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Card Spotlight: Radagast

by on January 9, 2014


Surely, of all the characters created by Tolkien, the Istari are some of the most mysterious, powerful, and compelling. Tolkien reimagined the ancient figure of the wizard, a mortal man with access to magical powers, as an immortal spirit (Maiar) sent with a divine purpose to counter the return of evil (Sauron). While Gandalf is the most recognized of the Istari and the one that is ultimately successful in his mission, there were four others sent to Middle-Earth. Radagast the Brown is one of these Istari, but unfortunately he’s a character that we learn almost nothing about in Tolkien’s works, other than his love for birds and beasts. As such, he has always been an object of fascination for some fans, including myself, and LOTR LCG gives us the opportunity to take him on some proper adventures at last. However, as much as we might like the character, there is the lingering question of whether Radagast is worth summoning from Rhosgobel at all, at least in terms of gameplay considerations. To answer that question can mean only one thing: it’s Card Spotlight time!*

* Bunny sleigh not included.

Radagast, like Gandalf, is a 5-cost Neutral ally. He comes with a deliciously thematic ability:

Radagast collects 1 resource each resource phase. These resources can be used to pay for Creature cards played from your hand.

Action: Spend X resources from Radagast’s pool to heal X wounds on any 1 Creature.

Surely, there could be no more appropriate ability for Radagast the Brown than the ability to summon and heal creatures. With Radagast appearing in the middle of the radagast1Shadows of Mirkwood cycle generally, and the A Journey to Rhosgobel pack specifically, there seemed to be two intended functions for this ally: 1) to pay for all those Eagle allies that appeared in the cycle, and 2) to help heal Wilyador. Let’s examine each of those abilities in turn to determine whether Radagast is worthy of inclusion in your next deck.

On a surface level, Radagast’s extra resource every turn and ability to pay for creatures seems quite useful, as it is essentially a neutral form of resource generation, albeit one that is limited in application. However, we need to consider both the high cost of Radagast and the available pool of allies for these resources before we can really understand the relative utility of this ability. Radagast costs an extravagant 5 resources, while generating 1 extra resource per turn after he hits the table. This means that logically it takes 5 full rounds for Radagast to pay for himself. In other words, by spending his own resources to pay for allies with the creature trait, Radagast saves you resources from your hero pools, but you initially had to spend 5 resources from your hero pools to play him in the first place. The problem is that 5 rounds is an absolute eternity in this game. This leads to a dilemma where you should probably get Radagast onto the table within the first 2 or 3 rounds to make the whole endeavor worth the trouble, but spending 5 resources so early in the game is usually not possible or could possibly harm your overall position by preventing more game changing cards from being played. Thus, Radagast is by necessity a late game card, but has an effect that needs to be put in place in the early game (see Beorn’s excellent article on resource curves for more information about these terms). Since Radagast isn’t a hero, you can’t even get clever and play a resource acceleration attachment/event or song on him either (assuming you would want to do such a thing). At the end of the day, you have to ask whether you expect a scenario to last long enough (i.e. more than 5 rounds) to justify Radagast’s expense. To put it yet another way, from a limited perspective, it may seem like a good deal on any particular turn when you can use a Radagast resource to put a Vassal of the Windlord into play for “free”, but you would’ve had 5 resources available for that Vassal (and much more besides) if you hadn’t used them for Radagast. It may seem unfair to lay this “burden of repayment” on Radagast when other allies aren’t held to that same expectation and don’t pay for themselves at all, but when a card’s ability revolves around resource generation, then such an analysis is logical. Thus, based on just his resource ability, Radagast doesn’t seem to justify deck space.

Fortunately, Radagast does have a second ability, and perhaps this will be enough to save him. Radagast can heal any amount of wounds on a creature, assuming you have the radagasts-cunning-lgracianoresources to pay for it. This was most obviously intended to help you heal Wilyador during A Journey to Rhosgobel, and it is quite worthwhile in the context of that one quest, but a single scenario does not a card make. To be truly valuable, this healing ability should be more broadly useful. In taking a closer look, we can identify the limited set of allies with the creature trait that are currently available in the card pool: Winged Guardian, Landroval, Descendant of Thorondor, The Riddermark’s Finest, Vassal of the Windlord, Eagles of the Misty Mountains, and Bill the Pony. Of these 7 creature allies, 2 have only 1 hit point and so cannot be healed. Of the remaining 5, only 2 appear to be worthwhile candidates for healing: Landroval and Eagles of the Misty Mountains. Descendant of Thorondor is an ally that you generally want to go out of play, The Riddermark’s Finest is a fairly weak ally and is meant to be ultimately discarded, and Bill the Pony is probably not strong enough to justify special healing attention. This places the limited nature of Radagast’s healing in stark relief. It appears that this healing is best suited for two situations: saving Wilyador and and keeping powered up copies of Eagles of the Misty Mountains in play. If more allies with the creature trait are released in the future, then Radagast’s healing may become more worthwhile. This means that until that Sebastian the hedgehog ally is released, both of this Istari‘s abilities seem to be falling flat.

There is one last hope for Radagast, as allies are not defined by their abilities alone. With 2 willpower, 1 attack, 1 defense, and 3 hit points, Radagast’s stats are decent, if not spectacular. At a cost of 5 resources, you are getting 1.4 stat points per resource, which is mediocre value (see this sphere analysis article for comparison). The best thing that can be said about his stats are that 2 willpower on a neutral ally can be used to inject some questing power into the Tactics sphere. However, this has become less important over time, which is a trend that will likely continue as Tactics allies with decent willpower continue to trickle into the card pool. At the time that Radagast was released, the selection of allies was more limited, and so his set of stats was more valuable. Now, however, he is simply outclassed in terms of value. On the other hand, he does have the Istari trait, which allows a player to use Word of Command, but since most players are making using Gandalf, this unfortunately doesn’t make much of a difference. Perhaps if more Istari cards emerge in the future, then Radagast might see his stock rise (note the recurring theme).

Before Radagast faces the final verdict, let’s take a step back a moment to the issue of resource generation. We assumed that it takes 5 rounds for Radagast to pay for himself and bring a net benefit to players, but what if we could get him into play for a lower cost or for free? This might change the picture completely. A Very Good Tale, as always, is a strong option for getting allies into play for free. Unfortunately, this event is great for getting allies in general into play, but not so useful for getting specific allies into play. Timely Aid would work well for a secrecy deck, but outside of secrecy, you’re only looking at a discount of 1, which isn’t worth the effort. By far the best option for making Radagast work seems to be Elf-stone. For a cost of 1, you can get Radagast into play, meaning that he will pay for himself within one round. Under these circumstances, Radagast would certainly be worth playing. A thematic Lore/Tactics deck focusing on Eagles and appropriate Lore cards such as Radagast’s Cunning might be a good home for Radagast. With Elf-stone along for the ride, you could also include expensive Lore/Tactics allies like Beorn, Landroval, and Gildor to provide multiple targets for that attachment. So if you are truly looking to make Radagast work, I highly suggest Elf-stone as a viable solution.

Well, ladies, gentleman, and wizards, the time has come for judgement. I do really like the idea of an ally that can generate resources, and would like to see this idea return again. However, while Radagast is a thematic and intriguing card, and one that can find a place if you are working with a limited card pool, he currently just doesn’t do enough to warrant consideration (outside of the combination with Elf-stone, which is actually legitimate). As such, he’ll have to resign himself to the coaster tag, with much hope for a brighter Istari presence in the game in the near future. Saruman anyone?

Verdict: Coaster



From → Card Spotlight

  1. Tracker1 permalink

    Before elf-stone i had him in a deck with Elrond/vilya/stargazer and a bunch of eagle allies. If i could drop him into play for no cost then he would be like an extra hero helping to pay for low cost eagles i did no want to bring in with Vilya, but even the he was not essential to the deck, I enjoyed having him around and dusting off the card. The other times i’ve tried him out with some success is mono tactic more recently..

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Putting him into play with Vilya sounds good. Anything that can do that makes him much, much better.

  2. Thaddeus permalink

    I really enjoy playing Eagle decks (let’s get Gwaihir already!) and always include two or three copies of Radagast in said decks. Going so far as to muligan in hopes of getting him in my opening hand. It’s not the strongest of all possible plays, but it’s thematic and fun and while he probably costs a bit more than he should, he does pull his weight, if you get him out early. Getting to generate an extra resource every round is great and even just that two Willpower he brings can really be a boon for my Tactics heavy eagle-decks.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Certainly, he’s strong in the theme/fun category. I definitely used him quite a bit in my early Eagle decks, and I really want him to be better than he is.

  3. Karlson permalink

    Going so far as to designing a Lore deck with Radagast’s Cunning and Elf Stone seems a bit far just to get Radagast to be more effective; however, oddly enough I want to give that a try!

    I’m currently playing with a couple decks that I threw together that have turned out to be extremely effective at beating quests and outrageously fun on the thematic side. The first deck is one of my first forays into tri-sphere deck building and is comprised of Sam Gamgee, Strider, and Frodo. They start out a bit slow but after a few attachments are in play, they become a questing powerhouse. To support them on the battlefield, my other deck is mono-Tactics and is comprised of Legolas, Gimli, and Boromir. (In case you didn’t notice, I’m going for a Fellowship of the Ring feel here!) I’m really enjoying blasting through quests and uncovering new ways to synergize these two decks with one another.

    Next time I build some decks up, though, I may just have to develop a Radagast centered set of decks. Flies and Spiders would be a fitting quest to tackle with them once devised, I think!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Indeed, I’m half-tempted to create a Radagast deck myself. The funny thing about this card is that I have a sentimental/thematic attachment to it even as I’m blasting it. If only we could get some more creatures and nature-themed cards for Radagast to play with.

  4. Interestingly, you looked at him in two ways, but they were separate looks. Maybe you should look at both aspects together:

    His cost makes it difficult for him to pay back what was paid to bring him into play.
    His cost is way too high for his stats.

    But if you look at both together: His stats say he’s worth 2-4 resources. If you just view him as a quester, you could say he’s worth 2-3. If you look at all his stats, he’s worth 3-4. Assuming you view him as worth 2 resources for his questing ability, then he will only need 3 rounds to pay back the extra 3 resources that you paid to bring him in play. 3 rounds is still a while, but it is much more plausible than 5. I would argue he is worth 3 since his hit points are good, so he won’t end up dying from a singe treachery while questing. That means he only needs 2 turns to pay back his extra cost, which is quite doable.

    I still agree that he is rather restricted. You definitely need to be Eagle-heavy, and you need some sort of good resource generation because paying for a 5-cost card is very difficult without it. Elf-Stone is a great idea, but then you really are limited to Tactics/Lore. You could make a tri-sphere deck with Leadership (for Steward of Gondor obviously), but then you pretty much require Radagast to get out early in order to be able to afford the costlier eagles and you have less room for eagles too.

    Anyway, I believe that right now he’s playable, but definitely not great. But I also have faith that FFG will find a way to make Radagast more playable. Maybe by making a Rhosgobel Rabbit Sled attachment to boost his willpower or help clear locations that can only be attached to an Istari… or maybe specifically Radagast. It would have to be affordable and semi-powerful in order to offset the expense of Radagast.

    Anyway, I hate predicting things like this because there’s no way to know if it’ll be true and I’m probably getting my hopes up for nothing.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That’s a fair point, and I would agree that he’s probably worth 3 resources if we’re just looking at his stats in a vacuum. I considered doing a kind of compound analysis, but his stats don’t mean much when other allies with a better stat/cost ratio and abilities that have a more immediate impact are so readily available. The thing is that I tend to (perhaps excessively so) think about these matters in terms of opportunity cost. Assuming no tricks/resource generation, the earliest you can get Radagast on the board is turn 2, and you’ll be left with 1 resource on that second turn. That means in the crucial first two turns of the game, you’ll be left with nothing except one decent ally (Radagast himself) and perhaps a 1-cost ally or attachment. Against some scenarios, this may be ok, but in many cases, you’ll want a much stronger starting set-up than this. With those 5 resources, I could put out 2-3 other cards that might put me in a much better opening position.

      I agree that he’s playable, but mediocre. With these card spotlights, I kind of paint myself into the corner of choosing only “gem” or “coaster”, and he just doesn’t do enough to deserve the “gem” tag, in my opinion. However, I would be highly shocked if the Istari don’t get further attention in the future. Perhaps we may even see a different version of Radagast one day. We can only hope!

    • I was going to make this point. I found I end up with a 2 will quester & card that is about the same as Master of Lore, & that is a card I find pretty terrible for the reason Tales states – it takes too long to get a return on him & you are better off playing stuff that is useful right now.

      So while I thought that, unusually, I was going to argue a card was better than rated I pretty much agree the conclusion. Marks out of 1 he is a zero but he is close to a 1/2.

  5. Fouilloux permalink

    Well, I hate to do that, because I actually like having Radagast in my eagle deck (also I agree it was not that effective).
    However, I must disagree with the idea of using him to heal Wyliador: Isn’t there a rule that says that each time you use a card to heal wyliador you have to discard this card? in this case, even with Elrond, you would only heal 2HP on wyliador and then discard a 5-cost allie… Not so good I think. (And by the way, I think ou probably have to discard Elrond also…)

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yeah, you have to remove any healing effect used from play. Radagast allows you to spend X to heal X all as part of the same action, though, so you could heal up to 5, not just 1, and then remove him. Of course, this is expensive healing, and there are better options around now, but at the time Radagast came out, it made sense, especially if you got some use out of him in earlier rounds.

      • The discard effect is only on stage 2. The trick to the quest is to be able to quest slowly through stage 1, while you keep him healed until you get enough Athelas. Once you have the Athelas, you need to blow through the quest quickly. I’ve done this a few times to with great success.

        • TalesfromtheCards permalink

          The problem is that Rhosgobel prevents you from healing while it’s in the staging area, and you can’t travel to it until stage 2. You can use some tricks to get it in the active location spot, though, since it’s not “immune to player card effects”.

          • Thaddeus permalink

            Yeah, unless you do something about Rhosgobel, you can’t heal the eagle during Stage 1. I’ve never used Radagast in that quest, but at least he provides a way for non-lore deck to get in some emergency healing.

          • You’re right. I forgot about that. But I usually use Asfaloth and/or Northern Trackers to take care of that pretty quickly.

  6. faith_star83 permalink

    Hi Ian
    Nice article, thanks a lot. I love it how you put a well-worded and concise review of the card here. Also me I am a gread fan of Radagast since the books and played him quite often when the Mirkwood Cycle was coming out and bringing all the eagles.
    And I do share your thought, that considering his cost and abilities there is often just a much better choice in the cardpool nowadays.

    But your idea with Elf-Stone wet my appetite 🙂 I think I might start tonight on developing an Eagle-Ally heavy Lore/Tactis deck focusing on Radagast coming out early and cheap and fostering an army of Eagles to wreak havoc amongst the enemy ranks 🙂 Should I suceed, I will post some results in the ffg forums.



    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it. I’d love to hear how any Radagast/Elf-stone decks play out.

  7. If we see more horse Creature cards (attachments or allies) in the new cycle it could make him a bit more viable.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I hope so. I wonder if any Ents we get will have the creature trait. Probably not…

  8. Glaurung permalink

    Hmmmmm… in my opinion Radagast is big disappoint for now…. there is much better cards then him…..but maybe with some new cards he can back and shine but……from all three istari he is most useless for now

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Definitely. I’m excited to do some interesting things with Saruman once he comes out.

  9. Mndela permalink

    What is coaster tag? How many tags are in the same scale?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      For these spotlights, I rate cards as either “gem”, meaning that they are more useful than they appear, or “coaster”, meaning that they have limited use. Sometimes cards fall in between, but I force myself to pick one or the other, no matter what.

  10. I wish the designers had allowed his resources to buy creatures, but his healing power be universal. Not really sure why his healing power needs to also be limited in that way. Would have worked, knowledge of plants/herbs. Then you are getting a quester with decent hit points that can also heal without exhausting. Not shabby.

    Another cool idea would have been to scrap the resources entirely, and let him exhaust during the planning phase to draw x cards and put into play any creature allys dealt.

    As he is, he is simply for Eagle Decks. Furthermore, better for a solo deck, as an eagle deck probably has strong questing deck(s) across the table.

    • I think if the Mount attachments had the Creature trait, he’d be a little more useful… a little.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I’ve been thinking that it would be nice to have a card that could allow you to transfer an ally to another player. A resource rich player could play for Radagast and then give him to a resource poor Eagle player. Would be an interesting play, if you can find a partner who’s that nice 🙂

  11. Phate999 permalink

    Two-handed, dual mono-tactics. Radagast works well in this case. As someone said, I would pay 3 for a 2 willpower, 3 HP ally anyday especially in mono-Tactics (an extra Bofur). This means by turn 4 (the end of turn 3 technically), Radagast would have paid for himself. Compare this to Resourceful when you have Secrecy. Pay 1 resource on turn 2. You break even at the end of turn 2, but you don’t get a quester. Not too bad.

    I think Radagast is a card to play for the long haul and works better if you have an other deck (or choice of Heroes) to take up the slack a little in the beginning. If you, by chance, don’t get many or any eagles in your opening hand, Radagast can help you put out a slew of them on turn 5-6.

    Consider this opening:

    Turn 1 – Vassal of the Windlord
    Turn 2 – Radagast
    Turn 3 – Eagles of the Misty Mountains

    If I didn’t play Radagast on turn 2, I could play EotMM on turn 2, but it would be a similar result. The only problem is that without Radagast on turn 2, your investment would not keep on growing. Also Radagast lets you play other cards like Support of the Eagles or some events with more ease knowing that if you draw an Eagle next, he can help pay for it.

    I have not yet tried a lore/tactics Radagast build, but I think it could work. But then you rely on.

    My end judgment: Gem in an Eagle deck. Coaster everywhere else.

  12. Eucatastrophe permalink

    Two things:
    1. What about Radagast’s value in a Tri-sphere deck as a neutral? Do you feel that his value increases there at all?

    2. What about his value as a stay-in-play Istari candidate for Word Of Command? In this respect, for me he gains the same value addition as, say, a a unique Noldor does in a deck that includes Eldrond’s Counsel.

    • 1) I wouldn’t consider him all that useful in a 3-sphere deck just because his cost is so high. If he costed 3, it would make more sense for that. However, if you want to include him in a 3-sphere deck that includes eagles, that would free up the Tactics resources to be used on other cards.

      2) Once again, his cost is what works against this. Certainly it’s nice to have a permanent Istari for Word of Command, but paying 5 to enable Word of Command doesn’t make sense. In the case of Elrond’s Counsel, you can include a 2-cost Arwen with a more universally useful ability and with the same 2 willpower.

      I think none of the considerations taken on their own are very useful, but if you combine several uses together, he becomes more useful: tri-sphere deck with several eagles and other powerful Tactics cards, plus Word of Command, low number of good questers and/or semi-decent defenders.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I have to agree with Joe.

      1) I do think his value increases in a tri-sphere deck in the sense of using resources from all three spheres to pay for Radagast, who can then pay for Eagles, which will allow for quicker Eagle mustering than might otherwise be possible in a tri-sphere with Tactics. Still, I’m not sure if this raises his value enough to compensate for what you might have gotten into play for those 5 resources.

      2) I do like the idea of getting more consistent use out of Word of Command. The problem is that it often seems like you need Word of Command the most in the early stages of a game when you need one specific card to get some kind of deck set-up going, but yet paying 5 for Radagast and having both Radagast and Word of Command in hand in the early rounds is not something you can count on. So again, I think this does up Radagast’s value, but not quite enough.

  13. Steven permalink

    There is one more way to use Radagast to his full potential: a Secrecy deck!

    Secrecy is build around a slow start with plenty of cheap secrecy cards to keep you alive while you build up. Problem is: you need to use 1 less hero which hurts in the long run.

    Cue Radagast who is essentially a 7 starting-threat tactics hero you can get to fill your missing third hero slot. With Resourceful he’s not too hard to get out before your threat advantage is undone.

    Timely Aid can get Radagast out as early as turn 1 if you’re lucky. A Very Good Tale can also help get Radagast out early via Dunedain Wanderer or a Sneak Attack Gandalf. If you already have Radagast out, A Very Good Tale can let you use his high cost to your advantage and get more powerful allies out.

    Once he’s in play, Radagast’s role is to pay for those powerfull eagle allies who can drag out and kill the enemies in the staging area you’ve been ignoring and questing around. An absolute Gem in my Frodo-Sam deck!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Good idea! Secrecy could definitely help with the problem of getting Radagast into play. Overall, my biggest beef with this ally is the cost vs. what you get and the main way to make Radagast playable is to use methods to get him into play for free or for a reduced cost.

      • Steven permalink

        There’s no doubt Radagst is overpriced, as your analysis clearly shows. Still, it’s a matter of perspective. For my secrecy deck to work I either need Resourceful or (timely aid ) Radagast to survive the late game. The fact that I prefer to play him early game (pre-20 threat) over other powerful allies such as Gandalf or Faramir (even without tricks) and that I prefer a secrecy deck with him over one without him, makes him a winner in my eyes, albeit in a niche role.

        Once you reach that 20-threat barrier that so many enemies use as engagement cost, Radagast’s usefullness quickly dwindles.

        As a former Middle-Earth player who played Radagast, seeing him being usefull makes me happy. 🙂

        Recently Radagast seems to have gotten some heavy competition in the new Treebeard ally, who brings a similar advantage for a better price. Time will tell if enough eagles/istari cards help Radagast stay relevant or if he’ll turn into a poor man’s Treabeard.

        Still, to anybody who loves our favorite brown wizard: try a secrecy deck with him! You won’t be dissapointed.

  14. Steven permalink

    One more suggestion for a secrecy Radagast Deck, then I’ll shut up. 😉

    One secrecy deck style is the ‘Timely Aid’ – ‘A very good tale’ synergy/combo-ability. These cards in a deck filled with 4-5 cost allies can get very powerful very quickly. It’s two downsides are: an ally-rich deck means less events/attachements and high costs for a secrecy deck.

    Ideal allies for this deck have:
    – High cost (to trigger A very good tale)
    – Some form of utility (card draw, cancellation, healing etc.)
    – Long term resource benefits

    Good Leadership ally choices include: Gandalf (both versions), Faramir, Erestor and Dúnedain Wanderer, Dúnedain Watcher. But Radagast, Landroval, Eagles of the misty mountains, Descendant of Thorondor and Gwaihir are awesome as well.

    Sam is the Leadership Hero you’ll obviously want. Add another Hobbit hero of your choice. Which sphere you want to add is up to you. Frodo for more threat management, Pippin for elfstone and traps or Merry for full eagle power.

    I prefer 2 hobbits over adding Glorfindel. Glorfindel needs/uses a lot of attachments I don’t want to take up slots in my deck. I also prefer 2 starting heros for a starting threat of around 15 so you get about 5 turns to build up your ally army.

  15. sweetnesswhachacha permalink

    Yeah, too bad, it seems like it would be better to play resourceful, even though that card is a terrible idea outside of secrecy, as you would get more resources back quicker. I’ve tried him once before but his stats are too weak, and his ability is not cost effective. I’d agree with your verdict.

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