The Dunland Trap: Hero Review
We’re baaaaaack! After a lengthy drought of releases and a short break for TftC, it’s time to get back on the horse and get excited, as the first Adventure Pack of the Ring-maker cycle, The Dunland Trap, has been released! There was always the risk after such a lengthy delay between the Voice of Isengard and the first AP that expectations would rise to a level that no quest could fulfill, especially since there was the danger that The Dunland Trap could simply end up feeling like Fords of Isen 2.0. However, I’m pleased to say that this is not the case, and The Dunland Trap is a strategic and fun scenario. I’m also quite excited that it poses a meaningful challenge, as I tend to be a glutton for punishment when it comes to LOTR LCG. However, while there will be plenty of time to talk about the quest itself, for now the focus will shift to the player cards. It’s been awhile since we got a hold of some new goodies to add to our decks, and anticipation of a cycle largely centers around how it will build new archetypes and add to existing ones. We didn’t quite get the Silvan bomb that some of us were expecting in The Dunland Trap. Rather, we ended up with a smattering of different traits, as it looks like the Ring-maker cycle will look to provide something for everyone in each pack, rather than offer a “deck in a box”. First up, it’s time to look at the newest addition to the hero stable: Celeborn.
* Celeborn (Leadership Hero, 11 threat, 3 willpower, 2 attack, 2 defense, 4 hit points):
Let’s get one thing out of the way first: Celeborn is the eternal second fiddle of Middle-earth. He’s the opening act, the sidekick, the Robin to Galadriel’s Batman. The poor guy couldn’t even have a few moments of LOTR LCG fame before Galadriel appeared in the Celebrimbor’s Secret spoiler to completely steal the show. However, we will give him his due and moment in the sun here, with nary a word about Lady G. (well, perhaps a few words). With not much to go on from the source material, the designers decided to emphasize his role as the leader of the Galadhrim (the “tree people” in Sindarin), which is represented with Celeborn being a Leadership hero with a Silvan-focused ability:
Response: After a Silvan ally enters play, that ally gets +1 , +1 and +1 until the end of the round.
On the surface, this is yet another means of boosting the stats of all allies with a given trait, in a similar fashion to Dain Ironfoot or Leadership Boromir. However, I really like how this particular ability is conditional and fits very nicely with the way that the Silvan trait is designed to play in the Ring-maker cycle, with these Elves of the forest leaping in and out of play. Celeborn’s stat boost to allies only lasts until the end of the round in which they enter play, which prevents it from being overpowered. On the other hand, it goes beyond Dain and Boromir in providing a boost to all 3 of the major stats: willpower, attack, and defense. While this does not matter in one sense, as most allies will only get to use one of these boosts in the absence of readying, on the other hand this provides a high level of flexibility, as an ally will always have something it can use. Of course, this is where Galadriel comes in, as she synergizes perfectly with Celeborn to allow Silvan allies to benefit from both the willpower boost and either the attack or defense boost (as a reminder, she allows allies to quest without exhausting during the round they enter play). However, I promised that Galadriel wouldn’t take up too much print space here, so I’ll cover their synergy in more detail when she is actually released as a hero.
How good is Celeborn’s ability on its own? As with all such global stat boosts for a trait, it really depends on what is available in terms of allies for that trait. Right now, the pool of Silvan allies is relatively limited, but there are still some intriguing possibilities. Mirkwood Runner is a Lore ally that has lost value over time as the ally pool has grown with the end result that he has fallen out of many, if not most decks. The Runner’s ability is useful, in that it can bypass enemy armor completely when attacking alone, which provides a way to kill or at least chip away at even stronger enemies with a single character (particularly important for combat light Lore decks). The problem is that he has only 2 attack. While dealing 2 damage directly to an enemy is helpful, this then precludes anyone else from attacking that enemy through conventional means, which is a substantial limitation, especially for a 3-cost ally. This means that Mirkwood Runner usually finds a place in only specific decks or ends up simply contributing his 2 attack to normal combat. However, Celeborn can boost the Mirkwood Runner up to 3 attack during the round he enters play, and the difference between 3 attack and 2 attack is quite meaningful, especially when it is applied directly to an enemy without regard to defense. Of course, this bonus only applies for a single turn, but it is still worth consideration as an option that can be applied to surgically take out certain troublesome enemies.
Celeborn also adds further value to Silvan Refugee. This Spirit ally is often the subject of debate, but I’ve always been a big fan, as despite her limitations, 2 willpower for only 1 resource is an unbeatable deal. With the Lord of Lorien in play, the Refugee quests for 3 willpower during the round she enters play, which can be a huge boost at certain critical junctures. When you consider the shenanigans that are now possible with the Silvan Refugee in combination with something like Children of the Sea and The Tree People, the stock of this ally only continues to grow, but I’ll address that further when we get to discussing The Tree People in earnest in the events review.
Beyond Mirkwood Runner and Silvan Refugee, there are certainly other options and allies that can benefit from Celeborn’s presence: Silvan Tracker, Naith Guide, Lorien Guide, Haldir, etc. I’m particularly intrigued with the possibility of using Silvan Tracker, possibly in conjunction with Elrond, to set up a Silvan regeneration machine, but the trait just needs a bit more support in the defensive and hit point department to make this work. All of the Silvan allies can provide a stronger questing presence, at least for one round, as well as support for combat, and timing when to play these allies and active Celeborn’s bonus will be a crucial strategic consideration, whether it’s staggering the allies out across several rounds or saving them for a pivotal round. However, whether this is all enough to build not just a competent Silvan deck, but one that can stand up to the strongest quests is a matter for debate and experimentation. Once a few more Silvan allies are released, I have no doubt that this ability will end up becoming useful, but when it comes to choosing who will take up a valuable hero slot, something beyond just useful is required. An ability that boosts a trait is completely dependent on the available allies for that trait, and while there is a good beginning, a little more is needed to round out Silvan.
However, moving beyond Celeborn’s ability, there is an aspect of this hero that is not quite as apparent but makes him valuable and perhaps underrated (if a brand new hero can be said to be underrated): his stats. This is because Celeborn is only the third Leadership hero to have 3 willpower, with Thorin Oakenshield largely being restricted to Dwarf decks because of his ability and 12 threat (Sam, of course, is quite useful in many decks). The difference between 3 willpower and 2 willpower in terms of the first few rounds of a game is greater than it seems, and you could potentially pair Sam and Celeborn together for a strong starting 6 willpower in a Leadership deck from only 2 heroes. Beyond the willpower, Celeborn’s stats are extremely balanced and he has an unconventional 3/2/2 line that we haven’t seen before from a hero. Generally, balanced stats aren’t much good without readying, but Celeborn has an easy answer available in the form of Light of Valinor, as well as the Naith Guide, which can allow him to quest for 3 and still participate in combat. With 2 attack and 2 defense, Celeborn can throw himself into either action very competently depending on what is most needed at a given moment. While specialization in terms of heroes is often the way to go to avoid high threat costs, there is something to be said for flexibility in the right contexts. Being Silvan, Celeborn can benefit from Rivendell Blade and become a de facto 4 attack hero in most cases. On the other hand, with a little help from Steward of Gondor, he can use Gondorian Shield to transform into a colossal defender. You could potentially opt for both the Blade and Shield to turn Celeborn into a force. This means that Celeborn can not only fit into a wide range of decks just based on stats alone, but also that he can fluidly adapt to changing game situations. Going back to Steward of Gondor for a moment, that ever-present attachment will fit nicely into Silvan/Celeborn decks (leaving aside thematic concerns), as even with tricks to get Silvan into play cheaply (so that they can be taken out and put back in later with a minimal resource outlay), such as The Tree People, A Very Good Tale, Timely Aid, and Elf-stone, Silvan allies tend to be expensive, with an average cost of around 3, and extra resources might be needed to help this deck type be more consistent and flow more easily. Of course, Elrond and Vilya provide a consistent and more thematic alternative to simple resource generation.
Does this mean that Celeborn is the new power hero and will be showing up in every deck? I wouldn’t go that far, as his high threat cost of 11 and Silvan-centric ability provides some natural limits to his strength. Still, I would emphasize that he has value outside of pure Silvan decks and even taking his threat cost into account. By the time that this cycle is complete, Silvan has been developed, and Galadriel has taken the stage, Celeborn will form the core of a new archetype that will be among the more powerful ones in the game, although whether it will match Dwarves and Outlands remains to be seen. What can be said is that unlike his counterpart in the movies and books, Celeborn will be a strong presence in the game in his own right and won’t be completely outshone by the Lady of Lothlorien.
Possible Attachment Choices: Rivendell Blade, Gondorian Shield/Steward of Gondor, Light of Valinor, Celebrian’s Stone
Celeborn promises a strong hero line-up for this cycle, and if this game needs anything, it’s definitely a broader array of intriguing heroes to stretch and deepen deck building. I’m (im)patiently waiting to build a true Silvan deck in earnest, but unfortunately it looks like I’ll be waiting a bit longer to move beyond my first forays into true constructions. Readers, what are your thoughts on Celeborn?
The Dunland Trap has just begun to lure players into its clutches, but there are plenty more player cards to be reviewed. The allies of The Dunland Trap are next up on the chopping block!