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Deck Spotlight: Ride to Ruin

by on December 10, 2013


I have to admit that I’ve never been terribly excited about the Rohan trait as portrayed in this game. This is not to say that I’ve never used Rohan decks. On the contrary, I’ve used them quite a bit, and you can even catch a glimpse of one of my older Rohan builds in this Deck Spotlight article from the early days of this blog. The classic Rohan rush deck is extraordinary at questing and generating tons of willpower, but the problem is it just never fired my imagination or caught my interest all that much. However, things have changed dramatically with the release of The Morgul Vale pack, and the more martial side of the Rohirrim has finally revealed itself in earnest. In particular, the addition of two cards, Spear of the Mark and Forth Eorlingas!, has dramatically opened up the possibilities for a Rohan staging area attack deck, and Dunhere, perhaps the most intriguing of the original Rohan cards, has been given a new lease on life (really, this happened with Dagger of Westernesse, but Spear of the Mark adds another layer). With all this in mind, I embarked on the creation of a deck that would embody the epic spirit of the Rohirrim’s “ride to ruin” at the Battle of Pelennor Fields. I’ll say at the beginning that this is a multiplayer deck that needs at least one other deck to function, but if you can get beyond that limitation, it will leave you grinning foolishly with joy.

Deck List:

Hero (3)
Theodred (Core) x1
Dunhere (Core) x1
Hama (TLD) x1

Ally (20)
Eomund (CatC) x2
Errand-rider (HON) x3
Escort from Edoras (AJtR) x3
Gandalf (Core) x3
Bofur (OHaUH) x3
West Road Traveller (RtM) x3
Westfold Horse-Breaker (THfG) x3

Attachment (12)
Dunedain Mark (THfG) x3
Spear of the Mark (TMV) x3
Ancient Mathom (AJtR) x3
Steward of Gondor (Core) x3

Event (18)
A Light in the Dark (Core) x3
Forth Eorlingas! (TMV) x3
Fresh Tracks (TLD) x3
Quick Strike (Core) x3
The Galadhrim’s Greeting (Core) x3
Ride to Ruin (THoEM) x3

Theme: Staging Area Attacks

Spheres: Tri-sphere (Leadership, Spirit, and Tactics)

Strategy: This deck has one job: keep its threat low and kill enemies in the staging area. It’s not going to be contributing much to the quest, at least until some of those Rohan allies with strong willpower reach the table, and it’s fairly weak defensively, but if it hits its stride, it can manage enemies all day long. As far as strategy is concerned, this is a very tight deck with a simple approach. First, Dunhere needs to get at least one Spear of the Mark attached early, preferably two as soon as possible. If you don’t draw at least one in your opening hand, then definitely take a mulligan. There is some limited card draw available through Gandalf and Ancient Mathom, and weapon retrieval through Bofur, which can get you the Spear later, but earlier is always better. Dunedain Mark serves two purposes. First, it provides a back-up plan in case the Spears aren’t showing up quickly enough. Second, it turns Dunhere into an even more ridiculous death machine if it is combined with the Spears (two copies of Spear of the Mark + one copy of Dunedain Mark puts Dunhere at 8 attack when taking on an enemy in the staging area, for example). Once Dunhere is loaded up, he can take out many enemies with a single charge. With such a fierce attacking machine in operation, you will surely want to get multiple actions out of him per turn so that he can dispatch more than one enemy in the staging area. To this end, Westfold Horse-Breaker has been included,  essentially serving as a disposable form of readying that can also serve as an ally until it is needed. Discerning players will note that I have excluded Unexpected Courage, as I rely on a paired deck to provide that particular attachment, but if you want to make this deck more self-sufficient and powerful, then you could certainly include it for more consistent readying.

Because Dunhere and this deck rely on attacking enemies in the staging area, it is important to keep them there and prevent engagement. The first strategy for accomplishing this is to keep the deck’s threat low, which is greatly assisted by a starting threat of 25. Then, Gandalf and The Galadhrim’s Greeting both provide options for threat reduction during the game itself. The second strategy to keep enemies in Dunhere’s crosshairs is to use card effects that push enemies back into the staging area or keep them there. A Light in the Dark, a card that I have never found a real use for and has been a perennial coaster, really shines in this deck and I’m actually excited when I draw a copy. Even if an enemy has a lower engagement cost than my threat, I can use A Light in the Dark to send it back to the staging area, both preventing it from attacking, and allowing Dunhere to destroy it using his ability. This is one reason why I prefer Spear of the Mark to Dagger of Westernesse in this particular deck, as quite often Dunhere will be taking on a foe with a lower engagement cost, and the Spear will still provide the +2 bonus in these cases, while the Dagger will not. Fresh Tracks is also a useful card to trap a revealed enemy in the staging area for at least one turn. Finally, Quick Strike gives Dunhere the opportunity to snipe enemies before the encounter phase, which can also help with questing (if it is done after staging and before quest resolution).

Of course, it’s no fun if Dunhere hogs all of the spotlight, and so Forth Eorlingas! makes an appearance to allow Theodred and Hama to take part in the staging area attack shenanigans. Combine a powered up Dunhere with help from his Rohan companions, and you have a recipe for decimating any foes foolish enough to make an appearance in the staging area. Hama provides an opportunity to recycle this card for maximum usage (and he can do the same with Quick Strike as well).

Finally, beyond its combat capabilities, this deck also is designed with a few support functions in mind. It can generate and distribute resources with the help of Steward of Gondor (which is placed on Dunhere to pay for all those Spirit allies and other cards) and Errand-rider (which is used to both smooth out resources in a tri-sphere deck and to help out other players). The allies in this deck can make up for the low questing power of the heroes, while Bofur is a handy character for combat purposes.

All in all, this is a deck with a very specific strategy and sequence, which can lead to some sub-optimal games, but it is magic when it comes off.

How It Was Constructed: This is an example of a deck that was built with a certain card combination in mind. I wanted to turn Dunhere into a staging area destroyer with the help of the new Spear of the Mark attachment, and thus my first hero was chosen from the start. From there, my other two heroes were rounded out once I settled on wanting to explore the full potential of Forth Eorlingas!, which meant a need for Rohan characters. I definitely needed a Tactics Rohan hero to be able to include Spear of the Mark and Forth Eorlingas!, and this gave me a choice between Theoden and Hama. The choice was pretty easy, as Hama has a much lower threat (8 vs. 12) and an ability to recycle Forth Eorlingas!. My choice of third hero was a bit more problematic. I was tempted to include Lore for the sake of traps and encounter deck manipulation, which would help out Dunhere greatly, but with no Lore Rohan heroes in sight, and a desire to maximize Forth Eorlingas! and the Rohan theme, I had to go with Leadership. Thus, I included Theodred, who could help to generate resources, has a decent attack strength of 2, and, most importantly, has a nice low threat. From there, the deck really built itself, with the need for threat reduction, enemy manipulation, resource smoothing/generation, and a bit of readying/card draw in mind. I prioritized Rohan characters and thematic consistency over pure power gaming in several cases, but I did make some key concessions to gameplay.

Possible Combos:

1) Dunhere + Spear of the Mark (+Dunedain Mark): The central combination of this deck and one that doesn’t require much commentary. With a couple of Spears in place, Dunhere can attack for 7 into the staging area. Dunedain Mark adds to this combination or provides an emergency alternative in case those Spears decide to lounge at the bottom of your deck.

2) Forth Eorlingas! + Eomund + Ride to Ruin: Eomund isn’t just in this deck to look pretty. Rather, his ability to ready all Rohan characters when he leaves play can combo nicely with Forth Eorlingas!. Here’s how it works. Play Forth Eorlingas! at the beginning of the combat phase to allow the Rohan heroes to attack the staging area this phase. Then, after their first attack using this ability, pop Eomund out of play using Ride to Ruin to allow for a second charge. This may seem a bit gimmicky, but it’s thematic gold, and works well to absolutely demolish the staging area. Even better, keeping in mind a desire to build in back-up plans, Ride to Ruin can also be used in conjunction with Eomund to simply provide a global readying effect when needed, with a nice bonus of 3 progress tokens on a location added into the bargain.

3) Steward of Gondor + Errand-rider: Originally, I had Snowbourn Scout in this deck as a thematic Leadership ally. However, I made a concession to gameplay by removing him to make way for Errand-rider, who works so well to smooth out resources in a tri-sphere deck. Even better, with Steward of Gondor lurking about (another thematic anomaly), he can channel the wealth to another player as well.

4) Quick Strike, A Light in the Dark, Fresh Tracks: This is not a combination at all. Instead, I wanted to emphasize how vital these cards are in the deck. Each one allows Dunhere to use his ability against enemies that would normally engage with him, and they dramatically increase the power and flexibility of this deck.

Variations: There are a few different variations to this deck, as it actually went through several iterations, based on testing, before settling on the current incarnation. Here are a few variations that are possible:

* Replace Steward of Gondor with Steed of the Mark: If you really are all about theme, and can’t abide the presence of Steward of Gondor, then replace it with Steed of the Mark. I had those faithful steeds in the original version of this deck, and it was fun to be able to contribute a tiny bit of willpower to the quest and benefit from Theodred’s ability while still having him available for combat. However, I decided I could manage fine with holding back Theodred when I need him for attack. If you do go this route, then maybe you even want to throw in Celebrian’s Stone to turn Theodred into a 3 willpower questing powerhouse. If there is mount synergy in the future, then I may consider bringing Steed of the Mark back into this deck.

Add in Feint, Sneak Attack and/or A Test of Will: Obviously, these cards are always useful, and adding them in will dramatically increase the power and flexibility of this deck (the Hama/Feint recycle will also be possible). However, I specifically removed them in order to make room for more thematic elements and to include those effects that really reinforce the staging area attack strategy. If you are playing with decks that feature these cards, then you can probably get by without them, but if not, you may need to add them in, especially for the tougher quests.

Add in Unexpected Courage: This was already mentioned, but if no other deck will be providing Unexpected Courage to Dunhere, then you should really add it.

Exchange Theodred for Eowyn: If you wanted to make a deck with a stronger questing potential, while losing out on some of the attacking ability, then you could certainly remove Theodred and add in Eowyn, while maintaining the theme. This would also necessitate removing some of the Leadership cards, but it wouldn’t be an irretrievable loss. This would be the way to go if you wanted to modify this deck to work for pure solo play.

Exchange Bofur for Guthlaf: Guthlaf was in this deck until the very last version, serving as a useful defensive ally with the Rohan trait. However, I sadly had to cut him, heartlessly sacrificing this faithful servant to the gods of power gaming. One of the major weaknesses of this deck is that it is so dependent on getting those copies of Spear of the Mark on Dunhere, and Tactics Bofur provides one of the best solutions to this problems. Not only can he help search for a Spear in the top five cards, but if none are present, he will helpfully shuffle the deck to try to get one to surface. This is so crucial that I wouldn’t judge anyone who brings in Bofur in this way for similar decks, even though it makes my Tolkien purist side cry a bit.

Final Thoughts: Overall, this deck succeeds in one of the most important categories: fun factor. There are few things more enjoyable than bouncing enemies around and picking them off one by one with a powered up Dunhere. Still, there are some important weaknesses to this deck that need to be mentioned. First, the starting willpower of its heroes is far too low to make it viable as a solo deck. The allies themselves provide strong questing potential, but generally a successful solo deck needs at least 3 or 4 willpower from its questing heroes to establish a foothold against a scenario. Second, there is no proper defender amongst the heroes, which means that you will have to rely on chump blocking and/or other players for defensive support. If this really bothers you, then you can use Gondorian Shield in combination with Steward of Gondor to build up one of the heroes into a proper tank. Third, and possibly most importantly, this deck is heavily reliant on getting Dunhere up to speed quickly. If you fail to draw Spear of the Mark in your opening hand or within the first few turns, then you will probably struggle. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough card draw available to make me confident in declaring this to be a totally consistent deck, although most times it has performed pretty well. Between Bofur, Ancient Mathom, and Gandalf, your chances of getting the core combination into play is higher than it would be otherwise. With all that said, I’m looking forward to seeing what will emerge in the upcoming cycle, and the possibilities it will surely open up for this deck and others like it. Until then, forth Eorlingas!

From → Deck Spotlight

  1. Before I got to reading your combos and such, I was thinking that you should replace Ride to Ruin with Steed of the Mark. Then I read your combo and thought it might be better, since Ride to Ruin isn’t simply to get some progress, but instead to ready all of your Rohan characters. Nice combo. I also can’t believe never realized you could use quick strike with Dunhere to attack during the quest phase. Brilliant (even if you didn’t think of it yourself).

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      To be honest, I never thought of the Quick Strike/Dunhere combo either until I built this deck. I just haven’t really used Dunhere since the Core Set days, and then when I started looking through possible cards, I was excited to realize the possibilities of Quick Strike. I’m sure other players got to this combo long before me, but it’s truly epic now that Dunhere can be buffed so easily.

  2. Hythlodaeus permalink

    Awesome deck concept! I am building a similar one that follows the Spirit/Tactics model. I think it will be the perfect companion to a Mono Lore Ranger/Trap deck. The Lore deck keeps enemies bogged down in the staging area and contributes damage, while the Spirit/Tactics deck quests and snipes. I decided to go with Foe-Hammer over Ancient Mathom for a few reasons: it’s free, it synergizes well with the Spears, and it can be recycled with Hama’s ability. Happy hunting!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      A Lore Ranger/trap deck would surely make the perfect companion for this deck. i can definitely understand the appeal of Foe-hammer vs. Ancient Mathom. I chose Ancient Mathom because I was looking for something that would allow me to grab a hold of Spear of the Mark if it failed to show up at all, whereas Foe-hammer relies on having at least one copy of the Spear in the first place to activate. I don’t think it’s a bad choice by any means though, as it can work well if you get that first Spear out to help grab the other copies (as well as any other cards you need). In fact, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to include both.

  3. Traekos77 permalink

    Spear of the Mark is restricted (i.e. no using a third copy on Dunhere).

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      What? He can’t wield three spears at once? 😉 I missed that one. I did forget to mention that one reason I include the Dunedain Marks is because they are nice and unrestricted.

  4. Tonskillitis permalink

    Much love for the Dunhere deck (incidentally- who is that guy- I remember he is mentioned in the story but I don’t know if he does anything?) More and more, I feel like starting threat level is important. In terms of partner decks for this, I feel ranger decks also tend to suffer a bit with willpower questing. I would probably go with a more hobbity build. The hobbit heroes are so significant because they allow interesting decks like this to function. These days I feel that more than 27 or 28 threat is generally unacceptable. While secrecy is not really a thing, low threat 25 and under decks are great and if they creep into secrecy after an event or two then that’s a bonus. I did try a deck with Spirit Pippin but I couldn’t figure out quite how his ability works. Like if you push an enemy back into the staging area with him can he still engage another player if their threat level is high enough? I guess this would essentially make him useless.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Dunhere was a captain of Gondor and commanded the forces in Harrowdale, right by where Aragorn entered the paths of the dead. I like the idea of pairing this Dunhere deck with Hobbits, as they have that useful low threat and could optionally engage and benefit from those enemies who are going to leave the staging area (and they can muster some questing as well). I believe with the way that Spirit Pippin is worded, and because of timing, that the enemy could indeed engage another player, which does limit his ability even more. I’m also disappointed that he can only use his ability in a mono-Hobbit deck, as he might have played a role in decks like this one. All in all, he’s just such a marginal hero.

  5. grifter permalink

    Excuse my ignorance, but how are you paying for the Leadership cards in this deck? I suppose you would rely on a paired deck with Minstrels to provide a Song of Kings, but why not simply let that deck provide the Leadership cards themselves? Seems unnecessarily complicated to me…

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      They’re paid for by Theodred, who is a Leadership hero. Perhaps you’re thinking of Theoden, who is Tactics?

      • grifter permalink

        Ahhh, reading hard…

        Thanks for clearing that up.

  6. lleimmoen permalink

    I like Théodred better here than Éowyn. Fresh Tracks are made for this deck, it seems, so is Dúnedain Mark. But if I go this route, I will go all out theme: no Steward, no Courage even, probably, and all steed. The deck will have to be very, very cheap, however, and probably serve as a support deck for a quester – Glorfindel and Elves might be nice.
    Hopefully we shall get more cards to make this deck work. It is not there yet, I feel. The Mount synergy is given, we just have to wait a little (or more).

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I’m thinking that the next cycle will gives us more Rohan goodies so we can eliminate some of those non-thematic cards more easily. Glorfindel and Elves definitely make a nice support deck for this one.

  7. Mndela permalink

    Time ago, i played one deck named ‘staging deck’ ( 🙂 ). Heroes were Bard and Dunhere. They had lots of weaons to increase their attack. I remember to the lotr-fans that Dunhere can’t join his attack to other attackers (for example, when you use Forth Eorlingas). In my first plays, i joined Dunhere with Bard when he had the bow. But with Forth Eorlingas, Dunhere can attack without his hability, so he can join his attack to others (only he loss +1 attack point bonus) 🙂 Have fun!!!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Yeah, that’s a good point to remember about Dunhere. Oftentimes with Forth Eorlingas, I have Dunhere attack one enemy, while everyone else piles on another, especially since he can usually take out an enemy on his own once he is powered up. If you really need all hands on deck for one foe, then you can just take the loss of 1 attack point, as you mentioned.

  8. Jason permalink

    A question on Ride to Ruin. Can I use it to discard another players ally? I figured I could since card text didn’t seem to restrict it to an ally I control.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      You can only discard an ally you control. This is because discarding a Rohan ally is considered to be the cost, and according to the rules, you can only pay costs with resources and cards that you control. Hope this helps!

      • Jason Hill permalink

        Thanks for responding. That makes sense, we lost the game anyway so my little cheat didn’t help us. Thanks.




  9. sweetnesswhachacha permalink

    I love the attack the staging area ability, and I like the thematic tie of riding and striking into the staging area. This deck seems really cool, although your double attacking scenario I’m not sure works unless you target different enemies than the first time around. But I admit I hadn’t thought of it, it can be very powerful although it needs a few pieces to make it work.

    Thanks for the article !

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Community News – December 2013 | Hall of Beorn
  2. The Morgul Vale: Events Review | Tales from the Cards
  3. Celebrimbor’s Secret: Events Review | Tales from the Cards

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