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The Antlered Crown: Allies, Attachments, and Events Review

by on January 16, 2015

antlerede

Erkenbrand started off the final pack of the Ring-maker cycle in a quite appropriate fashion. After the flash and spectacle provided by Galadriel and her toys in Celebrimbor’s Secret, Erkenbrand can best be described using adjectives like “solid” and “useful”. In many ways, this is representative of the player cards of The Antlered Crown as a whole, which definitely have utility, if they aren’t the most exciting cards in the world. That judgment of course, comes with one big caveat, as we have freaking Ents on our hands now! Whoever chose to put the Booming Ent on the cover of this pack certainly made a great decision as the Ents really steal the show here and we may one day be looking at this AP as the true birth of the “Ent deck”… or so an Ent-lover can dream. Wherever you fall on the spectrum of admiration for our treeish overlords, there’s plenty to love here, and I’ll be sweeping through the allies, attachments, and events of The Antlered Crown in one breathless go.


ALLIES

* Treebeard (Neutral Ally, 4 cost, 2 willpower, 4 attack, 3 defense, 5 hit points):

Treebeard

The arrival of the Ents into The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game was trumpeted by the Wandering Ent. However, the Ents could not be said to be well and truly a part of the game until a little fellow named Treebeard made his appearance and that moment has come. Treebeard is a Neutral ally that plays a similar role with Ents that Radagast does with Eagles:

Cannot have restricted attachments. Treebeard enters play exhausted and collects 1 resource each resource phase. These resources can be used to pay for Ent cards played from your hand.

Action: Pay 2 resources from Treebeard’s pool to ready an Ent character.

Treebeard is therefore only the second ally to generate resources and have his own resource pool, with the aforementioned Radagast being the other. While Radagast can use his resources to pay for allies with Creature cards, Treebeard can use his to pay for Ent cards. Obviously, this makes great sense in terms of the theme, as Treebeard comes nearest to being a “leader” of the Ents and played a pivotal role in their participation in the War of the Ring. In game terms, this is quite useful as it allows a player to free up resources that might have gone to paying for Ents to use for other purposes. As more Ents are released, this ability will only grow in strength, but even with just two other Ent allies currently in the game (Booming Ent and Wandering Ent), it already can make a difference, more than might be obvious at first glance. Unfortunately, all resource generation and resource transfer effects so far specify a hero as their target, so no tricky shenanigans are available to boost Treebeard’s ability to pump out Ents. Note, though, that Treebeard can pay for Ents from any sphere, which allows you to splash off-sphere Ents into any deck. Treebeard’s second ability is probably even more crucial for the purpose of Ent decks, which allows him to pay 2 resources to ready an Ent charater, including himself. The only true weakness of the Ents so far is that they enter play exhausted, and the action advantage from Treebeard provides a partial means of mitigating this disadvantage. It can even be applied to himself! So you could play that pumped up Booming Ent and immediately ready it, for example, negating the usual first round of waiting. Alternatively, this ability can serve as a simple form of readying at any time so that you can get multiple uses out of the strong stats of Ent characters. Treebeard is probably the best recipient, as he could defend and then attack, defend multiple times, quest and then defend, and more! Beyond Treebeard, if you have a Booming Ent who is swinging at full strength or near full strength, you could ready that Ent for multiple strikes on enemies. The possibilities are really quite numerous. Beyond these abilities, though, perhaps the biggest draw to Treebeard, and what truly separates him from Radagast, is his amazing stat line. two willpower, four attack, three defense, and five hit points would usually cost you a starting threat of 14 if they were on a hero, and as a character, Treebeard makes most other heroes in the game look puny in comparison. All of this comes at a cost of four, which is certainly expensive, but not as intimidating as the five of Radagast or even Gandalf. The downside of course is that Treebeard comes into play exhausted, but this isn’t a huge deal in actual practice, as long as you keep it in mind while building your deck. If you have heroes with action advantage or strategies to swarm allies out onto the table, these approaches can buy you the time you need to get Treebeard and the other Ents ready and into the game. Once they are, the difference they make feels quite Ent-like in its shock and awe. In fact, if Treebeard had no abilities at all I still would play him for his raw stats alone. If you really want to get around Treebeard’s initial exhaustion, you can always make use of readying effects like Ever Vigilant or Spare Hood and Cloak, or cheat him into play just before the refresh phase using A Very Good Tale or Timely Aid. I’m a huge Ent fanboy and I’ll admit to being a bit worried that Ents wouldn’t feel appropriate Entish, but after playing with them a good deal, I’m quite pleased.

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦♦

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦♦

* Warden of Helm’s Deep (Leadership Ally, 3 cost, 0 willpower, 1 attack, 3 defense, 2 hit points):

Warden-of-Helm's-Deep

The Warden of Helm’s Deep is as plain as plain can be, with a lonely looking text box only populated by a single keyword:

Sentinel.  

This means that the Warden already has some ground to catch up on those other flashy allies that actually have an ability of some kind. The true value of this ally is in its stats and that sentinel keyword, especially when taken in the context of the Leadership sphere. The Warden of Helm’s Deep is only the second Leadership ally to have sentinel, with the other being the scarcely used Dunedain Wanderer, which only pulls its weight in a Secrecy deck. In addition, the Warden is the best natural defending ally of the sphere, being the only one with three defense. This gives Leadership a nice defensive option in terms of allies and also allows Leadership to come to the aid of other players. In multiplayer games, this can take some of the onus off the Tactics player, while also helping out mono-sphere decks in solo play (or even any deck that includes Leadership but not Tactics). The cost of three is expensive, but manageable for Leadership given the available resource generation and fairly standard for the sphere. The Rohan synergy is not particularly strong, as cards like Astonishing Speed, Spear of the Mark, and Ride to Ruin can certainly be used with the Warden, but don’t really work well with this ally’s main purpose, which is to stay on the board and defend. Altogether, while the Warden of Helm’s Deep is not exciting, he is unquestionably a useful ally. Furthermore, it’s definitely exciting just seeing the name Helm’s Deep in a card title as we inch closer to the release of the Treason of Saruman!

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦◊◊

Booming Ent (Tactics Ally, 2 cost, 0 willpower, 2 attack, 2 defense, 3 hit points):

Booming-Ent

One of the common criticisms when the Wandering Ent was first spoiled was that it didn’t really feel like an Ent, as while two attack might seem decent for a puny meatbag, the giant tree-like creatures we know from the books have legendary strength. They were able to destroy and ravage Isengard with their bare hands, for Eru’s sake! Fortunately, the Booming Ent (along with Treebeard) has the potential to bring the pain in a way that will doubtless feel more satisfying:

Cannot have restricted attachments. Enters play exhausted.
Booming Ent gets +1 for each damaged Ent character you control.

The mechanic of gaining attack strength from damage is one we’ve seen before, namely way back in the Core Set with the Gimli hero. However, it does have a strong thematic connection with the Ents of the book, whose participation in the war and decisive actions were prompted in large part by anger and rage at the destruction of their beloved forest. Since there’s no tree cards sitting around handy, having the Booming Ent gain in power as he sees his fellows damaged makes sense. Like the Wandering Ent, the Booming Ent has strong stats for a low cost of two, boasting two attack, two defense, and three hit points. By comparison, an average two cost Tactics ally like Veteran Axehand has two attack, one defense, and two hit points. Still, I did wonder how easy it would be to get damage on enough Ents to make the Booming Ent’s bonus really matter, especially given that there are only three different Ents available at the moment, with one of them being unique. In actual play, such concerns have gone straight out the window. With a single point of damage from archery or an encounter card, placed on the Booming Ent itself, you can have a two cost ally with three attack, which is worth the price of admission already, in my opinion. This of course does point to one of the great aspects of having lots of Ents around, which is that they have bigger hit points pools than most other similarly costed allies and thus can serve as valuable soaks for archery and direct damage. Even without such easy damage, the Booming Ent is a strong defender, and can therefore pick up a point of damage (or two) by defending, but without too high of a risk of destruction. Once you get a few more Ents onto the table, a bonus of at least +2 or +3 attack is fairly easy to manage, considering all of the other Ents can pick up damage in a similar way. In a recent deck that only includes Treebeard and three copies of Booming Ent, there have been a couple of instances where I had all three Booming Ents in play with four damaged Ents on the table meaning that each Booming Ent was swinging for six. When you add in Treebeard’s four attack, this was a total attack strength of twenty-two! This will of course not happen every game but it does show the potential of this ally, which will only grow as more Ents are added to the card pool. In fact, I wonder if the Booming Ent will have to receive errata at some point. One caveat to all this is since you need to get Ents onto the table and get damage onto them in a somewhat timely matter, decks that have good card draw will be able to make better use of the Booming Ent. As with Treebeard, effects that can ready allies enhance the value of Booming Ent and this ally obviously combines with Treebeard himself.

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦♦

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦◊◊

ATTACHMENTS

The Day’s Rising (Leadership Attachment, 1 cost):

The-Day's-Rising

Although Leadership has long had the reputation of being the resource generation sphere, this notion isn’t entirely accurate. While there are several options for generating resources in Leadership, there are only a couple that can do this in a repeatable fashion and some of those are Dwarf-specific. In short, Steward of Gondor has been the main game in town since the days of the Core set, so the release of The Day’s Rising is actually a bit of a big deal:

Attach to a hero with sentinel.

Response: After attached hero defends against an attack and takes no damage while defending that attack, exhaust Day’s Rising to add 1 resource to the attached hero’s resource pool.

First off, it is clear that Steward of Gondor is still the superior choice, as it gives two resources every turn simply by exhausting itself, and pays for itself during the round it enters play. However, having another option is welcome, and like Steward, this one is not restricted to a certain trait. Generating resources by completing an action, defending, that one likely has to do anyway is also a benefit, as you don’t really have to jump through a ton of hoops to make this work. What you do need is a hero with sentinel, which right now means you can pick between Aragorn, Beregond, Theoden, and Erkenbrand. This is certainly a limited selection, unless you want to give a hero sentinel with Dunedain Signal, which does substantially reduce the versatility of The Day’s Rising (another option is to find a way to exhaust Arwen during planning, by using her for A Very Good Tale for example, in order to give a hero sentinel). In order for this attachment to work, you also need a hero that can consistently defend without taking damage. Perhaps the best natural recipient as Beregond, as he can often defend for six with Gondorian Shield, which keeps him relatively safe. Erkenbrand also works well for this purpose, and even has the added bonus of sharing a sphere with The Day’s Rising, although the downside is that activating Erkenbrand’s ability to cancel a shadow would prevent him from gaining the resource. Still, this is something that is under your control, so it’s not a deal-breaker by any means. Finally, Aragorn and Theoden can both make use of this attachment as well, but you’ll have a bit more work to do as they only begin a game with two defense, which either means you’ll have to defend selectively and get some luck or you’ll have to build them up. Fortunately, there’s some natural synergy for Aragorn here with Blood of Numenor, as the resources from The Day’s Rising can help fund better defense with Blood, while Blood can help protect him from damage to generate resources with The Day’s Rising. Theoden can be built up through a variety of means, with the new Captain of Gondor attachment providing just one possibility. One hero who doesn’t have sentinel but would be an ideal partner for this attachment would be Elrohir, as he could use the resources from The Day’s Rising to defend more, so it might be worth investing in Dunedain Cache or the Arwen/A Very Good Tale trick. Even better, Elven Mail is an easy and cheap way to add sentinel to Noldor or Silvan heroes, so an Elladan/Elrohir deck with Elven Mail and The Day’s Rising makes a great deal of sense (also keep Elven Mail in mind for strong Elven defenders like Elrond). Since avoiding damage is the key element of triggering the effect, cards like Close Call and Gondorian Discipline can certainly play a part in a deck that includes The Day’s Rising. Overall, this is a valuable attachment that fits into a relatively small range of decks due to its restrictions, but is certainly an auto-include in a Beregond deck with Leadership or any Erkenbrand deck, as well as an Elrohir/Elven Mail build.

Versatility: ♦♦◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦♦

Captain of Gondor (Tactics Attachment, 1 cost):

Captain-of-Gondor

This attachment was spoiled quite a long time ago, and, like Wingfoot and Heir of Mardil, is meant to play on the “class” traits that have been part of the game since its inception but have been sorely under-utilized. The warrior trait, in particular, has received almost no love, and Captain of Gondor finally provides a great reason to care about it:

Attach to a Warrior hero.

Response: After you optionally engage an enemy, exhaust Captain of Gondor to give attached hero +1 and +1 until the end of the round.

There’s really much to like about Captain of Gondor and not much to complain about. For a cost of one, you get a bonus of +1 attack and defense, which is quite a good deal, as something like Dunedain Mark or Dunedain Warning costs one to get just one of those boosts. Most Tactics weapons will give you +1 attack for that same cost along with a +2 attack bonus if you meet some other criteria. This is a nearly equivalent deal, as you’re getting +1 defense here instead of the extra conditional attack. The only real limitation to this ability is that it can only be activated when you optionally engage an enemy. However, in practice, this is nearly always a meaningless distinction since you can control option engagement and only really need the bonuses when engaging and attacking enemies. In other words, if you want to take on an enemy optionally, you will get the bonus, and if you don’t want to take one on but will be forced to due to engagement cost, then you can simply optionally engage it instead. The only real problems here are if you are engaged with an enemy for multiple rounds and can’t make use of the bonus because you aren’t able to or aren’t willing to engage another enemy. Similarly, since questing happens before engagement, you can’t use the bonuses from Captain of Gondor for battle or siege questing. Beyond those restrictions, though, Captain of Gondor is a useful and versatile attachment that really deserves at least one spot in most Tactics decks that includes a Warrior hero. As for worthy candidates, Tactics Boromir is the most obvious and best choice, since he can make use of both combat bonuses in the same turn due to his in-built action advantage, but many other heroes could take advantage as well. The benefit is that Captain of Gondor is not restricted, so it can be paired with other weapons or armor.

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦◊◊

EVENTS

* Ride Them Down (Spirit Event, 2 cost):

Ride-Them-Down

Spirit players have long lamented the absence of easy ways to deal with enemies aside from combat. Thinking about deck types like the Float Like A Butterfly Hobbit deck, the notion of actually being able to discard enemies with raw combat power always seemed appealing but hasn’t been a reality until Ride Them Down:

Quest Action: Choose a non-unique enemy in the staging area. Until the end of the phase, progress that would be placed on the quest from questing successfully is instead assigned as damage to the chosen enemy. (Progress must still be placed on any active location first.)

This two cost Spirit event actually allows a player to convert progress into damage on a single non-unique enemy in the staging area. The most obvious drawback to this effect is that it essentially forfeits a round of progress on the quest, although you can at least clear out any active location, which while it takes away some potential damage for this effect, can actually be a benefit in helping to avoid location lock. Still, heavy willpower decks, which are the most likely to use Ride Them Down, are also the least likely to be harmed by foregoing progress for one round, as they can easily make up this ground on a subsequent turn and the value of getting rid of a troublesome enemy might be well worth the delay. Just imagine having Ride Them Down available back during the Core Set days to allow a questing deck to get rid of a Hill Troll without suffering a single blow! Spirit also has the easiest access to card recursion through Dwarven Tomb, so a deck that is heavy on willpower and really light on attack power should definitely not be afraid to make heavy use of Ride Them Down to get ride of any enemies that might pose a threat (both literally and figuratively). Ride Them Down is not just useful for the wimpy decks of the world, though. It also can help deal with enemies in the staging area that can’t be engaged, such as Bill Ferny from the Black Riders [ed: You actually can’t do this with Bill Ferny, as he’s unique, but you get the idea] or all enemies during stage 3 of Into Ithilien, to take only two examples. There also is an advantage to the fact that this is a question action, as enemies with harmful effects that trigger when they engage or absurd archery values can be destroyed before those bothersome problems ever present themselves. This also brings to mind stage 2 of Journey in the Dark from The Road Darkens expansion, which requires players to destroy a certain number of enemies before they can progress. Ride Them Down can help in this regard to more quickly get rid of enemies from the table, and while this is a very specific example, it does demonstrate the broader applications to Ride Them Down. It should be acknowledged that Ride Them Down is on the more expensive side costing two resources. This is a certainly a fair price for the effect, but might make it a bit more difficult to play. Still, given the havoc that an enemy can inflict on a deck that is not prepared for combat, I don’t believe that this cost is prohibitive in any sense. Even better, sneaky Hobbit decks can make use of Good Meal to play this event for free, which is perfect gameplay synergy, although I’m not sure what the Hobbits are riding down their foes with exactly. The biggest downside to this card is not the cost or anything having to do with the card itself actually, it’s the reality that there are so many other staple Spirit events out there that it will be hard for Ride Them Down to carve out deck space. With A Test of Will and Hasty Stroke often taking up six slots on their own, not to mention the fairly standard threat reduction effect or two, there’s not much room left for other Spirit events, and this has brought down many other candidates that are thought were quite useful but never made it into any of my decks. Ride Them Down, however, may just be the card to break into that club, as the new go-to means for Spirit to handle enemies and its only available form of “direct damage”, one whose magnitude is essentially only limited by available willpower. One final note is that this card seems generally more useful in one or two player games, as in a three or four player game, it’s less likely that one enemy will make as much of a difference than in a game with fewer players, and there also is a greater likelihood of certain decks taking on the lion’s share of attacking and defending.

Versatility: ♦♦♦◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦♦

Shadows Give Way (Spirit Event, 3 cost):

Shadows-Give-Way

While Spirit has long been the main sphere for shadow cancellation (with Lore perhaps contending for that title), generally this has been confined to individual shadow card. Shadows Give Way now provides a means of sweeping the whole board of shadow cards:

You must use resources from 3 different heroes’ pools to pay for this card.

Action: Discard each shadow card from each enemy in play.

This is essentially a mono-sphere card, although it uses the Core Set language from Thicket of Spears rather than the “play only if each hero you control has the printed _ icon” of the Against the Shadow cycle. In practice, the two versions are largely the same, although Shadows Give Way (and Thicket of Spears) does not require a printed icon, meaning that giving one of your heroes a Spirit icon through another card effect is fair game here. I’m fond of saying that shadow effects, along with encounter cards during staging, are the two places where unpredictability enters the game and where a well-laid plan can be ruined. This is why shadow cancellation can be so important and why Hasty Stroke is still so valuable despite there being more alternatives these days. Theoretically, then, removing every single shadow card from play is like Hasty Stroke on steroids and should be an instant include. In practice, three cost is high for an event, and I wonder if selectively picking off the worst shadows one card and one resource at a time through Hasty Stroke or using some other shadow cancellation option might just do the job without resorting to such an expensive effect. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly see the value in clearing the board of shadows, particularly in three or four player games against quests that feature especially nasty shadows. I also love the thematic connection of the shadows literally “giving way” before the players as they are driven out by the pure light of Spirit. Still, not every shadow card will have an effect that is worth canceling, and in most cases, you will be using Shadows Give Way blindly in the hopes that it will not feel wasted. Using Silver Lamp and/or Dark Knowledge certainly can help in this regard, but this still doesn’t show you all the shadows that are coming. In most cases, I imagine that Shadows Give Way will be used when the players are faced with a ton of enemies at once and I want to minimize the chance of hitting upon a nasty shadow effect or several nasty shadow effects at once. Keep in mind that Shadows Give Way can be played during any action window but is not a response, so you could technically resolve a few attacks until you reveal a shadow effect you don’t like, but keep in mind that shadows are revealed and resolved simultaneously, so Shadows Give Way could discard the shadow (and all other shadows) at that point but the effect would have already taken place. This event also suffers from the issue mentioned in the Ride Them Down entry, which is the stranglehold on Spirit event space held by the usual staples which are hard to replace or move aside. With all that in mind, Shadows Give Way strikes me as a solution card geared towards specific scenarios that pose shadows as a particular problem or as a one copy card that you throw into your deck in a three or four player game in order to play during a key moment of combat.

Versatility: ♦♦◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦◊◊

Don’t Be Hasty (Lore Event, 0 cost):

Don't-Be-Hasty

Starting off as a zero cost Lore event with a subtle application and Entish theme is certainly a recipe for getting on my good side! Still, the actual verdict on this card is a bit less straightforward. Don’t Be Hasty very appropriately allows you to remove a character from questing in response to any encounter card being revealed:

Response: When an encounter card is revealed but before resolving any of that card’s keywords or “when revealed” effects, choose a character committed to the quest. Ready that character and remove it from the quest.

The best way to talk about Don’t Be Hasty is to divide it into its main applications. First, and most obviously, it can be used to prevent a character from suffering the effects of an encounter card. Blocking Wargs, for example, that hated card from Heirs of Numenor which deals one damage to characters committed to the quest, has racked up a high body count over the years. Don’t Be Hasty would allow you to remove a hero (or ally) that is one damage away from death from the quest after Blocking Wargs was revealed, preventing their destruction. This is just one example, but there have been plenty of other treacheries over the years that are directed towards characters that are either committed to the quest or exhausted (the latter point is addressed by Don’t Be Hasty readying the character). New players will be all too familiar with Necromancer’s Reach and the damage it deals to each exhausted character. However, this is a very quest-specific card, which is not a horrible judgment in my eyes, as I feel that such solution cards have an important place in the game. Another use of Don’t Be Hasty is as a form of simple readying. This is an aspect of the card that can be easily overlooked, because its applications are limited, but essentially it lets you commit a character to the quest and then ready them for combat. This does remove their willpower from the quest, so this is largely restricted to someone like Theodred, who can generate his resource after committing to the quest, but then remove his paltry one willpower and ready to lend his slightly more substantial two attack to battling enemies. The final, and perhaps best, use of Don’t Be Hasty is to enable better questing through over-questing. In other words, usually when committing characters to a quest, there are a few characters that you commit without question and then maybe one or two that are on the bubble. This is one of the key decision points in the game, as deciding to be more aggressive by committing that extra character may help questing but leave you vulnerable if something unexpected happens during questing, while going more conservative and holding back that extra character provides help for combat but may leave you just short of the willpower you need during questing. Don’t Be Hasty allows you to commit that character that is “on the bubble” or you are unsure about as long as you have it in hand. If nothing untoward is revealed, you can keep them committed, but if an unexpected enemy is revealed or something major changes, you can pull them back with this event to be ready for combat. This makes Don’t Be Hasty a reverse form of Late Adventurer, which is a Spirit event that allows you to add a character to the quest after staging. I’ve always been a big fan of that event in theory, but have never really found space for it in a deck. Don’t Be Hasty is perhaps superior in that you get the benefit of the extra questing each round and only need to use the event in response to the encounter deck, while Late Adventurer must be used each time you want the extra willpower. This subtle difference is important. In addition, while there are good events in Lore, there isn’t nearly the “event crunch” present in the Spirit sphere, so I can actually see myself adding Don’t Be Hasty into a few decks. Is this a cool effect that sounds good on paper but is quickly cut when the wheels hit the road? Or is this an underrated new card that helps give you an advantage during a key moment of each round? The jury is still out on this one.

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

Waters of Nimrodel (Lore Event, 3 cost):

Waters-of-Nimrodel

What Shadows Give Way is to shadow cancellation, Waters of Nimrodel is to healing:

Doomed 3.

Action: Heal all damage on each character in play.

It’s interesting that we get two three cost events in the same pack that are designed to be global, “total reset” effects for a certain area of the game. Waters of Nimrodel is certainly more costly, in that you have to suffer the doomed three in addition to the normal cost of three, but I actually think it is probably the more useful of the two. In large part, this is because shadow cancellation is in many ways a problem best addressed with a scalpel rather than a grenade, surgically removing the worst shadow effects as they appear rather than nuking them all at every opportunity. There isn’t any guarantee that as you increase the scale of the effect that it will have a tangible benefit for players. On the other hand, healing is far more straightforward and more healing is always better than less healing. This means that total removal of Waters of Nimrodel will always give you good value, assuming that you use it wisely and when it is needed, which is a given. The real question, as always with any healing effect, is how necessary healing is for the particular scenario you’re facing and the deck you’re playing. Against a quest like Journey in the Dark, to take just one example, which ruthlessly barrages players with direct damage, being able to start clean once characters have amassed a bunch of damage could be the difference between defeat and victory and certainly worth the cost. At other times, Waters of Nimrodel might end up sitting in  your hand. There also are plenty of other healing effects, including the cheap and versatile Warden of Healing who is adequate on his own to handle most healing needs most of the time. However, Waters of Nimrodel exists to cover those situations not covered by “most of the time” and exists as a strong solution card for certain quests. It also can be worth including as a single copy in certain decks just to have that reset button available. It won’t be the most consistently useful card in your deck, but can make a difference when it does go off. As a final note, this is definitely a card that becomes stronger as you add more players, since there is more damage to be healed and it is easier to keep damage under control if you’re the only one that needs to be healed.

Versatility: ♦♦◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦◊◊

Conclusion

It’s always hard to believe when a cycle comes to a close. It always seems like such a painful wait for a new cycle to begin and then it flies by in a flash. Overall, this has undoubtedly been one of the best cycles ever in terms of quests, player cards, and overall story and execution. The designers did a fantastic job in creating this set of player cards from the perspective of overall design. There were far fewer duds than ever before and far fewer overpowered cards than ever before. Certainly, there were cards of somewhat questionable utility along the way and some of more marginal use, but even those cards generated some interesting possibilities. On the other hand, there were certainly very strong cards that were released but many had some kind of built-in limitation or drawback and didn’t feel hopelessly overpowered, as has happened in the past (Dwarves and Outlands, I’m looking at you!). The Antlered Crown itself is a representative of this balance and careful design. The possibilities for deck builders are broader than they ever have been before, and I now find myself not having time to build and experiment with all the different deck types I want to, instead of trying to rack my brain to think of something new. This is a great sign and we’re at a very healthy place in the life of the game right now. So cheers to the Ring-maker cycle and The Antlered Crown and let’s all begin the impatient wait for The Lost Realm!

Readers, what was your favorite card in this AP? What was your least favorite card?

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34 Comments
  1. I agree that Shadows Give Way is not for every deck, but I am definitely going to add a couple of copies of it to my mono-Spirit multiplayer support deck. Just the thought of discarding 6-8 shadow cards during the critical round of a 4-player game seems pretty amazing. Also Zigil Miner and Imladris means that 3 resources is not as bad of a cost as it might at first seem.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I suppose if you are going mono-Spirit, Frodo can always eat some shadows for breakfast with Good Meal. 1 cost for that event would be pretty bonkers.

      • kidohearts permalink

        I was actually wondering about that, can you “good meal” Shadows. It says resources MUST be used from 3 different heroes pools. You’d only be using one.

        • TalesfromtheCards permalink

          Yeah, you’re right, since it has that wording you can’t reduce the cost, it has to be paid in full.

  2. Spurries permalink

    If you’ve watched Brandon and Sean try Celembrimbor 2P, Shadows give way would have won the game haha. I like it and see it as a method of guaranteeing victory. Maybe use it for Dunland Trap too, where surviving threat last attack wins the game. Also will def throw the Helms deep guy in Mono Leadership Gondor deck, even if he’s Rohan

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I’ll have to give that a watch! I think it can certainly seal victory, which is nice, but it seems like a 1 copy card to me, unless you’re really pumping out the resources. If you’re playing mono Spirit anyway, though, you’re getting 3 a turn, so it’s basically one turn’s resources, which you might be able to spare towards the end of a game.

  3. Glowwyrm permalink

    Shadows Give Way would be handy in any scenario with chaining shadows. When you get a handful of moderate to weak enemies out on the table but any one of them could end up with 5 shadow cards and killing a hero, nixing all the shadow cards would be very handy. But it mostly seems like a solution card (as you said) than a staple.

    More than anything, I think this cycle gave me cards with fun effects that I want to build around so that they work. I’m brainstorming a deck that could make use of Fall of Gilgalad, and I want to play around with Shadows Give Way, Message from Elrond, the doomed cards, etc. Not the most powerful cards, but they certainly are interesting and could lead to fun application in game play. The fun of the game isn’t only in building power decks and crushing scenarios, but seeing what you can do creatively as a deck builder.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Agreed fully. Power decks are fun for a bit and then quickly get old. Building those weird decks is when I feel most accomplished and have the most fun.

  4. Thaddeus Papke permalink

    Unfortunately, I think Bill Ferny gets to sit smugly in his den as the horseman go riding by due to his “unique” status.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Ah yes, of course. I was too hasty in my desire to stamp his face into the ground.

      • Thaddeus Papke permalink

        Yeah, using it against him was one of the very first things I thought of with that card. Alas…

  5. Thaddeus Papke permalink

    I strongly suspect that ‘Shadows Give Way’ has that wording so that it can be played with Gandalf.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yeah, it does seem that way, especially since the artwork depicts a “Gandalf moment”

      • Buz permalink

        While it will certainly be great with Gandalf, Gandalf’s own ability says he is considered to have the “printed” icon so I’m less sure the idea was a Gandalf workaround. I think it’s likelier they didn’t want it reduced in any way.

        • Thaddeus Papke permalink

          True, although with this wording Gandalf can still help pay for it from your hand if you’ve got Song of Travel on him.

  6. Pengolodh permalink

    I know that Don’t Be Hasty would be a good card to have against scenarios where advancing too quickly can be devastating. In a recent game against The Stone of Erech, I over quested by one point. Don’t Be Hasty would have been perfect to prevent that. It’s definitely not an auto-include in all decks, but good to have in scenario-specific decks.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I’m looking forward to trying it out, especially if I can use it to bring back an Ent!

  7. Tony F permalink

    Excellent review as always! I’m with you that this cycle was one of the best, if not the best, to date.

    The most intriguing card in this AP to me is Ride Them Down. I’ve actually played (and enjoyed) a Hobbit deck with Spirit Pippin, and on the right quest it can be quite effective. This card will open up a few more quests as possibilities for the Spirit Pippin deck since it will now be feasible to win quests where you have to defeat a certain enemy. It will still not be able to succeed at all such quests since many of them require the defeat of unique enemies, but it will help.

    It is also a good fit for Dunhere and Great Yew Bow decks in that it gives an additional way to kill enemies in the staging area. To your point about having difficulty finding event card slots in Spirit decks, if you build a deck around keeping enemies in the staging area, you won’t need your Hasty Strokes to cancel shadow effects.

    • kidohearts permalink

      And play Eleanor and you could run less or no Test of Will

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      True, and there are times where I actually forego Hasty Strokes altogether if I think I can handle the shadows a particular quest throws at me. Still, I think Spirit has this issue more than any other sphere. I think Ride Them Down actually can break into decks, but there have been other recent Spirit events that are clearly useful but just can’t beat out the staples.

  8. kidohearts permalink

    I started playing card games with AGOT. I move to this and have never looked back. The thing I love the most about this game is the pace of releasing material. I actually really really like the Entish pace. I feel like it gives new players (I started about 6ish months ago) time to catch up. Once you do, I like the time to experiment with the cards, get a good feel for the cards, think of combos with current and past cards, etc…. And now the stories are incredible. As stated in some places I just hope they don’t have so many triggers to keep track of it takes away from the thematic story telling greatness of the quest. Some are good, but you shouldn’t need a spreadsheet to keep up. And I love swag, so I hope they continue to release cool items.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I actually agree. I know many players complain about the pace of player cards being released, and I can certainly understand that view, but I find the pace to work perfectly for me. I think it was actually more of an issue in the past, when the player card pool was so small that it was hard to build a variety of decks and it felt like the card selection was growing so slowly. But now we have a fairly robust pool, so I think the current pace is fine.

  9. Gwaihir the Windlord permalink

    Will you do another cycle wrap-up like you did for the Against the Shadow cycle? I’m very interested in seeing what you think are the best/worst cards.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      You know, I actually forgot that I did that last time around until you reminded me. I think that’s a good idea and I’ll probably do a Ring-maker wrap-up sometime soon!

  10. Thaddeus Papke permalink

    I finally got to play with Treebeard today. At four cost and coming in exhausted it was (appropriately) awhile until he could properly start helping out, but he sure was fantastic! It really felt a lot like he was a fourth hero. Although, if I had been playing a scenario that starts out with a more punishing beginning…

  11. I don’t have a comment on any specific card, but just want to echo your sentiment that with the completion of the Ring-maker cycle, we are “at a very healthy place in the life of the game”. I will be very interested to see where we go as the next cycle and saga expansions are released, but I also feel like the card pool has reached a critical saturation where the number of decks I want build outpaces my time and opportunity to build them. We also have cards of all the main characters now (apologies to Círdan, Ioreth, and Halbarad who I expect in the next cycle) without too many multiple versions of uniques complicating deck-building for multi-players games. Designing new cards that offer fresh possibilities without simply overpowering previous releases is going to be increasingly challenging. That said, the designers have done it better than ever with the Silvan trait. Here’s hoping the Dúnedain will be able to do the same in The Lost Realm. Thanks for your thorough reviews here’s to the Ring-maker, our (arguably) best overall designed cycle to date!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks! I’m ridiculously excited for the Lost Realm, as exploring the Dunedain trait and Eriador has been one of my top wishes for the game for some time.

  12. Strategian permalink

    What are the Spirit staples you mention above? You named some and I can guess others, but I wonder which ones you think of as staples.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Sure, I would say that A Test of Will and Hasty Stroke are firm staples. Then, threat management would be either The Galadhrim’s Greeting or Elrond’s Counsel depending on the deck. So that’s usually around 9 slots of Spirit events spoken for in many decks. That would be it for the outright staples, but that’s enough to really take up room if you also need to accommodate events from another sphere as well in a dual-sphere deck.

  13. Traekos77 permalink

    Spare Hood & Cloak would also be an option for exhausting to Arwen during the Planning Phase.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Indeed. Also, a good attachment for Ents, so maybe Spare Hood and Cloak will see a tiny bump in use.

      • kidohearts permalink

        I put it on Eleanor so if she doesn’t need to cancel she can ready others.

  14. Futonrivercrossing permalink

    I managed to beat the quest with the Ent deck, I added in a few more allies to boost questing to clear out encounters before the timed went off on them. The deck performed flawlessly this time, the first few turns are tricky, but, getting Asfaloth in play in the second turn was the key to winning (I had northern tracker – but he wasn’t really needed and just sat in my hand) – also the Raven deck wasn’t really an issue. The thing I liked about this quest was its simplicity – as long as those timed effects don’t go off on locations – it’s quite straightforward and not too fiddlely to play! In some of the recent scenarios, there are so many things to keep track of – it’s difficult to play without mistakes 😦

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I need to play Antlered Crown some more to really get a feel for it. Perhaps in 3 or 4 player, keeping track of all the time might be difficult, but I do agree that it feels more straightforward than many other quests in this cycle. Recently, I’ve bought some glass counters of different colors, and I’m going to use them to mark cards that trigger during different phases as visual reminders to help keep track of everything.

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