Gandalf

Ally. Cost: 5. 4   4   4   4  

Istari.

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.

Gandalf
Reviews

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 1327
Honestly, how many of us have had our collective butt saved from certain death by this card?? — Mad Morderan 73

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 260
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 9

Well, reading all these very positive reviews for this card, I am no 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 mean saving up for 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 that resource efficient (Compare to Elrond's counsil) and it is good not 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 stat it is good at, and the next turn you play an ally for 2 resources whith 2 points in the best stat (and often you could do better). So by the end of the second turn, you already applied 3 stas 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!

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.