Gandalf's Staff (2R22)
|Erland, Advisor to Brand (2C21)||
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|Gandalf's Wisdom (2C23)|
Gandalf's Staff (2R22) is a Gandalf Artifact from the Mines of Moria set. It is the only way in the game to cancel a skirmish on a character other than a Hobbit or Smeagol without prerequisites or prevention text built in for the Shadow player.
Gandalf's Staff is as straightforward as it is ubiquitous. Vitality on a key companion, less twilight for opponents, and a way out of any skirmish make it as versatile as Gandalf himself. There are very few ways for a Shadow player to get rid of it once it is in play, too -- only Grond, Hammer of the Underworld (8R103) and Ravage the Defeated (4R32) can discard a Free Peoples artifact directly (although a handful of other cards, such as Reclaim the Precious (10U22) , uniquely penalize artifacts).
With a defender bonus, Gandalf can handle many minions at once without concern for how much strength they have. Wielder of the Flame (2U28) in particular is a great fit, as the twilight reduction ensures that the event itself doesn't give the Shadow player enough twilight to avoid the effect. On the Fellowship Block site path, a fellowship of only Hobbits and Gandalf can use Gandalf's Staff with Depart Silently (3C31) to funnel all minions onto Gandalf and then simply cancel the skirmish. Remember, however, that the restriction it imposes is for both players -- if Gandalf doesn't have enough vitality to cancel the fierce skirmish too, using it against Nazgul or Saruman, Keeper of Isengard (3R68) will get him killed.
Even if Gandalf would survive a skirmish, cancelling it can avoid some nasty Shadow effects. Cancelling a skirmish against Úlairë Cantëa, Lieutenant of Dol Guldur (1R230) can protect Glamdring (1R75) (and by extension, any weapons on other companions who might have been assigned) and may be worth doing even if Gandalf could ultimately win the skirmish.
While reducing the cost of spells is rarely the center of attention, there are instances in which it makes a big difference. Using Servant of the Secret Fire (1R83) to win a skirmish without adding any twilight leaves the door wide open for double moves, especially if it allow the Free Peoples player to wipe the last minion off the board. Sleep, Caradhras (1C84) is among the most expensive non-characters that can be played in Fellowship block, and when there are just a few nonessential conditions around the twilight reduction will go a long way in making sure the Free Peoples player is the primary beneficiary. It is essential for Risk a Little Light (1C82) and Questions That Need Answering (1R81) , where it not only keeps twilight out of the Shadow phase but allows these events to be played more times in a single turn than would be otherwise allowed.
However, some Gandalf effects such as Deep in Thought (3C30) must spot a certain number of twilight tokens in order to be used. When relying on spells to add twilight, this staff will hinder the Free Peoples' ability to use those effects at all. Gandalf, The White Wizard (4C90) will sometimes depend on a well timed spell in the skirmish phase to bump him up to fighting form -- making the skirmish cancelling ability of Gandalf's Staff available as a backup could instead force the Free Peoples to depend on it, unable to add enough twilight when needed.
While Gandalf, Bearer of Obligation (13R33) can bear this artifact, keep in mind that Ring-bearer skirmishes cannot be canceled. Unless you specifically need the twilight reduction, the text of a different version of Gandalf's Staff will be of greater value for him.
Gandalf's Staff is both almost never the focus of a deck and almost always high-impact when it is played. Strategies which stress Gandalf's vitality, such as Trust Me as You Once Did (3U35) decks, will use Gandalf's Staff and Narya (3R34) to maximize their output. They also often hold Gandalf back from skirmishing where possible, which lessens the need to increase his strength anyway and increases the need for a backup plan when the fellowship can't keep up with the skirmishing power of some Shadow sides
The competition for this card in Fellowship Block is Wizard Staff (2C29) , the only staff which offers Gandalf reliable strength bonus. It can act as a permanent Servant of the Secret Fire (1R83) as well, though the exertions will hit harder without the bonus vitality. Since it is not an artifact it is has less protection from being discarded, particularly in Movie and beyond where possession discarding is more commonplace. Still, it is among the most reliable ways to save any character - including the Ring-bearer - in a pinch, and well worth considering if you're losing games while Gandalf has plenty of vitality and no other outlet for it. If Gandalf is skirmishing regularly, Gandalf's Staff can sometimes offer less vitality if he winds up tying minions for strength in skirmishes and taking wounds. Many Uruk-hai in Fellowship block are 9 strength, for example, so pushing Gandalf, The Grey Pilgrim (2P122) armed with Glamdring (1R75) up to 10 strength will tilt things back in his favor.
Gandalf's Staff, Walking Stick (4R91) and Gandalf's Staff, Focus of Power (7R38) directly aid skirmishes, but only if there is a sufficient amount of twilight in the pool. Since this version of Gandalf's Staff makes it harder to add twilight, there is little competition between them: strategies that flood or have Gandalf as the primary fighter may benefit from a bit of extra skirmishing power, but all others typically get more out of the skirmish cancelling and occasional twilight reduction.
Gandalf's Staff, Ash-staff (11R34) is closer in application to the original, offering versatility through cycling and some wounding. It can be effective against swarms (which generally play many minions with 1 vitality), while this Gandalf's Staff is most handy against beatdown decks. If you need the vitality and can't decide between them, choose whichever one could come in handy in the hardest matchup for the rest of your deck to handle.
Strengths and Weaknesses
- Narya (3R34) and Strength of Spirit (1C85) , to maximize Gandalf's available vitality
- Any cards that exert Gandalf, especially non-events such as Trust Me as You Once Did (3U35) and Glamdring (1R75)
- Spells, particularly those that play in the Fellowship phase to keep twilight out of the pool in the Shadow phase
- Cards which no longer function with too much twilight in the pool such as Risk a Little Light (1C82) , Questions That Need Answering (1R81) , and Wielder of the Flame (2U28)
- The Balrog and any other predictable dangers where the Free Peoples player is typically better off attempting to mitigate losses in skirmishes than trying to win
- Skirmish triggers such as The Pale Blade (1R221) , which can otherwise be difficult to avoid
- Minions which do their harm within the skirmish phase, such as Ulaire Cantea, Lieutenant of Morgul
- The it costs may occasionally hurt the Free Peoples more than it helps, especially if it is played towards the end of the adventure path without any particular way to make use of the vitality
|Gandalf's Staff, Walking Stick (4R91)||Bearer must be Gandalf.
While you can spot 2 twilight tokens, Gandalf is damage +2.
|Gandalf's Staff, Focus of Power (7R38)||Bearer must be Gandalf.
While you can spot 4 twilight tokens, Gandalf is strength +1.
|Gandalf's Staff, Ash-staff (11R34)||Bearer must be a Wizard.
If bearer is Gandalf, he gains muster. (At the start of the regroup phase, you may discard a card from hand to draw a card.) Each time bearer wins a skirmish, choose a Shadow player who must wound a minion.