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Flight of the Stormcaller: Hero and Allies Review

by on June 24, 2016

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Flight of the Stormcaller is a fantastic Adventure Pack. The quest itself re-introduces the sailing mechanics from The Grey Havens, but dramatically increases the stakes this time. Instead of simply having to worry about navigating your own ship, this time you have to also focus on catching up with your adversary, the dreaded Captain Sahir, and his fearsome first mate, Na’asiyah. It’s not too dramatic to say that this scenario is already one of my all-time favorites. The player cards in this pack also make an impressive splash to kick off this cycle, providing support for the Gondor and Noldor traits, among others. In order to catch up a bit to the released content, I’ll be combining the hero and ally reviews here.

HERO

Denethor (Leadership Hero, 8 threat, 1 willpower, 1 attack, 3 defense, 3 hit points):

Denethor

The Gondor trait has long had a solid home in the Leadership sphere specifically, with Boromir serving the role of global booster for the trait and many allies and cards facilitating the archetype. It thus seems fitting that a new version of Denethor would call this sphere home then. He arrives with a major focus on both resource generation and resource manipulation:

Setup: Add 2 resources to Denethor’s resource pool.

Action: Move 1 resource from Denethor’s resource pool to another Gondor hero’s resource pool. (Limit once per round.)

The first ability is so good that it’s close to what you get when you play easy mode (reminder: in easy mode, each hero gets to start with 1 additional resource). At first glance, it might seem that getting 2 extra resources once isn’t a huge deal, but it’s when you get these resources that makes all the difference. Half of the battle in The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is establishing an effective setup in the first few rounds, and Denethor’s boost goes a long way towards making sure this happens. Just to give a few examples, you could use the initial 3 resources just on Denethor to fund a first turn Steward of Gondor, sorting out your resource needs for the rest of the game, or a first turn Sword that was Broken on Aragorn, setting you up to quest effectively. Obviously, the possibilities are nearly endless, and that is the best testament to just how strong this ability is in practice.

As for the second ability, resource transfer has gradually become recognized among the community as a crucial tool to have. There is a reason why the Errand-rider is such an important ally, particularly in multiplayer or when using a tri-sphere deck. If you can’t just outright generate resources, then getting the resources to the sphere where they can be most useful at a given moment is just as important. The major restriction here is that Denethor can only move a resource to a hero that has the Gondor trait. It should be said that the Gondor trait can be easily granted with Steward of Gondor or the new In Service of the Steward card. Still, this restriction is meaningful and makes it so that you can’t just fling resources around as much as you might want. Despite that limitation, this second ability helps push Denethor up a notch further.

In terms of a body, Denethor is a strong defender, just like his Lore counterpart, although lacking the natural access to A Burning Brand. If you have access to Tactics, then Gondorian Shield makes him able to hold his own in the modern game, with all those high attack enemies floating about. When all is said and done, Denethor is, without reservation, a top tier hero if for no other reason than his ability to ensure that you get going quickly out of the gate. He also is an amazing “splash” option, providing access to Leadership for a low threat cost while giving you a surplus of resources for that sphere right away.

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦♦

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

ALLIES

Azain Silverbeard (Tactics Ally, 3 cost, 0 willpower, 3 attack, 2 defense, 2 hit points):

Azain-Silverbeard

The flow of Dwarf cards and Dwarf allies has slowed to a trickle these days (justifiably so), yet we still manage to get one or two a cycle. Azain Silverbeard arrives on the stage as a unique character with a direct damage ability:

Response: After Azain Silverbeard participates in an attack that destroys an enemy, spend 1 Tactics resource to deal 2 damage to another enemy that shares a Trait with the destroyed enemy. Any player may trigger this response.

Many players will immediately recognize this ability as being very similar to Mighty Prowess. The main difference here is that Azain can deal 2 damage to another enemy with the same trait, instead of just 1, but you have to pay an additional 1 Tactics resource each time you want to use it. That can be a bit of a resource drain, but you don’t necessarily need to use it every round, only when it’s really needed/helpful, and an in-sphere resource engine like Mablung can assist in this regard. You can also put Mighty Prowess on one of your heroes and combine the damage from both to put a total of 3 damage on one enemy, which is definitely substantial. As a body, Azain provides decent value for money, with a hero-level 3 attack and a decent defense and hit points of 2. You’ll probably always use him for attack, though, as the low number of hit points renders him pretty vulnerable as a defender.

Azain certainly won’t be a staple at 3 cost and with an ability that is more gravy than crucial to your gameplan. Still, he can be a consistent contributor in a direct damage deck and is particularly valuable in multiplayer, since his ability can be applied to any enemy on the board, allowing him to help weaken or finish off those foes that are engaged with other players. Obviously, in a Dwarf deck with Dain, he’s an even better deal with 4 attack, though those decks don’t need much help in terms of attack. It is easy to forget just how well-supported the Dwarf trait is, aside from Dain, since Dwarf decks have largely fallen out of popularity. However, you can attach the Dwarrowdelf Axe to Azain to bump him up to 4 attack, with a real attack of 5 given the extra point of direct damage, all for just 1 resource. You can also use Khazad! Khazad! to boost his attack by 3 to help finish off an enemy. How much space you want to devote to supporting Azain in a non-Dwarf deck is an open question, but in general terms, he’s probably worth throwing a single copy into many Tactics decks, unless you feel like you’ll just be mowing down enemies outright and don’t need the extra damage.

Versatility: ♦♦♦◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

Glorfindel (Spirit Ally, 5 cost, 3 willpower, 3 attack, 1 defense, 4 hit points):

Glorfindel

The Spirit hero version of Glorfindel has been one of the most ever-present player cards since its release in the Dwarrowdelf cycle. Although the release of several elite Spirit heroes recently (Arwen and Galadriel foremost among them) has tampered this popularity a bit, Glorfindel is still among the best. However, a new ally version has thrust itself upon the scene, aiming to dethrone the hero once and for all. Ally Glorfindel has an in-built readying ability based off of the card discard that the Noldor love so well:

Glorfindel can be played from your discard pile.

Action: Discard a card from your hand to ready Glorfindel. (Limit once per phase.)

Does this ally version have a shot at surpassing the hero version? Yes. Is it a sure thing? No. First things first, it has to be acknowledged that this is a really strong card. Sure, 5 resources is a hefty cost, but you are getting essentially the same stats as hero Glorfindel (with just 1 fewer hit point), and the ability to get use out of both his willpower and attack strength each round, assuming you have the cards to burn. Spirit perhaps doesn’t need that much additional help when it comes to questing, but 3 willpower is fairly substantial. Even more importantly, having a strong attacker if you are running mono-Spirit or a Spirit-heavy deck can make a big difference, especially if you are opting not to use hero Glorfindel. The advantage of this ally is that you get both the questing and the attacking in one package, without the need for support from any other card.

So what kind of decks does Glorfindel fit into comfortably? He is a must-include in any Caldara deck and takes that particular archetype to another level. Glorfindel is also a nice fit for Noldor decks, since they will be set up to easily discard cards from hand to trigger abilities. He really fits into almost any Spirit deck that isn’t using the hero and can afford the 5 resources. There are some nice interactions with ally Glorfindel. One is that, since he can be played from your discard pile, you can actually discard him to help lower his own cost with To the sea, to the Sea!, making him 4-cost at most. Since he has his own readying effect, ally Glorfindel is also absolutely fantastic with Tale of Tinuviel, as you can use that card to ready and boost a Dunedain character, and then ready Glorfindel with his own ability. For similar reasons, Glorfindel is amazing with A Very Good Tale, as he can exhaust to help play it, with his 5 cost guaranteeing that you will be able to play some substantial allies, as long as you don’t whiff. Then, Glorfindel can ready to still take some actions during a turn. The Noldor trait also has some great attachment support for allies, so Glorfindel can wield a Rivendell Blade and mow down enemies like a machine gun if you have the cards to keep readying him.

All told, Glorfindel is a great ally and well worth the cost. The only snag in multiplayer is that there is still a great chance that someone will be using the hero these days, and you’ll likely have to swap the ally out in such cases.

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦♦

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

Imladris Caregiver (Lore Ally, 2 cost, 1 willpower, 0 attack, 1 defense, 2 hit points):

Imladris-Caregiver

The Noldor trait has received some substantial support of late, and now that deck type has its very own healer in the form of the Imladris Caregiver:

Action: Discard a card from your hand to heal 1 damage on any character. (Limit twice per round).

I have to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of this card. The truth is that the Warden of Healing looms large over the card pool in terms of healing effects and his cost efficiency and power is hard to beat. For the same cost as the Caregiver, the Warden heals 2 points of damage each turn without any further cost (although you do have the option to pay to ready him to get even more healing accomplished in one round). By contrast, you have to discard a card every single time you want to heal just a single point of damage. I know what you’re all thinking to yourself as you read this: Noldor decks are built to discard cards so it’s not really that big of a deal! While I partially concede that point, the truth is that you won’t generally have enough cards to fund every discard effect that now exists, so you have to choose your battles to some degree, and I wouldn’t put this healing effect in my shortlist of what to include in most Noldor decks.

That is not to say, however, that this ally is a coaster. He does have a clear role to play, which is reassuring. For one, healing is somewhat of a quest-dependent effect, and so if you are facing a scenario that piles on the archery and direct damage, then including a specialized healer in your Noldor deck might make good sense. In addition, one advantage that the Caregiver has over the Warden of Healing is that you can heal 2 points of damage on the same character. If you have Elrond in play, then the Caregiver becomes even better, as each card discarded would yield 2 points of healing instead of 1. The final thing to keep in mind is that the Imladris Caregiver can be played for only 1 resource using To the sea, to the Sea!, which potentially makes him a slightly cheaper option than the Warden of Healing, at least in terms of raw resources. For certain decks, it is even a benefit more than a cost to get cards into the discard pile, so the Caregiver can help in this regard, although there are certainly many other options. Overall, the Warden will still be the superior choice for most decks, but there are decks where I could see giving the Caregiver the nod.

 Versatility: ♦♦◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦◊◊

Guardian of Rivendell (Neutral Ally, 3 cost, 1 willpower, 2 attack, 3 defense, 3 hit points):

Guardian-of-Rivendell

 

One of the main weaknesses of the Noldor trait as it has developed is the lack of a strong defender (Elrohir being a major exception, but Elrohir decks tend to be a whole type of their own). The Guardian of Rivendell seems to be a potential solution for this problem, boasting a sturdy defense strength of 3 and 3 hit points. However, he comes with an added cost:

As an additional cost to play Guardian of Rivendell from your hand, you must discard 2 cards from your hand.

 

Obviously, discarding cards from hand is what Noldor decks do and what they are designed to do, yet as discussed with the Imladris Caregiver, it’s easy to underestimate this added cost, especially if you end up overloading your deck with too many decks that depend on card discard. What I do like here is that this is essentially a one time discard cost, not something that you constantly need to fund. In return, you get an ally with incredibly useful stats. The 2 attack strength isn’t just for show and can certainly help in attack, while the 3 defense and 3 hit points is one of the best defensive stat lines around. The Warden of Helm’s Deep, for example, has the same cost (minus the extra cost of cards) for one fewer hit point, which actually makes a big difference. With the Noldor trait giving access to Elven Mail, the Guardian of Rivendell becomes even better, and looking ahead a bit, the warrior trait also gives him access to Raiment of War, which makes the Guardian a 3 attack, 4 defense, 5 hit point monster (that would be a 12 threat cost hero equivalent!).

If you want to avoid the extra cost of discarding 2 cards, keep in mind that this additional cost only triggers if you play the Guardian from hand. So cheating this ally into play with A Very Good Tale or Vilya, to name just two examples, could get the Guardian into play with no strings attached. The main impact of the additional cost is not necessarily to lower the overall power of this ally but rather to restrict the decks that can make good use of it. Decks that don’t have a wealth of card draw and mostly rely on making full out of the cards they do draw are a poor fit for the Guardian of Rivendell. However, Noldor decks and any decks that do have a solid amount of card draw should consider this ally, particularly against those scenarios that have a heavy focus on combat. If you have your defense sorted out in some other way, through a uber-defender hero or chump blocking, then the Guardian might be an additional cost you don’t need, but if you are looking for a defensive solution, then this ally is a strong new option. I would like to say that I like the relatively newish development of strong ally defenders as a viable defensive strategy.

Versatility: ♦♦◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦◊◊

 

Conclusion

That about does it. Although it might have been tempting to think that the Noldor support would slow down after The Grey Havens, clearly that is not the case, as this pack helps develop the trait even further, although Gondor and Dwarves also got some attention. Next time around, I’ll be breezing through the attachments and events of Flight of the Stormcaller. What are your favorite decks with hero Denethor? Which are your favorite and least favorite allies in the pack? Let me know in the comments below!

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14 Comments
  1. On the subject of Dwarf decks, I’d appreciate any comments and/or advice you can provide on my WIP Dwarf player-deck expansion: https://boardgamegeek.com/article/23041082#23041082

  2. PocketWraith permalink

    You can’t really machine-gun with Glorfindel since his readying is limit once per phase – he can only get 2 attacks.
    That said, he’s probably my favourite ally from the pack, though Guardian of Rivendell has turned out very useful in the right context as well.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Machine gun was perhaps a poor choice of words. Double barrel would be more accurate 🙂

  3. Gizlivadi permalink

    Surprisingly, I think the Noldor archetype, at least in solo, has already surpassed other archetypes like mono Leadership Gondor (which will hopefully become top tier by the time FOTW comes out). With Arwen and Elven-light, as well as Erestor, Círdan, etc they can pull off incredible combos very early on, such as Steward + Good Harvest. Not only that, but they already have huge in-built willpower and with To the Sea + all the big Noldor allies (Glorfindel, Gildor, Guardian of Rivendell, etc) they can do an excellent job at combat too (not to mention Brand + Protector on Erestor). And when you add in Narya to use 2 of your allies twice plus more stats, you become pretty invincible. The only thing I’d give them is a thematic alternative to Steward of Gondor so I don’t have to use it in every deck.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yeah, I’d agree. Noldor could safely be considered top tier at this point I think. The nice thing is that there isn’t just one Noldor build. You can do some interesting combinations with what they have available.

  4. Alex permalink

    Always a fan of your reviews, I’d just say that the fact Imladris caregiver doesn’t exhaust for it’s ability is a nice leg-up over Warden of healing in some cases. Can’t wait to get that Glorfindel!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      True, although I wish the Caregiver had slightly better stats to make use of that non-exhaustion.

  5. So excited to see the player card reviews return! I share your opinion on ally of these cards, though I do rate the Caregiver slightly higher than you do because he can both quest and heal without having to spend extra resources like the Warden does, plus he has two hit points so he’s a bit more durable than the Warden. I still agree the Warden is a better fit for 95% of decks, but I do think the Caregiver has a home in a dedicated Noldor deck, or even in a mono-Lore deck that’s looking for both healing and questing power in one card.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Glad you look forward to them! The additional hit point is actually pretty significant, at least against certain quests. The Warden will probably always be the primary choice, but it’s nice to get some niche alternatives.

  6. anonim permalink

    I believe you forgot The Grey Havens Events Review. And there’s another thing you forgot I believe…(hint: i’ts Road to Isengard Campaign Mode!).

  7. William O'Brien permalink

    A couple of important notes about the Caregiver vs Warden of Healing:

    1. 2 hit points. Warden tends to die a fair amount to “1 damage to all allies/characters” effects, which often pop up in quests where you need healing most.

    2. Caregiver can quest and then heal later in the turn, or heal and then defend. Unless you have 2 spare Lore resources, Warden is stuck doing one thing a turn.

    Warden is probably better in a vacuum, but Caregiver is the right choice in any deck running Elven-light.

    • RobOz permalink

      Agreed on Caregiver + Elven Light. I found this to be a solid combo, especially with Elrond. It also works well with Sailor of Lune. That combo yields 2 points of healing, card draw, + Sailor activation (possibly multiple Sailors). Admittedly this getting into multi card combos but Noldor decks card draw and deck manipulation supports card combing. Throw in Galadriel and Caregiver can quest, heal twice (possibly for 4 points with Elrond) and then chump block, if needed. That’s three/four uses in a turn. I didn’t think too much of the Caregiver initially, but like it quite a bit more now, especially with Elven Light.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I do agree, as I mentioned in the review, that the Caregiver is probably better for Noldor decks, while Warden is the overall better choice for most decks. Elven Light is pretty much good with any discard effect, although I find that I usually have so many different ways to get it into the discard pile that the Caregiver doesn’t add too much more in that regard, although being able to stack effects is certainly worthwhile when it happens.

  8. Fouilloux permalink

    I just add Denethor to my “all stars allies deck”, that turn around Elrond, Galadriel and Denethor. Even though he died in the first couple of rounds, Denethor really pulled his weight in helping Elrond in the first turn, once Elrond had the steward. In the end of the game, I had in play: 2 envoy from, Pelargir, Kili, Lindir, Galdor, Legolas (turned hero with sword thane), Arwen, Deorwine, Beorn, Gimli, Imladris stargazer, treebeard, Azain silverbarb, Glorfindel, Faramir, Sam, Guardian of Rivendell, Elfhelm, Emery and a Ramas defender (showed up three time, and Boromir died in battle). In the end, i was playing almost alone, as my partner said that I was questing an doing combat by myself.
    Fun deck to play though!

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