Card Spotlight: Infighting
Since I began the Card Spotlight series, Infighting has been on my radar as a top candidate for analysis. However, for whatever reason, I never quite got around to this card, and it took a special request from a reader to prompt me to finally give Infighting the spotlight treatment. To my mind, Infighting is an ideal candidate for this series. It is a card that has been around for ages, being released in the A Journey to Rhosgobel AP, but is barely ever used by most players, at least from what I can tell. I know that I have only used it maybe once or twice, and that was around the time that the card was first released. Since then, it’s never found it’s way into any of my decks. Although commonly derided as a useless card, the aim of the Card Spotlight series is to always dig a bit deeper and seek to discover whether prevailing wisdom is correct or if a card has been unfairly marginalized. Of course, sometimes a card is truly a coaster at first but the development of the card pool provides enough synergy and complementary options that it eventually transforms into a gem. Whether this is the case for Infighting will have to be seen, and there’s no doubt it faces a tough uphill battle.
Action: Move any number of damage from one enemy to another.
This can be roughly thought of as a form of direct damage, as the main purpose here is to deal damage to an enemy through a means other than directly attacking it. However, the reason why this event has fascinated me for so long, even though I never use it, is because it is so unique. No other card allows you to move damage from one enemy to another, and the thematic aspect of Infighting is great. Infighting among the minions of the Enemy is one of their major weaknesses and we see this pop up several times in Tolkien’s works: Merry and Pippin were saved from a horrible fate precisely because of infighting between the orcs of Saruman and those of Mordor, while Sam took advantage of the conflict between orcs at Cirith Ungol to rescue Frodo. Even Bilbo’s incident with the trolls was resolved by Gandalf sowing discord among them as a delaying tactic. Thus, having a card that allows us to replicate these moments is awesome. Unfortunately, the problem with Infighting has always been one of impracticality when it comes to actual game situations. Most of the time, it is simply easier to attack the enemy you want to destroy, rather than attacking a weaker one, then using Infighting to transfer that damage over. Not to mention, you also have to hope that you have Infighting in hand during the few specific moments in a game when it is relevant, and removing damage from an enemy just creates a problem you’ll have to deal with later. The problem is that Infighting is a cool effect, but when push comes to shove, it’s hard for it to justify a place over other cards in a deck that are more consistently applicable.
Still, there are several potential uses for Infighting, and we should review as many of them as we can before dismissing Infighting out of hand:
1) Damaging an enemy that is otherwise inaccessible
The most obvious example of this particular use are enemies in the staging area. Infighting doesn’t place any conditions on which enemies can be targeted by this effect, so it’s a perfectly valid use of the card to move damage from an enemy engaged with you (or another player) to one in the staging area. This can be a way of taking out enemies in the staging area without having to engage them, either because they are too dangerous, have a nasty effect that triggers when they engage, or in order to remove threat from the staging area during questing. This can also be useful against those enemies that cannot be optionally engaged by players, with Bill Ferny being just one example. Aside from the staging area, there are certain situations where enemies are simply immune to certain kinds of attack. It’s important to remember that Infighting was released as part of A Journey to Rhosgobel, which featured a few enemies that could only be attacked by ranged characters. Infighting allowed players to attack conventional enemies, and then transfer this damage over to those “special” enemies, instead of having to muster a bunch of ranged characters. Note that enemies that are “immune to player card effects” unfortunately cannot have damage moved to them by Infighting, so there’s no special loopholes available here for those types of big bosses.
2) Moving damage from a weak enemy to a stronger one
The idea here is that you could take advantage of one enemy’s low defense to inflict damage upon it, then move that damage to an enemy with higher defense. This would allow you to use the attack strength you have available to deal more damage to a strong enemy than you would if you attacked it normally. The problem here is that most enemies with low defense also don’t have many hit points, which means that there might not be enough damage potential to warrant the use of Infighting. However, this is an area where looking at concrete examples can help to determine whether this use is actually viable beyond mere theoretical musings. Let’s take a look at some enemies from the most recent quests. First, how about if you were engaged with these two guys from The Three Trials?
Clearly, Spirit of the Wild is the weaker enemy here, with only 2 defense and 4 hit points, while the Raven’s Guardian is much stronger, with 5 defense and 8 hit points. Let’s imagine that you have Beravor and Aragorn available with 5 attack strength. They would be unable to damage the Raven’s Guardian at all with a conventional attack. However, if they attacked the Spirit of the Wild, they could deal 3 damage, then move that damage over to the Raven’s Guardian, inflicting 3 damage to it instead of 0. However, this is the ideal situation, where you have just enough attack to deal full damage to the Spirit of the Wild without destroying it. If you had Legolas and Gimli instead, with 6 attack, you would either have to simply destroy the Spirit and not use Infighting, or only attack it with 1 of the 2 heroes. This would only deal 1 damage to the Spirit of the Wild, which probably wouldn’t be worth moving with Infighting. This illustrates one of the weaknesses of Infighting: it requires you to have the optimal combination of attack strength in the right places to deal enough damage to the weaker enemy without destroying it. Therefore, if you’re using Infighting, having multiple characters with varying levels of attack strength is better than having just a few heavy-hitters. Even in the optimal scenario, dealing 3 damage to Raven’s Guardian may or may not be worth the deck space for Infighting. If you previously damaged the Raven’s Guardian, then Infighting could be a way to finish it off when this would otherwise be impossible. However, if you’re relying on Infighting to take out enemies single-handedly, then you will probably be disappointed. Let’s look at another example, this time from The Nin-in-Eilph:
This seems like an ideal situation for Infighting. The Giant Swamp Adder is much more of a threat than the Neekerbreekers, but has a high defense of 3. Taking our hero pairings from before, Beravor and Aragorn could deal 4 damage to the Neekerbreekers (5 attack – 1 defense = 4 damage) and then transfer that over to the Giant Swamp Adder. If they attacked the Giant Swamp Adder directly, they would only deal 2 damage. Infighting here allows these heroes to essentially double their damage potential against the Adder. Still, this isn’t enough to destroy it outright, assuming no other damage has been placed previously, but it could severely weaken it. Thus, it’s important to understand that Infighting can work for the purpose of dealing more damage to a stronger enemy using a weaker enemy, but instant destruction is not realistic. Rather, Infighting will have to be just one tool among many to deal with stronger enemies. There will be a few great stories where you finish off a strong enemy in epic fashion using the card, but there will also be many other instances where it doesn’t do much to help you, leaving you to face multiple enemies without being able to destroy any of them. Perhaps that card slot you spent for Infighting in those cases could have been better spent on a strong attacking ally or attack boosting attachment for the same purpose, but in a way that is far less conditional.
3) Allowing a combat capable deck to help out a more vulnerable one
Infighting is probably a better card in multiplayer than solo, with a lot more enemies on the board meaning a lot more potential interactions and situations where this effect might prove useful. In particular, Infighting could be used as a way for a strong combat deck to help out a support or questing deck that is having trouble with an enemy. In this situation, the combat deck could damage an enemy engaged with it, then Infighting could be used to transfer this damage over to an enemy engaged with another deck. This can be seen as a kind of alternative or supplement to ranged. Although this removes damage from the enemy engaged with the combat deck, such a deck probably has better attack options and will probably be more able to tank the enemy for awhile than the support deck will be able to handle its own enemy.
4) Facilitating a damage dealing engine
This is potentially one of the more intriguing uses of Infighting. The idea here is to set up one enemy as a consistent recipient of damage. The damage from this enemy would then serve as a “damage bank” that Infighting could draw upon when needed. In order to make this happen, the enemy would need to be incapacitated in some way, as tanking it over and over again would not be wise for this purpose, given the danger of shadow effects and the likely appearance of further enemies. This enemy would also need to have a high amount of hit points (and not too high of a defense strength) so that damage could be piled upon it, then moved all at once to completely obliterate another foe. The classic example of this type of “damage engine” is to use Forest Snare to trap an enemy, preventing it from attacking again, while still keeping it handy to be attacked and damaged at will. This old foe is an example of a perfect candidate:
With only 1 defense and a big pool of 7 hit points, it is relatively easy to first trap the Marsh Adder with the Forest Snare, so that it can’t attack, then heap 6 damage upon it to be distributed later with Infighting. 6 damage is enough to destroy many enemies outright since this completely ignores their defense. One drawback here is that you first need to engage an enemy and take at least 1 attack from it before you can attach the Forest Snare during the following planning phase. Another is that this combo relies upon drawing the Forest Snare first and having it available when the right enemy shows up, in addition to drawing at least 1 copy of Infighting later on to make the whole thing worthwhile. Then, you have to keep enough attack strength back for 1 round or more in order to deal damage to the trapped enemy, which is made more difficult if other enemies engage in the meantime. The advantage here, though, is that it provides some direct damage and help with attacking for the Lore sphere, which doesn’t have quite as many options as Tactics, and Lore also has access to plenty of card draw in order to get at these cards more quickly. The growth of the card pool has also made this whole combination more feasible, as the 3 cost of Forest Snare with the 1 cost of Infighting was quite expensive for an effect that wasn’t necessarily as essential as some others. Cost reduction in Lore, whether we’re talking about Grima or Master of Lore, can help greatly now, while a card like Master of the Forge can work to get the Forest Snare out more quickly.
Of course, the growth of the card pool also means other options besides Forest Snare now exist. For example, it could be possible to trap an enemy in the staging area with both Poisoned Stakes and Ranger Spikes. The 2 damage from the Stakes would accumulate over several rounds and then could be moved to another enemy with Infighting, while the Ranger Spikes would prevent it from engaging. This combo is a bit hard to setup, though, because you need to use some scrying to make sure you play the 2 traps into the staging area when a promising enemy (one with many hit points) is going to be revealed first. If you play the traps blindly, you’re unlikely to find the right target unless you’re extremely lucky. This also requires 3 total cards, rather than 2: Ranger Spikes, Poisoned Stakes, and Infighting. Ranger Spikes and Forest Snare are the 2 main methods currently available to neutralize an enemy on a fairly permanent basis, although there is also a “Hama lock” deck where you recycle Feint and/or Thicket of Spears over and over again, so Infighting could be used to allowed that kind of deck to run a damage dealing engine as well. Overall, this is a fun and interesting use for the card, though not necessarily the cheapest or most practical on a consistent basis.
5) Filling a “damage transfer” role in a direct damage deck
There are plenty of direct damage effects in the Tactics sphere, and even quite a few in Lore as well (i.e. Forest Patrol, Ranger Bow, Poisoned Stakes, etc.). However, over time, small bits of damage may be spread across many different enemies because of the nature of how these effects works. For example, all enemies in play may have 1 damage from Thalin, while one might have another damage from Spear of the Citadel, while another has an additional 2 points of damage from Ranger Bow. In this game, the best strategy is usually to kill enemies when you can and pile damage on one enemy (whichever is the biggest threat or the one that can actually be killed at a given moment), rather than to try to whittle down a bunch of enemies all at once. This is because every enemy destroyed equals 1 fewer attack, which is the most important consideration in most cases. Infighting can help a direct damage deck function better by concentrating damage that is dispersed in order to more quickly dispatch enemies. Even if Infighting only ends up adding 1,2, or 3 points of damage, this may just be enough to add to existing damage and kill an enemy if used at the right time. In fact, some of the disappointment around Infighting may be caused by unrealistic expectations, centered around the idea of dropping huge amounts of damage on an enemy at once. However, if you look at other direct damage effects, most of them only cause 1 or 2 points of damage at a time (i.e. Spear of the Citadel hits for 1, Swift Strike hits for 2, Descendant of Thorondor hits for 2, etc.), so Infighting is actually on par with other cards that have a similar purpose. The difference of course is that Infighting actually removes damage from another enemy to do its work, which can be seen as a hidden “cost” of the card, and makes it slightly worse than other direct damage effects. That’s why I feel it hits a sweet spot when it is used in conjunction with other direct damage cards in a “damage transfer” role rather than on its own. Keep in mind that another aspect of Infighting that highlights its flexibility is that it doesn’t have to move all the damage, but can move “any number of damage”. This means you could move a single point of damage to one enemy, leaving it 1 hit point shy of death so that it can be killed by a defending Gondorian Spearman, while leaving enough damage on the original enemy to be destroyed through a conventional attack on that turn. This simple example demonstrates the value of damage transfer.
After a lengthy analysis of Infighting, I still feel pretty torn about this card, more so than I do with most victims of the Card Spotlight. On the one hand, the fact that there are 5 distinct possible uses of this card that I was able to uncover (and possibly more if I spent more time pondering the matter) speak to its versatility and ability to solve a variety of problems. On the other hand, I already have a tough enough time as it is cutting down to 50 or 52 cards with the present card pool. It’s always instructive to compare to cards of the same sphere and type and ask yourself, “Would I pick this card over ____?”. There are plenty of valuable Lore events out there and only a limited amount of space for them in the decks I build. Would I pick Infighting over Secret Paths/Radagast’s Cunning? Would I pick Infighting over Daeron’s Runes? Would I pick Infighting over Forest Patrol or Take No Notice or Advance Warning in a Ranger deck? Of course, Infighting can be paired with all of these cards, but the point is that at some point priorities have to be decided and cards have to be cut. I’m not sure if Infighting makes it high enough on the list to make it into many decks. Still, it clearly does have uses. I don’t think it fits very well into decks that include Tactics, as that sphere has better and more consistent forms of direct damage already, and can probably deal with enemies in a more straightforward manner as well (although it could be used as a “damage transfer” mechanism as described above. However, Infighting can work well to provide a direct damage option for Lore and could work especially well in a Lore Ranger deck that might already be using cards like Ranger Spikes, Forest Snare, Poisoned Stakes, and Forest Patrol. It is also important to emphasize the flexibility it has in being able to move a damage from any enemy anywhere on the board to any other enemy anywhere on the board. This gives it a valuable support function in multiplayer, as it could be used by a Lore player to help move damage from an enemy engaged with a Tactics player to an enemy engaged with a Spirit player, to cite just one example. For these reasons, I can’t in good conscience give Infighting the dreaded “coaster” tag, as it is not without merit. For creative and tricksy players, it provides an unorthodox means of accomplishing a few different ends, and for that reason, I deem it a gem.