Thursday, April 30, 2015

Impressions - The Treason of Saruman - Player Cards

Thanks to back ups at the west coast ports, we are blessed with back to back big box expansions.  The Lost Realms is still fresh, but we can now continue our journey through The Lord of the Rings saga, entering into the events of The Two Towers.  In this entry, I will give my opinion on the player cards for this saga expansion.


All these heroes have been spoiled prior to the release, but this did not lower my anticipation.  Fellowship Aragorn gives us a fairly different saga hero, compared to Frodo or other Frodo.  Gone is The One Ring, and now Aragorn has a readying ability.  We already have multiple attachments which have abilities specific to Aragorn, such as Celebrian's Stone or Sword that was Broken which can give this version of Aragorn even more utility.
Théoden, King of the Rohirrim, was a hero that divided the community when the tactics version came out.  A new version was released in this pack.  Now a spirit hero, gone is his willpower boost, replaced with a much needed cost reducer for Rohan allies.  Since there is no resource generation, save for Miruvor, in spirit, and Rohan allies can be fairly pricey, this is a welcome ability.  Also, it allows you to reduce cost down to zero, so cards like Westfold Horse-breeder can play for free.  The only downside that I see for Théoden is his threat.  Prior to Théoden's release, Idraen was the highest threat spirit hero, with 11 threat, and the same stats as Théoden.  Obviously, if you want to to run monospirit, there are plenty of low cost heroes you can pair him with, but you're going to be in rough shape if you're trying to splash spirit with him.
Treebeard had just recently been introduced as an ally, and now we see his hero version.  Just like hero Gandalf did, playing hero Treebeard removes a versatile ally from your deck.  There were very few decks that I didn't put the ally version of Treebeard in, due to his powerful stats and his resource generation.  Even if there aren't any more Ents in the deck, ally Treebeard's resources are still useful for readying him.  That said, hero Treebeard has solid stats.  His action ability, while potentially risky, can allow you to have a powerful quester/attacker turn one.  Being able take damage after staging to boost your willpower can be savior, just like Eowyn's card discard ability, but not limited by the number of players in the game.  Since he's lore, he already has in sphere healing abilities, whether it's the core classic Self Preservation, or more recent cards such as Athelas, which allow you to continue recycling his ability.


Four allies came with this saga expansion, three of which are ally versions of former heroes.  Ally Gimli is a solid addition to any Dwarf deck, or leadership decks in general.  Now in the leadership sphere, his ability to ready after an enemy is revealed allows him to react to the enemy.  Whether that is using Gimli's sentinel to defend, or to attack back with his 2 attack (more likely 3 with Dain).  At four cost, he's also a great candidate for A Very Good Tale, which again still has utility in case enemies show up.
Legolas has been a solid hero since the core set.  His ability to add progress has always been a boon to the tactics sphere, which typically lacks in questing.  While this version doesn't have progress generation, the ally version has card draw, another ability lacking in tactics.  Typically, if I want card draw in a tactics deck, I pull out Foe-hammer, which requires a hero attacking and a weapon.  Though Legolas draws one card, versus Foe-hammer's three, his draw is more reliable and with less parts to get the combo.  That all said, I wish there was some synergy with the silvan cards of the Ring-maker cycle.  There is no benefit to bouncing Legolas back to your hand, and since he's tactics, there is not an eligible silvan hero (aka not Legolas) to pair with him. That said, he's a strong addition and definitely a card I'll be messing with.
Hama was an hero famous for his event recycling ability, especially the infamous "Hama lock" which had previously been used to break Shadow and Flame, now errata'd away.  In the most recent COTR podcast, they state that the hero version is a younger version of Hama, where this ally version is an older version, where he has taken the the role of Doorward to King Théoden and Captain of the King's guard.  This version definitely represents his more defensive side.  Already solid stats for three cost, or two if brought into play with Théoden's ability, Hama really shines during combat.  He gets to ready and gains 3 additional defense.  Because of the readying, he gets could be committed to the quest first, and then still defend.  At the end of the combat phase, you have to discard him, but there are still ways to get more utility out of him.  Since he's going to get discarded anyway, he would be a good candidate for Ride to Ruin, or if you want to save him, you could always attach Born Aloft to him to bring him back to hand and play later.
Quickbeam is the only ally from this expansion that doesn't have a previous hero version.  A unique Ent ally, so though you can only have one on the table at a time, his stats make up for the uniqueness.  Like other Ents, he has to come into play exhausted, however he has an ability that gives him immediate utility.  For the cost of one damage from his three hit points, he gets to ready when he enters play.  Normally, we would be concerned to take damage, but at his cost, and the synergy with Booming Ent, I don't see a reason not to include him and not take advantage of his response.


The first attachment is a new mount.  Arod, able to attach to any hero, or Legolas, is able to place progress on a location.  Attaching it to hero Legolas, along with two Blades of Gondolin, and you have to potential for up to five progress placed on locations after a kill.  Throw in Asfaloth, and you have another progress, two if it's on Glorfindel.  With the new ally version of Legolas, it can be used on him as well.  Arod could also work well in a Rohan deck, using Westfold Horse-breeder to pull it, and then attaching to Éomer.
Ent Draught is a fairly simple attachment.  Extra hit points are nice, but it doesn't really excite me.  Similar to classic attachment, Citadel Plate, it gives extra hit points, but doesn't take up a restricted slot.  This makes it good for Treebeard, who relies on taking damage to boost questing and attacking, or hero Gimli.  It also gives you a little extra to handle quests with archery.
Herugrim is one of my favorite cards from the expansion.  This weapon opens up the opportunity for questing decks to have significant attack power.  Two of the strongest heroes to attach to: Eowyn or either Théoden.  Include Steed of the Mark or Unexpected Courage, along with willpower boosting, such as The Favor of the Lady or Dúnedain Quest, and you have the opportunity to quest strongly and still attack enemies that come down.  If you include Nor am I a Stranger, granted a longer combo to setup, you have unlimited choices of who to use this with.
Shadowfax is another unrestricted mount, though limited to Gandalf.  Shadowfax gives Gandalf ranged and sentinel, as well as a readying effect.  This is definitely a multiplayer card.  Thematically, it makes sense to include it, and it is neutral, so it is flexible regardless of what heroes accompany Gandalf.  Even with that, I would use Unexpected Courage over Shadowfax in a solo game.  If you're using hero Gandalf, more than likely you are using Wizard Pipe, so getting Unexpected Courage to the top of your deck so Gandalf can use any sphere shouldn't be a problem.


Entmoot is similar to Mustering the Rohirrim and The Eagles are Coming! where you can pull allies of a certain trait into your hand.  I find it interesting the inconsistencies between these cards.  For Rohan, you have to pay 1 resource, and only get to pull 1 ally out.  With the eagles, you can pull out as many as you find.  The Ents work the same as the eagles, but you have to have an Ent character in play.  If you're playing with hero Treebeard, then the requirement for an Ent character isn't a problem, but if you prefer the ally version, then you need to have something out before the card is effective.
Helm! Helm! seems situational.  You have to exhaust and discard a Rohan ally to discard a non-unique enemy enemy engaged with you.  This means you probably don't get to utilize the ally you are discarding since it has to be ready.  I suppose you could use ally Hama's ability to ready so that it can be exhausted and discarded.  It also has to happen only after enemies have attacked, so it doesn't even allow you to save a defense, meaning you may have to lose two characters for especially rough enemies.
The Three Hunters is the last event included in the expansion, and is the third Fellowship card.  I'm not a big fan of both Fellowship and Baggins sphere cards, since you can't play it unless you are controlling the respective hero, and it cannot be used outside of the saga quests.  At three cost,  it seems like it will be hard to save the resources until the card holder is able to play it.  Obviously, there is resource smoothing that could be used, such as Théodred's response, or Errand-rider, but I would be hesitant to put any resource acceleration on Aragorn, unless I planned to use an attachment to give him additional resource icons.  That all said, if the resources are available, the card's ability is strong.  Being able to ready three heroes and give them stat boosts could be useful regardless of the reason.  Perhaps you need three additional willpower to boost questing, or you need to added combat strength to deal with enemies that showed up.  It's unfortunate that is requires that the player controls Fellowship Aragorn, as it makes it unavailable in The Black Rider and The Road Darkens.

Final Thoughts

In many ways, the player cards in Treason of Saruman are welcome additions to the card pool. Some of which are more situational than others, but there is a place for each card. It's hard not to compare these cards to what we received in The Lost Realm, because of how closely they were shipped. In my opinion, I am more excited about the cards from The Lost Realm than Treason of Saruman. There are strong cards in this expansion, but I feel The Lost Realm introduced new ways to run a deck, where as these cards feel like more of the same. 
What's your thought? I'd love to hear if you agree or disagree. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm pretty divided on what box I like more in terms of player cards. Theoden is one of my favorite characters in general, and I really really like the Gimli card. On the other hand, Lost Realm brings in a new play style that I really like as well.

    Good problem to have I suppose.