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Conquer Middle-Earth With This MTG Lord of the Rings Commander Deck

Lord of the Rings Nazgul Panorama

The Lord of the Rings is my favorite intellectual property. From the first pages of The Silmarillion to the final scenes of the films, everything about Middle-earth intrigues me. It should come as no surprise then that I am beyond excited for the upcoming Magic: The Gathering, Universes Beyond crossover set with The Lord of the Rings, and in the more immediate future I’m looking forward to Amazon’s The Rings of Power prequel series. 

I channel that kind of hype into deck building. I adore literary villains, and my favorite character across The Lord of the Rings is its ur-villain, the original bad guy who started it all: Morgoth. Before Sauron forged The One Ring, he served Morgoth. Before all other evils of Middle-earth, Morgoth corrupted the song that served as the genesis of the world. This is my deck to represent this ultimate evil and all that he spawned.

First the commander. There are few creatures in the game that look quite as fearsome as Yidris, making him a solid representation of the chaotically powerful being that is Morgoth at his height. Beyond the visuals and the power that Cascade represents, the real hit is the colors: Morgoth is a character with elements of every color in Magic except for white, making Yidris practically the only game in town to mirror him.

Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder

 

Morgoth’s monstrous deeds span across The Silmarillion, and he is ultimately the source of all evil that persists into the rest of the series. I wanted to highlight some of the key events involving Morgoth, which I’ve set up a spoiler for below on the off chance you have not read the text or you want to guess what they could be.

Anthem of RakdosTree of PerditionDriven // DespairThe Eldest Reborn

Story Spoilers

Anthem of Rakdos: Morgoth corrupts the song that creates Middle-earth, adding corruptive forces into creation itself.

Tree of Perdition: Morgoth with his evil spider ally, Ungoliant, destroys the Trees of the Valar, the source of light in the realm.

Driven//Despair: Morgoth sets many curses upon his foes, but this in particular represents the Curse of Hurin.

The Eldest Reborn: The prophesied Dagor Dagorath, the final battle where Morgoth will ultimately return.

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Powerful stones and works of artifice are a recurring theme throughout The Lord of the Rings, including the three mystical gems that Morgoth covets, called The Silmarils. Sauron would later replicate this greedy drive while crafting The One Ring, all of which are represented here.

Sol RingFellwar StoneArcane SignetDarksteel Ingot

Morgoth was famous for his near-impenetrable defenses and the fearsome might of his hammer, named Grond. Even better, the battering ram that later breaks down the gates of the human capital of Minas Tirith was also given the name Grond, doubling up on the flavor of Batterskull. Finally, Sauron was similarly reviled for the power of his mace, giving Conqueror’s Flail a chance to shine. 

Darksteel PlateBatterskullConqueror's Flail

 

Morgoth is eventually banished into the void, but in his absence his mightiest minion becomes the Dark Lord of Middle-earth. Sauron takes many forms, including The Deceiver who distributes the Rings of Power, the Dark Lord, and the formless, all-seeing Eye. 

Nath of the Gilt-LeafOb Nixilis ReignitedEye of Doom

In addition to Sauron, Morgoth is the root of (if not the direct creator of) essentially every great evil in the realms of Arda. From ancient wolves to the original Dragons and Balrogs, Morgoth’s corruption can be found in all of Tolkien’s monsters. The greatest of these are directly named in the spoilers below, fellow Tolkien scholars may enjoy identifying them first.

Pain SeerAnara, Wolvid FamiliarKardur, DoomscourgeIshkanah, GrafwidowThantis, the WarweaverCrosis, the PurgerDemonlord Belzenlok

Evils of Middle-earth

Pain Seer: Saruman, the corrupted wizard of the Third Age.

Anara: Carcharoth, the great wolf.

Kardur: The Bane of Durin, the Balrog that slays (and is slain by) Gandalf.

Ishkanah: Shelob, the spider unwittingly defending Mordor.

Thantis, the Warweaver: Ungoliant, the spidery ally of Morgoth.

Crosis: Glaurung, the greatest of dragons.

Belzenlock: Gothmog, the mightiest of Balrogs.

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While Morgoth is responsible for all of the evils of Middle-earth, it’s hard to beat his original allies. The armies of Morgoth were feared in no small part due to the inclusion of demonic Balrogs and fiery dragons, so the deck includes a bit of both to fill out his forces.

Atarka, World RenderKolaghan, the Storm's FurySilumgar, the Drifting DeathUtvara HellkiteRakdos, Lord of RiotsRakdos, the Showstopper

 

The deck actually got its start as an “attack matters” deck, lead by Thraximundar and heavily featuring one of my favorite creature types: specters. The visual similarity between specters and the Nazgul is actually what inspired the transition, so The Nine had to stay in the list, including The Witch King clearly represented by Thrax himself.

ThraximundarMidnight ReaperLiliana's Specter (Extended Art)Hypnotic SpecterThief of SanityAbyssal SpecterGuul Draz SpecterBlazing SpecterScythe Specter

Morgoth corrupted all beings of Middle-earth, from foolhardy elves and greedy men, to even the elemental, deific beings known as the Maiar. I couldn’t help but pick out some of the most interesting representatives of this corruption.

Elves of Deep ShadowDisciple of DeceitAverna, the Chaos Bloom

 

Orcs, men, beasts, and goblins flock to serve under the banners of Morgoth and Sauron. For the deck, this takes the shape of a Warrior subtheme with a splash of other creatures that should look very familiar to anyone that’s a fan of Tolkien’s work.

Bloodsoaked ChampionMindblade RenderMardu Strike LeaderMerciless ExecutionerBlood-Chin FanaticThrasher BruteRavenous ChupacabraFrenzied SaddlebruteGoblin Dark-DwellersRaiders' SpoilsRaiders' Wake

 

One of the most interesting elements for me in LOTR is the heraldry and symbols that represent the armies. The Eye of Sauron, the White Hand of Isengard, heraldic dragons, and fearsome Balrog imagery can all be found in the Signets.

Gruul SignetGolgari SignetIzzet SignetRakdos Signet

 

Morgoth is shown to wield a wide range of terrible powers, all of which deserve at least some representation. From slaying heroes to tearing up the land around him, Morgoth’s sorcerous powers get several nods here.

Pain MagnificationBedevilPutrefyHero's DownfallKardur's Vicious ReturnGrave UpheavalCruel UltimatumDecree of PainTreacherous Terrain

Finally, I took to some pains to pick out lands that aesthetically match Morgoth’s territories, including Mordor itself. Notably, this does make the mana base a good bit weaker than one would typically want for a four-color deck, but we have to make some sacrifices for flavor.

Command TowerPath of AncestryOpal PalaceGrixis PanoramaJund PanoramaAsh BarrensTerramorphic ExpanseEvolving WildsOpulent PalaceSavage LandsCrumbling NecropolisFrontier BivouacGruul TurfGolgari Rot FarmBlooming MarshLlanowar WastesTemple of MaladyTemple of MysteryTemple of EpiphanyDimir AqueductDismal BackwaterDragonskull SummitRakdos CarnariumLavaclaw ReachesGnottvold SlumbermoundPort of KarfellSkemfar ElderhallForest (276)Swamp (270)Island (266)Mountain (272)

By now we’ve more than established the flavor in the deck, but if you’re going to be bringing it to the table you have to be wondering how it plays. The early game starts like almost every commander deck: you play out your ramp, in this case lots of mana rocks, and start generating value with some early aggression from cards like Mindblade Render or Hypnotic Specter.

Your commander comes out to start the mid game and helps you begin cascading into all the evil that the deck is packed with. Your specters can now start picking off more important pieces from your opponent’s hand while your removal helps clear the path for Morgoth and your other threats.

The late game has large draconic and demonic bombs to warp the game in your favor, including still more effects to strip away your opponents hand or help your growing threats get in for damage. Keep an eye out for Tree of Perdition and Treacherous Terrain as cards that can help set up lethal swings as the game makes its way towards the closing chapters.

While this deck is far from the most powerful, leaning much deeper into flavor than powerful plays, every time it hits the table it’s guaranteed to tell a story. I find few things more satisfying than being able to field flavorful cards like the Ringwraiths or Ungoliant against all opposition. If you want to really feel like a dark overlord to rival any on Middle-earth, you’ll find no deck better at replicating that experience at the Commander table. 

Morgoth Lord of the Rings Theme Deck by Drew Knapp

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2 thoughts on “Conquer Middle-Earth With This MTG Lord of the Rings Commander Deck”

  1. Really enjoyed the article. Its fun to see stories translated into a deckbuilding and Magic cards. Pretty exciting!

  2. I like it. Can’t wait for the Hobbit-Elves-Gandalf deck, but also can’t imagine the work that was put into the one you wrote about here.

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