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The Wastes of Eriador: Attachments, Events and Side Quests Review

by on July 15, 2015

wastes

Now that The Wastes of Eriador has been released and The Angmar Awakened cycle has begun in earnest, the Adventure Packs should be issuing forth fast and furious. Gen Con beckons for those who are going to be attending, with the promise of at least one Adventure Pack waiting (hopefully). With all that in mind, it’s time to wrap up the review of The Wastes of Eriador player cards. Hero Merry received a rave review and is clearly a stellar card. The allies were a bit more of a mixed bag, being spread out across the power scale from Curious Brandybuck to Honour Guard, so now it remains to be seen just how powerful the attachments, event, and side quest in this pack really are, and how much of an impact on the meta they will have. Enjoy!

ATTACHMENTS

Raven-winged Helm (Tactics Attachment, 2 cost):

Raven-winged-Helm

I had great things to say about Honour Guard, going so far as to declare it the best ally of the pack, so it stands to reason that my review of Raven-winged Helm will be equally positive, since it is essentially an attachment version of that ally:

Attach a hero with Sentinel. Limit 1 per hero.

Response: Exhaust Raven-winged Helm to prevent 1 point of damage just dealt to attached character.

Well, the reality is a bit more complex. On the one hand, the same reasons why Honour Guard is a useful ally holds true for Raven-winged Helm as well. Being able to cancel a point of damage guards against shadow effects that boost enemy attack strength/deal damage, as well as treacheries that inflict direct damage. This effect also allows a character to help soak archery. The main advantage of damage-cancellation is that it can serve almost as an alternative to shadow-cancellation and/or healing, protecting a hero or valuable character against unexpected destruction (or give them a chance to defend against an enemy that would otherwise destroy them). Of course, one might argue that simply boosting a character’s defense to high levels can accomplish the same end, yet there are effects that can bypass defense completely and there also is only a finite amount of defense increase that is possible, given that certain attachments are “limit 1 per hero” or restricted.

Therefore, the utility of the Raven-winged Helm is not in question, at least in my opinion. The real debate centers around whether it holds its own against other damage-cancellation effects, especially considering that the Honour Guard is part of the very same pack! There are some advantages to having damage cancellation through an attachment, rather than an ally. Although there is some attachment hate in the game, ally hate (i.e. effects that damage or discard allies) tend to be much more common, meaning that you are probably more likely to hold onto an attachment like Raven-winged Helm than an ally like Honour Guard. There also tend to be more options for retrieving attachments specifically then there are for grabbing allies. On the other hand, allies provide their own benefits. For example, Honour Guard can serve other functions, simply by being a body, that Raven-winged Helm cannot. Since Raven-winged Helm is limited to one per hero, Honour Guard can also be stacked against the same damage, which is impossible for Raven-winged Helm. Of course, we can imagine a theoretical deck focusing on damage-cancellation where both cards are included. However, I have the sneaking suspicion that there isn’t really room for both in most decks, and Honour Guard would get the nod from me for pure versatility.

The main problem with Raven-winged Helm is that it can only be attached to a hero with sentinel, and that particular keyword is not exactly common. In fact, there are only seven heroes with sentinel, and both Theoden and Aragorn have multiple versions while Beorn cannot have attachments.. In reality, then, only four distinct heroes are viable candidates: Aragorn, Beregond, Theoden, and Erkenbrand. Compare this to Honour Guard, which can cancel a point of damage to any character in the entire game, including an immune one like Beorn! In terms of the four heroes that are possible partners for the Helm, all are fine choices. Beregond is perhaps the most natural candidate, as he can attach Raven-winged Helm for free, which negates its relatively high cost for two, which is another of its disadvantages (sure, Honour Guard also costs two, but it also has much more flexibility). Aragorn and Theoden can benefit from Raven-winged Helm as well, since they have a lower starting defense and can use any defensive help. Erkenbrand, of course, perhaps competes with Beregond as the best partner for the Helm, since he is the only other hero on the list who is a dedicated defender. Note, though, that Raven-winged Helm cannot be used to cancel the damage dealt by Erkenbrand to himself in order to activate his shadow-cancellation ability. This use was the subject for much debate, but the official ruling is that if damage is canceled, it will then cause the effect it was meant to activate to fizzle too. On the plus side, Raven-winged Helm does work quite well with The Day’s Rising, helping to generate resources by preventing damage.

There are a few options for adding sentinel to a hero, if you really want to attach Raven-winged Helm to them. Dunedain Signal is definitely the easiest and only costs one resource. If you can find a way to exhaust Arwen during the planning phase, perhaps by using her to play A Very Good Tale, then she could also give the sentinel keyword to a hero just long enough for them to attach the Helm. These tricks would open up a broader realm of possibility. I could easily imagine Frodo wearing the Raven-winged Helm and having an additional way to cancel damage in order to avoid eating up too much threat, or Sam being an even better defender because he would have some kind of buffer in front of his fragile set of hit points. That being said, it’s unclear how useful Raven-winged Helm will be outside of Beregond/Erkenbrand decks and a few experimental decks using Dunedain Signal. Honour Guard generally seems to be the better pick for the same effect.

Versatility: ♦♦◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦◊◊

Hobbit Pony (Spirit Attachment, 0 cost):

Hobbit-Pony

Late Adventurer was a card that I always really liked in theory, but it never found its way into decks as it didn’t quite work in the form of a disposable, one-time use event. Fortunately, the same effect has now arrived as a repeatable attachment:

Attach to a Hobbit hero.

Quest Action: If attached hero is not committed to the quest, exhaust Hobbit Pony and attached hero to commit attached hero to the quest.

The main reason why I like the idea behind this effect is because one of the main decision points in the game revolves around how many and which characters to commit to the quest each round. Choosing correctly tends to increase your overall odds of success. Of course, choosing correctly is made difficult because the decision must be made before cards are revealed during staging. Hobbit Pony changes this dynamic up by allowing the attached hero to be committed after staging. So if an enemy isn’t revealed, for example, and you won’t need the attached hero for combat, then you can safely commit them. On the other hand, if unforeseen dangers emerge, then the hero is ready to face them and can be kept out of the quest. Such flexibility is certainly valuable. It becomes even more valuable when you pair Hobbit Pony with a hero like Spirit Merry, who needs to remain ready in case he finds a suitable target for his ability. If he doesn’t, then he can simply exhaust to commit to the quest after staging. Fatty Bolger is another prime candidate for the same reason. Both heroes are dramatically improved by Hobbit Pony, as you don’t have to decide beforehand whether they are helpful committing to the quest or using their ability, and don’t have to look on in disappointment if no enemy shows up, making their non-participation in the quest pointless.

Of course, an argument could be made that a simple readying attachment, such as Unexpected Courage, is a better choice. With such an attachment, a hero can quest AND use an ability after all, rather than having to decide between the two. This argument certainly is a valid one, but the true issue is cost. Unexpected Courage costs two resources, while the Hobbit Pony is absolutely free, allowing you to get it onto the table right away and leaving room for other cards to be played. A difference of two resources might not be substantial, but it can be in practice, so the extra cost of Unexpected Courage must be justified. In general, not all actions are created equal, meaning that the action of a strong hero like Gandalf is worth more than the action of a hero with weaker stats, such as Spirit Merry. Therefore, the value gained from giving action advantage to Merry is not as great as the value gained from similar action advantage given to Gandalf, so it might make sense in that case to save resources and opt for the free option. At this point, the astute reader may be screaming at me in a loud, strident voice, “BUT FAST HITCH!”. It is indeed true that Fast Hitch is perhaps a better comparison, as it is also designed for Hobbits, and only costs one, rather than two. However, Fast Hitch is off-sphere for the heroes who are most likely to use Hobbit Pony, since Fast Hitch is part of Lore and not Spirit. Therefore, Spirit Hobbits like Merry, Fatty, and Frodo could certainly make use of Fast Hitch, but might not have access to Lore, which makes Hobbit Pony a great in-sphere option. Consider also that Hobbit Pony has the “mount” trait, which means that it can be fetched with the Westfold Horse-breeder, an ally that is also in Spirit.

As a final note, the Hobbit Pony helps in a subtle way to counteract one of the main deficiencies of Hobbits: their small number of hit points. By using the Hobbit Pony with even a Hobbit like Sam, who has in-built readying, you can keep the attached hero out of harm’s way by avoiding treacheries that deal damage to characters committed to the quest. This same logic also applies to cards like Biting Wind that deal damage based on the number of committed characters. It’s possible to imagine an all-Hobbit deck where each hero has a Pony. In that case, you could commit none of your heroes to the quest until after staging, keeping them safe from harm but ready to either participate in combat or lend their willpower to the quest once you have perfect knowledge. This could be incredibly valuable for those quests where you need to pace yourself carefully and only advance when it is safe to do so. To sum up, Hobbit Pony is obviously a limited piece, as it is restricted to decks with a Hobbit hero, but within those confines, it is perfectly suited for how Hobbits work and what Hobbits want to be doing during a game.

Versatility: ♦♦◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦◊◊

EVENTS

* Rallying Cry (Leadership Event, 2 cost):

Rallying-Cry

I really, really want to like Rallying Cry. It is one of the first cards with a valour effect, and I’m certainly excited for that particular mechanic, which rewards players with a threat of 40 or greater. Rallying Cry also potentially replaces more flawed versions of the same effect from the past, such as To the Eyrie:

Response: After an ally leaves play, add it to its owner’s hand instead of placing it in the discard pile.

Valour Action: Until the end of the phase, add each ally that leaves play to its owner’s hand instead of placing it in the discard pile.

This effect could allow you to save a valuable ally who has been unexpectedly destroyed or sacrificed for an emergency defense, or it can bring back a character to hand who was sacrificed to pay for a certain ability. I like the idea behind the ability, but the cost of two is the main obstacle in the way of this card achieving actual viability. You’ll often hear me say that you can’t judge the cost of Leadership cards on the same scale as you would cards from other spheres, as Leadership has a greater ability to pay for expensive or moderately expensive costs. While this is true, there are limits. Most importantly, there are opportunity costs. Paying for Rallying Cry means not paying for some other card, so you really have to ask yourself if bringing an ally back to hand will have a greater impact on the game than another potential effect you could not only play, but include in your deck in the first place. My suspicion is that the answer in most cases will be no. It could certainly be advantageous to recycle an ally like The Riddermark’s Finest, for example, in order to use its ability again to clear a location. Then again, I could simply include Stand and Fight if I’m running Spirit, which will allow me to pay the cost of the ally only instead of an additional two resources. It could perhaps be helpful to save Faramir, to take another example, who might provide an essential ability for my deck. On the other hand, is it better to simply include enough card draw that I can have a solid chance of drawing another copy?

Really, the problem with Rallying Cry is that the cost doesn’t quite match the value. This problem is made worse when you think about the fact that you have to pay two resources on top of the cost to put the ally back into play. Most decks will run multiple copies of the most important allies or those with effects that cause them to be discarded, and simply drawing these additional copies should be sufficient in the great majority of cases. Of course, the absence of strong card draw may make this more difficult, so Rallying Cry provides a way to not have to wait at all, but I’m not sure if this is worth two resources, especially when you consider that access to Spirit gives you a better and cheaper card: Stand and Fight (Rallying Cry does have one advantage in that it can actually give you additional uses of a neutral card like Gandalf, whereas Stand and Fight cannot). Of course, I’m always advising against comparing cards from different spheres, so I should mention that Rallying Cry is valuable as roughly a Leadership equivalent for Stand and Fight, where none existed before. Still, it’ll be a tough road to edge out other cards.

The real value here seems to be the valour effect, which allows all players to add all allies that leave play to their hand for a single phase. I imagine this as part of a climactic, battle-heavy moment, where players may be sacrificing allies against a horde of enemies, while also triggering effects that cause them to leave play. In this case, Rallying Cry may just pay for itself, as instead of players totally wiping out their board positions by giving up a bunch of characters, they could be set up to at least bring some of the back into play on the following round. I still don’t think this effect is enough to justify the presence of Rallying Cry in most decks, but I do think it may justify one or two slots in a deck that is built around it, especially in multiplayer. Rohan decks are perhaps the most likely to make use of this event, as disposable allies like The Riddermark’s Finest and Westfold Horse-breaker, along with events that require an ally to be discarded as part of the cost, such as Ride to Ruin and Helm! Helm!, are par for the course. Although Rohan will probably have access to Spirit and Stand and Fight, the valour effect of Rallying Cry may just be useful. This is especially true since Rohan decks often struggle with card draw but need to constantly replace allies to be successful, and this dynamic can pose a challenge to such decks. Rallying Cry provides a partial solution to this problem, although the expense is still problematic. With cost reduction through something like Grima or a Hobbit paired with A Good Meal, or even just the resource generation of Theodred or Horn of Gondor, it may become more feasible. The main advantage of this card is that it is not tied to a specific trait or player, so there is some flexibility. With all that said, I have to give just a lukewarm rating to this card.

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦◊

Efficiency: ♦♦◊◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦◊◊

SIDE QUEST

Scout Ahead (Lore Side Quest, 0 cost, 4 quest points):

Scout-Ahead

 

Next to Spirit Merry, I was probably most excited for Scout Ahead of the cards in this pack that were previously spoiled. Not just because it is a fun and tricksy Lore effect, but because it is only our second chance to use a player side quest. While Gather Information helped with fetching cards, Scout Ahead has a very sphere-appropriate effect based around encounter deck manipulation/scrying:

Limit 1 per deck.

Response: When this stage is defeated, the first player searches the top X cards of the encounter deck for 1 non-objective card worth no victory points and adds it to the victory display. Put the remaining cards back in any order. X is the number of players in the game plus 4.

This is an incredibly powerful effect. As a form of scrying, it far outshines its competitors in terms of raw power. While most cards only allow you to look at the top card of the encounter deck, Scout Ahead lets you see the top five cards in a solo game (up to nine cards in four player!). That is not a typo. Five cards in solo! Even the Palantir or Risk Some Light, previously the most powerful forms of scrying, can only look at the top three cards, and this comes at the cost of either possible threat gain or a high cost. If that wasn’t enough, you don’t just get to look at a huge swathe of cards, you also get to manipulate them. One card can be added to the victory display, which serves two purposes. First, it ensure that this particular card will not be seen for the rest of the game (barring some encounter card effect removing it from the victory display). This effect is incredibly useful for cutting down on the probability and frequency of seeing the worst encounter cards, and these cards tend to be the ones with fewer copies, which enhances the effect. I definitely wouldn’t mind, for example, chucking one of the three copies of Cold from Angmar into the encounter deck or, to take an older example, removing one of the two copies of Sleeping Sentry from Road to Rivendell. The second use for this manipulation effect is that it will enable cards like The Door is Closed!, which was partially spoiled in the cycle announcement and seems to have an effect keyed to an encounter card being in the victory display. If all that wasn’t enough, the final piece of the pie of awesomeness that is Scout Ahead is that you can put the remaining cards back in any order. That means you don’t just get to see what’s coming, like with most scrying, but actually have complete control of the order of what’s coming.

What good is this ability? Well, if you aren’t quite set up for combat yet, maybe you push back that enemy several rounds into the future. Maybe you stagger locations to avoid location lock or move a treachery to the front that you know won’t have an effect at the moment but will have one in the future (a treachery that keys off the number of allies is a good example). If there are enemies on the board or will be enemies on the board, you can even determine exactly what their shadow effects will be, so that you could give them a shadow card with no effect or even make sure that a nasty card ends up as a shadow rather than being revealed. Even beyond the ability to reorder, just knowing what is coming is an incredibly valuable ability, giving you the exact knowledge you need to play exactly the cards you need for each round. What is great about Scout Ahead is that it also scales based on the number of players, unlike every other scrying/encounter deck manipulation effect, meaning that even in a three or four player game, where scrying is often ineffective, you are guaranteed of getting at least one or two rounds of full knowledge (depending on the number of enemies on the board), along with the manipulation effects.

All of this comes for zero resources, which makes the whole deal better. Of course, we are talking about a side quest, so the real cost of the card is the time it takes away from the actual quest. Amazingly, though, given the power of the effects, the quest points on Scout Ahead are only four (the same as Gather Information), which should allow you to clear it in a round if you’ve set everything up right. On the other hand, if you are struggling to muster enough willpower, this card may be just tantalizingly out of your reach, but I don’t think this possibility is nearly enough to discount Scout Ahead. The only thing that really limits this card and stops it from total world domination is the fact that it is limited to one per deck. With the card draw and fetching of Lore available, it should be possible to find this side quest when you really need it, and the already spoiled Dunedain event that fetches side quests can also help in this respect. All things considered, Scout Ahead is an instant auto-include for me in any Lore deck from here on out, with the possible exception of quests that require you to quest through as quickly as possible. Since it only takes up a single deck slot anyway, there’s really no reason to leave it out.

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦♦

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦♦

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

 

Conclusion

As with the allies, the rest of the cards in The Wastes of Eriador are a mix of the potent, the solid, and the weak. There’s nothing wrong with this kind of distribution, in my opinion, as it makes judging the cards more interesting and gives room for the overall power level to grow as the cycle continues. I’d have to cite Merry, Honour Guard, and Scout Ahead as the best cards overall, with Curious Brandybuck and Rallying Cry being perhaps the weakest. Still, intrepid players are fond of trying to squeeze value out of even the most marginal cards, so I remain ever hopeful for even the weaker cards in The Wastes of Eriador.

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

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14 Comments
  1. Traekos77 permalink

    Elrohir + Elven Mail + Helm

    • Thaddeus permalink

      I approve of this message

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Nice! I totally forgot about Elven Mail, to be honest, as I haven’t used it much lately. I could see this combo working. Then again, I might just be happy with Elrohir/Steward/Gondorian Shiled and call it a day.

  2. “Scout Ahead lets you see the top five cards in a solo game (up to nine cards in four player!)”

    It’s actually 8 in 4-player games. And I love how this Victory Display strategy is popping up:
    Scout Ahead, The Door is Shut, Leave No Trace, and Keen as Lances all combine with good old Out of the Wild for some very powerful encounter manipulaion!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Zoiks. Think I had the 5 number in my mind from solo play and added 4 to it. I do math good. Anyway, I agree about the victory display strategy. It seems like it will be a theme for the cycle and I love this kind of tricky play. I always liked Out of the Wild, but what it really needed was to fit into a broader strategy, which seems to finally be happening!

  3. Eric permalink

    The ultimate combo has been revealed: Hobbit Pony + Nor am I a Stranger + Charge of the Rohirrim!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Haha. Totally worth it to strike fear into enemy hearts. I want to throw Fatty onto a pony and charge him straight at my foes.

  4. Psychorocka permalink

    You forgot Elven mail. Oh Traekos77 mentioned it.
    I don’t know about Elrohir though…. Elven mail is a great card but I only ever run x2 copies (as it costs 2 instead of 1 like most tactics attachments and multiple copies are usually useless unless you have two noldor or silvan heroes that are used for defense) and it would be pretty unreliable to run x2 elven mail and x2 Raven Winged Helm when the Helm can only be used if you have already drawn and played a copy of Elven Mail. You would need to run x3 of the Elven Mail as well and even then its still somewhat unreliable.
    Reminds me of Burning Brand and Song of Wisdom. So rarely worth it.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yeah, it’s a workable combo, but usually I find Elrohir/Steward/Gondorian Shield to be enough, with Elven Mail added in for hit points and sentinel. Raven-winged Helm might be one step too far.

  5. Gizlivadi permalink

    I agree with most of your points Ian. I will say though that while not as powerful as other cards in this pack, I’m really excited to play Ingold. I find that in mono-Leadership Gondor Ingold is, well, gold. While certainly not a turn 1 play, in the mid to late game he can easily be 4 or 5 willpower, and with a healthy pool of hitpoints he can survive Blocking Wargs and similar effects. To me he is the questing tank that my favorite deck needed! Can’t wait to get him and the Veteran of Osgiliath (which is sort of an attacking tank), those guys could turn mono-leadership Gondor into a real powerhouse. Now I’m only wondering what that Reinforcements event will do…

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I haven’t had a chance to give mono-Leadership Gondor a full run-out. There’s just so many different decks to try these days! But from what I have experienced, I think Ingold is a great addition to the deck, and I’m really glad that Gondor continues to get some attention.

  6. Pengolodh permalink

    I believe the player cards in The Wastes of Eriador to be some of the best cards released in a little while. I especially like Hobbit Pony; I’ve always enjoyed mounts in the game. Rallying Cry is another unique invention. With the capability to generate resources (a.k.a. Leadership) it could be a useful card.

    Just one question for everyone: are there to be no more stories included in adventure packs explaining the exploits of the characters? Is there one on the FFG website, or does it not exist period?

    • Pengolodh permalink

      Never mind! Never mind! I found it! I’ve been too busy marveling over the cards to lift up the flap and discover the story. I knew the designers wouldn’t let me down!

      • TalesfromtheCards permalink

        Glad you found the story! Haha. Thankfully, I was prepped for the strange location through buying Netrunner packs, otherwise I might have struggled to find it too!

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