Damage is an ever-present in the Lord of the Rings LCG, and losing a key character such as a hero or important ally can often signal the start of an inexorable decline into doom (and not the pleasant kind!) There are a number of ways of managing to keep characters alive, with healing being the most obvious route. In this article we’re going to cover the various options for healing available in the game at present (Sands of Harad deluxe just released), the pros and cons of those options and how and when you might want to build healing into your deck.
We’ll start by covering the basics of healing, where damage tends to come from and how it can be managed at source. Then we’ll get into the meat of the article: the healing options currently available, from characters with the ability through attachments and onto the events.
Having established the options available we’ll consider whether you should build healing into your deck and then how you can evaluate when the best place to use it would be.
Our hope is to equip players at all levels with some understanding of how you can get healing into your deck, when you might want to use it and what alternatives exist if its not something you can or want to squeeze in.
What is healing and why’s it useful?
Damage in LotR is binary: your character is either dead or alive with no change to their capability if they are healthy or near-dead. All you’re trying to do with healing is to stop characters die and, whilst the amount of damage being dealt can be unpredictable, it is usually bounded. That is that 1-damage attack might become 2-damage but it is unlikely to become 6-damage. (Note unlikely not guaranteed. Shadow cards that ignore defence or remove attachments can sometimes create massive swings in damage).
Damage also tends to come out of the encounter deck through monster attacks. Some encounter decks have When Revealed direct damage effects, and the Archery keyword is definitely a thing, but the bread and butter way to hurt a character is through swinging an axe, firing an arrow, or even dragon-fire!
When that damage lands, you effectively use your characters’ hit points as a resource to keep their abilities in the game. Healing allows you to increase the size of that resource to keep those abilities in the game for longer. It usually happens after that resource pool has been depleted (damage prevention affects like Honour Guard, are reactive forms of healing).
For instance, taking an attack undefended on a hero is basically using their hit points as a form of action advantage. By taking the damage in the hit points rather than exhausting to defend, you are still able to attack. If you can keep taking hits undefended you can keep using that form of action advantage.
So, healing provides:
- More turns when you can use particular character abilities
- Action advantage in the combat round if you’re able to take hits undefended
- Stops you from losing the game by losing your heroes
Alternatives to healing
“But,” I hear you cry, “I didn’t buy three cores so I could leave Unexpected Courage in the binder! Also, I run hobbits! They couldn’t take on a strong breeze undefended!”
Okay, okay, enough with the exclamation marks already. There are clearly alternatives to having a load of healing in your deck. For instance, you could have multiple strong defenders to manage those enemy attacks. You could have multiple chumps ready to jump in front of Smaug. Alternatively, you could increase the size of the hit point pool by a number of attachments, or even by dropping those hobbits and bringing in some more hardy Dwarves.
Also, in multiplayer you might want to drop your own healing and agree that someone else is going to bring a ‘healing deck’ along for the ride.
All of these are viable, and in some deck types much more viable, alternatives to building your healing capability. However, most decks would not hurt when playing most quests with healing available to them (splashing it in).
What’s available then? Show me the healing bounty!
Lore is the undeniable king of healing. Whilst the LotR colour-pie has come more diluted over time, healing has remained resolutely green. Of the healing effects in the game, all but 2 are in Lore (the odd ones out being Dunedain Remedy and ally Radagast which comes with a highly restrictive target).
The table below shows the key healing cards. ‘Cost’ is the resources to play the card, with any cost to trigger the healing effect listed as ‘additional cost’.
Broadly speaking, healing comes in two flavours: persistent (‘P’ in the type column) or event-based(‘E’ in the type column). Persistent healing stays on the table and is necessary if you expect to require healing round after round, for instance if you’re planning to use a high hit point hero to soak damage continually. Perhaps you have a hero that benefits from being damaged (Core Gimli, Gloin, Treebeard) and you want to be able to manage that damage through the game.
Event healing is one-off, either through an actual event card or because it can only happen once for that particular card. Enter play effects and cards that discard themselves are the usual suspects. These are more likely to be used if you want to splash some healing in as a safe-guard rather than part of the plan. Perhaps the deck takes a bit of time to setup and you want some emergency cover, or perhaps the encounter has a couple of hard hitting enemies that may or may not show up.
By using the table you can decide what best fits your deck and how it would synergise with your other choices. For a deck that wants solid persistent healing, I would call out Warden of Healing and Ioreth. I’d use Warden of Healing if my deck was packing a number of allies, and Ioreth if I was thinking of a hero-focused deck. The Warden can spread his healing to multiple characters, whilst Ioreth delivers a much larger benefit to just one character.
For event based healing, Waters of Nimrodel clearly rules the roost. However, the more players there are the more likely that Doom 3 is going to cause problems so its benefit does have a scaling cost associated to it. I’m a big fan of Lore of Imladris if I need to splash in some one off healing; the resources are palatable for a highly flexible and effective impact.
Pay careful attention to whether the healing affects characters or heroes though: this is easy to miss when chucking in green cards with ‘healing’ written on them, but can have a really drastic impact on the game.
For players with limited card pools, Self Preservation remains solid if you’re solo whilst Daughter of the Nimrodel supports a more multiplayer adventure.
Note that the table doesn’t list all of the restrictions on a card: for instance, Lembas can only be played if you have a Noldor or Silvan hero. They don’t chuck their special bread at just anyone you know!
In addition to this table, Hero Elrond is a strong consideration if you’re building a healing focused deck. His sphere is spot on and he adds 1 to every character healed by any healing effect, in addition to a high willpower and high defence.
A final shout out to Dunedain Remedy. This only requires Leadership to bring it to the table; any resource can pass it around any player. This is an excellent way for a leadership deck to splash in healing for minimal investment.
When do you need healing in the deck?
So, how do you decide whether you need some, more or all of the healing? Firstly, there’s the solo vs multiplayer split. Lore provides some real tools to a multiplayer game: healing, card draw, location control etc.
However, if you’re one or two-player it’s not core enough to the game’s goals to be a sensible focus. In that case, I would ask myself the following questions:
- Does a hero I use need to be damaged to be effective? If yes, then healing will mean they can be more effective more often so I’d build multiple sources (persistent and event) that are going to come to hand frequently.
- Do I run few allies so my heroes need to do more heavy lifting? If yes, then healing will mean they can take more attacks undefended and improve action advantage. I’d go for some persistent healing that I’d see early, say Ioreth.
- Do I play heroes with low hitpoints? If yes, then some persistent healing that can affect more than one hero would be useful, for instance Wardens of Healing.
- Is my quest heavy on archery? If yes, then bringing some healing along is going to be useful to manage that aspect of the game. It needs to be persistent to keep on top of that keyword’s presence.
- Is my quest packing the odd enemy with high attack? Bring some event based healing that you save for when the enemy has swung at you.
- Ents are thing for me, especially Booming Ent or Hero Treebeard. Then Wellinghall Preserver is probably just enough to keep you going, particularly as they heal after they ready and their willpower can help out questing.
- >I am Noldor, hear me discard cards! Imladris Caregiver was made for you. It is the Elven Warden of Healing after all
And there we have it: there’re multiple cards for healing in the game, and most of them are green. However, those green cards have a different place in different decks, with the healing best tailored to what you’re trying to achieve elsewhere.
In particular, decisions around hero-focused or ally-focused decks will drive different decisions and also whether you’re protecting against a rainy day or expecting to need round after round of use.
For my part, I find Ioreth and Warden of Healing to be my go to cards for persistent healing, with Lore of Imladris or core-set Self Preservation if I expect to heal just one character or hero respectively.
I’ll give a special shout out to Dunedain Remedy from The Drowned Ruins. This is a definite highlight card for those who can’t afford or don’t want to go green for their healing delight, and is very good in multiplayer to protect against damage spilling over an accumulating on heroes.
In any case, I hope that you find this article to be useful; let me know thoughts or suggestions in the comments below!