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Greetings from Minas Morgul! Today, we will sail forth on a tale of woe to the Free Peoples (FP) as we look at the strengths and weaknesses of the new sub-culture of Raiders introduced in Siege of Gondor, that of the Corsairs. I’ll start off with a look at their strengths, move onto their main weaknesses, and conclude with some strategy notes.
First, let’s hoist the mainsail and look at the strengths of the Corsairs. Their power lies in two parts: recyclability and possessions. How they acquire this power is through the use of tokens. Just about all of the Corsairs have game text which will allow the addition of Raider tokens, which are then used to be placed on a Raider card that already has a Raider token on it:
1. Castamir of Umbar: Peter Jackson himself is the key figure in the Corsairs. At 7 cost, 14 strength, and 4 vitality, he is an impressive minion, especially considering that he is Enduring and Fierce! His true power lies in that he can exert to play another Corsair to put out two tokens. Thus, by using this ability, you make him even stronger with his Enduring trait. He also can effectively double token production from other Corsairs.
2. Corsair Lookout: The weakest of the Corsairs costs a mere one twilight, has one vitality, and strength of 5. When you play him and you have initiative, you can discard an ally to add two tokens. Note: He requires you to have initiative (and is the only Corsair to require this) in order for you to get tokens, but the Corsairs, as we will see later, gain initiative very easily, and this cheap minion can get rid of key ally figures such as Thrarin, Elrond, and Galadriel.
3. Corsair Plunderer: The next weakest Corsair doubles the cost and vitality of his lesser colleague at two and has a strength of six. This minion, when played, allows the discard of two cards to add two tokens. This minion is good if you’re stuck with cards you’d rather not have at the moment, so that they clear up space for drawing of cards when the Shadow player reconciles.
4. Corsair Buccaneer: This three-cost Corsair has two vitality and eight strength, who, when played, allows the removal of a threat to add two tokens. I generally find that the FP’s player generally adds enough threats that I don’t need to play threat adders (cards, other than sites, that add threats) in order to take advantage of this Corsair’s game text.
5. Corsair Freebooter: This Corsair is very similar to the Buccaneer above in that it shares the same stats of the Buccaneer. Its game text differs in that it allows removal of two culture tokens to get two Raider tokens. His ability is useful in stripping FP conditions that add tokens, such as Noble Leaders. All the hard work of the FP’s player to get those tokens on a condition can be easily undone with this Corsair.
6. Corsair Marauder: We come now to the second most popular Corsair. This minion costs four, has two vitality, and a strength of 9. His popularity arises from his ability that when played and can spot another Corsair, he can discard a possession to add two tokens. This is huge in that it can target any possession, and gets rid of it during the Shadow phase!
Now that we know how to get tokens, where do we put them? Well that brings us to the first main strength of the Corsairs: possessions. Most of the Corsair possessions place a token on themselves when played, so you will be able to immediately be able to spot that token for when you start sallying forth your Corsairs for tokens. Let’s take a look at these possessions and what they can do for us:
1. Corsair War Galley: This one-cost condition plays to the Support Area and puts a token on itself. While you can spot six Raider tokens and a Raider man, the Shadow player has initiative. During the Regroup phase, it can be discarded to add a twilight for each token you can spot. Note very well, as this is extremely important, nowhere, for either function, does it require that the tokens be on this possession!!! So, you can load up another possession with tokens and still gain the benefits! Note also the difference between this and Harsh Tongues (ignoring token requirements): Harsh gives initiative unconditionally, while the War Galley requires spotting a Raider man. For the most part, one doesn’t need initiative prior to the Shadow phase, so generally this is not a problem, and the Galley is far more versatile, in that it can be burned (discarded) to add twilight during the Regroup.
2. Black Sails of Umbar: This is a two-cost possession that plays to the Support Area and puts a token on itself. This possession allows itself to be discarded, during the Shadow phase, to play a Corsair from your discard pile at –X where X is the number of tokens on it. This can be used to get a free minion or at least a minion at reduced cost. There are few things better in the game than a free Castamir!
3. Ships of Great Draught: This two-cost possession, like the previous two, plays to the Support Area, but does not add a token to it when played. During the Shadow phase, you can remove a threat or discard a Raider card from hand to add a token to the card. During Regroup, you can remove two tokens from the possession to place a Raider card from your discard pile on top of your draw deck. This card is truly a great recycling engine! Just place a single token on it and the other Corsairs should be able to keep filling it with tokens. During the Regroup phase, burn the tokens to get a Raider card that you used previously, such as Fierce in Despair or Discovered.
Now that we have covered the possessions that one can stack tokens on it, you may be wondering why I list these as strengths. The reason is very simple – they ARE possessions, so thus difficult to get rid of. Contrast that to say the Raiders of previous sets, which relied on conditions. The cards that are able to remove conditions makes quite a long list indeed, while those cards able to remove possessions makes a very short list. Thus, the three ships (as they are locally known as) have staying power that was missing in previous sets for Raiders or just about any Shadow culture. Prior to Siege, the only way for the Shadow player to achieve permanent transfer of initiative was through the use of conditions, which are easily knocked down in today’s environment. Not so with possessions!
This brings us to the second strength of the Corsairs, and that is recycling ability. As mentioned previously, the Ships of Great Draught can bring back any Raider culture card. Black Sails can pull any Corsair minion from the discard pile at a reduced cost. Ships of Great Draught, though, is truly the powerhouse of the recycling ability of the Corsairs, since it can pull any Raider card back from the discard pile and doesn’t discard itself. After getting one token on it, it is quite easy to load it up and use it over and over again.
The Corsairs also benefit from having initiative. As I showed earlier, it is very easy for them to get initiative with the War Galley, and they have three cards that specifically benefit them from having initiative (outside of the previously mentioned Corsair Lookout):
1. Corsair Ballista: This zero-cost possession plays on a Corsair to give a +2 strength bonus. If the Shadow player has initiative, the bearer is also fierce and an archer. All this at zero cost and achieving initiative!
2. Black Numenorean: This six-cost fierce minion has a strength of 12 and three vitality. If you have initiative, though, one can remove Raider tokens to discard possessions borne by those he is skirmishing. So, if you can't find your Marauders to burn the FP player’s possessions, use the Numenorean instead.
3. Wind That Sped Ships: This is the only Corsair-specific pump (card that adds strength), but what a pump! It spots tokens and gives a +1 bonus for each one, up to six. What’s more is that if you have initiative, you can place it on top of your draw deck. Thus, it recycles itself! A great boon indeed!
The Corsairs also have the advantage that they are a subset of the Raider culture, so any card that can be used by Raiders can be used by them, so Whirling Strike, Red Wrath, Fierce In Despair, Discovered, etc. are good choices for inclusions in a deck. New Strength came now is also an excellent choice, since it gives a +6 bonus to any Raider when you have initiative. With Ships of Great Draught, you can keep cycling them over and over again!
We come now to the banes of the Corsairs. Like all Raiders (except for the Easterlings), they have no wound prevention mechanism or healing. So, any direct wounding (ex. Don’t Look At Them, Defend It and Hope) of a Corsair generally can’t be prevented. While there are methods to remove most methods of wounding/exerting them (bows and horses can be discarded, conditions can be removed with Discovered), nothing can be done about those wounds if it occurs through some mechanism outside of possessions and conditions (ex. Pippin, Wearer of Black and Silver, Legolas, Greenleaf). Their strength of possessions is also a weakness, as well, due to the fact that it is the possessions that grant them most of their power. While there are few methods of removing Shadow possessions and are rarely encountered, but when they are, they can cause serious problems for the Corsairs. Two examples of cards that can destroy possessions are Arrow Slits and Roll of Thunder. Roll of Thunder can be particularly nasty as it can be recycled with Barliman Butterbur.
We now come to some strategy notes that I think you will find useful. One of the key cards is the Castamir of Umbar. By exerting him and playing a Corsair, you get an additional two tokens than if you played the 2nd Corsair by himself. Also, by exerting him, he becomes more powerful, thanks to his Enduring trait. The main ship that you want tokens on is Ships of Great Draught, since that is the main recycling engine that you will use. The Corsair War Galley only needs to spot tokens, not necessarily have tokens on it, in order to use its ability. Black Sails should have no more than seven tokens on it, since you must discard it for effect. Note however, that these tokens are Raider tokens and do not work like the Drakh Chaos tokens in that they can’t be transferred from one card to another without the use of another card. This is where the Corsair Freebooter can come in handy because his text is to remove two culture tokens and place two Raider tokens on another card. Thus, one can use his text to say remove tokens off a War Galley and place two on Ships of Great Draught. The War Galley is something you will cycle again and again, so don’t be placing more tokens on it than necessary. (Ideally, you would not put any tokens on it other than the one that it receives when it comes into play.) Why will you be cycling it over and over again? For Fierce In Despair (FID), of course! This Raider card gets rid of a companion (except the Ring-bearer) during the Regroup phase for the mere cost of 7 twilight and spotting two Raider minions. You can always be guaranteed of having that twilight with the War Galley. Then cycle both cards on top of your draw deck with the expenditure of four tokens off of Ships of Great Draught. The order of targeting for Fierce should be as follows:
1. Starting companions
2. Heavily loaded companions or annoying companions
3. Expensive companions
4. Anybody else
Why do I have starting companions listed as the primary targets? This is because players normally do not stock companions to throw away for healing. Companions in the deck are generally for bringing into play. Since starting companions, by their very definition, come into play at the start of the game, it is highly unlikely that the FP’s player will be stocking extra copies of that companion. Ex. A Trust Me deck is going to start with Gandalf, and most likely not going to have extra copies of him. If you get rid of Gandalf, you’ve effectively shut down the deck. As secondary targets, I have listed heavily loaded companions (carrying lots of possessions/artifacts/conditions) or annoying companions (companions whose game text is just annoying to face (ex. Greenleaf, Dauntless Hunter)). When a companion is discarded, all cards on him/her are discarded as well. So, tired of facing Eomer with Firefoot, his spear, and lots of other junk on him? Use Fierce In Despair (FID) and you’ve gotten rid of all those cards and then cycle back the FID to use again later. Expensive companions are listed as my tertiary targets since if they are brought back into play, they will give you a bunch of twilight. One companion that I will not use FID against is Smeagol, since Smeagol has always been designed to be discarded and played again on a later turn. Thus, it is a waste of time to be discarding Smeagol; target someone who isn’t designed to be cycled over and over again, like Sam (if facing A Promise deck), Legolas (if facing a Dauntless Hunter deck), and Gandalf (if facing a Trust Me deck).
When facing a Gondor wraith deck, the key to defeating them is Swept Away. This condition is what gives the wraiths their power, but the Corsairs have two ways to defeat this stratagem. The first way is to simply use Discovered to destroy the condition (and cycle it as often as needed with Ships of Great Draught). The second is far simpler: Swept Away only works while the FP’s player has initiative, so use the Corsair War Galley to gain initiative. As shown above, it is easy to get the tokens that the War Galley requires for you to gain initiative. Then, just defeat the exhausted minions and they will die just as any regular companion would.
Well, this brings us to the end of yet another my lectures. By careful application of the knowledge divulged to you, you too can know the power of pillaging the Free Peoples and capturing the One Ring! Until next time, I bid you farewell from Minas Morgul!
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