As I’ve mentioned several times on this blog, when I get stuck on a quest, particularly in solo, I have one major default strategy to fall back on: throw many dwarves at it!
The dwarf archetype got a lot of love around the Dwarrowdelf Cycle/Hobbit Saga period, to the point where it was possible to generate insane amounts of power – with a ready Dain Ironfoot providing +1 Attack +1 Willpower to all dwarf characters in play, and access to various effects for flooding the tables with allies, it was possible to overwhelm most things with sheer weight of numbers – even Nalir could be almost useful.
Dwarves were probably the most powerful archetype in the game (depending on your feelings on Outlands) and the other factions were given a bit of love for a while. But on the dwarf front, things went quiet.
Where now the Dwarf and the Miner?
In the Against the Shadow cycle, there was one new dwarf ally, and one neutral event for dwarf-decks. The Ring-Maker cycle, again, had a single ally, and the Lord of the Rings Saga boxes had an ally version of Gimli, but that was basically it. You could still play a dwarf-deck: the power-level had been high enough that they could survive without too much ongoing support, but there was little to keep it fresh.
Also, once you got into the specifics, your options were actually quite limited. Leadership and Lore were brimming with dwarves, but in Spirit and Tactics, the options were more limited. Tactics had only 2 dwarf heroes: Gimli and Thalin, both from the Core Set, and both showing their age – Thalin particularly is of fairly limited use in a world of bigger hit-points, or even toughness. There was a single unique ally (Bofur – who clashed with another version of the same character in Spirit) and only 3 non-uniques. In Spirit there were three heroes, 3 unique allies (1 of them being the aforementioned Bofur, 1 being Dwalin who was also one of the heroes, and the last being Kili, who is probably happier alongside his brother in a leadership deck) and 3 non-uniques (the last of whom only appeared in the Ring-Maker. That secondary, support, dwarf-deck was rather dubious.
Now though, it looks like the dwarven star may be on the rise once more: whilst not getting the level of support currently being seen by the Ents, dwarves are making an appearance once again, with a new non-unique tactics ally, and a new dwarven tactics hero. It is now finally possibly to run 4-player mono-sphere dwarf decks (although whether you’d want to is another matter entirely).
Considering the ally first, he is the Longbeard Sentry, and he is decidedly ordinary – neither leaping out as brilliant, or terrible. At 3-cost he’s a little pricy, but 2 defence and 3 hit-points make him a passable blocker. His ability, which allows him to discard cards to make that defence 3 and give him sentinel is certainly an interesting one, although you’re unlikely to get the best use out of it in a mono-tactics deck. I might even consider sticking Ring Mail on this guy, for what suddenly looks like a fairly solid character.
Holding out for a Hero
The real change though, is the fact that we get a new dwarf hero, for the first time in over a year. This hero, unlike the fairly straightforward ally, is an altogether more baffling proposition. Dori comes in at ten threat, 1 higher than Thalin, but 1 lower than Gimli, he has a bland 1 willpower, mediocre 2 attack, and a puzzling blocking ensemble of 2 defence, 5 hit-points and sentinel. Sentinel suggests that you should be using him to cover for your friends, but with two defence, he’s not going to be doing it often.
He then goes from weakness to weakness with his even more confusing ability, which reads: “Response: After another hero is declared as a defender, exhaust Dori to add his Defense to the defending hero’s Defense for this attack”
Confused? Good, me too.
A few things to note: Dori’s effect is a response, and the trigger is when another hero is declared as a defender- that means it’s before shadow cards are revealed. The other defender has to be a hero, and that hero is being targeted by this effect, so it wouldn’t work on Beorn.
Overall then, you’ve got a way of adding a low amount of defence to an existing defence, at the cost of a hero’s action. As people have already noted, this is somewhere between a repeatable Stand Together, and a Gondorian Shield that generates a resource each round (and puts your starting threat up by 10).
By comparison with the ally version of Dori, this is disappointing to say the least: the ally Dori can be exhausted and to absorb damage which would otherwise be dealt to a hero. Given that it targets the damage rather than the character, it can be used to get Beorn out of a jam and with a 3-cost ally, holding him back/wasting the action seems much less of a big deal.
Obviously, you can try to kit Dori out to make him more effective. A single set of ring-mail takes him to 3 defence and six hit-points, which is already starting to look interesting, although you’ll still need healing around to make repeated use of him. Action advantage allows him to buff better defenders repeatedly, but again, you have to question whether it would have been simpler just to give the action advantage to them in the first place.
Currently, Dori exists only as a preview to me – his AP isn’t out in the UK yet, and I probably won’t have a copy for another week or two. I’ll be sure to try him out when he does land, but I can’t say I’m overly optimistic.
In the meantime, I’ve come up with a slight twist on Dori’s ability that seems a bit more useful…