Smeagol, Slinker (5R29)
|Smeagol, Old Noser (5C28)||
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|We Must Have It (5C30)|
Smeagol, Slinker (5R29) is a Gollum Companion from the Battle of Helm's Deep set. Despite representing a scrawny, diminutive creature, Slinker is one of the most capable skirmishers in the game. This has been controversial for some, who have argued that a character like Smeagol should never be able to win skirmishes against imposing figures like The Witch-king, and that allowing such a thing to happen is one of the breaking points for the game's narrative.
Reframing Slinker and other powerful versions of Smeagol may help alleviate these concerns: Smeagol distracted, avoided, and saved Frodo from many threats while guiding him into Mordor. Rather than Slinker's skirmishes representing the physical prowess of a character like Aragorn, they are conceptually closer to the acts of stealth which kept The Ring hidden and enemies off of their trail. Each burden added represents the toll his guidance and ultimate betrayal caused Frodo -- relying on Smeagol too heavily will appropriately be a Fellowship's downfall.
Slinker's ability makes him extremely flexible: he is capable of surviving almost any skirmish, but whether he wins or loses depends on how much the Free Peoples player is willing to pay. A fully healed Frodo with no burdens and armed with Sting, Baggins Heirloom (5R116) and The One Ring, Answer To All Riddles (4R1) is all Smeagol needs to exceed 30 strength and overwhelm even the most troubling minions. Don’t Follow the Lights (6C38) makes this unnecessary most of the time -- simply assign the weakest minion to Smeagol, do the minimum necessary to win that skirmish, and discard the strongest minion as a result. Not Listening (6C43) refunds the burdens after winning, which allows The Shire Countryside (3R113) to heal back the exertions from Sting. Frodo's Cloak (4R303) can heal remove 1 burden and up to 5 exertions (1 from the cloak itself and 4 from all copies of The Shire Countryside) in the middle of a skirmish, the cost of making Smeagol strength +12. Poor Wretch (5C27) adds some extra base strength to mitigate the number of burdens Slinker will need to add, and the damage bonus is a way to get rid of higher vitality minions when preparing for a double move.
While it's possible to manage all of Smeagol's skirmishes on strength alone, Don’t Look at Them (6R39) can still offer a great benefit on many fronts. Most obviously, it's an alternative way to win skirmishes against minions with 1 vitality and a welcome reprieve from all the burdens and exertions. It also can act as a sort of damage bonus, reducing minions to 1 vitality so that the skirmish victory can kill them. which may be the only way to put away minions without needing to overwhelm them or discard them with Don't Follow the Lights. Further, it provides a big edge over Ringwraith decks, particularly those with Morgul Brute (7R188) whose an ability makes it the only minion the Free Peoples player may be outright unable to beat in a skirmish otherwise. Lastly, it's an opportunity to cycle through extra cards which often a necessity when so much of the deck's success depends on having the right events in hand and removing burdens before the Shadow player can capitalize on them. Doing so gives the Free Peoples the necessary control to remove yet another burden with A Light in His Mind (10U108) as well.
Since he may never end up taking wounds in a skirmish, he is often left with excess vitality compared to other versions of Smeagol. Follow Sméagol (5U23) is essentially free site manipulation in these cases, denying opponents their favorable sites while giving your Shadow the leg up even as you lead the way down the adventure path. Frodo, Son of Drogo (1C290) is a relatively unpopular Ring-bearer, but he provides a way for Frodo to transfer Sting's exertions to Smeagol and maximize the Free Peoples' effectiveness. This is especially true if several copies of The Shire Countryside are in play and some of the healing from it or Not Listening would be wasted otherwise.
Smeagol already adds a burden to play, and Slinker relies heavily on adding burdens to skirmish. Decks built around him must be cautious with their opening bids, as without having the right cards to start with a normally safe bid can quickly turn into 5 burdens going into site 3, opening the door for Úlairë Enquëa, Lieutenant of Morgul (1U231) to showing and kill a companion. At the same time, Slinker decks rely heavily on tricks and often need to get ahead of opponents early so they can reliably rearm in the more harrowing later sites. When it is necessary to have 5 burdens, remember that Enquea can typically only kill companions with 3 vitality or less while Hobbits and Smeagol have 4 vitality. As long as the Ring-bearer is the only wounded companion, you can stall long enough to drop back below 5 burdens before another copy of Enquea can finish anyone off.
On the Towers adventure path, there are two sites to avoid. Cavern Entrance (4U355) will absolutely ruin a deck built around Slinker, and even though it doesn't prevent Don’t Follow the Lights (6C38) from being played directly (it is a response event, not a skirmish event) it will prevent Smeagol from having any hope of winning a skirmish in the first place. Palantir Entrance will gobble up the burdens added to survive sites 7 and 8, empowering a swarm deck to kill the Ring-bearer directly. Follow Sméagol (5U23) or Get On and Get Away (4R304) are essential in preventing Cavern Entrance, and may be used to keep Palantir Entrance off the table too.
In Movie block, all site 4s use burdens as fuel for harmful Shadow effects. Between Slinker's need to add burdens and players inability to get through enough cards so early in the game to remove them, this can be devastating. Anduin Banks (7U341) gives any minion the power of Morgul Brute (7R188), making it almost impossible for the Free Peoples player to win any skirmishes and potentially guaranteeing an overwhelm on an unprepared companion. Pelennor Prairie (10U118) will tear through the Free People's support area, forcing players to get rid of the conditions that make Slinker's ability sustainable. Osgiliath Fallen (7U342) is typically manageable thanks to high Hobbit vitality and Slinker's ability, while the effects of City of the Dead (8U118) and Pelennor Plain (7U343) may worth a relief from the burdens (though they have the highest Shadow numbers). Going second to play a relatively harmless site may give the cover necessary to set up, and also ensures that you don't run into Steward's Tomb (10U119). However, doing so will often require a difficult double move later in the game to reach site 9 first. A deck built to win with the Shadow and a favorable site 6 can help overcome these deficiencies.
To build a deck entirely around Slinker requires at least 20 cards, with the remainder usually taken up by gear and tricks to be utilized by Hobbits. But since Smeagol doesn't cost any twilight, a deck which is already removing burdens quickly (typically Hobbit shennanigans but occasionally Gandalf cards) may not need the full kit to get the full value out of him and can always include him in the starting fellowship. Still, unless his strength or wound prevention fills a particular need, Sméagol, Poor Creature (6C45) is often preferred as the designated speed bump even when the Free Peoples has plenty of burden removal, since he helps a deck get through cards and set up faster.
Because of all the burdens he can add, some version of Sam is often required to keep burdens manageable or take The Ring in case Frodo needs to die to clear them out. In Towers he fills the need for a strong skirmisher in otherwise all-Hobbit decks, often seen alongside Sam, Nice Sensible Hobbit (5U115) but with or without Merry and Pippin. Some decks will instead rely on Sam, Son of Hamfast (1C311) as their primary burden removal, using the Hobbit Hospital to keep him (and all the other Hobbits) healthy. In Movie, Sam, Great Elf Warrior (10P122) is a substantial enough upgrade that the deck almost always starts with all 4 Hobbits and Smeagol. Sam, Samwise the Brave (4C316) is occasionally used to ensure that the Shadow player can't interfere with the flow of burdens, important when playing against dedicated corruption decks.
Strengths and Weaknesses
- Not Listening (6C43)
- Don’t Follow the Lights (6C38)
- Poor Wretch (5C27) (particularly for the damage bonus)
- Frodo, Son of Drogo (1C290)
- Sting, Baggins Heirloom (5R116)
- Frodo's Cloak (4R303)
- Brace of Coneys (4C298)
- Beatdown decks, which play just one or two minions each site and are easily handled by Slinker
- Decks which wound characters in a skirmish, particularly any Raider deck leaning on Red Wrath (7U157)
- Saruman's Snows (1C138) or Cavern Entrance (4U355) / Cavern Entrance (11S232), which turn Smeagol back into a useless, snivelling wretch
- Easterlings, which will only grow in strength with the burdens from Smeagol
- Warg (5C65) decks, which force the Free Peoples to add many burdens before being able to increase Smeagol's strength at all
- Isengard Orcs, which typically have too much strength to overwhelm and too much vitality to kill in skirmishes
- Morgul Brute (7R188), who can immediately remove burdens to gain the upper hand again
- Palantír Chamber (4U363) in Towers, which can quickly assemble a swarm and overwhelm the Ring-bearer if burdens have stacked up
- Site 4 on the King adventure path, especially Anduin Banks (7U341) and Pelennor Prairie (10U118) (though the burden removal may be appreciated, if you can weather the effects)
- Steward's Tomb (10U119) / Steward's Tomb (18U139), which denies opportunities to remove burdens at the point where the deck often needs it the most
|Sméagol, Old Noser (5C28)||Ring-bound. To play, add a burden.
Regroup: Exert Sméagol (or Gollum) twice to reveal the top 4 cards of your draw deck. Wound a minion for each Shadow card revealed. Place those 4 cards beneath your draw deck in any order.
|Sméagol, Poor Creature (6C45)||Ring-bound. To play, add a burden. Skirmish: Discard a card from hand to make Sméagol strength +1.|
|Sméagol, Always Helps (7R71)||Ring-bound. To play, add a burden.
Assignment: Assign a minion to Sméagol and add 2 threats to exhaust that minion.
|Sméagol, Hurried Guide (7C72)||Ring-bound. To play, add a burden.
Skirmish: If you have initiative, discard 2 cards from your hand. Sméagol cannot be overwhelmed unless his strength is tripled.
|Sméagol, Slippery Sneak (8R27)||Ring-bound. To play, add a burden.|
|Sméagol, Bearer of Great Secrets (9R+30)||Ring-bound. To play, add a burden.
Each time the fellowship moves, place an unbound companion in the dead pile.
Regroup: If Sméagol is the Ring-bearer, add 2 burdens to discard each minion.
|Sméagol, Scout and Guide (11R51)||Ring-bound. To play, add a burden.
Each time Sméagol wins a skirmish, you may play the fellowship's next site.
Skirmish: If Sméagol is at a marsh, exert him to cancel a skirmish involving him.
|Sméagol, Simple Stoor (13U55)||Ring-bound. To play, add a burden.
For each card titled Déagol in your discard pile, Sméagol is strength +2 and resistance –1. Each time Sméagol wins a skirmish, you may take a card from your draw deck and place it in your discard pile.
|Sméagol, Wretched and Hungry (15R49)||Ring-bound. To play, add a burden.
Each Ring-bound companion is resistance +1.
Skirmish: Exert 2 Ring-bound Hobbits to make Sméagol strength +1 and prevent him from being overwhelmed unless his strength is tripled.
|Sméagol, Pitiable Guide (19P11)||Ring-bound.
To play, add a burden.
Skirmish: Exert a Ring-bound companion to make Sméagol strength +2.
Merrick_H's Super Smeagol deck
Free Peoples Draw Deck:
- 1x Sméagol, Slinker (5R29)
- 1x Boromir, Son of Denethor (1U97)
- 1x Merry, Friend to Sam (1R302)
- 1x Blade of Gondor (1R95)
- 2x Brace of Coneys (4C298)
- 3x Frodo's Cloak (4R303)
- 2x Hobbit Sword (1C299)
- 2x Sting, Baggins Heirloom (5R116)
- 4x Nasty (7U64)
- 4x Not Listening (6C43)
- 2x Power According to His Stature (1R308)
- 4x Poor Wretch (5C27)
- 1x The Saga of Elendil (1R114)
- 4x The Shire Countryside (3R113)