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"Riders of Rohan" Precon LOTR-Only Upgrades! (And Bonus Regular Upgrades)

The Lord of the Rings Commander preconstructed decklists have been revealed and with it comes another round of my precon upgrades. We're going to do a thorough analysis of each deck, highlighting its goals and how well it accomplishes them, check out its deckbuilding fundamentals, identify its strongest and weakest cards, then use all that information to make an optimized $30 upgrade paths!

Because a huge draw of these LOTR commander decks is the setting themselves, I'm doing something special with this round of upgrades: on top of my regular upgrade guide I will also be providing a LOTR-only upgrade path using only cards from the LOTR set (the main set, box toppers, and cards from other precons) so people looking to keep their decks 100% LOTR-themed can still do so! So whether you're looking to power up your precon while keeping it fully LOTR-themed or just want to start optimizing the decks with the most powerful cards available, this article should be helpful to everyone!

Other LOTR precon upgrades:

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Today we're upgrading Riders of Rohan, an aggressive White / Blue / Red Humans deck with a strong Monarch subtheme. The goal of the deck is to build up an army of humans that bring utility to deck, from drawing cards with Boromir, Gondor's Hope to tapping down opponents with Lossarnach Captain. We have plenty of ways to become the monarch as well, such as Archivist of Gondor, and have the army to defend our extra source of card draw. Eventually we win the game by pumping our team with cards like Shared Animosity and taking extra combats with Combat Celebrant to deal lethal combat damage.

So if you want to play the role of the Humans in Lord of the Rings and like the idea of an aggressive Jeskai Humans with some Monarch flavor, then Riders of Rohan is the deck for you!

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The Precon List

Before we talk upgrades, let's take a look at the stock list to see what we're working with:

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Riders of Rohan is very focused on its primary Human theme: I count 39 cards that are either humans, create human tokens (Oath of Eorl), or care about humans (Vanquisher's Banner). The Monarch subtheme adds a little spice to the deck with 10 monarch-granting cards. So this deck -- including our upgrades for it -- is a Jeskai Humans deck with a small Monarch twist.

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Choosing Our Commander: Eowyn or Aragorn?

This precon only has two commander options to lead the stock list: the face commander Eowyn, Shieldmaiden or the lieutenant Aragorn, King of Gondor. Both are very powerful cards that are worthy of a spot in the command zone or the 99 but have different strengths and weaknesses:

  • Eowyn, Shieldmaiden cares about Humans, the main theme of the precon. She consistently builds your board and (less consistently) draws you cards. Being able to develop your board while drawing cards and also being a 5/4 first strike is a ton of value for a 5-drop! This card is just very strong.
  • Aragorn, King of Gondor cares about Monarch, the subtheme of the precon. He comes down earlier than Eowyn and guarantees drawing you a card by giving you the crown, but your opponents can steal the crown from you after. Aragorn is a ridiculously good finisher too since making your opponents unable to block can often be GG for one or more players. 

Of the two, Eowyn is the obvious choice to lead the precon: she synergizes with the main theme of the deck and her payoff is amazing. Aragorn is great too but I think fits better in the 99.

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Analyzing the Precon & Identifying Weaknesses

Now that we've glanced at the stock list and settled on our commander, let's take a closer look at the deck itself to identify what parts benefit the most from upgrades.

As I often explain in my Budget Commander articles, every time I build a rough draft of a deck, I make sure I have a certain ratio of mana, interaction, card advantage, etc. This gives me a reference point to compare to the deck and see which areas may need improvement. My general ratio is:

  • 50 mana; lands and ramp, usually a 37–13 split
  • 10 card draw; cards that net you 2+ cards in hand
  • 8 targeted removal; split between creature / artifact / enchantment removal and countermagic
  • 3 board wipes; creature-light decks might want one more, creature-heavy decks might want one less
  • 2 graveyard recursion
  • 2 flexible tutors; higher budgets I recommend more tutors
  • 1 graveyard hate; since you need to keep Graveyard decks honest 

That's always my starting point, which is then tweaked to suit the individual deck's strategy and further tweaked with playtesting. I always find it immensely useful to figure out some quick ways to improve the deck in question.

Let's see what the rough ratios are for Riders of Rohan and how it compares. I count:

The ratios here are a little funky. The ramp is good enough, half the card draw is monarchy which doesn't stack well since becoming the monarch when you already are doesn't get you another card; there's a couple other good ones here like our commander Eowyn though but for the most part it just draws a single extra card per turn and that's it. The targeted removal is a mix of good and bad, the board wipes are meh, and there's no recursion. There's a lot we can do to make the deck stronger with just a couple of budget swaps. 

AND YET! Seeing this deck in action, the handful of new really good cards -- especially Eowyn our commander -- makes the deck a real terror, even if a lot of the 99 can be improved. Just imagine how strong the deck is when upgraded!

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Upgrade Goals

Based on our analysis of the deck I will focus on the following upgrade goals:

  • Enhance our Humans theme by adding more humans and human payoffs
  • Cut down on some Monarch cards
  • Upgrade our board wipes
  • Upgrade our targeted removal
  • Diversify our card draw

Another thing to note with Eowyn, Shieldmaiden is that since her trigger happens during combat, extra combats are really good with her as that means you get two more tokens and draw an extra card on top of the usual benefits of extra combats. So we'll add as many good wins as possible!

LOTR-Only Upgrade

There's plenty of upgrades to be found in the LOTR sets if you're looking to stick to the setting, way more than I could fit with a $30 budget, so check out the "Further Upgrades" section near the end of the article if you want more!

We're adding a few more notable human cards like Boromir, Warden of the Tower and an extra combat with Scourge of the Throne. We also have two way better board wipes with Raise the Palisade and Blasphemous Act!


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$30 Regular Upgrade

Humans are the most supported creature type in Magic so we have an enormous pool to work with here. We've got Coppercoat Vanguard to pump and protect, Mass Appeal, Distant Melody, and Kindred Discovery to draw, Relentless Assault and Cathars' Crusade to push damage through, but my single favorite card is Angel of Glory's Rise which mass reanimates our entire team! Bonus points if any opponent runs Zombies for extra value!


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Further Upgrades

If you want to stick to LOTR-only cards then I'd recommend these cards (make sure they feature the LOTR art, links on this website default to cheapest version):

If you want just any adds then I suggest the LOTR card along with:

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All Done!

Hope you enjoyed my take on the LOTR precon upgrades. Next week we'll be back with our typical Budget Commander articles: what commander do you want me to cover from the new LOTR set? Let me know in the comments section!

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