Kumagoro42's picture
By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Jul 06 2023 11:05am


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 The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth is the first large and draftable release in the Universes Beyond sub-brand, devoted to marry Magic: The Gathering with a vast array of different, well-established intellectual properties. In this case, the subject is the original literary version of J.R.R. Tolkien's 1954-1955 seminal The Lord of the Rings high-fantasy trilogy (and not so much their 2001-2003 film adaptations).

 The set is not inherently tribal, but the involved creature types are necessarily a low number, since the setting doesn't lend itself to a wide variety of major races and the protagonists are either Humans, Elves, Dwarves, or Hobbits aka Halflings – a tribe that gets a +300% increase in population alone. The more frequent classes are also dictated by the story constraints, which depict Humans and Elves for the most part as Nobles, Soldier, or Knights, while the Hobbit of the rural Shire are Peasants or Citizens. The angelic Istari (Gandalf, Saruman, Radagast), Sauron and the Balrog are all represented through the Avatar type, which consequently receives an unprecedented singular boost. On the other hand, the antagonist Orc race is declined mostly via the Armies created by the reworked amass mechanic, so it doesn't get as many new members as one would expect. A few other subtypes are obtained by looking at very specific characters and events, like Tom Bombadil (God), Goldberry (Nymph), Shadowfax (Horse), Shelob (Spider), the Ents of Fangorn (Treefolk), Gwaihir and the Eagles (Bird), and so forth. The Nazgûl being canonically Wraith single-handedly makes that semi-forgotten tribe double its ranks.


The Orcs on the left look like Goblins because that's the actual size of Tolkien's Orcs. The larger Orcs are the Uruk-hai, on the right.

 The source being a novel also causes an extremely high percentage of new legendary creatures (85 out of 143, equal to almost the 60% of the total). The set's cards, which are not legal in Standard and Pioneer, are divided through several different parallel outlets: the main bulk is contained in Draft Boosters, Collector Boosters and Set Boosters, but exclusives can also be found in 10 Jumpstart Boosters and in a two-deck Starter Kit. The Buy-a-Box promo is a reskin of Trailblazer's Boots, which counts as one of the set's only three reprints besides basic lands.


 The set's more pervasive mechanic, appearing in all colors, is the signature "The Ring Tempts You" keyword action, which assigns a "Ring-bearer" status to one of our creatures and then uses an emblem to keep track of the One Ring's growing influence on whoever's carrying it. Naturally, The One Ring also gets its own card, which starts a different power-hungry mini-game while on the battlefield. Most notably, a special variant artwork with text written in Black Speech has made the news for being the first Magic card with an (extremely flavorful) limited printing of one copy that is actually distributed in boosters, although only in Collector Boosters. The last bidding for the "One-of-One Ring", before it was found by an anonymous lucky person, was at two million dollars, making it by far the most expensive Magic card in history. Precious, indeed!


 Let's have a look at the new creatures and their tribes. As always, the main focus is on all the Constructed applications, though Limited is occasionally touched upon; the tribes are presented alphabetically, and you'll find a hypertextual list at the end.

 NOTE: Alchemy cards, Acorn cards, and other non-tournament legal cards aren't counted toward the tribal totals.


  • Cards: 284 (excluding 15 duplicated basic lands and 8 duplicated Nazgûl, including 5 Jumpstart exclusives, 12 Starter Kit exclusives, 1 Buy-a-Box)
  • New cards: 276
  • New creatures: 143
  • Reprinted cards: 8
  • Reprinted creatures: 2 (Goblin Assailant and Knight of the Keep in the Starter Kit)
  • New Legendary creatures: 85
  • New Snow creatures: 0
  • New artifact creatures: 2
  • New enchantment creatures: 0
  • Triple-subtype creatures: 1
  • Creature types affected: 48
  • Tribes with more than 5 additions: Human (+37), Halfling (+24), Soldier (+21), Noble (+20), Elf (+18), Avatar (+13), Knight (+11), Peasant (+9), Warrior (+9), Horror (+7), Orc (+7), Wizard (+7), Bird (+6), Citizen (+6), Dwarf (+6)

Advisor: +3


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 New Tribal Total: 86, online: 77

 Related Tribes: Dwarf, Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Middle-earth is a land of monarchs and other figures of authority, and those sure need Advisors. Glóin deserves the title because he was one of the twelve Dwarves that accompanied Thorin II Oakenshield, later to become King under the Mountain, in his quest to recapture the Lonely Mountain from the Dragon Smaug (these are the events of the Lord of the Rings precursor novel The Hobbit, and they're depicted in the Saga There and Back Again – after The Hobbit's own subtitle. The Smaug token is the only Dragon in the set, since he was the last Dragon of the Third Age). Glóin is also Gimli's father and during the time he was making the toast portrayed on his card, he was attending the Council of Elrond on Thorin's behalf. As for the card itself, it's quite unique in that it brings back not one but two different mechanics that have few or no other occurrences in the set. Historic is only shared with Samwise Gamgee and Lost to Legend; goad appears for the first time in a non-Commander product. In summation, Glóin is a solid 3/3 for three that works pretty consistently as a free Treasure producer. He comes equipped with an alternate way to use those Treasures (in one-on-one games, it might have strong tactical value, it could even lead to pseudo-removal applications); but at the end of the day, Treasures are one-shot mana acceleration, and mana acceleration is a safe way to victory, especially in early turns.

 The less noble Gríma Wormtongue is an even more apt member of the Advisor tribe, as he was King Théoden's main counselor while actually working as a double agent for the corrupted Saruman (who Gríma would eventually end up murdering). His card is an accomplished sacrifice outlet, turning useless or dying creatures into life loss for our opponents, plus a double amass if they were legendary. He also negates lifegain and, as a 1/4, he's an excellent Ring-bearer, properly exploiting the "skulk" ability from the first temptation level and ensuring a fairly consistent attack-looting from the second level. Not a bad package for an uncommon. The same goes for The Mouth of Sauron, the herald of the Dark Lord, here presented in a less unsettling form compared to his counterpart in Peter Jackson's The Return of the King. Amass Control is the Limited archetype for blue-black, so the Mouth gives us a 3/4 and a potentially big Army for five mana, provided our deck is running a good amount of instants and sorceries – which is what a Dimir control deck should probably do.


Archer: +3


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 New Tribal Total: 97, online: 92

 Related Tribes: Elf, Orc

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: As expected, Legolas dominates the Archer tribe in Lord of the Rings. The resident Elf in the Fellowship of the Ring comes in two different versions, like many major characters. The uncommon Legolas, Counter of Kills (a reference to the ongoing competition with Gimli) only partially plays into the "scry matters" theme of blue-green, since untapping Legolas doesn't seem such a great payoff for scrying. So he's mostly a 2/3 with reach that grows over time, which is fine but possibly overcosted at four. The cheaper, rare monogreen incarnation Legolas, Master Archer starts with lower power and higher toughness, but actually "shoots" the enemies whenever we target a creature we don't control. Pairing that with the fact that he grows whenever we target him, he seems aptly designed as the perfect synergy piece for fight and bite spells. If we cast something like Clear Shot (to win extra flavor points), we can order Legolas's triggers so he'll become a 2/5, then shoot and kill a two-toughness creature, then the spell resolves and he'll hopefully kill something else too. The Master Archer needs deckbuilding support, but doesn't ask for anything a heavy green deck wouldn't already run – perhaps with some extra combat tricks/protection spells, but the quality of those in green has been high lately. There's a real risk of having our attempted Legolas acrobatics backfire, but it's not hard to play around it and wait for when the opponent is tapped out.

 The "evil Archer" Orcish Bowmasters also gets to shoot arrows, and in their case the target can be anything. It's only a 1-damage ping, though, and it's difficult to repeat it after the initial ETB, because it hinges on the opponent drawing extra cards, which is something they'll definitely wish to do but the timing of which is usually under their control. On the other hand, we may look at the Bowmasters as a 1/1 that can ambush attackers with flash, trading with a two-toughness creature thanks to their initial ping; and they're also accompanied by a fresh 1/1 Army or a +1/+1 on an existing Army, which could translate into another surprise block. The tactical value here is flexible enough to deserve the high rarity, and the current status of most expensive creature in the set on the secondary market.

Artificer: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 190, online: 186

 Related Tribes: Dwarf

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: Typical face-only pinger for spellslinging decks. The damage output can really add up over time, and a two-powered two-drop is able to do a honest job in a dedicated burn/RDW deck, even if its minimal toughness makes it very frail. In drafts, it's a very appealing pick for the blue-red archetype, where it acts as a legitimate wincon. On the other hand, it doesn't have much to offer to Tribal Artificer decks specifically, as they mostly traffic in artifacts, not in instants and sorceries.

Avatar: +13



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 New Tribal Total: 98, online: 95

 Related Tribes: Demon, Horror, Rogue, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Here is where we have to address the cosmology created by Tolkien for his Middle-earth setting, and heavily inspired by the real-life Abrahamic religions. In Tolkien's system, there's one supreme creator, Eru Ilúvatar, and a host of heavenly beings Eru made long before the beginning of the world (aka Arda aka Earth) to assist in its creation. These spirits are collectively called Ainur; the most powerful among them are the fifteen Valar, and the most powerful of the Valar was Morgoth (aka Melkor), who turned rebellious a la Lucifer, and became the first Dark Lord, the incarnation of evil. The Valar in turn created many minor angelic beings called Maiar, as their servants. One of the Maiar was Sauron (aka Mairon), Morgoth's lieutenant, the second Dark Lord and the main antagonist in Lord of the Rings. Both Valar and Maiar are immortal, shapeless spirits, but they can embody themselves to roam the world – which is what five of them did when they took the form of old men and became the Istari, the Wizards of Middle-earth. Three of these are named in Lord of the Rings: the heroes' main protector Gandalf (aka Olórin); the neutral nature-lover Radagast; and the ultimately corrupted, Sauron lackey Saruman, who was originally their leader. Also corrupted Maiar are the monstrous Balrogs.

 With all this world-building preamble behind us, let's see how the Avatar subtype was used to accommodate all of the story's most powerful characters. First of all, we can see there are multiple incarnations for the same character: four Gandalfs, three Sarumans (including his final criminal kingpin alias, Sharkey), three Saurons, two Balrogs, one Radagast.

 Gandalf starts his vertical cycle as the uncommon Gandalf, Friend of the Shire – this is where we meet him at the beginning of the story, delighting Hobbits with his magical fireworks at Bilbo's birthday. And this is also where we have to take stock of the fact that "The Ring Tempts You" is an extremely parasitical mechanic that has no way to find more fuel anywhere else outside of the set (unless another Lord of the Rings product is one day released). This makes the monoblue Gandalf a very strong card-drawing engine in Limited, but realistically just a 2/4 flash that makes our sorceries into instants in formats where "The Ring Tempts You" cards aren't going to be commonplace – and that setup alone is not worth four mana. More palatable is the monoblue Saruman the White (these names get confusing, I know), since amass 2 is a solid reward for double-spelling, regardless of the type of Army token we create this way. Probably not enough to justify a five-drop 4/4 with ward as a base line, but playable nonetheless.


 Gandalf gets more Constructed-friendly as the blue-red Gandalf the Grey, the card representing his basic Istar persona. Five mana might still be too many for the effect, but essentially, the first time we spellsling in his presence, Gandalf will copy our spell for free, and that's already appealing enough. He also interacts well with fast mana producers, and can rescue himself from removal if we hold an instant and open mana – it also doubles as a way to reset his abilities, that are otherwise all one-of. Escaping on top of the library rather than into our hand is a bit annoying, but maybe we used a cantrip to put him there, so he'll be back sooner rather than later. It's still less narrow than the mythic Gandalf the White – the new form our bearded guy took after dying while facing the Balrog of Moria, and taking up on Saruman's previous color-coded mantle. This top-rarity Gandalf is a hybrid "legendary matters" and "artifacts matter" card, giving both types flash and doubling their ETB and exit triggers. It can be powerful if built around, and it's a 4/5 flash himself, adding some ambushing capabilities to his bag of tricks.

 On his part, Saruman's cycle proceeds with final-days Sharkey, Tyrant of the Shire, which has notably no use whatsoever in Limited, and is still quite weird in Constructed, as a hoser and stealer of the opponent's non-mana land abilities, which has to be one of the narrowest concept ever put to card. If it were a one-drop, it might have been a passable Legacy and Vintage sideboard hater for stuff like Bazaar of Baghdad; at four, it's close to nonsensical. Then again, that was Saruman in his desperate hour after the fall of his master Sauron. What about peak-power Saruman, instead? That would be the mythic Saruman of Many Colors, one of only four cards in the set that are more than two colors (apparently, Saruman subscribes to one of those cultures where "three" equals to "many"). The first thing that catches the eye with this incarnation is the implementation of a ward ability that's as close to hexproof as it gets. Of course it's still considerably weaker than outright hexproof, since it offers a way around it, but the sacrifice it demands reads as awe-inducing. And then there's a very convoluted text that translates to a free spell stolen from an opponent's graveyard every turn we double spell. The spell must cost equal or less than the second spell we cast that turn, but it's almost guaranteed value in the long term. However, we're talking of a three-color six-drop that likely does nothing the turn it drops other than being hard to kill and have a moderate board presence as a 5/4. If we fail to enable Saruman consistently, he's not going to do us any favors. Which is probably flavorful, but doesn't make for a great card.

 The most elusive of the Istari only appears as a mythic. Radagast the Brown has a robust defensive body and a single ability that keeps digging for more creatures every time we play one. The catch is that the creatures we look for must not share a type with those we currently control. It's tricky but not impossible with correct deckbuilding, and if Radagast certainly won't play well in any kind of tribal, let alone green's timeless classics like Elves, in the right list he's a four-drop that functions as a sort of less flexible The Great Henge with potentially higher card-advantage rewards, but also potentially prone to terrible misfires.

 It should be clear by now that Tales of Middles-earth's power level is comparable to an old Core Set's. The only creatures coming from it that are impacting Constructed are a couple of the simpler ones, namely removal-on-legs Orcish Bowmasters and one-drop mana dork Delighted Halfling. All those that tried to go big didn't deliver much in terms of non-casual playability. Take Sauron, for instance. The story's unsettling, ineffable bogeyman appears as a monoblack midrange rare that makes unearth clones when he attacks. They get to remain on the battlefield only if Sauron is the Ring-bearer, but he has no "The Ring Tempts You" abilities to enable it (which is in itself a flavor fail), and even then he'll be a worse if cheaper Olivia, Crimson Bride with no haste, a less effective evasion, and reduced reanimator combo prospectives due to the body of his targets changed to a 3/3 base.

 The Grixis colored, triumphant Sauron, the Dark Lord presents himself as more of a proper Timmy/Tammy incarnation. He boasts a massive body protected by a ward that is once again just a few steps removed from hexproof – although in the context of the set, the opponent gets the chance to sacrifice some expendable that merely happened to be the Ring-bearer. As the opponent keeps playing the game, our Army increases in size, and whenever it successfully connects, the Ring temps us, and Sauron offers us the chance to replace our hand to four fresh cards. So everything the Dark Lord is self-sufficient, which is good design; and it threatens to take over the game, if it were not for the fact that the juicier part hinges on a vanilla token hitting the opponent. It might happen, albeit it's not too likely; then again, even if we manage it once per game, at the right time, it'll translate to an insane amount of value. And Sauron is large and resilient enough to constitute a legitimagely good finisher, if probably more suited for Commander.

 All in all, the best one among this smorgasbord of new Avatar has to be Durin's Bane. The epitomic Balrog could easily drop as early as turn five with just one Treasure thrown in the mix. And it'll hit the ground running, likely crashing into the opponent's life total like a meteor, unless their team includes a legendary brave enough to spar and trade with it. And even in that case, the death trigger will take a relevant permanent into the abyss with it. This is really a winning combination of flavor and function, an impactful curve-topper of undeniable efficiency.

 Lastly, the Starter Kit decks regale us with more Avatars. Gandalf, White Rider is another version of the Wizard in his final form. This time, he's a leader of armies, likely as seen during the Battle of the Black Gate. He basically grants a form of non-conditional prowess to our entire team, with scry as a bonus. He also gets the same pseudo-immortality of the Amonkhet Gods. It's clearly a Gandalf designed for go-wide strategies, but he delivers well on that front. Similarly aggro-oriented but less convincing is Sauron, the Lidless Eye. His two abilities are mostly unrelated. The first is a Zealous Conscripts effect, but with any combo application neutered by the revised wording that prevents us from targeting our own creatures. Then we have an activated boost with some direct damage attached. It seems unlikely to be able to exploit both Sauron's deal in the same turns, so it's not as explosive a five-drop as it's set to be. Even worse is the secondary Balrog, which has a high body-to-cost ratio, but it runs the serious risk of tucking itself away. It's probably more frequent within Lord of the Rings games, what with all those legendary Ring-bearers, but it's still such a self-defeating prospect to fully embody that crappy Starter Deck feel.


Bard: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 15

 Related Tribes: God

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Hey dol! merry dol! ring a dong dillo! Ring a dong! hop along! fal lal the willow! Tom Bom, jolly Tom, Tom Bombadillo! The most mysterious, most iconic character ever created by Tolkien is given a very appropriate card representation in Magic: The Gathering, in what's arguably the most flavorful design of the entire set. The long-debated enigma that is Tom Bombadil, the oldest living being in Middle-earth, possibly a manifestation of the world itself, is also eminently a storyteller. And since their introduction in Dominaria, stories have had Sagas as a mechanical equivalent. So Tom Bombadil is all possible colors, can't be targeted or destroyed as long as there are stories, and keeps the stories going. It's of course almost exclusively a build-around for Commander and Historic Brawl, but a very satisfying one at that.

Bat: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 26, online: 24

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: These sinister Bats from the forest of Mirkwood are probably a tad overcosted for Constructed, but the ability is not without relevance as a payoff for the mass production and/or mass sacrifice of tokens, especially Treasures. Combine this card with the 14 simultaneous tokens created by the death of Smaug from There and Back Again or, more simply, with an over-the-top Treasure-maker like Old Gnawbone, and it'll become a one-shot kill. Grinding with it is likely not a winning strategy outside of Limited, though.

Beast: +2


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 New Tribal Total: 467, online: 457

 Related Tribes: Drake

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Two references to the various ill-defined monstrosities found within Sauron's forces. The Fellbeasts are Nazgûl's mounts, while the red felllow is meant to be a beast of burden employed by the Orc armies and referencing the Plateau of Gorgoroth – a region in Mordor, Sauron's base of operations. They're okay cards in Limited, but a bit expensive to be high picks.

Berserker: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 114, online: 111

 Related Tribes: Orc

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: Your regular "The Ring Tempts You" enabler in black. It's almost certain that this kind of card will have no application whatsoever outside of Tales of Middle-earth Limited.

Bird: +6



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 New Tribal Total: 330, online: 316

 Related Tribes: Horror, Noble, Soldier

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The Great Eagles saved the day multiple times during the events of both The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, but they're only given the uncommon treatment in Tales of Middle-earth. Their king Gwaihir is technically a Bird lord, but granting vigilance to a tribe that's usually composed of small flyers is not the most useful boon, and without the mana discount he's awfully overcosted. His less known brother Landroval actually gets the better card, basically making any one creature attacking alongside him into a flyer. Even Gwaihir's other sidekick Meneldor is more interesting as a decent flicker enabler. Collectively, the Eagles also embody white's landcycler, one in a group of cards that have an important role as color fixers in the Limited environment, since they only cycle for one generic mana.

 The other new common Birds strictly remain in Limited territory, with the black raven-like Crebain and the blue Kingfisher providing more chances for references to creatures mentioned in the books, as well as places such as Dunland and Ithilien.

Citizen: +6



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 New Tribal Total: 38

 Related Tribes: Halfling

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: All the new Citizens are Halflings, and a couple of them, namely Meriadoc Brandybuck (i.e. Merry) and the Jumpstart exclusive Saradoc, Master of Buckland, are specifically "Halflings matter" cards, so they're better reviewed under their other tribe. Strangely enough, the final incarnation of Frodo, right before the ultimate toss of the Ring (or lack thereof on his part) reverts to a Halfling Citizen, but that's just a mechanical requirement to accommodate the whole Figure of Destiny deal.

 Luckily, the Citizens can count on a different, very impactful one-drop rare: Delighted Halfling. This smiling little Hobbit doesn't entirely challenge Birds of Paradise as the supreme turn-one mana dork, since her colored mana is reserved to legendaries; but the reinforced toughness makes it harder to "shoot the bird" (or the cutie). And that's why she's currently the third most expensive card in the set, after The One Ring and Orcish Bowmasters.

 Lobella Sackville-Baggins (Bilbo's greedy cousin) is a peculiar mix of ambush, graveyard hate, mana acceleration, and a decent beater. The Treasure production could be impressive, but it's not very reliable. Same body and cost, albeit in a different color, for Peregrin Took (aka Pippin!), a potent Food producer that also doubles as Food payoff. However, the theme was not present in previous Citizens, so it's another instance of a strategy that's more at home in the Halfling tribe at large – despite not being shared with the Dungeons & Dragons Halflings. But it overlaps with Peasant, so it's more likely to be developed with future Halflings not bearing the Citizen subtype. In fact, an argument could be raised that all the Hobbits in Tales of Middle-earth should have been Peasants rather than Citizens, since the Shire is an entirely rural area and most of their families own farms.

Cleric: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 545, online: 514

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: A distinctive trait of Tolkien's creation is that organized religion plays no part in it. Middle-earth's populations have myths and rituals, but there's no "Church of Eru" nor "Cult of the Valar". The machinations of the various divine beings are largely hidden from the mortals, and the religious significance of the story resides completely in the meta-text. This is to say that there are no clergy or priests in Middle-earth, so the Cleric tribe only gets the one new member in the form of the Gondarian Ioreth, who gets the affiliation only in virtue of being a healer. She's an untapper, a kind of old-fashioned ability that we don't see too often anymore as a card's sole function. She might have some combo potential with legendaries, since se can untap two of those at once; but she's not allowed to work with lands or artifacts, so it's probably not going to matter much.

Demon: +3


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 New Tribal Total: 156, online: 150

 Related Tribes: Avatar, Spider

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Aside from the two versions of the Balrog of Moria (the strong one from the main set, the lesser one from the Starter Kit), a Demon is also the Spider queen Shelob, since she was an offspring of the primordial Spider Ungoliant, as the card's name reminds us. She's strictly a Spider tribal card, though, so she doesn't impact the Demon type in the slightest.

Dog: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 107, online: 102

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: They decided not to make them legendaries (probably so that they could appear at common for draft purposes), but these are Grip and Fang, the guard Dogs of Farmer Maggot – the third one, Wolf, was omitted for unclear reasons; maybe just because the chosen quote doesn't mention him. At any rate, they're made into a solid Food payoff, if more suited for Limited than Constructed.

Drake: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 98, online: 97

 Related Tribes: Beast

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: While the Dragons have gone extinct in the Third Era after the death of Smaug, some traces of their blood still exist. The Fellbeasts of the Nazgûl might not have been the best example of that (Tolkien stated they weren't meant to be "pterodactylic"), but it fits to a degree and they've been interpreted as such by many readers. Regardless, they are the sixth black Drake in the game, the fourth monoblack, so there's that.

Dwarf: +6



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 New Tribal Total: 117, online: 109

 Related Tribes: Advisor, Artificer, Soldier, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Dwarves represent a crucial race in Middle-earth (after all, it's one of the three that were given the Rings of Powers), yet got definitely the short shrift in the set compared to Elves, Humans and Halflings. And especially if we consider that there are thirteen named Dwarves in The Hobbit alone! One of those is Glóin, son of Gróin, who's here portrayed as his older self during the Council of Elrond, through a card that's a terrific Treasure producer with a built-in secondary payoff. His son Gimli, a prominent member of the Fellowship of the Ring, is depicted in two incarnations. The uncommon one is Gimli, Counter of Kills – the same moniker as Legolas, referencing their friendly contest over Orc killings that started during the Battle of the Hornburg. Gimli has better basic stats than the Elf, but the payoff for the death of opposing creatures bears less tactical advantage in his case, although it could become its own little wincon. The rare Gimli, Mournful Avenger depicts a Gimli heartbroken and enranged over discovering the slaughter of the Dwarves of Moria, who he vowed to avenge. Mechanically, he's sort of the opposite of the previous Gimli, as this one can be seen as a "Counter of Friendly Kills". It feels more like a blackless Jund card than a Gruul one, given that its best setup is a spell or effect that facilitates the sacrifice of our entire team for value, in the process making Gimli indestructible, big and deadly. It can be a decent combo partner for three mana, as much as it needs to be paired with the right card: waiting for two or three of our creatures to casually die at the same time is an ill-conceived plan.

 The rest of the Dwarves are mostly for Limited: Bag End Porter is a decent midrange beater; Mirrormere Guardian is meant to trade up and triggers temptation from the Ring; and Erebor Flamesmith is a wincon for blue-red spellslinging decks. It's worth nothing that the Guardian offers a depiction of the famous bearded Dwarf ladies, while the Flamesmith shows that they sometimes shave too, maybe when the heat of the forge makes them sweat too much. Also, Mirrormere is a lake near Moria, and Bag End is Bilbo's "Hobbit hole". The presence of a Dwarf in it is a (kind of obscure) reference to Bilbo employing Dwarves to help with the preparations for his birthday, in the beginning chapters of Lord of the Rings.

 And by the way, the green Dwarves in Tales of Middle-earth are the only three green Dwarves besides Druid of the Emerald Grove from Battle for Baldur's Gate.

Elemental: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 512, online: 504

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: This is a strange one, lore-wise. It's meant to represent the spell that Old Man Willow casts on the Hobbits to make them fall asleep. It's indeed called "willow-wind" in the book, as the card's flavor text reports, but why is it reimagined as a stand-alone Elemental, I can't really tell. The card also doesn't even attempt to build on a top-down concept – it would have been easy to use the stun counters that are already part of the set – and instead goes for a completely unrelated scry. Definitely not the best design they came up with for Tales of Middle-earth.

Elephant: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 66, online: 65

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The first ever monored Elephant is the landcycler for red. As most of them are, it's perfectly playable in Limited, a red Yavimaya Wurm that works to turn a fellow attacker into another big trampler, which is always relevant. The reference is of course to the Oliphaunts used in battle by the Haradrim.

Elf: +18



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 New Tribal Total: 550, online: 535

 Related Tribes: Archer, Human, Nightmare, Noble, Pilot, Scout, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: A! Elbereth Gilthoniel! / silivren penna míriel / o menel aglar elenath, / Gilthoniel, A! Elbereth! The Elves are one of the most conspicuous and beloved components of the world of Middle-earth, and the set doesn't disappoint in terms of the amount of attention given to them. Unlike the other races, they've been also given a strong mechanical identity, mostly based around the blue-green theme of "scry matters". This is true of the three main Elf Nobles in the story, each of which is granted two different incarnations: Galadriel, the mighty Lady of the ancient forest of Lothlórien; Elrond, the wise Lord of the valley of Rivendell; and his daughter Arwen, Aragorn's future wife. (Legolas is also there, with his forgettable uncommon and his okay rare, but he's more correctly identified as an Archer).

 For being the most powerful Elf of the Third Age, bearer of one of the Rings of Powers, Galadriel doesn't feel particularly threatening in her Simic incarnation, a three-drop 3/3 that lets us ramp whenever we scry. The effect is still neat, though, and she also incorporates a self-contained way to enable it, albeit through the "tempting Ring" mechanic, which, as noted before, is not going to matter a whole lot in most Constructed environments. The Galadhrim queen also gets a monogreen version as a Starter Kit exclusive, Galadriel, Gift-Giver, referencing the moment in which she acted as a fairy godmother to each member of the Fellowship of the Ring. Her trigger, bestowing a choice of a +1/+1 counter, a Food or a Treasure, is not linked to scry; instead, it takes place as she drops and every time she attacks. She can't boost herself though (she's too generous!), so she'll remain a midrange 4/4 indefinitely, which might make it difficult to enable her gifts turn after turn. She's still an okay value beater, excellent in conjunction with "tokens matter" strategies, possibly in Commander.

 The two versions of Elrond are all about scry. The uncommon monoblue is a terrific enabler for three mana, as he'll keep a steady flow of scrying triggers going as long as we'll be able to deploy creatures – and scry itself will help with that, which is the sweetest part of grafting further value on top of an already profitable keyword. He also occasionally procures some spontaneous temptation without the use of a dedicated card (he just requires two creatures deployed in the same turn), giving the Ring mechanic a chance to show up outside of Limited, if anything. Conversely, Elrond, Master of Healing is a scry payoff, as he oversees the distribution of +1/+1 counters to one or more creatures per each instance of scry we generate. Furthermore, he acts as a payoff for his own +1/+1 counters, drawing cards off them, if uniquely through a Shapers' Sanctuary deal.

 As for Arwen, her uncommon belongs to the larger scry theme, and is in fact a cheaper version of Simic Elrond that does the important thing – turning every act of scrying into a +1/+1 counter – but also functions as her own enabler in the late game or in ramp decks. She's in this sense possibly the best payoff for scrying in the set, and she's set to pair up nicely with any existing scry card, including popular competitive darlings like Condescend, Opt, and Fading Hope. I wouldn't be suprised if Arwen Undómiel would show up as a valuable two-drop in spellslinging deck, despite the required green splash. The fact that she can wear her own counters is key. Not bad for an uncommon. But the rare three-mana Arwen is also very efficient. Green-white suggests a more aggressive approach, whereas an indestructible 2/2 leans toward defensive, but she can hold the fort on turn three, then swing the turn after alongside our two-drop, guaranteeing the latter's survival and adding extra damage and a total of six life gained, while permanently affecting the board. All for one mana. Plus, this representation of Arwen's choice to become mortal out of love for Aragorn is insanely flavorful.

 Speaking of which, Arwen and Aragorn's happily-ever-after wedding portrait appears a Starter Kit exclusive, the set's only "team up". It's a Selesnya Counters curve-topper, probably too expensive if all we gather from it is the ETB effect of adding a +1/+1 counter to the team and gain some life, but if left unchecked, it's clearly going to run away with the game in just a few combat phases. The couple, who look positively regal, has enough toughness to survive multiple attacks, but it's not going to catch us up if we're behind and our board had just been wiped. It's interesting to note that it's the only Human Elf hybrid in the set. Both Arwen and her daddy Elrond, who famously responds to the moniker of "Half-elf", have Human blood mixed with Elvish blood in their veins. But these mixed-race "Peredhil" people are given the chance to pick their nature between mortal and immortal, and Elrond chose to be a full-bloom deathless Elf, while Arwen's opposite choice hadn't materialized yet at the time depicted in her solo cards.

 Two more named Elves appear only at uncommon, but both Galadriel's husband and co-ruler Celeborn (pronounced "keleborn") and re-embodied ancient hero Glorfindel are unfortunately just minor "scry matters" cards intended exclusively for Limited. Jumpstart exclusive Elvish Mariner is an aggressive three-drop that scrys upon attacking and taps opposing permanents whenever we scry. Incidentally, Tales of Middle-earth contains four of the only ten monoblue Elves currently in existence; and since the other six are all from Dungeons & Dragons products, it seems that the very concept of a monoblue Elf doesn't exist in the Magic Multiverse proper so far.


 There's also a handful of common "scry matters" Elves, with Lothlórien Lookout into Chance-Met Elves into Galadhrim Guide perfectly describing the two-drop, three-drop, four-drop curve any blue-green player attempts to draft towards in Limited. If undisrupted, it brings about a 5/4 attacker on turn four. The Guide can be replaced with the Navigator, while Nimrodel Watcher is a secondary beater that can deal a lot of unblockable damage if we keep scrying.


Goblin: +4


> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 411, online: 395

 Related Tribes: Soldier, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: "Goblin" in Lord of the Rings is just a different name for an Orc, whereas the Orcs imagined by subsequent fantasy properties uniquely correspond to the larger, newer breed, the Uruk-hai, engineered by Saruman in the pits of Isengard, and still shorter than a man's average height. A choice was made during the design of Tales of Middle-earth to feature both the Goblin type and the Orc type (as exemplified by the Jumpstart sorcery Assault on Osgiliath), with the latter given a more prominent presence, due to being the word more commonly heard in reference to Sauron's troopers throughout the Lord of the Rings trilogy ("Goblin" is more frequent in The Hobbit).

 The few Goblins that made into the set are all monored and all very low-to-the-ground and severely aggro-oriented. The common Battle-Scarred Goblin and the uncommon Goblin Fireleaper discourage the opponent from blocking. The other two-drop, the rare Moria Marauder, is reminiscent of classic Warren Instigator, but instead of a tempo gain, any connection causes a separate instance of impulsive drawing. More so, the ability is extended to all the Goblins (and Orcs!) of our team, so there's a chance we're gonna see this double striker in competitive tribal lists, even with all existing competition for the two-mana spot.

 The only legendary Goblin, Grishnákh, is a spunky uncommon that for three mana gives us a 1/1, a 2/2 Army, and an Act of Treason effect based on our current Army size – so on its own, it'll gain control of a two-powered enemy. It could be viable in Rakdos sacrifice decks that can count on a free sacrifice outlet on turn one or two. The design is also pretty flavorful, since Grishnák is the leader of the Orc band that captured Merry and Pippin.

God: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 57

 Related Tribes: Bard

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Is it correct to call Tom Bombadil a God? It's definitely fitting to make him impossible to harm as long as he's singing his songs in the Old Forest. But the exact nature of Tom Bombadil is a mystery that Tolkien left purposely unsolved. He's the oldest being in Middle-earth, who "remembers the first raindrop and the first acorn", and was alive even before the Valar came to Arda. The One Ring doesn't affect him, and he doesn't seem to care about such trinkets. Now, nobody actually worships him (the Hobbits tell stories about him, but don't leave offerings or pray to him or anything of the sort), but if the God type had to be spent in the set, Tom is very likely the closest one can come to the concept among the various entities that physically walk Tolkien's ancient Earth.

Halfling: +24



> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 32

 Related Tribes: Citizen, Horror, Knight, Peasant, Rogue, Scout, Soldier, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: Behold the return of the Halflings to their pre-D&D roots! In Tolkien's books, Halfling is the term with which the other races occasionally  refer to the diminutive Hobbits (the word actually even predates this use). The tribe in Magic had only existed within Dungeons & Dragons products, and while Tales of Middle-earth is even more of a Universes Beyond deep cut, there's now hope for further expansion. In the meantime, they move in one fell swoop from 8 members to 32, which is no small feat (no pun intended).

 Of course, the Hobbits are Tolkien's central preoccupation since his namesake precursor novel. They represent the quiet, humble, homey, honest, cheerful, jovial and rustic countryfolk of England – in Tolkien's eyes, the essence of everything that's good and noble, the meek who shall inherit the world. In Middle-earth, they're the race most likely to resist the temptation of Sauron's Rings. Four of them – FrodoSam, Merry and Pippin – are ostensibly the central characters in Lord of the Rings.

 Unlike the Elves, which only appear in blue and green (with one exception), Halflings show up in every color in the set. In fact, the four abovementioned Hobbits of the Fellowship of the Ring encompass each of the white-based color pairings in their rare incarnations. Frodo, Sauron's Bane represents the character at the climax of the story, faced with the challenge of renouncing the One Ring in order to throw it into Mount Doom, ultimately destroying its master, Sauron, as a result. It's a one-drop 1/2 that can be upgraded to a 2/3 lifelinker via Orzhov hybrid mana, and then to an alternate wincon by feeding him triple black. It plays like a sort of Figure of Destiny (which, interestingly is a Kithkin, Magic's own take on the Hobbits/Halflings), but it's only kinda medium in white aggro decks – and even in a build that runs that much black and can quickly reach the fourth level of Ring temptation, connecting with a 2/3 is not trivial, and the Ring-bearer's "skulk" ability only marginally helps.

 Samwise Gamgee, the card that depicts Sam's child-rearing epilogue, is a strong enabler as well as a payoff for any Selesnya Food deck. He doesn't create any initial Food upon entering the battlefield, but the production starts from the first creatures we drop afterwards and steadily proceeds from there, much in the same way as the scrying from Elrond, Lord of Rivendell. The need for a way to use the Food besides the lifegain is essential for the success of the strategy, and Sam offers a specialized recursion for every three tokens spent this way; it's especially useful on Sagas, which are bound to hit the graveyard eventually, or to resurrect other key legendaries, but it might also work well in conjunction with artifacts, since any "artifacts matter" theme is going to be amplified by the Food generation itself. Rare Sam definitely makes for a strong multicolored "bear", even if it only provides value when supported by specific cards.

 On the Boros horse-train rides Merry, Esquire of Rohan – from when he swore fealty to King Théoden and took part in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. It's another two-drop 2/2, but with haste and a neat card-drawing ability if paired with another legendary attacker (he also gain first strike when equipped, but that's less relevant, if occasionally useful). Same cost and body, but in Azorius colors, for Merry's first cousin and best friend, Pippin, Guard of the Citadel. If the former joined the Riders of Rohan, the youngest of the four Hobbits went to the Kingdom of Gondor, instead. His card is all about protection, and is in fact a perfectly functional variant of Mother of Runes kind of on-battlefield trick. Not as efficient as its blueprint, and marred by the modern Giver of Ruins wording that prevents it from targeting itself, but using spot removal in presence of an active Pippin is still going to be a nightmare for our opponents. Unless they take him out first, of course, but ward should guarantee at least a couple turns of activity.

 At first sight, it looks like Frodo is the only one of his inner circle who didn't deliver a meaningful rare incarnation. However, our four brave main Hobbits also come in uncommon versions – all but Sam using their complete first and last names for the occasion, with no epithets. And if Frodo falls again in the trap of a top-down flavor-first design, Frodo Baggins is actually one of the few consistent sources of Ring temptation, albeit strictly within a "legendary matters" shell. Not that producing more than four instances of "The Ring Tempts You" usually does much for us, but at least Frodo kickstarts the process on his own, is (appropriately) a perfect Ring-bearer thanks to his low power, and has a built-in way to get rid of all the 1/1s that stand in his way. He still doesn't look all that playable outside of LTR Limited, especially when compared with Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took, both worthwhile additions to the Food theme – which is firmly established as one of the primary within the Halfling tribe, all thanks to the Hobbits' good-natured appetite. Uncommon Merry gives all his fellow tribesmen an attack trigger that makes Food (although it's capped at one per turn), while uncommon Pippin doubles our Food production, or else grafts Food onto our other token productions, and has the most appealing payoff of straight-up drawing cards. Less impressive is Samwise the Southearted, a "rescuer" whose added Ring temptation doesn't really make up for his extremely situational nature.


 The Starter Kit gives us two more rare Halflings. Frodo, Determined Hero is the third version of the character and once again is more flavor than substance. The Equipment-attaching ability is meant to convey Frodo's sword, Sting, as well as the Barrow-Blade. He's a good attacker in Equipment decks, but nothing more than that. Gollum, Scheming Guide is best discussed alongside the other Gollums. In the Jumpstart packs we find Sam's firstborn daughter Elanor Gardner (a reference to decades after the main events of Lord of the Rings) and Merry's father Saradoc, Master of Buckland. Elanor does high-profile mana ramp via Food. Saradoc is a reverse Halfling lord, in that he goes tall himself rather than pumping the other Halflings. He can contribute to a go-wide strategy too, since he generates a stream of Halfling tokens, and most nontoken Halflings are going to trigger that ability.


  The litany of legendary Halflings in the set appears never-ending. We also have The Hobbit protagonist and Frodo's "uncle" Bilbo, whose Izzet incarnation exploits his Ring-bearer status to connect and make Treasures; Sam's future wife Rosie, who's another strong Food payoff; the always scheming Lobelia and her Saruman-accomplice son Lotho, embodied into a "double spelling matters" Orzhov two-drop. Plus of course three different versions of Gollum, including one going under his original name of Sméagol – but we'll leave those for the Horror section.


 Out of the only six non-legendary Halflings in the set, one is the celebrated one-drop mana dork Delighted Halfling. Another one is the very intriguing uncommon exiler Shire Shirrif, which requires a token in order to perform its Oblivion Ring routine, but with Food as a major theme of the tribe, it might not be too much to ask; and two mana for the effect are a steal, and they leave behind a 2/2 vigilance, to boot. The common Hobbit cards mostly depict farmers, which naturally falls within the Food motif once again, if strictly for Limited purposes.


Horror: +7



> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 270, online: 269

 Related Tribes: Avatar, Bird, Halfling

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Apart from Sauron and that one Bird, the Horror type is domain of none other than Gollum/Sméagol, the ancient Hobbit deformed and corrupted by the prolungated contact with the One Ring. Equal parts unsettling and heartbreaking, the dissociated little guy is one of the most recognizable elements in any adaptation of Lord of the Rings, and a crucial if unwilling agent of the ultimate destiny of the entire world. Tales of Middle-earth split the mutated Hobbit into three separate incarnations. The Golgari-colored rare Sméagol, Helpful Guide, representing the time he spent accompanying Frodo and Sam in their final trek towards and up Mount Doom, only incidentally uses the Ring temptation mechanic. His rule text could be read as revealing cards from the top of an opponent's library and then stealing a land at every end step of a turn in which one of our creatures died. Ramping after turn three is never too exciting, and Sméagol is even harder to enable than Galadriel of Lothlórien, but he also hits hard with his high power, occasionally finds value in the temptation-granted abilities, and incorporates a possible milling wincon.

 Sacrifice builds are also the designated home of the monoblack uncommon two-drop Gollum, Patient Plotter, who can work as sacrificial fodder because he comes back from the graveyard in place of a different creature. It's sort of a clunky Recurring Nightmare, and there are certainly much better recursive creatures out there, but the design overall is solid, and might have some merit as a threat that's hard to get rid of. Same cost and color but less power for the other rare, Gollum, Scheming Guide, coming off of the Starter Kit. This one proposes a mini-game, in reference to the riddle game Gollum plays with Bilbo in The Hobbit, and which the latter wins by asking, "What have I got in my pocket?" It's slightly less random than tossing a coin, and it includes a minor form of library manipulation, but the difference between Gollum dealing two plus drawing a card and Gollum doing nothing for one turn makes for quite the big variance. Plus, if we aim to draw the card we left on top, the opponent might more easily guess if it's land or nonland, based on the board state. It's a flavorful and amusing mini-game, though. And it means this Gollum cannot be killed by combat damage in our turn, for what it's worth.

Horse: +2


> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 42, online: 37

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: There are two very important equines in Lord of the Rings, and it's nice to see them both turned into Magic cards. Shadowfax, Gandalf's zippy steed gifted to him by King Théoden, is a Horse lord granting his supernatural speed to his whole tribe, which is not irrelevant. He also occasionally accelerates one of them so much (or any other smaller creature, really) that they'll bypass the stack entirely. Somehow even more notably, he contains a magnificent pun based on Gandalf's line, "Shadowfax, show us the meaning of haste!" And sure enough, Shadowfax does show us the meaning of haste, through a reminder text for the haste mechanic that's almost never seen otherwise (since haste is evergreen). Just an adorable gag.

 Similarly adorable is Bill, Sam's pony, who took his master and Frodo to Moria. His card is a combat application of Food, but can also be seen as a body and two Food for four mana, which is not a bad deal. Bill sure carried a lot of Food in his life!

Human: +37


> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 3122, online: 2916

 Related Tribes: Advisor, Cleric, Elf, Knight, Noble, Peasant, Pirate, Ranger, Rogue, Shaman, Soldier, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Irrelevant

 Highlights: Humans play a major role in most regular Magic settings, and even more so in Lord of the Rings, where they represent two key kingdoms, Gondor and Rohan – plus the quasi-Elvish breed of the Númenóreans and their descendants, the Dúnedain, to which Aragorn belongs, hence his extended lifespan. Two of the new cards have a "Humans matter" mechanic based on any instance of one them entering the battlefield. With Théoden, King of Rohan, this results in double strike being temporarily assigned to one of our creatures; with the other Rohirrim leader Erkenbrand, Lord of Westfold, we get a small power boost to all our team. They're both fairly playable uncommons.

Knight: +11



> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 391, online: 378

 Related Tribes: Halfling, Human, Wraith

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: The concept of Knight suggests primarily two things in Lord of the Rings: the Riders of Rohan, whose entire culture revolves around their horses; or the sinister Nazgûl with their black steeds. We'll analyze the latter in their Wraith entry. As for the Rohirrim Knights, the set gives us two incarnation for King Théoden's nephew Éomer and one for his niece Éowyn. Each sibling is portrayed on a rare four-drop with haste and a legendary-based ability. Éomer grants an additional combat phase, after untapping all our creatures, if at least one legendary creatures has died during our first attack. This could mean Éomer himself; the opponent can try and play around it, but the legendary doesn't necessarily has to die as a result of combat, so we can force the issue through a  well-timed sacrifice. On her part, Éowyn is first and foremost exile-based ETB removal, which already catches our attention. It's conditional, as her target needs to have greater power than she has, which means she probably won't find an eligible target if dropped on curve in Limited; she might in Constructed though, what with all those high-powered green three-drops like Rhonas the Indomitable, Lovestruck Beast, or Topiary Stomper. The legendary angle of Éowyn, granting protection from the colors of the exiled creature until end of turn, might help her connect, but it's otherwise a negligible aspect of her card.

 Éomer also comes in a larger, uncommon form as Éomer of the Riddermark (which is the Rohirrim name for their kingdom). He's still hasty, and can create 1/1 tokens as long as we control the creature with the greatest power on the battlefield – which of course has a chance of just being Éomer himself with his power 5. It's not a must-play by any stretch of the imagination, but it's not terrible for a lower-rarity beater.

 There are aksi several common Rohirrim Knights chiefly designed for Limited, the highlight being Westfold Rider, which doubles as a delayed Disenchant. The one Human Knight that's not from Rohan is the monoblue Knights of Dol Amroth (a principality within Gondor). It grows using a returning "draw two" mechanic, but its base stats aren't too appealing.


Kraken: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 25

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: This is the tentacled creature, not necessarily affiliated with Sauron, that attacked the Fellowship of the Ring while they were passing an underground body of water in the fallen Dwarven kingdom of Moria. Tolkien doesn't call it a Kraken, but we might as well. It's a very minor presence in the books to be made into a mythic, but it's a fearsome monster nonetheless, as its massive stats suggest. In order to be able to actually attack with our 9/9 for five, though, we have to jump through a few hoops. We can wait nine turns or remove all the stun counters somehow (even better, Fate Transfer them). Or we can engage with the rest of its rule text, engineering some card draw outside of our turn, thus creating 1/1 Tentacles; and then sacrifice or chump with these Tentacles to untap the Watcher and stun something else. If we feel particularly inclined to convoluted combos, we can untap a different Kraken, since the mechanic allows for some bizarre tribal synergy. It's all ridiculous and hyper-janky, and arguably not a particularly smooth design, but Johnnies and Jennies can make it work. In Johnnies and Jennies decks.

Nightmare: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 68

 Related Tribes: Elf

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: This is the only Elf in the set that's not blue and/or green. It's one of the visions of fallen soldiers from the ancient Battle of Dagorlad encountered by Frodo, Sam and Gollum while traversing the Dead Marshes on their way to Mordor. In decks with a good share of legendaries, it's actually not a terrible recursive fodder; it scrys every time it reenters the battlefield and can be returned at instant speed, though it can't be used to block right away. It's not very synergistic with Nightmares, though, since their legendaries are all over the place, color-wise, and don't really coalesce into a singular deck that cares about sacrifices.

Noble: +20



> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 85, online: 84

 Related Tribes: Bird, Elf, Human, Spirit, Wraith

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Noble is an important subtype in Middle-earth, where bloodlines and heritages are crucial. All the legendary Elves except for Legolas are Nobles, and that includes the Starter Kit "wedding" between Aragorn and Arwen. Aside from the Witch-king (more on him later), another undead monarch is King of the Oathbreakers, which is however designed with Spirit tribal in mind.

 Human-wise, we have Aragorn leading the Army of the West into Mordor, after being recognized as rightful ruler of the "sister-kingdoms" Arnor and Gondor. In his Aragorn, the Uniter incarnation, he's a four-color blackless creature that really only wants to be played as the commander of a "multicolored matters" build, where most spells cast after he hits the battlefield are at least two colors, to capitalize on his disparate triggers. We also have Faramir, the late Boromir's brother and son of Gondor's last regent Denethor; ultimately, Aragorn appoints him prince of the region of Ithilien, so that's how we have a Noble card for Faramir. It's a strong continuos effect that doesn't require any action on our part and either draws us an extra card per turn or creates three 1/1 Human Soldier tokens, depending on whether the opponent we target attacks us or not. Both outcomes are positive, clearly, and the trigger is locked once we reach our end step, regardless if Faramir survives the opponent's turn. It's also a very flavorful mechanic: in time of peace, we get prosperity; in wartime, we get reinforcements.

 At uncommon we find he Rohirrim leaders Théoden and Éowyn, and the Gondorians Denethor and Imrahil. Plus of course the Eagles. Éowyn is in a monowhite dismounted version, so it's before she proved herself as a Knight by slaying the Witch-king along with Merry and Faramir. This is just an unremarkable "Equipment matter" card. The obsessed steward Denethor, who ruled Gondor in absence of the true king, gets a fascinating incarnation as a sacrifice outlet that also creates fresh fodder every time it's activated, so it can essentially fuel itself. We can just pay two generic mana every turn and drain the opponent for one, while triggering any effect that looks at creatures entering the battlefield and/or dying. The death has to happen in our turn, so we can't exploit the tokens for chump-blocking, but overall, it's a flexible and quite resilient three-drop that seems to overshoot the uncommon rarity. Prince Imrahil, the ruler of the vassal kingdom of Dol Amroth, is another token-maker, using the "draw two" mechanic as trigger, same as his own Knights of Dol Amroth. It's not as easy to consistently enable as something like Young Pyromancer or even Hero of Precinct One, but drawing extra cards is something we should be trying to do anyway, so he slots into an already winning strategy. And his casting cost is more compatible with competitive play than his precursor from Throne of Eldraine, Mad Ratter, ever was.


Nymph: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 19

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Tom Bombadil's wife Goldberry is almost as mysterious as he is. Her moniker of "River-Daughter" seems to suggest she's a Naiad, confirming Nymph as the correct subtype in Magic. Her counters-moving abilities don't synergize at all with the other Nymphs, none of which uses counters of any kind. But in general, there's potential for combos here, especially with Sagas – which is what her designers were probably thinking of, considering the proclivities of her husband's card.

Orc: +7



> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 86, online: 85

 Related Tribes: Archer, Berseker, Soldier

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The Orcs are the foot soldiers in the forces of Sauron so they have the role of basic antagonists throughout the books. They're called interchangeably "Orcs" or "Goblins", since the two terms refer to the same type of creature in Tolkien's works. And while that's closer to Magic's Goblins in size, habitat and attitude, "Orc" is the most frequently used and most recognizable word, so the majority of them in Tales of Middle-earth fall under the Orc tribe (particularly the larger Black Uruks and Uruk-hai), and the reworked amass mechanic now generates Orc Army tokens.

 The presence of so many amass cards in the set hinders the number of actual new Orcs we receive, but at the same time sustains a tribal theme. And it's one that, due to the homology between the two types mentioned above, batches Orcs and Goblins together for the first time since the archaic Orc General from The Dark, back when Magic's Orcs and Goblins more strictly adhered to fantasy tropes directly derived from Tolkien (other IPs have maintained a close relation between the two races, as we can see, for instance, in Warhammer).

 We can see this "Orcs and Goblins matter" approach (it's actually worded the other way around, but it sounds really wrong that way, doesn't it?) in three of the four Orc legendaries: Mauhúr augments the +1/+1 counters Orcs and Goblins get; the leader of the Uruk-hai Uglúk grows larger if an Orc or a Goblin dies in his service; and Cirith Ungol captain Gorbag can exchange an Orc or Goblin that successfully connected with a card or a Treasure. None of these is particularly good, though Mauhúr and Gorbag are serviceable two-drops. Even worse is the only rare legendary, Gorbag's co-captain Shagrat, an "Equipment matter" four-drop that's simultaneously unplayable in Limited and unappealing in Constructed.

 The best new Orc is by far the Archer Orcish Bowmasters, one of the outright best cards in the set, as already discussed. Uruk-hai Berserker and Cirith Ungol Patrol are good Limited players. The Orcs and Goblins theme is also seen on the Goblin Moria Marauder as well as on several other cards, like Assault on Osgiliath, Mordor Trebuchet, Olog-hai Crusher, Snarling Warg, and, albeit as a hindrance, (East-Mark Cavalier:LTRI) and Sting, the Glinting Dagger.


Peasant: +9



> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 30

 Related Tribes: Halfling, Human

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: The two non-Halfling Peasants are very different from each other. Butterbur, Bree Innkeeper (the owner of The Prancing Pony) is a Food generator. He gives out Food for free (which is probably not good business strategy) but we're not allowed to accumulate it, we need immediately consume it, one way or the other. At four mana, he's not the most efficient enabler for the Food theme in Constructed.

 The blue Pelargir Survivor (from Gondor's port city, frequently raided by Sauron's corsairs) is a mana dork for instants and sorceries, plus late-game milling. Strictly for Limited, where it can take advantage of the 1/3 body by becoming a Ring-bearer or else blocking one.

 Naturally the Halflings represent the most impactful influx of new Peasants, with top highlight being the happy couple of Samwise Gamgee and Rosie Cotton. Food seems to be the tribe's new go-to build-around, which makes all sorts of sense. In the past, it had already appeared on the Hansel and Gretel-esque Curious Pair.


Pilot: +2


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 New Tribal Total: 17

 Related Tribes: Elf

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: This application of Pilot, if technically correct, really hammers home the lack of a subtype for sailors that aren't Pirates. Anyway, navigation in Middle-earth is not a central theme. The only moment in the story where ships are involved is when most of the major characters sail from Grey Havens towards the Undying Lands in the epilogue, and that's what Grey Havens Navigator alludes to. Jumpstart added another Elf seaman with the rare Elvish Mariner. Both are playable if unexciting scry enablers, and the only two monoblue Pilots in existence (out of 4 blue Pilots in total).

Pirate: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 123, online: 113

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Despite the Corsairs of Umbar had sided with Sauron during the War of the Ring, they're not depicted as black here. This is just a barely playable looter for Limited, anyway.

Ranger: +4


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 New Tribal Total: 47

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Before revealing himself as the long-lost heir to the joint crowns of Arnor and Gondor, Aragorn primarily identified as a Ranger, an occupation Lord of the Rings is responsible for popularizing as a class for fantasy settings. The Rangers of the North and the Rangers of the South (aka the Rangers of Ithilien) are the two main Ranger corps in Middle-earth, both composed by descendants of the Dúnedain. They're each given a four-mana card, with the green Northerners using landfall to trigger Ring temptation, while the blue Southerners do a conditional Sower of Temptation impression – with a single Ring temptation attached (I'm honestly not sure where the flavor for these instances of "The Ring Tempts You" comes from). The latter is rare and more desirable in Constructed, even if it's only able to take control of creatures of power two or less. It still covers a wide variety of opposing threats, and the tempo swing created by this kind of cards is usually backbreaking.

 And then there's Aragorn. As a Gruul uncommon under his alias of Strider, he's a midrange beater that can easily attack as a 5/5 first striker – 6/6 if we cracked a fetch. We could also hold any such instant-speed way to trigger his landfall and turn it into a combat trick for any creature in our team, particularly the larger ones. Moving to Selesnya to lead the Fellowship (we should remember Aragorn is every color but black in his mythic incarnation as a Noble), he becomes a three-drop 3/3 that collects ability counters for himself and his companions. This is a very strong ability on the surface, but unfortunately it hinges on having spells that enable the Ring temptation, and not a lot of those will make the leap to Constructed. On top of that, we need to have a second creature other than Aragorn at the time the temptation goes off, because Aragorn rewards you for NOT making him the Ring-bearer. It's a flavorful wording that references his refusal to take the Ring from Frodo, and it's shared with three other legendaries in the set that had similar moments in the story: Gandalf, Friend of the Shire, Galadriel of Lothlórien, and Faramir, Field Commander. It's worth noting that Aragorn, Company Leader's last ability triggers independently, though; so if we have ways to place, say, +1/+1 counters on Aragorn, he'll essentially double them, as long as he has a target.

Rogue: +4


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 New Tribal Total: 407, online: 387

 Related Tribes: Avatar, Halfling, Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The only Rogue we didn't already discuss is Bill Ferny, a small-time criminal and agent of Saruman/Sharkey from Bree. He's the one who let loose the Hobbits' ponies, and then sold them the namesake Bill for three times its market value. This series of events is what inspired that extremely lore-based and outright bizarre second ability. The card's only practical application is making Treasures whenever Bill Ferny gets blocked (which should represent his pickpocketing, I guess), but how many combat exchanges can a 2/1 realistically expect to survive? The answer is "no more than one", so this is mostly two mana for a Treasure and maybe a minor trade with a 1/1 or a 2/2. Not really something to write home about.

 Incidentally, all these Rogues are nefarious figures – Sharkey is Saruman's "Tyrant of the Shire" kingpin identity, Lotho is his main henchman – so it's a bit jarring to see Bilbo among them. But he claimed the "Burglar" class during The Hobbit, in order to join Thorin's adventuring party, so it tracks.

Scarecrow: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 39, online: 37

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: In a set that has redefined the concept of top-down design with cards that try their hardest to recreate the most intricate moments from the books, this guy is just a random Scarecrow on a field in the Shire. He has no significance whatsoever, and certainly the story didn't involve living Scarecrow at any point. It's in fact one of only two artifact creatures in Tales of Middle-earth (the other one is similarly ludicrous), and it's there exclusively to have a common colorless fixer for Limited.

Scout: +5



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 New Tribal Total: 180, online: 172

 Related Tribes: Elf, Halfling

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Sam's daughter Elanor from the Jumpstart packs might be the best new Scout in the set, with her Food ramp routine. Selesnya Frodo is okay, but he's based on Ring temptation, or at the very least on a high density legendaries, which is not the Scout game. The Elves are all secondary "scry matters" cards for Limited.

Shaman: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 463, online: 457

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: A Shaman is not the kind of person you can expect to meet often in Middle-earth, where the use of magic is restricted to a handful of celestial Avatars, and the dominant civilizations live in refined urban settlements or farmlands or arboreal dreamlands. One exception are the Drúedain or Wose, a more primitive population of "wild folk". They might follow shamanic practices to find their way through the woods, for sure. Their one card is a standard two-drop mana dork that taps for any color of mana, an important common fixer for green-based multicolored decks in Limited. Added value is the late-game activation that grants +3/+3 and especially trample, possibly resulting in decisive assaults. As far as this kind of card goes, the Pathfinder is in the top tier.

Soldier: +21



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 New Tribal Total: 841, online: 780

 Related Tribes: Bird, Dwarf, Goblin, Halfling, Human, Orc, Spirit, Troll

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Aside from the effective Pippin, Guard of the Citadel and the unremarkable Shagrat, Loot Bearer, the named Soldiers are mostly of the Human variety. These most notably include the two sons of Denethor, the regent of Gondor: the ill-fated Boromir and the ultimately triumphant Faramir. Both are monowhite as Soldiers (Faramir also has a Noble version depicting him later in the story) and both have one ability that always matters, plus one that doesn't feel too relevant. In the case of the rare Boromir, Warden of the Tower (the title that establishes his being the eldest son of the Steward of Gondor), we get a vigilant three-drop 3/3 that can sacrifice himself to give the team indestructible until end of turn – basically Selfless Spirit with different stats. He also stops free casting from the opponent, which is a sideboard concern at best. On his part, Faramir, Field Commander is just an uncommon (the rare is the white-blue Faramir, Prince of Ithilien – this one's rookie Faramir). As a consequence, he costs more for the same body, he has no combat keywords, and his major ability has a conditional clause: the death of another member of our team. On the other hand, the reward of a card is mightily alluring, and Faramir can drop after the fact and still collect the prize at end step. In addition, if we're tempted by the Ring and have a different creature than Faramir to elect as a Ring-bearer, we get a 1/1 token. As noted, this is not going to happen much outside of Limited. Four mana for a 3/3 are also not going to fly in most competitive white-based decks even if the card immediately replaces itself, but both brothers have merit nonetheless.

 On to other colors of Soldiers, we've already seen the "Humans matter" alpha strike enhancer Erkenbrand; we also have one of only five black Humans in the set, Gothmog, Morgul Lieutenant, who most player will be convinced is an Orc, before checking the type line. And they might be right, since Gothmog's race isn't actually defined in The Return of the King, to the point that Peter Jackson just went with Orc in his film adaptation, because it feels the correct race for one of the commanders at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. Other transpositions, including Magic, chooses to make him a Black Númenórean. As a card, Gothmog is yet another below-the-curve four-drop 3/3, but with a 1/1 Army attached. Most importantly, he's a way to turn a token-based go-wide board into a threatening force or an impassable defense, by giving everybody deathtouch. It might not be efficient enough to warrant a place in Constructed decks, but token strategies that aren't interested in amass or Orc tribal will have a use for him, particularly in Commander – just think how powerful the venomous Snake from Ophiomancer is.

 Other uncommon Soldiers that aren't strictly "Orcs and Goblins matter" cards include the flickerer eagle Meneldor and the conditional exiler Shire Shirriff, both of which perform their duties pretty convincingly.


 The common Human Soldiers all appear in monowhite. Highlights are the solid setup piece Protector of Gondor, providing two bodies with a relevant subtype from a single card; and the self-replacing three-drop Errand-Rider of Gondor, which is actually efficient even when the clause isn't satisfied, since in that case it'll just loot away excess lands or currently useless spells.


Spider: +2


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 New Tribal Total: 74, online: 72

 Related Tribes: Demon

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: The arachnid tribe in Lord of the Rings is, of course, all about Shelob, the large Spider Demon that Frodo and Sam encountered while approaching Mordor. She's one of the most iconic villains from the books and as such gets the respect she commands with an adequante card incarnation, a six-mana 8/8 that grants her keywords to all our other Spiders. Her keywords are deathtouch and ward 2, and while the latter might not be too relevant in the phase of the game when six-drops are played, and the former is redundant on some of the best tribesmembers, like her own offpsring Mirkwood Spider (an improved Deadly Recluse), they're still relevant enough to matter. And there's more: all our Spiders now get to perform the very flavorful trick of wrapping victims into their web, to be eaten later. What this mean in game terms is that any Spider damaging another creature under Shelob's watch (and killing it through deathtouch in the process, incidentally) will generate a very amusing Food token that loses all card types but still maintains any continuous ability the creature might have as well as triggering all its ETB effects. At the very least, it's three extra life per kill, but we could take control of a lot of crucial abilities this way. And the damage doesn't even need to happen during combat, so bite and fight spells are what Shelob craves. Other than Food, and the company of other Spiders.

Spirit: +2


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 New Tribal Total: 586, online: 576

 Related Tribes: Noble, Soldier

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: The King of the Oathbreakers, also known as "King of the Dead", is the leader of the Dead Men of the Mountains, the ghost army that was cursed by Aragorn's ancestor Isildur, having failed to fulfill their oath to him. During the War of the Ring, they redeemed themselves by swearing allegiance to Aragorn, resulting instrumental in the ultimate victory of the anti-Sauron coalition. This card is an unusually effective representation of the fact that a ghost is ethereal and cannot easily be affected by the physical world. It's in fact outright impossible to target the King, as he'll just phase out in response. And then, when he phases back in, he'll be accompanied by a new flying Spirit. What's even more remarkable is that our sorrowful monarch takes every other Spirit we control under his command, granting the same ability to his entire host. And since phasing doesn't involve a change of zone, the tokens are protected as well, along with any counter our Spirits might be carrying. It's a game-changing presence for sure, only defeated by a board sweeper, or through the use of abilities – the latter weakness is kind of a break of flavor, but it's an understandable clause to add, making it so that, for instance, an Oblivion Ring effect is going to take care of the King. He's also a bit slow as a win condition, but can still be a legitimate finisher in control decks, if properly assisted.

 We also get a rank-and-file member of the King's army in the form of the common Soldier of the Grey Host, which is just serviceable in Limited.

Treefolk: +5



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 New Tribal Total: 95, online: 93

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: The Ents are yet another very iconic element of Tokien's creation, but unfortunately, they didn't give birth to any Contructed-playable card. Their leader Treebeard, here depicted as Fangorn, Tree Shepherd, is a seven-mana Treefolk lord that only offers a big butt, an underwhelming granting of vigilance, and some minor, demanding ramp that doesn't feel very relevant at that point in the game. The young and energetic Quickbeam is a valid curve-topper in Limited, thanks to his trampling boost, but unlikely to show up anywhere else. Similarly, Generous Ent is perhaps the most accomplished of the landcyclers, and the trampling Enraged Huorn provides some healty board presence at five, but they're strictly Limited cards.

 Perhaps the most impressive of these five is Old Man Willow, which can be enormous and has a form of built-in removal with which we could easily trade a Food or Treasure token for a two-toughness creature. A beating in Limited, it's probably not going to translate as well in Constructed, but it definitely has the best chances of any of the others. By the way, there's a big flavor fail at work here: both the Huorns and Old Man Willow (who might well be a Huorn himself) are moving trees, not Ents. Which in Magic terms means they should be Plants, not Treefolk.

Troll: +2


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 New Tribal Total: 52, online: 51

 Related Tribes: Soldier

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Nothing special to say about the new Trolls either, which is a bit unfortunate, since the Olog-hai are a conspicuous part of Sauron's army, but Olog-hai Crusher is just a decent four-drop for Limited, albeit the flavor of needing to be surrounded by the other Sauron's troops to function properly is a winning one. Troll of Khazad-dûm is the black member of the landcyclers, and close in power level to Generous Ent – which is fitting, considering the Trolls of Middle-earth came to be as Morgoth's imitation of the Ents.

Wall: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 146, online: 125

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: A Wall is kind of the opposite of a siege machine, but there was the precedent of Brimstone Trebuchet in Throne of Eldraine. And, really, there's no other creature type for inanimate objects that shouldn't actually be considered creatures in the first place. This particular Trebuchet is an "Orcs and Goblins matter" card that guarantee an extra two-powered flying attack every time we attack with our Orcs and Goblins. Meanwhile, it's a perfectly functional 1/4 roadblock for three mana. It's Limited territory, and neither Orc nor (especially) Goblin tribal really care for a black defender card, but it could be worse for a common. I personally don't much like the flavor of the Goblins riding on the boulder, which feels very Warhammer-esque and not at all Lord of the Rings.

Warrior: +9



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 New Tribal Total: 949, online: 925

 Related Tribes: Dwarf, Goblin, Halfling, Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: We've already reviewed all of the new non-Human Warriors, none of which is noteworthy – which is a pity because they include both Gimli's incarnations as well as the more assertive-looking Frodo from the Starter Kit. The only two Human Warriors, both appearing at common, represent the populations from the East and South that allied with Sauron (and yes, this geographical placement, along with their cultural connotations, sparked controversy). They're okay draft picks, especially Easterling Vanguard, which essentially replaces itself with an Army token.


Wizard: +7



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 New Tribal Total: 956, online: 932

 Related Tribes: Avatar

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Wizards in Tales of Middle-earth are strictly a subset of Avatar, because they translate the Istari, or at least the three of them that actually appear in the story: the four versions of Gandalf – with Gandalf, White Rider being from the Starter Kit – plus two of the Sarumans (who becomes a Rogue in his final identity of Sharkey) and the one Radagast. A peculiar element of the world imagined by Tolkien is that magic is only wield by a handful of celestial beings. Creatures can be magical and have magical attributes and powers, but spellcasting is not something you learn if you're not at least a Maiar.

Wolf: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 79, online: 71

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: The Wargs are the large Wolves used as mounts by Sauron's Orcs and Goblins, hence the power-enhancing ability making this card a 4/4 menacer for four mana. It remains a Limited-only card, though, especially since there are only three other black Wolves (the last time a monoblack one was printed was in the original Ravnica set), and none of them cares for Orcs and Goblins, whereas Orcs and Goblins wouldn't care for fielding an off-tribe midrange beater among their ranks.

Wraith: +4


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 New Tribal Total: 9

 Related Tribes: Knight, Noble

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: Leave it to the iconic Nazgûl to completely revolutionize a tribe that was considered essentially abandoned. Wraith is actually one of the oldest creature types in the game, as it debuted 30 years ago, all the way back in Limited Edition Alpha with Bog Wraith. After two forgettable follow-ups in Mirage block, the only relevant member of the tribe came in Future Sight with the widely played self-cycler Street Wraith, a staple of mass reanimation and dredge decks. The future alluded by Street Wraith never materialized, though, and the Wraith tribe petered out 14 years ago with Zendikar's Bog Tatters, which was just an uninspired, unplayable retread of the original Bog Wraith. The only element in common between these five original Wraiths is the presence of swampwalk as their signature keyword.

 Enter the Nazgûl, the nine "ring-servants" of Sauron, which happen to be defined specifically as Wraiths in the text, so there was never any doubt in regard to which creature type to translate them into. They're former mortal beings corrupted by the power of the One Ring over the course of millennia, and turned into spectral, implacable hunters – the Black Riders, Sauron's elite squad. The books constantly point out how there are only nine of them, so the designers embraced that concept by giving the Nazgûl card the "relentless" ability specifically set to nine copies per deck (similarly to Seven Dwarves in Throne of Eldraine), but also by creating nine different artworks for it. Such flavor win got slightly undermined by the fact that the Witch-king, which is their leader and Sauron's second-in-command, should count among the Nine Nazgûl, but is instead given a separate, additional card. Even worse, the Jumpstart packs added Ringwraiths, which is just another moniker of the Nazgûl, and the Starter Kit doubled down with a second Witch-king (a third incarnation is found in the Commander decks).

 Flavor aside, though, the basic Nazgûl uncommon form is a strong Limited card but it gets insanely powerful in a Wraith tribal deck, since it adds +1/+1 counters on every Wraith, even those from the past, as well as those that still have to be printed. For three mana, we get a 2/3 with deathtouch that immediately becomes legendary and unblockable by creatures with higher power. And every subsequent iteration of it makes the previous ones better and better.

 The Nazgûl card has become now so central to the tribe's identity that every Wraith deck will have to run the full allotment of nine, and every other Wraith will have to be evaluated based on their interactions with the Nazgûl. The six-drop 5/5 cum removal Ringwraiths, which is meant to represent a group of Nazgûl hunting together, is already very synergistic, since the Ring temptation from the basic card triggers its recursion (Wraith tribal is going to be the one case where "The Ring Tempts You" will be part of the regular strategy).

 As for the Witch-king, the one found in actual boosters is Witch-king of Angmar, a midrange flyer that can be made indestructible by just discarding a card in response to removal, and forces the opponent to sacrifice a creature every turn they made a successful connection in combat. It's their choice what to sacrifice, but the overall package is robust. Witch-king, Bringer of Ruin improve on the edict effect by triggering it upon the Witch-king attacking, and restricting the opponent's choice – even if the creature with the least power might seem like the one they would choose anyway, it's not always so clear-cut, and we can play it to our advantage. The area where the second Witch-king lacks in comparison with the regular one is resilience, as he is not given any means to protect himself – that's how Éowyn has slain him!


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