Magic: the Gathering Arena is a widely popular online collectible card game and is now taking the game even further by releasing a full set revolving around the fantasy juggernaut that is JRR Tolkien's Middle Earth. Wizards of the Coast (WOTC) releases MTG cards in "sets" and this is the first time there will be a full set that is revolving around a non-WOTC intellectual property. This set is part of the MTG branch that WOTC refers to as Universes Beyond and it gives it the distinction of being noncanonical to the MTG lore. The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle Earth is an alchemy set which means it is not legal in the standard format unlike most full MTG sets but is legal in a bunch of other formats including alchemy, historic, and historic brawl, just to name a few. The set is now available on Magic: the Gathering Arena which is available on Steam as well as having a standalone client. This article go over the most important mechanics of this The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle Earth and break them down for ease of use during games.
LOTR: Tales for Middle Earth introduces a brand new mechanic to the game as well reviving an old mechanic in a different shell. There are also returning mechanics that are important highlights of the set. Here is a list of the important set mechanics and what they do:
The Ring: The brand new mechanic that this set introduced can be seen in cards that read "the Ring tempts you" in their rules texts. Whenever the Ring tempts a player if they don't control an emblem called the ring then they create one and choose a "ringbearer" if they control a creature (emblems are trackers that represent an effect that stays for the entire game). Every time following the first time a player is tempted will tick up the ring to the next ability until they have all 4 abilities (triggers beyond this will only affect the choosing of a ring-bearer). Whenever the ring tempts a player they must choose to keep the ring-bearer they have or choose a new one (one ring-bearer per player) if they control a creature (a player can still be tempted even if they don't control a creature and will choose a ring-bearer the next time they are tempted). There is a lot to this mechanic but I can say from this mechanic that it plays quite well and adds an interesting element to the game as well as boosting other archetypes like card draw and legendary matters.
Amass Orcs: "Amass" is the returning mechanic to the set but this time instead of zombies amass creates hordes of orcs a la the hosts of the dark lord, Sauron. Amass works by creating a 0/0 army if you don't control one and then if you already control an army you add counters to it depending on the Amass amount. To the right you can see an example of an Amass effect in "Swarming of Moria". When this card is played you will create 0/0 Orc Army if you don't control one and put two +1/+1 counters on it or put two +1/+1 counters on an Army you already control (if its a Zombie Army from the old Amass effect then it becomes an Orc as well). This mechanic works well with the flavor of Mordor and the Tolkien world as a whole as well as lending itself to the archetypes of token creation and sacrifice.
Food: "Food" tokens have been in the game for awhile but never really were built around to their full potential. This set introduces a lot of cards that create and use foods to a much higher potential than previously. Food tokens are a type of artifact token that can be paid for an sacrificed to gain the player 3 life. While it can be useful to gain life, the real use of foods in this set comes down to cards that can activate abilities using food and tokens in general. Above are two examples of cards that create and use foods to grow the player's strength as well as help them: Rosie creates a food and then benefits the team every time a food enters the battlefield while Samwise creates foods repeatedly and then can use foods to rebuild and recover.
Legendary Matters: The last mechanic I will be covering in this blog is centered around the vast amount of legendary cards in this set and the benefits from having legendary permanents. LOTR: Tales of Middle Earth contains a whopping 109 legendary cards and with all those come a lot of effects that depend on that type. Above are two different examples of cards that have added effects pertaining to legendary creatures. Mithril coat allows for the player to skip the equip cost when equipping it to legendary creature which in turn allows for it to be put on to a legendary at anytime a player could cast an instant from hand due to flash. Merry, on the other hand, is a legendary creature itself but provides value to the player when attacking with another legendary creature in the form of card draw. There are a lot of instances of legendary matters in this set and it is important to note that this meshes perfectly with the Ring as the first effect of the Ring is that it can make any creature that is the ring-bearer legendary. This set brings a lot of legendary heat and the importance of legendary cards lends itself perfectly to the massive and intriguing cast of character's in Tolkien's books.
Other mechanics also present themselves in Lord of the Rings: Tales for Middle Earth but these four seem to be the most prominent. These mechanics have a large impact on the shape of the set and bring great flavor and gameplay potential.
How to get The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle Earth on MTG Arena:
Magic: the Gathering Arena is a videogame adaptation of the popular trading card game Magic: the Gathering. There are multiple ways to get new cards in MTG Arena. Packs, Events, and the Mastery Pass are the main ways that players can get cards for the LOTR set. Packs and events, which can be purchased with shop currency (bought with money) or with earned currency from playing games, are way to open cards from the set. The Mastery Pass is available to purchase with shop currency and provides packs, cards and more from playing. There are a lot of ways to get the new cards and luckily you can get a good amount from playing the game.
For those looking to get into paper MTG with this set, the starter kit is a great place to start with two complete decks that are ready-to-play. If you have any comments or questions about any of these mechanics, or any other aspect of the new set, leave a comment below. Good luck with your MTG games!
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