The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth Review, Part 1 of 4: The Mechanics

Magic’s newest expansion takes us beyond the planes of the multiverse and into the crossover universes to visit the world of the Lord of the Rings. A new set means new mechanics, and we’ve got some good ones as well as some returning ones. In this article we’ll talk about the mechanics and offer some thoughts on what they mean for Commander and how they’ll play.


Credit: Wizards of the Coast

The Ring

When the Ring tempts you, you get an emblem outside of the game as a reminder of the fact you have it and what it does, starting with the first ability active. In addition, you choose a creature you control to become your Ring-bearer, which remains your Ring-bearer until you choose another one, it leaves the battlefield, or another player gains control of it. Each player has their own Ring and Ring-bearer, and you can only have one at a time. The Ring then also gains its next ability, even if you don’t control a creature, to a maximum of 4 – once you have them all being tempted doesn’t make it more powerful.


Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

FromTheShire: This is obviously a super flavorful way to implement the One Ring, and all of the abilities you get are quite useful. The limited evasion means at the very least you should be trading your bearer out equally if they want to block, which is further ensured by the sacrifice clause, so opponents will really have to think before blocking. This in turn makes it more likely for you to be able to attack repeatedly, continuing to get card advantage, and then eventually pinging the whole table when you connect. Especially in a full pod playing with LoTR cards, this is really going to progress the game along and encourage attacking, which is great!


Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Amass Orcs

Amass Orcs X is a returning mechanic with a twist – previously amass made a Zombie Army, a 0/0 Zombie with X counters, or added X counters to your existing Army if you already had one. Now we have different creature types, with the older cards being erratad to being Amass Zombies X. This now also means that when you amass, your Army will gain the appropriate creature type if it didn’t already have it, so for instance if you play both the old and new you will end up with a Orc Zombie Army with the counters from both.

FromTheShire: This seems like a fine change to how Amass works, and indicates that the ability is likely to see more support in the future, which is fantastic! As a lover of theme decks, it’s great when a one off ability from a set gets meaningful support so you can really lean in to a full deck built around it with actual choices, not just including all of the cards printed with the ability since you have so few to work with. Amass as an ability is kind of fine – making one big creature can be hit or miss, especially if you have to do it across multiple turns. The more pieces we get to make it better such as Gothmog here, the more viable it becomes though.


Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Food Tokens

FromTheShire: Food tokens are back, because c’mon, of course they are. They’re absolutely perfect already for all things Hobbit related. On their own, they’re more relevant in other formats than Commander since spending the mana to gain 3 life is just not that impactful most of the time. Similar to Amass though, as we get more and more ways to create and use the tokens they get better, and we have a solid base now, with 16 Legendaries mentioning Food in their abilities.


Credit: Wizards of the Coast


FromTheShire: We also get the return of Sagas, which again fit very well with the fantastical tale nature of the Lord of the Rings universe and its deep connection to ancient legends and epic journeys. Even more so than Food tokens, Sagas don’t see much play right now because they just don’t quite do enough most of the time, and the few that do aren’t enough to build a full deck around. In addition, the only Legendary Commander that was available was Satsuki, the Living Lore, who is great but is also only 2 colors. Now however we see the release of Tom Bombadil who gives us an excellent 5 color general purpose built to make this a deck, even if it is more kitchen table fun than competitive. Considering that that’s the ethos at the heart of Commander, I love to see it.


Next Time: The Set’s Multicolor Cards

That wraps up our look at the mechanics of Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth. We’ll be back later to look at the most noteworthy cards in the set, starting with the multicolor cards in the main set, then in the following articles we’ll cover monocolor and colorless cards before moving on to the set’s Commander decks. As always, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at