Temple of the Deceived: Hero Review
It’s no secret that I’ve been a huge fan and supporter of the current cycle. Temple of the Deceived has taken this excitement to a whole new level and instantly become one of my favorite scenarios of all time. I’ve been eagerly awaiting this quest because of the map mechanic and it turns out to be as engaging in practice as it seemed in theory, completely transforming the way locations work and feel. Although this isn’t the most difficult quest around, that consideration takes a firm backseat to the fact that this quest is just plain fun to play with a wide variety of decks. Speaking of decks, this pack brings a brand new hero to the table, one that has singlehandedly brought attention and support to a new type of deck. Read on to find out more about Elfhelm!
* Elfhelm (Leadership Hero, 10 threat, 2 willpower, 2 attack, 2 defense, 4 hit points):
I have to admit that when I first saw this new hero, I was skeptical as to whether he could make a big enough impact to see consistent play. After all, his ability centers around getting mounts into play, which isn’t something that we have seen before:
Each Spirit hero with an attached Mount gets +1 .
Each Tactics hero with an attached Mount gets +1 .
Each Leadership hero with an attached Mount gets +1 .
Before we ride headlong into the gameplay aspects of this card, a quick reminder of where Elfhelm fits into the story is in order. Elfhelm was the Marshal of the East-mark of Rohan, which essentially means that he was the commander of the armies of eastern Rohan. As such, he played an important role in many of the battles of the War of the Ring in which the Rohirrim were involved. Having him bolster the effectiveness of others who are employing a “cavalry” approach certainly makes sense in terms of the lore.
Returning to my original skepticism, the biggest weakness I saw in Elfhelm’s ability has to do with pace. Success in this game often depends on those crucial first few rounds, and those heroes and abilities that tend to get going quickly are often the strongest ones. Elfhelm, by contrast, depends on first drawing mounts, and then playing them out on various heroes, all of which takes some measure of time. That by itself isn’t necessarily a fatal flaw as, despite the emphasis on a fast start in many quests, there are many quite powerful decks that build up slowly and then steamroll over the encounter deck (Dwarves, Outlands, and Secrecy decks are just a few examples of this approach). However, Elfhelm seems to have the problem of having a much lower power ceiling than other decks of the “snowball” type. After all, just how many mounts can you get into play? Even if you do get a fair few out on the board, is +1 to a couple stats really worth taking up a valuable hero slot?
I will say that although I think these initial observations and criticisms do still hold some weight, my opinion on Elfhelm was greatly improved by actually trying him out. There are a few considerations that are really necessary to understand in order to appreciate Elfhelm’s ability. The first is that many of the mounts in the game are good on their own terms, so you are not being forced to include cards of borderline utility to make some dubious combo work. A card like Snowmane or Rohan Warhorse is already useful by itself and included in many decks. Elfhelm can therefore be seen as giving you a bonus for doing something you would be doing already, although if you are using this hero, you’ll probably be including more mounts than normal to make sure you get the maximum benefit. But the larger point is that all of a sudden the Rohan Warhorse is not only a great readying effect in Tactics, but it also can give you a +1 bonus to attack at the same time, for example, which means you can potentially save space in your deck by cutting some cards that also grant an attack bonus. Elfhelm can thus be seen as a way of leveraging certain cards in your deck, enhancing their value and allowing them to shoulder some of the burden of boosting stats.
The second and related consideration is that stat boosts on heroes can often be meaningful even in small amounts. This statement is particularly true for defense, where the difference between a defense of 2 and 3 seems small but is absolutely huge in game terms (the same is true for the difference between 3 and 4) in determining how consistently a hero can defend. In attack, an additional point of strength can sometimes mean that another character can be saved for attacking some other enemy. Willpower, particularly in Spirit, can be acquired fairly cheaply in the form of allies, yet adding a point or two of extra questing power in the early game can make an impact. The broader point is that the simple bonuses of +1 from Elfhelm’s ability seem modest enough that you might be wondering if they are worth it, but they are better than is apparent at first glance. As a brief anecdote, I was able to attach Song of Kings and Snowmane on Spirit Theoden during the very first turn, which meant that he could quest for 3 and defend for 3 on the same turn! The counter to that example would be to ask whether there is a difference functionally between Song of Kings/Elfhelm and a Dunedain Warning, but the reality is that the Song of Kings does serve the important purpose of resource smoothing in that particular deck as well, so it’s not just a straight substitution.
One of the important points to emphasize here is that Elfhelm is certainly better in multiplayer than he is in solo. This judgment is a matter of pure math: more potential targets for mounts means more stat boosts gained from Elfhelm. Since the bonuses do not stack for additional mounts attached to a given hero, having more candidates raises the ceiling for this hero. In addition, other decks can potentially include mounts and/or songs to help the process get rolling more quickly. There is perhaps a solo build for Elfhelm, but it will definitely fall short of optimal.
What about getting the best out of Elfhelm? Which attachments and events work best with this hero? Mounts are the obvious answer, and Rohan Warhorse, Steed of Imladris and Armored Destrier are some of the best candidates since they can be placed on any hero of a particular sphere. In a similar way, Arod is the most flexible mount overall as it can be put on any hero. Of course, mounts like Snowmane and Hobbit Pony are a bit more limited in terms of trait, but can give you a ton of mileage, while Shadowfax and Asfaloth are mostly limited to a certain character (although Asfaloth doesn’t technically have to go on Glorfindel) but give great value when they can be used. In addition to mounts, I’ve mentioned songs as a component of Elfhelm decks, and the reason why is because they allow you to give additional resource icons to a hero, and since Elfhelm’s ability does not specify “printed” resource icons, a hero with these extra icons can gain stat boosts to several stats at once. Some of the most entertaining mount and song possibilities are:
- Roheryn (from Flame of the West) on Tactics Aragorn: With Elfhelm’s bonus, Aragorn can use the mount’s ability to immediately attack an enemy for 4 after optionally engaging it. If you can add even more attack boosts, Aragorn can really start mowing down enemies while pulling new ones over.
- Spirit Glorfindel with Light of Valinor, Asfaloth and a Song of Battle: Now the Elf everyone loves to hate can quest for 4 and attack for 4. Watch out!
- Gandalf with Shadowfax, Narya, and a Song of Battle: With these attachments, Gandalf could attack for 4 and defend for 4, and the great thing is you were probably using Shadowfax and Narya in your Gandalf deck anyway!
- Theoden with Song of Kings and Snowmane: I mentioned this combination earlier, but it’s one of my favorites for theme and gameplay reasons. Snowmane provides readying to get added use out of the dual boost, and Spirit Theoden can defend for 3 and quest for 3 (Tactics Theoden could use the same combination to quest for 3, attack for 4, and defend for 3).
- Armored Destrier on Sam Gamgee + Song of Battle: Sam Gamgee’s already an amazing hero, but with this combination, he could defend for 2 before the boost from his own ability, while also being able to use the Destrier to potentially get rid of a shadow and ready to participate in an attack with a strength of 2 (again, not including the boost from his own ability). Actually, the Destrier is pretty much amazing with everyone, especially in combination with Elfhelm.
With all these mounts kicking around, you could certainly look to make use of a card like Charge of the Rohirrim, which grants a sizable +3 attack to each Rohan character with a mount attached. Of course, this event is expensive at 2 and is restricted to Rohan characters, but if you are honing in on a Rohan theme and including a bunch of mounts anyway, it might be worth a risk at one or two copies. Since you are probably playing multiplayer with Elfhelm anyway, you might having the breathing room to try to set this combo up. If you are feeling really ambitious and want to earn a legendary achievement, try pulling off the mighty Charge of the Rohirrim + Forth Eorlingas! (allows Rohan heroes to attack the staging area for a phase) + Hour of Wrath in valour (allows heroes to attack without exhausting) to wipe out an entire staging area! Finally, Sword-thain is worth a look with Elfhelm, as that attachment gives you another hero to boost, and there are probably some entertaining mount combinations with certain unique allies that are possible.
I’ve talked a bunch about Elfhelm in terms of boosting other heroes, but what about his own potential as a participant? He has the even stat spread of 2/2/2, which together with his ability means that you can customize him to serve the role you want. Since he is in the Leadership sphere, his natural role is as a defender. With just the Armored Destrier, he can defend quite well with 3 defense strength and potential shadow removal. His questing and attack strength are also enough to help with either questing or striking back at the enemy. Many times, an even stat spread is viewed as a liability, but particularly in Elfhelm’s case, I think it is a strength, lending him the versatility he needs to adapt to all the creative decks players will make using his ability.
Overall, Elfhelm is not a top-tier hero, simply because there are other heroes that either can have a more immediate impact on the game or have a higher power ceiling. On the other hand, he is definitely not a bottom-rung hero either, as he has clear utility, especially in multiplayer. Most importantly of all, Elfhelm is simply one of the more entertaining heroes around, as he encourages players to devise clever combinations of mounts, songs, and attachments, which is not something we have seen before. As such, I count myself a fan of this hero, and a validation of an important rule regarding card valuation in this game: don’t knock it until you try it!
Possible Attachment Choices: Any mounts (for himself or other heroes), any songs (for himself or other heroes), Dunedain Warning/Dunedain Mark, Captain of Gondor (fantastic to give him a +1 to attack and defense without taking up a restricted slot)
Next up, we’ll be taking a look at the allies of Temple of the Deceived!
Readers, what are your thoughts on Elfhelm? How would you rate him overall as a hero? How does he fare in solo play? What clever decks have you come up with to make use of this hero?