Ally Arwen has been around for a while, and is widely regarded as one of the best allies in the game: 2-Cost in Spirit, she not only provides a solid 2 willpower for questing, but also offers a defence boost and sentinel for another character in play (typically her father or her brother). Up until now, if you were running Spirit, unless you were strongly pushing a thematic angle, the only real reason not to run her was if you were playing The Redhorn Gate or Road to Rivendell, where there was an objective-ally version in the way.
As fans of the game speculated on the appearance of a future hero Arwen, one of the biggest questions was: what could the designers bring to the table that would be good enough
Now though, all that has changed, with the arrival of The Dread Realm¸ we have our playable Arwen hero, and I thought I’d take a bit of a look at her today.
Like the rest of her family, Arwen has been stunningly depicted by Magali Villeneuve for the card (she also did the art for the Ally and the Objective Ally). I’m just going to put it here for you all to admire.
As you’d expect, Arwen is a unique character, with the traits Noldor and Noble. FFG has never really gone into the Half-Elven heritage, and it was unlikely that they would suddenly conjure up a new trait which they hadn’t given to her father or brothers. She is still Spirit, and has a stat-spread of 3 willpower, 1 attack, 2 defence and 3 hit-points, for a total threat cost of 9. She fills the traditional spirit role of being a good quester but a lousy combatant, so don’t expect to kill anything with her, although she can probably survive a single hit from a small enemy, and overall, her stat / cost distribution seems good.
As a Noldor, you can give her Light of Valinor, Rivendell Blades or Bows, and even Asfaloth – there are better targets for all of these cards, and the only real reason to do it would be to troll Glorfindel. Despite this, her traits are still useful: as a unique Noldor, she fills the requirement for Elrond’s Counsel, if you do need to attack with her in a pinch, she can be targeted by Fair and Perilous, and of course, she benefits all-round from Lords of the Eldar.
Traits and stats aside, the key element of any hero is the ability text. In this area, Arwen opens up new ground, with the first real resource acceleration in Spirit.
“Action: Discard a card from your hand to add 1 resource to a Noldor hero’s resource pool, or to Aragorn’s resource pool. (Limit once per round.)”
It is worth noting that she can target herself with this ability, or any of her family, and it’s entirely fitting that the restriction is stretched enough to include Aragorn. On the other hand, card-draw is not an area where Spirit is particularly blessed, and the cost looks like a high one. You can, of course, pair her with Lore characters, to power this, and she looks like an obvious choice to go with Elrond (22 threat for these 2 characters means the 3rd will almost inevitably be Glorfindel).
To Help You on the Way
There are a couple of events that have come out at the same time as Arwen which are clearly designed to synergise with her, and deserve a place in this discussion.
A Little Light?
The first, is Elven Light, a 1-cost Spirit event which, like many of the new Noldor cards, can only be played from the discard pile. For your one resource, you pull it back to hand, and draw a card.
The synergy with Arwen is fairly obvious. First of all, you can discard the card for her ability, which solves the “how do you get it into the discard pile?” issue. Furthermore, if you don’t need to target someone else with her ability that round, you can give yourself the resource for discarding, and spend it to play the card. In essence, once you have this card in hand, Arwen’s ability could be re-written as “once per round, draw a card” – there’s no doubt that this is a fantastic power, and it’s particularly strong in Spirit: obviously, even with a Mulligan, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get your Elven light (I’ve tried and failed plenty of times), but resource acceleration with the potential to become card-draw is a powerful ability nonetheless.
Blood of Luthien
The next card that I want to look at is Tale of Tinuviel. Thematically, this is another card clearly designer to go with Arwen, although in practice, you may find that Glorfindel or Galadriel are better triggers. For a cost of one, this card allows you to exhaust a Noldor to Ready a Dunedain, or vice-versa. In the core set, we had a card that allowed you to swap one hero for one without the trait benefit, so if this was all it said, you probably wouldn’t give this card much more thought. However, the icing on the cake here is that you get to add the willpower of the character you exhausted to the willpower, attack and defence of the readied character until the end of the phase.
Let’s walk through this in practice, to see just how powerful it can be:
Scenario 1: I have quested with all 3 heroes in my Glorfindel/Arwen/Elrond deck. Glorfindel is still ready thanks to Light of Valinor. The other player in the game is running a Dunedain deck with Tactics Aragorn, Amarthiul and Halbarad. Naturally the enemies are gravitating to the other side of the table, but this round we’re looking a bit swamped.
If I take an enemy, I either need to take it undefended, or block with Glorfindel, neither of which will do me much good: Glorfindel can swing back, but only for 3, which is unlikely to do much damage.
Realising I will not be able to deal with the enemy, the Dunedain player engages it, along with two they were previously fighting: the first 2 are blocked comfortably, but the newcomer has 5 attack, which is going to make a big hole in Aragorn.
After Aragorn is declared as a defender, I Play Tale of Tinuviel: Glorfindel, who would otherwise be sat twiddling his thumbs is exhausted, and Aragorn readies up. With +3 defence, Aragorn is able to resist the onslaught, then swing back for 6 (+ any weapons or other boosts he may already have).
Scenario 2: We are hard-pressed questing through the early stages of the game – I have not managed to draw Nenya, and whilst it’s nice being able to manage threat, being a hero light for questing is a struggle.
Add Tale of Tinuviel to the equation, and the picture changes. By exhausting Galadriel to play the card, I can effectively add her willpower to the quest for a +4. Throw in the readying effect and where previously I might have felt the need to hold him back for combat, I can quest with him, knowing he will still be on his feet when the arrows start flying- that’s an overall +6 I’ve added to the quest thanks to this one-cost card.
Scenario 3: When you queue up the multi-card combinations, it’s possible for this to get silly: Core-Set Aragorn, complete with Celebrian’s Stone has quested for 4 and paid his resource to ready up. Galadriel was standing by to boost him if needed, but we cleared the quest, and she wasn’t needed. All that’s left is to smash the end-of-quest monster to win, an enemy that is currently engaged with the player controlling Glorfindel. Unfortunately, Glorfindel was exhausted by a treachery during staging.
Galadriel exhausts, and uses Nenya to boost Aragron’s willpower to 8. He then plays Tale of Tinuviel to ready Glorfindel, giving +8 to all his stats, for 11 willpower, 11 attack, 9 defence. The Glorfindel player then plays Fair and Perilous, to give Glorfindel a monstrous 22 attack, smashing aside the enemy for the win…
Ok, so that last one was a bit far-fetched, and may be a case of my inner Pippin getting carried away, but I think it still shows the potential for these cards. Indeed, the only shame is that the song about the fate of the poor Elf-Maid who gave her heart to a mortal doesn’t work better with Arwen.
It’s worth making a passing mention of the Silver Harp, a card which appeared together with Erestor, but also has a place in an Arwen deck. As noted above, Arwen can ditch cards to gain resources, and there are some cards which you want to end up in the discard pile, but if you don’t have Elven Light or Lords of the Eldar to hand, then burning through cards can be a big cost. The Silver Harp allows to “discard” cards to trigger effects, but keep them in hand. The effect isn’t that exciting, but over the course of a longish game, it can make a major difference to the number of cards you have in hand, and give a lot more power to something like Protector of Lorien.
Overall, I think Arwen is a good card, she feels thematic, balanced, and appropriately powered. I’ve already used her in a couple of different decks, including the deck FFG provided on their website with her brothers, and an attempt of my own with Glorfindel and Elrond (like most of my decks, this one currently weighs in at about 63 cards…)
Despite all that though, it’s always fun to think where the card-pool could go next. As it’s been a while since I offered a proper custom-card, I thought this would be a good moment to add in some key elements from the Tale of Arwen and Aragorn. The last one is a bit wordy, but I hope you find the ideas interesting…