The Dunland Trap: Attachments Review
I always feel a little giddy when it comes to getting new attachments, as they tend to be the most game-changing of player cards due to their permanent (and often powerful) nature. Unfortunately, there are only 2 attachments in The Dunland Trap, but both are quite intriguing, for completely different reasons. One is a card that some might have seen coming from a mile away, given the arrival of Eomer in Voice of Isengard and the recent focus on Tactics Rohan. The other, however, has arrived unheralded and undoubtedly left some players scratching their heads, debating whether this new attachment is useful in some way or merely another candidate for the dust collector squad.
* Firefoot (Tactics Attachment, 2 cost):
More mounts can only be a good thing, especially when it comes to Rohan. In this case, we get one that helps to turn Eomer into even more of a force, although it is not restricted to him alone:
There are two parts to Firefoot’s ability. First, it provides a generic attack boost for all Tactics and Rohan heroes, while giving a specific buff to Eomer himself, given that Firefoot was his horse in The Lord of the Rings. Second, it allows the attached hero to spill over excess damage from destroying one enemy onto another engaged, non-unique enemy. The first ability is pretty simple to understand and analyze. For heroes not named Eomer, there are cheaper ways to get +1 Attack, Dagger of Westernesse being one example that is not limited by trait, while Dunedain Mark also gives you that +1 without taking up a restricted slot. So if you were only interested in the attack boost, then you’re probably better off looking elsewhere, although the Westfold Horse-breeder can help to retrieve it from your deck, which is one advantage over weapons, in that you could look at the top 10 cards, rather than just the top 5 with something like Tactics Bofur. However, Eomer really is the main focus here, as gaining +2 attack for 2 resources is a fair deal, when you consider that this is an unconditional boost, unlike Dagger of Westernesse and Spear of the Mark. This means that you can count on Eomer being 5 attack at all times, often getting up to 7 when his ability is activated. This transforms him into one of the strongest forces in the game with only 1 attachment. Such a setup is generally superior, in terms of cards needed and effort to get running than a similar Gimli build, for example, since getting an ally out of play is generally much easier than safely placing damage on a hero. If you add a weapon, Eomer can even get up to 9 attack, although you might be inclined to save that second “restricted” spot for the Rohan Warhorse, so that Eomer can attack multiple times per turn. The fact that Firefoot is restricted is definitely a drawback to this card, but a necessary means to limit the power of this card.
Moving on to the main attraction, Firefoot introduces a “trample” effect to the game for the first time, with trample being an effect from Magic: The Gathering that allows damage dealt above a blocker’s “toughness” (think hit points) to spill over to the defending player. In the case of LOTR LCG, Firefoot allows the attacking hero to take excess damage beyond one enemy’s hit points and apply it to another enemy, with two important limitations in place. For one, the attached hero must attack alone. In addition, the second enemy must be non-unique. In practice, the first limitation is quite important and serves as an essential cap on the power of this ability, but what does it do to the overall value of this effect? It sounds amazing to be able to deal direct damage in this way, but how will it work on the actual field of battle, given the limited attack capacity of a single hero?
In older quests, the potential of Firefoot is not really up for debate. If you look at some of the Khazad-dum quests as an example, a 7 attack Eomer could plow through a Goblin Swordsman, killing it with 3 of the damage (2 hit points + 1 defense), and then placing the remaining 4 damage directly onto Patrol Leader, for example (leaving aside its potential damage cancellation ability), which would be enough to destroy that second enemy as well. Of course, this is the true power of Firefoot’s “trample”, as it allows you to bypass the defense of the second foe, and so the proper strategy is to attack a weaker enemy, thus placing the direct damage on a stronger enemy with higher defense. For example, if we reversed the order, and attacked the Patrol Leader first, all 7 points of attack would be soaked up by the Patrol Leader (3 defense + 4 hit points), leaving the Goblin Swordsman unscathed. Considering this potential to bypass defense, Firefoot is potentially one of the strongest attacking tools and forms of direct damage in the game.
However, enemies have necessarily become tougher over time, with higher defense and hit point values, since the days of Khazad-dum, so does Firefoot’s ability pass muster in current quests? Let’s take a look at some of the enemies from the The Dunland Trap itself to find out. The weakest enemies in this scenario require at least 5 points of damage to destroy. A Dunland Beserker, for example, has 1 defense and 4 hit points. This means that Eomer/Firefoot, without Eomer’s attack boost from an ally leaving play, could destroy an enemy, but wouldn’t have any excess damage to assign to another enemy. With Eomer’s boost in effect, there would be 2 points of damage to spill over. This isn’t enough to outright kill a second enemy (although if Eomer were attacking with a weapon for 9, it could be), but I would argue that 2 points of direct damage is actually quite considerable and will help to take down enemies much more quickly. If Eomer had Rohan Warhorse attached, he could ready and attack that second, now damaged enemy. When taking into account an unconditional +2 attack bonus and the direct damage potential of Firefoot, it’s clear that this attachment is well worth the 2 resources for an Eomer deck.
What about for non-Eomer decks? We’ve already discussed that the +1 attack bonus is inferior to other options. However, the trample effect might be useful for either Dunhere or heroes that can muster a high attack strength all on their own. For the former, Firefoot would boost Dunhere up to 4 attack without any other cards. This is probably not enough to kill many enemies outright on the first try, but in subsequent attacks, there may be ample opportunity to spill over damage to another foe after finishing off the last 1 or 2 hit points on the original target. Of course, keep in mind that the recipient of the spillover must be engaged with the controlling player, which might chafe against Dunhere strategy. Still, this might be helpful to mop up those enemies that do slip through the defenses and engage, and it would work best for Dunhere decks that plan on also equipping him with a weapon. On the other hand, Dunhere users might want to use both restricted slots for something like Spear of the Mark to boost him up to his maximum potential, rather than “wasting” one on an effect that may be useful, but doesn’t directly support his main function. However, Tactics heroes like Gimli, Boromir, and Merry, to take a few examples, who can use various attachments and tricks to boost their solo attack potential, can surely make use of Firefoot’s ability in a similar way to Eomer. Again, the limited nature of those restricted slots plays a role. This means that Tactics Boromir + Gondorian Fire is one of the strongest options here, as not only is Gondorian Fire not restricted, but Boromir could ready easily to immediately take advantage of the second enemy damaged by Firefoot.
Overall, Firefoot is a must-include in an Eomer deck, and a strong option for certain non-Eomer decks, albeit in a sea of already existing strong Tactics options for attacking and direct damage. The decision to include Firefoot will be more conditional without Eomer, but this mount certainly has a place even in those situations. As an additional note, Mighty Prowess has been given new life by Firefoot, as this attachment can potentially add an additional damage to the second enemy, as long as it shares a trait with the first, destroyed enemy.
* The Fall of Gil-galad (Spirit Attachment, 1 cost):
I don’t think anyone could claim to see this oddball coming. The Fall of Gil-galad rewards players for having a hero destroyed (yes, you read that correctly), by providing a substantial threat reduction:
This card represents the song sung by Sam Gamgee as the party approached Weathertop, which recounts the fall of Gil-galad at the Battle of Dagorlad during the War of the Last Alliance. My reading of the theme here is that just as Gil-galad fell to lessen the threat of Middle-earth by facing down Sauron directly, the attached hero also mounts an epic sacrifice of some kind to lessen the shadow and allow the survivors to be successful in their quest.
There are a few important elements of this card that are necessary to note. First is that it is limited to 1 per deck. That means that any potential strategies that revolve around consistently using this attachment will have a rough time, unless they include tons of card draw or make use of Word of Command. Second is that the attached hero must be destroyed in order for the response to trigger, which means that they must receive damage equal to their hit points. So there is no opportunity here to simply discard someone like Caldara or Boromir using their respective abilities. Taking all of that into consideration, would this card ever be a worthwhile inclusion? When would you ever plan to lose a hero?
For those who are looking to create some kind of novelty deck around The Fall of Gil-galad, the combo you’re looking for is Gandalf/Word of Command/The Fall of Gil-galad/Fortune or Fate. This would allow you to pluck out this attachment, drop your threat by some ridiculous amount by intentionally sacrificing a hero (i.e. 12 with Aragorn, 13 with Elrond), and then bring back that hero using Fortune or Fate (Landroval is another possibility). Since the probability of drawing a single Fall in a 50 card deck is so low, the only consistent alternative would be an extremely strong draw engine, such as that used by Dwarves or Outlands, where you can be confident in drawing most or all of your deck by the end of a game. Either way, such a huge card and resource commitment, especially in the first option, might be worthwhile considering a potential threat drop 12 or 13. However, you could also get the same value in the same sphere (Spirit) by playing 2 copies of The Galadhrim’s Greeting for 6 resources and a total threatdecrease of 12. When put in this perspective, The Fall of Gil-galad doesn’t seem worth the effort.
With this in mind, the true worth of this card to me is not as something you plan for, but as a card that you throw into a deck as an emergency backup, knowing that it won’t often be useful, but will only take up 1 card slot. This would be most worthwhile against those quests that tend to pose a real danger of threating out players, such as Peril in Pelargir, for example. As a late game play, I can think of several instances where I’ve had the setup in place to win with one fewer hero, but have lost due to threat with no reduction in sight. In those cases, I would definitely be willing to intentionally sacrifice a hero in order to avoid threating out and keep fighting for a win. For this reason, I really wish that The Fall of Gil-galad was part of the Tactics sphere instead of Spirit. While threat reduction is the specialty of Spirit, I think it’s valid to introduce abilities to other spheres if the trigger makes thematic sense. In this case, sacrificing a hero in battle seems like a very Tactics thing to do, and would finally provide a form of threat reduction to the sphere that is extremely conditional and inconsistent, but would be far more attractive than it is in Spirit. Still, with that in mind, this attachment is probably best in multiplayer, where a Spirit player can throw it over to a Tactics player (or any other non-Spirit player running a high threat deck), who might be the one running a danger of threating out at some point. This can allow the Tactics player to stay in the game and keep handling combat, although with one fewer hero (Fortune or Fate/Landroval can help here), in order to avoid the situation where one players threats out and essentially ends the game for everyone.
All told, The Fall of Gil-galad is not something that you can hang your hat on as a consistent option for threat reduction in every game. However, as a tool to avoid threating out in certain situations, it is worth a single card slot in certain decks (it’s interesting to observe that it does cost 1 resource to trigger, as you would think a hero death would be enough!). Just don’t rely on it too much, as this card is mostly noteworthy for the amazing theme and the impressive story you’ll have to tell about that one time you saved yourself from 49 threat thanks to Brand Son of Bain’s epic sacrifice.
* Note: Several readers reminded me of the Rivendell Minstrel, which in turn reminded me that I completely forgot a whole section on Song synergies that I meant to include! In brief, the Minstrel is probably the best means of fetching this attachment for combination play, probably topping Word of Command (although Command is cheaper if you’re playing Gandalf anyway and don’t have a need for the Minstrel’s 2 willpower). Still, this doesn’t really change the fact that there are more consistent and more efficient tools for threat reduction in the Spirit sphere. As for other Song uses, keep in mind that Love of Tales could help you to pay the cost of The Fall of Gil-galad.
Of the two attachments in this deck, it is a safe bet that Firefoot will get far more play than The Fall of Gil-galad. Still, while some players might decry extremely conditional cards, such as The Fall, I’m happy to see a card now and then that swings for the fences in terms of theme and interesting storytelling moments, rather than pure mechanical satisfaction or utility. On the other hand, when it comes to Firefoot, Eomer has definitely increased in value and staked out a place in the crowded Tactics hero landscape as a mightily impressive option for a variety of decks, not just Rohan ones.
With the attachments out of the way, only the events of The Dunland Trap remain to be conquered. Readers, what are your thoughts on Firefoot? Who do you plan to use it on other than Eomer? Would you ever include The Fall of Gil-galad in a deck? Under what circumstances?