Top 10 Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle Earth Cards for Traditional Cube

 The Lord of the Rings set is upon us and its looking interesting for cube. The set is Modern legal, however it does not necessarily mean the cards are modern power level. Fortunately, the WotC designed made choices to further develop existing archetypes either by expanding into different colors, which is great for cube design. The set reminds me of a better Baldur's Gate, lots of interesting mechanics and design choices to try and capture the flavor of the wold they are recreating. The legends matter theme is the one I'm looking forward to the most. That archetype has been getting more support since Dominaria United and its been interesting as a commander mechanic, though its not quite there yet for cube.

I'm not the biggest Lord of the Rings fan, never read the books and I barely remember the movies. But I did have 3000+ hours on Lord of the Rings Online as a man captain, who got into the early part of Minas Morgul. The story of the game is based on the books with some liberties taken by the game writers for your character, so I can appreciate a little bit of the flavor that was present, however this is not a huge selling point for me.

Before I continue, if you enjoy my work you can follow me on my socials of your choice.

I have switched the format to a top 10 list. These are easier to read and more importantly, most cards in a set will not make it into a cube. How I rank the cards is based on both power level and innovation. When evaluating by power level, I'm scaling it off of unpowered vintage. By innovation, I am referring to cards that either smooth out the drafting process by overlapping into a bunch of decks or open up new archetypes in cube. The cards need to still be powerful or at least playable as they need to still be competitive versus other cards. Ultimately, your cube, your choices, address your needs. You may not even need to get anything from the set.

One last thing to note, the set mechanic, ring tempting, is difficult to evaluate. Many compare it to the initiative or the monarchy, but this is not the case for a variety of reasons. It is dependent on having a creature and being able to swing with that creature, this is a huge departure from the other two as they only asked that you were in possession of the respective mechanic. I see this mechanic heavily favoring smaller creatures.

  1. Orcish Bowmaster
  2. Anduril, Flame of the West
  3. Reprieve
  4. Flowering of the White Tree
  5. Minas Tirith
  6. Barad-Dur
  7. Stern Scolding
  8. Call of the Ring
  9. Eowyn, Fearless Knight
  10. Mount Doom

Mount Doom, a special land for the Rakdos colors, this is essentially a Sulfurous Springs with upside. It can function as a board wipe and a burn spell, though both are clunky, the option of them being there is important. Both make for okay mana sinks since Rakdos has always been a solid option as a midrange deck. In terms of gameplay, this means boardstalls and empty hands are commonplace, thus these abilities are something to do in these situations instead of wasting mana. The burn isn't much but it pushes the game forward.  The 1 damage applies slow pressure on your opponent that becomes increasing noticeable as their life total dwindles. The boardwipe is much more difficult to pull since you need a legendary artifact. Rakdos is a color that is capable of supporting artifacts comfortably. 

Eowyn, Fearless Knight, The boros curve topper that's been difficult to fill. Boros as a color combination has not had a lot of amazing cards in their colors. The main problem is that often, you never had a real reason to play the combination since the monocolors play a much better aggressive gameplan than when combined. Eowyn is a strong incentive as she is able to remove creatures from the board and give your legendary creatures evasion. This makes her amazing for alpha striking the opponent and shifting the board state significantly. Her exile ability also does not return the creature when she is removed. The condition of exiling a bigger creature isn't as large of a setback as it may seem. The biggest threat to Boros aggro is larger creatures; Eowyn solves this. Without much competition, this is a card I'm excited to run.

Call of the Ring, the fastest variant of constant black draw on par with Dark Confidant. It allows the Ring to keep tempting you progressing your ring temptation and with each tempting, you have the option to pay 2 life to draw a card. Ring tempting is hard to evaluate currently as we have not had a real chance to play with it, however the card draw is solid, the fastest available aside from Dark Confidant, and you can opt out when your life is low. As an enchantment, this is hard to get rid of and will generally have lasting impact once it is played. 

Stern Scolding, blue's attempt at Cut Down. For one mana, this was worth taking a look at. First glance this spell looks limited but when reexamining my own cube this hits about 130ish creatures. That's more than half the number of creatures! At one mana, this is what Blue needs to slow down aggressive decks. This doesn't relegate it to early game either, even in the later game, cards like Blade Splicer, Deranged Hermit and Kiki-Jiki start showing up. This is much more powerful than it looks and is a solid inclusion for more cube.

Barad-Dur, the black legendary land that supports everything black wants to do. Its ability allows you to create a scaling token that can continually grow as you dump more mana into it. Though there is a condition on the card, it creates lasting value that can change the swing of the game. It's important to be aware that the condition only cares if a creature died, this can be yours or your opponents. This is a pretty big deal as it changes the dynamic of certain actions and the flow of the game. You can use it in the aftermath of a boardwipe or as a follow upto your own removal spell or just as a excuse to swing into your opponent. The scaling nature of the ability makes it a solid mana sink when you need it. The mainsetback to the card is the legendary clause. Black can be one of the slower colors to play, so you can kinda getaway with playing it tapped, but if not there's generally a decent abundance of legendaries in black, not as much as white, but definitely more functional than blue.

Minas Tirith being a land is already worth a strong consideration since you can play more of your pool as well as make for an interesting topdeck. This takes the recent trend of allowing white to draw cards from attacking and shoves it in a land. Tokens play especially well with this card since they normally come as multiple bodies and removal feels worst against them. This means that this card will generate card advantage either with negative card advantage from your opponent as they try to stop you from activate this card or positive when you are successful. The legendary clause is somewhat of a concern, however white traditionally has the most legendary creatures of the 5 monocolors, easily fulfilling the needs of this card. As a big side note, Yoshimaru has been continuing to impress me with his performance. With him as the payoff for a legendary matters deck, this land easily fits in a improves the archetype further.

Flowering of the White Tree, possibly the best anthem to ever hit the singleton formats. With Glorious Anthem serving as the baseline for anthems, this is strictly better by a large margin. It cost less, has a conditional superior buff for legendary creatures, but also retains the basic +1/+1 buff for non legendaries. The only set back is that it is legendary, meaning you can't have multiple. Easy auto include for me.

Reprieve, White Remand. Having playable counterspells in a color other than blue is a big deal. There are times where just having a card resolve can be game ending. This is most noticeable when it comes to creature decks and boardwipes as it is almost impossible to come back from this. Thus as a counterspell, this can buy the extra time needed to continue your game plan. Having played with Mana Tithe already, counterspells in white are harder to play around since they are not expected. What makes this different from other counterspells is that this card does not actually counter the spell, but rather bounces it back into the players hand. This allows it to get around effects that can't be countered like Supreme Verdict. I believe this card warps white's toolset for the better and forever until they print a Mana Leak in white.

Anduril, Flame of the West is an awesome inclusion that seems playable in almost any deck. It reminds me of the sword megacycles because of the initial cost and equip cost, while providing a similar bonus to stats. It loses the protection, but it able to generate tokens just for swinging with the equipped creature, where as the swords only work when they connect. This can easily snowball the game in your favor as it can keep pumping out bodies, evasive bodies, to continue swinging. What's more, the card is easier for drafters to evaluate than the swords. The lack of varying protection is a downside, your drafters do not need to account for the protections. Lastly, there's the legendary clause that brings in the tokens attacking turning your creature into Hanweir Garrison. This is a solid signal post for legendary matters without being dependent on the legendary support. Overall, this sword is a competent challenger to the sword cycle as it shuts out games faster and encourages the player to continue their aggression.

Orcish Bowmasters, Raise the Alarm with Upside and a punishment ability. There's a lot going on for the card for just two mana. As a black raise the alarms, this is solid as black rarely has token generation abilities. What's more you are able to ping any target when the ability is triggered. This is going to be nutty as this can will almost always generate a massive tempo swing anytime it's played. This is further enhanced with the flash as unsuspecting opponents will often play into it. Lastly, the punish component is nothing to scoff at either. With the exception of the card they are supposed to draw normally at draw step, any other card drawn will trigger the ability. Brainstorm? Ping for 3, Amass 3. This helps the card play absurdly well with cards like Ertai, Resurrected and Arcane Denial and will punish cards like Wheel of Fortune. With a solid baseline and peak upside, this is looking to be one of the most powerful cards in the set.

The End Step

This set is shaping up to be a hard set to evaluate. I am confident that I missed a ton of the more playable cards, particularly the commander cards, with the way spoilers happened thanks to that Whatnot stream. The Ring Temptation Mechanic seems to heavily favor tempo/control decks, but we won't really know until we really get into playing with it. As a straight to modern set, the expectation for powerlevels was set by the Horizon sets and this set is not looking to match that. It does have features that help it standout beyond being LotR the MTG set and hopefully this set and its draft environment will age well.

Outside of blog writing, I've been also working on my YouTube channel running a general magic podcast with my friends and making YouTube shorts about cube. It's been an interesting endeavor and I plan on continue working on it, but I don't find it as enjoyable as writing these articles for a variety of reasons. If you want to take a look, just click this link here.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Please leave a comment or complaint below, I like the interaction. If you want to support me, please consider heading over to Patreon, ad money is kinda low, but it's currently the only way to maintain the upkeep for domain name. Thanks.