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Beneath the Sands: Allies, Attachments, and Events Review

by on February 2, 2018

A den of spiders lurking in the darkness beneath a desert sounds like pure nightmare fuel. But thankfully last time out in our hero review of the Beneath the Sands Adventure Pack, Hirgon was exciting enough to distract me from thoughts of eight-legged freaks. Will the rest of the player cards be diverting enough to stave off my arachnophobia? Read on to find out!

ALLIES

* Rider of Rohan (Spirit Ally, 3 cost, 2 willpower, 2 attack, 0 defense, 2 hit points):

The Rider of Rohan is another ally in this cycle that interacts with side quests in the victory display. This time, the effect allows this ally to quest without exhausting:

While a side quest is in the victory display, Rider of Rohan does not exhaust to quest.       

This is a case where I’m glad I am reviewing a card a long while after it came out instead of giving my knee-jerk reaction, because my initial response to this ally was a lukewarm one. I wouldn’t necessarily have dismissed it out of hand, as I think even absent of an ability, getting 2 attack for 3 resources in Spirit is a good deal. However, it’s only after really trying out this ally in conjunction with side quests that I have come to understand how utterly awesome the Rider of Rohan can be. Once a single quest is in the victory display, the Rider can quest for 2 willpower, which is the norm for strong questing allies in the sphere, but also has 2 hit points, rather than 1, which gives it some protection against direct damage. More importantly, though, the Rider of Rohan can provide this questing power while still giving you a reserve of 2 attack that you can use to take out enemies. This turns out to be a huge boon and honestly doesn’t take a ton of work to set up. Double Back is in-sphere and is a great choice for an early side quest, since it takes only 4 quest points to complete. Gather Information is a similarly good option (you can even grab another Rider of Rohan with the fetch effect from Gather Information if you’re feeling frisky). I’ve found that a single side quest and an average of 2 copies of Rider of Rohan goes a long way. While I wouldn’t go so far to say that this ally fits into every singe Spirit deck, especially with the great stable of Spirit allies available, it certainly can fill a strong role in the right deck.

Versatility: ♦♦♦◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

* Dunedain Lookout (Lore Ally, 2 cost, 1 willpower, 1 attack, 1 defense, 2 hit points):

The Dunedain Lookout provides a similar cancellation effect to A Test of Will, but in this case it applies to enemy “when revealed” triggers (and requires the discard of an ally):

Response: Discard Dúnedain Lookout to cancel the ‘When Revealed’ effects of an enemy just revealed from the encounter deck.                                                       

Generally, it is the “when revealed” effect of treacheries that keeps players up at night, not those on enemies. That fact does dampen the excitement for this ally a bit. But, especially, as the game has progressed nasty “when revealed” effects on enemies have become more common and more severe. Here are a few highlights (or, more accurately, lowlights) to give you an idea of what the Dunedain Lookout can protect you against:

  • Orc Hunter: When Revealed – Either reveal an additional encounter card, or remove 1 time counter from the current quest. There are quite a few enemies of this ilk in the past few cycles, namely those with abilities that essentially give you the choice of surging or carrying out some other terrible effect. In this case, you can trade an ally for not having to make the choice at all.
  • Warrior of Dunland: When Revealed –  Warror of Dunland makes an immediate attack against you. The Warrior of Dunland is not only nasty in his own right, but also represents a class of enemies that can make an immediate attack upon reveal. Dunedain Lookout could prevent this from happening. One could argue that you could just “discard” an ally by chump blocking that attack, but of course avoiding a shadow effect altogether might be a boon (or a forced effect, like the one on Warrior of Dunland).
  • Cursed Dead: When Revealed – Put each copy of Cursed Dead in the discard pile into play in the staging area. The real granddaddy of all enemy when revealed effects, though, is the one on Cursed Dead. Many of us still have traumatic flashbacks to whole hordes of Cursed Dead popping into play thanks to this horrible effect. Discarding a single Dunedain Lookout to prevent 3 or 4 enemies appearing all at once is a deal that I would take all day.

Obviously, these are just a small sample of enemy when revealed effects in the game, but they are enough to give an assessment of this ally. Overall, I’d say the Lookout is a tech/sideboard card. The base stats of 1/1/1/2 are just alright for the cost, mostly because it’s better for an ally to be more specialized and have 2 in willpower or attack. So the Lookout will be helping out a bit in questing and combat but other allies can definitely do more in the Lookout’s place. The ability is potentially powerful, as seen with the Cursed Dead, but in certain scenarios, there just aren’t enough meaningful when revealed effects on enemies to make this ally’s inclusion worth it. So this card is essentially a solution to problems specific to certain quests. That doesn’t make it bad, just a card that won’t make the cut all the time.

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦◊

Efficiency: ♦♦◊◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦♦

 

ATTACHMENTS

* Haradrim Spear (Leadership Attachment, 2 cost):

 

The Harad trait gets further fleshed out in this cycle with its own weapon:

Attach to a Haradrim character.

Attached character gets +1 .

Response: After attached character is declared as an attacker, it gets +3 for this attack. After this attack resolves, discard Haradrim Spear.       

At first glance, the cost seems a bit much given that many attachments offer a base +1 attack bonus for 1 cost (for example, Dunedain Warning, Spear of the Mark, Dagger of Westernesse, etc.), with some kind of conditional +2 bonus often being present. Here, we get a base +1 attack bonus for 2 cost, which is on the expensive side. However, the Haradrim Spear offers a one-time +3 attack bonus at the cost of discarding this attachment. Overall, this card is obviously meant only for Harad decks. It’s a decent value there, especially since it can go on any Haradrim character, not just heroes. This means a powerful Harad attacking ally like Yazan can attack for 4, with the option of boosting all the way up to 7 during crucial moments. You could even potentially get additional uses from an attachment recursion card like Erebor Hammersmith. This card is worth looking at for any Harad deck, but not necessarily an auto-include.

Versatility: ♦◊◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦◊◊

* The Red Arrow (Tactics Attachment, 1 cost):

Often a hero gets a supporting attachment in the pack that hero comes out in, and Beneath the Sands is no exception, as Hirgon gets his Red Arrow:

Limit 1 per deck. Attach to a Gondor hero.

Attached hero gets +1 .

Valour Response: After attached hero quests successfully, add The Red Arrow to the victory display to search the top 5 cards of your deck for an ally and put it into play.  

First things first, Red Arrow is an automatic include for Hirgon decks. Since he’s questing every round anyway (or nearly every round), the extra willpower is helpful and a bargain at only 1 resource (willpower usually costs more in the Tactics sphere). Then, you get the bonus when in valour of getting an ally for free! Since you can only include 1 copy in your deck anyway, there’s really never a reason not to include this card for Hirgon. What about for other Gondor heroes? I’d say if you have a Gondor hero that will be questing often or if you plan on being in the valour tier on a consistent bonus, then The Red Arrow is worth a shot. Again, it only takes up 1 card slot, so it’s worth taking a swing.

Versatility: ♦♦♦◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦♦

* Fireside Song ( Spirit Attachment, 2 cost):

 

Fireside Song provides support for both Hobbit and Song decks:

Attach to a Hobbit hero. Limit 1 per hero.

Attached hero gets +1 for each Song attached to it.    

At first glance, I’m not blown away by Fireside Song, but this might have to do with the fact that I don’t really run many songs in my Hobbit decks, so personal bias is a factor here. I think you need to get at least 2 willpower out of this attachment to make it worth inclusion, otherwise you’re looking at a similar value as Favour of the Lady or Dunedain Quest, both of which are older attachments that aren’t regarded very highly these days (and there are much cheaper forms of willpower in the Spirit sphere). The good news is that Fireside Song itself is a song attachment, so it gives you at least that +1 willpower (as Favour/Quest do) as soon as it is played. Then, you need at least 1 more Song attachment on that same hero, with 2 Song attachments (3 total with Fireside Song) giving a hugely impressive +3 willpower boost. So what are the most likely Song attachment possibilities for Hobbits?

  • Song of Kings/Wisdom/Travel/Battle: These are the original Song attachments and can still do good work, even if they’re not sexy. Even if you just use one of these, that should get you to the 2 Song threshold.
  • Song of Earendil: Potentially interesting if you are a low threat Hobbit deck (maybe with someone like Spirit Merry) that aims to take threat pressure off other decks. This Song is a bit more niche though.
  • Song of Hope: This is probably the prime choice and a recent addition to the Song pool (I’m peeking ahead The Black Serpent cards here, so forgive me). With Song of Hope and Fireside Song, you can turn a 2 willpower Hobbit like Merry or Pippin into a 4 willpower monster, with the upside of further boosts from Song of Hope. Not bad at all, but it does require drawing these cards and some setup time.

Overall, Fireside Song is decent and the thematic side of me loves that the Hobbit trait is becoming intertwined with the Song trait. On the other hand, the power gamer side of me wonders whether it’s more efficient and consistent just to use those 2 resources to put one of the many 2 willpower Spirit questing allies on the table. If you do a deep dive with this card and heavily invest in Songs in a Hobbit deck, potentially along with Rosie Cotton and Sword-thain, then that is perhaps the best-case scenario for this card and where it can do some serious work.

Versatility: ♦♦◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦◊◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦◊◊

* Doughty Ranger (Lore Attachment, 1 cost):

 

Doughty Ranger follows up on Mighty Warrior, this time providing access to the Ranger trait:

Attach to a hero. Limit 1 per hero.

Attached hero gains the Ranger trait.

Response: After you play Doughty Ranger from your hand, draw a card.  

There’s not too much to say about Doughty Ranger. It’s great that these skill trait granters provide a replacement card, which makes it way more palatable to include them in decks. On the other hand, there’s still not a ton of skill trait synergy to take advantage of, at least not to the point of making these attachments stand out in a big way. As for the ranger trait, there are a few possibilities that are worth considering:

  • Wingfoot: Readying is such a powerful effect that it is always worth considering new ways of including it. Doughty Ranger + Wingfoot opens up the possibility of granting readying to almost any hero without having to tap into Spirit. On the other hand, relying on a 2-card combo for your readying can be a dicey prospect. Note that Steed of the North is also another option in this category. (Final note: Wingfoot + Doughty Ranger would have previously enabled some broken combos using Eleanor or Anborn, but this is not possible anymore given the recent errata to Wingfoot.)
  • Coney in a Trap: Doughty Ranger can help you fulfill the ranger half of the requirement for Coney in the Trap. This event can be a powerful way of dodging attacks, but including Doughty Ranger solely for the purpose of using this event is a bit much. Likely it would be more a matter of using Coney in a Trap as an extra bonus after already including Doughty Ranger for some other purpose.
  • Ranger Spear: Ranger Spear is mainly a weapon for trap decks, but it is also a valid options outside that archetype since weapons are scarce in the Lore sphere. With Doughty Ranger, you can make use of that attack bonus on a hero that wouldn’t normally be able to use this weapon. Again, this isn’t a homerun use but it’s something.

There are also a variety of other events that make use of the Ranger trait, such as Quick Ears and Distant Stars, but they likely don’t warrant the inclusion of Doughty Ranger all by themselves. Instead, it would be more a matter of including Doughty Ranger because you want to make use of a whole suite of such cards. Overall, Doughty Ranger is a decent utility card, but given the current card pool, it’s not yet a star.

Versatility: ♦♦♦◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦◊◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

EVENTS

* Hunting Party (Leadership Event, 1 cost):

Hunting Party makes use of the Warrior and Scout traits to potentially discard a non-unique enemy in the staging area:

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

Response: After the players have committed characters to the quest, discard a non-unique enemy in the staging area. Then, reveal an encounter card.

This is an incredibly powerful effect for only 1 resource. Simply discarding a non-unique enemy without having to worry about damage or defense values or even engaging it is huge, especially when you consider the more troublesome enemies in the game. A Mumak, for example, can normally only take 3 damage per round, meaning that it takes several rounds to destroy no matter how much damage you can muster (and you have to suffer its attacks over the course of those rounds as well). With Hunting Party, you can get rid of that Mumak instantly. Mumaks aren’t the only game in town, as there is also a wide variety of other nasty large enemies that it’s better not to tangle with, as well as enemies that may not be immensely strong but have terrible effects when they engage a player. Of course, it’s worth noting that there is a downside to this card, which is that you have to reveal an encounter card to replace the discarded enemy. This may mean revealing a card that is potentially worse. Imagine getting rid of that enemy only to pull a back-breaking treachery instead! Still, in most cases you are going to be using your judgment and applying Hunting Party only when you really need to get rid of an enemy and the perils of leaving it in play are worse than most anything else you can draw. In addition, you can certainly use various scrying effects to make sure the cost of using Hunting Party won’t be too high. Overall, this is an extremely solid card and a valuable tool that can get players out of some very tight spots. It may be difficult to satisfy the Scout half of the requirement here, as the Scout trait is more rare than some of the other skill traits, but this just adds some more value to the Scout trait.

Versatility: ♦♦◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

* The Free Peoples (Neutral Event, 5 cost):

The Free Peoples seeks to replace or at least provide a solid competitor to the old Core Set power card, Grim Resolve:

Play only if the characters you control have a total of at least 9 different Traits between them.

Action: Ready each character in play. Until the end of the phase, each character you control gets +1 .

Full disclosure: I haven’t used this event much, so my conclusions will be just based on the text itself. Obviously, readying each character in play is worth 5 resources by itself is the aforementioned Grim Resolve is any indication. Then, The Free Peoples, adds the kicker that each character you control gets +1 willpower. On the other hand, The Free Peoples has the extra caveat that you need to have at least 9 different traits in play among characters you control. There is no doubt that this card is worth the 5 resources given how powerful it is, as it can put up a huge amount of willpower in one round, potentially enough to win a scenario or get you through an important stage, while still leaving the entire board ready for combat. The big question is whether you have the kind of deck that can pay the 5 cost easily and reliably, but the fact that The Free Peoples is neutral helps greatly in this respect (think of it as an alternative to Core Gandalf). Perhaps the bigger concern is how quickly and consistently you can get 9 different traits into play. Perhaps the easiest route is to maximize traits among your heroes, allowing for this card to be played when you get just a couple of allies into play. Ultimately how you feel about this card will depend on how you feel about expensive events with flashy effects that are designed more for mid or late-game situations, which means that they might sit in your hand for awhile if you draw them early.

Versatility: ♦♦♦◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦◊◊

SIDE QUESTS

* Keep Watch (Tactics Side Quest, 1 cost, 6 quest points):

 

Keep Watch is the latest Tactics side quest and one that focuses on reducing the attack strength of enemies:

Limit 1 copy of Keep Watch in the victory display.

While Keep Watch is in the victory display, each non-unique enemy engaged with a player gets -1 .

I’ve generally become more positive about side quests than I once was within the confine of this blog. They can be quite effective against a decent array of quests, although there still remain certain quests that are completely hostile to the mechanic. As side quests go, Keep Watch is one of the best around in my book. While 1 cost and 6 quest points is on the higher end of the cost scale as side quests go, the effect you get is quite powerful. While reducing enemy attack strengths by 1 may not seem huge at first glance, veterans of the game will know that each point of attack makes a huge difference. Reducing an enemy from 3 attack to 2 attack or from 4 attack to 3 attack is a huge difference. This reduction also helps out characters that can defend multiple times but might have a lower defense, such as hero Beorn or the Vigilant Dunadan. Even beyond specialized characters such as those, taking some of the teeth out of enemies just gives you more options, whether in terms of taking undefended attacks or defending with allies instead of heroes. Keep Watch obviously works fantastically with Dunedain decks, but it is not limited to that archetype.

Versatility: ♦♦♦◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

Conclusion

Overall, this pack is a mix of a couple of strong cards, along with some that are a bit more marginal. The highlights for me are definitely the Rider of Rohan, The Red Arrow, Hunting Party, and Keep Watch. The Free Peoples is an incredibly strong card but asks a lot of you before it can be used. The rest of the cards in the pack can certainly be effective in the right deck, providing support for Harad, Hobbit/Song, and Dunedain decks, but won’t stand out much apart from those contexts.

Readers, what are your thoughts on the player cards of Beneath the Sands? Which are the best? Which are the worst?

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One Comment
  1. I always want to use the Haradrim Spear, but somehow it always ends up getting cut from my Harad deck and I have never managed to get it into play.

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