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Culture Gollum.svg Gollum culture is the only culture that has both Free Peoples and Shadow cards. It first appears in Battle of Helm's Deep, the second set in Towers Block. Each side is focused on one half of Gollum's personality: helpful but difficult-to-manage Smeagol companion for Free Peoples, and persistant Gollum minion, always turning up like a bad penny for the Shadow. Culture Gollum.svg Gollum culture only includes three characters. Sméagol, Gollum, and, for Shadow only, Shelob, a monstrous spider minion. As a result, both sides are mainly splash cultures, working as an addition to a deck that uses cards from other cultures, particularly by tutoring key cards. Good Sméagol always helps!

While Gollum and Sméagol are the same character in Lord of the Rings, in this game they are two entirely separate characters, representing Gollum's dualistic, treacherous nature. Cards that mention Gollum by name do not affect Sméagol, and vice versa. Likewise, effects on a copy of one character do not affect the other. If Gollum is wounded, that doesn't hurt Sméagol at all. If Sméagol is in the dead pile, the Free Peoples player can't play any more copies of Sméagol, but the Shadow player can still play Gollum.

While Gollum and Sméagol are separate characters, they are both the same Culture Gollum.svg Gollum culture. Often, Culture Gollum.svg Gollum cards affect cards on both sides. Clever Hobbits (7U54) can discard both players' Culture Gollum.svg conditions, and indeed it is occasionally included in decks that don't use Sméagol to counter Shadow Culture Gollum.svg Gollum decks. Not Easily Avoided (18R32) can tutor both Free Peoples and Shadow cards. As long as a card doesn't specify Sméagol or Gollum by name, or require doing playing a Culture Gollum.svg card in the Fellowship or Shadow Phases, it generally works on both sides' cards. Occasionally, cards from other cultures benefit from this interaction: for example, if you're a heartless monster, you can burn Sméagol with Saved From the Fire (8R20) to tutor three Shadow cards to help set up Gollum quickly.

Both sides are good at tutoring cards from your deck and recurring cards, with cards like Evil-smelling Fens (5U22) and Web (8C30) . Early on, this is chiefly limited to Shadow cards and mostly focused on Gollum himself, like We Must Have It (5C30) . This becomes more and more of a culture staple in later sets, especially after the Shadows set, with cards like Déagol, Fateful Finder (13R46) , Something Slimy (15U50) , Incited (11R44) , and Sudden Strike (15U51) . Something Slimy, downloaded with Dammed Gate-stream (11U235) , is one of the two main reasons a Sméagol splash is popular in Expanded Free Peoples decks.

Many Culture Gollum.svg Gollum cards punish your opponent for simply skirmishing with Sméagol or Gollum, or allowing him to win a skirmish. Oftentimes this takes the form of direct wounding in the Skirmish Phase, as with Don’t Look at Them (6R39) or They Stole It (6R46) , or cards that trigger after he wins a skirmish, as with Not Listening (6C43) or You’re a Liar and a Thief (6C47) . The skirmish-phase direct wounding is such a powerful effect that there's a whole deck archetype that takes advantage of it: Ninja Gollum.

Culture Gollum.svg Gollum culture is also good at site manipulation, which becomes very important after Shadows changes the way the site path works. Follow Sméagol (5U23) and One Good Turn Deserves Another (11U49) are powerful, reusable tools to rearrange the site path, and together are the other reason Sméagol is an Expanded Free People staple. Led Astray (11U45) is another powerful site manipulation tool, this time on the Shadow side.

Free Peoples[edit]

Sméagol is mainly played as a supplement to your main strategy. Free Peoples Culture Gollum.svg Gollum cards chiefly offer strong tutoring and site manipulation, as well as some direct wounding and filter. Plus, Sméagol himself is a "free" companion for your starting Fellowship: he always fits in, as long as you're willing to accept a burden for the privilege. Even if you aren't using him for anything else, starting Sméagol filters one Free Peoples card out of your deck and can be suicided into at least one skirmish.

As a character, Sméagol is generally a poor skirmisher, and any plan to skirmish with him probably accounts for him losing most of his skirmishes (as with Sméagol, Slinker (5R29) ) or kills any minion he's skirmishing before the skirmish completes (with Sméagol, Always Helps (7R71) or Don’t Look at Them (6R39) ). He doesn't have access to any typical possessions to help him skirmish like hand weapons, relying on pumps and ersatz solutions like Poor Wretch (5C27) and There’s Another Way (12C40) . The only possession Sméagol can bear is Fishing Boat (13R48) .

As with Culture Shire.svg Shire culture, a number of cards discard Sméagol to accomplish some effect (e.g. Be Back Soon (5R21) ) or negate a skirmish after it has been assigned (e.g. The Dead City (7R56) ). He has some recursion to come back into play from discard, as with You Must Help Us (5C117) and Days Growing Dark (7U55) . However, these cards are relatively rarely played. Any card that pulls Sméagol from discard is a dead draw when he's in play, and any card that discards Sméagol is a dead draw when he's already in discard.

Sméagol is uncommon in pre-Shadows formats like Movie Block, but becomes more powerful after the Shadows set. The main reason is Dammed Gate-stream (11U235) . Dammed Gate-stream lets you download One Good Turn Deserves Another (11U49) , a powerful, self-recurring site manipulation tool. The changes Shadows made to the site path makes site manipulation much more important. In Expanded, you can instead download Something Slimy (15U50) to set up a key condition more quickly.

Noteworthy Free Peoples cards[edit]

  • Don’t Follow the Lights (6C38) is only rarely worth it when played "fairly" by winning a skirmish with higher strength, but it can be a powerful supplement to a direct wounding strategy. As long as you kill whoever Sméagol is skirmishing after assignment but before the end of that skirmish, you can use this to pick off another minion at a very low cost. This is particularly great as a supplement for Sméagol, Always Helps (7R71) /Don’t Look at Them (6R39) .
  • Follow Sméagol (5U23) and One Good Turn Deserves Another (11U49) are staples in post-Shadows formats. site manipulation is a powerful offensive and defensive tool in those formats, and Sméagol is relatively easy to add to your deck to control the site path. (Still Far Ahead (8U29) is a cheaper, one-time alternative along these lines, occasionally played in unofficial formats where those two are banned.)
  • Clever Hobbits (7U54) is a card with two functions. The first, and most obvious, is a middling-quality pump for Sméagol himself. It's nice that it's uncapped, but it comes at a high price when you're discarding your own conditions. However, it can also discard your opponent's Culture Gollum.svg conditions, even if you don't have Sméagol in play. It's even occasionally played in decks that don't use him at all, as tech against Ninja Gollum Shadow decks.
  • Nasty (7U64) can be a very strong pump in the late game or against a Culture Gollum.svg Gollum-focused Shadow. It's generally the strongest pre-Shadows pump for Sméagol, although it can be of limited value early in the game or in a deck that only splashes Sméagol for a couple of cards.

No Safe Places (7R66) counts both Free Peoples and Shadow cultures, so it will usually discard at least two cards, and often three or four. It's an interesting supplement to a Culture Elven.svg Elven or Culture Sauron.svg Sauron discard deck, or possibly to a Culture Dwarven.svg Dwarven mill deck.

Secret Paths (7R69) is a strong Move Limit card, similar to Final Throw. It's only useful in decks that are running Sméagol already or formats that don't include Reflections, because if you want to splash a single out-of-culture minion to get +1 move limit, you can play Radagast, The Brown (9R+26) .

Where Shall We Go (7U78) ?

Déagol, Fateful Finder (13R46) is a powerful tool to download artifacts or possessions onto your characters, and it can in turn be downloaded by Erkenbrand's Horn (18R96) . This is a common combo in Horn Filter, helping to set up your other characters more quickly. The chief weakness of this strategy is that having so many different cultures in your deck will make you vulnerable to Rainbow hate like Gríma, Chief Counselor (5R51) , although this can be alleviated somewhat by discarding Déagol using his game text and killing off Sméagol.

Gladden Homestead (13R49) knocks your opponent's conditions out of play for a turn, removes all of the cards or tokens stacked on them, clogs up your opponent's hand, and puts those cards where they can be discarded with mill. It's especially effective against Shadow Culture Gollum.svg Gollum decks, because it spots their Culture Gollum.svg conditions and bypasses Deceit (18R29) . Along with Nice Fish (15C46) , it's one of only two cards that stack Culture Gollum.svg tokens on themselves.

Naked Waste (13U53) is part of a cycle of similar pump events, but notable in that it can remove both Free Peoples and Shadow Culture Gollum.svg Gollum culture cards to pay for recurring it. There's a similar Shadow card that works the same way, Cunningly Hidden (13U45) .

Nice Fish (15C46) can be a lot of healing if you can get Sméagol's strength up. It's mainly useful in Solo Smeagol.

Something Slimy (15U50) can tutor one condition of any culture, and can downloaded with Dammed Gate-stream (11U235) . It's great for setting up any deck that relies heavily on one particular condition, as with Stewards’ Legacy (13U75) or Culture Dwarven.svg Dwarven self-mill decks using Ever My Heart Rises (4R46) , or for any deck with many powerful conditions. Note that this cannot be used on Shadow cards, as it requires playing the card in the Fellowship Phase.


site manip: Led Astray (11U45)

tutoring, recursion: Incited (11R44)

Standout Cards[edit]


  • Gollum, Stinker (5R25) is one of the highest-strength versions of Gollum, and fits well into any deck that places burdens, like Corruption decks or Beasterlings. Most versions of Gollum aren't going to win many skirmishes, but this is one of the exceptions.
  • Gollum, Old Villain (6C40) is a very consistent card, even if its power ceiling isn't all that high. It poses a dilemma for the Free Peoples player: even if you don't have any other pumps for Gollum, his strength could be as much 5 plus your current hand size. It probably won't be, but who wants to take that chance? Even if you're not concerned with winning a skirmish with Gollum at the moment, Old Villain can cycle unwanted cards to clear up a clogged hand, making your whole deck more consistent.
  • Gollum, Plotting Deceiver (7R58) is not a strong minion. However, in decks with Shadow cards that seize Initiative like Corsair War Galley (8U59) , it means you can play Gollum over and over without any other support. He can just be another minion as part of a swarm, a consistent source of threats from Fat One Wants It (7R57) , or you can just be sure Gollum is in play for cards that spot or exert him.
  • Gollum, Vile Creature (7C59) eats threats to win skirmishes. Captured by the Ring (7C53) and Fat One Wants It (7R57) can generate the threats, and with a decent pool of threats, this is one of the few Gollums that can be counted on to win skirmishes.
  • Gollum, Dark as Darkness (9R+28) is a utility knife. You'll never feel bad playing Dark as Darkness, since he can come down and exert the Ring-bearer right away. If he survives his skirmish, he can instead wound the Ring-bearer in the Regroup phase. If they don't have one of the versions of The One Ring that allows them to put it on as a Response: ability, that can steal wins right out from under your opponent's nose.
  • Gollum, Mad Thing (10R21) is occasionally useful, but mostly relies on your opponent to make a misplay. Your opponent gets to choose: allow Gollum to skirmish whoever he wants at strength 5 (which is almost always a bad choice), Gollum skirmishes as a normal strength 8 minion, or your opponent places a burden. This is okay in the early game if you have some way to take advantage of your opponent just eating the burden, but a strength 8 minion is rarely a big deal. He does have some nice synergy with Hidden Even From Her (8C22) , since giving him Fierce means he gets the strength bonus twice for the fierce skirmish. On the other hand, he has anti-synergy with Reclaim the Precious (10U22) , since he only gets his strength bonus if the Free Peoples player is assigning him to a skirmish.
  • Gollum, Skulker (11R42) is a general-purpose Gollum that pumps another minion. The effect isn't particularly strong, and this Gollum will almost always lose his own skirmish, but Lurker means he can cheaply buff another minion then get recycled with one of the many Culture Gollum.svg Gollum recursion cards.
  • Gollum, Hopeless (15R43) is occasionally useful against alternate Ring-bearers with higher base strength, decks that stack strength-boosters on the Ring-bearer, and The One Ring, Such a Weight to Carry (7R2) , but it's not very reliable. It's mainly played as a one-of, because it's so easy to search your deck or discard for a Gollum of your choice.
  • Gollum, Threatening Guide (19P10) is a high-strength Gollum suited to decks that generate threats. This is one of the strongest skirmishing Gollums in the game, especially since Free Peoples decks in Expanded often generate lots of threats with large Fellowships.


Recursion and Tutoring[edit]

Direct Wounding[edit]


Other Noteworthy Cards[edit]

Notable sites[edit]

site manipulation, mention the nasty sites

King Block[edit]


Free Peoples Culture Dwarven.svg Dwarven Culture Elven.svg Elven Culture Gandalf.svg Gandalf Culture Gollum.svg Gollum Culture Gondor.svg Gondor Culture Rohan.svg Rohan Culture Shire.svg Shire
Movie-era Shadow Culture Dunland.svg Dunland Culture Gollum.svg Gollum Culture Isengard.svg Isengard Culture Moria.svg Moria Culture Raider.svg Raider Culture Ringwraith.svg Ringwraith Culture Sauron.svg Sauron
Shadows-era Shadow Culture Men.svg Men Culture Orc.svg Orc Culture Uruk-hai.svg Uruk-hai Culture Ringwraith.svg Wraith