It’s cool that the Tales of Middle-earth Commander Riders of Rohan deck has a monarch sub-theme, with Aragorn, King of Gondor as the alternate to the face commander to play up this angle. The monarch is a sweet mechanic that encourages combat and interaction, and supplies extra card draw for your troubles, so having it attached to a card in your command zone means you can really lean into it.
Notes on Monarchy
Some general notes on playing with the monarch mechanic:
There are two inherent triggered abilities associated with being the monarch. These triggered abilities have no source and are controlled by the player who was the monarch at the time the abilities triggered. The full texts of these abilities are “At the beginning of the monarch’s end step, that player draws a card” and “Whenever a creature deals combat damage to the monarch, its controller becomes the monarch.”
If the triggered ability that causes the monarch to draw a card goes on the stack and a different player becomes the monarch before that ability resolves, the first player will still draw the card.
If the monarch leaves the game during another player’s turn, that player becomes the monarch. If the monarch leaves the game during their turn, the next player in turn order becomes the monarch.
If combat damage dealt to the monarch causes that player to lose the game, the triggered ability that causes the controller of the attacking creature to become the monarch doesn’t resolve. In most cases, the controller of the attacking creature will still become the monarch as it is likely their turn.
A Special Note on Aragorn
Here is a rules clarification on Aragorn, King of Gondor from the Release Notes:
So, if you’re the monarch, don’t target any creature to ensure no ability fizzling spoils your attacking plans!
Okay, let’s dig in and claim the throne!
Since Aragorn should ensure that we can claim the monarch most of the time, I’d suggest running most all of these cards that care about being the monarch. Faramir, Steward of Gondor is impressive here with a payoff of making Human Soldier tokens to help defend your monarch status, and even a way to trigger gaining back the monarch if you lose it.
Champions of Minas Tirith is a bit expensive, but I think it’s worth running. It forces an opponent to choose whether they can attack you or not by paying mana based on the number of cards in their hand and can really put opponents in a jam if they want to take the monarch from you.
I had to read Archivist of Gondor a few times to make sure I understood how it works, and basically it doubles the monarch draw for whoever has the monarch. It’s a little risky to run, but it also doubles down on the encouragement to attack whoever is the monarch, so I think it’s certainly worth the risk.
Crown of Gondor, I’m a little uncertain of in terms of being worth a card slot unless you’re really pushing a go-wide, token-heavy approach in your decklist, but for flavor’s sake, I’d just have to put it in the 99 of an Aragorn, King of Gondor deck.
Gain the Monarch
The Commander deck has a few new ways to gain the monarch, including Forth Eorlingas! This sorcery helps with the go-wide plan and can make you the monarch if you have a way to deal combat damage to an opponent. Éomer, King of Rohan is a heckuva Magic card, making you the monarch when it enters the battlefield and gaining a +1/+1 counter for each other Human you control, which can be quite scary considering its double strike ability. And it also deals damage to any target equal to its power when it enters the battlefield. This is the perfect card to exile and bring back with various blink effects.
I’m not overly fond of “steal creature” effects in Commander, but Fealty to the Realm seems like a fun spin on it. I love that when another player takes the monarch, they gain control of the enchanted creature, but that creature can’t attack you.
Haste for Aragorn
One thing I’d love to have is Aragorn, King of Gondor able to attack the turn he enters the battlefield, so I’d put some ways to give him haste in the deck. You’ll be the monarch, so you can attack with impunity, and since Aragorn has vigilance and lifelink, you’ll have some protection from the counterattacks. I’m a big fan of Urabrask the Hidden, since it gives your team haste and also hinders your opponents deploying blockers or haste creatures of their own.
Drawing Your Second Card Matters
Wizards of the Coast (WotC) Studio X has been on a bit of a “draw your second card” design kick recently, and since being the monarch means you’ll get to draw a second card, we might want to round out the decklist with some of these cards. Ethereal Investigator is rather nifty, creating one to three Clue tokens when it enters the battlefield, and also creating a 1/1 creature with flying when you draw your second card, a perfect chump blocker.
Card Draw Matters
Drawing that extra card from monarch means we might want to include cards that care about card drawing, with Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim jumping to mind. Having a planeswalker on the battlefield while you’re the commander offers up a choice to an opponent—either attack you to take the monarch, or attack down your planeswalker.
I really like Shabraz, the Skyshark since it grows larger with each draw, but its activated ability can give Aragorn flying if that helps get past blockers. You can even run its partner Brallin, Skyshark Rider to double the chances of getting Shabraz in hand.
With our commander and so many other creatures all making us the monarch when they enter the battlefield, it will definitely pay off to include blink effects that exile and bring the creature back to the battlefield. Gilraen, Dúnedain Protector is nifty since it allows you to time when the blinked creature returns, either right away or at the beginning of the next end step. The reward for your patience is a vigilance and lifelink counter on the creature, giving it abilities just like the King of Gondor!
Delina, Wild Mage doesn’t blink, but it does make copies when it attacks, and those copies aren’t legendary if you copy a legend, so it’s another way you can copy a creature like Aragorn to grab back the monarch.
Combat Damage to a Player
Aragorn supplies a measure of evasion depending on the state of your monarchy, but that means we should have ways to capitalize on being able to deal damage to opponents. Cards like Bident of Thassa or Grazilaxx, Illithid Scholar will let us draw even more extra cards. Then there’s Kediss, Emberclaw Familiar, which, when Aragorn deals damage to a player, will allow Aragorn to deal that damage to each of your other opponents. Since Aragorn has lifelink, you’ll get a nice fifteen life for the trouble!
Opponents Taking the Monarch
You can count on players wanting to take the monarch from you, so you can play cards to help take advantage of people attacking you. Mangara, the Diplomat will let you draw a card if more than one creature attacks you, and Brash Taunter stands ready and able to block the largest, non-trampling creature that’s attacking you.
Since Aragorn has lifelink, we might consider cards that take advantage of that burst of life from combat damage. Archangel of Thune and Celestine, the Living Saint are great because they’re solid cards all on their own, even without a bunch of lifegain. I’d also consider running The One Ring, since the lifegain will nicely offset the burden counter life loss.
Vigilance is an excellent ability to have in multiplayer, but are there ways to leverage it further? Spells with convoke came to mind, especially Clever Concealment and Ephemeral Shields, which can help protect from removal. And of course, there’s the awesome Relic of Legends, which will let your vigilant commander squeeze out more mana after it attacks.
What other cards do you think would work nicely with Aragorn, King of Gondor? How do you rank him among all the versions of Aragorn?
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