Tales of Middle Earth: Assorted Thoughts
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I'm really excited to play this set. It looks like a lot of fun. I'm actually playing a prerelease for the first time in 6 years because my brother in law is really into lord of the rings and also into mtg. And the weekend after I'm going to play my quarterly RCQ. So I figured I'd prepare by organizing my thoughts.
The Ring Tempts You
I like the design of the mechanic. The first level is flavorful, encouraging you to give the ring to your sneakiest soldier. At first I was confused why the third mode wasn't merely deathtouch but it makes sense that they wouldn't want it to be broken with first strike or work as a combat trick. There are a few ways to move your ring at instant speed but only the last mode is really relevant for this.
The mechanic is pretty dense, 19 out of 108 commons tempt you, so I'd guess almost all games will involve a ring bearer on both sides. But I feel in general the commons that tempt you aren't the most tempting. I think the only ring tempts you common that I'd consider premium is Claim the Precious . It's possible I'm underrating the mechanic though because Uruk-hai Berserker and Took Reaper look pretty bad to me.
Another thought is you're going to want to play a lot of 1/3s. Both to bear your ring and block their ring bearer. For that reason I think Nimble Hobbit , Pelargir Survivor and Lothlorien Lookout will all be slightly more desirable.
Is it just me or does this set seem slightly lower power level for limited than we've seen for a while? My most concrete examples are Fog on the Barrow-Downs is worse than Pacifism and Ent's Fury is worse than Rabid Bite . They print a Demolish (Fire of Orthanc ) which they didn't for the last two sets. But just in general it seems like there are a lot of below rate cards that are leaning on their niche to be good. It's possible I'm simply undervaluing "the ring tempts you". Like I mentioned in the last section cards like Took Reaper , Uruk-hai Berserker and Mirrormere Guardian don't seem very good to me.
The combat tricks also seem worse than in the last few sets.
This observation extends to rares. There are no planeswalkers. Many of the mythics are unplayable. There are certainly some good rares but it seems a lot less bomby than the last two formats. I want to say the best rare is Witch-king of Angmar . Which is certainly a giant step down from the last two formats.
- Last review I said "Coming in Hot is ridiculous. What was wrong with Daring Escape and Storm Strike ? Was Crowd's Favor too good?" and now we have Rush the Room . I guess the haste is worth it.
- I wish they'd printed Annihilating Glare with a giant eye instead of Lash of the Balrog . I guess it would have been too good with food.
- At first I thought Rohirrim Lancer was a strange design with menace and a death trigger because menace makes you less likely to die. But I think he's supposed to be the perfect ring bearer. Menace and can't be blocked by creatures with power greater than 1 is sort of close to unblockable.
- A basic land cycling cycle appears again in this set but this time it costs 1 instead of 2. Once again they did a good job putting them on high impact 5-7 drops. They over performed in the last set for me and I'm pretty happy to play as many as I get when they cycle for 1. At that rate you can consider cutting a land.
- There are an incredible number of legendaries in this set. There are 44 uncommon legends. For reference DOM and DMU had 22 and 20 respectively so this set has double. So when evaluating cards like Errand-Rider of Gondor or Arwen's Gift I think it'll be pretty likely you can satisfy the requirement.
- I thought War of the Alliance was unplayable when I read it but I think it actually is an option.
- Mordor Muster is the black elvish visionary. Er, I guess that's Dusk Legion Zealot . A persistent leak of mine in card evaluation is that sorceries that make a body and have an effect read worse to me than creature with etbs that are functionally equivalent. I couldn't tell you why.
- There's too much delightful flavor to call it all out but I found There and Back Again particularly fun.
- Mordor Trebuchet is also pretty fun. I think it will end up playing pretty well as a ringbearer blocker.
- Unusually the black common sacrificer and the beefy black 5 drop commons that are in every set are the same card in this set: Cirith Ungol Patrol . It seems pretty good in the set. You can feed it your amassed orcs one at a time. It's good with Trebuchet.
- There are three cards that make tapped tokens, Oath of the Grey Host , Shadow Summoning and Anduril, Flame of the West . Sort of unusual. This is sort of connected to my claim the set is low power level because I don't think any of them would have been too good if they'd made them enter untapped.
- I can't wait to close out games by Slip on the Ring ing my Eastfarthing Farmer after blocks.
- W: Escape from Orthanc , Hobbit's Sting , Second Breakfast , Slip On the Ring , Soldier of the Grey Host
- U: Deceive the Messenger , Dreadful as the Storm , Glorious Gale , Grey Havens Navigator , Hithlain Knots , Isolation at Orthanc , Soothing of Sméagol
- B: Nasty End , Orcish Medicine , Shelob's Ambush
- R: Cast into the Fire , Gimli's Fury , Improvised Club , Rush the Room , Smite the Deathless
- G: Bombadil's Song , Galadhrim Bow , Pippin's Bravery , Shower of Arrows
- W: Lost to Legend , Reprieve , Samwise the Stouthearted , You Cannot Pass!
- U: Council's Deliberation , Gandalf, Friend of the Shire , Saruman's Trickery , Stern Scolding
- B: Bitter Downfall , Gollum's Bite
- G: Entish Restoration , Gift of Strands , Stew the Coneys
- GR: Friendly Rivalry
- U: Borne Upon a Wind , Press the Enemy
- B: Lobelia Sackville-Baggins , Orcish Bowmasters
- R: Display of Power
- : Mithril Coat
- RU: Flame of Anor
- BU: Sauron's Ransom