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Card Spotlight: Nor am I a Stranger

by on May 20, 2014

three hunters

While The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is fundamentally a game centered around spheres, trait development is extremely important as well. Players, most of whom are fans of the source material, tend to gravitate towards traits and trait decks more often that not. However, as the player card pool tends to develop at a snail’s pace, this means that each individual trait grows much more slowly than many would prefer. The Rohan trait is one that received a fair bit of development during the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle, remained stagnant for awhile, and then was recently revived with The Morgul Vale and Voice of Isengard. One Rohan-centric card that has always intrigued me is Nor am I a Stranger. This is one of the few cards in the game that actually grants a trait to a character (Steward of Gondor is another notable example), which seems like a useful card type to explore, as it allows trait decks to experiment with non-trait combos while maintaining theme. However, while the Steward of Gondor has another, extremely powerful ability along for the ride, Nor am I a Stranger’s utility begins and ends with granting the Rohan trait to a character. This perhaps explains why, even though I like the idea of the card and have experimented with it, it has never proved its quality to myself and many other players. With the Rohan trait now possessing both a Tactics and Spirit incarnation and more cards than it ever has before, it’s time to subject Nor am I a Stranger to the spotlight!

nor am i a stranger

Nor am I a Stranger is a 1-cost Spirit attachment that can be placed on any character:

Attach to a character. 

Attached character gains the Rohan trait. 
This is as straightforward as a card gets in terms of game text. Thematically, the name of the card is taken from a quote by Aragorn himself, as he sought to explain the presence of the Three Hunters to Eomer and his Rohirrim. Aragorn used the phrase to reference the fact that he had served under King Thengel (Theoden’s father) in the past under an alias, Thorongil, and thus was not truly a stranger to Rohan and its people. In fact, he had helped defend them. In gameplay terms, the value of this card lives and dies with the power of available cards that grant bonuses or positive effects based on the presence of the Rohan trait. Surveying each of these effects is essential to getting a true idea of the worth of this card beyond summary judgement.
Eomund: This Rohan ally readies all Rohan characters when he leaves play. This is certainly a useful ability, but including Nor am I a Stranger for a conditional readying effect seems like a dubious proposition, especially when both cards are in the Spirit sphere, which already has Unexpected Courage. Eomund might be a nice bonus to another Nor am I a Stranger combination, but it isn’t enough by itself to justify inclusion. It is important to take into account that Nor am I a Stranger is not unique and can be placed on allies as well as heroes, so you could technically dump 2 or 3 copies on different characters for a maximum benefit from Eomund, but that’s going to be awfully inconsistent.
–> Potential: Minimal
* Ride to Ruin: This allows a a Rohan ally to be discarded to place 3 progress on a location. Technically, you could use Nor am I a Stranger to give the Rohan trait to an ally so that they could be sacrificed for this purpose. However, there’s already some good, low-cost, natural Rohan allies for this purpose, so this combination is a reach at best.
–> Potential: None
* We Do Not Sleep: This 5-cost Spirit event allows all Rohan characters to quest without exhausting. As seen with the recent Galadriel discussion, a global ability to quest without exhausting is invaluable, even temporarily, and thus it might make sense to plant Nor am I a Stranger on an ally or hero to allow them to take part in this effect. In fact, the Galadriel example makes me think of a possible combination. You could play Core Gandalf, attach Nor am I a Stranger to him, and then follow this up with We Do Not Sleep during the quest phase. This would allow Gandalf to quest for 4 and then take part in combat as well. It might seem like I’ve hit upon a great combination until you factor in the total cost: 5 for Gandalf, 5 for We Do Not Sleep, and 1 for Nor am I a Stranger. This is a grand total of 11 resources! You could perhaps get Gandalf into play for free or low-cost using something like A Very Good Tale or Elf-stone, but adding another card to the chain just makes things worse. There are actually a ton of other possibilities: Tactics Bofur questing for 2 and then being available for combat or his ability, Faramir questing and exhausting to boost the willpower of everyone as well, and the list goes on. The big problem is the expense of We Do Not Sleep itself and the fact that Spirit Rohan is already quite strong in the questing department. Nor am I a Stranger + We Do Not Sleep seems like a “win more” option more than anything else.
–> Potential: Minimal
* Astonishing Speed: Combining Astonishing Speed with Nor am I a Stranger seems like one of the more viable options. This event grants +2 willpower to all Rohan characters, so that a character that has gained the Rohan trait through Nor am I a Stranger could benefit from this bonus. Conceivably, you could use multiple copies of Astonishing Speed in one game to add to this value. If you figure an average of 1-2 copies played per game, you’re looking at an additional 2-4 willpower in a game for the low cost of 1 needed to play Nor am I a Stranger. To look at it another way, many players (including myself) gladly pay 2 for Escort from Edoras, which provides a one-turn dose of 4 willpower for the cost of 2. Of course, this bonus comes all at once and doesn’t require any other cards to facilitate, and the real value of this card is as a concentrated shot of questing. Still, Astonishing Speed + Nor am I a Stranger has potential. Not great potential, mind you, but it rates above the stinkers that have come before it on this list.
–> Potential: Decent
* Mutual Accord: I mention this possibility only for completion’s sake. You could throw Nor am I a Stranger on a character to give them the Rohan trait, followed by Mutual Accord to grant them the Gondor trait. However, you could more easily use Steward of Gondor to accomplish the same task (I know, it doesn’t work on allies, but I couldn’t imagine a convincing case for this convoluted use despite that qualification). In addition, using this loopy combination might cause a tear in the fabric of space and time.
–> Potential: None
* Guthlaf: If you didn’t have a Rohan hero to gain the 1 resource discount to play Guthlaf, you could use Nor am I a Stranger to gain this bonus. Nothing to see here. Move on.
–> Potential: None
* Spear of the Mark: Overall, I’d have to say that the Tactics Rohan cards provide much more intriguing possibilities for Nor am I a Stranger than their Spirit counterparts. Spear of the Mark provides a +2 attack bonus when attacking an enemy in the staging area and can only be attached to a Rohan character. While Dunhere is the most natural recipient, Nor am I a Stranger could also allow a non-Rohan hero to take advantage of this weapon. The trick would be to find a hero or ally that can attack the staging area. One possibility is to combine Nor am I a Stranger and Spear of the Mark with Hands Upon the Bow. Just imagine Legolas, for example, with the Rohan trait and the Spear. He could attack an enemy in the staging area for 6 during the quest phase! The total cost of this combination is a reasonable 3. The real problem is that it requires drawing and playing 3 cards to get any benefit from Nor am I a Stranger. Alternatively, you could make use of Great Yew Bow, which would at least allow a hero with the printed ranged keyword to make use of this bonus over and over again, provided you could keep enemies in the staging area. I really like the idea behind this combination; there are plenty of other tantalizing options beyond Legolas (i.e. Faramir, Bard the Bowman, etc.). it just seems a bit inconsistent without the benefit of substantial card draw. Including weapon draw with Tactics Bofur would be a must in addition to other card draw methods. Using Hama to recycle Hands Upon the Bow would be a way to get more value out of the combination once it shows its head as well. I’ll leave it to intrepid deck builders to make it so.
–> Potential: Interesting
Forth Eorlingas!: Along with Spear of the Mark, this is the other Rohan card that gives me some hope for Nor am I a Stranger. This 2-cost Tactics event allows all Rohan heroes to attack enemies in the staging area. If Nor am I a Stranger converts a hero to Rohan, they can take advantage of Forth Eorlingas! to attack the staging area. Of course, this relies on having a non-Rohan hero that could uniquely benefit from this effect, as otherwise there’s no real reason to not simply use a natural Rohan hero for this purpose. Here are some possible candidates:
Gimli can use his colossal attack to lay waste to a strong enemy in the staging area
Glorfindel or Legolas could make use of Rivendell Blade in addition to Spear of the Mark to launch a massive attack
Boromir could use his readying ability and an attack boosting effect  to absolutely savage the entire staging area
– Elladan, similar to Boromir, could also use his readying ability to machine gun the staging area
– Bard the Bowman has a natural attack boost/defense reduction that could come in handy
– Faramir already has a boost from enemies being in the staging area, so he may as well use it
– Merry could ready another Rohan hero participating in the attack (assuming the enemy is destroyed)
Of the options listed, Boromir and Elladan jump out to me as the most distinctive and the ones with the most potential. Boromir in particular could make use of something like Gondorian Fire (or Support of the Eagles) to completely demolish every last soul in the staging area, assuming you’re able to eat the threat. One potential obstacle to this combination is the need to draw 2 cards at minimum (Nor am I a Stranger + Forth Eorlingas!), with 3 being more realistic if you want to get some attack boosting on the table to make the whole setup worth the effort. The biggest obstacle, however, is true for Forth Eorlingas in general: the difficulty in keeping enemies in the staging area by the time the combat phase rolls around (this event is a “combat action” only). Still, this combination gets my vote as the best possible use of Nor am I a Stranger.
–> Potential: You had my curiosity, now you have my attention.
Steed of the Mark: This 1-cost Spirit attachment can be placed on a Rohan or Gondor hero to essentially grant them Leadership Aragorn’s ability. However, if you really need readying for a non-Rohan hero, and you have access to Spirit, you might as well throw Unexpected Courage on them for the same total cost, rather than have to rely on drawing 2 cards (Steed of the Mark + Nor am I a Stranger). Keep in mind that you have to keep paying for the ability itself, so Unexpected Courage is a much better option.
–> Potential: Minimal
The tale has been told and the card must be measured. I’ve seen some intriguing possibilities after wading through the card pool for Nor am I a Stranger’s salvation. In particular, after writing this article, I’ve decided that I will soon be building a Gondor/Rohan deck with Nor am I a Stranger, Forth Eorlingas!, and Gondorian Fire (perhaps you may see an article on this sometime soon…unless I get smashed to pieces). I should also mention that you aren’t restricted to just one of these options. A character with Nor am I a Stranger could attached could make use of a few of these different cards to possibly string together some value. For example, Boromir could quest, make use of Astonishing Speed, then attack later in the turn using Forth Eorlingas! Still, a few bright glimmers do not a priceless jewel make. With so few combinations worth even thinking about including Nor am I a Stranger for, and with those few combinations so dependent on drawing multiple cards to function at all, I really have no choice on the final verdict. Deck space is at more of a premium than ever before, and bubble cards have to fight for their place, with many of these combination seeming a bit too clever to be generally usable. As always, though, I encourage thoughtful readers to prove me wrong! For now, though, Nor am I a Stranger’s greatest sin is that it doesn’t do anything on its own. It can only possibly facilitate other combinations with the help of 1, 2, or even 3 other cards. If it had included a second ability, it would be much more playable, but in a game where consistency and a quick acceleration of power is often the difference between defeat and victory, Nor am I a Stranger will have to remain a stranger.

* Verdict: Coaster

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26 Comments
  1. Vladimir permalink

    You forgot to mention Rohan Warhorse, which could help non-Rohan non-Tactics heroes in attack, like buffed up Faramir, Glorfindel and so on. I admit that it’s not a major thing, however.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Argh! It was actually first on my list, but then I skipped it to come back to at the end. Unfortunately I forgot! Thanks for reminding me.

  2. VladVoivode permalink

    Great article and I like that you touched on the fact that the player card pool is growing at a snail’s pace. I think however that this could be a good thing. MTG players know that there have been – and continue to be quite a few duds. I think of cards that have a converted mana cost of four for instance yet only do one point of damage and the P/T of these cards are pitiful.

    But MTG is more of a conglomeration with its theme being these infinite planes where wizards battle incessantly. LOTR possesses (obviously) a well defined and delineated lore from which to draw. Thus it begs the question of whether a card that now seems a coaster will one day become important. I am thinking of the saga expansions in particular and as we get into The Two Towers and The Return of the King, we will see stronger Rohan and Gondor traits and player cards. We have already seen a few cards suddenly gain importance as well as some that were once more useful that have been supplanted by better alternatives.

    • Landroval permalink

      Never, ever found space for a single copy of this in a solo deck.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That’s the great thing about a LCG. Cards that seem like coasters can definitely turn into useful cards later on depending on how the card pool develops. You’re right that it would be shocking if we didn’t see any Rohan cards in the upcoming Saga Expansions, so there may yet come a day when Nor am I a Stranger finds a place in player decks…but it is not this day.

  3. I’ve tried including it in the past, but it was never really worth it. Even now with a few more possibilities, it’s certainly not *useless*, but a bit hard to justify. I think your verdict is ultimately tough, but fair.

  4. Tracker1 permalink

    I tried it out when VoI came out, I was going to put it on Glorfindel and Boromir tactics with Theoden as the other hero. The plan was to have them destroy the staging area with Forth Eorlingas, but it was a dud. Threat was always too high to make the staging area attack, so having the rohan trait did absoultly nothing. I did not have astonishing speed in the deck either.

    I’m pretty much in agreement on coaster for now. Would be cool if it also allowed you to draw a card. That could make it more worthwhile, especially since spirit lacks card draw, it might actually see some use then.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That’s definitely the issue with Forth Eorlingas. I had some success with it, but it’s heavily quest dependent and is basically tied to the engagement costs of enemies in a given scenario. If you take an already inconsistent card (Forth Eorlingas) and try to build a combo off of it with Nor am I a Stranger, then things get really dicey. That’s why I had to ultimately give it a coaster label, despite being intrigued. I think to make the combo work, you’d have to go really low threat. Maybe Boromir, Glorfindel, and one of the 6 threat Hobbits. That’d start you out at 22, which could give some opportunity for Forth Eorlingas/Nor am I a Stranger to work. You’d have to have a pretty solid deck around it though.

      • Eponine permalink

        I have been using a deck with Dunhere, Glorfindel and Merry and a host of Rohan allies. It struggles a lot with quests that have lots of low or auto engagement enemies (like Watcher in the Water), and has very little defensive power (keep it away from sieges. Far far away), but can handle quests like Anduin, Carrock, and Foundations quite easily. This lineup starts below the secrecy threshold, so you can use Resourceful to make playing the expensive Rohan events easier. I admit that Nor am I Stranger isn’t currently included, but the option to play those spare Rohan Warhorses and Spears on Glorfindel would be useful for the times when enemies do engage, and you could include Steed of the Mark for Merry, as well as possibly getting benefits like readying via Eomund and willpower from Astonishing Speed. Unfortunately, as Forth Eorlingas only affects heroes, its still hard to include it, as Dunhere can obviously attack the staging area already. And tbh, a warhorse-riding, spear-wielding Dunhere does a pretty good job at clearing the staging area without help. I don’t know whether these are enough benefits to make Nor am I Stranger worth it, but if anyone wants to try, I’ve had lots of fun with these heroes.

        • TalesfromtheCards permalink

          That’s an interesting hero line-up, I like it! One of the greatest things about the Hobbits being added to the game is that they provide great low-threat hero options for all kinds of decks.

  5. I think the fact that there are so many combinations – though some are somewhat weak and others are just hard to have the resources/cards you need to pull off – just shows it has potential. Obviously, the deck does need to be focused on this Rohan trait and to include multiple of these cards that can synergize well with it to make it effective, but it’s possible. I think it’s even better if you’re playing 2-player and they both have a similar focus so that the chances of having the right cards/resources is greater.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I think with just 1 or 2 new cards that grant substantial bonuses to Rohan characters that Nor am I a Stranger could approach viability.

      • Yea, especially if it was a (semi)permanent stat boost, but I wonder if they would ever bother. It seems to be pretty prominent for stat boosts to be a defining feature of some of the traits, and so far it doesn’t seem to be the way Rohan would go, so I don’t see that happening, at least not something as easy as an attachment or hero that gives it.

        • TalesfromtheCards permalink

          Very true. And to be honest, I think it’s probably a good thing, as it helps make the traits more distinct than if they all simply got similar stat boosts. Unfortunately, it does make Nor am I a Stranger far less useful. Now a Shrinking Potion or Stubby Legs card to grant the Dwarf trait would’ve been something to see!

  6. Beavis permalink

    I was always surprised they had priced this card with 1 resource.
    If I were to design this card, I would make it a 0 cost with Response: After you play Nor Am I A Stranger, draw a card.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Indeed, your version would be much better.

      • Yeah, just some additional affect would have made a world of difference. Like search the top five cards of your deck to draw a card with the Rohan trait, lower the cost to play the next card with the Rohan trait by one, etc

  7. Mithrandir1119 permalink

    Great insights! I love reading these posts! Minor comment/question. When you say “coaster” what do you mean? Could you maybe show your ranking scale within the post so I know where it falls? I’m assuming that you mean it’s a mediocre card (based on the body of the article), but wouldn’t mind seeing/knowing what the other possible rankings are.

    • He does a binary rating. Cards either get the verdict of “gem” or “coaster”. “Coaster” implies that the card is bad enough that you’re more likely to get use out of it as a coaster than as a worthwhile addition to your deck.

    • His scale is “Coaster” or “Gem”. It’s either good or bad for these Card Spotlights.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      First of all, thanks! I’m glad you enjoy these Card Spotlights. As Joe and Thaddeus said, I use a very simplistic and pretty lighthearted scale of either “gem” or “coaster. The idea is that these underused or unappreciated cards are either hidden gems that deserve more attention or coasters that warrant being ignored. Of course, in reality, it’s rarely that simple for most cards, so the actual article text is where I give my real input. The gem or coaster verdict forces me to not sit on the fence and have to make a call one way or another, even though it’s not always completely accurate.

  8. Mndela permalink

    Maybe in the future, as you and anothers said, it get more power. I’m thinking cards about:

    Event: if you control all rohan heroes, enemies engaged you no attack. (like Hobbit Sense; and you can include a non rohan hero but very very important in your deck, and include Nor am i stranger)
    Hero: if it has 1 resource, each rohan character gains +1 attack (the passive abilities can be good, like Boromir leadership, but with rohan characters)
    Ally: if you control 4 rohan characters, play for free (like Gloin ally, Dwalin ally…, but with rohans, and you are not forced to play all 3 rohan heroes like dwarfs)

  9. Mndela permalink

    Attchment: all rohan characters with at least 1 attachment gains +1 wp 🙂

  10. sweetnesswhachacha permalink

    Although the verdict was inevitable, I like the fact that some cards power is limited by adding traits. I like that this card is balanced in that you need a card slot, to draw the card, and pay the resources, to create a combo. But you could then break the trait restriction. So although I like that possibility, and the drawbacks to balance it, I would agree that there really aren’t any really worthwhile cards you could pair it with.

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