About midway through The Hobbit novel, the characters find themselves in need of rest and in need of shelter. Something that has become increasingly difficult for the main characters. As they approach a home near the eves of Mirkwood (by the suggestion of Gandalf) emphasis is placed on how they introduce themselves and that they keep their manners in check. Entering through a garden filled with various animals and giant bees, the party of dwarves, Gandalf, and Bilbo find themselves in the home of Beorn, a loud, large, and boisterous man who is the last of the skin-changers and who’s home is the last true shelter before Mirkwood forest. Despite Beorn’s gruff exterior he is shown to have a kind heart, particular towards creatures though throughout their time in Beorn’s home, the dwarves and Bilbo are repeatedly reminded by Gandalf to not leave the house at night. Gandalf’s cryptic warnings aren’t truly realized until later on in the novel where Beorn changes into a giant bear, laying waste to a great many Goblins in the Battle of the Five Armies.
Beorn is a hero belonging to the Tactics Sphere. Placing more of an emphasis on his wrathful bear form than his man form, the card portrays Beorn as a ferocious predator, paying little heed to his own defense so that he may better take down his enemies. His card is certainly thematic and does a good job of making sure this otherwise unstoppable force is playable without being overpowered.
To start things off Beorn comes in at a threat cost of 12, which isn’t too bad considering how much damage he can do. His stats read 0/5/1 and he has a whopping 10 hit points. His willpower of 0 is fair considering in bear form he is pretty narrow-minded and only has one real goal in mind. He has no time for questing and would rather see those who would harm others be eliminated. He has an impressive attack strength of 5 which most of the characters/allies in the carpool can only obtain through combos with other cards. His defense of 1 is, in my opinion, a balance between staying with the theme and keeping Beorn from being “broken.” On the one hand, I always got the sense that Beorn would have little trouble dealing with bows and arrows and even the occasional sword, since his bear form isn’t necessarily an exact copy of a normal bear. On the other hand, if Beorn had a higher defense then he would definitely be overpowered and that seems to be something that most fans of this game (thankfully) wish to stay away from. Now let’s get to his card text, which reads as:
“Sentinel. Cannot have attachments// Immune to Player Card Effects// Beorn does not exhaust to defend.”
Beorn’s card text is probably some of my favorite in terms of taking a character’s nature and applying it to the card game. Having the Sentinel trait means Beorn can more than easily defend for the other weaker characters on the board, whether they be allies or heroes. His inability to take on attachments and interact with player cards provides some necessary drawbacks to this very powerful hero. In terms of the card game this means that Beorn has no way of increasing his meager defense or removing any of the damage he is accumulating. His last line, “does not exhaust to defend” gives any player controlling Beorn more of a reason to throw him in front of enemies and again, keeping in theme with the character.
Needless to say, it is apparent that I really like Beorn the Hero. The first time I built a deck around him was a mono tactics deck consisting of Beorn, Legolas, and Eomer. The deck was full of attachments like Rohan Warhorse and Blade of Gondolin and was my attempt at making sure this one sided deck could provide some progress on the board. Despite the fact that it didn’t do too well on the quests as a whole, it was still a blast to play, particularly because I was able to smack back at most of my enemies with a giant ferocious bear. I mean, who doesn’t like that?
As I mentioned, Beorn has no way of healing himself, so there’s always the threat that he can perish in a quest, which again makes sense given his character. There are ways to get around this and chief among them is the ally that thankfully belongs to the same sphere, Landroval. This giant eagle is a 5-cost tactics ally with a stat block of 1/3/1 and 4 hit points. He has the eagle trait and reads:
“Sentinel. Landroval cannot have restricted attachments.// Response. After a hero card is destroyed, return Landroval to his owner’s hand to put that hero back into play, with 1 damage token on it. (Limit once per round.)”
Landroval’s ability, as a side note, is thematically juicy. Landroval and his brother Gwaihir were said to have helped Thorondor rescue Beren and Luthien, two very prominent heroes in Tolkien lore and the fact that this translates into his card form is excellent! To my knowledge Landroval is one of the only ways to “heal” Beorn. Landroval’s cost of 5 isn’t too much of a detriment as any player controlling Beorn will probably have him on the board for a little bit before he starts taking near fatal damage. At that point they should have accumulated enough resources to have Landroval in play and ready to swoop Beorn up should he fall in battle. The fact that an eagle, a creature that Beorn respected greatly, is one of the few cards in the game that can bring him back makes it all the more thematic and rewarding as a player and fan of Lord of the Rings.
Beorn can fit in a few different deck/hero combinations, this in part to him being able to naturally carry out what Tactics aligned cards want to do without any other card interactions. Say you want do do a questing/attacking deck, you could easily use two heroes such as Eowyn and Spirit Glorfindel provide some very decent questing willpower. Having access to spirit means you can keep manage your threat and only bring down the enemies you want. Newer cards such as Ride them Down from the recently released Antlered Crown could also manage the staging area. Beorn also does well in a mono tactics deck, though threat will become an issue, and will definitely take care of most enemies. This is a rather fun build and the amount of damage you can deal per turn can get pretty extreme. Another deck archetype Beorn could fit well in would be a support role. Other heroes such as Beregond who do a great job of defending can assist Beorn in making sure the other players at the table don’t have to worry about an enemy whatsoever.
It seems recently there aren’t too many decks that include Beorn, and that could simply be due in part to all the well designed Heroes that have come out recently. It remains clear to me however, that Beorn is a good, trustworthy hero to play with and should the quest end poorly you’ll at least have fun in the process.
What do you think of Beorn? Do you still consider him while building decks and is he in any of your current builds? Do you think he is still useful or has he been “replaced” by any of the newer heroes?
-The Secondhand Took