I hope everyone’s summer has been off to a great start! Admittedly this Took has been taking advantage of the warmer weather to focus on friends, family, and other things. With July into its first full week it’s time to jump back into it. This month I cover, Eleanor, Core Set Spirit Hero, FFG-created noblewoman of Gondor, and July’s Hero of the Month!
To say I struggled when picking this month’s Hero is a bit of an understatement. Thus far I’ve been focusing on either the new “hotness” or some favorite Hero of mine with the occasional Hero selected out of my comfort zone. This time around, the difficulty came in the form of the question: “What Heroes can I cover that fit in multiple shells?” I’m sure this is an easy answer for some, but for my deckbuilding style most of the Heroes that jumped to my mind only fit in one or two archetypes. Celeborn is a fantastic leadership Hero, for instance, but only really shines in one, maybe two types of decks. Lanwyn was tempting as she is one of the newer Heroes released thus far but I haven’t had much luck using her yet. I decided, this time, to go back to a Hero from the Core Set and one that I feel remains fairly strong even in today’s meta, Eleanor.
Normally at this point I would take a moment or two to cover a Hero’s background, where they came from and their purpose in the Lord of the Rings. Eleanor is a tricky one since she is not only an FFG-created character for the Lord of the Rings: LCG universe, but she was introduced at a time when character backgrounds were not given to players. These days we get heroes like Rossiel who come with a sheet outlining their history or Amarthiul who we get to see throughout the course of several quests. For Eleanor we are given some flavor text, some fairly beautiful artwork, and a few other potential nods and hints as to who she was. A quick google search brought me to the One Ring Wiki which tried their best to discuss this topic (only they spelled her name Elanor :/). Given the timeframe during which the card game takes place, they estimated that Eleanor was either too old to be a part of the War of the Ring or, if she was born nearer to the end of the game’s timeline she would be in her mid-30s during the novels. From her traits we can guess she is a Noblewoman of Gondor and has something to do with maintaining Gondor’s stability and strength thanks to the flavor text provided for her card:
“Gondor wanes, you say. But Gondor stands, and even the end of its strength is very strong”
This is a quote from Boromir, spoken during the Council of Elrond in response to Galdor who claimed that the last force capable of even being on Sauron’s radar was Gondor, a force that was already weak to the point that it may be too late. Trying to pick what little is in Boromir’s quote, I like to imagine Eleanor being someone who oversees some aspect of the borders of Gondor. Perhaps she is of a noble line that maintains a keep in an outlying region. The scroll she carries leads me to believe she could be a scout or messenger, trying her best to make sure that information can move freely to the right people in Minas Tirith and its surrounding settlements. Also worthy of note is her similarity to another Hero, Caldara, who is also of the same sphere, has the Gondor trait, and only lacks the Nobility of her Core Set “counterpart.” Many theorize and suspect that Caldara and Eleanor have some sort of connection, especially since both of them wear very similar circlets. It’s also been pointed out (thanks to Discord user, Durin’s Father) that both women have scrolls with them, indicating the delivery of messages and information being vital to both characters. Until FFG gives us more, however, Eleanor’s history remains a mystery and one I would like to see a little more of later down the line.
But let’s get to the card itself. Eleanor shares the same Spirit alignment with two other Heroes from the core set. Where Eowyn represented the raw willpower of the sphere and their ability to quest, and Dunhere showed its proficiency in dealing with the staging area, Eleanor portrayed a more defensive and supportive approach. Her 1 Willpower means she won’t be doing a lot of questing and the same can be said for her attacking abilities as well. Having 2 defense and 3 hit points isn’t bad and thanks to some cards in the current pool, Eleanor can be a decent defender. Her low threat means she can also keep the player controlling her from drawing the attention of dark forces. Most importantly, however, is her ability which reads:
“Response: Exhaust Eleanor to cancel the “when revealed” effects of a treachery card just revealed by the encounter deck. Then, discard that card, and replace it with the next card from the encounter deck.”
Minus a couple little wording differences Eleanor represents a reliable, slightly weaker, Test of Will right out of the gate. Her ability being a response means that she can even be triggered during set up in those rare moments when the encounter deck reveals something game-breaking before players even draw cards. Her ability may not seem flashy, especially since the canceled treachery is replaced by another card, but she represents a fallback, a last ditch answer for those cards that you know will end your game.
In a solo game, having a hero like Eleanor can mean the greater use of Spirit Resources as a player can get risky and decide to use less Test of Wills in lieu of different Spirit cards. In a multiplayer game, Eleanor truly shines. In games with 3 or 4 players (and frankly even 2) nasty treacheries come out almost every turn. Eleanor can help mitigate these negative effects and all with a simple exhausting of her Hero card.
To add to her utility are her traits, particularly the Gondor trait. Having 2 defense isn’t much these days, and with the direct damage that the encounter deck is spitting out in more current quests means that Eleanor’s 3 hitpoints will quickly drain as well. All is not lost, though. A simple Arwen Undomniel and Blood of Numenor can turn Eleanor’s 2 defense into 4 or 5 easily. On top of that, with just one Tactics resource we can add attachments like Gondorian Shield to our mysterious noblewoman. As most players know there is a plethora of Gondor-loving cards: For Gondor!, Gondorian Discipline, Behind Strong Walls, Denethor(Le). All of these cards help make a weak defender with an inherent treachery cancellation ability into a worthwhile support Hero, and with minimal effort. Her Noble trait goes far as well. Having Heir of Mardil attached to her with a Leadership Denethor on the table means that Eleanor can cancel a treachery on a whim while having the added perk of being ready for defense, especially if that resource from Denethor goes to make Blood of Numenor even stronger.
Alas, despite all of this, Eleanor does not appear to get as much love as she more than likely deserves. Basing this off of the Hall of Beorn card search, which has a stat for RingsDB popularity, Eleanor has a 1/5 rating, miles away from the likes of Eowyn, Ally Faramir, and Steward of Gondor (all of which have a 5/5 rating) and stuck with cards such as Power in the Earth, Gandalf’s Search, and Mustering the Rohirrim. Though it’s possible I may be overselling this particular Spirit Gondorian Hero, I Eleanor, and her popularity, suffer from RingsDB favoring more flashy, and admittedly powerful, deck archetypes as opposed to her being obsolete in the current meta.
Whether her strength is indeed waning like that of Gondor before the War of the Ring, or if she shows a hidden power that can thwart the machinations of the enemy, Eleanor is at the least still very unique in today’s card pool, though I would argue she is still very powerful, especially in multiplayer games.
Despite the low number of decks out there here are a couple lists I found from various deckbuilders. Check them out and look out for a deck list later this month!
As always, thanks for reading!
-The Secondhand Took