There’s no better way to break up packs than by running cards right away in draft form. The Lord of the Rings: The Tales of Middle Earth, set for Magic: The Gathering maybe a crossover product, but that doesn’t mean it’s immune to that Magic quality.
Despite coming from a different setting, many of the limited archetypes found in Middle-earth have already been seen in previous deck releases. However, there are also a number of new and completely unique archetypes that play with the mechanics, including food tokens, observation, and hoarding. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the forces of Middle-earth you’ll have in hand based on the color pair you come up with.
Azorius (blue/white): Go-Wide Control
This color pair is built around creatures that provide bonuses for drawing additional cards. Some of these bonuses include +1/+1 counters, tokens, and more. The more defensive nature of this color pair lends itself to a control strategy where you’re looking to stick the board with a bunch of creatures, then outnumber your opponent with draw spells and creature triggers.
Eventually, you’ll find an anthem effect that will turn your defensive board into one capable of alpha hitting your opponent for a huge chunk of damage. But you can use equipment to gain additional value from your tokens and force unfavorable trades. Cards to look out for include Faramir the Commander, Sting of the Hobbit, Knights of Dol Amroth, and Signposts, Prince Imrahil the Handsome and Gwaihir the Wind Lord.
Dimir (blue/black): mill control
One of the most fun decks to play and the most exciting strategies to defeat, mill is especially awesome in limited formats where all decks are only 40 cards. The strategy of Dimir in the Middle World is based on countering the opponent’s key spells while simultaneously shredding their library with cards like Surrounded by Orcs and The Mouth of Sauron.
There’s no shortage of gas-conserving black spells in this set, and they’re nicely complemented by the removal set found in black. Treason of Isengard works very well alongside Surrounded by Orcs to give you a recursive win condition that also allows for some nice big blockers. Other cards useful for this archetype are mouth of sauron signpost draftBewitching Leechcraft and cards that can hold back time like Hithlain Knots and Isolation at Orthanc.
Rakdos (Red/Black): Amass Aggro
This is a color pair of Middle Earth Orc forces and the Rakdos mechanic here represents the Orcs found in Middle Earth stories quite well thanks to amas. A military token made of mass enchantments will lead to a storm of small armies or a single giant army This is exactly how the Orc tactics are depicted in the books. In addition to signposts Mauhur, Captain of the Uruk-hai and Angle of the White Handyou’ll want to keep your eyes open for Goblin Fireleaper, Olog-hai Crusher, and Mordor Trebuchet.
This aggressive deck goes all-in on turning his creatures aside and reducing the opponent’s life total before they have a real chance to defend themselves. As mentioned above, you will want to be extra careful when casting your accumulated spells as putting it on the board too early can make it a super juicy target for opposing removal. However, this strategy in particular doesn’t have all the time in the world to wait, so choose your moment wisely.
Gruul (Red/Green): Wild Aggro
Wild is a term from Khans of Tarkir that refers to cards with a special trigger that only activates when you control a creature with power four or more. Meanwhile the wild mark is missing here, the mechanics are exactly the same. Large creatures are in short supply in this set, but the ones that are around can be found in this color pair. Some of the best cards for this hand are Ent’s Fury, Warbeast of Gorgoroth, Quickbeam, Upstart Ent, Dunedain Rangers, and Strider, Ranger of the North.
Unfortunately, Gruul always seems to struggle in the draft due to his lack of stamina against decks with access to card advantage, unconditional removal, chump blockers, and evasive creatures. Green’s reliance primarily on combat spells as their source of removal leads to a sort of “win more” strategy that is usually better avoided.
You can easily get blown away by an instant speed spell if you cast a wild card with only one power 4 or higher creature on your board while your opponent has mana open.
Sim (Blue/Green): Elf Scrying Midrange
Here is one of the brand new archetypes mentioned at the beginning of this article. Simic is home to the famous elves of Middle-earth, who are quite appropriately interested in seeing the future through observational mechanic. Each time you poke around with certain Elves on the battlefield, you’ll be rewarded with various perks, including +1/+1 counters, temporary power boosts, and other triggers. In addition to signposts Legolas, the kill counter and Arwen Undomielwatch out for Celeborn the Wise, a chance encounter of elves, and Elrond, Lord of Rivendell.
Instant quick spotting can be especially good, as an opponent’s activation of elven spotting triggers can catch them off guard and turn your spotting spells into pseudo combat tricks.
As always, the Simic is also home to some of the biggest creatures in the format, even if they don’t come to gigantic size right away. Instead, you will have to constantly trigger your elves by watching to grow your board to the large size typical of creatures in that color pair.
Orzhov (Black/White): Mid-range chips
The Orzhov suit thrives by spitting out tons of tokens from various sources and using them to sacrificing fodder or as an aggressive force that slowly depletes the opponent’s life total while using removal to clean up their larger creatures. White and Black always have the best unconditional removal in a given format, and you’ll need everything you can get to keep your opponent from pinning the ring on you.
Be careful not to overplay your accumulated cards, as it is usually much easier for your opponent to deal with one large creature token compared to a continuous stream of smaller ones.
Overall, this seems to be one of the less synergistic suit pairs as it’s hard to figure out exactly what role your chips are playing. Nevertheless, if you manage to collect enough takeaways, you’ll be fine. Signpost Denethor, ruling steward is the absolute house in this deck and Shadow Summoning it also provides excellent uptake. Try to get a grip Bitter Downfall, Gollum, Patient Plotter, and Shire Shirriff also.
Izzet (Red/Blue): Spells are medium important
Izzet is almost always spells important color pair where you will be awarded for delivering tons of moments and magic. There are a lot of bounce spells in this deck and they are best used in this color pair as they can provide extra incremental value. Two the key cards you need for this archetype are Fiery Inscription and Gandalf’s Sanction.
Both spells give you a chance to win moments and magic that might otherwise simply fade into nothing productive. You also have some nice, evasive card creatures like Nimrodel Watcher and flyers in blue that can carry your damage an extra distance. In addition to all the important spells listed above, you’ll want to supplement them with cards like Ranger’s Firebrand, Smite the Deathless, Erebor Flamesmith, The Bath Song, and Lorien Revealed.
Golgari (Green/Black): Sacrifice/Reanimation Midrange
No Limited format would be complete without a proper Sacrifice archetype, and Golgari is here again fulfill the masochistic dream of players who prefer to kill their own creatures. It’s also the color pair that cares the most about returning cards from your graveyard to your hand, matching the sacrifice effect perfectly. Some great cards for this archetype are signposts Oid Man Willow and Rise of the Sorcerer King, as good as Voracious Fell Beast, Nasty End, Revive the Shire, and Guardians of mushrooms.
Amass in particular pairs incredibly well with sacrifice spells, as the small tokens made from amass spells are perfect fodder.
Although not as distinctive as the card advantage in blue, there is no shortage of card draw in black as long as you have creatures to cast. There’s also some great removal to be found in sacrifice triggers from cards like Old Man Willow, especially given that creature size is generally smaller in this format.
Boros (Red/White): Aggro People
Boros is common the most aggressive color pair in limited formats and Middle World is no different. The game plan here is to strike fast and hard with people giving each other aggressive advantages such as double strike, higher power and more. Great combo cards Erkenbrand, Lord of Westfall and Theoden, King of Rohan to include Rally at Hornburg, protector of Gondor, and Now for anger, now for ruin!
The good thing about the Boros color pair is that you also have access to superior format removal with efficient burns in red, as well as enchantments and exile effects for larger creatures in white. You will need a critical mass of human beings in order to take full advantage of all the advantages that this color pair has to offer, so be careful when drafting this color pair if others in the group are interested in it.
The lure ring is especially good for more aggressive strategies, as it rewards you for attacking consistently. This makes aggressive strategies more popular than conventional ones.
Selesnya (Green/White): Food Token Aggro
This is a fitting color match for the Shire people due to their modest stature and fondness for food. While food tokens are usually useful in more control strategies as they provide a source of life benefit, Halflings from Middle-earth gain bonuses to Strength and Toughness if they have food available on your side of the battlefield. Some of the best commons and uncommons you can find in this pair consist of Frodo Baggins, Meriadoc Brandybuck, Eastfarthing Farmer, Bill the Pony, and Butterbur, Bree Innkeeper.
As a result, the value of the food tokens is flipped upside down and the Selesnya color pair actually makes for a more aggressive deck. A lot of draft games can come down to a match to the finish of who can deal 20 damage first, so the extra life buffer afforded by food tokens is a great advantage in the late game when you start to run out of gas.
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