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

Michael Celani • June 14, 2023

Eomer, Marshal of Rohan by Tyler Jacobson

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

Read All Over

Hey, everyone! Welcome back to your Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth set review, already in progress. My name is Michael Celani, and although I usually review the white cards in every set, I didn't sign up for them fast enough this time. My horrifying, burning rage matches only that of Sauron, meaning the red cards are what are on the docket this time. Which cards do we like, and are we putting a ring on any of them? Let's find out!


Hew the Entwood

This card depicts how the forces of Sauron razed the beautiful, lush, verdant forests near Isengard to fuel the industry of their war machine. This is portrayed as an entirely negative event, which is flavorful because I'm struggling to find any reason at all to actually Hew the Entwood.

I understand that the point is that we're signing up for an all-in, high-risk high-reward play, but let's be clear, here: Hew the Entwood reads like a bad Scapeshift stapled to a bad Indomitable Creativity. Regular Landfall decks won't want this because there's far more consistent ways to get a ton of triggers off of one card. Regular artifact decks won't want this because they're unlikely to have an abundance of lands to sacrifice. In both cases, the penalty for whiffing is so steep it probably takes you out of the game because the price you need to pay for the privilege of casting this Russian Roulette-with-a-fully-loaded-gun of a spell is five whole mana.

It's not all ham-fisted metaphors and environmental Aesops, though; strategies that manipulate the top of their libraries with something like a Scroll Rack or Sensei's Divining Top will enjoy this card since you'll only have to sacrifice a few lands for some guaranteed hits. Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire probably wouldn't mind cutting down a few trees. You could also cast something like an Enlightened Tutor or a Reclaim to set up a hit, or negate the downside of sacrificing all your lands by preparing a Splendid Reclamation or Second Sunrise. I think I'd rather run more consistent payoffs for the strategy, like Aid from the Cowl, but you know there's going to be that one time where you're at five life, the outlook is dire, and you sacrifice all your lands in a desperate attempt to live only to be pleasantly surprised when deforestation is to your benefit for once.

Spiteful Banditry

People are calling Spiteful Banditry "the red Meathook Massacre," so let's run with that.

The Meathook Massacre is essentially another Zulaport Cutthroat, a card which (correct me if I'm wrong here) is the second most popular black creature of all time. Pinging all of your opponents whenever one of your creatures dies is bonkers, and especially so for just two mana. Effects like these make the entire aristocrats strategy not only viable, but possible in the first place. If "being Zulaport Cutthroat" was all The Meathook Massacre had going for it, people would still latch onto it like the leeches do after I take a quick dip in the bayou; just look at the numbers Bastion of Remembrance puts up and tell me I'm wrong. The fact that The Meathook Massacre is also a Death Wind for every creature warps it into the The Fifty-Dollar Zone. The effects synergize together really well, too; it's absurd how soul-crushing seeing twenty or so tokens wiped out by this thing is.

But would people play The Meathook Massacre if the situation was flipped, and it was only a Death Wind that hits everything? I doubt it. Toxic Deluge does the job cheaper, In Garruk's Wake does it better, and if you really want to get crazy, Blood on the Snow doubles as a reanimation spell. There's only so much room you can use in your deck for board wipes, unless you play Avacyn and you hate all your friends. The point I'm trying to make here is that for something like this to be a quote-unquote "good card," the secondary effect has to be worth playing on its own.

That brings us back to Spiteful Banditry, a Starstorm attached to a severely nerfed Revel in Riches. Of course, nobody plays Starstorm (Blasphemous Act and Chain Reaction have the mono-red board wipes solidly covered), so that secondary effect's gotta be worth it to slot it in -- and it unequivocally would be if it weren't for that once per turn rider (which will be a running theme this review). So then the question becomes, for two mana, would you play a card that gives you a Treasure when an opponent's creature dies once each turn? Well, maybe. You theoretically cap at four Treasures a turn cycle, which is great, but unlike Smothering Tithe, you've actually got to put the work in for this to ramp that much. If nobody is removing anything or sacrificing their creatures, it's just dead on board. Regardless, for most games the odds are pretty good that Spiteful Banditry for zero would pay for itself over time, and if you've got additional Treasure synergies or are just a heavy control deck, it might be worth playing a merely okayish board wipe to try and capitalize on it.

Bottom line, Spiteful Banditry is a good card, but calling this "the red Meathook Massacre" is complete hyperbole. This doesn't belong in The Fifty-Dollar Zone; it just doesn't have that level of impact on the game.


Assault on Osgiliath

We'll save the discussion about Armies for later, because Assault on Osgiliath at 0 is apparently the cheapest way to give your board double strike in red, which honestly shocked me. If you're worried about it being too strong, don't; it makes up for that efficiency by giving your board haste, too. Granted, Assault on Osgiliath requires you to be playing Goblins, but it's not like that's strange to build around these days, so I consider this one of those silver-bullet theme cards. Nothing makes me giddier than the idea of tapping a Krenko to generate twelve tokens and then casting this to swing in for lethal.

Display of Power

Display of Power is another Xerox machine for instants and sorceries, but it's got a higher ceiling than most. As opposed to something like Reverberate or Fork, which most decks run to copy something they play themselves ("with my Time Walk on the stack, I cast Fork"), I actually believe Display of Power is at its peak as a defensive play. The best case scenario I can think of (that will be reasonably common, anyway) is when you cast some sort of instant or sorcery, someone tries to counter it, and then you get to cast this to double up on that original spell while nullifying the threat. You can also double-spell and then use Display of Power to get to four total spells, but I find that to be an unlikely scenario to rely on; it's just too mana-hungry for most decks.

I also think it's cute that it can't itself be copied. It's like card design by lawyer.

Éomer, Marshal of Rohan

Of all the abilities to give the once per turn rider to, this one's a little bit sad. I understand it -- it would go infinite with Kari Zev, Skyship Raider and any sac outlet, among others -- but come on, Wizards, how many times in a row is a player going to realistically be able to sacrifice attacking legendary creatures? He doesn't even count himself, which is an absolute shame because he has haste! You might as well just run Aurelia, the Warleader in the command zone.

If I had to find a spot for him, I suppose he fits into the 99 of combat-focused legends decks. It's a decent target to hit with Sisay, Weatherlight Captain when you're ready to close out a game and need that one extra attack.

Fall of Cair Andros

As my very Italian grandmother says every Sunday, let's talk about Amass. It lets you go tall on a single token creature, with the idea being you build up a force over the course of the game until your opponents are incapable of dealing with the crushing pressure of your Army. It played decently in War of the Spark Limited, but this is Commander, and single large vanilla creatures just don't scale well to a multiplayer format. They'll get bounced, destroyed, pacified, or even stolen from you and used to punish you for your own hubris. I actually think the best way to use Amass in Commander is to completely ignore the actual idea of it and use the fact that anything with Changeling is technically an Army that can be improved. Morophon, the Boundless, here we come!

Now, I do think that Fall of Cair Andros is the best of the Amass cards in the set; insane markup on its activated ability aside, imagine playing this into a Blasphemous Act and coming out the other end with a 200/200. Give that chonker haste or Fling it and grin like a madman when you delete a player from the game. I also like the idea of making an enemy creature indestructible then just piling the damage onto that; try pairing it with Maarika, Brutal Gladiator or Toralf, God of Fury for extra yuks.

Fires of Mount Doom

Like Gollum, I quite enjoy the toasty warmth of the Fires of Mount Doom, but three mana to exile a card for just one turn (and not until the end of your next turn, as all the good exile effects do) and losing two life when you actually play it is an equation that doesn't add up for the general red deck. To make me want to run this card, I'd need some way to break the symmetry, or to want to slap my opponents like I'm looking for a good ol' fashioned duel. In those decks, it's actually good as a way to keep some card advantage going while advancing your gameplan, since they tend to burn out early and have difficulty recovering from board wipes. Sniping an enemy mana dork or cheap commander when it enters the battlefield isn't that bad a deal, either.

Glóin, Dwarf Emissary

The dreaded once per turn no-fun clause shows up again here, and this one I actually disagree with. Apparently, Storm-Kiln Artist, Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain, and Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle are all fine, but this one isn't? The sad thing is that the goad ability points to Groin here being designed for Commander, but in EDH he's often going to shake out as one Treasure every turn cycle. How often, realistically, are you casting artifacts, Sagas, or legendary spells on your opponents' turns?

I think you run this in the 99 of a Treasure-focused deck and wipe away your tears thinking about what could have been whenever you play it.

Mines of Moria

Hands-down best red card in the set. Mines of Moria is more or less strictly better than a Mountain if you control your commander, which most Commander decks want to do. Red is also pretty well known for casting spells that stock your graveyard with cards you don't need, so you'll always have fuel to burn. It's not even limited to sorcery speed, so you can hold up interaction and activate Mines of Moria if you end up not playing anything. The only downside is it's a bit pricey to activate, but certain commanders view that as a positive, and of course, it's especially absurd in Treasure decks.

Moria Marauder

Hey, it's a Too-Specific Two-Mana Value Engine! I brought these up during the last set review when I wrote about Chivalric Alliance, and here we are with a Goblin-themed version. You obviously want Moria Marauder in mono-red Goblins and nowhere else. Well, maybe not nowhere else; I like the idea of having Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer turn a field of tokens into these guys and accidentally exiling their entire library. Psyche, Thassa's Oracle!

There and Back Again

I'm about to break some hearts here, because people have zeroed in on the third chapter and gone all green-eyed with the possibility of untold riches. Get ready:

There and Back Again does basically nothing for two turns.

It makes one creature incapable of blocking, which doesn't really have an effect in Commander, makes the Ring tempt you, which is okay but uninteresting (more on that later), and it tutors a Mountain onto the field. If There and Back Again is removed at any point before the third chapter triggers, you've just wasted a bunch of mana to imperceptibly affect the board. The first two chapters are slow, they're weak for their cost, and the fact you have to get through them runs the risk of you setting yourself back hard.

But if you're okay with that, and you do get Smaug? Oh boy, I hope you're running some sort of clone or Populate or something, because Smaug is legendary, and any copies of him you'd make will drown you in gold coins. Plus, a 6/6 flying beater is a meaningful threat to life totals. It won't quite win you the game, but it'll make it a hell of a lot more fun.

Uncommons & Commons

Éomer of the Riddermark

In Limited, a French vanilla 5/4 haste out of nowhere is a huge threat, since you only have twenty life, but I just don't see Éomer of the Riddermark working out in Commander where the amount of life you have to get through is effectively sextupled. Wait, you say he has an ability? Let me see...

Oh. Never mind.

Erkenbrand, Lord of Westfold

Okay, now this I can get behind. Erkenbrand, Lord of Westfold pumps your entire field whenever a Human enters, so if you're playing any sort of Humans-matters deck, you'll want him. Imagine attacking with Adeline, Resplendent Cathar when this guy's on the field. The absolute best spot for him is probably in any Jirina Kudro list.

In the command zone, I'd rather try Márton Stromgald for the go-wide strategy. Maybe if he had the word "Goblin" on it he'd be fine, but mono-red can't make a ton of Humans as easily or consistently as white can.

Fear, Fire, Foes!

Hilariously, Fear, Fire, Foes! is really good at 0 because it clears away weenie tokens while making sure your damage isn't fogged later that turn. I also really like it in Enrage decks, since it's an incredibly cheap way to trigger all of them at once. Slot this in if your meta is full of people running small tokens, or you have a Torbran, Thane of Red Fell deck and Blazing Volley is starting to lose its kick.

Fiery Inscription

You already know how good Guttersnipe is, so I won't waste your time reviewing that.

Let's talk about the Ring, and its sultry, tempting ways. Every time you're tempted by the Ring, you choose a creature you control to be your Ringbearer, which becomes legendary. Then, based on how many times the Ring has tempted you, your Ringbearer has the following abilities (in order):

  • Skulk
  • Loot when it attacks
  • Cockatrice's ability
  • Bolt your opponents on combat damage to a player

These abilities are... exclusively unexciting. It makes attacking slightly more profitable for you and blocking much worse for your opponent. But if you're thinking tempting yourself with the Ring enough times is good enough to get your Voltron commander through, it's not. Just equip a Whispersilk Cloak and be done with it. I'd consider the Ring tempting you to be exclusively gravy and wouldn't try building around it.

Gimli, Counter of Kills

Gimli, Counter of Kills has a terrible, awkward name. Gimli, Counter of Kills doesn't have Partner with Legolas, Counter of Kills. Gimli, Counter of Kills' bad Falkenrath Noble ability destines him exclusively for the 99 of Ghyrson Starn, Kelermorph. Gimli, Counter of Kills deserved better.

Grishnákh, Brash Instigator

Wow! A creature that steals another creature when it enters the battlefield!

Wait, an opponent controls? Well, we don't want more Kiki-Jiki problems. Sure.

Wait, nonlegendary? But what if I want to kill someone with their own commander?

Wait, less than the amassed Army's power? Why wouldn't I just run an Act of Treason then? I get a 1/1?


Rising of the Day

Hey, a better Fervor at uncommon! Rising of the Day is a welcome "reprint," since Fervor was getting up there in price.

Cast into the Fire

Ooh, exile target artifact? That's pretty good for an instant at two mana, and you also have the backup mode of killing two X/1s. I'm just waiting for the inevitable red commander that's just Liquimetal Coating on a stick.

Erebor Flamesmith

We have so many of these guys now. My Ten-Dollar Storm list is getting even cheaper!

Quarrel's End

Quarrel's End is another card in the "Tormenting Voice with upside for one more mana" saga currently being written by Wizards of the Coast, alongside Seize the Spoils. The fact they've both got the same mana value seems to suggest that a 1/1 Human is equal to a Treasure token, which is categorically untrue. I would have been fine with this at two mana, to be honest. Can't we power creep Tormenting Voice directly by now? We kind of already did with Invasion of Mercadia, anyway.

Warbeast of Gorgoroth

All you need is two anthems and Warbeast of Gorgoroth goes infinite with Goblin Bombardment. That's nothing if you're in white, especially if your commander happens to be named Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer. Where's the once-per-turn rider on this, huh?

There's a couple of good cards this time around! I'm sure there's a few you're looking to pick up this time around, but try not to spend $30 on Spiteful Banditry. Make sure you check out the rest of the set reviews both here and on EDHREC. See you next set, which according to the model, is in three days. Oh no, I have to sign up for the set review right now!

Newly appointed member of the FDIC and insured up to $150,000 per account, Michael Celani is the member of your playgroup that makes you go "oh no, it's that guy again." He's made a Twitter account @GamesfreakSA as well as other mistakes, and his decks have been featured on places like MTGMuddstah. You can join his Discord at and vote on which decks you want to see next. In addition to writing, he has a job, other hobbies, and friends.