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The Three Trials: Allies Review

by on August 1, 2014

treetrials

The Three Trials has been met with a strong reception from players so far, both in terms of the quest and the player cards. In my opinion, this has to be one of the most interesting, fun, and well designed quests I have seen so far for this game, and that is really a strong statement to make. The player cards are not quite as off-the-charts, if we’re talking about strict power level, but they do at least avoid dropping any duds. Instead, the cards introduce some new deck building options and support some old ones, which is a good balance. The 3 allies in The Three Trials pack support secrecy, Dunedain, and Silvan decks, and are as different as it is possible to be from one another.

ALLIES

* Rivendell Scout (Leadership Ally, 2 cost, 1 willpower, 1 attack, 0 defense, 2 hit points):

Rivendell-Scout

Pssst…”Scout” is Sindarin for “Red Shirt”

The Rivendell Scout immediately jumped out when I first opened The Three Trials for one simple reason: it is completely lacking game text other than the Secrecy 2 keyword. Although there were a few allies in the Core Set with blank text boxes, aside from keywords, such as the Silverlode Archer and Guard of the Citadel (which shares the same stats), it is much rarer in later expansions. This makes sense as with increasing competition for ally spots, and with more cards in the card pool, characters generally need to have some type of effect to differentiate them from all the others. Put even more simply, a lack of abilities and game text makes an ally just plain boring. Is it fair to say that the Rivendell Scout is a bit of a dud on arrival?

Well, that may be a bit of a premature judgement, as Rivendell Scout does play a part in the revival of Secrecy ushered in by the Ring-maker cycle. Rivendell Scout is only the third Secrecy ally, following Dunedain Wanderer and Ithilien Lookout. While the former is generally regarded to be an over-costed ally with Secrecy pasted on (and also doesn’t have any extra effects other than ranged and sentinel), the latter has already proved to be a useful addition and fair value in both Secrecy and non-Secrecy conditions. The Rivendell Scout, in the absence of an ability, essentially serves the purpose of being a free ally and free body for Secrecy decks. Its stats are necessarily weak, but an extra point of willpower for questing or an extra point of attack for combat is not worthless by any means. More than anything, though, I imagine that the Scout’s main role is to be a free chump blocker that can easily be put on the table and absorb some blows for a Secrecy deck. While this seems a rather modest contribution at first, free allies, whether we’re talking about Fili/Kili or Emery, often pull their weight and then some, allowing you to get out of tight spots or simply have a bit of emergency backup. Since Rivendell Scout hails from the Leadership sphere, this ally also facilitates a “snowball” type effect where you pop cheap/free allies into play and then use A Very Good Tale to chain even more into play. Is all this enough to justify the Rivendell Scout’s place in a Secrecy deck? Yes. A free ally with 1 point of willpower and 1 attack is too good to pass up. Even better, the Scout has 2 hit points instead of just 1, allowing it to soak up some archery or direct damage.

What about outside of Secrecy decks? Does the Rivendell Scout have any place if you’re not starting at 20 or below or don’t expect to drop below that threshold? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Even though there aren’t a ton of strong 2-cost Leadership allies that aren’t designed to fit a particular niche, there simply are better choices with allies that actually have a useful ability to contribute. Then again, if you’re a player who includes Guard of the Citadel in your decks, you can go ahead and use Rivendell Scout instead as it has the exact same stats.  In the future, there may be stronger Noldor synergy that may make Rivendell Scout a more tempting prospect. Currently, you could attach Rivendell Blade or Rivendell Bow to this Scout, but these would be largely wasted on a character with such low stats. A better play would be to use Children of the Sea, which would boost the Rivendell Scout up to 3 willpower before it would be shuffled back into your deck. This would work amazing in a Secrecy setting, where you could get a 3 willpower boost for no cost, while it is still a good combo in non-Secrecy. As an added note, I like that Children of the Sea, a card that didn’t make many waves when it arrived, is finding more life beyond Silvan Refugee.

Versatility: ♦♦◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦◊◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦◊◊

* Rumil (Tactics Ally, 4 cost, 2 willpower, 2 attack, 1 defense, 2 hit points):

Rúmil

Rumil, one of Haldir’s brothers, finally makes an appearance, and it is fitting that he does so in this cycle that aims to build up the Silvan trait. Like his brother, Rumil is on the expensive side, costing 4 resources, but unlike Haldir, he hails from the Tactics sphere rather than Lore. He also brings a nice bit of direct damage to the table focused around the ranged keyword:

Response: After you play Rúmil from your hand, choose an enemy engaged with a player. Deal X damage to that enemy where X is the number of ranged characters you control.

Direct damage is certainly not something that is in short supply for Tactics. Whether we’re talking about Descendant of Thorondor and its staging area damage, the defensive damage from Spear of the Citadel/Gondorian Spearman, or the “gang tackle” approach of Hail of Stones, Tactics certainly is spoiled for choice in this department, and I haven’t even scratched the surface of all available direct damage cards. This means that any new direct damage effects have to do something different enough or powerful enough to carve out their own place in the card pool. Rumil certainly accomplishes this task by centering this damage around the ranged keyword.

How powerful can Rumil’s ability get? Ideally, you’d be playing him with at least 1 ranged hero, meaning that you would be able to deal 2 damage to an enemy engaged with a player (remember that Rumil counts for his own ability). This is not an insubstantial amount of damage, comparable to the 2 damage dealt by Descendant of Thorondor, which is also 4-cost, to an enemy in the staging area when it enters play. Of course, the Descendant also deals 2 when it leaves, so it is better in this respect, although it is important to consider that dealing damage to an enemy in the staging area works out quite different to dealing damage to an engaged enemy. Keep in mind that this allows a Tactics Rumil player to deal damage to an enemy engaged with a player who needs some help in combat, perhaps a more questing focused deck, and this is an important strength of this ability. However, the real sweet spot for Rumil is probably aiming to deal at least 3 damage. Including 2 ranged heroes would make this automatic, but there are also some other options. Just within the same sphere, Horseback Archer, Vassal of the Windlord, and Trollshaw Scout are all ranged allies that can help to boost Rumil’s effect. While Trollshaw Scout is perhaps the more thematic partner, Vassal of the Windlord makes a lot of sense as a cheap 1-cost ally that you can dump onto the table quickly. Of course, including both will drastically increase the consistency of this setup. If you can imagine a situation where you have 2 ranged heroes and perhaps 2 copies of Vassal of the Windlord in play (or a Vassal and Trollshaw Scout), you are looking at a massive 5 damage to a single enemy when Rumil hits the table. More extreme scenarios are indeed possible, but I’m looking at what is more likely on a semi-consistent basis. It is this theoretically limitless potential that makes Rumil so attractive as a direct damage option, compared to most others that are set at a certain level.

Leaving aside Rumil’s direct damage for a moment, this ally is useful just based on his stats as well. Most importantly, Tactics players will immediately jump at the 2 willpower, which provides some nice questing support for the red sphere, and can pair well with an ally like Bofur to give some actual willpower muscle. The 2 attack isn’t spectacular for a 4-cost ally, but the cost is justified given the potential damage provided by the direct damage ability. In addition, with Celeborn in play, Rumil’s attack jumps up to 3, at least for the round he enters play. Even better, once Galadriel is released, Rumil will be an absolute whirlwind when he enters play, dealing direct damage and then questing for 3 and attacking for 3.

All in all, Rumil is well worth the cost if you are willing to do a bit of deck building to include ranged characters. Silvan synergy is also in the cards, although you normally wouldn’t want to use him to trigger events that require returning a Silvan ally to hand given his cost. This would possibly give you the opportunity to play him multiple times to gain the damage effect more than once, but you would need some kind of resource engine, perhaps through Horn of Gondor, to fund this approach. It is important to point out that Rumil’s ability only triggers when he is played normally through paying resources, so unfortunately something like Sneak Attack doesn’t work. I don’t see Rumil as necessarily an auto-include for any deck that uses Tactics, due to the high cost, but he does have a bit of versatility in that he can fit into ranged or Silvan decks, as well as Tactics decks that just need a bit of extra willpower and have the money to pay for him.

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦◊◊◊

Greyflood Wanderer (Spirit Ally, 3 cost, 2 willpower, 1 attack, 0 defense, 2 hit points):

Greyflood-Wanderer

Every new hero needs a good sidekick, and this is where Greyflood Wanderer comes in, as not only does this ally have the Dunedain and Scout trait, just like Idraen, but he also helps to clear locations out of play for her:

You may give Greyflood Wanderer doomed 2 when you play from your hand. If you do, it gains: “Response: After you play Greyflood Wanderer, place 1 progress token on each location in play.

This is like a one-time use Northern Tracker that can also drop a progress on the active location as well. This comes at the cost of one fewer resource, but with an added threat cost of 2. There is no doubt that the ability itself is useful. Although 1 progress is not much in the grand scheme of things, especially as contemporary locations tend to have high quest point values, every little bit helps. The progress provided by the Greyflood Wanderer, for example, might move a location in the staging area to within the 2 progress provided by The Riddermark’s Finest or Asfaloth, or the 3 progress of Ride to Ruin, thus making it possible to explore a location that otherwise might have been out of reach. Similarly, while Greyflood Wanderer may be contrasted with Northern Tracker (which I will do soon), the fact is that the logical play is to actually combine the 2 cards together so that you are able to place 2 progress tokens on every location in the staging area during a single turn.

However, with so many strong Spirit allies available, especially those that are actually cheaper than the 3-cost Greyflood Wanderer, is he worth the deck spot? In terms of stats, 2 willpower is strong for questing, but readily available in the sphere, with plenty of cheap 2-cost allies that boast the same willpower. One advantage the Wanderer has that may justify the extra resource is that he has 2 hit points, rather than 1, which makes him more resilient to direct damage effects, which can sometimes wipe out questing hordes of Ethir Swordsman and West Road Travellers in one blow. Of course, he also has a single point of attack that can help pitch in for combat-light Spirit decks. While the Greyflood Wanderer’s ability is useful, the added doomed cost of 2 also has to be taken into account. Even though threat reduction is generally not a problem for Spirit, and thus this threat cost may not be prohibitive, especially in solo play, this does become more of an issue in multiplayer. On the other hand, multiplayer is a place where added location control may sometimes be necessary with extra cards during staging often equating to more locations in the staging area.

Unfortunately, the Wanderer’s ability only triggers when he is played from hand, so “enters play” tricks with Sneak Attack to get multiple uses are not possible. However, if you consider that you may get 2-3 copies of the Greyflood Wanderer onto the table over the course of a game, rather than just 1, then a total of 2-3 progress on all locations in play may indeed be worth the inclusion. This ally also has added thematic value in still being one of the few Dunedain characters available in the game. Still, the competition for Spirit spots is fierce, and although there is no reason not to use both the Wanderer and Northern Tracker in the same deck, that is actually quite a bit of deck space devoted just to location control. For certain quests, this will indeed be helpful, but for others it might be excessive. Northern Tracker will obviously remain the more attractive choice, despite the extra resource in cost, because of the repeatable nature of his ability. Still, Greyflood Wanderer provides another strong option for decks, and another choice for location control, and this is a positive development (especially when combined with the other location management option in this pack: Warden of Arnor).

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦◊◊

Conclusion

So far in this cycle, I feel like I’ve been handing 3 ratings across the board to almost every card, rather than extreme low or high ratings. This seems to represent the overall approach to player card design in the Ring-maker cycle so far, which is to give players solid cards that fill out particular decks, rather than strong super cards along the lines of Spirit Glorfindel or Vilya. This may change as the cycle continues, and it will be particularly interesting to see how Galadriel plays out, but for now, this devotion to useful rather than overpowered seems right on the money.

Readers, what is your favorite ally from this AP? Which do you think is the strongest? Which do you think is the weakest?

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From → Reviews

23 Comments
  1. I actually like the Rivendell Scout the best, simply because he is something we haven’t seen before–a free ally in the right circumstances. Rumil is interesting, but if I’m going to be paying 4, I’d like to see a few more HP on him. The Wanderer is the least interesting to me, as I’d rather just pay the one extra resource and have the Northern Tracker.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      There’s something uniquely satisfying about free allies. I’ve been messing around with a Secrecy deck lately, and dropping those Rivendell Scouts has been super useful.

  2. I agree with John on the Wanderer. One resource extra doesn’t really compare to Doomed 2 in my opinion. I think the developers might have overestimated the strength of 1 progress token per location. Maybe Doomed 1 or a basic cost of 2 resources would be more appropriate.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I think I would have been happy with Doomed 1. Doomed 2 does seem a bit much on top of 3 resources. The only thing that makes it easier to stomach is that it comes in the Spirit sphere, but this doesn’t help all that much in multiplayer.

  3. Glowwyrm permalink

    I like the new cards, but I’m really just waiting for more of the cycle to come out so I can make decks with them. I’m waiting for Galadriel for new secrecy, I’m waiting for more Silvan cards for the Silvan deck (I hope Trouble in Tharbad is the answer), and everything else has been a nice utility card to sprinkle in, but nothing earth shattering. I’m grateful that Idraen is so good, otherwise I wouldn’t have made any major changes to my decks so far.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I know what you mean. Although I’ve built a few new decks, I kind of feel like I’m in a holding mode until i fully commit to building some new look Silvan and Secrecy decks.

  4. Josh permalink

    The Wanderer is really effective when combined with the Northern Tracker especially on quests with a real danger of location lock like the Three Trials. He is my favorite of the bunch.

  5. Traekos77 permalink

    Don’t forget about Bill! He is free too! (Assuming Sam is being used!)

    I love Silvan but building a deck is frustrating. Majority of Silvan allies are Lore but Mirlonde is the only Lore Silvan Hero, meaning that she just doesn’t fit well into a three sphere deck (since her ability isn’t fully realized). If her ability reduced the cost of Lore OR Silvan Heroes then she would fit a lot better!

    Legolas, Celeborn and Galadriel are promising, notably because Legolas finally has a solid Silvan Tactics ally (plus Legolas is Ranged so there are additional synergies). But relying on Galadriel’s run to pay for Silvan Lore allies makes me nervous.

    Basically, the Hero to ally sphere ratios for Silvan is way off and that is disappointing.

    • Sorry, that should have said Galadriel’s ring (not run)!

    • Fouilloux permalink

      I completely agree. We have only 3 hero that have the silvan trait, and only one that helps with a synergy. Compare that with the 11 dwarves heroes…
      I hope they ‘re gonna make good things with this trait but I don’t see that happening with so few silvan cards released in every AP (except if the do a Stewart’s Fear AP for silvan, which would be great).
      I was really expecting cards for Rohan and silvan for this cycle, so I am a bit worried.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I’ve been toying with a Sam/Glorfindel Secrecy deck and being able to drop both Bill the Pony and Rivendell Scout into play for free is quite gratifying.

  6. Don J. permalink

    Another great article! I feel that Rivendell Scout is going to be the sustaining ally from this AP. Rumil is great, but it is natural to build an entire deck around him. That’s fantastic starpower for an ally, but it hurts his versatility; I may love the theme of Greyflood Wanderer, but Doomed and a cost of three? (my most hated cost, by the way, four I can plan around, but three doesn’t go in sync with my resource rhythm) Too much.

    But the Scout, he’s useful in any Secrecy deck. Samwise, plus Bill The Pony plus him, then a good tale, use that lead resource that’s left on a Timely Aid; have Pippen? throw in an Ithilien Lookout on the board, potentially six allies for two resources on one planning phase. I realize I’m describing a best case scenario, but still, the better Secrecy gets, the better the Scout gets.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I think a case can definitely be made for the Scout. It all depends on how much further support we get for Secrecy decks in this cycle (and I’m hoping we get a few more crucial cards, at least).

  7. Tracker1 permalink

    I like the Rivendell scout best, adds another secrecy ally, and silvan trait is a bonus. He can combo with Feigned Voices in a secrecy deck which could be really handy. Competition for silvan allies in a non-secrecy theme deck will likely become fierce, but leadership has ways to generate resources, and with Celeborn he will 2/2/1/2 when he enters play even better with Galadriel and not exhausting to quest. He is cheap enough to pop out of play and play again, but Naith Guide is probably better suited for this role.

    Rumil is cool in mono tactics and multiplayer I assume, but probably will not see much play because of cost. It’s unfortunate that his response does not work when not played from hand, then I could find other ways to get him in play. But he still might be worth an Elfstone if I’m not running tactics in a silvan theme deck.

    The wander is okay cost, but the doomed 2 is a bit to much for the effect. It’s going to be hard for him to replace the n. trackers. However combined together they could probably clear out a location locked staging area. I see it as another multiplayer card unless Dunedain or scout trait gets some unifying cards to make me reconsider.

    For me their all pretty much middle of the road type cards, with the scout having the slightest lead.

    • Tracker1 permalink

      Whoops! i forgot he is noldor scratch everything i wrote. He is now on par with the others.

      • Fouilloux permalink

        I read your comment, and I was so excited that I misread the scout… It’s a shame because some cheap silvan allies are exactly what the silvan trait need to work with the “bring back in your hand a silvan ally” mechanism, especially the tree people.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yeah, the Noldor instead of Silvan trait limits his power at the moment, at least until further Noldor synergy develops.

      Rumil will be fantastic in multiplayer, where a player can run 2/3 Tactics heroes comfortably. This is also true of solo mono-tactics, and he is amazing there for his 2 willpower in addition to his ability.

      All in all, though, I agree with the assessment of middle of the road for these allies and in fact all of the cards of the Ring-maker cycle so far. But as I said in the conclusion, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, as I’m happy to get solid pieces for different types of decks, rather than overpowered “must includes”.

      • Gwaihir the Windlord permalink

        The only problem I have with Rùmil is his two hit points. His brother Haldir has three, and is ranged and sentinel for four-cost. Rùmil has an amazing (if circumstantial) direct damage effect and only two hit points for the same cost. Kind of weird. Otherwise, he is great.

        The Greyflood Wanderer’s ability comes at too high of a cost for me. If it read “you may give Greyflood Wanderer doomed 2 to play it from your hand” I would do it, but 3 resources AND doomed two? Maybe next time.

        Funny story about Rùmil (*SPOILERS AHEAD*): I was in a two-player game of The Three Trials and bought Rùmil in planning. I had about four ranged characters and triggered his response, killing (or so we thought) the last guardian and progressing to stage 3. Unfortunately, I had zero keys while my friend had and all of them, so . . . long story short, we were smashed. Moral of this story: Don’t put all the keys with one player! It ends in disaster (or, probably will)! *SPOILERS ENDED*

  8. Tonskillitis permalink

    It’s a shame that the Rivendell Scout is a Noldor rather than a Silvan but he should still find his way into many secrecy decks. I’ve still no idea at this stage how the effective Silvan decks will actually work out and what they will look like. I wonder how much development we will see of the scout trait- I am quite excited for any location control effects that diversify the usual N.Tracker, Asfaloth routine. All in all, some fun and usable allies which are a little bit specialised. I suppose its good to get these cards which require specific strategies rather than the “auto include” all purpose types…

    • Mndela permalink

      This card could be good ^^: Elven Friendship. Neutral. Attachment. Cost 2.
      Attach to a Noldor or Silvan hero.
      Each Noldor card in play gains Silvan trait, and each Silvan card in play gains Noldor trait.
      Time 2. Forced: After the last time counter is removed from Elven Friendship discard it.

      • TalesfromtheCards permalink

        It’d be nice to see some more trait granting cards in the future, as long as they aren’t overused.

        • Joe permalink

          I think something like “elf friend” as a title attachment would be awesome. Give it an effect like “character may have Noldor or Silvan attachments” it would allow a non elf to use awesome elf gear or light of valinor, but not let them participate in Silvan shenanigans.

  9. sweetnesswhachacha permalink

    Doomed 2, is a high cost on top of 3 resources. It seems like the doomed Mechanic is like the secrecy, in that it doesn’t seem worth it. So I like the ability but it seems too high a cost

    Rumil seems pretty awesome, an archery direct damage deck is really shaping up

    I like the scout, he’s vanilla, but he is great in a secrecy deck, especially since he can be used to play a very good tale, as you mentioned…

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