Extended Quote: “Courage is found in unlikely places,” said Gildor. “Be of good hope! Sleep now! In the morning we shall have gone; but we will send our messages through the lands. The Wandering Companies shall know of your journey, and those that have power for good shall be on the watch. I name you Elf-friend; and may the stars shine upon the end of your road! Seldom have we had such delight in strangers, and it is fair to hear words of the Ancient Speech from the lips of other wanderers in the world.”

I recently concluded acquiring the Angmar Awakened cycle and turned to RingsDB for some inspiration on how to use a few of the new-to-me Noldor based cards (Lords of the Eldar, Tale of Tinúviel, etc) but Elf-friend particularly intrigued me. I wanted to see how the community included these things in their decks.

To date there are 170 decks using Elf-friend that have a deck description, since I wanted to be able to see if there was any provided insight to its usage (turns out there are 229 total decks, but I already did my analysis and it probably wouldn’t change anything much based on sample size). I read the deck descriptions for the 30 top rated decks, the rest may have been interesting, but it took long enough as it is (ibid the sample size argument); I used the 170 decks to simply see what frequency other cards appeared with Elf-friend. I certainly acknowledge more recently released cards won’t factor into this analysis as much as cards people have had a much longer time to experiment with.

Meta-Analysis and Main Uses (170 decks total)

1) Elrond's Counsel 70/170, 41.2% -- Obviously, a staple of threat reduction with nearly infinite threat reduced per resource cost. Allows it to slot into Hobbit decks, etc, and Frodo Baggins/Frodo Baggins/Frodo is the most thematic choice for Elf-friend.

2) Silvan Tracker 62/170, 36.5% -- Often this is combined with Treebeard (more in a moment) or anytime you wanted alternate or extra healing (Note: Elf-Friend is not unique, so it can be played on multiple characters). This look like the main application for allies (probably some minor use for the weapons, but nothing you'd build around).

3) Light of Valinor 62/170, 36.5% -- Because why not? We all know it’s pretty OP, and I just listened to an old COTR podcast where there was a spirited contest where they briefly debated whether readying was the most important effect in the game (BOLD but TRUE!)

Opening the Elven Armory

1) Rivendell Bow 37/170, 21.8% -- Nice to add range, cheaper than Dúnedain Cache, also not restricted

2) Lembas 34/170, 20.0% -- Solid healing and readying

3) Rivendell Blade 33/170, 19.4%

4) Asfaloth 26/170, 15.3% -- Not as OP when apart from his master, but also not restricted

5) Bow of the Galadhrim 25/170, 14.7% -- could combine w/Rivendell Bow, but this one is restricted and starting to be too many cards to combo

6) O Lórien! 25/170, 14.7% -- This one seems more connected to a variety of Silvan related decks. It doesn’t require Elf-friend to be played and is more a biproduct of them appearing in decks together (see Prince Imrahil)

7) Cloak of Lórien 21/170, 12.4% -- not restricted

8) Elven Spear 16/170, 9.4%

9) Elven Mail 11/170, 6.5%

10) Mirkwood Long-knife 10/170, 5.9% -- I would say this one seems undervalued, especially combining with Light of Valinor.

11) There were a few others below 10 occurrences: Star Brooch, The Elvenking, etc

Enabling Elf based events (most of which require a Silvan/Noldor unique character in play):

1) Fair and Perilous 27/170

2) Tale of Tinúviel 15/170

3) The rest are all below 10 occurrences (Unlikely Friendship 9, Revealed in Wrath 8, Lords of the Eldar 7, Heirs of Earendil 3, so I’m not finding anything too inspiring here.

Hero Usage

Arwen Undómiel appears in 50% of top decks (15/30 but only 51/170). This enables her ability to target the wearer of the title, hopefully kickstarting your game or passing resources anytime they’re needed off-sphere. Consider it an alternate form of Errand-rider with any other benefits you work in.

Treebeard 20% of top decks (6/30 but only 21/170) Combining with Silvan Tracker (and Lembas), allows for max usage of his ability (or anywhere you want to get tons of healing, i.e Glóin)

**(4 of top 30, 6/170, decks use both Arwen Undómiel and Treebeard)

Prince Imrahil 13% of top decks (4/30 but only 18/170) (including Seastan's best in group: Imrahilvan) All sorts of Silvan based bouncing shenanigans.

These three heroes appear much more in the top 30 decks, but I didn’t bother going through all the heroes; this is just based on interesting deck description reads. There are other heroes that appear frequently with Elf-friend, but they’re indirectly tied to it (i.e Celeborn)

Curious stuff

** Oh, the irony and strife of needing to use it on a Noldor to enable Silvan weapons! We should just slap it on Gildor Inglorion for that matter since the quote came from his mouth (Glorfindel is the intriguing target since he’d make decent use of Mirkwood Long-knife)

** Props for clever resource acceleration via Beregond, Long Lake Trader, and Bartering (via Durins_Father's Direct Dale Damage Doing Duty). I wouldn't say Elf-friend is required, but it uses the same trick to allow the Elven based attachments.

The End?

There’s more I could say, but you’re probably already wondering why I’ve wasted so much time reviewing a several year old card that appears in so few described decks (170/8933, 1.9%). Yes, I’m wondering that too at this point. Let me know if there are any other cool uses for it (but based on the frequency, I can already tell it’s one not too many are toying around with).

(Sorry, I don't know the best way to make links and lists html style.)

While Yazan is a very expensive Ally card, his special ability is incredible - giving him a bonus Direct Damage sniper attack (limit once per phase) dealing 1 damage on any non-unique enemy regardless of the enemy defense!

Perfect for taking out pesky cards like Goblin Sniper, or putting that last point of damage on a wounded, but heavily armored foe.

Here is a mathematical comparison on how powerful the special ability of Direct Damage can be....

There are 52 non-unique enemy cards in game with Defense of 4 or more, so the ability is the equivalent of a single 5 or more strike on a variety of enemies. The highest non-unique enemy in game has 6 , Thus Yazan's special ability can be equivalent to up to a single 7 attack strike!

And if you upgrade Yazan to a Hero with the new Messenger of the King card, his abilities rival Middle-Earth's most well-known archer Hero, Legolas.

Let's compare Core set Legolas, with Messenger of the King Hero Yazan. Both are sphere Ranged Heroes with 9 to start.

Questing: Hero (as well as Ally) Yazan has one more than Legolas, at a loss of one health . This gives Yazan some "quest assist" flexibility - and somewhat reduces the gap between Hero Yazan's ability to advance quests, vs. Legolas special ability. Although this flexibility will cost Yazan an action, you can ready Hero Yazan for combat with the usual Hero readiness combos, and you can additionally ready either the Hero or Ally version using Kahliel's special ability. And you can buff Yazan by up to +3 with Kahliel’s Tribesman. This is something Legolas (or just about any other questing hero for that matter) cannot match.

Survivability: Since both heroes would not be used as defenders, Yazan's three health is not a big drawback vs. Legolas, except in the rare instance of one shot (and conditional) instant kill treacheries such as Festering Wounds (Journey to Rhosgaobel), or The Master's Malice (Heir's of Numenor).

Attack: Here is where Yazan shines as either an ally or a Hero. Yazan and Legolas both attack at baseline 3 . However Yazan can also be easily buffed up to +3 without attachments using Kahliel’s Tribesman. In addition Legolas special ability is restricted as it only triggers if the enemy is killed in the attack. Yazan's special ability triggers on each attack (once per phase), and as noted at the top - can be very strong.

Finally, Let's look at the most extremely powerful one phase combat scenario for Yazan (either Hero or Ally), no attachments but with thematic Kahliel and 3 Kahliel’s Tribesman allies on table, and a spare Yazan (or other Harad ally) card in hand: Exhaust the Tribesman for the buffs. Defend with 4 . Ready using Kahliel discarding the useless spare Yazan in hand. Attack with 6 . Direct point of damage to another enemy: equivalent to up to a single 7 strike.

And you can repeat this every combat round as long as you have a Harad Ally card in hand....Once set up, Yazan can be borderline insanely overpowered, and we haven't even added any attachments to him!

The ability to put 1 damage on most enemies, anywhere on the board is incredibly versatile.

The Ranged trait ensures the combat phase trigger for the special ability can be used if an enemy is engaged with any player on the table. And attacks triggering the special direct damage ability can also come outside of the combat phase with the conveniently in sphere Hands Upon the Bow event card.

Either in Ally or MoTK Hero form, Yazan is a powerful and unique card that adds many options to how you engage enemies on the table.

I saw this in a deck list that had no Dwarves, so I looked at the comments and noticed that it is suggested to use as deck-thinning. There is an opportunity cost. If you draw one in your oppening hand, you obfuscate one of your cards which makes it difficult to decide to mulligan or not. Because of this, the deck thinning is not statistically significant enough to warrant more difficult opening hands. I guess what I'm saying is YMMV if you have no Dwarves in a deck that runs this.

There's definitely an opportunity cost. Let's say you're running a Spirit Glorfindel deck and your one and only goal is to get a first-turn Light of Valinor. —
There's definitely an opportunity cost. Let's say you're running a Spirit Glorfindel deck and your one and only goal is to get a first-turn Light of Valinor. —
There's definitely an opportunity cost. Let's say you're running a Spirit Glorfindel deck and your one and only goal is to get a first-turn Light of Valinor. If Light of Valinor would have been in the 6th slot of your pre-mulligan hand, but instead got bumped to the 7th slot because of WANI, then you mulliganed away a hand that would have given you what you wanted. At the same time, if Light of Valinor is in the *8th* slot of your post-mulligan hand and you have a WANI, then you just lucked into your goal. Statistically, both scenarios are equally likely and should offset. WANI's thinning aspect doesn't really help you when it comes to the opening hand, but it definitely impacts subsequent draws. (Also, sorry for posting multiple times, RingsDB spazzed out on me.) —
Running WANI doesn't change the likelihood of drawing a specific card in your starting hand. In the example above, there is no way that it would 'bump' Light of Valinor to a different position in your deck. If you didn't run WANI, you would draw whatever you are running as a replacement, most likely another card that is irrelevant to your mulligan decision. In other words, WANI doesn't make it less likely to find key cards in your starting hand. It only obfuscates whether you have a good mix of different card types and spheres. —

Not too exciting on first glance, but a worthy ally. He often squeaks into my decks as a random singleton, just based off of his 2-for-2 willpower - it's like having Arwen Undómiel in Lore, a sphere that otherwise isn't as good in that area. His ability is awkward to use, but has enough edge cases that it's relevant at some point. Generally it's good for getting threat out of the staging area pre-quest, and you may sometimes want it to trigger certain Dunedain abilities or push an enemy onto a trap. Being an entry effect on a unique card with a nontrivial cost, this will basically just be a small one-time bonus.

Some notes on this contract: 1 -- The Ally you choose must be in your 50. 2 -- The "Setup:" occurs after you draw your hand. This means, that if you draw the Ally you wish to use for this, it will be ineligible (assuming you have only 1 copy) 3 -- You can choose any Ally in your deck. I believe this will make this a very versatile contract because you can choose the Ally that best works with your hand or the quest you're one. Or maybe not.

Just wanted to give a heads up to people who are using this because I see a lot of decklists that do not have the MotK Hero they've chosen in their decklists.

Not a true review. I do believe this is a great addition to the game and will create many exciting new options and I look forward to using it when it is finally released.

@Madd.Dawgg Caleb Grace and Matt Newman pointed this out in their interview on Card Talk. They also pointed out that they thought —
Continuing earlier comment since I can't figure out how to it: They thought this was fine because it's a low chance of drawing it twice with a mulligan. Also they related another instance where players just played a card as intended rather then follow how the effect would go strictly following the rules. I expect everyone is going to just make their intended messagener a hero and draw their hand. It's just going to be easier and avoid unnecessary mulligans. —
It'd be nice if they just officially made it work "correctly." —
We already talked about a house rule, so you still make a 50 card deck and your MotK starts in play, but I do think the versatility aspect is exciting by itself. And I should listen to listen to that podcast! Thank you. —