Being a great lover of variety, when I first got into this game seriously I was very disdainful of the general trend of putting Glorfindel into basically every deck. But then with a classic lack of self-awareness, I proceeded to do the same thing with Galadriel for some time after her release. "Hmm, this deck isn't working? Swap out one of the heroes for Galadriel! Bam, fixed." In my defence, everything is better with Galadriel.

OK, let me qualify that statement. Not literally everything. But seriously, the reason I went through that period of putting Galadriel into more or less every deck is because her general purpose in decks is to make everything run smoother, at the expense of not being able to do anything herself. Her abilities all serve to increase the efficiency of pretty much any deck you put her in, and then you add in her attachments and it gets crazy. Let's look at things one at a time:

The passive which allows allies to quest without exhausting can be very useful (the one downside being that it blocks ally Arwen) since you can then use that additional action for combat - or conversely if you've just played a combat ally who has a point or two of then for one round you can use it. Or indeed an ally which has to exhaust for their ability, like Gléowine, Zigil Miner, Warden of Healing, etc. This also seriously boosts the power of temporary allies - Gandalf, Elrond and Saruman all have very impressive statlines, so getting two actions out of them while they're in play is a pretty big deal. Very thematically, this ability also synergises perfectly with a Silvan deck featuring Celeborn, since your Silvan allies will all have increased stats the round they enter play and will be able to use more than one of those stats thanks to Galadriel. It works well with any deck using allies with more than one good stat in general, such as Gondor or Dwarves, but even if the allies aren't so impressive, sometimes an extra 1 or can make all the difference. If your deck uses allies at all, then you will probably make some use of this ability.

And then we come to her action. Firstly, the threat reduction. If you consistently target yourself with this then it cancels out the natural threat raise every Refresh phase, so barring other threat raises from player or encounter card effects, you will stay at the same threat all game. Include some other threat reduction (Elrond's Counsel would be a natural and easy fit) and you can cancel out other raises or end up lower than your starting threat. Given that turtling below enemy engagement costs while you amass a better board state can be an incredibly effective strategy, this is potentially very powerful. Even if you're not specifically turtling, having that control over when you engage enemies can be incredibly useful. This also applies to using Galadriel's ability on other players - if there's a particular enemy you're not prepared for, you can just persistently drop the highest threat player back below its engagement cost. Alternatively the constant threat reduction from Galadriel can help counteract the downside of abilities which raise threat, like Frodo Baggins, Hobbit Gandalf, Doomed cards, Gríma or of course Boromir. It's a pretty potent ability, no two ways about it, but I haven't even started talking about the best part, that being the card draw. Card draw is the most powerful ability in the game, because it gives you all the options for all the others, so the ability to draw any player an extra card in any action window right from the beginning of the game is amazing. It should be noted of course that Beravor can similarly draw any player two cards, and this is also incredibly powerful, more so than I think some people give it credit for - on the other hand Beravor doesn't have the other benefits of Galadriel. She has stats, giving the flexibility to potentially quest or participate in combat, but Galadriel getting extra actions out of allies and keeping your threat down helps to avoid the need for your third hero to be doing anything in combat. A further point to bring up is that until Galadriel was released the sphere was very light on card draw. It had Ancient Mathom, but that's conditional on you exploring a location and targets the first player, so you potentially have to wait a round or two to use it. Song of Eärendil draws a card, but unless you're actually going to make use of its other ability, one resource for one card to replace itself isn't a great exchange rate there. So Galadriel's ability was powerful in and of itself, but even better when you consider the context. Especially since the sphere does have a few things it may want to draw fast to locate - A Test of Will, Hasty Stroke, Unexpected Courage for example. Regardless, doubling your draw is not to be sniffed at.

So that's Galadriel in and of herself. It's worth noting that since she can't commit to the quest (unless her text box gets blanked), her 4 doesn't generally do anything except maybe let you trigger a big Tale of Tinúviel. And on top of that she's +1 threat for her stats. Discounting that she just has 4 hit points for undefended attacks and direct damage, and yet she gets a threat cost of 9 for those 4 hit points. You may ask, is her ability really that good that it's essentially costing you 5 starting threat? And I would say, yes, it absolutely is worth that 5 threat, especially given the threat reduction element of it meaning that 5 rounds in use of her ability will have made up that difference. And all that is considering Galadriel in a vacuum, without her particular attachments which were both released in the same pack. Let's take a look at those as well shall we...

Nenya. Well, needing a 1-cost attachment to be able to quest doesn't sound that great in principle, but on the other hand, most heroes don't have 4 . 1 resource for 4 is an incredibly good ratio. Furthermore, Nenya is better than just getting an extra 4 for a couple of reasons - firstly the minor point that technically Galadriel is not committing to the quest and thus will not be subject to any negative effects targeting characters committed to the quest, and secondly that it can be triggered after staging when needed rather than needing to be sent up front like most questers. And of course if you don't need it then we return to Galadriel's own incredibly powerful ability.

And the real doozy to my mind, Mirror of Galadriel. Search the top 10 cards of your deck for any card and add it to your hand? That's really powerful. We have some comparable effects, but Master of the Forge is the only repeatable one, looks at less cards and only works for attachments. OK, the Mirror then has you do the random discard afterwards, so it's not perfect, but since your regular draw has been increased by Galadriel you can have decent odds of discarding something other than the specific card you pulled out which you really wanted. And in exchange you can find whatever you really need at a specific moment. Oh, also if you're pulling out a card and are worried about the discard, I'll remind you that Dwarven Tomb is in the sphere as well. And of course you can negate the discard with a Silver Harp and then just fill up your hand with exactly what you want. I could go on, but I'll save it for the review of the Mirror.

So that's Galadriel. Without a doubt, one of the most powerful heroes in the game, with or without her toys. She just helps out with a bit of everything. Like I said, everything is better with Galadriel.

I'll admit it: I love cards that can do more than one thing. Maybe it's because I was a utility player when I played baseball. Like Miruvor, the utility player of attachments, The White Council is the utility player of events and can do four different things. Unlike Miruvor, it can only do one of those things at a time, but has more flexibility as to who and what it can affect and where and when it can do so. It also has a different flavor depending on whether you're playing solo or multi-player. This review will only look at its application in one-handed solo play.

As a Neutral card costing 1 resource in one-handed solo play, it can fit into any deck and can have one of four different effects: 1.) ready a hero you control, 2.) add 1 resource to the resource pool of a hero you control, 3.) draw 1 card, or 4.) shuffle 1 card from your discard pile into your deck. While there are often better cards to provide each of these effects individually, it is the flexibility of The White Council that make it a solid card to consider. Let's look at each of its effects:

Since action advantage is almost always useful, paying 1 resource to ready 1 hero is a pretty good effect. It can't be played for 0-cost like Cram or give you an additional effect like Miruvor or Lembas, but unlike those attachments, which must be attached in the Planning Phase before they can be used and can only ready the attached hero, The White Council can be played from your hand in any phase to ready any hero you control. A Miruvor in your hand won't help you ready a hero in the Combat Phase to defend, but The White Council can. And unlike other events that can ready a hero--Behind Strong Walls, Hold Your Ground!, Tale of Tinúviel, or Flame of Anor, for example--The White Council requires no resource matching and has no restrictions or conditions, though it lacks those cards' additional effects. It is basically Swift and Silent played outside of Secrecy mode. But while I probably wouldn't include Swift and Silent in a non-Secrecy deck, I might include The White Council for its additional effects...

In solo play, paying 1 resource to gain 1 resource might, at first glance, seem to be pointless. However, if you look at the effect as resource smoothing rather than resource acceleration, it is similar to the effects of Bifur or Denethor, but with more flexibility since, as a Neutral card with no restrictions, any hero of any sphere can pay for it, while its effect can provide its resource to any hero of any sphere. And while Bifur & Denethor can only move one resource per round, you can play up to 3 copies of The White Council in the same round to move 3 resources between any heroes. Of course, Bifur and Denethor aren't taking up slots in your deck but, then, The White Council also offers other effects to choose from...

Paying 1 resource to draw 1 card certainly won't make The White Council your first choice for card drawing. In solo play, it is basically Campfire Tales without the sphere restriction. However, unlike other card drawing events of similar or lower cost--Mithrandir's Advice, Foe-hammer, Valiant Sacrifice, Deep Knowledge, or even Daeron's Runes--it has no restrictions, conditions, or additional costs, so can be played in any deck at any time for just 1 resource. While this doesn't make it a replacement for any of those cards, it can be useful as an additional method of card drawing, especially in the early game when other card drawing effects have yet to materialize. If this were The White Council's only effect, I would file it with Campfire Tales for solo play. Luckily, though, it offers other effects to choose from...

Last, but certainly not least, shuffling 1 card from your discard pile back into your deck is definitely an effect that makes The White Council worth considering. In fact, when I put it in a deck, it is usually for this purpose, with its readying and card drawing providing useful alternate effects, when needed. Unlike Dwarven Tomb, To me! O my kinsfolk!, Second Breakfast, or Tome/Scroll/Map/Book, it won't put that recycled card back into your hand or directly into play but, again, it has no restrictions. For 1 Neutral resource it can recycle any card, giving you up to 6 chances to play Tale of Tinúviel in a Dúnedain/Noldor deck or Lembas in a Treebeard deck or Gandalf in any deck. And, if your deck is built around a crucial card, you probably already have a way to fish it from your deck, like Galadhrim Minstrel, Master of the Forge, or Timely Aid.

In the end, The White Council's range of effects, as well as its flexibility regarding who and what it can target and where and when it can target them answers the question of why you may want to include it in your deck. All hail the Utility Player!

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While A Test of Will is perhaps the most obvious candidate for a card which has seriously skewed card design as a result of its release and something so powerful would never be released today, Steward of Gondor is probably second, and tends to attract a lot more ire. Some people will still claim that the game would be better balanced if Steward were to receive an errata to nerf its power. Personally, while I do agree that Stewrd is not the best balanced card in the card pool by a wide margin, certainly wildly divergent from the more carefully balanced power of more recent cards, nerfing it at this point would not solve any balance problems. If we wanted to get rid of the balance concerns caused by the existence of Steward we would have to travel back in time to 2011 and prevent it being created in the first place, thus avoiding all the cards which since then have been designed accounting for the existence of Steward. And if we were to do that, I think I'd be more likely to do it for Test of Will for the reasons outlined in my review of that card. I suppose this point to differing perspectives, where many people are OK with defanging the encounter deck but object to feeling like their player deck power is too out of control, whereas I tend towards the opposite view - I suppose I mind more if the quest loses its challenge than if I am overly powerful.

The thing is, back in the earlier days of the game it was more difficult to manage without Steward, though still not impossible. Now, though, there's enough other good resource generation and enough good cheap cards that there are a fair few ways to be powerful without needing to use Steward at all. While it's a rarity, I have built decks which do not use Steward of Gondor, because if I consistently have all the resources I need then using up slots in my deck to get more resources and having nothing to spend them on will in fact decrease the efficiency of the deck. Admittedly even then I either will or probably should put it in the sideboard to play on other players' heroes in multiplayer, because Steward of Gondor is just that good.

Let's turn aside from any questions of balance for a second and address that. Steward of Gondor is amazingly good. If you want more resources than you know what to do with, this is the easy way to get them. Though of course as the card pool has expanded we have gotten more ways to make use of those excess resources, be it powering Blood of Númenor and Gondorian Fire, helping people Heed the Dream, drawing your deck out with Rod of the Steward, or maybe you just have some expensive cards and a powerful draw engine. While there are, as I've mentioned, other good forms of resource generation at this point, Steward is still the one which none of the others can ever quite live up to, the elder sibling in whose shadow the other such effects all permanently languish. It gives no tempo hit at all if you play it on a hero because you instantly recoup the cost. If played cross-sphere then it can get slightly more awkward, but you still have the same number of resources that you started with, spheres aside. Steward has incredible synergy with Blood and Fire, as mentioned, but it's also the simplest and easiest way to turn Elrohir into an untouchable wall of defence against all-comers (along with a Gondorian Shield of course).

One point which does tend to slightly bug me about Steward is that if you're building a deck which needs to be able to play expensive cards in a non- sphere, you can afford them more easily by splashing for Steward than by going mono-sphere, and this seems wrong given that one of the reasons to go mono-sphere is to not have resource issues. Of course you could go mono-sphere and just play Steward with A Good Harvest, but some may find this to be one too many hoops to jump through, and unless you're getting something else in particular out of being mono-sphere, it may well still not be as efficient, especially since now splashing for Steward has never been easier - run Denethor, he can play Steward with his 2 starting resources and then give the rest away. You don't even need to put in any other cards and the efficiency of your deck will be unaffected.

Returning to balance and design questions, it certainly may be viewed as a problem that Steward is probably the most hotly contested uniqueness clash in the game, but so long as things can be solved amicably and everyone has fun, it shouldn't be that big a deal. It may be viewed as a problem that it's so much of an auto-include, but Test of Will is still auto-includier to my mind, Feint is on a similar level, and so is Daeron's Runes, among others, so if that is a problem, it's far from being a unique one. It's certainly a thematic oddity that any hero in the game can become the Steward of Gondor, from Denethor himself to Elrond, Theoden, Galadriel, Grima, Treebeard, Pippin... and one could certainly argue that perhaps the generic resource generation card should have been named something else, something more generic, but personally it doesn't bother me overly that it wasn't.

In the end, Steward of Gondor is certainly a contentious card, both in that it may be fought over in multiplayer games and in that out of games people will argue for ages about how it's unbalanced, unthematic, almost like cheating, etc. Both can get rather heated. But personally, I suppose I fall somewhere in the middle on a balanced view. Yes, Steward is questionably balanced, but it's too late to change it now (and I find it very hard to imagine they ever would errata it). Yes, I use it sometimes, and I don't feel like it's overly trivialising the game, nor do I care about the thematic weirdnesses. Conversely when I play without it I don't feel like it's some great accomplishment. When it comes down to it, this is a co-op game often played solo, and you can do whatever you like, just have fun with it. Accept that Steward of Gondor is and almost certainly always will be the most potent form of single target resource generation in the game, and deal with it however makes sense to you.

It is extremely difficult to build my solo decks for Nightmare quests without Steward... —
Beorn smazh your ANY! —
I'm just resigned to looking forward to Steward of Gondor (or equivalent) not being in LOTR LCG 2.0 reboot. Back in 2011, one cannot be blamed for bad designs...as the solo coop LCG was a cutting edge experiement. —

Eleanor is an incredibly under-rated hero. While episode 1 of the Cardboard of the Rings podcast was entitled "Don't Ignore Eleanor", the sentiment was sadly somewhat retracted the following episode. A big part of the thing with Eleanor is that her power isn't exactly obvious. Her stats aren't going to do much for you, and even if you were going to make use of them her ability requires you to exhaust her. Yet despite all of this, Eleanor is incredibly useful, especially in multiplayer.

Firstly, I'll talk around the subject and tackle the fringe benefits of Eleanor. Since she's from Gondor, a Gondorian Shield will put her up to a fairly credible 4 . Without that boost, 2 and 3 is risky for defending but you can still do it against weaker enemies barring shadows. Since she's a Noble, she can have the Palantir, which itself can be an incredibly potent support card. And while her statline isn't anything to write home about, she is of course appropriately threat costed for it, at 7. Yes, I know Glorfindel exists, but Eleanor's best setting is multiplayer, where someone else may well be using Glorfindel, and Glorfindel while he has stats has no useful ability unless you count the boost to Asfaloth. Eleanor on the other hand, does have an ability, and that's where the meat of this discussion lies.

So, her ability. Another of my recent reviews was on A Test of Will in which I talked about how it's such a powerful card that the game balance might actually hypothetically be better if it had never been designed. I'm not going to get into reiterating that debate here, suffice to say that the ability to cancel a When Revealed effect is arguably the single most powerful ability on any card in the game. Test of Will is an instant 3-of card in any deck using the sphere for a very good reason. And that's Eleanor's ability as well. OK, Eleanor only cancels treacheries, but guess what? ALL THE WORST ENCOUNTER CARD EFFECTS ARE ON TREACHERIES. OK, Eleanor replaces the cancelled treachery with the next card, but the odds of the next card being worse than the one you just cancelled are decidedly low or you wouldn't have bothered cancelling it in the first place.

Not convinced? I'm just going to list a few treacheries Eleanor could cancel for you. Sleeping Sentry. Collateral Damage. Watcher in the Wood. The Master's Malice. Leaves on Tree. Southron Support. Exhaustion. Roasted Slowly. Are you convinced yet? Because I can probably think of more if you give me a minute, or if I start naming Nightmare cards as well as regular ones.

Now, one might argue that Eleanor is unnecessary because Test of Will already exists for these brutal treacheries, but one of the significant advantages of hero abilities as opposed to other cards is that they start the game in play rather than being contingent on your random shuffle and draw. Eleanor has this advantage. Plus, having both gives you more freedom - wherein either you cancel regular bad things with Eleanor and save the Tests of Will for the really brutal things, or vice versa, Eleanor stays up for the worst effects and you can play your Tests on lesser treacheries. Either way, this should notably reduce the number of treachery effects you're forced to take on the chin.

Now, OK, let's talk about the downsides of Eleanor. As previously mentioned, her stats aren't great, so if you don't cancel anything with her she won't be doing too much for you. She doesn't suit lower player-counts for this reason, because the less heroes are on the table the more you want the heroes who are to actually be doing things. But on the other hand of course, when you have more players you're also much more likely to reveal a nasty treachery which you really want to cancel. I'll say that Eleanor isn't really a solo hero unless in very specialised circumstances. Many people would be critical of the idea of using Eleanor in 2 player as well, but personally I've still found that she can work. 3 or 4 player and she really shines. 3 or 4 player, there are stats everywhere, but the chance to replace a horrible card with a less horrible card when you're revealing that many per round starts to feel worth its weight in resources.

In brief, treachery cancellation is among the most powerful effects in the game, and Eleanor is the most guaranteed way of having cancellation available. She deserves your respect.

Contrary to what a lot of people would tell you, this is not an absolutely terrible card. It's just an incredibly incredibly niche card such that there are almost if not actually always better and more flexible options you could be using instead. OK, that sounds a bit terrible, but bear with me here.

The thing is, since is the one stat you can't usually pool together, you have to assume that you won't be able to do it. Stand Together is not something you can rely on, and thus even if you include it you still need to have a more standard defensive strategy, be that a powerful defender or a steady stream of chumps. With that being said, in many games you will have those moments where you have more character actions than you need and a powerful enemy to defend. Under those circumstances, using Stand Together with those extra actions as an alternative to chump-blocking could be a decent idea - and then you'll still have all your chumps available the following round when perhaps you may have more enemies. It's still niche, but it's not useless. It's most likely covering you for the fact you haven't drawn some other more useful card, but if it's a valid option then that's a kind of increase in consistency because it gives you that ability to cover yourself given a bad draw which you might not otherwise have.

OK, I'm reaching pretty far to find a use for this card other than the one thing I actually do use it for on occasion. I put this card in my 'difficult to use well' category, and it most definitely is that. Because it specifies enemies attacking the chosen player you can't even do Sentinel shenanigans which might otherwise be a thing.

So, the one purpose for which I do actually think this card has a place is when used with characters who do something when they defend. Erkenbrand and Déorwine for example can cancel shadow effects, so there might be a circumstance where you want to chump-block a boss enemy but are worried you'll get wrecked by a shadow effect, so then you can have Erkenbrand or Deorwine chip in just for their ability to cancel shadows (a similar principle would apply to a character with A Burning Brand attached, or a character with a weapon or armour would let you use Sterner than Steel). But then it has been ruled that if you have multiple defenders you still assign all the damage to only one of them so your more powerful character is entirely safe. An odd one could be if you're playing a Noldor deck and desperately want to discard a lot of cards to a Watcher of the Bruinen without getting him killed, though realistically you should have easier ways to discard those cards. You could use it as a way to damage a Derndingle Warrior and thus boost your Booming Ent, or with an Armored Destrier to discard a shadow card, but yeah OK these are getting increasingly more implausible. I think some of the ones I mentioned further up might be reasonable in very specialised circumstances, but there's only one case which I know from experience definitely works, and that is as follows:

  1. Play multiple copies of Gondorian Spearman. 1a. (optional) play Spear of the Citadel on the Spearmen/Beregond/other defenders.
  2. Play Stand Together to declare them all as defenders at once and deal multiple damage all at once.
  3. Hopefully the enemy is dead now.

It's still niche and easy enough to manage without it, but it's also really fun to be able to do that when it comes up, so I consider Stand Together a valid and OK card just for that one combo. There's nothing quite like the potential ability to one-shot kill the Nazgul of Minas Morgul (Each Spearman and Spear is a separate source of damage) just by defending it.