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First Draft: My Early Access Experience With LOTR Limited

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

While some of you may have gone to the pre-release this past weekend, I got a quick look into LOTR Limited during the early-access event.

I did a few drafts, and I enjoyed the format more than I thought I would. LOTR Limited hits the sweet spot between too complex and too simple nearly perfectly. Even though the format isn’t an all-time great based on the cards alone, it's solid, has a lot of cool characters you may recognize, and the mechanics are fun.

While I’d consider Tempted by the Ring a flavor fail since it's all upside, it's actually a fun Limited mechanic. It focuses on combat entirely, which makes the Limited format exciting, and it centers around what we love most about Lord of the Rings, the characters and The One Ring. Being tempted the third time is weird and not much of a reward. I would have liked to see something more tangible by getting that deep in the “Dungeon,” but other than that I love the mechanic.

In general, I like to have a cheap one-power creature as my Ring Bearer so it can continuously attack. You don’t flood much in this format because there’s a lot to spend mana on, and you get to loot every turn if you have a Ring Bearer and have been tempted twice by the Ring. The format is slower than I thought, and Food pads your life total to keep the game dragging, so the ability to loot every turn is massive.

Removal has been premium. It’s important to have answers with Ring Bearers and other Legendary creatures running around everywhere. Being able to shut off their Ring Bearer is valuable.

There’s not a huge shortage of removal, though players in early access were taking it too late. At least one of my decks was all in on having access to an early creature and those creatures surviving. Specifically this UG Scry deck:

This deck was average, but it played out a little better than it looked. Nimrodel Watcher was far better both playing against it and with it than I thought it would be, as it’s easy to get a lot of scrys going to slowly deal damage to the opponent over the course of the game. This deck had few comeback mechanisms. If stopped early, it usually wouldn't get going later, as a lot of the deck's power focused on out-sizing and out-grinding the opponent in early turns.

My actual first deck of the format was this BRu Deck featuring a splashed Gandalf the Grey.

I liked this archetype because it gave me access to removal and the deck was able to grind into the late game. My biggest issue with this deck was few cards tempted me. Slower, grindier decks like this can take advantage of Tempted by the Ring, which is an incredible tool. The Nazguls drawn in multiples are amazing, and I wish I had more ways to take advantage of their ability to grow.

Wizard’s Rockets is one of my favorite cards in the format already. While you don’t want to play it in every deck, I love how it enabled my splash while helping me cast Moria Marauder on two and was fodder to sacrifice to the Improvised Clubs.

My last deck of the format was a UR Mill deck focused on Surrounded by Orcs. This archetype requires a lot to go right, and luckily it did for me in the event. Killing an Amass token can be a downside in theory, as they can make another, and you’d remove all that power and toughness from the battlefield if you saved your removal. However, with Surrounded by Orcs and Foray of Orcs in the format, it puts a tension point on whether you want to remove or trade with an early Amass token.

This deck would have loved a Gandalf’s Sanction or two. A lot of people are likely going to draft around Gandalf’s Sanction early and make it a full plan rather than supplemental in their deck. It's possible to continue to loop Sanction with Treason of Isengard, but it’s still a card you’re likely going to want multiple copies of to commit to an all-in game plan. Surrounded by Orcs can also enable Gandalf’s Sanction, finding it for your Treason, and filling up the yard to make it hit harder. I’m interested in seeing how those UR Decks develop because I think this UR deck was mediocre, yet it played out better than I anticipated. Maybe it was the hand smoother? I’ll find out this week when I get my hands on the set on MTGO.

I liked the Grixis Colors early on and am much less excited by green and white. Green and white have the worst removal in the format, but they have ways to interact. I am less excited about combat tricks because Ring Bearer being hard to block makes blocking happen less often.

I have yet to draft any white cards, so I’ll reserve judgment until I do. Mostly, I haven’t been drawn in by any of the white commons yet, so I’ll see how that goes this week.

Overall, the format isn’t as fast as I’d expect seeing, as it's focused on creatures. It’s deeper than I thought after reviewing the spoiler. Some color pairs will be deep enough to have multiple archetypes within them, and you can do sweet five-color stuff with an abundance of fixing, especially for Legendary spells.

This is certainly no March of the Machines, one of my all-time favorite draft formats, but it is a fun set. It’s shelf life likely won’t be super long. I can see getting bored of this set after a couple of weeks, but for now, the mechanics are solid, the format is deep, and flavor is excellent.

I’m looking forward to helping my friends test for the Pro Tour and looking forward to watching Lord of the Rings Limited at the Pro Tour. This won't be the last you hear from me about LOTR Limited though. I'm just getting warmed up.

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