25, Jun, 23

25 Cent Lord of the Rings Cards May Shake Up This MTG Format!

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Article at a Glance

Powerful LOTR cards like Orcish Bowmasters and The One Ring have already impacted multiple formats. In a less expected twist, both Oliphaunt and Generous Ent are showing up in Living End. But what about one of Magic’s oldest and lowest barrier to entry formats, Pauper? Do the commons play just as well there?

The last set released prior to Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth was March of the Machine: The Aftermath; a set notably devoid of common rarity cards, thus there was nothing for Pauper. Was this a coincidental occurrence, or was Wizards cognizant of just how many formats LOTR would impact? While several cards looked good from the spoilers, a handful of them have already infiltrated the format. Some, though, are close but not quite good enough. Let’s take a look at what is being played, what isn’t being played and what still has potential.

Delete Artifacts

A direct replacement or enhancement to the sideboard card Smash to Dust, Cast into the Fire operates ever so slightly differently than Smash but it’s already seeing a lot of play. Exiling an Artifact can be excellent in a recursion heavy format and many decks in Pauper love going late game. The Instant speed effects versus the Sorcery speed of Smash to Dust is compelling. Additionally, dealing one damage to two different Creatures at Instant speed is exactly what you need.

Not having a destroy effect for a Defender is meta specific. If your meta features a lot of Defender decks, Smash is likely to be significantly better. If you’re not expecting Defender, Exiling an Artifact is much better. Some lists have featured a two-two split in the sideboard as a way to hedge your bets, in case you’re unsure of the meta or simply preparing a couple of good answers for any situation. Many current lists, though, are going all-in on Cast and running four of in the sideboard.

Read More: Players Up in Arms About Expensive MTG Lord of the Rings Cards Arriving Bent!

You Expected a Bat?

Mirkwood Bats made a much bigger impression initially, mostly because of Commander, than the simple, reliable, efficient Dunland Crebain. The Bird Horror is showing up in a variety of decks like Dead Guy Ale because it’s simply a lot of value for three mana. It has high synergy with both Deadly Dispute and Ephemerate. While Mirkwood Bats enjoys token generation off Deadly Dispute, you need another target to sacrifice. Furthermore, Emphemerate to save a Bat from removal is fine but it does not generate additional value. For these reasons the Birds at three mana are better than the Bats at four.

Furthermore, decks like Golgari Gardens and Dead Guy Ale both run Vampire Sovereign, a five drop that drains an opponent for three life while healing you three. If you reanimate your Vampire, or Ephemerate it, you get multiple ETBs. Unfortunately for Mirkwood Bats the same is not true. A 3/4, black, flying Creature is a huge threat and a 2/2 is much less so. Does that mean that Mirkwood Bats won’t see any Pauper play? No, it’s likely to find a place in a token heavy combo deck but is currently sandwiched between a Bird and a Vampire.

Read More: MTG’s The One Ring May be Better Than Expected

Future Format Disruptor?

This is the LOTR common I am most excited about and it’s not only because it seems like a really strong card in green. Green has always been a color that has deck manipulation buried inside its color identity. Look no further than Alpha set with Natural Selection. Way before blue was Brainstorming, Pondering and Preordaining, green was already setting up the top of the deck, but it could also do that to an opponents deck and at Instant speed! Then there’s the ultra powerful Sylvan Library from Legends. What about Mirri’s Guile from Tempest? As you can see, green has had a rich history of top of the deck manipulation and Elven Farsight has been a long time coming.

Certainly it’s a very different card than Abundant Harvest, but the differences are very strong. There is one relatively large problem though. It’s not being as readily incorporated into Pauper as expected. The main issue is that Pauper is a really fast and efficient format. Cards are cycled in and out rapidly because they are inexpensive and easy to acquire. If a card doesn’t work and work quickly, it gets replaced. So far, many of the dominant decks in the format that mix creatures and spells don’t care about drawing one card or deck order. Furthermore, a high density Creature deck like Elves tends to play a card like Winding Way which costs two mana but can get you four cards! Still, I think it’s safe to say that Elven Farsight is a card to watch in the future, even if it’s not exactly defining the format now.

Read More: MTG’s The One Ring May be Better Than Expected

Eat to Win

When I first saw Lembas spoiled my first thought was “Dang, that’s good in Pauper!” This Artifact has already joined the format and is being played primarily in Urzatron. However, I think this Artifact has some serious potential to end up like Prophetic Prism or Bonder’s Ornament. Lembas can go into every deck at virtually no cost. A scry effect, with a draw, with three life gain for four colorless mana does not seem powerful. The fact that Lembas recurs itself, replaces dead draws with live ones and gives you enough life to survive extra turns means that it’s never a bad draw. The fact that this card is featured in the main deck of a Boros Synthesizer brew shows that even an aggressive deck is made better with its inclusion. Don’t be surprised if you see it steal a slot or four from many decks in the format.

Don’t believe that life gain matters? In Pauper cards like Weather the Storm are in many different sideboards and even some main deck plans. Gaining extra life turns into extra turns and gaining a ton of life is therefore a ton of extra turns. With that time, many decks pull ahead in the late game. Because of the recursion element, Lembas gives a deck a source of never ending life gain, scrying and card draw which is extremely important for late game centered decks. Against aggressive decks, you already have a sideboard answer. Another reason that Cast into the Fire has an Exile mode is Lembas. Keep your eyes on this card until Tron gets it banned!

Read More: Ultra-Rare $300+ Lord of the Rings Foils Can Only be Found in Commander Decks!

Not Making the Cut

All of the common “The Ring tempts you” cards had been theorized as Pauper playables. The outcome currently? No decks are playing any of these cards. While some of the cards like Birthday Escape are theoretically playable, it’s simply unlikely that The Ring effect is worth playing a worse base card. Compare Soothing of Sméagol to either Vaporsnag or Snap which appear in various decks, with Mono Blue Aggro just being one example. You can see that Soothing is nowhere near as strong as a one mana spell that bounces and deals a damage or an effectively zero mana Snap that allows you to cast a Counterspell or Spellstutter Sprite in addition.

Out of all of the temptation effects, I think Birthday Escape has the largest chance of seeing significant play because one mana draw a card and making a Creature unblockable is strong value. However, Pauper is full of removal and small Creatures which make the whole temptation ability just a bit weaker. Overall, because of how streamlined and efficient Pauper has become, it’s genuinely hard to run enough tempt effects to get all the effects and keep a ring bearer in play. Jumping through so many hoops for a hard to block, but not truly unblockable, Creature that deals an extra three damage simply is not worth running multiple copies of less powerful cards.

Read More: Ultra Competitive MTG Format Is Less Salty Than Expected

An Intentional Omission?

After March of the Machine: The Aftermath was released with no common cards, it’s refreshing to see a set with a whole lot of Pauper potential. LOTR is seeing play in virtually every format already which shows that it’s not just a Modern or Commander set. Hopefully this set and not Aftermath is a sign of things to come.

Read More: Lord of the Rings MTG Set Has an Infinite Combo in Limited?!

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