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The Current State of Secrecy (Part 2)

by on February 11, 2014

secrecy

In LOTR LCG, a trait or deck type is only as good as the cards that support it. What’s important to remember, though, is that supporting cards include not just those that explicitly reference said trait, but also those that enable it to function well without necessarily shouting their synergy from the rooftops. In other words, cards like Dain Ironfoot and Hardy Leadership obviously support the Dwarven trait and say so directly in their text. By contrast, a card such as A Very Good Tale works extremely well to facilitate the Dwarven swarm strategy of dumping allies into play as quickly as possible, but it doesn’t mention Dwarves anywhere in its text. The same dynamic is true of Secrecy as well.

Previously, I discussed and ranked the cards that are currently available that actually have the Secrecy keyword. This time around, I’m going to be analyzing cards that help Secrecy function, but don’t actually have the keyword themselves. I’m a fan of symmetry (sometimes obsessively so), and since there were 8 Secrecy cards that I ranked in my last article, I will limit myself to 8 cards here. Thus, what follows are the top 8 cards that grease the wheels of Secrecy.

Note: The cards are organized into a “power ranking” based on my completely arbitrary and objective assessment of their value. I am judging them here not on their overall power as cards, though, but in terms of how helpful they are to the Secrecy deck type. While dozens of cards could fit into this category (everything from Steward of Gondor to Unexpected Courage to Radagast’s Cunning), I’ve chosen to focus on those that seem to most directly work with specific aspects of Secrecy strategy. I’ve also chosen to avoid using heroes in this list, as cards like Sam, Pippin, and others would take up a bit too much room on this list, whereas I want to focus on attachments and events in particular.

#8 – Taking Initiative

I include this card more out of a sense of obligation than any real excitement about its effectiveness. This card was obviously designed takingto work with Secrecy, as the chances of it being successful increase as the number of characters you control decreases. Thus, it’s actually more accurate to say that Taking Initiative works best with one or two hero Secrecy decks, as three hero Secrecy decks won’t be any better off using this card than a standard deck. I have a few issues with this card that make me question its utility. First, it is inherently risky, as there is a chance that it may not work at all and a card slot in your hand and deck will have been wasted. While I don’t mind a good gamble (check out #3 on this list), I need to feel like the potential payoff is worth the effort. With a two hero deck, your chances of hitting with Taking Initiative are fairly high (all you need to do is discard a card from the top of your deck that costs 2 resources or more), but this assumes that you are using this card at the very beginning of a game. This is my second issue with this card: it needs to be drawn in your opening hand to really be effective. After that point, in a good Secrecy deck, you will usually be employing a strategy designed to quickly ramp up the number of allies you control, which will work against this card. Of course, the positive aspect of Taking Initiative is that it could facilitate your ramping strategy in the first place (by drawing cards), along with a bit of direct damage against an enemy that shows up during staging or early on in a game. I’m just not in love with the idea of needing to draw an event card like this in an opening hand to be successful, especially when it doesn’t do anything on its own to build up my position, merely provides the possibility of drawing something that will accomplish this goal. An exception to my judgement here may be a two hero Secrecy deck that is designed around attachments and transforming your heroes into super powered versions of themselves rather than creating an ally swarm.

#7 – Take No Notice

Aside from quickly pumping out allies, another common aspect of Secrecy decks is attempting to keep enemies in the staging area take no noticefor as long as possible. This gives Secrecy decks, especially those with only one or two heroes, breathing room so that they can get set up before having to deal with combat. Such an approach favors the general idea of Secrecy, which is to quest like crazy and avoid combat when possible (note that The Black Riders helped open up the possibility of combat-ready versions of Secrecy, but we’ll deal with those later in this list). Unfortunately, the problem is that enemies with low engagement costs and the steady march of threat may foil these plans. This is where a card like Take No Notice shows its quality. Adding 5 to the engagement costs of all enemies in play sounds like it would have a minuscule impact, but it can be enough to trap foes in the staging area and it combines well with other cards on this list (Unseen Strike and Dagger of Westernesse), as well as other cards that are dependent on engagement cost (Hobbit Cloak, Lore Pippin). The cost of 3 is expensive, but since many, if not most, Secrecy decks will be using Hobbit or Ranger heroes, usually you will be able to play Take No Notice for less. If you’re not using any heroes with that trait, then you may be better off using something like Advance Warning (if you’re using mono-Lore) or a smaller scale version of the same effect like Fresh Tracks.

#6 – Unseen Strike

While many Secrecy decks tend to avoid combat, there are some that actively seek to use their low threat to selectively pick off unseen strikeenemies one-by-one through the strategic use of optional engagements. This approach was greatly expanded by the Hobbit heroes included in The Black Riders. However, an earlier card included in The Redhorn Gate pack, Unseen Strike, first introduced the possibility of gaining benefits from taking on an enemy with a higher engagement cost than one’s threat. An additional 3 points of attack strength can often make the difference between dispatching an enemy and being forced to leave it alive, and there are many times when you will need to destroy a foe in a single turn. The fact that Unseen Strike costs nothing makes it a perfect Secrecy card and it compares well against something like Vassal of the Windlord, which also gives you an additional 3 attack for one use, but costs 1 resource. When combined with #5 on this list, a Secrecy deck can actually hold its own in combat, surgically removing enemies through quick and decisive strikes. This can be valuable to clear out some threat from the staging area, destroy an enemy that has a negative effect while it remains in play, or to kill an adversary that must be defeated to complete a stage. The one disadvantage of Unseen Strike is that it may become a dead card in  your hand if your threat creeps too high or you are squaring off against a scenario with low engagement cost enemies. However, there are ways of working around these issues, either through raising enemy engagement costs or prioritizing threat reduction effects.

#5 – Dagger of Westernesse

Dagger of Westernesse is like a permanent version of Unseen Strikedagger of westernesse that only costs 1 resource. The +2 attack strength bonus that triggers when attacking enemies with a higher engagement cost is substantial, and can combine well with Unseen Strike to decimate foes. Even better, this card never becomes dead, as it always provides a base attack boost of 1. Thus, any Secrecy deck that includes Tactics should definitely include several copies of Dagger of Westernesse to provide some offensive teeth. The great thing about both the Dagger and Unseen Strike is that they allow a single character to destroy an enemy, which allows a player to commit other characters to the quest without having to worry about holding them back for combat.

#4 – Good Meal

At its heart, Secrecy is all about providing a cost discount to players who keep their threat low enough. Good Meal provides a perfect good mealcomplement to this mechanic, as it contributes its own discount (a reduction of 2 for events that match the attached hero’s sphere). Good Meal can be combined with existing Secrecy discounts, provide an alternative means of paying for such cards when your threat rises above 20, or help pay for essential non-Secrecy cards. The best example of the latter is The Galadhrim’s Greeting, which costs 3, but is key for Secrecy decks because it provides a massive threat reduction of 6. Sometimes it is difficult to muster the 3 resources though, and this is where Good Meal comes in, lowering the cost to an amazing 1! To look at another example, this time paying for a Secrecy card when your threat has inconveniently risen above 20, Good Meal can allow you to play Out of the Wild for 1 or Timely Aid for 2, extending the life and utility of those cards. While Good Meal can unfortunately only be used if you have Hobbit heroes, Secrecy decks often make use of Hobbits anyway, and this attachment gives you even more incentive to include them. By combining Resourceful, Good Meal, and Secrecy discounts, you can easily pay for most events, which leaves resources available for attachments and allies.

#3 – Ranger Spikes

As mentioned in the #7 entry, Secrecy decks want to keep enemies inranger spikes the staging area, but this can unfortunately lead to threat congestion and ultimately slow your questing progress. Take No Notice can help to increase enemy engagement costs, and cards like Advance Warning and Fresh Tracks can temporarily hold foes, but Ranger Spikes is the best option of them all because it can permanently trap an enemy. Not only that, but it also reduces their threat by 2 as well, negating the main drawback to keeping an enemy in the staging area. Thus, Ranger Spikes is an extremely powerful card for any deck, but deserves special mention here for the way in which it can completely neutralize an enemy without resorting to combat. The one downside is that certain enemies, usually the nastiest ones, are immune to attachments, and you will have to include other tricks to deal with them.

#2 – A Very Good Tale

Like Ranger Spikes, A Very Good Tale is a star in almost any deck type, but it shines particularly bright in a Secrecy build. As very good talementioned earlier, Secrecy decks often focus on dumping allies into play quickly, either as a way to make up for having only one or two heroes, or as a strategy to take advantage of the additional time that Secrecy provides to build up one’s forces. A Very Good Tale provides a perfect tool to accomplish this goal in a Secrecy setting as it can often dump 2 allies into play for no cost, other than exhausting 2 characters. While losing character actions is a substantial cost in and of itself, the payoff is usually worth it, and the low threat of Secrecy decks gives you a bit of a buffer so that you don’t have to worry about combat needs (hopefully). If you are able to get 2 allies into play on turn one or two, you can use A Very Good Tale to quickly pull off a four character swing, which can be game changing so early on. Alternatively, you may be able to put a powerful 4 or 5 cost ally into play for free, which is just as beneficial (if not more so). Of course, there is the chance that you could miss completely, which does happen, but it’s all part of the risk/reward structure of this card. When using A Very Good Tale, especially for Secrecy, you’ll want to use the card as effectively as possible, which means exhausting high-cost allies that you can get into play cheaply (through Elf-stone, Timely Aid, the Secrecy discount on Dunedain Wanderer, etc.) to ensure that you can bring other high-cost allies into play.

#1 – Elf-stone

Elf-stone accomplishes the same goal as A Very Good Tale: reducing the cost of putting allies into play and thus accelerating the rate at elfstonewhich you can build up your forces. However, whereas A Very Good Tale tends to dwell on the “quantity” side of the equation, seeking to dump 2 allies into play regardless of their worth, Elf-stone is all about “quality”. Unlike A Very Good Tale, Elf-stone allows you to choose exactly which ally you will put into play once the attached location is explored. Since this ally must be in your hand, A Very Good Tale does have the advantage of almost serving as a form of card draw, plucking out those cards that are not currently available. However, there is something to be said for avoiding risk completely and getting exactly the ally you need into play for the cost of only 1 resource, which makes playing expensive allies such as Gildor Inglorion, Landroval, Beorn, and Haldir more feasible than ever before. Why this is so good for Secrecy is because one and two hero decks can benefit from getting a powerful ally on the table with hero-like stats. Additionally, it tends to reinforce the ally dumping strategy of Secrecy decks. There are some disadvantages to this card: an additional quest point added to a location that can sometimes be frustrating, the card being tied to the first player in multiplayer, and the ally you really want to use with this attachment may end up buried in your deck. Still, these disadvantages are far outweighed by the advantage in quality allies and resource savings provided by Elf-stone. This attachment can allow a Secrecy deck to include several expensive, unique allies, potentially developing a theme around a few, powerful characters taking on the Enemy.

And as a bonus…

Hey there, I heard you were making a list, so I thought I'd drop in...

“Hey there, I heard you were making a list, so I thought I’d drop in…”

#0 – Glorfindel (Spirit)

Ok, so I promised only 8 cards and said that I would not include heroes…we all know Spirit Glorfindel breaks all the rules. We’re talking about a guy who came back from death after taking out a Balrog after all, long before Gandalf joined the bandwagon. Spirit Glorfindel is perhaps the single card that has done the most to make Secrecy viable, and thus I simply can’t deny him a spot on this list. His low threat of 5 (the lowest in the game) is essential to keeping your starting threat under the Secrecy threshold, while he provides 12 points worth of stats. This is an amazing combination and Light of Valinor raises the stakes even more by providing some much-needed action advantage for Secrecy decks as well. Did I mention that he also allows access to Elrond’s Counsel, which is practically Secrecy heaven (threat reduction for 0 cost, along with a willpower boost)? Sure, there are Secrecy decks without Spirit Glorfindel, but until we get more low-cost heroes in the game, he is the undisputed king of Secrecy. Let’s face it: this is his world, and we’re all just living in it.

This concludes the examination of the current state of Secrecy. In the next cycle, we will undoubtedly see many more cards that both directly and indirectly benefit Secrecy. Already, we’ve seen some cards spoiled that provide beneficial effects if a player’s threat is at 20 or below (check out Noiseless Movement here), and these will serve as Secrecy cards without actually having the Secrecy keyword. When these are combined with the currently existing card pool for Secrecy, this deck type should become a more powerful force. The jury, however, remains out until that moment arrives. Secrecy now is both quite possible and can be successful, but it is also frustratingly limited. That will hopefully change.

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11 Comments
  1. Take No Notice is simply an amazing card in the right circumstances. In all-Hobbit decks with Lore Pippin, you can boost enemies’ threat by 8. This can not only save your bacon early on, but helps activate Hobbit Cloak, Sam Gamgee, Pippin’s card draw, and Daggers of Westernesse once they are all set up. When paired with a Dunhere deck, it also allows him to attack enemies in the staging area which otherwise would have engaged.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I really like the new mechanic introduced by Lore Pippin and Take No Notice of raising enemy engagement costs. It’s a nice example of giving a sphere (Lore) a similar ability to another sphere (Spirit/threat reduction), while putting a new spin on it. I threw Take No Notice into my very first Hobbit deck after picking up The Black Riders, but took it out because I wasn’t using it too often, but I ended up putting it back in later because it works so well in conjunction with a lot of Hobbit cards. For every game where it ends up a bit wasted in your hand, there is another game where it comes up clutch.

  2. Tracker1 permalink

    Great read, thanks. Your first article got me inspired to create a Frodo and Sam solo deck. I was having some good success with Dunedain Wanderer and AVGT, since i could get them into play early exhausting two of them for 10 cost would cover pulling in two other strong allies in the deck. A really good combo.

    I really have not had a much luck with elf stone yet. Maybe it is a timing thing, usually what happens is i’ll have a high cost ally in hand with elf stone and then a location will take ages to show up. Another problem being that it is unique, so if I have a few copies in hand and that one location comes into play, i only get to use the one copy, and then have to wait for the next location to show up. That 1 extra quest point has also caused me to not quest successfully, and then next round I get location locked. It is a well designed card, since it makes you work a bit for what you get, and certainly not game breaking, but it’s not clicking for me to build a strategy around yet.

    I really wish the ranger heroes we have now had less threat cost. None are below 10. It’s really tough to use them in secrecy decks. I hope to see a few low threat rangers in the future.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      We definitely could use some more low threat rangers and more low threat heroes in general! As far as Elf-stone is concerned, it’s really fascinating to me the different experiences that players have related to this card. There have been a couple of instances I can think of where the extra quest point has screwed me or I’ve had to wait a few turns to find a good target for it, but by and large, it has been absolutely amazing every time I’ve used it, so much so that I would probably put it in my top 10 cards all time. At the same time, you’re far from the only player I’ve heard express ambivalence towards Elf-stone. It’s interesting the ways in which card value can vary so much depending on particular play-styles, experiences, etc.

    • Elsydian permalink

      How does the +1 to a location’s quest points cause questing to fail? It only effects when the location would be explored.

      • Elysdian: I think what is meant here is simply this: that the +1 quest point causes people to end up 1 point shy of clearing the location or clearing the quest stage. So it’s not quest failure, but it is one more round in which you (sort of) spin your wheels.

        • Elsydian permalink

          John: Just wanted to make sure I’ve been playing it right. Tracker said, ‘That 1 extra quest point has also caused me to not quest successfully’ so I was trying to understand how that would happen.

  3. Neil permalink

    With regards Elrond’s Counsel importance to secrecy I almost recommend including Arwen, Erestor and/or Gildor to make use of it if you aren’t going to use Spirit Glorfindel in a hero slot. It’s that important.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Absolutely. A threat reduction of 3 for 0 cost is crucial. I came very close to putting it on this list actually, but decided to leave it out in favor of others, but a strong case could be made that it should be in the top 3.

      • Neil permalink

        I think the list is pretty spot on dude! Secrecy requires a large amount of concession, but is a fantastic play style once you have a tuned deck.

        If you have the energy to do a third part to this series, I think important allies for secrecy would be a fun one to do.

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