Card Spotlight: Lore Glorfindel
Today marks a momentous occasion. For far too long, heroes have been hiding from the spotlight, reluctant to have their place in the card pool called into question. However, heroes, perhaps more than anyone, need to justify their place and can’t simply rest on their resource-generating laurels. The first hero to experience the unrelenting glare of the spotlight will be one of the original Core Set heroes, one that has suffered the terrible fate of being completely overshadowed by his more illustrious double. I speak of course of Glorfindel. This all-healing, all-questing, all-fighting hero extraordinaire of yesteryear has been gathering dust for far too long now and will be brought into the light. Will he wither under the glare and confirm his place as a washed up has-been? Or will he storm back into relevance with a vengeance? Tell me, Glorfindel, how many lights do you see?
From a pure theme perspective, it’s hard not to be a fan of Glorfindel. This ancient Elf gave his life to kill a Balrog before Gandalf made it cool, returned to Middle-earth after his death to face evil once more. sent the Witch-king fleeing as he made an epic prophecy, and fought off the Nazgul at the Ford of Bruinen like it was just a pleasant stroll through the park. Unfortunately, Glorfindel has received the shortest shrift in adaptations of any Lord of the Rings character, with perhaps the exception of Tom Bombadil. He was replaced by Legolas in the Ralph Bakshi animated film, which actually makes some sense in that Glorfindel was actually replaced by Legolas in the Fellowship as Tolkien revised the story. However, Peter Jackson then rather notoriously took out Glorfindel to make room for Arwen. Fortunately, the designers of The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game are rather respectful of the lore and do not brook such changes. Thus, the Core Set itself featured Glorfindel in a prominent place, choosing him as one of the 12 original heroes of the game.
Things were going great for Lore Glorfindel (or just Glorfindel, as he was known back then) in those days. He had a high threat cost to show that he was an epic hero on the scale of an Aragorn, along with 3 willpower, 3 attack, and 5 hit points. These were, and still are, amazing stats for a hero, making him one of the best attackers and questers in the game. He also had a useful ability, providing consistent access to healing when not much was available in that area. I also always rather enjoyed the art on the card, with the light and subtle white aura around Glorfindel showing the mighty Elven Spirit within, one that had indeed seen Valinor. Even as the card pool grew, Glorfindel still had a persistent place in player decks…that is until this jerk came along to ruin everything.
Suddenly, Glorfindel now had to be referred to as Lore Glorfindel and he soon found himself thrown unceremoniously back into the box. The Spirit version provided all the same stats as the original for only 5 threat. In fact, Spirit Glorfindel instantly became the hero with the lowest threat in the game, and this has remained the case until the present. Sure, he was saddled with an actual penalty instead of an ability, but this was instantly undercut by the inclusion of Light of Valinor. Now, Lore Glorfindel seems to only remain as a cautionary tale about the peril of superior doubles.
However, the time has come to take a reasoned and objective look at Lore Glorfindel once more. Is he truly as hopeless as most of the player base would have you believe? First, let’s take a look at his stat line, which is still as impressive as ever. 3 willpower and 3 attack are now fairly common among heroes, but to have both in a single card is still remarkable. With some action advantage available, Lore Glorfindel can provide a solid basis for questing and attack each round. Even without readying, you can safely commit Lore Glorfindel to questing from the very first round without worrying about pesky threat increases if Light of Valinor is nowhere to be found. Still, the Spirit version seems like the clear choice, as he does all of the same things in terms of stat contribution while clocking in at only 5 threat, meaning that even if you have to take a few threat gains here and there, you’re still doing better than you would if you used Lore Glorfindel. The only reason to use Lore Glorfindel would be if you were not planning on using Spirit at all, which means we need to consider how Lore Glorfindel fares against other Lore heroes more so than how he compares to his twin, which is a fairly one-sided competition.
Glorfindel is only one of three heroes in the Lore sphere with three attack. This is important to note as the Lore sphere is traditionally not strong in attack, at least when it comes to heroes, and Glorfindel provides some teeth. This is especially important for mono-Lore decks, and this is one reason why I used Lore Glorfindel in one of my mono-Lore builds for a long time, even after he had long been derided as useless. However, the recent addition of the hero version of Haldir, who also has 3 attack but a starting threat of only 9, calls Glorfindel’s place into question. Fortunately, he does still have the the three willpower, and again he is in exulted company here, with only Elrond having a similar questing power in Lore. When you put the two together, you have a hero with strong stats in a sphere that doesn’t necessarily feature heroes with impressive stat lines. While building an ally army is one way to win, there also is something to be said for strong heroes that can start the game on a solid footing. Of course, this all comes at the price of a high starting threat of 12, which is definitely the primary weakness of this particular hero. This high threat is so important in a negative sense because it limits the deck building possibilities. However, we still don’t have a complete picture yet, because Glorfindel’s healing power still remains to be discussed.
At the cost of 1 resource, Glorfindel can heal 1 damage on any 1 character. This represents one of his main roles in The Fellowship of the Ring, which was to help diagnose and aid Frodo after he was wounded by the Morgul knife. Indeed, his touch was said to ease Frodo’s pain and give him calm, although it couldn’t quite cure him fully. In a game that features some extremely powerful effects, let’s just say that Glorfindel’s healing ability is quite restrained in comparison. Not only does it only heal 1 damage, it is actually restricted to one use per round. Generally, I find these type of restrictions to be more appropriate for effects that don’t have any clear natural limit or that can be easily broken (I’m looking at you, Legacy of Durin), but since each point of healing requires one resource, it would probably have been appropriate to have a higher limit (or even no limit at all). Still, healing could potentially be very powerful, as it could take the sting out of combat completely under the right circumstances, so the restriction does make some kind of logical sense.
The problem is that the card pool has changed so dramatically since the Core Set in terms of healing. Looking back at the original card pool, there were actually four separate effects that provided healing: Daughter of the Nimrodel, Lore of Imladris, Beorn’s Hospitality, and Self Preservation. All were stronger than Glorfindel’s healing, but all were fairly expensive and/or limited. Daughter of the Nimrodel provided more effective healing (two points instead of one), but cost three to put into play and could only be applied to heroes. Often, those three resources could be better spent elsewhere. Lore of Imladris was relatively cheap but was a one-time use event. When trying to justify making room in a deck for healing, it’s really hard to make a case if that healing is disposable rather than repeatable. Beorn’s Hospitality is powerful but has always been way too expensive. Finally, Self Preservation is great because it provides strong healing to one hero, but it is also expensive and is tied to one character. It was the Warden of Healing, released as part of The Long Dark Adventure Pack, that did more than any other card to render Glorfindel’s healing power obsolete. This cheap ally costs only two, rather than the three of Daughter of the Nimrodel, and can heal one point from two separate characters. Even better, once the initial cost is paid, you don’t have to keep paying for healing as you would with Glorfindel.
This consistent resource outlay for Glorfindel’s ability is perhaps his second major weakness, just behind the threat cost, and it is especially damning in a sphere that features some expensive cards. Spending a resource for healing is often too high a cost when other vital cards need to be played. Still, it’s worth fully exploring Glorfindel’s healing to see if there is any rehabilitation possible. First, Elrond actually makes an amazing partner for Lore Glorfindel, as the lord of Rivendell adds an extra point to any healing effect. This means that Glorfindel can actually heal two points of damage with one resource. I find this to be a far better deal, and it actually makes Glorfindel’s effect much more meaningful. While you could argue that Warden of the Healing can do the same thing with Elrond in play (and on two different characters!), hero abilities have a few natural advantages over effects that are found on other cards. First, hero abilities start in play, meaning that you don’t have to worry about drawing a certain card to use them. This means that Glorfindel provides consistent and reliable healing from the very first turn. Another advantage is that hero abilities don’t take up any space in your deck. Often, healing can be a bit of an expendable effect: useful enough to include, at least against certain quest, but not essential enough to beat out other effects for space. Having healing on a hero solves this problem. Taking these advantages into account, it’s important to realize that Glorfindel is still the only hero around with outright healing powers (Elrond is a healing “enhancer”). Of course, the counter-argument is whether or not you want to use the advantages of a hero ability for healing when it could instead go towards something like card draw or resource generation. Still, Glorfindel and Elrond indeed form a potent duo…until you consider their starting threat of 25. There are very few viable hero choices left for the third hero if you want a starting threat that is at all reasonable, and the natural choice of Spirit Glorfindel is sadly not possible in this scenario. Your best bet would be one of the 6-cost Hobbits, which would start you out at 31. With the powerful Glorfindel and Elrond around, however, this just might work (perhaps a mono-Lore Glorfindel, Elrond, Pippin?). Fortunately, Elrond’s support affects the whole board in multiplayer, so if another player is using Elrond, then Lore Glorfindel immediately becomes more useful. Then again, chances are that another player will be using that terrible Spirit version…
As for other uses for Glorfindel’s healing, he makes an obvious partner for abilities that feed off of damage. Therefore, he forms a natural team with Gloin. While Self Preservation is still the main driver of the Coin Gloin engine, especially since Glorfindel can heal only 1 damage, Glorfindel still can provide some help in that department until Self Preservation shows up. More importantly, the introduction of the Silvan trait as a viable deck type has really hammered home for me the possibility of using hit points and healing as an alternative to simply buffing defenders. For example, healing all the damage a defender takes so that they can defend again the next turn is pretty much the same as boosting that character’s defense so that they never take damage in the first place (assuming they have enough hit points to survive the attack of course!). With this in mind, you could use Glorfindel as part of a general defense strategy using characters with high hit points and low defense. Unfortunately, the once per round limit means that this probably would need the help of other healing effects to truly work, but using allies for this purpose together with Glorfindel’s assistance could free up heroes from defense for other purposes. Glorfindel’s healing also can help with certain shadow effects that boost enemy attack or lower character defense. If a defender already has damage, and a shadow effect of this type is revealed, you could use Glorfindel’s ability after the shadow effect is revealed but before damage is calculated to heal one damage and potentially prevent destruction. Finally, Glorfindel can provide specific support against scenarios that feature archery or direct damage. For example, when The Druadan Forest came out, I found Glorfindel invaluable in dealing with all the archery in that scenario in multiplayer games. This could also be true for other quests, and if future scenarios rain down tons of direct damage, then Lore Glorfindel should surely be remembered as an option.
So with the interrogation almost complete, we seem no closer to a final answer to the definitive question. There seem to be some fairly hefty arguments against Lore Glorfindel, which seem to underline the point that he should be ground up for glue and spare parts. For one, his threat cost of 12 is too high. This is especially damning considering the low threat cost of 5 of his Spirit counterpart, who has all the same stats. The other main point against Lore Glorfindel is that his ability is too expensive and limited, and it is also arguably less essential than other hero abilities. These are some fairly damning accusations. On the other hand, Glorfindel is a real powerhouse for the Lore sphere in terms of stats and really shines in mono-Lore. In fact, if it wasn’t for my extensive experience with mono-Lore, I might be more down on Lore Glorfindel. He also includes healing in a deck all on his own, without the need for other cards. This healing can form a powerful partnership with Elrond. Finally, and this item hasn’t been mentioned yet, Glorfindel can make use of the “Glorfindel toys”, such as Light of Valinor and Asfaloth. He actually has in-sphere access to Asfaloth, which makes him not only a healer but a strong provider of location control as well with only one other card. With this in mind, and despite the substantial arguments against Lore Glorfindel, I simply can’t dismiss him as a “coaster”. He may be severely diminished in value and beset by better alternatives, but he can’t be accused of having no value at all. Try him out in a deck and see, Lore Glorfindel can still bring the goods.
p.s. If you don’t get my Star Trek references, watch this video and do yourself a favor and watch the TNG episode, “Chain of Command”.