How to Upgrade LOTR: Tales of Middle-Earth MTG Starter Set Decks

Published: July 18, 2023 5:49 PM /

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An image of the MTG LOTR Tales of Middle-Earth MTG starter set and some additional cards that can be used to upgrade the deck.

Greetings travelers to middle-earth, or as the Orcs might say, uruk-Hai! Today we’re taking a look at the new Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle Earth MTG starter set that came out recently, and how we can improve the decks within them. Whether you're new to Magic, or new to Lord of the Rings, this box will get you playing and learning.

Forces of Gondor - Tales of Middle-Earth MTG Starter Set Upgrades

The Gondor deck in the Tales of Middle-Earth MTG Starter Set is really more of an allies (not the creature type...) deck, though being based in Green and White means it must leave the dwarf forces out of it.

The deck includes 5 unique rares within, which support its themes: Aragorn and Arwen, Wed, Gandalf, White Rider, Galadriel, Gift Giver, Frodo, Determined Hero, and Bilbo’s Ring. These rares help play to the deck’s strengths of going wide, equipment, food, and typal (aka tribal) synergies. It plays as a midrange aggressive deck of sorts, but it has several weaknesses that could be upgraded, as one might expect for a starter deck.

Lord of the Rings: Tales of middle Earth MTG Starter Set Gondor cards (Left to Ring by row): Galadriel, Gift Giver, Aragorn and Arwen, Wed, Frodo, Determined Hero, Gandalf, White Rider, Galadhrim Bow, Butturbur, Bree Innkeeper, Bilbo's Ring, and Second Breakfast
The rares and some other cards from the Gondor deck illustrate some of the themes in this Tales of Middle-Earth MTG starter deck

For improvements, we need to make space here, and some areas call out for changes. The deck has way too much mana in it with 26 lands for a relatively modest mana curve. Beyond the lands, there’s also Wose Pathfinder, and Many Partings giving us a total of 30 mana cards in the original list. We can cut those mana cards, as well as a couple of lands, as long as we keep an eye on our mana curve. The deck also has 3 copies of Knight of the Keep, a mediocre vanilla creature that is screaming for replacement. Beyond that, you’ll want to consolidate and focus the list on what themes you want to focus on most when improving and making the deck your own.

To achieve that focus, let’s look at a few cards that might be worth adding to this Tales of Middle-Earth MTG starter deck. For this, we’re sticking to cards in Tales of Middle-Earth that are modern legal so you are staying in the same environment for both flavor and legality.

Shire Shirriff

Shire Shirriff a Tales of Middle-Earth MTG Starter Set Upgrade Card

Shire Shirriff fits right in with the deck, making good use of the food tokens you’ve generated and turning it into efficient removal The halfling creature type lets it take advantage of the typal synergies in the deck, and the 2/2 body is nothing to sniff at.

Samwise Gamgee

Samwise Gamgee a Tales of Middle-Earth MTG Starter Set Upgrade Card

Samwise here is a card that epitomizes what the deck wants to do. He generates food when creatures enter the battlefield, lets you use that food for card advantage, and provides a decent aggressive body that picks up halfling typal synergies.

Saradoc, Master of Buckland

Saradoc, Master of Buckland a Tales of Middle-Earth MTG Starter Set Upgrade Card

Speaking of halfling typal payoffs, Saradoc provides some with his pump ability, and helps you go extra wide whenever you play a small creature. Coming from the Tales of Middle-Earth Jumpstart product, he helps the deck do everything it wants to.

Increasing Devotion

Increasing Devotion a Tales of Middle-Earth MTG Starter Set Upgrade Card

A potential high curve card to help go wide, Increasing Devotion gives you 5 1/1 Humans for 5 mana, and can be flashbacked later for even more. The tokens pick up pumps from Gandelf, Aragorn and Arwen, and other sources while helping you outflank your opponents. It is a reprint available n the Tales of Middle-Earth Commander Decks.

Forge Anew

Forge Anew a Tales of Middle-Earth MTG Starter Set Upgrade Card

If you want to focus more on equipment, there are a number of things you can look at. While Sting, and Anduril stand out as equipment you'd want, I want to highlight an enabler here. Forge Anew can play a huge role in a more equipment-focused deck by reviving equipment, and providing both free, and instant equiping options.

Myself, I think the best path is down the aggro-midrange path with a plan of going wide and using food. Putting together a list sticking to our restraints, I turned out this: https://archidekt.com/decks/4793664/aragorn_and_arwin_host_the_hobbits_modified_starter_deck
 

Forces of Mordor - Tales of Middle-Earth MTG starter set

This red/black deck lacks the direct support for its themes from the unique rares in it that the Gondor Tales of Middle-Earth MTG Starter Set deck had. Instead, the rares kind of stand alongside it as threats, fittingly as the less group-oriented individuals aligned with Sauron take center stage.

Forces of Mordor - Tales of Middle-Earth MTG Starter Set
The Witch-King Bringer of Ruin skipped out on his close-up for this Tales of Middle-Earth MTG Starter set guide for a prior engagement with a hobbit

The unique rares in this part of the Tales of Middle-Earth MTG starter set are: Sauron, the Lidless Eye, Gollum Scheming Guide, Witch-King, Bringer of Ruin, Fires of Mount Doom, and The Balrog, Flame of Udun. Each contributes in their own way and style to taking down the opposing forces, with my personal favorite being Gollum whose card calls back to the riddle game in The Hobbit.

The deck plays as a moderately aggressive red-black deck with an orc/goblin typal theme, and a focus on amassing an army. There’s a bit of play with tokens, stealing opposing creatures, burn, and more in the deck that flow fairly well together. So what can we add to the Mordor deck to help it play better?

Orcish Bowmasters

Orcish Bowmasters a Tales of Middle-Earth MTG Starter Set Upgrade Card

Warning: This card is not cheap. You don’t need Orcish Bowmasters but he is absolutely one of the strongest cards you could add to the deck that fits in with everything the deck wants to do. As a 2 drop who comes into play, burning a target and amassing orc army 1, it gives you 2 power and removal for two mana, and it punishes your opponent if they try to draw cards. Clearing paths, growing armies, and burning out foes, Orcish Bowmasters can do it all which is why it’s going to cost you $40 to get one copy... but if you open one in your packs or something toss it in! Otherwise, let's look at a few less pricey options.

Mirkwood Bats

Mirkwood Bats a Tales of Middle-Earth MTG Starter Set Upgrade Card

If you want to hone in more on the token side of things Mirkwood Bats is a great card from Tales of Middle Earth. This humble 2/3 flying for 4 causes your opponents to lose life anytime you create or sacrifice a token. Sacrifice a food, they lose a life, make a ballistic boulder with the Mordor Trebuchet, they lose a life, and so on. This is a strong card if you want to go down that path.

Moria Marauder

Moria Marauder a Tales of Middle-Earth MTG Starter Set Upgrade Card

This two drop is one of the best in the set, and plays right into the orc/goblin typal theme. As a 1/1 double strike for two, it’s solid but the biggest thing is that he lets you impulse draw every time any of your orcs or goblins deal damage to an opponent. This helps avoid the running out of gas issue that can plague aggro decks as you find yourself constantly getting new cards to play.

Book of Mazarbul

Book of Mazarbul a Tales of Middle-Earth MTG Starter Set Upgrade Card

However you take the Forces of Mordor, it’s likely to involve beating down with orcs and goblins. 3 Mana for a 3 attack power (after the second chapter resolves), is alright, and you have more coming from this too. With Mauher, Uruk-Hai Captain in play, that becomes 5 power on the army, for a real beating. The third chapter grants a pump and evasion, enabling early game-ending moves.

Siege-Gang Commander

Siege-Gang Commander a Tales of Middle-Earth MTG Starter Set Upgrade Card

Hidden away in one of the commander decks is a new art version of a classic Magic: The Gathering card – Siege-Gang Commander. He’s been a top-end threat for Goblin decks for a long time and he fits very well here as for 5 mana you get him, and three 1/1 goblins to beat down with. He also gives you reach, as for 1R you can sacrifice a goblin to deal two damage to any target – either an annoying creature in your way, or the last few points of damage to your opponent.

To fit in goodies like these, you’ll need to make some cuts to the Forces of Mordor Tales of Middle-Earth MTG Starter Deck. The first place you can look is at that one of Mind Stone as the deck really doesn’t need that. Along with it, a couple of lands can probably be cut, to bring it down to 24. If you are playing with just Tales of Middle Earth cards, you will probably want to cut The Balrog, Flame of Udun because of the density of legendary creatures in the set, especially with the ring tempts you mechanic making any creature legendary. The last easy cut is to toss away the Goblin Assailant, as he’s a poor vanilla creature who really wants to go home to a box away from all this violence.

From there, you want to dial in on what you have chosen to focus on and upgrade cards to ones that fit those roles. Cards that are pricier and provide less impact than others are good places to start: Foray of Orcs, and Fire of Orthanc stand out as over costed removal options in the deck.

One way to go with it is leaning into the armies as well as the typal themes for an aggressive deck. That’s what I did with this idea that started from the list here and uses some of the upgrade options I discussed above.

I leave with you one last image of a few of the cards from the Tales of Middle-Earth MTG starter set.

Gandalf saying 'You Cannot Pass' to the Balrog captured in Tales of Middle-Earth MTG Starter Set cards
In the books, it was You Cannot Pass, not You Shall Not Pass as the movies popularized

Disclaimer: A copy of the Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-Earth Starter Set was provided by Wizards of the Coast and used to create this article.

 

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