Card: Orcish Bowmasters | Art: Maxim Kostin

Tales of Middle Earth and How It’s Affecting Legacy

Tales of Middle Earth and How It’s Affecting Legacy

“Legacy is in a place where you can play anything you want.”

-Andrea Mengucci, June 11, 2023

One of the competitors at the forefront of our format recently commented on the state of Legacy, and I could not agree more. The format is wide open right now. Even historically powerful decks are prone to misstep these days given a skilled pilot on the other side of the table with an unknown, but powerful strategy.

If you thought sideboarding was hard before, it’s nigh impossible to pick what you think may be your deck’s biggest weakness.

I want to cover two things this month. First, is Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle Earth, which was released on June 23rd and dumped a host of new cards into the format. Next, I want to talk about the Jordan Aisaka Memorial, a paper tournament that occurred last week in Bellevue, WA to celebrate the legacy of Aisaka, who passed away last year due to a brain aneurysm.

Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle Earth

What we’ve seen so far is a host of fresh meat on the menu! We haven’t seen an upending of the format on par with a major banning, but action is high with the number of new LOTR cards in the mix.

As is the case with all sets, I like to take a look at what might be playable in Legacy and this set is not short on great tools!

Jordan Aisaka Memorial Tournament

Jordan was an avid Magic player, helping to cultivate the Legacy scene in Seattle, and is widely known for appearing on Card Kingdom streams over the years. While I am a Seattle local, I cannot claim to have known Jordan. My return to Magic, unfortunately, occurred too late for me to have gotten to know him personally. What I can attest to is the fortitude of the Legacy community in Seattle. Playing even weekly Legacy at Mox Boarding House feels like a major tournament just based on the skill of the regulars in attendance!

The event was held to benefit the Brain Aneurysm Foundation and I think this is a good space to promote the fact that while we all love this game, it’s great to see it being used as a way to honor personal relationships and to raise money for important causes. At the end of the day, we’re all slinging cardboard but it’s the people we associate with in this effort that truly leave a lasting legacy on our lives. It’s great to see people remembering Jordan for that.

I will briefly cover the matches below.

So, without any further ado, let’s dive in!

Existing Legacy Archetype Winners and Losers from LotR

Before LOTR, Legacy was already in a good place with the banning of Expressive Iteration and White-Plume Adventurer in March. With LOTR though, the format has been shaken again! While there hasn’t been a particularly large number of cards to break into each format, those that have are making huge waves.

Decks like Death’s Shadow have jumped to the forefront and while I wouldn’t call it the strongest deck in Legacy right now, it sure does seem to be putting up consistent results every week in MTGO Challenges.

Formerly unknown decks in Legacy have made a name for themselves on a weekly basis too. Sultai Scam, a deck that aims to cast Grief on the first turn and reanimate it has seen notable success.

Reanimate, as a single card, has seen inclusion in a lot of decks lately. What sees service usually just in Reanimator decks has made its way into decks like Death’s Shadow, Scam, and other control brews.

The common theme I am seeing though is the new hotness, Black!

Orcish Bowmasters is the new kid on the block that everyone wants to be friends with; and for good reason! Expectations were high for Bowmasters prior to release and it has delivered since day one. Even decks like Maverick are splashing Black to take advantage.

Legacy Playable Cards from Tales of Middle Earth

Orcish Bowmasters

MH2 brought some major changes to Legacy when it was released. Since then, however, no card has turned the format on its head quite like Orcish Bowmasters. Blue mages in particular have to think twice at the thought of facing down what is arguably the best Legacy card in the set. Having your opponent respond to your Brainstorm with Bowmasters is not pleasant! 

As I mentioned above, nearly every deck at the top is splashing Black to take advantage of the Bowmasters.

The One Ring

What else can be said about The One Ring that you aren’t reading elsewhere? While it has a steep casting cost, the mid-range card advantage engine has clear uses in the format, especially where you can get it onto the battlefield early with fast mana.

Deck builders aren’t going out of their way to include The One Ring in every deck as they are with Bowmasters, but the card advantage provided has been included in decks such as Mystic Forge Combo.

There may be some apprehensiveness to auto-include this in every deck with Bowmasters as prevalent in the format. 

Troll of Khazad-Dum

Seeing play in what can best be described as a fetch land in decks like Death’s Shadow (and over in Modern as a GREAT Living End two-for…) is this unsuspecting common. With Swampcycling for 1 colorless, this is a great early-game fetch and reanimate target. While it is seeing play mostly in Death’s Shadow, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this show up in other brews as time goes on. This may also be a good time to point out the proliferation of the 1 colorless spells in LOTR. Other cars like Lorien Revealed are making their way into Cascade decks to help speed up the clock on decks like Temur Rhinos and (in Modern), Living End.

Forth Eorlingas!

Many people whiffed on this card during preview season, and it entered the wild at under $1. Since, it has been picked up by Boros Initiative mages, along with some other Jeskai brewers, and pushed the value up over $15 for a single copy!

Providing an easy way to squeeze through some early or mid-game damage fits well with the Initiative plan and Forth Eorlingas has given those still clinging to the mechanic another tool to keep steamrolling mages who aren’t prepared. Oh yeah, it also provides card advantage via the Monarch mechanic as well.

Pretty nice package WOTC came up with in this card!

Delighted Halfling

Here at Bolt the Bird, our namesake is the classic mana dork! When Delighted Halfling came along, it made me question whether we should change the name of the website… Bolt the Halfling does have ring to it. I digress!

As if Uro wasn’t already strong enough in Legacy, Delighted Halfling has added the ability to make it uncounterable and people are taking advantage. 4c Uro shells have been making a name for themselves over the past couple of weeks not just on MTGO, but also in paper formats.

The Halfling is also being used to resolve The One Ring, Teferi, and Minsc & Boo with regularity, posing quite a problem for opponents who don’t have a plan for dealing with the Halfling.

Jordan Aisaka Memorial Tournament

In addition to what I wrote above, the tournament itself brought out folks from across the country. A strong contingent of Portland folks traveled in and at least one person from the east coast was in attendance, a testament to the Legacy that Jordan left.

But what about the tournament itself? With 72 slots available, the event sold out which was great to see as it was a fundraiser. MTGTop8 has the results of the top of the ladder and you can check them out for individual card selections for the top decks.

The event was run at the equivalent of Comp REL however, due to it being an unsanctioned event, the organizers allowed decks to be comprised of up to 50% proxies. The prizes for the event were nothing to sneeze at either! Store credit was offered with additional prizes for the top four slots.

  • 1st: $360, and 3 30th Anniversary Boosters2nd: $240, and 2 30th Anniversary Boosters
  • 3rd/4th: $120, and 1 30th Anniversary Booster
  • 5th-8th: $60
  • 9th-12th: $40
  • 13th-16th: $20

The results of the event are as follows:

  1. Lands – Alex Staver
  2. 4c Control – Chase Hansen
  3. Aisakastill – Josh Monks
  4. Mono U Thoracle – Matt Anderson
  5. Moon Stompy – Joseph Frantz
  6. Moon Stompy – Michael Thomas
  7. Sneak & Show – Floyd Combs
  8. UWR Storyteller – Kelvin Wallace

A good friend of mine who attended the event stated, “There were a number of dangerous gamers in the room!”

While I am unable to perform a deep dive on the entirety of the decks in the event, the Top 8 shows that LOTR cards made only a small impact with Chase Hansen deploying a playset of Bowmasters in the runner-up deck.

This brings up an interesting distinction between paper Magic and MTGO decks. Paper decks often lag in their uptake of new tech and this tournament was no different.

Final Thoughts

The last couple of times I have written this column, I have brought the good news of Legacy format’s health. LOTR has only served to keep things exciting with a number of great offerings! While there are already people sounding the “BAN BOWMASTERS!” alarm, I think it may be premature.

There are still many winning strategies on any given day.

When EI and WPA were banned, I welcomed the return of more fair strategies to Legacy. Does Bowmasters continue that? Does the threat of taking 15 damage from drawing your library with a combo deck bring some more creature-based play back to Legacy tables? I sure hope so, because it does feel good to beat down an opponent to 0 life rather than combo-ing their deck into the graveyard.

As we wrap up, I want wanted to pay service to a couple of big paper MtG tournaments coming up. The Buffalo Chicken Dip Open 2 is being held July 29th, at the Brewdog Brewery in Winchester, OH. Registration for the event is closed and 99 people are pre-registered for the event showing the strength of Paper Legacy! MXP Tacoma which is being put on by Laughing Dragon, will be held August 11th – 13th in Tacoma, WA, and will include a host of events from $20k Modern RCQ events, Command Zone, and most relevant to this column, a $5k Legacy event!

As a small plug, Laughing Dragon is a store headquartered in Issaquah, WA, and has recently done a good job of standing up these large MtG events not only in the Pacific Northwest but other places. It’s good to see big Magic events still being organized!

I am eager to see how both events shape up and will report on the results when they are available.

That is all we have time for this week. Thanks for reading!

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