Key Concepts: Traits – Rohan

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With the card pool expanding slowly but surely, more traits are starting to gain relevance. In our last look at traits, we reviewed the many powerful effects available to Dwarf decks. While not as fundamental as spheres, traits are still quite an important consideration when building a deck. For those that prefer to make more thematic decks, traits are as essential for preserving some sense of narrative. When examining the Rohan trait, we are going to look at each of the heroes with this trait, and discuss some cards that work well with each character.

Dúnhere

DunhereThanks to some new weapons, Dúnhere has seen a resurgence of late. Dagger of Westernesse seems like it was practically made for Dúnhere, as it gives him a consistent means for attacking with enough strength to damage tougher enemies. Spear of the Mark is an even more thematic choice, with a similar potency when attached to Dúnhere. Rohan Warhorse also works well with Dúnhere, as it makes it possible for him to potentially kill multiple enemies in the staging area during the same round. Westfold Horse-breeder is another natural fit, especially for decks that want to include the Warhorse.

Forth Eorlingas has ushered in a new archetype for Rohan: staging area attack. Still, Dúnhere remains that best option for this strategy – even over more powerful Tactics heroes with the Rohan trait. In particular, the fact that he belongs to the Spirit sphere gives you more deck building options. His starting threat of 8 makes it easier to design low-threat decks. You can pair him with high-willpower allies like Escort from Edoras and West Road Traveler. If you include Éowyn for questing you will be able to afford more powerful threat-reduction cards like The Galadhrim’s Greeting. This combination of low threat and high willpower should allow you to keep enemies in the staging area where Dúnhere can safely deal with them.

 Éomer

Eomer-smallWhile not technically Rohan-related, Éomer fits perfectly into Rohan deck. With all of the allies which feature discard effects, and chump blockers like Snowbourn Scout and Westfold Horse-breeder, he has plenty of opportunities to trigger his response. In particular, the new Westfold Outrider works well with the son of Eomund. If you discard the Outrider and trigger its effect after enemies have attacked you can avoid dangerous enemies. Éomer gets his bonus and the newly engaged enemy does not have a chance to do anything before it gets cut down.

Rohan deck archetypes are filled with these kind of pseudo-combos, which incidentally are a lot of fun to play. The ultimate combo ally with Éomer is his father. When Éomund leaves play, Éomer and all other Rohan characters ready. Éomer gets his bonus and then, aided by a Rohan Warhorse or other readying, can go on a vengeance-fueled killing spree. Another great option for readying the son of Éomund is the Westfold Horse-breaker.

For one resource, the Rohan Warhorse give Tactics a consistent form of readying – a welcome addition to aggressive and weapon-heavy decks. Thanks to his ability, Éomer can often kill enemies with his bare hands. This helps save a restricted slot for the Warhorse. As with other decks that feature the Warhorse, Westfold Horse-breeder pairs well with Éomer. It’s especially fun using cheap allies as fodder once you’ve taken advantage of their “comes into play” response.

Éowyn

EowynSince the core set, the shield-maiden of Rohan has in large part defined where the Rohan trait fits into the game. Rohan has always excelled at questing, and when it comes to willpower Éowyn is still the best. It is important to note that not only does Éowyn provide tremendous questing power, but she also gives access to the Spirit sphere for cards like Escort from Edoras and West Road Traveler. In short, Éowyn is the optional choice for a Rohan deck that wants to focus on questing.

Spirit in general, and Rohan in specific has access to a multitude of readying options. Unfortunately Éowyn‘s one-dimensional stats make her a poor choice for readying in most scenarios. There are exceptions, as some quest involve making additional tests with the willpower stat, outside of the quest phase. Two good examples of this are The Dead Marshes with escape tests and A Shadow of the Past from The Black Riders, with hide tests. In these specific cases, being able to take actions with Éowyn multiple times in a round is invaluable.

Otherwise, it makes the most sense to play to her strength and bolster Éowyn‘s already impressive willpower. A few powerful global effects are particularly effective in this regard. Astonishing Speed will allow Éowyn to quest for an astounding 6 willpower, without even discarding additional cards. Mutual Accord can also allow her to share the benefits of a Gondor hero with Visionary Leadership. As both Gondor and Rohan continue to get stronger as archetypes, Mutual Accord becomes more and more viable as an option for thematic, and powerful, multiplayer decks.

Last but not least, high willpower makes it easier to clear locations. Éowyn’s high willpower and ability allows you to make exactly the amount of progress needed to explore the active location. Rohan has several cards which can help. West Road Traveler will allow you to change the active location, while avoiding costly travel effects. The Riddermark’s Finest and Snowbourn Scout also help with spot location removal. A Watchful Peace can even be paired with these cards to enable a sort of encounter deck control. Whatever strategy you utilize, Éowyn is at the heart of any quest-heavy Rohan deck.

Gríma

grima-smallWhile his ability does not specifically benefit Rohan decks, his sphere is quite useful. Providing access to Lore, with Gléowine and a multitude of other card drawing options can fill one of the common gaps of many Rohan decks. He also has 2 defense, which is practically unheard of Rohan characters. Equipped with A Burning Brand, Gríma can even make a decent defender, something that Rohan decks seldom have.

Still the real reason to parlay with the one known as Wormtongue is his unique ability. Keys of Orthanc is basically an auto-include with this hero, as you should be triggering his ability on a regular basis. This is especially true in the early game when resources are at such a premium and cost reduction has a far more dramatic effect on the outcome.

While Gríma’s ability has no specific synergy with existing Rohan archetypes, it does make multi-sphere Rohan decks much easier to design. Being able to play more expensive ally and event cards without having multiple heroes from that sphere is a truly underrated ability. Even being able to play key events like Feint or A Test of Will for no cost can be a life-saver.

It should be mentioned that one must be careful when using his ability to reduce the cost of response effects. Because his ability is an action, you must use it preemptively. For example, you could trigger his effect before the staging step during the quest phase. If a treachery was subsequently revealed, you could play A Test of Will with doomed 1, for no cost. If you had neglected to trigger his ability before staging, it would be too late to use it after a nasty treachery was revealed, because there is no player action window. In any case, regardless of how you use his ability, the King’s counselor can be an important part to multi-sphere Rohan decks.

Because of a renewed interest in staging area attacks and other interesting combat effects, there are now two main Rohan archetypes: quest rush and combat trickery. Gríma makes it possible to create a hybrid deck, which combines elements from both of these major archetypes. His ability is so flexible, that it is entirely possible he will feature in future archetypes as well. His power comes with a cost, and while his ability is certainly useful, it is debatable how wise it is to include him in multi-player games. Having a hero whose ability raises everyone’s threat each round is not necessarily a welcome thing for other decks. Use doomed player card effects with caution.

Háma

HamaThe ultimate tactician, Háma remains the most efficient option for recycling powerful Tactics cards. With the release of Forth Eorlingas!, Háma now has a Rohan-themed card which he can recycle in addition to the staple Tactics events. Making these event work is a delicate balance. You will probably need two Tactics heroes to help pay for the card, but you will also want a Spirit hero to keep your threat low enough for this strategy to work. Attacking the staging area is very powerful in theory, but it takes careful threat management to ensure that you can keep the enemies from engaging immediately. Tactics is not exactly known for being good at threat-reduction.

Another new card that has a lot of synergy with Háma is The Rohan Warhorse. Assuming there are multiple eligible enemies, you can attack multiple times with Hama and trigger his event recycling each time. Used with Foe-Hammer, this combination can provide tremendous card advantage. Outside of Eagle decks, Tactics decks typically lack any sort of card drawing, so this particular combo is not to be ignored.

For a Tactics hero, Háma has a relatively low starting threat of 9, which makes it easier to splash him into multi-sphere decks than heroes like Éomer or Théoden. Still, you will need to include several Tactics events in your deck in order to take advantage of his ability, so this requires a careful balance. The good news is that his stats are excellent for his assigned role. With the help of a weapon, Háma can often kill enemies all by himself.

The fact that he can bring back event cards to make his job easier just makes him that much more of a one-man army. Outside of the first version of Boromir, Háma is one of the most efficient Tactics heroes in the game. I am looking forward to future Tactics events which bolster Rohan strategies – the doorward of Meduseld will be ready to aid his King in battle.

Théoden

theoden-smallSadly, Théoden has very little synergy with other Rohan characters. While he can boost the willpower of Éomer and Háma, it makes little sense to do so. Both of these heroes have abilities that require them to attack, so a willpower boost is better used in other mono-Tactics decks, or in specific multi-player scenarios.

It is odd to me that one of the best heroes to use with the king of the Rohirrim is Thalin – a Dwarf! Still, a Tactics hero with Sentinel and 3 willpower is quite versatile, so it is possible to make the King a part of your Rohan decks. His high threat cost can be a bit of a challenge to having a safe starting threat, thus he does represent a puzzle for deck building.

Of all of the Rohan heroes, Théoden is probably the best fit for the Steed of the Mark. Assuming you can solve the resource acceleration issue, possibly with the help of his son Théodred, the King of Rohan is exactly the kind of hero that you want to use multiple times. Obviously, from a purely strategic standpoint, Unexpected Courage (or as we refer to it among the Grey Company: Expected Courage) is the better choice. As Caleb mentioned in his latest Second Breakfast article, every player plays the game with a different set of motivations. For those that wish to emphasize theme over pure strategic advantage, Steed of the Mark is undoubtedly the better choice for Théoden.

One last highly thematic card that can work strategically with Théoden is Mutual Accord. With good defense and hit points and the sentinel keyword, Théoden can take advantage of global effects like For Gondor! and Light the Beacons and become a formidable defender. It is undeniable that with the current card pool, the son of Thengel takes concerted effort to include in a deck. Personally, I am hoping for a different version of Théoden that ties more directly into existing Rohan archetypes. Still, it is possible to make this version work – it just takes some creative deck designs. For a thematic look at the King of Rohan, check out the latest article from The Master of Lore.

Théodred

TheodredThe Son of the king, Théodred provides something that is not available anywhere else in the Rohan archetypes – resource acceleration. Since questing is such a fundamental part of most Rohan decks, it is trivial to trigger Théodred‘s ability. Being able to provide extra resources to one of your questing heroes is an invaluable effect, and one that Rohan is uniquely suited to take advantage of.

Combined with cards like Gaining Strength and even cost-reduction from GrímaThéodred makes it possible for Rohan decks to consistently pay for more expensive global effects like We Do Not Sleep. Pairing these powerful events with a Gondor deck and Mutual Accord, it is possible to create single game-winning rounds. Even if you want to include non-Rohan characters, his sphere and ability make cards like Grim Resolve an option.

Even those who want to avoid these all-or-nothing kind of decks can find benefit from Théodred. His low starting threat makes him a great choice for splashing into multi-sphere decks with more powerful heroes. His ability works perfectly in this regard, providing extra resources to help smooth out an unexpected glut in on sphere. Leadership also grants access to some great readying effects and ally mustering that facilitates powerful Rohan-specific combos. For example, Sneak Attack with Éomund in the quest phase will allow you to safely commit all of your Rohan characters to the quest. However you use him, Théodred remains a valuable “glue” hero for stitching various Rohan strategies together. The fact that his ability works on other players’ heroes makes him perfectly suited for multi-player games, as well.

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13 Responses to Key Concepts: Traits – Rohan

  1. Andrea says:

    I salute you,
    I only wanted to say that I really appreciate your blog. I find all of your analysis very exhaustive and interesting: you are a great source of informations when it comes to face this game.
    I’m always interested in knowing Beorn’s opinions 🙂

    Andrea from Italy

    • Beorn says:

      Grazie, Andrea!

      I’m glad that you are enjoying the blog. I wish that I had more time to work on it, but it is good to hear when people appreciate the musings of a crazy bear! 🙂

  2. Andrea says:

    Ah ah, you re welcome!
    But I’m the thankful one. You know, since I’ve been reading your blog for months I started feeling nearly in “debt” with you: taking advantage of your knowledge without even a “thank you”… So I broke my silence and here I am. Great musings and great work indeed 🙂

    Waiting for the Voice of Isengard to hit the shop, it has been just released here in Italy… Let’s hope we’ll not have to wait too much before you can finally write about the Silvan trait 🙂

    Andrea

  3. Dor Cuarthol says:

    re: Hama – the Foe-Hama is still my favourite approach for card-draw in tactics (admittedly the alternatives aren’t great) – it takes a bit of setting up, but once it’s running it feels nicely thematic, and not game-breaking (unlike the feint/thicket of spears-lock tricks some people have suggested for him).
    Hope Rohan won’t be entirely neglected during the coming cycle.

  4. Tonskillitis says:

    Although you give Theoden some utility, I still think you undervalue him. While no-one could argue that he is one of the strongest heroes in the game, he is far from weak and he does give the mono tactics build some flexibility and strong willpower. He has really encouraged me to try the mono tactics deck (always good to try something different) and partnering it with a spirit/tactics Rohan deck I have beat many of the difficult quests (Fords of Isen, Nightmare Anduin, Laketown). Of course, readying effects are important but there are a number of options for this in Rohan (steed of mark, spare hood and cloak, Eomund) and since I usually play tactics Boromir, I am almost always happy to commit all tactics heroes to the quest, only keeping Eomer back if there is a boss enemy to fight. A 3 wp hero is a strong quester and if it was any sphere other than tactics I am sure players would be happy to commit Theoden to the quest. In fact, Theoden makes all the 2 wp heroes (Brand, Bard, Elladan) into very solid questers. As you know, starting willpower is a very important factor for success in this game and being able to commit 7-9wp per player to the quest from the first turn is actually quite important. Yes, starting threat can be an issue- hence the inclusion of spirit in the other deck but I really like this aggressive style of questing and with some readying effects then this can be a really fun deck to play- you just need to look at the role of the tactics deck a little differently… I know I’m not really telling you anything new here but I just feel the need to share some positive Theoden experiences.

    This rant was also partially inspired by Derek’s great article and his creative Theoden deck over at Master of Lore. Thanks for flying the flag for the son of Thengel!

  5. Beorn says:

    You make very good points about Théoden, and thank you for reminding me about the Master of Lore article. I had meant to include a link to it in the original article, but some how it was left out. I updated his section to include a link.

    Because this article focused on Rohan synergy in particular, I was rather critical of Théoden’s ability and threat cost. I wholeheartedly agree that his ability can be very useful, particularly in multi-player games with Tactics heroes controlled by multiple players and many options for readying effects. In the right deck, Théoden can be very effective, it is just frustrating that he doesn’t fit very well into any of the existing Rohan archetypes.

    Háma and Éomer will never be the best options for pairing with Théoden. Even if you include readying effects, you are questing with Tactics heroes with 2 willpower. This is fine for supplemental heroes, or especially for heroes with a far lower threat cost. But it makes little sense paying a combined threat cost of 20 for two heroes with only average questing ability, especially when those heroes are both so much better at combat. The fact that the readying effects cost resources, cards, and time makes this even worse.

    My issue with Théoden is not that he is a bad hero, it is more of a thematic criticism. In the books, the King of Rohan inspires his people to bravery. I expected a Théoden hero to have better synergy with Rohan – if not an ability that specifically works with the trait. This is one of those cases where expectation leads to disappointment, but I have always really liked this character. Many of the other marquee characters like Elrond, Aragorn, Boromir and Denethor have powerful and thematic hero cards, I want something like this for the leader of the Rohirrim.

    I any case, I really do appreciate your feedback, and I agree that Théoden has his value. I am hoping that a future version of him will be both useful, and a bit more thematic.

  6. TalesfromtheCards says:

    I’ve always been tempted to experiment with making Eowyn an uber-defender with Against the Shadow, but the mono-sphere restriction on that card is quite unfortunate. Mono-Spirit works well, but the great Against the Shadow/Eowyn combos I can think of work best with some other spheres. Ah well, I’ll give it a try eventually just for fun.

  7. lleimmoen says:

    I would like to respond to this very nice article in a series.
    Dúnhere. I think one card that should be mentioned (and it applies also for the Forth Éorlingas! event card) is A Light in the Dark. From all the heroes in the game, it surely benefits Dúnhere most and it is there when it can trump such hits as Feint. Also, especially because of A Light in the Dark, Spear of the Mark is not only the more thematic but a better choice than Dagger of Westernesse. I personally like to combo the Spear and Unseen Strike with Dúnhere for early rounds. As I only feature Éomer as a Tactics hero in the deck, the 0 cost event is very handy in the beginning of the game. You can play Quick Strike (which I almost forgot to mention as the great card for Dúnhere, again better than Feint in this very specific example) and Unseen Strike for a single resource to take care of many an enemy.

  8. lleimmoen says:

    ps: I also value Unseen Strike as an option as the Dagger is restricted and I find it best to have both the Spear and Rohan Warhorse as the two restricted attachments on Dúnhere.

    • Beorn says:

      I agree with all of these points. In any deck with a hero that can kill enemies in a single attack, Quick Strike is superior to Feint. With Dúnhere, Quick Strike is that much better – enabling you able to kill enemies before they even engage. Likewise Unseens Strike is a great card in a Spirit/Tactics deck where you can keep your threat low. I may have to go back and add a paragraph about these cards, as I left a lot of these combinations up to the imagination of the readers. Thanks for your feedback!

  9. lleimmoen says:

    Glad you liked it.
    Now for Théoden, he really is a problem for a deck-builder like me who prefers thematic decks. Of course you can pair him up with Háma and Éomer but those two are better at other things than questing. It is still hardly an option solo. And even in coop, you cannot just play with any other deck, you sort of need quite a specific deck to cooperate with. It gives me headaches. Often I feel like I have found a deck for Théoden, only to be disappointed when I have tried…
    A 2-willpower Tactics hero (Gondor or Rohan, for us theme-builders) that does not need to be attacking or defending all the time might make a difference perhaps…

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