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The Cards that Were Broken: Glorfindel

by on January 18, 2016

glorfindel art

Hello Fellow Questers,

Alright…after a tame intro to the series, ‘The Cards That Were Broken’ is back to tackle perhaps the most well known and used ‘broken’ card – the mighty low threat Glorfindel.

As a reminder, we are looking for more overpowered cards that might make the game less fun, and looking at ways to make them more fun for those that have stuck them in the binder.

Based on my look last time at Treebeard I have modified some of my criteria based on the comments and adapting this to a hero and not an ally card. It’s impossible to judge Glorfindel in a vacuum,; you need to consider him and his toys.

The first step is to reword Glorfindel to better compare him to other cards. Right now, by looking at him you would think he only has a negative ability.

glorfindel

This is not entirely true. If you looked at the other version of hero you would see that we could reword the card to the following:

Glorfindel-Front-Face.jpg

So, his ability is really a starting discount of -7 threat. Now, lets look at some of his toys.

light-of-valinor           asfaloth

Okay, I think we are ready to start putting the mighty Elf through the ringer. I will be looking at the sum of the parts here and looking at Glorfindel with his two most common attachments.

I have modified my 5 criteria quite a bit so will list the ones I will use here. Thank you to everyone who suggested these changes; I think  it is now much more robust. I have divided the questions up into categories:

ECONOMY – Does the card lead to excessive resources, card draw generation or readying?

 ♦  ‘Economy’ is the crux of a card game – you have to be able to draw cards, play them and use them to win. Clearly an excess of any of these facets would make the card too powerful.  I’ve added readying as if you can keep readying cards over and over again this would be quite broken as well.

MECHANICS – Does the card alter the game mechanics or lead to winning automatically? Does it let you bypass critical points in the game? Is it part of a ‘broken’ combo?

♦  If it changes the way you are playing and destroying the normal ebb and flow of the game, then it is clearly quite powerful. Also, a card that almost invariably guarantees victory is hardly fun, as well as something that bypasses critical difficulty points in the game.

POWER – Does the card render obsolete many other cards or thin a deck too much? How strong is the card relative to others in the card pool?

♦  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.

COST – 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. For a hero, we are looking here more at the threat cost and the cost of their specific attachments.

GLUE – Is the card overly splash-able? Is it a crutch and worthy of a mulligan?

♦  Big change here. We are looking for a way to also look at how fun certain cards are, and if you are always using a card as a crutch and can slot them into any old deck and make it better, then perhaps its too powerful. Moreover, if you can take any deck and make it better by putting this card in it, then you would argue that it should always be played, and if that is not broken then what is? 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)
  • 6-8 – Moderately Overpowered (should use modifications)
  • 9-10 – A Card that is Broken (should be in the binder, cannot fix)

So, lets start with Glorfindel:

1. ECONOMY – Does the card lead to excessive resources, card draw generation or readying?

♦  No. Glorfindel doesn’t draw you cards or give you resources. He does with LOV let you ready him once per round, but that is hardly excessive considering many cards let you do that (ie – Fast Hitch for the same price) [0/2]

2. MECHANICS – Does the card alter the game mechanics or lead to winning automatically?

♦  Slightly. He definitely does NOT guarantee victory at all, but he does alter the game mechanics in a couple of ways.

The first is the concept of secrecy, doom and threat – this card almost single handedly gives rise to a viable three hero secrecy deck. However, there are lots of cards that are lynch-pins to certain deck types – Dain, Santa Theoden, Celeborn, Treebeard, Hirluin, etc. Also, one could argue that a top tier secrecy deck is not on par with the Dwarves, Elves, Outlands or Ents (Rohan/Gondor is another story sadly). However secrecy as a concept is only viable because of him. Threat is deigned in an almost brilliant way to make sure that you pay a price for using powerful heroes. Glorfindel changes this by giving you a powerful hero at a discount. The ramifications are two fold – you can now pair him with two other high threat heroes and have an ultra-powerful deck without paying the price, or he can be combined with other lower costed heroes and the concept of threat can be ignored completely or used as a resource (ie – a doom deck type). You can basically ignore threat management using him and focus on throwing in powerful cards and cut out all threat reducing cards.

The second major way is though his attachments – instead of questing through and exploring locations, Asfaloth lets you clear them out in the staging area at will. Make no mistake, it is the single most powerful location control device in the game and seriously changes the whole travelling to locations issue. However, modern quests have begun to Asfaloth-proof themselves by adding quest points and making them immune to staging area progress.   [1/2]

3. POWER – Does the card render obsolete many other cards or thin a deck too much?

♦  We already mentioned that his threat reducing can let you remove those types of cards from a deck. However, to get a better idea of his true power lets compare him to other heroes that lower threat. Glorfindel will give you 12 total stat points and lower your threat by 7.

mirlonde

The easiest comparison is Mirlonde, as she can at most reduce your starting threat by 3 vs 7, and then only in mono-lore. If you draw LOV in your first 4 turns then clearly Glorfindel is superior, not to mention the 4 added stat points. Also, she is so restricted in her use, that despite the negative ability on Glorfindel, there is no comparison here.

Advantage: Glorfindel

 dwalin    nori

Our Dwarf friends are not nearly as powerful (12 total stats against 9). Threat reduction is very dependent here as well on either playing a dwarf deck or playing against Orcs. In the best case you may be able to get a reduction of 8-10 or so, although sometimes you may get much less as well. Again, no comparison here.

Advantage: Glorfindel

merry     galadriel

Again, Glorfindel boasts superior stats than both  of these heroes, although Galadriel is a difficult comparison when looking at stats alone based on her textbox. Looking at threat reduction, Merry can likely reduce your threat about 2-3 a round, Galadriel will lower it by 1 but she also draws you a card. Over the course of a game, Galardriel is likely the same as Glorfindel (ie – 6-7) and Merry about 10-14 or so in terms of reduction.

The biggest issue is that both of these heroes require exhaustion whereas Glorfindel is a passive ability. However, it is only passive as long as some form of readying is applied (ie – LOV) or it creeps back up, and Merry can also use Fast Hitch at 1 cost to do the same.

The ultiamte decision here is tough (and about to get tougher as you will see). Merry will lower your threat by more than Glorfindel with a similar one cost attachment. He will thus lower threat by 10-14 and give you two willpower a turn with Fast HitchGlorfindel will, for a one cost attachment, lower your threat by 7 and give you 3 willpower a turn and also be ready to attack back for 3, defend or take an undefendted attack. Also, he has access to location control that Merry does not. He is stronger.

Advantage: Glorfindel

Galadriel would require two attachments (readying and her ring) to be able to lower threat and still do something else (ie contribute her willpower). That can take a while to setup. If you look at her with no attachments, then she will reduce your threat/draw a card and also give you free questing from your allies. Assume you play one ally a turn with 1-2 willpower on average – she then is effectively questing for 1-2 each round and still reducing threat and drawing you cards. Comparing these cards is really hard, as her mirror gives you even more powerful card draw as well, and her ring can grant a resource match as well to Lore. Over the course of a game, she can lower threat by about 7, draw 7 cards, contribute 1-2 passive willpower through her ally effects and also with the mirror draw more cards or ready up with UE and contribute 4 willpower with her ring. Glorfindel can contribute 7 threat reduction (same), draw 0 cards (less), contribute 3 willpower passively (more), and attack back or defend. He can also provide location control. Honestly, its so hard to compare as they are so different that in the end I think I would call them even, as card draw is hard to pass up.

Advantage: Even

Finally we get to the mother of comparisons

aragorn

This just got real. Loreagorn is a passive threat reducer like Glorfindel and he can reduce threat by about 20 or so on average, or 3 times that of our elf friend. He has the same stat points but has Sentinel. He also has his own toys that can provide massive willpower boosts, readying, and other resource icons.

Now comes the real debate – how critical is early game threat? I would argue that it used to be immensely important in the days of Journey down the Anduin and the Hill Troll. However, the modern card pool will allow many defenders to shake off a Hill Troll first round, and hardly any playable deck will not be combat ready early on. So, that starting threat as a way to avoid engagements is becoming an obsolete concern. The other area where starting threat matters is the heroes you pair up – this is still valid today. Its difficult to pair a 12 cost hero with two powerful heroes compared to a 5 threat one. So, Glorfindel can fit into more decks with powerful heroes (a point we will get back to later on). On the whole though, early game threat is not as important a concept as it used to be.

Lets compare each with two attachments – Loreagorn with one cost readying (Wingfoot) and the Sword That Was Broken. In this comparison, he will reduce threat by 20, quest for 2 himself, and attack for 3 or defend across the table as well. Glorfindel will reduce threat by 7, quest for 3 and attack for 3 or defend for you. So far, Loragorn has a slight advantage. Next is the effects of the Sword, which can provide about 5 willpower a turn extra. Asfaloth will provide two location points. Granted you can’t compare them directly as one also costs more, and willpower doesn’t equate to location points, but to give an idea of value, each Asfaloth action is worth two resources (ie – the same as The Riddermark’s Finest). So, would you rather play a Riddermark’s or would you rather increase your willpower by 5-6 on a given turn? In most cases, I would opt for the latter. That being said, it’s very close and a tough call, but I will give the Ranger the nod for strict power level.

Advantage: Loreagorn (barely)

Ok, that was a lot to take in. Clearly he is very powerful, right up there with Galadriel  and Aragorn, and much more powerful than 3 other threat reducing heroes. But, he is by no means a slam dunk in terms of the other two. [0.75/2]

4.  COST- Is the card too cheap or non-unique?

♦  For heroes, the cost is their threat. He’s obviously too cheap, but that is because his ability is tied into his threat. To be more fair, perhaps a threat reduction of 5 off your starting threat instead of 7 would be more fair given what Mirlonde gives you.

arod

LOV is properly costed when compared to Unexpected Courage since it’s more conditional. Asfaloth should probably cost 3 when you consider that Arod costs 1 and is way more conditional and only gives 1 progress per location. [1/2]

 5. GLUE – Is the card overly splash-able? Is it a crutch and worthy of a mulligan?

♦  Make no mistake about it – he is the single most splash-able hero. End of discussion.

When you look at an average gamer, one could argue that Spirit is the most important sphere to include in a game as you need access to willpower and cancellation. More often than not, you need a Spirit hero more than any other sphere. He is the best Spirit hero to slot into any old deck – he is low threat, can quest, attack and take an undefended attack, and can also provide location control. He is the jack of all trades; no other hero can do as much as he can. He just solves so many problems (threat, location control, questing, attack, undefended attack, archery soak, etc), which is why he is played so much.

In terms of fun factor, you basically need LOV to make him work so that does limit it somewhat in terms of your opening hand. [2/2]

So, what is the consensus? Glorfindel comes in at 4.75/10 making him Slightly Overpowered. He is on the cusp on being Moderately Overpowered, and more so than Treebeard (3.5/10) but ultimately I was surprised – he is not as powerful as people think, especially in the modern card pool.

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 overpowered. Yes, he is overly splash-able and solves many problems with ultra low threat. However, you need an attachment early on to make him work, his threat lowering is far less than some other cards (Merry/Loreagorn) and more and more things are immune to Asfaloth these days. Starting threat is not as important as it used to be, thus really making him far less broken then he used to be. He also does not really alter game mechanics either or is a card that generates excessive economy – he’s really just a powerful hero, 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:

  1. Increase starting threat to 7: This would be more in line with Mirlonde. Now, Mirlonde gives you a 3 discount, whereas he gives you a 5 discount that could be less without LOV.
  2. Increase Asfalofth to 3: This would bring it more in-line with Arod and also be more expensive than a one shot ally that does the same thing (Riddermark’s).
  3. Change LOV to read ‘Raise cost to play on Glorfindel by 1’: This would basically make him far less powerful as it would probably take another turn to get him out. The other option is to simply have it ready him after he commits to questing, but then you would really nerf his ability too much.

Phew – okay that was exhausting. Any thoughts on this feature or our favourite exclusion from the movies in general? Also, are there any other cards you want me to run through the ringer? Next article in this series promises to be shorter as I leave out the intro text. Thank you for reading!

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17 Comments
  1. Steven permalink

    Agreed with your entire assesment. I hated Glorfindel in the old days because of how few cards could do what he (and Asfaloth) did, forcing himself in many decks. But today, his reign is pretty much over. With Rhovanion Outrider on the way, we’ll have yet another alternative to Asfaloth, and his threat advantage has been challenged through other alternatives.

    Btw, my favorite change would have been to Light of Valinor: after this character exhausts to quest, ready him. That would change Glorfindel to an early game advantage only.

    • Thanks!

      I do think causing him to increase threat with LOV is reasonable, but it may nerf him too much. That is why I sometimes just increase the cost to 2 which I find works well, but either is an easy fix!

  2. Gonzalo permalink

    Whenever I struggle against a difficult/nightmare quest, I have to make a real effort not to use Glorfindel, Eowen or Beregord (I think this is one is coming to this section soon).
    On the other hand, without those 3 it would have been impossible for me to beat some quests at the time, so maybe it makes more sense having a range of power in heroes rather than having then all leveled and get frustrated.

    • Totally agree! Yes, both of those heroes are good candidates for this. I find that the new card pool with Arwen and Erkenbrand have done a good job with providing us with other good alternatives for those two.

  3. MasterBeta permalink

    The single most used hero. You didn’t mention that he allows for the use of Elrond’s council, a card that I think you would auto include with Glorfindel, as he is both Spirit and Noldor. Between his stats, low threat, Light of the Valinor, Asfaloth, and Elrond’s Council – he’s the all round strongest hero without a doubt imo.

    • Thanks for comments.

      I did not include Elronds’ council for a couple of reasons. The first is that it can also be used on Galadriel (one of the main comparisons) and also because its not as specific to Glorfindel as LOV and Asfalofth are (same reason I did not use Burning Brand for Loragorn).

      Also, I am not sure I would label it as an quto-include. It is a very strong card, but I just find that threat is not what it used to be – with modern quests you have to be combat ready pretty early so turtling is a less viable strategy. As such, as long as I do not threat out I really don’t mind the threat as much. EC is a powerful card, but with Glorfindel already lowering your threat by so much to start with i feel like I can save the 3 card slots for something else and just let the threat creep up and focus on something else, depending on my other heroes and the quest.

      He is certainly the most versatile hero as I said int he last point. For pure strength there are others (ie – Elrond, Loragorn, Gandalf, Dain) that are very comparable in the right builds.

  4. Tony F permalink

    Interesting discussion. I think you are spot on in your assessment that he used to be more powerful when he first came out and has been coming back to the pack in terms of power since then. I think his Noldor trait is also an advantage to him. As MasterBeta pointed out, it allows him to use Elrond’s Counsel from the get-go. It also gives him access to the Rivendell Blade, which is one of the stronger weapons in the game for its cost, and with LOV he will be ready to attack every round.

    My favorite “fix” for him would be to have his Forced effect trigger any time he commits to the quest, not just when he exhausts to commit. That means he gives you an advantage early, but you’ll probably want to stop questing with him later on (or have threat reduction to offset his penalty).

    One question I have been pondering of late is, in a universe where Spirit Glorfindel didn’t exist but everything else was the same, would Lore Glorfindel be playable? He’s still a good target for LOV and Asfaloth, and even is a sphere-match for Asfaloth. If you pair him up with Elrond, then his ability heals 2 damage for 1 resource, which is not too shabby. And yet, with all those advantages, I’m just not that excited about him as a hero. Is Lore Glorfindel just not good, or have I been spoiled by Spirit Glorfindel?

    • Thanks for feedback!

      See my comments above re: EC and fix for LOV – I don’t disagree at all but just see them slighly differently. The blade is awesome as well with LOV, although I find with more enemies being immune to effects I like weapons that increase attack more.

      I agree re: Lore Glorfindel. He is not a bad card at all with the same attachments, its just that the Spirit one is so much more splashable that he gets overshadowed.

    • In the playthrough my wife and i have been going through over the last 18 months, Lorefindel was core to my Lore/Tactics deck (with Denethor and Legolas) for our way through the Core Set and Shadows of Mirkwood. He’s a great Hero, especially if there are any readying effects around (which LoV obviously functionally provides). The point about Spirfindel being splashable is the key – A Test of Will only costs 1, so Spirfindel can fit into any deck as the minor sphere hero and provide access to vital effects like ToW.

      I suspect one problem of Spirfindel’s bloated presence through the first few cycles was to do with the likely intention of allowing low-threat, proto-Secrecy decks with him, backed by LoV x 3 – but because there’s no restriction on him only being in those decks, he was able to essentially enable an otherwise strong deck to start with 7 lower thread (and functionally saving 5-7 threat depending on when you drew LoV).

      His role as a Noldor is interesting. Does either version often show up in those decks? Before Noldor was at all important, I did play around with Elrond/Mirlonde/Glorfindel decks, of both Glorfindel versions – they were primarily thematic, but viable. Now, of course, the range of Noldor options is far wider – but Glorfindel doesn’t directly interact with the key Noldor mechanic (discard).

  5. mpk permalink

    In your analysis, you make no distinction between starting with low threat and being able to lower threat. There is a considerable advantage in starting with low threat compared to being able to maintain a low to medium level (ie. Galadriel) or drastically lower your threat when it becomes too high (Lore Aragorn). Most decks will greatly benefit from starting at low threat, but once they are well set up won’t mind threat increases – once you have a bunch of allies out and can handle any enemy the encounter deck throws at you, it really doesn’t matter that your threat is 38.

    This being the case, I think the comparison between Glorfindel (S) and Aragorn (L), Galadriel, Merry, and the two dwarves is not particularly useful as Glorfindel (S) has a different role than these heroes: giving some breathing space in the crucial first turns of a game.

    I think Glorfindel (S) should really be compared to two heroes. The Mirlonde comparison is right on, but you didn’t even compare him with Glorfindel (L), though the result of that is obvious.

    • Thanks for feedback. Have to take the good with the bad!

      I actually do go over that exact issue of starting threat vs lowering threat :

      “Now comes the real debate – how critical is early game threat? I would argue that it used to be immensely important in the days of Journey down the Anduin and the Hill Troll. However, the modern card pool will allow many defenders to shake off a Hill Troll first round, and hardly any playable deck will not be combat ready early on. So, that starting threat as a way to avoid engagements is becoming an obsolete concern. The other area where starting threat matters is the heroes you pair up – this is still valid today. Its difficult to pair a 12 cost hero with two powerful heroes compared to a 5 threat one. So, Glorfindel can fit into more decks with powerful heroes (a point we will get back to later on). On the whole though, early game threat is not as important a concept as it used to be.”

      I think starting threat was more important, but now a days as enemies can engage you out of turn you need to be ready to go early on and it is more important to have a good ready deck than it is to turtle as its harder to do so now. Yes, it is still important and yes it is nicer to have threat reduction early versus late, but its not as critical as it used to be. I do not play pure solo so perhaps it may be more important in that context.

      I would argue the comparisons to Loragorn, Merry and Galadriel are valid as these heroes all decrease threat. Galadirel and Merry can give you the same breathing room you speak of by dropping threat first turn. Loragorn is more late game, but the drop is so huge that you can make a comparison in terms of its value being on par with a lower starting threat.

      I agree comparison to Mirlonde is easiest to make, and the reason I did not include the other Glorfindel is that he is clearly much more niche and hardly gets the same play. If I did compare them, I would think the higher starting threat coupled with the resource heavy healing is not as powerful. I thought I would focus more on threat lowering heroes as hardly anyone plays the other Glorfindel. Valid point though, I could have included him although i am not sure it would change anything in terms of the scoring.

      A more valid comparison I left off is the new ally coming out that will limit his play more than the other hero version. However, as he is not out yet I left him off on purpose as we do not know his full play ability as yet.

      However, when looking at Glorfindel’s full power I think you need to consider cards like Galadirel and Loragorn before claiming that he is indeed broken.

      • mpk permalink

        Wow, I’m not sure how I missed that paragraph – good job! It is true that current quests have put less of an emphasis on starting at low threat (ie. starting with an engaged enemy, shadows that send enemies to the next player, out-of-turn engagement) but I still think that Glorfindel fulfills a fundamentally different role in decks than any of the heroes you compared him to except Mirlonde (who is, unfortunately, manifestly inferior).

        That said, your overall conclusion of “Slightly Overpowered” is something I can definitely agree with.

  6. Traekos77 permalink

    True cost of a card can be reasonably determined by adding 1 to the cost for each constraint.

    Asfaloth (1 progress version) = 4 cost (2 base + 1 unique + 1 racial)
    Asfaloth (2 progress version) = 5 cost (2 base + 1 unique + 1 racial + 1 Glorfindel only)

    The problem is that the racial restriction is irrelevant in the 2 progress version, so the extra progress is a no-strings-attached bonus! The fix would be to increase the base cost by 1 or add the restricted keyword (I prefer the latter).

    Light of Valinor = 3 cost (1 base + 1 unique + 1 racial)

    The problem is that beyond its cost, Light of Valinor gives Glorfindel a bonus by removing his only penalty! Again, the solution is to include a constraint of increased base cost or the restricted keyword (the latter being better).

    With both attachments now being restricted, it limits Glorfindel by making him an extra attacker rather than a super attacker. That is good enough from a balance perspective!

    • I like your restricted idea for Asfalofth. For LOV that might make it a bit too restrictive as you can’t then put any blades on him with both of those and other readying like fast hitch and wing foot are not restricted, but it’s a very good idea without changing the base cost. Thanks!

  7. I’m mostly in agreement, but I do take slight issue with your comparison of Light of Valinor to Fast Hitch – The stats on Glorfindel vastly outweigh the stats on most Hobbits (3 willpower plus 3 attack, versus 2 willpower for most Hobbits, plus one attack?), making LoV more valuable for one resource. Of course, then there is the unique dot on LoV, which makes it different (not in the direct comparison of Glory v. any given hobbit, but still). And, of course, LoV only gives you action advantage for questing, but Fast Hitch lets you, say, use Merry’s ability and then use him for a Hide test or some such.

    When I started writing this comment it seemed a lot more straight-forward. 😛 Anyways, good job with the article!

    • Haha I know what you mean brother. The versatility of fast hitch I think makes it similar to LOV despite the latter helping offset the negative effect on Glorfindel. Merry can quest for 2 and attack for a ton right back with it, or use him in a hide test etc as you said. Honestly these cards are so hard to compare straight up I am not even sure any of this makes sense.

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