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The Grey Havens: Allies Review

by on April 4, 2016

6

Glowwyrm here with a look at the allies from The Grey Havens deluxe box.  Before we get to the cards and discuss their merits, I’m going to give you a disclaimer and then a few broad impressions.

Disclaimer: I’m all in on the Noldor.  This love for the new archetype has clouded my judgment when it comes to the allies I’m about to review, so keep that in mind.  If you opened up this box and felt very meh about the cards you saw, I completely understand where you’re coming from.  Outside of the heroes and a couple of attachments, there aren’t obvious power cards in The Greay Havens.  But if you love the Noldor, all of these allies can be put to good use in your deck.   But if you don’t love the Noldor, you are entitled to your feelings of meh, and can disregard my glass half full opinions.

Broad Impressions: Because these allies all have some features in common, I thought it would be helpful to highlight some things up front so I don’t have to type the same things over and over in the individual card reviews.

  1. They all have the Noldor trait, which gives them a couple of advantages. For one, you can use To the Sea! and pay one resource and card for them instead of two resources. Granted, you can only do this once a turn, but paying one and a card in a Noldor deck gives you a lot more bang for your buck.  Another advantage is that they can be boosted by Lords of the Eldar, which might not seem like a big deal, but is really nice because: you can run a strictly Noldor deck and get a boost for everyone; the Lindon Navigator will be acting twice a round and get a double benefit from the boost; and it’s really easy to draw all of your cards in a Noldor deck and just loop Lords of the Eldar over and over.  You might think they’re an army of elf weenies, but they look more formidable when they all get their stats boosted once (or even twice) a round.
  2. You’ll have to be careful about timing up when you play and discard cards. Three of the Noldor allies in this box have abilities that depend on which card is on top of your discard pile, and the fourth requires you to discard a card every round.  You’re not going to simply dump them on the table and reap maximum benefit.  As a contrast, Gondor and Dwarf decks need as many allies on the table as fast as possible, and it doesn’t matter too much which allies they are as long as you’re amassing a bunch of them.  Not so with the Noldor.  You’ll want to consider which allies you to play and which cards to discard so that their bonuses are triggering, and how many of each you really need on the table.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: always play Sailor of Lune, play one or two Lindon Navigators (two or more if it’s a sailing quest), and play the combat ones as needed (or if they’re the only allies you have left).  This guideline will vary depending on game situation and deck build, but I’ve found it to be effective in my Cirdan-Erestor-Arwen deck (I don’t play the Mithlond Sea-Watcher in that deck).

  1. There’s a strong synergy between all four of them. You probably won’t ever run more than three of these four allies in one deck, but if you run Sailor of Lune, Lindon Navigator, and a combat ally, there’s a really easy chain to set up.  In the quest phase, you play an event (or discard for some other effect) so that the Sailor of Lune gets his boost.  Then, after resolving the quest, you discard so that the Lindon Navigator stays around, and you should discard an attachment (for the Warden of the Havens) or an ally (for the Mithlond Sea-Watcher) so that you’re getting the most out of these allies every turn.  If you’re playing with all four for some reason, a card like Protector of Lorien (or chump blocking with an ally) would allow you to get boosts out of both the Warden of the Havens and the Mithlond Sea-Watcher.  It might sound like a lot of work, but getting the most out of your allies every turn is fairly smooth  and intuitive  in a Noldor deck.
  2. There just aren’t many Noldor allies. We’ll be getting at least one more in this cycle, but there aren’t a ton of allies to play in a Noldor deck.  For most of the Noldor allies in the card pool, they’re either doubling as heroes (Erestor, Arwen, Galdor, Elrond, Galadriel), or they just aren’t very good (Watcher of the Bruinen).  While we have some big splashy allies out there, these two cost, good but not great allies fill an important place in the card pool.  They might not be the first things that come to mind when building a Noldor deck, but they’ll end up making it into a lot of them (I think).

Whew!  That was a long introduction, but there’s a lot to say about the allies as a group.  Now let’s  consider them as individual cards.

 

ALLIES

Lindon Navigator (Lore Ally, 2 cost, 2 willpower, 1 attack, 1 defense, 2 hit points):

Lindon-Navigator

 

The Lindon Navigator is a two cost Lore ally.  She (I’m pretty sure) has the Noldor and Scout traits, with 2 willpower, 1 attack, 1 defense, 2 hit points, and the following text:

Lindon Navigator does not exhaust to commit to a quest, and can commit to quests while exhausted. 

Forced: After resolving a quest to which Lindon Navigator was committed, either discard it from play or discard 1 card from your hand.

Let’s start with the stats.  Two willpower for two resources is great, especially in Lore.  One attack isn’t useless (she doesn’t exhaust to quest, so if she’s ready, she can at least chip in a little bit), though the one defense is pretty useless.  Two hit points are helpful, especially with all the direct damage that comes off of the encounter deck nowadays.  Overall, it’s a very solid statline for two resources.  But what’s really interesting about her is her ability, which is both benefit and drawback.

Not exhausting to quest is a powerful ability that very few cards grant.  Questing while exhausted is a totally unique ability in the game.  There are several creative ways to put this ability to use and some really obvious ones too.  Lindon Navigator is the ultimate test taker.  She’s perfect for the sailing tests in the Grey Havens, as she can pull double duty sailing and questing.  She’s also a good hider in the Black Riders, and a good Gollum Wrangler in the Dead Marshes.  If there’s any quest that requires extra willpower for a test, or that requires exhausting a character for any reason, Lindon Navigator is good to bring along.

Lindon Navigator’s ability to stay ready while questing also opens up the possibility to play events that require exhaustion: Distant Stars and Expert Trackers (LN has the scout trait), Tale of Tinuviel (Noldor trait), and A Very Good Tale.  The first two events are good in a questing Noldor deck, and Tale of Tinuviel provides some nice action advantage if anyone is running a Dunedain hero.  Lindon Navigator can also use the Mariner’s Compass (something I have yet to do), and Spare Hood and Cloak (if you’re really desperate for flexible extra readying).  These aren’t the most powerful cards, but they’re useful and suggest some extra utility for Lindon Navigator if you’re running her anyway.

So she’s useful, but what about that drawback? Discarding a card per round can get costly.  For this reason, I rarely have more than one in play at a time.  Sometimes, like if you’re the first player and you need to perform a sailing test, I’ll play one knowing I’m going to sail test, quest, and then discard her after the quest phase.  That’s a worthwhile investment of two resources (or one if you use To the Sea!), but not one to make use of every turn.  Maintaining two Lindon Navigators at a time takes away too many cards, and three is right out.  But one is very handy to have, especially when you’re steering a ship.

Does she have any utility outside of a Noldor deck?  I think she has more potential for non-Noldor uses than any other ally in the pack.  Aside from being helpful in any test quest, she’ll be a great fit for mono-Lore.  Mono-Lore decks can draw loads of cards, but resources tend to be tight and willpower is still in short supply among Lore allies.   As someone who plays a decent amount of mono-Lore decks, I’ll be throwing her into most of those builds in the future.  Other than that, I probably won’t include her in many builds, but that’s still good use out of her.

Versatility: ♦♦♦◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦◊◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦♦ (because of the discard to maintain her)

Glowwyrm’s Rating: Interesting

Ian’s thoughts: Glowwyrm summed up most of my thoughts here. The Navigator is fantastic for sailing or any tests that require exhaustion, but the card discard cost is usually too burdensome outside of those quests, even with a Noldor deck. Although Noldor decks are built around card discard, you can easily drain your hand too quickly if you include too many such effects, and I’m not sure how high the Navigator falls on the priority list. On the other hand, she can help set up other Noldor allies and effects between the quest and combat phase, as Glowwyrm mentioned. Furthermore, the biggest realm of potential here is all the cool new effects we have that require exhausting a Scout character. I always want to include these cards but it’s hard to find a spare Scout character action lying around, and Lindon Navigator solves this problem handily. So while not a staple, and not an ally that will fit into a ton of decks, the Navigator does certainly bring something unique to the table. I’d give her a 2 for versatility, 2 for efficiency, and 5 for uniqueness.

Sailor of Lune (Spirit Ally, 2 cost, 1 willpower, 1 attack, 0 defense, 2 hit points):

Sailor-of-Lune

 

When I first saw the Sailor of Lune, I was pretty underwhelmed.  One willpower (with a conditional boost) for two cost?  Has this guy (I’m pretty sure) been at sea so long he lost touch with the Spirit sphere?  But boy was I wrong.  Despite my love for the Lindon Navigator, this guy is probably the best ally in the pack.  What makes him so good?  Let’s take a look.

Sailor of Lune is a Spirit ally that costs two.  He has one willpower, one attack, zero defense and two hitpoints.  He’s got the Noldor and Scout traits and his text reads:

While the top card of your discard pile is an event, Sailor of Lune gets +1 Willpower and gains: ‘Cannot be damaged while committed to the quest.’

On the surface, he’s very underwhelming: the normal Spirit ally is two cost and two willpower.  Anything less than that is bad.  However, most of those two cost two willpower allies have a major deficiency: they only have one hit point.  In some quests, this is no big deal.  In other quests, *Spoiler Alert* like the last stage of the Dread Realm which wiped out my questing army *end Spoiler Alert* this can be a huge problem.  All this direct damage that comes off the encounter deck (and my love of the Noldor) made me take a second look at the Sailor of Lune.  That extra hit point and the immunity to damage while committed to the quest sure are nice.  But are they worth the work you’ll have to do to activate his willpower bonus?

Yes, because it’s really easy, especially in a Noldor deck.  First, any event you play during the quest phase will trigger his willpower bonus, whether it’s A Test of Will or Elrond’s Counsel.  Second, and more importantly, you ought to be drawing and discarding Elven Light all game.  Whether you’re triggering Arwen’s resource boost, discarding to boost Eowyn’s willpower, or tossing for a Steed of Imladris or Protector of Lorien, you’ve got a lot of options for discarding during the quest phase.  It is really easy to trigger his bonus in the right deck.  Not only that, you can time up your discard so that he is immune to direct damage or he isn’t.  Let me unpack this a little idea a little bit.  Some direct damage is blanket: it goes on all questing characters or all exhausted characters.  In those cases you will want Sailor of Lune to be immune to direct damage.  However, sometimes direct damage during the quest phase comes from a treachery that forces you to assign damage among questing characters.  In this case, you will want to take advantage of his extra hit point, and then trigger his willpower bonus.  Depending on how you’re putting that event in the discard pile, this is very doable and I love this kind of flexibility.

Finally, Sailor of Lune opens up some opportunity for jankiness (I heard this idea on Cardboard of the Rings and I ran with it).  Because the Sailor of Lune cannot take damage while committed to the quest, he makes an excellent defender against enemies that attack during the staging step because he does not take damage.  You’ll have to ready him after he commits to the quest, but conveniently there is an attachment in this pack that allows you to ready allies.  So once he’s committed to the quest them readied he is an invulnerable defender.

There’s a lot of quests in which this ability is useful.  I’ll list several, but if you want a better idea of how often enemies attack during the quest phase, go to Hall of Beorn and type in “makes an immediate attack.”  Most of those cards will be enemies or treacheries that cause an attack during the staging step.  Some quests in which this ability is useful: Helm’s Deep (Warrior of Dunland), Journey in the Dark (if Fool of a Took makes the Balrog attack, but not for the attack that the Balrog makes at the end of the quest phase and the Uruk from Mordor), Deadman’s Dike, Treachery of Rhudaur, Battle of Carn Dum (Thaurdir), Into Ithilien (Haradrim Elite).  Simply quest with Sailor of Lune, ready him with Narya, and you’ve got a free and easy defense against this type of attack.

Does he have utility outside of a Noldor deck?  Probably.  Any deck that uses Eowyn and/or Arwen and Elven light would be worth including him in.  And an event will probably be the most common thing to have on top of your discard pile.  So he’s worth a look if you’re running Spirit.

Versatility: ♦♦♦◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦◊◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

Glowwyrm’s Rating: Interesting

Ian’s Thoughts: Like Glowwyrm, I was heartily underwhelmed by this ally at first. There are just so many good 2 cost, 2 willpower allies in Spirit that you better bring something new to the table if you want a shot at being included. What saves this ally is that crucial extra hit point. I have some powerful mono Spirit or Spirit-heavy builds that do quite well generally but can be completely sunk by a treachery that deals a damage to questing or exhausted characters, because most good Spirit allies only have 1 hit point. For this reason, I may consider Sailor of Lune for any Spirit deck that includes an easy card discard effect (i.e. Eowyn, Arwen, Protector of Lorien, etc.) to help set up the 2 willpower (and the immunity to damage). This ally will at least allow my quest happy Spirit decks to survive if other allies get destroyed. I’d give the Sailor a 3 for versatility, 3 for efficiency, and 4 for uniqueness.

Warden of the Havens (Leadership Ally, 2 cost, 0 willpower, 1 attack, 1 defense, 3 hit points):

 

Warden-of-the-Havens

Who’s excited to build the all warden deck?  We’re one step closer (four allies and a title) to that dream with the Warden of Havens!  He (I’m pretty sure) is not the best Warden in the game, that title will always belong to Warden of Healing (until they print an ally called Warden of Winning whose text reads “you win the game”), but he’s a good card that has a place in Noldor decks.  Not a fan of the wardens or convinced that he’s very good?  Let me try and persuade you.

Warden of the Havens is a two cost leadership ally.  He has zero willpower, one attack, one defense and three hitpoints.  He has the Noldor and the Warrior traits and his text reads:

While the top card of your discard pile is an attachment, Warden of the Havens gains +2 defense and gains Sentinel.

He’s not the best ally, but he fits a very specific and useful role in the Noldor archetype.  The Noldor don’t have a ton of defensive options.  Elrohir is one of the best defenders in the game, but you’re going to need to devote a bunch of deck space to setting him up, and he doesn’t exactly fit the crazy card draw archetype of the modern Noldor (or, at least I haven’t tried him in that archetype yet).  Besides, leadership has been an odd fit for the Noldor so far.  Protector of Lorien is a great defensive attachment for Noldor card draw, but I have often found that I want to use the cards in my hand for other purposes.  Warden of the Havens can help plug this defensive hole nicely.  Here’s how:

Run a deck with Cirdan and Narya.  You don’t need any other Leadership heroes because Cirdan gains the Leadership icon with his ring.  You can play Warden of the Havens for one with To the Sea, or discard a card to Arwen to gain a resource, so it’s easy to play him once you have Narya on Cirdan.  Then, you have a handful of defensive options with him.  For one, simply having Narya down on the table means that Warden of the Haven could defend twice for two defense each time.  While having two defense isn’t great, he’s got three hitpoints which makes him sturdier than the average ally.  Not bad in a defensive pinch.  Now, if you have enough attachments in your deck, you can make him a pretty solid defender.  Whether you’re discarding to keep a Lindon Navigator around, or you’re discarding for Protector of Lorien, you can get one of your extra copies of Narya or To the Sea into your discard pile before the combat phase to make him a solid three defense power with Sentinel (and four with Narya).  That’s pretty solid.  Yes, that’s a lot of setup.  Yes, that a pretty narrow case for using him.  And yes, he probably won’t be ready to go until mid to late game.  However: you’re probably including all these combo pieces in your Noldor deck anyway, you’re going to draw a ton of cards, and you really don’t need more than one Warden of the Havens out.  So he has a definite use.

Is he playable outside of this very narrow context?  I could maybe see it.  Perhaps you’re playing an attachment heavy leadership deck that can discard cards (via King Under the Mountain maybe), and you really love playing Cram then returning it to your hand through Second Breakfast.  He would be a great defensive option in such a deck, should such a deck exist.  However, I don’t think he’ll see much play outside of the most dedicated Noldor deck.

Versatility: ♦♦◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦◊◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦◊◊

Glowwyrm’s Rating: Intriguing

Ian’s Thoughts: In contrast to the Sailor of Lune, I was immediately excited by the Warden of the Havens but quickly cooled on him. My initial excitement was due to the fact that I love defensive allies to an unhealthy degree. My disappointment, if you can call it that, is because if there’s one area of the game where I want consistency and reliability, it’s defense. I want to be able to count on a defender at all times regardless of what gets thrown at me. I don’t want to have to set up a bonus through discard each time, and attachments are the hardest card type to get into the discard pile. I do like the low cost (especially in Leadership) and the Narya/Noldor boost possibilities, but I don’t want to think that hard about setting up an ally defender. I’d rather have the Warden of Helm’s Deep for an extra resource. I’d give the Warden a 2 for versatility, 2 for efficiency, and 3 for uniqueness.

Mithlond Sea-Watcher (Tactics Ally, 2 cost, 1 willpower, 1 attack, 0 defense, 2 hit points):

Mithlond-Sea-watcher

She (I’m pretty sure) is the only ally in this pack that I haven’t used in a deck yet, so this review is entirely hypothetical, but let’s go for it anyway.  The Sea-Watcher occupies an awkward spot in the card pool.  Tactics is the most underdeveloped sphere when it comes to the Noldor so she isn’t a natural fit in the archetype; there’s already a lot of really good, cheap allies in the Tactics sphere she’s competing with; and manipulating anything about your deck at all is pretty foreign to Tactics.  However, I don’t think she’s an automatic coaster, so let’s take a look.

Mithlond Sea-Watcher is a two cost tactics ally.  She has one willpower, one attack, zero defense and two hitpoints.  She has the Noldor and Warrior traits, and her text reads:

While the top card of your discard pile is an ally, Mithlond Sea-Watcher gets +2 attack and gains ranged.”

One willpower for two resources is really good in Tactics!  But that’s not why we’re playing her, so let’s consider her effectiveness as an attacker, and what kind of a deck you would put her in.  Three attack and ranged for two resources is excellent, while one attack and no ranged for two resources is terrible.  This ally, more than the other two in the pack, needs its bonus to be good.  But when the Mithlond Sea-Watcher has her bonus, she’s awesome!  You can load her out with a Rivendell Blade and Rivendell Bow and rain destruction across the table (the Rivendell Bow would grant her ranged even if the top card of the discard pile was not an ally).  You can exhaust her for Skyward Volley or Rain of Arrows, she counts as another ranged character for Rumil, and she can attack the staging area with Hands Upon the Bow.   So she belongs in a ranged deck, what other decks could she be useful in?

A Hama-Erestor deck is on my to build list, and the Mithlond Sea-Watcher would be a great fit in such a deck.  Hama allows you to retrieve Tactics events out of your discard pile at the cost of discarding a card from your hand.  When you’re discarding for Hama, just discard an ally from hand to trigger the Mithlond Sea-Watcher’s bonus (note the timing of this, because she could attack with Hama and gain the bonus during that attack, but she can’t do it before she attacks).  Another deck archetype she’d fit in with is an Eomer-Imrahil allies leave play deck.  Because allies are going to be flying out of play all the time, it should be easy to trigger the Sea-Watcher’s bonus.  Any deck that relies on chump blocking will be good for her, though those seem to be out of fashion at the moment.  And finally, if you’re going to run the Elven Spear or the Trollshaw Scout in a Noldor deck, they make it easy to set up the Mithlond Sea-Watcher’s bonus. So, there are decks out there that she has a place in.

So she’s solid, she has some decks she’ll fit in, and she’s not the worst ally in the pack (that’s gotta be the Warden), but I just don’t think I’ll end up using her very much.  Tactics already has so many good options when it comes to allies that I think she’ll have a hard time making the cut.  If you have used her (or plan on using her) I’d love to know.  But I think she’ll be safely tucked in my box for awhile.

Versatility: ♦♦♦◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦◊◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦◊◊

Glowwyrm’s Rating: Meh

Ian’s Thoughts: This ally has one of my favorite art pieces in the game. Beyond that aesthetic consideration, I fall somewhere in the middle in terms of my valuation. At full power, the Sea-Watcher is incredible, giving 3 attack and ranged for only 2 resources. The Noldor trait also has some of the best weapon support in Tactics. Finally, having 1 willpower for so cheap a cost in Tactics is remarkable, and it means that this ally can contribute to questing at least when there’s nothing else to do, which does happen sometimes as a Tactics/combat player. On the other hand, you won’t always be able to access the Sea-Watcher’s ability unless you have a chump blocking build or are making use of something like Elven Spear. Overall, I like this ally as a viable 2-cost Tactics option. I’d probably pick the Galadhon Archer if I had to choose between the two just for raw consistency, but taking both could work for some decks and there are decks where the Sea-Watcher is better. I’d give her a 3 for versatility, 3 for efficiency, and 3 for uniqueness.

Conclusion

So that’s it for the new Noldor allies.  They’re a little extra work, but can really pay that effort off.  Plus new game mechanics are tons of fun.  How about you, readers?  Do you like the new Noldor allies, are they a little too much hassle for you?  Have you use the Mithlond Sea-Watcher?  Let me know in the comments below!

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6 Comments
  1. Chris permalink

    I’m fully on board with the Sailor of Lune. Guaranteed survival of the quest phase is excellent. Necromancer’s reach and its ilk have always been a real thorn in the side.

    I’ve been using Mithlond Sea-Watcher in a chump block build, and I have to say that she’s fine. It’s really easy to keep her bonus up.

  2. GrandSpleen permalink

    I had no interest in the Warden of the Havens, but this made he consider him more. Basically a 4-def 3-HP ally who can defend twice if you’re running him with Cirdan/Narya… and you probably are. Interest piqued. Thanks for that!

  3. mpk permalink

    I have found both the Warden of the Havens and the Mithlond Sea Watcher to be quite good – I don’t think I have ever failed to trigger their bonuses when it was truly needed (though I have as of yet only played them in Noldor type decks).

    Mithlond Sea Watcher in particular is quite an excellent ally – 3 ranged attack is fantastic, even with the conditional aspect.

  4. anonim permalink

    I suggest to make a review of the ship objetives. I mean, in Sailing quests they make a difference in the game and you choose them so why not?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Interesting idea. I hadn’t considered that, but it might be fun!

  5. Medicated50 permalink

    I absolutely love the mithlond sea watcher, I use him with my Elrond/vilya/noldor deck, which is a beast. Typically I have a few duplicate uniques such as Gildor, Haldir, Treebeard etc., and use things like protector of Lorien, Erestors ability, or even the cost of playing the guardian of rivendell (discard 2 and pay 3) as a way of controlling my discard pile (sometimes I even discard a sailor of lune or two). Where the Sea watcher has really earned the MVP title is in multiplayer, where I have to do the heavy lifting, clearing out enemies engaged with my teammates has never been this much fun, and this is just straight up, haven’t even begun to play with attachments such as hands upon the bow, etc. yet. I will agree with you however this is only my opinion from a multiplayer perspective, solo play I may choose other options.

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