Last updated on December 21, 2023

Cemetery Protector - Illustration by Chris Rallis

Cemetery Protector | Illustration by Chris Rallis

One does not simply ride into Rohan.

That’s the quote right? I really need to brush up on my Tolkien…

Thankfully today I’m working with the new Riders of Rohan precon from the Tales of Middle-earth Commander set, so we should all come out as Tolkien experts in the end. I’m upgrading this human-centric deck to make it more viable at the average casual Commander table. Out with some bad, situational, or otherwise questionable precon cards in favor of fun and synergistic improvements to take this deck to the next level.

Let’s get into it!

Deck Overview

Riders of Rohan LTC precon

Riders of Rohan is a Jeskai () human-themed Commander precon from the cycle of LTC decks. It crosses human synergies with a strong monarch subtheme.

Éowyn, Shieldmaiden is the face commander, but I believe Aragorn, King of Gondor is the better choice. The king combines both main strategies as a human that introduces The Monarch into the game and rewards you for keeping the Jeskai commander.

It’s a straightforward list that’s full of humans, interaction, anthems, and some spells that create Humans. Thankfully the monarch flavor distinguishes it from other human-forward precons like Commander 2020’s Ruthless Regiment and Midnight Hunt’s Coven Counters.

Magic The Gathering The Lord of The Rings: Tales of Middle-Earth Commander Deck 1 + Collector Booster Sample Pack
  • MAGIC MEETS THE LORD OF THE RINGS—Experience the beloved story of The Lord of the Rings with the strategic gameplay of Magic: The Gathering, facing off against opponents in thrilling magical battles
  • EPIC MULTIPLAYER BATTLES—Commander is a multiplayer way to play Magic, an epic, free-for-all battle full of strategic plays and social intrigue
  • RIDERS OF ROHAN—Join the riders of Rohan with a 100-card Blue-Red-White deck containing 2 Foil Legendary Creature cards and 98 nonfoil cards
  • INTRODUCES 20 COMMANDER CARDS—This deck introduces 20 never-before-seen Commander cards to Magic: The Gathering
  • COLLECT SPECIAL TREATMENT CARDS—Each deck comes with a 2-card Collector Booster Sample Pack containing 2 special treatment cards from The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth set, including 1 Rare or Mythic Rare and at least 1 Traditional Foil

Strengths and Weaknesses

What this deck lacks in creativity it makes up for with consistency. Not that it’s entirely void of new ideas, since the monarch theme adds a nice touch to the otherwise overplayed human elements. It’s just very committed to its themes, with nearly every creature being a human supported by bread-and-butter effects in the non-creature slots.

The new additions are also remarkably strong. Oath of Eorl, Forth Eorlingas!, and the titular Riders of Rohan are all fantastic aggressive cards, and Taunt from the Rampart has potential to be a format staple.

There aren’t any offensive weaknesses here, though the deck lacks protection. Unbreakable Formation as the only way to dodge a sweeper seems lackluster. The deck is all-in on attacking, and my changes won’t necessarily fix that; just know that combat is the only real focus here.

I had some parameters when making changes to the deck. I’ve avoided pricey cards that exceed $10, power outliers that are best suited for highly competitive play, and Magic-specific callouts that break the immersion of the Lord of the Rings setting. That last one’s not a hard-and-fast rule, but I intentionally dodged references to Magic-specific planes and characters, or characters from other IPs (e.g., Rick, Steadfast Leader, Castle Ardenvale, etc.).

Still, I can’t do anything about that disappointing Universes Beyond card frame.

Grasp of Fate

Grasp of Fate

Suggested Cut: Banishing Light

Starting off with a basic upgrade, Grasp of Fate is the most expensive card on the list that cleanly improves this slot from a clunky 1-for-1 removal spell into one that interacts with all opponents. This is an excellent EDH card, so it’s a shame it hasn’t seen a proper reprint outside Mystery Boosters.

Mirror Entity

Mirror Entity

Suggested Cut: Gimli of the Glittering Caves

If I can’t partner Gimli with Legolas, I want nothing to do with them.

Jokes aside, Gimli of the Glittering Caves just doesn’t fit the themes of this deck. Cards that aren’t human and don’t say something about the monarch need to do some heavy lifting, and Gimli doesn’t get there.

I’ll never stop recommending Mirror Entity for themed decks like this. It adds a human while threatening a mass board pump that often closes out games.

Cemetery Protector

Cemetery Protector

Suggested Cut: Grey Host Reinforcements

Grey Host Reinforcements is a strong standalone card, but like Gimli of the Glittering Caves, it doesn’t gel with other cards.

I slotted in Cemetery Protector to maintain some degree of graveyard interaction in a form that better ties into the deck. It often catches an opponent by surprise and then becomes a steady token generator depending on what card it exiled.

Horn of Gondor

Horn of Gondor

Suggested Cut: Village Bell-Ringer

Horn of Gondor is a main-set inclusion that slots right in. It’s like Krenko, Mob Boss for humans, and it gets exponentially better with each activation.

Village Bell-Ringer is meant to give you surprise blockers to keep monarch, and there’s a mini-combo with Bell-Ringer and Combat Celebrant, so no shame if you want to preserve this slot.

Coppercoat Vanguard

Coppercoat Vanguard

Suggested Cut: Humble Defector

Humble Defector is good fun in political decks, but giving away a human is counterproductive, and you don’t have great ways to guarantee taking it back. That frees up room for Coppercoat Vanguard, a cheap mini-lord that adds some ward protection to your humans.

I’m aware the “Coppercoat” name is related to Ikoria, but I made an exception. I also looked at Thalia's Lieutenant for this spot, but the Thalia callout felt out of place.

The rules are made up, just roll with it.

Ghostly Prison

Ghostly Prison

Suggested Cut: Harsh Mentor

Surely there are Ghostly Prisons in Middle-earth right?

It’s not unusual for monarch decks to play a pillow fort strategy, but that would require a complete overhaul of this deck. You want to play offense while protecting the monarch, and Ghostly Prison helps with the crackback.

Harsh Mentor doesn’t add much other than being a cheap human with minor upside. Easy cut.

Call the Coppercoats

Call the Coppercoats

Suggested Cut: Archivist of Gondor

There’s that Coppercoat name-drop again. Same exception, different card.

Call the Coppercoats is best-in-class compared to similar effects like Visions of Glory and Increasing Devotion. It’s a potential “win the game outta nowhere” card with a few anthems on board.

I conceptually dislike Archivist of Gondor. Its first ability matters maximum once per game, and the second ability gives players an even stronger incentive to attack you and steal the monarch. It’s great when you can lock down the monarch, and terrible when it gets taken from you.

Sanctuary Lockdown

Sanctuary Lockdown

Suggested Cut: Door of Destinies

I left Door of Destinies off our list of best tribal cards for a reason. You invest a turn to play it, where it has no immediate impact, and then it sits around as a blowout target for your opponents’ artifact removal. The upper ceiling is high, but the trigger misses on non-creature spells like Increasing Devotion.

Sanctuary Lockdown is a much better anthem. This enchantment buffs your humans and gives you the means to lock down blockers or keep large threats from attacking you. Perfect when you intend to be the monarch.

Fall from Favor

Fall from Favor

Suggested Cut: Fiend Hunter

I’m low on Banisher Priest/Fiend Hunter creatures in EDH. They add to your human count, but they’re vulnerable and usually backfire when they’re eventually removed. Same deal with Banishing Light/Grasp of Fate, but creature removal is so much more prevalent.

Fall from Favor fits this “temporary removal” category, but it’s bolstered by extra monarch text. Aura-based removal is also a sneaky good way to deal with some commanders.

Hey, if it’s good enough for the Pauper banlist, surely it’s good in EDH, right?

Keeper of Keys

Keeper of Keys

Suggested Cut: Dearly Departed

Dearly Departed is a cute card conceptually, as long as you can get it in the graveyard. This deck doesn’t excel at looting away cards, and casting it isn’t exciting. Not to mention that the deck isn’t lacking in the stat-boosting department.

I suggest Departed to make room for Keeper of Keys, a quirky human that plays into the monarch theme. It rewards you on upkeep, which incentivizes you to keep opponents off your back for a full turn cycle.

Let’s Ride

Keeper of Keys - Illustration by Bastien L. Deharme

Keeper of Keys | Illustration by Bastien L. Deharme

A monarch-focused precon is cool new territory, even if it’s sharing the spotlight with a run-of-the-mill humans theme. Riders of Rohan leans aggressive, but you could definitely make more tweaks and build a defensive monarch-focused version. My changes look to make your human army more deadly for the most part. The best defense is a good offense, as they say.

Do you have any experience playing Riders of Rohan, and have you made any notable changes to the precon? Let me know in the comments below or over in the Draftsim Discord.

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  • Avatar
    Jamwise Banshee July 3, 2023 1:53 pm

    For this upgrade, who did you choose as commander?
    You said you preferred Aragorn but are these upgrades with him in mind or Eowyn? Thanks 🙂

    • Timothy Zaccagnino
      Timothy Zaccagnino July 3, 2023 5:14 pm

      I could’ve been more specific in the article but I made the changes with the intentions of being able to play either Eowyn or Aragorn. While I think Aragorn’s better out-of-the-box, the changes I made should play well with either commander~

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