The Grey Havens: Heroes Review Part 2
In part 1 of the TftC review of The Grey Havens heroes, Cirdan received a fairly glowing review. It’s now time for Galdor to get the attention he deserves. With Cirdan having set the bar so high, will Galdor find himself unable to meet the same lofty standards? Or will he carve out a place of his own within the Noldor deck type specifically and the hero pool more generally? Read on to find out!
* Galdor of the Havens (Lore Hero, 9 threat, 2 willpower, 2 attack, 1 defense, 4 hit points):
While Cirdan the Shipwright is a big splashy hero with great power and a high starting threat, Galdor of the Havens fulfills a bit of a different role. Looking at his two abilities, he offers a very unique twist on card draw and card selection within the game:
Response: After drawing your setup hand, instead of taking a mulligan, you may discard any number of cards from your hand. Then, draw that many cards.
Action: If you have no cards in your hand, draw 6 cards. (Limit once per game.)
Let’s take a look at the first ability, which allows the player controlling Galdor to take what amounts to a selective mulligan instead of the regular mulligan. What this means in practice is keeping the cards you want to keep, while giving yourself a chance to replace those cards that won’t be as immediately useful. This option is useful because oftentimes you draw cards in your opening hand that are an important part of your setup, but you are also missing other key pieces. If you take a regular mulligan, then you risk losing the crucial cards that you already have drawn on the second try. On the other hand, there are times when you might be better off taking a regular mulligan, such as when you really need to draw one particular card to start the game (such as Light of Valinor for Glorfindel, to take one example). If you don’t draw that card in your first hand, then your odds of drawing it the second time are dramatically better if you draw a full new set of six cards, rather than only two, three, or four cards. On the other hand, your deck itself would be slightly thinner when you draw again using Galdor’s ability, so I’ll have to crunch the numbers to be sure:
- The probability of drawing the desired card in a regular mulligan hand is around 32%.
- The probability of drawing the desired card if you keep 3 and draw 3 with Galdor is around 18%.
- The probability of drawing the desired card if you keep 2 and draw 4 with Galdor is around 24%.
- The probability of drawing the desired card if you keep 1 and draw 5 with Galdor is around 31%.
Therefore, it does seem that drawing a whole new hand gives you a better shot of drawing one particular card, unless you ditch all of your original cards except one, which nearly evens the odds. With this in mind, it could be argued that Galdor is better for those decks that are looking for a variety of cards or several different cards in their opening hand rather than pinning their hopes on a single key card. The other side effect of this ability to consider is that it does allow Noldor decks to facilitate those cards that get more powerful based off of cards in the discard pile. In this respect, Galdor doesn’t play well with his box-mate, Cirdan, as Cirdan will foul up the top card of the discard pile after Galdor’s setup ability.
As for the second ability, Galdor provides unparalleled card draw (an amazing six cards), but must meet the condition of having no cards in hand. This ability can also only be used once per game. In a Noldor deck, it should be relatively easy to empty your hand given all the discard effects, and it would certainly be nice to have a chance to refresh your slate with a whole slew of cards sometime during the middle of a game. Decks that don’t run a ton of card draw and have a low enough cost curve and lack of duplicate uniques that they just end up playing everything could also make great use of Galdor. If you build your deck in the right way, it could be theoretically possible to use him as your only or one of your only sources of card draw, and rely on that midgame refresh to regain some momentum. Aside from Noldor, you could include a hero like Eowyn or a card like Protector of Lorien that helps you dump cards from hand so that you can use Galdor’s draw. On the other hand, Galdor is in a bit of a strange spot hailing from the Lore sphere, which has access to many cheap card draw effects, and is the sphere that would be least likely to have an empty hand during the course of a game. You would have to play strategically and avoid using other card draw effects in this case, using them only after you’ve triggered Galdor. Since this card draw ability is once per game, it did make me immediately consider Desperate Alliance. Ever since once per game abilities were clarified as being specific to each player in regards to Lore Aragorn, any such ability becomes a candidate for Desperate Alliance. If you stick Protector of Lorien on Galdor, you could give him to another player during the quest phase, they could use Protector to boost his willpower and help empty their hand, and then they could trigger his card draw for themselves.
So Galdor has two intriguing abilities both based on card draw and/or card selection. Taken as a package, they potentially allow you to both have a better setup and a kick in the backside during the midgame when a deck might start to stall. These are subtle effects that don’t make a big splash, but could potentially be the difference between defeat and victory. However, at other times, they might just prove to not make much of a difference at all. I also would say that Galdor is a high “skill cap” hero, meaning that players with experience and skill in playing the game will reap greater rewards, as there are several layers of decision-making and strategy in using both of his abilities.
In terms of stats, Galdor won’t set anyone’s world on fire. Most of the time he’ll probably be questing, with the potential to contribute to attack at times. The good news is that he only has a starting threat of 9, which is right in that sweet spot that allows a hero to fit into most decks. He’d be better with one more willpower and one fewer point of attack, since you’re highly unlikely to use readying effects on this guy, but Lore seems to be the sphere of balanced heroes. All in all, you include Galdor not for this stats and contribution to questing or combat, but for his abilities.
What attachments and events are useful with Galdor? Protector of Lorien, which has already been mentioned, is a natural fit. This attachment allows you to boost Galdor’s willpower to more respectable levels, while clearing out cards from your hand that aren’t useful so that you can eventually use the draw six ability. An opposite, but related strategy, would be to give him Elven Spear, so he could do the same thing but with attack instead of willpower. Steed of Imladris is another good choice for this strategy, allowing you to steadily whittle down your hand while gaining extra progress along the way. To the sea, to the sea! is potentially the best attachment for Galdor, however. With that attachment, which reduces the cost of the next Noldor played by the number of cards discarded from hand, you could discard all cards from hand, then use Galdor’s action to draw 6 cards, and then use the discount from discarding cards to play a Noldor that you just drew. This play would be a great strategy if you found yourself floundering with no Noldor allies in hand.
Moving onto the enchanted realm of Jank (i.e. enticing combos that can often be a bit dicier in reality than in theory), there is the possibility of using Message from Elrond to give that last card in hand to another player so that you could use Galdor’s ability. If they don’t end up using it or it stays in play, it will just end up shuffled back into your deck anyway, potentially to be drawn again. Any of the events in The Grey Havens box that get better with more copies in the discard pile also work well with Galdor, who can set them up using his first ability. In addition, anything that lets you retrieve cards from the discard pile is a good choice for a Galdor deck, so you can bring back those you discarded from your opening hand or those that are jettisoned later to make way for his second ability.
To wrap up, let’s discuss how well Galdor fits into Noldor decks, and what kind of others decks he is a good match for. We’ve already talked about the Noldor cards that work better if other copies are in the discard pile or if a certain card is on top of the discard pile, and how Galdor can set these effects up. His combo play with To the sea, to the Sea! is definitely one of my favorite Noldor combos. Therefore, if I express any reservations about Galdor in conjunction with Noldor, it’s in no way meant to say he can’t do an amazing job slotting into such decks. That being said, there are great choices for Noldor heroes now. Arwen, Cirdan, Erestor, Elrond, and good ol’ Glorfindel can all make compelling cases for being included, and all could arguably make a greater impact than Galdor. Certainly all of them have better stat distributions. On the other hand, there could be a convincing case made for Galdor’s abilities and the importance of a good setup and maintaining a good tempo. At the end of the day, other Noldor heroes will have a more consistent impact from turn to turn. Galdor is a bit different in that he will dramatically help at certain points in a game, and be more subdued the rest of the time (unless you really build around him). What you prefer will likely depend on your style of play.
As for other deck types, Galdor works well with any deck that wants to set up a few pieces in the early game rather than just a need-to-have one. For example, if I’m using Boromir and Glorfindel and I really want Gondorian Shield and Gondorian Fire and Light of Valinor, Galdor could potentially help by allowing me to keep the pieces I do get in my opening hand while potentially searching for the others with the redraw. Decks that have some way to discard cards and don’t want or need other card draw options could also make good use of Galdor. Also, one aspect of Galdor’s “special mulligan” that I haven’t discussed is the way that it helps you to achieve the right “mix” of cards rather than just trying to find certain cards. Sometimes you end up with some cards you want but don’t have any allies, for example, or are loaded up with combat cards but lacking willpower. Perhaps the strongest case for Galdor that can be made then is his ability to help you strike the right balance of cards and effects through filtering in a way that no other effect can, as well as the possibility of gaining a much needed push in the middle of a game.
Possible Attachment Choices: Protector of Lorien, Elven Spear, To the sea, to the sea!, Steed of Imladris
The Noldor heroes of the Havens have arrived on the scene, both bringing abilities centered around manipulating what’s in your hand and in your discard pile. All in all, the Noldor trait seems to be in a great place when it comes to heroes, with no real duds and plenty of interesting combinations. Galdor adds something unique and different to this mix, and that’s all you can really ask of a hero.
Readers, what are your thoughts on Galdor? How would you rate him overall as a hero? What about in comparison to the other Noldor heroes?