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Trouble in Tharbad: Hero Review

by on August 26, 2014

 

trouble

I brought many things back from Gen Con 2014: Nightmare packs galore, the enjoyable Old Forest scenario, a copy of the awesome Doomtown: Reloaded, fun memories, and a lingering cold that won’t go away. To the neutral observer, it might seem that the Trouble in Tharbad Adventure Pack would get lost in this haul and be considered the most pedestrian of the bunch, but such an observer would be completely mistaken. Although the cards were already spoiled mere days before Gen Con, and despite it hitting stores the week after, there’s nothing that quite matches the feeling of getting new player cards in hand. And not just new player cards, mind you, but a brand new hero that is incredibly exciting. I would argue that we’ve been blessed so far during this cycle when it comes to heroes, from the strong Silvan synergy of Celeborn to the refreshing utility of Idraen. This trend continues in this newest Adventure Pack, as we finally get our hands on a heroic version of a beloved character: Haldir of Lorien. Ever since he emerged in ally form as part of the A Journey to Rhosgobel pack, players have been hoping and expecting that a hero version would ultimately be released. Well, the wait is over, and while it took me a few initial readings of his ability to get a handle on this unorthodox hero, I’m quite smitten with this new addition.

HERO

 

* Haldir of Lorien (Lore Hero, 9 threat, 2 willpower, 3 attack, 1 defense, 3 hit points):

Haldir-of-Lórien

Haldir’s ability, as previously mentioned, can be a bit confusing at first glance, but it represents his role as a marchwarden of Lorien (a guardian of the borders) and a skilled warrior who dispatched enemies through stealth and quick strikes rather than brute force:

Ranged.

Combat Action: If you have not engaged an enemy this round, exhaust Haldir of Lórien to declare him as an attacker (and resolve his attack) against an enemy not engaged with you. Limit once per round.

It took a few readings before I truly understood the implications of this combat action, which basically boils down to 2 main functions:

1) Attacking an enemy in the staging area

2) Attacking an enemy engaged with another player before enemy attacks are resolved (i.e. in a similar way to Quick Strike)

Let’s take the first use, which gives Haldir a solo application and make him the Lore version of Dunhere. Attacking an enemy in the staging area is certainly a viable and useful (not to mention entertaining) strategy, as reflected in various Dunhere decks that have been created throughout the game’s life, although it can be tricky to do as it is dependent on keeping one’s threat relatively low. Without proper threat management, enemies engage rather than stay in the staging area, which renders the whole approach futile. This gives a natural advantage to Dunhere, since Spirit has easier access to threat reduction effects. Some might also argue for Team Dunhere and against Team Haldir on meta grounds by arguing that giving another hero the power to attack the staging area dilutes Dunhere’s ability and makes him less meaningful as a hero. However, giving Lore a staging area attack option is fair given the sphere’s ability to use traps and events like Advance Warning and Noiseless Movement to keep enemies in the staging area, along with a general commitment to the ranger/stealth/sniping theme. This goes along with how Haldir’s ability works, as it’s important to keep in mind that this combat action can only be used if you have not engaged an enemy during that particular round. Again, Dunhere has the advantage here, as he’s under no such restriction, but Haldir does have an added flexibility that the Rohan sniper lacks.

Looking at this second use of Haldir’s ability, he is able to attack an enemy engaged with another player before enemy attacks are resolved. This is due to the action windows that are available during the combat phase before enemy attacks. If Haldir is able to destroy that enemy, then this effect basically works out to the equivalent of a Feint (canceling an enemy attack), but even better since the enemy is dealt with permanently. Even if this ability is only used to fruition 2-3 times in a game, that adds up to 2-3 enemy attacks avoided, which is certainly worthwhile. Of course, this necessitates boosting Haldir’s attack to the point that he is able to destroy enemies by himself, and attacking the staging area also necessitates some assistance as well. In both case, Haldir really needs some access to Tactics, either within the same deck or with the help of other players. Rivendell Blade is perfect with Haldir, often boosting his attack strength to an effective level of 5. Dagger of Westernesse also isn’t a bad option, as it gives a permanent +1 attack, and since Haldir decks will often try to keep a low threat anyway, the +2 attack should often be available as well. You could use Nor Am I A Stranger to attach Spear of the Mark to Haldir, which would help with all staging area attacks, but the Dagger provides more flexibility and requires much less effort to get operational. Rivendell Bow is certainly a possibility with his ranged keyword, but since Haldir should usually be using his combat action, and since I don’t believe this counts as a ranged attack, other weapons seem like a better fit. With a couple of weapons and an attack of 5-7, Haldir can demolish enemies in the staging area or engaged with another player in 1-2 turns. Adding in Unseen Strike can help even more, as can the recently spotlighted Grave Cairn, and Black Arrow is pretty much a must-include in a Haldir deck with Tactics.

Of course, the biggest drawback here is the dependence on enemies not engaging. This makes Haldir ideal for Secrecy decks, and fortunately his own threat is low enough that such setups are workable, although there still aren’t a ton of options when it comes to compatible, low-threat heroes. Another option is to combine Haldir with Spirit for access to threat reduction. Alternatively, cards such as Fresh Tracks, Advance Warning, and Noiseless Movement can be used to keep an enemy locked in the staging area, while Take No Notice (which gets a cost reduction from Haldir’s Ranger trait!) and Lore Pippin can increase enemy engagement costs, all of which can prevent enemies from coming down. Of course, Ranger Spikes is an option as well, and in the absence of other enemies, Haldir could even use a spiked enemy as a damage soak, to be combined with Infighting to transfer that damage to more troublesome foes. Since Haldir is part of Lore, it also might be fruitful to include some copies of Ranger Bow to go along with a few Ranger characters. The extra couple of points of damage from the Ranger Bow could supplement Haldir’s attacks on enemies in the staging area. Of course, other direct damage effects can work well to bring enemies closer to destruction as well. Since Haldir has the ranged keyword, he can make use of Hands Upon the Bow, but it might be even better to set up a one-two punch by having another “ranged” hero use Hands to inflict some initial damage, with Haldir finishing them off using his action. For this reason and thematic reasons, I find Legolas to be a perfect BFF for Haldir, especially since he gives access to Tactics.

Although I quite enjoy Haldir and find his ability to be useful, there’s no doubt that he’s not a drop and play hero that can safely be inserted into any deck, at least if you’re concerned with getting full value out of his ability. He’s certainly better in multiplayer than solo, simply from the perspective of having 2 potential uses for his ability rather than just 1 (attacking the staging area). In fact, I would argue that his real sweet spot is with 3 or 4 players, where a deck around him can be built that focuses on support, avoiding enemies, and helping others with combat. It shouldn’t be ignored that he has the ranged keyword to contribute to attacks in a more conventional manner in multiplayer as well. This is not to say that he’s useless in solo, though, or as limited as some other heroes. He can work well within Silvan, Ranger, and Secrecy decks (not to mention his Scout trait gives him access to Warden of Arnor), which is a healthy range of options. What I actually find most useful about Haldir, particularly for solo, is not his ability but his stats. He is only the third hero in the Lore sphere to have 3 attack, and the other two, Aragorn and Glorfindel, buy that attack power at a hefty cost of 12 threat. By contrast, Haldir has 3 attack for only 9 threat. In addition, unlike his nearest counterpart, Dunhere, Haldir has a solid 2 willpower, which allows him to help with questing as well, which broadens his versatility. Overall, setting his hit points at a weak 3 hit points allows him to get a high attack and good willpower for only 9 threat, which is great value. This does mean that he is a bit fragile, but he is clearly not meant to be a defender, so having higher hit points would actually be wasted stats in a sense. If you’re truly concerned, you can make use of Elven Mail to boost him up to 5 hit points and/or make use of Silvan Tracker for constant healing. When all is said and done, this is a hero that can help fill many spots in Lore decks and glue different decks together.

As for some final Haldir combinations, there’s a few possibilities centered around his traits and ability. First, although there are probably better options for this attachment, Light of Valinor is a perfectly valid play to allow him to quest with his 2 willpower and still use his ability or attack each turn. In terms of readying/action advantage, Lembas is also a great, in-sphere option for this Silvan hero. Poisoned Stakes plays well with Haldir in that it adds 2 damage to an enemy in the staging area, potentially helping our hero in quickly clearing it off the board before it can engage. There are a few combos that require a few cards to setup which put them on the more marginal end of the scale, but are interesting enough to mention. Steward of Gondor combined with Gondorian Fire could allow Haldir to annihilate certain enemies. Even more intriguing, you could use Rohan Warhorse on Haldir, with the help of Song of Battle or Nor Am I A Stranger, to allow him to use his ability and attack conventionally in the same round. Ultimately, however, I’m looking forward to the upcoming, in-sphere readying option, Wingfoot, for Haldir. For Spirit options, A Light in the Dark can still work here, despite Haldir’s ability being invalidated by an enemy engaging. Imagine that an enemy comes down to engage you during one round. Sure, Haldir can’t use his ability to attack it that turn (but could attack it normally), but you could still use A Light in the Dark during the next combat phase, preventing it from attacking and allowing Haldir to snipe it in the staging area. I also see some interesting uses surrounding Desperate Alliance in multiplayer. Since the “you” in the text of Haldir’s effect seems to refer to the controlling player, it seems like a legitimate play to avoid this clause if you have engaged this round by sending Haldir over to another player who has not engaged an enemy using Desperate Alliance. They could then use Haldir to attack the enemy engaged with you!

As a testament to his utility, Haldir has gone straight into a few of my decks. He does not rank among the most powerful of heroes in the game, the top elite if you will, but he does something much more important, which is open up a variety of possibilities.

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

Possible Attachment Choices: Rivendell Blade, Dagger of Westernesse, Wingfoot, Black Arrow, Lembas, Dunedain Mark

Conclusion

Haldir has finally arrived and filled a nice gap in the Lore sphere by providing strong attack for a low threat cost. He is a Silvan hero that can safely fit within Silvan decks, but also has a broader application and can fit into a variety of different builds, which makes him even more useful. While at first glance, he seems far more powerful in multiplayer than solo, I don’t think solo players should overlook him. This is a good, solid hero that opens up options, and that is what is most crucial at this point in the card pool. As a final note, many have compared Haldir to Faramir and found the latter wanting. The argument goes that while Haldir better conveys the sense of stealthily sniping your enemy and provides strong attack for low threat, Faramir goes against the Ranger deck type with his high threat and doesn’t quite work as seamlessly. While there is something to be said for this argument, and I would argue that Haldir is generally the stronger of the 2 heroes because of his greater versatility and lower threat, I still have found places for Faramir in various decks. The final outcome of this debate still hangs in the balance, and it would be interesting to pair the 2 and see what could happen from there. Faramir with Great Yew Bow combined with Haldir anyone? Any takers? As for my final thoughts on finally getting a Haldir hero, I believe a picture is worth a thousand words:

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Readers, what are your thoughts on the long-awaited Haldir? Did he meet your expectations? Did he disappoint you? Who’s better: Haldir or Faramir?

 

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18 Comments
  1. mtpereira permalink

    I can already imagine him side by side with a couple of Hobbit heroes in a low-threat deck, which is my new thing for the time being. 🙂

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      He definitely seems to be very Hobbit friendly! Haldir, Lore Pippin, and Merry could be interesting. Lore Pippin could help to keep enemies away and Merry provides access to Tactics.

      • GrandSpleen permalink

        Haldir/Merry/Pippin is the party that I immediately imagined as well, so that is the deck I have going for him right now. We took care of Trouble in Tharbad quite easily with the Haldir ranger deck on one side and Dunhere/Glorfindel/Denethor on the other.

  2. Thaddeus Papke permalink

    I haven’t gotten this AP yet, but now I’m itching to make a deck with Haldir, Legolas, and Mirlonde. (Lore Pippin might be the better choice, but I like the all Silvan thing those three would have,)

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Sounds good to me. One of the most entertaining things is having Silvan Tracker on the board and watching damage just evaporate from your Silvan heroes each turn.

  3. FetaCheese permalink

    Faramir isn’t the sniper that Haldir is, but is an excellent defender! Give him a Burning Brand and a Gondorian Shield and you can keep defending every turn with a little healing support, which is easy to come by in Lore. In a sense, he complements him. In fact, a Haldir/Faramir/Legolas team would excel in a multiplayer game.

    • That would be a fun line-up – but why would you put Faramir in over Beravor? And if you need a defender, why not use Denethor? This is the crux of the problem with Faramir, I think. He isn’t bad… but he seems to be eclipsed in any given role, and the problem is exacerbated by his threat cost.

      • FetaCheese permalink

        Well, Beravor isn’t a Gondorian so the Shield barely benefits her. Plus you risk having her exhausted due to her ability. And Denethor’s HP are too low to turn him into a defender these days. Faramir has a beefy 5 HP and usually gets a bonus +2 Attack due to trapped enemies. Sure he is no Beregond, but with a Warden of Healing backing him up and a Lembas attached, he is mighty tough and an excellent secondary attacker. His threat of 11 is manageable imo, as Haldir with Legolas and Faramir end up at a comfortable 29, plus all 3 characters have ranged, attacking for 9 if possible.

        • Thaddeus Papke permalink

          With Burning Brand in the equation, I’d definitely prefer Denethor as my dedicated Lore defender. His hitpoints are lower, but the higher defense and Lore’s access to healing compensates for that. Also, his Threat is lower and if you don’t need him to defend, then he can use his ability to help mitigate shadow effects for another player or give you scrying for the next round. It is true that if you don’t need Faramir to defend, then he can help attack (potentially for a solid amount too), but if you were planning on having him as a defender, then you probably had other expectations on how you were going to attack.
          I don’t think 29 threat is too great either, not if you’re expecting to use Haldir’s ability.

  4. I play with my wife and we’re pretty new to the game (3 months). I just started building decks that are designed to work in harmony. So with Trouble in Tharbad and Haldir, I went to work. My wife’s deck is Dunhere, Glorfindel, and Merry. Mine is Haldir, Sam, and LorePippen. We easily handled the scenario and only ever engaged one enemy even though we killed many. It was great when I was first player b/c she put Rivendell Blade on Haldir, I’d attack into the staging area softening the enemies Defense and Dunhere would close the deal. With here threat lowering and my card draw 2 cards I really want to put to use were Swift and Silent and Noiseless Movement. Both were money. My card draw allowed me to get 2 Swift and Silent so on one turn I was able to kill 1 enemy and severely wound 2 more, which Dunhere picked off one. She got out a Swordsman and 2 Shipwrights to bring enough questing and I used 2 Herdsman to protect the Swordsman. I like Haldir, as I’m a big fan of how they keep coming up with new wrinkles to add to existing spheres.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Awesome! Pairing Dunhere on one side with Haldir on the other sounds good to me, with the use of low threat heroes helping to keep enemies in the staging area.

      • hazeydavey permalink

        For Haldir and just in general, is there a distinction in the game between actively engaging the enemy and being engaged by the enemy for the purposes of actions like his combat action?

        • TalesfromtheCards permalink

          No, the game doesn’t distinguish between doing an optional engagement and the enemy coming down to engage on its own. Both are treated the same for all player and encounter card effects, including the one on Haldir.

  5. Quigman permalink

    Just picked up this AP a couple weeks ago, love the art on Haldir. His ability says “if you have not engaged an enemy this round,” but what if you already have an engaged enemy? To clarify, you engage an enemy in round 1. In round 2, questing reveals a location, so my understanding is that you have not engaged an enemy this round, you just have one engaged with you…Could Haldir then attack the enemy engaged with you?

    • Thaddeus Papke permalink

      Not per his special ability. That specifies that it is used against an enemy not engaged with you. You can still use him for the normal attack phase, of course.

      • Quigman permalink

        I suppose I should finish reading the WHOLE ability before I get excited and jump to conclusions!

        • Thaddeus Papke permalink

          🙂 One of my gaming buddies does that constantly.
          “Okay, I’m doing this!”
          “You can’t do that.”
          “Yes I can, it so right here!”
          “*sigh* Read the whole card.”
          “Oh.”

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      The good part is that if you engaged an enemy last round, but that enemy is still engaged with you and you don’t engage an enemy on the current round, you can still use Haldir to attack another enemy in the staging area or engaged with someone else. The only thing that nullifies his ability is engaging an enemy on the current turn.

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