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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

LOTR LCG - Damage Cancellation and Hero Recursion

By Grant "pfcamygrant" Ellis

The Nine drew their swords and began to walk the Hobbit down. As the Halfling lost his footing and stumbled backwards over the ruins of Weathertop he heard the sound of thick leather boots and a hardy grunt behind him. Three Dwarven warriors, axes in hand, stood their ground. Their united gaze pierced the Nazgul, who shrieked their unearthly deafening cry. The Dwarves came between the Ring-Wraiths and their prey, shielding Frodo behind them. The lead Dwarf, a lineal descendent and son of Durin, spoke in a proud, harsh, and commanding tone: “If you want him, come and claim him!” The battle for the Ring-bearer was on.

The Lord of The Rings LCG is full of dramatic moments, where the tide of the battle can easily sway one way or another. Few moments are more harrowing than the death of a Hero character. In the narrative above, we saw a friend of mine completely hero-wipe during a Campaign playthrough of “A Knife In The Dark.” Those Nazgul enemies can be vicious, and despite our best efforts to mitigate the onslaught, we saw his eventual exit from the game (and the introduction of a permanent +3 starting threat into each subsequent game.) The Dwarven sacrifice of Durin’s folk was key to that game’s eventual victory, but could it have been prevented? This week’s article examines cards that either prevent damage to heroes or bring back fallen heroes.

Frodo Baggins, a Hero card in the Spirit Sphere, has the ability to cancel damage dealt to him and instead raise his threat by the amount that would have been dealt. Given his low Threat cost, the ability is fairly useful, especially when used in conjunction with other heroes in the Secrecy spectrum.  A drawback to using this ability is that it becomes less useful should your threat teeter into dangerous levels late-game.  To use Frodo requires the use of a Hero slot, and he also cannot be used in quests where Fellowship-sphere Frodo is required. Even still, with plenty of Threat Reduction available, Spirit Hero Frodo Baggins can be extremely useful in a deck designed to integrate him.

A second way to cancel damage and convert it into threat would be to play the Tactics event card Close Call. Close Call works the same way as Frodo’s ability, the difference is it is an event card that is discarded after play, and thus a limit of three can be included in your deck. The same drawbacks as Frodo come into play, however with the advent of Tactics Threat Reduction and Valor effects in the coming cycle and expansions we may not see this as a bad thing. I have included this card in Hobbit-themed decks that feature Merry.

While on the subject of events that can either prevent the death of a hero or return them from the grave, it warrants mentioning the Spirit-Sphere staple Fortune Or Fate. At a cost of five resources, this card may be played to return a discarded hero back to the board under the control of the Player who owned the hero. Not only does it break the resource bank, but in order to fill the deck with the maximum of three copies you need to purchase three copies of the core set or otherwise proxy the card. (Or play on OCTGN.) Still, in Campaign mode where Fallen Heroes don’t return to play, and permanent threat addition affects all players, a five cost event is a small price to pay.

When examining Ally cards available, Landroval (a Tactics Sphere Eagle ally character) has the ability to put a destroyed hero back into play (with one damage on it.) That’s the caveat, as revealed by the Tales From the Cards Card Spotlight, that the hero must be destroyed as opposed to merely discarded. Landroval has a high cost at five resources, so you would need to rely on one of the strategies around Resource Acceleration, Mustering, or the like. The ability to save a hero is mighty, so the cost is well worth the strategic design of including Landroval in your deck. Also, it is worth noting the Landroval bears the Sentinel keyword, at four hit points he provides moderate tanking, and he also hits for three attack.

A question was asked: “What about Will of the West?” Will of the West is a 1 cost event that shuffles a player's discard pile back into their deck. However, even though a Hero is discarded, Page 20 of the Core Set Rule book states:
When resolving effects that move cards from a player’s discard pile to his hand or deck, hero cards in the discard pile are ignored, as hero cards cannot move to a player’s hand or deck

Some conclusions we can draw as we examine damage cancellation and saving heroes from being forever fallen is that you must be prepared to deal with the inevitable Threat Gain or be prepared to pay the resource cost. These needs can be met through resource acceleration, sphere consolidation, or alternatives events that allow the cards to enter play.

 I leave you with a Hobbit-themed Deck that allows for damage cancellation and hero retrieval.

Check out this deck on CardGameDB!

Frodo Baggins (Conflict at the Carrock)
Merry (The Black Riders)
Pippin (Encounter at Amon Dîn)

Starting Threat: 19

Ally: (19)
3x Gandalf (Core Set)
2x Landroval (A Journey to Rhosgobel)
3x Winged Guardian (The Hunt for Gollum)
3x Vassal of the Windlord (The Dead Marshes)
3x Bilbo Baggins (The Road Darkens)
3x Ethir Swordsman (The Steward's Fear)
2x Galadriel’s Handmaiden (Celebrimbor's Secret)

Attachment: (13)
3x Horn of Gondor (Core Set)
3x Hobbit Pipe (The Black Riders)
3x Dagger of Westernesse (The Black Riders)
2x Rohan Warhorse (The Voice of Isengard)

Event: (18)
2x The Galadhrim's Greeting (Core Set)
3x Hobbit-sense (Encounter at Amon Dîn)
2x Fortune or Fate (Core Set)
3x A Test of Will (Core Set)
2x Courage Awakened (Trouble in Tharbad)
2x Feint (Core Set)
2x Halfling Determination (The Black Riders)
2x Close Call (The Dunland Trap)
2x Smoke Rings (The Black Riders)

This article is dedicated in tender memory of Brandon Fraley's Dwarf deck of Thalin, Thorin, and Dain, who died atop Weathertop in our Campaign Mode while defending Frodo. They died that we may live.

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