The Mumakil: Hero Review
There’s no better way to start a cycle than with a good old-fashioned Mumak hunt! The Mumakil Adventure Pack sees our adventurers turned big game hunters for the very first time, all in the pursuit of finding mounts across the unforgiving desert. In terms of player cards, we saw a wide variety of trait and deck type support in The Sands of Harad deluxe expansion. The Mumakil pack, however, really hones in primarily on one trait specifically: the brand new Harad trait. It makes sense to take this approach, since this trait did not exist previously and so will need a heavy dose of support up front if it hopes to be viable in the near future. At the same time, while this pack definitely goes a long way towards forming the foundations of a Harad pack, it isn’t quite the “deck in a box” that The Steward’s Fear was for Outlands. Still, I’m getting ahead of myself a bit. First things first, let’s look at the hero of The Mumakil, who forms the cornerstone of the new Harad deck type. Can he reach the heights of such peers as Dain Ironfoot and Celeborn? Or will he fold under the pressure? Read on to find out!
* Kahliel (Leadership Hero, 10 threat, 2 willpower, 2 attack, 2 defense, 4 hit points):
Kahliel was introduced during the final quest of The Sands of Harad box as the leader of a group of Haradrim that do not want to live under Sauron’s rule. They have therefore made enemies of both Sauron and the other Haradrim that are within Sauron’s clutches and are putting all their hopes in escaping with the heroes to Gondor. As such, Kahliel is the logical choice for first hero of the cycle. If we’re going to get Harad as a viable trait and deck type, then they need a leader, and I’m so incredibly glad that this hero is one of their own people. Of course, there’s a long-established history of FFG-created heroes within this game thus far, and so Kahliel is carrying on that tradition. And he is also carrying on the tradition of heroes that are designed to serve as the center of a particular deck type, whether we’re talking about Dain for Dwarves, Théoden for Rohan, Celeborn for Silvan, Hirluin for Outlands or Leadership Boromir for Gondor. However, each of these heroes serves their trait in a different way, so while most of us expected to see some type of Harad “leader” hero, it was unclear how exactly they would help the Harad trait function.
In mechanical terms, Kahliel eschews the stat boosts that have defined most of the “leader” heroes, and doesn’t follow the path of Spirit Théoden’s cost reduction either. Instead, he has two distinct abilities, one focused on action advantage for Harad allies and the other on resource smoothing:
You may use resources from Kahliel’s resource pool to pay for Harad ally cards of any sphere.
Action: Discard a Harad ally card from your hand to ready a Harad character in play. (Limit once per phase.)
In fact, the closest analogue for Kahliel is actually Hirluin, which is fitting given that both heroes were designed to quickly lay the foundations for a trait that did not exist previously. Both Kahliel and Hirluin have the ability to pay for allies of any sphere that share the trait in question. This is of course incredibly important because both Outlands and Harad use allies from across the spheres. Being able to smooth out resources by having Kahliel pay for any Harad ally makes things much simpler, and also allows for the all-important Steward of Gondor to be placed on him, allowing for a consistent flow of resources to any Harad allies. There is also the added applicability of this ability in the case of the Harad trait in the sense that all the Harad allies we have so far are incredibly expensive at a cost of 5, and Kahliel can use his ability to pitch in to that big initial expense (we’ve seen some cheaper Harad allies to come, but the point still stands).
Kahliel’s second ability is unique to himself and that is the ability to discard a Harad ally from hand to ready any Harad character in play (including himself). This is what really sets himself apart from the other “leader” heroes. Having a form of action advantage is actually a quite satisfying choice in both thematic and mechanical terms. Regarding gameplay, the Harad deck so far seems to center around a few expensive allies that also have strong stats and great abilities. With this in mind, the key strategy needs to be maximizing the value of those allies in order to compensate for not pursuing the swarm strategy that is used by most of the other traits, and the best way of doing that is by getting as much action advantage as possible for those allies. Therefore, what Kahliel allows you to do is use your Harad allies multiple times per round, whether this means questing and attacking, questing and defending, defending multiple times, or some combination thereof. There is a restriction of once per phase, but this still allows for a ton of flexibility. The main restriction is actually that you need to discard a Harad ally from hand to trigger this readying effect. What I like is that this actually helps address another potential issue with the Harad strategy, which is that you really need to include multiple copies of those key, 5-cost Harad allies if you want your deck to be at all consistent, but then you potentially run into the issue of filling up your hand with useless duplicates. But thanks to Kahliel’s ability, now you can put those duplicates to work. The real question then becomes how often you can get duplicate Harad allies in hand, or Harad allies that are surplus to requirement, and this means that card draw becomes especially important for Kahliel and the Harad trait (then again, when isn’t it important for a deck?). As a final note on Kahliel’s ability, don’t forget that it can be used to ready Kahliel himself so that he can take advantage of those balanced stats to pitch in where necessary.
Speaking of those stats, Kahliel boasts the often-hated 2 willpower, 2 attack, 2 defense stat line. It does mean that he’s not necessarily a powerhouse in any particular role, but in this case I think the choice is a good one. Since Kahliel is the lone Harad hero at the moment, having a balanced stat line means that he can be adjusted as needed to fit whatever kind of deck you are building around him. If you have other strong questing heroes, you can tailor Kahliel towards combat instead, and vice versa. Since Kahliel is in the Leadership sphere, he has some fantastic customization tools in the form of Dunedain Mark and Dunedain Signal. You can also follow the route of placing the emphasis on the Harad allies instead, or other elements of your deck, and forego boosting Kahliel’s stats to make room for other cards and effect. In that case, he would serve mostly as a utility hero, filling in where necessary but not the center of your strategy. This is a viable route as well.
In terms of attachments, as with most heroes, there are some must-have items, as well as some more speculative options for Kahliel. Steward of Gondor is top of the shopping list. This is no surprise, since it’s good on pretty much any hero ever made, but if you are using Kahliel as the center of a Harad deck (and why are you playing him if you’re not?), then he can use all those resources to fund the Harad allies that you need to get onto the table as quickly as possible. Kahliel’s Headdress (check out the individual review of this card in the allies, attachments, and events review for this pack) should also be included because it gives a willpower boost to the Harad trait and also allows Kahliel to recycle the cards he discards to fund his ability. If Kahliel is already going to be using Steward of Gondor, then you could potentially give him Rod of the Steward to help with card draw, although they are better card draw options available. Lord of Morthond is also an interesting play if you are going Mono Leadership with Steward of Gondor, as you could then use Lord of Morthond to provide some card draw whenever you play a Harad ally of a different sphere. Again, this is slightly riskier territory, but it’s possible.
Perhaps some of the tastiest attachment synergies are not with Kahliel himself, but with those that are usable by other heroes. Arwen is a fantastic partner for Kahliel. In addition to her usual resource assistance, she gives you access to Silver Harp, which allows you to take that card you discarded for Kahliel’s ability and put it right back in your hand. Galadriel is also a great choice. She could use Silver Harp as well, but the real attraction would be her consistent card draw as well as the Mirror of Galadriel, allowing you to grab those Harad allies you need (or the duplicates) much quicker. I of course would also be remiss if I did not mention my trusted confidante, Grima, who provides immense help in paying for the expensive Harad allies, both with his own ability and the Keys of Orthanc. This is definitely a great choice if you want to avoid the necessity of Steward of Gondor, and he gives you access to the card draw of Lore. Finally, Elf-stone is worth a look in a deck with Kahliel, since it helps get Harad allies to the table for cheaper.
I’ve harped on card draw and resources quite a bit, so what are some other cards that can help make a Kahliel deck more consistent? There are of course the usual suspects, such as Daeron’s Runes, Heed the Dream and Deep Knowledge. Beyond those, the fact that Kahliel has the Noble trait is an absolute godsend. This gives him access to Captain’s Wisdom, so that he can exhaust himself to gain some resources you might need to get that Harad ally into play. Speaking of exhausting, Kahliel can also participate in playing Peace and Thought, pulling out a healthy 5 cards, which might just be enough to grab some more ally options as well as fodder to discard for Kahliel’s ability. In fact, with the right draw, you can ready Kahliel with his own ability using the cards you drew from Peace and Thought. If you’re really going in on Harad, with three copies of the relevant Harad allies, then both Timely Aid and A Very Good Tale are options to get those allies into play without relying on traditional card draw and resource generation as well. Finally, if you are looking to integrate some side quest love into your Harad deck, The Storm Comes is a good early turn choice. It will help with resource smoothing in helping to pay for those big allies and can turn on any effects that rely on having a side quest in the victory display.
Overall, Kahliel himself is not a flashy hero. He won’t win a game by himself with his own stats. However, he does what he is designed to do, which is gives the Harad trait a fighting chance when it has so little support so far. I like that he is not the typical stat boosting “leader” hero, as we’ve seen plenty of those types so far, and probably don’t need to see another for the life of the game. Instead, he plays right into the hands of what a Harad decks wants to do. I also like the theme of the Harad deck as being centered around the idea that there are only a few of these “rebel Harad”, but they are incredibly skilled and capable, and Kahliel is able to get the best out of them. Obviously, this hero isn’t much outside of a Harad deck, but he gets solid marks from me as the heart of a brand new trait.
Possible Attachment Choices: Dunedain Mark, Dunedain Warning, Steward of Gondor, Rod of the Steward, Lord of Morthond, Armored Destrier
The Harad deck is slowly coming together with The Mumakil Adventure Pack. I’ll save my final thoughts on the initial version of this deck for the allies, attachments, and events review, but for some initial thoughts, I’m please by how much the designers were able to do with so few cards. Kahliel and his crew can already serve as a viable deck. It may not be quite top-tier yet, but the great thing is that there is a lot of flexibility in how you build it. Since Kahliel himself is the only Harad hero, there are plenty of choices for who you partner him with in terms of the other two heroes. Furthermore, since there are only a few Harad allies and Harad cards so far, you can take the rest of the deck in many different directions, and I look forward to seeing these explored in the near future.
Readers, what are your thoughts on Kahliel? How do you feel the Harad deck is shaping up so far? What have been the best hero partners for Kahliel so far?