Card: Frodo, Sauron's Bane | Art: Dmitry Burmak

Commanders We Can’t Wait to Play: Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-Earth

Commanders We Can’t Wait to Play: Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-Earth

Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth (LTR) is the latest cross-over expansion for Magic the Gathering. The set brings with it cards legal in Modern, Legacy, and the topic of today’s discussion: Commander. Is this set fantasy fluff or a monstrous Modern Horizons 3 in disguise? I am leaning toward the former.

LTR is full of wonderful designs. The flavor is on point (as a casual Lord of the Rings enjoyer). The power level feels mixed. This set feels like a Commander set. We see over half the creatures in the set are legendary. With that, let’s focus on the legendary creatures in this set. What new decks are possible? What new design space has been explored? And what cards bolster existing decks?

New Commanders New Decks

Frodo, Sauron’s Bane

Frodo excites me as a commander. I love commanders with alternative win conditions or give you a side quest. Frodo’s first ability turns him into a 2/3 with lifelink. His second ability is where the real meat is! Frodo can kill a player when he deals damage if the Ring has temped you four or more times this game. Otherwise, the Ring tempts you.

The Ring is a new mechanic in LTR. As the Ring tempts you, you get an emblem named The Ring if you don’t already have one. Then your emblem gains the next ability shown on the emblem. You also choose a creature to become your Ring-bearer. This mechanic functions similarly to the dungeon mechanic seen in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. Every time the Ring tempts you, your Ring-bearer continues gaining abilities. Unlike dungeons, once you reach the last step of “The Ring” you keep the Ring. If you ever get tempted by the Ring again you can change your Ring-bearer if you want.

The Ring’s abilities are somewhat relevant to Frodo. The pseudo-unblockable ability is a natural fit. The other three abilities are all nice to have. But, they don’t excite me all that much.

I like that Frodo and the Ring tempting you are self-contained. You do not need to jam lots of tempt cards into your deck to make Frodo work. If you do want some extra Ring support, I like Call of the Ring. It triggers every turn which can help you get to the final part of the ring faster. It also lets you trade life for card draw.

This again works well with Frodo’s lifelink. I also think Boromir, Warden of the Tower is a good include. His abilities are already solid. They shut down free spells, cascade, etc while also protecting Frodo. One Ring to Rule Them All might deserve a spot in the deck too. The Ring tempts you and then next turn you get a board wipe to clear the way for Frodo. Besides these, the other tempt cards in black/white are fine. When looking at these cards ask the question “Is it good enough without the Ring tempts you.”

With all the attacking Frodo lends himself to a Voltron strategy. While using his third ability is nice. There is no shame in strapping Frodo with your favorite Sword of X and Y and going to town! There are plenty of existing equipment decks out there. Take your pick and let Frodo swing in for big damage!

Bilbo, Birthday Celebrant

Bilbo does two things in one compact design. He unifies all white, green, and black life-gain commanders under one Abzan umbrella. Life-gain strategies in Commander feel somewhat muddled between various two-color identities. Secondly, Bilbo gives life-gain a real win condition! Many life-gain strategies are grindy or don’t have a true way of ending the game. Bilbo provides a real use for padding your life total!

Getting to 111 life is a tough feat. All the classic life-gain effects will come into use here. Soul’s Attendant for incidental life gain will help. Kambal, Consul of Allocation gives you a life lead while pressuring your opponent. If combat is more your style, Celestial Mantle is a great option. If you can get in with a double-strike creature this is a one-shot way to take you straight from 40 to 160! On the other hand, Soul Warden effects can provide incremental life gain.

The most compact win condition using Bilbo’s ability is to combo. A classic Protein Hulk-style combo can be an easy win. Or, you could vomit your entire deck onto the table with a haste enabler such as End-Raze Forerunners. Regardless of your win condition, I recommend including a way of protecting your board. Archetype of Endurance can also fit this role on a budget. Now you can finish out your win with impunity!

New Enablers

Now let’s look at legends that enhance existing decks. These cards might not be the best at leading the deck. They deserve a spot in the main deck.

Rosie Cotton of South Lane

Rosie Cotton of South Lane is the first of such legends. Rosie can put a counter on a creature whenever you create a token. This effect may seem mundane at first. Sure counters and tokens how cute.

On closer inspection, this resembles Ivy Lane Denizen! Rosie is in fact an alternative to Ivy Lane Denizen as a combo piece. An iconic combo is Ivy Lane and Scurry Oak. Rosie Cotton can perform this combo too for one less mana. This combo fits nicely in a deck like Marath Will of the Wild. Any deck that cares about tokens will be happy to have her.

LTR has also brought with it plenty of Food support! Before LTR, the premier food commanders were Gyome, Master Chef, or Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar. More recently we also got Rocco Street Chef.

LTR has firmly decided food belongs to White/Green. Samwise Gamgee produces food whenever a creature enters. Galadriel, Gift-Giver can grant food whenever she attacks. Finally, Peregrin Took gives you a food whenever you create any other token. The key piece here is LTR gives us regular repeatable access to food.

For anyone with a Gyome Master Chef deck, you may want to consider adding white to your deck. In the Lord of the Rings Commander decks, we have Frodo, Adventurous Hobbit, and Sam, Loyal Attendant. This partner pair cares about food and life gain. This leads to incremental value thanks to Frodo drawing a card and tempting you with the Ring!

If you decide on Abzan food consider playing Samwise Gamgee, Cauldron Familiar, and a sacrifice outlet such as Viscera Seer. With Samwise in play cast cat. Make a food token. Sacrifice the cat to Viscera Seer. Sacrifice the Food to the cat. Samwise makes another food. Rinse and repeat for infinite damage!

Legendary Tribal

As we have seen this set has plenty of legendary cards. We have several cards that help us get even more value from our legends. Gandalf the White gives our legendary spells and artifacts flash. Additionally, he doubles the enter and leaves the battlefield triggers of our legends. I love Loran of the Third Path destroying two permanents at instant speed! Any deck that can leverage Panharmonicon is going to love Gandalf!

Taking a more aggressive slant, we have Éowyn, Fearless Knight. This Boros legend exiles a creature when it enters. They also give legendary creatures you control protection from that creature’s colors until the end of turn. Éowyn does everything an aggressive deck wants.

It comes down swinging and clears the way for your other creatures. Merry, Esquire of Rohan continues the legendary tribal shenanigans. Whenever Merry attacks with another legendary creature draw a card. Both cards fit well into Dihada, Binder of Wills for an aggressive Mardu strategy!

Interesting Designs

Ward has been an interesting mechanic since its inception in Strixhaven. Most ward costs are paid with mana or life. Easy enough to circumvent in most decks. Sauron, the Dark Lord, and Saruman of Many Colors take ward to a new level. They have ward “Sacrifice a legendary artifact or legendary creature” and “Discard an enchantment, instant, or sorcery card”. These are both narrow ward costs. This makes them more akin to hexproof. Sacrificing your Commander so you can destroy Sauron is a tall order. I hope they explore this space, even more, going forward!

Outside the unique take on ward, both of these commanders seem generically powerful. Sauron can be pulled in several directions. It can draw cards, go for a Voltron win, or amass a massive Orc army. Saruman can cast opponents’ spells for free assuming you can cast two spells per turn. The only real point of note here is it triggers every turn, not just your own. This deck will likely play a little differently every game. Your playstyle will need to adapt based on your opponent’s spells.


That rounds out our look at some of the new commanders from LTR! While the set is not shaping up to be a Modern powerhouse we certainly got some great treats for Commander. What do you think of the set? Let us know what cards you will be trying out in your latest brews! We have plenty of deck ideas floating around. Feel free to share yours too!

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