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Monday, June 15, 2015

LOTR LCG: There and Back Again: Card Recursion in the Realms of Middle-Earth

Card-recursion has been a part of The Lord of the Rings Living Card Game since the Core-set. Over the years, with a consistent expansion of the card pool, we've seen an increase in the options we have available.  The ability to move your Player cards out of the discard pile and back into your hand or deck can be essential to making certain decks work, and what this article sets to do is examine the options available and explore what combinations or drawbacks might exist in regards to the inclusion of these particular player cards.

For players who are looking to build a deck that incorporates a recursion strategy and are willing to sacrifice a hero slot, we have an option. Within the Tactics Sphere, at a threat-cost of 9, the Rohan Warrior Hero-card Háma, has the ability to return a Tactics event to the player’s hand when making an attack. Afterwards, the player selects and discards a card from their hand.  The event you select is circumstantial around your deck strategy. Are you rushing the staging area with a host of Rohirrim? Then you might recur Forth Eorlingas! or Charge of the Rohirrim. Are you looking to proactively chop down your foe with pre-emptive strikes? Then you might opt to select Hands Upon the Bow if you are running ranged or Quick Strike. Cancelling attacks? Pull Feint. It all depends on your overall strategy and who accompanies the Door-man of Edoras. The downside is, you are limited to Tactics events, limited to your discard pile, have spent a hero slot, and rely on the need for Háma to be declared as an attacker. You can mitigate the risk of each of these aspects. Know your options and use Háma’s card-recursion ability to amplify your overall strategy.

As we examine our ally-card options, we find the Lore sphere dominant with three character cards to a single Leadership character.  Each card has different restrictions and uses and we will examine them here. In the Lore Sphere we start with a pair of dwarves. Out of the Core Set, the Erebor Hammersmith, a 2-cost Dwarf ally, gives the player who played them the optional response of returning the topmost attachment in any players discard pile to their hand. This ability is helpful when attachments are discarded through any in-game effect, be it caused by the player or the encounter deck. The limitations are the response can only be triggered at the time the Erebor Hammersmith enters play, and it is limited to the topmost attachment. This card synergizes well with decks that have a 5-Dwarf threshold for special abilities, as well as cards that buff dwarves (as the relatively low-cost of 2 is an even better savings should Dain Ironfoot be in play) and cards that discard from the players hand or deck, such as A Very Good Tale. 

The other 2-cost Lore Ally with the Dwarf trait, found in The Morgul Vale adventure pack, is the Ered Nimrais Prospector. His effect reads as follows. Response: After Ered Nimrais Prospector enters play, discard the top 3 cards of your deck. Then, choose and shuffle 1 card from your discard pile back into your deck. Now, there are some interesting combo decks that make use of his abilities, but as this article is based on recursion we will focus on that. In the simplest form, you play the Prospector when a card you need has been discarded in order to get it shuffled back into your deck. His pros and synergies are similar to the Hammersmith, but I suggest additional study and reading in regards to the secrets of this particular ally. 

From The Blood of Gondor adventure pack, the third Lore ally with recursion abilities bears both the Gondor and Ranger traits; Anborn. At a cost of 4, Anborn is expensive. Anborn does pack a mean punch with 3 attack and has a handful of hit points to boot, but we are mostly concerned with what Recursion abilities he brings. When Anborn exhausts he recurs discarded Trap cards into the players hands. These traps have potentially powerful effects and it may be worth the cost (or the Elf-stone) to get Anborn out and exhausting for the cause.

Moving from to the Leadership sphere, an Ally that offers recursion from the adventure pack Celebrimbor’s Secret is the 3-cost Silvan Orophin. Orophin has the ability to return a discarded Silvan allies to the player’s hand after he enters play. Silvan allies tend to be at their strongest the round they enter play. Celeborn provides buffs, Galadriel prevents exhaustion, and their own innate abilities add to the fun. Orophin strengthens Silvan decks and his Silvan recursion gets two thumbs up. The only drawback is only the elves get to have fun with his ability, but that is their way of doing things. 

 As we move to the Event cards, we have a set of four cards split two and two, Spirit and Leadership. The Spirit cards come right out of the Core Set. First up we have Dwarven Tomb. For the cost of one Spirit resource a player can return one Spirit card from their discard pile into their hand. Feels consistent with a core-set card introducing players to the idea of recursion in the game and it still makes since in a variety of decks, as it has some innate versatility, while not in the sphere of the card you recur, but in the type (Ally, Attachment, Event.) The second card, Will of the West, is a bit more dramatic. After playing this 1-cost event, you select a player and shuffle their entire discard pile back into their deck. You then remove Will of the West from the game. 

The Leadership event cards that offer recursion have similar effects to some of the previous cards mentioned, with subtle differences. The one-cost event card Second Breakfast impacts all players in the game. Each player returns the topmost attachment from their discard pile back into their hand. I find it most useful when looking for Hobbit-themed recursion, and the global effect is a bit nice, as well. The second Leadership event that offers card recursion is the Outlands themed Men of the West. At a cost of X, where X is the number of Outlands allies you wish to recur, its effect is similar to all other Trait specific ally recursion cards we've previously covered.

It is worth noting the Record-attachments: the Spirit-attachment Map of Earnil, the Tactics attachment Book of Eldacar, the Lore-attachment Scroll of Isildur, and for Leadership the Tome of Atanatar.  The cost to play these cards are reduced by having a hero in the Sphere of the appropriate record, with a starting cost of 4. The Record-attachments allow you to discard the Record to play an event from your discard pile that matches the sphere of the record, afterwards you place the event on the bottom of your deck. Knowledge is power.

We've covered the options of card-recursion, can you think of a creative deck that makes use of any of these cards? Some of the other blogs, as well as the contributors on this site, have demonstrated tri-sphere Hama archery action, Second Breakfast madness, and some good old Silvan bounce. Hit us up on the forums or in the comments and give us your thoughts on ways you've used card recursion to make your way to victory. 

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