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The Temptation of Galadriel

by on May 16, 2014


With the release of the newest article from FFG announcing the 5th expansion pack in the Ring-maker cycle, Celebrimbor’s Secret, the LOTR LCG community is buzzing with excitement and one name is on every player’s lips: Galadriel. It’s certainly no secret that Galadriel would come one day, a fact that was all but cemented when her ring-bearing compatriot, Elrond, got the hero treatment at the conclusion of the Dwarrowdelf cycle. However, it always seemed to be a promise that sat teasingly just beyond the horizon. Now, FFG has dropped the spoiler of all spoilers, and while I usually reserve my discussion of cards until they are actually released, Galadriel is such a force of nature that I can’t restrain my excitement.


In my opinion, this card has hit the nail perfectly on the head in terms of gameplay, theme, and artwork. While I tend not to delve into theme too much here at Tales, it is definitely one of the aspects of the game that drew me in originally and hooked me so thoroughly. From The Silmarillion to The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings, I’m hopelessly in love with the world and characters that Tolkien created. In particular, I’m deeply fascinated by the character of Galadriel. It’s ironic that this is the case, as when I first read The Lord of the Rings, Galadriel was not interesting to me at all, as she seemed a fairly one-dimensional, benevolent figure of good. The moment when Frodo offers her the One Ring seemed transitory and posed no real menace during my initial few readings of the story. When Peter Jackson and company amplified this moment in the film version, complete with freaky audio and visual effects, I chalked it up to dramatic license.

However, reading The Silmarillion and the works of Tolkien dealing with world before the Third Age cast Galadriel and her moment of temptation in a whole new light. For the uninitiated, during the First Age, a powerful Elf named Fëanor created three jewels called Silmarils, remarkable for their beauty, power, and ability to inspire covetousness. Morgoth, the original Dark Lord and Sauron’s mentor, stole these Silmarils and took them from Valinor, where the Noldor had been living, to Middle-earth. Fëanor, along with his sons, swore an oath to leave Valinor, recover the Silmarils, and gain vengeance against Morgoth. However, the Valar, powerful god-like beings who ruled in Valinor, had advised against and forbid the Noldor from pursuing this quest. Despite these warnings, most of the Noldor followed Feanor to Middle-earth, and a (relatively) young Elf maiden named Galadriel was among them. Here is how this moment is described in The Silmarillion:

But Finarfin spoke softly, as was his wont, and sought to calm the Noldor, persuading them to pause and ponder ere deeds were done that could not be undone; and Orodreth, alone of his sons, spoke in like manner. Finrod was with Turgon, his friend; but Galadriel, the only woman of the Noldor to stand that day tall and valiant among the contending princes, was eager to be gone. No oaths she swore, but the words of Fëanor concerning Middle-earth had kindled in her heart, for she yearned to see the wide unguarded lands and to rule there a realm at her own will.

This Galadriel is almost unrecognizable from the one we know from The Lord of the Rings: defiant, proud, and a bit rash. Most importantly, she desires to rule a realm of her own. This urge to rule and bend others towards one’s will is one that often is a slippery slope towards evil in Tolkien’s works, as exemplified by the Ruling Ring itself. However, in Middle-earth Galadriel finds a mentor who has a profound influence on her development: Melian, a powerful Maia (think of the Maia as demi-gods, just below the Valar in power). In many ways, the Galadriel we meet in The Lord of the Rings is a Third Age version of Melian, as the latter character resided in a forest kingdom (known as Doriath), possessed knowledge of the future, and fought against the darkness through advice and inspiration, rather than direct action (not to mention, she also married a man who was lesser in power). Tolkien’s works are rich with this kind of reflection of characters from the early age in characters who inhabit later ages. Without Melian’s influence, it is entirely possible that Galadriel could have taken a much darker path, like many of the other Noldor characters in The Silmarillion. For those who are only familiar with the Elves of the Third Age, you may be shocked to hear that First Age Elves engaged in kinslaying, theft, murder, and treachery of the rankest sort. Thus, when Galadriel refuses the temptation that Frodo offers her, it is a not a moment of minimal importance as I originally imagined as a child first reading the story. Rather, it is an immensely powerful moment. Galadriel taking the higher road and choosing to fade away rather than rule represents a conscious choice to be good not only for herself, but symbolically for all of the Noldor as well. This is why I object to those who criticize Tolkien’s stories for moral simplicity, claiming that good and evil is merely born in the story and racially defined. Rather, the story of Galadriel’s temptation clearly shows that the wise Elves of the Third Age of Middle-earth, such as Galadriel and Elrond, are not simply good because they are Elves, but because they have learned painful lessons from the moral failings of their predecessors and contemporaries during the First Age. What is interesting about Tolkien is how he provides brief scenes that contain tendrils that link far back into past events, but discovering this greater history is up to the reader:

“And now at last it comes. You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!”

She lifted up her hand and from the ring that she wore there issued a great light that illumined her alone and left all else dark. She stood before Frodo seeming now tall beyond measurement, and beautiful beyond enduring, terrible and worshipful. Then she let her hand fall, and the light faded, and suddenly she laughed again, and lo! she was shrunken: a slender elf-woman, clad in simple white, whose gentle voice was soft and sad.

“I pass the test,” she said. “I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel.”

Such humility is what truly separates the good from those who fall into evil. Moving onto the card itself, it was almost inevitable that Magali Villeneuve would be chosen to depict Galadriel, as she has already drawn some of the most notable Elven characters in the game so far, including Haldir and Arwen, in her distinctive style. I was a bit worried that any depiction of Galadriel would tend to render her in a simplistic light, but I feel that there’s a hint of the potential darkness in the artwork that is a welcome touch.

So what about Galadriel as an actual card? Capturing the flavor of such an iconic character can often be a tall task, leading to endless debate in some cases, with Theoden being a perfect example. However, the designers hit the mark so completely here that I have a hard time imagining anyone criticizing this card, at least in thematic terms. Just as crucially, this is an incredibly well-designed and balanced card as well. In Galadriel, we have the first hero that cannot quest, attack, or defend. To fit with this characteristic, she also is the first hero to have 0 points of attack and defense. This makes a great deal of sense. Galadriel certainly played a key role in the quest to destroy the Ring, but she never left Lothlorien or actually set off on adventures herself (the closest she came was destroying and cleansing Dol Guldur, but this took place after Celeborn and the Galadhrim had already taken the fortress). Her participation was through the granting of advice, gifts, refuge, and protection, much as Melian before her. Thus, Galadriel’s inability to directly take part in questing or combat seems to reflect this role, in that she is not actually going on a certain adventure with the rest of the heroes, say hunting for Mugash, for example. Rather, she is a force for good in the background, which is reflected by three (yes, three!) effects.

The first effect is that allies that you control do not exhaust to quest during the round they enter play. One of the primary purposes of the Fellowship’s stay in Lothlorien was rejuvenation after the harrowing and traumatizing trip through Moria, and they were able to set off on the second leg with a greater sense of purpose and hope. Similarly, when Gandalf returned to Middle-earth after his death, it was Galadriel that received and prepared him for the trials ahead. This is perfectly reflected by this effect, and it synergizes particularly well with Celeborn, which is appropriate considering their relationship. Since Celeborn grants a +1 boost to all Silvan allies when they enter play, Galadriel can allow these characters to take advantage of both their increased willpower and attack/defense in the same turn. To imagine just one existing possibility with Celeborn and Galadriel, you could play Mirkwood Runner, who could then quest for 2 willpower, while still being available to attack for 3, ignoring the enemy’s defense! Keep in mind that Celeborn affects other character’s Silvan allies, so he can still provide this added benefit to the Galadriel player, even if he is controlled by someone else. Outside of Silvan synergy, this ability can also make Core Gandalf even more of a powerhouse, and adds greats value to Saruman, as these Istari characters can make use of both their high willpower and attack/defense. Faramir is also an intriguing combo, as he could commit his 2 willpower to the quest AND use his ability to raise all character’s willpower (including his own).

The second effect is that Galadriel can exhaust to grant a player 1 card and a threat reduction of 1. This sounds rather understated at first glance, but it is quite powerful. Galadriel can essentially nullify the normal threat increase of 1 at the end of each turn for one player, meaning that in solo play, you could conceivably never raise your threat from the starting level (barring encounter card effects)! In multiplayer, Galadriel can grant much-needed threat reduction and card draw to a Tactics player, for example. This thematically represents Galadriel giving advice (card draw) and protection (threat reduction), and while there are plenty of existing card draw and threat reduction effects currently in the game, which might prompt some to feel this effect is underwhelming, it is always important to understand the value of repeatable effects that are available without having to draw a card. In addition, repeatable card draw for Spirit is huge.

The third effect is not present on Galadriel herself, but is provided by her ring, Nenya:


Nenya allows Galadriel to add her willpower to another character’s willpower during the quest phase. By far, the best aspect of this ability is that it can be used after staging, which means that Galadriel and Nenya can be a powerful tool to control the pace of questing. When facing quests such as Conflict at the Carrock or We Must Away, Ere Break of Day, that reward questing slowly during the first stage, you could hold back to prevent over questing, knowing that you have Galadriel in reserve, if needed to clear a location or prevent questing unsuccessfully. Effects that add willpower after staging are incredibly effective as they give you the opportunity to use perfect knowledge about the threat in the staging area to guide your decision. Essentially, Nenya allows Galadriel to participate in questing, albeit indirectly.

What I really admire about the Galadriel card, strangely enough, are its limitations. While Galadriel is powerful, she is innately balanced by the inability to directly quest (not participating in combat is not as big a deal, as dedicated questing heroes are common). This gives someone like Eowyn an advantage, as our favorite Rohan quester can contribute 4 willpower to the quest from the very first turn, when it is most vital. By contrast, Galadriel has to drawn Nenya to add her 4 willpower, which will make card draw and someone like Master of the Forge nearly essential to Galadriel decks (thankfully, she brings her own card draw to the table). In addition, while the distinction is subtle, the fact that Galadriel doesn’t quest herself, but rather adds her willpower to another character is important to consider. This has some beneficial effects, in that encounter card effects that target committed characters won’t have an impact on Galariel. She laughs at Blocking Wargs, for example. On the other hand, this does mean that at least one other character must be questing. Galadriel can’t be a questing machine all by her lonesome, unlike Eowyn. It is easy to imagine a scenario where you commit a single ally to the quest, with the intention of using Galadriel/Nenya to boost that ally’s willpower, and then that character is destroyed or removed from the quest during staging. Obviously, smart players will plan around these kinds of situations, but it is an added factor to consider. In addition, players that want the full use of Galadriel, including both Nenya and her threat reduction/card draw, will have to include and draw a readying effect, such as Unexpected Courage. All this is not to say that Galadriel is not powerful or somehow inferior to Eowyn, far from it. Instead, this is an example of smart card design in building in limitations that force players to engage in deck building and decision-making to get the full power out of a hero, rather than simply dropping a brokenly powerful character in their laps.

Needless to say, I’m eagerly anticipating the release of Celebrimbor’s Secret, and I’m dying to start building a Silvan/Noldor powerhouse deck. The most exciting aspect is that there are many interesting decks that can be built around Galadriel, from the aforementioned Elf deck to a White Council deck (see the Hall of Beorn version here) to a Doomed deck (Galadriel can mitigate Doomed increases) to a Secrecy Hobbit deck and much more. What aspect of Galadriel are you most excited about? What decks are you planning to build?



From → News

  1. noccus permalink

    I’m as exited are you are mate!
    Want this card so badly…must wait….half ..a.. year…arghh!
    Great article though.
    And to answer your question at the end:
    I am also mostly looking forward to deck building around her & the silvan elves!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I can’t believe it’s so far away!

  2. Johan permalink

    I want to try a lineup with tactics Boromir and Galadriel and one other hero, yeah and silvans

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That’s a great combination. Galadriel can help cope with Boromir’s threat increase. Even better, Boromir could quest, Galadriel could use Nenya to bump him up to 5 willpower, and then Boromir could ready for combat. Good call!

  3. catastrophic09 permalink

    Galadriel/Gimli deck sounds fun to me! Keep threat low for secrecy and power up Gimli 🙂

  4. You beat me to the punch in exploring the lore of Galadriel. Nicely done! I’ve recently re-read the variants of her history that are compiled in Unfinished Tales and enjoyed the Mythgard Institute class on her. In terms of the writing process, it’s interesting to note that she is one of the last characters Tolkien created (note that she is not mentioned at the Council of Elrond) and unlike most other instances in which the early First Age history pushes in once Tolkien writes The Lord of the Rings, in this case the late Galadriel actually pushes back into The Silmarillion material. Unfortunately the Professor passed away before ever settling on a version of her history to publish so we’ll just have to take what Christopher put in The Silmarillion as our only tantalizing glimpse of what could have been!

    In this respect, I think the card’s ability and stats are not only a thematic home run, but the fact that she is really the last major character to get a card is appropriate given her late conception in Tolkien’s own world-building. As one thread in the FFG forums suggested, this is arguably the most anticipated AP to date! Thanks for gushing on behalf of the whole community. Bring on Celebrimbor’s Secret!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I’d love to see you do a full-blown article on Galadriel. I was only able to scratch the surface, and there’s so much to explore there. Unfinished Tales is next on my Tolkien reading list, so I can’t wait to dig into it. It’s hard to believe that Celebrimbor’s Secret isn’t the last pack of the cycle. I’m really curious to see how they wrap things up, and how they can possibly top such an epic hero and a seemingly epic quest!

  5. Tracker1 permalink

    I’ve tried her with Grima and Celeborn and silvan trait cards. Worked really good. I think you forgot to mentin that Nenya gives her lore which is crucial for helping to get expensive lore silvan allies into play, I found that to be a critical part of what her ring privided. Also, one could make a deck with Celeborn, Galadriel, Legolas, and have all 4 spheres present in a silvan deck. SoG would probably need to be played on Galadriel to pay for expensive cards and Nenya would need to be in hand early to grant acess to silvan lore cards, but it is possible.

    I almost always opted for card draw and threat reduction even wthe ring attached, especially playing with Grima, but it is very reasuring to know that she could provide that extra WP boost if needed. Although, it’s rather useles for Blocking wargs since II starts in a battle quest, althogh having allies not exhasut first round they enter play is amazing.

    One thing I wish, after playing the card for a bit now is that she had 1 or 2 pts of defense and she could do the same trick with her ring during combat. From what I have seen so far, Silvan is lacking a decent defender, and chump blocking really hurt some of the strategy of the deck if a silvan deck. Adding 1 or 2 points of Def to a silvan character would be awesome. I can only hope we will get a silvan hero with 3 def.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That’s true about Silvan lacking defense. Hopefully, we’ll see some sort of thematic attachments that can help boost the defense of Silvan characters.

  6. Mike Courchevel permalink

    Having tested Galadriel (in multiplayer … which is really a different game than solo), I can say that her mechanism is really nice and singular. However, she is not too powerfull. As Tracker1 mention the Nenya granted ability is often let aside to prefer the card draw and threat reduction effect. But most of all, her passive ability to give allies the possibility to quest without exhausting on their first turn is so helpful that the deckbuilding should really optimize this aspect. Elves with Celeborn and Grima seems to be the best option to take the full benefit out of the white lady.

    What is the most amazing with Galadriel is how she fits well with her background. The ability to change the course of a quest without actually taking part of it, and helping, regularly other players to manage their threat and to improve their hands. She is modifying the game, just because she’s here. However, I would have liked that her passive ability extends to other player allies (which might have been too powerful, may be each turn chose a player whose allies do not exhaust …), because for me, her character could influence all party members as she can use her threat reduction and card drawing ability on any player.

    My first build was an all lady, all spirit gang mixing Eowyn, Caldara and Galadriel … a very weak line-up in term of combat and especially attack. But thanks to Caldara, I can quickly bring a bunch of northern Trackers or other “2 Combat” allies to manage the fighting side. Questing and other threat or encounter management is normally under control.
    Simple remark, Arwen does not combine well with Galadriel on the turn she appears.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      The fact that she is powerful without being too powerful is probably what I admire most about the card from a gameplay perspective. I have an almost aesthetic appreciation for a well-balanced card, and they actually excite me much more than straight up overpowered cards. The limitations that come with Galadriel inspire deck building and thought, which is not the case with someone like Dain, for example. Anyway, I agree that her passive ability is perhaps the strongest of the three if you take the time to carefully build around it. I can’t wait to build a Celeborn/Galadriel Elf deck for the ages.

  7. Tracker1 permalink

    I’ve now tried Galadriel out in a number of different builds. I’m trying to pair her with traits that use a lot of allies to take advantage of her abilty when they enter play. So, I paired her with Dain and Grima and then swapped grima for Bifur, and theni tried Outlands with her Beregond and Sam while gaining acess to lore through her ring. Anyway, these worked okay, but so far she has worked best partnered with Celeborn and the silvan trait. My personal preference has been with Grima, and I have a working deck that’s performing real nice.

    I think she works better with silvan over the other ally centric traits because of how the trait is built around a mechanic of allies leaving and entering play. With dwarves and outlands, once the ally was in play that was it, the ally would then have to exhaust to quest next round and I never got the benifit of using ths same ally agian to take advantage of Galadriel’s readying effect, and and Celeborn’s buff.

    With the dwarf line up Dain did not contribute any WP to the quest, so this gave the deck a very slow start. Celeborn on the other hand has a hefty 3 wp and with LoV attached a signifigcant amoutn of WP can be generated eah round without having to exhast any characters.

    Beyond that, I made a few other decks with her and some other heroes, but did not land on a good combination. I did try Celeborn, Legolas, and Galadriel. But resources were really tight for spirit and lore, with access to lore relying on Nenya.

    Very excited to see what other heroes this cycle has in store for us, I hope it provides another silvan that fits into this mix. But I doubt the designers would make the hero lineup for a deck based on the silvan trait be completly spelled out for us, Galadriel, Celeborn, and new a Silvan hero, although they did do this with hobbits to a certain extent.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Well, we were promised a new Silvan hero in Trouble in Tharbad. It’s interesting to think about a third ability that would work well with Galadriel and Celeborn. I agree with you that I hope it’s not so direct that the three heroes just automatically team up together because any other combination is underpowered in comparison. I prefer more flexibility and variety than that. So I don’t think we’ll see a third hero that allows allies to not exhaust to quest or defend the round they enter play. That would be bonkers and fun at first, but would get boring quickly.

  8. elrohirthehasty permalink

    So time to write a post like this for Gandalf?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Speaking of temptation…that is very tempting indeed. I imagine Gandalf will deserve his own massive post and then some!

  9. sweetnesswhachacha permalink

    Her possibilities are fascinating. What I lime most about her is she is very different. She pushes decks in a different direction rather than having rather dull global effects. And while providing different strategies for deck building, it seems like she could be added into any deck also and work out great!

    And what a flavor home run!

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