A brand-new Limited format, already?! What a time to be alive! Not only does The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth look awesome for Limited gameplay in general, it’s followed up with an Arena Open July 1st, and an Arena Championship Qualifier July 15th!
I’m loving the flavor of the set thus far, and it really looks like Wizards of the Coast (WotC) has done a great job with transitioning the books into cards. I wanted to break down the new mechanics, as well as my predictions for best commons for the set.
The Ring Tempts You
The new “the Ring tempts you” mechanic will have intriguing Limited applications. Every color has commons and uncommons with the new keyword, with white, green, and red having five to six; blue having nine; and black having the most with fifteen. I anticipate this new mechanic will warp the Limited landscape in unique ways, rewarding the aggressive decks that can reliably attack with Ring-bearers.
The amass mechanic returns from War of the Spark, this time with the creature type Orc (last time, it was Zombie); the Orc creature type comes up with a handful of cards, like Mordor Trebuchet and Olog-hai Crusher. The mechanic shows up within the Grixis color pie, which checks out. Amass will create some interesting decisions in conjunction with the Ring tempts you. Keeping your amass tokens small will allow them to accrue value and remain difficult to block, while putting all of your Orcs in one basket can become a liability.
Food is primarily supported by Selesnya, with a few black cards creating and sacrificing food. Similar to amass in Grixis, Selesnya has a lot of medium cards that create Food tokens along the way. There look to be some great payoffs if you’re hungry, like my personal favorite, Bill the Pony. Food will also help to stave off aggressive Ring-bearer strategies, gaining life to offset unblockable threats.
Basic landcycling for one mana is the real deal. While the cards remain somewhat vanilla, landcycling for one is pretty darn close to a basic land. I still wouldn’t recommend playing too few lands, however. The Ring tempts you mechanic will allow you to rummage away extra lands without taking on the risk of missing land drops. Something like fifteen lands with two landcyclers would be the sweet spot to maximize these cards. They actually don’t do too much to help on the splashing front, despite it feeling like they should. If you’re splashing red with two red sources, two Mountains are far better than a Mountain and an Oliphaunt.
There’s a good representation of cards that care about the legendary creature type across all five colors. All the legendary creatures are at uncommon or higher rarity, with each individual color having about two payoffs at common, with Errand-Rider of Gondor, Nasty End, and Arwen’s Gift as some front-runners. It’s important to keep in mind that any creature can become legendary, if it is bold enough to wear the Ring.
With the mechanics in mind, here are my predictions for the top Limited commons of each color.
I really enjoyed Joraga Visionary, and for one less mana, Errand-Rider of Gondor is quite the steal. While there will certainly be times you don’t have a legend by your side, you still get to loot!
Wings of the Cosmos certainly made an impression and changed a lot of minds during its dominance in Kaldheim. While The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth may not end up as fast of a format, there are some great applications for Escape from Orthanc. Ambushing opposing Ring-bearers can be a big tempo play for one mana, as well as enabling some huge flying attacks to close games out.
While Arrest has been trending downward in terms of power in Limited, it looks like a solid piece of removal in the form of Fog on the Barrow-Downs. There really aren’t too many activated abilities (which this doesn’t address) among the creatures in this set. It’s a nice catch-all for white, and will shut down enemy Ring-bearers. It’s worth noting that the card does change its target’s creature type, so you can’t lock down amass tokens.
Essence Scatter is always a solid piece of pseudo-removal in Limited, and Glorious Gale comes with a bonus!
Isolation at Orthanc meets Bury in Books in the middle. There’s a lot of sorcery-speed removal in this set, and this one can really mess up opponents’ combats. Blue also has some strong counterspells in this set, which makes these types of cards stronger – having multiple options available at instant speed, like a true wizard.
I’m not too sure how relevant the one toughness on Ithilien Kingfisher will be, but the rest of this text seems great!
Sorcery-speed Murder isn’t too exciting, but the second sentence of Claim the Precious adds a ton of value. The totality of the card can lead to some strong attacks, putting opponents on the back foot.
While Dunland Crebain may not be Preening Champion, it’s pretty close. Instead of convoke as an additional payoff, once the Bird Horror has outlived its usefulness, you can sacrifice it to one of the many outlets in black.
I’ve got to say, Mordor Trebuchet is one of my most favorite flavor cards I’ve seen in quite some time. It does exactly what you would think it should do, while still confined to the rules of Magic. This thing can block early opposing Ring-bearers, help push damage through, and provide tokens to meet a Nasty End (or other instant-speed sacrifice outlets) after damage.
Instant-speed removal is at a premium in this set. Even though the indestructible clause on Smite the Deathless is mostly irrelevant, three damage is still three damage.
Reminiscent of Honor the God-Pharaoh, Quarrel’s End has a relevant change from “Amass 1” to creating a 1/1 Human token, providing a dedicated chump blocker or helping Boros go wide.
There’s a good amount of direct damage and evasion in the set, including the evasion from Ring-bearers. I could see Erebor Flamesmith being a powerhouse in multiples, similarly to Kessig Flamebreather.
While Ent’s Fury is a bit slow at sorcery speed, giving a creature a +1/+1 counter and +1/+1 on a kill spell can lead to some massive swings.
Mushroom Watchdogs can run away with a game if you feed them enough. It’s amazing that they can remain vigilant after eating so much, though. Shouldn’t they get sleepy?
Many Partings not only can take place of a basic land, it’s one of the best mana-fixing tools green can provide. It leaves behind a Food token, which green has lots of way to use.
This set looks like a lot of fun, with some brand-new mechanics I’m excited to figure out! The synergies look deep, so it will likely be better to draft the right colors for your seat instead of taking the most powerful cards. Best of luck to anyone attending a Prerelease!
Lose and Learn, Learn and Win!