Tom Bombadil’s Sagas: Building With A Flavorful New Commander

Looking to build a Saga deck for Commander MTG? Bennie Smith shares the key cards for building around Tom Bombadil from The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth.

Tom Bombadil
Tom Bombadil, illustrated by Dmitry Burmak

The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth Prerelease weekend has passed, and hopefully you were able to get your hands on some Prerelease packs or other sealed product.  I had a great time cracking some packs and reveling in such a flavor-driven cool set.  Of the many cards I was excited to get my hands on was Tom Bombadil, our new five-color Saga overlord!

Tom Bombadil

Presales for Tom had been north of $20 for quite some time, and I wasn’t in the market to pay so much money for an incredibly narrow card, no matter how much fun you could have with it. So cracking one in a pack was quite exciting, but even more exciting was finding out that the cost to pick up one if you weren’t lucky enough to open one in a booster was quite reasonable.  So it occurred to me, as excited as I was about brewing up a cool Saga deck around a (now quite reasonably priced) new commander, others might be excited as well!

Quite the Character

Plus, Tom Bombadil is such a weird and wonderful character from the original The Lord of the Rings trilogy of novels, and was so weird that Tom didn’t make it into Peter Jackson’s wildly popular The Lord of the Rings movies. Tom is a uniquely strange being whose main purpose appears to just exist, explore, and witness events throughout time.

Eldest, that’s what I am… Tom remembers the first raindrop and the first acorn… He knew the dark under the stars when it was fearless – before the Dark Lord came from Outside.

Frodo and his Hobbit companions very early in their journey had a near-disastrous run-in with a creature called Old Man Willow, and Tom Bombadil helped rescue them and invited them to stay with him and his wife Goldberry for a few days. Frodo told Tom about The One Ring and Tom even put it on, but seemed to not at all be affected by it, and could even see Frodo when he put the Ring on himself.

As a being who has witnessed to events large and small throughout all of history, it’s a flavor home-run that Tom Bombadil would be the perfect commander to run any Sagas throughout all of Magic’s history.

Ability Breakdown

 Let’s take a look at his abilities:

As long as there are four or more lore counters among Sagas you control, Tom Bombadil has hexproof and indestructible.

Given that most Sagas have three chapters and go away after the third chapter, it will be more difficult than you think to unlock this first ability. You are going to need multiple Sagas on the battlefield, and likely some way to manipulate the lore counters in response to an effect that targets or destroys Tom. I would probably rely on some cards like Spellskite, Mother of Runes, Tamiyo’s Safekeeping, or Deflecting Swat providing additional protection to our jolly Bard God. I might even run Bastion Protector and Guardian Augmenter.

Release Notes Aside

Another thing to keep in mind, from The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth Release Notes:

Damage dealt to creatures remains on those creatures until the cleanup step or until an effect removes that damage. If you control Tom Bombadil with at least 4 damage on it as well as a single Saga which has four or more lore counters on it, and that Saga leaves the battlefield later in the turn, Tom Bombadil will be destroyed. This will be true even if that Saga leaves the battlefield as a result of its final chapter ability leaving the stack; state-based actions will be checked before Tom Bombadil’s triggered ability could get you another Saga.

So an untimely Naturalize can fizzle out Tom’s protection from damage after combat has been done.

Back to Abilities

Okay, now to Tom’s jackpot ability:

Whenever the final chapter ability of a Saga you control resolves, reveal cards from the top of your library until you reveal a Saga card. Put that card onto the battlefield and the rest on the bottom of your library in a random order. This ability triggers only once each turn.

Now this is where the magic happens for Tom, but barring shenanigans, you’ll have to wait until your next turn and a Saga’s final ability resolving before you get the payoff. This is where manipulating lore counters will prove helpful, or maybe even being able to cast Tom with flash to hit the battlefield at some point before your next main phase begins.

Another thing to keep in mind from the release notes:

An ability that triggers when another ability resolves, such as Tom Bombadil’s triggered ability, triggers when all of its instructions (as modified by applicable replacement effects) have been followed and it has been removed from the stack. For example, if Tom Bombadil is returned to the battlefield by the final chapter ability of Elspeth Conquers Death, it will be on the battlefield in time to see that final chapter ability finish resolving and get removed from the stack, and thus Tom Bombadil’s last ability will trigger.

Okay, let’s dig into what cards we might want to run in our Tom Bombadil deck, starting with – what else? – Sagas!!

Multicolor Sagas

The Kami War Binding the Old Gods In the Darkness Bind Them Battle of Frost and Fire Oath of Eorl Song of Earendil

It’s exciting that we have a five-color Saga commander where we can run arguably the most powerful Saga of all, The Kami War!  I’ve played this a lot in Five-Color Domain decks in Standard on Magic Arena, and you often feel unbeatable if you get to resolve this powerhouse enchantment. Battle of Frost and Fire is a nice battlefield sweeper for cleaning up a bunch of smaller creatures, while Binding the Old Gods lasers down a nonland permanent that’s proven problematic.

In the Darkness Bind Them churns out three 3/3 Wraith creatures and has the Ring tempt you, and with the final chapter temporarily steals the best creature from each opponent so that you can attack with them.  Oath of Eorl and Song of Eärendil provide some decent utility as well.

Red Sagas

Fable of the Mirror-Breaker There and Back Again The Elder Dragon War Book of Mazarbul

Fable of the Mirror-Breaker is one of the most powerful Sagas ever printed, providing incremental value that helps pull together multicolor strategies quite well. But personally, I’m over the moon for There and Back Again, particularly Chapter III and the creation of the great Dragon Smaug!  So much flavor there: the Smaug token is a fearsome 6/6 flying Dragon with haste, and when it dies, you get to create a whopping fourteen Treasure tokens! This represents the events of The Hobbit, where Smaug dies and Thorin’s company of thirteen Dwarves plus one Hobbit burglar each stake an equal share of Smaug’s horde of treasure under the Lonely Mountain.

Black Sagas

The Eldest Reborn Oath of the Grey Host Life of Toshiro Umezawa Braids's Frightful Return One Ring to Rule Them All

Many of black’s Sagas don’t exactly offer the best game experience in a multiplayer format like Commander, but I think most of these will fit fine. I particularly like One Ring to Rule Them All; destroying all nonlegendary creatures leaves commanders and other legendary creatures (such as Ring-bearers) alone, which seems fair. Late-game, it can even act as a win condition.

Blue Sagas

Scroll of Isildur Kiora Bests the Sea God The Bath Song Time of Ice The Modern Age

Scroll of Isildur, Time of Ice, and Kiora Bests the Sea God all seem to work quite well together, don’t they?  And how hilarious is the flavor of The Bath Song?

White Sagas

War of the Last Alliance Love Song of Night and Day Elspeth Conquers Death Tale of Tinuviel The Fall of Lord Konda Era of Enlightenment Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit

Elspeth Conquers Death is another powerhouse Saga that we’ll want in our deck!  There are some sweet new gems to consider too, like War of the Last Alliance to go find some legendary creatures in the deck, and Tale of Tinúviel to help protect a creature and get a creature back from your graveyard.

Green Sagas

Long List of the Ents Fall of Gil-galad The Weatherseed Treaty The First Iroan Games Azusa's Many Journeys The Mending of Dominaria

Long List of the Ents provides a very small effect, but its super-power is its whopping six chapters, which can easily provide Tom Bombadil with indestructible and hexproof. What a sweet deal for just one green mana!  I also love the value provided in many of the other green Sagas, such as Fall of Gil-galad.

Sagas Matter

Satsuki, the Living Lore Historian's Boon Storyweave Keldon Warcaller

Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty brought us a lot of sweet Sagas, along with some cards that particularly cared about Sagas, like Satsuki, the Living Lore and Storyweave. The plane of Dominaria brought us a couple of cards that cared about Sagas, with Keldon Warcaller and Historian’s Boon.

Enchantments Matter

Sythis, Harvest's Hand Sanctum Weaver Setessan Champion Eidolon of Blossoms Doomwake Giant Jukai Naturalist Weaver of Harmony Destiny Spinner Archon of Sun's Grace Zur, Eternal Schemer Estrid's Invocation

There have been a metric ton of “enchantments matter” cards made over the years, and having access to all of them across the colors means you can pick and choose your favorites. For my list here, I leaned mostly on ones that are enchantments themselves to maximize the synergy, though Archon of Sun’s Grace is worth the exception. I also like Zur, Eternal Schemer’s ability to protect your Sagas from untimely targeted removal by activating to make them enchantment creatures.

Historic Matters

Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle Sentinel of the Pearl Trident Gloin, Dwarf Emissary

Since Sagas are historic, I might consider a few cards that care about historic. In particular, Sentinel of the Pearl Trident caught my eye for its ability to reset a Saga, and at flash speed if needed.  I also really love Glóin, Dwarf Emissary for his ability to generate Treasure tokens, particularly helpful in color-fixing in a five-color deck.

Enchantment Recursion

Dance of the Manse Starfield of Nyx Silent Sentinel Harnessed Snubhorn Crystal Chimes Gerrard's Hourglass Pendant Tameshi, Reality Architect Ghen, Arcanum Weaver Dowsing Shaman

Sagas naturally put themselves in the graveyard outside of enchantment removal, so having some ways to bring Sagas back from the graveyard will prove to be quite helpful in this deck. I may be a bit overly optimistic about Harnessed Snubhorn, but the chance to reanimate a Saga each turn for no mana is way too tempting.

Counter Manipulation

Goldberry, River-Daughter Glissa Sunslayer Scholar of New Horizons Hex Parasite Evolution Sage Nesting Grounds Displacer Kitten Brago, King Eternal Yorion, Sky Nomad Mistmeadow Vanisher

The first card we want for lore counter manipulation is Tom Bombadil’s wife, Goldberry, River-Daughter. One thing to keep in mind that I overlooked when first playing Goldberry—once you move a lore counter on Goldberry, you can’t then move another lore counter onto Goldberry the next turn.  You’ve got to unload the lore counter before you move another lore counter back onto Goldberry. Also, don’t sleep on Scholar of New Horizons as a way to remove a lore counter each turn, even if we won’t typically have all that many Plains cards in a five-color deck.

Mana Fixing

Dryad of the Ilysian Grove Prismatic Omen The World Tree Chromatic Lantern Toxicrene

Land manabases for a five-color deck can get expensive quickly, so I’d lean towards some of these cards to help out with fixing our colors, especially the enchantments.

Are you excited to slam Sagas from all the colors into your Tom Bombadil deck?  Which Sagas do you want to run that I don’t have in my lists?  What other cards do you think will do awesome things in the 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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