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Deck Spotlight: Galadriel Gets A Palantir

by on March 10, 2015


Perhaps the one silver lining of the inevitable drought that follows the conclusion of a cycle is that it gives me plenty of time to experiment with cards and decks that have long been floating around in my mind, but that I haven’t had a chance to try. When I’m in the thick of trying to beat the scenarios that are released, I often find myself defaulting to relatively straightforward and well-tested decks that I’ve used in the past. Alternatively, I may end up having to build highly focused decks to meet the needs of a specialized scenario. However, when I’m not faced with the pressing need to add a new quest to the win column, I find myself experimenting freely and using a broad palette of decks. All of this is a rather long-winded way of saying that I have finally gotten around to giving a certain card its due, a card that has long plagued my thoughts, but one that I have never really gotten to grips with in a meaningful way. Not only have I ignored this card for far too long, it has been largely shunned by much of the LOTR LCG community, but by no means all of it, as certain enterprising players have made good use of it, including a guest writer here at Tales from the Cards when it was first released.

I’m talking of course about the Palantir. Players long clamored for the release of this memorable artifact in cardboard form, and unfortunately many were disappointed with the end result. While other classic items like the Sword that was Broken and the Mirror of Galadriel have been viewed as both highly thematic and immediately useful, the Palantir has usually been seen as strong on the former and rather weak on the latter. I must admit that my own view of this artifact was fairly subdued upon its release as part of the Assault on Osgiliath pack. While I definitely saw the value of the card, and specifically argued that it should be viewed primarily as a scrying device rather than a card draw engine, I also admitted that it was rather limited by the sizable threat gain it entailed, which meant only a limited set of decks could reliably make use of it. I ended by concluding that it was likely best used in a deck with a low starting threat and plenty of threat reduction available. With that in mind, I decided to finally take my own advice and do just that!

The “Galadriel Gets A Palantir” deck is a mono-Spirit build featuring three heroes: Galadriel, Glorfindel, and Frodo. As evidenced by the title, the main idea is to give Galadriel a Palantir and let her use it to her heart’s content in conjunction with strong threat reduction. This is certainly not meant to be a thematic deck and was built with gameplay in mind, rather than any kind of devotion to lore. However, I do love crafting dubious explanations for such thematic stretches, and this deck seems to invite us to imagine a situation in which Galadriel gets her hands on a Palantir and is flanked on one side by an Elf who has seen such marvelous things in the West before and on the other by a Hobbit remarkably resistant to corruption. Such an occurrence is certainly rather unlikely. The palantiri were a set of magical “Seeing Stones” crafted by Fëanor long ago and some of these were given to the Dunedain during the Second Age. Elendil rescued seven of these stones and brought them to Middle-earth, with four taken to Gondor and three to Arnor. At the time of our game, four had been lost and only three of the seven were still accounted for. One was held by Denethor in Minas Tirith, another was guarded by Cirdan, and the third was of course in the possession of Saruman. So which one of these could Galadriel plausibly get her hands on and use? The interesting thing about the Palantir card is that it is employs a generic title rather than referring to a specific stone, so this does open up the alternative history door wide open. It’s rather unlikely that Saruman would ever give up his Palantir and nigh impossible that Denethor would not only reveal a somewhat guarded secret, but actually relinquish the precious item to an Elf. The most likely scenario then, is Cirdan gifting the Palantir under his control to Galadriel. However, there’s another problem here, as that particular Palantir was the only one of the seven that could not communicate with the others and was narrowly focused towards a companion stone in the West. It thus surely does not fit the description of the Palantir in our game! What we are left with is the possibility of one of the lost Palantir being found by Galadriel or one of the Galadhrim against all hope, perhaps the Osgiliath stone, which was lost in the Anduin long ago. Unlikely, yes, but good enough for me!

Deck List:

Hero (3)
1x Glorfindel
1x Galadriel
1x Frodo Baggins

Ally (20)
2x Arwen Undómiel
2x Emery
3x Ethir Swordsman
3x Galadriel’s Handmaiden
3x Pelargir Shipwright
2x Northern Tracker
2x Minas Tirith Lampwright
3x Gandalf (Core)

Attachment (16)
3x Palantir
3x Light of Valinor
2x Mirror of Galadriel
3x Unexpected Courage
3x Nenya
2x Good Meal

Event (14)
3x Elrond’s Counsel
2x Ride Them Down
2x Small Target
3x A Test of Will
2x The Galadhrim’s Greeting
2x Shadow of the Past

Total Deck Size: 50

Expansions Needed (12): Foundations of Stone, Celebrimbor’s Secret, The Watcher in the Water, The Blood of Gondor, The Steward’s Fear, Assault on Osgiliath, The Redhorn Gate, The Antlered Crown, Encounter at Amon Din, Return to Mirkwood, 2nd and 3rd Core Set

Theme: Encounter Deck Scrying, Card Draw, Threat Reduction, Willpower, Enemy Manipulation

Spheres: Spirit

Solo or Multiplayer?: Solo preferred but can function in multiplayer with a few tweaks

Strategy: This solo-focused deck is mainly aimed towards marshaling great quantities of willpower to blow through quest stages, while using the Palantir, along with a few other tricks, to control the encounter deck and make the right decisions at the right times. As with any deck featuring Galadriel and Glorfindel, the immediate priority is to get the key attachments into play, namely Light of Valinor and Nenya. However, with the Palantir being a heavy focus of this deck, that is also a card that I’m looking to get into play early, either through my opening hand or by utilizing Galadriel’s card draw. Once Galadriel has the Palantir and Nenya attached, her actions will be at a premium and she is a real powerhouse, as she can either scry the encounter deck/draw cards with the Palantir, contribute her willpower to questing, or lower threat/draw a card through her own ability. Due to this fact, Unexpected Courage is the final card that I would put in the essential category, as getting one of these onto her (if not two), will allow you to utilize two to three of these abilities per turn, which makes her into an amazing force. In terms of hero roles, Frodo is the clear defender (although he can also quest when you know an enemy isn’t coming, more on that later), Glorfindel is both a quester and attacker, while Galadriel helps with questing and plays the key support function at the heart of the deck.


Of course, the biggest question is how exactly to use the Palantir to its greatest effect, when to use it, and how to avoid getting into trouble with threat. As a quick refresher, the Palantir allows a hero to exhaust during the planning phase to name a card type and look at the top three cards of the encounter deck. For each correct match, the controlling player can draw a card, while each incorrect match raises that player’s threat by two. In general, I do not look to use the Palantir every round, as I am far more interested in it as a scrying tool than a card draw effect (although it does net a surprising amount of cards over the course of a game). What I will do is use the Palantir roughly every three rounds to look at the top of the encounter deck (if I have extra readying, I can do this more often, using my foreknowledge to get more correct matches when able). Once I see what is there, I can effectively plan out my next few rounds with an astonishing precision. While this kind of control has been long available to the Lore sphere through Henamarth Riversong and Rumour from the Earth, being able to see three cards at once takes this interaction between foreknowledge and pre-planning to even greater heights. For example, knowing that I will face two locations and then an enemy means that I can prioritize questing allies or that I have time to play some setup cards that won’t necessarily have an immediate impact. On the other hand, this knowledge also could serve as a warning that I need to save up some resources for that Gandalf or one of my Northern Trackers to deal with that upcoming enemy. Of course, if I’m already facing an enemy in combat or going to be facing an enemy soon, then I will also know exactly what the shadow cards will be, since these are based on the order of enemy engagement costs. This allows me to choose the best defender for the job (avoiding shadow effects that might kill a hero or punish chump blocking, for example), but also works quite well to set up Small Target, as I can see which enemies will have a shadow card with no effect. If I do have to face combat, then this does mean that I will have to use the Palantir a little more often than every three rounds. Fortunately, the low starting threat of 21 and the huge threat reduction potential of this deck (two copies of The Galadhrim’s Greeting, three copies of Elrond’s Counsel, three copies of Galadriel’s Handmaiden, and the threat reduction of Galadriel herself) means that I have a fair bit of leeway in how often I do use it  (and this does help when I have to use Frodo’s ability as well).

small target

While on the surface it might seem like simply knowing what is coming up isn’t that important, as it doesn’t actually allow you to stop it from happening, this foreknowledge actually can make a huge difference. For one, it gives you the ability to plan out your questing commitment with laser-like precision. Need to avoid advancing to the next stage? No problem. Heck, you can make zero progress as often as you like! Need to commit just enough characters to clear a location or advance but also need to hold characters back for combat? The Palantir’s got you covered, as you can always commit just what you need and no more. The Palantir even has a card like Henamarth Riversong beat, which has been giving a similar power to solo Lore players for years, in that you can see beyond just the next card. Encounter cards with “surge” have long been the bane of Henamarth users, but the Palantir can let you know exactly what the surge will bring. Even better, many recent cards force you to choose between suffering some ill effect or revealing an extra encounter card. The Palantir can tell you exactly what that choice means in real terms, and that is a deceptively powerful ability. For example, in a recent game of To Catch An Orc, I could always choose the best option for Orc Hunter (to remove a time counter or the next encounter card) based on what was coming next.

When it comes to guessing card types correctly for the Palantir, as I mentioned before, I’m not too concerned about this aspect of the card, but I’ll generally base my guess on what I know about a scenario (is it location heavy? enemy heavy?), what cards have come up so far, and what the composition of the rest of the deck is likely to be at any given moment. If an encounter card effect requires me to search through the encounter deck for a card, I’ll take full advantage of that effect to see how many of each type of card is left. All in all, I rarely whiff completely (although this has happened) or guess all three cards correctly (although this has happened as well). Generally, I net between one and two cards with each use of the Palantir, which when combined with Galadriel’s ability, actually makes this a mono-Spirit deck that is strong both in encounter deck scrying and card draw, a rarity indeed.

Where a mono-Spirit deck often falls down is in terms of combat, and even knowing a nasty enemy is coming may not give you what you need to fight it when it does appear. This is where a few key cards, such as Small Target, Ride Them Down, Shadow of the Past, and Core Gandalf come to the rescue. The first is one of the most enjoyable cards ever printed, and I always try to include it when I can. In this case, it works perfectly, as the Palantir provides an alternative to something like Silver Lamp, allowing me to see what shadow cards are coming up and with which enemies. With this knowledge, I may not always be able to use Small Target, as sometimes the shadow cards just don’t fall where they need to, but I never miss on it. If I’m able to be patient, which is helped by having a solid defender in Frodo, I can wait for the right turn to successfully pull off Small Target, and it can be game-changing or game-saving when it does hit. The only hiccup that sometimes arises is when an encounter card effect shuffles the encounter deck during staging or otherwise messes with the anticipated order, and there is no way to get around this as the Palantir is a planning action. Still, this doesn’t happen too often.

Beyond Small Target, there are a variety of other cards that help to deal with enemies. Ride Them Down is a fantastic card for a deck like this, as not only can I use it to dispatch an enemy in the staging area that I might not otherwise be able to deal with, but I can use the foreknowledge from the Palantir to know I will need to use it during a given turn (so that I can save resources) and to figure out exactly how much questing power I will need to destroy the enemy, rather than merely damage it. Shadow of the Past can help to set up Small Target, by putting a shadow card with no effect back on top of the encounter deck, or as a form of encounter deck manipulation. For example, if I see that a tough enemy is several turns away using the Palantir, I can use Shadow of the Past to delay that enemy for an additional turn by putting a relatively harmless card back on top of the encounter deck. I’ve been lukewarm on this card in the past, mainly because of its high cost, but it finds a good home here. Finally, Core Gandalf is reliable as always as a means of dealing damage and helping with combat. He also can provide extra threat reduction or card draw, as needed. Best of all, with the knowledge from the Palantir,  I can be better informed as to when to play Gandalf, when I need to save up for him, and which ability is the best choice at a given moment.

When all is said and done, the tricksy part of this deck is complemented by raw questing power. Aided by all the foreknowledge I need, I can apply this willpower like a jackhammer to blow through quest stages at key moments in order to snag a victory.

How It Was Constructed: I’ve been playing mono-Spirit decks for a long, long time now and find them quite useful in solo play. My old build of Frodo/Eowyn/Glorfindel was recently replaced by Idraen/Eowyn/Glorfindel and can deal with combat as well as questing, enough so that it can defeat many quests. However, mono-Spirit wasn’t what immediately jumped out to me when planning out a Palantir deck. Originally, I considered Lore, especially in order to use Lore Aragorn as a reset button. However, Lore already has both encounter deck scrying and card draw, so adding these elements to a sphere that already had them didn’t seem particularly interesting. After all, the Palantir’s power has always seemed to be that it is neutral and can give these abilities to other spheres. Tactics was a possibility, especially with Boromir’s ability to ready at will, yet there didn’t seem to be enough threat reduction to work effectively. Finally, the problem was resolved by considering the best potential Noble candidates for the Palantir, and Galadriel immediately jumped out at me. As a non-traditional hero who often exhausts for reasons unrelated to questing or combat, and as a recipient of Unexpected Courage, she seemed a great fit. The fact that she brings her own threat reduction to the table only sweetened the deal. Once I settled on Galadriel, the idea of a mono-Spirit deck going all-in on threat reduction seemed an obvious choice. Moving on the other heroes, Glorfindel of course crashed yet another party here , but as low threat is really the name of the game here, passing him up wasn’t really an option. Frodo was perhaps the most difficult choice, as I also heavily considered Eleanor. The Palantir could work quite well with Eleanor, as you would be able to see not only an upcoming treachery, but the subsequent card as well. However, my love for Small Target and that card’s natural synergy with the Palantir persuaded me to pick Frodo. His natural defensive ability can also be clutch in a more patient deck of this nature that may not always be able to kill off enemies right away. Ultimately, the Palantir adds an interesting twist to mono-Spirit decks that makes them feel much more interesting and fun to play than normally is the case (again, I say this as a heavy user of mono-Spirit decks). The new dimension of scrying heightens the effectiveness of this deck type in a way that is both powerful and satisfying.

Possible Combos:

1) Palantir +  Small Target (+ Shadow of the Past): This is loads of fun. Know exactly when to use Small Target and against which enemy with the help of the Palantir, and add in Shadow of the Past where needed.


2) Palantir + Ride Them Down (+ Good Meal): Uh oh, it looks like there’s a brutal troll coming this way. Never fear! The Palantir will tell you when that enemy is coming and exactly how much willpower you will need to get rid of it through the use of Ride Them Down. The latter event can be expensive, but Good Meal makes it free to play. Groovy.

3) Palantir + Minas Tirith Lampwright: Minas Tirith Lampwright has always been a potentially great card, as it is the only way currently to cancel surge, yet it is hampered by its random nature. The Palantir eliminates the guessing game and could possibly prove decisive in avoiding a surge into disaster.

Variations: This deck actually came together rather quickly with relatively minor changes. However there are definitely some possible variations:

* Eleanor – Replacing one of the heroes with Eleanor would give you great treachery cancellation, especially since you might be able to see what the replacement card will be with the Palantir.

* Idraen – If you are sick to death of Glorfindel, you could replace him with Idraen. This substitution entails a substantial hit to the starting threat, but could plausibly fulfill a similar role.

* White Tower Watchman – I like this ally for providing another layer of undefended options in addition to Frodo, but he ultimately fell victim to space.

* Zigil Miner – Resources aren’t too tight in a mono-sphere deck like this, yet the Zigil Miner can allow you to generate resources to pay for the extra cards you will be drawing.

* Map of Earnil/Dwarven Tomb – Recycling effects can be nice in a deck like this, either to compensate for squishy one hit point allies that can die too easily (resurrection fodder for Dwarven Tomb) or to get extra use out of key events.

Thror’s Key: With some knowledge of the future, you might be able to judge the best time to use Thror’s Key and whether or not a more threatening location lurks on the horizon.

* A Light in the Dark: I love the idea behind pushing an enemy into the staging area and then using Ride Them Down to stampede over them during the next turn. There just wasn’t room left in the deck unfortunately.

* A Watchful Peace: Readers of my recent Card Spotlight will know my strong feelings for this event, and it could work well in this deck, but Shadow of the Past provides a bit more flexibility, especially in the absence of substantial location control.

Final Thoughts: This is a solid solo deck that can give you a good fighting chance against a variety of scenarios, both through the usual willpower bomb mono-Spirit provides and the various other tricks that are part of this build. Its greatest weakness is perhaps those quests that demand a great deal of attack power in order to defeat large enemies. More importantly than all that, though, it is great fun to pull off a successful use of Small Target or Ride Them Down and harnessing the power of the Palantir is truly exhilarating. After using the Palantir quite a bit and building a deck around it, I feel that it is a well-designed and well-balanced card. Making it more palatable to use would both have undermined its thematic foundation (Palantir shouldn’t be used!) and made it far too powerful. Looking at the top three cards of the encounter deck is ridiculously strong and the penalty offered by the Palantir is appropriate. This doesn’t mean that you can effectively slot the Palantir into every deck or even most decks. It does mean that it should be used wisely and sparing in the right types of decks, and when used this way, it can certainly turn the tide. As a final note, although Galadriel is surely not essential to forming a viable Palantir deck, she certainly adds a new texture to this deck type, as she has with many others, and her arrival in the game has opened up many new possibilities for existing cards. I definitely do relish the narrative notion of Galadriel having a Palantir in one hand, a ring on the other, and the mirror before her. All shall love me and despair indeed!




From → Deck Spotlight

  1. I love the deck. I have built several like it and found them to be quite good, although I actually think they are better in multiplayer than solo. I especially like the Shadows of the Past suggestion, which I have never tried.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      A potential strength of the Palantir is that it can work both solo and multiplayer (and unlike Doomed effects, it only raises your own threat!). This deck could work well in multiplayer, but I might be inclined to take out Small Target, since it’s designed to work with the Palantir and throw in some other support cards.

  2. I love this deck! Super creative, well done.

  3. Palantir was key for me to beat Celebrimbor’s secret (which was giving me quite some trouble) — to be able to use just the necessary questing characters prior to a quest stage advance that does things like attack you right away, or otherwise scare you if you used too many characters to advance.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yeah, knowledge is indeed power. This deck actually proved quite useful in taking down Nightmare Hills of Emyn Muil for exactly that reason. You can quest exactly what you need while avoiding cards that punish questing characters and holding back for combat exactly when you need to.

  4. Tonskillitis permalink

    Interesting deck! I have been meaning to make more use of the Palantir but hadn’t thought of the Galdariel option. It certainly is an intriguing card and potentially powerful, and it’s good that such a thematic card has been printed even if its pretty restrictive. They don’t want to make the scrying too easy or that will ruin the fun random nature of the game. I’m still not convinced that ‘Small Target’ is answer to combat inefficiency though it is a lot a fun- this card would make a great ‘target’ for a future card spotlight!

  5. Glaurung permalink

    I try it… I’m my opinion it does work at all………. Or maybe i don’t know how to play it….

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      It definitely doesn’t work against every quest. Like some of the Ring-maker quests give it trouble because it is a slow, patient deck, but I did beat some of the Nightmare quests with it. Maybe I’ll do a video…

  6. Stellar permalink

    I’m really enjoying your blog! A lot of great articles to read through. This sounds like such a fun deck to play. I don’t have all the expansions necessary, but I might try using a proxy for the Palantir just so I can try using that very intriguing power. It makes me want to go back and consider uses for cards I have skipped over.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks! Glad you’re enjoying it! One of the best things you can do is experiment and throw a card that might seem worthless into a deck and see what happens. Many times it may fail, but you might just find a gem, and it’s all great fun regardless.

  7. Kjeld permalink

    It seems like you might want to add a Ring of Barahir to this deck. Galadriel will already bear 3 artifacts — Nenya, Palantir, Mirror — and the Ring will add a total of 4 hitpoints, bringing her up to a massive 8! Nenya even gives access to Lore, so you could possibly throw in something like self preservation so she becomes a damage soaking machine.

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  1. Video: Palantir vs. Nightmare Hills of Emyn Muil | Tales from the Cards

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