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The Drowned Ruins: Hero Review

by on September 20, 2016

drowned-ruins

The release of The Drowned Ruins means that we are now more than halfway through the Dream-chaser cycle. On the one hand, I am deeply excited to see the conclusion of what has been the best cycle yet. On the other hand, it is somewhat bittersweet to see such a highly anticipated cycle move towards the rear view window. Still, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, as there’s plenty of content to be had before we bid farewell to the Dream-chaser and watch it sail over the horizon! The Drowned Ruins pack introduces a brand new hero to the game, and once again we see a hero that was created by Fantasy Flight. However, like Thalin, Beravor, and Eleanor before him, Argalad is actually a transplant from an earlier Fantasy Flight game: Middle-earth Quest. Unfortunately, that game is no longer available from FFG, but the heroes are apparently still making their way to our beloved card game. Aragalad is a Silvan elf, and he embodies the “hit and run”, sniper style of his people. Just where in the pantheon of heroes will this new addition fall? Read on to find out!

HERO

* Argalad (Lore Hero, 9 threat, 2 willpower, 2 attack, 1 defense, 4 hit points):

argalad

Argalad has quite the busy text box, but essentially his ability boils down to a combination of reducing enemy threat in the staging area and dealing direct damage:

Ranged.

Action: Exhaust Argalad to choose an enemy in the staging area. Until the end of the phase, that enemy gets -X , where X is Argalad’s . If this effect reduces the enemy’s to 0, deal 1 damage to it. (Limit once per round.)

First, let’s discuss just the ability to reduce the threat of an enemy in the staging area. Note that this ability is an action, so it can be used during any action window. However, in most cases it will be applied after staging and before quest resolution (just keep in mind this flexibility for any corner cases). The main question players will be asking themselves is how this lowering of enemy threat with attack strength differs fundamentally from just having Argalad quest. There are a few major differences/considerations:

  • Argalad’s ability allows him to wait until after staging to decide whether to exhaust him to “contribute” to questing. You can keep him ready and then determine whether an enemy’s threat needs to be lowered after you have full knowledge of how the total willpower compares to the total threat in the staging area. If you don’t need his ability, then you can keep Argalad back for combat. These kinds of “quest adjustment” effects always tend to be quite powerful (see Faramir) because they help you spend your character actions where they are most needed. Since you will be boosting up Argalad’s attack strength anyway to help power his ability, if he doesn’t end up helping with questing, he should have a strong attack that can be used to help out anywhere on the board. The one downside here is that if no enemies show up in the staging area, then Argalad can’t use his ability to help with questing even if you need him to. This likely won’t be a problem in multiplayer, where enemies are ever-present, but could be an issue in solo play.
  • Argalad’s ability to affect questing with his ability is tied to the threat of enemies in the staging area. This seems like an obvious statement at first glance, but what’s important to note is that the magnitude of the impact he can have during the quest phase is variable. To put this in simple terms, if the highest threat of any enemy in the staging area is only 1 or 2, then Argalad will only be able to reduce the threat in the staging area by a small amount. By contrast, if there is an enemy with 3, 4, or even 5 threat in the staging area, Argalad will be helping out in a way that only the best questing heroes normally can (just keep in mind that his ability cannot be applied to an enemy that is immune to player card effects), assuming he has the attack strength to mostly or fully lower their threat. Such variability means that Argalad might not be quite as consistent a contributor to questing as certain other heroes. On the other hand, he gets better when the threats in the staging area are more dire, and there is something to be said for that kind of scaling.
  • Argalad’s ability to help with questing is tied to his attack strength rather than his willpower. At first glance, this almost makes Argalad an on-demand “battle-quester”, assuming there is an enemy to target. The advantage here is that attack strength is perhaps the easiest stat on a hero to boost, especially compared to willpower. There aren’t a ton of permanent willpower boosting attachments out there, and the ones that do exist don’t tend to be cost-effective. By contrast, it’s easy to throw a couple of weapons on Argalad and boost up his attack substantially for only a couple of resources.

With all these considerations properly fleshed out, Argalad’s ability certainly provides a useful way to control and adjust questing power. It is better in multiplayer, given that you will more consistently see enemies and have a broader range of targets on any given turn. Still, it can be useful in solo as well. Is it better to simply choose a straightforward questing hero like Arwen or Eowyn instead? The answer of course, as always, is it depends. The question also misses the point, which is that Argalad’s value is in his flexibility and versatility. He can help with questing, if needed, but he can also help out with attack, and because of the timing of his ability, he gives you a good bit of freedom to make the right decision on any given turn. Added on top of this, of course, is the cherry on top that we haven’t even discussed yet: direct damage.

The second part of Argalad’s ability states that if the targeted enemy’s threat is reduced to 0, it takes a point of damage. A single point of damage may not seem like much at first glance, but it can be meaningful. Even without any additional support, a point of damage can allow an enemy to be destroyed by one fewer character than might otherwise be the case, or it might be the difference between destroying an enemy on a given turn and having to wait until the subsequent round. But what Argalad’s direct damage ability is really begging for is some support from elsewhere in your deck. He makes a natural tandem with Thalin, who desperately needed a buddy after languishing for a while. Together, a single enemy can be dealt 2 points of damage before it ever leaves the staging area.

Beyond the natural combo of Thalin, there are all sorts of other tantalizing possibilities:

  • Haldir: Haldir and Argalad are natural partners and can make the best team that Middle-earth has seen since Tauriel and Kili (sorry, couldn’t resist). If you are able to keep enemies in the staging area, or have them engage another player, then Haldir can take advantage of the damage from Argalad to potentially kill off foes before they can attack.
  • Trap decks: Trap decks can be quite good at dealing damage, between cards like Poisoned Stakes, Ranger Bow, and Forest Patrol. Add a little dose of Argalad and the damage can really pile up. There’s an extra bit of symmetry here in that trap decks also have a means of reducing enemy threat with Ranger Spikes.
  • Hama shenanigans: Hama is great at recycling direct damage effects like Goblin-cleaver. You could set up a direct damage machine between Argalad and Hama (perhaps with Thalin involved) to cut down enemies quickly. Of course, you could use some Tactics direct damage events even without Hama.
  • Gondorian Spearman/Spear of the Citadel: Either of these cards can work well with Argalad, potentially taking out enemies before they can finish attacking. If you attach the Spear to the Spearman and have Argalad and Thalin both dealing damage, you could potentially deal 4 damage to an enemy before it can even attack!
  • Arrows from the Trees: You’ll likely be including Tactics anyway, and your Argalad deck just might have some tricks for keeping enemies in the staging area, so this direct damage event could potentially decimate the staging area.

So both aspects of Argalad’s abilities are flexible, versatile, and can be enhanced fairly easily. What are the best attachments and events to pair with this new hero? Bow of the Galadhrim is target number one. This weapon only costs 1 and gives +1 to Argalad for each copy attached, allowing him to fully reduce an enemy with 4 threat if he has 2 copies, which should be good enough in the vast majority of cases. Then, when he is using ranged to attack an enemy engaged with another player, he will be able to use the +2 bonus, making him an effective contributor to combat when not using his ability. Of course, other similar weapons can do the job, such as Dagger of Westernesse, and the Bow might not be the top choice if you are playing Argalad in solo. One possibility is to give Argalad the Gondor trait with In Service of the Steward or Steward of Gondor so that he can pump up his attack with Gondorian Fire, but I think that particular combo is a bit too finicky for my tastes with this hero.

Beyond weapons, anything that deals direct damage makes a good companion for Argalad, as you can see in the list above. In order to best make use of his ability, sometimes it’s also useful to keep enemies in the staging area so that you can keep pinging them over the course of multiple turns, so cards like Advance Warning, Fresh Tracks, Take No Notice, or Leadership Anborn (the latter is especially useful for dealing more damage; if you’re feeling particularly thirsty for some jank, you can use the Sword-thain/Wingfoot/Anborn combo as well). The strength of Argalad is that such engagement cost shenanigans, perhaps paired with a low starting threat, work well with Argalad, but aren’t strictly necessary for him to work well, as it can be for someone like Haldir. There are also Argalad builds that plan on engaging enemies but use the direct damage and threat reduction to help grease the wheels (here’s my own example of such a deck). Don’t forget that you can make use of Argalad’s boosted attack in conjunction with Hands Upon the Bow if you need to dispatch an enemy outright. In addition to boosting attack and damage, you’ll probably also want some form of readying for Agalad so that he can use his ability and also attack. Lembas is a good in-sphere options, but the usual suspects (i.e. Unexpected Courage) will also do the trick.

All told, Argalad is an extremely entertaining new hero with quite a few different applications. My intuition is that he skews more towards multiplayer, but there are definitely ways to work him into solo as well. Argalad plays off quite a few aspects of what the Lore sphere does well, and as such, he’s a strong new addition. He can definitely fit the Lore slot in a traditional tri-sphere Silvan deck, but there’s nothing tying him necessarily to Silvan decks either. Neither his willpower or attack are stellar to begin with, but you’ll be pumping his attack quite easily, and his willpower is solid enough to use when you really need to. Try Argalad out and see; he’s even better than he appears at first glance!

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦♦

Possible Attachment Choices: Bow of the Galadhrim, Lembas, Cram, Unexpected Courage, Dagger of Westernesse, Dunedain Mark

Conclusion

Next up, we’ll be taking a look at the rest of the player cards of The Drowned Ruins!

Readers, what are your thoughts on Argalad? 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?

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From → Reviews

5 Comments
  1. It’s very fun to use Argalad in the Drowned Ruins itself to take care of those pesky Cave Eels. That scout tidied them up so well that we never engaged one.

  2. Great review. I want to add one thing, Argalad is the third Ranged Hero that belong to the Lore Sphere, he is not that funny compared to Haldir, but is a great keyword to this sphere. Maybe we can received more love to Scout Heroes, I’m expecting those cards!

  3. Anonim permalink

    Awesome that you put reviews more in line with the actual publications! If you just did it with some other content…(Yes, I start again)☺

  4. Sechen permalink

    Another fun thing he can do is quest twice if you have readying. For instance, with Light of Valinor, you can commit him to the quest, and then also use him to reduce the threat of an enemy. With the upcoming +1will +1attack knife, he could easily contribute 3 to the quest.

  5. Glowwyrm permalink

    You make a great point about the flexibility of Argalad. Being able to quest or attack is important, and I think it makes him more playable in solo than it would otherwise. He really depends on an enemy showing up to be effective, but that’s how things are with your attacking heroes anyway. He’s unique, and I love that the designers continue to find new space to explore in the game.

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