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.
Thanks 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.
While 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.
Since 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.
While 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.
The 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.
Sadly, 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.
The 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 Gríma, Théodred 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.