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The Grey Havens: Attachments Review

by on April 28, 2016

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It’s time to stay the course and continue the review of the Grey Havens deluxe expansion player cards. The allies of The Grey Havens are primarily meant as support for the Noldor trait (although some have applications outside of that deck type). Moving onto attachments, this is generally the most powerful, pound-for-pound card type (excluding heroes, of course), so do our newest toys similarly only give love to those highfalutin Elves? Or can they help out any poor soul who needs some extra pep in their step? Read on to find out!

ATTACHMENTS

* To the Sea, to the Sea! (Spirit Attachment, 1 cost):

To-the-Sea-to-the-Sea

The most popular trend of late when it comes to supporting traits is to release a cost reducing attachment (or other card) that plays off of whatever the central mechanic of that trait happens to be. For example, O Lorien! and Spirit Theoden both grant a cost reduction of one to the next Silvan or Rohan ally played. This doesn’t necessarily key in on those trait’s mechanics, but these did introduce the idea of trait-specific reducers. Then, Heir of Valandil reduced the cost of the next Dunedain ally by the number of enemies engaged, which very clearly does play to the Dunedain way of doing things. Now we have To the Sea, to the Sea!, which reduces the cost of the next Noldor ally by the number of cards discarded from hand:

Attach to a Noldor character.

Action: Exhaust To the Sea, to the Sea! and discard X cards from your hand to reduce the cost of the next Noldor ally played this phase by X (to a minimum of 1).

Since the Noldor deck’s specialty is drawing and discarding cards from hand, this form of cost reduction is a perfect fit. To start off, I’ll make things simple by saying that if you are playing a Noldor deck that uses Spirit, you need to include three copies of To the Sea, to the Sea! (maybe two if you have a ton of card draw). If you are not playing a Noldor deck, then you probably won’t include this one. As far as comparisons to the other reducers are concerned, To the Sea, to the Sea! is clearly better than O Lorien!, as it’s easy to get a reduction of two, three, or even four on a character. Discarding four cards to drop Gildor Inglorion for one, for example, is not just possible, but quite doable. To the Sea, to the Sea! is also better than Heir of Valandil for my money, as that attachment costs two and in a head-to-head matchup of a finely tuned Noldor and Dunedain deck, I’d argue that it’s still a simpler and faster process to discard cards from hand than to get multiple enemies engaged with you. One important note about any cost reducer though is whether or not it sets a hard minimum of one. O Lorien! and To the Sea, to the Sea! both have this minimum (it must be the exclamation points), while Heir of Valandil and Theoden do not.

Since the value of this attachment to Noldor decks should be undeniable and pretty clear, I’ll spend time now to discuss any additional benefits or side effects it might have. First, To the Sea, to the Sea! is an easy way to discard cards and lots of them. While this might not seem like something you would want to do it most cases, it does have plenty of applications for a Noldor deck. Discarding cards for To the Sea, to the Sea! is one way to get cards that can be played from your discard pile into your discard pile, such as Elven-light and Lords of the Eldar. This could also help non-Noldor tricks like giving Caldara allies to resurrect or providing off-sphere fodder for Stand and Fight to bring back to life. As mentioned in my review of Galdor of the Havens (the hero version), To the Sea, to the Sea! is also a way to clear out your hand so that you can use Galdor’s action to draw six cards (essentially resetting your hand in the middle of a game). In addition, you could even use Desperate Alliance to give Galdor with To the Sea, to the Sea! attached to let them do the same thing.

Second, To the Sea, to the Sea!, because of the way it’s worded, is also a way to help other players play Noldor allies, if they happen to have them. Since the reduction applies to the next Noldor ally played, regardless of player, you could actually discard cards from your hand to give the discount to another player. Third, this attachment lets you pare down your hand if you are facing a scenario that hates on hand size. While this has so far been limited to the Ring-maker cycle, To the Sea, to the Sea! would be fantastic for those quests, as it is one of the fastest ways to dump cards from your hand, and if we ever see scenarios with a similar mechanic in the future, this is something to keep in mind. Finally, this attachment can affect deck building considerations somewhat as it allows you to include the full three copies of certain unique cards for the sake of consistency with the knowledge that duplicate copies will still have use as fodder for this card.

Versatility: ♦◊◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

* Narya (Neutral Attachment, 2 cost):

Narya (2)

Since we’ve had Vilya and Nenya for a bit of time, it seemed only a matter of waiting until Narya finally made its appearance. Known as the “ring of fire”, designed to inspire and inflame the hearts of others, it makes perfect sense that this card both readies and gives a stat boost to allies:

Attach to Círdan the Shipwright or Gandalf.

Attached character gains a Leadership resource icon.

Action: Exhaust Narya and attached character to choose and ready up to 2 allies. Each of those allies gets +1 and +1 until the end of the phase.

This is the kind of marquee effect and attachment that can really define a box and give players a reason to buy it even if they are just looking at player cards. Like the other rings, it is limited in scope to only certain named heroes, although in this case there are two who can wield it. This inclusion of both Cirdan and Gandalf is a nice though because of course both of these characters possessed Narya, with Cirdan very wisely handing it off to Gandalf upon the latter’s arrival in Middle-earth (he liked it so much, he put a ring on it).

So with Vilya being insanely powerful and Nenya giving Galadriel a way to lend her considerable willpower to questing, just how well does Narya fare in comparison? The short answer is that it holds up quite well indeed. Readying of allies has generally been in short supply compared to readying for heroes, although we have recently gotten a bit more support in this regard (i.e. Leadership hero Faramir, Boomed and Trumpeted, etc.). Being able to ready two allies at once is a huge deal and really sells the effect compared to if it had just readied one ally. The stat boosts really sweeten the pot, since you are essentially getting two additional points of attack and defense to spend as you need it.

There is a real cost to this effect, though, and I’m not just talking about the resource cost of two, which is significant but relatively easy to satisfy given that this attachment is neutral. The real cost is using up the action of a hero, and both of the target heroes for this attachment, Cirdan and Gandalf, have great stats. What this means in practice is that the value you get from readying those two allies better be higher than the value you get from keeping the attached hero standing if you want the whole affair to be worth the effort. For this reason, I actually prefer Cirdan as the holder over Gandalf. He is primarily a quester, even though his attack and defense is decent, so you can give him Light of Valinor to let him quest, and then use up his other action for Narya. In many cases, the allies you ready will give you better offensive and/or defensive options than Cirdan would have on his own. For example, readying a single ally with even a measly attack of one would give you the same attack strength as Cirdan would have (thanks to the stat boost), and then you have a second ally for attack or defense as well. Gandalf is also a viable option too, as he has Shadowfax available to help provide an extra action to use Narya, it’s just that his combat stats are higher so you are giving up more to use the ring’s ability.

When it comes to actual applications, Narya has such a wide-ranging effect and can be used in so many ways that I can’t possibly cover them all or even scratch the surface here. However, in broad strokes, these applications can be divided into the shenanigans and non-shenanigans categories. In the non-shenanigans camp, you have any use of Narya to get extra uses out of allies for the conventional purposes of questing and combat. As is true of any action advantage, the better the stats of a character you are readying, the more value you get out of the effect. For that reason, Ents have been some of my favorite targets for Narya. Not only does the ring let you ready Ents on the turn they enter play to help compensate for the normal drawback of entering play exhausted, Ents have such fantastic starting stats that on subsequent turns Narya really lets you get the most out of what they provide. For example, a Wellinghall Preserver can quest for three and then attack or defend for three. Quickbeam can quest for two and then attack for four. The Derndingle Warrior can defend for six with the stat boost and its own ability (to see more Ent/Narya goodness, here’s my current deck based on this theme).

The same reasoning applies not just to Ents but any allies with strong stats. Ally Saruman and Gandalf (either version) both become amazing with Narya, as you can get double value out of their hero-like stats (if you add in hero Galadriel’s ability to allow an ally to quest without exhausting during the round they enter play, you can even get triple use). With all that said, Narya can also be useful with a couple of weaklings sitting around too. As mentioned earlier, even an ally with just one attack turns into a decent two attack body, and an ally with only one or two defense can become a credible defender as well. Overall, it is this wide-ranging flexibility that makes Narya so powerful. Essentially you are trading the action of one character, a hero, for the action of two characters. Even leaving aside whether you are getting more total stats out of the equation, sometimes two actions regardless of stats is better than one. More bodies means being able to potentially defend against more enemy attacks or being able to split up attack strength among enemies.

The other broad range of uses for Narya falls into the shenanigans classification. This grouping covers any use of Narya to ready allies so that they can use actions that require them to exhaust. For example, you could exhaust Faramir to boost willpower, ready him with Narya, and then do it again. The same logic could apply to Warden of Healing, Gleowine, Master of the Forge, and any number of other allies with “exhaust to do X” abilities. In this way, you can use Narya to ramp up card draw or healing or willpower or damage cancellation or some other effect, as needed by a particular deck. I haven’t explored this use of Narya as much as the more conventional use of gaining action advantage for questing or combat, but it is certainly ripe for exploitation. This use is also a way of making events that require exhausting a character, such as Expert Trackers, more palatable. In many cases, I end up leaving out such events because it’s difficult to sacrifice the action of a character, even if it’s an ally, but Narya solves this problem. Again, there are more uses than I can hope to cover here, but I love the idea of readying up some allies to help throw rocks using Hail of Stones or even getting multiple use out of a Master of Lore (*gasp* could that ally actually make it into a deck now?).

When all is said and done, Narya is a fantastic and powerful attachment. I will stop short of saying it fits into every deck that includes Gandalf or Cirdan, because just as Vilya doesn’t go into every Elrond deck and Nenya doesn’t go into every Galadriel deck, sometimes that choice really depends on what you want a specific deck to do. Yet there is no question that Narya can make a huge difference when it is included. One aspect that I’ve barely touched on and that is easy to forget is that Narya does grant a Leadership icon to the wearer. This is quite useful as it can allow the normally Neutral Gandalf to actually have a sphere and gives Cirdan access to Warden of the Havens. Leadership in general is a useful sphere to splash for Steward of Gondor alone, not to mention Sneak Attack. If I had to choose an order of power for the rings with a gun to my head, I’d probably have to say Vilya first (most powerful), then Narya, and then Nenya.

Versatility: ♦♦◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦♦

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

* Grappling Hook (Tactics Attachment, 1 cost):

Grappling-Hook

While other spheres have continually encroached on combat, the Tactics sphere has long lacked a meaningful way to contribute to questing, outside of niche effects like Trained for War or Tactics Theoden. Grappling Hook has arrived to provide at least a semblance of a solution:

Attach to a character.

Quest Action: Discard Grappling Hook and exhaust attached character to commit attached character to the quest, using its instead of its (or instead of its if the current quest has the siege keyword).

This effect essentially allows a single character to quest as if the current stage has the battle keyword, converting attack power to willpower. Unlike the battle keyword itself, the nice aspect to this card is that it allows everyone else to quest conventionally, while letting that single character contribute using what they do best. It even allows a high attack character to help with siege stages as well. One of the best parts of the design of Grappling Hook is that it is a quest action, which means you can wait until after staging to see whether the extra help is even necessary. This solves a potential problem of the card, which is that generally if you have a high attack character, you want to save them for combat rather than questing. However, with the way the card works, you can keep the character up, and then use the Grappling Hook if you really need the extra questing power to clear a location or quest stage.

There is one major drawback to Grappling Hook and that is that it is a one-time effect, requiring you to discard it. This is a necessary balancing element, otherwise it would be way too powerful if it was repeatable (unless it had some extreme resource cost). However, what this limitation does bring up is the question of deck space and whether you can make room for an effect like this in Tactics. In many cases, building a deck centers around a balancing act of compensating for weaknesses in your deck and focusing on your strengths. This balance also hinges on whether you are playing solo or multiplayer, as generally for solo games you definitely have to put more attention into shoring up any gaps. All of this is to say that in a Tactics deck, often the whole point of including Tactics is to use the deck slots for that sphere to address combat needs. Suddenly including a card to help for questing may seem to go against that intention, and so I can easily see Grappling Hook as a card that gets cut in the end because it is one of those “nice to have” cards that doesn’t necessarily help a deck do what it wants to do.

That being said, while I don’t think this card is a staple, it certainly has uses and can find a place in certain decks. One of the hidden advantages of questing with attack strength is that it is generally much easier to boost attack than it is to boost willpower. Weapons and card effects like Gondorian Fire, Gimli, Booming Ent, or Eomer allow you to compile some crazy attack numbers, and if you could lend that strength to questing, Grappling Hook could easily provide a means of blasting past a quest stage or even winning a game outright. So in the end, Grappling Hook strikes me as the kind of card that gives you a meaningful option for making up quest deficits or closing out a game. Its sweet spot is probably multiplayer, as judging the correct amount of willpower in three and four player games is generally more difficult because of the number of encounter cards revealed. Grappling Hook lets a more combat focused player still focus on combat while having an option there to help with questing if it’s needed.

Versatility: ♦♦♦◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

* Mariner’s Compass (Leadership Attachment, 1 cost):

Mariner's-Compass

Mariner’s Compass is a brand new form of location management, which is largely a new area for Leadership to explore. Rather than simply putting progress on a location, this card essentially allows you to “mulligan” a location in the staging area:

Attach to a Leadership or a Scout character.

Response: At the beginning of the travel phase, exhaust Mariner’s Compass and attached character to search the top 5 cards of the encounter deck for a location. Switch that location with a location in the staging area. Shuffle the encounter deck.

This effect definitely seems odd at first glance. In general, where locations are concerned, you just want to get them out of the way instead of having to fiddle around with any switching business. However, this is a case of getting location management in a sphere it usually doesn’t appear in, so there’s bound to be a bit of strangeness involved. More importantly, there are a couple of reasons why you might want to switch out a location in the staging area for something else:

a) There is a location in the staging area with high threat or a nasty effect that you can’t travel to for some reason but need to get out of the way. This could be a case where locations are piling up in the staging area and you aren’t able to travel to them quickly enough (or at all), also known as the dreaded “location lock”. Mariner’s Compass could provide a means of getting rid of a three or four threat location, for example, and replacing it with a one or two threat location. This might not seem like much of a difference, but since Mariner’s Compass is repeatable, it does add up in the end. There are also cases where a location has a terrible travel effect that you don’t want to pay (or can’t pay), but it also really hurts you while it is in the staging area. Some locations have “while this location is in the staging area, do X” effects where X is something bad (i.e. stick a hot poker in your eye, dance barefoot on a sea of Legos, listen to a Justin Beiber and Nickelback mashup, etc.), for example. Mariner’s Compass can get rid of these locations without having to travel to them. Thror’s Map does something similar by allowing you to travel to a location without paying the cost, which can be better in some cases, but the advantage of the Compass is that it avoids the location entirely, which can be a nice choice if the location requires a ton of progress to clear.

b) There is a location that you actually want to get into play for some reason. It could be that you are playing a Rossiel deck and really want to find a location with a certain trait so that you can get the willpower boost for the trait match. It may be that the quest happens to have a certain location with an actually helpful effect that you want to find. Perhaps you like to live dangerous and are using cards that key off of specific location traits, like Ever My Heart Rises or Cloak of Lorien. Admittedly, all of these uses will be far less frequent than those described in the a) section, but they are worth mentioning.

It should be noted that there is an additional cost to using Mariner’s Compass, which is that the attached character has to be exhausted. The fact that the Compass can be placed on an ally instead of a hero mitigates that cost, however, as you could throw it on a cheap Snowbourn Scout, for example, and easily use the ability without worrying about giving up a valuable action.

The real question, which becomes more and more pressing as the card pool continues to grow, is whether the potential impact of this effect warrants a spot or two in a deck. It’s safe to say that the Compass does not fall into the realm of “power cards” or staples. I would also argue that it probably won’t go into many solo decks, as managing locations just isn’t as much of a concern in one or even two player games (with the exception of an odd quest here or there). Nightmare scenarios might warrant use of the Mariner’s Compass, even in solo, as Nightmare locations tend to be far more deadly and annoying than regular locations, although in that case I would say that Thror’s Key is still probably a better choice if you have access to Spirit. The real place where the Compass will find its home is in three and four player games. This should come as no surprise as really it seems to be specifically designed as the solution to a multiplayer problem. After all, the Grey Havens box has placed a heavier focus on location management than probably any other expansion, which was a welcome and needed change given how problematic and frustrating location lock can be in multiplayer.

Within that context, the Mariner’s Compass is worth probably one or two slots in a multiplayer deck. It’s probably a safe argument that location management effects that actually allow you to place progress still give you better value for money, as it’s generally better to completely eliminate a location (a net decrease in locations) than to switch one for another. However, this isn’t always the case and Mariner’s Compass is tailor made for the exceptions, for those tricky locations that don’t play by the rules. For example, there are locations in certain scenarios that prevent you from placing progress on locations in the staging area (or punish you for doing so). This is effect is highly annoying and can block the rest of your location management effects, rendering them useless for a chunk of a game. With the Compass, you can switch that location out of play, freeing up the rest of your location management cards to do their job. There are also locations that just hamper your efforts in one way or another (preventing healing, dealing damage, preventing cancellation, etc.), and the Compass provides a faster way of getting them out of the picture than having to travel to them or even then placing progress on them through other effects if they have high quest points. The Mariner’s Compass then is a location manager in the truest sense of the word, and shouldn’t be thought of as a replacement for progress placing effects, but a potential supplement.

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

* Explorer’s Almanac (Lore Attachment, 0 cost):

Explorer's-Almanac

At the risk of repeating much of what I said in the Mariner’s Compass entry, let me just say that Explorer’s Almanac is yet another way the designers have chosen to address location lock, particularly in multiplayer, in this expansion. The Explorer’s Almanac lets you explore a location in the staging area as you would normally explore the active location:

Attach to a location in the staging area.

Progress from questing successfully may be placed on the attached location before it is placed on the current quest.

What this basically allows is for players to get rid of a location in the staging area without having to travel to it first, which may be useful for all the reasons listed under Mariner’s Compass. The main use of the Almanac is to help alleviate locations that have piled up in the staging area in a three or four player game. Normally, the bottleneck of only being able to travel to one location per turn is what can lead to location lock and honestly destroy the fun in a multiplayer game. The Explorer’s Almanac is a nice solution and better than having to actually change the rules of the game.

There are some downsides to the Explorer’s Almanac. For one, it does soak up some of the progress from questing, which, when combined with whatever progress you need to place on the active location, will slow your overall pace. How meaningful this delay is really depends on the quest you are playing, and when you compare this cost against potentially getting completely locked, this attachment still seems like a good deal. However, the related drawback is the fact that you have to be able to overcome the threat in the staging area in the first place to make progress that you can put on the Almanac location. If you are already suffering from a pileup of locations, you might not be able to pull this off and therefore the Almanac as a solution to location lock might be scuppered by location lock itself! This just means that you need to be able to draw and play the Explorer’s Almanac before the situation is too dire.

Overall, the Explorer’s Almanac is a solid option for dealing with locations in multiplayer. You probably won’t include it often in solo decks as the need to clear locations isn’t as urgent. In multiplayer, effects that places progress directly (i.e. Asfaloth, Northern Tracker) might still be necessary, but the Almanac provides a needed additional option to help get locations out of the staging area more quickly, and you can’t really argue with zero cost.

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

Conclusion

The attachments of The Grey Havens have been made to walk the plank yet all of them have safely returned to the safety of the deck. There’s not a coaster here, although some are certainly more powerful than others. To the Sea, to the Sea! and Narya are definitely the strongest attachments here and can really help to define a deck. Grappling Hook is more of a utility card, but was certainly a missing piece that Tactics needed. Finally, the Mariner’s Compass and Explorer’s Alamanac give multiplayer decks some additional tools to deal with locations. All in all, a solid assortment of attachments with some real gems to be found.

Readers, what are your thoughts on the attachments in this pack? What are the best uses/stories you have found thus far? I’m particularly interested in fun Narya uses you can imagine!

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8 Comments
  1. Silver Swan permalink

    Couldn’t you attach Narya to OHaUH Gandalf and use it to ready himself (and another ally)? When I first saw it, I thought “Here’s another way to make him your ‘fourth hero’ “.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      You definitely could although you’d ultimately be getting one fewer ready.

  2. One thing to note, Explorer’s Almanac says “may”, so it appears you can choose not to let excess progress go there if you don’t want it to (like if you’re doing a sidequest that needs to go now!).

    Mariner’s Compass seems like a good candidate for locations with time counters. If one is about to run out and you know you can’t explore it in time, swap it out. Give you some breathing room. 🙂

    Can Mariner’s Compass avoid when revealed effects on locations? My guess is yes, since it swaps the locations, not reveal the new one. Effectively put into play.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yeah, the “may” on the Almanac is a really nice touch, as it gives you some flexibility. The Compass should definitely avoid “when revealed” effects thanks to the “switch” wording. That makes it way better than it would be otherwise.

  3. Not bad, just a bit of a shame that two of them are so tuned to multiplayer rather than solo.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yeah, because of the focus on location management in this expansion, some of the cards do tend more towards the multiplayer side of the game. It was needed, but might be disappointing for solo players.

  4. DC06675 permalink

    A question on Narya, can you use it on other player’s allies? It doesn’t say “to choose and ready 2 allies you control,” it just says “to choose and ready 2 allies.” Most of the time I am playing two-handed and so Narya would be good (if you can readying other player’s allies) to ready two of my allies in the other hand, or 1 and 1, or something of the sort. What do you think?

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Sounds legit to me, which definitely makes Narya really flexible in multiplayer.

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