Deck Spotlight: Riding With Rohan
Most of my gaming time of late has been spent with Heirs of Numenor. However, I have also been taking some time to revisit older scenarios and experiment with building deck types that I haven’t really used in the past. My most recent focus has been constructing a Rohan deck, which is something I have thought about doing previously, but never got around to, especially since this is admittedly not one of the most developed traits in the game. I am fairly happy with the end result after testing it against a few scenarios (Passage Through Mirkwood, Journey Down the Anduin, Massing at Osgiliath, and a custom scenario). This is a deck that is mostly built with some of the earlier cards released for the game, many of which I have not used in quite awhile. As usual, I played it with another deck to support its weaknesses, so keep in mind that it is designed to work with a counterpart. While it is not the strongest deck around, I was surprised that it was actually able to hold its own fairly well, and I’ve had fun playing with it so far. So if you are interested in riding with Rohan, trying something new, building a deck with only early cards available, or gaining an insight into deck construction possibilities, read on!
Eowyn (Core) x1
Dunhere (Core) x1
Aragorn (Core) x1
Elfhelm (TDM) x2
Eomund (CatC) x2
Escort from Edoras (AJtR) x3
Rider of the Mark (RtR) x3
Snowbourn Scout (Core) x3
The Riddermark’s Finest (THoEM) x2
West Road Traveller (RtM) x3
Westfold Horse-Breaker (THfG) x2
Gandalf (Core) x2
Ancient Mathom (AJtR) x2
Celebrian’s Stone (Core) x2
Dunedain Mark (THfG) x2
Dunedain Warning (CatC) x2
Steward of Gondor (Core) x2
Unexpected Courage (Core) x2
Astonishing Speed (RtM) x2
Hasty Stroke (Core) x3
Mustering the Rohirrim (THfG) x2
Mutual Accord (HON) x2
Ride to Ruin (THoEM) x2
Sneak Attack (Core) x2
The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core) x2
We Do Not Sleep (TDM) x1
A Test of Will (Core) x3
Theme: Rohan (+ Aragorn)
Spheres: Spirit/Leadership (about 2/3 Spirit, 1/3 Leadership)
Strategy: This is a questing deck, plain and simple. It is best at clearing out locations through the use of Ride to Ruin, Snowbourn Scout, and Riddermark’s Finest. It is also quite good at big quest pushes using Rohan buffing cards like Astonishing Speed and We Do Not Sleep, as well as the one-time use of Escort from Edoras for 4 willpower. As far as combat goes, this deck can be a bit squishy but has a few options: defend with Aragorn who can also quest (and the deck has Dunedain Warnings to boost his defense), use the many cheap allies to pump out a constant supply of chump blockers, use a combat-focused deck to take care of fighting, and finally keep enemies at bay as long as possible and use a Dunedain Mark-ed Dunhere to pick off enemies in the staging area. Its main weaknesses are a lack of card draw (possibly mitigated by the Ancient Mathoms) and inability to destroy the tougher enemies that come along (obviously it is not ideal for the Heirs of Numenor quests as well).
How It Was Constructed: This was a case of choosing a theme (Rohan) and prioritizing that theme over gameplay considerations…for the most part. I picked Rohan allies regardless of how I felt about their utility, and the same could be said of most of the event cards as well. One Rohan card that I did not include is Nor Am I A Stranger, as I did not feel it would be very useful considering that almost all of my characters have the Rohan trait anyway. The reader may notice that one of my heroes, Core Aragorn, is not Rohan. This is one situation where I placed gameplay over theme. For those wanting to go pure Rohan, Theodred would be the logical replacement, and would work well to pump out resources for this deck or the counterpart deck. However, I felt that Aragorn would be a better choice in order to provide a defender (neither Eowyn or Dunhere are suitable for that task, and obviously neither is Theodred). With Theodred, the deck would have two automatic questers and one attacker, and would therefore be horribly vulnerable to attack. With Aragorn, the deck has an automatic quester, an attacker, and a quester/defender, and is far more solid and flexible. I comfort myself with the fact that Aragorn developed a connection with Rohan in the course of the trilogy, and as such does not feel too out of place. After including the available Rohan cards, I rounded the deck out with others that I felt were necessary and consistent with theme. The Test of Wills, Hasty Strokes, and Galadhrim’s Greetings are must-haves for any Spirit deck, while the Ancient Mathoms provided much-needed card draw. I thought about including Dwarven Tomb instead of one of the weaker Rohan event cards, but prioritized the theme and decided to leave them out (not sure what business Rohan riders would have with Dwarven tombs). The Celebrian Stone is actually one of the key cards of the deck, as once Aragorn has it, not only can he contribute to paying for Spirit cards, but now with him and Eowyn questing, I have an automatic base willpower of 8 each turn. The Dunedain Marks are meant for Dunhere, while the Dunedain Warnings support Aragorn’s work as a defender.
1) Sneak Attack + Eomund: Stay with me. It sounds crazy to use this card with anything in this deck save Gandalf, and 9 times out of 10 I would agree with you. However, if you are really struggling with enemies or moving towards the end of a scenario, and there are no Gandalfs in sight, it is perfectly reasonable to sneak Eomund in for questing, and then when he pops out you are left with almost all of your characters ready for combat (as he readies Rohan characters when leaving play). This can turn the tide if used properly, and has practically the same result for this deck as Grim Resolve yet only costs 1 instead of 5 (and you get Eomund’s 2 willpower for questing).
2) Snowbourn Scout + Ride to Ruin: Snowbourn Scouts were made for sacrifice. When you really need to clear a location more than you need a chump blocker, discard a Scout using Ride to Ruin and put 3 progress tokens on any location. This can come in handy on certain location-heavy quests. If no Snowbourn Scouts are available, some of the weaker Rohan allies like Westfold Horse-breaker are also fair game.
3) Mutual Accord + We Do Not Sleep: I usually play this deck with a counterpart Tactics/Lore Deck mostly made up of Gondor characters. Using Mutual Accord turns them into Rohan cards, and We Do Not Sleep allows me to commit both sides of the board to the quest AND have them all ready for combat. This is an expensive combo, costing 5 for We Do Not Sleep, yet it is a great end-game finisher to blow out the quest in a grand fashion.
4) Dunhere + Unexpected Courage + Dunedain Marks: An oldie but a goodie. This is one of the earliest combos players discovered in the game, but it still can be effective. With it, Dunhere can put a hurting on enemies in the staging area, which clears the way for questing and prevents combat from coming to your doorstep.
5) Mustering the Rohirrim + Escort from Edoras + Astonishing Speed: An unorthodox combo, but this is another example of how this deck can blow a quest stage to pieces in one fell swoop. Let’s say you have one Escort from Edoras in play and have been saving it for this combo. Use Mustering the Rohirrim to grab a second copy. Put it into play and use Astonishing Speed to give all Rohan characters an additional 2 willpower. Those 2 Escorts are going to be questing for 12 just by themselves. If you add in Eowyn, you are at a questing strength of 18 with only 3 characters. Add in a Celebrian Stone-bearing Aragorn, and you are at 22 with only 4 characters. I love how thematic this feels for a Rohan deck, as the Riders ride hard in an all-out charge to win the day.
Final Thoughts: Again, this deck can work well in a variety of circumstances, but may struggle against certain scenarios, especially the ones that have an intensive focus on combat. However, I have been pleasantly surprised at how well a Rohan deck can work using the current card pool, which makes me especially hopeful that more Rohan cards will be coming in the future (perhaps the next cycle?). It has the potential to be a very powerful deck type, but needs some more cards to put it at the same level as Dwarves. Also, I have found some cards that seem very weak by themselves and not worthy of inclusion in most decks (Riddermark’s Finest, Ride to Ruin, Snowbourn Scout), actually become much better when used in tandem with each other (those 3 cards together can clear out 6 progress tokens worth of locations). So I encourage everyone to experiment with the cards that you never use and think are a bit worthless. You may find that you are right, you may learn something new, but you will likely have fun doing it. Now is the hour, Riders of Rohan!
Readers, what have your experiences been with Rohan? Any non-Rohan cards that you have found work particularly well with a Rohan deck? What Rohan-theme cards would you like to see included in the future?