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The Grey Havens: Heroes Review Part 1

by on March 16, 2016

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For the past few weeks, the wind has been blowing through my hair and I’ve tasted both fear and the tang of salt on the air. That’s right, The Grey Havens has hit our shores and rocked our boats, and the LOTR LCG community is waist-deep at this point in the newest deluxe expansion. Of course, a new deluxe means two new heroes have appeared on the horizon to add depth to the deck-building options players have available (yes, readers, my pun level is over 9000!). They both are of the Noldor persuasion, but do they truly make a splash? Or will they end up dead in the water? In this first installment, we’ll be looking at Cirdan the Shipwright, while part 2 will examine Galdor of the Havens. Onwards!

HERO

* Cirdan the Shipwright (Spirit Hero, 12 threat, 4 willpower, 2 attack, 2 defense, 4 hit points):

cirdan

Cirdan the Shipwright is an incredibly ancient Elf (that’s how you end up with a beard worthy of its own Instagram), and probably the most powerful person in Middle-earth during the War of the Ring that doesn’t actually show up at some point during the main narrative (coming in at the very end doesn’t count!), and so it makes sense that his hero version in the card game would be strong when it finally appeared. Clocking it at a hefty 12 threat, Cirdan provides a bit of card draw/card selection for Spirit:

Draw 1 additional card at the beginning of the resource phase.

Forced: After drawing cards at the beginning of the resource phase, choose and discard 1 of those cards.

So Cirdan doesn’t necessarily net you more cards than you would normally have at the start of a turn, but he does allow you to pick the best option out of two that you draw (note that if some other effect allows you to draw cards at the beginning of the resource phase, such as Erestor, then you can choose to discard any of the cards drawn during that point). You may be forced into a situation where you have to discard something useful, but most of the time, there will be a clear winner based on the game situation. This is important because while Cirdan doesn’t increase total cards in hand, he fulfills the primary purpose of card draw, which is to increase the odds of getting the cards you most need at a given moment as quickly as possible by digging further into your deck. Cirdan’s ability becomes even better when you consider the sphere it is in. Spirit may have a few more options for card draw these days, between Galadriel and Elven-light, yet having another one definitely improves deck-building and the sphere certainly isn’t flush with draw by any means. It appears that Noldor is all about bringing the card draw/card selection/card fetching to the Spirit sphere, which is a fitting mechanic for them.

Of course, speaking of the Noldor trait, Cirdan’s ability is useful for another reason beyond simple card draw/card selection. The Grey Havens box includes quite a few cards that either benefit from additional copies being in the discard pile, or receive a boost if a certain card type is on top of your discard pile. Being able to get cards, and specific cards, into your discard pile thus becomes important if you are running this style of Noldor deck. There also are a few Noldor-oriented cards that can be played from the discard pile, such as Elven-light and Lords of the Eldar, and these make great additions for a Cirdan deck, as when they are drawn at the beginning of your turn, you can easily choose them as the card to be discarded, knowing you’ll be able to play them later. In essence, Cirdan potentially allows you to make use of your discard pile as an extension of your deck and your hand, and if you deck build around this idea (using recursion cards like Dwarven Tomb, Stand and Fight, etc.), it can take you far.

All things considered, it’s pretty obvious that Cirdan’s ability is strong. What about his ability to contribute in terms of stats? His 4 willpower is huge, putting him on the same level as Eowyn, who long held the title of hero with the highest willpower (Galadriel has 4 as well, but it takes an attachment to function). This strength means that Cirdan can immediately provide a boost of questing to any deck in a similar fashion to Eowyn (although Eowyn still holds the questing edge because of her willpower boost ability). The major difference between Eowyn and Cirdan is that Cirdan’s stats are not one-dimensional, and he is a solid, if not spectacular force, in attack and defense. The real question which players will be asking revolves around whether these extra points in attack and defense is worth the higher starting threat. Experience has shown that many LOTR LCG players prefer specialized heroes (strong in one stat and weak in others) and their lower threat vs. those that have strong stats in many areas and their higher threat, mainly because the former can fit into more decks than the latter.

However, high threat/strong heroes like Elrond, Treebeard, and Gandalf certainly have found a role in the game and many decks and few would argue that they can’t make a huge impact. Does Cirdan fit into this category? With 2 defense and 4 hit points, Cirdan can certainly defend against some attacks, although this level of strength means he is best as a short-term option rather than as a long-term defensive plan. On the other hand, throw something like Protector of Lorien on him combined with the Noldor card draw/card discard approach to the game, and he could be your go-to defender. In terms of attack, 2 strength won’t rock anyone’s world, but it’s definitely enough to contribute. If you have access to Tactics, Elves are spoiled in terms of weapons. Put all this together and you have a hero that is a nearly unparalleled quester, but with the ability to actually help out in combat. What makes these stats even better is that Cirdan happens to be in the same sphere as Unexpected Courage and Light of Valinor, making it a simple matter to give him the extra actions he needs to make use of what would otherwise truly be “wasted stats”.

In reality though, while readying Cirdan for combat can be useful, perhaps the main reason you’ll want to ready him is so that he can use Narya. The full discussion of Narya itself will have to wait until the attachments review, however for now what I can say that this ring is extremely powerful and versatile. Not only can it provide some extra strength in combat, particularly for those decks that aren’t the strongest in terms of raw attack and defense stats, it can also help double up on  useful effects that require allies to exhaust. The broader point is that when you take into account Cirdan’s access to Narya, his threat cost of 12 is pretty reasonable for what you get, not just in terms of stats and ability, but also because he can wield a powerful attachment which only one other hero can use.

We’ve already established that Light of Valinor, Unexpected Courage, and Narya are great attachments for Cirdan and those should be the first three on  your add list. What are some other attachments and events that work particularly well with this hero? Silver Harp is another fantastic choice, as it allows you to potentially keep both cards you draw at the beginning of your turn, turning Cirdan’s ability into a net gain of cards. If you have access to Lore or Leadership, Cloak of Lorien and Dunedain Warning respectively are cheap options if you want to use Cirdan defensively, at least to some degree. Of course, Protector of Lorien is an additional option in this regard and fits in with the Noldor mechanic. Sticking with Lore, Expert Treasure-hunter works well with Cirdan since he’ll usually be questing and if you really want to go all in on the discard pile/deck thinning approach, and it can definitely help to draw cards at times as well. Of course, any of the Noldor attachments like Elven Spear or Steed of Imladris could be useful with Cirdan, but that’s true for all Noldor heroes.

In terms of events, Cirdan is going to be sending plenty of cards to the discard pile, so anything that can bring cards back from there is useful (i.e. Dwarven Tomb, Stand and Fight, etc.), as are cards that can actually be played from the discard pile (i.e. Elven-light, Lords of the Eldar, etc.). Fair and Perilous makes Cirdan an attacking monster with 6 attack. Tale of Tinuviel is great in a Cirdan deck as well, because he will often be standing and have an action available after questing due to Light of Valinor (or Unexpected Courage). Sometimes he will use that extra action for Narya, but Tale of Tinuviel is an alternative option if there are Dunedain around somewhere on the board, and his 4 willpower provides a big boost to a Dunedain character. Even if you just consider Northern Tracker, which you’ll often be running in a Spirit deck anyway, Tale of Tinuviel and Cirdan could ready a Tracker after questing and allow it to attack or defend for an impressive 6! Now that’s a story of true love. Finally, one of the easy aspects of Narya (and the rings in general) to overlook is the resource icon it grants. With access to the Leadership sphere, Cirdan can bring in the best cards from that sphere, such as Steward of Gondor, Sneak Attack, and A Very Good Tale.

Overall, Cirdan is a strong new hero that can make a noticeable impact on any game that you play. His 12 threat is high, and even higher in real terms when you consider that Spirit heroes usually have a low threat, yet it’s difficult to argue that you don’t get value for that cost. When you include Cirdan, you get one of the best questing heroes in the game, with solid stats to contribute in combat when needed. The real attraction though is the powerful card selection/card draw effect. Being able to essentially double the amount of cards you see (even if you have to discard some) dramatically improves the consistency of your deck. This effect is comparable to that provided by hero Bilbo. Hero Bilbo’s effect is objectively better (at least in solo) in that you get to keep both cards, but Cirdan has far better stats for only 3 points more of starting threat. It’s also important to consider the spheres of these heroes, as Bilbo exists in card draw-heavy Lore, which has plenty of other options, while Spirit is largely bereft of card draw. How does Cirdan compare to his Spirit Noldor counterpart, Galadriel? The two heroes fill such different roles that it’s almost impossible to make a true comparison, with Galadriel a true support hero, while Cirdan contributes in several different areas. The crux of the matter is that Cirdan will likely form the core of a deck given his high threat, but he is definitely not a “splash hero” that can fit into other decks when you just need a third hero for Spirit or card draw. Importantly, though, while he works best in Noldor decks, he isn’t limited to them by any means, and his abilities (and ring) are useful nearly anywhere. He is a high impact hero who steps right into the pantheon of the most powerful figures in Middle-earth and in the game.

Versatility: ♦♦♦◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

Possible Attachment Choices: Silver Harp, Protector of Lorien, Expert Treasure-hunter, Steed of Imladris, Narya, Light of Valinor, Unexpected Courage

Conclusion

The Noldor have certainly fleshed out a formidable stable of heroes between Arwen, Galadriel, Glorfindel, Elladan/Elrohir, Elrond, Erestor, and now Cirdan. Any combination of these heroes can be effective and they all operate a bit differently, making Noldor one of the most intriguing archetypes in the game. How does that other Noldor addition, Galdor, add to (or subtract from) this picture? Find out soon!

Readers, what are your thoughts on Cirdan? How would you rate him overall as a hero? What about in comparison to the other Noldor or high threat heroes?

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14 Comments
  1. Glowwyrm permalink

    Cirdan is excellent. His drawbacks (high threat, discarding the card you draw) are easily overcome with in sphere options (Silver Harp, threat reduction), and he has access to toys that are make him a multi-dimensional force (Narya and Light of Valinor, which you mention).

    I’ve only played him in dedicated Noldor decks, but I’ve only scratched the surface of possibilities. Caldara is a natural fit with him, because he let’s you put an ally (assuming you draw one) in the discard pile every round. Rohan (maybe Theoden, Theodred, Cirdan) could be good, because he solves one of your major deficiencies (card draw) and lets you get extra readies for Gamling, plus combat boosts for your weaker allies. Ents (with the ally readying), Mono-Spirit of any kind, and Leadership-Spirit Questing decks (his ring will help smooth out resources and he can ready Faramir for uber quest boosts) or Spirit-Lore decks (card draw!) ought to all be good fits for him. It’ll be fun to try him out in various decks and see where he works the best.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Agreed. I really like heroes that fit the mechanic of their particular trait but are also good in a whole variety of other decks. I can see experimenting with a ton of different Cirdan configurations in the near future.

  2. Really?!?!? A whole article on one hero when there are two in the box? I guess I can’t blame you. I spent 16 minutes doing a review on a custom attachment card: https://talesfromthecards.wordpress.com/2015/12/07/video-custom-card-review/

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Heh. I intended it to be one article, but decided it was better to get part of it out sooner than wait for whenever I would have time to review Galdor. That has proven to be wise as I’ve had little time to give poor Galdor his due yet!

      • Understandable. Looking forward to the rest of the reviews… hopefully before the 1st AP is released 😉

  3. Mike W permalink

    @Joe it does say Part 1… 🙂

  4. mndela permalink

    I haven’t still played him ^^. And i have seen all my friends with him in at least 1 game. But, when i finally will build a deck with Cirdan…. mmmm mmmmm mmmmmuahahaha

  5. I have played him with spirit Merry and Arwen, solo in Vayage across Belegaer, Cirdan tooled up with the Steward and Narya. Love the card draw combination with Elven Light.

  6. Gizlivadi permalink

    This hero is just so good. I am really enjoying my mono-Spirit deck with Arwen and Glorfindel. Silver Harp totally negates his drawback, and he combines excellently with Elven light. Just hive him Narya, get Treebeard or OHaUH into play and you have a great board state!

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