MTG Lord Of The Rings: Tales Of Middle-Earth Set Review – How Magic Captures The Ring

Magic: The Gathering has faithfully adapted Middle-earth to the card game.

Image Via Wizards Of The Coast

There have been several attempts at creating a card game based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit over the years, with mixed results. The time has finally arrived for a truly entertaining adaptation of Tolkien’s work in card form, as The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth set does an incredible job of fitting the famous heroes, villains, and locations into the framework of Magic: The Gathering.

It bears mentioning off the bat that the developers did their best to make these iterations of the familiar characters feel unique while also sticking to the content from the books. This means that none of the original content from the Peter Jackson movies appears in the set, nor are there characters from any of The Lord of the Rings spin-offs or adaptations, so don’t expect Talion or Goth Shelob to make an appearance. The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth is strictly by the book, which includes characters who are often skipped in adaptations, like Erkenbrand and Tom Bombadil.

Related: Where to Buy MTG The Lord Of The Rings: Tales Of Middle-Earth Collector Booster Boxes

How The Lord Of The Rings Fits Into The Colors Of Magic

Battle of Pelennor Fields MTG LOTR
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All Middle-earth characters and lands have to fit across the five colors of Magic: The Gathering. The different factions and characters have been spread across the various colors rather than restricting them into single categories. This is how The Lord of the Rings characters are placed into the colors:

  • White – Gondor, Rohan, Eagles, Fellowship members, the Shire.
  • Blue – Elves, Gondor, Isengard.
  • Black – Mordor, Gollum, Isengard, the Balrog, Nazgul.
  • Red – Dwarves, Moria, Rohan.
  • Green – Hobbits, Elves, Rangers, Ents.

Not to mention the set’s abundance of multi-colored cards, new lands, and artifacts. You have a lot of scope to mix and match different factions into one deck, eschewing the traditional Fellowship vs. Sauron theme of the books. Want to run a Black and Red deck where the armies of Rohan team up with the Balrog? You can do it here.

The Lord Of The Rings: Tales Of Middle-Earth Set Legality & Available Sets

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The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth is the first crossover to encompass its own Magic: The Gathering set. That said, it’s being treated a little differently from other sets, as it’s skipping Standard and jumping straight to Modern, where it can be used among many other cards and kept away from the Standard competitive scene.

The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth can be purchased through Collector Boosters, Draft Boosters, Set Boosters, Jumpstart Boosters, and Gift Bundles. There are four Lord of the Rings/Magic the Gathering Commander Decks available based on Eowyn, Galadriel, Frodo & Sam, and Sauron, as well as a Starter Kit, with two starter decks based on Gondor and Mordor.

Is The One Ring A Big Deal In Magic: The Gathering?

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In terms of mechanics, the big new addition that The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth set adds is “The Ring Tempts You” keyword. While there are One Ring cards in the set, The Ring Tempts You activates an effect outside of the cards, similar to the Venture into the Dungeon mechanic from the D&D sets. The Ring Tempts You involves selecting a Ring-Bearer among your creatures and gaining buffs whenever the keyword is used again.

The Ring Tempts You is a well-balanced mechanic, even if it doesn’t quite reflect the magnitude of the One Ring’s power in the source material. Except for one alternate win condition creature (Frodo, Sauron’s Bane), most of the cards don’t react significantly with The Ring Tempts You, and it mostly acts as a slow-build power-up throughout the match. If anything, the most memorable thing about The Ring Tempts You mechanic is the potential candidates for the Ring-Bearer, with characters like Bill the Pony, Rosie Cotton, or Shelob could hold the One Ring.

Related: MTG: Has Someone Found The One Ring (1 of 1 Ring) Card & All Bounties

The Production Values Of The Lord Of The Rings: Tales Of Middle-Earth Set Are Stellar

Gandalf fighting the Balrog MTG LOTR
Image Via Wizards Of The Coast

Magic: The Gathering cards generally have incredible artwork, but Wizards of the Coast went above and beyond with The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth set. The art is incredible across the board, with even the basic lands having some jaw-droppers among them. Some of the most iconic scenes from The Lord of the Rings have been beautifully realized in this set, with designs that make it worth collecting just for how amazing the cards look.

But What About The Cards Themselves?

Bilbo's Party card MTG LOTR
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What’s notable about The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth set is how well it works on its own, with cards and archetypes designed to oppose each other rather than being factored into the metagame as a whole. Usually, when a new Magic: The Gathering set comes out, there are cries about banning some new, all-powerful card that will destroy the tournament scene. This isn’t the case with The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth, which feels almost self-contained, but in a good way.

The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth is the kind of set that you can experience as a total newbie to Magic: The Gathering and use as a measuring stick for whether you want to play more. Experiencing the War of the Ring through these cards is the perfect entry point, as well as offering a great contained environment for casual players who just want to throw the heroes and villains of The Lord of the Rings at each other. It’s the ideal taster for what Magic: The Gathering can be when it doesn’t get bogged down under the weight of its own meta and mechanics.

There are some standout cards that will see play, such as Goldberry, River-Daughter (easy counter mover), Orchish Bowmasters (deal free damage and create army tokens for cheap), and Delighted Halfling (generates mana for cheap and can make Legendary cards uncounterable). These are a few of the cards worth keeping a look at in the future, proving that there are some splashable spells in the set and it’s not fully self-contained.

The Lord Of The Rings: Tales Of Middle-Earth Belongs In A Perfect Bubble

Frodo One Ring Magic the Gathering
Image Via Wizards of the Coast

There have been attempts to turn The Lord of the Rings into a card game before, but Magic: The Gathering has nailed it in terms of the crossover set being fun to play while keeping in line with the source material. It might not be earth-shattering in terms of its relation to the Magic: The Gathering competitive scene, but a set like this doesn’t need to be.

Related: Bringing The Lord Of The Rings To Magic: The Gathering – Ovidio Cartagena Interview

The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth acts as the perfect gateway to Magic: the Gathering, for those who have never experienced it before. It’s a set that works great on its own while still having the potential to see play in the greater scene and not being too strong to overly influence the metagame in the process.