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The Three Trials: Events Review

by on August 13, 2014

treetrials

Just like that, the second pack of the Ring-maker cycle is about to come to a close here at TftC, as we all look forward to whatever may be released at Gen Con this week. However, I will resist the temptation to look ahead and will keep my gaze firmly locked on the three new events contained in this pack. So far, we’ve seen Ring-maker cycle be rather consistent in its collection of player cards. There has been a marked restraint in these new additions to the card pool, as they avoid stepping into overpowered territory, while providing support for a variety of traits and deck archetypes. While opinion on whether this is a good thing or a bad thing will likely always vary, so far I’ve been pleased with this approach and look forward to seeing where the rest of the cycle takes us, especially in terms of Secrecy and Silvan decks. Speaking of those particular archetypes, 2 of the 3 events in this pack speak directly to them, while the third is a definite oddball.

EVENTS

* Feigned Voices (Leadership Event, 0 cost):

Feigned-Voices

While the art on this card has inspired a few giggles and quips about invisible sandwiches, the mechanics of this new addition are solid both in terms of making a thematic connection and forming a useful deck component. Feigned Voices continues the Silvan trend of triggering an effect based on returning a Silvan ally to hand, in this case preventing an enemy from attacking a player:

Combat Action: Return a Silvan ally you control to your hand to choose an enemy engaged with a player. That enemy cannot attack that player this phase.

There a few interesting aspects to this card that should be noted right from the outset. For one, this is the first Leadership card that allows you to prevent an enemy attack in the same way as Feint. In many ways, this is the Leadership version of Feint, and given how invaluable the latter event is, this should give you an indication as to the general value of Feigned Voices. Second, the text on this card continues to use the text that was later added to/changed on cards such as Feint and Thicket of Spears, which now prevents an enemy only from attacking one player, not all players. This was designed to mitigate the ability of decks using tricks like the “Hama lock” (using Hama to recycle Feint/Thicket of Spears) to completely shut down a boss enemy that is engaged with and attacks all players, such as Durin’s Bane in Shadow and Flame.

So far the Silvan event cards have proven to be quite useful. While The Tree People provided a means to exchange cheaper Silvan characters for more valuable and expensive ones, thus serving as a form of ally mustering, Feigned Voices allows a Silvan player to handle enemies, including those engaged with another player, through another means other than just combat. The ability to completely stop an enemy attack is so strong that the original version of this effect, Feint, has become a “must-include” in most decks that use Tactics. Feigned Voices brings this same ability to the table for no cost, rather than 1 cost. This definitely makes a difference, as sometimes with Feint, you are left with the difficult decision of whether to keep a resource around in case you need to Feint. With Feigned Voices, you can always have this ability in your back pocket, provided you have at least 1 Silvan ally on the table. Of course, returning an ally to hand and paying for it again may end up being more expensive in the long run than Feint, but the added flexibility is enough to at least make Feigned Voices the equal of Feint.

In a way, it’s helpful to think of Feigned Voices as a better form of chump blocking. Generally, chump blocking entails sacrificing an ally (discarding them) in order to deal with an enemy attack. In a similar way, Feigned Voices allows you to deal with an enemy attack by removing an ally from play, although in this case they go to your hand instead of the discard pile. This approach definitely has the advantage over chump blocking, as not only does it mean that the ally will be back in your hand to be played again the next round, but it also means that you won’t have to reveal and deal with a potentially harmful shadow effect. If you are using Silvan Refugee, that most popular of Silvan targets, to trigger Feigned Voices, then you are essentially only paying 1 (the cost of the Refugee) for this effect, which is analogous to Feint. Of course, getting that Silvan ally back into hand could have a variety of other benefits, whether it’s the Refugee or another choice, with benefiting from Celeborn’s stat boost a second time being just one example. Since Feigned Voices is part of the same sphere as Celeborn, the Silvan leader and potential center of Silvan synergy, it seems to me that this event is basically a “must-include” for Silvan decks. The only reason you would not include it is for the same reason you might not include Feint, namely that you are so confident in your defensive capabilities that you feel like you can handle all enemies, and this should probably include some capacity to handle shadow effects as well. Most of the time, though, this isn’t the case. The one substantial drawback to Feigned Voices perhaps could be if you don’t have a Silvan ally in play or don’t have one in play that you are willing to return to hand. Similarly, perhaps there are a few events in hand that trigger off of returning a Silvan ally and only 1 or 2 potential targets on the board. This might make it more difficult or impossible to play Feigned Voices, whereas Feint just requires a resource. Still, this isn’t enough to discount Feigned Voices, especially since it is so unique in the Leadership sphere. This one has a good argument for being the best card in the pack. It’s quite thematic as well, as you can imagine your Silvan character running off into the distance, using feigned voices to lead an enemy on a merry chase to nothing. Outside of Silvan decks, I probably wouldn’t use this one, as pinning its effectiveness to only 1 or 2 Silvan allies in a deck is a recipe for inconsistency. For Silvan though, this is a definite winner.

Versatility: ♦♦◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

* Message from Elrond (Lore Event, 0 cost):

Message-from-Elrond

There are some cards that are endless fun to think about and talk about, as you try to pore through the card pool to hit upon some magnificent, new combo. Sometimes those cards, though, are better to talk about than to actually include in your deck, and I fear this may be true for Message from Elrond. This extremely strange event allows a player to pass a card from his hand to another player’s hand:

Action: Choose a player. That player may choose 1 card from his hand and add it to another player’s hand. At the end of the round, if the chosen card is in that player’s hand or in play, shuffle it into its owner’s deck.

I really like this card in theory and find it fascinating. The ability to pass a card to another player definitely is a missing hole in the card pool, one that was only touched upon in a limited way with Desperate Alliance. That particular card seemed odd at first too, but ultimately found some powerful combos, especially with Lore Aragorn. I can certainly imagine some possible uses for Message from Elrond. Some cards like The Galadhrim’s Greeting might seem like a potential fit at first, but that event actually lets you choose any player to experience the threat reduction of 6, so there’s no benefit to having another player play it instead, unless they have the Spirit resources and you don’t. It is possible that Message from Elrond could be used as some kind of weird resource-fixing tool between players in this way, allowing cards to go to the player who can pay for them at that moment, but this requires a level of deck planning and resource matches among players that seems too involved to useful. So what we’re really looking for is cards that only target the player that holds them in their hand. Elrond’s Counsel is a more appropriate threat reduction example, and one Spirit player controlling a Noldor character could pass this card to another Spirit player controlling a Noldor character who needs the threat reduction more. Core Gandalf is probably the most likely possibility, as many players might be running Gandalf anyway, and the person using Message from Elrond could select whoever had Gandalf to pass it to the player who most needed card draw or threat reduction at any given moment. This is an important point to remember about Message that could be easily overlooked: any player can be chosen to pass on the card, not just the one using Message from Elrond.

Another aspect of this event that works to its advantage, although it might appear as a disadvantage at first, is that the chosen card returns to the original owner’s deck if is still in play or in hand at the end of the round. This means Descendant of Thorondor could be given to another player to pop into play, perhaps one with resources to spare, and then out of play at the end of the round, as a kind of poor man’s Sneak Attack (and you would be a poor man after having to pay the full 4 for Descendant instead of 1 for Sneak Attack). It would be better if the card returned to the owner’s hand though, as instead it goes to the owner’s deck where it may or may not see the light of day again. Still, there is some potential here for other cards that have beneficial “leaves play” effects. One potentially bonkers Outlands play would be to use Message from Elrond to circumvent the 3 copies in one deck restriction for one round. So another player could pass over a fourth copy of an Outlands ally, which you could then play, and then you would have +4 to the relevant stat until the end of the round. Why you would need another helping of overpowered Outlands is a whole other question though.

I suppose that one could also view Message from Elrond as a form of “hand fixing” to accompany “resource fixing”. It could be useful to pass on an ally to exactly the player who needs it at a given moment, for example, or to spread out cards among players so that a player with few cards in hand but a bunch of resources could have something to pay for, while a player with few resources and a bunch of cards might not get to use it anyway. Usually, a Lore player will have a bunch of card draw anyway, so Message from Elrond could be a way to sneakily spread out this card draw to other players. The problem with all this is that the receiving player still needs a resource match. Again, this either means that players will have to play similar spheres, that they will have to plan out such combinations in excruciating detail, or that a player or two could build themselves up as the “universal receiver”, using songs and other tricks to have access to a variety of different spheres. When it comes down to it, I’m not sure if I’m willing to go through all this trouble and devote 1 spot in my deck, let alone 2-3 spots, for an ability that may or may not be useful. I have no doubt that at some point an exploit will be found, but for now, I can’t give it high marks.

Versatility: ♦◊◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦◊◊◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦♦

Noiseless Movement (Lore Event, 1 cost):

Noiseless-Movement

In The Dunland Trap pack, Swift and Silent introduced the idea of a Secrecy event without the Secrecy keyword, one that provides benefits and equal costs for both Secrecy and non-Secrecy players. However, Secrecy players get the added benefit of recursion. While Swift and Silent was a Leadership event focusing on readying, Noiseless Movement is a Lore event based on preventing enemy engagement:

Action: Choose an enemy in the staging area. That enemy does not make engagement checks this round. Then, if your threat is 20 or less and this is the first time you played a copy of Noiseless Movement this round, return this card to your hand instead of discarding it.

First, let’s tackle Noiseless Movement from the perspective of a non-Secrecy player. This event continues an aspect of Lore that has been recently developed, which is the ability to prevent enemies from engaging. The best example is Advance Warning, a 2-cost Lore event which prevents all enemies from making engagement checks and can only be used by mono-Lore decks. However, we’ve also seen Take No Notice and Lore Pippin, which both increase enemy engagement costs, providing another way of avoiding enemy engagement. Perhaps the closest relative to Noiseless Movement, though, is from the Leadership sphere: Fresh Tracks. The latter event costs the same and not only prevents an enemy from making engagement checks but also deals 1 damage. However, Noiseless Movement does have its own advantages over Fresh Tracks, in that it can be recycled under Secrecy conditions and can be played during any action window (Fresh Tracks is a response that can only be triggered right after an enemy is revealed). The latter consideration is important as while in a multiplayer game or a quest where you have to reveal multiple cards during staging, you might have to decide on the spot whether a certain enemy should be hit with Fresh Tracks or whether a better target might show up later on, Noiseless Movement gives you the flexibility of making this decision after staging is complete.

Despite the existence of similar events, even within the same sphere, Noiseless Movement is definitely useful in its own right. It is cheaper than Advance Warning (although less global in its impact) and isn’t restricted to mono-sphere. Unlike Take No Notice, it stops an enemy from making engagement checks completely regardless of its engagement cost. There are a few deck types that benefit from being able to stop enemy engagement. Secrecy is the most obvious, but Hobbit decks and Ranger trap decks, particularly those using Faramir, also can make use of this effect, as can staging area attack builds using Dunhere, Great Yew Bow, or a recently spoiled hero. In fact, almost any deck could have a need for this type of card at some point, whether it’s stopping an enemy like the Morgul Spider from coming down to wreck your day or simply holding back part of a flood of enemies so that you are not overwhelmed. While I would stop short of saying that Noiseless Movement is an “auto-include”, it certainly is on the stronger end of the equation and can fill a utility role in many situations. Although there are other ways of dealing with enemies, from chump blocking to attack cancellation, stopping enemy engagement guarantees that you won’t have to deal with any nasty shadow effects, as you would with chump blocking, and avoids forced effects that trigger when an enemy engages. Since you can play Noiseless Movement on any enemy in the staging area during any action window, you can get added use out of a card like A Light in the Dark. For example, a huge enemy that you don’t want to face might engage on one turn. You could use A Light in the Dark to avoid its attack one round, and then use Noiseless Movement to stop it from engaging the next round, giving added value to both cards and dodging a truly nasty foe for 2 whole cycles, which is an eternity in game time. Alternatively, an in-sphere ally like Ithilien Archer could send an enemy back to the staging area so that it could be avoided next round. Obviously, the drawback to stopping enemy engagement is keeping their threat in the staging area as well, but good evasion decks should be packing enough willpower to overcome this hurdle and Lore has Radagast’s Cunning available to help in this department as well.

As for Secrecy decks, Noiseless Movement becomes an even better deal because it can be recycled over and over again. For many Secrecy decks, it is important to have the time to build up without having to deal with enemies, and this event facilitates that process. Of course, one could argue that a Secrecy deck should not have to worry about enemy engagement because of low threat, but it doesn’t always work out this way in practice. There are far too many enemies with engagement costs under 20 that can wreck a Secrecy player’s day and certain effects can lower engagement costs as well. What Noiseless Movement does is help give Secrecy a fighting chance against a broader variety of quests by providing a tool to deal with quests with low engagement cost enemies. Even better, since this card doesn’t lose its worth outside of Secrecy, just its recursion capability, Noiseless Movement is also useful for Secrecy decks that find themselves above 20 threat and need some help to deal with enemies in this situation.

Overall, you can’t really argue with this card being a useful addition to the card pool. It is flexible, simple, and fills a role in enemy management for only 1 resource. As a final rules note, keep in mind that Noiseless Movement stops an enemy from making engagement checks, but doesn’t guard against enemies who engage with players due to an encounter card effect or their own text.

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦♦

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦◊◊

Conclusion

This wraps up The Three Trials, which has given players an amazing quest along with a solid set of player cards. However, Trouble in Tharbad is on its way to stores everywhere, and if you’ve been paying attention to spoilers, there are some real hard-hitters on the way to the card pool very soon. See you all for some Gen Con coverage quite soon!

Readers, what are your thoughts on the events of The Three Trials? Which is a hit? Which is a miss? What uses can you think of for Message from Elrond?

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From → Reviews

23 Comments
  1. Glowwyrm permalink

    Message from Elrond brings up the dreaded table talk debate again. If you aren’t talking about the cards in your hand, how would you know if it is a good move to pass along your cards to someone else? I play two handed and build decks together that complement one another. I could see working out combinations in which Message from Elrond played a key role, but other than that, it seems like an “I’m playing this because I really want to play this” card, not a “this card is going to help me win the game.”

    Here are some uses I thought of for Message from Elrond:
    1. Passing a card to someone so they have something to discard (like for Eowyn or Protector of Lorien) in a pinch.
    2. Passing a card to someone so that they can use it to pass an encounter deck test (like riddle, burgle or locate)
    3. Passing a card to someone while playing Fords of Isen to be mean and increase their hand size.
    4. Passing a neutral card that will benefit them (White Council is a nice new option for this, but Gandalf, Saruman, Envoy of Pelargir are all nice options)
    5. Breaking the “three per deck” limit on a card you really need (as you suggested). This requires some creativity and some cooperation between players, but you could really “work the system” on the game. In this case, Message from Elrond would be like having three extra copies of the card you really needed, and would up your odds of drawing that key card in your opening hand. Have the tactics-spirit player run three copies of Steward so that the lore-leadership player can message from Elrond one over (assuming they don’t draw one in their opening hand). If you’re really worried about cancellation, have the non-Spirit players run extra copies of Test of Will so that they can be Message from Elronded over. I’m not really interested in playing the game this way (and I really only have three copies of any given card), but you could really “cheat” the system this way.
    6. Being a generous co-op player. It could be fun to run a mono-lore deck, fill your deck with card draw and key cards from other spheres, draw like crazy, Message them over, recycle the event with Isuldur’s scroll, and make everyone happy (and find a way to Will of the West). It’s not the most useful way to play the game, but it is definitely a change of pace.

    I welcome any card that encourages co-operation between players, so I appreciate that the designers made an interesting card.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yeah, I don’t mind the odd interesting card, even if I don’t think it’s the most useful or powerful, as long as it add something new to the game, which Message from Elrond definitely does. The table talk point is definitely valid. It’s unclear to me exactly how you’re supposed to use this card effectively without table talk. Are you supposed to just blindly pick a player based on a gleam in their eye or some vague hint that they might have something good to pass along?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      By the way, I laughed at your use #3. That would truly be mean…but funny.

  2. Pengolodh permalink

    I recently played a two-player game where I had Message from Elrond in my hand. My partner had Beorn’s Hospitality in their hand but no resources to afford it. I had the resources to pay for it, so using Message from Elrond I added it to my hand and played it, healing a total of roughly ten damage from all of my heroes, saving me from a dead hero or two.
    Personally, I believe Message from Elrond can definitely be a game-changing card, though not necessesarily a game-saving card.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      The idea of Message from Elrond as “hand fixing” or “hand smoothing” as compared to “resource fixing/smoothing” is indeed an interesting one. I’m not sure if I buy it as something I’m willing to use my valuable deck space for, but it’s good to hear of players making use of Message. I’ll have to give it a try, as experience is the only true judge.

  3. Gwaihir the Windlord permalink

    Something always seemed off to me about the artwork for Feigned Voices, and now I know what it was. ‘Twas TIS: The Invisible Sandwich. 🙂
    Seriously though, it is a great card, and it saved me several times in The Three Trials. Definitely and auto-include in my Silvan decks, though I will personally put Feint first. Better to pay one resource than return an ally, in my opinion.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Feigned Voices is great. Feint probably gets the overall nod, but can’t really argue with Feigned for Silvan decks.

  4. Noccus permalink

    I’m thinking of using message from elrond to pass on extra copies of resourceful on to a secrecy player. That way it saves 3 resources to cast, and gives you extra resources to boot.
    Of course, this has to happen before the secrecy player hits 21 threat.
    So both cards in your opening hand would be ideal, but a slim chance.
    It’s a cool thought though.

    • Noccus permalink

      Ack, the card gets shuffled back in the deck! I totally missed that part.
      Never mind then, it’s only usefull for events.
      This does devalue the card…a lot.

      • TalesfromtheCards permalink

        The Secrecy interactions are interesting. I suppose a player with threat above 20 could pass Secrecy events to a player whose threat is below 20, but it all seems a bit too roundabout to me.

  5. Kjeld permalink

    There’s also the defensive use of Message from Elrond to protect against hand-size hate in this cycle. It could be a way to smooth out hand sizes to avoid triggering the Dunland Prowler’s abilities (which require any player to have a hand size of 3 or 5), or to weaken the Dunlending Bandit’s attack boost, for example. While using Message from Elrond this way certainly has drawbacks (you might leave a card stuck in the hand of a player that can’t use it), it could also save your bacon against some scenarios.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That’s an interesting point that I hadn’t thought of, as manipulating hand size to avoid the worst of enemy effects is certainly is a major feature of Fords of Isen, and it’s possible we will see that encounter set again in this cycle.

  6. MESSAGE FROM ELROND: At the end of the round, if the chosen card is in that player’s hand or in play, shuffle it into its owner’s deck.

    That verbiage needs to be looks at more closely. So if you hold the card OR play the card it must be returned? So would the card be of realistic use outside of events? For allies and attachments, the movement would have to happen before or during the planning phase and then that ally or attachment would disappear at the end of the round.

    I’d only use Message From Elrond for Events, Gandalf or chump-blocking temporary allies that can be somehow paid for by the receiver. Not particularly compelling!

    • I can’t think of a compelling reason to pass an attachment for only one round!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yeah, it seems really only to be of use for events and allies that will either serve as chump blockers or have useful enters/leaves play effects.

  7. First things first indeed! Gandalf Hero!! Finally my most beloved character gets to shine even more. I can’t wait for Greyhame (as maybe I liked him the most) to take up his staff and kill some Orc.
    I would really like some contest for custommade events and attachments for the Wizard.

    For the review. Message from Elrond is really an odd one out. First of all, I don’t really understand the name.. When did Elrond gave a message that disappeared all of the sudden? 😉 I don’t think I’m going to use the card, usually playing two opposite spheres as my coplayer, so only neutral cards would fit probably.
    Feigned voices is really great as is Noiseless Movement. Especially I like secrecy and the attention that it’s being given during this cycle!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      The resource match problem of Message from Elrond is definitely the worst aspect of that card. This is why it seems best suited for 3 or 4 player games where there is a better chance of multiple players running the same spheres.

      • Indeed it is. Thanks for the reply!

        PS since you’re replying again, I’m assuming you’re back from GenCon. I’d love to read some of your adventures there and your opinion about the new exciting things you’ve seen there!

  8. Nusse permalink

    I can see message from Elrond being used to ensure that heroes in a secrecy deck get their Resourceful. Remember, Resourceful can only be played on a hero controlled by the player.

  9. Glaurung permalink

    I think if you use a Gandalf hero your partners and you can have 3 Flame of Anor (new neutral Gandalf spell) in each deck. So Message from Elrond, Wizard Command and Flame of Anor can be really cool combo in 2 + player game.

  10. Glaurung permalink

    It will be quite cool to see 3 players decks, one with Gandalf hero and Second Radagast with Eagle and Another Isengard deck with Saruman. 3 Istari in 1 game. sounds pretty cool!

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