Ancient Mathoms – Shadows of Mirkwood Part 2

Welcome back to the Ancient Mathoms series! Today, we will take a step forward, going over the cards from the third pack of the Shadows of Mirkwood Cycle – A Journey to Rhosgobel.

As a reminder, our objective here is to take the cards from the early game that are now a little bit underpowered and give them a bit of a boost to get them in the competition for deck space in the modern card pool. Along the way, we may find a few cards that are so powerful that they kind of constrict the card pool, and we will be taking those down just a little bit as well, to give room for other cards to shine a little bit.

This is the first pack we’ve done so far in which every card but one has received a little bit of a boost. We don’t anticipate another pack like this in the entire card pool, so this will stand as a record. 9 out of 10 player cards in a pack adjusted to meet the needs of the modern environment.

With no further ado, let us meet the new and improved cards!

THE CARDS:

Prince Imrahil: Prince Imrahil is a wonderful hero – a little bit on the unspectacular side, and certainly not flashy. But he’s got a well-balanced set of stats and some good traits – he’s certainly a non-intuitive option for our series to take a look at.

And actually, we almost didn’t. Our original approach was to adjust his limit to once per phase instead of once per round, but that just ended up with the potential to do way too much, and the original version was plenty powerful – his decline in use has much more to do with the way many modern quests punish chump blocking than some sort of innate flaw.

However, we ended up making a minor change – adding the Warrior trait. This had a simple explanation: as a character with in-built readying, Imrahil was among the best targets for Blade Mastery in the card pool. We restricted Blade Mastery to only work on Warrior characters; to keep open the use cases it originally had, we gave him the trait.

Dunedain Quest: This is another simple change. Moving Dunedain Quest to 1 cost brings it in line with all of the other Dunedain attachments – 1 cost for 1 stat. This is notable more efficient than its competitor card in the Spirit sphere – Favor of the Lady. However, that card also techs against the Surge keyword and thus has uses outside just a simple stat boost.

At 1-cost, this is a simple and easy way to ramp up willpower in the Leadership sphere.

Parting Gifts: Parting Gifts is a card that was useful for its time but suffered from later cards being more effective at doing the same thing.

In an early card pool, Parting Gifts lets you smooth resources between heroes, while also letting you distribute your resource accumulation from Steward of Gondor or Gloin with the whole table in multiplayer. In the modern card pool, cards like A Good Harvest or Errand-rider do the same things, only better.

So we added a conditional cantrip – our favorite way to boost up 0-cost events. If you move at least 2 resources this way, draw a card. It thins your deck a little bit, but can’t be used to effectively have 3 fewer cards in your deck automatically.

Landroval: Landroval is another one of those cards that didn’t need much – if any – help. However, he did have an annoying interaction that we decided to take the opportunity to address while we were going through the pool.

Landroval is a 5-cost way to recover a dead hero – this is fine, as all other ways of recovering a hero cost 5 as well. However, for Landroval, you get a powerful ally as well as the hero insurance. However, the annoyance is that Landroval only works if a hero is destroyed, unlike cards like Fortune or Fate or Houses of Healing, which can return a hero no matter what sent that card into the discard pile.

We simply made it so that Landroval can now also save a hero that has been discarded as well as one that was destroyed. There are some quest effects that discard heroes, and a few hero cards have abilities that require you to discard them from play. Landroval can now save them from that fate, assuming you paid the 5 cost in advance.

While we were at it, we also gave him Ranged, because he’s a huge, flying Eagle.

To The Eyrie: To the Eyrie was one of the few cards that we have approached that was legitimately bad, rather than just overcosted or underpowered.

The original version cost 2 resources and exhausted an eagle character just to put a destroyed ally back in you hand.

We’ve kept the same cost, but you can use it to get that ally back into play instead of just your hand. There’s not much more to say about this card – it’s 2 cost to save an ally. And if they get any enters-play effects, you get to trigger them again.

Escort from Edoras: The Escort from Edoras was a wonderful idea in theory. But in practice, the Forced effect that discarded the ally after questing meant that it was a 2-cost event that added 4 willpower to your total. Unlike an event, though, it was vulnerable to direct damage and similar effects.

We simply made the willpower boost (and the discarding that came with it) optional. If you never choose to engage it, you have a 2-cost-for-2-willpower quester, which is always good value. But in an emergency, there you have it. Extra willpower, just waiting for you to tap when things get rough.

Haldir of Lorien: Haldir is a fine generic Lore ally, but he suffers from the fate of all of the Silvan allies released before the Ringmaker cycle: he has exactly zero synergy with a Silvan deck. You might put him in there as a high-cost ally to bring into play with The Tree People, but that’s about it.

We tossed around several options to try and rectify that situation – while it is certainly true that not all allies of a given trait need to synergize with that trait’s central mechanic, Haldir is such an important Silvan character that he needs it from a theme perspective.

But instead of giving him a powerful enters-play effect, or an effect that triggers off of other allies entering or leaving play, we decided to move in a different direction, hoping to open up new space for Silvan decks. By giving him Secrecy 1, we offered a new vision of what could be done in the archetype. And by giving the first Silvan ally you play each round that same secrecy effect, it points in a direction entirely different from the standard archetype. There are several low-threat Silvan heroes already, and some of our plans involve expanding those options.

Infighting: Infighting is a wonderful card in concept, but turns out to have enough problems in practice that it’s hard to make deck space available. The biggest problem is that it’s hard to concentrate damage on a single foe so that Infighting can move that damage around to the desired target – to make it work requires an enemy with lots of hit points along with something like a Forest Snare to keep it from attaching.

We’ve just relaxed that restriction – now you can move damage from up to three enemies. This lets you convert direct damage effects that do indiscriminate damage across a number of cards into focused direct damage that can kill an enemy on the turn it comes out.

Radagast: Radagast was a disappointing card for a number of reasons. The biggest, of course, is that he was a 5-cost unique ally with stats that fit better on a 3-cost ally (and compared very poorly to the other 5-cost Neutral ally, Gandalf).

The second reason, only slightly less disappointing than the first, was that he was an Istari. That a member of such an ancient and honored order should be represented by so weak a card was another strike against him.

His resource generating ability was decent, especially in an Eagles deck that could struggle otherwise. The healing was less useful, but wonderfully thematic. But it took so long to recoup the investment that you almost never saw him played even still.

Our fix was just to boost each of his stats by 1. Now with an impressive and flexible statline, we feel like you get full value for those 5 resources. And, of course, he can still help bring other Creatures into play, or to heal damage off of them.

And that’s a wrap for the second entry for the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle! Watch our companion YouTube show at Card Talk’s YouTube channel, or on my own here.

OCTGN files and printable images of the Shadows of Mirkwood cards are available here, and we look forward to you enjoying them in your own games. We’d love to hear about any cool games you’ve had with these cards!

While you wait for the next installment of this project, the Hunt for Gollum, Conflict at the Carrock, and Journey to Rhosgobel episodes of the Ancient Mathoms Progression series are available for your enjoyment!

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