An army of Orcs is amassing on the battlefield, vile and vicious in their obedience to Sauron, as sneaking Gollum scrabbles for the ring. But you've got a force of warriors on your side from across all of Middle-earth. There's Éomer, Marshal of Rohan, the Knights of Dol Amroth, Frodo, Sam (and his daughter Elanor!), and even Shadowfax! With a motley crew like this, how could you possibly lose? These are the kind of outlandish, "What If?" scenarios that come to life amidst the newest Magic: The Gathering Universes Beyond set, Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth. Wizards of the Coast sent us a bundle of new products from the set to check out, so follow along as we round them all up and speak briefly to them all in this product showcase!
Want to learn more about MTG Tales of Middle-earth? We've got an article dedicated to examining whether you should let The One Ring tempt you in the game. And we're taking a deep dive into the lore (some of which never made it to the big screen) that makes cameos on some of our favorite cards. Now onto these new products!
MTG Tales of Middle-earth Bundle
First up, let's check out the MTG Tales of Middle-earth Bundle, which contains eight 12-card Set Boosters, 40 basic lands (20 of which are traditional foil lands, and 20 of which are non-foil), tokens, a large spindown lifecounter die, and some really gorgeous showcase cards. I love the look of these borderless cards with art that spans across multiple entries, as it really hammers home the storytelling nature of this set.
Like all Magic: The Gathering bundle sets, this likely won't let you jump in with enough to build a deck (unless you're an expert deck-building, limited pro), but it makes a fabulous gift for the MTG fan in your life who has everything. The inclusion of eight boosters means there's lots of fun pack cracking to be had. And if you want a pre-built deck, we heartily suggest...
MTG Tales of Middle-earth Starter Kit
Behold! The MTG Tales of Middle-earth Starter Kit, complete with two distinct beginner's decks for players to jump into. Featuring two 60-card decks, the Starter Kit contains classic and new-to-Magic cards and enough lands to field each deck. Themed around Gondor (Green-White) and Mordor (Black-Red), each deck plays incredibly differently. I playtested these decks a few weeks back when I met with Senior Art Director, Ovidio Cartagena (where I happily showed the might of Gondor), and I found each deck to be well-balanced against one another, and perfectly themed to their respective lands.
The Gondor deck is all about fielding stour and hearty heroes, buffing those heroes, creating food tokens (obviously!), and handing ensuring your battlefield looks well defended. With cards featuring Aragorn and Arwen, Frodo, Gandalf, Merry and Pippin, and even Butterbur (the worst postman in the shire), this iconic deck oozes personality.
Speaking of ooze, and other general nastiness, the Mordor deck is full of nasty tricks and surprises. With heavy reliance on the Amass Orcs mechanic (where you're building up an Orcs Army token with lots of +1/+1 counters on it), and the inclusion of heavy hitters like the Balrog and Sauron himself, this is much more of a "strike hard and take chances" kind of deck, and is definitely the more complicated deck of the two. If you'd like to check out the full decklists for the Starter Kit, Wizards of the Coast has broken everything down in this helpful article.
MTG Tales of Middle-earth Commander Deck
Now let's dive into the fan-favorite MTG format, Commander. This highly interactive, creative, up-to-four-player format involves choosing a commander and building a deck of 100 cards centered around their MTG colors. While hobbyists have been crafting their own Commander decks since the mid-1990s, the Commander Deck we received is a pre-constructed deck released by Wizards of the Coast.
Titled The Hosts of Mordor, the deck we received is led by - who else - Sauron, Lord of the Rings. This powerful commander deck focuses on truly disrupting your opponents play with cards that are evasive, create loads of 3/3 Wraith tokens, Amass Orcs, and force your opponents to sacrifice their best creatures.
With Blue/Red/Black as this deck's color identity, you sort of know exactly what you're in for when you shuffle up. Gain card advantage, remove threats both directly and indirectly, and make very few friends at the table (a group huge deck this is not). To check out the entire decklist for this Commander deck (and see the three other Commander decks being released with this set), head over to Wizards of the Coast's article with full Commander lists.
MTG Tales of Middle-earth Jumpstart Packs
Also included with our new product bundle were four MTG Tales of Middle-earth Jumpstart Packs. I personally love Jumpstart Packs as they're a great intro into the hobby. Simply grab a few packs, crack them open, and shuffle them together to get a ready to play deck with some great synergy.
I received two of the same Jumpstart Pack (a blue 'Tricksy' pack), but each had a different card in the second rare slot, so even with a repeat there was some flexibility. I also absolutely love the map-based artwork on one of the lands included in each of these packs, and am sad to say I can easily see myself completely re-land-ing my Commander deck to have only these lands.
MTG Tales of Middle-earth Final Thoughts
All in all, my big takeaway from MTG Tales of Middle-earth, both from this collection of products and my earlier meeting with Magic: The Gathering's Senior Art Director, Ovidio Cartagena, is that this is - by far - one of the most thoughtful sets they've ever released. The design perfectly captures the flavor of the world of Middle-earth, from the soaring, epic moments, to quieter scenes. It perfectly plays to the passion of the fans without delving into fan-service, and the art direction, which Cartagena walked me through in detail - was commissioned by a diehard fan and created by an (Amass) army of talented artists dedicated to pushing the boundaries of what we think of when we picture these classic tales. This set is, overall, a complete triumph, and well worth your time and attention.
The products used in the creation of this feature article were provided by Wizards of the Coast.