Thursday, August 6, 2015

Impressions - Escape from Mount Gram Player Cards

I am back from Gen Con, and my body is still recovering.  That said, with Escape from Mount Gram released slightly before Gen Con, and The Land of Shadows released at the convention, there is plenty to discuss.
Rossiel is an interesting card.  She has fairly standard stats, with the 1 attack feeling like a bit of a waste for her.  She introduces an interesting mechanic, in being able to interact with the victory display.  Her stats get a nice boost when she is questing or defending, based on what has already made it into the victory display.  If she is in a quest which already has a lot of cards which go into the victory display, such as Emyn Muil, then I can imagine her working out easily.  In other quests, however, it will take some work to maximize her utility.  During Gen Con, I played the deck I had posted previously, and it was a little slow to get moving.  As it stands, I think she will be a very situational hero, that may have some cool decks built around her.
Derndingle Warrior adds to the Ent archtype, providing a strong defender to the deck.  Like all other Ents to this point, it has strong stats for a two-cost ally.  In addition, it has the ability to deal itself a damage while defending to gain 3 extra defense for that attack.  I really like damage dealing effects in Ent decks, since it combos well with Booming Ent, to give you a strong attacker.  Unfortunately, it only lasts for the attack, so if you are able to ready the warrior, such as using Treebeard, you have to deal another damage to get the defense boost.  Since Ents, to this point, have been either Lore or Tactics, including healing, such as Warden of Healing allows for multiple rounds of strong defense.
Elven Jeweler adds to the promise of Noldor synergy in this cycle.  For 2 cost, the stats are OK, but there is also the option to drop her out at any time by discarding two cards from hand.  This ability essentially makes her a better version of Emery.  Emery requires that three cards be discarded off the top of the deck, and if any Tactics/Lore/Leadership cards come up, she's discarded.  This either required that you had some deck scrying, or play mono-Spirit to ensure that she doesn't get wasted.  Here, you're able to choose the cards to discard, and you could even run this without any Spirit cards.  The only downside is that it has one less defense than Emery, but it isn't unique, and costs one less.  As we explore the Noldor trait, I think the value of this card will only go up.
Veteran of Osgiliath is this pack's addition to the Valour trait.  Though not specifically calling out Valour, it's power is triggered by having a threat at 40 or higher.  His stats are fairly standard, if not good, for three cost, but if playing with Valour, his stats become really good.  Being Gondor, he can combo well with Boromir or Visionary Leadership.  This guy is good, and just like the Jeweler, will only get better as we get more cards in the cycle.
Boomed and Trumpeted is one of those cards that really solidifies the Ent archtype.  Ents already have a lack of action advantage, considering they all come into play exhausted.  By playing this event, Ents are able to be a little more hasty.  Especially with our new Ent ally, this card allows for you to defend for five, and then get another defense (albeit for less defense) or get a solid attack.  Additionally, in quests with Archery, you could place a damage on an Ent that was exhausted, either from entering play or questing, then have it ready.  Finally, combine this with hero Treebeard and you can boost his attack by 1, or more, use the event to boost him further, then have ready for another attack, still boosted by his ability.
Descendants of Kings is a solid readying effect.  For 1 resource, you can ready as many Dúnedain characters as you have enemies engaged with.  If you are playing Dúnedain, then you're already conscious of keeping enemies engaged, whether it's for Heir of Valandil, or even just Halbarad's ability.  The problem comes when you don't have those enemies engaged with you.  This allows you a chance to setup.  One card I think will get value out of this event is Northern Tracker.  I feel safe in admitting that she is not placed in one's deck for her 1 willpower.  Her location control has kept her around since the days of the core set.  That said, she has great stats that aren't fully utilized.  With this ability, she can still use her location ability, but be available for other uses.
Distant Stars is a form of location control, similar to the ability of West Road Traveller.  Where as the traveller allows you to switch the active location with another location in the staging area, this card lets you search the encounter deck for any location, at the cost of exhausting either a Scout or Ranger character.  There are plenty of characters that have that trait, especially in the Lore sphere.  Since you have to have an active location, you have to travel to this location first.  This could be something that has a mild travel effect or none at all.  Then, the new location could be something that has a nasty travel, which this card allows you to avoid.  It seems like a fairly straight forward card, for zero cost it's definitely something that can fit well in a location control deck.
Keen as Lances is sexy.  Not only in Galadriel's piercing eyes on the artwork, but in its ability.  It is essentially a Gandalf replacement.  Granted, you don't get an ally out of the play, but the card does get cheaper as you play more of this card, or other cards that go into the victory display without victory points, such as using Out of the Wild, or the next card.
Leave No Trace plays right into location control, just like Distant Stars.  In addition, it's allowing you to put two cards into the victory display without any victory points, so it immediately reduces the cost of playing Keen as Lances.  In addition, if there is a location which you don't want to see again, then this would also allow you to get it out of play.  This also plays into Rossiel, letting you put locations into the victory display, which could boost her willpower.
Side Quest
Double Back adds to the library of side quests that players have to include in their deck.  In this case, clearing the location will reduce everyone's threat by 5.  A strong effect, for sure, especially for zero cost.  When looking at this card, I think about the same things I do for any side quest, and there are definitely good and bad times for the side quest.  If you're on a timer, then it could be a hindrance to slow down the tempo of the game.  On the other hand, there have been times where I can't progress, not due to making progress on the quest, but because of another factor, such as killing the Hill Troll in Journey Down the Anduin.  In those cases, side quests are excellent ways to take advantage of the situation you're currently facing, and gain some benefit.
Final Thoughts
We see some themes repeat from previous packs.  More side quests, more Dúnedain, and a lot of location control.  In practice, some of these cards take some setup, so don't expect a deck that comes out swinging, but there is plenty of interesting combos that can occur.  I continue to be intrigued by the Ent trait, and we're getting to the point, where it isn't feasible to put every Ent card into your deck.  This will lead to more variety in the archetype, which I welcome.

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