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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

LOTR-LCG: Chronological Combat Control - Keeping Enemies at Bay from the Core Set to the Present Day!

By Grant "pfcamygrant" Ellis

The ability to control combat, preventing the attacks of an engaged enemy, is often the best way to survive a scenario in the Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game. Some cards are core set staples that have endured since the game’s inception, being near auto-includes with each advancement to the meta-game. Other techniques are deck dependent, requiring specific traits to take defensive action during combat. This article explores the chronological card-pool of enfeebling engaged enemies; preventing attacks and avoiding exhausted characters and maintaining action advantage.
Over the course of this week's writing, we will take you from the game's beginnings in the Core Set through each expansion and cycle, up until the conclusion of last year's final adventure pack, with a key focus on Combat Control and talk about some of the circumstantial situations and potential drawbacks to the inclusion of each card in your deck.

The Core Set saw several cards that could be used in stopping enemy attacks. We’ll start with the mainstay, a 1 cost Tactics Event, Feint. Feint can be used to prevent a single enemy from attacking the player with whom it is engaged with. While limited to the tactics sphere, the low-cost and potentially life-saving effect makes Feint extremely useful in any deck that has access to Tactics resources. Also within the Core Set, the 3 cost Tactics event Thicket of Spears can be played to prevent attacks from all enemies engaged with a chosen player. The caveat to this is that each resource must come from a different hero, limiting the cards use to Mono-sphere Tactics, Song singing soldiers, Gandalf, and perhaps an Elrond/Vilya combination.  The option is more costly and less versatile than Feint, but there are scenarios and situations which would require you to possibly play it (like when seven Nazgul happen to descend upon you.) The third option from the Core Set is a 3 cost Lore Attachment Card, Forest Snare, a trap card that disables an enemy from attacking. Forest Snare requires an enemy to be engaged with an enemy. Certain enemies can only have restricted attachments (or no attachments at all) so it won’t always work, but the ability to lockdown an opponent should never be overlooked. The three resource cost is a little pricey, but sometimes it is your only option. Note, engaged enemies might still receive Shadow cards, even if they cannot attack, which can create a conundrum should objectives be lurking in the Encounter deck.

Moving to the Dwarrowdelf cycle, at the mid-way point adventure pack The Long Dark, we see the Spirit sphere introduce a 5 cost event, Out of Sight, that can have its cost reduced through the Secrecy keyword (perks provided for Threat under 20) If you aren’t in the Secrecy realm, the card might be a little too late game-ish for your taste, as it costs bookoo bucks. It may be your only option though, should you be mono-Spirit or Spirit Secrecy, and in an effort to increase our knowledge base of the entire arsenal it is important to think about when and where the card would come in handy: Solo play, low-threat hero combos (Fatty, Frodo, Spirit Pippin), and perhaps decks that generate lots of resources in case you want to eat a cost of 5. (Again… seven Nazgul enemies engaging you can freeze the heart instantly! I’ve been there, I’ve seen what it can do. You need to have your outs ready.)

The Against the Shadow Cycle saw its third Adventure Pack introduce another form of Combat Control, still an event card, but not limited by Sphere, but rather by Trait. The Hobbit exclusive 2 Cost Neutral Event card Hobbit-sense prevents enemies engaged with you from attacking. The drawback is you cannot punish the prone enemy, as the event prevents you from declaring attacks the round it is played. Another con is you are required to have a party that consists of all Hobbits, which isn’t inherently bad, but it limits the deck types in which the card can be included.

Visiting the Boons of the Black Riders campaign, it is important to note that the Ringbearer exclusive Boon Mr. Underhill provides excellent combat control, even if it is in fact limited to Fellowship Frodo (and his following flavor) and enters the Victory Display after use. It just might be necessary to save a life through preventing an attack. If Frodo falls the Fellowship Fails, my mother always told me.

Last year’s epic expansion The Voice of Isengard and accompanying Ring-Maker cycle saw a double dose of combat control. The first card played into the expansions introduction of the Doomed deck archtype. The players must raise their threat as a consequence of their chosen card. The 0-Cost Tactics Event The Wizard’s Voice has global effects, where each player may choose one enemy and for the remainder of the phase the chosen enemy cannot attack the player. The players must raise their threat by three to cast the spell. While this might affect players who have fairly high threat and possibly institute early engagement of overwhelming opposition, circumstantially the players might have constructed a deck arrangement in which they mitigate threat or absolutely need to play the card to avoid hero deaths. Later in the cycle we saw the Feigned Voices Leadership event, another 0-cost card that requires a Silvan ally you control to be returned to your hand. The resulting effect is the selection of an engaged enemy being prevented from attacking a chosen player this phase. The card builds upon the Silvan trait, as much of the Ring-maker cycle did, and is an important advancement in combat control to the Leadership Sphere.

At the time of this writing (which pre-dates publication), the Lost Realm has just hit the shelves. What sort of combat control will we need as we embark on quests in the north, into the Wastes of Eriador, and as we Escape from Mount Gram? Will the Dunedain, who are often rewarded for engaging enemies, introduce new ways to control combat? Time will tell. A new expansion is released and a new cycle begins.

As always, game on.

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