What are the Mechanics of Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth?

Are you ready to go on a journey? The next set is a crossover between Magic and Lord of the Rings. That’s right, Frodo, Gandalf, Aragorn and Legolas are going on another adventure, this time to the Magic: the Gathering world. Today, I want to take a look at the mechanics of the set and how they play out in the Limited environment.

The main mechanic is obviously based around The Ring.

 

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The Ring

Many cards in the set have abilities that say “The Ring tempts you.”

If you haven’t already had The Ring tempt you in this game, you get an emblem named “The Ring.”

Every time The Ring tempts you, you choose one of your creatures to become the Ring-bearer. If you already control a Ring-bearer, you may have that creature remain your Ring-bearer or you may choose a new one. The Ring also gets an ability, starting from the top.

The first time you get tempted, your Ring-bearer becomes legendary and can’t be blocked by creatures with greater power.

After the second temptation, when you attack with your Ring-bearer, you get to draw a card and discard a card.

After the third, whenever your Ring-bearer becomes blocked by a creature, that creature’s controller will sacrifice it at the end of combat.

When you get tempted for the fourth time, whenever your Ring-bearer deals combat damage to a player, each opponent loses three life.

Players cannot have more than one Ring-bearer and each has their own.

Once The Ring gets an ability, it keeps it for the rest of the game, so it gets better and better the more you get tempted. Unlike in The Lord of the Rings story, wearing the ring here has no downside. Some abilities trigger whenever The Ring tempts you. This triggers even if you have no creatures unless specified differently on the card.

Amass Orcs

“Amass” is a keyword introduced in War of the Spark which is now getting updated to “Amass Zombies X.” In this set, we’re going to be amassing an Army of Orcs instead of Zombies, but otherwise it works exactly the same.

To “Amass Orcs X” means to first check whether you control a creature with the type “Army.” If you do, you put X +1/+1 counters on it and it becomes an Orc in addition to any of its other types. If you don’t control one, create a 0/0 black Orc Army creature token and put X +1/+1 counters on it. In practice, you either create an Orc Army token or make the one you already have bigger.

When I played War of the Spark Limited, I remember that it took me a few games to get used to the fact that I wasn’t able to make multiple creatures this way. Sometimes it would be better to make another Army token instead of making the one you already have even bigger, but that isn’t an option.

Keep in mind that a creature with the type “Changeling” would also count as an Army, so if you happen to have one, that’s where you would put the counters on.

Landcycling

Just like in March of the Machine, this set features a set of creatures with landcycling.

Troll of Khazad-dum is a 6/5 creature for 5B which cannot be blocked except by three or more creatures. Not bad, but nothing to write home about either. We call these expensive average creatures “replaceable” because you usually only want to put one or two into your Limited decks. You don’t want to spend a high pick on them during a draft because there are just too many of them. You get those very late in the packs and they usually don’t make your deck. The same is true for Sealed. Sometimes you’ll need an extra card or two for your top-end of the curve, but there’s almost always something better. Simply put, there are too many expensive cards in booster packs to get excited about six-mana creatures with no special abilities.

Throw landcycling on it and everything changes.

Swampcycling 1 in this case means that you can discard the card from your hand, pay one, search your library for a land with the type “Swamp” and put it into your hand. But why does this make Troll of Khazad-dum so much better? If you had a colorless card that cost one which could search your library for a Swamp, that would be a lot worse than Evolving Wilds. The answer is flexibility.

An expensive six-mana creature is very likely to get stuck in your hand at some point during your games. It does effectively nothing until you get to six lands in play, which usually takes a while. It can be a great top deck late in the game, but it’s not a card you want to see in your opening hand or early in the game.

Now imagine a split card which either lets you get a land from your deck for one mana or gets you a big 6/5 creature that is really hard to block for six. That’s exactly what Troll of Khazad-dum is. Split cards are great because they give you multiple choices. The more choices you have, the more likely it is that you will be able to make an impactful play.

Troll of Khazad-dum is a good Limited card because it makes your deck more consistent. It makes it more likely that you have the right colors of mana, make your land drops and have some decent action for the late game. It also makes it easy to splash and can put a big creature in your graveyard for some reanimator shenanigans.

These will likely get picked up around the fifth to sixth pick, will be highly valued in Sealed and decent in Draft.

Historic

Historic is a term introduced in Dominaria that refers to artifacts, Sagas and anything with the legendary supertype. The set is not fully spoiled at the time of writing, but right now it looks like more than half of the creatures are legendary and I’m seeing plenty of artifacts and Sagas too. This should make a card like Lost to Legend a solid main-deck inclusion.

In a regular core set, trying to get a Treasure out of Gloin, Dwarf Emissary would be quite a challenge. In Tales of Middle-earth, I expect roughly a third to a half of your nonland cards to be Historic, making Gloin a very powerful card.

Food

Food is a special type of token and artifact type introduced in Throne of Eldraine. If a card says to create a Food token, you get an artifact token which says “2, tap, sacrifice this artifact: gain three life.”

These can be used in an obvious way to gain some life and help you win a damage race or stabilize the situation against an aggro deck before you can play your more expensive cards. However, there are plenty of cards in this set that use Food tokens to a good effect, so use them wisely. If you have cards like Mushroom Watchdogs or Pippin’s Bravery in your deck, it is almost always better to keep your Food around rather than crack it for three extra life if you are not under a lot of pressure. Cards can also have the type Food, like Gingerbrute or Golden Egg.

Sagas

Saga is a type of enchantment introduced in Dominaria. It tells a story in multiple steps, which are called chapters. As it enters the battlefield, you put a lore counter on it, which triggers the first chapter. Once per turn, at the start of your precombat main phase, you add another lore counter on it and resolve subsequent chapters. Once it has completed the final chapter, it gets sacrificed. Adding a lore counter on the Saga doesn’t use the stack and is not something that can be missed. You can respond to the trigger of resolving what the chapter does, though.

Sagas usually create an increasing advantage for a couple of turns. Not all of them are going to fit in every deck, but the good ones are usually very high picks. The more value they create, the more desirable they are.

Stun Counters

Stun counter is a type of counter that prevents permanents from untapping. If a permanent with a stun counter on it would become untapped, you instead remove a stun counter from it.

In March of the Machine, we saw Wicked Slumber, which was used to great effect in tempo decks, where you can to some degree replace removal with it. If the game ends before the creature would finally untap, then it was pretty much as good as getting rid of it for good.

In slow decks, tapping creatures down for a couple of turns can buy you time, but it won’t be as good as removing them, because they will eventually become useful again and you will still need to deal with them.

The Ring emblem is something completely new and should make the games very interesting. I’ve really been enjoying the new mechanics and ideas for Limited play and this set should be no different. I hope this section helped you understand the new mechanics and abilities. Make sure to check back before the prerelease for my article on the first impressions after playing the Early Access event!

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