The time for Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle Earth is upon us. Soon we’ll be able to see and play with a set that many are eager to get their hands on. As someone who hasn’t played Modern since the last time it was supported at a professional level, I’ve taken a look at the set and found some interesting cards.
There are a lot of cool cards that look fun to play, but I’m underwhelmed with the set's power level for Modern. I expected this to be more like a Modern Horizons set that brought a bunch of new staples and decks, however, what I’m looking at is a set that has a watered-down power level but also a lot of cool and complex designs. We’ll likely see many of these cards break into Historic and Alchemy.
This set looks more like a player-acquisition tool, specifically an acquisition tool focused on bringing players to Commander and potentially Arena. The power level may be a bit pushed for Standard, and it's going directly to Modern so the cards aren't boring and can be played somewhere.
Here’s a list of cards I found somewhat interesting.
Frodo, Determined Hero
Frodo is powerful and plays nicely with a lot of equipment in this set. A classic play pattern with Frodo would be to curve it into something like a Sword, perhaps one from this set like Anduril, Flame of the West. Frodo can’t die to damage while attacking since it will always be your turn. This is a powerful creature in a deck filled with equipment, but any such deck would be too clunky in Modern.
Notice the inelegant wording that says you can’t attach Colossal Hammer to this creature.
I don’t think this will see much play in Modern any time soon. Maybe it would if they design some powerful equipment that costs two or three mana with high equip costs.
This is a cool card that I wish was a Legend itself. We already have Cavern of Souls in Modern, and while in many ways this is a mana creature version of that, it's mostly just a mana dork for a deck playing a high quantity of Legends.
This card looks worse than Noble and Ignoble Hierarchs, but it's second point of toughness is a huge deal when cards like Wrenn and Six are so prolific in the format.
While there’s no deck I’d slide this into now, I could see a world where we get a powerful “Legends" deck where this is a key one-drop in the future. Though not a huge deal, it's also worth noting that it casts Eldrazi with its colorless mana.
I don’t think Delighted Halfling is super-strong or anything, but it may be a piece of something we see in the future. I also think this is a card we may see a lot of in Alchemy and potentially Historic.
Last March of the Ents
This is a powerful and cool card that is far too expensive for Modern without some serious work, but I could see this as a nice Cube payoff for Mono Green.
It's nice in formats like Commander and Cube due to being uncounterable and putting creatures into play through counter Magic. I’d love to see it with something like a Tree of Redemption.
However, as cool as this "fixed" Eureka is, it’s a lot of set-up that is unlikely to be worth the squeeze in Modern, but I love it for casual and fun formats.
Mines of Moria
There’s a full cycle of these lands, but I picked the most interesting one. Mines of Moria plays nicely with Indomitable Creativity, one of the more powerful Modern cards at the moment. Unfortunately, it'll almost always come into play tapped given the restriction on that deck to not play creatures other than its creativity targets.
This card is unlikely to see play, but it's a cool utility land in a format that has Ragavan and Urza’s Saga as key cards. It plays nicely with both for a land slot, but I’m not sure we’ll see any copies in those decks outside of people trying a copy and then not being able to cast Ragavan on turn one, so they remove it from their deck immediately.
Another one-mana counter that would be much better on the play than on the draw in its format. If the opponent casts a Ragavan on one, it would be punishing to include Stern Scolding in your deck. It’s not a bad card in theory, but it requires hitting a large part of the format to have this single interaction prevent the card from being too weak to include.
I don’t think Stern Scolding does that. Magic is too fast for reactive cards like this one to be what you want. You want reactive cards to be good on the draw as well. Magic is too punishing these days to not have your cards line up well, so I’m not nearly as excited about Stern Scolding as I’ve seen from others.
There's nothing too fancy here, but we’ve seen what one-mana cards that provide a blank game piece can do with cards like Thraben Inspector and even Hard Evidence saw some play. While it's not that likely Many Partins sees play, it's not out of the realm of possibility either.
Doors of Durin
This is a fairly powerful card that could be used as an engine in an aggro deck or a way to cheat big creatures into play. It’s not that exciting, but it looks like a fun card to try and abuse. I love sneak attack effects, and while this isn’t a great one, I’m glad to see a new take that’s much less abusable.
Flame of Anor
As far as I know, Wizards is a deck still seen in Historic, and this set will be legal in Historic. Flames of Anor seems like an excellent supplemental card for the Wizards deck that already existed. Draw two and kill a creature for three mana is powerful. On top of that, we also get a Shatter when needed. This is one of the most obvious inclusions into an existing deck in this set. While that format is underplayed, the Arena Championships are the best events left if you're competitive-minded.
Sauron’s Ransom is another instant-speed Divination that isn't promising, but its ability to quickly put cards in the graveyard may have it see some play outside of Modern. Mostly it's just a role player.
Here is another Shrapnel Blast variant. This could potentially see some play in Historic in a UR Ensoul-style deck, but it's unlikely. It’s worth keeping an eye on these types of effects, as they get stronger with redundancy. Unfortunately, the difference between four and five is large. It's likely not quite strong enough to see four copies.
One of the more powerful cards in the set for casual formats, this is a Commander home run and has serious potential to see play in formats like Alchemy and Historic. I love how this card could work in a deck like Creativity as both a sweeper and enabler rolled into one.
It's a cool twist on The Meathook Massacre, but it's not strong enough to see Modern play.
Phial of Galadriel
My first thought when I read this card was, “Is this good enough with Ensnaring Bridge?” I doubt it, but it has a lot of text, and I could see a world where a Lantern deck would want this as a bullet for Whir of Invention.
Arwen, Mortal Queen
A three-mana indestructible creature is unique and that it can also act as a Selfless Savior is powerful. I think Arwen has potential in formats like Alchemy and potentially Historic, but it’s not quite what the current Modern format is about, especially with midrange decks playing cards like Solitude.
This set looks fun, and I’m excited to get my hands on it for Limited. It looks too underpowered for Modern since the Modern Horizons sets have kicked up the power level and it’s hard to compete. The One Ring is still the only card I’d be looking to test thoroughly if I was preparing for Modern in Barcelona right now.
However, the set will make an impact on the Arena formats, and that's exciting for a player who considered himself a mostly online player these days.
This is the coolest crossover we’ve seen yet, and it’s one that fits Magic. In my early Magic playing years, I often drew the comparison to the two worlds, and it's great to finally see them entwine.