Hey friends! Welcome back to Cardsphere. Last time we began our review of Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth (LTR), the latest Magic: the Gathering set, and today we're finishing that up.
In my previous article we reviewed just the legendary creatures from LTR, discussing which ones will be popular as commanders or in the 99 of other decks. So it's time to look at everything else. Not every card! Nobody’s got time to read all that. Just the ones that I feel will, or could, have an impact on the Commander format.
We’ll break this up into three categories: Sure Thing, Situational, and Sleeper Hit.
These are the cards that you’re all going to be seeing, or playing, a lot of.
Flowering of the White Tree - A huge upgrade on
Glorious Anthem. Legend decks are very popular right now, but this enchantment can find a home in any go-wide deck looking for that extra boost.
Stern Scolding - This one’s for the cEDH crowd. It counters so many creatures that are staples of the competitive wing of our format, like
Mirkwood Bats - Apparently this one’s divisive? LOL. Some people see four mana and think it’s unplayable or “mid.” I think it’s one of the best cards in the set, and will be a staple for token decks. Treasures are very popular, haven’t you heard?
Orcish Bowmasters - One of the most hyped cards in the set due to its potential in multiple formats. For Commander, where we’ll be seeing this is Wheel decks that force opponents to draw extra cards. Combine it with
Forced Fruition to lose friends quickly.
Fiery Inscription -
Guttersnipe on a noncreature permanent has its advantages. For one, it doesn’t die to a board wipe.
Delighted Halfling - The best mana dork since
Birds of Paradise? Quite possibly. Don't bolt me, bro!
Elven Chorus - This card reads like that meme of Vince McMahon progressively getting more aroused with each line. The first two lines of text here have been done before, with cards like
Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate, and
Vizier of the Menagerie. But also turning all of your creatures into mana generators? That’s a hit.
Mithril Coat -
Hammer of Nazahn at instant speed? Are you kidding? I’ll take five.
The One Ring - I’m not sure if people are going to play this because it’s really good (it kind of is) or because it’s just cool to play with “The Ring.” Either way (or both?) I expect to see this popping up a lot. I’m also really excited to see people kill themselves with it.
Mana Crypt deaths are always entertaining, and I expect no less from this.
Barad-dur and other legendary lands - People love legendary lands, especially when there’s very little drawback to playing them. Are these as good as the Kamigawa lands? No. But they’re still going to see a lot of play.
Now it’s time for the cards that are going to see play, but only in specific archetypes.
The Battle of Bywater and
Dawn of a New Age - Both of these will be showing up in go-wide decks, with Dawn being a better
Phyrexian Arena for this archetype.
Forge Anew - This is unlikely to completely unseat
Sigarda’s Aid in Equipment decks, but I think plenty of them will run it for redundancy.
Storm of Saruman - We’ve seen spell copy enchantments before. But where Storm of Saruman stands out is that it’s not just certain spell types, like
Swarm Intelligence or
Reflections of Littjara. Whatever your second spell is each turn, you get to copy it. The ward 3 is also huge.
Nasty End - Drawing potentially three cards for just two mana is a hard rate to beat.
Nazgûl - Apparently these uncommons are currently selling for over $10 each. I was wrong about how popular
Seven Dwarves would be. And I still see those dudes showing up frequently. I won’t be wrong on this one.
Hew the Entwood and
Entish Restoration - I can easily see Gruul Landfall decks going nuts for these. Especially ones that play
Crucible of Worlds effects.
Spiteful Banditry - This one’s getting a lot of hype, too. It’s nowhere near the power of
The Meathook Massacre, despite having a somewhat similar effect. Still, it has a lot of uses, even if it’s hamstrung by the once-each-turn clause.
Last March of the Ents - My first thought is to run it in Bant toughness-matters decks, like
Arcades, the Strategist. But it could easily see play in any deck with big creatures (something green specializes in).
The Ring Goes South and
Mirror of Galadriel - Legend decks are big right now, and these cards are excellent for that archetype. Except after a board wipe, of course.
Doors of Durin - Sadly there are no commanders that are both a Dwarf and an Elf. And the set designers didn’t think we needed a Legolas/Gimli teamup card (they were wrong). But even without these creature types, this card is pretty incredible in creature-heavy aggro decks. Easily worth the six damage in a
Ruric Thar, the Unbowed deck, if you ask me.
Flame of Anor - There are a lot of Izzet+ Wizard commanders. And many of them should be running this.
Rise of the Witch-king - Removal and recursion on a four-mana spell? That’s a really solid ROI, especially when you’re up against opponents with a single unkillable creature.
Barrow-Blade - This card is a lot cooler than people are giving it credit for. And with just one mana to cast and one to equip, it’s incredibly efficient. Knocking out a creature’s abilities can often be just the thing you need to pick yourself back up for a turn. This also acts as a great attack deterrent if you hold the equipped creature up as a blocker. Keep in mind, the effect will happen before damage!
Horn of the Mark - This thing only costs two mana. Two! That’s some incredible card advantage for aggro decks.
Palantir of Orthanc - I love that this happens at end step and not upkeep. It always sucks when you have to wait until your next turn for a card to do anything. The Palantir promises a lot of fun head games, which I’m all about. But be careful using it. They’ve not all been accounted for.
Stone of Erech - While I don’t think this is necessarily an upgrade on
Soul-Guide Lantern or
Relic of Progenitus, it does get points for shutting down creatures entering graveyards.
Legendary Swords -
Anduril, Flame of the West,
Sting, the Glinting Dagger are all great, and all going to see play in various strategies.
Now we’ll look at the cards that I don’t expect to see a ton of play, but could potentially pick up steam if enough people give them a try.
Reprieve - The problem with cards that return to hand rather than counter, like
Unsubstantiate, is that you run the risk of them just being able to recast it right away if they have a lot of mana open. Regardless, outside of blue, I can see people trying this out. It’s no
Lapse of Certainty, but it’s cheaper and it cantrips, which ain’t nothing.
War of the Last Alliance - For legends decks, this is quite solid. For just four mana you tutor for two creatures and have a massive swing with your army. Not bad!
You Cannot Pass! - No, it’s not as effective as
Swords to Plowshares or
Path to Exile, but those cards don’t let you do an Ian McKellen impression when you cast them. And that’s enough of a reward for me.
Hithlain Knots - A cantrip that also potentially gives you a reprieve from a massive attacker for a turn? I dig it.
Scroll of Isildur - This does so much for just three mana. Steal a mana rock for three turns, tap down two threats, and draw some cards.
Shadow of the Enemy - There aren’t a ton of decks that can really take advantage of this. But I just love being able to rob opponents’ graveyards.
Troll of Khazad-dum - This thing is just incredible in reanimator decks. We know how powerful menace can be. Is there a name for this? Trenace? Troinace?
Display of Power - The best time to cast this is after you’ve Overloaded
Mizzix’s Mastery. That’s Christmas-land thinking, I know. But a boy can dream.
Elven Farsight - That’s one hell of a spell for just one mana. Casting this on turn one is an easy way to set yourself up for a great start to the game.
Shire Terrace - It’s a strict upgrade on
Terminal Moraine, and the Panoramas! And it’s a huge card for all budget players. Gimme 10.
There’s Room for a Little More
Alright, we’ve seen the individual cards. What do I think of the set as a whole?
From a gameplay standpoint, this set offers nothing new. The Ring Tempts You, as a mechanic, doesn’t do enough to be worth the work, and I don’t see it having much impact in Commander. I mean, it’ll happen, but it won’t affect games much. There’s no new card types or sub-types. The only archetype to get a serious boost is Sagas, which is still only a niche archetype. I’m sad we didn’t see any new battles, as this seemed like the most obvious set for them, but I understand the timing wasn’t on their side for including them.
Is it a powerful set? Sure, there are several cards like,
Orcish Bowmasters and
Mirkwood Bats, that will do work and become staples of the Commander format. But for a straight-to-Modern set, I’m surprised we’re not seeing a set on par with Modern Horizons in power level.
While the set isn’t blowing me away with overpowered cards, there are, however, a lot of very good cards in this set. As you could see from the list above, I definitely named a large number of cards that will see play. Probably more so than most sets. And I’d probably rather have a large number of good cards than a handful of broken cards anyway.
We also have to consider the fact that, while the set plays it safe with gameplay, when it comes to flavor, Tales of Middle-earth is a resounding success. I have no doubt in my mind that this will be one of the most opened sets in Magic’s history. Yes, part of that is related to the search for the One of One Ring, but it’s also due to the popularity of this IP. The Lord of the Rings book series is probably the most beloved fantasy epic ever created. And, of course, the movies are immensely popular as well. Many people, including me, can’t wait to play their Sauron and Aragorn decks and make jokes about second breakfasts. Sometimes, when worlds collide, the impact can be very positive.
These Universes Beyond products have now been released as Secret Lairs (The Walking Dead, Stranger Things), inserts in regular sets (Transformers), Commander decks (Warhammer 40K), and now with LTR, a straight-to-Modern booster set. They’ve had a ton of success so far, and this set is looking to be the most popular yet. We already know that Doctor Who is coming later this year, but what other properties should we expect to see in the future? I for one would lose my nerdy mind for an X-Men set, but seeing as how Disney is launching their own TCG Lorcana, I don’t think a crossover with their properties is likely. Working with DC and Warner Bros., however… that’s an almost sure thing.
That’s it for my review of Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth! Tune in next time where I’ll…well, I don’t know what I’m doing next. Maybe a deck tech? Hit me up on Twitter and let me know what you’d like to see.
Take care, friends. And play lots of games!