As I said in my review of Galadriel, everything is better with Galadriel. Given that, ally Galadriel obviously had a lot to live up to (admittedly The Road Darkens was released before Celebrimbor's Secret, but hero Galadriel had already been spoiled in advance, so everyone knew she was coming). That being said, ally Galadriel is also incredibly useful. She's not for every deck. Her ability specifically relates to attachments, so in general she is for decks which rely on significant attachments. But a lot of decks do that. She costs 3 resources, but that in the sphere which has access to good resource generation. And in return she accelerates those resources even further by giving you a free attachment (plus card draw since she digs it out of the deck for you).

Now, it's important to note that unlike her fellow temporary allies Gandalf and Elrond, Galadriel's Response only triggers when you play her from hand, not when she enters play. This is a definite downside, but given how powerful an effect resource generation/cost reduction is, it'd be ludicrous if you could get the effect by sneak attacking her. So let's talk about that ability. You search the top 5 cards of your deck for an attachment of cost 3 or less and put it into play. In the vast majority of decks that's going to be any attachment at all. The only attachments which cost more than 3 are Citadel Plate, Path of Need, Resourceful, the four Record attachments and Sword-thain. Any other attachment in the game is fair game. For example, Steward of Gondor; Sword that was Broken; Unexpected Courage; I could think of more but I feel like my point is already amply made just by listing those 3.

So, in exchange for your 3 resources you get 3 for one round (or a chump-blocker if you're really desperate for one I suppose), assuming your deck is stacked suitably, you get an attachment potentially worth the 3 resources you just paid, which as I said is effectively card draw as well, and then as the cherry on top you also get to rearrange the other 4 cards instead of shuffling. Not always the most useful ability, but Imladris Stargazer has been considered a pretty good ally since her release, and the fact that here that ability is just an added bonus really emphasises how good the rest of the ability is. If you think of it as the resources paying for the attachment normally, then you're paying the rest of the resources (which in the right deck will actually often be 0-1 resources) for getting the attachment out of your top 5 cards (targeted draw a la Heed the Dream), a one time Stargazer use, and a temporary 3 (there are some 1-cost events which give you +2 , this is obviously better though those events are more flexible). That's an incredibly good deal.

In the end, obviously the ally version of Galadriel doesn't match up to the hero, because the hero is amazing. But even as amazing as she is, she's not going to be in play all the time, and so long as you have a decent number of attachments in your deck, especially powerful 2-3 cost ones, you can do some amazing things. Galadriel makes a truly fantastic ally.

I especially like ally Galadriel in a quest with archery, like Helm's Deep. She can soak three points of archery damage before returning to Lothlorien. —

As a niche card that is only likely to be included in a Noldor deck, Lords of the Eldar obviously has limited general use. So let's assume that you're building a deck centered around Noldor heroes & allies. What are the advantages & disadvantages of Lords of the Eldar?

First, it is a universal modifier, much like For Gondor!, but affecting all Noldor characters--heroes & allies--controlled by all players. It costs 1 more resource than For Gondor! but also boosts willpower. It also lasts until the end of the round, whereas For Gondor! only lasts until the end of the phase. This allows Noldor characters with innate readying effects (Elladan, Elrohir, Watcher of the Bruinen, Trollshaw Scout), or with a readying attachment (Light of Valinor, Miruvor, or Unexpected Courage), or targeted with a readying event (Elwing's Flight, Tale of Tinúviel) to benefit from Lords of the Eldar's bonuses multiple times in a round. And, due to its requirements to play, you're more likely to see it later in the game when you have several allies and readying effects in play. It combines well with the in-theme Fair and Perilous, too. Since that card adds an attacking Noldor (or Silvan) character's to its , Lords of the Eldar essentially provides +2 .

While the requirements to play Lords of the Eldar may seem restrictive, they're usually not a problem for the typical Noldor deck. First, several cards can get Lords of the Eldar into your discard pile, often while also providing a beneficial effect: heroes Arwen Undómiel, Círdan the Shipwright, Galdor of the Havens, Erestor; allies Elven Jeweler, Erestor, Guardian of Rivendell, Glorfindel, Imladris Caregiver, Lindon Navigator, Trollshaw Scout, Watcher of the Bruinen; attachments Elven Spear, Steed of Imladris; and the event To the Sea, to the Sea! And those are just the Noldor-themed cards! Second, though 3 resources make it a somewhat expensive card for a Spirit Noldor deck--which may not have many more options than Arwen Undómiel for resource acceleration--the need to discard Lords of the Eldar first usually means you won't be playing it too early in the game when resources are tight. This is fine, as later in the game, when you've acquired some surplus resources, you'll also have more allies in play to take advantage of its bonuses. Or, if one of your heroes is a Hobbit, like Frodo Baggins, he can use Good Meal to play Lords of the Eldar for only 1 resource.

The final hitch is that Lords of the Eldar is placed on the bottom of your deck when played. Unfortunately, this keeps it from being recycled with The White Council or Map of Earnil, as one might do with Tale of Tinúviel, for example. However, Word of Command can fetch it for you at the cost of only 1 resource... and exhausting an Istari character. Hero Gandalf has all sorts of readying available to him and Over Hill and Under Hill Gandalf doesn't exhaust to quest so can use his second action to cast Word of Command. (Noldor decks usually have Core Gandalf's card drawing and threat reduction covered already anyway.) Or any Istari character can play it after questing on the turn he enters play if Galadriel is one of your heroes. Speaking of Galadriel, the thematic Mirror of Galadriel can fetch Lords of the Eldar from your deck if you have 10 or fewer cards remaining. And, if you have 5 or fewer cards, Galadhrim Minstrel or Heed the Dream will work, too. Of course, by then, normal card drawing effects would probably do the trick.

In the right kind of deck, Lords of the Eldar is a powerful card whose apparent drawbacks are easily mitigated. If you haven't already, give it a try!

363
I would add to the previous comment that Mirror of Galadriel forces the player to shuffle his deck after use, which will removes Lords of the Eldar from the bottom of the deck. —

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!

363

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. —