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Six Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle Earth Cards Poised To Make An Impact In Constructed


Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle Earth is a huge product release for Wizards of the Coast.

Tales of Middle Earth is the first full set release for their Universes Beyond line, where they take other IPs and bring them to Magic: the Gathering. (Note that the Dungeons & Dragons releases don't technically count because Wizards of the Coast owns those IPs.) This makes this monumentally important release for them as they really want to stick the landing on their first major Universes Beyond release, as all prior Universes Beyond releases have been small releases like Secret Lairs or Commander decks. However, it's also important for another very important reason.

This is the freakin Lord of the Rings.

This is the beloved book and movie series that is the granddaddy of them all when it comes to high fantasy. It's an unbelievable opportunity to see a mixture of two wonderful fantasy icons joining up, and frankly it makes a lot of sense as both Magic, as well as all other fantasy, treads a lot on the ground that JRR Tolkien paved.

Gameplay-wise, Tales of Middle Earth is going to be a straight-to-Modern set release, meaning it will not be legal in Standard, but instead be legal in Modern, Commander, and all other Eternal formats like Legacy, Vintage, Pauper, and so on. There will also be a digital release on MTG Arena, where the set will be legal in Historic and Alchemy.

As such, the bar for power level is going to be a little higher than usual for your average Magic release. These cards need to be pretty good to make an impact in Modern, Historic, or Commander. There's a ton of fun and flavorful stuff revealed so far, but today I wanted to look at six cards that jump out at me as having serious Constructed promise!

Delighted Halfling

Delighted Halfling

At first glance, I think one of the signifiers that a card was designed with 60-card Constructed in mind is the cards that are not legendary characters from Lord of the Rings.

Take Delighted Halfling. We've had Halflings in Magic before, both the Magic version of Kithkin as well as Halflings proper from the Dungeons & Dragons set, but in no way would Delighted Halfling feel out of place in a normal Magic set. Not every card is going to be extremely specific to Lord of the Rings in this set, as there are plenty of Goblins, Knights, Orcs, and more to work with; cards with more generic names that could easily be reprinted in future sets seem like much better targets for where to put a lot of the constructed power level.

So, what do we have in the Halfling?

We've got another entry into the one-drop mana dork line, but with a few key upgrades. Like Birds of Paradise, the Halfling can tap for any color of mana, but notably only to cast a Legendary spell. This is somewhat limiting, but there are a huge amount of fantastic legendary spells, creatures, and planeswalkers these days, and Delighted Halfling also taps for colorless in a pinch. Making said legendary spell uncounterable is also a huge bonus, doing powerful things like pushing a turn-two Teferi, Time Raveler through a Force of Negation or other counterspells.

And perhaps most important in Modern is that second toughness. With cards like Fury, Wrenn and Six, Fire // Ice, and more making life very tough for one toughness creatures, Delighted Halfling is much more durable than something like Noble Hierarch or Birds of Paradise.

Delighted Halfling is going to be a surefire player in Modern, and perhaps even more exciting in Historic.

Minas Tirith

Minas Tirith

Speaking of legendary support, Minas Tirith is a phenomenal looking legendary land for any creature-based legendary deck. Being able to enter the battlefield untapped as well as produce colored mana is a huge asset for any utility land, and the upside you're getting here is huge.

Two mana to draw a card off a land that is just a bit worse than a Plains is outrageously good, allowing aggressive decks that empty their hand quickly to have a mana sink to reload and keep the cards flowing, even if it requires an aggressive attack that will incur losses. The only downside here is that if you're behind and unable to find a good attack this doesn't do much, but in that case it's still just a land so opportunity cost is very low.

It would be hard to play more than one or two copies of Minas Tirith, but this is a very exciting utility land.



Remand in White?!?


There's been talk for over a decade of moving soft/tempo counterspells into White's portion of the color pie, but this is huge. Remand was one of the best cards in its Standard format, as well as seeing decent play in the early days of Modern where it's now a somewhat fringe player. Still, there's a huge difference between Remand competing with all the other two mana counterspells available in Blue, and being the only two-mana counterspell in White.

Now of course, Reprieve isn't a "true" counterspell in that it doesn't solve the problem, but it is a very powerful tempo tool for decks looking to get ahead, as well as against decks looking to resolve big spells. And it's not even a counterspell! That means Cavern of Souls casting a Primeval Titan doesn't mean squat against a Reprieve.

Any more aggressive or proactive White deck is going to want to at least look at Reprieve, either in the maindeck or as a sideboard option.

Merry, Esquire of Rohan

Merry, Esquire of Rohan

There's an interesting force at work when it comes to the big legendary Lord of the Rings characters we all know and love. The more powerful the character, the more likely they are to have a bigger and more over the top mana cost, which is exactly what will make them a tough sell in 60-card formats. Aragorn, The Uniter or Sauron, the Dark Lord are powerful and flavorful cards, but RGWU and 3UBR are pretty intense mana costs for a format as powerful Modern or Historic.

Therefore, much like in the Lord of the Rings story itself, it's the little folk who stand to do the greatest deeds.

One of the most unlikely of these little folk is Merry, Esquire of Rohan, which packs quite a punch for a two-drop. A 2/2 haste for two mana is a solid but unexciting rate, and don't even bother reading the equipment flavor text, the real draw here is "Whenever you attack with Merry and another Legendary creature, draw a card."

Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer
Kytheon, Hero of Akros
Skrelv, Defector Mite

One of the best cards in the format is a Red legendary one-drop, and there are plenty of other options in both White and Red, making it very easy to draw a card as early as turn two with Merry. And of course, if your deck is full of legends, this will be even easier to trigger later in the game. Throw in some Mox Amber and other payoffs like Urza's Ruinous Blast and you've got the core of potentially a whole new archetype in Modern.

Look for this one in my Ten New Brews for this set when it releases!

Orcish Bowmasters

Orcish Bowmasters

Another card cut from the same "this could be in any random Magic set" cloth as Delighted Halfling, Orcish Bowmasters has a lot going on in a very innocent looking package.

Resolute Reinforcements
Sparkmage Apprentice

Up front, we're looking at a mixture of Resolute Reinforcements and Sparkmage Apprentice. Honestly? That's pretty good! Getting two 1/1s and killing a Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer or Noble Hierarch is not too bad at all, but if that's all Orcish Bowmasters did then without a relevant creature type or some sort of addition synergy, it wouldn't really be enough. However, that's not all!

Orcish Bowmasters also triggers whenever your opponent draws a non-draw step card, which as we know from Narset, Parter of Veils is a very powerful condition. Whenever your opponent draws a card from Consider, Ledger Shredder, Teferi, Time Raveler, cycling Street Wraith, and so on, you get to add a power and toughness to the board and ping something again. That's pretty wild!

This is honestly probably one of the better rares in the set and definitely a card folks are sleeping on right now.

Gollum, Scheming Guide

Gollum, Scheming Guide

Okay, our last card probably doesn't have that much of a chance in constructed, but it was too cool not to highlight. Gollum, Scheming Guide reminds me a lot of the card Liar's Pendulum, a bizarre rare from the original Mirrodin which was a blast to play in Limited.

As a two mana 2/1 with no keywords, Gollum is a bit unassuming, but once you get to attack with him it's time for some fun.

Riddles in the dark anyone? You get a peek at your top two cards and engage in a small battle of wits with your opponent. They have to guess if the top card of your deck is a land or not, and while the odds say it's more likely to be a non-land, they also need to think about what you might do as well. If your opponent passes this little test? Gollum gets safely removed from combat. If they fail? You get to deal two damage and draw a card, which is great for a two drop.

This is probably only a Limited card, but I just love cards that provide little witty subgames like this so it's one of my favorite cards on the spoiler so far.

The Road Goes Ever On

We're just getting started with the previews for Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle Earth, and with so many cards to go there's a lot to take in.

There's also the issue that this set is going to be legal in a lot of different and unique places; just because a card isn't good enough for Modern doesn't mean it won't be a player in Historic, and even if a card isn't playable there this is still going to be a major Limited format where the majority of cards are going to see play.

With the Pro Tour in Barcelona in late July being Modern and Tales of Middle Earth draft, we're going to get to see the set in high level action as well. If you told me twenty years ago that I'd eventually be playing in Pro Tour: Lord of the Rings I would have laughed at you, but here we are!

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