Voices at the Door: January 2016 FAQ, Horn of Gondor Change

The+Horn+of+Boromir

In less than 24 hours, I should have my hands on the Grey Havens; the cards have already been spoiled over at Hall of Beorn. But before we set sail into the West with the latest deluxe expansion, I wanted to touch briefly on the January 2016 FAQ, specifically the change to Horn of Gondor. Since our beloved game’s release in 2011, the Core Set has gone through multiple printings, with only minor changes made to card text. The change to Horn of Gondor represents the most fundamental shift in a card’s playability. Here are the out-of-date and updated effects, one after the other, with the relevant text underlined:

Old Text (2011-2015)
Response: After a character leaves play, add 1 resource to attached hero’s pool.”

New Text (2016)
Response: After a character is destroyed, add 1 resource to attached hero’s pool.”

According to co-developer Caleb Grace, the change is to preserve the original intent of Horn of Gondor, which was to help the Tactics player generate resources when allies are destroyed in the act of defending. While I agree with this in principle, in reality the pool of Tactics allies goes directly against this. If anything, Tactics is not chump-blocking on a regular basis, instead using beefy defenders such as Defender of Rammas, Derndingle Warrior, and Winged Guardian to block attacks…and survive. At the very least, then, the change to Horn of Gondor means that Tactics players will only be gaining resources when a bad shadow effect destroys such defenders. Since this is now the case, the Horn has gone from a utility card to a card that only triggers when the Tactics player’s defense strategy fails. This makes Horn into an “emergency” or “contingency” card.

What is a bit more disconcerting to me, however, is the effect the change has on decks that rely on allies leaving play. Both the Rohan and Silvan archetypes take a huge hit from this rules change. It is fair to argue that since both have a card that reduces the cost of related allies (Spirit Theoden and O Lorien! respectively), they don’t also need Horn of Gondor. That may be true, but even if this is the case, what happens to the Eagle trait? At this point in the game, the Eagles have no cost-reducing card available to them, and I would go so far as to say that the change to Horn of Gondor makes Eagle decks non-viable. It’s still a good idea to splash cheap Eagles into Tactics decks, but no longer are swooping Descendants of Thorondor, Vassals of the Windlord, or Winged Guardians going to net you resource gains.

At the end of the day, I’m a bit disappointed in the ruling. From my perspective, limiting the Horn’s effect to once or twice a round would have still destroyed the infinite loops we all most of us despise without harming three key Traits. As time goes on, I’ll be curious to chat with other players and see how they feel about the change.

In the meantime…very excited to board ship at the Grey Havens. Noldor decks, here we come. Until next time, mára mesta: good journeys!

Deck-Craft: Swift and Strong Steeds

After another great Sunday playing our beloved game at the Fantasy Flight Game Center has come and gone, and I was so pleased with the performance of my deck that I just had to share it. This deck shines in a four-player game and helped my teammates and I defeat A Shadow of the Past and the Treachery of Rhudaur handily.

Inspiration
As many skilled players of the game have pointed out in the past few years, four-player LOTR:LCG really lives and dies by everyone playing a particular role. You need a strong questing deck (or two!) and a strong combat deck. Meanwhile, one or two folks must play support in some way. Since multiple players can take on enemies, some of the combat responsibilities can be shared. However, since there can only be one active location at a time, location lock is a real threat. At the same time, my experience is that a lot of people find the travel phase to be one of the least interesting portions of the game, and very few people want to play the “travel deck”. My goal in building this deck was to make it fun (and easy!) to travel. To that end…I give you Swift and Strong Steeds.
Rohan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total Cards: 50

Heroes: 3
1x Eowyn (Core Set)
1x Theoden (The Treason of Saruman)
1x Galadriel (Celebrimbor’s Secret)

Allies: 24
3x Escort from Edoras (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
3x Northern Tracker (Core Set)
2x Eomund (Conflict at the Carrock)
2x Westfold Horse-Breaker (The Hunt for Gollum)
3x Westfold Horse-breeder (The Voice of Isengard)
1x Elfhelm (The Dead Marshes)
2x West Road Traveller (Return to Mirkwood)
3x Gamling (The Land of Shadow)
3x Hama (The Treason of Saruman)
2x The Riddermark’s Finest (The Hills of Emyn Muil)

Attachments: 19
1x Protector of Lorien (Core Set)
1x Asfaloth (Foundations of Stone)
2x Herugrim (The Treason of Saruman)
3x Snowmane (The Land of Shadow)
2x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)
1x Silver Harp (The Treachery of Rhudaur)
2x Nenya (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
3x Mirror of Galadriel (Celebrimbor’s Secret)
2x Thror’s Key (On the Doorstep)
2x Steed of Imladris (Across the Ettenmoors)

Events: 6
3x A Test of Will (Core Set)
2x Ride to Ruin (The Hills of Emyn Muil)
1x Astonishing Speed (Return to Mirkwood)

Side Quest: 1
1x Double Back (Escape from Mount Gram)

Strategy
Though this deck contains no resource acceleration, the discount you receive from Spirit Theoden is enough to ensure that you can always play one or two Rohan allies a turn. I mulligan for either Nenya, the Mirror of Galadriel, or Gamling, since the first can get you a Willpower boost, the second can let you go fishing for cards, or the third can help recycle those Rohan allies that are getting discarded all the time.

As the game progresses, Steed of Imladris, The Riddermark’s Finest, Asfaloth, and Northern Tracker can all allow you to rain down progress tokens upon various locations, clearing the dreaded location lock that can be the end of so many multiplayer games. I’ve found that the Riddermark’s Finest to be incredibly helpful in this regard, since when you discard it, you can drop two progress on a location, then use Gamling to bring it back to hand, and do it again next turn. Meanwhile, Westfold Horse Breeder will let you go fishing for three all-important mounts: Steed of Imladris, Asfaloth, and Snowmane, all of who supercharge the deck in various ways.

By the late game, it’s common to have out a host of strong Rohan allies, all of whom are getting recycled as long as you use their abilities sparingly. Theoden and his sword, Herugrim, are laying waste to enemies that engage with you, Galadriel is dishing out Willpower boosts, cards, and threat reduction left and right, and Eowyn is helping the team make it through difficult quest phases with her discard to Willpower conversion. Though this deck doesn’t muster a huge amount of Willpower (I still think Leadership is best for that!) and it’s definitely a second-tier combat deck, you won’t need to be constantly begging the Tactics player for a sentinel block or a ranged attack on your behalf, and other players will be thankful as you clear multiple locations a turn and cancel treacheries through A Test of Will. Go team!

Reward
For me, the real reward of this deck is that you can take care of locations in a lot of interesting ways–discarding to Steed of Imladris, placing progress with pinpoint precision with Asfaloth and Steed of Imladris, or using Ride to Ruin to discard an ally and place progress, just to name a few–while also providing questing, cancellation, and combat assistance. Mirror of Galadriel and Westfold Horse Breeder give you two fun tutoring mechanics, and leading the cavalry of Rohan as it does its thing is just plain satisfying.

The real power of this deck showed up this past Sunday, when, in a four-player game of A Shadow of the Past, we had several locations in the staging area and were trying to get to Buckleberry Ferry. However, since all locations must be cleared from the staging area before you can travel to Buckleberry, we were in a bit of a bind. But my Northern Tracker had been prepping several locations for a few turns, and Asfaloth and The Riddermark’s Finest were in play. In one fell swoop, I committed the Northern Tracker, clearing three locations at once, then exhausted the Riddermark’s Finest and Asfaloth to get rid of a location just revealed. Finally, we used Fellowship Frodo’s Ring ability to shuffle another location away, and then we finally quested hard enough to clear the active location (using Eowyn’s discard ability to make up the final progress). So my deck allowed for the clearing of five locations in one turn, and Fellowship Frodo took care of a sixth. Traveling never felt so good!

If you’re headed into a four-player game in the next few weeks, definitely build this one. Better yet, improve upon it and leave a comment. Until next time, mára mesta: good journeys!