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From the Comprehensive Rules 4.0:
A effect of an action could be adding or removing twilight tokens, exerting a character, discarding a card, or any number of other possibilities. The effects of an action are usually listed after the word “to” (so the action takes the form of “pay X to do Y,” with X being the cost and Y the effect).
The source of an effect is the card on which that effect is printed. Even though a card like an event may require a minion to exert to pay its cost, the source of that effect is the event card and not the minion.
Ugluk, Servant of Saruman reads:
While you can spot 2 trackers, Ugluk is strength +3.
While you can spot 3 trackers, Ugluk is damage +1.
You don’t have to spot 5 trackers to get both benefits. Three trackers is enough to satisfy the first requirement (if you have 3, you can spot 2) land the ast requirement (spot 3).
If the effect of an event requires you to discard 2 cards from your hand and you only have 1 card in hand, just discard the 1 card and ignore the rest. If the effect of a card or special ability requires you to choose one of two different actions, you must choose an action that you are fully capable of performing (if possible).
The Orc you play with They Are Coming (“Shadow: Discard 3 cards from hand to play a Orc from your discard pile.”) cannot be one of the cards you discarded from your hand to pay the cost of that special ability.
If you meet all the requirements and pay all the costs for playing a card, you may play that card even if the card will have no effect. Exception: If you perform an action that has playing a card from hand or discard pile as part of its effect, you must play that card. This exception applies to all kinds of actions and all the different ways you can play a card (except playing a card directly from your draw deck).
Morgul Destroyer is played. (“When you play this minion, you may spot a Nazgul to add 2 threats. The Free Peoples player may wound the Ring-bearer to prevent this.”) The Free Peoples player wounds the Ring-bearer to prevent the threats from being added. The Free Peoples player then discards Sapling of the White Tree. (“Response: If a Man is about to take a wound, discard this artifact to prevent that.”) Because Sapling has prevented the effect (a wound) that would have prevented Morgul Destroyer’s effect, the threats are now added.