Card Spotlight: Second Breakfast
If there’s one phrase that is guaranteed to bring Hobbits to the forefront of one’s brain, surely “second breakfast” is in the running. It didn’t take long for this lovable eccentricity of the little folk to be incarnated in card form, as Second Breakfast was released as part of the Conflict at the Carrock Adventure Pack. Since then, you’d be hard pressed to find many decks out there that feature this Leadership event, as it appears that most players are quite content with just one breakfast. I would include myself in this group, as I can surely count the times I’ve actually included this card in a deck or used it on one hand. When this is the case with any card, it becomes the perfect fodder for the Card Spotlight, that ruthless instrument of truth that separates the gems from the coasters. Is this a Second Breakfast worth having? Or should you stick to those taters you had for first breakfast?
Second Breakfast is a 1-cost Leadership event that centers around attachment retrieval/recursion:
Action: Each player returns the topmost attachment card from his discard pile to his hand.
If this card reminds you of the Lore ally, Erebor Hammersmith, it should, as that character has an almost identical effect. Of course, with the Hammersmith, for a single extra resource, you get an ally with great stats for your trouble in addition to the ability. Still, as I emphasized in the last Card Spotlight, having a superior version of an effect in one sphere doesn’t necessarily make a similar, weaker effect in another sphere obsolete. Thus, it’s important to evaluate Second Breakfast on its own terms.
On the face of it, attachment retrieval/recursion sounds like an incredibly useful tool. Attachments, as exemplified by such staples as Steward of Gondor, Unexpected Courage, Gondorian Shield, and Light of Valinor, tend to be some of the most powerful cards in the game. Their relative permanence distinguishes them from events, and their ability to enhance the strongest characters on the board (heroes, though some attachments can help out allies) is crucial. However, this permanence is also what works to undermine Second Breakfast. Cards that bring events back from the discard pile are marvelously useful, as events are one-time use effects and thus are constantly being discarded. By contrast, attachments leave play much less frequently, and thus a card like Second Breakfast finds far fewer targets than something like Book of Eldacar, Hama, or Dwarven Tomb. To make the picture a bit bleaker, Second Breakfas tis further restricted by only grabbing the topmost attachment in players’ discard piles, rather than allowing them to search for the one they want. Timing thus becomes key as Second Breakfast must be drawn and in hand when the desired card is the topmost attachment.
Still, there are two main cases when attachment retrieval/recursion becomes useful: when the encounter deck discards them and when an attachment is disposable. There is a third, less common, possibility as well, which involves card effects that discard cards from the top of player decks (this archetype is generally focused around Spirit, but it could be possible to introduce Leadership to allow “discard draw” of attachments). To take the first case, attachment hate on the part of encounter decks is not as widespread as some other effects (direct damage, attack boosting, exhaustion, etc.), but it does pop up in a few quests. Some notable examples are the Black Uruks from Khazad-dum/Dwarrowdelf cyle, Orc Raiders from Road to Rivendell, and the dreadful Wind-whipped Rain from The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill. When you actually pore through the available quests out there, attachment hate is actually not terribly common. However, for those scenarios that do feature such effects, Second Breakfast could surely play a role in the absence of access to Lore and the superior Hammersmith (or if you really only need to grab Spirit attachments, Dwarven Tomb can do the job).
The second use for Second Breakfast, as an intentional means of recycling certain disposable attachments, is more intriguing and potentially more broadly useful. Which one-use attachments make the best partners for Second Breakfast? There are only a few attachments that fall into this category, but probably the best fit in terms of gameplay and theme is Cram. Chowing down on some Cram for Second Breakfast may not be the most appetizing meal in history, but it certainly makes more sense than feasting on a discarded Unexpected Courage! In gameplay terms, Cram is a fantastic 0-cost Leadership attachment that readies the attached hero once and then is discarded. When playing Leadership without access to Spirit, readying is often at a premium and Cram can play a central role. Unfortunately, such readying has to be used wisely, as even with 3 copies in a deck, you’re not guaranteed to see them all. Thus, Second Breakfast could perhaps serve as 4th, 5th, and 6th copies of Cram, assuming of course that the stars align and Cram sits as the topmost attachment when Second Breakfast is in your hand. A final important aspect of Cram is that it has a natural sphere match with Second Breakfast itself, which most of the other candidates I’ll mention don’t (with the exception of Tome of Atanatar and Path of Need). Beyond Cram, Healing Herbs is another possibility. While munching on Herbs might make for an unsatisfying course, it is a healthy one, as this disposable 0-cost Lore attachment can be discarded to heal all damage on 1 character (it also requires the exhaustion of the attached character). Second Breakfast could be used to get additional uses out of Healing Herbs, similar to Cram. However, such focused healing on one character will really only be necessary for certain scenarios (those featuring plenty of direct damage or strong enemies) or certain deck types, and thus Healing Herbs isn’t as strong a match as Cram.
Good Meal and Miruvor are two other attachments that might fit the bill thematically and mechanically. The former is a Hobbit-centric Neutral attachment that can be discarded to lower the cost of an event by 2. Thus, if you used Second Breakfast to retrieve Good Meal, you’d essentially be paying 1 resource to save 2, netting only a 1 cost discount. In most cases, this would not be worth the effort and deck space. Miruvor, on the other hand, is a highly useful Spirit attachment that allows players to choose from a menu of choices: readying, extra willpower, resource generation, and recycling Miruvor itself. Eventually Miruvor will be discarded, as continually putting it on top of your deck will mean you’re not drawing other cards, and thus will be a poor choice unless you have card draw available or a ton of good cards in hand already. However, Second Breakfast allows you to have your cake and eat it too (or have your Elvish wine and drink it too, in this case), by using 2 abilities from Miruvor, getting it back into hand AND still getting your normal card draw next turn. Thus, Second Breakfast and Miruvor is almost as fantastic a combination as Cram, although it loses marks because Spirit already has a possible way to get back Miruvor through Dwarven Tomb.
Beyond possible food items, Second Breakfast might work well with the mono-sphere Record attachments that were released as part of the Against the Shadow cycle. There is one for each sphere: Map of Earnil for Spirit, Book of Eldacar for Tactics, Scroll of Isildur for Lore, and Tome of Atanatar for Leadership, and they all work the same way: discard the Record to play an event from your discard pile (with a cost discount for the attachment itself based on how close you are to mono-sphere). While I wouldn’t recommend eating a map, book, scroll, or tome for breakfast or any other meal, this use of Second Breakfast does work in game terms to allow you to get multiple applications out of these recursion tools. For example, you could use Book of Eldacar to play a copy of Feint in your discard pile, then use Second Breakfast to grab the Book back into your possession. The limitation of this combo is that the recycled event is placed on the bottom of your deck after use, so you wouldn’t be able to play that same event again even if you get your Record back with Second Breakfast (unless there are multiple copies in your discard pile). Still, intrepid souls can create some “super recursion” decks with Second Breakfast in conjunction with the Records.
The final category of attachments that could form partnerships with Second Breakfast includes those that attach to an enemy or location and thus may be discarded with them when they leave play: traps, Path of Need, Thror’s Key, Elf-stone and Ancient Mathom. Of these, I find Path of Need to be the most tempting. Regarding traps, it certainly would be useful to recycle Ranger Spikes or Poisoned Stakes, but Lore already has access to Anborn and Erebor Hammersmith for that purpose. A similar logic applies to Elf-stone (although perhaps a Lore/Leadership build could use the Hammermsith and Second Breakfast in conjunction to endlessly recycle Elf-stone and get a flurry of high-cost allies into play). Thror’s Key and Ancient Mathom suffer from the “Spirit problem” in that Dwarven Tomb is a better and more flexible card than Second Breakfast for the same cost. In my experience, you also generally don’t need more of either card anyway. It thus falls to Path of Need, that enigma of cards, to save Second Breakfast’s bacon. Path of Need can potentially be a game-changing card, as while it is attached to the active location, all heroes don’t have to exhaust to do anything! Questing, attacking, and defending are all fair game. The problem is that this effect goes away as soon as the location is explored, which usually happens quickly with powerful questing at your fingertips and the need to actually put progress on the quest itself eventually. With a limit of 1 copy per deck, once Path of Need is gone, it’s gone…usually. This is where Second Breakfast comes in, as it could allow you to get multiple uses out of this attachment in a single game. Of course the problem here is the same problem that any Path of Need combo always faces, and that is that 1 copy limit itself, as you can’t be sure of seeing it in any particular game unless you include a ton of card draw and/or fetching through something like Word of Command. Still, the potential is there and it makes sense to include Second Breakfast if you’re going to include Path of Need.
One aspect of this card that I haven’t yet specifically addressed that is actually a plus in its favor over a similar card like Erebor Hammersmith is that it allows every single player to grab their topmost attachment instead of just one player. Thus, it is conceivable that in a 3 or 4 player game, several players could all include Cram in their decks, with a single copy of Second Breakfast bringing them all back (given the right timing). The same could potentially apply to Miruvor or something like Elf-stone as well. This could be a fruitful avenue for experimentation, although my hunch is that the coordination and timing required will likely make it more of a niche option than a widely applicable strategy.
Unfortunately, even the tastiest meal must end at some point, and no feast can go on forever (except for one in the Undying Lands perhaps!). Similarly, this bite-sized assessment of Second Breakfast must reach a conclusion. It seems that there are some tantalizing tendrils that if followed far enough might lead to this card being deemed viable. I do think, however, that simple is often best when it comes to pure consistency, and as someone who has played mono-Leadership decks quite a bit, Second Breakfast/Cram seems to be clearest and best use available for this card. The problem is that, as all LOTR LCG players know, especially those with access to the complete card pool (or most of it), cutting down to 50 cards these days is no easy task, and thus it would be pretty hard for me to justify the space Second Breakfast would take up merely to serve as a Cram recycler. Perhaps if I was facing a quest that demanded an abundance of readying effects, then this would be an acceptable cost. However, it doesn’t seem like the best choice in many cases. Other possibilities have been outlined here, and all could be defensible given the right deck or scenario. With that being said, though, Second Breakfast hasn’t done enough, in my opinion, to earn its place at the table, as I would to see a bit more applicability. There is a glimmer of hope on the horizon, however, as there is little doubt that as the card pool expands, more disposable attachments will arise and further attachment hating quests will be released. Until then, I’ll have to pass on the seconds.
For leftovers, here’s an experimental Second Breakfast deck based around recycling Cram, Elf-stone, and hopefully Path of Need. The Hobbit version of Gandalf makes an appearance to grab that Path of Need through Word of Command. Enjoy!
Aragorn (TWitW) x1
Sam Gamgee (TBR) x1
Bifur (KD) x1
Gandalf (OHaUH) x3
Erebor Hammersmith (Core) x3
Bill the Pony (TBR) x3
Dunedain Watcher (TDM) x3
Faramir (Core) x2
Gleowine (Core) x3
Henamarth Riversong (Core) x2
Haldir of Lorien (AJtR) x1
Gildor Inglorion (THoEM) x1
Path of Need (FoS) x1
Cram (OHaUH) x3
Hobbit Cloak (TBR) x3
Steward of Gondor (Core) x3
Sword that was Broken (TWitW) x3
Elf-stone (TBR) x3
Second Breakfast (CatC) x3
Word of Command (TLD) x3
Daeron’s Runes (FoS) x3
Radagast’s Cunning (Core) x2
Secret Paths (Core) x2