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Celebrimbor’s Secret: Allies Review

by on December 13, 2014

celebrimbor

It’s inevitable that Galadriel has dominated much of the spotlight when it comes to the player cards from the Celebrimbor’s Secret Adventure Pack. However, this shouldn’t take away from the fantastic allies, attachments, and events that can also be found in this pack. At the risk of revealing my thoughts on this pack a little early, I have to say that this is probably the strongest set of player cards all around that we’ve seen so far in this cycle. Beyond a great hero, there’s a solid set of allies to be found, all of which add value to the card pool in different ways.

ALLIES

* Orophin (Leadership Ally, 3 cost, 2 willpower, 2 attack, 0 defense, 2 hit points):

Orophin

So far we’ve received two of the Silvan brothers from Lorien, Haldir and Rumil, and so it was pretty much a given that Orophin would eventually come along. He has indeed arrived, appearing in the form of a Leadership ally with an ability that fits perfectly into the Silvan style of play:

Ranged.

Response: After Orophin enters play, return a Silvan ally from your discard pile to your hand.

Since Silvan allies are generally the most powerful during the round they enter play, whether because of Celeborn’s stat boosts or Galadriel’s non-exhaustion effect or their own “enters play” ability, any effect that can get them back into hand so that they can be played again is not only useful, but crucial to optimizing the power of the archetype. While most of these effects have been Silvan focused events that return allies to hand from play, Orophin mixes things up by returning a Silvan ally to hand from the discard pile instead. This may seem a bit counter-intuitive at first, as unlike a trait like Rohan, which focuses around sacrificing allies, Silvan characters generally don’t hit the discard pile frequently unless things are going awry. On the other hand, at least some will be discarded as the natural result of play, whether through shadow effects, the need to chump block, or an encounter card of some kind. When this happens, it can hurt the Silvan strategy to a greater or lesser degree because Silvan decks previously have not had an easy way to bring discarded allies back into the fold. This is where Orophin steps into the fray. He also provides an additional option to get Silvan allies off the table and back into your hand besides the usual Silvan events.

For example, imagine returning a Naith Guide to hand using Feigned Voices, which causes Silvan Refugee to be discarded. You could then play Orophin the following round to bring the Refugee back into hand, meaning that both the Naith Guide and Silvan Refugee would be available. There are also other ways to get Silvan allies into the discard pile in order for Orophin to retrieve them. A Very Good Tale, which can work well in Silvan decks anyway, can potentially discard useful allies, making them available for future retrieval. Keep in mind that Orophin’s ability triggers off of “entering play”, so you can set up nice chains with something like The Tree People where effects domino into each other or even just Sneak Attack him in to get multiple uses out of the ability. With the clever use of timing and the right cards available, Silvan decks can pull off some impressive combat tricks to handle defensive and offensive situations. For example, you could defend with a Defender of the Naith to cover one attack, return a Silvan ally to use Feigned Voices to cancel a second attack, which would ready the Defender to cover a third attack. Then, you could chump block to cover a fourth attack, return the Defender of the Naith to hand to play The Tree People, which brings in Orophin and retrieves the chump blocker! If you had Sneak Attack available, you could even put the chump blocker back in immediately to cover a fifth attack, while Orophin is available to counter-attack at 3 with Celeborn in play. This is a glimpse into the possibilities available with Orophin and the Silvan trait. In terms of just being an ally, Orophin has solid stats, which are even stronger during the round he enters play when Celeborn is around. With O Lorien!, you can get him into play for just 2 resources, which is a definite steal. All around, Orophin is an automatic include for Silvan decks that include Leadership. Outside of Silvan decks, Orophin is actually worth including in a Leadership heavy or mono-Leadership deck, as 3 resources is pretty affordable for the sphere and 2 willpower and 2 attack is a steal for that price.

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦♦

* Henneth Anun Guard (Tactics Ally, 3 cost, 0 willpower, 2 attack, 2 defense, 2 hit points):

Henneth-Annûn-Guard

The Ring-maker cycle has seen a few allies released that have an optional “Doomed” effect that can be triggered, such as the location control of the Greyflood Wanderer or the threat cancellation of the Mirkwood Pioneer. The Henneth Annun Guard brings an optional Doomed effect for the Tactics sphere, one that appropriately focuses on combat support :

You may give Henneth Annûn Guard doomed 1 when you play it from your hand. If you do, it gains :”Response: After you play Henneth Annûn Guard, choose a character. Until the end of the round, that character gets +2 and gains sentinel.”

This ally really brings two things to the table that have to be judged together as a total package: its own stats and a one-time ability. Let’s look at the latter first. Giving a character two additional points of defense and sentinel is certainly worthwhile. Arwen, for example, is such a crucial ally because she can give +1 defense and sentinel, and so +2 defense should be even more valuable, although part of Arwen’s value is in the repeatable nature of her ability. Still, granting such a big defense boost across the table to another player’s character could save someone at a key moment during a multiplayer game. Similarly, the +2 bonus could be given to any player’s character, and then that character could use the sentinel to defend for whoever needed it most. Of course, the Guard itself can benefit from the bonus and defend for 4, although there are already more permanent equivalents for cheaper (i.e. Defender of Rammas, Winged Guardian), so the true utility here is probably in the flexibility. In many ways, finding defensive solutions is one of the keys to victory in most scenarios, so anything that can help in that regard is useful. As an ally, the Henneth Annun Guard has decent stats, with 2 attack and 2 defense making him fairly versatile for both combat and battle/siege questing. 2 hit points is also nice on a defender, compared to the 1 hit point of better defensive allies like Winged Guardian and Defender of Rammas that sometimes leave them open to nasty treacheries and direct damage from the encounter deck. The Henneth Anun Guard also has the Gondor trait, which means that it could get boosted up to 3 attack with Leadership Boromir’s boost or potentially benefit from Gondorian Discipline.

Still, there are some downsides to this ally. In terms of the ability, timing is a key issue. Since the effect only triggers off of playing from hand, there is a level of pre-planning here that is inconvenient and lowers its utility. You basically have to anticipate in advance that you will be in need of some extra defensive help on a given turn, all before staging even happens. This will be pretty clear in some cases, when taking on a big boss enemy who is clearly not going anywhere or when you’re already flooded with a bunch of enemies regardless of what happens during the quest phase. At other times, the picture won’t be as clear and you’ll have to decide whether to hold onto the Guard or play him, which could end up leaving you with an ally in hand that you aren’t playing for several rounds. Similarly, in terms of stats, there are some weaknesses. The greatest is the cost. 3 resources is quite expensive for the Tactics sphere, when you can get strong, useful allies for only 2 resources, such as Defender of Rammas, Winged Guardian, Westfold Outrider, Galadhon Archer, and more. All this is not to say that the Henneth Anun Guard doesn’t have value, just that it is not an ally that will fit into every deck and is certainly not an auto-include. It can, however, work as a part of a solution to certain defensive problems posed by specific scenarios and I would certainly include it in a Gondor deck that uses Tactics.

Versatility: ♦♦♦◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦◊◊

Galadriel’s Handmaiden (Spirit Ally, 2 cost, 2 willpower, 0 attack, 1 defense, 1 hit point):

Galadriel's-Handmaiden

This cycle has placed a heavier emphasis on Silvan than any other deck type, providing a series of new, relatively cheap non-unique Silvan allies for each sphere with abilities that trigger off of entering play. Galadriel’s Handmaiden is the Spirit version of this pattern:

Response: After Galadriel’s Handmaiden enters play, choose a player. That player reduces his threat by 1.

This ability is as simple as can be, and while not earth shattering on its own, is certainly helpful. A single point of threat reduction can buy another round before threat elimination or delay an enemy’s engagement. The flexibility of being able to choose the player that receives this benefit is also crucial in multiplayer. When you consider that Silvan allies are meant to be returned to hand and their abilities can be triggered multiple times, along with the fact that you may have multiple copies of this ally in your deck, the net threat reduction over the course of a game is not trivial. If you pair the Handmaiden with hero Galadriel and the Spirit Silvan event, Island Amid Perils, both of which also reduce threat, then threat control can become a great strength of your Silvan deck. However, the Handmaiden’s ability is only part of the story. The fact is that this ally is a fantastic quester in a Silvan deck, as she can contribute 3 willpower during the round she enters play when Celeborn is on the table. This is fantastic value for only 2 resources, and you can use various Silvan tricks to return her to hand so that you can benefit from this boost again. When paired with Silvan Refugee, who can also quest for 3 on her initial turn, a Silvan deck using Spirit can put up some solid willpower numbers. For this reason, Galadriel’s Handmaiden is a clear auto-include for Silvan decks that are using Spirit. There’s really no good reason not to include this ally. For non-Silvan decks, there are already a few 2-cost 2-willpower Spirit allies, so the Handmaiden isn’t necessarily an automatic pick in the same way. However, her ability isn’t necessarily Silvan-specific itself, s I could definitely see the Handmaiden fitting into plenty of non-Silvan decks as well. To take just one example, Galadriel’s Handmaiden could fit in perfectly into a Grima deck, essentially offsetting the threat increase from Grima’s ability, giving you a 2 willpower ally for only 1 resource!

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

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

Wandering-Ent

Although other traits and cards from Celebrimbor’s Secret have grabbed the headlines, the game’s first Ent has entered the card pool with a whisper. Part of the reason is probably that the Wandering Ent was spoiled quite a while ago, featuring strong stats and a thematic drawback to represent the aversion of Ents to anything that might be regarded as hasty:

Cannot have restricted attachments.

Enters play exhausted.

The Wandering Ent does not have an ability, so the only thing to discuss is the stats of this ally and the impact of the penalty on its overall value. First off, there is no doubt that the Wandering Ent is incredibly strong and useful as a body. The stat line of 2 willpower, 2 attack, 2 defense, and 3 hit points is equivalent to the 4-cost Haldir ally for half the resources. This means that the Wandering Ent can be a solid contributor to questing or attacking, while also being able to serve as a feasible defender thanks to those 3 hit points. Arwen could boost this defense to 3, making the Ent a fearsome defender indeed. Keep in mind that the Wandering Ent is only barred from having restricted attachments, not all attachments, so you could place A Burning Brand or Self Preservation onto this ally to transform it into a complete defensive solution. In terms of questing, 2-cost 2-willpower allies are usually the specialty of the Spirit sphere, so the Wandering Ent certainly brings something special and powerful to Lore. The Wandering Ent is also not tied specifically to any particular deck type, so it can fit into a wide variety of decks and provide a strong and balanced ally for a low cost.

Of course, this all comes with one big drawback: the loss of action advantage on the first turn the Wandering Ent enters play. Just how damaging is it for this ally to enter play exhausted? It really depends upon the deck you’re using, the scenario you’re facing, and the specific game situation. For example, spending 2 of your resources on the first round against a scenario that hits hard from the beginning might not be the best choice, since this will take away from playing a card that will give you a more immediate fighting chance. Of course, if you can hold on, then you’ll have a strong ally on your side, so decks with heroes that can hold their own without much support, at least for a little while, can make great use of this ally. In many ways, though, the Wandering Ent strikes me as a solid mid-to-late game card more than an early play, but it can definitely strengthen your position substantially and isn’t simply a “win more” card. Since the Wandering Ent is only 2 resources, you can get it into play for only 1 resource using Grima or easily cheat it into play with A Very Good Tale, thus leaving other resources available to put into play other cards that can make up for the Ent’s initial exhaustion. Of course, it is possible to use a card like Ever Vigilant to ready the Ent immediately to counteract the drawback completely. Another option is Spare Hood and Cloak, if you are willing to exhaust another character to ready the Wandering Ent for the first round. All in all, though, it’s probably better to forego those extra deck slots and simply plan to play the Ent smartly at the right moment. The penalty is certainly meaningful, but the Wandering Ent is still a really solid ally and cheap enough to fit into many decks that include Lore.

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

Conclusion

All four allies from this pack are extremely solid, although in quite different ways. Silvan has two new allies in Orophin and Galadriel’s Handmaiden, rounding out a well-developed trait and deck type that is becoming quite competitive with other deck types. The Henneth Annun Guard builds on the new Tactics flavor of Gondorian Ranger ushered in by Mablung in the last Adventure Pack. Finally, the Wandering Ent hopefully hints at a future of more Ent characters and cards. An Ent lover can only dream!

Readers, what is your favorite ally in this AP? Where does Orophin rank in the list of unique Silvan allies? How harmful is the exhaustion component of the Wandering Ent? Is the Henneth Annun Guard worth including in a deck? Where does Galadriel’s Handmaiden fall in the realm of Silvan allies?

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24 Comments
  1. Futonrivercrossing permalink

    FFG – more Ents please!!! An ent draught attachment for Hobbits as well 😉 and a Treebeard hero while you’re at it,!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I’d love more Ents as well. The more Ents, the better!

  2. Tonskillitis permalink

    Agreed, these are some great allies. While I think the jury still might be out on Henneth Annun Guard (simply outclassed by Arwen- though I guess that could be said for almost any ally) who would be much more usable at 2 cost. Overall though, I am a bit underwhelmed by our Entish companion. While I won’t doubt his utility for a moment, I am a little bit disappointed by his modest stats: he just doesn’t feel unique enough. I would certainly prefer a more expensive, powerful character (I liked the ones over at Dor Cuarthol) with the same restriction and then players would have to cheat him into play or the developers could release additional characters/attachments to help pay for them (is Radagast an ent-pal?). I suppose I should add the usual disclaimer that the developers have a tough job and I can understand how making a character with 8-10 hitpoints might be unbalanced in quests where archery is involved. Still, I’m looking forward to Treebeard next pack. What are your thoughts on our new Ents?

    • I agree that they aren’t as game changing as I expected them to be, but I think they are very useful this way.

    • Thaddeus Papke permalink

      Radagast is known to be a friend to beasts and birds and Treebeard seems to think well of “young master Gandalf”, but I’m pretty sure there isn’t any mention of a connection between the ents and Radagast. And while it’s easy to imagine a connection between the tree-herders and the most woodsy of the wizards, there isn’t any thematic precedent for Radagast to help pay for ents.

      • It doesn’t help that (as far as I know) Ents were only in Fangorn and Radagast was in Mirkwood.

        • Thaddeus Papke permalink

          It’s true that Radagast had a home in Mirkwood, but the only time he actually shows up he’s out traveling. I forget exactly where he meets Gandalf, but pretty far from Mirkwood as I recall.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I’ll admit that when I first saw the Wandering Ent was spoiled, I was disappointed. I imagined huge Ents with amazing stats that could devastate enemies, although it was obvious that they would have to have some kind of huge disadvantage. I do like the versions over at Dor Cuarthol and the use of time to represent their slowness. That all being said, I’ve come to terms with this version of Ents and it seems like a pretty simple and elegant way to introduce Ents into the game in a way that makes them feel powerful without breaking anything. I also had to come to terms with the fact early on that stats in the game aren’t necessarily easily comparable. For example, a 3 attack orc doesn’t necessarily mean that an orc is as strong as Aragorn, for example, and a 2 attack Wandering Ent can’t be outmuscled by Boromir, but these are just mechanical representations of things.

  3. Penegolodh permalink

    Orophin is definitely a staple Silvan card. Galadriel’s Handmaiden’s effect is amazing. While playing Celebrimbor’s Secret, my partner was able to lower my threat so I (running a Tactics deck) could stay below engagement costs. Although I haven’t tried out Wandering Ent, I am very anxious to see how the Ent trait grows.

  4. Tony F permalink

    The allies in this pack are fantastic. Orophin is great for Silvan decks and solid in mono-Leadership decks. I will run the Handmaiden in any Spirit deck since you never (well, almost never) don’t need Willpower and threat reduction.

    I’m a fan of the Henneth Annun Guard. In solo, adding 2 defense to someone for a round is well worth a single threat point if you’re facing a troll or other big swinger that punishes chump blocking. The restriction of only getting his effect during Planning is not that big a deal in my mind since the big, nasty enemies tend to have higher engagement costs, so you can just leave it in the staging area for a turn to get your HAG into play in preparation for engagement.

    In multiplayer, adding Sentinel can be huge. Imagine giving Sentinel to Elrohir who is still looking for his Elven Mail, or Boromir with Gondorian Shield, or even to a Defender of Rammas who would be defending for 6! If Arwen didn’t exist, I think the reaction to HAG would be much more positive, but if you’re not running Spirit, HAG is a great alternative to Arwen. And even if Arwen is in the game, adding 2 Sentinels is not a bad thing. If you can have one player who has big attackers take 2 enemies, then let someone else at the table defend for that player, that is 2 more characters you have to counter attack those enemies. In multiplayer games, Sentinel and Ranged can often be the difference between victory and defeat.

    As for the Ent, I feel like his drawback is not that bad, particularly in non-mono-Lore decks. Lore allies tend to be expensive. According to a quick count on Hall of Beorn, 17 of 33 Lore allies cost 3 or more. If you have 2 Lore heroes, playing an Ent turn 1 is better than not playing anything turn 1 to save for one of those 3+ cost allies to be played next turn. In either case, the ally will be ready turn 2, but in the Ent’s case, you’ve only spent 2 instead of 3+ for stats that are as good, if not better, than what you’d be getting from the other ally.

    The only downside I can see to playing the Ent in this situation is that you wouldn’t have a resource to play something like Radagast’s Cunning or Secret Paths turn 1, which you might need to do if you weren’t able to muster enough Willpower. If you absolutely have to have that 1 point of Willpower turn 1 (there’s no 2 Willpower Lore ally for 2 cost), then you may not want to play the Ent, but even in that case, I might just eat 1 threat from failing to quest successfully to give myself a very strong ally going forward.

    The other nice thing about the Ent is his versatility. The balanced stats mean you’ll always have a use for him.

    • Gwaihir the Windlord permalink

      HAG . . . And thus another card acronym is born.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Haha, I also chuckled at the HAG. On a serious note, good analysis and I agree with your points. I’ll definitely have to try out HAG in multiplayer and see how much value I can get out of him.

  5. Orophin/Silvan Refugee seems like it would be a great combo in any Leadership/Spirit deck – not just silvan decks.

    For leadership, I actually think Orophin is worth it for that stats/price combination alone, nevermind the trait and ability.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Definitely. Orophin is going into my Leadership-heavy and mono-Leadership decks regardless of whether I’m using Silvan or not.

  6. Orophin is probably my favorite of the brothers. I love Haldir and Rumil, but they’re both too expensive and I can never get Rumil to really do any damage with his ability. Orophin’s ability has been pretty useless for me on many occasions too, but his stats are very useful and he’s quite a bit easier to get into play.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That difference between 3 and 4 cost is just so huge when it comes to being able to get an ally into play much more consistently.

  7. Ben permalink

    I’ve already played with the Wandering Ents in 4-player, and I must say, the more players you have, the less the drawback matters as the other players can help with Staging the turn the Ent hits play. I had all 3 in play at once and the versatility was so good to get to quest with one or two and save the rest for combat. Not to mention, the 3 hit points really help soak up damage from things like archery. With such a strong and cheap ally for a sphere that more relies on tricks, he definitely helps Lore survive.

    One thing you didn’t mention at all with Orophin is his Ranged ability which works so well with his two brothers. With Haldir also ranged, with both of them on the table at the same time, Rumil can do some decent damage for 3. This does mean a Tactics/Lore/Leadership deck, so Galadriel may be out, but replace her with another Ranged hero like Legolas and you’ve got a pretty sweet combo! I’m thinking Celeborn/Legolas/Haldir with both brothers.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That’s true about Orophin and ranged. Ranged definitely adds value in multiplayer beyond even the combo with Rumil, and makes him even better for just 3 resources.

  8. my favorite moment with the Ent so far was in a Grima deck: cheated him in for 1 resource, then made that resource back thanks to Keys of Orthanc. Doomed 1 for 9 points of stats? yes please…

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I love it! Hopefully there will be a viable Grima/Ent deck in the near future!

  9. Dr. Biddix permalink

    Wandering Ent would not benefit from Galadriel’s ability (allies do not exhaust to commit to the quest) when it enters play, correct?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Correct. Since the Wandering Ent comes into play exhausted, it can’t quest at all on the first round, even with Galadriel’s ability.

      • Thaddeus Papke permalink

        I suppose if you used a readying effect, like Ever Vigilant or Treebeard, the turn it entered play, then it could take advantage of Galadriel’s ability.

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