Marcy: It’s been a few weeks since the release of the Lord of the Rings set into Magic the Gathering, and boy, did almost everyone seem to get this set wrong. What first seemed to be a Universes Beyond set that would have limited impact on any format outside of Commander, and suddenly cards from this set are wreaking absolutely havoc on Modern, Legacy, and more. But what about the set it was supposedly for, Commander? Well, here’s a list of cards that are absolutely must haves, and in some cases, you might need to really open your wallet for.
Honorable Mention: The One Ring
Marcy: Listen, you remember how everyone said the LOTR set was going to be a nothing set filled with lots of cards that didn’t have a big impact on anything, and were just going to get forgotten about or used ‘only in Commander’, and then a week after the set released, suddenly a playset of The One Ring was 200 dollars? Yeah. I remember it too. Anyway, Commander might be one of the places in which The One Ring is NOT a format dominating card, but that doesn’t mean this card is not extremely powerful for what it does. Let’s run down the list: 4 colorless mana gets you protection from everything until your next turn as long as you cast it, and then starts a clock that, at the increasing cost of your life, draws you cards. Commander’s inflated life total makes the drawback of losing life to draw cards a little less ‘oops I might have killed myself’, and the ring being indestructible means that your opponents need exile effects to stop you from drawing increasingly more cards. If you have some way to bounce the ring back to your hand, that makes it even scarier in a format where you can’t have more than one of them. I think as far as our list is concerned, I wanted to deal with 10 cards that have variable use, but the Ring is an absolute powerhouse; whether you need to hurl 50+ dollars at it for your Commander deck is up to you, though.
BPhillipYork: To me the One Ring is sort of broken if you can loop it in some way, but most Commander games are resolving infinite loops or just win the game cards. In terms of draw, it’s fine, cast, tap, draw a card, place a burden counter, upkeep place counter draw 2, 3 cards for 4 mana isn’t horrible, and obviously if the game goes long you can draw a lot with it, but you need to have some way to slow down the game, and there’s just so much really strong card draw in Commander.
FromTheShire: I absolutely disagree that most non-cEDH games end in infinites or win the game cards, and the One Ring is super strong.
Marcy: Like a lot of the LOTR cards, I think power and utility for many of these cards was judged a little unfairly. While Delighted Halfling certainly isn’t a genre breaker, it is a very unique mana dork that finds an easy home in any Commander deck that runs Green and features creatures. Perhaps even more interestingly, it’s got a decent butt to throw in the way of things at 1/2 unlike other mana generating creatures.
BPhillipYork: It’s a mana dork that also mana fixes for your commander, so it just makes any green that wants to ramp out creatures smoother and more consistent, and it makes your commander uncounterable or some big legendary spells like Karn’s Temporal Sundering or, Planeswalkers, which will get to hit the board then do their thing without a chance for interaction. Just an extremely solid all around card.
Lotho, Corrupt Shirriff
Marcy: First, can I say that I really, really hate trying to type the word ‘Shirriff’? Anyway, Lotho here doesn’t seem like a lot at first, but he’s got a few interesting synergies that make him good as both a Commander or a creature in an Orzhov deck of some sort. A Stax deck would love Lotho, even though you’re losing life, because being handed free mana is always kind of a bad deal. Unfortunately, it only activates once a turn, but that’s also going to stop you from accidentally killing yourself from decks slinging cheap spells. Revel in Riches as a wincon or secondary wincon loves Lotho, too.
BPhillipYork: Free (okay they cost 1 life but whatever) Treasures is just free Treasures. People will frequently cast multiple spells per turn, so you are looking at significant Treasure gain from his card, which is just all around strong. White/Black has very little access to good ramp spells or rituals, or artifact fetching, so for Orzhov it’s mana rocks and tricks like this.
Marcy: This list isn’t meant to exactly point out synergies, but that’s just to say that Mirkwood Bats finds a lot of comfortable homes in decks that generate tokens that are then easily used up, such as from Lotho, or any number of food token generators in the LoTR set. On Arena, this card and Sanguine Brushstroke makes for an exceptionally obnoxious Aristocrats piece. It is an expensive card at 4 mana, but in Commander, 4 mana is fairly easy to assemble quickly, and the format has numerous sacrifice and token generators to run wild with; honestly, Lotho’s probably not even one of the best to combine with this card, but that just goes to show that this card has deadly utility in easy ways; and since it is loss of life, that’s always important to remember.
BPhillipYork: Another extremely solid card that functions as a win condition and also can go quite nuts with triggered token generation, of which there are increasing amounts. Slot it into Prosper, Tome-Bound or aristocrats decks. In a sacrifice loop it may well just go infinite. A little pricey, at 4 mana if it’s not making you win the game, but it’s potentially devastating, and can also be part of a “coming and going” strategy where you have multiple triggers when creatures or tokens come into play and are destroyed or sacrificed, which I like to do.
Marcy: Oh hey look it’s the card currently running Hulkamania style through Legacy and other formats! In Commander, this card isn’t quite as strong, since you only have one copy, but wow is this card really punishing. Commander players love to draw cards, and this card is one of the most punishing cards in print; there are numerous cards that make all players draw cards, there are cards that let you target players to draw cards, and combined with the ability to flash this card in whenever you have the mana open, it can end a game shockingly out of nowhere if an opponent gets greedy. It’s even funnier to engineer their downfall, and Monoblack, Dimir, and Esper decks can find a lot of fun ways to do that with this card.
BPhillipYork: This card is so bonkers to me. I did a thought experiment of would I still play it if I didn’t have flash? Yes. What if it was only triggered by draw and not ETB? Yes. What if it cost 3? Yes. What if it was life loss not damage pings? Yes.
Just an extremely powerful card, all kinds of synergies with token creation and creatures and sacrificing and Saruman, the White Hand, another piece for Opus Thief, just so good. Probably best card in the set for commander. Resolve a Wheel of Fortune and kill every utility creature and get someone low and you get a 21/21 beater. Crazy.
Marcy: This card is certainly not as impressive as most of the others we’ve talked about so far or will talk about, but it is a decent card. I think the biggest thing about this is the utility of what it is meant to counter – namely, Commanders and Legendary bombs – but the biggest thing to consider here is whether or not your deck can make use of the Ring tempting mechanic. Maybe one of the overlooked aspects of the set is the Ring Tempting, and it became easily obvious within a few days of actual play that it is really easy to get tempted and very good to do so. Level 4 can be a game ender, but even 2 levels of temptation gives you looting on a likely unblockable stick.
BPhillipYork: People will cast creatures and ticking up your temptations is strong. Just handing out skulk to a creature that you really want to connect can be really valuable.
Marcy: Frankly I’m kind of iffy on this card. I don’t know if I agree it’s a card you NEED, but if your Commander deck is specializing around Goblins, this card is something you are going to need and want. If your deck is running the Sauron Amass style strategies, there’s a few ways that the Orc keyword here can be useful. I think it’s a good card, but not a card that is going to light the world on fire as much as the other cards will; at the very least, it has a harder time slotting into most decks unlike most of the other cards here.
BPhillipYork: 2 card impulse draw per turn, play not cast, and its got double strike, and it will trigger off your own Goblins and Orcs in addition to itself is a lot. Changelings and Dockside Extortionist are all commonly played Orcs or Goblins, so even just throwing this into a solid red deck can pay off, and there are an increasing number of cards that care about where you cast from, in combination with things like Commander Liara Portyr this can be a way to keep drawing through your deck for more attacks to win the game in one go.
Marcy: Again, this card is decent in the sense that it greatly benefits spellslinging Commanders, but the tempting mechanic is once again relevant to consider as a part of this card’s value in your deck. Even without the tempting mechanic, though, decks using Storm effects or commanders like Narset might be able to easily slip this in and very quickly peel off a victory on cheap spells like Brainstorm, Opt, and direct burn like Play with Fire. At three mana, it also isn’t very expensive to get on the field, and can go over opponents without enchantment interaction very easily.
BPhillipYork: This is a powerful trigger and normally only exists on creatures, which are somewhat harder to protect. An ideal scenario might involve a few more of these types of triggers and a creatureless deck that is slamming out Earthquake and such and dealing damage off of them.
Marcy: A variable board wipe that has persistent value made people compare this card to The Meathook Massacre, and while it is nowhere as powerful as that card, it does have a lot of use. 3 mana to clear away 1/1 weenie token decks, variable power to clear away bigger threats, and the consistent Treasure token generation is useful. If the Treasures were generated per creature killed, this card would be busted, but you can trigger it every turn, not just yours, so playing smart means interaction on your opponent’s turns can net you mana for your expended spell.
BPhillipYork: This is a less good, but still good, red version of Meathook Massacre which is a bonkers card. It’s board clear + a stays on board trigger, and so many Treasure and token synergies, some referenced in this article, exist now.
Boromir, Warden of the Tower
Marcy: Stax on Stax on Stax, baby! The LoTR set sure did give Stax decks some good food, and Boromir is up there as one of the best you could ask for. The biggest thing Boromir has going for him is the fact that numerous Commander decks love to play spells without having to actually pay for them, and these types of effects come across numerous colors in the game, with cards like Gix and Etali getting absolutely shut down by Boromir. Also, he comes with a free ring tempting trigger, and can make your creatures indestructible, fading out board wipes and providing just intense value for his mana cost. As a commander in a Stax deck, even sacrificing him a few times is likely worth it for the increased cost just to shut down your opponent’s plays.
BPhillipYork: The shutting down of free spells is decent alone, and can be used in conjunction with certain cards to create a lock since it’s asymmetric stax, and his sacrifice ability is a useful way to protect your board state. Human and Soldier also both have plenty of tribal support, so just all around solid card to pick up, even if not building around it per se.
Elrond, Lord of Rivendell
Marcy: I don’t know if I love Elrond as a commander, as I think he works better as a piece in a Galadriel / Arwen scry Elf style deck, but even without being in an Elf themed deck, Elrond is a pretty solid card that just produces good value. Remember what I said about being tempted by the ring? So far, this is one of the easiest cards we’ve covered that lets you do it reliably and easily, as resolving two creatures to get the ability to trigger isn’t very hard; Resolute Reinforcements, for example, can do it on its own on someone else’s turn, even for just two mana. I don’t know if Elrond is a game changer or breaker but he’s got some solid utility that could make him easily at home with many decks that are or splash blue.
BPhillipYork: Scry wedded to ring temptation is close to card draw off creatures entering the field, and fits in really well with things like Azorious flicker decks. This can create ring temptations repeatedly, which is really solid, and could be used to create a host of skulkers or get that card selection and draw going.
Marcy: I’ve actually seen this card in action and it is kind of gross if you can’t do anything to answer it. There are a lot of scary creatures out there that want to get in damage without being blocked, and while the Halfling discount is really good, don’t discount that this card can end a game really fast if it gets onto something else for 4 mana. There are, what, 3 versions of Vraska that create “You lose the game” effects? This is a strong equipment, not just on Frodo, Sauron’s Bane (which is where I ran into it, and that game was not fun at all), and it’s the type of equipment that will sneak up on a game of Commander and suddenly some player just wins out of nowhere with it.
BPhillipYork: To me the big thing here is a creature that absolutely must get through, and this really protects it. Obviously you can end up in a “I must blow your thing up” scenario because your creature is going to get hexproof, but imagine this on a Port Razer or Hellkite Charger, those are one more piece away from being GG scenarios.