The next deluxe expansion is shipping to retailers this week, and I think since The Lost Realm, my excitement for each new expansion has only increased. Come on FFG, get it out there and take my money already!
This week, we’ll take a quick look at the Beorning Guardian, the new Tactics ally from The Crossings of Poros. Right out of the gates, I was impressed with this guy’s stat line. Only three other allies boast a strong 3 attack for only 3 resources, and of those, only one predated the Dreamchaser cycle:
Knight of Minas Tirith (Assault on Osgiliath), Azain Silverbear (Flight of the Stormcaller), Marksman of Lórien (The Drowned Ruins)
It feels like the standard of 1 resource for 1 willpower in Spirit (which also holds true to 2 for 2 as well) has been around for a while, but we’ve only recently started seeing that kind of efficient costing in Tactics , though it seems to make sense for the sphere. The other two similar Tactics allies we’ve gotten recently (Silverbeard and Marksman) are excellent cards. Other than great stats (and the Beorning Guardian has better defense and hit points than either), can the Guardian stand up to the high bar set by these recent Tactics allies?
As I’ve discussed before here, the best kind of “sphere bleed” is when a sphere does something that typically belongs in another sphere, but in a way appropriate to the sphere’s characteristics. In this case, direct progress is almost entirely in the domain of Spirit (there’s one or two Lore cards I can think of that do it too). It’s appropriate to the Tactics sphere that the progress is placed through destroying an enemy, and I don’t think the cost of having to discard him is too great for the effect. The biggest thing that makes up for that in my opinion is his lack of unique symbol. If you have to discard him for the effect, you’re going to probably want multiples in your deck, but if it’s unique (like Silverbeard or original ally Beorn), you don’t want to end up with dead draws. I think the Beorning Guardian fits well and gives Tactics decks (which traditionally struggle with questing – pre-Éowyn that is) a way to deal with location lock in the mid- to late-game. Before that, he’s simply a great attacker, but if you get into questing trouble, he can help bail you out. What a great addition to the Tactics card pool!
I think a fun home for the Guardian would actually be in a Lore traps deck that splashes a little Tactics for cards like the Guardian, Secret Vigil, and Followed. You could throw Secret Vigil on the high threat enemies until you can destroy them with the Guardian to get the most advantage you can out of each card’s ability. I haven’t made it yet, but props to the reader who does and posts it in the comments below!
The card’s theme is pretty on point as well. Tolkien says very little about the Beornings as a people in the lore, and it’s unclear just how many of them can change shape like Beorn himself. Their name is not so much based on any shape-shifting ability as it is that after the Battle of Five Armies, many of the Northmen rallied around Beorn, who became their chief. It seems that descendants of Beorn probably inherited the shapeshifting trait, but not all Beornings were descendants of Beorn, so it is likely that there were many of their folk who had no such gift. Our particular friend the Guardian, however, seems to be a descendant of Beorn himself, as his response seems to suggest he turns into a bear in his battle-frenzy and rushes off to explore and defend the lands of his people (similar to the way the original Tactics ally Beorn turns into a bear, and then disappears in his frenzy).
Given that we’ve established this particular Beorning is probably a descendant of Beorn, and thus a shapeshifter, the art is appropriate as well. The art makes plain that we are looking at no ordinary man, but a man who could very likely, in a fit of rage, turn into the Incredible Hu . . . err . . . a bear. This is emphasized by the size of the character, as well as his facial hair. I love that he is wielding axes, and you can see the peaks of the Misty Mountains in the background.
Readers, what are your thoughts on our Beorning Guardian? Do you think we’ll see cards that take advantage of the Beorning trait in the upcoming cycle? What deck ideas do you have for this ally? As always, thanks for reading!