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The Road Darkens: Allies Review

by on October 17, 2014

lotr-the-road-darkens-cover

Much of the attention around The Road Darkens has understandably focused on the amazing new Gandalf hero, as well as the other cards in the box that serve as “Gandalf’s toys”. However, as difficult as it is to believe, there are indeed other cards and characters to be found in this latest Saga Expansion, and they actually represent some of the most important characters in The Lord of the Rings story. From two of the Wise to a mighty warrior to the O.H. (Original Hobbit), these are key figures that helped to shape the destiny of Middle-earth and can similarly help to shape your success and failure in the game. In this latest TftC review, we will give these notable personages their proper due, and examine their impact on the greater card pool.

ALLIES

* Galadriel (Leadership Ally, 3 cost, 3 willpower, 0 attack, 0 defense, 3 hit points):

galadriel

The anticipation for the Galadriel hero only continues to build, but it is the ally version that has arrived on the scene first. While the hero will occupy the Spirit sphere, ally Galadriel is part of Leadership. This card seems to quite specifically  in represent the gift giving aspect of the Lady of Lorien:

At the end of the round, discard Galadriel from play.

Response: After you play Galadriel from your hand, search the top 5 cards of your deck for an attachment of cost 3 or less and put it into play. Put the remaining cards back in any order.

This attachment retrieval and cost reduction for attachments reflects the vital role Galadriel plays in aiding the fellowship by giving them gifts (“attachments”) that end up playing crucial roles later in the story. Previously, we have seen cards that can fetch attachments in the Lore sphere (Master of the Forge) and Tactics sphere (Bofur), but now we see one in Leadership. The ability to put an attachment of cost 3 or less into play for free is pretty good, especially when you consider that almost all attachments meet this criteria, except for a select few (Citadel Plate and Path of Need being the 2 notable examples). We’ve seen Leadership include several “ally dumping” effects that put allies into play for free or a reduced cost, and now we have a card that can do the same for attachments.

When judging the value of Galadriel, it is almost impossible to separate the elements of the card and evaluate them in isolation. That being said, I’ll try to do so anyway as we look at the 3 main benefits to this card:

– The use of 3 willpower for a round

– Putting an attachment into play for free

– Rearranging the top 5 cards of your deck

There are also some additional, although minor benefits, like using the 3 hit points of Galadriel to soak up archery/direct damage and the use of attachment retrieval as a form of de facto card draw (pulling out an attachment essentially draws 1 card). We can compare the individual aspects of this card to their nearest equivalents, but it is really the total package that you are paying for with the 3 resources.

We’ll examine each of Galadriel’s positive effects in turn, before examining them all as a whole. In terms of attachment retrieval/attachment cost reduction, the uses are only limited by the attachments that are available in the card pool, but since attachments tend to be some of the most powerful cards in the game and often the most crucial to getting a deck up and running, being able to not only fetch one but immediately put it into play is definitely valuable. However, the attachment is not quite free, as you are paying 3 for Galadriel in the first place. This means that whether or not Galadriel is worthwhile might just depend upon the cost of the attachment that is retrieved, in combination with her other abilities. For example, if you pay 3 for Galadriel to put a 1 cost Dunedain Warning into play, it could be argued that your resources would have been better spent elsewhere. Again, though, this is debatable, as you still get access to 3 willpower for a turn, draw the Warning in the first place when it would have been stuck in your deck for another few rounds, and can optimize the order of the top 5 cards of your deck. Still, once you hit 2 cost attachments, then I think there should be little argument as to whether Galadriel is worth inclusion. This is especially true given the fact that Leadership tends to be a bit lacking in the card draw department and previously had no way to specifically look for attachments. Even just being able to get to Steward of Gondor more quickly and consistently makes Galadriel worthwhile. In terms of in-sphere attachments, I especially love the idea of Galadriel fetching and playing the Sword that was Broken for Aragorn, netting a high-cost attachment in addition to a useful one-round ally, or getting key attachments out for specific deck types, such as Visionary Leadership or King Under the Mountain. There are tons more options in the other spheres, far too many to list here, but 3-cost attachments like Support of the Eagles, Forest Snare, and Self Preservation become much more playable with Galadriel around, potentially opening up some new deck types, or at least making existing ones more solid. At the end of the day, it is important to emphasize that a strict cost calculation of the attachment that is retrieved vs. the cost of Galadriel doesn’t quite capture the whole picture, as including this ally increases the chances of getting key attachments into play, whatever those might be, earlier in a game, even if they only cost 1 or even 0.

What about Galadriel’s contribution of 3 willpower for a single round? This is arguably worse than what you get with Escort from Edoras, which costs 1 fewer resource but has 1 additional point of willpower. However, the Escort is part of the Spirit sphere, which is rich with questing power. While Leadership also has its fair share of allies with decent willpower and willpower boosting effects, Galadriel’s presence is a bit more meaningful here as 3 willpower is not as common in Leadership. In addition, at the risk of repeating myself one too many times, this willpower has to be considered as one part of a broader package. So while the Escort from Edoras may be better as a pure quester, Galadriel provides quite a few benefits to justify the additional resource. To take one example, Galadriel pulling out a Steward of Gondor would give you roughly the value of the Escort plus the cost of the Steward, all in one card. Since the Galadriel ally has the Noldor trait, you could also use Children of the Sea to boost her willpower to an amazing 5. Of course, this effect would end up shuffling your deck, nullifying her ability to re-arrange the top 5 cards of your deck, but given the right situation, you might decide that extra willpower is more important.

Speaking of re-arranging cards, Galadriel’s ability is analogous to a one-time Imladris Stargazer. Again, though, this ability is notable for occurring in the Leadership sphere rather than Spirit. This ability can be useful for many of the same purposes as the Stargazer, from making Elrond/Vilya more effective to mining more productively with Zigil Miner to guessing perfectly with Expert Treasure-hunter and more. For all of those uses, the Stargazer is superior in that it is a repeatable effect, however, Galadriel provides an option if you’re not using Spirit (or Lore with Gildor Inglorion). Within Leadership, this ability also has another use, in that it can facilitate “ally dumping” effects in the sphere like Timely Aid that can pull out allies from the top 5 cards of your deck. Galadriel allows you to peek at these top 5 to make sure that the effect won’t completely fizzle. Even more so than enabling combos though, player deck manipulation of this nature is also simply useful just for the opportunity to optimize your draw for the next few rounds.  This is especially important for spheres that aren’t necessarily blessed with an abundance of draw. While sometimes Imladris Stargazer can feel a bit superfluous after examining the top 5 cards of your deck, at least in solo play, Galadriel gives you just what you need as well as contributing to questing, before leaving the scene.

All told, Galadriel is a fine new ally representing a powerful character in the legendarium. While temporary allies always need to provide more value than permanent allies in order to justify paying for a character that will only be on the board for one round, Galadriel seems to fit the bill in this respect, granting a concentrated dose of willpower, attachment retrieval/cost reduction, and player deck manipulation. The cost of 3 is on the expensive side, but this is less of an issue in the resource-rich Leadership sphere. It is unfortunate that Galadriel’s ability only triggers when played from hand, meaning that Sneak Attack shenanigans can’t be used here. Of course, this is much better from a balance perspective. The more meaningful weakness of this ally, other than its temporary nature, is the impending arrival of the Galadriel hero. Likely, the hero will be quite popular, meaning that there will be conflicts in multiplayer games in the future. However, there still should be room for ally Galadriel to operate in solo games and multiplayer as well, as hero Galadriel will likely see a lot of play, but will not necessarily be omnipresent.

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

* Boromir (Tactics Ally, 4 cost, 1 willpower, 3 attack, 1 defense, 4 hit points):

boromir

Boromir has seen plenty of action in the game with two hero incarnations. The Tactics hero represents Boromir’s moment of epic sacrifice and his willingness to brashly rush into battle, no matter the attention his actions might draw. The Leadership version is Boromir during his time as a captain and leader of Gondor’s soldiers. Now, we finally have an ally version, just in time to occupy a place in our fellowships as we tackle The Road Darkens. Ally Boromir seems to exemplify the character’s role as a protector and defender, especially of the Hobbits:

Boromir gets +2 while defending against an enemy with an engagement cost higher than your threat.
Response: After Boromir takes any amount of damage, ready him.

Here we have two abilities, one that boosts Boromir’s defense based on enemy engagement cost and one that is a readying effect. In both cases, it is clear that Boromir’s primary role is as a defender, although with the opportunity to use his high attack of 3 to counter. The first ability is quite powerful, as it boosts Boromir’s defense up to 3, which makes him one of the strongest allies in the game in terms of defense. While there are several Tactics allies with 4 defense floating around, such as the Defender of Rammas and Winged Guardian, both have only 1 hit point, which makes them surprisingly fragile. However, an ally with 3 defense and 4 hit points is quite solid, and Arwen can easily increase this to 4 defense and 4 hit points. The main problem here is that this defense bonus can only be utilized if the enemy’s engagement cost is higher than your threat. Including Boromir means running Tactics, which in turn implies a deck with a somewhat high starting threat and potentially no access to threat reduction. This means that you might not always be able to take advantage of Boromir’s boosted defense. However, this doesn’t have to be the case, as a Hobbit deck including Merry could have access to Boromir and a low starting threat at the same time. Of course, this kind of connection makes perfect sense, and Boromir will be going straight into all my Hobbit decks including Merry as the perfect defender of the little ones. A Tactics/Spirit combination (or any deck where Tactics isn’t necessarily a dominant sphere) could also work to enable Boromir to use the defense of 3 as often as possible. The only problem is paying the high cost of 4 if you’re not running 2 or 3 Tactics heroes, but resource generation on a Tactics hero or something like Elf-stone could get around this issue. Unfortunately, there aren’t a ton of options outside of Arwen for boosting the defense of an ally, but events like For Gondor! or Blade Mastery could work for this purpose. Perhaps the best option is Behind Strong Walls, which allows you to ready a defending Gondor character, giving them a +1 defense boost in the process. If you were defending with Boromir at 3 defense, you could use this event to defend with him twice at 4 defense (or defend twice at 2 defense without the engagement cost boost).

Although the defense boost is a welcome ability, it is the readying that really makes Boromir into a fierce ally. This is because readying is a bit rare for allies, or at least it usually involves a whole other card to pull off (i.e. Ever Vigilant). Boromir, on the other hand, can defend, take damage, and then ready so that he can participate in an attack. Action advantage is always key in this game, and being able to cover an enemy attack and have 3 attack strength available to help destroy an enemy is a great deal and well worth the 4 resources. The main problem here is that once Boromir takes some damage, his ability to defend without being destroyed gradually decreases, making him an ally with diminishing returns. Bringing healing in by including the Lore sphere (or having a partner in multiplayer with healing) is a simple solution, and Warden of Healing can help to keep Boromir continually fresh. Even Self Preservation is a possibility here. Although the total setup would be quite expensive (4 resources for Boromir + 3 resources for Self Preservation), it could make ally Boromir into a de facto fourth hero in terms of contribution to the game, as he would be able to handle at least 1 defense each turn, along with 1 attack or a second bout of defending. Since Boromir will often be involved in defending as well as attacking, it makes sense to also look for ways to boost his attack. Unfortunately, most weapons are either confined to heroes or only usable by traits that Boromir does not possess. Sword of Morthond is a possibility here for those who do not shy away from Outlands, and Boromir could becomes so insanely powerful under those conditions that he could probably dropkick Sauron straight into Mount Doom just by himself. Again, For Gondor! and Blade Mastery have some potential here, although this seems like a lot of trouble to buff an ally that is already strong without any help. I’ve so far neglected questing completely, given Boromir’s paltry willpower, but a Gondor hero with Visionary leadership attached could boost this up to 2. Ally Boromir could then quest for 2, take damage through archery (quite thematic if I do say so myself) and then ready for the combat phase. Finally, this readying can also be used to power effects that rely on the exhaustion of characters, and he makes a particularly good candidate for A Very Good Tale, as he could defend, take damage, ready, and then exhaust to help play that event, with his 4 cost increasing the chances of a beneficial result (assuming you don’t need or want him for attack, of course).

I have to say that Boromir is my favorite ally in the box. This is no doubt heavily influenced by my own particular attachment to the character, and his moment of sacrifice is one of my favorite moments in The Lord of the Rings. The case could be made that Galadriel, Elrond, and Bilbo are all more important or useful than Boromir, however after using him a few times in different decks, I’ve always found that he makes a strong impact. There is definitely a need to either pair him with healing or a low threat deck, which detracts from his versatility, but when used in the right way, he can form a strong member of your fellowship worthy of the character.

Versatility: ♦♦◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦♦

Elrond (Lore Ally, 3 cost, 3 willpower, 2 attack, 3 defense, 3 hit points):

elrond

Steven Seagal has arrived, or rather the new ally version of Elrond, and like the other 4 allies in the box, he is also a brand new ally version of a hero that we already have (or will get soon). While the Gandalf hero has arrived in an attempt to push those old copies of ally Gandalf back into the box, Elrond has come onto the scene acting almost as an ally Gandalf Jr., meaning that this is also a temporary ally that provides the choice between several useful effects:

At the end of the round, discard Elrond from play.
Response: After Elrond enters play, choose one: heal all damage from a hero, discard a Condition attachment, or each player draws 1 card.

The options that Elrond provides are perhaps not as universally useful as those of Core Gandalf, and could be safely described as more conditional. Still, although Elrond may be a more limited toolbox, he can play a key role given the right circumstances. To my mind, there is no doubt that the ability to discard a Condition attachment is the biggest game-changer here. Miner of the Iron Hills does the same thing for only 2 resources, but ends up as a useless body in most cases, with its highest aspiration being to end up as a chump blocker. Elrond may cost 1 more resource, but can actually play a strong role in almost any area of play, from questing to attack to defense. Not every quest will feature Condition attachments, and Elrond might not necessarily find a place in those situations, given that he is a 3-cost ally that only lasts for one round. However, Condition attachments do tend to be some of the nastiest encounter cards around, completely debilitating in some cases, with not many options for removal once they have been attached. Power of Orthanc was released recently and is perhaps the best solution, since it costs nothing except for a couple of points of threat, which does take some of the luster off of Elrond, but not every deck will include Spirit. It is also important to remember, as with Galadriel, the difference that an ally with such strong stats can make, even in the space of one round, especially if they are played multiple times throughout a game.

Beyond Condition removal, Elrond, like his hero version, can also dabble in the healing realm. In this case, ally Elrond actually directly heals all damage from a hero. While other healing effects, especially the Warden of Healing, are probably better just from the perspective of consistency and the ability to be repeated, healing all damage from a hero in one go could potentially rescue a key character from danger or enable a hero to defend once more without fear of death. Since Elrond gives a choice of three different options, this ensures that even if you don’t necessarily need healing, one of the other possibilities will still probably be useful. The last option, having each player draw a card, is probably the one to pick if the others aren’t useful at a particular moment or if a player is in need of cards or looking for a certain card. Like Campfire Tales, this is an effect that is much better in multiplayer than solo, meaning that the ally in general probably is better with more players (although this also increases the likelihood of conflict with a hero version somewhere on the table).

Although Elrond leaves play at the end of the round, his stats are quite strong, meaning that he can help out in almost any needed area. He also makes a better candidate for Children of the Sea than Galadriel, as he can quest for 5 and be shuffled back into your deck without any detrimental effect. With 3 defense and 3 hit points, Elrond can also defend against a relatively strong attack and survive. Although he leaves play anyway, making it seem like it doesn’t matter whether he is destroyed or not, recent quests, including those in The Road Darkens, tend to punish chump blocking, so having a temporary ally that can actually cover an attack without destruction can be valuable. Overall, Elrond is definitely more situational than ally Gandalf, but on the positive side, he provides a variety of Lore support options in a single card that usually could only be covered by 2 or 3 cards. Since Elrond’s response triggers after he enters play, this means he can also be cheated into play with something like Elf-stone or Sneak Attack and still get full value.

Versatility: ♦♦♦◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

Bilbo Baggins (Spirit Ally, 2 cost, 2 willpower, 0 attack, 0 defense, 2 hit points):

bilbo

Bilbo Baggins is the cheapest of the allies and perhaps objectively the least powerful in terms of ability and stats, yet in many ways he can make a strong case for being the most valuable overall, at least for hero Gandalf decks. This is because he plays an essential fetching role :

Response: After Bilbo Baggins enters play, search your deck for a Pipe attachment and add it to your hand. Shuffle your deck.

The Wizard Pipe is absolutely essential for hero Gandalf to perform to his fullest potential, as it allows a player to switch a card in hand with the top card of his or her deck. This allows Gandalf to use his resources with full flexibility and enables a wide variety of tricks and combos (see the upcoming attachments review for a more thorough review and analysis of the Wizard Pipe). Bilbo Baggins helps to ensure that a Gandalf player can consistently fetch a Wizard Pipe from game to game and do so as early as possible. Often, I will include 3 copies of Bilbo Baggins and only 1 of the Wizard Pipe, since I don’t really need more than 1 of the Pipe. The best aspect of Bilbo Baggins’ ability is that it searches the entire deck for a Pipe attachment, meaning that it has a 100% chance of hitting upon one. My ideal opening hand in a Gandalf deck would include Bilbo Baggins, as I can play him, gain a strong questing ally, and get the Wizard Pipe into play immediately. Even once I have a Wizard Pipe in play, Bilbo Baggins’ ability still has use, as if I don’t like the top card of my deck, I can still search my deck (even if I know there’s no Pipe in there) in order to shuffle my deck, hopefully bringing something more useful to the surface.

Of course, Wizard Pipe is not the only game in town. Previously, we’ve seen the release of the Hobbit Pipe, which together with Smoke Rings provides card draw, threat reduction, and willpower boosting to Hobbit decks (or a deck that includes enough Hobbit characters to make inclusion worthwhile). The biggest problem with Hobbit Pipe has always been that if it doesn’t show up early enough in a game, then it doesn’t really pull its weight in a deck. It thus isn’t as consistent as it needs to be to find a place in most decks. Bilbo Baggins can help greatly with this Hobbit and Pipes deck type, as he can help to fetch the Hobbit Pipe earlier in a game. With 3 copies of Bilbo Baggins and 3 copies of Hobbit Pipe, the probability of drawing at least 1 in an opening hand are quite high, and Bilbo himself can be a target for one of the Pipes. If a subsequent copy of Bilbo is revealed, you can always sacrifice him to play this second (or third) copy in order to draw another Hobbit Pipe. Since his ability is phrased as “enters play”, you could also put the same copy of Bilbo Baggins into play multiple times in a row, perhaps putting him into play with Sneak Attack during one round and then playing him normally the next round. In this way, 2 or 3 copies of Hobbit Pipe can be put into play rather quickly. I still need to tinker with this deck archetype a bit to declare that it has well and truly arrived, but Bilbo Baggins was definitely a needed and important component.

Besides his ability, Bilbo Baggins is yet another 2-cost Spirit ally with 2 willpower. However, he is even more valuable than some of the others in that he has 2 hit points rather than 1, which makes him more durable against encounter cards that deal direct damage. Overall, Bilbo Baggins is an absolute must-include for Gandalf decks (Wizard Pipe is just that important), a key factor for Hobbit Pipe decks, and a decent pick for non-Pipe Spirit decks for straight questing purposes.

Versatility: ♦♦♦◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦♦

Conclusion

The Road Darkens provides players with 4 ally versions of characters that already exist as heroes (or will soon be released as a hero in the case of Galadriel). It is quite fitting that the box focuses on these particular unique allies given their role in this part of the story. However, one potential downside of this emphasis on unique allies is that such characters are harder to incorporate into multiplayer decks, especially given the danger that they may clash with another player’s hero choice. This potential for clashing is perhaps the main weakness of the game in multiplayer, although it can be compensated for with pre-planning or flexibility on the part of players. Still, despite these challenges, it’s great to see that each of these allies has a defined role and clear utility. There are no coasters here, and while their relative merits can be debated and the limited number of player cards can be criticized, at least there’s no filler in sight, at least when it comes to allies. The fate of the attachments and events will soon be revealed.

Readers, what is your favorite ally from The Road Darkens? Which do you think is the strongest? Which do you think is the weakest?

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41 Comments
  1. The fact that Elrond can be cheated in using Sneak Attack makes all the difference in the world for me. If you’re playing with Gandalf Mk II or III, you can “free up” the use of Sneak Attack for Elrond. I see him as a way to free up two different card slots–perhaps now you don’t need to pack any healers or condition removal.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That’s definitely an advantage to these “swiss army knife” type cards: allowing you to use one card to accomplish multiple effects.

  2. My favorite ally in this expansion is also Boromir! (…I’m probably biased though since he’s my favorite Tolkien character overall too.)

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I definitely have Boromir colored glasses on.

  3. Silver Swan permalink

    If you’re going to use Boromir as a fourth hero Spear of the Citadel is a useful and thematic attachment. It’s expensive, and you’d certainly want some healing, but Boromir is a defender only surpassed by Beregond (with the Gondor events), so its worth it. Also, using Gondorian Discipline wouldn’t let Boromir ready without any damage on him, but it having it in hand means you don’t need to worry about risking his life so he can ready.
    I was surprised that one of the boon attachments of The Black Riders gave the Healer trait, since Warden of Healing was the only character with the Healer trait. Now, ally Elrond has it too. Do you think there will be further development of this trait?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Those are both great options! I’d love to turn ally Boromir into a super defender, and Gondorian Discipline is a particularly good choice to make sure he takes damage but doesn’t get destroyed.

      It’s hard to tell exactly what will happen with the traits. Attention to some of the traits has always been a bit haphazard, but there have been some attempts to go back and develop some long-ignored aspects of the game, so it’s possible we’ll see more healer love.

  4. Glowwyrm permalink

    Love the Boromir ally, but Galadriel and Elrond will see the most play. Galadriel is really helpful in Leadership decks/decks that combo Leadership and another sphere (like my favorite Leadership-Tactics pairings). Elrond has been essential in the saga quests because there are so many nasty condition attachments to discard. And as you mentioned, he’s still pretty useful if you can dump him into play for less than his cost. Not a dud ally in the pack, and not a coaster in the expansion, unless you will NEVER run Gandalf hero, in which case you’re missing out on good fun.

    As for uniqueness in multiplayer, I’m past the point of caring. Impromptu multi-player games (mostly on OCGTN for me) make it difficult to coordinate decks. I hate starting a match then having to go back and change out my decks. I’m not advocating 12 Glorfindels and a pyramid of Asfaloths, but as long as no one is running duplicate heroes, having an ally and hero version of someone on the table doesn’t bother me. If Galadriel can serve multiple roles in the books (protector of Lorien, seer of the mirror, gift giver) it can make sense for her to serve multiple roles in the game. I see multiple versions of characters in play as that character stretching themselves into the multiple roles they actually fulfill in the books. I’m all for the uniqueness rules to curb the power level on cards, but I’m not going to sweat it if I bring Galadriel ally and someone’s running Galadriel hero. Probably in the minority opinion here, but this is going to be a more difficult issue as the card pool grows.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      The uniqueness issue is definitely only going to get worse with time. As it is now, I tend to mostly include non-unique cards in my multiplayer decks to avoid having to make any substitutions. I think you’re right about the conflict between a unique ally and unique hero not really being a big deal in terms of being overpowered. The real problems arise when certain heroes are duplicated on the board, but I think the ally/hero conflict issue can be ignored if it’s too much trouble.

  5. I always find it interesting that people say that Galadriel rearranges the top 5 cards of your deck. This is the worst case scenario. Hopefully, you will have played an attachment from those 5 cards, so you’re arranging the top 4. Granted, this isn’t really better or worse: it’s just truer.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Ha! That’s true. Speaking for myself, it’s easy to get caught up in the language of the card instead of using the old noggin.

  6. I think Ally Elrond is going to get the most love in my games, mainly because of how well he pairs with Grima (and I love my Grima deck). Assuming I have Keys of Orthanc on Grima then not only could I play Elrond for the cost of 2 resources (at which point he becomes an absolute steal), but I’ll also get a resource back! And that’s before triggering one of his options

    Even if Grima isn’t around, having a Master of Lore on the table can again get Ally Elrond into play for two resources.

    Galadriel is basically an auto-include for me in decks that have leadership, but I still see Elrond having the bigger impact

    • Hurray! Someone still uses Master of Lore post-nerf!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Your comment reminded me that I’ve never gotten around to building a Grima deck that I’m totally happy with. Unfortunately, the Silvan came around and then Gandalf and I totally got sidetracked!

      • Fouilloux permalink

        I tried one, but which is a pure solo one: I run Grima, Theodred, and of course Loragorn, with as many doomed card as possible (isengard messenger get really good). There is nothing really new, but the deck is fun to play: the idea is that you get to play anything you can during one or two turn, (with the doom events plus key of orthanc you got a lot of ressources) make your threat skyrocket, go back to the starting threat and then stop using grima ability.
        It’s kind of fun thought, as you really put a lot of stuff on the board ine one turn, including some master of lore which will help you in the future to play others cards.

        Of course in multiplayer your partners would hate you.

  7. William O'Brien permalink

    Bilbo should probably be at least a 1-of in most spirit decks, if only for the stats. I believe the only other ally with 2 willpower and 2 hitpoints for 2 cost is Arwen.

    One serious issue with Galadriel is that many of her best targets (Steward, Sword that was Broken, Vilya, Light of Valinor, etc) are unique, so her chances of whiffing can go up pretty quickly. It will be important to build decks with her accordingly.

    Elrond will be super good in decks with hero Galadriel. Enter-play effect, quest for 3, then a strong defense or attack. Only problem here is Gandalf and Saruman work the same way, and eventually you’ll want allies that stick around 😉

    One nice trick with Boromir is Gondorian Discipline. This will let him survive some extra attacks and trigger his ability. He can survive a Hill Troll swing that way and then contribute to the swing back.

    • Michael permalink

      Don’t forget the Ethir Swordsman who has de facto 2 WP for a cost of 2.

      • William O'Brien permalink

        But not 2 hit points, unless you have a Herdsman out

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I agree completely about Bilbo being pretty much an auto-include in Spirit decks, at least 1 copy, as 2 willpower paired with 2 hit points is very useful.

      As far as hero Galadriel is concerned, I’m very excited about her coming out! I tend to not proxy upcoming cards simply because I want to maintain the sense of anticipation for getting the actual thing, but once she comes out, I’m looking forward to building some strong Galadriel decks.

  8. I think it says something about my play style that of all the goodness to come when The Road Darkens, what I’m most excited about is re-building my mono-Spirit Hobbit deck with triple pipes and the new Bilbo Baggins ally!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I’m actually thinking about giving the ol’ pipe deck another try now too!

  9. The odd thing about Boromir is you WANT him to take damage, so that he readies often. This make a new situation where you want a character to defend successfully but not perfectly. So yeah, healing is the best approach for him.

    • Silver Swan permalink

      Gloin and Gimli also want to take damage, so that problem has been around since the core set.

  10. Gwaihir the Windlord permalink

    I was, quite frankly, shocked when I heard Galadriel would be an ally in The Road Darkens. Of all characters in Middle-earth, I would have predicted Sauron coming before ally Galadriel. Why? Her hero version is due in (roughly) a month from now, and I thought that it would be at least a year before we saw an ally of her. This could potentially ruin ally Galadriel when her hero comes out. Find up to a 3-cost attachment and play it for free with a 3/0/0/3 ally for one round . . . or have threat reducing/card drawing four willpower questing machine (with Nenya) that’s permanent? Ally Galadriel is an amazing invention – I just believe that the hero will overshadow her.
    As for the allies as a whole – I love them! However, being a slave to theme, I couldn’t bring myself to play these allies in LotR sagas until I thought of something interesting. For example: Say you have just played Elrond from your hand (or with hero Gandalf). Instead of saying that he has temporarily joined the Company, the SPIRIT of Elrond is with them! Same goes for Bilbo and Galadriel, or Arwen or any other influential character. It’s a little on the wacko side, but don’t we all have to be a bit crazy to love this game? What about you, Tales: are you a slave to theme?

    • I think ally Galadriel, like Kung Fu Elrond, was made for the thematic temporary assistance to the ring bearer for this saga. Neither comes close to the power potential of a full time hero version. But I love powerful allies that do multiple things for me even for just one round.

      I love using Galadriel ally, Especially with Aragorn or Celeborn, but I like a good gamble in my deck.

      I can see using the ally version of Elrond with Hero Galadriel to powerful results. He can quest, Take a powerful hit without dying, and trigger a useful ability.

      There is some synergy with ally Galadriel and hero Elrond. Search for Vilya, and then organize the cards so that Vilya can be used effectively. I have played Elrond enough to see that this helps cover for a stalling Elrond deck where you haven’t found Vilya, or you have Vilya but no Gildor or Stargazer to make it work effectively.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I wouldn’t say I’m an absolute slave to theme, but perhaps a minor servant? The theme of these temporary allies like Galadriel and Elrond makes sense to me in the same way that you described: they actually represent the advice, inspiration, and help that these characters provided to the fellowship rather than them actually being physically present. So if Elrond takes away a Condition attachment, perhaps that represents a warning that Elrond gave the company before they left that helps them to avoid that particular danger. I definitely enjoy coming up with thematic explanations for unlikely moments in the game!

      I think it’s a given that the Galadriel hero will overshadow the ally, but I think that’s true for all hero/ally versions of the same character. It is interesting to get them so close in time together.

  11. Stoian permalink

    Sorry because I write here but I have 2 questions about art of LOTR LCG:
    -Bill the Pony :What is the black part after the pony (looks like a shadow/hobbit with clock but is too small)?
    -The Great Cave Toll (TRD):It has a stone armor around his bally?Or it is a stone bridge(Tolkien said that Cave trolls had stone bridges)?
    I hope you will respond to this questions that really torture me!Thank you!

    • Glowwyrm permalink

      Bill: I’m pretty sure the shadow is supposed to be Sam leading Bill. I think it looks too small because the perspective in the picture and the hobbit is walking away.
      Troll: After zooming in on a digital version of the picture, I am convinced that the “stone” is the metal shield of the troll’s goblin handler. There are two bones sticking out from behind it and crude straps around it, which suggest that it is not attached to the troll but to something in front of the troll. And the stone look could also be a crummy metal shield (like a goblin would have). It is definitely an interesting piece of art with a lot going on.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Some interesting questions! I never really look at the art in much detail, so this is a good reminder for me to look at it more closely. I agree that the shadow in Bill the Pony seems to be Sam leading Bill, as it looks to be a cloaked figure with his back turned. I’m not sure about the stone. It looks to be some type of armor with the bones as decoration, but I could be wrong.

  12. Makusi permalink

    Boromir is going to my Sam, Merry and Lore Pippin/Frodo deck but otherways I dont see a big use of him (and maybe its not intended).

    Its fun they made Boromir Ally and I think they would make Legolas and Gimli in the future. But I dont feel Aragorn would suit in the role of an Ally, because he is THE Hero.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yeah, it would be a bit weird to see Aragorn as an ally. For that matter, a Frodo or even a Sam ally would feel weird as well.

  13. Stoian permalink

    Thank you!

  14. Stoian permalink

    If other peoples have other thoughts they can say…

  15. jamesarthurharrison permalink

    Really good review – thanks for writing it! /i do have one call out – Is Bilbo really as Versatile as Elrond? I can see putting Elrond in many decks as being useful and very versatile Notably Condition removal against those quests I haven’t played yet (and thus don’t know if condition removal is a thing) – who will be a great card whatever…

    …Whereas I see putting Bilbo in Pipe getting decks – it’s an amazing ability, but I don’t feel it’s as versatile.

    • Joe permalink

      Why is nobody pointing out the huge downside of Bilbo?

      I can’t tell you how often it is going to ruin decks in multiplayer that revolve around the Bilbo hero….

      • TalesfromtheCards permalink

        I think this is one where the particular players you play with influences your viewpoint. I know in my case, in all the multiplayer games I’ve played, I think I’ve seen Bilbo as a hero just once, so it doesn’t seem as big an issue as with Elrond, Boromir, or even Galadriel once the hero comes out.

        • Joe permalink

          Me too. I was being sarcastic 🙂

          I smiled when I noticed it didn’t get mentioned in your article. Or by anyone.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks! I based his versatility not on his ability, which is admittedly limited to either Gandalf decks or Hobbit Pipe decks, but purely on his stats and cost. A 2 cost, 2 willpower ally with more than 1 hit point will be useful to pretty much every deck that uses Spirit.

  16. Now we can finally make a worthwhile Pipe deck. 🙂 Bilbo is for me a mustinclude in Gandalfdecks, but he can do really cool in Hobbitdecks.

    Elrond is my favorite of them all. His flexability is the thing that makes him shine and be ‘better’ then the other allies for me. You mentioned that Elrond is better then Miner of the Iron Hills. Of course I agree in general, for the Miner has nothing to do in a nondwarf deck other then die.. But he does cost 1 resource less then Elrond and for example: take the latest ‘playthrough’ your fellows for the Grey Company did (you were probably taking care of your little hobbit ;)). Sam got Taken by Evil which turned him into an enemy. Derek had Elrond in had but only 2 resources. Would he have had a Miner instead of Elrond, Sam was saved, because he got discarded when they advanced to stage 4…..

    Boromir is very cool! I love his art, his stats are amazing and his response is there to top it all of! He could become really strong in your Hobbit deck ‘Stings like a bee’. The remaining Gondorian Shield could go on him and you have two awesome defenders.

    Galadriel is a great ally in my new Gandalf deck. It features all sorts of attachments with cost of 2 or lower. She works as a one-time Stargazer and thins the deck even so.

    On a side note. Horn of Gondor is getting some love here! Elrond leaves play, Galadriel leaves play..

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That is true about the difference in cost between the Miner and Elrond, with the difference between 2 and 3 resources being particularly important. I think I could see the Miner getting selected over Elrond if all you cared about is the condition attachments in a quest and didn’t feel confident in always having the resources available for Elrond.

  17. For multi-player would it be overpowered if the uniqueness rule applied to each player individually, except for heroes? I could easily see multiple players with Dain Ironfoot being silly :P. It’d make it way easier to make multi-player decks to not have to worry about uniqueness clashing though.

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