City of Corsairs: Hero Review
The City of Corsairs Adventure Pack brings the Dream-chaser cycle to its triumphant conclusion. As a quest, this scenario is pretty fantastic, forcing players to both navigate the seas once again and fight an epic battle on land. It is definitely challenging, but provides a fitting conclusion to what has been my favorite cycle thus far. In terms of player cards, some of the recent offerings have been a bit more on the niche side, so it will be interesting to see how the final pack shakes out in terms of power level as we review these cards. First up of course is a brand new Tactics version of Prince Imrahil. Imrahil is actually one of the more fascinating characters in The Return of the King, as he clearly seems to be of noble lineage and significant importance, yet we don’t learn too much about him (and he is omitted entirely from the movies). The Leadership version of Prince Imrahil was one of the very first heroes, and has maintained relevance throughout much of the life of the game, especially given that he is the only hero version of himself in town. Read on to find out where Tactics Imrahil fits in the overall picture!
* Prince Imrahil (Tactics Hero, 11 threat, 2 willpower, 3 attack, 2 defense, 4 hit points):
Eschewing the readying effect of the Leadership version, the Tactics version have an incredibly unique ability:
Combat Action: Spend 1 resource from Prince Imrahil’s resource pool to search the top 5 cards of your deck for an ally who shares at least 1 Trait with him, and put that ally into play. Shuffle your deck. At the end of the phase, if that ally is still in play, shuffle it into your deck. (Limit once per round.)
No other hero has anything similar to this ability, as this is the first example of an ally spamming effect on a hero card. Some important things to note at the top is that this is a combat action, so you can’t pull out an ally to help with questing or take part in anything other than combat (although you could do something like use that ally to trigger A Very Good Tale during the combat phase). The other important consideration is that the ally returns to your deck if it is still in play at the end of the phase, with the key word being “still in play.” So if you sacrifice the ally to the gods of chump blocking, it will stay in your discard pile instead of shuffling back into your deck. Similarly, if you can find some way to return it your hand before the end of the phase, it will stay there since it is no longer in play (we’ll get more into those possibilities later). Finally, remember that this ability is only once per phase, so don’t get carried away tossing allies into play!
So getting right down to it, what is the purpose of this ability? How can it help you if the ally just runs away at the end of the phase? There are several possibilities:
- Chump blocking on demand: With Tactics Imrahil around, you should always have access to an ally that you can throw to the trolls, assuming you have a spare resources. There is the small chance of whiffing of course, but most decks contain a high enough percentage of allies that you are nearly guaranteed to hit at least one ally. In addition, if you are using Imrahil, you should be consciously building your deck for the ability by making sure the ally count is high and you are not including too many unique characters, which wouldn’t be able to enter play if the first copy is already on the table. This kind of defense on demand might not seem that vital, but in practice it can be clutch. Not only does it serve as a panic button if things don’t turn out as you plan, but it also gives your deck breathing room because you can use this approach to handle attacks until your deck is fully operational. Of course, anything that keys off of characters being destroyed will work here, such as Horn of Gondor, Valiant Sacrifice, and Imrahil’s best bro Eomer. Sadly, Tactics Imrahil cannot be used in conjunction with Leadership Imrahil!
- Attack on demand: Sometimes it’s not defense that you need, but a point or two of extra attack power to finish off an enemy. Instead of having to just make do with what you have on the board, Imrahil should be able to grab you an ally that can pitch in what you need.
- Extra bodies for shenanigans: Beyond attack or defense, bodies can often be “resources” in this game if they are used to trigger other effects. These are somewhat limited by Imrahil’s ability being limited to the combat phase but there are still some possibilities.
- Making the most of “enters play” effects: Certain allies, especially those of the Silvan persuasion, have beneficial abilities upon entering play. Imrahil provides yet another way to trigger these effects aside from actually just playing the allies in question.
Those are some clear positives and uses of Imrahil’s ability, but what is the downside? The clearest argument against Tactics Imrahil would be that his ability is potentially resource-intensive. If you use his ability every turn, that’s one fewer resource for playing other cards. One might argue that it’s better to simply save those resources in order to play cards outright that will stay on the board permanently. However, this argument misses a few key important points. The first is that you don’t need to use Imrahil’s ability every round. Using it selectively can be just as effective and worthwhile. Second, each time you use the ability, you are potentially getting two, three, four, or even more resources worth of stats for a cost of only one, and while you only get the services of those particular stats for a single phase, the bigger picture is that with Imrahil’s ability always being available, you get this kind of deal every single round if you so desire. Ultimately, judging an ability strictly in terms of resources/perceived efficiency can be a dangerous game, which is why initial assessments (including my own) of Caldara were off, because raw number crunching does not take into account the incredible importance of action advantage in this particular game, which is something that Imrahil also grants by throwing another body onto the table at opportune moments.
Tactics Imrahil’s ability is so flexible that I feel like I could write several chapters on this hero without really scratching the surface of all the possible builds. Instead, I’ll highlight a few of the most prominent uses/builds for Imrahil that have emerged thus far:
- Prince Imrahil as Elf-friend: Prince Imrahil’s ability synergizes so incredibly well with the Silvan archetype. The Silvan deck is all about bouncing allies in and out of play multiple times in order to get the greatest use out of their various “enters play” effects, as well as to maximize the benefit of Celeborn’s boost to ally stats during the round they enter play. Imrahil’s effect provides yet another way of accomplishing this. Even better, his effect is far more consistent than any other tool in the Silvan arsenal since it is printed on a hero card rather than a card you have to draw from your deck. The one small problem is that Imrahil can only grab an ally that shares a trait with himself, and many Silvan allies do not have the warrior or noble trait. However, there’s an easy solution through the neutral card Elf-friend. Simply attach Elf-friend to Imrahil and now all Silvan allies share a trait with him. This deck type/combination has the added bonus of not being entirely un-thematic. After all, the line of Dol Amroth (Imrahil’s home) is most notable for reputedly having Elven blood, and the area was settled by Elves long before Men.
- The dynamic duo of Imrahil and hero Gandalf: Anything that allows you to manipulate or look at your deck is going to help Imrahil’s ability and Gandalf is the master of such manipulation. Not only does hero Gandalf allow you to always see the top card of your deck, potentially broadcasting a target for Imrahil’s ability, he also makes one of the best Imrahil combo pieces available: Wizard Pipe. With Wizard Pipe, you can toss an ally from your hand onto the top of your deck, allowing Imrahil to put it into play with his ability. This is particularly effective for heavy-hitters like ally Beorn. If you have Narya on Gandalf, you can even get double use out of the ally that you cheat into play.
- Imrahil as leader of the Outlands: Prince Imrahil has an attachment in this very pack that allows him to gain the Outlands trait, thus gaining his rightful place at the head of the Outlands army. With the Outlands trait, he can pull Outlands allies using his ability. Many players have posited, however, that Tactics Imrahil is actually not a good fit for Outlands deck. It is true that his ability seems counter-intuitive to what an Outlands deck wants to do. Outlands is all about getting the right allies onto the table permanently so that the buffs can stack. Getting an Outlands ally into play temporarily doesn’t seem as useful, and you definitely don’t want to be throwing them away as sacrifices in order to defend! However, I’ve used Tactics Imrahil in an Outlands deck and I would argue the criticism goes too far. For one thing, what Outlands decks really need is time and space to develop, and Imrahil’s ability provides some defensive cover in that you can potentially pull out non-Outlands allies to serve as defenders in the first few rounds. In addition, sometimes pulling an Outlands ally during the combat phase does make a difference. Not only do you get an extra body, but that body might temporarily boost the stats of other allies you have on the table. Keep in mind that one strategy could be to actually use a few Outlands allies as chump blockers, then bring them back to hand with Men of the West, thus using Imrahil’s ability to see more Outlands allies more quickly. Finally, Imrahil himself benefits from the Outlands boosts and can become a pretty ridiculous hero.
- Imrahil as Prince of Gondor: This is a route I haven’t explored much, but Imrahil does have the printed Gondor trait, which means it should be possible to build a Gondor deck that uses his ability. Gondor allies don’t tend to have a bunch of synergy with entering play, but there are some compelling possibilities. Pull in an Envoy of Pelargir, who would give Imrahil his resource back when she enters play, thus serving as a completely free chump blocker. Grab Damrod and discard him for some threat reduction without having to pay 4 resources for the pleasure. Choose Mablung or the new Guardian of Ithilien and send an enemy back to the staging area before it can attack. There are plenty of possibilities here!
- Imrahil as ally of Rohan: This is one that I haven’t seen really mentioned, but similar to the Elf-friend approach, the idea here is to get Nor Am I A Stranger onto Imrahil so that he can bring Rohan allies into play with his ability. Unlike the Silvan approach, the idea here is not to benefit from “enters play” abilities but to be able to use the “exhaust and discard” abilities of Rohan characters without having to pay their full cost. For example, you could cheat in the Westfold Horse-breaker and either use him as a chump blocker or discard him to ready a hero (turning Imrahil’s ability into essentially a “pay 1 to ready a hero” situation). With the Westfold Outrider brought in, you could actually use his ability to bring down an enemy after enemy attacks are over, basically giving yourself a free attack without having to worry about defense against that particular foe. Hama is one of the best deals, providing his huge defensive capability for 1 cost, and Grimbold turns Imrahil’s ability into a true Feint. Interestingly, if you have Gamling on the board, you could discard one of these Rohan allies, then exhaust Gamling to return the ally to hand instead of being discarded. Then, since they aren’t in play, they won’t get shuffled back into your deck due to Imrahil’s ability. Don’t forget that you can also make use of the Rohan ally you bring in to play Helm! Helm!, automatically discarding a non-unique enemy for 1 resource! While I haven’t tried this approach yet, it seems an effective way to counter one of the weaknesses of Rohan decks, which is how cost-intensive they are.
As already mentioned, there are countless other possibilities, and that is why Tactics Imrahil is such a great hero. You don’t even really need to get that creative. Simply throw in a bunch of allies that share traits with Imrahil and you’ll probably find the ability useful. Even a use that might seem marginal can be clutch. For example, during the Fellowship Event in my area, I kept grabbing Wardens of Healing with Imrahil’s ability, and since they weren’t showing up normally, I could use them to get some healing done in the meantime. The main trick to using Imrahil is just making sure you have enough allies and enough allies with the right traits, but beyond that, it’s hard to go wrong.
Imrahil’s ability rightly steals the show, but he does have some great stats as well, with 2 willpower, 3 attack, and 2 defense, allowing him to perform competently as either a quester, attacker, or defender. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the in-built readying of his Leadership version, meaning that some of those stats will often be wasted each round, but it’s nice to have the versatility. With the Gondor trait around, slapping the Gondorian Shield on him is an easy way to gain a strong defender with 4 defense. Of course, he also has access to Blood of Numenor and Gondorian Fire, although those perhaps aren’t ideal options since Imrahil’s ability is resource-intensive itself. Generally, as a hero that can engage in combat, any attack or defense boost will be useful.
In terms of other attachments, what Imrahil really wants is resource acceleration in order to consistently fund his ability while also paying for other Tactics cards. Horn of Gondor is a great option even in its post-errata state. Since many times you will use the temporary ally as a chump blocker, their destruction will trigger the Horn, essentially making that use a free one for that turn. Steward of Gondor is of course a possibility, but is potentially overkill depending on how many Tactics resources you really need per turn in addition to the one you might use for Imrahil’s ability. If you go this route, then Heir of Mardil, which readies a hero when they gain a resource provides an intriguing option, especially since a readying attachment is the second priority behind resource generation. Imagine this scenario. You use Imrahil’s ability to bring in a chump blocker. Defend one attack with Imrahil and the second attack with the chump blocker. The chump blocker is destroyed, giving a resource to Imrahil with the Horn and readying him with Heir of Mardil so that he is available for attack.
Finally, before I conclude I did want to touch on ways of getting allies back to hand so that they aren’t shuffled into your deck at the end of the phase. I’ve already mentioned Gamling in regards to Rohan allies. If you are taking the Silvan approach, then any of the Silvan allies that trigger off of returning a Silvan ally to hand work beautifully for this purpose. Treading slightly more into jank territory, you could use Vilya to place Born Aloft onto the ally in question during the combat phase, then discard Born Aloft to bring that ally to hand before the phase is over. More realistically, you can always load up on Stand and Fight, which is just as good as the aforementioned approaches, as it still lets you access and play allies that have been discarded.
Overall, Imrahil is certainly one of the most unique and intriguing heroes we’ve ever had, and I say that without hyperbole. He also is the kind of hero that you really just have to play and throw into all kinds of situations to understand how exactly he works in actual practice. His relative power level is something that will only become clear with a few more months of experience under the community’s belt, but for now I’ll say that he is safely on the higher end of the scale. Action advantage is king and getting extra options during the combat phase can often be the difference between life or death. For these reasons and more, Imrahil comes highly recommended!
Possible Attachment Choices: Horn of Gondor, Steward of Gondor, Unexpected Courage, Heir of Mardil, Gondorian Shield, Captain of Gondor, Nor Am I A Stranger, Elf-friend, Prince of Dol Amroth
While some of the player cards in this cycle have been mixed, the heroes have been pretty awesome all around. While not all of them are necessarily top-tier, Denethor certainly is, while Lanwyn, Elf-helm, Argalad, Na’asiyah, and now Prince Imrahil are all heroes that drive creativity and new deck types. This is certainly something that I love to see in terms of new hero development, so here’s hoping it continues into the next cycle!
Readers, what are your thoughts on the new version of Imrahil? How would you rate him overall as a hero? What are your favorite Imrahil decks so far?