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Gandalf Hero Poll Results

by on January 5, 2015



I’ve been running a poll here on Tales for quite some time regarding the Gandalf hero released as part of The Road Darkens expansion. While Gandalf is a popular and legendary character, creating a hero version was always going to be a bit controversial, since so many players have come to rely on the ally version to provide some appropriately eucatastrophic moments. There also is the issue of potential power creep. The new Gandalf hero is powerful, as he should be, with 14 threat points worth of stats and an ability that enables some strong decks to be built. The question is whether he is too powerful and whether players are willing to overlook any issues with the Gandalf hero in order to still use him. I asked readers, “How do you feel about the new Gandalf hero?”. With 309 people responding, there was actually a pretty definitive answer:

* 61% of respondents chose “Powerful but not overpowered”

* 24% of respondents chose “Overpowered but still fun”

* 7% of respondents chose “Not any more powerful than most heroes”

* 5% of respondents chose “Overpowered and I won’t use him”

* 4% of respondents chose “Underpowered”

A clear majority of respondents felt that Gandalf is stronger than many other heroes, considering him to be either powerful or overpowered. 92% of respondents were in this category. Of those who felt that Gandalf was overpowered, about 84% of those respondents considered him to still be fun enough to use. Only 11% of respondents felt that Gandalf was either of average power or below average in terms of power.

Overall, this seems to show that most players that responded to this poll find Gandalf to be a very strong hero. At the same time, many find him to either be appropriately balanced enough that he is not overpowered, or that he is enjoyable to use even if he is overpowered. Reading between the lines, the feelings about the Gandalf hero seem to be generally positive, although this is not to dismiss the players that have chosen to not use him at all.

Readers, what are your thoughts on Gandalf after several months of use? Are you still using Gandalf? Have your thoughts changed over time? Is he too powerful? Is he fun to use? Does he prove too restrictive in multiplayer? Share your thoughts below!


From → Poll Results

  1. I’ve only used him a few times, but so far it seems that his threat cost more than makes up for his power level. Without Wizard Pipe in play, his powers are not even universally useful. I suppose if your opening hand includes Wizard Pipe and Gandalf’s Staff, he could be considered somewhat overpowered. Maybe.

    • That said, he is a lot of fun to use!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      When he is powerful, he is powerful, but his threat cost and the way he works requires some thought and finesse to manage well. This is what separates him from something like Outlands, in my opinion, which is essentially plug and play.

  2. Gwaihir the Windlord permalink

    I use him every now and then, as he still owes me for that time I rescued him from Orthanc . . . Those fires singed my tail feathers!

    Seriously though, hero Gandalf in a great addition to our card pool. He was released at a great time as far as usage is concerned, as aggro is an effective archetype. On the other hand, ally Gandalf has been around so long, he is a staple in many decks and often a must-draw in some situations. So, in the end, Gandalf is a great hero, but he won’t be used too much in my games.

  3. gaudyls permalink

    I’ve played as free replacement hero at the beginning of two of my groups for The Road Darkens. Also I’ve played with him as starting hero for a whole Saga game. Next I want to make a deck for playing out of saga boxes starting from my last It’s very funny for me to play with him since is a so different hero: Playing wiht resources, the first card of the deck, the pipe, the staff… so many twist to the game… I love it!!!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      He definitely makes you feel like a wizard with all that trickery…which is a good thing!

  4. Ben permalink

    He is a fun hero, but with so many card space requirements in the deck, his deck type gets to be a bit stale after awhile. So, while I do enjoy using him (and look forward to using him with the campaign), there are definitely other deck types that I find more enjoyable (traps, tempo with Eomer, etc…)

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That’s a good point, Ben. His “toys” do tend to take up a chunk of deck space and his high threat further limits what kind of decks you can build. I’m still looking to find a good, creative deck that avoids the obvious builds.

  5. After I first saw the spoiled Gandalf card I was like “WHAT?! You can play with the first card of your deck open and Gandalf can pay for it (basically) no matter what!? That’s crazy!”
    But after playing with him a couple of times, I feel that his ability is more a restriction than I first thought. In order to make Gandalf work you REALLY need the Wizard Pipe, otherwise he can be quite frustrating. He is awesome in combination with Zigil Miner or Expert Treasure Hunter and his current (and future) toys make him that much more powerful, but I feel the way to really make him shine is playing a tri- or even quadro-sphere deck. Unfortunately, the way I play the game makes it unlikely that I will play a more than duo-sphere deck containing Gandalf in the near future, but I still like hime. I’ve already listed many of the reasons for that, but part of it is also simply is that he’s FRIKKIN’ GANDALF, dude!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Because Gandalf takes some time to get fully operational, at least in some games, it can sometimes be helpful to partner him with other heroes that are more ready to go from the beginning.

  6. Mndela permalink

    The worst problem i see is that it crashes the other frieds’ decks with gandalf ally. When people meet to play a multiplayer game and someone plays gandalf hero, other players sure must make a little change to their decks. And sometimes Gandalf ally is important for their plan.
    However, i like a lot Gandalf hero. It is a very special way of playing and very apropiate for Gandalf.
    It is a way of playing, when we say ‘i like’ or ‘i dont like’ it doesnt mean we always want to play it or not. The way of playing Gandalf hero needs some rounds to build the plan…, and it could become tired if you always play the same deck with Gandalf hero. However, it is very funny!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      True. And the Gandalf hero player will probably always win that argument, as it’s a lot easier to swap out an ally than a whole hero!

  7. ishallcallyousting permalink

    I have built a deck with Gandalf, Hama, and S Glorfindel that is just about unstoppable. Basically Gandalf is a card draw engine that fuels Hama’s perpetual Feint and Glor just helps keep the starting threat low. The deck demolishes even Nightmare scenarios. Tons of fun though.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That’s a good combination there, I’ll have to try it out! I feel like Hama is a hero that I haven’t fully tapped into, beyond the Feint lock.

  8. Treestache permalink

    My first Gandalf (hero) deck featured Frodo and Spirit Glorf to keep threat low. It was fun to Bilbo up some pipes, but the deck became very stale extremely quickly.

    More recently, I wanted to come up with a way to utilize Fall of Gil-Galad. This led me to Brok Ironfist, which led me to Bifur, who we all know pairs well with G-man.

    Brok doubles as the perfect card for some hot Flame of Anor action. I like that Gandalf’s strengths shore up some of the weaker (arguably dumber) things I want to do with the deck.

    Also, I don’t think enough can be said about how good Gandalf’s staff is. In my experiences, the staff often has greater effect on games than Gandalf himself.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I agree completely about Gandalf’s Staff. It is super powerful for the cost and is a real game-changer.

  9. Steven permalink

    I voted “underpowered” because I hadn’t seen the Pipe and Staff cards yet. I sure regretted that. 😛
    Unlike Glorfindel, Gandalf requires some thought to get the most of him. Without the Pipe, he’s definately a bit clunky. But in the right deck, that makes the most use of all his powerful stats, he can be a killer though. IMO Gandalf is a great hero done right.

    I’d say that the Staff is the “overpowered” card. Just like Steward, and Glorfindel, it’s one of those cards that’s so useful it overshadows a lot of the other cards in your deck. He might fall under the “too powerful won’t use it” category.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      The Staff is definitely very powerful. I think it could cost 3 and still be well worth the cost and effort. 2 is an absolute bargain.

  10. sweetnesswhachacha permalink

    I would say that 14 threat and the need to get some cards on him to get things cooking will have enemies engaging you every time, putting pressure on you from the start, which is a big balancing drawback. Also, with the card pool so big these days I actually build decks that don’t include ally gandalf which amazes me.

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