Across The Ettenmoors: Events Review
After trotting across the Ettenmoors for endless days, beset by storms and hungry trolls, I’ve returned to Rivendell with an armload of event cards just begging to be reviewed. Those lazy Elves are too busy singing songs and telling stories to slum it with such lowly tasks, so it looks like I’ll have to pick up their slack! Which of the events in this Adventure Pack give you a fighting chance? Which of these events will guarantee that you end up as residue on the bottom of some troll’s pot? Read on to find out!
* Dunedain Message (Leadership Event, 1 cost):
Dunedain Message is the very definition of a support card, doing nothing on its own, but serving the specific function of “fetching” another card that can hopefully can have an impact. In this case, Dunedain Message is designed to grab a player side quest from your deck:
Action: Search your deck for a side quest and add it to your hand. Shuffle your deck.
As a fetch effect, Dunedain Message is obviously very good at what it does, as it can search your entire deck for a side quest of your choice. This puts it above other fetch effects that can only look at the top 10 or top 15 cards of your deck for other types of cards, for example. When you consider that all of the player side quests we have so far are limited to 1 per deck, which lowers the probability greatly of drawing them in any particular game, Dunedain Message dramatically increases the consistency of any given side quest in your deck, essentially serving as extra copies of that side quest. As if that all weren’t enough, Dunedain Message itself has the signal trait, allowing it to be fetched by the Weather Hills Watchman. With the Watchman and Dunedain Message in a deck, you have a high probability of accessing a side quest sometime during a game.
However, how powerful Dunedain Message is and how useful it will be to you all depends on what you think of player side quests. This issue has been discussed several times already in the player card reviews for this cycle, but the gist of the matter is this: side quests are undeniably powerful, especially in multiplayer, but they can be somewhat quest-dependent, as taking a whole round away from the main quest may be deadly against scenarios that force you to move quickly. Several effects in this particular cycle also punish you based on the number of quest stages in play, which is also an important consideration when playing these scenarios using player side quests. The point is that if you happen to fall into the camp that feels that side quests are a bit more trouble than they are worth, and you can’t see yourself devoting time and effort to them, then it obviously makes little sense to include Dunedain Message. On the other hand, if you’re already a believer in side quests, then Dunedain Message will provide a powerful means to dramatically improve the consistency of this card type. If you’ve been on the fence, then Dunedain Message will only change your mind if your main hesitancy with side quests is that they are limited to one per deck, and thus aren’t very reliable.
There are a few minor side effects to this card’s action that are probably worth noting. One is that the side quest of your choice is added to your hand, rather than drawn, which can avoid any harmful encounter card effects that trigger off of drawing cards. Two is that this card can also allow you to shuffle your deck, which can be helpful if a scrying effect like ally Galadriel or Gildor or Imladris Stargazer has shown you that the cards coming up are not very desirable. Both of these effects are probably not enough to justify this card’s inclusion on their own merits, but are worth being aware of at least.
Overall, this is a card that’s probably not worth overthinking. If you’re using a side quest (or two…or three), and it is important to your deck’s strategy, then you should include Dunedain Message. If you’re not using a side quest, or if the side quest is more of a “nice to have” card than an integral piece of your deck, then you can save the space for something else.
* Fair and Perilous (Spirit Event, 1 cost):
Fair and Perilous is a brand new Spirit event that provides support for the new Noldor deck type, as well as for Silvan decks. For that matter, it is worthy of consideration for almost any deck that includes a Noldor or Silvan hero. More importantly, though, this is the kind of card that is a deck builder/combo lover’s dream, as there are a seemingly endless array of uses for this event that boosts a Silvan or Noldor character’s attack strength:
Action: Choose a Noldor or Silvan character.
Until the end of the phase, add that character’s to its .
This kind of attack boost in Spirit is fairly rare, although the method for gaining attack, through adding willpower, seems appropriate for the sphere. We have seen an identical effect recently in attachment form with Herugrim. While that card is designed for use with Rohan heroes, Fair and Perilous supports Noldor and Silvan characters. On the most obvious level, Fair and Perilous is a way for Spirit decks and decks that need extra combat help to gain the attack strength they need to dispatch enemies that would otherwise be too tough. On a more subtle level, what I find most intriguing about this card is that it can be applied to Noldor or Silvan allies, not just heroes.
But before we delve into the really speculative territory, let’s address the most common potential uses for Fair and Perilous first. Spirit Glorfindel is the first that springs to mind, of course, as he shares the Spirit sphere with this event, has the Noldor trait, and has high willpower and high attack. Fair and Perilous can boost his attack up to 6 for a phase, which is enough to destroy most enemies in the game all by himself. Elladan is also a good candidate, as he can boost his attack up to 5 and then attack multiple times using his ability, which will hopefully get as much value as possible out of this temporary effect. Beyond these top two candidates, Elrond, Celeborn, and Haldir can all attack for 5 with the help of Fair and Perilous. Haldir is a particularly intriguing option because his special ability of attacking an enemy engaged with another player or in the staging area relies on attack power.
However, heroes are not the only game in town, and there are plenty of Silvan and Noldor allies out there that can make use of this event as well. The first candidate that leaped into my head when this event was first spoiled by Matthew Newman (in an appearance on Cardboard of the Rings) was the Mirkwood Runner in conjunction with Celeborn. This 3-cost Lore ally has always been a bit of a “bubble card”, by which I mean a card that might be up for consideration in a deck but often ends up on the final chopping block as you cut down to 50. Its ability of being able to ignore an enemy’s defense while attacking alone is valuable, but limited by the paltry attack of 2. When enemies were smaller, 2 damage could be meaningful, but such is not the case anymore. However, if you have Celeborn as a hero, during the turn the Mirkwood Runner enters play, he will have 2 willpower and 3 attack. Fair and Perilous could thus give the Runner 5 attack for this initial turn, meaning that you could apply 5 damage directly to an enemy, while ignoring defense. This would be fantastic against even very strong enemies. Beyond the Mirkwood Runner, strong allies like Gildor, Elrond, Haldir, Orophin, and Rumil are all good choices. If the only Silvan or Noldor ally you had on the board was a weakling like Silvan Refugee or Galadhrim’s Handmaiden, you could even use Fair and Perilous to give you those extra points of attack that might make the difference between destroying an enemy or being forced to deal with them next round.
Since the attack boost is based on the target’s willpower, whether they are a hero or ally, and since this is not limited to printed willpower, then any effects that boost willpower can make Fair and Perilous even better. Celebrian’s Stone, for example, essentially becomes an extra 2 points of attack when combined with this event. Protector of Lorien could be also be used, as you could discard cards to boost the attached hero’s willpower, and thus their attack. This could be a nice thematic and gameplay fit with Noldor decks, since they rely on discard effects and Protector of Lorien will often feature in many of those decks anyway. If you’re really looking to swing for the fences, then Lay of Nimrodel can serve as the equivalent of Gondorian Fire for Spirit. As a reminder, Lay of Nimrodel is a Spirit event that lets you pay 1 to boost a Spirit hero’s willpower by the number of resources in their pool. You could therefore use Lay of Nimrodel to boost a hero’s attack, and then use Fair and Perilous to add that willpower to their attack. If you had action advantage to take advantage of both stats, then you’d really be in business. Finally, Children of the Sea is another great theme/gameplay choice, as you can add 2 to the willpower (and thus attack) of a Silvan or Noldor ally, with that ally being shuffled back into your deck afterwards. With this combo, you could even turn Siilvan Refugee into a 4 attack powerhouse for a single round!
All told, I’m a big fan of Fair and Perilous. The only real drawback is that there are plenty of good Spirit events to include in a deck already, many of which are staples that are hard to leave out. There also are some decks that just won’t need the attacking help, whether because they are completely focused on questing and aren’t planning on engaging in much combat, or because there is enough attack elsewhere. However, I’m planning on including Fair and Perilous in many, if not most, of my Silvan/Noldor decks that include Spirit, as this kind of flexible attack boost can come in handy at a key juncture, even if it means including 2 copies and not 3. Fair and Perilous will probably also become a staple in Glorfindel and Haldir decks.
* None Return (Lore Event, 1 cost):
None Return is the enemy version of Leave No Trace, placing an enemy in the victory display after it is defeated, instead of a location:
Limit 3 copies of None Return in the victory display.
Response: After a non-unique enemy is destroyed, add None Return to the victory display to add that enemy to the victory display.
I’ve already discussed Rossiel at length in her hero review and the review of Leave No Trace, so I refer readers to those entries for more extensive thoughts on that particular hero. The main takeaway for this card is that if you are playing Rossiel, then 3 copies of None Return are absolutely essential. The main focus should be to take on an enemy as soon as possible, preferably one that is on the weaker side so that it won’t pose much of a risk or take too much time to destroy, and then to defeat it so that you can play None Return and add it to the victory display. This should turn Rossiel into a dependable defender, as long as most enemies in a scenario share the same trait. A careful look at existing quests demonstrates that is usually the case.
Is there any point in including None Return in a non-Rossiel deck? Well, this card can help to get rid of a copy of an enemy that is especially annoying, as each copy removed lowers the probability of encountering it. That loathsome Angmar Orc, for example, which discards an ally or reveals another encounter card when it is revealed, can be frustrating, so getting rid of 1 or 2 of the 3 copies could be useful. However, such a use would only be worthwhile in a deck that is focused on encounter deck manipulation, as there’s generally not much room for such indirect effects, at least in solo play. The other major use would be to help set up Keen As Lances, but again, this is dependent on a very specific kind of deck, and the main niche is probably multiplayer, as you can get questing/combat support from other players. The Treachery of Rhudaur also introduces a strong combination with The Door Is Closed!, but we’ll wait to discuss the full repercussions of that particular event.
* Hope Rekindled (Neutral Event, 0 cost):
One of the new mechanics introduced this cycle is the valour keyword, which intensifies the effect of a card (or gives a different effect) when a player’s threat is at 40 or higher. While other innovations during this cycle, such as victory display shenanigans, player side quests, and the Dunedain and Noldor deck types, have made a bigger splash so far, valour support has been steadily building. Hope Rekindled is the first card dedicated to actually supporting valour, both through cost reduction and card search:
Action: Reduce the cost of the next event that has a Valour trigger you play this phase by 2.
Valour Action: Search the top 10 cards of your deck for an event that has a Valour trigger and add it to your hand. Shuffle your deck.
Let’s look at the cost reduction first. Hope Rekindled reduces the cost of the next valour event by 2. There are two important aspects of this effect to note. The first is that it only applies to events, so even though the Honour Guard has a valour trigger, you can’t use this card to reduce the cost of that ally. The second is that it doesn’t matter whether you actually use the valour trigger on the event in question, the cost reduction applies whenever the card has a valour trigger printed on it. To orient our discussion, it should be said that there are currently only two events that satisfy the criteria here: Rallying Cry and Horn’s Cry (no word yet on the existence of Ugly Cry and Pathetic Cry cards). Doubtless there will be more events of this type released, otherwise Hope Rekindled wouldn’t exist, but we can only talk about what we have in our hands thus far.
If you look back at my review of Rallying Cry, I noted that it had potential in certain deck types and situations, but that its high cost dramatically reduced its potential. Hope Rekindled completely removes this cost, reducing it to 0, meaning that you could play Hope Rekindled and Rallying Cry for free. The trouble would be that you would have to draw both cards into your hand and use up deck space for both cards. Still, there’s a bit more flexibility here. The full discussion of Horn’s Cry will have to wait until the Treachery of Rhudaur player card reviews, but suffice it to say that it also has a potentially useful effect but has a high cost of 2. Again, Hope Rekindled can reduce this to nothing.
What about the valour trigger on Hope Rekindled itself, which allows you to search the top 10 cards of your deck for an event with a valour trigger? Obviously, if you are able to use this effect, then you are in valour mode, and that is when you will be most desperate to find your valour cards, so the effect is certainly appropriate. Again, though, it’s hard to judge the merits of the effect completely until there are more valour events. I remain hopeful of the future possibility of setting up a huge game-ending round where all the valour events come out at once to turn the tide.
The fact that Hope Rekindled is neutral gives it added value and flexibility, and the song trait allows for it to be fetched with Rivendell Minstrel or for it to generate resources with Love of Tales. In fact, since Hope Rekindled is the only 0-cost song card in the game, it’s not a bad little resource generation option for a Lore deck using that little-loved attachment. 3 copies of Love of Tales and 3 copies of Hope Rekindled is a lot of space devoted to such a purpose if you don’t really care about valour, but resources can be scarce in Lore and the sphere has enough card draw to compensate. So this is definitely a space worth exploring. Beyond that niche, if you are using both Rallying Cry and Horn’s Cry, then I’d give a strong look to Hope Rekindled. If more events with the valour trigger are released, then Hope Rekindled also becomes more appealing. Until then, however, the ultimate verdict on this card will have to remain up in the air.
Phew! It took some time, but the player cards of Across the Ettenmoors have finally met their match, paving the way for Treachery of Rhudaur to meet its maker in turn. This scenario itself is already a favorite of mine, with the side quests and safe locations giving a real sense of travel and exploration that is true to the source material, and doesn’t always come through in other quests. The player cards are a mix of power levels, as is so often the case these days, but there are certainly some gems to be found, and Rossiel players absolutely must have this expansion for None Return.
Readers, what are your thoughts on the events in this expansion?