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Pathfinder, along with its intriguing counterparts, Speak Friend And Enter and Thror’s Map, is a different category of common altogether. While certainly every player owns a copy, it is rarely seen in tournament play.
Why? Lets take a look at what it requires to play it:
No twilight cost (Not flooding the pool)
A Ranger (Hey I play one of those)
No exertion, just spot (Well that’s good exerting kind of hurts)
But then most players get to the text and since the card requires nothing from them they assume also that they will get nothing out of it. After all, what good is playing my next site anyways? Half the time mine will be on the table anyways, right? Wrong. While your sites may see play on the table at roughly ever other sites, many tier one shadow decks (and the better tier two decks) plan everything from their bid to their typical move patterns to assure that the key sites they need for their deck are the ones in play. So while some of your sites may be on the table, most likely the critical ones for your opponent’s deck will also be there. But Pathfinder changes all that. It takes your opponent’s intricate plans and smashes them, leaving him to quickly improvise a new assault. Your opponent will rarely mess up when playing the game he is familiar with, but a sudden change such as this can cause him to make critical mistakes and have to live without needed resources. To illustrate, let us look at what sites each shadow deck frequently relies on: (Here’s a hint: if your playing against a specific deck these are the sites you will want to play your Pathfinder to call.)
Nazgul – Site 3 Ford Of Brunen – more than any other deck the Nazgul player will often only move once if he goes first or bid to go second, just to get this beauty on the table. It often allows him a powerful minion very early in the game and against a careless player can give him a turn one kill on a surprisingly frequent basis (happened in three different games in the tourney I ran last Saturday… and with different players each time.)
Site 8 – The wide variety of twilight costs printed on site 8 will make a higher cost site such as Gates Of Argonath of great importance to the Nazgul player. Suddenly finding the path to a lower cost site such as Pillars or Anduin Banks can mean one less Nazgul before moving to the end.
Urukhai – Site 4 – Hollin. Like the Nazgul, many good Uruk players are known for trying to ensure their site 4 sees play. After all, who wouldn’t want to have their minions stop roaming one site earlier.
Site 9 – Slopes Of Amon Hen – Urukhai decks have by far the best matching site 9 in the game. The reduced cost for their minions, combined with the high 9 twilight, ensures they will be able to play everything in their hand against you. Moving to site 9 against them is not a task for the faint of heart… unless it happens to be a site 9 of your choice. (Give them Summit some time and watch their easy shadow win evaporate.)
Moria – Site 4 – Any underground, but particularly the Great Chasm. Supporting both Moria archery and a site 4 cave troll, this site is of high importance to the evil swarms.
Site 7 – Anduin Wilderland – Archery can really kill Moria. No archery can all but ensure their quick overwhelming of the ringbearer. (My apologies to Gabe Alonso and his dead Frodo at my Wilderland… it can happen even to the best who wander into the wrong place.)
Site 8 – Shores Of Amon Hen – Stop your opponent from double moving. And nine twilight??? What was Decipher thinking? Apparently they must have intended for site control to be a critical game issue… perhaps explaining why they were so careful to ensure game balance by giving each culture a good method of site control. (Save for the dwarves, but hey they were always consorting with hobbits and wizards in the books. Maybe one of those two would help them find their way.)
Sauron – Often a rogue faction (and a favorite of renegade deckbuilders) these decks are usually very different from one another. However, they often show a strong unity in choice of sites. Site 4 – Moria Lake or Dwarrowdelf Chamber – Many of their cards are all about exerting companions and causing wounds outside of skirmishes so it seems only fitting that their site path would also support this.
Site 7 – Fond of either discarding your allies or preventing your archery, depending often on what their fellowship relies on. Of course, if you can kill those pesky rangers through sheer hate before here, Silverlode Banks may also serve their cause well.
Site 8 – Anduin Banks. More companions to absorb your arrows… more arrows for them to absorb.
Site 9 – Tol Brandir. Nine shadow and three extra minions to help ensure that last minute win.
I often swore by the power of Thror’s Map alone, making sure to put two in every deck I built. The importance of site control certainly has not changed, so why should I stop dedicating at least two slots to seeing that I have it? I think that as the tier one environment responds to the loss of the Map (one of the major things, combined with the loss of Ranger’s Versatility, that has caused a sudden resurgence in the fearsome Nazgul), Pathfinder will find its way into the glory it so richly deserves. After all, why should your rangers only reduce the shadow number and kick major ass… let the champion choose the arena as well.
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