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The Sands of Harad: Allies, Attachments, and Events Review

by on March 9, 2017

harad

It’s definitely difficult to name a more iconic duo than the heroes found in The Sands of Harad deluxe expansion. However, with this cycle focusing on a region far from the areas of Middle-earth that we are familiar with, what themes will the rest of the player cards in this expansion draw from? And how will they hold up as strong new members of the card pool? Read on to find out!

ALLIES

* Greenwood Archer (Leadership Ally, 2 cost, 0 willpower, 2 attack, 0 defense, 1 hit point):

Response: After Greenwood Archer enters play, ready a hero.                            

The first new ally adds support to the Silvan trait by providing action advantage for heroes when he enters play. At first glance, it might not seem useful to ready a hero during the planning phase (when allies normally enter play), but there are heroes like Denethor, Beravor, Elrond with Vilya, Galadriel, and a hero with the Palantir that have actions to use during this timing window. In addition, Silvan allies are born to be thrown into play during other phases of play through cards like The Tree People, A Very Good Tale, and Sneak Attack, and this gives Greenwood Archer fantastic value as a way to ready heroes during combat. What helps push the Greenwood Archer over the edge in terms of value is the fact that you gain 2 points of ranged attack for only 2 resources, which is a great deal within Leaderhip, where resources abound but versatile, cheap allies are often in short supply.

 Versatility: ♦♦♦♦◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦◊◊

* Erebor Guard (Spirit Ally, 4 cost, 0 willpower, 1 attack, 2 defense, 3 hit points):

Response: When you play Erebor Guard from your hand, discard the top 2 cards of your deck to reduce its cost by 2.                            

It may not seem like Dwarves need further support, but the one area that did need help was in terms of Spirit allies, and the Erebor Guard fills that role well. The Guard also furthers the mining subtype of Dwarf decks by discarding cards from the top of your deck, helping to hit that Hidden Cache or Ered Luin Minder. However, the real value here in my opinion lies beyond just Dwarven decks, and that is in terms of providing a dirt cheap sentinel defender (2 cost with the use of the response) with decent stats. Sometimes I feel that the strength of enemy attacks is actually overstated, and while a 2 defense, 3 hit points character obviously can’t do much against those beefy 5 attack enemies, there are also plenty of 2 and 3 attack enemies out there that can pile on you and sometimes you just need someone to stand in the way so that your stronger characters can be free to defend and counter-attack.

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

* Halfling Bounder (Lore Ally, 2 cost, 1 willpower, 1 attack, 0 defense, 2 hit points):

While there is a side quest in the victory display, Halfling Bounder gains: “Response: Discard Halfling Bounder to cancel the ‘when revealed’ effects of an encounter card that was just revealed from the encounter deck.”     

There’s a reason that A Test of Will is one of the premier staples in the game and that is because treachery cancellation, the ability to counter an entire category of encounter cards, is ridiculously strong. So while the Halfling Bounder is more conditional (rightly so given that it is “off-sphere” from Spirit), it does not feel surplus to needs because of the existence of A Test of Will. Rather, it provides another layer of protection if Spirit is around, or an alternative if it is not, which is especially valuable with higher player counts. Although it may be difficult to complete any side quests against certain scenarios, I feel it should be possible to complete at least one against most scenarios, and so the goal should be to get one finished in the early rounds as part of your overall process of setting up, allowing the Halfling Bounder to participate modestly in questing or combat until it is needed to save a game.

Versatility: ♦♦◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

* Vigilant Dunadan (Tactics Ally, 4 cost, 1 willpower, 3 attack, 2 defense, 3 hit points):

While there is a side quest in the victory display, Vigilant Dúnadan does not exhaust to defend.                            

The Vigilant Dunadan provides further support for both the side quest/victory display mechanic and the Dunedain “tanking” approach. This ally has high value, despite the high cost, because defense is really the most important aspect of a Dunedain deck that plans to engage with and continually defend against a substantial number of enemies (which is what the deck is really all about). My comments about the value of defenders with moderate stats (such as the Erebor Guard) and the viability of completing a single side quest (such as with the Halfling Bounder) apply equally here, and the goal of many Dunedain decks now should be to get a side quest in the victory display as an opening move so that the Vigilant Dunadan can take care of entire swathes of smaller enemies, while the larger ones are trapped or handled by bigger defenders. It is also possible to boost the defense of the Vigilant Dunadan, especially with ally Arwen (3 defense with sentinel and no need to exhaust is absolutely huge).

Versatility: ♦♦◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

ATTACHMENTS

Dwarven Shield (Leadership Attachment, 2 cost):

Attach to a Dwarf hero.

Attached hero gets +1 .

Response: After attached hero takes damage from an enemy attack, exhaust Dwarven Shield to add 1 resource to attached hero’s pool.            

The Dwarven Shield is slightly overpriced for a +1 defense boost (compare to Dunedain Warning), but this extra cost is justified by the resource generation potential. A single point of defense can make a significant difference, and I do like the idea of turning Dain from a moderate 3 strength defender to a strong 4 strength defender. The resource generation is somewhat conditional of course, as you can’t always count on taking damage on command, however it’s still probably good for a handful of extra resources each game even without careful planning. With careful planning, you can certainly come up with some interesting combinations, like having the Dwarven Shield create resources, and then using those resources to heal the damage with Ioreth or the Warden of Healing (assuming access to Lore resources either by putting this on a Dwarf or by using something like Narvi’s Belt), although Gloin is probably your bet if you have the hankering for Dwarven resource/damage shenanigans.

Versatility: ♦♦◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

* Mirkwood Long-knife (Spirit Attachment, 2 cost):

Attach to a Silvan hero.

Attached hero gets +1 and +1 .                          

The value of Mirkwood Long-knife is pretty simple to me. It is absolutely fantastic if you are able to consistently use the attached hero for both questing and attacking each round, which implies some form of action advantage. Fortunately, the Silvan trait has access to Light of Valinor, but Unexpected Courage is also an option, and with either of these choices, you get 2 points of additional stats for 2 resources (a value of 1 resource per point of stat boost). This is fairly standard and might not seem exceptional, but the real value is getting help with both questing and combat in a single card, rather than having to make space for two separate cards or having to draw and play two separate cards. Overall, this is a fine addition to a narrow set of decks, but it can certainly do work in those (Spirit Legolas being the prime candidate, but others like Celeborn or Haldir being solid alternatives).

Versatility: ♦♦◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

* The Road Goes Ever On (Lore Attachment, 0 cost):

Attach to a quest card in play.

Response: When attached quest is defeated, the first player chooses a player. That player searches his deck for a side quest, adds it to his hand, and shuffles his deck.

I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this review that completing a single side quest to activate abilities such as those on Halfling Bounder and Vigilant Dunadan seems like a reasonable proposition for most quests. Where I am more dubious is when it comes to the matter of completing multiple side quests during one game, as that involves a healthy time commitment. With that in mind, I love the theme of this card and that we have a tool to grab side quests faster (and for no cost compared to Dunedain Message, but I question having to complete a side quest first while having this card in hand at that exact moment, all in order to draw a second side quest that you may or may not have the time to play and complete. The thing is that this is a decent effect, I’m just not sure whether it will ever see play outside of dedicated side quest decks, and the jury is still out for me on that particular archetype.

Versatility: ♦◊◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦◊◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

EVENTS

* Unlikely Friendship (Leadership Event, 0 cost):

Play only if you control a unique character with the Silvan trait and another unique character with the Dwarf trait.

Action: Draw 1 card and add 1 resource to the resource pool of a hero you control.    

Unlikely Friendship is the first of a new subtheme of cards that can only be played if you control two characters with a different combination of traits, in this case a unique Dwarf and a unique Silvan (obviously representing the legendary friendship of Legolas and Gimli). If you have easy access to these traits, especially if you have a Dwarf and Silvan as starting heroes, then this card is an automatic include. It replaces itself for no cost (actually giving you a resource), which means it thins your deck and makes it more consistent. If you are relying on allies for getting these traits in play, then the call on including this card will depend on how confident you are of getting these allies in play, which will in turn depend on how many copies of such characters you are putting in your deck.

Versatility: ♦♦◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

* Well Warned (Spirit Event, 0 cost):

Play only if you control a unique character with the Noble trait and another unique character with the Scout trait.

Response: After a player engages an enemy, reduce his threat by X, where X is that enemy’s printed .    

There definitely are far more threat reduction options than there used to be in the past, to the point that losing from threat gain is usually only a problem these days due to location lock. However, Well Warned brings much to the table by being free (zero cost) and able to be applied to any player that engages an enemy. That need to engage an enemy is really the main condition (Noble and Scout traits aren’t too hard to find), and it does mean that you can’t just use it whenever you want, but everyone will likely be engaging an enemy at some point, and I love the idea of not having to pay for threat reduction. With most enemies hovering around 2 or 3 threat, you are really looking at a reduction of 2-3 threat for 0 cost, which is an amazing deal. This is an auto-include if you are starting with a Noble and Scout hero in play, and worth considering if you think you’ll be able to get a Scout ally into play reasonably consistently (most heroes seem to have Noble).

Versatility: ♦♦◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦◊◊

* Dour-handed (Tactics Event, 1 cost):

Action: Deal X damage to an enemy engaged with you. X is the number of side quests in the victory display.                            

Now we come to the card for which my feelings are a bit more dour. While I’m a fan of direct damage, I also have expressed reservations for cards that rely on having multiple side quests completed. There is enough direct damage in this game from other places (Thalin, Goblin-cleaver, Hail of Stones, etc.) that I don’t know when I’ll ever feel motivated to jump through the hoops necessary to get this one to work. I do think it’s sometimes a trap when evaluating cards to always aim for the optimal situations, such as pondering the possibility of hitting an enemy for 3 or 4 damage with this card, and then realizing it would take the herculean effort to complete 3 or 4 side quests first, by which point you probably don’t need extra help from this card. It could be argued that gaining just 1 or 2 points of direct damage on demand is worthwhile, but deck space is just too precious these days to find room for this one.

Versatility: ♦◊◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦◊◊◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦◊◊

SIDE QUESTS

* The Storm Comes (Neutral Side Quest, 0 cost):

Limit 1 copy of The Storm Comes in the victory display.

While this quest is in the victory display, the first ally played by each player each round does not require a resource match.  

Speaking of side quests, they have returned to the game in the Haradrim cycle after a short hiatus, and I’m so glad that they have entered the fold once again instead of bring forgotten. I like that these new side quests can be included in sets of 3, increasing the chance of drawing them, but limiting how many can be in the victory display. This particular side quest seems like a great choice for an opening play in order to trigger its effect, as well as accompanying effects (such as Halfling Bounder, Vigilant Dunadan, etc.). It has several things in its favor in this respect: it’s neutral, its progress threshold is at a moderate 5, and it helps greatly with setup play by smoothing out resources when playing allies. In theory, it also could allow you to include off-sphere allies in your deck, although you’d have to be careful not to go too crazy in this respect.

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

Conclusion

Overall, this seems like a solid set of player cards. The allies are all quite good and help to shore up a wide variety of themes, from Silvan to Dunedain to Hobbit/side quest to Dwarf, while also working well even outside those types. There isn’t anything truly game-changing yet, and there are a couple of duds, but events like Unlikely Friendship and Well Warned best typify the set of cards. They aren’t flashy or ground-breaking, but can work subtly to turn the game in your favor. Still, there’s a long road to travel to get to the other side of Harad, so let’s see what’s coming up in the near future!

From → Reviews

10 Comments
  1. Thanks for the review !
    Concerning ‘The road goes ever on’, it can be attached to any quest, not necessarily a side quest. I think this makes it slightly more useful, particularly when attempting to put a single side quest in the victory display in order to trigger some bonuses.
    It is still very quest-dependent, and takes up valuable deck space (sure it is free, but it does not replace itself via card draw).

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yes indeed, good catch. Doesn’t change my valuation of the card much, but it’s nice to know that you can at least grab it through regular questing.

  2. Nuregami permalink

    Good review! Re: The Road Goes Ever On- it attaches to a quest card in play, not a side quest. This means you can play it straight away on your main quest stage 1B and fish a side quest out once you proceed to Stage 2, unless I’m mistaken?

  3. kwitee permalink

    I noticed you didn’t mention A Very Good Tale in your Erebour Guard’s review. He costs 2 to play but can exhaust to put a 4 costed ally to play. This could lead to some pretty powerful openings.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yeah, unfortunately I’ve been keeping these reviews shorter, and that’s one aspect that got left out, but definitely a good point to mention. Erebor Guard is great fodder for AVGT.

  4. Son of Arnor permalink

    Well Warned seems like a descent candidate for Dunedain decks. If I remember correctly, several Dunedan heroes have the noble trait, with even more having the scout trait. However, the fact that it’s a spirit card is a turn off for me, as most of my Dunedain decks are Leadership or Tactics based.

  5. sikaire permalink

    Halfling Bounder can cancel “when revealed” effect on all encounter card types (enemies, locations) and not only on treacheries. In that regard, it is superior to the staple A Test of Will.
    I think it should see play as soon as you play side quests in a Lore deck (also with Thurindir coming) moreso than the costly Vigilant Dunadan (who also do not have the proper traits to get Raiment of War or the like).

    • William O'Brien permalink

      A Test of Will cancels any card as well. Eleanor is the one who only hits Treacheries.

      I’ve played around with a Thurindir + Elrond (+ Amarthiul) deck running Halfling Bounder and Vigilant Dunadan. Both cards are pretty great when you know you’ll draw your best side quest (I usually go with Gather Info to fetch Vilya or Steward). Without the extra game text, they still have reasonable stats.

      Even when it’s not safe to defend multiple attacks, Vigilant Dunadan stands out by being able to defend one and then still swing back with 3 ATK. As a large non-unique ally, he’s a safe play in Vilya or Very Good Tale decks.

    • A Test of Will also cancels the “when revealed” effect on all encounter card types.

  6. AceBean27 permalink

    Should point out Peace and Thought for the Greenwood Archer IMO.

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