The horse-lords of Middle Earth have been in the game since the very beginning, being one of the few traits with 3 heroes right out of the Core Set. Over the years, as the card pool expanded, the trait has had a lot of focus during the times the narrative took place around the land of Rohan. It is to this day still being developed, with a lot of new cards and even new heroes being added to the mix.
Who are the Rohirrim?
The Horse-lords of the West were given the land of Rohan as a gift from the Steward of Gondor after the Rohirrim helped Gondor during the Battle of the Fields of Celebrant. In return, the Rohirrim pledged their allegiance to Gondor and would ride to its aid in time of need. The Rohirrim prefer mounted combat and love their horses as they would love their family. The Line of Eorl endured and remained loyal to the Numenorians throughout the Third Age.
Right out of the Core Set the Rohirrim stood out as one of the earliest decks to make around a single trait. This was even before the Dwarves started to pick up speed. Much of the first cycle was dedicated to Spirit Rohan, though the other spheres took some time to get rolling. Tactics got started around the end of Against the Shadow/Begin Ringmaker, Leadership Rohan has gotten a card here and there thrown in, but no real focus was given to it in any particular cycle. By the end of the nineth cycle, the trait got some final additions for Spirit Rohan, including card draw and a very useful event. Out of all the packs listed below, get the ones in bold first, as they contain the best Rohan cards or contain the most cards.
- Core Set (Theodred, Eowyn, Dunhere, Gleowine, Snowbourn Scout, Horseback Archer)
- All Shadows of Mirkwood Adventure Packs
- Road to Rivendell
- The Long Dark
- The Blood of Gondor
- The Morgul Vale (Theoden, Steed of the Mark, Spear of the Mark, Forth Eorlingas)
- Voice of Isengard (Eomer, Firefoot, Westfold Outrider, Westfold Horse-breeder, Grima)
- The Antlered Crown
- The Dread Realm
- Temple of the Deceived (Elfhelm, Ceorl, Deorwine)
- Beneath the Sands
- The Black Serpent
- The Dungeons of Cirith Gurat
- The City of Ulfast
- Challenge of the Wainriders
- The Fortress of Nurn
- The Treason of Saruman (Theoden, Herugrim, Hama, Helm! Helm!)
- The Land of Shadow (Gamling, Snowmane)
- The Flame of the West (Eowyn, Grimbold)
- The Mountain of Fire
Whilst Rohan has allies and even heroes in all 4 spheres of influence, Lore isn’t being focused upon by the game. Spirit got a lot of love in the early life of the game with 2 heroes and a host of allies and events. Spirit even gave us Nor Am I A Stranger that can grant the Rohan train to any hero. Spirit focusses more on getting some good, high willpower allies out for cheap. The Spirit version of Théoden helps in this regard. The mounts that can be found in the Spirit sphere for Rohan have got to do with readying questing characters, allowing them to both quest and do another effect. Later in the game’s life, Spirit continued to focus on willpower, with characters like Rider of Rohan and Lothiriel.
Tactics Rohan cards have to do with more of the combat side of the game. Whilst Tactics Théoden allows Tactics to get a lot more willpower, it was Eomer who really started the introduction of Rohan to Tactics. Ever since we have gotten some strong attacking allies for Rohan as well as effects that increase attack strength for Rohan characters. The mounts of Tactics Rohan have got to do with destroying enemies.
A clear difference between Tactics and Spirit Rohan can be found in the two allies Escort from Edoras and the Riddermark Knight. These two allies have the same kind of ability but shows that Spirit prioritises willpower over attack strength, where Tactics does the opposite.
Leadership has also received a smattering of cards over the years, though the synergy of Leadership is not as strong as Tactics or Spirit. The Leadership heroes tend to focus on defence with heroes like Elfhelm and Erkenbrand. Leadership Mounts like Armoured Destrier are also great cards for any defensive hero. Strangely enough, one of the more defensive Rohan allies, Hama, is in Spirit while he would be more fitting in the Leadership sphere.
The Rohan synergy is special, as it was one of the very first synergies to exist in the game. During the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle, it quickly became apparent that Rohan was all about discarding allies from play. This could be done by triggering some abilities on the allies (Escort from Edoras, Riddermark’s Finest) or be an ability when a certain ally left play (Eomund, Eomer). This synergy of discarding allies is shared among the Tactics and Spirit sphere allies but can lead to a weakened board state in case you keep discarding allies. This is why cards like Spirit Theoden are amazing, as he can lower the cost of Rohan allies, effectively cheapening your deck and making the abilities on the allies easier to pay for. Another good card to combine with this kind of synergy is Gamling. He can return any Rohan ally that left play to the player’s hand. This will allow for Silvan levels of bouncing allies in and out of play.
An important thing to know is that some characters rely on some weaker allies to leave play. Eothain and Eomer can’t be discarded themselves, but get better if other allies leave play. The Rohan trait is therefore also known for having quite a few chump blockers like Core Set classic Snowbourn Scout. If you have the ability to discard him after he has done his thing, you get a better result if your deck is built on this synergy. Cards like Rear Guard, Bulwark of the West, and Ride to Ruin are great ways to get added benefit from discarding a Rohan ally. This, in turn, activates other abilities on characters.
The trait also relies on reducing the cost of these allies so that you don’t throw away resources needlessly. Spirit Theoden hero helps tremedously with this, as he allows allies to be played from your hand with a cost reduction of 1. This can even make the first ally you play free in case of 1 cost Rohan allies. Other effects like Lothiriel when she has the Rohan trait can also make some allies free, and will automatically force them to leave play, triggering the synergy for free. Effects like Tactics ally Elfhelm and the Muster of Rohan event can also swarm the board with allies that are cheap to have leave play later that round. This constant cost reduction allows Rohan to keep up the spam at minimal cost.
The other big synergy of Rohan got developed later on. This revolves all around having Mounts on heroes. The Rohirrim are of course best known for their cavalry combat, so it is nice that the game includes that as well. There are a lot of Mounts in the game at this point, so you can stack your deck with Mounts and share them across the table. The recent Leadership Elfhelm hero boosts any hero (except Lore) with a Mount. Combine this with sphere-granting Songs, and every hero just got a nice boost to their stats and a new ability from the Mount attachment. Charge of the Rohirrim will again emphasize the Rohirric ability to slay their enemies on horseback. The event grants a hefty boost to attack for any Rohan character with a Mount. Finding these Mounts shouldn’t be too difficult as there is a cheap 1 cost ally Westfold Horse-breeder that can find Mounts in your deck. Of course, you will have to have enough Horses in your deck to not miss and make this ally into a Westfold Horse-whifferer.
Though in the Core Set box, Dunhere was a bit of an odd-ball, he has gotten some new love recently as the Rohan trait explored a third synergy. This revolves around attacking enemies in the staging area. The newer Fastred hero allows to push enemies back into the staging area for some threat reduction and cards like Spear of the Mark has also hinted at the new synergy where Rohan heroes can reliably kill enemies in the staging area, thereby avoiding attacks and reducing the threat in the staging area. Forth Eorlingas, Leadership Eomer, and Ride them Down also allows the trait to dispatch of enemies in the staging area better than other traits. I personally think that this synergy will need a bit more attention in order to become a reliable strategy, but it can already be a lot of fun to play with.
There are a lot of great Rohan cards that perform well in- and outside of Rohan decks. I will restrict myself to a single card per sphere, so I am sorry if your awesome Rohan card didn’t make the cut. If I was to describe each and every one of them, this article would be massive.
The first Rohan card that we have to cover in this segment is of course Eowyn. In both iterations of this character, she has become an instant staple to many decks. This is probably because of her high base willpower of 4, which is almost unchallenged at this point (Galadriel, but she needs her Ring to use it). Her Spirit version has been with us since the Core Set and is still being run in games to this day. It allows for some good willpower out of the gate with the potential to boost her willpower by discarding cards. In a four-player game, this can cause her to quest for 8 and is a reliable source to discard duplicates of uniques or cards that can only be played from your discard pile. Her Tactics version is also amazing for the fact that she has the highest willpower in that sphere which tends to lack willpower in the early game. Combine her with Tactics Theoden for even bigger buffs to willpower across the board. Tactics Eowyn also lowers the starting threat of her controller by 3, which is another great thing in Tactics. She can then raise your threat by 3 to get a plus 9 (9!!!) to her attack stat for the phase. This brings her up to 10 total attack strength, without any help. This even puts Beorn to shame. This boss killing ability is a great nod to the lore and can help overcome some big bad enemy like a Hill Troll (if you add 2 attack from an ally or something). The ability also allows Eowyn to ready, meaning that you can still commit her to the quest that round. You can also get multiple 10 attack strength attacks in as the ability isn’t restricted to 1 attack.
For Leadership, Rohan cards are a little less powerful. Cards like Snowbourn Scout and Theodred are nice to include in some decks but are more glue-cards than staples. I have not yet got to play with Leadership Eomer, but I think that this version can be amazing as you can reliably kill enemies in the staging area, and commit to the quest. This makes everyone’s life easier during questing. Eomer’s Tactics version is also great to include in a deck, especially if you run him against scenarios where allies tend to leave play a lot. Run him alongside a Silvan player for a consistent +2 attack, even without his horse.
Like I said before, Lore Rohan is a bit lacking in cards compared to the other 3 spheres. Grima is quite good in a solo deck if you can reliably reduce your threat. He makes it a lot easier to pay for some more expensive cards right out of the gate. Combine him with Keys of Orthanc and a couple of Doomed effects, and you can run a pretty fun deck. Be careful bringing him to a multiplayer game though, not everyone will enjoy raising their threat so you can play an ally.
“Bad” Rohan cards
In each trait there are some cards that don’t get as much love as others. For Rohan, the Horseback Archer was quickly replaced in many decks since the ally is too expensive. Sure, his cost can be reduced with Spirit Theoden or Hirgon, but that still leaves you with a less than stellar ally. There are a lot better targets to trigger these abilities on. I will note that this ally is the only Ranged Rohan character at the moment so you could use him for Ranged combat if you really want to.
Rider of the Mark suffers from the same high cost for low-level stats. While it is nice to pass control to another player to cancel a shadow card effect, I will be more inclined to add a Hasty Stroke to my deck rather than this guy. He is also useless in a solo environment as you need another player to pass the ally to. You can make him cheaper with Theoden and Hirgon, but those abilities are better spent on useful Rohan allies instead.
In terms of Rohan events, there are also some cards that haven’t found their place in many decks. We Do Not Sleep is such an example. This event requires 5 Spirit resources in order to not have to exhaust any of your Rohan characters to commit to the quest. This card really is not needed in a Spirit deck, as many of your Spirit Rohan characters don’t do much besides committing to quests. And characters from other spheres generally don’t have much willpower to commit anyway. The only example where I could find an argument for this card is if you are Battle/Siege questing and need the attack/ defence strength later in the game. But even then, 5 spirit resources are hard to come by and it only counts for Rohan characters. You will be better off playing Grim Resolve and ready every character in the game, including those that exhausted for an ability.
What the archetype is missing
Rohan is one of the most complete archetypes out there, and is certainly one of (if not THE) oldest archetypes out there. However, for some people, the archetype never really clicked or came together. The many events that Rohan has available rarely get used, and the mechanic of discarding allies you paid for is a bit costly for some. The introduction of the final few cards from the Vengeance of Mordor cycle made up for this though, especially Lothiriel and Horn of the Mark. But Rohan can still not click for some people.
I would suggest adding some way to reduce the cost to play events, since many are too costly for Rohan. This would obviously need a restriction, but perhaps an ally that you can discard to lower the cost of the next event you play by X, where X is maybe the ally’s cost. This would allow the deck to more easily play the bigger events, which hopefully gets the deck into the top tier, because the community isn’t in full agreement that the archetype is up there at this moment.
Here are some great decks that I have put to some good use. Be sure to check others out as well, as there are plenty of great Rohan decks out there. With such a large selection of cards, there is a ton of variety between Rohan decks, which is worth exploring.