Saturday 24 June 2023

Lord of the Rings Conclusions and Additions


This set easily could have gone either way for me and it was the pricing that really decided it. I thought I was going to be asked to pay double or triple the price for packs as compared to a normal standard set and I would have boycotted. As it stands I got a reasonable deal on some pre-release packs and wound up paying a very similar amount to normal. Beyond just sneaking under my price threshold for offence there were a bunch of hits and a bunch of misses. That was always to be expected with any Universe Beyond ip, let alone the progenitor of modern fantasy! On balance we got mostly hits. I think the mechanics did well to reflect the game and world. There are a lot of cool and interesting cards I am looking forward to playing with, and for the most part, nothing too silly and broken. I was worried it was all going to be a bit Modern Horizons III but in fact it is tamer than many standard sets over the passed five years! A set that offers lots of cards to play with but that doesn't overdo it on the power level is pretty much by my definition a good set. 

The biggest gripe I have is the poor reflection of power some of the elves like Elrond and Glorfindel had but I obviously don't actually care. I would have done it different but so what. Moving on. The ponies also seemed like someone was just having a good joke. The ponies are so hard relatively speaking. Really would love to be a fly on the wall when these were getting pitched and designed! 

There are other minor gripes. The hype about all the serialized cards got tiring quickly. The tedious thing is that it seemed to work and so now we have more of this pantomime to look forward to. I hear that while flavourful the limited is on the weak side and resembles core set drafts a bit. Further salt in the wounds is imbalance in the mechanics for limited with the interesting food looking one supposedly being turds as you get your face pounded by an unanswerable 8/8 army of Mordor! Last minor gripe is kind of just the reverse of the first grip in that some of the most powerful cards felt like nobodies in the lore. Orcish Bowmasters being the main offender here but there are plenty more examples. 

On to some big wins now. The overall aesthetic is great. I love the basics which it always my starting point for appraising the look of a set. I like the full art panoramics and the showcase card frame for the set. Rare that I like most of the stylings from a set. I even really like a lot of the cards like "The Birthday Tree" that were given the Middle Earth treatment in the commander product. That was cool. There were also a bunch of cards that just absolutely hit the nail on the head in terms of mechanical flavour. I really appreciated those more than the art. And there were a really healthy pile of those too. Often weak cards thus not mentioned, or at least for long, in the reviews! 

Much as in my old age I am enjoying the look of the cards more and more it is all still about mechanics and gameplay. On that front this looks like a win for cube too. Not broken like Modern Horizons, only a couple of egregious looking cards, and a lot of quite interesting, suitable, and playable cards otherwise. A sweet spot on power level as far as design goes (for cube at least!) Now they just need to actually play well in the cube. I shall look forward to drawing into a Space Marine with the One Ring! Mock as I might there is plenty sillier well contained within the magic canon. Middle Earth was always going to be an easy and natural fit into the MtG world and lore and it has been that. I would have liked to see the "maiar" level of characters as planeswalkers but that was probably a tall order design wise. 

Too Add

Moria Scavenger*

Eomer, King of Rohan*

Forth Eorlingas!*

Dawn of a New Age

Flame of Arnor

Fiery Inscription 

King of the Oathbreakers 

Stern Scolding

Arwen, Mortal Queen

Radagast the Brown

Flowering of the White Tree

Orcish Bowmasters 

Samwise Gamgee

Delighted Halfling

Wizard's Rockets

The One Ring


Samwise, the Stoutharted 

To Test (with high hopes)

Riders of Rohan*

Stone of Erech

Shadow Summoning 

Pippin, Guard of the Citadel 

Gollum's Bite

Smite the Deathless

Horn of the Mark

Elven Chorus

Frodo, Sauron's Bane 

Minas Tirith

Phial of Galadriel 

Moria Marauder 

Eowyn, Fearless Knight 

Prince Imrahil the Fair 

Frodo, Determined Hero 

Boromir, Warden of the Tower 

Aragorn, the Uniter

Gandalf the White

Witchking of Angmar

To Test (with low low expectations)

The Balrog of Moria*

Denethor, Stone Seer*

Ranger's Firebrand

Lorien Revealed

Hithlain Knots

The Balrog, Durin's Bane

Glorious Gale

Spiteful Banditry 

Call of the Ring

Anduril, Flame of the West

Westfold Rider 

Shire Terrace 

Legolas, Master Archer 

Generous Ent 

Many Partings 

Cast into the Fire 


Long List of the Ents

For Singleton Constructed Reserves

The Black Gate*

Assemble the Entmoot*

Farmer Cotton*

Sauron's Ransom 

Rally the Hornburg


Goldberry, River-Daughter 

Council's Deliberation 

Friday 23 June 2023

Lord of the Rings Commander Review Part II


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

Moria Scavenger 7.5

This is just all round good. It is a rummage rather than a loot, obviously an icky gold card, and it is on a three drop rather than the more conventional two mana price tag for looters. For those concessions you get quite a lot back. Haste is lovely giving the card as much pace as the two mana looters. The body is also fantastic being able to hold off loads of attackers. Anything able to punch through 4 toughness is going to be trading down with this in combat, and that is before you take into account looting and amass. This generates value with the card quality and amass trigger while impressively holding the ground. Haste ensures this is trading pretty efficiently when answered, and when not it should do a good job of taking over the game. Hard to find any flaw with this from a mechanical point of view. I do find it odd that some of the most powerful cards in these sets are just random nobody orcs while the big name elves are all poxy. The ponies as well, why are the ponies so hard while all the ring bearing elves and literal living legends unable to stand upto them. This looks way more goblin than orc too. This card is powerful but it just feels like a mess. How did design get here? How does an orc wind up as a 1/4 deathtouch?

Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit 5

Two food, around two 1/1 tokens, a card, and perhaps a +1/+1 counter too. All in all a lot of card for just three mana. Some nice potential to scale and abuse as well. It seems quite reasonable and then you realize it is basically just Wedding Announcement but without the Anthem at the end! Just goes to show how nuts that card is... All in all I think this is a little slow and aimless to quite get there in cube. It is fine but there is no real draw to it, just a kind of filler card too high up the curve for that kind of thing. I like it a lot and want to play it but sadly probably not. 

Raise the Palisade 2

Bounce their stuff and at least some of your stuff sticks. Sounds good but why play this when you can have a card that is much more useful like Mystic Confluence, or much more powerful, like Cyclonic Rift. Raise is simply too fair and too situational. Not sure I am interested even in a tribal deck where it is fully once sided. 

Rapacious Guest 5

Fine but a bit slow to get going. I like the life gain aspect and artifact synergy potential but without those things being extra relevant I can't imagine this is getting any real interest. Just underpowered for cube.

Riders of Rohan 7

Really pushing that 2/2 haste theme with the Rohirrim. This is rather closer to Forth Eorlingas! than the saga managed. And the saga was pretty good looking too! At five mana this puts more stats into play than Forth Eorlingas! and still has decent immediate impact. At six mana they punch the same but this gives you the option to dash again and make more 2/2 tokens. This isn't quite as good, having a decent 4 mana mode and probably just outright winning the game much beyond six mana assures Forth Eorlingas! is the better card but it doesn't matter too much as I think there is likely room for both. They are both pretty well above the curve. This is just exactly the right kind of card for cube. Lots of stats, lots of bodies, a bit of value, and a bit of utility. Can't go far wrong. Much as it is a gold card it is the kind of gold card that is good in cube, it is a powerful top end draw to colours and towards doing something. 

Saruman, the White Hand 4

A powerful Young Pyromancer but an expensive one. Too narrow for cube but a great commander for such things if you are going Grixis instead of Jeskai. Can get very out of hand with your Force of Will and delve spells.

Song of Earendil 1

Lovely card. Not good enough though, too gold and slow, just play a Mulldrifeter or a Wonder. 

Shelob, Dread Weaver 2

Kalitas laughs at this card and Kalitas really isn't cutting the mustard anymore. Shelob the Hill Giant isn't doing it for me. 

The Balrog of Moria 6

Mostly I like this for the cycling! Two treasure and a card for 4 mana feels OK. A bit situational but you have a fairly meaty alternative in the 8/8 trample haste! Without the cycling this would be too late game but with it I can get behind it much more. It is very powerful and acts quickly in ways that you want. Valki gets cast in seven mana mode quite often these days so I should give this a chance. I suspect it will be fine but not seen quite enough to justify lasting. Valki gets play because two mana Valki is good, this at four mana mostly feels like filler and there in lies my low expectation for this. 

The Black Gate 4

The thing I like most here is the ability to turn on Death's Shadow (and then force it through!). While this is land with very little downside it is also not exactly dripping in upside either. Give me an extra pick and I'll play a Swamp in place of this very happily! 

The Gaffer 2

Too situational for cube but lovely to have a card draw mechanism to help support life decks. Most 40 card lists probably are not even looking at this as it is too low impact for a card that high on the curve. 

Thursday 22 June 2023

Lord of the Rings Commander Review Part I


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

Arwen, Weaver of Hope 4

Powerful and a good synergy card. It is however the wrong sort of power for cube, it is too conditional and ongoing. Cube wants front-loaded unconditional power. Arwen also is a 2/1 so she is getting bodied by some embarrassing removal and you just can't afford to have that happen on your three mana spells that are not doing much else. 

Assemble the Entmoot  3

Easy to scale and generally pretty cool and flavourful. I reckon I could gain a lot of life with 4 or 5 mana free to do so. That is a lot of big treefolk! You can even do it at instant speed and really cause some problems. You need a lot, and ideally of the right kind, of life gain for this. Sure, it has a high ceiling but it also has a super low floor making it a build around only. Powerful enough to be the thing you build around rather than just part of a life gain plan which is impressive.  

Denethor, Stone Seer 6

What a flavour win. This card almost tells the whole story. As for cube playability I am not so sure. The monarch is not a very good mechanic in cube. It is way too matchup and context dependant and performed all over the place. It was on average positive, sometime you would hand the opponent a victory though. Anywho, this is a lot of card. The scry and body keep it real early and a Bolt is good any day of the week It should also equate to at least a card back thanks to the monarch and ability to use at instant speed. All that should be a real help in keeping the monarch and then winning. A 4 mana Bolt isn't great but add a card, 2 scry, and the use of a 1/3 body prior to it for a bit and I think we have a good value card. Sadly what we also have is a gold card. Not a full gold card but you are certainly not playing this without access to red. You need that Bolt to make this enough card. I think this might have crept into cube if it were all blue but as it is I think it lands the wrong side of the mark. 

Eomer, King of Rohan 8

This is a monumental amount of card. Even the floor does an impressive amount and the floor feels pretty rare. I am going to assume a 3/3 average for my appraisal although I suspect in practice it will be higher. It doesn't matter too much though, there is a point at which it is winning the game regardless of how big it got! The monarch is at its most secure in white red, they have the best removal and the best pressure. White and red dominate the board well. It turns out the board is also much easier to dominate when you have shot something and have a doublestrike dude helping out. Much as you can throw the game by introducing the monarch the risk of doing so seems relatively minor here. Indeed the odds on drawing multiple monarch cards seems pretty good with this. Even just working with 1 card and a 3/3 body Eomer is nuts. Fury is totally nuts in cube. It is rarely evoked and it never draws cards for you. It also can't shoot face. Eomer just feels like a scarier Fury with much better scaling potential. Imagine playing Samut's Sprint on this as it comes in, that is 4 damage anywhere and another 8 in combat without any other humans! This card will over perform a lot more than it will under perform. It is still pretty dangerous at its flaw. This is absolutely both enough card, and exactly the type of card to allow me to get passed any issues with the monarch in cube. I very much expect the monarch aspect of this card to be a significant perk overall too. Some design issues resulting in a somewhat polar card but plenty of power to get passed those problems.


Farmer Cotton 5

Impressive little card that should see a lot of play in a lot of synergy decks. Probably both March of the Multitudes and Secure the Wastes outperform this in cube for various reasons. The pretty much leaves this as a build around. Don't however be fooled into thinking that makes this a narrow card, or one with a low floor, or even general low power. Farmer Cotton is none of those things.

Forth Eorlingas! 8

Good power, impressive scaling. The monarch is likely not doing too much here as I think the game is going to be fairly well done once this is played! Even so, mostly just a healthy perk. Not only is the rate on this card as good as it gets for token generation it comes with haste and minor evasion really adding to the punch this offers. As quickly as the three mana mark is this equivalent to Fireball to the face damage output and beyond that point it leaves Fireball in the dust. This is good pressure and control whenever you chose to play from about four mana. It should end the game most casts much later on from that. Perhaps a little dull but efficient and direct. It is a big finisher X spell but it is also a source of card draw and board presence too somehow. 

Galadhrim Ambush 1

Overkill if you empower it yourself with lots of attacker and if you don't it is conditional and likely terrible. 

In the Darkness Bind Them 5

So three 3/3 menace dorks, three tempts from the ring, and a threaten. For 5 mana that is obviously fantastic value. Over four turns is a bit of a downer but at least there is fairly consistent board presence on offer. Power wise and suitability wise this should be passed the threshold for cube play but the three colour aspect brings this back below I would think. This just feels too fair for a three colour card. 

Lossnarch Captain 5

I do not like the statline here at all, especially on a card needing to live a bit. That being said, immediate tap down with human scaling and the first strike all offset that well. This card does a lot of things, appropriate things and done well. It is just a bit overly risky for where I want to be. Flash would probably be enough to break it, some toughness would do it too!

Lothlorien Blade 4

Reminds me a bit of Skysovereign Consul Flagship. Green has most evles and most wants this but then elves are pretty small. No one is scared of the Llanowar Elf wielding this. Five to equip kind of just rules this out beyond that, way too risky. You are just folding to any interaction if you try and pull that stunt into open mana. 

Monstrosity of the Lake 2

Ten is too much mana really for anything in cube! Sure, this has 2 and 5 mana modes and while the two mana one can save your bacon early and the five mana one has some meat on it's bones neither are close to efficient thus rendering this mostly unworthy of cube attentions. 

Oath of Eorl 5

Lovely feel, design, and flavour. This is close to cube worthy except that I think Forth Eorlingas! is just all round better. It has much more flexible casting, more immediate impact, and far mroe impressive scaling. I might still just chose to play Assemble the Legion over this, the idea being that if I can handle some slow I might as well go real slow and assure that my card will be able to eventually win! Oath of Eorl sits in a kind of middle ground, and that can be a good place to be, but I don't think that is the case here. It is just not quite enough and is competing for a very small space in the cube.

Wednesday 21 June 2023

Lord of the Rings Preliminary Review Part XI

 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

Erebor Flamesmith 4

While dudes like this are a decent archetype they already have enough support. I have also found that I prefer the higher toughness iterations of these than those with better attacking. This is fine but likely not ever getting called up to a 40 card list. This was not the functional reprint anyone was looking for. 

Elven Farsight 5

Love this but wish you could do lands as well as creatures. As it is I fear the card is a little on the narrow side. In a deck with a third dorks you are going to not see a creature in those first three cards about 30% of the time. (you are missing over 10% of the time even with a 50% dork count which is about as high as you can ever reasonably go in cube). You can ditch the cards you see all and hope to hit blind if you miss initially on the draw trigger but that isn't where you want to be. When you are digging for land it is more of a scry 2 quality card which is fine but green does have better options there. I like it but I suspect Adventurous Impulse has it just about beat and Impulse was found a little lacklustre for cube being fairly roundly beaten by Abundant Harvest, Once Upon a Time and Oath of Nissa. 

Gorbag of Minas Morgul 3

Sure, this card is fine enough in terms of flaw but it isn't good. To become good you not only need other orcs and/or goblins but you need to have a good reason to want to sac them, or at least produce a lot of treasure. Gorbag will do some role filling here and there but mostly just an average aimless card power crept out of relevance long before it was even conceptualized! 

Denethor, Ruling Steward 3

This is certainly quite on theme for a sac/drain aristocrats deck but it is a little narrow and fair. Low board impact, easy to have it do nothing etc. Likely not getting into the 40 card lists anymore but interesting for EDH. 

The Grey Havens 2

A little awkward to turn on for fixing but a scry land is always nice and will get love on that front if nothing else. 

Sauron's Random 3

Somewhere between Atris and Fact or Fiction. This card is pretty good I think. A card for a mana is a good rate on reducing the cost on Fact or Fiction. I like the mini-game. I like cheaper card draw on the whole and I like it when it has added utility such as filling up the bin or whatever the tempt may end up doing. Much as I suspect this is a fair chunk better than an instant speed Divination I still do not expect it to make it in cube. Gold is the real killer but I fear it would struggle to see play if it were just blue or black. Raw card draw spells have not been performing all that well in cube for a very long time now, even before it was all about tempo. That is the real bar for entry on this otherwise excellent looking card.   

Scroll of Isildur 2

All a bit conditional and aimless. Outside of EDH I am not sure where you would play this or why. 

Birthday Escape 2

Cheap enough that this probably does something useful somewhere.

Stone of Erech 7

Cute little utility artifact. This is exactly the sort of rounded card that does well in cube where cards like Tormod's Crpyp do not do so well. This might be the best of these Relic of Progenitus style effects as far as cube goes. You don't need those cards and they are utility filler but I do like the extra dimension one adds, especially if you are packing Urza's Saga in your cube.

Shadow Summoning 7

Very very potent and liable to be carried pretty hard by Lingering Souls. This is narrow, you really only want it in the Orzhov weenie deck that is powered up by Anthems, equips, or sac triggers. That is a powerful and popular cube archetype which this slots right into. Much as this is spot on the fact it isn't offering that much to anything else makes it a little parasitic and not something I am all that excited to add to the cube. 

Old Man Willow 3

Potent but a little slow. Also potent on average, much of that power comes from the scaling into the late game. Often a bit of a Hill Giant on curve and that is never the best starting place. 

Glamdring 2

Horrendously narrow. Increase the density of things to empower this in a deck and reduce your chances of having a thing to put it on. Very shonky. 

Ranger's Firebrand 5

I do love a cheap burn spell you can aim anywhere. Sorcery speed Shock is one of the less exciting starting points however. Tempt is only really good if you can get a couple going, the first is giving a dude skulk and that is often doing nothing, either due to lack of target or just being inapplicable. Certainly using this on turn one removes the tempt perks. All in all I doubt this makes it and if it does it will be due to a really high count of other tempt cards carrying it.

Orcish Medicine 4

I really rate the utility here. Gain some life, save a guy, surprise blocker etc. While I like the utility this offers it lacks power and is realistically way too situational. 

 Easterling Vanguard 4

Just not good enough. Too few stats with nothing else going on. This is just a two bodies in one card and we can do better at two mana now. I spent ages wishing for cards like this and now we have them I am less than impressed. 

Gollum's Bite 7

Tiny upgrade to Disfigure. None the less, probably enough to turn a marginal card into a good one given that it is a one drop. Very little extra is capable of shifting the scales quite a lot on cheap cards, especially when they have a reasonable floor and are the playable sort. This really will not need to win many games through tempt to be competing with Fatal Push. This is one of those unique to cube situations where in modern the idea that this is even in the same discussion as Fatal Push is laughable. In cube Bite should relevantly exile at least once per 100 games, probably a little more. In modern that it is unlikely to happen in a 1000 games. This is also killing a much more comparable percentage of the creatures you find in cube than it is in modern. Any who, if you are looking to add some cheap removal, this is going to perform fine. It will be mildly interesting and have some synergies on the go.

Smite the Deathless 7

Another removal spell offering just enough to edge it into cube I would have thought. It seems to be two things better and one thing worse than the closest comparisons I am currently packing in cube. As such that sounds like enough. Non-face damage burn is ever more playable in cube and so I can absolutely see this replacing Incendiary Flow if it turns out I am already at capacity for burn (which I doubt), and if I am not at capacity this will add in nicely alongside many similar cards! Exile removal is nice and getting around indestructible is no bad thing, even if it is somewhat narrow. 

Rohirrim Lancer 3

Not enough card but in a world where the tempt Shock makes it this just might as well. Also, this artist can do horseface better than most. Feels wasted on this narrow little common!

Mordor Muster 5

This is the kind of support card that might see play if black wanted prowess triggers more than actual dorks. It does not and so this will sit on the side lines. 

Lorien Revealed 5

While a little low in power this is ticking some good boxes. Late game gas, early game consistency, and filling up the bin with the right sort of cards. Probably not lasting but worth a little test. 

Hithlain Knots 7

Ice with a scry, or Opt with a tap. Either way, this is great little filler spell. Buy some time etc. Might not get enough play as the decks after this sort of stuff do not have much room for filler.