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The Wastes of Eriador: Hero Review

by on June 30, 2015

wastes

The Wastes of Eriador is not yet officially released, but with it due to hit stores this week, and with my impatience reaching a fever pitch, I will get started on the player card reviews a bit early. Of course, this kind of pre-release review is made possible because the hero for The Wastes of Eriador Adventure Pack was actually spoiled quite a bit ago in Game Trade magazine (and the spoilers are now up on CardGameDB as well). That hero is a Spirit version of Merry (a.k.a. Meriadoc Brandybuck). As I am a great fan of Hobbits, both in The Lord of the Rings itself and in the game, I’m quite excited for this new addition and figuring out how he fits into the existing meta. Is Spirit Merry a good fit for the “hide-and-go-seek” Hobbit deck type or the “slice and dice” Hobbit deck type? For that matter, is he restricted to use with Hobbit decks or is he of a more general use hero? Read on to find out!

HERO

* Merry (Spirit Hero, 6 threat, 2 willpower, 1 attack, 1 defense, 2 hit points):

merry

Merry has become so ingrained in my head as the resident “badass” of the Hobbit trait that it’s extremely difficult to imagine him in any other capacity. For a long time now, he has hewed down even the mightiest of foes with the help of a Dagger of Westernesse or two, and Tactics Merry has gone a long way towards making all-Hobbit decks viable against even the most bloodthirsty of scenarios. It’s safe to say then that not only does a new hero version of Merry have big shoes to fill, but he also won’t necessarily fill the same shoes. In other words, Spirit Merry definitely implies a Hobbit deck built around evasion, rather than combat, simply by the fact that it precludes the ability to use Tactics Merry, who is the main attacker for Hobbits and the only Tactics Hobbit (giving access to those Daggers of Westernesse). So with that in mind, what exactly does Spirit Merry offer that can possibly match the unparalleled attacking prowess and strong readying ability of his Tactics version. Well, Spirit Merry, as is quite fitting for the Spirit sphere, provides a unique means for reducing threat:

Response: After an enemy is revealed from the top of the encounter deck, exhaust Merry to reduce your threat by that enemy’s .

At first glance, this ability might not seem that remarkable. Spirit is replete with threat reduction, from The Galadhrim’s Greeting to Elrond’s Counsel to Smoke Rings, as well as the threat avoidance of something like Free to Choose. However, Merry’s ability is something else entirely: a repeatable form of threat reduction (repeatable meaning that it can be triggered every time the response condition is met, instead of being a one-time use effect). This distinction is quite important, and a repeatable effect on a hero is even more crucial, as it means that a player can make use of it from the very first round until the last, without having to draw any copies of a particular card. Of course, Spirit does already have some repeatable threat reduction in hero form in the guise of Nori, Dwalin, and Galadriel. The latter is perhaps the most used and most powerful of the three in the current meta, as she can reduce the threat of any player by one simply by exhausting, although Nori can certainly be a ludicrous source of threat reduction in a Dwarf deck. How does Spirit Merry fit into this picture?

Perhaps the best comparison is against Galadriel, since Nori’s threat reduction is dependent on trait and Dwalin’s threat reduction is dependent on scenario (and enemy type more specifically). Placing the two against each other, Galadriel’s ability is better than Merry’s in several respects: it is an action and so is not dependent on a certain trigger (such as an enemy being revealed), it is paired with card draw, and it can be applied to any player. By contrast, Merry’s ability can only be used if and when an enemy is revealed from the encounter deck (note that effects that “add” or “put into play” an enemy don’t satisfy the text) and the threat reduction can only be applied to the player that controls Merry. On the other hand, Merry has one big advantage: the quantity of threat reduced can be much greater than one. While Galadriel’s reduction is static and will always be one, Merry’s is tied to the threat of the enemy revealed, so he can reduce a player’s threat by two, three, four, or even more with one simple exhaustion. Of course, most enemies will average out to about two to three threat, but even this level of threat reduction is a significant upgrade over a threat reduction of one. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Merry is better than Galadriel, just that the comparison is more complex than it first appears. But just how often will enemies appear, you might ask? The good news is that the ratio of most encounter decks tends to favor enemies, so the odds are pretty good.

It’s also important to consider that Merry is a six threat hero, meaning that, when viewed from a certain point of view, he not only provides threat reduction throughout the course of a game, but also at the beginning of one by helping contribute to a lower starting threat in the first place. In addition, unlike Galadriel, he can directly contribute to questing without the help of an attachment, as well as combat. Of course, if you don’t have readying available, you will have to hold Merry back from questing if you want to use his ability, and his stats don’t give him a strong leg to stand on when attacking or defending. These considerations do mean that Merry is a bit similar to Galadriel in that he fulfills more of a special support role than a traditional questing, attacking, or defending role. Still, a simple Fast Hitch or even Unexpected Courage can allow him to quest and still be ready to use his ability (since his ability is not limited to once per phase or round, he could technically use it multiple times, but remember that you cannot use an action to ready a character during the staging step). Thus, Merry with one readying attachment equals Galadriel with a readying attachment and Nenya. Kind of. The differences are many, but I’d need a pint or two from the Green Dragon before expounding on them further. Anyway, if you want to force Merry into a combat role, then Hobbit Cloak or Dagger of Westernesse could do the trick. Most of the time, though, I imagine Spirit Merry will be in a questing/support role. (Note: There is an attachment in this pack that really helps him fulfill both roles at once, but I’ll just leave it here and discuss it further in my attachments review if you are looking to avoid spoilers.)

So what kind of deck does Merry fit into and just how useful/powerful is he? The first possibility is to slot him into a mono-Spirit or Spirit/Lore Hobbit deck. The other Spirit Hobbits (Fatty, Pippin, and Frodo) have useful abilities but all of them increase threat as part of the cost. Merry finally provides a consistent and thematic means of compensating for this disadvantage (sure, events like Smoke Rings are nice, but not reliable enough in most cases). For example, a three threat enemy could pop out of the encounter deck during staging, with Merry exhausting to reduce your threat by three. Then, during the encounter phase, Pippin could raise your threat by three to send it back to the staging area after it engages. You will essentially then have a net threat gain of zero while avoiding that enemy using Pippin’s ability. In a similar way, you could use Fatty’s ability to negate threat in the staging area for quicker progress while having a net threat gain of zero or near zero. Ditto for Frodo defending. Of course, this is slightly dependent on a) actually revealing an enemy from the encounter deck and b) that enemy having a high enough threat strength to compensate for the abilities you are using. With this in mind, Merry seems to be better in multiplayer, as the more players there are, the more cards will be revealed during staging, which increases the odds of an enemy being revealed each round. Multiplayer also seems to be the best chance of success for an evasion-focused Hobbit deck against most quests. Then again, Merry’s ability can only be applied to the controlling player and it doesn’t necessarily need to be used every round to be effective.

Beyond Hobbit evasion decks, Spirit Merry also instantly becomes one of the best secrecy heroes in the game. Unlike disposable events that need to be drawn, Merry allows you to stay under the secrecy threshold on a consistent basis. Even better, unlike Galadriel, his six starting threat also makes it easier to start in secrecy while having a broader range of potential heroes to partner with in the process. It’s not just secrecy decks though, as I think Merry can and should become a popular third hero choice for a variety of different deck types. A low threat hero that gives access to Spirit and has an ability that is almost always useful is valuable. Although he obviously lacks the strong questing power of someone like Eowyn or the absurd power of Glorfindel (obviously, such a comparison is unfair to anyone), he can contribute at least two willpower to the quest each round. It’s also important to consider that, like Galadriel, Merry is a great partner for decks that rely on increasing threat. Pairing Merry with Boromir, for example, makes a ton of sense, and revealing a two or three threat enemy can buy you two or three actions from Boromir. Grima and other doomed effects would also benefit from Merry (in solo play at least) in a big way. I also like the idea of pairing Song of Earendil with Merry in multiplayer, as the great threat reduction of Merry could essentially be spread to other players as you take on their threat using this attachment. Merry is therefore a versatile hero with intriguing applications.

It’s already been mentioned that readying effects are near-essential for a top quality Merry deck. What other attachments work well with this new hero? There aren’t a ton of likely possibilities, but there are a few (of course, this lack of options can actually be a strength, as it means that Merry stands on his own without the need for much support). Dagger of Westernesse can turn Merry into a strong attacking force, since the controlling player’s threat will likely often be lower than enemy engagement costs. This does require access to Tactics though. I like Silver Lamp, as since Merry will often have readying attachments, he should be ready during combat and can enable the always enticing Small Target trick with Hobbits. Miruvor isn’t a bad option, as you could quest with Merry, then ready him and give him an additional one willpower as well, although given action window constraints, you’d have to make this decision before staging if you want to use his ability. There are some events that are actually more intriguing than attachments when it comes to Merry. Since Merry will be mostly questing anyway (once you have readying), you could include Lay of Nimrodel, and then keep a copy in hand, along with some resources on Merry, to provide a willpower boost when it is needed most. Merry also provides the best excuse yet to play Courage Awakened. An extra two willpower boosts him up to Eowyn levels and his ability means that you can stay in secrecy in order to use the recursion effect. The biggest problem is the continual cost of one resource if you want to keep using the event, in which case it probably makes more sense just to get an ally into play for extra willpower. On the other hand, if cost reduction through Grima or Good Meal can make this event free, then it may be worthwhile, especially since it can be kept in hand until after staging and used only when really needed. If you know exactly when an enemy is coming, Desperate Alliance could work in multiplayer to allow another player to take advantage of Merry’s threat reduction. I’m also always a big fan of Halfling Determination when using any Hobbit heroes, although this depends on having access to Tactics.

Pushing things a little further into tricksy territory, Don’t Be Hasty! is an intriguing event, as it could allow you to actually use Merry’s ability twice and get around the usual restrictions on taking actions during staging. For example, you could exhaust and commit Merry to the quest, then ready him with Fast Hitch. An enemy is revealed, and you could exhaust Merry to reduce your threat. Then, a second enemy is revealed. You could play Don’t Be Hasty!, which triggers when an enemy is revealed, to ready Merry and remove him from the quest. Finally, you could exhaust Merry once more to lower your threat based on the second enemy. If I’ve been hasty on my rules interpretation here, let me know in the comments below, but the timing and wording appears to be legit. As touched on earlier, Merry also is a great partner for Doomed cards like Deep Knowledge, Legacy of Numenor, Saruman, The Wizard’s Voice, and Power of Orthanc, as he is a reliable means of countering even the higher threat gains among these effects. Throw in Keys of Orthanc, and Merry can even generate some resources for you as well.

In terms of final thoughts on Spirit Merry (Sperry?), my final verdict is much more positive than I would originally have anticipated. I’m such a huge fan of the Tactics version of the character that it seemed inconceivable that I would ever consider using another version in a different sphere. However, that is now the case, as I’m excited to build a few decks around good ol’ Sperry, and he definitely opens up some fun deck building possibilities. In terms of his overall value in the grand picture, Merry definitely is the best choice of the Spirit Hobbits (along with Frodo), he is one of the best secrecy heroes in the game, he is a strong choice for a third hero/only Spirit hero in many decks, and he is one of the best threat reduction effects available. All of this of course is not to say that he is without weaknesses. Ruling out access to his Tactics version is certainly one. His low stats are another, and having only two hit points in particular can be a liability, especially as quests increasingly tend to pile on direct damage and archery (Boots from Erebor or Ent-draught can help). Still, that all being said, Merry is a great new choice for heroes. While his Tactics version represented the battle-savvy captain of the Battle of Bywater, I like to think of Spirit Merry as the Hobbit from the Fellowship of the Ring, helping to conspire to get Frodo away from danger and out of the Shire. I’ll certainly be joining him in his conspiracy quite soon!

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦♦

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦◊◊

Possible Attachment Choices: Fast Hitch, Unexpected Courage, spoiled attachment, Dagger of Westernesse, Hobbit Cloak, Silver Lamp, Miruvor, Spare Hood and Cloak, Boots from Erebor, Ent-draught

Conclusion

The Wastes of Eriador has started off the Angmar Awakened cycle with a bang, as Spirit Merry hits the stage, shouting, “I am no dud!”. Although we have been promised a focus on Noldor and Dunedain, as always, we are also being sprinkled with a hint of support for other traits, with Hobbits getting some love here. Although there are some strong Hobbit decks out there, it has been difficult to break away from the Sam/Lore Pippin/Tactics Merry mold if you want a chance against more difficult scenarios, so that Hobbit deck building has been slightly stilted (evasion decks are fun but not competitive, at least in solo play). Merry not only mixes the Hobbit meta up a bit, but he is a super versatile hero, which is exactly what deck builders want.

Readers, what are your thoughts on Spirit Merry? What kind of deck will you be using him in? How do you rate him in the pantheon of heroes?

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19 Comments
  1. Glowwyrm permalink

    He’s the first compelling reason to try Leaf Brooch. I’ve been itching to try a new secrecy build since these cards were released last cycle, but never fond something that really satisfied me, especially not for solo. Merry’s repeated threat reduction is an interesting case for making some of these event recycling effects work. Popping down two Leaf Brooches, then using Swift and Silent (assuming Sam is around) and Courage Awakened to quest for four and use Merry’s ability in the same round is a complicated card combo, but it’ll be satisfying to repeat it every round.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Good call. I like the idea of using Leaf Brooch with him. I was pretty hot on the Brooch at first, but it really loses value quickly if you don’t have a reliable way of staying in secrecy for the long term, which is exactly what Merry provides.

  2. Thaddeus permalink

    I’m thrilled to start building a proper Hobbit Secrecy deck with Spirit Merry, but I am sad that it means not getting to also use Tactics Merry and his accompanying shenanigans.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yeah, I guess what makes it a bit more palatable is that I’ve used Tactics Merry a ton, so maybe a little break is in order.

  3. Ffouilloux permalink

    I guess my secrecy deck (with Leaf brooch in it by the way) just changed from Sam/galadriel to Sam/Sperry/Glorfindel (I know, him again). And it could be even better!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I’ve been eyeing that hero lineup as well. I’ve run just Sam/Glorfindel before, as well as Sam/Lore Pippin/Glorfindel, but Sam/Sperry/Glorfindel could be gold.

  4. Gwaihir the Windord permalink

    Sperry (you started something with that) will become my new best friend in secrecy. I have not played a secrecy deck since . . . I don’t know. Never, perhaps. However, I plan on using Sperry in a secrecy deck alongside Sam and Galadriel. With two hero-threat reducers, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get my threat under twenty. I’d have to play with him to rate him against his Tactics counterpart, but I know he won’t be gathering dust in my stack of heroes.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Secrecy has long needed more low threat heroes to build decks with, and getting a low threat hero that can help keep threat low is even better. It’s hard to overestimate how huge Sperry is for secrecy.

  5. Gizlivadi permalink

    The problem I have with Merry, while he is good, is what do you take out? at least for solo. Glorfindel is just so good in general and the good thing about Pippin is that he sort of reduces your threat by raising engagement costs on enemies by 2 or 3 normally… I really want to use Merry but in solo he doesn’t seem to pull his weight and actually make the deck better (I’m thinking of the classic secrecy Sam/lore Pippin/low threat spirit hero), unless you are trying to avoid Glorfindel. Glorfindel/Sam/Merry could really work, and that is some insane threat reduction, and you can use mathoms (how fitting) for card draw. The main drawback is losing the lore sphere and cards like Fast Hitch and Elf-stone, so I don’t really know if this is solo viable. So yeah, that’s my 2 cents.

    • Thaddeus permalink

      Yeah, I’m thinking a heavy reliance on things like Elf Stone and Timely Aid to get allies into play will be necessary for the deck I want to make.

    • Traekos77 permalink

      Not really secrecy friendly but I find Sam, Sperry and Treebeard an intriguing combination. Treebeard has some good killing oomph and provides access to Lore cards.

      I find that solo decks need to consistently muster 5 willpower and 5 attack from HEROES to be successful. That certainly limits who can be included!

      • gaudyls permalink

        I didnt see any way to use this hobbit instead of Tactict Merry. Now, I can see its true potential. Thanks Ian.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Now that I have Wastes, I’ve tried out a Spirit Merry/Glorfindel/Sam deck solo. It actually works pretty well with Merry helping to stay in secrecy and keep enemies at bay. Timely Aid and A Very Good Tale seems to be enough to get allies into play, while Hobbit Pony is kind of a form of Hobbit readying, which allows the deck to work without Lore. Keep in mind the sample size is small, but the deck has a fighting chance against The Wastes of Eriador at least.

  6. Funny the Don’t Be Hasty! combo. I didn’t thought about it.

    My first merry deck, running pretty good: Merry – Frodo – Lorepippin. It keeps always secrecy and helping other players with Earendil. And defending with Hobbit Sense and Out of Sight (the problem is you usually only engages 1 enemy each round, but also is ok). Pipes – Ring smokes – etc. works very good…, and Poneys are awesome for Necromancers or similars.

    • Allies always good here: Celduin and Loockout. 1 cost with scrying effects (Merry likes scrying, sure)

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Still looking to find my favorite Spirit Merry/Hobbit combo. I’ve tried a few, but haven’t quite found one I’m 100% happy with. I’m looking to try Sperry/Lore Pippin/Sam next, which is basically a version of my old Hobbit deck but replacing the Tactics version of Merry with the Spirit.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Merry | Master of Lore
  2. The Wastes of Eriador: Attachments, Events and Side Quests Review | Tales from the Cards

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