This month we cover a Leadership Hero with an ability that I don’t think we as players expected to see. Taking a queue from games like A Game of Thrones: The Card Game, Elfhelm offered a global buff depending on whether or not certain requirements were met. Did he create a brand new type of deck? For the rest of January I will be exploring if this deck archetype holds up in the current meta, or if we are just a few mounts short of a Rohirrim.
It’s at this moment I would typically delve into the lore of the Hero. Unfortunately, there isn’t much readily available about the eventual Marshal of the East-Mark. Thankfully, the Master of Lore himself has provided an entire article detailing the fruits of his research. I would highly recommend reading it!
Elfhelm as a Hero is rather unique. While the idea of a global buff is nothing new, (see Dain and Celeborn) Elfhelm‘s ability to boost Heroes with mounts has the chance to grow into something potentially more powerful as it is not restricted to a particular trait and mounts are already prevalent.
Without his ability, Elfhelm is pretty average (though not to a fault). His stats, boring as they might be, grant him the ability to focus in any aspect of the game a player would wish and his traits are pretty decent. It is Elfhelm‘s global buff that makes him enticing, as he grants each Hero with a mount a +1 boost in a stat depending on their sphere. The only sphere that gets the short end of the stick is Lore, it gets no love whatsoever from this Rider of Rohan.
It doesn’t take much to begin seeing the synergy and potentially great return(s) on investment Elfhelm provides. Let’s examine Spirit Eowyn, for starters. An attachment like Golden Shield turns Eowyn into a reliable defender in addition to already being a vital contributor during the Quest Phase. An easy option for letting Eowyn do both is equipping her with Snowmane which lets her ready after questing successfully. Thanks to Elfhelm, all of this can be done with a +1 boost to willpower “cherry” on top. If you are looking to just get raw stats, Eowyn‘s own mount, Windfola, which already grants a +1 to willpower, will now grant +2 for just 1 Spirit resource. Going west of Rohan and looking at the Shire, any Hobbit riding a Hobbit Pony will also get a boost (for free, mind you) while having the utility the Hobbit Pony already provides. Spirit Merry can suddenly contribute a bit more to the quest.
The joy continues for the tactics sphere, who’s Heroes get a +1 to attack so long as Elfhelm is around. Driving home from work I was thinking about what mounts/heroes work well in the sphere and interestingly enough I came across Tactics Legolas and Arod. What I enjoy most about this combo is that it essentially turns Arod into an alternative* version of Blade of Gondolin
while still keeping two restricted slots open for whatever pair of weapons you’d like. Eomer who already gets +2 attack while riding Firefoot will get +3 instead, and any tactics Hero that is accompanied by a Rohan Warhorse will now have a single boost in their attack stat, hopefully ensuring the Warhorse triggers more often.
The Leadership Sphere receives a buff of +1 to their defense, rounding out the trio of buffs from Elfhelm. Amarthiul and Erkenbrand get to Beregond level defensive stats with the Armored Destrier attached. Throw a couple Gondorian Shields and the aforementioned Destrier on Leadership Denethor and suddenly considering him as a defender becomes a reality.
Where Elfhelm can start to go bonkers is the fact that his ability doesn’t ask for the other Heroes to have the printed Sphere Icon as requirement. They can get the icon through other means. The Song Cards become more desirable and essentially have an added line that says “+1 to X stat while Elfhelm is in play”. Not every Hero requires a Song to gain new Spheres, and those particular characters can benefit greatly. The biggest Hero that will come to anyone’s mind is Aragorn (pick a version) who can easily get access to all of the spheres, turning his stats into something short of ridiculous. For the sake of simplicity let’s say you are running Leadership Aragorn. You can throw Celebrian’s Stone and Roheryn on him (and still have a restricted slot open) and now you have a Hero with 5 willpower with the ability to ready himself and attack an enemy for 4 attack.
While I don’t think mounts are quite yet at a place where merely throwing Elfhelm down on the table is going to be the sigh of relief that someone like Eleanor is, I do see the potential. More mounts will (hopefully) enter into the cardpool, and we are already seeing more song cards being spoiled in the upcoming cycle. It may be possible that one day a player can pilot Elfhelm, pass around a bunch of mounts and songs then throw down a Burst Into Song to ready them for attacks or defense. The only issue I see with Elfhelm currently is from a deckbuilding perspective. As I said earlier, I don’t think you can just show up with him to a quest. To do so would require you to either build an Elfhelm deck that can stand on its own or one that can throw out cards to other players, hoping that the other decks can support you should things get dicey. These are minor quibbles, mind you, and is just a con I point out for the sake of argument. As Elfhelm currently stands I think he is in a pretty good spot in the meta already and may have some surprises up his sleeve as the game continues to grow.
A quick search on RingsDB shows that Elfhelm allows for a variety of builds, from those that load up on Songs and Mounts to a different take on the Rohan Shell. Below are a few more decks that I recommend taking a quick look at. Otherwise feel free to share your thoughts on Elfhelm, what your experiences have been and whether or not you think he truly has created a new deck archetype?
As always, thanks for reading!
-The Secondhand Took