Top Cards from Lord of the Rings: Tale from Middle Earth for Commander Cube

 Continuing our trend of doing two set preview/reviews for traditional and commander cube respectively, we now take a look at the set for commander. There's a ton of legendary creatures and legendary matters support from this set and pushes the archetype beyond being just a gimmick. Though I'm hesitant to say make the declaration, it is looking to be that legendary matters is going to be a staple trait of commander cubes. Though it may seem obvious, it wasn't until recently that we started seeing a resurgent push for the archetype. Many of the individual cards are good on their own thanks to the density of legendary cards. Looking as the commander decks, these are just as packed with goodies. The return of the "partner with" mechanic and the amount of flavor and care that went into producing them. For commander cube, this set is really shaping up in allowing players to integrate Middle Earth into our Magic the Gathering Cubes. 

For these posts, I will be having 2 list: One for the cards I think are best for commander cube and one for the best commander options. Commanders are a fundamental aspect of this cube and what the foundation of all the decks drafted will be based on. The dedicated slots for the commander allow cubes to have more multicolored options like Ramos or Saskia, which are not normally viable in traditional cube. 

The cards that exist on the 1st list will primarily be comprised of cards that are solid on their own or develop underdeveloped playstyles/ archetypes.

On the commander only list, I place a bigger emphasis on how well they support various archetypes. Commanders that support multiple archetypes well will generally be ranked higher than commanders. Narrow commander do occasionally show up when they are the best option for a particular deck.

Their may be some overlap between the two list and is because the commander is amazing enough to warrant its own slot as part of the deck.

Last thing to consider for this section is the "partner with X" commanders from the Hobbits commander deck. Some of these cards may show up individually in the 1st section, however when it comes to overall they will be evaluated as a pair. This does mean that them taking up 2 slots will be factored in as well.

Top Cards for Commander cube

Windswift Slice might seem like an odd inclusion on this list, but I really like what it does and where it fits in my cube. The card is a creature removal spell that is also a token generator. This is a strong tempo swing in most scenarios if you are able to generate one token (maybe more since this is multiplayer). The tokens they generate are Elf tokens, which is what really cements it for me. Elf density that any deck can play. Being an instant makes this card significantly better as well as it keeps your choices open for a bit longer and allows you to shift your game plan as needed. Though this card might not be on some radars, the cross over between removal, tokens, and elf tribal does it for me. What is missing is the ability to kill planeswalkers, but maybe I'm asking for too much.

Hithlain Rope, another card for the multiplayer component of commander. It's been a blessing that WotC continues to sprinkle a group hug card every now and then. This card provides the table with both ramp and card draw at a solid cost. Effects like this will often smooth out the play experience for the table and accelerate the game's pace with everyone gaining more resources than normal. What helps this card standout is that the card's impact can only be initiated by its caster. This is different from cards like Mana Flare as they generally allow your opponent to use the effect before you do, which often leads to you never being able to enjoy the effect.  Lastly as an artifact, this fits into any deck and its inclusion will entire depenedent on whether or not you want this effect in your environment. I believe its one of the best group hug effects available.

Mythril Chainmail takes Darksteel Plate and turns it into a combat trick for legendary creatures with Flash. Much like Swiftfoot Boots and Lightning Greaves, this gives commanders additional resiliency against board wipes and destroy effects. As a colorless card, every deck can play it with commander centric decks benefiting more from this than straight value decks.

Dawn of a New Age is shaping up to be one of the best white cards from the set. White players have recent enjoyed a slew of new card draw spells, but I'm convinced this is one of the best ones in white (Skullclamp is easily the best one). The only set up needed is creating a board. I believe the baseline is 3 cards for it to be playable. This isn't difficult when played alongside tokens, which shouldn't be difficult in white with creatures like Adeline and Hero of Bladehold. The card draw is slow as its only one card per turn, but the card advantages will show itself if you manage to hold out. In addition, the Hope counters can be proliferated extending the card draw. As a permanent, it can be bounced/ flickered to refresh the effect. The 4 life is a nice extra that should give you a nice reserve. Last thing to note is that the card does sacrifice itself and is placed in a graveyard. With graveyard recursion like Sun Titan, you will can start bringing it back out later when the time is right.

Minas Tirith is white card draw on a land card. This was mostly spoken for in the traditional cube review, but just to rehash it. This being on allows it to be played in a larger variety of decks than had it been on a nonland card. Most players will run a ton of basics, which leaves plenty of room for cards like this to easily slot into existing decks. The condition to draw is not difficult to achieve since White comes equipped with a ton of ways to generate multiple creatures already. This will be invaluable as the game progresses because card advantage is one of White's weaknesses and its utility as a land makes it a strong addition to any cube. 

Forth Eorlingas! is an amazing value card for Boros that scales exponentially better the more mana you dump into it. Initially impressions reminded me of Eiganjo Uprising, which was a card I deemed as less playable due to creating tokens for your opponent and you. This card doesn't do that. Each point of mana you put in adds two more damage to your board; far better than any of the Fireball. The cherry on top  is that this card also gives you the monarchy to draw you a card and replace itself. It's been a while since we had a powerful Boros card make a breakthrough and I foresee thriving in this environment.

Spiteful Banditry has the potential to be the most annoying red card to come out this year. Highly reminiscent of Meat Hook Massacre, this card is both a payoff and a boardwipe tied to an enchantment. Boardwipes are always good and this plays on par with some of the older options. Its scaling factor is what makes it so great. Depending on your main concern, you can make it a 1 sided boardwipe or a psuedo Wrath of God, just based on how much mana you want to put into it. Even further, it can generate a treasure token when an opponent's creature dies. This is great in the multiplayer environment as the effect can trigger once per turn meaning more opponents, more triggers. Furthermore, it cares that the creature died, not who did it. Red decks of all spectrums will more than likely be thrilled to have this card in their decks, thanks to treasure generation stapled on to a boardwipe.

Orcish Bowmaster benefits from the multiplayer aspect of this format and potentially will just go insane. The reasoning behind this card is similar to why Lotho is exceptionally strong: It scales with whatever every player is doing. Its performance is expected to be even better as it punishes one of the foundations for strong deckbuilding in this format: card draw. If it plays as expected in this format, this card should be able to trigger multiple times in between turn cycles. For its low cost of two mana, this card is bringing a ton of power to black. What I really like about the card is that when it pops off, the card can actually kill off other players and move the game along. Other cards in similar circumstances, do come with a powerful impact, however it tends to manifest in that player having a ton of resources. Having 20 cards in hand and a ton of mana is impressive, but players aren't necessarily dead.

Lotho, Corrupt Shiriff is looking to be one of the best orzhov options to be coming to commander cube. Orzhov as a color combination has a ton of color dense, big mana cost spells, however the color combination is one of the worst when it comes to generating mana. Lotho does not entirely solve this problem, but might be the next best thing. He looks to be the child of both Smothering Tithes and Ledger Shredder. He rewards you and punishes your opponents by granting you treaure tokens. This scales up extremely well since it is checking for each player. This can easily lead you to having 3+ treasures in between turn cycles. You do lose life for each treasure generated and this can lead to hilarious situations where you can die. If this a large concern, remember that Orzhov is one of the premier colors for life gain and this will easily offset the life loss.

The One Ring is kinda like Teferi's Protection combined with Coercive Portal. As a colorless card, every single deck will be able to run this card. This is potentially the greatest colorless card draw engine in the game and something I downplayed in my preliminary review of this set for traditional cube. Within 2 activations, you are already drawing 3 cards, which is already an amazing amount for a mana investment of 4 mana. Any activation after is exponential gains. The amount of cards this will draw should outpace any downside from the life loss, which is negligible in commander. This life loss is even further undermined if you are playing cards that allow you to untap it to reactivate the card; this is because the life loss only happens at upkeep. Insane value that should be ran.

Top Commanders

Faramir, Prince of Ithilien is a card that falls in line with the political aspects of commander. Azorius as a color combo has gotten a bundance of these types of cards within the past couple years. Though this card doesn't scale as well as its contemporaries, it does give guaranteed value each time. This card forces the chosen player to make a decision that will divert he resources if he chooses to engage or not. What's more is that as long as the last step is triggered you are guaranteed this effect at least once.\

Aragorn the Uniter may or not be a slam dunk as a commander depending on your needs/ desire. When compared to the other two 4c (sans black) options available (Omnath, Locus of Creation and Kynaios and Tiro), this is by far the least gimmicky commander available for you. The only thing this card wants you to do is cast spells. Though it lacks immediate impact, the sets you up to start overtaking the game. Personally I prefer the option of Kynaios and Tiro as it bends into the underrepresented Grouphug playstyle, but Aragorn will be a solid option for people who are not as interested.

Farmer Cotton, a versatile commander that scales well into late game and is much more open than he may appear at first. He generates both food and soldier tokens, both of which already fit into the  GW value game plan. When taken a step further, the creation of the soldier tokens easily put it as an option for another GW tokens commander. The more interesting tokens are the food ones. These enable lifegain and artifact strategies. The lifegain archetype is well developed in GW, however artifacts on the other hand is an emerging archetype in these colors. The release of Rocco and Meria are signalling support for artifacts in green and I can only see Farmer Cotton apprecating in commander cube over time. What really cements this card for me is that it serves as the perfect crossroads between token and lifegain decks in GW.

Gandalf the White is looking to be the odd merger of Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines, Drivnod, Carnage Dominus, and Shimmer Myr, but for legendaries in addition to artifacts cards. The card itself has flash and grants those cards flash as well providing you with extra flexibility with your sequencing. The legendary sorceries/ instances that we first saw in the original Dominaria set get a huge benefit with the release of Gandalf as many of them can now be cast at instant speed. One of the things that prevented these cards from seeing more limited play is the need for a legendary creature/planeswalker, the flash on Gandalf makes these cards more accessible to play. One of the main issues this card has as a commander is the fact that he is monocolored, limiting the cards he has command over. Though he doesn't do anything unique, his uniqueness is that he brings all of these effects under one roof and creates an interesting deck.

Lotho, Corrupt Shirriff was already mentioned in the first list, but as commander might be the best one of the set for the exact same reasons. A guaranteed source of mana in the command zone is quite the card and is one of the reason Marwyn is on the stronger side of Elf Commanders. This will give the huge boost in speed that Orzhov needs.

The End Step

Took me a while to get through this one with work being busier than before. Overall, this set doesn't bring a whole lot of innovation for commander cube, but it does bring cards to smooth out the play experience. I'm always looking to lessen the amount of dead time to maintain my players engagement as long as possible. Many of the cards mention help smooth out the play experience and further remediate some of the deficiencies found in various archetypes, allowing the players to feel like they can still play. The new options that came in this set feel more like sidegrades rather than upgrades. This is great for those of usare looking to renovate our cubes and easily ignored for those who are content with the way their cubes are. (Also remember your cube, your choices, you don't need to upgrade with every set)

Outside of blog writing, I've been streaming more on Rumble of the various games I'm currently enjoying, less effort and it doesn't take away from the writing. Video editting and Youtube weren't things I was feeling successful in the amount of effort made it more less enjoyable, while Rumble has been more receptive of me. If you want to take a look, just click this link here. I typically stream from 8PM Pacific- Whenever I feel like sleeping.

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