Sting, Baggins Heirloom (5R116)
|Sam, Nice Sensible Hobbit (5U115)||
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|You Must Help Us (5C117)|
Smeagol has a potent toolkit, and a problem: a companion of just 3 strength, skirmishing can be trouble. When Smeagol was first revealed in Towers Block he had several ways within the Gollum culture to get around this. All of them, however, meant stacking burdens or tossing cards from hand - typically shadow cards - at what can be an uncomfortable pace. Baggins Heirloom is another answer. With The One Ring, Answer To All Riddles (4R1) , Frodo starts with a whopping 6 vitality and has little other use for it most of the time -- a potent resource. Even when using a ring without a vitality boost, 3 instances of +2 strength for Smeagol protects the Free Peoples from a variety of dangers (including those from Smeagol himself). When used alongside a version of Smeagol that comes with a strength gain, perhaps most famously Sméagol, Slinker (5R29) , Baggins Heirloom can propel him to strength levels that had previously required a combo of half a dozen cards to pull off.
When Smeagol isn't in a deck, doesn't rely on strength to skirmish, or is perhaps just a splash, it still has use in keeping his alter ego in check. Gollum is very versatile and appears in many decks. Even when he has no hopes of winning a skirmish, his high vitality makes him hard to kill in some decks and threaten a double move. Other decks rely on his low strength to get him killed, replaying him with Captured by the Ring (7C53) or So Polite (7R74) and mining threats with Fat One Wants It (7R57) . Sting gives the Free Peoples player near-complete control over Gollum's fate -- he can be quickly overwhelmed, or safely kept on the table for a double move to deprive a player of using Northern Ithilien (7U359) or Evil-smelling Fens (5U22) next turn and then killed without much fear of his strength contributing to any skirmish outcomes, even in a swarm.
All of this, of course, depends on Frodo's vitality. Not Listening (6C43) and The Shire Countryside (3R113) is the most obvious option for keeping him healthy, particularly with Sméagol, Slinker (5R29) to refund whatever it cost for him to win the skirmish. Frodo's Cloak (4R303) can heal him mid-skirmish to extend Sting's potential even further, extremely potent with Shire Countryside. Other Shire healing tricks, such as the Hobbit Hospital or Frodo's Pipe (3U107) , can bring him back from the bring in the Fellowship phase turn after turn.
For a deck where Smeagol is using his strength to win skirmishes, Baggins Heirloom is worth using regardless of format. In the Expanded or Open, using Sméagol, Pitiable Guide (19P11) can replace the need for it. In addition to opening up Sam and Bilbo's spare vitality for use, he'll also allow for another version of Sting to be used. Sting, Elven Long Knife (18R113) in particular can provide another point of vitality for the effect. Of course, the real cost of this is that you're unable to using what may be a more desirable version of Smeagol.
In Towers Standard decks with no Hobbits except Frodo, the only reason not to use Baggins Heirloom is you don't have any copies -- Sting (1R313) is banned after Fellowship Block. When there are several Hobbits that need to be armed, the flexibility of Hobbit Sword (1C299) may instead be better than the occasional benefit from Baggins Heirloom. Frodo already bears The One Ring for a strength boost, so sometimes putting swords on Sam and Merry, Friend to Sam (1R302) are even more important than putting one on him. Should Frodo need to be armed first, you have little control over the order in which you draw the weapons: playing the first copy of Hobbit Sword on him, then later moving it to another Hobbit to play Sting from hand is just an extra point of twilight given to the Shadow player. When the only other Hobbit is a splash who may not need a sword, Baggins Heirloom often wins out for deck space even if Hobbit Sword might be beneficial at times depending on how much trouble Gollum can cause the Free Peoples.
In Movie Block and later, Sting, Bane of the Eight Legs (8R113) is more versatile, with a greater variety of decks sporting fierce minions than expecting Gollum to make a big impact in a skirmish. It is also marks the point where Sting is given some of the flexibility that occasionally made Hobbit Sword preferable, with it and every version afterwards able to be borne by Frodo and at least one other Hobbit. Ninja Gollum decks with They Stole It (6R46) and Promise Keeping (8R24) may nonetheless be worth thwarting for some Fellowships, and reducing Gollum's strength will prevent him from winning a skirmish with the boost from Slippery as Fishes (9R+29) or allow an easy overwhelm to keep him from being stacked and replayed with Web (8C30) .
Because of the toll Baggins Heirloom can take on Frodo and the deck space that may be required to keep up with all those exertions, in post-Towers formats it can helpful to pad (or replace) its strength gain with other effects. Movie Block's Nasty (7U64) and Clever Hobbits (7U54) require an investment into the Gollum culture (or an opponent with a Gollum-centric deck), but beginning in War of the Ring all sorts of pumps are available to Smeagol. In addition to events, There’s Another Way (12C40) is a very popular choice for its site manipulation while Herbs and Stewed Rabbit (15U44) gives Smeagol not only the strength to help win skirmishes but the damage bonus to put away minions.
Strengths and Weaknesses
- Sméagol, Slinker (5R29) , Sméagol, Poor Creature (6C45) , and Sméagol, Simple Stoor (13U55) , which can supplement its strength gain in other ways
- Sméagol, Scout and Guide (11R51) , who has incentive to win skirmishes but no innate way to do it
- A version of The One Ring that offers a vitality boost, such as The One Ring, Answer To All Riddles (4R1)
- Frodo, Son of Drogo (1C290) , who can use other companions to maximize vitality for Sting every turn
- Frodo's Cloak (4R303) , which is the most reliable way to heal Frodo in the middle of a skirmish (Stout and Sturdy (1C315) and Trust (6C56) are the only others, although Strength of Spirit (1C85) allows a player to dodge the exertion)
- Any number of Shire healing strategies, particularly The Shire Countryside (3R113) ones which allow Frodo to be healed in the middle of a turn
- Gollum shadow sides of every sort, especially those that might rely on him winning skirmishes for Incited (11R44)
- Some Beatdown decks, if the only minion played can be easily handled by Smeagol thanks to Baggins Heirloom
- May not be enough to overcome Gollum, Old Villain (6C40) if the Free Peoples has no unbound companions -- the Shadow player will almost always have more cards in hand than Frodo has vitality
- Ring-bearer hate such as Morgul Destroyer (7U190) and Resistance Becomes Unbearable (2U79) , which will diminish how far Baggins Heirloom can go in a turn
|Sting (1R313)||Bearer must be Frodo.|
|Sting, Bane of the Eight Legs (8R113)||Bearer must be Frodo or Sam.
Response: If a fierce skirmish involving bearer is about to end, add a threat to discard a minion involved in that skirmish.
|Sting, Weapon of Heritage (11R173)||Bearer must be Bilbo, Frodo, or Sam.
Maneuver: If bearer is Bilbo or Frodo, exert him to make another companion resistance +2 until the regroup phase. If bearer is Sam, each time he wins a skirmish, you may remove a burden.
|Sting, Elven Long Knife (18R113)||Bearer must be Bilbo or Frodo.
Regroup: Exert bearer to remove a threat.
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)