The Treachery of Rhudaur: Hero Review
So far in this cycle, we’ve gotten a versatile hero that can fit into a great variety of decks (Merry), a tricksy hero that uses a brand new mechanic (Rossiel), and a multiplayer-focused hero of debatable quality (Dori). The fourth pack of the cycle, The Treachery of Rhudaur, brings a hero that has been long-spoiled and long-discussed: Erestor. Just what kind of hero is this newest addition? Well, he has trouble fitting into just any old deck and he certainly has more obvious quality than Dori, so he falls more into the domain of “subtle power” of a Rossiel. However, he pushes this kind of Elven trickery even farther, in my opinion. Erestor is one of those heroes that comes along every once in awhile that truly changes the game. In fact, he may do so in a more significant way than any other hero in the game. Yet does this mean he is any good? And just how can you build a deck to get the most out of Erestor? Read on to find out!
* Erestor (Lore Hero, 10 threat, 2 willpower, 2 attack, 2 defense, 4 hit points):
Erestor fundamentally changes the way the game works for your deck when you control him. He provides greatly accelerated card draw, but at the cost of ditching all of the cards in your hand at the end of each round:
Draw 3 additional cards at the beginning of the resource phase.
At the end of the round, discard all cards in your hand.
With this ability and accompanying drawback, what we have is not simply card draw, but a new style of play in which the controlling player must account for losing all of their cards at the end of the round. For a long time, since I first started playing the game, I’ve wished that we would get a version of what are called “agendas” in A Game of Thrones LCG. For those not familiar with that particular LCG, an agenda is a special card type that you can associate with your deck that gives you a special ability or advantage for a game, but also usually implements some kind of disadvantage as well. In this way, an agenda changes the way you play the game itself and this of course dramatically shapes the kind of deck that you play and your strategy. In some ways, heroes play this role in LOTR LCG, or at least have the potential to, since they start on the board and affect your deck and how you play, but generally they don’t have a dramatic impact on the structure of turns or the game itself. Erestor is the first hero that really plays the agenda role, and I greatly hope that we will see more heroes along these lines in the future, as this is the kind of thing that really could help to give longevity to the game.
So how exactly does Erestor change the game? By having to discard your hand at the end of the round, you are forced into a situation in which you must make the most of all the cards in your hand during a given round before they disappear. On the one hand, this means prioritizing low-cost cards that can be played more often than not no matter what your resource situation looks like. Ideally, given any hand, you should be able to play at least a couple of cards each round. On the other hand, you probably won’t be able to play everything, so this means that you must turn to alternative methods for getting value out of cards in your hand. In other words, you must change your thinking to view the cards in your hand as themselves being a resource, by focusing in on effects that let you discard cards for a benefit. Of course, this is the central mechanic for the new Noldor mechanic that is being developed in the cycle, and it makes sense that Erestor, being a Noldor hero himself, plays off of this dynamic. The goal for a decent Erestor deck is to be able to use every card in one’s hand by the end of the round, whether through playing them or discarding them for another effect.
That’s a bunch of generalities so far, so what specifically can we include in an Erestor deck to facilitate this “cards-as-a-resource” approach? Let’s run through some of the possibilities:
- Eowyn: This ever-popular hero essentially becomes a de facto 5 willpower hero in an Erestor deck, as you will probably be discarding a card to boost her willpower each round.
- Watcher of the Bruinen: This 2-cost Tactics ally has long been ignored by many players, because you have to discard a card from hand to keep him in play. It also doesn’t help that his 2 defense and 2 hit points is not very impressive these days, given the proliferation of strong 2-cost defending allies in Tactics. However, the Watcher might be worth a look with Erestor, as you can use him to defend multiple times, although you’ll probably need to boost his defense with something like Arwen and maybe stick an Elven Mail on him as well.
- Trollshaw Scout: The Trollshaw Scout has tended to be a bit more popular than the Watcher of the Bruinen, as his 2 attack with ranged can be quite useful all on its own. Again, though, the prevalence of valuable 2-cost Tactics allies makes it difficult for the Trollshaw to make his way into a deck sometimes. However, in an Erestor deck, you can use the surplus cards in your hand to allow the Scout to attack several times per round. Throw a Rivendell Blade on the Trollshaw Scout and this setup becomes even better.
- Elven Jeweler: This ally seems tailor-made for the Noldor in general and Erestor in particular, as you can literally use cards as a resource to play this ally instead of, well, resources. The Jeweler is not necessarily powerful, but is a useful, well-rounded utility ally.
- Protector of Lorien: Protector is probably the first attachment that comes to mind when thinking about discarding cards for a benefit. Protector of Lorien also shares the same sphere as Erestor, so it’s a definite must-add for any Erestor deck. Since Erestor himself has balanced stats, he’s a good candidate for the attachment himself and can make use of it to be a strong defender (especially with A Burning Brand) or a strong quester.
- Steed of Imladris: The Steed is another card in this cycle that’s designed to be used with Noldor/Erestor decks. Adding at least a couple of copies of the Steed of Imladris into an Erestor deck makes good sense, as long as you’re including Spirit. This allows you to turn a card each round into 2 progress on the active location, which isn’t a bad deal.
- Elven Spear: The Elven Spear is pretty much the attacking equivalent of Protector of Lorien, albeit in the Tactics sphere. What I really like about the Spear is that it costs 0, which makes it a great card for your opening hand, as you can get it out right away while leaving resources to pay for other stuff.
Looking at this list, an Erestor deck can use card discard for a variety of basic effects, from location control to boosts of the major stats to giving action advantage to a couple of special Noldor allies. The tempting question to ask might whether or not it’s possible to achieve all of these effects in a more straightforward manner. The answer to this is a clear “yes”, but I don’t think that’s actually the right question to ask. After all, the real fun and interest of deck building in this game is found in achieving essentially the same goals through new and creative methods. This is exactly what Erestor and the Noldor brings to the table. So the real question is whether what they provide is enough to handle what the tougher encounter decks can dish out. In this respect, the answer seems to be a clear “yes” as well. Granted, the cycle has not yet concluded and there is doubtless at least some further Noldor support to come, yet already there are the building blocks for a solid Erestor deck, mainly because his ability revolves around card draw. In almost any game of this kind, card draw is one of the most essential abilities, so having a hero with such strong passive card draw, even if it comes with a meaningful drawback, is a huge advantage. Erestor can essentially allow you to cycle through your deck on a consistent basis, guaranteeing that you will see the cards that are important to you at some point during a game.
Due to this cycling ability, it is worth noting that Erestor has a role to play in non-Noldor decks as well. As I said out the outset, you really do need to build a deck around Erestor, so that does limit his versatility a bit, but that doesn’t mean that every Erestor deck needs to focus on the Noldor archetype. There are tons of possibilities. You could team up Erestor with Leadership heroes, load up on resource generation and relatively cheap allies, and then pump out an army in short order. Alternatively, you could have Erestor team up with Galadriel and Bilbo for maximum card draw. In this case, you would be drawing 6 cards per turn (assuming you aren’t having to pass Bilbo’s card draw around and assuming you use Galadriel’s ability each round). Attach Protector of Lorien to Bilbo and Erestor and the questing and defensive potential would be amazing. Grima would also be a notable candidate for pairing up with Erestor (did you really think you were going to get through this without a Grima mention?). After all, resource generation isn’t the only way to skin a troll, and Grima’s cost reduction, especially in tandem with Keys of Orthanc, could provide a powerful way to get cards out quickly. A deck that focuses primarily on 0 or 1 cost cards is also an option. There are of course more possibilities than these, but the point is that many decks can benefit from drawing tons of cards, even if just from the perspective of ensuring consistency (seeing the cards you want to see), so Erestor will have a powerful effect on the meta for some time to come.
Once you have Erestor in a deck, what attachments work well with him? Beyond the ones listed above, which directly key off of discarding cards, there are some other possibilities as well. Elf-Stone is a good choice, as you can play it for only 1 resource during the turn you draw it, and it can help you play an ally that you might not otherwise be able to play, either on the same turn or a subsequent one. A Burning Brand (in conjunction with Protector of Lorien) could of course help with turning Erestor into a reliable defender. Love of Tales is actually worth a look in an Erestor deck as well, and this is perhaps its best chance at relevance outside of a couple of broken decks. I say this because you can safely load up with several copies of songs in your deck, along with 3 copies of Love of Tales, and you actually have a decent chance of drawing most of them fairly quickly, which is usually what holds Love of Tales back. The resource granting songs can be used for resource smoothing, and if you have 2 or 3 copies of Love of Tales in play, they’ll actually be generating resources for you. If not, they are not dead cards, because they can be discarded for other effects. If you go this route, think about including the neutral Hope Rekindled, as it’s a 0-cost card that has the song trait, which makes it prime for generating resources with Love of Tales. I’d love to see someone give such a deck a try!
If you are going the mono-Lore route, then Scroll of Isildur is a must-include in order to get use out of the many event cards that will likely end up in your discard pile. Since Erestor has the Noldor trait, attachments like Lembas, Cloak of Lorien, Rivendell Blade, and Elven Mail are all possibilities. I like Ranger Provisions in an Erestor deck for a similar reason as Elf-stone. By using these attachments on a location in the staging area, you can effectively “store” resources for a later round when you have better cards to choose from in your hand. Although there are other targets for Light of Valinor that might be better, Erestor can make great use of it, especially if you are using Protector of Lorien to boost both his defense and willpower.
As for events, Will of the West is priority number one. This can allow you to refresh your deck if it’s running thin or if you have ended up discarding copies of the cards that you really need to play. Both Stand and Fight and Dwarven Tomb are similarly valuable to access cards in your discard pile, of which Erestor provides a healthy supply. Children of the Sea becomes better in an Erestor deck because even though you have to shuffle the target ally back into your deck, your chances of drawing that ally again are much higher. If you’re running a dual-sphere or tri-sphere deck with Erestor, then A Good Harvest could be a good choice to make sure you are able to pay for more cards in your hand.
We’ve talked about Erestor’s ability extensively, but where does he stand as a body? He is the model of versatility with 2 in each stat and 4 hit points. Many times such versatility is derided, and it is true that specialized heroes can sometimes be a better choice, providing less threat and the ability to have a larger impact on a given area (i.e. questing or combat). However, versatile heroes have a role to play too, allowing you to respond to the flow of a game. In other words, you can use a hero like Erestor for questing when you need more willpower to really blast through a certain stage, and then use him for defense or attack when dealing with a certain enemy is a bigger priority. More specialized heroes can’t really respond in that way and allow you to “transfer” your heroes’ actions where you really need them. I’m not saying that heroes with balanced stats are necessarily better, just that they have their own strengths and weaknesses. All that being said, Erestor can really be customized to fit the role you want, both in general terms and from round to round, using cards like Protector of Lorien and Elven Spear to bump up whatever stat is most useful at a given moment.
When it comes down to it, no one will ever accuse Erestor of being underpowered or useless. Any player can see just how game-changing he can be, but it is worth saying that he is not necessarily a good choice for newer players or those who feel like they are still getting their footing, as using Erestor well is difficult. He is a subtle hero with a serious drawback and getting the most out him and striking the right balance requires a certain level of skill. This is not to say that a newer player should shy away from him or that piloting an Erestor deck is akin to building a rocket! Just that heroes fall along a certain spectrum of complexity and Erestor definitely falls towards the higher end. He also is not a hero for those players who prefer a more straightforward, kill-my-enemies-and-wear-their-heads-as-a-necklace style of play. But for those players who really like trying out creative decks and finding new ways to accomplish old ends, Erestor is ideal. I really hope we see more heroes like this in the future: heroes that shape the meta and shake up the game, bringing strong abilities but also a sizable weaknesse to the table.
Possible Attachment Choices: Protector of Lorien, Elven Spear, Steed of Imladris, Lembas, Elven Mail, Rivendell Blade, A Burning Brand, Light of Valinor, Cloak of Lorien
It’s taken me awhile to get started on my Treachery of Rhudaur reviews, but the spotlight has been firmly placed on some fantastic contributors. Erestor is a hero worthy of a thorough analysis and I hope this piece has satisfied that need! Soon, the rest of the player cards of this pack will be reviewed, and we will see if the other cards can match the trailblazing path of the hero.
Readers, what are your thoughts on Erestor? Is he all hype or does he meet expectations? What are the best Erestor decks you have come up with so far?