written by: Ulaire Cantea “The Sword Breaker”

        Greetings, once again! Today, I will be going over the impacts of the Realms of the Elf Lords (RotEL) expansion will have on the Nine. I will go into both the cards that help and hurt the Nazgul.

        First, let’s look at the cards which can aid the Ringwraiths:

1.        Gates Of The Dead City – This condition comes into play for the low cost of 1 twilight and forces your opponent to exert a companion whenever your Nazgul culture card adds a burden. This card can be a somewhat useful tool. With four copies of this card in play, you can cause the Free People’s player to exert up to four times. Bear in mind though, that this requires that the Nazgul card add the burden, so it will not work if the Witch-King, Lord of the Nazgul wounds the ring-bearer, and he puts on the ring to convert the wounds to burdens, since the WK, LotN is not adding a burden, the ring is. So, this really is only viable if you can hit them with It Wants To Be Found and have this in play. Not an ideal card in my opinion.

2.        News of Mordor – Realms of the Elf Lords introduces a bunch of cards that give benefits for mixing Shadow cultures. This is the Ringwraith one, where a Nazgul becomes damage +1 if you can spot an Isengard minion. This, to me, is far too gimmicky; it requires you to have both an Isengard minion and one of the Nine in play in order for this skirmish event to work. Even if you get an Isengard minion into play, if he dies during the Archery phase, this card does you no good. This is a card that I would advise the would-be corrupter to take a pass on.

3.        The Ring Draws Them – This condition adds 1 twilight for each burden you can spot when the fellowship moves. It does come with a price: each Shadow phase, one of the Black Riders must exert, or TRDT is discarded. With the Nazgul, most of them exert to do an action, and with TRDT, you are decreasing your ability for them to perform those actions. Remember: Exerting is not wounding, so His Terrible Servants will not prevent this exertion. As discussed in my previous article, Not Easily Destroyed will heal the Nine, but at 3 twilight per heal, you need at least to be gaining 3 twilight each turn in order to break even with TRDT.

4.        They Will Never Stop Hunting You – This Maneuver event, which costs 2 twilight, lets you take a card at random from opponent’s hand and exert a companion with a ranged weapon a number of times equal to the twilight cost of the card you took, if you can spot one of the Nine. TWNSHY only works if you can spot someone with a ranged weapon. Being an archer does not automatically mean he has a ranged weapon, so unless you are going against a dedicated archery deck, this card will do you little good, except to perhaps exhaust Aragorn if he is armed with his bow, but you also must pull a high twilight cost card out of his hand to do this. If you pull out that Goblin Runner, you have pretty much used up 2 twilight that could have been used elsewhere. Bear in mind also that this exerts only; it does not wound! It is impossible to kill with this card by itself. Let’s compare this to Relentless Charge. Relentless Charge lets you deal wounds to all archers, whether or not they bear a weapon, plus has a twilight cost of zero; it only requires you to exert a Nazgul. Thus, I would advise Relentless Charge over TWNSHY.

5.        Too Great and Terrible – We now come to THE card of the set that players of the Nine will truly relish! This maneuver event costs zero twilight and just requires you to spot a Nazgul to do 2 wounds to Gandalf! The Istari has been a thorn in our sides for far too long! With his staff, he has cancelled skirmishes, so we couldn’t wield our greatest powers that require the Nine to win skirmishes. With his Servant of the Secret Fires, he has weakened the Nazgul so that mere mortals could vanquish them. With his Sleep, Caradhras, he has discarded our conditions! Now, we can get back at him! The only way to prevent these wounds is by discarding two Gandalf culture cards. This is a win-win scenario for us! Gandalf takes 2 wounds or he gets rid of those SotSF (or Sleeps or some other cards that would harm our plans) that he was holding in his hand. Bear in mind, though, to kill him requires multiples of this card. Unaided, with opponent having no Gandalf culture cards in hand, would require 2 TGTs to kill the Istari. I would advise 3 or 4 copies of this card, because Gandalf can be more of a pain than Aragorn can at times, so make sure he falls into darkness!

6.        Ulaire Otsea, Ringwraith in Twilight – Another of the Nine gets a Twilight version. This minion, when he wins a skirmish, can exert to transfer Blade Tip from the support area to the Ring-bearer. While you may feel this is useful, I would advise keeping with the Fellowship version of Otsea, since that version can exert to make a Ringwraith culture card fierce. Bear in mind that no Twilight Nazgul is naturally fierce, so the Fellowship version can be a strong boon to a corruption deck.

7.        Eregion Hills – This site at location #4 adds 2 twilight and the Ring-bearer gains a burden. No ifs, ands, or butts about it. For myself, I will definitely being using this location over the Moria Lake I had been previously using. True, I lose the exerting of Frodo or 2 companions and 1 twilight, but I gain a definite certainty that the Ring-bearer gets another burden. (This site would have come in handy in my game against a certain 2100+ rated player when Frodo had 9 burdens on him at site 4. It would have been game over right then and there.)

8.        The Gates of Argonath – I can hear the question now “Why this location?”. Here’s why: for 1 less twilight than the Shores of Nen-Hithoel, I lose the penalty if my opponent is playing orcs, but far more important, maneuver events can not be played. I have seen far too many A Ranger’s Versatility rain on my parade. With the fellowship is at this site, I can not have my Witch-King exhausted before he has even had a chance to wield his might. This game text works both ways though; so his fellowship is safe from my Maneuver events as well, but that is a price I will gladly pay for this boon.

Now, let us move on to the cards that hamper our efforts to corrupt the Ring-bearer.

1.        Narya – This Artifact costs zero twilight and plays on Gandalf. At the start of each turn, the Free Peoples player may add 3 twilight to remove a burden. As the goal of corrupting is to add burdens, anything that removes those burdens is a bane to our strategy. This is another reason to pack multiple copies of Too Great and Terrible. Bear in mind that this ring is an Artifact so it can not be discarded with Beauty Is Fading, plus this ring adds 1 to the Istari’s vitality. With this ring, Gandalf can undo all your hard work, so it is imperative that the Istari be put out of play as soon as possible!

2.        Arwen, Elven Rider – This new version of Arwen loses her ability to fight better against the Nine, but gains the ability to prevent wounds to the Ring-bearer by discarding 3 cards. This version can be even more of a hindrance than her Fellowship version, since with the Witch-King, Lord of the Nazgul and Twilight Enquea, it is important to harm the Ring-bearer. Granted, the Free Peoples player will only be able to do this a maximum of 2 times in a turn, but can you afford to lose that time? Keep in mind, the Twilight Nazgul are not naturally fierce and the Free Peoples player will always hold on to 6 cards to keep the Ring-bearer healthy, so it is possible for the Free Peoples player to grind your strategy to a slow trickle rather than a vast flow of corruption. Her protection will delay your efforts and I hate it when my plans are interfered with, so run this Elf down!

3.        Phial of Galadriel – This possession costs zero twilight and requires an Elf to exert, but it adds 2 to the Ring-bearer’s Resistance. This possession, by increasing the Resistance value, will delay the corruption process, nothing more, but it can give time for burden removal cards, such as Narya and Sam, to bring the number of burdens to a lower value.

4.        Vilya – Elrond’s ring can be used to put conditions back in our hand, so this is merely a delaying tactic, but it can be used at a critical time to harm us. For example, if Vilya is used to return His Terrible Servants to our hand, so that the Nine can be gunned down in the Archery phase. Along with the new Elrond’s ability to heal companions, this is another reason to make sure that Elrond knows the power of Fear (exert a Nazgul to discard an ally) or that our Power Is In Terror (exert a Nazgul to wound every ally).

5.        Unknown Perils – This condition plays to the support area and lets the Free Peoples player prevent wounds to companions by spotting 4 twilight and exerting Gandalf. This card is easily bypassed; just make sure that there is not 4 twilight in the pool. If they can’t spot 4 twilight, this condition is useless with them. Better yet, if they can’t spot Gandalf (because he has felt the power of Too Great and Terrible), they will never be able to use this card!

6.        Horn of Boromir – This card should also not concern the would-be corrupter. The card will probably be used to bring in archers to support the fellowship. His Terrible Servants (or even Wreathed in Shadow) should prevent any extra wounds that may occur. If he does choose to bring in powerful allies (ex. Elrond, who becomes an 11), this may cause some concern, as these allies may be able to win skirmishes against some of the Nine. Use Fear or Their Power Is In Terror to take care of any allies, if you are concerned.

7.        Melilot Brandybuck – This hobbit ally can exert to prevent burdens, but she has the same limitation as Gates of the Dead City does: that being the Shadow card itself must directly add the burdens. Still, anything that can delay our strategy should be squelched, so use Fear or Their Power Is In Terror to deal with her.

8.        The Shire Countryside – This condition allows healing of a companion whenever a burden is removed via a non-hobbit method. Since I foresee Narya being very popular, this is yet another reason to see that Gandalf has a terrible accident.

9.        House of Elrond – This site at location 3 removes a burden if the Free Peoples player can spot 2 Elves. As Elves are already popular and will become more so, this card can possibly hurt you. The likelihood of it affecting your strategy, though, is quite remote, as you should be using the Ford of Bruinen as your site #3, thus you will only see this location through means such as Pathfinder and Thror’s Map.

There are other cards that can adversely affect the corruption strategy indirectly; I have focused on the main cards, which directly can impact our efforts to corrupt the Ring-bearer.

        Since my past lecture, I have received messengers bearing queries about dealing with A Ranger’s Versatility through means other than Not Easily Destroyed. With Realms of the Elf Lords encouraging interactions between the shadow cultures, I feel this is a perfect time to look at two cultures which can aid the Nine: Isengard and Sauron. (Bear in mind, with a corruption strategy, you want 95+% of your cards to be Ringwraith culture, so be careful what you add in. Be certain that a card will work most of the time for you and be enough benefit for inclusion before you add it in to your deck, if it be not a Nazgul culture card.) The two cards that cancel A Ranger’s Versatility from those two cultures are:

1.        Orc Scout (Sauron) – This 6 strength minion costs 2 twilight with a home site of 6.

2.        Uruk Scout (Isengard) – This 7 strength, damage +1 minion costs 3 twilight with a home site of 5.

        Both of these minions can exert to cancel A Ranger’s Versatility (or other Ranger-specific card) and both have 2 vitality. I prefer Uruk Scout myself, because he is stronger, damage +1, and loses roaming penalties sooner. Both cultures have cards that can be of benefit, so let’s take a look at some of them:

1.        Get Off The Road – This Sauron culture event can discard a card from the Free Peoples deck for each burden that you can spot if you can spot a Nazgul and a Sauron minion. I feel that this card, like News From Mordor, is too gimmicky. While it doesn’t require the minion to survive to the skirmish phase, it does require all 3 components in hand, all at the same time (Nazgul, Sauron minion, and GOTR).

2.        Terrible As The Dawn – This Sauron culture card can wound Galadriel 3 times unless the Free Peoples player discards 2 Elves. Galadriel’s new ability to heal Elves may be bothersome, but I don’t foresee her as being a pain enough (or wide-spread enough) to deserve inclusion of this card.

3.        Why Shouldn’t I Keep It – This Sauron culture card discards Bilbo, and like Terrible As The Dawn, I can’t justify inclusion of this card; Bilbo just is not enough of a threat to my strategy.

4.        The Palantir of Orthanc – This Artifact plays to your support area for zero twilight, but you must be able to spot an Isengard minion. Also, to use it, you must also spot an Isengard minion, so assuming you are using 4 Uruk Scouts (I would suggest using a max of 2 or 3), you could use this artifact a maximum of 4 times. It just does not seem worthwhile with a corruption strategy. I feel the card slot would be better used by something else.

5.        The Tower of Orthanc – This condition requires you to spot an Isengard minion to play, but works after that whether or not you can spot any minion. Each time the fellowship moves and you can spot an exhausted companion, you can add 3 twilight. At last, we come across a card that I feel that I could justify using in my deck. True, I do need the Isengard minion in play to bring the Tower into play, but the benefit I feel is worth it. Often against the Nine, the Free Peoples player is moving with at least 1 exhausted companion. Note: The Tower of Orthanc will only add 3 twilight per copy, no matter how many exhausted companions you can spot. This is far better than The Ring Draws Them; you get a flat 3 twilight, but you don’t have to exert a Nazgul and you only lose out if the opponent has more than 3 burdens.

        In selecting cards from the two cultures, I skipped past any cards that require exertion on the part of the non-Nazgul minion. As each only has two vitality, they lose their usefulness if they exert without canceling a Ranger-related card. Always bear in mind: Their sole purpose in the deck is strictly to cancel A Ranger’s Versatility, so that the Black Riders can do their work!

        Well, we have come to an end of another of my lectures on corruption. I hope that this lesson has taught you many things of which you will find of value. Until next time, fare well from the halls of Minas Morgul!