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CardShark Content - Glenn Sutton (10/25/2003)

Greetings from high atop Minas Morgul! As we prepare for the assault on Minas Tirith, let’s review the enhancements in the methods of corruption that Ents of Fangorn (EoF) has brought to us. I will then continue with an analysis of the methods the Free Peoples (FP) have obtained in resisting our power. I will conclude with some strategic notes for the would-be corrupter.

First, let’s take a look at the new weapons of corruption that Ents has brought unto us:

1. Gollum, Old Villain: This new incarnation of Gollum is easily pumped up in strength from his starting strength of 5 by discarding cards from hand; he gains +1 when skirmishing an unbound companion (or +2 against a Ring-bound companion) for each card discarded the skirmish. Note that while this makes it easier for him to win skirmishes, there is no extra benefit for winning the skirmish other than wounding the losing companion (as opposed to Gollum, Stinker). Personally, I find it hard to turn down Stinker as the version of Gollum to win, because with Old Villain, you need to be willing to burn lots of cards in order to see a real benefit other than win the skirmish (i.e. overwhelming), and thus you’ve got to be willing to throw lots of cards away just for pumping. That way leads to madness, as one builds a deck for efficiency, not for cards to burned for pumping up in a skirmish.

2. Nasty, Foul Hobbitses: This zero cost response event adds a burden if Gollum wins a skirmish. While in theory this could be used in conjunction with Gollum, Old Villain, it requires a two-card combo, as opposed to Stinker, who does it naturally each time he wins. Now, would I use this card with Stinker? No, for this reason: it again requires a two-card combo and why lose some deck efficiency with my deck by adding in a card that basically replicates Stinker’s ability? Sure, it would be two burdens (or more, if I had multiple copies in hand when Stinker wins), but how likely is that to occur? I would dare say not likely at all.

3. You’re A Liar And A Thief: This zero cost response event is similar to Nasty, Foul Hobbitses, with the result of wounding a companion (except the Ring-bearer) each time Gollum wins a skirmish. While this sounds nice, it suffers from the same drawbacks that Nasty, Foul Hobbitses has, in that it is limited use and hurts deck efficiency.

4. Master Broke His Promise: This 5 twilight costing Regroup phase event requires the exertion of Gollum three times to wound every companion and reduce the move limit by 1 for that turn. Avoid this card for the following reasons: it costs too much and is impractical. For five twilight, one can play most of the Nine. It is much better to put out Ulaire Cantea rather than save twilight for this event. Also bear in mind that it requires Gollum to exert three times! Thus, if he gets any wounds on him, this card has been rendered useless! I tend to use Gollum as a pincushion, thus sparing the Nine that I play so that they can exert for effect (ex. Ulaire Cantea’s ability). Thus, I would classify this card as too gimmicky to be of any practical value to the would be corrupter.

5. They Stole It: We come at last to the one good card for Gollum. This one twilight costing condition plays to your support area and allows the wounding of companions skirmishing Gollum. How this is done is by discarding three cards to wound a companion once, or twice if it is a Shire companion. This can be done multiple times during the skirmish, as long as one has the cards to burn for the effect. As with Gollum, Old Villain, this ability is not to be abused recklessly, due to the fact you do have to burn three cards each time. Thus use it very judiciously, for example when fighting a companion near to death, or even fighting a healthy companion with say three vitality, as long as you know you can win the skirmish (you could burn six cards to wound twice and then kill with the skirmish wound). This is indeed a card that I would use with Stinker, due to the fact that if an opposing side is eliminated, that side’s strength drops to zero, which thus lets Stinker to win, therefore adds a burden! I’ve seen people use their condition removal to remove this condition when there were other targets available (such as Weapons of Isengard) during multiplayer!

6. Fell Beast: We start on the first Nazgul card from the set. This zero costing possession adds two to the strength of a Nazgul and makes it fierce for the cost of discarding two cards from hand. This card is indeed a boon for the Twilight Nazgul, since most are not fierce, and it adds a strength boost. This is a fabulous card for the Witch-King, Lord of the Nazgul, since this will guarantee that he will continue to win most skirmishes as well as make him fierce so that his ability can be used multiple times. It is a toss up as to whether to use these instead of Ulaire Otsea, Lieutenant of Morgul, who can exert to make a Nazgul-culture minion fierce (which is the Nine and Bill Ferny). Otsea gives you a minion who can make Nazgul fierce at the expense of his vitality, where as the Fell Beast gives you strength and fierceness for the cost of discarding cards and can be discarded using stuff which removes possessions, such as Arrow Slits.

7. Spied From Above: This 1 twilight cost condition, which plays to the support area, allows the playing of a ringwraith or Sauron culture minion at –8 cost and exerting a Nazgul during the Regroup phase. That minion played also comes into play exhausted. This is not a condition to take seriously, for the following reasons: a) the minion comes into play during the Regroup phase and b) the minion comes into play exhausted. With regards to coming into play during the Regroup phase, all the Free Peoples player has to do to get rid of it is stop moving, since Regroup actions come before deciding whether to move or not. Sure, you can play a free Witch King, but what good is it if the Fellowship decides to end their turn? This problem could be overcome if you had a way to force them to move again (ex. No Retreat). Even if you do get them to move again, we now come to the second flaw of this strategy: the minion comes into play exhausted. All it takes is one directed wound during maneuver (ex. Defend It And Hope) or archery (ex. Legolas, Greenleaf) and the minion does not live to fight during the skirmish phase. So give no thought as to using this, as it is far too unlikely to ever be useful.

8. Sword of Dol Goldur: This 2 twilight costing possession is Ulaire Toldea’s sword. While it will work with any Nazgul to give +2 strength, it is with Toldea that its ability works best. When wielded by Toldea, and Toldea wins, the sword forces the Free People’s player to pick a possession or condition to discard. I am not wild about this weapon, due to the fact that it is the FP’s player that picks what is to be discarded, as opposed to what you would want to be discarded. Contrast that with The Pale Blade, while less versatile (it only plays on the Witch King), but for the same cost, he is strength +3, damage +1, and can exert to discard a condition of your choice. Or even contrast the Sword of Dol Goldur with your average Nazgul Sword. For 1 less cost, the Nazgul Sword offer the same strength bonus, but makes a Nazgul damage +1 if you can spot 3 or more burdens (which should be just about all the time with a corruption deck). My main point is this sword is not that useful and should be used only as a last resort.

9. Ulaire Lemenya, Winged Hunter: We come to the first of the winged Nine. This four costing minion has two vitality and nine strength. He also has the ability to return a companion (except the Ring-bearer) to opponent’s hand during the Regroup phase by discarding three cards and exerting Lemenya. While arguably better than his Fellowship incarnation, he must be healthy in order to use this ability. Thus one needs to make sure that he isn’t hit with directed archery fire, exerted from a Rohan horse, lose the skirmish, etc. One will be hard pressed indeed to keep Lemenya healthy, but if one can pull it off, the rewards are worth it, as any non-Ring-bearer can be returned to hand during the Regroup phase. In my region, the popularity of Eomer, Third Marshal of the Riddermark, and his cohorts make Lemenya a difficult prospect to pull off, so I would not use this incarnation of Lemenya.

10. Ulaire Nertea, Winged Hunter: This is the second of the winged Nine, who costs four twilight, has two vitality, and nine strength. His special ability is that when he is played and there is already another Nazgul in play, the FP’s player must exert a Ring-bound companion for every FP culture spotted over two. This ability is quite useful against Trust Me decks which use a slew of companions from multiple cultures with the Gandalf signet and Trust Me As You Once Did. Just bear in mind that Nertea must be at least the second Nazgul to come into play; if he is the first Nazgul in play, his game text does not work since you can’t spot another Nazgul when he is played. Keep in mind also that this works on Ring-bound companions only, so the FP’s player may just have to exert Frodo because of Nertea’s game text, which isn’t all that bad, as you may drive Frodo to be putting on the Ring and taking burdens when it comes down to the Witch King, Lord of the Nazgul.

11. Ulaire Toldea, Winged Sentry: We come now to the third of the winged Nine. Toldea costs six twilight, has a strength of 12, vitality of three, fierce, and has game text that states that whenever Toldea wins a skirmish, the FP’s player must exert a companion or add a burden. I am not enamored with this incarnation of Toldea, simply because once again, the FP’s player gets the choice. When your opponent knows you are playing corruption, there is no way they will add a burden, so you will only get a maximum of two exertions (assuming he wins both his skirmishes). I much prefer Ulaire Toldea, Messenger of Morgul (UTMoM) because of his ability: spot four burdens to assign a companion (except the Ring-bearer) to Toldea. Thus I pick who will fight Toldea rather than the FP’s player. This is much better because I can ensure Sam’s (or any weak companion’s) untimely demise with this means.

12. Winged and Ominous: This one twilight costing condition plays to the support area, and allows Nazgul to exert during the Regroup phase to add tokens to it. During the Shadow phase, one can remove three tokens to add two twilight. This is yet another condition that I am not enamored with for the simple reason that I am exchanging vitality of the Nazgul for tokens. In just about all cases, one needs the Nazgul to be healthy so that they can exert for an effect. True, with this condition, you do exert in the Regroup phase, but that makes the choice of the FP’s player of running or staying even easier. What is to fear when the Witch-King or my namesake is exhausted? Plus also the fact that directed wounding prior to the skirmish phase (or even simple archery) could remove the minion if the FP’s player chose to run. Let’s now consider the fact that it is three tokens in exchange for two twilight. The cheapest Nazgul (outside of cost-reduction factors) is four, which means six tokes, which means six exertions! The cost of this card far outweighs any benefit, so use it not!

13. The Witch-King, Deathless Lord: We come now to the fourth and final winged Nazgul. This eight cost minion is 14 in strength, four vitality, and fierce. This incarnation’s ability is that whenever a companion is killed in a skirmish with a Nazgul, you are able to wound an ally twice or exert a companion once. While the card seemingly sounds good, let’s take a closer look. This special ability only kicks in if you kill a companion, not win a skirmish, with a Nazgul. True, many companions do die when faced with the Nine, but not as often as to make the ability practical. On the plus side, you are also able to wound an ally twice. You can kill most allies (and even the Elven allies when they’ve been exerted a time or two) with this ability, but most decks do not rely on allies to save their day (with the exception of Horn of Boromir decks). On the negative side, you can exert, not wound, a companion instead. I am not overly enthusiastic about cards that only exert as opposed to wound companions. True, it makes them easier to kill, but I would rather kill outright than just make a companion exhausted. Thus, I would advise giving this card a pass in favor of the previous incarnations.

14. Corpse Lights: We come to the first of the new Sauron culture minions who can aid our efforts to corrupt the Ring-bearer. This three costing minion is seven strength, two vitality, and is a twilight minion. He can exert to make a twilight minion (i.e. most of the Nazgul you should be playing with) or a Sauron-cultured minion +1 for every twilight minion that can be spotted during a skirmish. In effect, he is a “living” pump for twilight minions. Again, as with Lemenya, he must be healthy in order for this ability to be used. Even if he is healthy, he can only be exerted once (since he has only two vitality), so make sure the exertion is worthwhile.

15. Dead Ones: This one costing, Sauron-cultured minion is damage +1, twilight, but requires either the removal of a burden or spotting a twilight minion. Doesn’t sound too bad does it? Let’s now mention its strength of five. Which means just about everybody can defeat this minion, unless you use a pump to win the skirmish. It also has one vitality. Even if I had four of these in my hand with another twilight minion (so I wouldn’t have to remove a burden), I would be hesitant since they are so weak. The only reason I would ever play with these is if I was fairly certain I could pull off an overwhelm win against the Ring-bearer.

16. Peril: This one cost condition is similar to Spied From Above, but works in conjunction with Sauron orcs. During the Regroup phase, exert a Sauron orc to play a Sauron minion or Ringwraith minion at –4 cost and that minion comes into play exhausted. As with Spied From Above, it suffers from the same problems: Regroup phase entry and coming into play exhausted. Another card to be avoided.

17. Wisp of Pale Sheen: This three cost Sauron minion is eight strength and two vitality. It is also a twilight minion and can be discarded during the Regroup phase if you can spot another twilight minion (or Sauron minion) to add a burden. This is one of the few minions from Ents of Fangorn that I would consider playing with. It has reasonable strength as well as the ability to add a burden, assuming it and a twilight minion (or another Sauron minion) lives to the Regroup phase.

18. Held: This is a FP’s condition that plays on Frodo. Whenever Frodo is about to die from a wound, he takes a burden instead. When Frodo moves to site nine, he is corrupted, but during any Regroup phase, this condition can be discarded if there are no minions to be spotted. This is a card that you will never see in serious competition. It is far too risky and too gimmicky to actually be used.

19. Don’t Follow The Lights: This is a FP’s response that allows the FP’s player to discard a minion by adding a burden whenever Smeagol wins a skirmish. This is card you might see given the new Smeagol, who can be pumped by discarding cards in addition to the other methods (ex. Sting, Baggins Heirloom). While it will add a burden, it is best circumvented by making sure Smeagol doesn’t win. I would rather have a fierce Witch-King and no burden than have a burden added and my Witch-King with Fell Beast discarded. Thus, always make sure Smeagol loses his skirmishes.

Now that we have covered the weapons that will aid in corruption, let us move on to the methods the Free Peoples have obtained in order to confound our efforts:

1. Don’t Look At Them: This one costing condition plays to the FP’s player support area, and allows him to discard three cards to wound a minion skirmishing Smeagol once (or twice if it is a Ringwraith culture minion). This is the FP’s version of They Stole It. This is potentially the most devastating threat the Fellowship gets with EoF, in that Smeagol, by himself, with a discard of six cards, could do four wounds to a Nazgul, thus killing even the Witch-King himself! Again this does require the discarding of cards, but I believe the Fellowship will feel it worthwhile to discard six cards in order to eliminate a fierce Witch-King.

2. Not Listening: This Gollum-cultured card is a response event that allows the FP’s player to remove two burdens and heal Smeagol each time he wins a skirmish. You will see this often in conjunction with Don’t Follow The Lights, since both can be played as a response to winning a single skirmish. As with Don’t Follow The Lights, make sure Smeagol loses his skirmishes.

3. Perilous Ventures: This free Gondorian Regroup event allows the exertion of two Rangers to discard a minion (or two if they are Ringwraith culture minions). This can be troublesome to our efforts, but fortunately, it only works in the Regroup phase and requires exerting two Rangers, so if there is only one Ranger, or all (or all but one) of them are exhausted, there is nothing to fear from this card.

4. Ever The Hope of Men: This is the Rohan equivalent of Perilous Ventures, stating that one can exert two mounted Rohan companions to discard two wounded minions during the Regroup phase. This is more versatile than Perilous Ventures, since it can remove any two wounded minions (generally not a problem with the horses of Rohan) during the Regroup phase by exerting two mounted Rohirrim. Thus, they could remove the two Wisps of Pale Sheen you were about to discard to add two burdens before you can do so.

5. Hama, Doorwarden of Theoden: This Rohan companion is similar to Ulaire Cantea, in that Hama can exert to discard a possession borne by a minion he will skirmish. Thus he could get rid of any of the Ringwraith weapons or even a Fell Beast. Since Hama is only strength six, but has vitality of three, he is generally a one or two shot companion at best. Thus, it is best to make sure he has an “accident” by overwhelming him (or being damage +1) during the skirmish, so that he discards only one possession at most.

Thus, we have now looked at the weapons of corruption and the Fellowship’s defenses against same that Ents of Fangorn has given us. Keep in mind, would-be corrupter, that your plan must be efficient. Keep in mind that you can’t plan for all contingencies, but plan for ones that you know are common in your area. For example, Rohan is common in my area with Eomer, Third Marshal of the Riddermark as the key component. So I plan accordingly, with methods of getting rid of horses (since Rohan falls apart without their mounts) and I will use They Stole It to its utmost capabilities to remove Eomer or any other companion with a horse (keeping in mind I use Stinker, therefore I add a burden each time he wins), thus enabling the Nine to ride supreme against the mortals! While this may cause me to discard several cards, if it will aid my cause by allowing Stinker to win (by eliminating the companion), it is worth it. I do not let the Fellowship stand against the dark power of Minas Morgul and thusly shall the Ring-bearer shall be corrupted!

We have come yet to another end of a lecture in my continuing series on corruption. Mark my words well, and you, too, shall know the joys of corrupting your opponent. Until next time, when we shall begin the assault on Minas Tirith, fare thee well!

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