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This deck is based loosely on a short conversation between Gimli and Éomer, just before they set out to ride for Helm's Deep:
'I will forget my wrath for a while, Éomer son of Éomund,' said Gimli; 'but if ever you chance to see the Lady Galadriel with your eyes, then you shall acknowledge her the fairest of ladies, or our friendship will end.'
'So be it!' said Éomer.
This conversation was a follow-up to the first encounter between Gimli and Éomer, where Éomer paid insult to Lady Galadriel, much to Gimli's dismay:
'Then there is a Lady in the Golden Wood, as old tales tell!' he said. 'Few escape her nets, they say. These are strange days! But if you have her favour, then you also are net-weavers and sorcerers, maybe.'
'Then Éomer son of Éomund, Third Marshal of Riddermark, let Gimli the Dwarf Glóin's son warn you against foolish words. You speak evil of that which is fair beyond the reach of your thoughts and only little wit can excuse you.'
Éomer does eventually meet Galadriel at the crowning ceremony of Aragorn, but this deck plays with the idea of Éomer seeking out Galadriel before then. What if Éomer set out to visit Lothlórien himself to meet with the Lady Galadriel and see with his own eyes if Gimli spoke true? What if great friendships and alliances were forged between the Riders of Rohan and the Lady as a result?
Rohan has been around since the very beginning of the LotR LCG, going as far back as the first cycle. As such they have a tremendous amount of support cards, but most of their early support is either too mediocre or too expensive. Add to that the fact that Rohan offers very little in-theme effects for healing, resource acceleration, card draw or threat reduction. All this makes it quite difficult to build a pure Rohan deck that can tackle a wide variety of quests.
The Galadriel factor
- She provides repeatable threat reduction.
- She provides repeatable card draw (through her own effect and Mirror of Galadriel).
- With Nenya she has a icon, which opens up a whole new card pool with healing effects.
- Her passive effect allows characters to quest without exhausting the turn they enter play, which perfectly synergizes with Rohan.
Points (1) and (2) are relatively straightforward, but very important nonetheless. Both threat and card draw are things Rohan has traditionally struggled with. While the release of Horn of the Mark helps a little with card draw, it's not as easily repeatable.
Point (3) is subtle. I only run two cards since I don't want to rely on too much. But the two cards I do run are highly effective and repeatable. Ioreth provides healing at will, and since all three of our heroes have 4 I can easily get maximum value out of her effect. Protector of Lórien might seem counterproductive in a deck I just described as having trouble with card draw, but I will get back to this later.
Point (4) is probably my favorite aspect of the synergy between Galadriel and Rohan. Many Rohan cards have effects that either discard themselves or benefit from (other cards) being discarded. Thanks to Galadriel's passive effect, you can effectively double their value. For example:
- Westfold Horse-breeder can fetch you a Mount, quest for 1 and then still be ready to chump block a big attacker to boost Éomer when he attacks back.
- The Riddermark's Finest can quest and still be ready so you can exhaust and discard him for his own effect in a pinch. (Or he can chump block.)
- Grimbold can quest for 2 , defend a weak attacker with 2 and then discard himself to negate a second more powerful attack.
- Éomund can quest for 2 , then chump block the final attacker during the Combat Phase and ready all your Rohan characters for a huge counterattack.
The complete hero line-up
With the basic concept in place, let's flesh out the rest of the deck. We already know we want to play both Galadriel and Éomer, who are absolutely amazing at questing and combat, respectively. Our third and final hero will be Théoden, not just because it makes perfect thematic sense, but also because he contributes things that the deck still lacked: resource acceleration, resource smoothing, a defensive hero and another decent quester (because Galadriel alone isn't going to cut it against most quests).
Our hero line-up looks pretty solid and well-rounded now. Each of them has quite a number of specialized attachments to empower them further, so let's briefly go over them.
Nenya and Mirror of Galadriel obviously go on Galadriel. I don't think Nenya requires any further explanation. Mirror of Galadriel is one of my favorite cards in the game because of its unpredictable nature. In this deck it works like a charm because it helps search out the other crucial attachments faster. And while its discard effect can still backfire it also helps to get rid of excess copies of unique cards such as Nenya and Snowmane.
Éomer is our main attacker and is typically boosted by Firefoot and Rohan Warhorse. I've found that once he has those two cards equipped, he can single-handedly take care of combat in most quests. As long as another character leaves play that turn he can swing for 7 twice and pull some nice tricks with Firefoot's Response.
Théoden's highest priority attachment is without a doubt Snowmane, closely followed by Golden Shield. This allows you to quest for 2 additional for free and have Théoden ready to defend for 4 afterwards. Since Snowmane doesn't count as Restricted on Théoden you can still equip him with Horn of the Mark afterwards. While not the most important attachment, it still helps tremendously to keep the deck from running out of steam.
This leaves Unexpected Courage and Protector of Lórien. I cannot stress enough how important it is to get Nenya and Unexpected Courage on Galadriel as soon as possible. Once you do, you effectively stop raising your threat at the end of each turn and draw an additional card at the start of each turn. The second copy of Unexpected Courage should preferably go on Théoden so you can get an additional defense out of him. The third copy is mainly there for consistency and insurance against being discarded by Mirror of Galadriel, but if you do draw into all three copies, it can go on either Éomer or Théoden depending on the quest and your board state.
Protector of Lórien
I promised to talk about Protector of Lórien in more detail. Believe it or not, but this deck actually draws an insane amount of cards once it's properly set up. Between your regular draw, Galadriel and Horn of the Mark you're easily drawing 3 cards per turn. Since we run many unique cards in multiples for consistency, you will typically have some discard fodder in your hand. Protector of Lórien is then ideal on Théoden as he is both your main quester and defender, and can thus make use of both the and stat boosts. That said, Protector of Lórien requires your other key attachments to already be in play, so we only run the one copy as it is mostly late-game support.
Enough about our heroes. What would any Rohan deck be without its allies? Out of all the factions currently available in this card game, I think Rohan has some of the coolest characters to play with. For the early game we need some cheap characters with decent willpower. The Riddermark's Finest, West Road Traveller, Westfold Horse-Breaker and Westfold Horse-breeder all fit this bill, so we run 3 copies of each.
Slightly more expensive at 2 resources we have Éomund (thanks to Théoden) and Arwen Undómiel. Both provide 2 and have strong effects to justify their additional cost. Éomund can be used in dire combat situations to mount an incredible counter-attack. Arwen Undómiel can boost Théoden's to make him a more capable defender, or give Háma +1 and Sentinel, so he can defend for other players. She even sort of fits thematically since we're also playing Galadriel.
Speaking of Háma, he is your secondary defender for the late game. Try to get him out simultaneously with Gamling so you can keep recycling him when you need him (and hopefully draw an additional card with Horn of the Mark each turn). Grimbold serves a similar role in the late game where you can continually cancel attacks by recycling him with Gamling, and he even quests for 2 .
Finally there's Gandalf. At first he may seem really out of place here; you don't often see him in a Rohan deck. He actually fits in extremely well, and not just because of thematic reasons. (The idea of having Gandalf help you in exchange for a threat penalty is just perfect for a Rohan deck!) It's best to hold off playing him until you have a well established board. That way you won't have to pay a ton of threat early in the game, plus it's more important to get your key support cards and allies in play first. Once Galadriel has all her attachments, this deck should have no problem with paying for the threat cost for a while.
This deck turtles during the early game, slowly building up your board with cheap allies and getting key attachments on your heroes. Mulligan for Nenya and either Unexpected Courage for Galadriel or Snowmane for Théoden. Your next high priority attachment is Golden Shield for Théoden, followed by Horn of the Mark and Mirror of Galadriel for card draw.
While you're doing this, try putting out at least one cheap ally each turn to continually benefit from Théoden's cost reduction. Build up some so at least questing is taken care of. Éomer is a hyper-offensive hero that should be able to clear enemies rather quickly, so you shouldn't have too many enemies engaged with you simultaneously. Defend them with Théoden or chump block them, then kill them with Éomer.
During the late game, drop the turtling strategy and start advancing through the remainder of the scenario quickly. Wait until this point to play Gandalf. Once you play him, the game should ideally only last 3-5 more turns. Since Galadriel can keep your threat almost constant, this deck can turtle for an almost unlimited number of turns. If you manage to hold out long enough, the deck will eventually cycle through all its cards. Believe it or not, this actually happened to me on multiple playthroughs. This is why I included the single copy of Will of the West. It helps recycling accidentally discarded copies of Gandalf, Ioreth, Éomund and Protector of Lórien, but also helps you recur all your fallen allies.
Elfhelm can be played in scenarios that are incredibly punishing in terms of threat (e.g. Murder at the Prancing Pony). Escort from Edoras can provide a short term boosts for scenarios that start out with an insane amount of in the staging area. Riddermark Knight and Westfold Outrider are for more combat-oriented quests. (Though usually is more important in allies, as Éomer is just so strong.)
Horn of Gondor doesn't quite fit thematically, but can be used if you can't or don't want to turtle and need resources more quickly. Desperate Defense helps with Théoden's defense. We can also run Elrond's Counsel thanks to Galadriel for additional threat reduction. Finally The Muster of Rohan is a really cool thematic card but doesn't quite fit in with this deck's playstyle. However, you could include it for the sheer fun factor, and it's still a good card to play alongside Gandalf in the late game to go for one final push.