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The Black Serpent: Allies, Attachments, and Events Review

by on August 13, 2018

Raiding a camp full of enemy Haradrim doesn’t seem like the safest course of action if you’re looking to live a nice, long life. Still, when push comes to shove and innocent lives are at stake, our heroes are left with little choice in The Black Serpent Adventure Pack. But if they’re going to be successful in this daring raid, they’re going to need some reinforcements. Do the player cards in this pack provide the aid that is needed? Or will they leave the heroes of Middle-earth bringing a butter knife to a sword party? Read on to find out!


* Defender of Cair Andros (Tactics Ally, 4 cost, 1 willpower, 1 attack, 0 defense, 3 hit points):

The Defender of Cair Andros is a fairly expensive ally that focuses (unsurprisingly given the name) on defense:

Defender of Cair Andros gets +X , where X is the tens digit of your threat. (Limit +4 .)

Valour Response: After Defender of Cair Andros is declared as a defender, deal 1 damage to the attacking enemy.

Specifically, the Defender of Cair Andros gets stronger as your threat rises. Obviously, if you are running a secrecy or low-threat deck, then this card isn’t even worth considering, as 4 cost for 1 or 2 defense is a bad deal in any sphere, let alone Tactics. So let’s take the best case scenario, which is 4 defense (because even if you’re playing a quest that lets your threat creep higher than 50, this ally maxes its defense out at 4). This gives it the same defense as the 2 cost Defender of Rammas. On the other hand, it provides 3 hit points instead of 1, which can be a huge difference, especially when it comes to shadow effects. If you’re sitting at 40 threat or higher, that also means the valour response will trigger, which is the equivalent of a free Spear of the Citadel, which costs 2 all by itself. So looking at the Defender of Cair Andros as a pure value proposition without context, it’s actually fairly costed if, and only if, you are in valour range. However, even then, I’m still a bit skeptical about this ally. The fact is that Tactics has such an array of quality defending options at this point in the game’s life that it’s a tough pill to swallow to pay 4 for a dedicated defender, even with a bit of direct damage built in. Two possible exceptions though are Tactics Imrahil or Hirgon decks. The former can cheat this ally in to serve as a solid defender, while the latter can play him for only 3 cost. Even then, though, there are other allies fighting for the same spot. You could focus on this guy as your main defender and throw on a Raiment of War, but 6 resources is a high hill to climb, and you have to get to 40 threat or higher to get full value. I’m not sold on this ally.

Versatility: ♦♦◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦

Uniqueness: ♦♦

* Southron Refugee (Neutral Ally, 2 cost, 1 willpower, 1 attack, 0 defense, 2 hit points):

The Southron Refugee arrives to provide much-needed cost reduction for the Harad archetype:

Action: Exhaust Southron Refugee to reduce the cost of the next Harad ally you play this phase by 1.                                                 

There isn’t too much to say here. The Harad deck introduced in this cycle is built around expensive, unique allies. With all of these unique characters costing 5 resources, it can be difficult for decks to get these allies out quickly, and the Southron Refugee helps to make this happen by reducing their cost. The fact that the Refugee is neutral is a huge boon as it makes sure you can get these crucial support allies out quickly regardless of sphere distribution. The tricky part I’ve found then is making sure that you can get the Refugee out consistently. Beyond including the obligatory 3 copies, it might also be worth looking at fetch effects like Gather Information or Heed the Dream (to take just two possible examples). Don’t forget that the Refugee can also lower the cost of the other Harad support ally: Kahliel’s Tribesman, making them painless to get on the table. Are you going to ever play this card outside of a Harad deck? No. But in a Harad deck, this ally is absolutely helpful, although there are some Harad decks that won’t need it if they aim to cheat in the expensive characters with Elf-stone, A Very Good Tale, or through some other trick.

Versatility: ♦◊

Efficiency: ♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦♦



* Song of Hope (Leadership Attachment, 0 cost):

Song of Hope is a Leadership attachment that allows you to convert resources to willpower:

Attach to a hero. Limit 1 per hero.

Action: Spend 1 resource from attached hero’s pool to give attached hero +1 until the end of the phase. (Limit 3 times per phase.)       

On the face of it, spending 1 resource for 1 phase of willpower is inefficient compared to spending resources on allies or attachments that grant permanent willpower. However, there are a few points in this card’s favor. One is that Leadership happens to be the sphere that is flush with resources. Two is that this attachment has the song trait, which now has a decent level of support. Here are some possibilities:

  • Fireside Song: Fireside Song grants +1 willpower to a Hobbit hero for each song attached (and has the song trait itself). This means that with just Song of Hope and Fireside Song, your Hobbit hero has +2 willpower for a net cost of 2 resources. Then, Song of Hope can boost this even higher as needed.
  • Burst Into Song: Burst Into Song readies each hero with a song attachment, which means that it could ready a hero with Song of Hope attached. Of course, 2 resources for a one-time readying effect isn’t that great if it applies to only a single hero, but if you have a few copies of Song of Hope, or other songs for that matter, in play, then it could definitely be worthwhile.
  • Love of Tales: Love of Tales hasn’t been mentioned much in the community since it was errata’d to prevent degenerate combos. However, if you are really going down the rabbit-hole of songs, especially with Hobbits, Love of Tales could actually be decent resource generation.

The third argument in favor of Song of Hope is that it costs 0 itself, which not only means that it is easier to find resources to spend for its effect, but also that it can be brought immediately into play to facilitate whatever other song synergies you are building towards. This is a card that I have warmed to over time, as I was initially put off by the apparent inefficiency of the cost-to-willpower. While this is still true in many decks, this card definitely can play a valuable role in song decks. Beyond that, Song of Hope might be worth including not as a source of willpower every single turn, but as an emergency valve that can help you when you are short of questing by 1 or 2 willpower (which seems to happen frighteningly often) or when you are trying to control pacing and want to underquest, but not by too much. With this in mind, Song of Hope is definitely a useful utility card.

As an Easter egg, here’s one of the cards from my custom First Age set that boasts essentially the same effect, even down to the limit of three times per phase!

Versatility: ♦◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦

* Fearless Scout ( Spirit Attachment, 1 cost):

Fearless Scout continues the line of trait-granting attachments in this cycle, focusing on the Scout trait this time around:

Attach to a hero. Limit 1 per hero.

Attached hero gains the Scout trait.

Response: After you play Fearless Scout from your hand, draw a card.  

My first impression would be that this would be one of the least useful of the attachments that grants a “skill” trait, simply because Scout was only developed fairly recently. Looking into the cardpool a bit, there are a few reasons why you might want to give a hero the Scout trait, some of which are more compelling than others:

  • Scouting Party grants +2 willpower to all of your questing characters if each of them is a Scout. Since there aren’t a ton of Scout heroes in the game, maybe you want to give one of your non-Scout heroes the trait so that they can participate in questing while still giving you the option of using Scouting Party. This isn’t a huge incentive to include Fearless Scout, in my opinion, but it might be a nice side benefit if you are pursuing the Scout trait for other reasons.
  • Warden of Arnor attaches to a Scout hero and places 1 progress on the first location revealed each round. This effect is so marginal that it rarely gets included in decks as it is, so I don’t see much reason to include a card to give you a trait so that you can play a card that you probably don’t care about anyway. It is kind of fun, though, to think about a deck that puts Fearless Scout on Thalin so that he puts a damage on each enemy revealed and a progress on each location revealed.
  • Well Warned is a useful threat reduction event that can only be used if you have one hero with the Noble trait and another with the Scout trait. I quite like Well Warned but this is another case where you probably wouldn’t include Fearless Scout just to enable this card. (The same logic applies to Hunting Party as well.)
  • There are also a variety of other miscellaneous events (Expert Trackers, Distant Stars, etc.) that are triggered by Scout characters, but you’d be better off just including some Scout allies if you really were looking to use those instead of taking up a hero action. A possible exception might be if you wanted to turn Tactics Boromir into a Scout so that he could use his readying ability to trigger those effects.

After trawling through the card pool, there isn’t really one single compelling reason to use Fearless Scout in a deck. The main use for this card would only be if you were investing heavily in the Scout trait and using several of the cards mentioned above, so that including Fearless Scout would help in a wide variety of areas. All in all, though, I think in most cases you are better off just including Scout characters in the first place. There aren’t the kinds of intriguing combinations that are possible with Doughty Ranger (i.e. Wingfoot access), so Fearless Scout doesn’t get high marks from me, at least at this point in the life of the game.

Versatility: ♦♦♦◊◊

Efficiency: ♦◊◊◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

* Dunedain Pipe (Lore Attachment, 1 cost):

Dunedain Pipe provides a form of card draw that is accessible to Dunedain characters:

Attach to a Dúnedain character. Limit 1 per character.

Action: Exhaust Dúnedain Pipe and place a card from your hand on the bottom of your deck to draw a card.

Card draw is always extremely useful in the game (with the exception of those Voice of Isengard quests that punish you for drawing cards), and repeatable card draw is worth its weight in gold. Dunedain Pipe is indeed a form of repeatable card draw, with the one caveat being that you have to place a card from your hand on the bottom of your deck as part of the cost of drawing a card. In practice, I don’t find this to be a huge cost or a detriment to this card in any significant way. Of course, a card that just let you keep drawing cards without any additional cards would be superior, but for 1 cost and the fact that the Dunedain Pipe can go on allies as well means that this attachment is well worth the investment. Part of the reason is that if you already love all the cards in your hand so much that you aren’t willing to send one to the bottom of your deck then you might not be in dire need of card draw in the first place. If you do find yourself in a situation where you would much rather have a card in your deck than one of the cards in your hand, then Dunedain Pipe is perfect for that purpose. In essence, then, this pipe is a form of card filtering, allowing you to sift through your deck for those cards that will have the most impact and the ones that you most want to see at any given moment. It also allows you include multiple copies of important unique cards in your deck without worrying about drawing duplicates because those duplicates can simply be sent to the bottom of your deck in order to draw something more useful. All in all, I find Dunedain Pipe to be a strong form of card draw and is worth consideration in any Lore deck that includes a Dunedain hero or a large amount of Dunedain allies. The only point against Dunedain Pipe is that it is part of a sphere that is already flush in card draw, but it does enough to warrant inclusion and it’s important to never underestimate just how important repeatable card draw can be.

Versatility: ♦♦◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦◊◊◊


* Burst into Song (Leadership Event, 1 cost):

Burst into Song further develops the Song synergy that was also developed in this pack with Song of Hope:

Action: Ready each hero with a Song attachment.

This Leadership event is a one-time readying event that can potentially ready multiple heroes at once. At this point in the life of the game, there certainly are a fair number of Songs that can help facilitate this effect (Song of Hope, Fireside Song, Love of Tales, the various resource icon Songs, etc.). I could see a Leadership deck without access to the readying of Spirit including this card to ready even just one hero, if that hero happens to play a part in multiple aspects of play. Still, given that two resources can get you Unexpected Courage (if you do have access to Spirit), which can ready a single hero every single turn for the rest of the game, to get full value out of this card, you should really be readying at least two heroes with this effect. This means that you will probably only be running Burst into Song in a deck that has more than a casual affiliation with Songs. In other words, if you happen to just have one or two copies of Songs in your deck because they are an incidental part of what your deck is doing, then Burst into Song is not good value. On the other hand, if your deck contains multiple copies of Songs because Song synergy is an integral part of your strategy, then this event might be worth a look. Although two cost might be a bit expensive even to ready two heroes, Leadership is a sphere flush with resources and it really can’t be overstated just how important readying is in this game. So with that in mind, Burst into Song is worth consideration in any deck that uses around two to three different versions of Songs.

Versatility: ♦♦◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊

* Old Toby (Lore Event, 2 cost):

Since the Hobbit Pipe first came out, players have joked and hoped for the day we would see some version of a Pipeweed card to fill that Pipe. Old Toby arrives to sate that desire:

Action: Draw 1 card for each Pipe you control. Heal 1 damage from each hero with a Pipe attachment.

Just as Smoke Rings rewards you for each Pipe you control by lowering threat and boosting willpower, Old Toby draws 1 card for each Pipe you control and heals 1 damage from each hero with a Pipe. Generally, healing a single point of damage from each hero with a Pipe is not a huge deal in a world where Warden of Healing exists, but the last few cycles have definitely seen a hefty share of archery and direct damage so every bit helps. This is especially true if you are planning on running a thematic Hobbit and Pipes deck, since Hobbit heroes only have two or three hit points anyway. Of course, with Elrond on the table, you could be looking at 2 points healed from each hero. However, I view the healing more of an added bonus to Old Toby, with the real draw (pun intended) being the card draw. Feasibly, you could have three Pipes at minimum without too much trouble, especially if you use ally Bilbo as a Pipe fetch option, and thus you would net 3 cards for 2 resources. In a vacuum, this doesn’t sound too fantastic, as we have reached a point in the life of the game where card draw is prevalent in Lore, and cards like Deep Knowledge, Daeron’s Runes, and Peace, and Thought (especially for Hobbits with easy access to Fast Hitch) are strictly better than Old Toby in terms of cost and efficiency. However, if you take the whole package of card draw plus healing plus the ability to lower the cost of this card to 0 with A Good Meal (again, think Hobbits), then the prospects look more enticing. If you are running Hobbit Pipe anyway so that you can use Old Toby, then you can also include Smoke Rings and other threat reduction effects, so that Hobbit Pipe will be drawing cards as well. This adds up to an enticing and thematic draw engine. So the overall verdict is that Old Toby does not outshine other card draw effects in every deck or even most decks, but it is a viable option in Hobbit Pipe builds.

Versatility: ♦◊◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦◊◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦◊◊

* Oath of Eorl (Tactics Event, 3 cost):

Oath of Eorl is a splashy combat effect that allows all of your characters to launch attacks before enemies have a chance to attack, reversing the normal turn order:

Play only if you control a unique character with the Rohan trait and another unique character with the Gondor trait.

Response: At the beginning of the combat phase, you resolve the step in which you attack enemies before resolving enemy attacks this phase. (Each other player resolves the combat phase as normal after you resolve your attacks.)

Over time, Rohan have certainly become the archetype focused around expensive yet explosive effects: Astonishing Speed can provide an unparalleled quest burst, Forth Eorlingas allows for a massive swing into the staging area, and Charge of the Rohirrim provides a significant attack boost to Rohan characters with a mount. The problem is that sometimes it is difficult to find space for such effects because finding the right time to use them can be tricky. Early on in a quest, it’s usually hard to justify the cost of such events when something more lasting can be put on the board, and later in a quest, you may have things well enough in hand that such effects are superfluous. Still, Oath of Eorl may perhaps be the most useful of them all. I should say that this is not strictly a Rohan card, as it does also require a unique Gondor character, but I tend to think of it as a Rohan effect for thematic reasons and because of how it fits into the card pool. While Forth Eorlingas is difficult to use sometimes because you have to keep enemies in the staging area, and Charge of the Rohirrim requires getting enough Mounts out to make it worth the trouble, Oath of Eorl will have many opportunities to be useful if you can afford the 3 resources. As such, Oath of Eorl is actually worth considering seriously, probably not as three copies in a deck, but one or two could be appropriate if you think you will have enough resources (running mono-Tactics or having a resource generator like Mablung makes this card more viable). In particular, this card could serve as a useful counter to any scenario that features enemies that have negative effects when they attack. It’s also hard to pass up the allure of that magic moment of riding down a swathe of enemies during an epic quest like Pelennor Fields. Therefore, this certainly isn’t an include for every deck, but those who love splashy effects will definitely find much to love here.

Versatility: ♦♦◊◊◊

Efficiency: ♦♦♦♦◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊


* Rally the West (Spirit Side Quest, 1 cost, 6 quest points):

Rally the West is a brand new side quest for the Spirit sphere that boosts the willpower of each hero:

Limit 1 copy of Rally the West in the victory display.

While this quest is in the victory display, each hero gets +1 .

Although I was initially skeptical regarding side quests, I’ve gradually turned around on them as a whole. They can be quite powerful (keep in mind that certain quests still shut them down hard, though, just not as many as I initially thought). Rally the West, however, seems best in three or four player. It comes down really to a numbers game. With a higher player count, there are more heroes on the board, more threat in the staging area, and so you get more value for completing this side quest. In solo, probably not every hero quests, so you are looking at a boost of maybe 1 or 2 willpower at more. That just isn’t worth the time it takes to complete a side quest, unless you really are leaning hard into a side quest strategy (even then, I think there are better choices). So Rally the West is worth looking at if you are building for multiplayer, but in solo, it’s a pass.

Versatility: ♦♦♦♦◊

Efficiency: ♦♦◊◊◊

Uniqueness: ♦♦♦♦◊


This pack brings together support for a variety of strategies, with Song and Pipe decks getting some love and Harad decks getting a key support piece in the form of a cost reducer. Overall, I wouldn’t say it’s the strongest overall pack in terms of player cards, since they all seem to fit particular niches rather than provide potential staples, which seems to be the mark of the Haradrim cycle to this point.

Readers, what are your thoughts on the player cards of The Black Serpent? Which are the best? Which are the worst?

From → Reviews

  1. I particularly enjoy that you presaged the design of Song of Hope with your Nimphelos artifact.

  2. Jack Neal permalink

    Great to see you writing again.

  3. I have come to defend the Defender! He saved me a lot in my Imrahil-Cirdan-Denethor deck. In the Quest “The Morgul Vale”, he was amazing against that Nazgûl, weakened his Hit Points, the MVP that night.

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