This AP caps off the cycle with a cool new hero, excellent player cards, and an outstanding quest. In this article we will focus on the hero and player cards, which are sure to make an impact in a lot of decks.
Possibly the most anticipated aspect of any AP release is the hero card. Normally FFG would have spoiled the hero card at some point (Galadriel was spoiled almost 5 months in advance of her release), but FFG stayed quiet on this one. All we knew was that it was definitely going to be a Rohan hero. I won't lie - I was anticipating that we were finally going to get Leadership Theoden (source for pic).
What we received instead was an unexpected, but certainly not undeserving, hero from the books:
Erkenbrand is best known for marshaling the defense of the Riddermark after Theodred fell at the Fords of Isen, at the very beginning of Saruman's invasion of Rohan. After rallying several thousand riders and doing his best to secure the Westfold, Erkenbrand led the relief effort at Helm's Deep, arriving just in time to save the day (a Rohan-ex-machina, or as Tolkein would put it: a eucatastrophe).
The most notable statistic in Erkenbrand's profile is his defense value. Three defense is easily the highest of any Rohan hero, and is the highest of any Leadership hero barring Dain Ironfoot. His special ability directly correlates with his ability to defend.
While Erkenbrand is defending, he gains: "Response: Deal 1 damage to Erkenbrand to cancel a shadow effect just triggered."
This is an upgrade over Balin's ability, since the shadow card does not have to be replaced. Of course, Balin's ability can apply to any shadow card, not just the one dealt to him, but Erkenbrand's ability is very strong. Plus, Erkenbrand has Sentinel.
The problem is, obviously, keeping Erkenbrand alive. Three defense is good, but certainly not invulnerable. Plus, activating his ability even twice will put him on life support. Someone is going to have to bring some healing power to the table to keep Erkenbrand strong.
Luckily there are some cheap options to boosting Erkenbrand's defense. The easiest, and most cost-effective way, is to throw one (or three!) Dunedain Warnings onto him. Defense 4 is exponentially better that 3, and Erkenbrand starts to enter "tank mode" at that point. Also the newly-released card Captain of Gondor (see below) fits very well into Erkenbrand's gameplay, if not the theme.
Overall I think Erkenbrand is a solid hero, but not top-tier at this point. I may replace Theodred with him in my Theodred-Aragorn-Grima deck, since that deck can often struggle to defend in the beginning of the game. He could also work in my tri-sphere Rohan deck, with Eowyn and Eomer as the other heroes.
Now that we've had a look at Erkenbrand, let's check out some of the highlights of the player cards:
I'm not going to save the best for last. Treebeard is awesome! He suffers from the same drawback as all Ent cards (entering play exhausted), but his stats-to-cost ratio is incredible. He can attack, defend, and quest if needed (although with 4 attack and 3 defense it seems like a waste to quest with him). If he were a hero he would have a threat value of 14... it's insane to find those stats in a 4-cost ally.
On top of the great stats, he generates resources that can be used either to pay for Ent characters or ready Ent characters. He's probably the MVP of the pack.
Warden of Helm's Deep
The undisputed champion of defense-oriented allies is the Defender of Rammas. That said, the Warden of Helm's Deep brings a solid defense value to a sphere that can generate the resources to pay for him. This card is good, but I just don't know if it's great. Having multiple wounds can help soak up Archery damage, and Sentinel is always handy, but I just don't know if I have space in my decks for this card, especially in solo play.
Captain of Gondor
This is a great card for Erkenbrand. When I'm playing multiplayer I find that, more often than not, we are optionally engaging enemies. This card isn't in Erkenbrand's sphere, but if you're building a deck that's planning on defending enemies then chances are you'll have access to the Tactics sphere as well. I'd go so far as to make this an auto-include in an Erkenbrand deck.
Our third Ent ally is the same cost as Wandering Ent, but has two fewer stats. Luckily he can have his attack power boosted by the number of damaged Ents you control, which shouldn't be too hard to achieve (Treebeard can soak up a ton of damage). I wouldn't go so far as to say that an Ent deck is a viable build, but we're headed there!
Ride Them Down
I love love love this card! Early in the game's life the Rohan trait was know for it's ability to quest. While Rohan has since expanded into a more combat-oriented build, this card let's the quest-heavy Rohan decks join in on the fun of killing enemies. Of course, the card isn't limited to Rohan decks, but thematically this is obviously evoking the great cavalry charges we all know and love. Just a fantastic card!
Thanks for reading! In part 2 we'll dive into the awesome quest for this AP. Feel free to leave a comment below or reach out to me on Twitter @PIflamesofwar, or the whole group @WWPDFellowship
Thanks as always to the Hall of Beorn for the card images.
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