The Against the Shadow cycle ends with a couple of good quests. Struggling in the middle, the Blood of Gondor returns a bit to a solid experience with a new and interesting mechanic. While we journey in Ithilien, we may face ambush from “Hidden Cards,” or Encounter cards face down in our play area. So, part of this quest is juggling those Hidden cards, and deciding when and how to deal with them. Since this Gondor cycle is winding down, I planned to also continue my Gondor theme.
Tactics Aragorn has continued to be the star of this cycle, and due to the Hidden mechanic, I wanted to be sure to have plenty of attack power. Aragorn will lower defenses of all those ambushing enemies, and that will come in handy when killing the Black Numenorean as well. Tactics will primarily fill the deck, and because of the Hidden cards, readying options are going to be quite useful.
Aragorn will be sporting the Rohan Warhorse, so he can ready after killing an enemy. His engagement effect won’t come into play that much, as I will likely be above the engagement cost for all enemies, anyway. But, the Warhorse’s ready will be quite good. Also, a Dagger of Westernesse will be useful as well. I went with this weapon over something like Warrior Sword because the final quest stage has the Battle keyword. Having Aragorn quest for 4 in a Battle quest is great, and there aren’t that many tough enemies in this quest, anyway. Four attack is plenty.
Since the Cross-roads location makes the current quest a Siege quest, Aragorn can also quest with his 2 defense, but I’d prefer not to as there will be better options for that. Also, when that location leaves play, the current quest on Stage 1 will just be a standard willpower quest, so he may have to contribute to that as well.
There isn’t much that needs to be said about Arwen Undomiel. She’s just included for Spirit access, and some resource acceleration for Aragorn. I needed Spirit because I wanted to be able to reliably lower my threat. The Black Numenorean will increase your threat at the end of each round based on how many Hidden cards are in your play area, so threat reduction felt like it was sorely needed here. Also, in a Siege quest, Arwen’s 2 defense is respectable, and she’s a safety valve for the standard questing that might be needed on Stage 1.
Threat reduction will also be needed because I am playing Tactics Boromir as my third hero. This is the first time he’s made an appearance in the series, and I wanted to get him into this cycle before I finished it. Of course, his errata means he can only ready once per phase, but, that is a very powerful ability in this quest, to deal with the Hidden cards. Boromir will definitely be receiving the Gondorian Shield, and he’ll be my primary defender unless I get some good allies set up.
At the start, while the quest has Siege, Boromir’s 4 defense with the Gondorian Shield, and his ability to ready in the quest phase, to be prepared for combat, is great. Now, he could suffer some damage because the shield only gets him up to 4 defense, he’s no Beregond, but that will be good enough in almost every case. Another possible attachment for him is the Spear of the Citadel, which can chip enemies for damage when he defends. Otherwise, a Dagger of Westernesse will help as he can ready and attack, or quest on Stage 2 when it’s a Battle quest.
My allies are strictly Gondor in theme. The Defender of Rammas is hopefully going to do defending for me, but he is also a powerful Siege quester on Stage 1. I hope to give him a Raiment of War as well, so he can defend for 5, and get an extra two hit points. Spear of the Citadel is also good for him if I don’t see the Raiment. Another ally to do some defending is the Defender of Cair Andros. He gets better as my threat gets higher, and it isn’t going to be hard to hit 40 threat and have this guy defending for 4. His Valour response there is also great, especially combined with a Spear.
For the guys bringing some attack power, the new Knight of Belfalas is fantastic, as he has a good 2 attack, and also means I can get back a Gondor ally from my discard pile. With this ability, I can also discard those allies from my hand to Arwen’s ability, if I don’t have an Elven-light. Derufin is also included for the attack, and because he can lower my threat. Again, because of the Knight, I am not worried about discarding him, as I can bring him back later. Utility players are the Honour Guard, who is always good in a Tactics deck, and the Soldier of Dol Amroth. This guy will simply lower costs for some Tactics cards.
Opening Hand and Strategy
To start this game, I think it’s pretty essential to see Gondorian Shield, or at least a Defender of Rammas to play on turn one; for questing and defense. Also, card draw is pretty important, so Elven-light or Foe-hammer are good to see early. This means I would also need a weapon attachment, so either the Spear of the Citadel or Dagger of Westernesse need to accompany Foe-hammer. Allies, then, are good to get, or readying with the Warhorse or Unexpected Courage.
The strategy is pretty simple, and I am not afraid of taking Hidden cards, because I want to be able to use Faramir to get rid of them. I don’t want to engage the Black Numenorean on the first turn, so I will try to stay below his 35 threat for a turn or two. Also, with Boromir raising my threat, until I get rid of the Black Numenorean, I may be cautious with his ability. But, if the moment arises to take the Numenorean down, I will take it.
Also, I don’t necessary want to get rid of enemies altogether (other than the boss). Cards like Outmatched are good as a free ready on a defender, especially if the Defender of Rammas gets a Raiment of War. He’ll be pretty untouchable at that point if he can defend twice per combat. Keeping some enemies around is also a good idea for using them to lower my threat. Secret Vigil is a great card here, as there are some 3-threat enemies. I will keep those guys around until I can attach a Vigil to them. Also, it’s pretty nice to get a combo with Secret Vigil and Derufin, for a possible 6 threat lower from one kill!
Handling the Hidden cards is a balance, and I don’t want to get swamped with them, but also, I am not totally afraid of them. I try not to have more than 4 at a time, and so I like to use Faramir’s ability to discard one in the combat phase. This means taking the Hidden card instead of turning all Hidden cards face-up. If I have one or two Hidden cards and little to no existing enemies, I’ll turn the Hidden ones face-up; but otherwise, I’ll take one with the Stage 1B effect, and just discard one with Faramir.
On Stage 2, I won’t have Faramir any longer, so it’s just deal with them at that point. Once they get up to 5, you have to flip them over, so I will just always flip before I get that many. I feel it’s better to flip on my terms, than to be hit with 5 cards at once!