The fun thing about this game is that it dares to go beyond the regular factions when it comes to player cards for this game. Instead, it shows that not everything in Middle Earth is light and dark, good and evil. There is also a grey area in between and characters can switch sides halfway through the narrative. One of the examples would be how Na’asiyah joins your hero pool halfway through the Dream-chaser cycle after she has been betrayed. Another example involves today’s faction: Harad.
Who are the Haradrim?
From the blazing deserts and the lush jungles of the south hail the Haradrim (literally South-people). While you encounter these peoples as enemies during the Against the Shadow cycle and several Saga expansions, it should be noted that not all Haradrim are evil. It is out of fear that most Haradrim travel north to fight for Sauron. During the Haradrim cycle, you meet a tribe of defiant Haradrim who later join your group in the hope to escape Sauron and settle in northern lands.
While you battle Haradrim enemies during the Against the Shadow cycle, the Haradrim cycle and the later half of the Saga expansions, the player cards only originate from the Haradrim cycle. This makes the archetype easy to pick up for newer players.
- The Mumakil
- Race across Harad
- Beneath the Sands
- The Black Serpent
While the card pool for the Haradrim trait might be small, it does cover all 4 spheres and even has 2 Neutral cards. This makes the trait accessible to any deck, though Leadership will be the easiest one to build a Harad deck in. Leadership has the only hero, and 2 cards dedicated to the sphere. On top of that, Kahliel (the hero) can pay for Harad allies of any sphere, allowing you to play the entire card pool in one deck without too much trouble. Added Leadership support would be appreciated. This reminds me a lot of the Outlands trait, where you can also get away with a mono-Leadership deck as long as you have Hirluin the Fair giving you access to allies from other spheres
The small band of Haradrim that journey north with you during the narrative of the Haradrim cycle tend to stick together and help each other out. This is seen in the supporting cards for the trait. Allies like Kahliel’s Tribesman and the Southron Refugee are there to help the other Harad allies out. This is where The Big Three come in: Firyal, Yazan, and Jubayr. These three allies are the cornerstones of the Harad trait, and the Harad deck has done its job when all three are on the table together. They are excellent allies to use and the other cards of the trait make them even more powerful. The downside to the Big Three is their cost, which is alleviated by the Southron Refugee and Kahliel. Then, in order to make the Big Three even more powerful, there are the other cards in the trait.
Kahliel’s Headdress grants them +1 willpower, Kahliel’s Tribesman can boost all their stats, and Haradrim Spear can boost the attack value of the allies permanently or give them a big boost at once. In order to get even more value out of the allies, Kahliel himself can ready the allies by discarding a Harad ally from your hand (preferably another copy of the uniques in play), and bring it back with his headdress. This synergy is all focused at the three big allies but can have some chumps for the late game as well. At this moment, the card pool is too small for any other synergy, but maybe some cards get added in the future.
Synergy with other traits
As I mentioned before, the Harad trait is self contained, requiring no other support from different spheres. The 3 big allies can also be used in any other deck without Harad support, though they may cost a bit more. As of this writing, there are no cards that link the Harad trait to any other trait. I do think that Harad can work well with several traits, one of which would be Gondor, as that trait could grant Kahliel some more resources to use to pay for the allies. Gondor is also an archetype that can work well in a mono-Leadership setting, if you would want to deckbuild for that.
In the end, Harad can combine with most factions to add some more allies to your decklist. There are some archetypes that are less efficient, like Ents and Eagles, but with some deckbuilding, you could fuse the two together.
Obviously the Big Three are staples of their own, so it should be stressed again how powerful the three allies are. Yazan is in my eyes the weakest, just because more offense based options exist. But his Ranged and damage dealing effect also makes him useful in Direct Damage decks. Jubayr finally gave Spirit a solid defender besides Beregond. While expensive, Spirit has ways of its own to lower the cost to play Jubayr, like with Caldara. Jubayr has also gotten some more attention now that the Dale synergy is giving us attachments for Jubayr to make him last longer. Firyal is my favourite of the Big Three, as she allows players to not only have a solid quester, but also a scrying effect on top of that. You get to peek at the top card of the encounter deck when Firyal commits to the quest, and you can immediately discard the card if you want. Having this ability on top of her willpower makes her amazing. She will also stay alive longer than other questers thanks to her big pool of hitpoints.
The other staple of the Harad trait is Kahliel, the chief of the tribe. He is included in the game as the only Harad hero (so far) and is a great help when constructing your Harad deck. Kahliel comes with the benefit of providing sphere blending for the Harad deck, being able to pay for Harad allies of any sphere. This is intended for the Big Three of course and is a similar effect as Hirluin has for Outlands. Kahliel also has another action that he can use to get more use out of your Harad characters. This involves you discarding a Harad ally from your hand so that you can ready any Harad character on the table. This can target Kahliel himself, making him able to use several of his stats at the exchange of discarding a Harad ally from your hand. This isn’t even a high cost as Kahliel’s Headdress can return the discarded ally to your hand at the end of the round. With the action being able to trigger once per phase, this becomes a reliable way to ready your characters and use multiple stats of the allies per round. It is also a good way to get rid of additional copies of the Big Three that are already on the table.
“Bad” Harad cards
There are not many cards in the cardpool, and with half of them being mentioned as staples, it doesn’t leave much room for “bad” cards. Still, the supporting allies are not necessary if you have other means to get the Big Three out early. This rules out the Southron Refugee, who doesn’t do much besides questing once the rest of your allies have been played. While she can eventually earn herself back, it is another cog in the machine that you are trying to make as efficient as possible. Removing her in exchange for resource acceleration will likely be the better deal.
The same holds true for Kahliel’s Tribesman. While it is absolutely justified to include him in your Harad deck, he isn’t essential. While he does make your allies stronger, they rarely use all the boosts provided by the Tribesman. He can easily be exchanged for attachments or Wild Stallion, that even grants hitpoints. It depends on the scenario you are playing whether or not you favour allies over attachments, but attachments are usually the safer bet, making the Tribesman less than ideal.
Note however that both cards still have value when used with Kahliel as fuel for his readying ability. It is not that the cards are bad on their own, but they are just not on par with the Big Three.
I hope the Harad archetype will keep getting some love during future expansions, though the deck is already very solid. Perhaps in the future we might get some new allies sprinkled in to make the archetype slightly more relevant again. But if all you have is the Sands of Harad and the accompanying cycle, then this is certainly a powerful archetype to play with.
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