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The Antlered Crown: Hero Review

by on January 6, 2015


The holidays departed, a new year arrived, and The Antlered Crown Adventure Pack found its way into my waiting hands somewhere in between. Celebrimbor’s Secret seemed like it could wrap up the cycle all on its own, with an amazing hero, Galadriel, who recently won the unofficial hero championship over at the Fantasy Flight Games forums, and a compelling quest, complete with Indiana Jones-esque escapades! Still, The Antlered Crown marks the true finale of the Ring-maker cycle, wrapping up the story and the collection of player cards. While the heroes that have been released to end each cycle have tended to be “kings” of one kind or another (Dain Ironfoot, Elrond, and Theoden being the examples thus far), thus making Galadriel perhaps a more logical choice for this role, we instead have Erkenbrand to sing the swan song. Erkenbrand is surely a more low-key figure than his predecessors, yet he is not unimportant. Erkenbrand was Lord of the Westfold of Rohan and helped to build up the defenses of the Hornburg ere the Battle of Helm’s Deep. It was he that arrived with Gandalf in a moment of pure eucatastrophe to turn the tide and win the day of that same battle. As such, he may not be a king, but he is surely a figure that commands respect and proved his mettle!


* Erkenbrand (Leadership Hero, 10 threat, 1 willpower, 2 attack, 3 defense, 4 hit points):


Erkenbrand quite appropriately occupies the Leadership sphere, as he helped to organize and command the western defenses of Rohan against Saruman’s forces after the death of Theodred. As previously mentioned, he also strengthened the Hornburg and Deeping Wall, which was an important tactical and strategic move. In a rich thematic connection that might be easy to overlook, Erkenbrand focuses on providing defensive solidity:

While Erkenbrand is defending, he gains:“Response: Deal 1 damage to Erkenbrand to cancel a shadow effect just triggered.”

I was at first perplexed by the choice to make Erkenbrand a defensive hero, given that his most memorable moment was an epic charge down a hill into a field full of enemies, which seemed to translate into an attacking force. However, given his overall contributions to the War, he makes absolute sense as a defender, from striving to hold the Fords of Isen to fortifying Helm’s Deep. Even his arrival at Helm’s Deep can be seen as a form of defense, taking the pressure off those who were under siege. Furthermore, Erkenbrand drove away the “shadows” via a charge that entailed great danger (damage) to himself and others. All told, this is another example of a thematic win and connection to the source material.

So how valuable is Erkenbrand in terms of gameplay? Many players might instantly compare him to other strong defensive heroes in the game, especially Beregond. Erkenbrand has almost identical stats as that Gondorian stalwart, but with one fewer point of defense and one greater point of attack. This makes him slightly less one-dimensional, but also not quite as solid defensively. Of course, this is up for debate, as Erkenbrand has built-in shadow cancellation that Beregond lacks, guarding against shadow effects that can render the best-laid defensive plans obsolete. Still, I would hesitate to proclaim Beregond’s demise just yet, as he gets in-sphere access to Gondorian Shield for free with instant use of the +2 bonus for the Gondor trait. Being able to hit six defense on turn one with very little effort is not something to take lightly.

Still, the comparison between Beregond and Erkenbrand isn’t particularly fruitful given that they hail from different spheres. Part of the value of our new hero is that he provides a strong defensive option for Leadership that hasn’t previously been present. There have been a few heroes that can fill this role in the sphere, but Dain Ironfoot is mostly restricted to Dwarf decks, while Sam’s suitability really depends on managing threat. Erkenbrand is the first Leadership with 3 defense that can fit into almost any deck including Leadership and unequivocally fill a defensive role, which is enough to make him valuable. I’m looking forward to slotting him into my mono-Leadership decks, as an avid fan of such builds, and he also can serve as the go-to defender for decks that include Leadership but not Tactics. Each point of defense is actually quite meaningful in the game, as a character with a natural three defense is significantly better than one with two (and the same can be said for the difference between four and three as well, but that line between two and three seems to be especially meaningful from personal experience).

With such a strong defensive hero, one could potentially stand pat and not seek to boost his strength. This is especially true if one is planning on including healing. However, there are many enemies out there in various quests that will lay waste to a character with three defense, even with shadow cancellation, so some form of defense boosting will often be necessary for Erkenbrand. The best in-sphere option is Dunedain Warning.  A single copy for a cost of one could give Erkenbrand four defense, achieving parity with Beregond. Further copies could enhance this strength, with three copies of Dunedain Warning maxing him out at six defense (equivalent to Beregond with Gondorian Shield). Generally, however, drawing all three copies will be pretty rare, so you’re realistically looking at boosting Erkenbrand up to four or five defense on a fairly consistent basis.

There are also some out-of-sphere options with Gondorian Shield being the clearest example. Normally, this will give you a similar bonus to Dunedain Warning, however if you give the Gondor trait to Erkenbrand with Mutual Accord or Steward of Gondor, he can take advantage of the +2 bonus and defend for five. It turns out that the Gondor trait grants access to several other valuable defensive effects, so giving Erkenbrand the Steward seems to be a pretty good bet if you want to get full value out of him. Beyond Gondorian Shield, For Gondor! can grant an extra boost, Behind Strong Walls can serve as a form of readying, while Blood of Numenor can combine well with resource generation to make Erkenbrand a stalwart. Although I had grand ideas of using Gondorian Discipline, Close Call, Dori, and even Song of Mocking to pull the damage dealt to Erkenbrand away, thus getting around the “cost” of his ability, a quick rules query to Caleb quickly scuppered this notion. You have to actually deal and place the damage on Erkenbrand to trigger his ability, so put those shenanigans back in the can as there’s no free lunch here! My dreams of Erkenbrand funding Gimli/Gloin goodness with Song of Mocking will sadly go up in flames faster than a crazed Denethor. Honestly, I think this ruling is the correct one as getting around the only real cost of Erkenbrand’s strong ability would be a bit too much of an easy way out otherwise. Perhaps my favorite option for boosting Erkenbrand is the new Tactics attachment, Captain of Gondor, which can boost Erkenbrand up to 3 attack and 4 defense when you optionally engage an enemy, making this hero of Rohan into a true warrior to be reckoned with on both ends of combat. Finally, Arwen Undomiel is always reliable for consistent defensive boosts as well, and can combine with other effects to turn Erkenbrand into a true tank.

Of course, there’s always healing, which makes a Lore and Leadership partnership perhaps the best environment for Erkenbrand to thrive. Alternatively, if you are playing multiplayer, it’s really a matter of convincing a fellow player to run plenty of healing. Any healing effect can do the job, considering that only a single damage is dealt with each use, although there is no limit, so if you can ready Erkenbrand to defend multiple times, then you could use it each time (until he is destroyed). Even poor old neglected Lore Glorfindel can play a role here, as his ability makes him a potential best friend to our newest hero, if you can get over the combined threat cost of 22 between the two. Self Preservation is a great choice here, as this allows Erkenbrand to use his ability in a potentially limitless fashion. I imagine that the most common combination will be the use of the ever popular Warden of Healing to continuously heal damage from Erkenbrand every time he uses his ability.

Beyond healing, action advantage is perhaps most essential to really taking Erkenbrand to the next level. In the past, Unexpected Courage and Spirit access would be the main game in town without many permanent alternatives in Leadership. However, this has changed dramatically over the course of the last few packs. Heir of Mardil could potentially allow Erkenbrand to ready whenever he gains resources, which means you could trigger an attached Steward of Gondor to ready him after defending. In addition, The Day’s Rising, also part of The Antlered Crown, seems tailor made to get the most out of Heir of Mardil and Erkenbrand as well, as it can be placed on a hero with sentinel and allows that hero to gain a resource when they defend without taking damage. You could thus defend with Erkenbrand, take no damage, then gain a resource with The Day’s Rising, which would ready him through Heir of Mardil. Unfortunately, there’s one small problem with this whole combination: Erkenbrand does not have the Noble trait and can’t make use of Heir of Mardil! This seems like a real shame and lost opportunity for synergy, although I suppose that it is thematic in the sense that Heir of Mardil has no business anywhere near Erkenbrand. Speaking of sentinel, though, the presence of this keyword enhances Erkenbrand’s ability as a defender even more in multiplayer and he can at least still make use of the resource generation from The Day’s Rising, as long as he doesn’t take damage or trigger his ability. In terms of readying, though, Erkenbrand has to make do with Cram in-sphere while Unexpected Courage remains his best friend out of sphere. This is a bit boring and predictable, but is the sad reality without access to Heir of Mardil.

Several paragraphs of text have flown by without even mentioning Erkenbrand’s Rohan trait yet! This Leadership hero is indeed the newest addition to Rohan, but he is a bit of an odd man out in many respects. Rohan is a trait that has traditionally focused on willpower and attack, without much thought spared for defense. In fact, chump blocking has been the main form of defense for most Rohan decks due to this lack of a strong defender and the fact that this deck type is built around allies leaving play. On the one hand, this context means that Erkenbrand helps to rectify an essential weakness of Rohan. On the other, it means that he doesn’t quite fit in with Rohan decks that focus on allies leaving play, such as an Eomer deck. Still, there’s always something to be said for having a strong defender available when needed, especially against quests that heavily punish chump blocking. Erkenbrand also has two attack, which makes him a bit more versatile than most tanks, and he even has one point of willpower that could be pumped up to three with Astonishing Speed. While the mounts of Rohan are probably wasted on Erkenbrand, with Steed of the Mark not adding much value and Rohan Warhorse/Firefoot not fitting well with his defensive bias, there are other Rohan cards that could work, such as Spear of the Mark, Forth Eorlingas!, or Charge of the Rohirrim (although the aforementioned lack of mount synergy might undermine the last one). All in all, though, while Erkenbrand can fit into Rohan decks, I don’t think it’s wise to reductively think of him just as a Rohan hero. He is a versatile defensive force that can actually fit into almost any deck that needs a strong defender.

As for final thoughts, while Erkenbrand is probably going to be your dedicated defender, I wouldn’t overlook his two attack. It’s just as easy as slapping a Dunedain Mark on him and Erkenbrand can attack for three, which is on par with some of the strongest attackers around. Defensively, in-built shadow cancellation is not something to be taken lightly. One of the reasons why A Burning Brand is widely regarded as one of the strongest cards ever printed is because removing the unpredictability of shadow effects out of the equation turns combat into a mere numbers game that can be easily controlled. Erkenbrand can do the same without the need for an attachment, and this certainly makes him powerful. Whether it’s preventing an enemy from making an additional attack or stopping a catastrophic attack bonus or canceling some other ungodly effect, the value is plain. Still, the cost of inflicting a damage is not negligible, especially since defenders are the ones most likely to incur damage in the first place and need their full pool of hit points as much as possible. Of course, shadow cancellation helps to prevent some damage, at least the unexpected variety, and healing can mitigate this cost. This does limit Erkenbrand’s versatility a bit, as he seems tied to healing and Lore, unless you’re planning on using his ability very judiciously, which kind of undermines the whole reason for devoting a whole slot to shadow cancellation in the first place. The other major weakness of Erkenbrand is that he can only cancel shadows while he is defending. By contrast, Balin can cancel any shadow on the board, although a new one must be revealed, which may be equally bad or worse. Still, that flexibility can be key, especially when multiple attacks are the norm and Erkenbrand can’t soak them all. That all being said, if you’re the kind of player that likes the tank approach of relying on one hero to soak up most attacks, then Erkenbrand is a great new option for this purpose.

Versatility: ♦♦♦◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

Possible Attachment Choices: Self Preservation, Unexpected Courage, Cram, Captain of Gondor, Dunedain Warning, Dunedain Mark, Support of the Eagles, Gondorian Shield, Citadel Plate, The Day’s Rising


Erkenbrand is perhaps not as earth-shattering as Dain Ironfoot or Elrond, although I would give him the nod over his king, Theoden. He is essentially a specialized defensive hero and may not excite those who are looking for something more flashy to end the cycle. However, I find great comfort in a strong tank and Beregond has given me many nights of restful sleep, feeling safe and sound and free from danger. Erkenbrand can serve a similar function, although he perhaps requires a few more pieces in place than Beregond. Still, most strong defensive heroes require a few attachments and pieces to reach their full potential, so Erkenbrand is certainly not unique in that respect. Overall, Erkenbrand caps a cycle that has given us six useful heroes, without a dud in the bunch, and for that we can surely be thankful.

Readers, what are your thoughts on Erkenbrand? What kind of deck will you be using him in? How do you rate him in the pantheon of defensive heroes? How does he stack up against other heroes in general?


From → Reviews

  1. Asmeus permalink

    I think he will become default hero in Leadership decks for me.
    Steward of Gondor will create Gondor trait, and the tactic’s deck can attach Gondorian Shield for +2 def. 🙂

    Usually for my multiplayer games, tactics deck had to have THE defender. Now it can bring more big guns, while Leadership will defend.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      It’s definitely nice to have another strong viable defensive option aside from Beregond and Tactics.

      • Traekos77 permalink

        Denethor is still my favorite hero for dedicated defending. Low threat with direct access to Lore powers (Burning Brand, Protector of Lorien, healing) and having the Gondor trait = awesome.

  2. catastrophic09 permalink

    He can only use his ability for attacks made against him right? I think he is like most cards from this cycle, they seem average but if built around they can get powerful and fun to be creative with.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yeah, he can only use it while defending himself.

    • Dave permalink

      Since shadow cards are flipped after defenders are announced I believe he can cancel shadow effects not against him.

      • Traekos77 permalink

        That is an interesting point, it only says while he is defending. It doesn’t say about defending specific attacks (against only himself).

        • Dave permalink

          I guess it depends on whether he is considered defending still after attacks against him have been resolved.

      • TalesfromtheCards permalink

        Here’s the relevant section of the rulebook: “Characters that are declared as defenders are only considered to be defending through the resolution of the attack. Once an attack has resolved, the characters are no longer considered “defenders,” but they do remain exhausted.” That means Erkenbrand can only activate his ability while the enemy he is defending against is resolving his attack, as each attack is resolved one by one.

  3. Why do you even mention the Erkenbrand + Heir of Mardil combo if it isn’t even possible to pull it off? ^^

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Mainly because of frustration. The combo was staring me in the face when I first saw Erkenbrand until I realized he lacked that crucial noble trait and I’m still not over it…I decided my readers must suffer the same cruel fate with me.

  4. Gwaihir the Windlord permalink

    I was overjoyed to see a Rohan hero with high defense, although Erkenbrand almost completely contradicts the “theme” of his trait (sacrificing allies). However, it has always been my goal to build up an army of Rohirrim allies, and that’s hard to do when you’re always killing them off, or when resources are lacking (a problem I’ve had many times in non-Theodred Rohan decks). Erkenbrand is a great hero, and I’m glad some of the unsung heroes of the books are finally getting recognized.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yeah, I think even decks that focus on sacrificing allies can make use of a strong defender. Being able to choose strategically between defending with a hero and chump blocking gives you far more flexibility than being forced to chump block because of a lack of options.

  5. Pengolodh permalink

    Erkenbrand+ The Day’s Rising works amazingly well, especially against some of the weaker Dunlendings. I absolutely love that Rohan has a solid defender (I am a die-hard theme player and will even come up with a story to make something thematic). Using allies to block is great for Eomer, but sometimes you can run thin on allies. With Erkenbrand, he can defend the weaker enemy while the little chump blocker defends the gargantuan one. However, I also like that Erkenbrand can help attack if his defensive purposes are not needed.
    Just one more thing about The Antlered Crown: For the Raven deck, none of the enemies have the Raven trait, while those in the encounter deck do. Slightly mind-boggling.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Heh. I suppose since the generic Dunlendings from the Voice of Isengard box didn’t have a clan affiliation, throwing them in a Raven deck was a way of declaring to everyone, “These are Raven enemies!”.

  6. I see big things swirling around a Gondor/Rohan pair of decks, the pieces just need to be put together. Erkenbrand, (L) Boromir, and Theodred on one side; Eomer, Eowyn, and Mablung (or Beregond?) on the other?

    I’ve got to crack that code!

    • Yea, it just might be possible now. I’ve tried in the past (after the previous cycle), but didn’t have too much luck. I think Prince Imrahil would be better than Theodred, though Theodred could be useful to help spirit gain resources a bit faster.

      • Yeah, resources and (thusly) Heir of Mardil.

        • Yea, but Eowyn, Theodred, and Mablung are the only ones likely to be questing: one of them isn’t noble and the other two aren’t really worth readying. I would rather use Horn of Gondor, a delayed Steward of Gondor, an event, or The Day’s Rising to ready with Heir of Mardil. And Prince Imrahil has built-in readying so that an additional action that you gain and Imrahil can quest for more than Theodred.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      It’s getting close. It definitely does feel like a code that needs to be cracked though. Attacking and defending seem solid, but getting the right amount of willpower in there is key.

      • I think Willpower can be one of the simpler numbers to add now: Visionary Leader and Faramir ally are key cards and if you feel like using Aragorn (even if he isn’t technically Gondor), you can throw in Sword that was Broken.

        • TalesfromtheCards permalink

          Yeah, those are all good options. I guess my issue is I prefer to have more willpower on my starting heroes in order not to be too reliant on drawing cards for them. That could be a personal playstyle thing though.

          • I definitely understand that, though the amount of willpower necessary to start with is highly dependent on the quest. In any case, the example where I switched Theodred to Imrahil would allow for a decent 8 starting willpower by using Eowyn, Imrahil, and Mablung, plus up to 2 more from Eowyn’s ability. I don’t think that’s too weak to start with. And if you wanted to replace Mablung with Theoden, you could and then you can get all those attachments on him that I mentioned in the other comment.

  7. Don J. permalink

    I think Erkenbrand is great, though I still fall into this camp of people hoping for Leadership Theoden.

  8. Traekos77 permalink

    If Lore is useful for healing then other attachments become available as well. Protector of Lorien would be super useful, along with the always ignored Dark Knowledge. That way the hero’s ability can be used judiciously!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Good one! I like the idea of using Dark Knowledge or even Silver Lamp to get the best use out of Erkenbrand.

  9. Haven’t had a chance to play with Erkenbrand yet but he seems fun, and not weak by any means, and that’s what really matters. It’ll be interesting to see the combo’s people come up with but I’m ultimately happy with Erkenbrand as a Hero.

  10. With all of these new attachments, I’m starting to think that Theoden might be better. He is the only hero who can use all 3 of these attachments: Heir of Mardil, The Day’s Rising, Captain of Gondor. You can optionally engage an enemy, gaining an attack and defense from CoG, then defend it without taking damage, which gives Theoden a resource thanks to The Day’s Rising, which readies him – with Heir of Mardil – to attack for 4 damage. You can also give him Steward of Gondor, for additional readying help and the Gondor trait so he can wear a Gondorian Shield. You could even use Steed of the Mark, but all the previous cards fit in 2 spheres: Tactics and Leadership. Rohan Warhorse would also be powerful.

    It may be a lot of cards, but you don’t NEED all of them. It’s just a way of making use of Theoden’s strong and distributed stats. Make him into a readying force to be reckoned with!

    • If you add Theodred as the Leadership hero, you won’t even need Steward of Gondor to ready Theoden while he’s holding Heir of Mardil, but HoM can only be used once per round due to its exhaustion requirement, so Steed of the Mark could still be useful for getting the most out of him.

      • Kjeld permalink

        Good point. With that thought, a leadership-tactics Rohan theme deck like this comes to mind. Would be great to pair with some sort of Eowyn + Dunhere + Erkenbrand build:


        Charge of the Rohirrim (1)
        Forth Eorlingas (2)

        Guthlaf (2)
        Horseback Archer (2)
        Snowbourn Scout (3)
        Westfold Outrider (3)
        Warden of Helm’s Deep (2)
        Envory of Pelargir (3)
        Errand-rider (2)
        Faramir (2)
        Gandalf (2)
        Herald of Anorien (3)
        Knights of the Swan (3)
        Son of Arnor (2)

        Captain of Gondor (3)
        The Day’s Rising (3)
        Heir of Mardil (3)
        Firefoot (2)
        Spear of the Mark (2)
        Rohan Warhorse (3)
        Celebrian’s Stone (2)

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Joe, I’m stealing your idea and running with it! I’m really excited about trying to build a strong Theoden deck now. It might not work out exactly as I want, but you’re right that all those attachments really do work well with him.

  11. sweetnesswhachacha permalink

    Yeah he’s definitely solid, although he isn’t lighting any fires under me to put him in a deck. I thought I’d get more out of Balin, but I don’t seem to use his ability to much effect all that often, just his dwarf trait to use king under the mountain. So I might try erkenbrand is his place…

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