Edit:I have realised that Elfhelm actually comes from the Temple of the Deceived pack. Whilst this changes the ice-breaking, interest grabbing jokey intro it doesn’t change the substance of the article, so I apologise for my mistake (my excuse is I’m moving house dammit!) but hope you can see past that to the equine goodness beyond!
Another Adventure Pack has been released for Lord of the Rings LCG with the heroes taking on a giant sea-monster. And what better way to bash a belligerent behemoth than by saddling up on your mount and Charge of the Light Brigading it down the deck of your ship…
Hold on a minute. Hold on!
Let’s just take a pace back from this situation and evaluate it with a reasoned mind: you think that you’re going to be able to just grab hold of your unpanicked mount, pat it on the shoulder, lob some oats down its throat and gallop down the definitely-not-being-pitched-around-by-mahoosive-tentacles deck? What next, Eagles flapping around Moria?
Thematic concerns aside, the latest adventure pack has brought Elfhelm into Hero form and breathed new life into old cards by making the LotR Mount deck legit, as well as adding a bit of oomph to the developing Scout trait. In this article I cover a bit about the hero, the cards that he enables and then end with a note of caution in deck building with him.
Middling threat, flexible stat-line (or nondescript depending upon your view) and some healthy hit points, the Marshal of the East Mark is a generalist. However, it is at the head of a mounted unit that he really shines with his tactical nous and commitment to the Free Peoples benefitting riders everywhere.
The Rohan trait isn’t the most useful in the game on heroes, but the Scout and Warrior traits will allow him to be equipped with useful attachments. For instance Raiment of War or perhaps as part of the Mutual Accord he becomes the Captain of Gondor making him a very useful combatant. Scout is developing into a useful trait, and allows for a few ‘exhaust a scout cards’ with a good potential synergy would be with Lanwyn, of recent pack fame.
Send them both questing and play a Scouting Party event and you have 6 willpower committed from just two characters. Leadership and Spirit are good bedfellows in a solo or two-player deck and Elfhelm naturally lends himself to a dual or tri-sphere deck to get the most from his ability. We’ll also see below that Spirit is the key sphere to find the Mounts needed for his ability.
So Let’s Look at that Ability…
Firstly, it’s the sphere of the hero not the mount that enables the buff. When I first read the card, I had got this wrong and was wondering why Asfaloth didn’t contribute anything (you can hear the moment I worked it out on Episode 5 of the Podcast in fact).
Secondly, the buff doesn’t specify “printed sphere icon” and therefore it will trigger with any Songs or Aragorn’s toys for instance. A tactics Aragorn with Celebrian’s Stone and Sword that Was Broken riding a Rohan Warhorse would get +1 attack (tactics sphere), +1 Willpower (Spirit from Celebrian’s Stone), +1 defense (Leadership from StWB). In fact, in that best-case scenario Aragorn would be 6wp, 4 atk, 3 def with the ability to ready after combat, drag another enemy to him and ignore 2 points of enemy defence! (It does take some setting up though!).
Finally it is just heroes that benefit; ally Legolas with Arod attached gains no benefit.
Cards that synergise with him
So let’s take a good look at what cards we might want to build around. Let’s ignore the staples of the sphere he’s in (Steward of Gondor, Sneak Attack + Gandalf) for the purpose of this discussion and drive straight to those creatures what-can-canter.
This search at ringsdb will give you the Mounts available to you. At the time of writing, there are 10, 1 of which attaches to a named Hero in the neutral sphere and can be disregarded from this moment forwards.
Of the remaining 9, the following are their key stats with the Mount and Elfhelm:
- Firefoot with Eomer (would be 6 atk with Elfhelm)
- Snowmane with Spirit Theoden (would be 4 wp with Elfhelm)
- Arod with Legolas (would be 4 atk with Elfhelm)
- Asfaloth with Glorfindel (would be 4wp with Elfhelm)
Some good candidates for the other mounts would be:
- Hobbit Pony with Spirit Merry so that if no enemies allow his ability he can usefully quest for three wp
- Steed of Imladris with Arwen (or Erestor but there’s no benefit from Elfhelm there) to quest for four and ditch cards as part of the Noldor archetype
- Rohan Warhorse with Legolas in multiplayer so he can commit to multiple ranged attacks, or Aragorn so he can swing at what he brought down using his ability
- Armoured Destrier on Erkenbrand for additional defense and shadowcard denial through the wazzoo
(Steed of the Mark is alright, but costs more in the long-run than Unexpected Courage and is more specific, so, er, why not just Unexpected Courage?)
The final card worth calling out is the Westfold Horse-breeder that goes and hunts down the Mount you want and brings it to hand. This helps offset some of the downsides of building around a particular trait, as we discuss below. The Horse-breeder can then quest for 1 wp, or more realistically, sacrifice itself on the first enemy that breaks through the Westfold’s inadequate defences.
Let’s Get that Posse on the, er, boat then?
Before we head out like some cowboys chasing the latest no-good that turned over the Wells Fargo, there are some challenges with building the “Mount deck”. If you expect a Mount for every hero, you’re going to want to see them early and therefore you’re going to be playing three-ofs using up 9 card slots.
If you reduce that to, say 3 two-ofs you’ll want to have an ‘attachment’ finder to help with consistency. This is where the Horse-breeder comes in, but you could also go with someone like (in sphere) Galadriel if you’re playing a more balanced deck where Mounts are just one aspect of the strategy.
And that strikes at the heart of how I think Elfhelm is best deployed: as one aspect of the strategy.
Choose one other hero that would benefit substantially from a Mount anyway (for instance Eomer, or Spirit Theodred) and one hero that a Mount comes as an added benefit to and use Elfhelm to boost them further rather than as the focus of the strategy.
That means that you can play in the benefits of his sphere and his traits in addition to his ability and that will create a stronger deck. His place is as an enabler of a Rohan strategy, linking with Spirit Theodred and Eomer and boosting them whilst they in turn play the Rohan card leaves play game.
And this is one of the main reasons why I love Elfhelm hero: it mechanically supports the narrative of the books. Theodred, Eomer and Elfhelm all astride mounts as they Ride to Ruin down to face the forces of Sauron in the Battle of Pelennor Fields! Now that feels much more legit than chasing down some angry squid!
Elfhelm is a strong support hero that requires disciplined deck-building. He’s a strong enabler of the Rohan archetype, but can fit in a number of other decks, particularly where a mount helps out a key hero already. His generous gathering of traits and ‘jack-of-all-trades’ stat line means that he can pull his weight in all of the key game situations.
Unlike, say, Leadership Denethor, he does need to bring a ‘module’ along with him though, and balancing going down that rabbit hole versus what else the deck needs to accomplish is where the real magic of the ‘mount deck’ will be realised.