The Cards That Were Broken: Treebeard
Hello Fellow Questers,
I am honored to have been given a chance by Ian to contribute to this amazing community and blog. I am going to focus on two sections looking at cards on opposite ends of the power spectrum. Without going into too much detail, lets just jump into it!
‘The Cards That Were Broken’ is a new series where I will highlight cards that (while not broken) are probably overpowered. For quite a while now, players have been voicing concern over the power level of some cards being too great. LOTR LCG is unique in that you do not need to play the strongest decks at all times; you can simply omit these cards and play without them if you think they are too powerful.
However, sometimes it really is disheartening to cut out a card altogether or rely on it too much as a crutch. After all this is still a game, and games ultimately come down to having fun – using the same cards over and over again or not using them because you think they will ruin the game is hardly that. As such, I am going to take an objective look at these ‘over powered’ cards and look at exactly how broken they are, and if it’s possible to rein them in a little bit so that they can become playable for all.
There is already an excellent Tales article up here about whether Dain Ironfoot is broken, using 3 key points that fit well for heroes. Although a lot of older cards will eventually be put through the ringer, I am going to fall victim to the cult of the new and take a newer ‘broken’ card that has been making the rounds at the forums.
Willpower: 2 Attack: 4 Defense: 3 Hit Points: 5
Cannot have restricted attachments. Treebeard enters play exhausted and collects 1 resource each resource phase. These resources can be used to pay for Ent cards played from your hand.
Action: Pay 2 resources from Treebeard’s pool to ready an Ent character.
Treebeard is a beast! Usually ally stats are double their cost – Treebeard’s stats add up to 14, meaning he should cost 7. On top of that, he helps pay for and ready Ent cards at will. As if that wasn’t enough, he is neutral meaning you can drop him into virtually any deck. Yep – I think the case isn’t that hard to make.
For my purposes, I am not so much looking for broken cards (I know the title would suggest otherwise, but you gotta love the name) but rather cards that are overpowered and thus alter the game flow too much and make it less fun. I also want to focus on simple ways to use these cards better.
So, I have designed a set of 5 questions I will go through.
Does the card lead to excessive resource or card draw generation?
♦ Clearly this would make the card too powerful, as the whole game is based on drawing cards and paying for them.
Does the card alter the game mechanics or lead to winning automatically?
♦ If it changes the way you are playing and destroying the normal flow of the game, then it is clearly quite powerful. Also, a card that almost invariably guarantees victory is hardly fun.
Does the card render obsolete many other cards or thin a deck too much?
♦ If cards are coming out that render too many other cards obsolete, then they are overpowered. Sure, we can replace cards in the card pool and good cards should replace or build upon cards out there (hence the name LCG), but if one card is rendering 2-3 cards obsolete then its clearly too powerful. Along the same lines, if one card is doing the simultaneous jobs of 2-3 cards, then its taking up 3 spots (if you use three copies) versus something like 6-9 spots in your deck, which really changes the power level dramatically.
Is the card too cheap or non-unique?
♦ Cards that have powerful effects should make you pay a price – imagine if ally Gandalf was a 1 resource card! Unique cards (or restricted attachments to a lesser degree) help to offset the cost somewhat by preventing you from playing too many and leaving dead cards in your hand, and limiting them in multipayer to one player.
Is the card needed for your deck to work or does it need a mulligan?
♦ If you are going to mulligan for a card or need a card to make your deck work because otherwise it will make other cards in your deck unusable, then it really is dropping the fun factor a lot. Combos are great – but they shouldn’t be essential and make other cards too needy on one ‘brick’ to hold the house up. The whole point of a deck builder is to avoid doing this and to not reuse the same cards and throw in the towel if one of them isn’t in your opening hand.
A scoring system I came up with to help streamline this is below. A card gets between 0-2 points in each category and the final score is tallied up to give a total. The score can be interpreted as:
- 0-2 – Normal Power (no modifications needed)
- 3-5 – Slightly Overpowered (can use modifications if you like challenge)
- 5-7 – Moderately Overpowered (should use modifications)
- 8-10 – A Card that is Broken (should be in the binder, cannot fix)
So, lets start with Treebeard:
1. Does that card lead to excessive resource or card draw generation?
♦ Not really, although it depends – while his resources are limited to paying for Ents, if you get him out early enough he generates quite a bit of resources over the course of a game. They can also be used to help pay for readying Ents, but I do not think that this is excessive. In most games he won’t get out until at least the third round and likely will only have generated about 3-4 resources in total, meaning perhaps 2 readying effects or paying for 2 allies. [0.5/2]
2. Does the card alter the game mechanics or lead to winning automatically?
♦ No. He fits within the scope of the game and doesn’t alter the normal ebb and flow of the game. He also doesn’t automatically guarantee victory. Perhaps the caveat to this is that he can ready Ents the minute they enter play, which does alter their mechanics a little. [0.25/2]
3. Does the card render obsolete many other cards or thin a deck too much?
♦ Comparing him against neutral allies, we see that as he hangs around the whole game he doesn’t really replace ‘bam’ allies like ally Gandalf and Saurman as he does not have a bomb enter play effect. His closest comparison is probably the wizard ally Radagast.
Adding Radagast’s stats results in a paltry 8, and he costs 1 resource more. They both can help pay for ally cards (Ents and Creatures) although Treebeard’s readying is more powerful than Radagast’s healing, other than in the niche quest A Journey to Rhosgobel . Treebeard does enter play exhausted, although you can probably get him out sooner because he is cheaper, effectively taking away the only positive Radgast had going for him. Even in an eagle deck I think I would probably stick in Treebeard over this card, let alone in anything else.
OHAUH Gandalf ally is also a reasonable card to compare against, as his stats add up to 16 and he costs 1 more, likely putting him on par with Treebeard for raw power. However, his need to raise threat each round is pricey, and he doesn’t have the same resource generation effect, although his questing without exhausting is powerful. However, over 4 rounds Treebeard can do this twice as well with his resources, without any threat gain. Overall, Treebeard will not require you to build around his weaknesses, whereas Gandalf will need serious threat control. Advantage: Treebeard
In the end though, Radagast is a card no one really played anyway, and this ally version of Gandalf was not seeing much play either (the other two versions are more powerful, although this does see more play in solo). I am not sure Treebeard is their proverbial final nail, but he’s pretty close.. However, he is clearly much superior to one card and quite a bit better than the other which are his closest competition. [0.75/2]
4. Is the card too cheap or non-unique?
♦ Yes. Treebeard based on stats should cost 7. When you factor in his unique status and his negative ability that leaves him exhausted for a round, then you are looking at a cost of 6. Maybe 5 at the worst. His cost of 4 really is a head scratcher to be honest, and comparing him against other 4 cost allies nets a usual level of 9 added stats, versus 14. On top of that, he is neutral and will thus hit the table faster than those needing a resource match. I really can’t make a case here for the 4 cost. At least he is unique. [1.5/2]
5. Is this card needed for your deck to work or does it need a mulligan?
♦ In most situations I can’t see people mulliganing for this, as its hard to get out first turn unless you have Grima or something. Even then, he would be exhausted anyway. It can make Ent decks shine, but it isn’t needed for them to work as they can all be paid for from hand. Of course, he lets you play Ents without a resource match, so it does let you play Ents that would otherwise be unplayable if you aren’t running both Lore and Tactics. [0.5/2]
So, what is the consensus? Treebeard comes out with a 3.5/10, making him Slightly Overpowered. This means that if you like a challenge and are a Nightmare kind of player, then you may want to incorporate some changes. For the most part though, although he gets a lot of press, he isn’t that over powered. Yes, he is under-costed and powerful but he doesn’t have an enters play effect and usually takes a few rounds to get out and be usable. He is going to be DOA for a round, and he still does cost 4, limiting how soon you can table him. He also does not really alter game mechanics either or is a card that you mulligan for – he’s really just a powerful ally, which is perhaps what he should be if you have read the books! Still though, for those high-level sticklers that have stuck him in the binder, I will highlight 3 modifications to use that I have tried in the past to good result:
- Increase his cost to 5: He really should cost 5 anyways to be honest and that level he will likely be a 3rd round play at best.
- Make him Doomed 2: Makes some thematic sense as he is likely to make a lot of noise when he enters play and draw the evil eye’s attention, while also giving you some pause to play him multiplayer and bring his cost curve up to a reasonable level.
- Don’t let him ready himself: This is probably the easiest fix and the one I use most, although I like the doomed one as well. Thematically Treebeard was the driving force to getting the Ents ready to go – it makes sense to me thus to change his action to simply say ‘Action: Pay 2 resources from Treebeard’s pool to ready any other Ent character‘. Very simple but also limits his ability to ready himself, since he is usually the most powerful and versatile Ent on the table. There are other Ents with powerful attacking and defending abilities, so his ability still has value. It also limits his abuse to cards like A Very Good Tale given his 4 cost. Overall, this simple fix just makes him slightly less powerful, which is all he needs.
Okay, first new column done. Any thoughts on this feature or our Ent in general? Also, are there any other cards you want me to run through the ringer? Next article in this series promoises to be shorter as I leave out the intro text. Thank you for reading!