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The Drowned Ruins: Allies Review

by on September 29, 2016

drowned-ruins

Glowwyrm returns with his review of the allies of The Drowned Ruins! – Ian

Glowwyrm here with some quick hits on the allies of The Drowned Ruins adventure pack.  Four new allies every pack has kept this reviewer busy this cycle, but there’s been so many good allies to talk about it I have enjoyed it.  Today I’ll pass on some quick critiques, well deserved praise, and a handful of jokes to cover the allies from the Drowned Ruins.  Let’s start at the bottom and work our way up.

ALLIES

Woodland Courier (Spirit Ally, 2 cost, 1 willpower, 1 attack, 0 defense, 1 hit point):

woodland-courier

 

Woodland Courier is a two cost non-unique Spirit ally.  She (he?  Often hard to tell with the elves) has one willpower, one attack, zero defense, and one hit point.  She has the Silvan and Scout traits, and her text reads:

Response: After Woodland Courier enters play, place one progress on a location, (2 progress instead if that location has the Forest trait).

I’m very meh about this ally.  On the one hand, I find her ability to be the weakest of the Silvan enters play abilities and she’s certainly not an ally I’ll target with events that pull her back into my hand.  On the other hand, there’s only five Silvan Spirit allies to pick from, and since Galadriel is a ubiquitous presence in Silvan decks, the Courier at least deserves some consideration.  So let’s start with the good.  She’s much better in multiplayer, when location lock can become a real problem and any bit of progress you can place can be crucial.  She combos well with Hithlain in this pack, giving some real location control potential to your Silvan decks.  I tend to build Silvan decks that are the questing deck in a two-handed pair, and this ally could contribute something in those decks.  The Scout trait is a nice bonus, and the Courier would be good to pair with Guarded Ceaselessly so that she could contribute more to the quest than just her single willpower. And, in a dedicated Scout deck that focuses on piling on progress a little at a time through Warden of Arnor, Northern Tracker, Rhovanian Outrider, she makes an important contribution by chipping away at the locations too.  The Woodland Courier is certainly not useless.

However, there are some significant knocks against her.  First, her cost to stats ratio is terrible.  The expectation for a Spirit ally is two willpower for two resources.  Even for a Silvan ally  (most of which violate the standard Cost to Stats ratio because of the boosts and cost reductions from Celeborn and O, Lorien), it’s disheartening to see one willpower on an ally with a mediocre ability.  Speaking of her ability, placing one progress on a location during the planning phase is very meh unless you’re really building around location control.  And it will pretty much always be one progress, because only 16% of locations in the game have the Forest trait.  The other Spirit Silvans make a much bigger splash.  Galadriel’s Handmaiden drops your threat and is a solid quester.  The Galadhrim Weaver helps you retrieve your Silvan events out of your discard pile and shuffle them back into your deck.  The Silvan Refugee is a powerful, cheap quester, even if he won’t stick around for long in a Silvan deck.  The Lorien Guide is the only ally that the Woodland Courier is clearly superior to and that’s because the Guide costs three. So her place in the Silvan trait is mired in mediocrity.

So where does the verdict land on the Courier?  She’s not powerful, but not worthless.   Not unique enough to deliberately try to include in a deck, but not so bland that you would always overlook her.  If you love her, I don’t fault you for it, but if you hate her and never play her, I can’t blame you for that either.

Versatility: ♦♦♦◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦◊◊◊

Glowwyrm’s Rating: Interesting.

Ian’s thoughts: Like Glowwyrm, I’m having a hard time getting excited for this particular ally. It feels like it falls victim to having its stats repressed in order to compensate for the Celeborn boost. Placing a single progress on a location isn’t going to do much in the vast majority of cases, and you really need to add some other location control effects to really make the effect meaningful. Maybe there’s a corner case where you are one progress away from exploring the active location, and then you use Sneak Attack/The Tree People to bring in the Woodland Courier for the last token, but that’s not going to happen too often. Overall, she’s definitely worth a look in a multiplayer Silvan or location control deck and potentially might be worth it in a solo Silvan deck with Spirit, but I’d probably favor the Refugee in the latter case. I’d give the Woodland Courier a 4 for versatility, 2 for efficiency, and 3 for uniqueness. 

Robin Smallburrow (Lore Ally, 2 cost, 2 willpower, 0 attack, 1 defense, 2 hit points):

robin-smallburrow

There’s lots of them still named in the books that haven’t shown up in the game yet, and I’m glad the designers are exploring this space.  Let’s take a closer look at what he does:

Robin Smallburrow is a unique lore ally with the cost of two.  He has two willpower, zero attack, one defense, and two hitpoints.  He has the Hobbit and the Shirriff trait, and his text reads:

Response: After you travel to a location, spend one Spirit resource to raise the engagement cost of each enemy in play by X until the end of the round, where X is that location’s quest points.  Any player may trigger this response.

There’s lots to like about Robin (when is Batman coming?  Only time I try that joke, I promise).  First, he continues the trend of solid stat allies in Lore.  Two cost for two willpower and two hit points is the definition of a solid questing ally, so he deserves consideration for his stat line alone.  His hobbit trait makes him a valid target for a Hobbit Pipe, Elevenses, and he’s another body useful for cards that work well in hobbity decks like Hail of Stones.  So simply by being a hobbit with a good stat line, Robin is a solid ally.  But what about his ability?

It’s an interesting one and I like the idea, even if I don’t see myself using it that often.  I like the idea that it targets quest points on a location, which is pretty unique, and provides a better boost than you might otherwise expect.  The vast majority of locations (80% plus) have at least three quest points.  Nearly two thirds have four or more quest points.  So you are talking about a sizeable boost to enemy engagement cost, especially if you’re also playing Lore Pippin.  This is handy for avoiding enemies during engagement, helping other players avoid engagement, or ensuring that the enemies you engage have a higher engagement cost than your threat (which is crucial for Hobbit decks).  Robin’s ability opens up possibilities for partnering with a Haldir or Dunhere staging area attack deck that avoids engagement and allows you to pick off enemies without allowing them to attack.  The best thing about this ability is it is repeatable, so it’s always there if you need it.  Paying a spirit resource would get old and expensive, so you probably don’t want to rely on this every turn, but it’s nice that it’s there when you need it.

So there’s a lot to like about Robin Smallburrow, and we haven’t even talked about the strongest part of his card yet: the Shirriff trait!  I mean, every card with the Shirriff trait slides right into that uberpowerful “Law Enforcement of Middle Earth” deck and…..Oh.  wait.  Nevermind.

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

Glowwyrm’s Rating: Intriguing

Ian’s Thoughts: Just based on stats alone. every Lore deck should run 1 copy of Robin Smallburrow. There’s really no reason not to, as he matches the most efficient Spirit questers. Lore has really gotten a huge upgrade in its allies in the past year or so, with a bevy of cheap unique allies with great stats. I have a feeling that his ability, while not useful every turn, will be helpful more often than it appears at first glance. Robin won’t put you on his back and win the game for you (and he really shouldn’t either, as he’d probably hurt himself), but he’ll always be welcome. I’d give him 5 for versatility, 4 for efficiency, and 4 for uniqueness.

Dwarven Sellsword (Leadership Ally, 1 cost, 2 willpower, 2 attack, 2 defense, 3 hit points):

dwarven-sellsword

 

We’re getting all kinds of firsts in this pack, as we now have the game’s first mercenary! Though he doesn’t have the useless but flavorful mercenary trait, he demands his payment or he’s peacing out.  Let’s take a look:

Dwarven Sellsword is a one cost, non-unique Leadership ally.  He has two willpower, two attack, two defense, and three hit points.  He has the dwarf and warrior traits.  His text reads:

Forced: At the end of the round, discard Dwarven Sellsword unless the players as a group spend one Leadership resource.

Hurray for temporary but powerful allies!  The Dwarven Sellsword ought to cost four resources, but you can drop him into play for one!  Sure, he’s only going to be around for a round or maybe two, but that one resource can net you a lot of power.  Early in the game when you’re struggling to make progress, drop him in, quest for two, absorb some direct damage that comes off the encounter deck, and then let him go.  Or if you have a big enemy sitting in the staging area but your main defender isn’t ready to take him on yet, you can play Dwarven Sellsword for a strong chump blocker that won’t be taken out by direct damage from a shadow (though that shadow effect isn’t as common as it once was).  Or if you’re just a little short on attack, getting a plus two bonus from an ally (who could also eat some archery)  is worth the resource.  He’s even better when Dain is on the table, giving you a cheap three willpower, three attack boost for a turn.  In fact, in a dwarf deck, late in the game, spend a resource every turn to keep him around might be the best use of your money (though if it’s late in the game with a Dwarf deck, you’ve probably already won or lost).  You could always keep paying to keep him around in any deck, and he’d technically be worth it for a few turns, but I think he’s much better as a one turn, flexible power boost.

There are certainly some downsides to him.  You have to play him during the planning phase and sometimes you won’t be sure what the best use of him will be during the round.  Sometimes you’ll want him in to chump block but the enemy will be forced to engage someone else.  Sometimes you’ll quest with him and wish you’d held him back for combat.  Such is life with the encounter deck.  But more often than not I think you’ll get the use out of him that you wanted.

My real fear for the Sellsword is that he’s the kind of card that always ends up on the cutting floor.  He’s useful in any deck, but not crucial to making the deck work.  I think he’s just good enough to make the cut.  Just don’t use him to play a Very Good Tale, don’t expect your friends to pay to keep him around, and don’t play Sword-Thain on him, unless you want to use the resource he generates every round just to keep him in the game (ed. – he’s non-unique so using Sword-thain technically wouldn’t work, but it would be hilarious!).

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦♦

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

Glowwyrm’s Rating: Interesting.

Ian’s Thoughts: I fully agree with Glowwyrm that the real way to look at the Sellsword is as a one-turn boost. There are plenty of events out there that give an attack/defense/willpower boost for a single turn or phase, so the Sellsword does a similar thing, but he just happens to be incredibly versatile. If you have the cash to keep him around, you can do so, but you shouldn’t think of him the way you think of normal allies that stick around. Based on those terms, the Sellsword is incredibly useful, and he’s even better when you consider that Leadership doesn’t have the best selection of allies, especially ones that are cheap and versatile. I’d give the Sellsword a 4 for versatility, 5 for efficiency, and 4 for uniqueness.

Marksman of Lorien (Tactics Ally, 3 cost, 0 willpower, 3 attack, 0 defense, 2 hit points):

marksman-of-lorien

 

And now for the best ally in the pack, the sniper from the trees, the Marksman of Lorien!  She’s (I think) awesome, here’s why:

Marksman of Lorien is a three cost non-unique tactics ally.  She has zero willpower, three attack, zero defense and two hit points (pretty rare for a Silvan).  She has the Silvan and the Warrior traits.   Her text reads:

Response: After Marksman of Lorien enters play, choose an enemy.  That enemy gets minus two defense until the end of the round.

There’s lots of stuff to love about this ally.  Three ranged attack for three tactics resources is excellent.  Sure, it’s on the expensive side for an ally, but this one is worth it.  In a multi-sphere Silvan deck, you should be able to knock this cost down to two with O, Lorien!  And, even if you’re not playing Silvans, the Marksman is worth the three tactics resources, especially since I stopped worrying about Tactics resources after the introduction of Mablung.  Three ranged attack is strong, lets you hit any enemy on the table, and is pretty much a good include in any tactics deck.

But beyond being a solid ally, the Marksman’s ability is awesome.  Dropping an enemy’s  defense by two is deadly to them, and she can drop the defense of any enemy on the table, even ones engaged with other players or in the staging area.  This ability allows you to set up some fun combos.  Straight Shot is one of the most obvious and powerful ones (exhaust a weapon to discard a non-unique enemy with zero defense).  Playing the Marksman drops their defense by two, which opens up numerous possibilities for discarding an enemy before they attack.  If the enemy has more defense, you could attack them with a character armed with a Rivendell Blade to drop their defense another two points, allowing you to eliminate nearly every non-unique enemy in the game (though once you’ve dropped their defense four points, Straight Shot isn’t always necessary).  Straight Shot is extra great because of all the Mumaks we’ve been fighting in the Saga expansions, and since we’re heading to Harad next and one of the AP’s is called The Mumakil, I think it’s safe to assume we’ll be seeing more of them.

Straight Shot isn’t the only combo you can pull off.  Play the Marksman during planning to target an enemy already in the staging area, then use Hands Upon the Bow to take them out.  Or, even better, you can three card combo Sneak Attack (or the Tree Peoples if you’re lucky), Marksman and Hands Upon the Bow after the staging step but before quest resolution to wallop an enemy just revealed.  Or play a Marksman during planning to soften up an enemy for a Battle-Fury attack during the quest phase.  She’s an interesting possibility for Sneak attack during combat, though you probably aren’t going to want to pop her in and out of play using your other Silvan events.  But the Marksman doesn’t depend on her ability to be good, as mentioned just stat wise she is worth having on the table.  And, of course, she’s a great candidate for the Bow of the Galadhrim and she enters play with four attack while Celeborn is on the table.

There’s a whole lot to like about this ally and not much to criticize: she’s a real winner.

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦♦

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦◊◊

Glowwyrm’s Rating: Interesting

Ian’s Thoughts: Tauriel is definitely a useful ally. She doesn’t feel shoehorned into the card pool and at all. In fact, as Glowwyrm has outlined, there are many ways to leverage her ability to destroy enemies outright. Even without that ability, the 3 attack plus ranged is worth the cost in my opinion. So while Tauriel might not be popular with all players, and while she won’t necessarily fit into all decks, she’s at least worth consideration. In multiplayer, particularly 3 or 4 player games, I’d strongly encourage players to include this ally. I’d give Tauriel a 3 for versatility, 3 for efficiency, and 3 for uniqueness.

Conclusion

Well, readers, that’s it!  Four more allies into the card pool.  Which one do you see yourself playing the most?  Was I too hard on the Woodland Courier?  Who’s excited about the Law Enforcement of Middle Earth deck?

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7 Comments
  1. Anonim permalink

    Did Ian call the Woodland Courier Tauriel?

    • Phil permalink

      He did indeed, though I take issue with it as clearly Mirlonde holds that coveted spot.

      She even has the pensive stance going on and everything.

      • TalesfromtheCards permalink

        Heh. Well, I called the Marksman of Lorien Tauriel, but yes, yes, I did. I couldn’t resist that particular troll move.

  2. Phil permalink

    Another interesting set of allies analysed in an interesting fashion, thanks guys! I’m curious of the wording relating to the Dwarven Sellsword as it seems to be an inevitable errata for clarity.

    “Unless the players as a group spend 1 Leadership resource.”

    As far as I can see it’s the only instance of a cost based power that is missing the “to cause X result”. Because of this, it doesn’t actually specify that one must pay 1 resource exclusively for his effect, rather just that 1 resource is paid by the group. Does this mean if someone plays a leadership event card of cost 1, they have fulfilled the requirement?

    “Forced: At the end of the round, either discard the Dwarven Sellsword or pay 1 leadership resource. Any player may pay this cost.

    This is clearly the intended meaning, but it is very oddly worded and at the moment, gives the card a different dynamic if one decides to be mischievous.

    • Anonim permalink

      You can only fulfill a cost for one effect at once.

      • Of course, I’m a fool. That’s what I get for trying to think. The end of the round isn’t even an action window is it, so there wouldn’t even be an opportunity.

  3. I can see Dwarven Sellsword getting play in Dwarf decks where a 1 cost ally makes it much easier to hit the five-dwarf threshhold early on.

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