15, Jul, 23

Dominant LOTR Card Could Put Up Banworthy Numbers!

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Article at a Glance
The One Ring has established itself as a multi-format all-star already. From Legacy Mystic Forge combo to Modern Four-Color Control and beyond, the card is certainly making its presence felt. However, some would argue the card is simply doing too much, especially in Modern. With Pro Tour Lord of the Rings set to get underway later in July, it will be interesting to see how much The One Ring dominates. It is certainly a possibility that The One Ring ends up on the Modern banlist, and it appears that a lot of MTG players are hoping for this outcome. Is The One Ring really that harsh to play against?

The Colorless Problem

Perhaps the biggest issue with The One Ring is that it is a colorless source of card advantage. The card is becoming extremely homogenous not just in Historic, but also Modern. It makes sense that the card would show up in Midrange decks designed to tap out for big haymakers, but the card is much stronger than just a typical piece of top end. The card is absolutely excellent in any deck that ramps in any capacity, because having access to more mana makes utilizing the card advantage much easier. In decks like Grinding Station combo, The One Ring helps dig for combo pieces, while simultaneously helping keep you alive with the “Protection from everything” clause.

This level of homogeneity is potentially a big problem. Lots of cards that have been banned in the past have been banned because the decks that utilized them put a stranglehold on other decks in the format. Cards like Wilderness Reclamation ate up a huge percentage of the Standard metagame while also forcing out other strategies that couldn’t reliably compete. The One Ring not only has some egregious play patterns, but it also shows up in so many different strategies that it’s almost impossible to escape it. You know it’s great when a deck like Azorius Control in Modern is playing a playset maindeck over cards like Jace, the Mind Sculptor or even Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. That leads to another problem with the card.

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Life Loss Not Enough

Typically, decks like Azorius Control have had one goal in mind: staying alive until you can stabilize and take over the game in a relatively slow fashion. In this sense, the deck typically uses its life total as a resource but can’t afford to take a bunch of excess damage. The whole point of The One Ring is that the life loss is supposed to add up enough to make it difficult to use the card. Unfortunately, allowing you to gain Protection from everything for a turn almost does the opposite.

This allows many decks to simply tap out for the card knowing that as long as it doesn’t get countered, they’re safe until their next turn. Then, the player can tap The One Ring to draw a card immediately, all before losing any life. They will then lose one life on their upkeep, draw two more cards, and so far they have only lost one life and already drawn three cards and, at minimum, “Fogged” for a turn.

This is where the Time Walk plus Ancestral Recall comparison comes into play. Of course, at this point, The One Ring is supposed to cause you to lose at least two life each turn cycle from now on. The problem is that there are simply too many ways to reset The One Ring. It’s very common that once you have drawn six cards and lost three life, before you start to accumulate life loss, you can bounce The One Ring with Teferi, Time Raveler or simply play another copy of The One Ring.

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“Legendary” Equals Upside?

The One Ring being legendary is actually upside, which is completely egregious, especially given the flavor of the card. This incentivizes players to add extra copies of The One Ring to their decks in order to avoid the risks from the first copy. Once the first copy has allowed you to draw a ton of extra cards, which likely means you have found another copy of The One Ring, you can simply reset The One Ring with the legend rule, keep the new one, and now you gain Protection from everything again. This play pattern is awful, and absolutely worth mentioning.

Sometimes, cards aren’t only banned for the percentage of the metagame they represent. Cards like Krark-Clan Ironworks, for example, also led to very one-sided gameplay that put a ton of the focus on one player. This not only created a lot of bad feelings for the other player, but it also caused tournaments to go longer as players with Krark-Clan Ironworks churned through their decks. While The One Ring isn’t a combo piece directly, it does promote some of the same one-sided gameplay when it resolves. Being on the other side of The One Ring feels terrible, as you know your opponent will get to see a ton of cards before you even get the chance to deal damage to them thanks to The One Ring’s enters-the-battlefield effect.

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The “Oko” Treatment?

So far, in my opinion, The One Ring has showcased relatively poor gameplay, is very homogenous across different decks, and has an enormous metagame share. Outside of Counterspells, the card is difficult to interact with, thanks to it having Indestructible. Cards like Delighted Halfling can even render Counterspells moot, and once the card hits the table, many games feel relatively hopeless, unless you have your own copies of The One Ring.

With Pro Tour Lord of the Rings, a Modern Pro Tour, on the way and a ban announcement coming August 7, The One Ring is definitely on the hot seat. When Oko, Thief of Crowns finally got the axe, it had just put up absurd numbers at the Pro Tour. Some players were prepared and went as far as to play typical sideboard hate cards like Noxious Grasp in the maindeck, simply to help deal with the powerful Planeswalker.

I expect to see a lot of Counterspells and even more copies of The One Ring at this Pro Tour. Given that The One Ring is a flavorful chase Mythic from the set, it’s likely going to take a lot for the card to get banned. Only time will tell if The One Ring dominates the Pro Tour and gets the axe, but if you want to play Modern for as long as The One Ring does remain, you better be prepared.

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