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MtG: One Set to Rule Them All – ‘Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth’

4 Minute Read
Feb 7 2024
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From bringing powerful new Commanders to the game to finally unseating Black Lotus as the most expensive card, Tales of Middle-earth gave Magic some incredible things.

Magic has always been a place for fantastical worlds. From the primary plane of Dominaria to the metal world of Mirrodin (or New Phyrexia, depending on who you ask), the locales are just as vibrant as the powerful creatures that inhabit them. It stands to reason, then, that Magic would want to make its way to Middle-earth.

Tales of Middle-earth wasn’t the first Universes Beyond set, but it WAS the first one to include a full set release. As such, it included a wealth of new cards for players in almost every format to use in their decks. It was one of the best sets of 2023 and opened up Magic to all sorts of new and fantastic settings.

What does Magic have to do with Lord of the Rings?

With most sets, the cards propel the story forward, at least a bit. The recent Dominarian war arc, for example, tied up a decades-long story and finally eliminated Phyrexia from the mix. Whether or not that sticks is another question. However, Middle-earth isn’t a part of the Magic multiverse, so why make a set for it?

Short answer: because it’s awesome. Lord of the Rings is the doorway for many people into fantasy, and there is almost no one in that community who doesn’t have at least a passing understanding of it. Combining one of the most successful CCGs in the world with one of the most well-known properties is a no-brainer.

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Magic is brilliant in that there are several ways to play. Whether you want to play the super casual Commander, the budget-friendly Pauper, or the Pro Tour level in Standard, you’ll find plenty of people to play.

Unfortunately, since Tales of Middle-earth is a Universes Beyond set and thus non-canon, it cannot be played in Standard. That’s probably good, considering how obscenely powerful some of the cards are.

Not to worry, though! The set is legal in Modern (the non-rotational equivalent of Standard) and Commander, two of the most popular formats. Sauron may not be able to lead you to a Pro Tour qualification, but he can lead your deck as your Commander.

Why is the Set so Expensive?

When it comes to hobbies, Magic is certainly on the expensive end. While it doesn’t usually hold a candle to higher-budget games like Warhammer, it can get pretty pricey. Commander is especially susceptible since not only do you need 100 cards, but a lot of the better pieces are older, and as such expensive. One of the best cEDH pieces, Jeweled Lotus, can run upwards of $100 depending on where you look.

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Even by that metric, Tales of Middle-earth was a remarkably expensive set. It wasn’t quite as high as Commander Masters, but it still shot up a bit in price. Since it wasn’t a Standard set, people were curious why. The simple answer: the One Ring.

To both drive up excitement and pay homage to the source material, Wizards created a serialized One Ring card. However, it was unique in that they only made ONE. This card was only available in Collector Boosters, and as such, everyone wanted to find it.

When it was finally recovered, it sold for a previously unheard-of 3 million dollars. With the search over, prices started to decrease, but some of the more powerful rares still fetch a pretty penny.

Is Tales of Middle-earth worth it?

That isn’t a question that has an easy answer, unfortunately. The cards in the set are powerful, the art is beautiful, and the game is better for their inclusion. If you are a fan of Lord of the Rings, having the cards is awesome, even just as collector’s items. Playing them in Commander will give you an edge, and you can unleash some powerful combos.

If you’re primarily a Standard player, then this obviously isn’t the set for you. There are plenty of sets to try instead, but if you can’t use the cards, there’s probably no reason to buy the boosters. In that case, just purchase the singles that you want for your display board.

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Author: Clint Lienau
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