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Author Topic: Pippin, Wearer of Black and Silver & Merry, Swordthain  (Read 2255 times)

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March 08, 2023, 09:12:32 PM
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Pippin, Wearer of Black and Silver & Merry, Swordthain
« on: March 08, 2023, 09:12:32 PM »
Hi everyone,

I have been thinking about the 2 following cards lately:
Pippin, Wearer of Black and Silver
Merry, Swordthain

Although the first is definitely a great addition to Ring-bound rangers who (imo) needed a boost, I can't help but wonder whether those 2 are a bit overpowered? Due to the fact that they are returned to hand and not discarded, they are essentially eternal double wounding or possession recursing machines for a cost of only [1] . Likewise, they can soak a lot of exertions / wounds since every turn they can technically nullify as much as 3.

For instance, in Towers standard, discarding Rohan horses or spears was a way to cope with the very strong tanks such as Eomer, Third Marshal of Riddermark (e.g. the importance of some Uruk Spear contingency). There were several cards allowing to play possessions from the discard pile already, but in King Standard, with Merry, Swordthain who can reequip anyone in skirmish with whatever got discarded, that strategy is basically useless.

Of course, with the addition of the threat mechanisms, one can say that there are more potential wounds and thus the absorption they provide is not that significant, but for decks that do not rely on threats or direct wounding (e.g. traditional archery, Under The Watching Eye), it seems just a bit too easy of a counter. Even for threat-based decks (which, disclosure, I do not play), I do wonder whether they are not too much of a hindrance.

I suppose that in Movie, with the fairly strong cards in the last few sets, their effect is somewhat less significant, but in King Standard, I am puzzled. Less than half the players from the 2021 French Championship included them, so I might be overly concerned, but on the other hand there is only 1 indirect wounding shadow out of the 18 decks.

What is the general opinion about those 2 cards? I'm curious.

Thank you !

March 09, 2023, 04:58:14 PM
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Re: Pippin, Wearer of Black and Silver & Merry, Swordthain
« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2023, 04:58:14 PM »
The main issue with them is that they go into your hand in your skirmish phase, so if you want to relay them next turn, they'll take up a slot in your hand for your next Shadow phase. As someone who hates clog, that's a problem.

And they are not great fighters: even less so than normal Merry/Pippin by virtue of any card on them getting discarded when they use their ability. So you're stuck with a very weak companion, either making you vulnerable to swarm or Enquea. And in movie, with besiegers, they are a prime target for Gorgoroth Assassin.

Another weakness is hand discarding cards. I've put an opponent in a real bind before, even though they had courteous halfling, when I laid down Mellon! They had to decide whether to give me a free turn, or lose a key companion for their setup (as well as One Good Turn Deserves Another)

But don't get me wrong, these cards are great! I just don't think too overpowered (Pippin is quite ridiculous with Madril from Hunters, however)
« Last Edit: March 09, 2023, 05:03:03 PM by Orophoin »

March 11, 2023, 08:33:19 PM
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Re: Pippin, Wearer of Black and Silver & Merry, Swordthain
« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2023, 08:33:19 PM »
I see, interesting. I was thinking about how powerful their effects can be but not much about the potential hand clog (which is in itself quite annoying indeed). Likewise, I understand from your argument that they can be either (at least somewhat) unreasonably powerful in specific decks (i.e. Pippin with Madril) or a bit of a liability (i.e. weak against swarm or 6-comp hate), thus we could not categorize them as OP in general.

Thank you for the insight ! I had removed them from some of my decks out of (what I thought was) fairness, but I'll re-introduce them and see how it goes.

March 13, 2023, 08:14:23 PM
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Phallen Cassidy

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Re: Pippin, Wearer of Black and Silver & Merry, Swordthain
« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2023, 08:14:23 PM »
Perhaps not overpowered, but they definitely make an outsized impact on what does and doesn't work in the format. I would go so far as to say the effects themselves are relatively harmless. Sure, WoBaS will wound a minion twice and either kill it or prime it to be finished off by Ranger's Bow, but Mablung, Soldier of Gondor already did and better. It's stronger than not being able to do that at all, but only streamlines the deck a little bit. Merry's effect is perhaps stronger, though more indirectly. The average deck doesn't use it to bring back random tossed possessions, and remember that Ecglaf allowed some of this in Towers. Armory to some extent as well, and then Mustering for Battle makes doing it without Merry at all pretty easy (though you'll probably only want to do it once per copy).

As you note, the "cost" is another issue. Healing up to 3 wounds every turn is a massive hit to indirect wounding strategies. Threats help but don't really compare, they mostly make wounding decks stronger against decks which can't just wipe away 3 wounds a turn. This and the lack of Battleground sites are my only real complaints with the format :P There are ways to cope - with varying degrees of effectiveness - for everyone, but having to cope at all is tough for these strategies.

Captured by the Ring is a bit of a boost across the board. A threat and putting Gollum in play is something almost anyone can benefit from, and wounding decks may be able to incorporate They Stole It and Nasty Treacherous Creature. Evil-smelling Fens is great for a wide variety of decks. Brought Back Alive is something I splash (along with Uruk Hunter, not for his text but for his solid stats for when there are no Hobbits) in some Uruk-hai decks, even ones that don't necessarily care about Merry. Frenzy works to some extent. Sauron Grind's threat of Hate keeps most UtWE exerts on other companions, though threats themselves aren't too hard to add for an extra kick. Towers actually saw the biggest buff to Grind decks with a bunch of 3-vitality trackers, and 11 strength is enough to feasibly win some skirmishes. Moria and a pure Southron archery probably struggle the most in the end, they were already kinda on the edge of viability.

I think a bigger problem is Swordthain with Merry's Sword. Merry, Horticulturalist can be used to pull Farmer Maggot, Chaser of Rascals and keep him healthy, then with Escape you can use it twice in a turn. This is really specialized though, and vulnerable to wounds piling up on Merry or Farmer Maggot being discarded / killed (I always have a copy of Fear in a Nazgul deck, and splash it in many decks with Enquea to deal with Elrond and Vilya). Using Swordthain's text gives him much more utility if you can find some way to get the sword back (Ecglaf, Mustering for Battle, and Weapon Store are the easiest ones).

But being able to put 3+ exertions on minions in the maneuver phase is big. Obviously you neutralize any minions that exert themselves, and after that you make them Third Marshal fodder, or you can snipe a troublesome baddie with Rohirrim Bow, or cancel the skirmish with Rohirrim Helm. This also eliminates the concern for having a useless companion on the field -- what does it matter that one companion can't skirmish (though at 5 strength, he's not actually useless) when 7 companions can? Merry's Sword specifically is why I'm keen on Southron Troop sometimes, especially paired with Southron Traveler to survive a Rohirrim Bow. Though I'm finding that by the time my opponent plays their 7th companion it's too late for removing even the most important ones to do enough. Hard to say whether he actually is better than Southron Commander or even War Towers for the average deck.

Orophoin is right that the real cost is hand clog (though the twilight for replaying the Hobbit is there too, small as it may be). Since they won't discard the hobbit when reconciling with their FP or with their Shadow, that's up to 2 cards per turn that they're not drawing as a result (the initial card not drawn, plus not discarding it and reconciling another card at the end of the opponent's turn). Using it again adds more delay so on the 4th use, players might be a full 8 cards behind where they would otherwise be. It's a soft cost though, and one that is really difficult to capitalize on or even see for the opponent. 7 unknown cards aren't very different from 8. I have gradually noticed that I can be a little bolder against decks that pull one of the Hobbits back, and use my wounding Shadow to goad them into doing so rather than to really get kills. And after pulling back the Hobbit to hand, players are typically unwilling to move again.

So while I think King Standard in particular would be healthier without them, this is why I would say they're not overpowered: the Hobbits make these decks more consistent and streamlined, but slower on both sides. Strong, slow FP are a good archetype I think. I'm okay facing an invincible opponent who can't make a double move except to 3 most of the time and perhaps to 9, and there are many decks that produce similar results. Those decks are the reason I bid to go first :)

March 17, 2023, 09:16:05 PM
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Re: Pippin, Wearer of Black and Silver & Merry, Swordthain
« Reply #4 on: March 17, 2023, 09:16:05 PM »
Thank you Phallen for the very informative answer (as always). I'll keep that in mind since my friends and I are currently reviewing our private X-list for King Standard. For now we are mostly extending to the cards included in the Open X-list but we are considering adding a few more and maybe removing 1 or 2.

You are right about Mustering for Battle regarding Rohan (I included it in my own deck as a matter of fact), though as you said, it's likely to be a 1-off since a double exertion might be tough. In this regard, it's fairer since it allows an exchange with the shadow player cards, while Swordthain is basically eternal, immediate recursion. Likewise, as far as I know no Rohan card allows skirmish recursion, so Swordthain not only nullifies cards such as Uruk Spear in maneuver but also other discard effects such as Lieutenant of Dol Guldur in skirmish. That's also where I feel a bit uneasy.

Wearer of Black and Silver is more limited indeed, but in ring-bound rangers deck, Mablung must exert twice to exhaust then kill the minion he is facing, so you need plenty of healing to make him reliable and a copy of Ranger's Bow. Stand to Arms is a similar effect for (0) but it requires initiative and can only be used once. Pippin, on the other hand, is a tremendous help every turn, just by himself, for only [1] . The cost benefit ratio seems definitely a bit off, compared to former sets, though Pippin is definitely more niche. Indirect wounds absorption set aside, even.

Merry's Sword I do not like much, indeed. Third Marshal of Riddermark was already plenty strong on his own, and with a pump. Besides, anything that can easily counter Ulaire Enquea, Lieutenant of Morgul is tricky since it helps deck to circumvent the "rule" of 5. Of course, it wouldn't work against Greed, but it could still nullify Southron Commander by killing him with Rohirrim Bow afterward (though the required extra card makes it fairer). It also feels like a color pie break for Rohan, like we called it in MTG. Ithilien Trap was similar in effect but it at least required a long setup and could be discarded easily since it is a condition (unique, besides).

Anyway, I do not like those 3 cards much... :( Based on all the answers to this post, I'll discuss some more with my friends and see if we decide to add them to our private X-list. Thanks a lot!
« Last Edit: March 23, 2023, 12:16:30 AM by WilliamFox »