Looking at my list of previous Heroes of the Month, I saw that tactics (my favorite sphere) hasn’t been getting as much love as I probably could give it. Off to Hall of Beorn and RingsDB I went, perusing the roster of tactics Heroes currently available. The one that caught my eye in particular was Na’asiyah, Corsair Raider and accidental ally of our Heroes after a series of unfortunate circumstances has her siding with the forces of good for a little dose of revenge.
In Tolkien’s Middle Earth, unlikely forces can take down the greatest evils. This theme takes shape in a variety of forms. Hobbits show that they are more than just their size and can overcome great evil even when they seem to be at their lowest; The Underdog Story, if you will. Another, arguably more blatant theme, is the power behind the many uniting against the few. In The Lord of the Rings, the Free Peoples of Middle Earth, or rather the various provinces of Men, are able to get their act together just in time to push back the tide that is Sauron and his armies. Interestingly enough, Sauron was not ignorant to the power of allies and kept his own beyond the Orcs that served him. The Free Peoples almost lost hope when they discovered that the Dark Lord has rallied his own forces from various nations. Where the Free Peoples united under friendship and common cause, Sauron most likely used more sinister approaches. Either way, the combined forces of Sauron, the Haradrim, and the Corsair Raiders, nearly spelled doom for the good folk of Middle Earth.
It’s because of this that I was particularly happy to see a Hero like Na’asiyah released in the first place. It didn’t matter what her stats were or what her sphere or ability was. The fact that the players had a Corsair player card was something I never even considered when I purchased this game years ago. Sure, I expected we would one day get to visit regions barely explained in the novels, but I could not have predicted we’d be making alliances with “our” foes. And now, of course, we have a similar situation with Khaliel, the Harad Hero from the Sands of Harad Deluxe Expansion.
Because the Corsair people aren’t nearly as fleshed out as other more notable aspects of Middle Earth and its citizens, it comes to no one’s surprise that Na’asiyah is an FFG created Hero. That doesn’t mean, however, that she isn’t without substance. Like Amarthiul, from the Angmar Awakens Cycle, the players come across Na’asiyah during their journey (in this case, while sailing the waters east of the Grey Havens). If you are unfamiliar with the plot of The Grey Havens and the DreamChaser Cycle you may want to skip to the next paragraph, as their may be some spoilers. The Heroes first encounter Na’asiyah as an enemy, part of a raiding force of Corsairs that were hot on the heels of the Heroes’ fleet. As the plot progresses, The Heroes and Corsairs (nearly about to tear each other apart in a naval battle) find a common foe in a fearsome sea creature that attacks them from below. After this event, the two forces reluctantly join towards a common goal. In the end, the Heroes (and Na’asiyah, as a casualty) are betrayed by another Corsair, left to drown. Na’asiyah then joins the party, and ultimately, the player card pool.
I remember when Amarthiul first became a Hero. I was glad to see the narrative of the particular cycle jump off the page inserts and actually affect the card pool. It proved that the developers can throw anything at us. Objective Allies could be enemies. Then Objective Allies could become Heroes? And now, with Na’asiyah, enemies themselves can find common cause and join the forces of good. It’s not only a way to keep players engaged from quest to quest, taking careful note of who they meet, but a thematically appropriate way for the developers to stretch the boundaries of what they can do. If a Corsair was put into the card pool for no story reason whatsoever, then it would seem awkward and out of place. As it stands, I think the developers have hit a nice stride. On top of that, it’s worth noting, I’m particular fond of the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” motif that sometimes worms its way into a narrative. Having it show up in one of my favorite card games… now that’s even better!
Na’asiyah could have easily been phoned in. The developers could have slapped the Corsair trait on her, given her some cool toys, and called it a day. Instead they created a character that is not only unique (and therefore true to her unique trait) but that has an ability that ties into her narrative from the cycle. Na’asiyah is a lone wolf. Whether that is because of her being a victim of betrayal, or her nature as a Corsair raider, is up to interpretation. Either way, by the time she is assisting the Heroes, she requires little assistance herself. What does that mean? Well, in game terms, Na’asiyah doesn’t pay for allies.
Before we delve into that a bit more, let’s cover her stats quickly. It’s nice to see a low threat tactics Hero that isn’t a Hobbit, and that has some pretty decent stats to boot. With 8 threat, Na’asiyah is already proving her worth as her stat line of 1/2/2 and 4 hitpoints (which comes in at a total of 9) is giving players bang for their buck. Also worth noting is that Na’asiyah is not victim to the dreaded 2/2/2 stat line that I know I am getting a little tired of seeing. She has some specialization, and that is certainly not questing. Her stats will be used elsewhere. So yes, having a Hero not being able to pay for allies in a sphere that already suffers with resources can be a bummer. However, Na’asiyah and her lone-wolf self comes prepared. Though she can’t pay for allies, she can still pay for events and attachments (which she will most certainly abuse). Better yet, her resources can be spent for herself after an attack (either from an enemy or her own) and will raise either her Attack or Defense Stat by 2 for the duration of the attack. Further, there is no cap to how many times a player can trigger this action, and if you have resources to spend, you can send Na’asiyah‘s stats into hilarious territory (and this is without the added bonus of attachments or events). This is not only thematically juicy to her inherent separation from the other Heroes she allies herself with but it is practically identical to her enemy card and the resource driven mechanics of the Corsair enemies encountered throughout the cycle.
This kind of unique, self-reliant (yet still restrictive) ability means that Na’asiyah is very versatile. She can support herself and, in some sense, can almost be used as a splashable Hero…. kind of. The ability to not pay for allies is, again, a drawback. However, if you are splashing tactics and only intend to use tactics resources for non-ally cards then you’re good. Where she gets splashy is the fact that she can attack or defend with ease and doesn’t affect a deck too much by her presence. Say, for instance, you wanted a strong tactics defender right out of the box. You could pick a hero like Beorn or Beregond but you would be asking for a 12 or 10 starting threat hero. Wanting a reliable tactics attacker might be a little easier of a decision, with low threat choices like Legolas or Merry available, but they demand some deckbuilding space to get working. Na’asiyah doesn’t “necessarily” need anything to get going. So long as she has the resources to spend she can take care of herself. Of course, with the card pool being as big as it is, you can just as simply pick a hero from a different sphere to accomplish either attacking or defending. There are plenty of options. Splashing a Hero like Na’asiyah means you must have some attachment or event not present in your other spheres that requires her presence. That or you are building towards a particular quest. The latter seems extremely unlikely.
So where does Na’asiyah stand currently? The jury seems to be a bit out on this one. On ringsDB it’s somewhat hard to gauge. Quite a few decks seem to pair her with the aforementioned Beorn. One in particular, which I’ll post below, focuses on her self-reliance, and Beorn’s as well, and works towards building a deck around self-sufficient heroes. Others incorporate Leadership to slap a Steward of Gondor on Na’asiyah to begin the resource shenanigans. If you have a Na’asiyah deck you want to show to the world, please do so! As of writing this I could only find a single page worth of Na’asiyah decks on ringsDB… and that page only contained 19 lists (some of which were just updated versions of previous builds). If you’ve been thinking about a list, but haven’t actually made one, check out the three lists that stood out to me that I’ve posted below.
As always, thanks for reading!
-The Secondhand Took