea provides an additional 2 willpower for 0 cost and is not dependent on any other conditions (i.e. requiring resources to be present in a hero’s pool). In this way, like Elrond’s Counsel, it is probably a superior card to Lay of Nimrodel in terms of pure efficiency and ease of set up. However, like the other Spirit willpower boosting events that have been mentioned, this one is limited to characters of a certain trait (Noldor and Silvan in this case). Not only that, but it requires essentially sacrificing an ally, and the resources used to pay for that character, in order to activate (the ally is shuffled back into your deck rather than discarded, but the impact is basically the same).
These comparisons illuminate the value of Lay of Nimrodel beyond what may be obvious at first glance. It may be surprising to hear, but Lay of Nimrodel is the only Spirit event that can boost willpower regardless of trait. This alone makes it incredibly valuable, especially for decks that are not running Rohan, Dwarves, or Noldor/Silvan. In general, its relatively cheap cost and potential effectiveness also makes it a strong candidate for justifying space in your deck. Mono-Spirit (or Spirit-heavy) decks will get the most benefit out of Lay, as they will have multiple heroes to choose from, and can select the one (amongst those questing) with the most resources in their pool. In addition, they can combine this card with Against the Shadow to turn one Spirit hero into a strong defender for one round of combat (although Blood of Numenor does essentially the same thing and doesn’t require a combo to set up).
The last bit of business to discuss here is the value of a willpower boosting event like Lay of Nimrodel compared to willpower boosting attachments like The Favor of the Lady and Miruvor, which can provide you with a more permanent boost. While in many cases, with other abilities, permanent attachments are a better choice, here I would say Lay of Nimrodel is better than both The Favor of the Lady and Miruvor in the sense of being able to apply a concentrated dose of willpower when and where you need it most. Again, I will stress that I am comparing willpower boosting effects strictly within the sphere to make the comparison fair. Leadership, for example, has cards that I would rate over Lay of Nimrodel.
To end, I will touch briefly on the lore behind this card, as I did with Ered Nimrais Prospector. For a detailed description of the story of Nimrodel, please consult this excellent entry at the Master of Lore blog. What I will add is that the Lay of Nimrodel card represents the song sung by Legolas to the company as they rested within the eaves of Lorien. Why this song should boost willpower may be unclear until you remember the timing of its appearance in The Fellowship of the Ring. The company was still reeling from the death of Gandalf and beset by uncertainty, and the Lay of Nimrodel provided a measure of comfort and hope. As was often the case in Tolkien’s works, the story detailed by the song is tragic and deeply sad, and yet the effect it has on listeners is not to make them depressed and despondent, but hopeful. This touches on a fundamental theme of Tolkien, which is the strength that can be drawn from tragedy. For example, Nienna, the Valar (an immortal demigod-like being) known as “she who weeps”, is not depicted as being weak, but as being one of the strongest entities, “…and those who hearken to her learn pity, and endurance in hope”. In fact, one of her key “students” was Gandalf himself. Thus, the Lay of Nimrodel, and specifically Legolas’ singing of it at a key moment of grief, should absolutely boost the willpower of a character. I hope you can forgive me lingering on this lore, and I could surely linger even longer, if only because it shows once again the attention to the lore built into most of these cards.
* Hidden Cache (Neutral Event, 0 cost):
I already covered this card in some detail in conjunction with Ered Nimrais Prospector. However, I will endeavor to analyze this card on its own merits here. Hidden Cache provides a unique form of resource generation:
Response: After Hidden Cache is discarded from your deck, add 2 resources to the resource pool of a hero you control.
Action: Spend 1 resource to draw 1 card.
First things first, one of the best aspects of this card is that it is neutral, which grants it an inherent flexibility. On top of that, it provides both resource generation and card draw, which are the two most important effects in the game. With just these two facts in mind, it is difficult to argue against the value of Hidden Cache.
Still, it is worth investigating the matter further, as we can never simply accept a surface evaluation. Let’s take a look at the resource generation aspect first. On the one hand, gaining 2 resources for 0 cost is an incredible bargain. On the other, the condition for acquiring these resources (having it be discarded from your deck) is a bit difficult to manage consistently. Thus, while Hidden Cache is flexible in the sense of being neutral, it is also undeniably niche in that it requires some measure of deck building to trigger, as discarding cards from your deck does not happen in the natural course of play (barring enemy effects). Instead, it has to be instigated through other card effects. This is a substantial limitation, but if you can get beyond it, then the reward is worth it.
So how do you go about digging for the Cache? The two best bets in thematic and gameplay terms are the Ered Nimrais Prospector and Zigil Miner, as both discard cards from the top of your deck. The Zigil Miner has a great level of synergy, as it can potentially add to the resource windfall from the same action. Ered Nimrais Prospector makes an excellent partner as well, as not only does he discard 3 cards from the top of your deck, but if one of them happens to be Hidden Cache, he can also shuffle it right back into your deck for even more mining goodness. Keen-eyed Took is an option, but he requires 2 resources to get into play for essentially a single usage of his ability, so I wouldn’t recommend that route. Expert Treasure Hunter is a Lore attachment that will provide at least one opportunity to crack open the Hidden Cache per turn (more if multiple copies are in play). That’s probably not enough to run Hidden Cache consistently (unless you are fine with using the Hidden Cache’s card draw effect instead), but it can work well in tandem with some of the other discard effects. Emery is a fine option, as she will discard a substantial 3 cards from the top of your deck (equal to Ered Nimrais Prospector), and if you are running Spirit, then the worst case scenario is that she comes into play for free. Finally, King Under the Mountain should work for this purpose as well, at least if I’m interpreting the text correctly (you “look” at the top 2 cards and discard 1, so that should mean that the one you choose not to keep is technically discarded from your deck). That attachment is Dwarf-specific, so it should work well in conjunction with Dwarven miner decks (keep an eye out for a Deck Spotlight soon, hint, hint).
It should be emphasized that simply including discard effects is not enough. You will also need recycling effects to retrieve valuable cards from those that are sent to the trash heap en masse. In addition, you will likely want some method of manipulating the order of cards in your deck, so you can make sure that you discard Hidden Cache instead of drawing it, and so that you avoid discarding the cards that are most important to your deck. The most natural fit for this purpose is the always useful Imladris Stargazer, but Gildor Inglorion can play a part as well, though he is expensive, and this makes him more difficult to get into play early.
Now, leaving aside its resource generation effect, does Hidden Cache hold up as simply a card draw effect? Here’s the short answer: it really depends. The value of this card almost entirely depends on the sphere(s) you are running, and which other draw effects you have available to you. For example, a Lore deck has little need for Hidden Cache as a card draw effect (although great need of it for resource generation), as there are superior options to the 1 resource for 1 card deal on offer here (Daeron’s Runes, for examples, gives you 1 card for 0 cost). On the other hand, when building Tactics-heavy decks in the future, I will certainly consider including Hidden Cache. While this event does take up space in your deck, by allowing itself to be replaced in your hand for 1 resource, it essentially cuts down your deck size to 47 instead of 50 (although the cost of doing this might not justify the benefit, depending on the deck). If I’m pressed for a definitive answer, I would say that Hidden Cache is probably too marginal to use just for its card draw effect in most cases, but I do love that this back-up option is included in case you end up drawing the card instead of discarding it. Then, once it is in your discard pile, something like Ered Nimrais Prospector or Will of the West can shuffle it back into your deck for another go at gathering the resources.
Altogether, Hidden Cache is a unique card that helps to facilitate an emerging deck type based around discarding cards from your deck (this was something I dealt with a bit in my review of Ered Nimrais Prospector, so you can read more about it there). This is definitely not a card that will fit everyone’s tastes. For players that prefer more straight ahead, “tap and go” forms of resource generation, Hidden Cache may simply be more trouble than its worth. On the other hand, players that like semi-complicated deck types and want to explore bringing resource generation to the Lore and Spirit spheres will find plenty to love with Hidden Cache. As a final note, I love these types of cards that provide a certain ability to a sphere that is weak in that area, but makes players work for it.
All of The Morgul Vale players cards have now been reviewed, and the Against the Shadow cycle has come to a close. Before you know it, the Voice of Isengard player cards will be upon us! Overall, I’d have to say that The Morgul Vale was one of the best AP’s of this cycle in terms of player cards, and the scenario itself was one of my favorites as well. It thus serves as a fitting end to the cycle.
Readers, share your thoughts on The Morgul Vale events below. Is Forth Eorlingas! worth the cost? Would you prefer Lay of Nimrodel or something like Favor of the Lady or Miruvor? Do you plan on using Hidden Cache? Sound off!