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The Grey Havens: Events Review

by on July 6, 2016

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This one is a bit out of order, but what the heck, it’s all the same in the end, right? Enjoy Glowwyrm’s take on the events of The Grey Havens deluxe expansion!  -Ian

If you’re looking for new and interesting, then look no further than the events in this box.  We’ve never had player cards that work quite like this, and I like that Matt and Caleb keep innovating with new concepts.  As with the allies review, I wanted to offer a few introductory thoughts before I dug into each individual card.

  1. If you’re going to run one copy, run three. There are some events where throwing one of two copies in your deck is okay.  These events tend to be of the “break glass in case of emergency” variety that are nice to have but might not always be necessary.  For example: Close Call, Galadhrim’s Greeting, Power of Orthanc, all cards that hard counter a specific situation you might or might not find yourself in.  The Grey Havens events are not like that.  If you’re going to run one copy, you need to run three.  Each of these events gets better the more copies that are in your discard pile, so you’re going to want to have the maximum number in your deck (then perhaps have someone Message from Elrond over you some more, but only for playing them because they would not go into your discard pile).
  2. The rule of thumb on when to play it. Since all of these events have a trigger that depends on how many copies of the event are in your discard pile, it’s important to know when it’s worth playing that event.  I will pretty much never play the first copy of any of these events, because spending two resources for the listed effect is rarely a worth it.  The second copy is usually worth playing, though I might not play it depending on the game situation and resources I have available.  The third copy is a no brainer because at that point the effect is very powerful.
  3. The buildup is fast enough in the right deck. The beginning of the game is the most difficult part, typically, so is it worth running three copies of an event that won’t help you in the early game?  As the bold type at the beginning suggests: yes it is, in the right deck.  If you’re running Erestor, you’ll have a ten card starting hand and some of those cards aren’t going to get played. These events make for easy discard fodder so that you can set up your more powerful copies.  Since you’re drawing at least four cards a round, you ought to get your second copy sometime in the midgame, when you can play it to great effect.  Maybe this isn’t the most reliable effect out there, but it’s not useless and it’s easy enough to pull it off.
  4. The events are all better in multiplayer. There are a few reasons for this.  First, there are more targets for the events.  In a solo game, you might never fear location lock, so having The Evening Star in hand might not be all that meaningful.  In a three to four player game, however, you will almost certainly make an important contribution to the game by removing a location.  Same goes for hero readying, direct damage, and emergency defense: whenever you have the (second or third copy) event in hand, you will probably have a good reason to play it.  In solo and two player, your effectiveness will probably depend both on the deck you’re running and the quest you’re playing.  So include these events in three or four, sideboard in one or two.
  5. If you recycle these events, you could potentially get their max benefit multiple times per game. The record attachments and Dwarven Tomb give you opportunities to play the third copy of these events more than once.  Note that when you fish one of these events out of the discard pile (or use a record to play it) it does not count towards the number of copies in your discard pile.  Therefore, you can never spot more than two other copies in your discard pile, unless you put all three into your discard pile and someone Message from Elrond overs another copy to you.  That being said, in a crazy Lore deck with a ton of draw, it could be worth it to include three Scroll of Isildurs so that you can play a third copy of The Evening Star more than once.  This combo would be a lot tougher to do in the other spheres, but it is possible.

With all that in mind, let’s start the review with the best event, then work our way down the line.

EVENTS

The Evening Star (Lore Event, 2 cost):

The-Evening-Star

 

Flexible, powerful, targeted location control.  The players have been asking for it for a while, and the designers are answering.  The Explorer’s Almanac and Mariner’s Compass, two attachments in the Grey Havens, are part of that answer, as are some of the spoiled cards from the upcoming cycle.  However, none of them match the pure power of The Evening Star.  What makes The Evening Star so powerful?  Let’s dig in to find out:

The Evening Star is a 2 cost Lore event.  Its text reads:

Action: Place 2 progress on any location.  Resolve that effect again for each copy of The Evening Star currently in your discard pile (you may choose new targets).

Sounds good, right?  Well, a little wonky math (which the footnotes explain) reveals just how powerful The Evening Star is.  At maximum power, (two copies in your discard pile) you can spend two resources to explore 83% of all locations in the game.* What makes the card even better is this: at 2/3 power (one copy in your discard pile) you can explore 58% of all locations in the game.*

*A quick search on Hall of Beorn shows that there are 489 different locations in the game, only 39 of which have more than 6 quest points.  Another 46 locations have fewer than 6 quest points but are immune to player card effects.  So that leaves 83% of all locations that a maxed out Evening Star can explore. This does not account for how often those locations appear in the encounter deck, and a lot of the locations with more than 6 quest points (or that are immune to player card effects) are unique, so 83% is probably on the low side.

*286 locations with 4 or fewer quest points, only 29 of which are immune to player card effects.  Again, not taking into account the frequency with which such locations appear.

Ah, but here’s the catch: you need copies of The Evening Star in your discard pile for it to be effective.  So it begs the question: will you get copies number two and three show up in time to be useful?  Well, in the right deck, you should be able to draw and discard the first copy of the Evening Star early in the game, so that you’re seeing your second and third copy when you need it.  I personally love seeing this in my opening hand of an Erestor deck, because it’s an easy discard on turn one, and lays the groundwork for the second and third copies later.  A typical Noldor deck, or a Lore deck that can really draw cards (and that’s why you’re playing Lore, right?), shouldn’t have a problem getting copies two and three of The Evening Star when you need them.  And you shouldn’t really need them until mid to late game, since it takes a few turns for location lock to become a real threat (unless you’re really unlucky, or questing really poorly).  Unless you’re really unlucky on your draw, you should be able to find The Evening Star you need in time.

Additionally, while the Evening Star can knock out locations on its own, it also fits in well with a larger location control strategy.  The progress from The Evening Star can be placed on more than one location, as the text reads two per copy (one you play, and one for each in the discard pile).  Say you’ve been chipping away at locations in the staging area with a Northern Tracker, and you have a lot of progress spread out over multiple locations but none of them are explored.  Play a copy of the Evening Star and you can place progress, two at a time, on multiple locations to clear them out.  In this scenario, you might even get good value from your first copy of The Evening Star.

So it stands well on its own, and it is a solid part of a location control deck, are there any drawbacks to this event?  Sometimes your resources will end up being stretched thin and coming up with two for The Evening Star will feel like a lot, but that tends to be an easy decision: I either need it or I don’t.  Besides, if The Evening Star were any cheaper, it would be broken.  Sometimes you’re unlucky and your second and third copies are stuck at the bottom of your deck, but I draw my entire deck pretty much every game with the Noldor, so this hasn’t been too much of an issue.

And finally, as if it needed anymore praise, you can play this event after the staging step but before resolving the quest.  Yeah, that’s right: you can take out a location after staging.   That’s a really satisfying feeling.  It’s a really great card, and I highly recommend it.

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦◊

Efficiency: ♦♦◊◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

Glowwyrm’s Rating: Fascinating.

Ian’s thoughts: I’d definitely agree that this is the best of the events. It’s in the sphere you want and helps greatly to mitigate location lock in multiplayer games. As a mostly solo player, I won’t be using this card that often, just because locations aren’t as much of a threat, although there are some scenarios that are exceptions. Still, it’s difficult to argue with the overall value of The Evening Star. I’d give it a 3 for versatility, 3 for efficiency, and 4 for uniqueness.

Skyward Volley (Tactics Event, 2 cost):

 

Skyward-Volley

This is my favorite event in the deluxe box, not because it’s the best, but because it’s the most fun.  Direct damage decks have fallen out of favor in the meta, and this event won’t bring the archetype back all by itself (though Flight of the Stormcaller gave it some love), but Skyward Volley sure is a lot of fun to play.  It’s easy enough to play it and imagine you’re raining arrows (wait, that’s another card), that you’ve got a straight shot at your (dangit, another card too) foes to hammer (doh! did it again) them into submission.  In other words, it’s fun to place damage tokens all over the board.  Let’s take a look at what this card does:

Skyward Volley is a Tactics event that costs two.  Its text reads:

As an additional cost to play Skyward Volley, exhaust a ranged character you control. 

Combat Action: Deal two damage to an enemy engaged with a player.  Resolve this effect again for each copy of Skyward Volley currently in your discard pile (you may choose different targets).

First the bad stuff: two tactics resources are kind of a lot, though in the age of Mablung it’s a lot less burdensome than it used to be.  Additionally, two damage isn’t going to accomplish a whole lot against most enemies, since there are 448 different enemies in the game, and only 48 of them have two hit points or less.* Honestly, when I searched on Hall of Beorn, I was surprised that there were that many with so few hit points, so let’s come back to this thought in the positives section.  Third, Tactics is still card draw poor, so it’s unlikely that you’re going to see your second and third copies of Skyward Volley at any point when the game is in doubt.  And finally, not only does Skyward Volley cost two resources, you have to exhaust a ranged character.  It sounds like you should never, ever play this card.

*As with the wonky math done above, my calculations here are only about different kinds of enemies, and doesn’t factor in the frequency with which those enemies appear.

Not so fast my friends!  While it definitely has some drawbacks, Skyward Volley has a lot going for it.  While two damage doesn’t sound like much, your first copy of Skyward Volley can down a little over 10% of the enemies in the game!  You want to load up your arrows for Moria (caveward volley?) and the Saga boxes especially, because those quests are lousy with weenie enemies for you to pick off.  I personally had a lot of fun with this event mowing down the reanimated dead in The Dread Realm.  If two damage isn’t enough for you, how about four damage?  47% of the enemies in the game have four hit points or less, and guess what: none of them are immune to player card effects.*  But wait, there’s more!  78% of all enemies in the game can be arrowed out of existence by a full strength Skyward Volley.*  That is a heap of hurting to put on the bad guys.  The best part is that you can one shot a big enemy, or pick off a few grunts.  So the power is there, but do the aforementioned drawbacks keep it from being effective?

*212 different enemies have four hit points or less, so 47% of the 448 different enemies.  This does not account for the frequency with which these enemies appear in the encounter deck.

**353 different enemies have six hit points or fewer, and only one of those is immune to player card effects. 

Probably.  It’s too much hassle to throw it into any Tactics deck and hope it works.  But if you build appropriately around this card and sprinkle in some more direct damage, it can be a real gem.  I put together a Hama, Beravor, Mablung deck built around direct damage, and Skyward Volley brought the pain in that deck. Berevor and Mablung provided the card acceleration and resources necessary to fuel the combo, and I loaded the deck with tons of ranged allies so that I’d have both allies that can pull off the combo and a lot of strong attackers on the board.  It’s not the most powerful deck in the world, but against the right scenarios it’s a killer.

Could Skyward Volley work in a deck that isn’t dedicated to using it?  Maybe.  Tactics certainly has more card draw and resources available now than it has in the past, but Skyward Volley isn’t the kind of card you just throw into any deck.  Maybe in a Tactics Noldor deck it would work well, something like Erestor, Legolas and Arwen that makes use of Elven Spear.  However, you’re only looking at getting one or two good uses out of it, as opposed to the Hama recycling lay waste to enemies every turn fun, itt might be a nice throw in, but it won’t be something you rely on.

So the verdict for it is really based on this: are you tired of the normal defend—attack pattern of combat and looking for some fun alternatives?  Skyward Volley and some of the new direct damage cards open new possibilities.  But if you’re looking for a Tactics staple that will slot immediately into any deck, this is not your card.

Versatility: ♦♦♦◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦◊◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

Glowwyrm’s Rating: Fascinating.  Love this and built a whole deck around it.

Ian’s Thoughts: This is the card I probably want to get working the most, as the potential for massive mayhem is tantalizing. However, as with The Evening Star, it’s better in multiplayer, meaning that I haven’t used it much so far. I think there is ripe potential for Hama decks, which are already pretty good with direct damage effects, and this card can make them spectacular in that department. So this isn’t an event that will make it into most decks, but it can make a big impact when used appropriately. What you really need is card draw and discard effects so that Skyward Volley can get up to full power consistently. I’d give it a 2 for versatility, 3 for efficiency, and 4 for uniqueness.

Elwing’s Flight (Spirit Event, 1 cost):

 

Elwing's-Flight

When it was spoiled, I thought “Wow!  This card has a ton of potential!  Readying three heroes for two resources is awesome!”  But then I threw it into some decks and I thought “Wow!  This card is a disappointment!  I pretty much always have something better to play!”  So what’s the difference between the perception and the reality of Elwing’s Flight?  Let’s look at the card:

Elwing’s Flight is a two cost Spirit Event.

Quest Action: Ready a questing character and give that character +1 Willpower until the end of the quest phase.  Resolve that effect again for each copy of Elwing’s Flight currently in your discard pile (you may choose different targets).

Reading the card certainly gives you some instant wow: there aren’t a lot of ways to ready multiple characters at once, and all the of the cards that allow you to do so are either very expensive (Grim Resolve which costs five), trait/sphere restricted (Strength of Arms is leadership and allies only, Lure of Moria is dwarves only), or some kind of expensive global effect that allows characters to take actions without exhausting (Path of Need, Light the Beacons).  In comparison, a two cost event that can grant two or three readies (please don’t play your first copy), is a relative bargain.  Getting an extra willpower per hero is just icing on the readying cake.  There’s lots of potential uses for Elwing’s Flight: a last ditch questing push when you send everyone, even characters you wouldn’t normally send, and you get some extra willpower to boot.  You could also use it to correct a questing mistake in which you sent too many characters questing but then a lot of enemies came off the encounter deck.  Or there’s lots of value in questing with some characters, readying, then exhausting them for some other ability.  You could also play it before the staging step so that some of your characters aren’t exhausted during questing (The Necromancer’s Reach leaves a lasting impression).  Finally, you can ready any character, so some of your big allies, like the Ents or Gandalf, can take more than one action a round.  So there’s a lot of potential in this card, especially for multiplayer games.

However, my personal experience with the card has always left me feeling a little lacking.  Maybe it’s the decks I run it in, or maybe it’s because I play two handed and this card only shines in multiplayer, but I always end up finding something better to play.  Resources aren’t typically the problem, since I’m not interested in playing this until mid to late game and I can usually spare a couple at that point.  Having the card at the wrong time is often a problem, because I either draw it too early in the game and don’t want it, or too late in the game for it to matter (copies two and three, that is).  And in an Erestor deck I have to discard my hand at the end of every round, and if I can only save one card with a Silver Harp  I have to say sorry Elwing’s Flight, but  A Test of Will is staying in the hand, and you’re going.  Sometimes having the right targets is another problem, since I don’t usually care about readying my questing characters: they often have high willpower, but not a lot else to offer.  And then, if you’re running Cirdan, Elwing’s Flight becomes redundant, because you’re running Narya (you are running Narya, right?  You’re playing with Cirdan).  Perhaps this is just my personal experience with Elwing’s Flight, but it simply ends up on the cutting floor too often.

One final thought before we move to the next card: Elwing’s Flight should be awesome in a Caldara deck.  A Caldara deck should draw and discard a bunch of cards, so it shouldn’t have any problem discarding the first copy or two of Elwing’s Flight, and then drawing the copy of it that you want.  Second, since Elwing’s Flight can target allies, you can ready some of your heavy hitter Spirit allies so that they get more than one action a round.  And third, since Caldara decks can do a bit of recursion and recycling, you might be able to play the third copy of Elwing’s Flight more than once.  It ought to be a great fit for that kind of deck.

So lots of potential here in Elwing’s Flight, even if it doesn’t quite live up to its initial wow factor.

Versatility: ♦♦♦◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦◊◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦◊◊

Glowwyrm’s Rating: Interesting

Ian’s Thoughts: Elwing’s Flight is definitely a solid card. The advantage that Elwing’s Flight has over some of the other events in this expansion is that Spirit is probably the best sphere for discarding cards quickly and consistently, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to get a few copies of Elwing’s Flight into your discard pile. When you are readying two or three characters and getting an additional two or three willpower, this is definitely a significant contribution (with the readying being the more important of the two). I do agree that it takes some work to get Elwing’s Flight working and by the time it is fully powered up, you probably already will have a bunch of willpower on the board, along with some other readying effects, so that this event might end up being redundant. I’d give it a 3 for versatility, a 3 for efficiency and a 3 for uniqueness.

Anchor Watch (Leadership Event, 2 cost):

Anchor-Watch

 

And now for the worst card in the entire deluxe box.  This card is bike spoke material, but perhaps we can find some redeeming value in here.

Anchor Watch is a two cost Leadership event.  Its text reads:

Response: After an enemy is declared as an attacker against you, declare an exhausted character you control as the defender.  Resolve this effect again for each copy of Anchor Watch currently in your discard pile (all chosen characters are defending against this attack).

Let’s get the bad out of the way, before we look for some positives.  Anchor Watch is an unusually expensive form of readying.  Most single use readying effects cost one or less: Cram (free!), Lembas, Miruvor, Hold Your Ground, Swift and Silent, Behind Strong Walls, Taste it Again!, you get the idea.  Some of those cards come with stipulations (can only target a hero, Gondor character, etc.)  but they’re not overly restrictive stipulations.  Now some of those aren’t in Leadership, but Leadership already has a fair share of readying too: Cram (already mentioned, but it’s really good), Heir of Mardil, Descendants of Kings,  Common Cause, Ever Vigilant, Grim Resolve, Aragorn, Elrohir, Swift and Silent, Strength of Arms, Lure of Moria, and several allies that have self-readying abilities.  My point is this: if you’re looking for readying in Leadership, it’s available, and in lots of forms that are either cheaper or more powerful.

Anchor Watch suffers from an additional problem: adding extra defense to your main defender isn’t all that helpful.  There are two main strategies for defense: chump blocking and a strong hero defender.  It’s rare that I have a bunch of different characters out there with decent defense, so pooling together a bunch of character’s defense just isn’t all that helpful.  It doesn’t really matter how many copies of it are in your discard pile, you just aren’t going to see a huge defensive boost unless you’re really spreading your defense out among multiple characters.

Is there some value in Anchor Watch?  Perhaps.  It could end up being useful in Sailing quests when a boarding party crashes your ship and you’re facing multiple attacks at once.  It’s nice insurance against my least favorite shadow effect “attacking enemy makes an additional attack.”  It could be very helpful in scenarios when you’re facing a boss enemy that’s going to attack multiple times (like the Balrog) so that you have extra insurance that your main defender will be ready.  But the drawback, again, is that those attacks must be directed against you.  You can’t use your sentinel defense to bail out anyone else on the team.  It’s kind of a bummer.

One more positive for Anchor Watch: you can target allies to take the defense.  Maybe you’ve got Beorn, Gandalf, or Treebeard out to handle defensive duties.  There aren’t a lot of ways to ready allies, so Anchor Watch give you another defense if you need it.  But Ever Vigilant and Narya are better ways to do this exact thing, so…..  Hey, I tried.

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦◊

Efficiency: ♦◊◊◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

Glowwyrm’s Rating: Meh

Ian’s Thoughts: This is the kind of card I’ll be doing a Card Spotlight article about in a couple of years. It’s not a clear coaster to me, as I definitely see the uses, it’s just a question of whether it outshines the existing alternative enough to earn a place in a deck. There are definitely times when you commit too many characters to a quest and Anchor Watch could let you compensate for that a bit by still defending with an exhausted character. This is actually the one event in the box that is probably fine when played as the first copy and doesn’t get that much better with further copies. The truth is that there are just too many good cards these days and it’ll be tough for Anchor Watch to find a spot. I’d give it a 3 for versatility, a 2 for efficiency, and a 4 for uniqueness.

 

I really like the new event type, and though I doubt we see any more like them, they are worthy additions to the card pool.     What do you think of them, now that the box has been around for awhile and you’ve had opportunities to play them?  Are they auto-includes in your Noldor decks?  Or have you forgotten all about them already?

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11 Comments
  1. Anonim permalink

    Over that there’s only one inmune enemy with 6 or fewer hit points, but I already know two: Saruman and Gollum.

  2. Nusse permalink

    The Archives attachments (Scroll of Isildur, Map of Earnil…) read : “discard to play an event in your discard pile as if it were in your hand”, so is it a stretch to consider that these events never actually leave the discard pile and count in the number of similar events in your discard pile?

    I never thought of it before, but that might be a way to get a triple effect… has there been an official word on that?

    • Lipm permalink

      I think that once you play the event from your discard pile, it would no longer be in your discard pile, similar to playing a card from your hand. However it would be excellent if I’m missing something and that works.

    • Glowwyrm permalink

      Yes. I (and a lot of other players) though that this would work. Caleb ruled that when you play the card, it leaves the discard pile and goes into some kind of nether region where it is in play, and then it goes to the bottom of your deck. So it doesn’t count as being in your discard pile. The wording on the cards and in the rule book sometimes make that confusing.

      • Nusse permalink

        Well, thanks for clarifying that! I don’t like the idea of a “nether region” as it sort of reminds me of the old timey end phase/upkeep shenanigans when i was playing Magic a century ago, but at least there’s an official word on the matter.

      • Robin Munn permalink

        I probably would have ruled the same thing but for a differently-stated reason. If you play a Skyward Volley from your hand, it can have at most 2 copies of it in the discard pile, so its maximum is 6 damage. And if you play it “as if it were in your hand”, then you play it exactly as if it were in your hand — which means that there are at most 2 copies of it in the discard pile when you play it, and so on.

        My ruling does differ from Caleb’s in one point, though: anything that affects events played from your hand would, in my ruling, also affect events played via Scroll of Isildur et al.; but in Caleb’s ruling, they would not. So if there’s a “players cannot play event cards from their hand” effect in play, by Caleb’s ruling here, Scroll of Isildur would still work to play The Evening Star out of the discard pile. Iiiinnnnn-teresting…

  3. I can see the advantage of Anchor Watch as a safety net, to play in circumstances where you might otherwise have to take damage undefended. As a response, if I’m reading it right, there’s also the possibility of one character defending twice in one turn as well as a questing character doubling up on defence duties.

    All that said, two resources might be a little expensive.

  4. Kjeld permalink

    Anchor Watch would have been so much more useful if it also conferred an additional bonus, like +1 def or discard a shadow card.

    • Silver Swan permalink

      With a copy in the discard pile, you effectively get +1 def as long as you have an exhausted character with one defense, since you have two characters defending the attack and can add their defense.

      Anchor Watch can also be useful when encounter cards prevent or make more difficult readying and exhausting; it’s worth an extra resource to prevent Local Trouble raising your threat by 2.

      Finally, there’s the option of triggering multiple “when defending” abilities (i.e. The Day’s Rising and Gondorian Spearman) while safely assigning the damage to someone with more hit points, perhaps an ent or Gloin (perhaps saving Defender of Ramas).

  5. Anonim permalink

    It comboes well with Behind Strong Walls.

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