Card Spotlight: Landroval
The Eagles of Middle-earth are enigmatic, powerful, and even controversial. While Tolkien employed them as the embodiment of his notion of eucatastrophe, readers (and viewers) of the more cynical modern age ask instead why the eagles couldn’t just fly the Ring to Mordor. In terms of LOTR LCG, Eagles formed one of the early viable deck archetypes, being fleshed out during the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle, but haven’t received any support since that time. Still, even though the card pool has grown and new archetypes have emerged, the Eagle deck can still work quite well, at least in terms of providing combat support. The most powerful of the Eagles that we have in the game is Landroval, brother of Gwaihir (we will see a Gwaihir card one day, won’t we?), and he will serve as the focus of this Card Spotlight.
This edition will be a little bit different in that I am taking on an ally for only the third time. Typically attachments and events are the best fodder for these articles because allies tend to be more straightforward in terms of their value (though not always), while attachments and events incline towards the subtle. Another difference is that the value of Landroval is not in dispute, at least not in any way that I’m aware of, and I venture that there are few players out there who would label him a coaster. However, the high cost of Landroval in a sphere without a ton of resource generation options means that he perhaps doesn’t get as much play as he might otherwise. Thus, I will use this opportunity to not only explore some of the best uses for Landroval, but also some of the ways that his expense can be mitigated.
For 5 resources, Landroval provides an ally with strong stats and a powerful ability:
Response: After a hero card is destroyed, return Landroval to his owner’s hand to put that hero back into play, with 1 damage token on it. (Limit once per game.)
Thus, Landroval is currently one of the only ways to bring a hero back from the dead (Fortune or Fate being the other), and the only one in the Tactics sphere. It is crucial to understand that this ability can only be applied to situations where a hero is “destroyed”, meaning that they are discarded from play through the placement of a final damage token. This means that Landroval cannot be used to save Tactics Boromir or Caldara, for example, after they are purposely discarded as part of using their abilities. Understanding the difference between “destroyed” and “discarded” is key to grasping why this is the case.
In terms of Landroval’s ability and its usage in gameplay, you can look at it in one of two ways. First, it can serve as a valuable emergency backup in case one of your heroes is destroyed during the normal course of play. This can be particularly useful when you don’t have healing available, and can serve as an alternative form of shadow/treachery cancellation when dealing with effects that deal direct damage and might unexpectedly kill a hero. On the other hand, you can also use Landroval as part of an intentional strategy to allow one hero to soak up tons of damage and come back into play when they have reached their limit. Since Landroval removes all damage tokens but one when he brings a hero back into play, his ability acts as a form of de facto healing. The best candidate for this strategy is Beorn. With 10 hit points, he can soak up 10 points of damage and then be resurrected by Landroval, with 9 hit points available for the second go-around. Since Beorn doesn’t exhaust to defend, this combination allows him to become the ultimate tank (this is a variation on the core strategy of my Blaze of Glory Beorn deck, which uses Fortune or Fate instead). Note that Beorn is “immune to player card effects”, but once he is destroyed, this text becomes void, which means that Landroval’s ability can then work on him.
Of course, while the utility of Landroval is clear, I often have left him on the cutting room floor because of his high cost. Fortunately, there are a few options available that can allow you to get usage out of his ability more often. First, Elf-stone, a fantastic attachment released in The Black Riders expansion, has dramatically expanded the ability of players to get expensive allies into play more frequently. Although Elf-stone is a Lore card, it can easily fit into a Lore/Tactics deck to allow you to get Landroval into play for a low, low cost of 1 resource. Second, the classic event, Sneak Attack, can also work if you are simply interested in Landroval’s ability and not necessarily using him as an ally. Since Landroval’s resurrection effect triggers as long as he is in play, you can Sneak Attack him into play during the combat phase (or whenever you anticipate the destruction of a hero) and he will be present to save the day. Of course, the problem with this approach is that you need to know when to use it, and so it works best for the intentionally built Landroval decks rather than those that put him in a safety valve role. Third, A Very Good Tale, like Elf-stone, is another option for getting Landroval into play permanently without having to pay for him. The problem is that this combination won’t work that consistently as you have to shuffle your deck and draw 5 random cards from it. Thus, this approach is a bit less reliable than the first two. Of course, a final option is to simply load up on traditional resource generation. Horn of Gondor, combined with the natural tendency of Eagle allies to leave play, can help produce the resources needed to pay for Landroval, and this is a great strategy as it can all be done with Tactics cards. Radagast could also provide assistance if you are looking to pay for Landroval conventionally, but he is expensive himself, so it may be a bit counterproductive.
Leaving aside Landroval’s ability, how does he stack up as an ally? With 1 willpower, 3 attack, 1 defense, and 4 hit points, his main function is likely as an attacker, and he can fill this role well. In fact, Landroval has equal stats to Legolas! In addition, if you have Support of the Eagles in play, Landroval’s high attack can help bolster the attached hero’s combat capability. Of course, Vassal of the Windlord can do the same thing for only 1 resource, but that ally is much more fragile and expendable. Since Landroval has sentinel and is fairly hearty (4 hit points) for an ally, he can also serve as a credible defender, even with only 1 defense. Keep in mind that if Landroval’s ability is used, then he has to return to your hand, and you will have to find a way to get him back into play all over again. Alternatively, if you have a copy of Eagles of the Misty Mountains in play, you can turn him into a facedown attachment to help buff that ally instead when the fateful moment arrives.
Altogether, Landroval is an eminently useful ally that is hampered by a high cost, although the expense is good design, in my opinion. After all, it should be difficult to save a hero from death. In many cases, it makes perfect sense to leave Landroval out of a deck, even if it is focused on Eagles, because a well-designed deck should not result in hero death anyway (and if it does, you are probably on your way to defeat in most cases). However, when facing the tougher challenges posed by Nightmare scenarios, Gen Con packs, and the tough quests from Heirs of Numenor, Landroval might just make the difference between defeat and victory. With this in mind, along with the potential of building around his resurrection ability with someone like Beorn, Landroval’s worth is quite clear.
Got a suggestion for a future Card Spotlight? Let me know below! Found an innovative use for Landroval or have a memorable Landroval story to share? Don’t hesitate to sound off!