The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth Set Review - cEDH

Jake FitzSimons • June 13, 2023

(Orcish Bowmasters | Tyler Jacobson)

White | Blue | Black | Red | Green | Artifacts & Lands | Allied Colors and Shards | Enemy Colors and Wedges | cEDH | Reprints

Greetings, Ring-bearers and Ringwraiths, The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth has finally arrived over two years after it was first announced, and while all that glitters is not gold, the set has plenty of shiny new cards you can expect to see at your local cEDH tables. We've got a white Remand, the best black creature since Opposition Agent, a powerful Orzhov legendary that isn't Tymna and Mordor's most famous volcano. Let's get into it!


Boromir, Warden of the Tower

Ah, Boromir, still sacrificing yourself so others might live. And still stopping opponents from casting spells that no mana was spent on... actually, I'm not sure that ability has any lore basis, but what matters is both effects have their place in cEDH.

Self sacrifice for board wide indestructibility isn't quite as useful in cEDH as it would be in traditional EDH on account of the fact that most competitive removal exiles or bypasses indestructible (Toxic Deluge, Deadly Rollick, Swords to Plowshares), but that's not to say it won't come up. Fire Covenant still rears its head from time to time, and a board with a Boromir is much safer from Culling Ritual.

Countering manaless spells is a little harder to evaluate. Void Mirror, for all the hullabaloo made when it was spoiled, has never made any impact in cEDH, but Boromir is a step above thanks to being asymmetrical and attached to a creature. This is akin to Lavinia, Azorius Renegade, a card I've always been a little skeptical of. Countering free spells is fantastic when those free spells were going to be used against you, but when one opponent goes for a win and another opponent has a counter they can't use thanks to this effect, you're accidentally handing out free protection. What makes Boromir different is the ability to sacrifice him on demand, completely bypassing this occasional issue.

And lastly, the Ring will tempt you when Boromir dies. It's not likely a cEDH deck will have more than a single way to be tempted by the ring, so in practice this will play as "make a creature legendary and give it pseudo-unblockable". A nice addition, but not an exciting or relevant one.


Now, Remand has barely seen a skerrick of play in the history of cEDH, but that's largely because blue is the color of counters. White is not. Reprieve will see play for much the same reason that Tibalt's Trickery sees play: it's the best of a bad batch. And while we're comparing it to Remand, it's worth realising that it's actually better than its blue counterpart on account of the fact it doesn't actually counter the spell, it just returns it to hand. This nullifies any "can't be countered" clause that you may run into, like Allosaurus Shepherd, Destiny Spinner, or Cavern of Souls. There's not much more to say about Reprieve; it's a simple but powerful effect for a color that doesn't have anything better.

Rosie Cotton of South Lane

Rosie Cotton is combo fodder and not much more. Pair her with Scurry Oak and you've got yourself infinite 1/1 green Squirrels and an infinitely large Scurry Oak, but what you won't have is a win on the same turn. Without haste, this combo isn't any better than the dozens of two-card combos that already exist, and while you can play Rosie Cotton of South Lane in the command zone, that will preclude Scurry Oak from the 99.

If you're so inclined to play Rosie Cotton of South Lane as a commander, you can cobble together a winning combo with Crystalline Crawler and Animation Module for infinite Servo tokens, but you'd be left with a significantly slower and harder-to-execute version of Heliod, Sun-Crowned and Walking Ballista. Unless your name is Samwise Gamgee, you can do a lot better than Rosie Cotton of South Lane.


Borne Upon a Wind

The ability to win at instant speed has long been coveted in cEDH, something few decks have been capable of since Flash was banned two years ago. The popularity of Emergence Zone is proof enough of this, and Borne Upon a Wind stands ready to fill much the same role, albeit at a slightly greater deckbuilding cost. The best place for Borne Upon a Wind will be in Zur the Enchanter, a deck already centered around the ability to play cards at instant speed via Shimmer Myr and the recently printed Liberator, Urza's Battlethopter after sinking nearly everything into Necropotence.

Borne Upon a Wind is not just cheaper, it allows spells of any kind to be cast with flash, adding a tremendous amount of flexibility and increasing the likelihood of victory post Necropotence. And that's just in Zur. Borne Upon a Wind is powerful in any deck with Necropotence, great news for fans of the best black enchantment ever printed. It even cantrips, so it's never truly dead. It also has awesome flavor text.

Stern Scolding

I'm usually the first to dump all over new counterspells and point out why they aren't as good as they look (Mental Misstep, Change the Equation and Defabricate are some recent swings and misses), but Stern Scolding has given me pause for thought. I want to dismiss it out of hand because there isn't a single "creature only" counter that sees play in cEDH, but there also isn't a single "creature only" counter at just one mana. This is new territory.

Only hitting creatures is of course narrow, as it means you can't use it to protect your own wins like most other counters can, and against some decks it will go wanting for targets, but the sheer number of creatures it can hit is quite broad. Excluding big commanders, like Kenrith, the Returned King, Tivit, Seller of Secrets, and Winota, Joiner of Forces, you can give almost every commonly played creature in the 99 a Stern Scolding. The only major misses are Ranger-Captain of Eos, Endurance, Birgi, God of Storytelling, and Gilded Drake.

There's an argument to be made that you can just run Rapid Hybridization or Pongify if you want to put a stop to any creature for a single blue mana, but removal won't mitigate game-warping enter-the-battlefield effects. You can remove Thassa's Oracle or Dockside Extortionist if you like, but you're shutting the gate after Shadowfax has bolted. Stern Scolding is also the neatest solution to Grand Abolisher we've ever seen.


Call of the Ring

Call of the Ring is awfully close to a two-mana Phyrexian Arena. Granted, Phyrexian Arena is a shockingly bad card in cEDH, but Dark Confidant still sees play here and there, so two mana for an extra draw per turn could be a lot worse. Once you're on the second tier of the Ring, you'll be rewarded with a fresh card every turn and a loot effect whenever you swing with your power-dependent unblockable effect, and it can only improve from there. Unless you're in the market for a body, I can see Call of the Ring replacing Dark Confidant.

Orcish Bowmasters

This is the big one, the best card of the set and possibly the best card of the year. As a diehard Yuriko fan, Fourth Bridge Prowler has taught me the surprising power of taking out one-toughness creatures on demand, and that's just the beginning of what Orcish Bowmasters. The bare bones of Orcish Bowmasters is one damage at whatever target you like, a 1/1 Orc Archer, and a 1/1 Orc Army. The moment your opponents start drawing additional cards, you're off to the races.

Every single card draw beyond the first an opponent draws on their own turn is another instance of one damage and a +1/+1 counter on the Orc army. An opponent with a Rhystic Study or Mystic Remora will reward you with an Orc-shaped machine gun and an army that even Mordor would respect. The same is true of Esper Sentinel, that is if you even let an Esper Sentinel survive Orcish Bowmasters' initial enter-the-battlefield trigger. It gets truly ridiculous when you combine it with any Wheel of Fortune-style of card.

Cast a wheel with Orcish Bowmasters in play and you'll be rewarded with a whopping 21 damage at any target or targets of your choosing and 21 +1/+1 counters for that Orc army you made on the first Amass trigger. This will usually be enough to kill a player by itself, but just as powerful if not more, this outcome functions as an asymmetrical boardwipe. It won't take much to win from there. The fact the Orcs have flash also means your opponents will be reluctant to cast a Wheel into open black mana, lest they completely ruin themselves. It's also very close to instant speed win if you can flash one into play as a response to a Peer into the Abyss.

We talked a lot about the likelihood of opponents drawing additional cards when Faerie Mastermind was printed in March of the Machine, but the major highlight is how it interacts with Tymna the Weaver decks. These Orcs aren't just good against Tymna, they're good in Tymna decks because they can clear the way for Tymna attackers and represent two bodies (one of which will be enormous) on the same two mana card.

Rather than looking at the black decks that want Orcish Bowmasters, it's easier to think of black decks that don't want it, and I struggle to think of many. In fact, given one Orcish Bowmasters is the perfect tool for killing an opposing Orcish Bowmasters, decks that might not be crazy about playing it may end up finding room just to keep other Orcish Bowmasters in check. Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself here, but after a few months of these cursed Orcs I think we're all going to start feeling like butter that has been scraped over too much bread.


Cavern-Hoard Dragon

The term "mini-Dockside" has been thrown around a lot in regards to Cavern-Hoard Dragon, and while I appreciate the comparison, I think it misses the mark. For one, it only counts artifacts rather than artifacts and enchantments, and for another, it only looks at a single player. If you're regularly running into one player having seven artifacts in play at the same time, I'd wager you're up against an atypically artifact-focused deck. It just won't happen in the majority of games.

Which is not to say that Cavern-Hoard Dragon won't find a home in cEDH, it just needs a very specific one. Being a Dragon, that home will likely be Magda, Brazen Outlaw. It can be cheated into play, it produces Treasures for the sake of further Magda activations, and as a 6/6 with flying, trample, and haste, it's an impressive beater, perfect for closing out a game once a critical mass of stax pieces have locked out the board.

Display of Power

There's been a lot of hype around Display of Power, and I for one, am baffled. Fork and Reverberate have never seen much cEDH play, even in red decks, because copying spells is rarely all that powerful outside of dedicated combos. The dream scenario is multiple high-value spells on the stack at the same time that are worth making copies of, but that isn't a common occurrence. You can copy your own spells, but if you have enough spells on the stack worth copying, it's not likely you'll have another three mana to spare for Display of Power. It sort of works as a psuedo-counter to copy opposing counterspells, but most cEDH players eschew two-mana counters in favor of one-mana options, so a three-mana counter isn't likely to make an impact.

The best thing I can say about Display of Power is that it's an awesome card to name with Demonic Consultation when you're going for a Thassa's Oracle win, but that only works if Display of Power is where it belongs: not in your cEDH deck.

Glóin, Father of Gimli

Speaking of Magda, Glóin, Dwarf Emissary is the only Dwarf of real note in The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth. I assumed this set would be a huge deal for Magda players, but in retrospect the Dwarves of Middle-earth are barely present in the LotR trilogy, so it makes sense there are so few. Still, Glóin is a Dwarf that can make its own Treasure whenever you cast a Historic spell, a trivial matter in a deck with so many artifacts.

Goad is not an ability that sees much play in cEDH, largely because it isn't attached to relevant cards, but it has plenty of potential to disrupt combat and force opponents to swing with creatures they'd rather hold on the backlines. It might cost a Treasure, but thanks to Magda, it'll produce a Treasure, making it neutral.


Delighted Halfling

Boreal Druid is hanging on by a thread. Producing colorless (albeit snow) mana was never all that exciting to begin with, and Boreal Druid only ever found its way into decks utterly desperate for extra mana dorks (with the exception of Jorn, God of Winter), but Delighted Halfling is a massive improvement on multiple levels.

Green decks inclined to play mana dorks are usually interested in casting their commanders shortly thereafter, and for that purpose Delighted Halfling is even better than the almighty Birds of Paradise. In any sort of commander-centric deck, making your commander uncounterable is everything you could ask for, ensuring you can force it through even the bluest of tables and interaction heavy decks. And it's not just commanders. It's any legendary spell. That means your Narset, Parter of Veils, your Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools, your Tyvar, Jubilant Brawlers, they're almost guaranteed to resolve.

It's also worth noting Delighted Halfling is a 1/2 when most dorks are 1/1s. That wouldn't have mattered too much a set ago, but let me reiterate: you're about to see a LOT of Orcish Bowmasters. You're going to see them early and you're going to see them often. The tempo loss from losing your turn-1 mana dork is significant, and the fact Delighted Halfling can tank the first Bowmaster trigger is nothing to dismiss.


Aragorn, the Uniter

This is just the third WURG commander ever printed, and much like Omnath, Locus of Creation before him, Aragorn, the Uniter works as a Food Chain outlet. Specifically, it works as a Food Chain outlet with Squee, the Immortal, allowing you to deal infinite damage to each opponent. It almost works as a Food Chain outlet with Misthollow Griffin, except instead of winning the game, it allows you to rearrange your deck in any order you like via infinite scry 2. But Eternal Scourge? It does nothing. You can still produce infinite creature mana, but Aragorn, the Uniter can't actually do anything with it.

This makes Aragorn, the Uniter less appealing than other Food Chain commanders that can outright win with two or even three of the cast from exile creatures, but the Ranger of the North we once called Strider has more going for him than just Food Chain lines. He generates various types of value just by doing what any deck already does: play colored spells. White spells are the least common in your average four-color cEDH deck, so Aragorn won't be making too many 1/1 tokens, but even one or two can make for tricky combat steps when paired with a green spell and the whopping +4/+4 buff the Uniter hands out.

Ultimately, it's not the white or green spells that make a difference, it's the blue spells. Aragorn, the Uniter lacks black, and that means tutors are hard to come by, especially for the central card, Food Chain. Thankfully, the critical mass of blue spells paired with the scry 2 trigger will allow the pilot to dig through the deck and find the crucial combo pieces a lot faster than they would otherwise. The trigger from red spells is cute, but unlikely to make much difference except against the lowest of low opponents. It can also be used with Dockside Extortionist and the recently printed Meticulous Excavation to create an infinite damage loop, but unfortunately that suffers from the same issue as the Food Chain combo: it's just not that easy to tutor enchantments without access to black spells.

As cool as Aragorn, the Uniter looks and as much as I want an Aragorn deck in cEDH, I'm not sure the Uniter will make it. Omnath, Locus of Creation looks like a superior Food Chain deck as it can win with any of the exile enablers and Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder & Thrasios, Triton Hero have the edge when it comes to grinding out value.

Lotho, Corrupt Shirriff

If Kraum, Ludevic's Opus has taught us anything, it's the incredible power of profiting off opponents casting two spells per turn. Receiving a Treasure and trading a life is a mighty fine payoff for doing nothing other than putting a two-drop creature into play. You can even trigger it yourself, so if you get it out early enough, it's not unreasonable to think you can refund its initial cost and generate two additional Treasures. It's slow and a little inconsistent, but that's almost early Dockside Extortionist levels of mana production.

Some players are concerned with the life cost that Lotho, Corrupt Shirriff will incur over the course of a long game, but if you're taking enough damage from Lotho to care about your life total, you should have accrued enough Treasures to do whatever your deck is trying to do in the first place. When you compare it to the life that goes into a Sylvan Library for two additional cards, it's a fine rate indeed.

The best home for Lotho, Corrupt Shirriff will be in turbo decks looking to generate as much mana as quickly as they can. Midrange players - particularly in Esper, which lacks good mana production - will also find a home for it, but Lotho's value as a commander in his own right is much less certain. I know, I know, I've been begging for a good Orzhov legend for years now, and while Lotho is the best we've seen so far, the major issue is a lack of efficient wincons in the black and white card pool. For those so inclined to play Lotho as a commander, being two mana opens up the possibility for Lurrus of the Dream-Den as a Companion, another boost to his playability.

Finally, the 2/1 statline is fine, but thanks to the arrival of Orcish Bowmasters, having just one toughness is more of a liability than it has ever been. The cheeky little Hobbit is powerful, but even the most powerful Hobbit of all is still vulnerable to a well-placed arrow from a marauding Orc.


We've had one, yes. But what about second Grim Tutor?

No, it's not as flexible as Grim Tutor, and it's arguably harder to cast depending on your deck's mana base, but it's awfully close. It's also a tad deceptive. While you need a legendary creature in play of the same color as the card you want to tutor for, don't forget that you can make a creature legendary when the Ring tempts you. Effectively, Ringsight will tutor for any card that shares a color with a creature you have in play, providing you pick the right Ring bearer.

This means you can never search for a colorless card, but Dimir+ decks won't often want to in the first place, with the possible exception of combo pieces like Isochron Scepter. I'll certainly be testing it in Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow as a neat way to give the Ninja queen a semi-unblockable effect and tutor on the same card, but if you're not currently interested in Grim Tutor, you probably won't find a use for Ringsight.

Samwise Gamgee

Despite the loss of Flash, Protean Hulk still has a place in cEDH, and keen brewers are always looking for new ways to win the game with that six mana value allowance. Samwise Gamgee offers an incredibly efficient new line alongside Cauldron Familiar and the classic black sac outlet, Viscera Seer.

When Viscera Seer and Cauldron Familiar and whichever other two mana creature (likely Grand Abolisher) enter the battlefield alongside Samwise Gamgee, everyone's favorite gardener will reward you with three Food tokens. You can then sacrifice the cat to the seer, return it to the battlefield by sacrificing a Food token, and grab yourself a new Food token from the Sam trigger to do it all again. What do they call it? The "second breakfast: combo, a joke that's very funny if you love the Peter Jackson films and happen to be familiar with Protean Hulk combo naming conventions. I think that's what they call niche humor.

Colorless & Lands

Minas Tirith

Card draw on a land is always worth paying attention to, especially when the land can make colored mana. War Room has seen play in mono-color decks, like Heliod, Sun-Crowned and Oswald Fiddlebender, so it stands to reason that Minas Tirith deserves a shot. Granted, you do need creatures you're willing to attack with, and it's not an ideal card for an opening hand or when you don't have your commander out, but a two-mana activation cost to draw a card is a solid rate.

Mount Doom

As a dual land with a unique name, Mount Doom would almost be playable just for Rakdos decks in need of a singleton manabase for the sake of Tainted Pact. But it's that second ability, three mana and a tap to deal 1 damage to each opponent, that has Rakdos mages all hot and bothered. For the uninitiated, Worldgorger Dragon + Animate Dead/Dance of the Dead/Necromancy will generate infinite mana by sending away your lands and bringing them back ad infinitum. And I do mean infinitum: you need something to break the loop and actually win the game, otherwise you'll just be trapped in the loop forever.

Mount Doom is the perfect tool for that job, an easy way to turn the infinite Dragon flicker into a win by dealing one damage to every opponent with each fresh loop. Best of all, it's on a land, making it extremely hard to interact with for most cEDH decks. If you want to understand Worldgorger Dragon and its associated combos, check out

Stone of Erech

Stone of Erech would be quite something if it wasn't competing with Relic of Progenitus, Soul-Guide Lantern, and my pick for the best of them all, Grafdigger's Cage. We in the cEDH space aren't exactly wanting for more ways to nuke graveyards. The best that can be said about Stone of Erech is that it's entirely asymmetrical. If Grafdigger's Cage is getting in the way of your own combos and you're more concerned with creature combos involving the graveyard than you are the likes of Underworld Breach, Stone of Erech is your answer.

The One Ring

True to the lore, The One Ring is deceptively powerful. Four mana is a lot for an engine, but an engine that can generate this much power is worth paying a lot of mana for. The turn you land it, you're looking at a cantrip, an admittedly average payoff. The turn after, a tap will grant you two cards, not bad, but not enough to phone home about. It's turn three and thereafter where things start getting crazy. In fact, if you can play and protect The One Ring, you'll have drawn six extra cards by your third turn.

It gets ridiculous once you include ways to untap The One Ring with cards like Voltaic Key, Manifold Key, or best of all Unwinding Clock. This is going to be fantastic for Shorikai, Genesis Engine, a deck already inclined to run all three of the above artifact untappers. It may also find a home in decks capable of producing buckets of mana but lacking card draw, like Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy, Urza, Lord High Artificer, and Godo, Bandit Warlord (the big red boy also already runs Voltaic and Manifold to boot), but if there's one deck that untaps permanents like it's going out of style, it's Derevi, Empyrial Tactician.

I'd say the sky's the limit, but I think that's underselling. The moon's the limit? Something like that. With a commander that untaps any permanent on entry and continues to untap whenever it or another creature connects, you can expect Derevi players to start muttering "my precious" under their breath. Rhystic Study, Mystic Remora are great, but there isn't a card advantage engine in the game that can match The One Ring for total value in a Derevi deck. Just make sure you actually win with all those cards, otherwise you'll end up dying to the burden counters.

Finally, it does provide protection from everything as long as you've cast it, which might come in handy from time to time, but may as well be flavor text most of the time. Oh, and while we're here, what are you going to do if you happen to open the true Ring, the 001/001 version with the million-dollar bounty?

There's Some Good In This Set, And It's Worth Fighting For

And so ends the Third Age this review of the largest Universes Beyond set to date. I'm tempted to say that I don't know half of these cards half as well I should like; and I like less than half of them half as well they deserve, but that butchered quote makes even less sense than the original did when Bilbo said it. What I will say is that if all The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth gives us is Orcish Bowmasters, Delighted Halfling, and Stern Scolding, it'll still be more impactful than any set we've seen in the last year.

As the quotes I've shoehorned into this review might indicate, I'm a massive fan of Lord of the Rings, but I recognise those of you who aren't might not be as thrilled with the huge incursion an outside property is now having on Magic. So tell me, what do you think? Which of the above cards will make an impact, and which are fool's gold? Let me know below!

Jake FitzSimons is a writer from Sydney and a Magic fiend. He's either the johnniest spike or the spikiest johnny, nobody is sure which. When he isn’t brewing or playing cEDH, he can be found writing, playing piano, and doting on his little cat.