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Trouble in Tharbad: Events Review

by on September 19, 2014

trouble

 

It’s time to finally polish off the player cards in the Trouble in Tharbad Adventure Pack, so that we can make room for the upcoming Road Darkens cards, not to mention those from The Nin-in-Eilph. There are 3 events to be found in Trouble in Tharbad, including a new addition to the Silvan event pantheon, a card that provides more help for Secrecy decks, and an interesting tool for avoiding threat increases. Overall, I have felt that Trouble in Tharbad has had the best collection of player cards, and we’ll see if this remains true for the events. With the player card pool ever increasing, and events often forming the smallest part of decks, new events definitely have to prove their worth or bring something new in order to fight for a place. Let’s see if any of these young upstarts have what it takes!

EVENTS

* Pursuing the Enemy (Tactics Event, 0 cost):

Pursuing-the-Enemy

So far we’ve seen two Silvan-focused event cards that provide some kind of beneficial effect in exchange for returning a Silvan ally back to hand. Feigned Voices served to cancel an enemy attack, while The Tree People allowed players to exchange one Silvan ally for another. Now, we have a Tactics event along the same lines, with this one providing a means of direct damage:

Action: Return a Silvan ally you control to your hand to choose a player. Deal 1 damage to each enemy engaged with that player.
Thematically, this event represents one of your Silvan allies rushing off to harass and pursue the enemies engaged with a player. It is roughly analogous to Rain of Arrows, which also deals 1 damage to each enemy engaged with a player, but at the cost of exhausting a ranged character instead (and paying 1 resource). Generally, Rain of Arrows is considered to be more of a marginal card, as dealing 1 damage to a group of enemies is useful, but not necessarily worth any costs you might pay. More importantly, it is tough to justify including such an effect at the expense of something that might be more generally useful, from an ally with actual attack power to an attack or defense boosting attachment to something that might deal more concentrated damage to a single enemy. Does all this mean that Pursuing the Enemy is also on the lower end of the power scale?
I’m going to pull a sheet out of the Elvish playbook and answer with a bit of “yes” and “no” here. On the positive side, there is enough direct damage floating around in the game that it is possible to include Pursuing the Enemy as part of a chain of damage rather than an effect existing in a vacuum. For example, Thalin could deal damage to enemies as they are revealed, a defender with Spear of the Citadel could damage them while defending, and Rumil, a Silvan card himself, could deal damage just by entering play. In the context of a direct damage focused deck, Pursuing the Enemy could possibly help to polish several enemies off at once. Even better, since the action is not limited to a specific time frame, you could do this before enemy attacks even take place. This could also be used to help with any Silvan defensive concerns, as direct damage could be used as a way to minimize enemy attacks. For example, Pursuing the Enemy could be used to place 1 damage on an enemy, then a Tactics character could defend using Swift Strike and Spear of the Citadel in order to destroy a foe with 4 hit points. It’s worth keeping in mind that the true value of these Silvan cards is also not just in the effect they provide, but in the simple fact that they allow you to return a Silvan ally to hand. This is a key element of Silvan decks, as being able to repeatedly benefit from a Silvan ally’s “enters play” effect or the stat boost from Celeborn is vital. In fact, returning a Silvan to hand is actually not really a cost of these event cards, but a benefit! With this in mind, I have to give the clear nod to Pursuing the Enemy over Rain of Arrows, as the costs are far lower, although Pursuing is obviously more limited in terms of trait. However, you could actually combine the two in the same deck, especially since the Silvan trait has a few ranged characters available, and potentially deal 2 damage to each enemy engaged with a player, which would be quite substantial. The real issue would be in fitting both cards into a deck without compromising its ability to handle other parts of play. For these reasons, I feel like Pursuing the Enemy fits best in a multiplayer environment, where a Silvan deck can focus space on more niche type effects, such as direct damage, rather than having to cover a wide variety of effects.
Moving to the negative, when it has come time to cut down my Silvan decks for solo play, I have so far always kept Feigned Voices and The Tree People and cut Pursuing the Enemy. Sometimes the proof is in the pudding (in the Lembas?), and it’s hard to find space for this type of minimal effect when it means getting rid of something that is either more meaningful in the long term (like a repeatable attachment) or more significant in the short term. In addition, while I find myself wanting more opportunities to return Silvan allies to hand, to the point of searching out possible recursion of them, it still is hard to find a place for this card. This doesn’t mean that Pursuing the Enemy is without merit. It just means that I find it more suitable for tw0-handed or multiplayer Silvan decks, rather than solo ones. Undoubtedly, this will become even more true when Island Amid Perils is released, which provides another means of returning Silvan allies to hand, but for a more meaningful benefit (threat reduction). What all this adds up to in the end is that Pursuing the Enemy is firmly at the bottom of my Silvan event power rankings, and it will likely remain so for the foreseeable future.

Versatility: ♦◊◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦◊◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦◊◊

* Courage Awakened (Spirit Event, 1 cost):

Courage-Awakened

Just as there have been a few Silvan event cards released this cycle, there also have been several “Secrecy friendly” events that provide a one-time bonus if your threat is above 20, but can be recycled if your threat is 20 or below. Most of these effects have been quite basic, with Swift and Silent granting readying and Noiseless Movement preventing enemy engagement, but this can be seen as a strength as they help Secrecy to cover the most essential elements of the game and possibly overcome the drawbacks of having fewer than 3 heroes (for those 1 or 2 hero Secrecy decks). Courage Awakened continues this trend, this time by contributing a simple willpower boost :

Action: Choose a hero. That hero gets +2 until the end of the phase. Then, if your threat is 20 or less and this is the first time you played a copy of Courage Awakened this round, return this card to your hand instead of discarding it.

Let’s first examine Courage Awakened in terms of non-Secrecy usage. Is 1 resource for 2 willpower that lasts a single phase a fair deal? It’s actually hard to make the case for the value of this card in non-Secrecy contexts, simply because of the available alternatives in the Spirit sphere. Exhibit A is the Spirit version of Bofur. This ally allows you to spend 1 resource to put him into play committed to the quest during the quest phase. Since he has 2 willpower, this amounts to the exact same deal as Courage Awakened: 1 resource for a temporary gain of 2 willpower. However, Bofur is better, as he returns to your hand automatically if you quest successfully, meaning that you get to recycle this effect regardless of your threat, unlike Courage Awakened (and can even take advantage of effects that trigger off of allies leaving play). You also have an actual ally in hand that you can play when needed (or trick into play if you happen to quest unsuccessfully). Bofur also has the flexibility of using his ability after staging, just as you could with Courage Awakened. The only advantages that Courage Awakened has over Bofur is that it is not restricted to the quest phase, so you could use it to boost willpower for a quest like The Druadan Forest or The Stone of Erech that has you use willpower during combat, and it provides extra willpower by boosting a hero, rather than bringing in an ally. This could be important for a scenario or quest stage where it matters how many characters you quest with, such as The Lonely Mountain, or against an encounter deck with an effect that punishes you based on the number of characters in play.

Beyond Bofur, there is also Lay of Nimrodel. Here, the race is probably more even, as Lay hinges the willpower boost on the number of resources in the hero’s pool, whereas Courage Awakened always provides the willpower boost of two, as long as you can pay the initial cost. On the other hand, Lay of Nimrodel has an unlimited ceiling, only dependent on resources, so which one is better will depend on your particular deck. For Elf decks, Elrond’s Counsel provides half the boost (plus one willpower) for zero cost, while Children of the Sea gives the same boost to an ally, rather than a hero (although it does require that ally to leave play afterwards). Both are arguably better than Courage Awakened, although contingent on a certain trait. The latter point does highlight one of Courage’s strengths, which is that it can fit into absolutely any deck.

There are also a few attachments available that could arguably replace Courage Awakened. Favor of the Lady is generally regarded as a weaker card, but over the course of a game, 2 resources for a permanent willpower boost of 1 might be better than 1 resource for a 2 willpower boost that only lasts one round. Such questions aren’t cut and dry though, at least not as much as they first appear. It’s important to understand that it’s not always possible to simply add up the net effect of a card over several rounds and compare it to a similar effect that takes place in one round, as a concentrated, temporary dose does not work out in practice the same as a more diluted one that is drawn out. In other words, gaining 1 willpower for every round is helpful, but maybe what I really need is 2 willpower for a crucial round or point of the quest. Still, it’s difficult to argue that, if you are willing to move outside Spirit, an attachment like Celebrian’s Stone, which grants 2 willpower permanently for only 1 additional resource, is not generally superior. The main advantage of Courage Awakened is its flexibility as an event, as it can be played after  staging to help make up the difference between what you have committed to the quest and what you need to clear out a troublesome location, avoid a threat increase, or clear a stage. Such flexibility is key when you consider that deciding which characters to commit to the quest each turn is one of the key decision points of a game.

Does this picture appreciably change in Secrecy conditions? The ability to repeatedly gain 2 willpower each round is definitely quite useful, especially for a Secrecy build. Early on, when you are still trying to muster characters, gathering enough willpower to avoid disastrous threat increases is definitely important, and Courage Awakened can help in this regard. This is especially true for 1 or 2 hero builds, as an additional 2 willpower almost acts as another hero for questing purposes (my Frodo and Sam Secrecy deck would particularly love this card). Still, even here, the problem of other options arises. Would it not be roughly equivalent to simply play a Silvan Refugee for 1 resource, gaining a consistent 2 additional willpower for as long as you can keep that ally around? Sure, the Refugee is vulnerable, with only 1 hit point and a tendency to fly away if another character leaves play, but it could be argued that you are getting a better deal, especially since you only have to pay the resource once, rather than each turn. Again, Bofur also offers himself as a possibility here as well, and can be recycled even when your threat eventually rises above the Secrecy threshold. With all this in mind, while I was excited to see Courage Awakened at first and don’t believe that it’s a coaster, there are too many other options out there that are better, aside from a few special quests and situations.

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦♦

Efficiency: ♦♦◊◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦◊◊◊◊

Free to Choose (Spirit Event, 0 cost):

Free-to-Choose

Spirit has quite a few threat reduction effects available, including some that have responses keyed in to threat increases, such as Elfhelm and Song of Earendil. Free to Choose, however, is the first that can entirely cancel out a threat increase caused by an encounter card effect:

Response: After your threat is raised by an encounter card effect, reduce your threat by an equal amount.

This makes Free to Choose a kind of targeted A Test of Will, one that can cancel an effect that raises threat, and it can do this for no cost. It is worth keeping in mind, though, that this only applies to the player who plays it, so it is of more limited value in multiplayer than solo. Another restriction is that while I’ve been framing Free to Choose as cancellation, mechanically it reduces your threat after your threat is raised. The timing is key, as this means that it couldn’t prevent you from threating out, as first your threat would be raised to 50 or above, and you would automatically lose before you could trigger this response effect. Despite these limitations, Free to Choose can be incredibly powerful, albeit only against certain scenarios.

I’ve said before that I think it’s a bit silly to dismiss cards for being situational, when the reality of this game is that each quest provides a different situation to face. Cards like Free to Choose are thus “solution” cards. Just as Miner of the Iron Hills is often useless but invaluable against scenarios with horrible condition attachments, Free to Choose may be completely worthless against one quest, but a key to victory against another. Rating cards in LOTR LCG only based on their universal applicability is missing the bigger picture, which is that deck building effectively, especially against the tougher quests, must take into account those solution cards that can provide answers to specific problems.

To move beyond generalities, here are a few concrete quests/situations that Free to Choose would be valuable in:

* The Hill Troll in Journey Along the Anduin – Free to Choose can allow you to chump block with that lowly Snowbourn Scout and avoid the effects of the threat raise at the same time.

* A Frightened Beast in Conflict at the Carrock – This raises players’ threat by the total threat in the staging area, which can be an absolutely monstrous number. Free to Choose could provide a different means of dealing with this effect than simply canceling it with A Test of Will.

* Gollum’s Anguish from Return to Mirkwood – This treachery has a ridiculous threat increase of 8.

* Collateral Damage from Peril in Pelargir – I’ve seen this damnable treachery chain into a threat increase of 6, 8, or even higher.

* Watcher in the Wood from Into Ithilien – Another treachery that can hit insane numbers, thanks to being keyed in to the number of questing characters.

This is not an exhaustive list, but gives an idea of the possibilities for Free to Choose. Obviously, this card is all about countering big threat increases, as you’re better off just loading up on standard threat reduction effects to deal with smaller problems. One might argue that you could simply cancel a few of these threat increases with A Test of Will. However, not all of these effects are part of a “when revealed” effect, with the Hill Troll being a good example. Since Free to Choose is targeted to encounter card effects, it can work against not just “when revealed” effects, but forced effects on enemies, shadow effects, and more. In addition, A Test of Will is extremely valuable, so Free to Choose can actually allow you to save that treachery cancellation for another effect, in a sense adding “extra copies” of A Test of Will to your deck. Of course, I’ll again reiterate that this all becomes far more problematic in multiplayer, where saving yourself from a threat gain of 8 won’t do much good if all the other players have to suffer through it. Then again, saving yourself as the Spirit player might allow you to use your threat reduction cards like The Galadhrim’s Greeting for others. In the end, Free to Choose is what it is, which is a tool to counter specific problems. This means it will never be a staple, but it wasn’t designed to be. Instead, when facing a quest with encounter card effects that can cause large threat increases, your mind should now immediately turn to this card.

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦♦

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

Conclusion

Trouble in Tharbad has now been thoroughly reviewed. While the allies and attachments were quite strong in this pack, the events are a bit more of a mixed bag, and perhaps the weakest link. Still, I’m quite pleased overall with the player cards, and this feels like a definitive step forward for the Silvan trait, if nothing else. As the cycle continues, it seems likely that the cards will increase in power, especially once we reach Galadriel and Nenya in Celebrimbor’s Secret. We also have The Road Darkens on the horizon, as Gandalf arrives to potentially revolutionize deck building.

Readers, what are your thoughts on the events of Trouble in Tharbad? Which is a hit? Which is a miss?

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9 Comments
  1. Can any discussion of Courage Awakened in secrecy be complete without Leaf Brooch?

    I’ve tried playing a deck with both and if you can get it set up while you’re still below the 20 threat threshold, it is an incredibly powerful combo. The problem so far is that it’s hard to start with a threat much lower than 20 and getting Resourceful and and at least one ally usually feel like more urgent early round concerns. These become the mulligan cards meaning it’s less likely to start with Leaf Brooch to get any repeated use out of it before you cross the Secrecy threshold.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      You summed it up perfectly! I still really like Leaf Brooch, but it’s difficult to get it in play while you’re still in Secrecy when there are so many other vital cards to get into play first, which makes it hard to pull off the combo with Courage Awakened.

  2. I feel like the main problem with courage awakened is that it costs a resource – in a two hero secrecy deck, you need to get things out fast. Consistently using half of your resources for such an effect is not the way to do this.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yeah, in which case it makes more sense to put something out that provides 2 willpower without the consistent resource outlay, even if it’s just a 1-cost Silvan Refugee.

  3. Glowwyrm permalink

    I think all the secrecy recursion cards are meant to be used with Galadriel. That’s why I’ve held off on a new secrecy deck until she comes out. The recursion cards and Leaf Broach are really only good if you can stay in secrecy, which is something Galadriel can do. With leaf broach and Galadriel out, Courage Awakened is a pretty good deal for a free two willpower every turn. The problem is still drawing the combo, but you’re getting at least one extra card with Galadriel every turn so it’s possible. Without secrecy and Leaf Broach, the only reason I’d use the card is to boost my willpower for a test.

    Finally, I can’t wait for Galadriel and Gandalf! Lots of interesting, break the mold decks that we can build! I want to try Galadriel-Celeborn secrecy, Galadriel-Sam secrecy, Galadriel-Haldir secrecy and maybe even Galadriel-Gandalf secrecy (though that would take some work to get threat back down). All those combos are both thematic and functional. I really like where the game is right now!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I’m really chomping at the bit to get a hold of Galadriel. She truly will be a game changing hero in so many ways, in terms of facilitating a lot of new deck builds.

    • Silver Swan permalink

      Galadriel and Secrecy is also quite powerful in Shadow and Flame, where stage 1b lowers your threat to 0 and the balrog engages you at 1 threat. This allows you to build a powerful secrecy deck without worrying about the starting threat of your heroes.

  4. Mike D (Pharmboys2013) permalink

    worth noting that free to choose triggers the card draw effect off hobbit pipe since you are “lowering” your threat and not canceling the gain which makes it pretty valuable in decks trying to run that

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