Commander Deep Dive: Sauron, Lord Of The Rings

Sauron, Lord of the Rings is the face of a deck in The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth Commander, but what else can he do? Bennie Smith takes you on a flavorful Commander Deep Dive.

It’s Prerelease weekend for The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth, and I am excited to pick up sealed product to crack open and see what cool cards I open to put into my Commander decks or build entirely new decks around.  There are a whopping four versions of Sauron that you can choose from, but the one that really stands out to me is the face commander from The Hosts of Mordor Commander deck—Sauron, Lord of the Rings!

Sauron, Lord of the Rings

I’ve heard some grumblings from the optimized Commander deck crowd that eight mana is way too expensive to consider this as a Commander in 2023, but as someone who’s got a Piru, the Volatile deck and a deck built around The Tarrasque, I don’t subscribe to that philosophy.

Piru, the Volatile The Tarrasque

I generally look for games that have room to breathe, that aren’t racing for a quick combo kill, and in such games, expensive commanders are certainly playable, especially if they are impactful. Sauron has a potent cast trigger, and I think the effect warrants the mana cost. 

Sauron’s Trigger

Let’s take a look at what happens when you cast Sauron:

When you cast this spell, amass Orcs 5, mill five cards, then return a creature card from your graveyard to the battlefield.

So even if Sauron gets countered or killed immediately, you get an Orc Army with five +1/+1 counters on it (or five additional counters on your existing Orc Army), and you’ll get to reanimate a creature from the graveyard.  The self-mill just helps with that last bit in case your graveyard has taken a hit from a Bojuka Bog or something. If you add the 9/9 Sauron and all of its other abilities, you actually get a lot of bang for your eight-mana buck.

The main mini-quest we’ll want to go on prior to bringing out Sauron, Lord of the Rings is to get at least one potent creature into the graveyard by hook or by crook.  In the land of Mordor where the shadows lie, that should be easy!  Let’s eyeball our choices.

Cycling Creatures

The Balrog of Moria Troll of Khazad-dum Oliphaunt Rampaging War Mammoth Monstrosity of the Lake Archfiend of Ifnir Nimble Obstructionist Ruin Grinder Curator of Mysteries Void Beckoner Striped Riverwinder Twisted Abomination

Cycling creatures are awesome choices for this deck since they check off that mini-quest while digging deeper into your deck to ensure you’re hitting your land drops each turn. Luckily for us, the designers of The Hosts of Mordor Commander deck created an excellent one for us:  The Balrog of Moria!  The cycle cost is a little expensive at four mana, but when it’s cycled you create two Treasure tokens, which goes a long way towards casting Sauron ahead of curve. The Balrog of Moria is a huge 8/8, it has trample and haste, and it has a nice dies trigger if each of your opponents has a creature worthy of exiling.

In the same deck is Rampaging War Mammoth, with a cycling ability that can pick off troublesome artifacts if you need them gone.

There are a lot of cycling creatures from throughout Magic history, and I’ve picked some of the best here.  Ruin Grinder is a favorite since when it dies you get to reload your hand.

Evoke Creatures

Mulldrifter Shriekmaw Ingot Chewer Night Incarnate Slithermuse

Evoke creatures came to mind, giving you a “spell” effect for cheap while stocking your graveyard with a potential reanimation target.  Mulldrifter is a time-honored choice that fits great here, keeping the cards flowing and the lands dropping.

Value Creatures That Will Die

Solemn Simulacrum Syr Konrad, the Grim Etali, Primal Storm Baleful Strix Goldspan Dragon Grim Haruspex Terror of the Peaks Consecrated Sphinx Ravenous Chupacabra Hellkite Tyrant Wurmcoil Engine Noxious Gearhulk Rune-Scarred Demon Amphin Mutineer

If there’s one thing that’s certain in Commander, it’s that creatures die early and often, especially if they’re good.  Be sure to pepper in some good creatures that you want to cast before Sauron, and that your opponents will have reason to burn off a removal spell on. Terror of the Peaks and Consecrated Sphinx are sure to get the cards flying!

Sacrifice Creatures for Value

Ashnod's Altar Victimize Deadly Dispute Disciple of Bolas Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools

If for some reason the best card you want to reanimate with Sauron hasn’t been put into the graveyard from the battlefield yet, you can add some ways to kill off your own creatures in the time-honored Grixis tradition. Victimize can sacrifice a good creature while you get back two creatures, if you want to dabble in necromancy before Sauron shows up.

Stock the Graveyard

Buried Alive Entomb Breach the Multiverse Corpse Connoisseur Combustible Gearhulk

Another way to ensure a good reanimation target is to put a creature from your library directly into the graveyard with cards like Buried Alive and Corpse Connoisseur. Breach the Multiverse is a bonkers good card in Commander and a great way to prime the pumps the turn before you cast Sauron.  Combustible Gearhulk will either flip over some good reanimation targets or let you draw three cards, so either way is a win.

Reanimation Targets

Razaketh, the Foulblooded Ancient Brass Dragon Ancient Silver Dragon Cavern-Hoard Dragon Grave Titan

I’m a big fan of the Ancient Dragon cycle from Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate, and Ancient Brass Dragon has heard you like reanimation, so it put some reanimation on your reanimation so you can reanimation some more.

Cavern-Hoard Dragon is a sweet new Dragon from The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth Commander, and the fact that it has haste and can immediately get you value when brought back by Sauron is going to make for a huge turn!


Anger Crashing Drawbridge Urabrask the Hidden Chainer, Nightmare Adept Ogre Battledriver Bloodsworn Steward

Speaking of huge, Sauron is large and in charge, and you’ll want to get attacking with it immediately by giving it haste.  Anger is a perfect choice here, given the various ways we’ll be priming the graveyard anyway, but I also love Urabrask the Hidden since it disrupts blockers from your opponents. I also love Chainer, Nightmare Adept since it gives haste to your reanimation targets.

Power Boost

Commander's Plate Blackblade Reforged Hatred Hammer of Nazahn Vorpal Sword

Sauron’s trample ability makes me want to pile on power pumpers, especially since Sauron’s nine power gets so close to commander damage in just two hits—for just two more power, that’s a potential 22 trampling commander damage. Vorpal Sword gets us there, and the deathtouch combines wonderfully with Sauron’s trample.  Plus, such a heinous and evil weapon seems exactly the sort of blade Sauron would wield.

Commander’s Plate pushes it by three, while Blackblade Reforged will push it into terrifyingly huge territory.

Draw Cards

Stinging Study Imposing Grandeur Mask of Griselbrand Night's Whisper Read the Bones Midnight Clock Painful Truths

When you run a commander this expensive, you’ll want tons of card draw options to ensure you make a land drop every single turn for your first eight turns. In particular I’d make room for Stinging Study and Imposing Grandeur, which let you draw cards equal to the high mana value of your commander.

Mana Ramp

Dark Ritual Mana Geyser Geode Golem Burnt Offering Irencrag Feat Spoils of Evil

Since Sauron provides so much value, I’d totally run temporary fast mana to power it out a few turns ahead of schedule. Mana Geyser, if timed right, can generate a huge rush of red mana to easily cover all but the black and blue mana for Sauron.

Amass Cards

Sauron, the Dark Lord Gothmog, Morgul Lieutenant Grishnakh, Brash Instigator Orcish Bowmasters Barad-dur March from the Black Gate The Mouth of Sauron Moria Scavenger

Sauron likes his Orc army, so before Sauron leaves the command zone we might want to pepper in a bunch of other cards to amass Orcs. I love the flavor of March from the Black Gate here!  And if you’re lucky enough to open Orcish Bowmasters, be sure to put it to work for Sauron.

Flavor Wins

The One Ring Sauron, the Lidless Eye Sauron, the Necromancer One Ring to Rule Them All In the Darkness Bind Them Lidless Gaze Sauron's Ransom Shadow of the Enemy Fires of Mount Doom Gorbag of Minas Morgul Mordor Trebuchet Mount Doom Nazgul Ringwraiths Witch-king, Bringer of Ruin Witch-king of Angmar Lord of the Nazgul Shelob, Dread Weaver

Speaking of flavor, there are a ton of cards in this set and the Commander decks that are just dripping in flavor that you might be tempted to put in the deck.  There are the other versions of Sauron, Lidless Gaze, all the various Nazgûl, and even a mono-black version of Shelob.  And of course The One Ring, which drives every moment of Sauron’s existence.

Which version of Sauron is your favorite?  Are there any cards I overlooked that you’re excited to put in your Sauron deck? 

Talk to Me

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And lastly, I just want to say: let us love each other and stay healthy and happy. 

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