A very solid ally, just considering its stats alone. There's not that many with willpower > 1 and equal to their cost, and they usually come with some annoying caveats to their use. A straight-up two for two is good value, plus the small bonus of reducing someone's threat by one. Not a big deal, but nice. The Silvan trait could also come in handy if you're building around that, though 2 cost for just 1 threat each time means you won't be spamming it much.

Direct competitors:

Arwen Undómiel - 1 more HP, generally more useful ability, but unique.

Bilbo Baggins - 1 more HP, but disappointing outside of a pipe deck.

West Road Traveller - More situational effect, but potentially higher impact

Veteran Axehand is a great vanilla ally. He's cheap, and he gets you that important extra attack. If you chump him, you're not losing too much, but there are much better candidates. However he is a Dwarf, so he benefits from Dain's boost and becomes an amazing two for three ally that can take a bunch of cool warrior attachments like Raiment of War and Vigilant Guard.

Quite true. However, I find that Booming Ents are a better way to go if you have them because they cost the same but have better stats. They're also amazing for quests with archery because if you damage them or other Ent characters you get an attack boost. Nice post. —

Obviously a powerful but limited effect. Of note however is that "You must use resources from 3 different heroes' pools to pay for this card" is not the same as saying this card can only be played by mono- decks. It allows for icons gained from Song of Travel, Celebrían's Stone or Vilya, or the possibility of playing it in any deck via A Good Harvest. It does admittedly mean this card cannot be played by decks with less than three heroes, but that aside there are ways around the limitations.

Arguably the effect is also limited - not in scope, but in relevant applications. It's clearly primarily of use to games with higher player counts which are likelier to have more enemies attacking and thus more shadow cards in play than games with less players. In solo you're unlikely to ever have enough shadow cards in play for this to feel worth it, and even in two player probably not unless you're playing a quest which really swarms enemies and/or deals multiple shadow cards (or both).

Leaving those points aside, how useful is it? Well, discarding shadow cards ensures that the outcome of combat is entirely predictable - you know exactly who will take damage defending and how much. On the other hand how bad are shadow effects in general? Often they're entirely manageable with one or two exceptions which can be cancelled with Hasty Stroke, Balin, or Erkenbrand. On the other hand this comes down again to the question of how many shadow cards you're dealing with at a time - the more there are, the more likely you are to not have quite enough cancellation one way or another. Perhaps the most obvious more widely applicable context for making use of this card would be in a Dúnedain deck which isn't sure it'll reliably produce enough Forest Snares and will thus have to keep defending the array of enemies it's keeping engaged. Bonus points if this Dúnedain deck is also being played against a quest which enemy swarms and/or deals multiple shadow cards. Then it could be entirely plausible for such a deck to find itself engaged with, say, 4 or more enemies at a time (I know I've had Dúnedain decks engaged with as many as 7 enemies at once, and that was only in 2-player), at which point the option to sometimes just eliminate the random element of that combat could make circumstances a lot more comfortable to deal with. Of course if said deck includes a hero they could just get a Silver Lamp instead so they know exactly what shadow effects they're facing every time, but if there enough bad shadow effects maybe you might want Shadows Give Way as well as a backup option.

Probably the best place for this card is when playing against The Battle of Carn Dûm, which has a lot of enemies, has effects which deal additional shadow cards to those enemies, doesn't discard unresolved shadow cards at the end of combat on stage 1, has a higher proportion of shadow effects in the encounter deck than the vast majority of quests, and has those shadow effects trigger additional effects (Thaurdir flipping being obviously the most prominent). There are certainly other possibilities though.

All in all, I would say that as with most or all cards which deal with shadow effects, Shadows Give Way is often something you want to swap in and out of your deck based on your knowledge of the encounter deck of the particular quest you're playing, and in this case perhaps also the number of players in the game. Against some quests and with less players it may well seem superfluous, but against others and with more players it could be a serious lifesaver on a significant round.

This was a very well designed card for setting up the whole idea behind the Ent deck archetype - that it's all about damage. All Ent characters have good hit point pools which by itself makes them good targets for Archery or other direct damage effects, but this was our immediate indication that damage was a general theme and it just works so well. Even back when this guy was released, you could get 3x Booming Ent, 3x Wandering Ent and Treebeard to potentially boost your Booming Ents up to 9 if you got some damage onto all those allies - thoroughly capturing the feeling of having powerful Ents under your command who can tear down buildings with their bare hands.

That was then. It clearly showed us the idea which was going to be developed further in its simplest form, which was already good. Now, though, with the Ent trait much more fleshed out, the Booming Ent can become a monstrously powerful centrepiece to the whole deck, as so many other effects trigger based on damage and thus increase the Booming Ent's power level. If you use hero Treebeard he can damage himself at will, Quickbeam can take a damage immediately on entering play, Beechbone can damage himself when attacking, Derndingle Warriors can damage themselves while defending quite apart from just taking damage from the attacks potentially. Boomed and Trumpeted doesn't help get more damage but it ties into the same synergy, and of course Ent Draught gives more hit points so it's easier to take more damage. It all ties together into that same synergy which was started by the straightforward but incredibly potent ability of the Booming Ent, who now has a theoretical maximum of 18. Chances of reaching that aren't great but that's also more than you're likely to ever need, especially three times over and plus the of all the other Ents as well. In the meantime even if you never get close to the maximum you're likely to be incredibly consistent at getting a fairly significant amount of attack.

With the proviso that you have to treat them kind of like Gimli and either take some defences early on to power up their for the future or use them against quests with direct damage to that end, the Booming Ent can be a very valuable combat ally in and of himself, with the potential to just get totally crazy in a deck with plenty of Ents.

This is a card which I've always had issues with. It certainly seems to have some potential valid uses, but they've never really seemed good enough to justify including it in decks. On the one hand obviously it's 1 resource for 1 card, which in the sphere with Steward of Gondor is manageable, but there are other ways of getting that - Hidden Cache does it, Campfire Tales also draws for other players, We Are Not Idle doesn't cost anything, if you can play it then Unlikely Friendship even gives you a resource back. So if there is value to this card it has to come from the other half of the effect, which is taking control of the first player token.

There's certainly more potential in that. The question is whether it's worth a slot in your deck. So let's look at potential uses of spontaneously becoming the first player during any action window:

  • In the Encounter phase, the first player is the first to make engagement checks, so a combat focused deck which wants to engage all the enemies (e.g. a Dunedain deck) could benefit from it. This applies doubly if one or more other decks in the game specifically want to not engage enemies, either because they're particularly bad at combat or because they're using heroes such as Haldir of Lórien, Brand son of Bain or Bard the Bowman. The downside of this idea actually lies in Follow Me being a card draw effect, meaning you potentially want to use it asap whereas this engagement strategy is something you save up until you need it.
  • There can be other quest-specific effects, of which the most frequent occurrence is boss enemies which constantly engage/are considered to be engaged with the first player. This would also apply for the combat deck instance. Another similar case would be saga quests, if it matters who controls the saga hero at any given moment.
  • Finally of course there are player cards effects which specifically affect the first player - the extra draw from Bilbo Baggins and Prepare for Battle, the draw from Ancient Mathom, the resource generation of Ranger Provisions, putting an ally into play with Elf-stone, and taking control of a Defender of the West. Certainly one can imagine circumstances where those could come in handy, so maybe there's some sort of shenanigans-y deck to be built, but at this point in the card pool I feel like there are generally better means of card draw and resource generation available, while Defender of the West is itself a rather difficult card to find a use for. Which leaves Elf-stone, and certainly the need to correctly time it for when the right player is first is one of the biggest issues with Elf-stone, so maybe that one's worth trying out, but it's still not the most inspiring of ideas.

Obviously there's the potential for combining multiple of these ideas - building a deck around Elf-stones against a quest with a boss enemy which always targets the first player, for example - but it's still problematic and there are so many easier ways to achieve your end. I think I hit on my biggest problem though in the first bullet point - drawing more cards is usually something you want to do as fast as possible to give yourself more options, but all these potential uses for becoming the first player seem to be things which you have to time carefully when you do them, so the two aspects of the card work against each other. As useful as card draw is, this card might work better if the second half of the effect was something else which allowed you to pick your moment without feeling like you were mmissing out on something. Maybe then it could be brought down to cost 0 as well, that'd be nice, but obviously kind of too good with it drawing a card. As it is though, it's just really hard to justify using this card.