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Escape from Mount Gram: Hero Review

by on August 7, 2015

escape from mount gram

With Escape from Mount Gram released, The Land of Shadow in my possession, and Across the Ettenmoors not too far away, there certainly is no shortage of player cards to review. Since Escape from Mount Gram is the one of those releases that is broadly available, I will delve into that expansion first. Escape from Mount Gram has one of my favorite themes of any existing quest, as it is a true prison break, forcing a single hero to fight their way to freedom without the benefit of weapons or allies…at least at first. This Adventure Pack also breaks new ground in terms of the player cards as well, more specifically the hero. Rossiel is a character created by Fantasy Flight Games, but more importantly, she is truly unique in terms of the kind of hero she is and the abilities that she brings to the table. However, unique does not always equal effective, so just how powerful is this new hero?

HERO

* Rossiel (Lore Hero, 8 threat, 2 willpower, 1 attack, 2 defense, 3 hit points):

Rossiel

First off, I have to say that the decision to include background stories for each FFG-created hero, a practice started with Idraen, adds so much flavor and interest to these new heroes. Otherwise, someone like Rossiel would merely be a card with some random mechanics and stats with no connection to anything meaningful. Reading the fantastic story about Rossiel, her status as an Elven “prodigy” learning under Galadriel, and the tragic fate of her sister as a result of the darkening of Mirkwood really adds dimension to this card. When considering this story and the flavor text on the card (“Did you not say that you wished to see Elf-magic?”), it becomes clear that Rossiel’s interaction with the victory display is meant to represent the subtle arts of the Elves. A bit of magic, if you will:

If the active location shares a Trait with a location in the victory display, Rossiel gets +2.

If the attacking enemy shares a Trait with an enemy in the victory display, Rossiel gets +2 .

By becoming familiar with the land around her, and developing a deep connection with the hidden power held within such lands, Rossiel can become more powerful. Similarly, by learning the evil ways and methods of particular enemies, she can better stand against them. She is truly a Lore hero in this respect, wielding power based on knowledge. In game terms, she is essentially a hero that can boost her willpower and/or defense, however this boosting is quite conditional, based as it is around the active location or attacking enemy sharing a trait with a location/enemy in the victory display. Leaving aside the conditional nature of these abilities for a moment, though, the boosting by itself is definitely strong. At her full potential, Rossiel is an eight threat hero with four willpower and four defense. Four willpower is absolutely unheard of for heroes outside of Eowyn and the Spirit sphere, and four defense in Lore is similarly unique. The willpower allows Rossiel to make a Lore deck dramatically better at questing, while when paired with A Burning Brand and/or Protector of Lorien (or even Cloak of Lorien), she becomes a nearly unparalleled defender. Consider that a hero with such stats would normally cost 12 starting threat. Even just one of the two abilities activated would require 10 starting threat if she began with such a boost.

So it’s clear that Rossiel has great value as a low starting threat hero that can potentially do the work of a hero with much greater stats. However, it can’t be ignored that accessing these boosts requires a fair bit of work. Taking the defense boost as an example, you first need to get an enemy with a certain trait into the victory display. Currently, the only real ways of doing this, outside of simply killing a foe with victory points, which is difficult to control, is using Out of the Wild or Scout Ahead. In Across the Ettenmoors, though, we will also be getting None Return, a one cost Lore event that places a non-unique enemy in the victory display after it is destroyed. Fortunately, this can be applied to an enemy destroyed by any player. So altogether, in order to facilitate Rossiel’s boost, you need to draw one of these cards, an enemy with the desired trait, and then that enemy needs to be destroyed. This whole process will likely take a turn or two, and you’ll definitely want to draw one of the victory display cards in your opening hand. If you don’t, then Rossiel’s defense boost may be inconsistent, so including plenty of card draw, which is admittedly easy in Lore, will definitely help in this respect. The other potential issue emerges against scenarios with mixed encounter decks where enemies with various traits are included (an Orc here, a Warg there, for example). Thankfully, though, most scenarios tend to focus in on one trait for enemies: the Warg trait, for example, is on every single enemy in The Wastes of Eriador, so putting just one of them in the victory display would set you up for the whole quest in terms of defense.

Funnily enough, before writing this article, I suspected that it is actually the willpower boost, rather than the defense boost, that seems a bit more inconsistent and unreliable. For one, there may not always even be an active location, especially in solo play. More importantly, though, it seemed to me, just based on memory, that the traits on locations in a quest tend to be more varied than traits on enemies, speaking in a broad sense. However, looking back through the available scenarios shows that this is not the case for many quests, especially the newer ones. The Wastes of Eriador is an example of a scenario that is helpful in this regard, as every location has the Arnor trait. However, it is not alone in this respect. If you take a look at a random scenarios from the last cycle, you’ll find this to be the case as well, such as The Antlered Crown, which features locations with the Dunland trait, or The Three Trials, which highlights the Forest or Hills traits on locations. The only real difficulty to note for Rossiel comes from the encounter sets from deluxe expansions that are included in an Adventure Pack’s deck, as these tend to not perfectly align with the traits of the locations in that expansion (the locations in Voice of Isengard, for example, had traits like Highlands or River or Valley). On the other hand, enemies and treacheries from deluxe encounter sets are generally used more often than locations (locations tend to be more specific to each adventure, in other words), so this problem is mitigated. So the conclusion here is that Rossiel’s willpower boost from locations in the victory display is not as unreliable as I originally feared, although not quite as easy to setup and depend on as the defense boost from enemies in the victory display. Basically, the best bet would be to use a card like Leave No Trace on a location with the most dominant trait for a particular scenario (and of course picking a location to explore with that trait in the first place). Alternatively, you could determine in advance the location(s) in the staging area that you are most likely to travel to in the near future and select a location with that trait to explore and combine with Leave No Trace (or find one in the encounter deck with Out of the Wild/Scout Ahead). What I find compelling is that Rossiel’s ability adds some interest and a further layer of strategy to the travel phase. Do I travel to this location because it has the most harmful effect and I need to get it off the table or this other one that has fewer quest points or this other one that is the best move for Rossiel?

Overall, my exploration of the traits of enemies and locations shows that Rossiel’s boosts are not as difficult to achieve as it might appear at first glance. With a couple of victory display cards in hand, mastery of the field could be yours in short order. Against most quests, a single copy of None Return could allow for a situation in which Rossiel could essentially have four defense against enemies for the rest of the game. A single copy of Leave No Trace could make Rossiel a four willpower hero for most rounds as well. Of course, this means drawing these cards in the first place and accomplishing their triggers (destroying an enemy, exploring a non-unique location), so Rossiel isn’t necessarily the best help for a brutal first round (or even first couple of rounds). There also is the matter of using up space in your deck simply to facilitate Rossiel’s abilities when that space could be used for cards that have a more direct impact. I would contend, however, that this is simplifying matters a bit. As I said previously, her boosts are easy enough to get going and they will have a direct impact on game. It is also important to consider, though, that these victory display mechanics have their own intrinsic benefits as well. Putting a particularly troublesome enemy or location in the victory display lessens the probability of facing it again when the encounter deck is reshuffled. It also lowers the cost of the fantastic Keen As Lances. All of this is to say that helping Rossiel also has other beneficial side effects. It also helps if you consider the victory display manipulation events as equivalent to attachments for other heroes. In other words, is including Gondorian Shield in your deck for Boromir ultimately that much different than bringing along None Return for Rossiel? Sure, the attachment can be played immediately when it is drawn, which is a point in its favor, but None Return also has the benefit of the beneficial effects just mentioned and it is also invulnerable to attachment hate (in fact, the only encounter card effect that could touch it is one that removes an enemy from the victory display, which is quite rare). So there are advantages and disadvantages to either approach, and I appreciate the way in which Rossiel’s boosts are more tricksy to implement, as befits the Lore sphere.

So just where does Rossiel fit into the meta and what kind of decks does she work well in? As a low-threat hero (sitting at eight), I could actually see her fitting into a variety of decks even without the victory display support. She could even serve as a good splash choice, introducing her as the single Lore hero to bring in card draw/healing/etc., although admittedly heroes like Bifur and Pippin are still probably a better choice for this purpose. Obviously, Rossiel could fit right into a Silvan deck, although mostly as a thematic choice, as she doesn’t have direct synergy with that deck type, but she also doesn’t detract from it either. That’s not to say that there isn’t some great Silvan synergy with Rossiel, though. I particularly like the idea of the Silvan Tracker healing her, making her an even better defender, or the Naith Guide allowing her to both quest for four and defend for four. Elven Mail could add more hit points and allow her to defend for others. Possibly the best aspect of including her in a Silvan deck would be making use of the Galadhrim Minstrel to grab those all-important victory display events. Another logical choice would be a secrecy deck to allow for a cheap play of Out of the Wild. Beyond the obvious fits, Rossiel can fit into many different deck types. The accompanying module of support cards does bring some baggage and this is something to consider. Of course, if you’re only interested in defense or willpower, you could cut either None Return or Leave No Trace, but you’ll probably want to get full value in most cases by including both. After all, getting great value out of a low threat hero is what makes Spirit Glorfindel so ever-present, although she is not quite at his level (thankfully). As with any hero that relies on other cards to function, pairing Rossiel with strong card draw is a no-brainer. This can be safely accomplished through various Lore events and attachments, but bringing along card draw through a hero like Beravor or Gandalf could also be helpful.

Rossiel can be boosted through her victory display interactions, but what are some other useful attachments for this hero? A Burning Brand is top of the list, in my opinion. She’ll often be defending with that four defense and it makes sense to just completely cancel shadows given the in-sphere match. Protector of Lorien could work in tandem with her abilities to further boost either her willpower or defense. Expert Treasure-hunter could work well given her strong questing ability and it could allow you to more quickly draw the victory display events. Most importantly for all for Rossiel is action advantage. If you are going to get the most out of her stat boots, then you need some way of readying her on a somewhat consistent basis. Of course, you could simply pick and choose between questing and defense each round, but that would be a waste. The best in-sphere option for Rossiel is Lembas, which also has the side benefit of healing her, but it is unfortunately of the disposable variety. It is the Spirit sphere that provides the best answers. Unexpected Courage is of course an obvious choice, but Light of Valinor is the way to go if no one is going to be using Spirit Glorfindel. For only one cost, Rossiel can quest and then be available for defense. Miruvor isn’t bad either if you want another disposable option, as it can boost her willpower or generate a resource as well (perhaps to fund None Return or Leave No Trace later).

I’ve mentioned several times a suite or module of support cards for Rossiel, but what exactly does this include? I would recommend probably three copies of both None Return and Leave No Trace. With these included, I don’t think Out of the Wild is necessary, but a single copy of Scout Ahead doesn’t take much space and is just a great effect all around (unless the quest is unfavorable to side quests). Keen As Lances seems like a no-brainer for Rossiel, probably at least two copies, as the payoff is huge and the cost should be quickly reduced. Distant Stars could be helpful to replace the active location with one that matches a trait in the victory display, but this may not be strictly necessary given the way that traits are often shared among locations in a quest anyway, as previously discussed, so I’d say its inclusion is quest-dependent. Finally, The Door Is Closed, which has been partially spoiled, does seem like a good inclusion for a Rossiel deck, as it seems to cancel the effects of a card and discard it completely if it matches the title of a card in the victory display. This could really counter the worst enemies (and locations), or even a treachery (if you’ve placed one in the victory display through Out of the Wild or Scout Ahead). I’d probably include a couple of copies at least. So we are really looking at about 10 to 12 cards, which is a sizable chunk of your deck, but can really help to manipulate and manage the worst parts of an encounter deck.

We’ve established that Rossiel brings some elf-magic to the table, but is she merely a conjurer of cheap tricks or a powerful sorceress worthy of note? Before I answer that question, I’d like to take a moment to say that one thing that separates Tolkien’s world from many other fantasy worlds is that magic is usually subtle and difficult to discern. A wonderful exchange between Sam and Frodo really emphasizes this point in relation to Galadriel and Lothlorien:

‘If there’s any magic about, it’s right down deep, where I can’t lay my hands on it, in a manner of speaking.’

‘You can see and feel it everywhere,’ said Frodo.

‘Well,’ said Sam, ‘you can’t see nobody working it.’

In this way, the “magic” of Rossiel comes through knowledge and mastery of the challenges before her, rather than through launching fireballs and lightning bolts. Yet no one would argue that someone like Galadriel, one of Rossiel’s mentors according to the included story, is lacking in power, and the same holds true for Rossiel. Similarly, Rossiel the card requires some subtle working behind the scenes, but can have some powerful effects in the long run. Although not quite as versatile as Spirit Merry, Rossiel certainly will become a hero to watch and offers a strong new option for Lore decks. I would certainly put her in the top half of Lore heroes at least, and time will tell if she rises even higher.

Versatility: ♦♦♦◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦♦

Possible Attachment Choices: A Burning Brand, Lembas, Unexpected Courage, Light of Valinor, Cloak of Lorien, Dunedain Warning, Elven Mail, Cram, Miruvor, Expert Treasure-hunter

Conclusion

The Angmar Awakened cycle continues with Escape from Mount Gram and Rossiel breaks new ground in terms of story and mechanics. While the Noldor have been promised to hone in on discard shenanigans, Rossiel shows off another side of Elven trickery with Silvan trickery centered around the victory display. This is a great way to add some new life to the game by playing off an element of the play area that was previously left largely untouched. In terms of story, FFG has introduced a new female hero with a compelling back story that gives us a different look at the Elves of Lorien beyond Celeborn and Galadriel, and I applaud this move as well.

Readers, what are your thoughts on Rossiel? What kind of deck will you be using her in? Which heroes does she combine best with?

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30 Comments
  1. Finduin permalink

    The first time I saw her, I immediately think in Mirlonde and try to use Secrecy in Lore, abusing with “Out of the Wild”, as a way to put those cards on the victory display right the way and make more easy to play the firsts turns. The girl duo can be accompanied by Pippin and the Eternal Glorfindel. (As always my excuses if I am wrong with the english).

    • OssderOssmane permalink

      Lore Secrecy sounds good, I’d try to build that with Mirlonde and Merry for immediate repeatable threat reduction.
      Overall, this is an interesting approach to including new mechanics. Victory display by itself is not a complete deck (at the moment), but it can be sub-package, so the challenge is finding the best place for it. Don’t thinkt it’s Silvan (too tight in deck space), but some slower decks might work well.

      • TalesfromtheCards permalink

        Yeah, I like that it makes a little module of its own. I agree with you that a Silvan deck is a tight fit, although it can be made to fit if you’re willing to sacrifice some parts of the normal Silvan build. In multiplayer, I think Lore secrecy could definitely work. In solo play, I’d be more inclined to pair Rossiel with at least one good attacking hero to make sure I can trigger None Return as soon as possible (and just to be able to deal with enemies in general).

      • Thaddeus permalink

        I’ve been having fun with Spirit Merry in a hobbit secrecy deck, but I can see some real potential with Merry ditching his furry-footed bros to spend some quality time with the elf ladies of Lore.

  2. Note, you said “None Behind” several times when referring to “None Return”

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Your mistake, sir, None Behind is None Return’s older brother and a much better card! :p Only kidding, thanks for pointing it out and fixed!

      • You had me for a second. “Really? I don’t remember a card named None Behind… OH! Gullible must be written on the ceiling or something…” 🙂

  3. dragonwarriorfan permalink

    Great review-I’ve been having fun with a Silvan Lore deck (22 threat total with Mirlonde and Haldir), splashing tactics for weapon attachments. I included all the cards you mention except Naith Guide-so thanks for that reminder. Looking forward to more cards benefitting her ability.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Sounds like a fun deck, and I like that Rossiel gives another option for building Silvan decks and building them in a different way.

  4. I’ll be completely honest- pretty much the only reason I bought the Lost Realm was in anticipation of this pack. I’m excited for the quest, but also for this hero! I find myself in an interesting position, as a very theme-minded player. I can barely bring myself to, say, play non-saga quests with hobbits (who never left the Shire until the books) or with heroes who wouldn’t have met yet. I love these characters, but I honestly prefer being able to include heroes whose stories aren’t yet written. I know that Sam Gamgee didn’t help Iarion kill ghosts in-between gardening shifts, but hey, Rossiel might have! (The fact that the victory display strategy looks incredibly fun to me is just icing.)

    • Didn’t Bilbo’s uncle or something leave the shire and do battle, inventing golf in the process? Or am I just remembering nonsense from the movie. I thought the Tooks were rather adventurous, though.

      • Yeah, you’re right about some hobbits leaving, but I meant more specifically the heroes of LotR. Even Frodo has explicitly never gone too far from Bag End, and he’s really worldly for a hobbit.

      • Thaddeus permalink

        You’re thinking of Bandobras “Bullroarer” Took who slew the goblin leader Golfimbul at the Battle of Greenfields and was at least a few generations before Bilbo.
        Bilbo did make mention several times of his adventurous “Tookish” side.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I know what you mean, Kai. Although I tend not to worry myself too much about breaking lore, as I have fun with making up alternate histories, I do find the FFG-created heroes intriguing for the reasons you mention. They definitely are a blank page waiting to be filled and that is a fun experience.

  5. Gizlivadi permalink

    As you said in a previous comment Ian, I agree that in solo the whole secrecy spin wouldn’t probably work in most scenarios. I think, though, that paired with Glorfindel (can’t he leave us alone?) and Treebeard Rossiel could become a powerhouse very fast. Not only you have a combined 6 attack (and even more with Treebeard’s ability) so killing enemies for None Return is much easier, but if using Asfaloth (an obvious card in a Lore Spirit deck with Glorf) Leave No Trace loses much of its drawbacks. The explored location doesn’t even have to be the active location, so if there’s a location with a nasty travel effect or one that you just don’t want to travel to, just explore it with Asfaloth, use Leave No Trace and suddenly Rossiel is 4 willpower. I am really looking forward to using Rossiel as soon as I get her.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I didn’t want to mention Glorfindel really out of fear of summoning him once more, but he did spring to mind immediately as a good partner for Rossiel. Just between those two, you have a lot of stats to work with and adding in Treebeard would make things even more ridiculous. With all those boosts going around, that trio could really smash through some quests I think, and only for a starting threat of 26!

  6. Grimbeorn the Old permalink

    Where did you find the background story for Idraen?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      It’s in the rules insert for The Three Trials.

  7. entMoot permalink

    I think it is worth noting that Rossiel’s ability boosts are turned on by enemies and locations with victory points that go into the victory display, as well.

    There are several quests like The Three Trials, Fog on the Barrow Downs, Nightmare Conflict at the Carrock, The Redhorn Gate and The Hills of Emyn Muil where one or both of her abilities can be turned on just as early without requiring much deckspace for support events.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      That definitely does make her uniquely fitted for certain quests, although I think even in those cases you’ll probably want to include some of the victory display events to get things going more quickly, as sometimes those enemies and locations with victory points don’t get put in the victory display until later in a scenario.

  8. Ya Emyn Muil would be fun with her

    • Thaddeus permalink

      I don’t know that I’d go *that* far… 😛

  9. Steven permalink

    I really WANT to like Rossiel, but I just don’t get her. I get Out of the Wild, since it let’s you grab the nastiest card of the encounter deck (often a treachery) and remove it before it hits you. But many of the new victory display cards only remove afterwards. Using those cards just to set up Rossiel and KaL sounds kinda dull and underpowered to me. Obviously a bit different in 3/4 players but kinda pointless in solo.

    How about you make a deck to demonstrate her power like you did with the palantir? I’d LOVE to see you work out some way to use her correctly.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Aye, aye! The time it takes to set her up is definitely her major flaw, so the key seems to be including enough card draw to make sure you get the cards you need right away. I think these events can simply be thought of as her “attachments”, which makes her roughly analogous to other heroes, but the difference is of course in how these cards are triggered. Out of the Wild actually turns out to be pretty useful for her as you can actually proactively grab a card to put in the victory display, even on the first turn.

      Right now, I’m trying to figure out the best hero combination for Rossiel. I’m still not totally happy with any of the decks I’ve built yet, but once I get one worked out (IF I get one worked out), I’ll definitely post it!

      • Steven permalink

        Looking foreward to it! I’m still breaking my mind over how to use the Palantir. Now with Ranger Summons and the Veteran of Osgiliath I’m making some headway in adding leadership, but it’s still not the best solo deck yet.

        I’d be dissapointed if the events are just her “attachments” though. Moving stuff to the victory display seems like a mechanic with much more potential than powering 1 hero and 1 event.

    • Thaddeus permalink

      I’m thinking of her as part of a combo. Yeah, she needs setting up, but doing said setting up also gets you in position to start playing ‘Keen as Lances’ for cheap. I’m also hoping that we’ll be seeing some more synergestic cards that will key off of the victory display by the end of this cycle.

      • TalesfromtheCards permalink

        True. Keen As Lances is a nice added bonus of using the victory display mechanic.

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  1. Escape from Mount Gram: Allies, Attachments, Events and Side Quests Review | Tales from the Cards
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  3. Across The Ettenmoors: Events Review | Tales from the Cards

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