The One Ring is going to be among us!
We’ve learned a little more about a set coming out soon, Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle Earth, over the past few weeks.
I’ll be honest, I’m not much of a reader, but I’ve been infatuated with the lore of Lord of the Rings since I was four- or five-years-old. I’ve loved the story since watching an animated version of The Hobbit as a child at my aunt’s house. I’ve never read the books, but I watched the movies multiple times, and as a young kid I played another CCG called Middle Earth. I couldn’t tell you the rules these days, but nonetheless the lore of the game hooked me.
This is one of the most sensible MTG crossovers we’ve seen. The lores of both Lord of the Ring and Magic make sense together.
However, as much as I’d love to discuss how great the set’s previewed cards are, most of them are bad for a competitive format, at least until we know what the phrase “the ring tempts you” means for Frodo, Sauron’s Bane and what extent, if any, this text affects other cards.
Let’s look at some stuff we’ve seen thus far. Remember these cards won’t be put into Standard. This is a straight-to-Modern set, so think of it like Modern Horizons 3.
Sauron, the Lidless Eye:
The closest comparison is Zealous Conscripts, except Sauron has no ability to combo with a card like Splinter Twin or Kiki-Jiki. As a mythic rare, this is disappointing. I wouldn’t expect this card to be played much anywhere. It’s seemingly supposed to fit into a traditional sacrifice theme in Rakdos, but it’s not good enough for a five-mana spell.
Aragorn and Arwen, Wed:
This is a powerful-looking Limited card. I could see this card being played in EDH or something similar, but it’s not close to a Modern-power-level card. Six mana better do a lot, and this ain’t it.
Similar to a white Remand, Reprieve is a card that will likely see some play here and there as a way to leverage overwhelming board position in aggressive white decks like Hammer Time. While I’m skeptical, this card at least fits the bill.
Gandalf the Grey:
It’s a weird direction for Gandalf the Grey, as I would assume it would be at least white. Gandalf fits the bill of other rare and mythic legends we’ve seen as flavorfully cool and fairly strong for Limited, but it’s not quite playable in Standard let alone playable in Modern.
Five mana is too much given that each ability has a cap before it has to go on top of the deck to restart the cycle. It’s flavorfully fairly cool, but in practice it’s not a card we’re likely to see outside of Limited and EDH.
Samwise the Stouthearted:
This is actually a fairly reasonable creature. This can recycle a card like Wasteland, Urza’s Saga, a Fetchland. I could see Samwise finding a home. It’s sort of a white Snapcaster Mage. This depends on what “the ring tempts you” text actually means. If it’s just for Frodo, Sauron’s Bane, then it’s a totally reasonable card.
Frodo, Sauron’s Bane:
Frodo will fall short of playability outside of something like EDH and Limited. It’s not efficient enough to keep pace with a powerful Modern format. Unless the “ring tempts you” does something extremely beneficial, which would go against the grain of the flavor, then Frodo won’t be good enough.
This is a very flavorful card. The hobbits love eating, and The Shire includes that flavor, but it’s a weak card that likely won’t see any Modern play. Maybe it would find some fringe play if you could reveal a legend to have it enter the battlefield untapped. As is, it won’t see competitive play.
Mount Doom is a cool card. It’s flavorful, and I could see it included in a deck here and there. I’ll probably try it as a Rakdos Dual in Cube. You can search it out with Golos and sacrifice Golos for it, but otherwise it’s a mediocre dual lands. While it’s not great, the effect can be powerful. While it’s unlikely to see much play in Modern, I could see a copy here and there in BR decks that fit the criteria or want the activated ability to deal one. It’s a cool design that’s not that strong, but it’s still a fun, flavorful card.
The One Ring:
Last but not least, we have The One Ring. This card is awesome. While it’s not completely busted, it’s possible we see this card played competitively in formats like Legacy or Vintage. You can loop two of these with Academy Ruins or Emry to never face lethal outside of your own turn. It gives you a full set-up turn, even against discard in a combo deck. You essentially get a Time Walk out of a combo deck, and as many have pointed out, it’s a two-card-draw-your-entire-deck combo with Mind Over Matter.
The One Ring is a card that will likely go into every single EDH deck, as its effect is multiplicative. Since it’s a Lord of the Rings card, it’s possible it’s also reprint-proof, as I’m not sure how they go about reprinting singular cards from crossover sets. For that reason, this card may be at its cheapest when the packs start flying off the shelves, especially given that they’re printing the 1-of-1 The One Ring.
There’s a lot of speculation on whether the 1-of-1 The One Ring will be the most expensive card in MTG history. I’d guess no, but I could be wrong. It’s impossible to tell. There’s crossover appeal and the flavor appeal that adds to the card’s lore and value.
The One Ring will create a huge desire
This was a great way to break into the 1-of-1 game for WotC. There may be LOTR fans that get into Magic because this card exists, and that’s awesome for the future of Magic. Chasing the precious in the form of buying packs is not behavior I’d endorse. The One Ring will create a huge desire for consumers to crack packs until this card is found, then the pack sales, or at least the opening of the packs, will drop. Singles may end up on the cheaper side early and start to trend up later after this card is opened. As someone who’s been buying singles for Cube, I’ll be buying singles from this set early for that reason.
Getting into the 1-of-1 game is cool for WotC, but it does come with some concerns. This card specifically will probably get into the lower six figures but won’t reach seven. I think it can create two or more people who want the card and have the means to fight each other in some sort of bidding war. It’s possible it ends up unopened, creating inflated prices for the collector boosters later. There’s a lot of interesting outcomes for this 1-of-1 ring, and I’m sure players and WotC will have an eye on how it all plays out.
One thing is for sure…
One thing is for sure, the serialized number cards will continue to take hits as more are produced. This was true with sports cards and will be true with MTG as well. The more unique cards there are, then the less unique the cards themselves become. If everything is different, then they’re kind of all the same. I think long term this card will be valuable and may some day hit the seven-figure mark, but initially I can’t see it going for as much as a near-mint, graded Alpha Lotus. Those are incredibly rare and more iconic within the MTG community. It would take multiple people with lots of disposable income to get this card’s price much higher. If I had to put a price tag on it right now, I’d guess it ends up around $200,000 USD.
If I was in charge of WotC, I’d give it some time before producing another 1-of-1, but I suspect they’ll start pumping them out if they exceed sales expectations with this set.
The One Ring is a good thing for MTG
All in all, I think the 1-of-1 The One Ring is a good thing for MTG. The game is very collectible, and collectibility and crossover should only add to the size of the player base.
As for the Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle Earth set, from what we’ve seen this is more like a Commander set with cards legal in Modern than a Modern Horizons set. The power level is low, and we’ve seen a lot of the cards with the most iconic names from the franchise. I’m not expecting this set to do much to Modern, but I’m sure we’ll see a few spicy cards as they continue to come out.
Regardless, I’m excited to at least experience this set for Limited. I believe this set will be out by the third PT of the year, which leads me to believe there’s a shot we’ll be seeing Lords of the Ring Limited at the PT Level and perhaps a Modern Pro Tour. We’ll find out soon enough.