At first glance Merry doesn't seem super exciting, especially compared to the ally version of his buddy released in the same box, with a one-dimensional statline and a semi-situational, one-time use ability. However a closer look reveals that there's more than meets the eye with this Hobbit. First off, despite Leadership being arguably the second best questing sphere and the sphere that is home to most of the global willpower boosting cards, like Sword that was Broken, Visionary Leadership, and Merry himself, a 2 cost 2 ally in Leadership is quite rare. In fact Merry is just one of three, the others being Rosie Cotton and Angbor the Fearless (you could throw Dwarven Sellsword in the mix as well, but if you want to keep him around it'll end up costing you more than 2). That alone makes him valuable.

Then on to his ability. In terms of willpower boosting allies, Faramir is obviously superior, as his boosting is not restricted, is repeatable, and can be saved to use between staging and quest resolution. However he is also double the cost, and with an ability that requires him to exhaust, his other stats are often not really able to be put to use. Merry's Response being restricted to unique allies is somewhat unfortunate, but unless you're playing some sort of swarm deck like Outlands or Dale, chances are that you at least have a couple of unique allies in play to get good use out of it (also note that Merry himself will also receive the boost). Obviously Merry fits in perfectly with the new Fellowship contract, and I can only assume that he was specifically designed with that in mind. He also makes a nice combo with Sneak Attack (which is conveniently in sphere), but that's not really surprising as just about anything with a half decent enters play effect combos well with that card. Finally, and this is mostly a minor point although it can be useful in some situations, Merry's ability lasts the entire round, so for example you could combo him with Rosie Cotton to give another character +3 to a stat instead of +2.

Merry's only downside is that he invalidates his hero version, which I personally find pretty essential for Hobbit decks as one of its main reliable forms of combat, although ally Pippin can serve as a replacement for hero Merry. Ultimately, this isn't really an issue for me as I don't see ally Merry as a card meant for dedicated Hobbit decks anyway. All in all Merry is actually quite good and really shines in any deck that has at least a decent amount of unique allies.

Éomer's ability could well be the ultimate form of action advantage - without using any other cards to make this happen, he quests, he attacks, and, assuming he takes his target out, he frees up another character from having to defend against the now-destroyed enemy's attack. Destroying an enemy also removes its threat from the staging area, which means Éomer contributes more than his willpower to the questing. And it's just cool to get the first strike in. And he does this at the fairly reasonable cost of one resource per use. But you need time to set that up, and you need to be playing the right deck and/or the right scenario. If you just put him in any old deck, he won't have any targets to use his ability on, because any enemies you revealed last turn have already engaged you, and if you play him in the wrong scenario he won't be able to kill his targets. My limited experience shows that Éomer is good out of the gate in most Khazad-dum/Dwarrowdelf scenarios, since they often have goblins that pop up from shadow effects and don't get to engage you before Éomer has a shot at them - and they're frail enough for him to take them out by himself.

But if you're playing against something other than goblins, Eomer will need some help. That help will generally not be coming from , so I'd advise against playing him in a mono- deck. Here are the main things to consider:

1) You need to ensure there are targets for him. I can see three ways of doing that:

  • Change the timing of when Éomer strikes. The main tool for this is Late Adventurer - don't commit Éomer if there isn't already an enemy in staging, and wait to see if one pops up. In theory you could also give Éomer the icon, give him Windfola and use Don't Be Hasty! to remove and recommit Éomer when an enemy pops up. That's entirely too many combo parts to put together with any kind of reliability, but if done it could allow Éomer to strike three times in one turn - commit and attack as usual, Don't Be Hasty + Windfola when an enemy pops up and then Late Adventurer at the end of staging (which you can still do because Windfola exhausts itself but not the attached character).
  • Keep your threat low so the enemies don't engage you on their own. Fastred seems to be the easiest way of doing that - particularly because if any enemies do get through, he can bounce them back to staging again. In-sphere, Frodo Baggins could be helpful, but having two heroes spend their regular income on their own abilities every turn sounds like something that would slow a deck down quite a bit.
  • Keep enemies in staging with card effects. I can see little synergy with traps - Ranger Spikes is the one that keeps enemies in staging, and because it also brings the trapped enemy's threat down you don't really care about destroying it (unless the trap attaches to the wrong kind of enemy, like a Goblin Sniper) - but if you're playing opposite a deck they could be bringing ways to increase enemy engagement costs or cancel engagement checks altogether. In-sphere, Terrible to Behold will help you deal with an enemy that did get to engage you - and, conveniently enough, Éomer is a Noble and can use it if there was nothing there for him to attack this turn.

2) You need to ensure Éomer can actually kill something, or else his attacks are meaningless. The most obvious and effective attack boost is probably Spear of the Mark, and it's what I've been using, but once I get that pack I will also be trying Firefoot; that's more expensive and the response won't be useful if Éomer mops everything up in staging, but sometimes an enemy will still slip through and be there in your face (unless you'e using Fastred, I guess). The other way, if you don't want to include in your deck, would be to make Éomer an Elf-friend, and give him Light of Valinor and a Mirkwood Long-knife or two; it's another thing I'm theorycrafting on because I don't have Sands of Harad, but it would make more use of Éomer as a quester (his normal 1 is a bit sad otherwise) and let you get double use of the attack boost.

Guthwine is another good card for Eomer and also Herugrim if you add some Necklafe of Girion for him (boosting Willpower and giving him the resource to do that each turn. Unseen Strike could also be useful and Firefoot too. —
I haven't really looked at the guarded cards yet (I'm way behind on expansions), but Necklace of Girion plus Herugrim does sound really good. —

Isn't it odd, that a helm gets the staff trait? I guess this happens when offering common sense to game mechanics.

Also, it seems there is a printing error; the first occurrence of token should probably be a resource token instead. (you cannot discard all tokens and then transfer the damage tokens)

The Artifact Item Staff part is a mistake of RingsDB (especially since it's an event not an attachment). —
Yes, it appears to have the flavour text of Saruman's Staff as well. I guess the card itself is using Helm of Secrecy. . . —

No reviews?
I very much like Merry. Low threat and gives the ability for someone else to potentially attack again. I have recently tried him with Elrohir and Elladan brothers and it is a nice deck, especially with Rivendell Blade on Elladan. Works with Háma well too, as if need be you can return two tactics events in one turn (now limited to thrice a game).

Merry also fits in as a solid choice for a Hobbit deck with Sam Gamgee and another Hobbit. Add in Fast Hitch and you can keep the offense going or quest and still attack, or try and trigger the effect multiple times.

Very good card for 6 threat, very easy to fit into other decks.

Especially with the new Bond of Friendship contract which can let Merry start with 4 attack in any quest and 5 in Saga quest where you have Frodo/Bilbo (even 6 with a Sword-Thain Rosie) —
My favorite combo is Merry in one deck and tBrand in another - perpetually readying each other. —

Let me explain why Saruman is one the best heroes of the game.

First, his stats. Notice this sweet 4 , wich makes him the second best fighter after Beorn (but Saruman can wear Attachments ). His is good to, but nothing special for someone with this threat level. His is a bit behind (although he can take A Burning Brand against nasty shadows effects, i wouldn't make him my main defender).

Nonetheless, he can make a better use from his stats than any other hero, because he has the best readying ability of the game. Most champions have some kind of limitation : Prince Imrahil's is once per round, Elladan or Elrohir are limited to special windows of the combat phase. And you don't need to pay ressources or loose an ally : it's just a bonus effect from all your Doomed cards, many of them already being top-tier cards (you loved Deep Knowledge ? Consider it now gains the printed text "Ready Saruman").

Of course, Doomed increase your Threat level, and it's hard to reduce yours when you have Saruman (remember, his limitation is only for player cards, so encounter cards can lower your threat by more than one. ). So here are your possibilites :

Did i just said shenanigans ? Cause you know the best card for shenanigans is ? Word of Command. And what better way to play this exhausting-istari event than a Istari whith build-in readying ? Yes, Saruman is an Istari. Go play with your pipe and make all Gandalf does better. For he is only grey when you are Saruman of Many Colours !

Spirit Beregond is also a good partner in crime for Saruman threat-wise. Grima of course being able to give Doomed to any card is thematically and mechanically perfect. —
Great review! What I'm still trying to figure out is what he is doing in front of Orthanc holding his staff like that... —
Looks like he's checking to see if his gutters need to be cleaned out. —