The Secret Defenders

A Preview of the Rangers from The Lost Realm


"They are a strange company, these newcomers," said Gimli. "Stout men and lordly they are, and the Riders of Rohan look almost as boys beside them; for they are grim men of face, worn like weathered rocks for the most part, even as Aragorn himself; and they are silent."
     –J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

In The Lost Realm deluxe expansion for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, the Dúnedain and their unsung labors receive the attention they're long overdue. Our earlier previews have highlighted the different ways they dive into the encounter deck to find and engage enemies; the bonuses they gain while operating under the command of their Chieftain, Aragorn (The Lost Realm, 1); and the ways they interact with the expansion's new scenarios to immerse players in the regional flavor of the Northern reaches of Middle-earth.

Today, we continue along this path we've followed by exploring more of the support that The Lost Realm brings to the Dúnedain trait in the context of a pair of Dúnedain-focused decks. First, though, developer Caleb Grace offers an introduction to one of the Dúnedain heroes who features in these decks, a stalwart Ranger of the North and Aragorn's second in command, Halbarad (The Lost Realm, 2).

Developer Caleb Grace on Halbarad, Ranger of the North

In The Lord of the Rings, we learn a lot about the Rangers of the North and their longstanding vigil to protect the people of Arnor, but we only learn the names of two of them. The first is Aragorn, son of Arathorn and Chieftain of the Dúnedain. The other is his kinsman and trusted friend, Halbarad.

Not much is written about Halbarad directly, but when he arrives in Rohan as the leader of the Grey Company, having traveled across Arnor to lend their aid to Aragorn, the discerning reader will notice that Halbarad is deep in the councils of the Wise. He received the summons from Galadriel, he travels with the sons of Elrond, and he bears a gift from the Lady Arwen. Furthermore, when Aragorn chooses to reveal himself to Sauron in the Palantir of Orthanc, Halbarad is the only one to accompany him. Then, in the battle of Pelennor fields, he bears the standard of the House of Elendil. All of these honors make Halbarad a truly noteworthy character in The Lord of the Rings, yet his humility is captured in the flavor text for his card:

“Little do they know of our long labour for the safekeeping of their borders, and yet I grudge it not.”

Halbarad’s attitude is one of true selflessness and courage, and when The Lost Realm becomes available, players will find a hero card that embodies those traits.

Halbarad has a balanced stat line of two Willpower, two Attack Strength, and two Defense Strength, and he has two separate abilities that will help you take advantage of his versatility. The first represents the tireless vigil from his flavor text:

“While you are engaged with an enemy, Halbarad does not exhaust to commit to a quest.”

This first ability is archetypal of the Dúnedain theme of being rewarded for engaging enemies. Halbarad’s second ability helps to fuel the first, even while reinforcing the theme of protecting others:

“You may optionally engage 1 additional enemy during the encounter phase.”

By engaging a second enemy, you may prevent your friend from confronting an enemy he isn’t prepared to face, while simultaneously powering up the effects of other Dúnedain-themed cards, such as Heir of Valandil (The Lost Realm, 10).

Halbarad’s effectivenes is demonstrated in the deck list in which he appears below. Fun in both solo and multiplayer games, the deck is themed around the two peoples that Halbarad loved most, the Dúnedain and Hobbits, and it excels at the two things at which Halbarad is best, questing and managing enemies.

The Dúnedain in Action

The two decks below prominently feature Aragorn, Halbarad, and many of the other Dúnedain -themed cards from The Lost Realm, along with a pair of Hobbits. When The Lost Realm arrives, it will bring the number of Dúnedain heroes up from four to six. Of those six, three are different versions of Aragorn. The others are Beravor (Core Set, 12), Idraen (The Three Trials, 25), and Halbarad. That means that our theme decks still have room for two more heroes, so we partner our Dúnedain Rangers with Sam Gamgee (The Black Riders, 2) and Frodo Baggins (Conflict at the Carrock, 25), both of whom hail from the lands the Rangers have long protected and who traveled extensively with Aragorn as members of the Fellowship of the Ring. Their inclusion is more than simply thematic, though, as the Hobbits can both help Aragorn and Halbarad engage and survive multiple foes.

Hunters of the North

Heroes (3):

  • Aragorn
  • Halbarad
  • Sam Gamgee

Allies (22):

  • Bill the Pony (The Black Riders, 6) x2
  • Dúnedain Hunter (The Lost Realm, 4) x3
  • Dúnedain Watcher (The Dead Marshes, 96) x3
  • Faramir (Core Set, 14) x1
  • Farmer Maggot (The Black Riders, 8) x1
  • Galadriel (The Road Darkens, 3) x2
  • Gandalf (Core Set, 73) x2
  • Gondorian Spearman (Core Set, 29) x2
  • Son of Arnor (Core Set, 15) x2
  • Weather Hills Watchman (The Lost Realm, 3) x3

Attachments (15):

  • Celebrîan's Stone (Core Set, 27) x1
  • Dagger of Westernesse (The Black Riders, 14) x3
  • Dúnedain Warning (Conflict at the Carrock, 26) x3
  • Heir of Valandil x2
  • Secret Vigil (The Lost Realm, 12) x2
  • Steward of Gondor (Core Set, 26) x2
  • Sword that was Broken (The Watcher in the Water, 55) x3

Events (12):

  • Feint (Core Set, 34) x2
  • Foe-hammer (Over Hill and Under Hill, 15) x2
  • Grim Resolve (Core Set, 25) x1
  • Halfling Determination (The Black Riders, 9) x2
  • Ranger Summons (The Lost Realm, 7) x3
  • Sneak Attack (Core Set, 23) x2

Side Quest (1):

  • Gather Information (The Lost Realm, 14) x1

Set Aside (3):

  • Ranger of the North (The Lost Realm, 15) x3

Watchful Protectors

Heroes (3):

  • Beravor
  • Idraen
  • Frodo Baggins

Allies (11):

  • Arwen Undómiel (The Watcher in the Water, 58) x3
  • Bilbo Baggins (The Road Darkens, 6) x2
  • Gandalf (Core Set, 73) x2
  • Gléowine (Core Set, 62) x1
  • Henamarth Riversong (Core Set, 60) x1
  • Northern Tracker (Core Set, 45) x2

Attachments (19):

  • Ancient Mathom (A Journey to Rhosgobel, 56) x3
  • Athelas (The Lost Realm, 11) x3
  • Fast Hitch (The Dead Marshes, 103) x3
  • Hobbit Pipe (The Black Riders, 15) x3
  • Protector of Lórien (Core Set, 70) x2
  • Ring of Barahir (The Steward's Fear, 7) x1
  • Unexpected Courage (Core Set, 57) x1
  • Wingfoot (The Nin-in-Eilph, 92) x3

Events (19):

  • A Test of Will (Core Set, 50) x2
  • Dwarven Tomb (Core Set, 53) x1
  • Expert Trackers (The Lost Realm, 9) x3
  • Hasty Stroke (Core Set, 48) x2
  • Secret Paths (Core Set, 66) x2
  • Smoke Rings (The Black Riders, 10) x3
  • Strength of Will (Core Set, 47) x2
  • The Galadhrim's Greeting (Core Set, 46) x2
  • Will of the West (Core Set, 49) x2

Side Quests (1):

  • Gather Information (The Lost Realm, 14) x1

Playing the Decks

For solo play, Hunters of the North is the stronger deck, as it uses the extra Willpower bonuses from Sword That Was Broken to quest successfully, even as it engages and defeats multiple enemies. In multiplayer, however, both decks play their respective roles efficiently, and the card draw, healing, and location control provided by Watchful Protectors are vital to the success of the entire fellowship.

Caleb's Strategy for Hunters of the North

The key to winning with this deck is to play Sword that was Broken on Aragorn as early as possible. Once it's attached to Aragorn, it grants him the Leadership sphere, and all of your characters gain a one-point boost to their Willpower. That turns both Halbarad and Sam Gamgee into questing machines, with three and four Willpower, respectively. If you don't draw one of the three copies of the Artifact early on, you can play Galadriel to put it into play from the top of your deck. Of course, if you've already got Sword that was Broken, there are plenty of other attachments that Galadriel can find for you.

Let's take a quick review of those attachments. Dúnedain Warning transforms Halbarad into a sturdy, reliable defender, allowing you to take advantage of his ability to quest without exhausting. Dagger of Westernesse is a fun inclusion in this deck for both mechanical and thematic reasons. Playing just one of these Weapon attachments on Aragorn can boost him to five Attack Strength against enemies with engagement costs higher than your threat. Given that Aragorn's passive ability reduces the Defense Strength of each enemy by one, he should frequently be able to destroy enemies in a single attack, allowing him to trigger the Response of Foe-hammer, as well as his own ability to engage another enemy in play. In turn, this can trigger Sam Gamgee's Response, readying him and boosting his stats. With a Dagger of Westernesse, Sam can easily attack for as much as four Attack Strength. That's nothing to sneeze at, especially when he can be boosted to six Attack Strength by a single copy of Halfling Determination! Finally, if you attach to Secret Vigil to the enemy before destroying it, your attack can also lower your threat.

The allies in this deck can also add to these combos, setting them up with their abilities. When he enters play, Weather Hills Watchman can search the top five cards of your deck for a Signal, like Dúnedain Warning or a Ranger Summons, which you can then use to shuffle a Ranger of the North into the encounter deck. The Dúnedain Hunter and Son of Arnor both engage enemies when they enter play, which can also trigger Sam's Response and boost his Willpower prior to the quest phase. Additionally, if you have an extra enemy engaged with you, Heir of Valandil can further lower the cost of the next Dúnedain ally you play. You can also play Farmer Maggot to deal damage to the enemy you engage. That can be a nice way to destroy an enemy or to bring it within one hit point of destruction so that your Gondorian Spearman can finish it off in the combat phase.

The last piece of the puzzle is the new side quest, Gather Information, which can be used to find Sword that was Broken or any part of your other combos, meaning that while he keeps his eyes open for signs of the enemy, Halbarad is sure to shine alongside his chieftain, Aragorn, as they help you quest your way to victory and a safer Shire.

Strategy for Watchful Protectors

In multiplayer games, while Hunters of the North focuses on swiftly defeating any enemies that make their way to the staging area, Watchful Protectors focuses on controlling locations and reducing the amount of threat they contribute to the staging area. Here, the Ranger Idraen is central to your efforts. Because she can ready each time you successfully explore a location, she can both commit to the quest and exhaust to pay for events such as Strength of Will and Expert Trackers. Of course, she's not the only character in the deck who excels at controlling locations. Northern Tracker isn't just a thematic inclusion in this Dúnedain-focused deck; it remains one of the game's most effective allies and can help you explore locations, even without traveling to them. Likewise, Arwen Undómiel and Bilbo Baggins each offer an excellent return of two Willpower for two resources, making them solid choices to quest or to exhaust for Strength of Will.

In addition to its ability to control locations, the deck includes a number of card draw and ready effects. Depending on the challenges of the quest you face, you can use them yourself, or you can give them to your teammate so that he can defend and defeat more enemies. So long as you have cards in your hand that you can afford to discard, Protector of Lórien can help you quest successfully or limit the damage you take from enemies, and both Beravor and Gléowine provide a steady stream of extra cards, which Ancient Mathom and Hobbit Pipe can further accelerate.

It's likely best to use your card draw for yourself in order to get more of these attachments, but many of your strongest attachments – such as Unexpected Courage, Wingfoot, and Athelas – are often best played on your teammate and, specifically, on Aragorn and Sam Gamgee, allowing them to quest and fight as much as possible, especially since your deck doesn't excel at combat to the same degree as your teammates. To that end, however, you can utilize Frodo's ability whenever an enemy engages you or the attack might otherwise result in the destruction of a hero – yours or your teammates. Combined with the threat reduction from Gift of the Galadhrim and your teammate's Secret Vigil, Frodo ensures that your travels through the wilds of northern Eriador are intentional.

Finally, these decks don't just play well together; they can both be constructed from a single card pool containing one Core Set, one copy of The Lost Realm, one copy of The Black Riders, The Road Darkens, and a handful of Adventure Packs. You can even reduce the number of expansions required, with a minimal loss of theme and efficiency, by making just a couple of small changes.

How Will You Respond to the Summons?

"I have thirty with me," said Halbarad. "That is all of our kindred that could be gathered in haste; but the brethren Elladan and Elrohir have ridden with us, desiring to go to the war. We rode as swiftly as we might when your summons came."
     –J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

The summons has been sent forth, and Halbarad and the Rangers of the North have responded, riding forth to meet the enemy in battle. How will you respond to the summons? How will you respond to the challenges of The Lost Realm expansion? Will you sneak about in secret like Hobbits? Will you arm yourselves for battle like the Men of Gondor? Or will you scour the land for sign of the Dark Lord's minions and track them to their lairs like the Rangers of the North?

You'll have your chance to decide for yourself when The Lost Realm arrives at retailers, and that time is fast approaching. Until then, keep your eyes open for more signs and other news of The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game!

Back to all news