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CardShark Content - William Kenyon (8/14/2002)

You probably have quite a few Realms cards by now. If you don't, then let me warn you: be prepared to see a drastic change in how the game is played. So much so that you might have a hard time keeping up.

I've stared at the spoiler and my own little cache of cards for a few days
now, and I think it's safe to make these observations: Before, the most important phase of the game was the Skirmish phase. Most games were won or lost during the Skirmish phase. Often, either the Free People's player left the Skirmish phase with his or her Fellowship decimated, or the Shadow player would see all of his or her minions wiped out or rendered useless. That's the way the Regroup phase could work now.

Now, although the majority of games may still be won or lost during Skirmish, the Regroup phase will determine a lot of victories. Roughly 25 cards out of the new set are Regroup events or have Regroup actions. That's up from exactly SIX in the original set. Add to that a number of cards that have an effect when the company moves - which could be during Fellowship or Regroup.

The majority of these cards are Isengard culture, so look for - and be
prepared for - a new Shadow archetype, one that concentrates on exhausting
your companions then inflicting wounds on them - all during the Regroup phase. Trying to get around this strategy - of cheap minions who DON'T have to win skirmishes, who only have to survive with a couple of vitality intact - will take some adjustment. Especially considering that the best way to counter it is to leave those minions WITHOUT their needed vitality. Especially considering that the best way to do that just got errata (A Ranger's Versatility). And especially considering that some of the best counters to the whole strategy are also Regroup actions and events.

Remember those six cards I mentioned from the first set? Well, at least two of them - Gondor's Vengeance and Pursuit Just Behind, will see a lot of play that they didn't see before, because they are just that - effective counters to all this Regroup stuff.

In the new set itself there are quite a few counters in the Elf culture -
cards like Calaglin, Galdor, and the new Elrond. I wouldn't be surprised if some inventive, aggressive player builds a Free People's strategy that uses Elf culture and Gondor culture cards to exploit the new power of the Regroup phase. I think it'll be harder - a little more rare intensive and slow to build - but it might be effective.

Of course, time will tell what the overall effect of this powerful set will be. And we have a lot of time to watch it develop - it'll be another five and a half months before we start getting wind of what The Two Towers holds.

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