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 Here are the out-of-date and updated effects, one after the other, with the relevant text underlined: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!