The Dúnedain are an interesting trait, as they are a combat focused faction with a lot of cards being released in the Angmar Awakened cycle and later. In the few cycles since the first hint of an archetype, the Dúnedain trait has become one of the more aggressive playstyles, that feel refreshing to a lot of players. So, with the Angmar Awakened cycle being kicked off this month, I decided to delve into this trait and see what their deal is.
Who are the Dúnedain?
The Rangers of the North are a mysterious folk but with a rich heritage. They are the final descendants of the Kingdom of Arnor, which split into three provinces (Arthedain, Cardolan, and Rhûdaur) before falling to the Witch King halfway through the Third Age. The royal bloodline survived in the Chieftains of the Dúnedain and the Rangers retreated to the shadows, guarding the lands of Eriador against threats gathering around them. When Aragorn II reclaimed the throne of both Gondor and Arnor, the north kingdom was restored and the Dúnedain reclaimed their ancestral home.
While the early life of the cardpool features a smattering of Dúnedain cards, they didn’t get proper attention or any synergy up to the Lost Realm Deluxe box. Any player looking to make a Dúnedain deck should definitely pick up that box early, as it provides a lot of cards and 2 proper Dúnedain heroes that work well with the trait. The rest of your essential Dunedain cards can be found in the following expansions, which include the APs of the accompanying cycle and some APs from later cycles, especially Haradrim. The ones in bold should be picked up first for your Dunedain deck.
- Core Set
- The Dead Marshes
- Road to Rivendell
- The Watcher in the Water
- The Three Trials
- The Lost Realm
- The Angmar Awakened APs
- The Thing in the Depths
- The City of Corsairs
- The Sands of Harad
- The Mûmakil
- Race Across Harad
- Beneath the Sands
- Fire in the Night
- Under the Ash Mountains
- The Fortress of Nurn
- The Flame of the West
- Two-Player Limited Edition Starter Set
The Dunedain trait has got a finger in every sphere of influence and will often be a multi-sphere build. The Lore and Spirit side of the trait features more of a support role, like card draw and location control. Cards like Greyflood Wanderer and Idraen are often found in location control decks, and Beravor is still a very solid hero if you need to draw cards faster. These decks are hard to make a proper deck around, though a supportive Dúnedain deck with these spheres is often helpful and will help the group by completing side-quests with Thurindir, while also taking care of locations and contributing a decent amount of willpower to the quest.
Leadership is probably the sphere that works best with a Dúnedain build, as it has a lot of support cards for the archetype like Heir of Valandil (pumping out allies faster), Steed of the North (readying characters), and some proper defenders like Guardian of Arnor. Leadership also has a lot of focus on the Signals that the Dunedain play, making a mono-Leadership Dunedain deck quite versatile.
Tactics Dúnedain cards are included against scenarios where you will have to kill a lot of enemies very fast. The Tactics version of Aragorn is often picked for offence focused Dúnedain decks, and cards like Fornost Bowman and the Northern Bowmaster work well with the synergy, potentially making for some deadly Ranged allies.
The biggest synergy of the Dúnedain revolves around having enemies engaged with you at all times. This reduces the cost to play allies with Heir of Valandil, triggers heroes like Halbarad and Amarthiul, making them better, and generally boosts your board state. This makes the Dunedain player likely the player who will be engaging most of the revealed enemies. Halbarad allows for multiple optional engagements, Tactics Aragorn engages them during the combat phase, and cards like Dunedain Hunter draw out even more enemies in exchange for free allies. The ultimate Dunedain player would like to have all the enemies engaged with them, which really accelerates his deck.
However, you may have found that engaging so many enemies (and keeping them engaged) is hard to maintain. The enemies will continuously harass your deck since you are not killing them. This makes defence a major weakness for early Dunedain decks, though there are some solutions. The first would be to have some enemies trapped with Forest Snares. This neuters the enemy and allows you to ignore an engaged enemy for the rest of the game. The other would be to cancel as many attacks as possible, saving your defenders. Feint, Thicket of Spears, and Andrath Guardsman all work well with this, but they are only temporary solutions. In the end, you will likely have to kill off some enemies, losing some strength, but allowing you to survive the next turn. You could also request some Sentinel support from other players, since they will be engaged with fewer enemies.
Being a sort of enemy magnet allows the other players of your group to focus on different tasks like questing and location management. A Dunedain deck is always welcome at the table and can be a lot of fun to play, albeit a bit risky from time to time.
Side-quests are also a synergy of the Dunedain, though they do share some of this with other cards. The Dunedain get cards like Thurindir, East-Road Ranger, and Thalion who all work exellent with side-quests. You could make a more of an exploration style deck with just Dunedain cards, which can be powerful against some quests. Note that side-quests are not always a solid choice against particular scenarios. Especially those with a Time mechanic or that require massive focus on the main quest are poor options for these decks.
Signals are also part of the Dunedain synergy and have been the focus of the trait for the early part of the game. These attachments can boost individual stats on heroes, making them more competent in doing various tasks. The signals also don’t take up restricted slots and are not affected by Item discarding tricks that some encounter decks run. Being able to move the Signals to other heroes or even other players can be the deciding factor and make for some great moments when playing the game. The Dunedain trait doesn’t work a lot with the Signals, but cards like Rune-Master and Weather Hills Watchman allowed me to include it in this list.
Synergy with other traits
The Dunedain also have some shared synergies with other traits. The Ranger trait is common among the Dunedain, making them work well with Hobbits which boost the engagement cost of enemies. Engaging and battling these enemies can be a powerful combo between both Dunedain Rangers and the Shire-folk. Some examples of this synergy can be found in cards like Take No Notice and In the Shadows that work off this combined synergy.
The other trait that these Dunedain work well with is the Noldor trait. This is due to their shared heritage between Elrond and Elros. The synergy between these peoples can be found in cards like Heirs of Earendil, Tale of Tinuviel, and Star Brooch. There is a specific synergy between the Noldor and Aragorn, as he is the most elvish Dunedain in the game. he can also equip things like Rivendell Bow or Arwen’s ability.
Aragorn is probably the most used hero in the game with the Dunedain trait, just because he has so many versions across nearly all spheres. While his Tactics version plays best with the Dunedain archetype, his Leadership version is still a classic and his Lore version is surprisingly useful in many decks that run either Valour cards, and/or Doomed cards. His Tactics version is nice since he allows players to draw down more enemies during the combat phase, without those enemies getting the chance to attack. While this does require him to have killed an enemy that phase, this gets easier since he debuffs the defence stats on engaged enemies. This kind of debuff to enemies makes the game’s balance tip in your favour, allowing you to sustain multiple engaged enemies for longer.
Signals are also great cards to add to your deck, but mostly the Dúnedain Mark (+1 attack) and Dunedain Warning (+1 defence) are staples this late in the game. They allow any hero to benefit from their stats and can even be moved between players if the need is dire. They are not trait restricted unlike many weapons, and also avoid a lot of quest card effects and treacheries that either target Items or Weapons/Armour attachments. For 1 cost in Leadership, these two signals are great value and widely usable. I would like to see more development of the Signals in the future, with things like Rune-master poured into a hero or something like that. But until then, I will be adding these cards to many decks.
Probably the ally that I like best of the Dunedain engagement synergy is the Guardian of Arnor. He gets +1 defence for every enemy you have engaged with you, and he also starts off with the Sentinel keyword and a juicy pool of 3 hitpoints. True Dúnedain decks will raise his defence to solid levels and with a bit of readying, he can defend your board. Hold your Ground or Ever Vigilant are easy options to ready him to defend multiple attacks across the board. The other superb defensive ally for the Dúnedain trait is the Vigilant Dunadan, though he requires a bit more work than the Guardian. He needs to have a side-quest in the victory display and lacks the Sentinel keyword, but makes up for that by not exhausting to defend any attack. 4 cost in Tactics is higher than the 3 cost in Leadership for the Guardian though, but there is no reason to not have both in your deck. The Vigilant Dunadan becomes even better when using the effect of ally Arwen, granting him a much needed defence boost, and gives him the Sentinel keyword. Once he gets up and running, he does some great work for all players, handling combat without much trouble.
“Bad” Dúnedain cards
Dunedain Watcher is one of the first cards of the Dúnedain trait that was released back in the Mirkwood cycle. It suffers badly from Mirkwood syndrome, where you are overpaying for a méh ally. While her response can be a life saver, her stats are a bit all over the place, making her an inferior ally to the more specifically tailored allies in the game. A 3 cost, 1 willpower ally is way too expensive, even if you count the fact that she doesn’t have to exhaust to use her ability. But the defence stat is worthless, as you won’t be defending with her anyway. Compare her to the Dunedain Lookout, who is only 2 cost, and you can quickly see why the Watcher ends up in this category.
Dunedain Wanderer is another one of those allies that you have to look up before your remember him. At 5 cost, he is quite an expensive ally, though Secrecy makes him a lot cheaper. However, I haven’t added him nor seen him in a lot of Secrecy decks over the years, especially after the sort-off Secrecy heavy period during the Dream-chaser cycle. His stats are subpar for his cost, and while his Ranged and Sentinel help a lot, he is still not doing it for me. However, he would be a great target for things like A Very Good Tale because of his 5 cost, but again, I haven’t really seen him being used in this way.
The Dúnedain trait is very versatile, so there are a lot of different styles that you can make in your deck. Either go the offence route by getting a lot of enemies engaged and keeping them there, or you can go the supportive role by clearing side-quests and exploring locations. Regardless, here are a couple of decks that can help you out and maybe inspire your own Dúnedain deck.
Hopefully, this article informed you a bit about what the Dúnedain do and how to build your deck around them. If you feel like I missed something crucial, feel free to point it out, I will gladly revisit this article if needed. Good luck with deck building, and until next time!