Fixing Fallen Saruman

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Bandobras Took
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Fixing Fallen Saruman

Post by Bandobras Took »

Hopefully Khamul Unleashed has fixed Khamul's problems, and we've moved to greater avatar parity.

I'm still uncertain about Fallen Saruman though. VC1 has added two cards that help him:

First of the Order has been made a permanent event, which is okay.
Never Refuse has more application with Fallen Saruman than any other FW because Fallen Saruman has been the only FW that had to worry about Beorning Skin-Changers.

On the other hand, Cup of Farewell has made the Forge-Master's special essentially obsolete. With any female character, you can get any minor item instead of just a Weapon/Armor/Shield/Helmet minor item.

But overall, there are only a few areas in which the Fallen Saruman player would be better off than any other avatar:

1) Fallen Saruman can recycle Gold Ring Items with Saruman's Ring. This is great, but it's not a source of MPs -- it's a defense against Rolled. Fallen Saruman gets full MPs from Ring Items without use of Blind To All Else. However, FW Ring decks are uniquely vulnerable to Blind to the West. Fallen Saruman can recycle Wizard's Test, but on any given turn, you run the risk of the Test getting Blinded and essentially losing the turn. Also, Fallen Gandalf has an even easier time recycling Wizard's Test -- and can tap himself to test a ring if the Wizard's Test gets Blinded, so he's at least as viable as Fallen Saruman for a Rings for Points deck.

2) Fallen Saruman's defense against Rolled makes him the best choice for A New Ringlord. A risky proposition at best.

3) Info. There are one and a half decks based a round Man of Skill. Frodo is intimately familiar with the Worthy Hills squatter (:)), and the other is sticking some Ain't No Secrets for 4 MPs.

But in terms of characters, the other FWs shine because of their superior GI (or, in Alatar's case, easy access to his main company as well as the more versatile 17 GI/10 DI).

In terms of allies, Radagast and Alatar beat Fallen Saruman -- Alatar through Full MPs on prowess allies, Radagast through allies playable at tapped sites from the discard pile and no movement restrictions on allies. Alatar through Untimely Brood also beats Saruman, and Pallando equals him.

In terms of factions, Gandalf, Alatar, and Pallando all can get 3-MP or 4-MP factions. Pallando also outdoes Saruman in terms of Half-Orc factions, which are all worth 2 MPs for him. Even Radagast equals Saruman in faction play.

In terms of items, Saruman's item MP ability is completely beaten by Legacy of Smiths, a generic FW card. Fallen Alatar doesn't even need that to get Full MPs from Orcrist/Wormsbane/Whatever. Fallen Saruman will also need to use Legacy of Smiths to get full points from weapons/armor/shields.

As far as Miscellaneous MPs go, any other "Big" FW card actually plays to that FWs strengths. Girdle and Await give only 1 less MP, but Gandalf will have 3 MP Free-Hold factions and Radagast will have allies up the wazoo. Pallando gets 3 less MPs but will have played 3 MP factions. Alatar's Great Hunt goes without saying. White Hand doesn't play to Saruman's strengths because Saruman doesn't actually have any other than the Black Hills deck.

With that in mind, I think Fallen Saruman could use a little buffing or a lot, and have a couple of ideas (surprise! :) ) depending on which camp you fall in.

The Forge-Master:

Little Buff: Reduce the stage points to 1. With Forge-Master being exceeded by Virtual Cup of Farewell, this card needs to be more of a bargain.

Big Buff:
Unique. Playable on any Orc or Dwarf. This character only requires two points of influence to control and may only be controlled by General Influence or Saruman. Tap target character to retrieve any technology item from the discard pile to your hand.

Rationale:
Saruman has to go through a lot of annoyance to play Saruman's Machinery -- it can only be played at a protected White Towers or Isengard. You can't afford to clog your deck with technology items based on Saruman's Machinery. Since all technology items are worth 1 MP, this won't be too strong -- just a little boost. It can also work to add a little more to a Great Ruse deck. Thematically, Saruman was a servant of Aule, so should have a better relationship with dwarves than he currently does. Alternatively, he went in for the orcs -- I never thought that any Man character was thematic.

Many-Coloured Robes:

Little Buff: If on Saruman, tap Many-Coloured Robes during your end-of-turn phase to take First of the Order, All Thought Bent On It, or Some Secret Art Of Flame from your discard pile to your hand.

Big Buff: If on Saruman, tap Many-Coloured Robes during your end-of-turn phase to take First of the Order, Focus Palantir, or The Tormented Earth from your discard pile to your hand.

Rationale:
The problem with the original is that nobody cares about getting Lordly Presence, Ringlore, or a non-virtual First Of The Order back. The reason nobody cares about Lordly Presence is that factions are only worth 2 MPs for Fallen Saruman, tops. The reason nobody cares about Ringlore is that it costs a turn and a site in order to be Rolled anyway. That and the original text forces you to tap Saruman. With the Little Buff version, Fallen Saruman gets a chance to search for a key item without too much deck clog and recycle a reasonable prowess booster which will help him out in being active (combined with Never Refuse). The Big Buff allows for good Palantiri action (Minion Palantiri so that one has to choose between big MP hero palantiri and minion palantiri utility), and a canceler to keep him alive so he dares move out of the Gap of Isen.

Saruman:

Little Buff: Ignore all movement restrictions on Palantiri borne by any of your characters. May tap during your end of turn phase to bring one spell or sorcery card from your discard pile to your hand.

Big Buff: If you have more than 14 Stage Points, your Unique Minion Resources normally worth 3 or more Marshalling Points are worth 3 Marshalling Points and your Unique Minion resources normally worth 2 Marshalling Points or less are each worth 2 Marshalling Points. Saruman may tap during your end-of-turn phase to bring one spell or sorcery card from your discard pile to your hand.

Rationale:
Since Fallen Saruman's Full Item MPs for non-battle gear is exceeded and surpassed by Legacy of Smiths (or Blind if you're going for Rings), get rid of it entirely. With the little buff, he can do some interesting things with normally immobile or unwieldy Palantiri. I think, though, I prefer the big buff. It's obviously inspired by Grey Embassy/Give Welcome, but with key differences:

1) A rather stiff Stage Point requirement. Thematically speaking, Saruman should have to fall farther than any other Fallen Wizard;
2) A focus on minion resources. Most FWs don't really have this other than Wolf-Squatters and Ettenmoors. Since Saruman is described in the books as having intently studied the arts of the Enemy, it seems to me that his focus should be far more on minion resources than the current set allows.

Overall, I just think Fallen Saruman could use a bit more flexibility and interesting cards/abilities. His Palantiri focus is more advantageously done by Pallando, his item MP ability is duplicated and surpassed by generic stage cards, and Man of Skill only leads to about one and a half decks.

Anyway, I feel the topic is worthy of discussion, and I've played Fallen Saruman enough that I don't think I'm inaccurate in anything I've said. Feel free to point out the stuff I've inevitably missed. :)

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Thorsten the Traveller
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Post by Thorsten the Traveller »

Impressive post and propositions Bandobras! I have to brood on it a while. I'm not an expert on Fallen Saruman, but hopefully I am on FW in general, and I think we can all agree that Saruman is least competitive of the 5, and if you want to play him competitively, you'd best do without most of his specific stage-cards, which makes him alot less attractive indeed to play in terms of fun (that's why I'm not an expert on FW Saruman :wink: ).

just a quick note on some of your proposals:
incorporate in Saruman V a grey embassy: hmm, I'd make it non-faction unique minion resources, you don't want Saruman to take over Mordor (3 orc captains in Great Ruse Awaiting Some call controling 9 factions for 18 MP?)
But then, what are you thinking of if not factions/non battle gear items? warg king/stinker/blackbole? okay. But obviously he's a servant of Aule. Unique minion weapons there aren't many, except for the helm, thong, mithril-coat...I don't think he would benefit that much. At least he would have to get out more to dangerous places, and his whole plan till now has basically been not to do that, so that's okay.

The Forgemaster V big buff is nice, I'd book it straight away. Play and discard a blasting fire every turn: cool! It's cool for the ability, so perhaps the influence reduction can be made smaller to compensate? Also you're right about the orcs, but not the dwarves. Though Saruman was once servent of Aule I don't seen him naturally working together with dwarves, they're both too greedy, stubborn and self-absorbed, Saruman needs servants! I would add man-sage. Small buff's not worth it.

Many Coloured Robes V are both nice thematically, but do you think they could be put to good use? Competitively I guess they can't (not that that has to be the main rationale). Would you risk a CC on Saruman each turn with Tormented/Secret Art at -5? Recruit Hador then, probably at exert your First of the Order V.
I always felt the Robes should retrieve Wizard's Voice, obvioulsy. Or White light Broken! (or Poison of his Voice, or Honey on the Tongue, there's just so much!) He can get it with his own ability, but then he would have to tap. Is retrieving WV too strong then? Yes if he's just playing (greater)half-orcs, but not if he has to get out. White Light Broken would actually be a good choice if you want to include the other sorcery's that force big cc's. Make Saruman a havy sorcery user, I like it!

I think other things, more drastic things, should be possible, especially with Man of Skill: make it a mission card to gather different kinds of knowledge perhaps or different kinds of items (a ring, a palantir, a jewel) that gives him MP's? Or tapping it to fulfill requirements of stolen/ancient knowledge? Mission card that needs him to get to differnt places, like Minas Tirith and Dol Guldur? Card that can retrieve Secret Book or Forgotten Scrolls? (but all this recycling in the end will kill the deck).

Poison of his Voice V/White Light Broken V: must get some attention, they're not bad, but don't see much play either.

One thing's for certain, Saruman needs to get out more and show his many colours.
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Bandobras Took
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Post by Bandobras Took »

Thorsten the Traveller wrote:incorporate in Saruman V a grey embassy: hmm, I'd make it non-faction unique minion resources, you don't want Saruman to take over Mordor (3 orc captains in Great Ruse Awaiting Some call controling 9 factions for 18 MP?)
I say if you can get that out by the time your opponent calls, you deserve the 18 MPs. :) The problem with taking over Mordor is the same as any other FW deck: getting there in the first place.
But then, what are you thinking of if not factions/non battle gear items? warg king/stinker/blackbole? okay. But obviously he's a servant of Aule. Unique minion weapons there aren't many, except for the helm, thong, mithril-coat...I don't think he would benefit that much. At least he would have to get out more to dangerous places, and his whole plan till now has basically been not to do that, so that's okay.
Minion Palantiri, Arkenstone, etc. would be worth 3 MPs and would fit with a twisted Aule theme. Mainly, I was thinking have Fallen Saruman get his mileage out of minion resources rather than hero resources.
Though Saruman was once servent of Aule I don't seen him naturally working together with dwarves, they're both too greedy, stubborn and self-absorbed, Saruman needs servants! I would add man-sage. Small buff's not worth it.
That was a gameplay consideration -- I don't see Saruman really working together with anybody, but his voice is still strong even if its power is waning. As a former servant of Aule, I could see him as knowing how to speak to dwarves and delude them into helping him more effectively than any other race.
Many Coloured Robes V are both nice thematically, but do you think they could be put to good use? Competitively I guess they can't (not that that has to be the main rationale). Would you risk a CC on Saruman each turn with Tormented/Secret Art at -5? Recruit Hador then, probably at exert your First of the Order V. I always felt the Robes should retrieve Wizard's Voice, obvioulsy. Or White light Broken!
Those are good suggestions. The sorcery combat cards I suggested are mainly because of the number of times I've had Fallen Saruman die or get wounded just trying to leave the Gap of Isen (Cave Worms/Assassins when heading to Gondor, Cave Worms/Corsairs when heading to Eriador). Of the two, I think recycling White Light Broken is actually stronger than Wizard's Voice (cc bonus or stage point reduction is nice and flexible), so I would go with First of the Order, Focus Palantir, and White Light Broken. Focus Palantir because there should still be a Palantiri subtheme for Saruman.
I think other things, more drastic things, should be possible, especially with Man of Skill: make it a mission card to gather different kinds of knowledge perhaps or different kinds of items (a ring, a palantir, a jewel) that gives him MP's?
I think giving him MPs for all kinds of Unique Minion resources would be sufficiently drastic and allow for some variety in his play. Just focusing on Great Ruse and Plotting Ruin, you can go with a Hillmen/Dunlendings deck, a Misty Mountains pseudo-Great Army deck (with the Forge Master getting tech items to play after the factions), an Anduin Vales deck with Minion Beornings, Woodmen, Blackbole, or even, as you suggested, a Mordor deck with some Orc Factions (which would have been worth two MPs with Gatherer of Loyalties anyway) and a Last Child. And he can always go with Patron/Gatherer/Legacy if he wants to go with traditional Hero Items.

Thanks for the comments. I think I'm in love with the idea of cycling White Light Broken with Many-Coloured Robes. :)

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Post by marcos »

Thanks for the comments. I think I'm in love with the idea of cycling White Light Broken with Many-Coloured Robes.
that's VERY thematic :D

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Thorsten the Traveller
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Post by Thorsten the Traveller »

But unless I'm mistaken, Saruman already gets full MP's also for the minion palantiri, Arkenstone, Scroll etc, right?

You're right about the Mordor factions, it would be an achievement indeed :lol: .So but in the end it would just mean a plus 2 or 3 mp's on factions then, and maybe +1 for a minion ally or weapon. And it would mean you don't have to play Gatherer of loyalties, but have you ever done a SP breakdown, can he get to 14 SP without the White Hand actually, reasonably?

White Light just fits perfectly with him, doesn't it? The SP reducer is very good too, at certain moments.
Maybe you can skip First of the order if there's something else that interests more, since the V version is a permanent-event, there is less need for recycling after all.

I'm still going to brood on a mission card of some sorts, if you don't mind. Suggested proposals are all nice, but not exactly revolutionary.
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Bandobras Took
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Post by Bandobras Took »

Yes, he already does get full MPs. That's why it's vital that Minion Resource ability be unilateral -- what it gives him is options and flexibility in choosing where to go to get his MPs, making his decks less predictable. And the difference between 2 MPs/faction/item/ally and 3 MPs/faction/item/ally can be huge.

If we assume 3 starting stage points:

3 from Fortress.
3 from whatever cards you didn't include in your starting stage resources (Thrall, Myrmidon, etc.)
4 from Saruman's Machinery.

That already puts you at 13. You figure in a Mischief and/or Plotting Ruin and you can hit 14 reasonably by the end of the game. Also, Virtually speaking, Fallen Saruman is going to be using the Virtual Never Refuse, which is a stage point anyway.

The reason I wouldn't virtualize Man of Skill is that it can work in any number of decks with Ain't No Secret. I tend to prefer virtualizing underused cards.

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Post by marcos »

ok, here i come with a new one, that will really make saruman's orc based decks to be the boom! :D

The white hand V:
Permanent event.
Unique. Playable on Saruman if he has at least 15 stage points, Fortress of isen in play, smoke on the wind played at wellinghall and edoras and burning rick cot and tree at dunharrow. Cannot be duplicated.

it bassically changes the requirement for White hand to something more fun and doable than the already existing one. Rest of the card keeps like the same (MPs, modifiers to saruman, etc)

pretty thematic, isn't it?

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Post by Bandobras Took »

The only problem I foresee with such a card is that it limits Saruman back to Rohan, whereas we would want a variety of play styles. I would remove the specific site requirements; something like:

Playable if you have three of any of the following cards in play: Smoke On The Wind, Burning Rick, Cot, and Tree, or stored Sieze Prisoners.

Those who wanted to get some of the juicy Minion factions playable at Border and Free-holds would probably use the original version, and those who just want to burn everything in site would use the Virtual Version in conjunction with a Virtual Plotting Ruin without being stuck in Rohan for the whole game.

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Post by marcos »

right, but you catched my point ;)

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Thorsten the Traveller
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Post by Thorsten the Traveller »

That's why it's vital that Minion Resource ability be unilateral -- what it gives him is options and flexibility in choosing where to go to get his MPs, making his decks less predictable
Not sure what you mean here, basically you want him to stick to minion resources, therefore having to rely on plotting ruin/great ruse/double dealing, but then you say it will be less predictable and more flexible? Moreover, most items are played at Ruins/lairs where alignment isn't an issue, Saruman can just as easily play hero as minion palantiri, in fact he would get 6 MP for a stored hero Osgiliath plus alignment, and only 3 for the minion one, and you want him to play the minion one?
But I agree with your faction analysis, 3 or 4 times 1 more mp can be critical, so really the point is moot :) What about minion items that give more than 3 mp and would be reduced by your Saruman V proposal (i.e.rings)?

If there's a new Man of Skill, the old one can still be played. And if you want to Great ruse the area, then Aint no Secret/That's been heard is not going to be of help. I don't think it can be played at many man-faction sites either, so Man of Skill doesn't really combine with an active item or faction strategy. Maybe that's exactly what should be changed about the card...

The White Hand burning proposal is nice, but to get points for mentioned cards is a drag.

edit: ah I see, you want to use both versions of plotting ruin at same time, that thought hadn't occured to me yet, strangely enough.
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Bandobras Took
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Post by Bandobras Took »

What I mean is that it works for all types of resources -- ally, faction, and item. So one could get 3 MPs from factions in the Anduin Vales while only getting 2 MPs from Blackbole or Sable Shield, or one could get 3 MPs from Last Child in Imlad Morgul while only getting 2 MPs from Factions, etc. In other words, he could be working from Shadow-holds or Free-Holds as needed, but would need to be at the minion versions of them. Or one could go for Wargs of the Forochel and a Minion Palantir. That is the flexibility I'm talking about -- no specific area and no specific kind of MPs as a focus.

If you want full MPs from Rings/Hero Items, nothing stops you from playing Blind To All Else/Legacy of Smiths. But the proposed Fallen Saruman still won't have to if he just needs some item MPs -- he'll get full from the Minion Palantiri, Thong, etc. which are solid 3 MP options.

Going to Minion Free and Border Holds is as easy as Bad Company. :)

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Post by Bandobras Took »

I'm undecided about Many-Coloured Robes grabbing First of the Order from the discard. On the one hand, all the FW cards of this nature grab the Wizard-Specific card as one of the three options. On the other hand, Saruman's Virtual is a permanent event that cannot be duplicated and is not discarded. If we didn't go with First of the Order, we could possibly go with Wizard's Voice/Focus Palantir/White Light Broken. Though that could end up being really scary. :)

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Post by marcos »

why not limit it to the original first of the order?

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Bandobras Took
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Post by Bandobras Took »

Because:

1) The original First of the Order completely sucks; and
2) White Light Broken will do the same thing and even more than the original First of the Order.

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Post by marcos »

good point :D

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