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The Dunland Trap: Allies Review

by on July 8, 2014

dunland trap

I know that many of you out there are knee deep in The Dunland Trap, the first Adventure Pack of the Ring-maker cycle. The designers have promised that this cycle will provide a smattering of support for a variety of different traits, rather than focusing on just one or two. I appreciate this explicit explanation from the design team, as it helps to manage expectations and prevent misunderstandings such as the belief during the Against the Shadow cycle that we would get massive support for Gondor, when we actually got a stronger focus on such deck types as Outlands and mono-sphere. Thus, while many are salivating in anticipation of finally building a strong and viable Silvan deck, The Dunland Trap is not focused on this trait, but rather provides a little something for everyone (hopefully). Nowhere is this more apparent than in the 3 allies that come in the pack, as while there is one Silvan ally included, there also is a valuable ally for Gondor/Ranger decks and yet another Dwarf! But just how valuable are these new additions to their respective traits and the card pool in general? Read on to find out!

ALLIES

* Naith Guide (Leadership Ally, 2 cost, 1 willpower, 1 attack, 0 defense, 1 hit point):

Naith-Guide

The Naith Guide is a brand new Silvan ally in the Leadership sphere. The Guide shares the same sphere as the Silvan hero (Celeborn) included in The Dunland Trap, and has an ability that works quite well with him. In fact, the Naith Guide and Celeborn form such a perfect pairing that perhaps Galadriel has something to worry about… Of course, I’m being silly, as the Lady of Lorien has nothing to fear, but the fact remains that the Naith Guide’s ability supports Celeborn in a big way:

Response: After Naith Guide enters play, choose a hero. That hero does not exhaust to quest this round.

As discussed in the hero review, Celeborn has strong, well-balanced stats that require readying to be fully utilized. The Naith Guide allows Celeborn to quest for 3, while still being available for attack or defense. At the same time, the Naith Guide, being Silvan, receives the +1 bonus to all her stats from Celeborn, which means that she could quest for 2 or attack for 2 during the round she enters play. Once Galadriel comes around, the whole combo will get even more fun, with the Naith Guide herself being able to both quest and attack. After these first round bonuses expire, you are left with an ally with mediocre stats, yet having an extra body around with 1 willpower or 1 attack isn’t insubstantial, when you consider that you are paying for the total package you get, including that one turn boost. Also, it’s important to remember that Naith Guide, since she only costs 2 resources, can be a strong candidate for Silvan cards like The Tree People and Island Amid Perils, that are activated by returning a Silvan ally to your hand. Thus, the Naith Guide’s cheap cost in a resource rich sphere (along with its relatively low power) makes it a perfect target and trigger for such Silvan effects, alongside the Silvan Refugee. While Silvan has so far been conventionally characterized as a trait that will focus on popping allies in and out of play, in practice I suspect that successful Silvan decks will be all about popping only certain allies in and out of play, namely the ones that are cheap and expendable, while keeping the more powerful ones around. Since the Naith Guide will likely enter and exit play multiple times, her value is actually higher than it appears at first glance, as you will likely benefit from the effect of each copy several times per game, although you will of course have to pay for this each time, unless you are using tricks to get the Guide into play (such tricks, i.e. Vilya, A Very Good Tale, Sneak Attack, etc., are of course highly recommended in a Silvan deck).

Does the Naith Guide have value outside of Silvan decks? You would essentially be looking at a one-time readying effect (comparable to Cram, since they share the Leadership sphere) attached to a low-level ally. Would it be worthwhile to pay 2 for this purpose, in the hopes of benefiting from an extra point of attack and willpower along with chump blocking, when you can use Cram for 0? Conventional wisdom would probably say no, as you could simply include Cram and a better ally instead, but there is something to be said for getting a two-for-one deal and having an ally and readying effect combined, rather than having to spend deck space for both. Ultimately, this depends upon the resource generation potential of your deck, and whether eating that extra 2 resources makes sense. I will say that it is quite rare for allies to provide readying, so that is something to consider.

As for which heroes can most benefit from the Naith Guide, aside from Celeborn, the sky is really the limit. Almost any hero (assuming they have at least 1 willpower) can be a likely candidate, but the ones that can reap the greatest value are those with well-balanced stats that can play a strong role in both questing and combat. A hero like Faramir immediately springs to mind, but any other hero with strong willpower and strong attack/defense, such as Elrond, Beravor, or Theoden, could make great use of the Naith Guide’s ability. Alternatively, heroes like Theodred and Thalin, that have abilities requiring them to commit to the quest but also possess essentially wasted attack values without readying, are also great choices. The Guide could even serve as a back-up plan for Spirit Glorfindel in case Light of Valinor is tardy in arriving.

All told, I would label the Naith Guide as a “must-have” for Silvan decks, and worth a look at least for certain other decks that could benefit from some extra readying coupled with a passable ally.

* Note: I realize that the effect of the Naith Guide is not strictly “readying”, but I have used that term for simplicity’s sake and because it works out to essentially the same thing, although it is tied to questing.

Versatility: ♦♦♦◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

Blue Mountain Trader (Spirit Ally, 2 cost, 1 willpower, 0 attack, 1 defense, 2 hit points):

Blue-Mountain-Trader

Every now and then a card emerges that generates its fair share of controversy. The prototypical example was another Spirit Dwarf: Zigil Miner. This time around, it’s the Blue Mountain Trader that has inspired some strong feelings centering around the potentially “broken” nature of his ability. Of course, this seems a bit odd at first, as the Trader’s ability seems fairly innocuous at first glance:

Action: Choose another player. That player gains control of Blue Mountain Trader. Then, that player moves 1 resource from the resource pool of a hero he controls to the resource pool of a hero you control, or Blue Mountain Trader is discarded. 

Obviously, this is a purely multiplayer ability, as it cannot be used in pure solo play. From a thematic standpoint, the ability makes perfect sense, as it basically allows players to trade an ally for a resource. From a gameplay perspective, this can serve as a form of resource transfer, as you could pay 2 Spirit resources for the Trader initially, and then receive a resource for another sphere you need more, say another resource for your Leadership hero to pay for Steward of Gondor, when you pass off the Trader. Of course, this is not a one-time effect, so after that initial outlay of 2 Spirit resources, this ability can essentially be repeated at will for the rest of the game (or as long as the Trader lives). Herein lies the problem. The Blue Mountain Trader’s ability is not limited to a certain amount of uses per round, and so players could pass him back and forth a million times if they so desire. What this allows for is the unlimited transfer of resources between the heroes each player controls.

Let’s say I’m running a Sam, Merry, and Fatty deck and my friend happens to be playing an Aragorn, Elrohir, and Elladan deck, with 1 resource on each hero. I want all my resources on Fatty to pay for a big Spirit ally, while he wants all of his on Elrohir for an epic round of defending. I control Blue Mountain Trader at the beginning of planning and shoot him over to my friend, who pays 1 resource from Aragorn, which I place on Fatty. He then returns the favor, and I pay a resource from Sam, which he places on Elrohir. Again, I pass the Trader to him, and he pays 1 resource from Elladan, which is placed on Fatty once again. Once I receive the Trader back, I pay a resource from Merry, which he places on Elrohir. In this way, we now have resources exactly where we want them to be, with 3 on Fatty and 3 on Elrohir. To make matters worse, this is a simple example, as the same exact process could be used in a 4-player game with dozens of resources in order to allow each player to re-arrange resources among their heroes exactly as they see fit each turn. Obviously this is extremely powerful, completely smoothing out resources in dual- and tri- sphere decks.

I’m not going to spend a ton of time exploring the uses of this particular loop, as I strongly suspect that the Blue Mountain Trader will be hit with the errata hammer before too long. In fact, I don’t see how the designers could not make such a decision, as it is too powerful, and completely takes the teeth out of an important part of the game, which is managing resources in a multi-sphere deck. I also have a hunch that this was not the intended use of the card. It likely was meant simply to be what it looks like at first glance: a modest ally that allows one player to pay another for a chump blocker. I imagine that this is what it will ultimately be reduced to, and having recently created my own large expansion, I know how easy it can be to simply overlook adding in that crucial “limit once per round” text that I’m sure this will end up having. For now, if players do want to explore the maximum cheese opportunities provided by this card while they still can, the sky is really the limit. Any card that keys off of resources on a hero, such as Gondorian Fire, Blood of Numenor, and Lay of Nimrodel, to take a few examples, will strongly benefit from the Blue Mountain Trader. A Tactics Boromir deck using Gondorian Fire and Blood of Numenor could reach ungodly levels much more quickly with the Trader around. Of course, Elladan and Elrohir are also logical beneficiaries. If you really want to get clever, and one player’s hero has a ton of resources, while another does not, you could use Desperate Alliance to allow the “have-not” player to take control of the wealthy hero, and then use Blue Mountain Trader to completely redistribute resources to the sphere/hero you want!

However, what about the more simple, potentially post-errata version of this ally? Would a limited version of Blue Mountain Trader be any good? There are certainly some advantages that this ally provides. For one, he is a Spirit Dwarf, which is not too common at the moment, and while 1 willpower is not stellar, this gets bumped up to 2 with Dain on the table. The 1 point of defense is fairly wasted, as with only 2 hit points, this Trader is going to end up as chump fodder more than as an actual blocker (although Arwen boosting him up to 2 is a possibility, albeit a modest one). He does count for various Dwarf-counting effects, such at those on Thorin and Ori, for example, and can be used to power a card like We Are Not Idle. However, there are plenty of other Dwarves for this purpose. The plus side here is that since the Trader can be transferred, you could send him over to a player who hasn’t quite hit that 5 Dwarf threshold yet and needs some help. His main use here, though, is to give Spirit a form of resource transfer, which is valuable in that it usually doesn’t have access to these types of effects. Being able to pay 2 Spirit resources to get 1 resource of a minority sphere, while not a world shattering effect, can certainly be valuable in the right situations. On the other hand, since a Spirit player is often in the support role, being able to give another player an extra chump blocker can have a role as well, especially for those scenarios that force players to endure a big boss enemy that chips away at allies or a swarm of enemies. Of course, the Spirit player may very well need that chump blocker for himself/herself in such situations!

I fear that ultimately the Blue Mountain Trader will end up as a mere flash in the waters of the Mirrormere. He will certainly have his moment of fame as players experiment with the unlimited version, but once the errata hits (assuming it does), he will likely end up as a fairly average ally. The problem is that there are so many quality Spirit allies available for 2 resources that the Trader will have a tough time finding his way into decks. However, for multiplayer setups with specific needs, such as filling Dwarf counts or enabling specific multi-sphere combos based on resource transfer, the Blue Mountain Trader may be a worthwhile deal, especially since he helps to fill a hole for the sphere.

Versatility: ♦♦♦◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦◊◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

Ithilien Lookout (Lore Ally, 3 cost, 1 willpower, 2 attack, 0 defense, 2 hit points):

Ithilien-Lookout

Gondor, Ranger, and Secrecy fans rejoice! The Ithilien Lookout arrives to bring happiness to fans of several different archetypes, including those who have been long awaiting the return of Secrecy. This ally costs 3, but has a Secrecy value of 2, so he actually only costs a single resource to play if your threat is at 20 or below. With a respectable attack strength of 2 and 2 hit points, the Lookout brings some value to the table, which is only enhanced by a useful ability:

Response: After Ithilien Lookout enters play, look at the top card of the encounter deck. If it is an enemy, you may discard it. 

This is a scrying effect tied up with some encounter deck manipulation. While Lore is certainly not short of scrying, with the 1-cost Henamarth Riversong providing a repeatable version of this effect, the Ithilien Lookout still brings something new to decks in that it also allows you to outright discard that top card if it is an enemy. While knowledge is power, sometimes it’s even better to simply avoid an enemy altogether if it is one of the more nasty ones or could potentially upset the balance of the board. Imagine seeing an incoming Hill Troll or Mumak and being able to simply avoid them altogether! Seen in this light, while the Lookout’s ability only triggers once (when he enters play), this can still be quite useful and powerful. The scrying itself can play a role if you are choosing to run a Lore deck without Denethor, Henamarth Riversong, or Rumour from the Earth. It could also combine with those cards by using the latter to know when an enemy you want to avoid is coming up, and then playing the Ithilien Lookout to get rid of it. Keep in mind that the Lookout’s ability is “enters play”, not “played from hand”, so it will still activate if put into play through a card effect.

How does the Ithilien Lookout play into the Gondor, Ranger, and Secrecy archetypes? Gondor can only benefit from further allies and support as it seeks to claw out a place in the top echelon of decks. While The Ithilien Lookout doesn’t dramatically change this picture and doesn’t necessarily synergize specifically with existing Gondor cards, it can work well in a Leadership Boromir deck, who would bump up this ally’s attack strength to an impressive 3. Ranger decks, on the other hand, will obviously want to take a long look at this ally, as not only does he serve as another ally with the Ranger trait that can activate such effects as Ranger Bow and Forest Patrol. More importantly, his scrying ability can serve as a valuable tool for trap decks, as knowing which enemy is coming next can guide the decision of which trap to play or whether or not to play a trap at all. The drawback here is that since this scrying only triggers when the Lookout enters play, if there are no enemies on the horizon, then the information might not be very valuable and it’s pretty impossible to know this in advance (without using another scrying effect, which negates the whole purpose). In terms of Secrecy, the Ithilien Lookout is an incredible value, providing a strong ally for only 1 resource. Not only that, the effect works well for Secrecy decks that are probably aiming to avoid enemies, especially particularly strong foes or those with low engagement costs, in the early rounds of a game. I love the fact that the Ithilien Lookout does not have a bloated cost with a Secrecy discount that drops it to a fair value. Rather, the Ithilien Lookout starts out being fairly costed and becomes an amazing deal under Secrecy conditions. This is how it should always work in order to make Secrecy worth the bother.

With that in mind, is Ithilien Lookout worth the cost in non-Secrecy situations? With a variety of useful 2 and 3-cost Lore allies available, I wouldn’t say that the Lookout is an automatic include in every deck. However, I would say that it is certainly tough to pass up for Ranger decks, even without the Secrecy discount. It also will likely help to inspire the creation of more Ranger Secrecy decks in the near future, which is a thematically satisfying combination.

Versatility: ♦♦♦◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦◊◊

Conclusion

The allies in The Dunland Trap are really a smattering of new options for a variety of deck types. None of them are amazingly powerful (leaving aside the current version of Blue Mountain Trader), but they all prove to be solid additions, with the Naith Guide and Ithilien Lookout in particular adding great value to Silvan and Ranger decks respectively. With the precedent now set, I think it’s safe to conclude that it will take a few packs for the new Silvan style to reach its full fruition, while older deck types can expect to get some kind of attention at least once during the cycle.

With the hero and allies left behind, next up on the trail will be the attachments of The Dunland Trap! Readers, what is your favorite ally from this AP? Which do you think is the strongest? Which do you think is the weakest? What are your thoughts on the Blue Mountain Trader?

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9 Comments
  1. I have played a Silvan deck (Celeborn, Galadriel, Lore Aragorn) with as many of the spoiled cards as seemed fitting and I love Naith Guide. With Galadriel and Hobbit Gandalf, this deck is all about being ready after questing and Naith Guide helps to make that strategy even more possible by adding in Celeborn’s 3 willpower for free. Aragorn even gets Wingfoot, which combos nicely with Henamarth (another cheap Silvan) for some serious questing and leaving so many active for combat.
    http://community.fantasyflightgames.com/index.php?/topic/108294-silvan-in-laws/

    I’ve also tried a new secrecy deck (Galadriel, Glorfindel, Lore Pippin) with Ithilien Lookout. The deck itself still has some work cut out for it, but the new ranger proves himself quite worthy, especially in a secrecy deck with low combat prowess.
    http://community.fantasyflightgames.com/index.php?/topic/109552-the-new-secrecy/

    • I forgot to actually finish the intention of my post. You wanted to know what I felt about weakest, strongest, etc.

      Each of these allies it far more useful in certain decks/situations. They are all good, but none of them shout “you should include me in every deck of this sphere” like A Test of Will or Steward of Gondor. This is great work by the designers. They are all strong in their roles but won’t be useful everywhere.

      Blue Mountain Trader has me stumped. In one sense his ability is insanely powerful because you can just control where all of your resources end up. It’s as if each player has 2 Errand Riders out. On the other hand, resource smoothing isn’t the most powerful effect. We’re not talking about drawing a whole deck or being able to boost stats to infinity. Of all the “infinite” effects, this is probably one of the weakest ones you could run into. I still feel like it’s a little too powerful, but I wouldn’t demand errata because it’s a useful ability that doesn’t practically guarantee my victory.

      If Blue Mountain Trader is errata’d I’d say without a doubt that he’s the weakest ally here. As it stands right now, he’s probably the most useful ally in multiplayer games, but the others are also very strong.

      • TalesfromtheCards permalink

        I agree with all of these allies being solid but not indispensable, which is actually a good thing. As for BMT, as he’s now lovingly known, I think I’m in favor of the errata not so much because it is the most broken ability, or the most powerful, but because it completely takes all the complexity and management out of a certain area of the game (resource smoothing). Without BMT, players have to use various tricks and make compromises and smart deck building choices to ensure resources get where they need to be in dual and tri sphere decks. While with the current version of BMT, they can just simply put him on the table and forget all of these resource smoothing worries, and these worries are an in-built limitation of multi-sphere decks that shouldn’t be completely removed. That’s my two cents anyway.

  2. The Ithilien Lookout looks cool! Great for Secrecy in my opinion. And I just love Rangers. I also think that the Lookout is the strongest ally. The Naith Guides effect is a nice one, but after the first round she enters play, she is not that strong anymore. The Trader has lovely artwork, but is kinda weak from my point of view. Just not worth it to include in most decks, only if yiu are looking for a chump blokker in Spiritdeck. His effect is, even without erratta, not really spectacular and only usefull in certain situations. The Rangers effect is also limited for 1-time use only (without using card effect), but I find his effect more something like a bonus because his stats are not bad at all. For Gondor or other events could boost his stats even further.
    Ithilien Lookout gets my vote for strongest!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Being a big Ranger fan, the Lookout is definitely my favorite of the allies!

  3. Robes permalink

    I’m astonished that BMT actually made it past play testing. Any infinite use ability is open to abuse, it seems extremely care free to have included one in this game. I agree that the ability isn’t currently game breaking however I guess it could restrict any abilities regarding gaining resources for the future (is there would be such a thing) and it does seem to take a lot of the flavour out of the game. Luckily as I play solo I will never use the card, yet it just doesn’t seem right to have an action that can loop endlessly.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I feel like this is something that fell through the cracks, rather than an intentional choice, but I could be wrong.

  4. Sechen permalink

    Wandering Took + Song of Earendil is another thing like this, an infinite looping ability that lets you circumvent the rules. Blue Mountain Trader does a better job, because he doesn’t require another card to make the combo work. It’s a good thing that he makes you move resources instead of gain or lose them, because then it would break Harbor Master.

    I’ve played a few games with Blue Mountain Trader, and he is really good. You can build hilarious three-color decks and feel almost like you’re playing multiplayer with a solo deck. I’m starting to think that whenever the designers come up with a card that’s fun, but laughably overpowered, the just slap the “Dwarf” trait on it, and then let people who don’t want to use ridiculous decks just play non-dwarf decks. It’s a co-op game, after all, so it’s somewhat self-regulating.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I think Wandering Took/Song of Earendil avoided being errata’d because it required two cards that don’t get much use, and it’s always been a bit of an obscure combo. However, it is another infinite type thing that could justifiably receive errata. What you mention about BMT really confirms my suspicions: it makes multi-sphere into a joke rather than a challenge, and this bothers me.

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