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Card Spotlight: Untroubled by Darkness

by on February 7, 2014

moria

Dwarves are commonly understood to be the powerhouse faction of LOTR LCG. This is a slightly strange status, as, aside from Gimli, Dwarves play essentially no role in the events of The Lord of the Rings. Sure, die-hard Tolkien aficionados will know that Dain Ironfoot and the Dwarves of Erebor fought in a crucial battle to defend the North during the War of the Ring, but this is a bit different than bands of misfit Dwarves putting the armies of Gondor and Elf-lords alike to shame! Still, despite the power of Dwarves, there are certain Dwarf cards that have never really caught on in a big way. Untroubled by Darkness, released in the Khazad Dum expansion, is a classic example, and this card will form the focus of this Card Spotlight.

If there’s one thing we know about Dwarves, it’s that they feel most at home underground, in the dark places of the world. Theuntroubled flavor text of Untroubled by Darkness references this characteristic, as it describes Gimli’s comfort with the utter blackness of Moria, which stands in stark contrast to the way that it unsettles the rest of the Fellowship. It is not just that Dwarves don’t mind darkness though; in some ways they prefer it. When Bilbo offers to light a torch for the Dwarves during the unexpected party at the beginning of The Hobbit, they respond in unison, “We like the dark.” They go on to add, “Dark for dark business.” This is perhaps the clearest example of the Dwarven affinity for darkness, but not the only one.

However, it’s not that Dwarves are just the Middle-earth version of goths, listening to Bauhaus in the depths of their underground fortresses. It’s that they draw real inspiration and strength from the dark. The game text of Untroubled by Darkness thus makes perfect sense in this context:

Action: Each Dwarf character gets +1 Willpower until the end of the phase. (+2 Willpower instead if the active location is an Underground or Dark location.)

When the active location is not an Underground or Dark location, the willpower boost granted by Untroubled by Darkness perhaps just represents the natural hardiness and willfulness of Dwarves. However, when they are in a location that they feel an affinity towards, then the willpower boost actually increases, representing the fact that they thrive in the darkness.

Moving away from thematic connections to gameplay considerations, what role does Untroubled by Darkness fill? More importantly, what is its relative worth compared to the many other cards that you could select for your deck? Taking for a moment just the basic +1 willpower boost, which will always apply regardless of the active location, 2 resources for such a global boost is not a bad deal at all. If we compare it to the nearest equivalent, Astonishing Speed, which grants a +2 willpower boost to all Rohan characters for 3 resources, we can see that this cost-to-power ratio is right where it should be. Even more impressively, this comparison shows the value of Untroubled by Darkness when you are at an Underground or Dark location, as then you are getting the same effect as Astonishing Speed (for Dwarves) at a cheaper price.

The problem is that effects that are dependent upon the traits of locations are usually not very popular, for the understandable reason that this limits their applicability. In general, most players (including myself) tend to place a higher value on cards that can apply to a broad range of scenarios rather than those that are limited to a smaller set. This is one reason why Dwalin tends to be rated fairly low, and doesn’t get as much usage as he perhaps deserves. So just how often would you be able to take advantage of the extra willpower boost provided by Untroubled by Darkness when the active location is Underground or Dark?

This is where pure, raw statistical analysis is needed. There are currently 22 Underground locations in the game and 9 Dark lightlesslocations (many Underground locations are also Dark). Of course, this doesn’t really tell us what we need to know, as what we are really concerned with is how many quests contain such locations.  There are 7 scenarios that contain Underground and/or Dark locations: Into the Pit, The Seventh Level, Flight from Moria, The Long Dark, Foundations of Stone, Shadow and Flame, and The Lonely Mountain. With the exception of the last quest (which only has 1 location of the type), all of these fall in the Khazad Dum/Dwarrowdelf cycle. This means that you will only be able to use the full power of Untroubled by Darkness against a small percentage of quests (there are many more Orcs around for Dwalin to slay, by contrast). For those scenarios, however, this card is well worth including for additional willpower. It is also worth mentioning that there may be more scenarios in the future that feature locations with the Underground and Dark traits, as we know that the next Saga Expansion will be taking us into the mines of Moria once more!

Leaving aside the restrictive nature of Untroubled by Darkness, there is certainly value in even a global willpower boost of 1. However, there is a bigger problem that limits this card’s worth: it is simply surplus to requirements. With Dain Ironfoot already providing a permanent, global willpower boost (as long as he’s ready), and considering just how easy it is to get a swarm of Dwarven allies on the table, there are few occasions when I’m playing a Dwarf deck and find myself wishing for more willpower. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but it’s rare, and deck building should focus on dealing with the common. If you only have a limited card pool available, and don’t have all Dwarf cards available, then Untroubled by Darkness may prove useful.  Similarly, perhaps it can help your Dwarf deck in the early rounds before everything is up and running. However, in most cases I fear that it falls into the category of “win more” cards that simply put the cherry on top of victory rather than build the foundation that gets you there.

There are certainly positive aspects to this Spirit event that should be mentioned. Many times you’ll hear me singing the praises of willpower-boosting events, since they can be flexibly used to provide a boost after staging and before quest resolution. Untroubled by Darkness works well for this purpose to help cover for unexpected questing shortfalls or to add just what you need to clear a pesky location or quest stage. Similarly, if you are taking your Dwarf deck against quests that place an additional strain on willpower, whether in the form of hide tests (The Black Riders) or special combat (The Druadan Forest/The Stone of Erech), then Untroubled by Darkness may just prove to be a crucial ace up your sleeve.

I often feel stifled by the limiting dichotomy of good/bad, gem/coaster that I force myself into for these Card Spotlights. Sometimes, those cards I dismiss as coasters have redeeming qualities and can be usable in many instances, while those I hold up as gems have glaring flaws. In this case, I find Untroubled by Darkness to be a perfectly fine card that is mainly (and perhaps unfairly) diminished in value by the pure potency of the Dwarven card pool. There are so many other great events (and attachments and allies…) that play a much more substantial role in building up my Dwarf deck that I can’t quite give this card the respect that it may deserve. For players with a limited card pool, this event is a gem and you should feel no shame in including it. However, in the great majority of cases, I have to bring down the axe on this troubled card.

Verdict: Coaster

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24 Comments
  1. I think the best use for this card is when you want to go against the norm and play a dwarf deck without Dain.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That’s a very good point. I can see Untroubled by Darkness fitting very well into my Dwarven miner deck, as it tends to struggle with willpower towards the beginning of games. Without Dain, this card becomes a gem.

    • GrandSpleen permalink

      Yes, that is exactly how I used it, in a thematic playthrough of The Hobbit saga quests. And it really was a saving grace in The Lonely Mountain, where Smaug gets more powerful with more characters committed to the quest.

  2. Alex permalink

    I am not sure if this card being a coaster is more indictive of the fact the Dwarves (in particular Dain) are too powerful, especially in the willpower catagory. People play Faramir for his willpower booasting ability and Sword that Was Broken, Astonishing Speed etc. Even the new even Fellowship of the Ring gives willpower to heroes coming in the next saga. The problem is when Lure of Moria can ready all Dwarves for 3 resources, why would you play this? Playing a Dwarf deck involves slapping down a Legacy of Durin and playing Lure of Moria a few times while cramming in as many Dwarves as you can and beating the game in the 3rd turn while you keep drawing and playing dwarves, especially once you hit that 5 threshold.

    The Dwarves are just too big a powerhouse. Thats why the latest FAQ tries to reign in the Battle Master a little.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      You’re absolutely right. The crazy power level of the Dwarves is THE #1 reason why I gave this card a “coaster” rating. If it applied to something like “Gondor” or “Silvan” instead, it would be an automatic gem, but the Dwarves have it all already, as you mention.

  3. “Dwarves are just the Middle-earth version of goths, listening to Bauhaus in the depths of their underground fortresses.” 😀 😀 😀

  4. I agree it’s undoubtedly a coaster because of the power level of dwarfs.I am not sure it would be a gem in other “tribes” – is Astonishing Speed?

    Dwalin suffers in that he has to be attacking when he is poor at it in a faction that can’t help him much. Spirit has better (more consistent) ways of reducing threat & if you use tactics to buff him up you could have had better attackers. I don’t think he even made my pair of hobbit theme decks for the hobbit scenarios as the ally is more use. I did not use Dain for them or Untroubled though maybe I ought to have as they were not great…

    It’s the sort of issue with Secrecy which I think you nailed BTW. They are overcosted & jumping through hoops (ie playing <20 threat) leaves them still only OK not great as you would hope for the effort you put in. Just play great cards in the first place.

    • Jonathan – I’d say that the relative weakness of Rohan decks till recently explains Astonishing Speed’s problems – it’ll likely get a lot bigger this cycle

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Astonishing Speed can be pretty good in the right circumstances and against the right quests (it came up big for me in a particularly memorable play of Massing at Osgiliath, for example), but is kind of hampered by the cost of 3. I do think that an Untroubled by Darkness/Astonishing Speed equivalent for Gondor would have been a true gem, as that faction tends to suffer a lot in terms of willpower in the early rounds of a game (assuming you’re playing pure Gondor and not including other traits in there).

  5. Glowwyrm permalink

    With Dain: Coaster
    Without Dain: Gem

    I tend to play dwarf decks without Dain because it keeps the game interesting. Untroubled by Darkness is crucial for one or two key questing phases every game when you really need to make a big push. Good breakdown of the card and solid analysis as always.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks! I considered doing the with Dain/without Dain split as I think that is the fairest assessment of this card.

  6. My wife, friend and myself went on a three deck thematic play though of the hobbit scenarios; obviously without Dain, as you mentioned, this card was a complete Gem.

    Additionally it may have more worth with multiple decks; while it is usually a “win more” card, if everyone has Dwarven (or primarily Dwarven) characters combining this with Dain could be an exceptionally powerful additional boost to some of the upcoming “Time X” scenarios, (where massive early questing may be needed to survive)

    🙂

    Anyway just some extra thoughts.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That’s a great call. The Time mechanic will put a premium on questing quickly, so cards such as Untroubled by Darkness just may find a place to get some massive quest pushes going.

  7. Thaddeus permalink

    As everyone else has said, it’s definitely got that with or without Dain aspect. Yeah, Dain is a rockstar for Dwarves, but with the cards even being different spheres, I think it’s unfair to judge the card on the assumption that Dain is in play. Although, even with Dain, I can think of a few quests (Stone of Erech and Redhorn Gate leap to mind) where extra Willpower boosts can always be handy.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I think it’s probably safe to say that more players are experimenting with non-Dain Dwarf decks as they get tired of Dain’s power. One of the issues I run into with Untroubled by Darkness, even outside of Dain dominance, that I didn’t mention in the article is the crucial nature of some key Spirit events that kind of crowd the field for others. I’m thinking specifically of The Galadhrim’s Greeting, A Test of Will, and possibly Hasty Stroke/Elrond’s Counsel. I’m usually always going to include about 9 copies worth of those essentials, which doesn’t leave much room for other Spirit events, although I do think extra willpower has a place against certain special quests.

      • This is a great point. I often find myself in the same position: certain key Spirit events just take up too many slots to consider cards like these on a regular basis. Recently I made a Rohan deck that had 21 events in the first iteration! But giving up A Test of Will is so painful…

        • TalesfromtheCards permalink

          Definitely, I find that this is the case much more for Spirit and its events more than any other sphere.

  8. Mndela permalink

    My personal veredict: rare.
    This is a card that i think it is powerful, but after, in fact, i never use it.

  9. hilariouslijah permalink

    I actually quite like this card, but the same as Mndela, I never use it…

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Indeed. Perhaps a more fitting verdict would be, “Nice in theory, but never makes the final cut.”

  10. Chris permalink

    I used it yesterday and won the second scenario in Khazad Dum. Drew it in the last turn and played two copies of it increasing will power way over 30 thus finising the 3rd scenario card in only one turn

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I think it’d work out great for Journey in the Dark (2nd scenario of The Road Darkens) too. Lots of willpower needed and underground locations galore!

  11. sweetnesswhachacha permalink

    When deck building I always move past this card without a thought. But as I consider building quest specific decks to try and do my best at certain quests, I have begun to consider this. I agree in your limited classification as gem or coasterling this is a coaster, but I’m interested in adding it to certain quest specific decks with other unused cards.

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