Greetings from Minas Morgul! As we await the arrival of the new Nazgul cards with Ents of Fangorn, I will teach you of the power of the cards in Battle of Helm’s Deep (BoHD) which both aid and hurt the would-be corrupter. I will start my discourse with the cards that aid the corrupter, followed by those that cause difficulties for those strategies, and finish off with some concluding remarks about strategy.
First, let’s look at those cards which can aid the would-be corrupter:
1. Gollum, Stinker – This two-twilight costing minion is a mighty boon to the corrupter! For a strength of 5 and vitality of 4, he does not seem to hold much promise, but upon looking at his game-text, we find his true strength: he is strength +1 for each burden the ring-bearer has. It
gets better when we realize that he adds a burden each time he wins a skirmish. All this, plus his home site is three! With his vitality of 4, he can absorb three wounds in the archery phase and still fight, protecting other important minions, whom you may need to exert to get a special ability.
2. Look At Him – This zero-costing event adds 1 twilight to the pool for each burden if you can spot Gollum or Smeagol. Thus, this event can add twilight even if you are not playing with Gollum, as long as your opponent is playing with Smeagol. I find this to be a late-game card, as
that is when the Ring-bearer is usually close to being corrupted. With the advent of Standard Format, the twilight-denial cards are less prevalent, and thus, I tend to not use this card, as I am finding myself with plenty of twilight already.
3. Evil-Smelling Fens – This one cost condition converts all sites to marshes. Not great in and of itself, but it does have a secondary application in that during the Shadow phase, being that one can exert Gollum twice and discard the condition to play a minion from your discard pile. Personally, I don’t feel that this card is of much use, since unless you are playing a Tentacle deck (tentacles plus the Watcher In The Water), this card is requires too much to get a single minion, due to the fact if the Free People player uses something akin to Defend It And Hope,
Baruk Khazad, or even directed archery, it would be quite possible to lose Gollum prematurely.
4. We Must Have It – Now, here is a card that complements the Gollum-corruption strategy well. It is a zero-costing event that can be used to either play Gollum during the Shadow phase from your discard pile or draw deck or during a skirmish, add +3 to his strength during the skirmish
by discarding a card at random. This card goes well since with four copies of this card and four copies of Stinker, it is possible for the opponent to face Gollum up to eight times, which could potentially mean an additional eight burdens! Or when you need to overwhelm that companion
and need a little strength boost, you’ll be able to use this card to get that effect.
5. Smeagol (either version) – Believe it or not, your opponent may aid you in your attempts to corrupt the Ring-bearer. When either Smeagol is played, he adds a burden. Since he is Ring-bound, the opponent may be using Frodo, Tired Traveller, to deal with the burden, but if he is
not, that is one more step to reaching what I call the “threshold”, which I will discuss later.
Smeagol, Slinker is definitely a boon in your strategy, due to the fact that during a skirmish, he can add a burden to be +2 strength and take no wounds. The more time the Free Peoples player is forced to use his special ability, the better it is for you, so if you have a chance for taking out a companion due to some ability such as Ulaire Enquea, spare Smeagol! If the Free Peoples player has fewer companions to fend off your minions, the more times Slinker will go face minions for the team and hence, his ability will be used more frequently.
6. Eye of Barad-Dur – This zero-costing Sauron event is able to add two burdens if the Free People player uses some method of looking at your hand, for the mere cost of discarding the Eye. Since Sting (from Fellowship) is not allowed in Standard format, this card has lost a great
deal of usefulness. If, however, you are still playing in mainly Open format games, its inclusion will be a great boon unto you, since it is rare that a game goes by without the Free Peoples player playing Sting and using it to look at your hand.
Now, let’s look at the cards in BoHD that cause difficulties for our stratagem:
1. No Help For It – This zero-costing Free Peoples player event lets the opponent spot Sam and discard either Gollum or Smeagol to remove three burdens. This card is almost strictly a Frodo/Sam/Smeagol deck card, but can hamper us in ways beyond removing the burdens; since Gollum will likely live to the Regroup phase, there is a high probability of the opponent discarding Gollum during the Regroup phase, as opposed to Smeagol. There is only one way around this card, get rid of Sam! Do not waste your efforts on getting rid of Smeagol; he is of more use to us being around than gone.
2. Rare Good Ballast – This one cost condition plays on Sam to add one vitality, but can be used to discard Gollum or Smeagol in the Regroup phase to cancel a special ability used during that phase. The main threat here is that it is quite likely the opponent will discard Gollum, and then
double move, thinking himself safe from another attack of Gollum. To avoid this complication, kill Sam or perform no Regroup phase actions that could possibly get Gollum removed.
3. Sting, Baggins Heirloom – This new version of Sting allows Frodo to exert to either increase Smeagol’s strength by 2 or decrease Gollum’s strength by 2. With the Fellowship version of Sting now outside of major tournament formats, this version is seeing more use. The main threat
is that it can be used to reduce Gollum’s strength to the point that can be defeated in a skirmish, or worse yet, overwhelmed. The only way to avoid this is to make either the Ring bearer exhausted, or better yet, discard Sting with one of the myriad of cards that discard Free Peoples possessions.
Now that I’ve covered the cards in BoHD that can both aid and confound our attempts at corruption, let us move on to some strategy. Gollum, Stinker is an excellent addition to any corruption stratagem, whether it be Raider, Sauron, or Nazgul. Especially for Nazgul, he helps you reach the “threshold”. By “threshold”, I am referring to the number of burdens to get a special effect, or allow a special ability to be used. It varies from culture to culture as to what the exact value is for the “threshold”. For example, with the Nine, the “threshold” is five, thus enabling all of the Nine’s special abilities to be used. At five burdens, Ulaire Enquea, Lieutenant of Morgul, is able to exert to wound companions, irregardless of how many companions are actually in play. At five burdens, Ulaire Enquea, Ringwraith in Twilight, is able to wound the Ring-bearer twice instead of once each time he wins. At four, Ulaire Toldea is now able to be assigned by you to anyone but the Ring-bearer, rather than the Free Peoples player assigning Toldea. Thus, anything which helps me to reach that “threshold” is a boon, and Stinker is most definitely a boon to my deck.
When faced with a Smeagol deck, it is highly likely that you will see all three of the detrimental cards mentioned earlier. The key thing to remember when facing that deck type is to stick to your standard operating procedure: Sam must be removed. The Smeagol deck relies heavily on the Frodo/Sam/Smeagol trio, and while the deck can recover easily from a loss of Smeagol (and is actually designed to recycle Smeagol many a time), it crumbles to dust when Sam is permanently out of the picture. As always, Sam must go at the earliest possible opportunity. When facing my deck, my opponent usually reaches the “threshold” quite quickly, thus enabling me to use either Toldea to run Sam down or use Enquea to gun him down (assuming he’s been worn down a bit).
Well, this brings me to the end of yet another lecture on the virtues of corruption. Study my words well, and you too will know the joys of corrupting your opponent. Until next time, fare thee well from the halls of Minas Morgul!
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