Wow! I didn’t know I had been clamoring for a new Denethor until this piece of Leadership awesomeness was released with the newest AP at this point, Flight of the Stormcaller. This shiny, new, and much older Denethor offers up a surprising amount of deckbuilding options and provides a decent amount of “power” in the right deck. I can’t wait to get started using the Steward(former?) of Gondor, Denethor son of Ecthelion!
Let’s jump right into the lore, shall we? As his full title entails, Denethor was the son of Ecthelion the twenty-fifth steward of Gondor. Before Denethor took up the title, Ecthelion was responsible for growth in some of Gondor’s neighboring regions such as Pelargir, and welcomed many a traveler such as Gandalf and the mysterious man Thorongil. Unfortunately for Ecthelion, he came into Stewardship a few years after Sauron declared himself to the free folk of Gondor. After Ecthelion died it was Denethor who would have to bear the burden of Steward. With strangers wandering in and out of the walls of Minas Tirith, and foes growing in stronger in dark corners Denethor certainly had is work cut out for him.
Though by the time we the readers meet Denethor it is apparent Minas Tirith, and the nation of Gondor in general, is on a downward path it isn’t fair to say that Denethor didn’t have good/honest intentions. His only real blunder would be his mistrust of Gandalf and the stranger Thorongil (later revealed to be an alias of Aragorn’s). Once Denethor took up the Stewardship, these individuals, as well as many other friends of Gondor I can assume, were less welcome and their counsel went unheard. So it was that Denethor took up a lot of the mantle on his own. And who could blame him? There was a lot resting upon him to be accomplished and being a man of great wisdom and strength, who better to take the brunt of it all against the Forces of Shadow. Making use of one of the Palantir, Denethor sought to learn of the Dark Lord Sauron’s plans, his armies movements, and at times even test his own will against him. Denethor began to age prematurely and his two sons, Boromir and Faramir, became more public figures to the people of Gondor. After Boromir fell while a member of the Fellowship and Faramir became wounded trying to reclaim the lands beyond the walls of Minas Tirith, the strain on Denethor reached its peak and he ultimately went mad. In the end he took a wounded Faramir to the tombs where the Stewards and Kings were laid to rest, hoping to burn he and Faramir in a funeral pyre while the forces of Mordor laid siege to the city. Faramir was ultimately saved, thanks to Pippin and a certain “treacherous” soldier of Gondor and Denethor perished, Palantir in hand, on the pyre. It’s a tragic and frankly gruesome end to a character that was otherwise very just and powerful. His character is a great representation as to what Sauron aimed to accomplish within the Free People’s nations outside of just sending his armies to lay waste. Denethor’s character is also a great comparison to Theoden, another King of Men who was able to pull himself away from the influence of the Shadow.
Okay, enough digressing. A lot can be said about Denethor. Whether you think he was a just man that became corrupted by Sauron (in that he drove Denethor mad) or if you think he was naturally a proud and somewhat vain leader who thought he was better than lesser men, it can’t be argued that Denethor was powerful. His two son’s Faramir and Boromir, who show great qualities of Wisdom and Strength respectively, are two halves to Denethor’s whole. So it should be that Denethor represents wisdom and strength as much as possible without crossing the line into Splorfindel territory. So how does he look?
Denethor, in this iteration, represents the Leadership Sphere and starts with only 8 threat. His stat line reads 1/1/3 with 3 hitpoints which is in line with his Lore Counterpart. Where that version focused more on Denethor’s use of the Palantir and his mental battles with Sauron, his leadership version focuses more on… well his skills as a leader and Steward of Gondor. He has two abilities, the first which reads:
“Setup: Add 2 resources to Denethor’s resource pool.”
Though not exactly flashy, that ability alone is enough to make Denethor worthy of consideration when building decks with Leadership. It’s already been pointed out on many a forum and podcast but Denethor can, quite thematically, play Steward of Gondor in the first turn without any other shenanigans and play it on anyone. It’s easy to jump the gun, though, and if you don’t play Steward on Denethor then you will find those initial 3 resources, however helpful they may be to your early turns, puttering out and Denethor quickly becomes a vanilla ally with the Hero trait. Thankfully, that’s where his second ability comes in:
“Action: Move 1 resource from Denethor’s resource pool to another Gondor Hero’s resource pool. (Limit once per round.)”
Depending on your Hero lineup, Denethor essentially replaces the much used ally Errand-Rider. His ability only working on Gondor is only a slight downside except for the fact that his ability to play Steward of Gondor first turn essentially makes any Hero an applicable target for Denethor if you so wish. Putting that aside though, Denethor’s ability makes great use of his starting resources and future ones as well and they can benefit not just your own Heroes but those of your fellow players. The limit once per round clause is hardly a downside and I’m glad to see it to keep Denethor from becoming a bit too powerful.
So what cards work well with our Twenty-Sixth Steward of Gondor? A thematic choice is Leadership Boromir who requires a resource to give his global boost to Gondor allies. Even though she isn’t a great target, Eleanor is another great target since her sphere, the Spirit sphere, is usually starving for resources.
There’s actually quite a few attachments that go well with the Son of Ecthelion. The Steward of Gondor is a no-brainer. One that I’m keen to try out is Heir of Mardil which, when played on the right Hero, essentially changes Denethor’s second ability to read: “Action: Give 1 resource to target Hero’s resource pool. Ready that Hero.” Any of Denethor’s two sons, Faramir and Boromir, can be equipped with the Heir and be able to reap the benefits. Prince Imrahil can get a second form of readying, and so can Eleanor. Again, with Steward of Gondor, any Hero can become the target of Denethor’s ability and with the huge representation of the Noble trait in the game, Heroes like Legolas, Gimli, and Eowyn, can have a readying ability just as reliable as Unexpected Courage. It does get a bit gimmicky, hoping to have both a Steward and Heir in your starting turns, but it can certainly work to your benefit when used correctly.
Two other attachments came to my mind as far as Denethor’s ability is concerned and those would be the ever-awesome Gondorian Fire and Blood of Numenor. Whether they’re placed on another Hero or Denethor himself the two attachments, in conjunction with his ability, easily give a number of Heroes +1 to either stat without much strain on deckbuilding and only get better the more you try and take advantage.
There’s a lot of cards that Denethor can use to his advantage. From his amazing ability and great defensive stats (Gondorian Shield?) to his amazing traits, the number of allies, events, and attachments that can play off of him or enhance him are quite high. I can only recommend giving him a run and seeing just what you can do with him. But before you do that I suggest you take a look and see what the community has made of the Steward:
Chime in below on your thoughts surrounding this newer Denethor. Does he surpass his Lore version from the Core Set days or is his arrival too little too late? As always, thanks for reading!
-The Secondhand Took