This weekend (July 1st-2nd), there will be a Limited Arena Open (Day 1 Sealed, Day 2 Draft). To prepare you for that, and to finish what I started with the allied-color pairs last week, let’s review the enemy-color pair archetypes for The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth!
Orzhov is a grindy midrange deck that uses tokens to generate a lot of value. This is one of the stronger builds for Mirkwood Bats, which can become a serious threat in short order. Oath of the Grey Host is a generally underpowered card, but can be great in this archetype. Shire Shirriff also gets a boost here.
There are numerous uncommon legendary creatures that can all generate some value in the deck, like Gothmog, Morgul Lieutenant; Grima Wormtongue; Rosie Cotton of South Lane; and Samwise the Stouthearted. Protector of Gondor and Cirith Ungol Patrol, while normally solid playables, are even stronger in Orzhov.
Izzet looks to get most of its damage through directly. It does so via evasive creatures, small Ring-bearers, Erebor Flamesmith, and Fiery Inscription. Gandalf’s Sanction can be a win condition in itself, especially when paired with Treason of Isengard, allowing you to cast two Zenith Flares back-to-back.
Deceive the Messenger and Birthday Escape are very strong in the archetype as cheap spells with relevance to the gameplan. I also have found success with Dreadful as the Storm, allowing you to sneak through further direct damage, as well as potentially giving an army +5/+5. Rally at the Hornburg and Quarrel’s End are two of the less obvious red spells you will want for the deck.
Golgari is on the slower side, looking to close games out with its larger creatures. Both of the gold uncommons are solid, with Old Man Willow being the stronger of the two. Sam’s Desperate Rescue is great here, allowing you to get back your bigger creatures, as well as a previously landcycled Troll of Khazad-dum or Generous Ent. This is also the best home for Quickbeam, Upstart Ent, if you get the other Treefolk to support it.
It’s important to keep your early-game in mind. Cards like Haunt of the Dead Marshes, Easterling Vanguard, and Wose Pathfinder are among some of the best common creatures to do the trick. The color pair lacks any early-game removal, making Morgul-Knife Wound one of the better removal options to take out opposing two- and three-drops.
Boros is the fastest deck in the format, and I’ve had a good amount of success with it. Rally at the Hornburg is easily the best common in the deck, and it pairs extremely well with cards like Theoden, King of Rohan and Erkenbrand, Lord of Westfold. Among the other common creatures, Protector of Gondor, Errand-Rider of Gondor, and Rohirrim Lancer are top-tier.
Escape from Orthanc is the best combat trick for the deck, due to the mana cost and evasive ability. Dunedain Blade can be great for the deck, especially paired with Eowyn, Lady of Rohan, allowing free equips to your Humans. Fear, Fire, Foes! is amazing in any deck, but it can be even more devastating in Boros, creating massive tempo swings by clearing out chump blockers.
As it stands, I’ve got Simic as the weakest archetype. It’s a synergy deck, looking to use the scry mechanic to smooth the draws while activating cards like Nimrodel Watcher; Chance-Met Elves; Glorfindel, Dauntless Rescuer; and Celeborn the Wise.
The most important payoff is Arwen Undomiel, which has the potential to snowball a game. The deck doesn’t have much inherent value outside the easily disrupted scry synergies, though it has potential as a good base for splashing whatever bombs you pick up.
Rakdos is still the best deck in the format, with Boros and Orzhov as potent runner-ups. As the meta adjusts, green will become more available, and I’ll be looking to figure out how to draft it successfully! I’ll put out a “Combos and Synergies” article before the weekend to help you get the edge on the competition during the Open.
Lose and Learn, Learn and Win!