Sunday, 26 March 2023

Lord of the Rings Preliminary Review Part 1


0 - unplayable in 40 card singleton

1 - effectively unplayable

2 - has low tier constructed decks it might go in

3 - has mid tier constructed decks it does go in

4 - pretty powerful stuff with several potential homes, able to perform well in lower powered cubes

5 - powerful stuff that is either just too narrow or has too many superior alternatives

6 - fringe cube worthy

7 - cube worthy

8 - cube staple

9 - unpowered cube bomb

10 - powered cube bomb

Gandalf the Grey 3

Cool design, I like the way that putting on top is sometimes a drawback and sometimes protection. It is certainly nice and flavourful. I always felt like even the Grey version of Gandalf would have a white mana component. I also somewhat assumed that Maia and Ainur would be planeswalkers. Perhaps the latter still will be. I don't mind if they are not, I am mostly just curious to see the various interpretations, it is not the sort of thing I would get my knickers in a twist over. Insulting pricing structures however... I have designed countless LotR Magic cards over the decades and so I am more interested than ever in what the professionals do. Much as this design is nothing like any Gandalf I had conceived I like it.  That being said, while the power level of Gandalf is reasonable it is not the kind that is well suited to cube. I feel like I am reviewing both design and cube suitability for this set and not just the latter! Apparently I feel qualified to talk about how well they have translated the ip despite not being Tolkien myself...  I may even end up not running any LotR cards and skipping this release if the pricing is given a hike above normal sets. I gave myself that out on the 40K cards and didn't do a preliminary review for them. That was not for card pricing reasons however and was simply because I was feeling a bit inundated with product at the time. I feel like I am locking myself into this set if I do the preliminary reviews as I will want to see what I got right and wrong. I guess at that point my protest will be to proxy as much as possible, buy as little as possible as late as possible on the secondary market and absolutely nothing on the primary. Short of full boycott that is about as good as you can do. 

The One Ring 8

Certainly a whole lot of power here. And rightly so, this is one of the most famed artifacts in all of fantasy. Not only is this cards up the wazoo it is a really solid turn of Solitary Confinement. Drop this, buy yourself a turn and get a couple of cards extra to help out with. Then, if you can stabilize from there you have all the cards you will ever need. It reminds me a bit of Necropotence. In decks that can handle the life loss this is one of the best card draw engines I have ever seen. This might be because you are a burn deck and you will assuredly win before The One Ring gets you. Or it could be because you have means to control the life loss, be that sacrifice and recur or flicker effects on the Ring. It is a bit like (several) Final Fortune meets some kind of super Ancestral Recall. You are at minimum seeing 3 cards for just one life cost. Assuming you make it to the next turn you will lose two more life but will have the option on three cards if you like! That is a whole lot of gas. It isn't even that savage of a clock that you have put yourself under. Six cards very quickly, and safely, for just four mana. A lot of decks can abuse this. I really like the design. I assumed it would be an equipment but it is suitably powerful and flavourful. It seems too good not to work in cubes, likely best in combo ones but in mine I cannot see myself leaving this out of any aggressive decks I might be playing. The fact that it buys you a turn even when you cannot really afford the life cost is a real perk and stops it being too narrow, which is really the only criticism I can levy on this card. 

Reprieve 8

I mean, this is white Remand. That is pretty nutty good. I do love that white now is allowed interesting cards. While this very much fits with the white colour pie it was not something I was expecting to see. Countermagic is never all that popular and so Wizards are reticent to print cards that are too good. Remand is a pretty tried and tested winner. It will be better in white as white has less of this kind of thing than blue while also having much better tempo plays so as to make this more punishing. A real kick in the teeth to any would be Supreme Verdict too! Just a great card that I think is very welcome. 

You Cannot Pass 0

Far too narrow. This wouldn't be playable if it was just "exile target creature if you control a legend", which this is still a long way from. Shockingly weak card. Notable alliance with source material over more modern cultural expectations of the ip which is at least promising.

Gollum, Patient Plotter 5

I shall assume the ring tempting me is effectively blank text here. It would likely need to be a positive thing for this to make it in cube. There is a nice degree of synergy here and so there are plenty of those kinds of decks in which I might want this guy. The thing is that he is not really a useful sac outlet because you need to get him in the bin first thus adding steps. It is also slow sorcery speed single activation sac and thus really limited in application. Self mill and discard are interesting and add to the potential for this guy when you have those exotic overlapping synergy decks. Beyond that you kind of need a sac outlet to turn this guy on as a sac outlet which is a bit useless. Sure, you can kill him off in conventional combat ways. It is nice to have a recursive dork you can block with. I suspect if I put Gollum in the cube there would be lots of upgrading weaker recursive dorks than can't block into Gollum so that he can. That is really the problem though, this is just a two mana 3/1 and thus recurring it is not exciting, it isn't worth 1BB to deploy nor really a card and 1B and that kind of means you need it to be an advantage sacrificing things for it to be good. Which in return means it won't be in far too many of the situations you might find yourself toying with the idea of Gollum. 

Mount Doom 7

This plays very well with The One Ring, how convenient! This is very clearly design pushed in quite a money grabbing way. They know at the very least a load of EDH players are going to be all over the Ring and so this is a pretty solid card they can help boost the value and thus sales of raw product with. Anyway, as a dual land this is great. Remarkably similar in terms of power to a Canopy land! In cubes where BR only has aggressive strategies this is going to be good enough but I would tend to hedge with more all round lands in more diverse metas. The abilities are nothing impressive, the middle one is just poo, sure it will win the odd game but it is dull and mostly blank low power rubbish. The expensive one is incredibly costly and situational to boot. Absolutely something you can build and plan around but in EDH and not cube. 


The Shire 2

Amazing flavour, amazing art, fantastic design but alas not a cube card. This is slow, narrow, and not what could be described as powerful. I might be able to sneak this into the odd high synergy deck and it will be cute. Not impactful enough otherwise. Mostly just a less useful Gingerbread Cabin...

Samwise the Stouthearted 8

Great if you naturally get the trigger but quickly falling off in value if you either don't or you have to work and wait to get it. A free sac land back on turn two? Amazing. There is certainly a white Snapcaster Mage feel to this. A flash 2/1 for two that gets you a card back! Renegade Rallier is perhaps a more practical comparison. While this offers a much greater range of recursion targets to Snapcaster it is made much weaker due to the timing restrictions. Sure, if you want to use a Counterspell with Snapcaster Mage you have to hold up all that mana but if you just want to fire off a Ponder then it is all good and you can do so at your leisure. It is fairly hard to usefully sacrifice permanents at will. A bunch of things that do got rather better thanks to this. Urza's and Mishra's Baubles obviously always getting better! Urza's Saga too, especially given all the other things that seem to scale with both of these cards! Chromatic Sphere/Star speaking of. Cathar Commando is one of the few actually white cards that proactively works well. Sagas are the others I presently have in my cube but that is just white cards. Other colours have far more good proactive things to sac, especially black and red. The white Snapcaster is a powerful accolade and I imagine this will play very well in lots of places. Nice to be found in the colour of flicker effects too, lots of juice added to that archetype recently. Excited to play with this too so a big win there. Powerful but not unbalanced, and enticing. 

Frodo, Sauron's Bane 7

Cool name, and er.., seemingly a thing making ring tempting a positive thing. Samwise looking better and better! Set off some crazy tempt loop with Samwise and Gollum so that Frodo is a one shot kill! Mostly I see the BBB as a blank. It is pretty colour intense and either needs support from other cards or hopes that you can connect 4 times with a 2/3. If you can do that there are better ways to win.... So, is a 1/2 for W that can become a 2/3 lifelink for the cost of WW good? Not really. It is fine. It is worse than a Town Gossipmonger and Student of Warfare. This is one of those meta things. In a world where 1 toughness is a liability this is likely better as an aggressive one drop than the bulk of the 2/1 dorks however in a meta where that is not the case this probably isn't worth it. Would you pay WWW for a 2/3 lifelink dork? No? How about give it haste? Still not? How about you can split the cost a bit and pay some in black mana? Repackage this however you like, it doesn't ever really look all that good from any angle. A lot of tempting could push this to always good but that seems super unlikely. My cube is at least averse to playing one toughness dorks if avoidable and so there is a good chance this will last a little beyond just testing.

Tom Bombadil 2

Very cool EDH saga commander. Too top end, super gold, and narrow to be any sort of cube card but the power when this guy gets going is impressive. The flavour here is spot on as is the design. I want to build a saga deck. I want to have one ticking over each turn and getting a new one. Sounds awesome fun! 

Sauron, the Lidless Eye 4

Threaten on a 4/4 with some Trumpet Blast action. Sadly this guy lives or dies by virtue of your capacity to sacrifice. If you can flop this, smack face, and then pitch their dork for profit then you have yourself a super Fury or Glorybringer. Fail to do this and you have an OK card but a clunky gold OK card at five mana is a long way from the mark. Too narrow unless you have a dedicated sac theme in your BR cards. 

Aragon and Arwen Wed 1

Way too win more. Yes, this can dominate really hard and look like some kind of super Titan in the right situation. And yes, that is the kind of situation it is easy to get into as Selesnya. That being said, this can just be a 3/6 vigilance for 6 which is a bad limited common. Even if you get a couple of life and counters out of this and it does to a two mana spell you feel well behind. Really underwhelming card. 

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