Ally. Cost: 5. 4   4   4   4  


At the end of the round, discard Gandalf from play.

Response: After Gandalf enters play, (choose 1): draw 3 cards, deal 4 damage to 1 enemy in play, or reduce your threat by 5.

Lucas Graciano

Core Set #73. Neutral.


Still one of the most powerful Allies in the game, Gandalf offers a little something for every deck - a stout body for defending and attacking, strong Willpower for push questing, and highly sought-after effects.

THE REASON I include sneak attack in my decks. — Wandalf the Gizzard 2428
Honestly, how many of us have had our collective butt saved from certain death by this card?? — Mad Morderan 135

Well, reading all these very positive reviews for this card, I am not so sure. Don't get me wrong, Gandalf really IS a strong card, but it is far from auto-include in every deck.

Please prove me wrong, but here's my reasoning:

It is obviously best with Sneak attack (let's not talk about epic flavor fail when one of the most powerful beings in the Middle Earth is cowardly sneak attacking from behind) but there's a cost to it, too: Even with full playsets of both pieces, it does not have to come together all the time, and you can play only so many expensive allies in the deck. So sometimes you will lack any good Sneak attack targets in your hand. Maybe more time than you will get BOTH Gandalf and Sneak attack at the same time.

Now, let's see what he actually does:

  1. Costs 5 resources: Here we are. That's a lot. It basically means saving up for the entire round to play him in the next round. Any ally would be already doing something. I will return to this later.

  2. 4 points of stats: without readying effects, you get to use only one. The most useful are obviously willpower and attack. Using him for defence is pointless because you could chump with any 1 cost low stat ally to get the same outcome (which includes 4 health). These are rendered completely useless by the fact that you get Gandalf only for a single turn.

  3. Response: The most useful is obviously direct damage dealing. Threat reduction is nice, but I don't see it as resource-efficient (Compare to Elrond's counsel) and it is good to finish the scenario in a timely manner rather than reduce threat. Threat is a resource and as soon as you will not die from it, you are actually wasting resources when trying to reduce it. Draw 3 cards is nice, too, but you already have one card you draw the turn earlier when saving up resources for Gandalf.

I get that these 4 damage can be applied to an enemy in a staging area and it ignores defences, but you basically get 4 damage two times (or 8 points worth of stats) for 5 resources. Let's compare it to a situation, where you play an ally for 3 resources, let's say it has 3 points in a stat it is good at, and the next turn you play an ally for 2 resources with 2 points in the best stat (and often you could do better). So by the end of the second turn, you already applied 3 stats from the first turn, and 5 stats from the second one, which is 8 total. It costed you one card more, but it is the same output for the same cost as Gandalf AND allies remain in play!

You're kind of missing the point of a card like Gandalf. Yes, if Gandalf only ever did one of these things you listed but he doesn't JUST do damage or drawing or threat reduction or questing or defending or attacking.. he does all of them, some of them at the same time. If you're into designing decks that beat all different kinds of mission without specific tweaks the power of Gandalf becomes obvious because sure, you might not need the threat reduction 90% of the time but that one mission where you're getting screwed he'll bail you out so well. Then, he's also neutral so you can pay for him with any resource no matter what which is especially helpful in Saga missions as you get an extra resource you can't spend on many things. How many times do you perfectly spend your resources every turn? It's quite common especially for multi sphere decks to leave resources up at some point which could all go to Gandalf later. Lastly, this is all packed into ONE card. You mention you could play a 3 cost ally that has a stat it's good in but that's just it.. its good at one stat. Gandalf is good at all of them. — Zvodenstein 1
As a temporary ally, Gandalf is the equivalent of an event. If his response was an action on an neutral 5-cost event, would you pay that cost for the utility? I’d say yes. Having a strong ally for 1 round is just a bonus. — Nystrum 40
Regarding the Sneak Attack "flavor fail" part, Gandalf does in fact make use of a great deal of trickery and underhanded tactics. Many times in the books he tricks opponents, avoids conflict, or calls for more allies/gathers resources rather than fights directly. He only really faces opponents when he needs to, either because he or one of his companions cannot do otherwise. I see absolutely no reason why Gandalf wouldn't take the advantage of a sneak attack if he needed to fight and the opportunity presented itself. — Erathis 1
Also, Gandalf is sometimes the only option for threatbreduction or card draw. It depends on your deck. And he is so versatile, you are guaranteed to need SOMETHING he has to offer no matter what kind of deck you are playing. — Mad Morderan 135

Gandalf is so powerful card, that I still was not able to create a deck without him. This card saved and won my games more times, that any hero did. It's versatile, strong and gives you number of reasons why to add it to the deck in all 3 copies. It work well with Sneak Attack which is the best known and working combo since start of the game. Also goes well with Born Aloft and in very specific cases with To the Eyrie, but in this case you must use him as chomp for very strong opponent as Attercop, Attercop for example. The mechanic of this card is also very thematic and the artwork is one the best from the core set. Verdict can be only 5/5.

matrosh 530
If you did not spend one entire round casting nothing and saving up for Gandalf, but rather casting a strong ally instead and start using him right away, *maybe* you wouldn't need to be saved in the first place... — Benettnash 20
That's a pretty big "maybe". — Mad Morderan 135

IT'S GANDALF! AND GANDALF MEANS HIM! Seriously though, Gandalf is an insanely good card. For five resources, you get four stats, an average of four something from his ability, and a trigger to Eomer, Imrahil, etc. With sneak attack, you're saving four resources, and can still play Gandalf again next round. He's seen decreased play with the release of two other versions of Gandalf, but still, insanely good.