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Beneath the Sands: Hero Review

by on November 6, 2017

Are you scared of the dark? What about a darkness filled with gargantuan spiders eager to devour your party of human smoothies? Well, you’re in luck, because the Beneath the Sands adventure pack is a chance to come face-to-face with these fears. Of course, a new breed of challenges requires the arrival of a new hero, and this pack contains a real doozy. While Hirgon might not be the first name that jumps into your mind when remembering The Lord of the Rings, he might be one of the first that you remember when looking back at this cycle. Why is this new hero so memorable? Read on to find out!

HERO

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

Beneath the Sands brings us a strange prospect indeed. Tactics isn’t known as a questing sphere and its heroes certainly aren’t renowned for abilities centered around questing, with perhaps the lone exception of Thalin. However, with Hirgon, we have a Tactics hero whose primary role is to quest each and every turn in order to activate his unique ability:

Response: After Hirgon quests successfully, play a Tactics ally from your hand, reducing its cost by 1 (to a minimum of 1). Then, you may raise your threat by 1 to give that ally +1 attack and +1 defense until the end of the round.          

In order to understand this ability, it might be necessary to brush up on our knowledge about the character a bit. Hirgon was a loyal soldier of Gondor who was sent by Denethor to formally request the aid of the Rohirrim in the coming onslaught of the Enemy against Minas Tirith. He carried the Red Arrow as a token of this request. With this story in mind, Hirgon’s abiity makes perfect sense. After questing successfully (riding to meet with Théoden and the Rohirrim), he is able to bring allies into play to support Gondor’s cause.

In terms of gameplay, we’ve seen a cost reduction for allies ability before with a hero like Spirit Théoden. However, while Théoden’s cost reduction is focused around a specific trait, Hirgon’s reduction applies to every single Tactics ally, which brings a great deal of breadth and flexibility to his effect. In considering just how good his ability is, it is possible to reframe it as “generating” an additional resource for you every single turn as long as you quest successfully (this equating of cost reduction with resource generation isn’t a perfect comparison, but it does help to think about what the ability really means). That would probably be enough to cement Hirgon’s place as a useful hero, but it is also worth considering the added value provided by the timing of this ability, which takes place after questing successfully, and thus after staging. Generally, you are only able to play allies during the planning phase, which means you have to play a bit of a guessing game in terms of figuring out which ally (or allies) will best help you during the turn to come. Do I need to drop that stalwart Defender of Rammas or a Marksman of Lorien? With Hirgon, you are able to react to what the encounter deck throws at you during staging by picking the best ally to play. There is an additional benefit to this timing as well, which is that it allows you to apply any effects triggered by allies entering play to enemies that arrive during staging. These are the tastiest possibilities for this timing trick:

  • Knight of Minas Tirith: This ability can only work within a mono-Tactics deck, but it is quite powerful there when combined with Hirgon. The Knight, which is a bit on the expensive side, becomes only a 2-cost ally and can pull down an enemy after staging. This gives a broader range of targets for the Knight. You can even use the second part of Hirgon’s ability to boost the Knight’s attack for greater damage.
  • Descendant of Thorondor: You can drop in this eagle after staging to hit a recently revealed enemy for 2 damage.
  • Galadhon Archer: The same logic that applies to the Descendant also applies to the Galadhon Archer.
  • Henneth Anun Guard: I don’t often play this ally, partly because of his cost and partly because it is difficult to make use of his ability and justify the threat increase when you don’t know exactly what is coming. Hirgon neatly solves both of these problems by reducing the cost of the Guard to 2 and allowing you to choose the recipient of the defense boost/sentinel once you know exactly what enemies the players will be facing this turn. The fact that Hirgon allows you to play allies, rather than merely putting them into play, really shines here.
  • Honour Guard: Did you just reveal a bunch of enemies with archery during staging? Perhaps even some treacheries that raised the archery value as well? That would be the perfect opportunity to use Hirgon to drop an Honour Guard for only 1 cost. Not only can the Honour Guard cancel some of the archery damage, he is also a superb archery soak himself with 3 hit points to spare.
  • Marksman of Lorien: The Marksman is a fantastic Tactics ally in general, but Hirgon makes her a steal at 2 cost and you can find a broader range of enemies for her ability by playing her after staging. Using Hirgon in this way really lets you pinpoint the enemy that is going to need extra attention and makes it easier for yourself or another player to defeat.
  • Grimbold: After staging, if you see a big enemy coming down that can’t be blocked easily, you can drop Grimbold into play for 2 cost using Hirgon, and then discard him to cancel the attack. This is of course the equivalent of a more expensive Feint, but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures.

The second part of Hirgon’s ability, which allows you to raise your threat by 1 to give the ally you played (using Hirgon’s ability) an extra point of attack and defense is easily overlooked. I know this from personal experience, since I so often forget to trigger it! However, it’s a great option to have and can make all the difference in tight situations. Again, when combined with the perfect knowledge you get from playing an ally after staging, you can quickly do some planning and figure out whether you’ll need that ally to have extra attack or defense. It’s great to see a 5 attack enemy coming and drop down a Defender of Rammas with 5 defense, for example, or put a 4 attack Marksman of Lorien into play, which, when combined with the -2 defense reduction to an enemy, can give the Marskman an equivalent attack strength of 6! What makes this ability even better is that it only requires increasing your own threat, instead of slapping “doomed 1” on the ally you play, which makes this ability far more usable in multiplayer. (And yes, I say this as a Grima player. Whatever, Grima is still king!)

It’s crystal clear then that I’m a huge fan of Hirgon’s ability, and I think any player would be hard-pressed to argue otherwise. But what about his base stats and his actual utility as hero on the field? Well, because of the nature of his ability, you will pretty much be questing with him every single round. His 2 willpower is just enough to make him solid for the job, though not spectacular. It should be noted that it is at least better than the paltry 1 willpower of Theodred and Thalin, heroes from the Core Set that are also forced to quest each round to trigger their abilities, but don’t have the willpower to make a dent in questing. If you find yourself really not needing to quest or use his ability on a given turn, which honestly just doesn’t happen often, or have readying available for Hirgon, you can make use of his 2 attack. Overall, though, Hirgon provides plenty of value as a 2 willpower quester with a stellar ability for only 9 threat in a normally high threat sphere.

When it comes to gearing out Hirgon with relevant attachments, the truth is that I’m not often attaching anything to him. Part of his strength is that he starts on the board, quests, and dumps allies into play each round without any additional setup needed. Since he’s hardly ever engaged in combat, and usually only questing, there really isn’t a ton of value to be found in kitting him out with all the many weapons and pieces of armor in the Tactics sphere. There are a few options, though, in terms of  helping with what he is good at. The first, and most thematic, is the Red Arrow itself, which turns Hirgon into a quite impressive 3 willpower hero and can ultimately be added to the victory display as a valour response to grab and put an ally into play for free. The synergy is quite good here as Hirgon decks will likely be filled with a bunch of high impact allies anyway, so the Red Arrow has a good chance of hitting. Even as just a willpower boost, 1 resource for 1 willpower is quite good in Tactics and helps Hirgon since he’ll be questing every round anyway. The downside of the Red Arrow is that it is limited to 1 per deck, but that also means you have little to lose in terms of deck space by throwing 1 copy in every Hirgon deck. Horn of Gondor is one attachment to consider if you are planning on using Hirgon’s ability to dump relatively cheap chump blockers or disposable allies into play now and then (Gondorian Spearman is great for this purpose), as it can help generate resources whenever one of those allies are destroyed, which can then help fuel further uses of his ability.

It’s worth noting that Hirgon does have the Scout trait, so he could make use of something like Warden of Arnor. However, that card is marginal enough that you’d probably only be including 1 copy, if that. Mariner’s Compass is a better choice to make use of Hirgon’s scouting abilities, as it could at least let you swap out particularly troublesome locations in the staging area. One attachment option I like quite a bit for Hirgon is Expert Treasure-hunter. With this combination in play, you could quest successfully with Hirgon, play an ally using his ability, then trigger Expert Treasure-hunter, guessing ally. If you guess correctly, then you bring in another potential ally to use with Hirgon’s ability next round. If not, you might discard a worthwhile attachment or event, but on the other hand, you’ve thinned the deck out a bit and perhaps brought another ally closer to the surface. The last point regarding attachments is the obvious advice to throw Steward on him if you want to make the board rain with Tactics allies.

Really, as mentioned before though, you’re not going to be kitting out Hirgon with a ton of attachments. There are a few events that can work well with this hero though. First, don’t forget that Hirgon’s Scout trait helps provide potential access to Well Warned and Hunting Party, both of which are fantastic events provided you can meet the other half of the trait requirements. There are plenty of other events that just work in general with any deck that spams out allies, such as A Very Good Tale and Hail of Stones, so I won’t talk about those too much. Of particular interest for Hirgon might be something like Hands Upon the Bow, as incongruous as that seems. Remember when I mentioned earlier the amazing Marksman of Lorien that can be boosted to the equivalent of a 6 strength attack. Now imagine dropping the Marksman of Lorien into play, then immediately using Hands Upon the Bow to have her attack into the staging area for an equivalent 7 strength attack! Yeah. Are you was excited as I am? I also really enjoy Last Stand in a Hirgon deck. With Hirgon putting warrior allies into play for a reduced cost, it doesn’t feel as bad to sacrifice them in order to ping an enemy back for damage. Sometimes even a single point of damage from a Gondorian Spearman is enough to do the job. Finally, if I had access to Leadership, I might consider Ever Vigilant just to get extra use out of an ally that is dropped into play during a crucial moment.

What is the final verdict on Hirgon? Simply put, he’s my favorite hero of the Haradrim cycle, including The Sands of Harad box as well. In terms of power, he is just plain good. Some might balk initially at the idea of using a Tactics hero to quest, but the upside is that you are able to quickly amass an army of Tactics allies that can take care of the attacking and defending that you sacrifice by including Hirgon in the first place. In addition, it turns out that resource generation (or the equivalent cost reduction) is always good in this game. Even more importantly, Hirgon is ridiculous fun to play. He opens up the kinds of combinations listed in this article, and actually makes them relatively easy to pull off. I’ve mostly used Hirgon as part of a mono Tactics setup that can actually quest quite well (in addition to smashing face), but I think he can fit into a wide variety of other decks as well. This is definitely a hero with broad potential and a bright future, as any new Tactics ally provides more ammunition for Hirgon. All told, Hirgon gets high marks.

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦♦

Possible Attachment Choices: Red Arrow, Steward of Gondor, Expert Treasure-hunter, Warden of Arnor

Conclusion

With Hirgon having proven his quality and then some, it will soon be time to dig beneath the sands of Harad to uncover the rest of the player cards of this pack.

Readers, what are your thoughts on Hirgon? What are your favorite Hirgon decks? What are your favorite Hirgon-related allies?

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3 Comments
  1. PocketWraith permalink

    You refer a couple of times to Hirgon bringing in allies after staging and before quest resolution – I have to point out this is inaccurate. Hirgon’s ability triggers after he quests successfully, therefore *after* quest resolution.
    Other points are good though. I’m a big Hirgon fan. The other aspect of using Expert Treasure-Hunter on him is that since he and ETH share the same trigger you can trigger ETH first if you don’t have an ally in your hand already, or even if you do you can still trigger ETH first on the off-chance you find a better ally.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Ah yes, brain fart on that one. I’ve edited things appropriately.

  2. Fouilloux permalink

    I have put Him in a Thalin-Huirgon-Theoden-mono-Tactic-questing-direct damage deck. What a blast it was to play! I think the direct damage stuff does not work as well as it should, and I would probably switch Thalin for tactics Eowyn, but yeah, finally we can make good mono tactics deck that work in solo.

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