“It is wisdom to recognise necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope. Well, let folly be our cloak, a veil before the eyes of the Enemy! For he is very wise, and weighs all things to a nicety in the scales of this malice. But the only measure that he knows is desire, desire for power; and so he judges all hearts. Into his heart the thought will not enter that any will refuse it.”

 – Gandalf, The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

Playing this deck depends on how much you like to be the bad guy. The nasty guy. The evil one. These are the kinds of words that spring to mind when I think about the cards in this The Lord of the Rings Tales of Middle Earth Magic: the Gathering precon commander deck.

It is a little all over the place, really, but all of the chaos seems to be distilled down into the fact that your commander is the original Dark Lord: Sauron. Not that other guy who-shall-not-be-named. The OG. This is the being that pretty much wanted to let the whole world, and more besides, burn to attain all its coveted power.

“Sauron was become now a sorcerer of dreadful power, master of shadows and of phantoms, foul in wisdom, cruel in strength, misshaping what he touched, twisting what he ruled, lord of werewolves; his dominion was torment.”

 – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion

So, having said that let’s take a look at this awesome deck generously supplied to Easy Gaming Group by Unplug Yourself for testing and review.

The Commanders:

Sauron, Lord of the Rings is obviously the Commander of the Hosts of Mordor deck. There just really is no other choice if you’re looking to maintain the flavour of this set which, I must say, I have been absolutely impressed with. He makes Orc armies, brings things back from the dead (a nod to his days as Sauron, the Necromancer) and looks to target your opponents’ commanders to feel the power of the tempting of the One Ring. He is a little expensive at 8 mana, but then, he is the Dark Lord. The other potential Grixis commander for the deck is Saruman, the White Hand, who is clearly focused on amassing Orc armies to justify the undying industrial fires of Orthanc and feed the military might of his master, Sauron, in Mordor. Although costing half of the Dark Lord, only 4 mana, to me, Saruman is very much a second fiddle to Sauron’s lead.

The Theme:

Well now, this is a little tricky. “Foul in wisdom, cruel in strength, misshaping what he touched…his dominion was torment.” Sauron will do anything to achieve his goals, and everything. So, the deck is a representation of that. There are 15 cards that assist in ramping your mana in the deck and 18 forms of card draw. We’re amassing Orc armies (8 amass cards), unleashing dragons, giants, trolls and Balrogs, while playing a control game against our opponents, stealing their cool things and turning them against their owners (11 cards to do this). With multiple board wipes (4 of these) we’re keeping our opponents advances in check and attempting to break their resolve. Oh, and we’re making wraiths to boot. We are, undeniably, being the baddest bad ass we can be and not caring if we lose friends in the process. This is a theme I think Sauron would be happy with.

Top Cards:

So, this was a little harder to decide on than usual given the nature of the deck as described above. What I eventually went for here were cards that keep the flavour train rolling so here we go. In top spot for me (yes, I know I have a problem) is the Lord of the Nazgúl. Creating 3/3 Wraiths with menace off of every instant and sorcery spell in the deck is just too cool. Also, the fact that when you have the nine (9 wraiths), they all just get really big and are gonna spread despair and sorrow amongst your enemies is even cooler. I mean, where would Sauron be without his trusty undead minions to go and do his bidding while he eyes out the world from his fortress of Barad-Dûr. On the subject of Wraiths, In the Darkness Bind Them is a 5 mana value enchantment saga that makes Wraiths for 3 chapters and then steals a creature from each opponent in its final chapter so you can just murder players with their own things; truly a Dark Lord flavour win. Then there is Shelob, Dread Weaver who plays into two of the main lines of the deck, which are drawing cards and stealing things. She exiles your opponents’ nontoken creatures when they die and can then put them back into their owners graveyard to buff herself and draw you a card, or she can steal an exiled creature and put it to work for Sauron on your side of the battlefield. Noice. Fiery Inscription is a new card from the LOTR set that, along with a classic reprint of Guttersnipe, allows you to do incidental damage to each of your opponents when you cast instant and sorceries of which there are 22 in the deck, so some damage will be done. Another fantastically flavourful card is Grima, Saruman’s Footman (played to perfection by the incredible Brad Dourif in the Peter Jackson movies). This pesky, snivelling, lecherous sycophant is the perfect include in this deck that wants so badly to be the deck you turn your nose up at. With the Lord of the Nazgúl on the battlefield Grima, who is unblockable, sneaks in for some combat damage after you’ve created a Wraith by casting Lidless Gaze which exiles the top card of your opponents’ libraries and then makes that opponent whom Grima stabbed in the toe exile cards from their library until they hit an instant or sorcery which you then cast for free making another 3/3 wraith with menace. All in a bad day’s work for the forces of evil. There are so many cards in this deck that just work when you accept that the theme of the deck is to do anything and everything to win, that I could practically list them all, but that would be dull, and you can get the full deck list on the Magic website. Suffice it to say that if you like being the bad guy, or the Archenemy, then this is a deck you will enjoy playing. The dragons are great, and The Balrog of Moria is a massive 8/8 trampling hasty threat with some great upside, while Treasure Nabber is another excellent reprint into this deck, stealing the things that opponents use against the Dark Lord to then be used against his enemies as a kind of universally petty tit-for-tat that’s so deserving of every evil mastermind ever.

Possible Upgrades:

This is a difficult section to complete with this deck. As with the Warhammer 40K precon decks I do not intend to change the LOTR Universes Beyond decks as I simply love the flavour and the builds as they are. However, there are some obvious additions you may want to think about if you have a different point of view on this than I do. Dualcaster Mage would play into the Lord of the Nazgúl trigger giving you wraiths as a two-for-one. The Nazgúl. All 9 of them. Put them into this deck and people will just hate you so much more. The Witch-king of Angmar would also be a solid flavour fit. Rangers of Ithilien would be another card you could add to increase your thievery skills while you could also look into going postal on the amass theme, adding Zombies with Dreadhorde Invasion and then stacking the deck with other amass cards; March From the Black Gate would work nicely there too. It all depends on what you’d like to do with this crazy deck once you’ve paid your money for it.

In Conclusion:

I love this deck. Just as it is. I think it’s totally on flavour for Sauron and the world that Tolkien so lovingly gave us. The above is simply my opinion of the deck as a whole and should not be seen as the be-all and end-all of comment about the deck, but it does give you an idea of what I, as a Lord of the Rings and Magic: the Gathering fan, think of the deck and what you choose to do with that information is up to you. Leave the deck the way it is. Change it up. Turn it into a wraith machine or an amass engine, I leave that up to you. Until next time, I’ll see you on the battlefield from the top of my dark tower in the lands of Mordor where the shadows lie. Thanks for reading.

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