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The Thing in the Depths: Allies Review

by on July 20, 2016

thingcover

Glowwyrm returns with his review of the allies of The Thing in the Depths! – Ian

Glowwyrm here to take a look at the allies from the Thing in the Depths adventure pack.  Before the cycle started, the developers promised strong, unique allies in this cycle, and man have they delivered. Flight of the Stormcaller brought us one of the strongest allies in the game in spirit Glorfindel, a bunch of strong Noldor allies, and an interesting dwarf.  The ally love continues in this adventure pack, as each sphere gets a new ally to try out.

ALLIES

Eldahir (Leadership Ally, 4 cost, 1 willpower, 2 attack, 2 defense, 3 hit points):

Eldahir

Leadership has received a lot of love in this cycle so far (Denethor, Rod of the Steward, Captain’s Wisdom) and we’re only two packs in!  This ally isn’t the strongest in the game, but I could definitely see him getting play in the right decks.  Let’s take a look at him:

Eldahir is a four cost leadership ally.  He has one willpower, two attack, two defense and three hitpoints.  He has the Dunedain and Noble traits and the Sentinel keyword.  His text reads:

Action: Spend 1 lore resource to look at a facedown shadow card dealt to an engaged enemy.  If that card has a shadow effect, Eldahir gets plus two defense until the end of the phase.  Any player may trigger this action.  (Limit once per phase). 

Let’s first consider him as a Dunedain.  There’s a lot to like about him as a Dunedain ally: he plays off of two spheres that most Dunedain decks will use (Leadership and Lore), he’s good at defending (those three hitpoints help a lot), he’s got the balanced stats of a typical Dunedain ally, and it won’t be too hard to bring his cost down with Heir of Valendil.  Having Sentinel is a nice bonus, because even though you want to engage all of the enemies in a Dunedain deck, sometimes a couple slip over to other players.  But his ability is what really shows his quality.  The most dangerous part of defending is revealing shadow cards.  A bad shadow against the wrong defender can wreck even the best game, so being able to repeatedly look at them is huge.  Once Eldahir is on the table, you get to look at one shadow card per phase, as long as there are engaged enemies with shadow cards on the table and you want to spend the resources for it.   If you find a shadow card, Eldahir gets a nice defensive bonus (only until the end of the phase), and even if you don’t, you get to plan your defenses accordingly.  In a quest like Carn Dum, Eldahir would be huge because all of those shadow cards stay around, but he still has a lot of value in other quests too.  And as a final note, the shadow card you look at doesn’t have to be for an enemy engaged with you.  If your buddy caught an enemy and wants to use a Lore resource to plan his defense, he can.  There’s a lot to like about Eldahir, especially for multiplayer games.

However, he’s not exactly perfect.  The four cost will make it difficult to get him out onto the table early, even for a Dunedain deck, though all of the resource acceleration we’re getting might change that.  The Guardian of Arnor is clearly a superior card.  He doesn’t have the shadow card protection, but his defense can get ridiculously high once you’ve engaged a number of enemies and he costs one less.  I would suggest playing Eldahir alongside of the Guardian as extra defensive security.  Eldahir can help protect your Guardians of Arnor from nasty shadows and can take on an enemy or two himself.  Eldahir also starts with higher defense and gets up to four defense pretty easily too.  A  Burning Brand might be better shadow management for your Dunedain deck, but it lacks the flexibility of Eldahir and requires a lot of readying for your main defender.

Outside of a Dunedain deck, Eldahir could definitely find a home.  There are good four cost Leadership allies that will nab deck space first, but shadow management is always a welcome addition.  Instead of slotting Balin into so many Leadership decks, I’ll give Eldahir some consideration.  Using Eldahir can depend on the quest a bit too.  When the shadows are nastier, bring him along, and when they aren’t, maybe he can sit on the side board.  Eldahir’s not the strongest ally in the game (they can’t all be Glorfindel), but he has a powerful ability and he deserves to see some play.

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

Glowwyrm’s Rating: Interesting

Ian’s thoughts: The 4 cost Leadership ally spot already has some great options, but Eldahir is definitely worth a look. We’ve gotten to a point now where A Burning Brand and its outright shadow cancellation is powerful, but doesn’t necessarily dominate the field. There are plenty of good reasons to want to look at a shadow card instead of just outright cancelling it, from being able to use a multitude of defenders to choosing when to take an attack undefended to enabling cards like Small Target. The fact that Eldahir gets a defensive boost at times is gravy as he can become a strong defender in his own right. In fact, we’re really entering the period of strong ally defenders and Eldahir adds to that development. I’d give Eldahir a 3 for versatility, 3 for efficiency, and 4 for uniqueness. 

Master Ironsmith (Tactics Ally, 3 cost, 1 willpower, 1 attack, 1 defense, 2 hit points):

Master-Ironsmith

 

Hurray for the Craftsman trait making a return!  And he actually does something sort of craftsman like!  Exciting, or at least, unique!  Let’s take of look at the Master Ironsmith:

Master Ironsmith is a Tactics ally that costs three.  He has one willpower, one attack, one defense and two hitpoints.  He has the Gondor and the Craftsman traits.  His text reads:

Response: After you play Master Ironsmith from your hand, if you paid all of its resource cost from a single hero’s resource pool, attach a Weapon or Armor attachment from your hand or discard pile to that hero without paying its resource cost. 

Neat!  Different!  And I love different!  He’s full of fun and interesting possibilities, which I’ll only begin to scratch in this article, but let’s start to unearth some of what’s going on with him.  Ironsmith assumes that one of your heroes has more resources than the others.  While Steward of Gondor is probably the most common way this will happen, this doesn’t have to be the case.  Mablung will have Tactics resources piled up on him and makes a great target for some of the attachments that the Ironsmith can play.  Denethor isn’t Tactics, but he allows easy resource shuffling so that you can pay for the Ironsmith from your Tactics hero.  And Gloin with a Song of Battle attached to him makes a good target, and any hero with Gondorian Fire attached will have resources piled up on them.  Captain’s Wisdom from this adventure pack also allows you to pile the resources onto one hero.  So it’s not too hard to pay for Ironsmith from one hero, but is the benefit worth it?

He’s not a great ally.  If you’re running a Gondor ally swarm deck, boosting his willpower and attack are easy enough, but I don’t think that kind of deck is where he fits best.  He’ll probably chip in a little to quest or attack, maybe an emergency chump block, but that’s it.  But the bargain is that you’re getting two cards for the price of one.  Getting a chump blocker and an attachment is a good deal, especially if your attachment already costs two anyway.  But the Ironsmith not only allows you to play a Weapon and Armor from your hand for free, but you can go fish them out of your discard pile!  Did a nasty shadow take away your Gondorian shield?  Go get that sucker back.  Are you running a dwarf deck with cards like Well-Equipped, King Under the Mountain, and Longbeard Sentry?  The Ironsmith lets you pull some of those attachments into play.  And in a Noldor deck, with so many attachments hitting the trash, the Ironsmith helps you fish some of those back out too.

He also allows shenanigans by letting you play off sphere attachments.  Do you want to run a mono-Tactics deck with Theoden, Eowyn and Merry, but used Spirit Eowyn instead so that you could play Herugrim?  No worries!  Master Ironsmith allows you to play Herugrim even without a Spirit hero!  Okay, so that’s about the only off-sphere shenanigan, since almost all of the Weapons and Armor are Tactics, but man that is a good shenanigan.

So he’s certainly interesting and opens up some possibilities.  The more Weapons and Armor there are in the game, the better he’ll be.  I like him a lot, but I can understand if some people are down on him a bit.

Versatility: ♦♦♦◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦♦

Glowwyrm’s Rating: Fascinating.  I am especially excited to throw Herugrim into a mono-Tactics deck.

Ian’s Thoughts: I’m not too hot on this ally at the moment, given that there aren’t many Weapon and Armor attachments that aren’t in Tactics and the off-sphere applications are what intrigue me the most. In addition, most Weapon and Armor attachments are relatively cheap, which doesn’t give you that much value, and ally slots are incredibly value these days. Still, that’s not to say that this card is worthless. It definitely has value, it just falls into the category of those cards more fun to theorize about than to actually use. However, his value will only grow as more weapon and armor attachments are released, so his future is brighter than the present. I’d give him 2 for versatility, 2 for efficiency, and 5 for uniqueness.

Sam Gamgee (Spirit Ally, 3 cost, 2 willpower, 1 attack, 1 defense, 2 hit points):

 

Sam-Gamgee

Sam is my favorite character in The Lord of the Rings, and hero Sam is one of my favorite cards in the game, so forgive me for the following statement: I feel very meh about his ally card.  I will go on to detail all of the good things about him for sure, but if you feel like I’m being a little negative about him, that’s the reason why.

Sam Gamgee is a spirit ally that costs three.  He has two willpower, one attack, one defense, and two hitpoints.  He has the Hobbit trait and his text reads:

Reduce the cost to play Sam Gamgee by 2 if you control Frodo Baggins. 

Response: After a player raises his threat, that player may spend 1 spirit resource to ready Sam Gamgee.  He gets plus one willpower, plus one attack, and plus one defense until the end of the round (Limit once per round).

He’s good.  Really good.  Spirit Frodo used to be a go to hero for me, but he’s fallen out of favor in the meta a bit.  Sam Gamgee is a good reason to revisit him as a hero, since the two work so well together.  One cost allies are always awesome, and since Frodo raises your threat all the time through his ability (he allows you to take damage as threat instead), Sam will get to trigger his ability every round.  For one cost, that’s pretty awesome.  Sam also has a good place in campaign mode if you’re in a scenario with Frodo but no one is running hero Sam (Why aren’t you running hero Sam in your campaign!  He’s really good in those scenarios!  He’s the real hero of The Lord of the Rings! Sorry I warned you).  In that case, he’s just a really good one cost ally.  But one cost allies are awesome, and this one happens to quest for two and have two hitpoints.

His ability is interesting.  There are several hobbit-centric ways to trigger it, even without Frodo.  Fatty (who isn’t good, but is better than people give him credit for), can raise your threat to cancel out the threat of an enemy in the staging area, which would trigger Sam.  This scenario is the best use of Sam’s ability because his boosted willpower counts toward the quest and then he’s ready for combat.  Spirit Pippin (who isn’t good, and is worse than people give him credit for), can raise your threat during engagement to bounce an enemy back to the staging area, which would trigger Sam, though why you want to ready Sam when you just bounced an enemy back to the staging area is beyond me.  There are some non-hobbit ways to ready Sam too.  If doomed comes off the encounter deck during staging, you can ready Sam and benefit from his willpower and combat.  If someone is playing Grima and uses his ability during the quest phase (or during planning, if you exhausted Sam for some reason), you can trigger Sam.  A Frodo-Boromir Spin the Threat Dial deck certainly opens up possibilities for triggering Sam’s ability.  And one important one to not overlook is Song of Earndil.  If another player raises their threat for any reason, you can take that threat and then pay to ready Sam.  With a little bit of good deck design, readying Sam shouldn’t be too difficult.  But is it worth it?

With some effort and forethought, yes.  Boosting Sam’s willpower is only good if it’s the quest phase, which is probably not something you’re going to pull off a ton unless you’re running Fatty.  Readying Sam for combat is okay, and is a better bargain than you might think.  You’re not going to defend with Sam, unless you’re really in a bind and you think “well I only paid one for him anyway.  I’m sure I’ll find another copy and I don’t mind watching the best character in the books get curb stomped over and over because I’m a heartless person.”   Getting two attack for one Spirit resource is pretty good though.  Hobbit decks can really hurt for attack power, so every little bit helps.  And while it might not seem like much, getting a second action from Sam when he can contribute two attack could make a big difference.  Sure, you have to keep paying that resource, which is kind of a pain, but only when you really need it.  Besides, two willpower and two hit points for one cost is tough to beat.

Would you run him without Frodo?  Maybe in the right Spirit deck.  Three cost for two willpower and two hitpoints isn’t bad, and you could trigger his ability every once in awhile.  But Sam fits nicely in a specific archetype, and I don’t think I’d play him much outside of it.  Which is why he pales in comparison to his hero.  Hero Sam fits well into many decks, and even won the Hero Tournament last year.    But again, I’m biased.

Versatility: ♦♦♦◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦♦

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

Glowwyrm’s Rating: Meh.  But I’m biased.

Ian’s Thoughts: Sam is a must-include in any deck with Frodo (or campaign quests with Fellowship Frodo). That’s the easy part. Outside of that situation, Sam is useful in certain decks. Caldara decks are always looking for good new allies to include. A 3-cost ally with the potential to have 3 willpower and to pitch in for 2 attack is worth the cost in my book. He’s probably worth including as a 1-of in many Spirit decks for this reason. I’d give Sam a 3 for versatility, 4 for efficiency, and 4 for uniqueness.

Mirkwood Explorer (Lore Ally, 3 cost, 2 willpower, 1 attack, 0 defense, 2 hit points):

Mirkwood-Explorer

 

If you thought the Master Ironsmith was different, wait until you get a look at this guy.  We’ve never seen anything quite like him in the game, at least not in ally form, and he’s certainly unique (or, umm, different, because he’s not unique).

The Mirkwood Explorer is a three cost Lore ally.  He has two willpower, one attack, zero defense, and two hitpoints.  He has the Woodman and Scout traits.  His text reads:

Response: After Mirkwood Explorer quests successfully, place 1 progress on it. 

Action: Exhaust Mirkwood Explorer to move all progress from it to a location in play.

The closest comparisons I can come up with for this guy are Gimli and Treebeard, two heroes that get stronger as damage tokens pile up on them, and Blood of Numenor and Gondorian Fire, two attachments that become stronger as resources pile up on them.  Popping progress onto a character than moving it to a location is definitely different, and a potentially useful ability.  But how useful is it?

First, let’s take a look at the stats.  His stats are fairly standard for a Lore ally.  Paying three for a two willpower quester is outrageous in Spirit but is the norm for Lore.  The two hit points are nice to have, especially in Lore when he can soak some damage and be healed.  So he’s a fairly standard ally, nothing bad, but nothing too flashy either.  Does his ability make him shine?

No.  It looks good, but let’s consider a few things.  First, to get the tokens placed on him, you must quest successfully.  That means that if locations are threatening to swallow you up, he’s not going to help you at all.  Questing for two is nice, but if you’re not clearing out locations and making progress, he’s not going to break that logjam for you.  Second, it’s going to be several rounds of questing before he can knock out a location.    Most locations have at least three progress on them, meaning that it will be at least turn four before he can snipe off a location.  And if you’re running multiple copies of the guy, would you rather exhaust three of them to spend their progress and knock out one location, or have them quest for six?  I guess it depends on the situation, but questing for six willpower is pretty good.

So perhaps you throw him in as a standard questing Lore ally and see the ability as a bonus.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  And in the right scenario, he could be huge.  I always think about the first quest in the Black Riders, when you have to clear all the locations before you travel to Buckleberry Ferry.  If the Mirkwood Explorer has a bunch of progress on him and a location comes off the encounter deck during staging, you can use him to knock out that location, travel to Buckleberry Ferry, and finally finish the scenario!  And there’s undeniable value in that.  As pa◊ent for the cost, invaluable in the right situation, but not a make every deck staple.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Versatility: ♦♦◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦♦

Glowwyrm’s Rating: Intriguing.  I’m going to put him in several decks to really assess his value.

Ian’s Thoughts: I’m a bit higher on the Mirkwood Explorer, but that might be the cool factor of putting progress tokens on an ally talking. It reminds me of effects you see in the A Game of Thrones LCG, where special tokens are placed on certain cards in response to triggers, and they can be eventually cashed in for an effect. It’s cool to see this kind of thing in LOTR LCG and I hope we see more like this. As far as utility goes, I do agree that he’s not an automatic add to Lore decks, but he’s worth a look. While it takes some time to build up the progress tokens on him, location lock itself tends to be a gradual process that tends to reach critical mass at midgame, which is when the Mirkwood Explorer is ready to help you nuke some locations. Beyond location lock, the Explorer helps you take out problematic locations without having to travel to them. I’d give the Mirkwood Explorer a 3 for versatility, 3 for efficiency, and 5 for uniqueness.

Conclusion

Well, there were a lot of allies and a lot to talk about in the Thing in the Depths!  Which one do you like the best?  Has my bias for hero Sam (and the character in general) clouded my judgment on his ally card?  Let me know what you think!

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8 Comments
  1. Silver Swan permalink

    Mirkwood Explorer reminds me most of Keeping Count: you place tokens on a card by fulfilling a condition that’s part of normal play (someone killing an enemy or questing successfully), and this gives you a bonus that disappears when you use it (the attack bonus disappears after killing enemies with that bonus, and the progress moves to the location). Something I do want clarified is whether this gets around “can’t place progress on locations in the staging area” restrictions, because, if so, he’s an auto-include in certain quests.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I would guess that moving progress onto a location counts as placing progress, so it probably wouldn’t get around that restriction.

  2. Thaddeus permalink

    Three tactics resources from a single hero sure sounds like an awful lot to me. AND you need to have a weapon or armor in your hand/discard that you especially want on that character. So conditional.
    I think I’d like this guy and imagine putting him in certain decks if he cost 2, but at 3, it would have to be a REALLY specific deck for me to consider Master Ironsmith.

  3. Anonim permalink

    You used progress for corruption in FA, right? Then, you could give the Explorer some corruption, and it will keep disappearing as well as helping with locations!

    • Anonim permalink

      Okay probably not.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I did indeed. I definitely won’t be including this guy on the FA Approved List!

  4. William O'Brien permalink

    Master Ironsmith has too many restrictions to be of much value. Most weapons and armor cap out at 2 cost, so really the only value you’re generally getting from this guy is a 1-resource guy with ok stats. Sure, if you get a Citadel Plate you’re getting value, but still not all that much. Not really worth the hassle of needing 3-resources on one guy, and only getting to put the attachment on that guy. Fishing out of the discard is pretty much the only real benefit. He’s probably a 1-of at most even for the decks that he helps.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Agreed. If we do get more off-sphere weapons and armor in the future, that could definitely help his cause.

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