With the possibilities simply awash in The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth to build decks with, it doesn’t make any sense to agonize over choices. The time is right to just jump up and start building. I love my little Hobbits and their respect for a simple, if full, life. There is a great deal of breaking in the story, so it feels like we could use a little healing, and what better to heal us than delicious Food?
We’d go out there amongst the lines of drying linen, cavort amongst the melons, and mix it up with the tomatoes. We’d sing songs about Second Breakfast while making friends trying to explain the concept. A Shire full of little Hobbits dedicated to a single goal: get everyone overfed. So it was that we came to Mardu Second Breakfast, a sweet little treat to tide us over into the midday, involving all our Hobbit and Hobbit-adjacent friends, and I dare say some relations, too. There was only one thing we could end up with: infinite Food.
Mardu Second Breakfast brings in its love of food and leverages it to great victory. It reveals a bit of dark side and greed from Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, and the rest in order to get what they want. They’re not too nasty, but while you’re distracted by all the Food shenanigans, nearly unblockable creatures will be wearing down your life totals. Frodo, Adventurous Hobbit or Frodo, Determined Hero would serve as an Orzhov leader, but I really wanted to go outside the box and make clever use of a Mardu commander, in order to add red to the mix as well as a great combat trigger.
Enter Alesha, Who Smiles at Death.
Smiling at Death
Our fearless combat leader will get into the combat zone, bringing one of the Hobbits along. The combination of great enters-the-battlefield triggers with nigh-unblockability for most of the team means that we’ll kind of be doing what we want during the combat step. We’ll be fully tempted in no time, being able to select which mode we want in any situation. For the most part, it’ll involve skulking around doing pretty good work. Let’s review what could happen:
- Your Ring-bearer becomes legendary and can’t be blocked by creatures with greater power.
- Whenever your Ring-bearer attacks, draw a card and discard a card (commonly known as looting).
- Whenever your Ring-bearer becomes blocked by a creature, that creature’s controller sacrifices it at end of combat.
- Whenever your Ring-Bearer deals combat damage to an opponent, each opponent loses three life.
There’s lots of movement happening here. The combination of the first and last abilities will mean four life for one player and three for our other opponents. How we further sabotage them is up to tastes. Bill the Pony lets us sacrifice a token and have a creature deal combat damage equal to its toughness. The big payoff comes from spending five mana and having another player lose the game. Folks will have to be careful here since it can happen relatively quickly.
Eomer, King of Rohan, whose power is going to be higher than his native two, then buffed up by double strike, will deal out some serious damage, have us become the monarch, and give a headshot to the target of our choice. Merry, Esquire of Rohan simply draws a card. There is more, which leads to incremental advantage over the course of a game.
What will be more interesting are the big hits. There’s a single infinite combo in the deck, which, as promised, creates endless Food. It’s a simple three-card combination of Ruthless Technomancer, Restoration Angel, and Academy Manufactor.
With Ruthless Technomancer in hand, the other two on the battlefield, and 3B available, cast Ruthless Technomancer. It enters the battlefield, causing you to sacrifice Restoration Angel and create three Treasure, three Clue, and three Food tokens. Activate the three Treasure tokens by tapping and sacrificing them, adding 2B. Activate Ruthless Technomancer by paying 2B and sacrificing three artifacts, returning Restoration Angel from our graveyard to the battlefield. Restoration Angel enters the battlefield, blinking Ruthless Technomancer. Then we repeat from the previous step. The end result is:
- Infinite Clue tokens
- Infinite Food tokens
- Infinite enters-the-battlefield triggers
- Infinite leaves-the-battlefield triggers
- Infinite death triggers
- Infinite sacrifice triggers
Then we do what we want with our infiniteness. We can cast Eastfarthing Farmer and have an arbitrarily large lethal attacker, create infinite Halflings with Chapter III of Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit, or do murder with Mirkwood Bats or Strixhaven Stadium. In short, we can get up to all sorts of nonsense. That’s the edge-case scenario, though. Most of the time we’ll be operating under normal circumstances, which means doing battle with our sixteen legendary creatures. Let’s take a look at them after we see the full list.
- 1 Disciple of the Vault
- 1 Karmic Guide
- 1 Reveillark
- 1 Restoration Angel
- 1 Academy Manufactor
- 1 Isshin, Two Heavens as One
- 1 Ruthless Technomancer
- 1 Frodo, Sauron's Bane
- 1 Samwise the Stouthearted
- 1 Lobelia Sackville-Baggins
- 1 Mirkwood Bats
- 1 Bill the Pony
- 1 Merry, Esquire of Rohan
- 1 Boromir, Warden of the Tower
- 1 Eastfarthing Farmer
- 1 Rosie Cotton of South Lane
- 1 Gandalf the White
- 1 Frodo, Adventurous Hobbit
- 1 Lotho, Corrupt Shirriff
- 1 Took Reaper
- 1 Shire Shirriff
- 1 Saradoc, Master of Buckland
- 1 Gwaihir, Greatest of the Eagles
- 1 Lobelia, Defender of Bag End
- 1 Rapacious Guest
- 1 The Gaffer
- 1 Frodo, Determined Hero
- 1 Swords to Plowshares
- 1 Comet Storm
- 1 Conjurer's Closet
- 1 Strionic Resonator
- 1 Deflecting Palm
- 1 Citywide Bust
- 1 Sevinne's Reclamation
- 1 Lithoform Engine
- 1 Strixhaven Stadium
- 1 Inkshield
- 1 The Underworld Cookbook
- 1 Unquenchable Fury
- 1 Reprieve
- 1 The One Ring
- 1 Invasion of Fiora
- 1 Invasion of New Capenna
- 1 Call of the Ring
- 1 Wizard's Rockets
- 1 One Ring to Rule Them All
- 1 Second Breakfast
- 1 Tale of Tinuviel
- 1 There and Back Again
- 1 Slip On the Ring
- 1 Lost to Legend
- 1 The Battle of Bywater
- 1 Mithril Coat
- 1 Lembas
- 1 Claim the Precious
- 1 Field-Tested Frying Pan
- 1 Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
- 1 Sting, the Glinting Dagger
- 1 Dawn of a New Age
- 1 Inherited Envelope
- 1 Sam's Desperate Rescue
- 1 Bilbo's Ring
The deck’s commander is the straw that stirs the drink. In addition to simply getting in there for some damage, Alesha returns any number of creatures on the list to the battlefield at the beginning of combat. The secret-ish commander, Frodo, is going to win games with some one-shots from the activated abilities, which cost only five mana once we’ve been tempted four times. Otherwise, in one of those Eastfarthing Farmer situations, we could get some commander damage killing going on. We’ll just keep running those quality enters-the-battlefield triggers and get our damage on.
Bill has two basic functions. One is to create Food. The other is to use the Foods to kill people via Mirkwood Bats.
Remember that “partner with” still works when the creatures aren’t commanders. We get to tutor the other card when one enters the battlefield. Unfortunately, Sam, Loyal Attendant isn’t in our color identity. The good news is that there’s some card draw coming behind Frodo’s ability, which is always a pleasure.
This version of Frodo can swing into combat without fear of getting bumped off, so we can get whatever combat triggers we’d like. There isn’t much Equipment to go with him; Bilbo’s Ring is kind of all that a brother needs.
As mentioned, Sauron’s Bane can start knocking off people in short order. This was going to be the actual commander of the deck until I decided that I’d really like to have Alesha’s ability running around, and so added red. There aren’t that many red cards, but the ones we’ve included have quite a bit of impact.
I think that The Gaffer would say that it’s no mean thing to live a simple life. It’ll be the rare turn cycle in which we don’t gain three life at least once, meaning we’re going to keep our grip full as well. The Gaffer has been living it up for decades now. He’ll keep us in good times.
No part of the trailer for The Two Towers had so much emotional resonance with than when Ian McKellen says, I am Gandalf the White—and I come back to you now at the turning of the tide. Shivers went right up my spine and I knew it was on. It’s simple enough that this Gandalf has flash and can flash in legendary spells and artifacts, plus doubles up on legendary permanent/artifact triggers. The second ability kind of sneaks in there under the radar when it is in fact very strong.
Speaking of strong, I love the choice on Gilraen’s ability: bring it back now (in response to targeted removal) or bring it back later (in response to a battlefield sweeper). Have a little patience, get an additional reward. Nicely designed.
There isn’t all that much flying running around Middle-earth, so this explosion of it in the biodome is pretty significant. We’ll build an all-flying team in no time. In a regular Commander game, flying is somewhat common—and we can still try to corner the market on it.
We’ve already established that doubling triggers is strong. This deck has a very powerful beginning of combat trigger lean, so Isshin was a clear choice to jam right in. Unquenchable Fury is my favorite thing to double up on. Damage right to the face has a good sound.
Lobelia is down here stealing all of Bilbo’s stuff! Seriously, the ability is excellent, and we can reset it by conspiring to have Lobelia end up in a graveyard and then brought back with Alesha’s combat trigger (perhaps doubled by Isshin). Graveyard hate is going to wreck our day, but as long as we don’t over-commit, we should be fine.
The ceiling on this version of Lobelia is much higher, although the scope is more limited. We’re going to end up getting some large piles of Treasure along the way here. We’re only limited by the number of creature cards in opponents’ graveyards.
I suppose that opponents could gang up for having us lose three life per turn; I doubt that’s the primary use scenario here. Even if it is, it means a lot of jealousy from the local Dragons. I’ll happily lose a little life in order to have a mana explosion.
Attacking with multiple creatures is going to happen, so we might as well draw a card when we do it, right? Or two cards with Isshin on the battlefield. Something tells me that Samurai has it going on.
Rosie isn’t going to get to the big smashies with her own ability, but someone else sure can. That pretty-unblockable Frodo seems like a most excellent target. Note that her ability triggers just on creating a token, not just on putting one somewhere.
Flashing in a 2/1 for two that both regrows a card and tempts us as well is decent value. As I go through these legendary creatures, I see that I’ve unintentionally built quite a bit of card draw into the deck (putting cards from the graveyard into hand definitely counts). Given that it’s white, black, and red, we get said draw from less traditional sources, but it’s card draw just the same. A full hand is a happy hand.
Saradoc can become one tough Hobbit. The important part for me here is lifelink, since we can get Saradoc’s power to six or eight without much effort. We don’t care if he swings into combat and then gets killed because he qualifies, starting with two power, as someone that Alesha can reanimate. Studly Hobbits are now on call!
In with the New
The deck does what I want it to do in a package full of recent cards. It wouldn’t be all that difficult to turn it into a deck in which all the cards have been published in the last two or three years. There are things I want to do, like run Conjurer’s Closet, which keep it from happening, but the barrier isn’t too high. I have the cards pulled aside, and I’m ready to sleeve it up and play. Here’s hoping you’re enjoying your The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle Earth brewing as well!
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