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Take Sting for example. It plays on Frodo (whom you have to play anyway),
making him harder to overwhelm and giving you a source of Twilight denial
as well as a way to check you opponent's hand for Savagery and Enduring
Let's take utility cards a little further, though, and discuss a certain
type of them I call Splash cards - utility cards that don't need other
cards from their culture in order to work well in a deck. Sting
isn't a splash card, see, because it requires Frodo.
There are quite a few obviously splashable cards. If you haven't thought of
any of these, it doesn't make you an idiot - the metagame makes certain
strategies popular regionally, and thus certain cards popular. You simply
might not have encountered an environment where a particular card has a
use. Anyway, check these out.
There's Thrarin, Orophin, and Rumil - all three great allies that don't
require any other card for them to be played (you don't have to spot a
dwarf to play Thrarin, for example). Thrarin can be used as a chump blocker
anywhere, and the two elves can shoot a volley of targeted arrows before
you get to Site 6 (where you will often use them as sacrificial lambs as
well). Any of them are helpful, and all three have enabled a lot of
Fellowships to move from Site 4 to Site 6 - past the Balrog and into a
Of course now their imminent demises powers up the Uruk Raider, so watch out.
Speaking of the Balrog - the common version is a great Splash card. He
punishes most archery decks, and can give you a Fierce heavy-hitter at Site
5 when you might not otherwise have one. Trouble with the Hog is that by
now most players are ready for him (see Thrarin, above, for instance).
Which brings us to the Tower Assassin. He's expensive, but what a great way
to kill off Thrarin or Filibert or whatever ally's pestering you. And if
you're playing Uruks or Moria, your opponent might not see him coming.
Finally, check out Ulaire Enquea. With a couple copies of the non-twilight
version of him tossed in, you can cripple any player who puts a sixth
companion into play or who somehow creeps up to five burdens.
Now, how about some less obvious Splash cards?
For me, I love the Isengard Smith. Play him at the same time you play a
heavy-hitter. Often you can because he's relatively cheap. Watch your
opponent try to figure out how to strip the Smith of his vitality while at
the same time holding off the smack down. Over the course of a game,
multiple Smiths played with multiple heavy-hitters will take a toll. I like
Ulaire Cantea with the Smith as a back-up. Good-bye, Flaming Brand.
In my meta game right now, Moria's the most popular Shadow. And I'm sick of
hearing, ´´I'll pitch three cards to play a Scavenger from my discard using
They Are Coming. Then I'll play a Scimitar, add three Twilight from my
Armories and draw a card.´´
So I started playing Betrayal of Isengard. Every Betrayal counters an
Armory. No Gandalf (or Sleep Caradhras) required. And if I do
play Gandalf, then I also have an effective counter to Saruman (who now
pops up in the 2nd most popular local Shadow strategy).
Have you ever played Moria, laid out a bunch of orcs, piled them all on
Frodo and then watched them all die to PATHS? Goblin Armories won't save
them all. Saruman's Snows will. Watch your opponent's jaw drop after you
play your swarm, then top it all off with a Uruk Savage and a Saruman's
I know Snows requires another card from Isengard culture, so it doesn't
exactly fit my definition of a Splash card. So sue me. It's my definition -
I can bend it all I want.
Along those same lines comes my favorite Splash card: Hate.
Consider this: your opponent's been seeing you play a bunch of Moria orcs.
He's worried about Frodo getting swarmed, so he exhausts Greenleaf to pick
off some goblins. Or he's worried about those burdens you've been laying on
Frodo, so he exhausts Sam to remove them. Or you manage to get Aragorn down
to two vitality with your Uruks and then your opponent plays Armor - so now
Aragorn can take on Lurtz and not die.
Then, out of nowhere you play an Orc Assassin and a Hate. You get the picture.
Here's the coolest two things about Splash cards - I'll say this and then
I'll sign off: They're great because you can use them to cover holes in
your strategy without using too much deck space. And 9 times out of 10,
your opponent just won't see them coming.
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