7, Jul, 23

MTG's Best Starter Kit Offers Surprising $57 Value!

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In an effort to acquire new players, Wizards of the Coast has created a lot of different product. Jumpstart seems to be the preferred product at the moment, offering new players a chance to open two packs, slam the contents together, and get learning about how to play Magic: the Gathering.

In the past, the Starter Kit product was a common product to see alongside various MTG releases, especially core sets. Offering a few mechanically unique cards in two prebuilt 60-card decks, the goal of this product is to offer new players an easy entry point to learn the rules.

Unfortunately, in an effort to make these decks easy to understand for new players, many of the mechanically unique cards were very undertuned. The rest of the deck was, generally, also not desirable for anyone who had the rules of the game under their belt, which made these products massive flops.

Despite the checkered history of the Starter Kit product, it has returned once again with Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth. This time, however, it appears that Wizards of the Coast may have done this right, as there is some serious value to be had in the Lord of the Rings Starter Kit!

Lord of the Rings Starter Kit

There are a lot of mechanically unique MTG Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth cards offered in the Starter Kit, which has made this particular entry-level product a lot more valuable than usual. This is not the first time that Wizards of the Coast has released a Starter Kit product, but it is the first time that there’s been a good reason for any MTG player to consider buying this.

The Lord of the Rings Starter Kit is meant as a product to help new players learn the ropes of Magic: the Gathering. As such, these Kits generally include mechanically unique cards that are a little watered down to make them easy to understand. Since the Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth product may reach out to fans of the LOTR IP, it makes sense to create an easy entry point for them that could get them excited.

As far as card quality goes, these kits offer the level of cards you would expect. There are some hidden gems in here, but many of the cards in these kits are rather weak, and probably will not see play outside of specific themed Commander decks. The caveat, however, is that these are fantastic for themed Commander decks.

Because many players are trying to build Lord of the Rings-themed Commander decks, Starter Kit exclusives have become surprisingly expensive. The demand for these cards heavily outweigh the current supply of singles on the market. This gives your Starter Kit a lot of value to trade your cards if you want to exchange cards for more complex MTG product – after learning the ropes, for example.

A quick note here – all of these cards also have extended art treatments that you can find in Collector Booster product. As you may imagine, the extended art variants tend to be a bit more expensive. Also of note is that the extended art versions of these cards do not have foil copies – yet.

Read More: Top 10 Most Expensive Lord of the Rings MTG Cards

Sauron Deck Exclusives

Starting with the Sauron-half of the Starter Kit is the Lidless Eye himself.

The Commander itself leads to a really aggressive strategy that will likely involve taking your opponent’s cards and sacrificing them. While this may be a bit tough to use as an actual Commander since most of its value is expended as an ETB trigger (and Rakdos is not great at Blinking cards), it does seem like a fantastic thematic addition to the right 99. For this reason, the card tends to retail for about $6.50.

Gollum, Scheming Guide

Gollum, Scheming Guide is deceptively powerful. The card offers a minigame that truly reflects the scheming nature of Gollum. This is because, regardless of whether you win or lose, Gollum will not expose himself to danger.

Whenever Gollum attacks, you get to look at the top two cards of your library and rearrange them in any order. After that, you can choose an opponent and state either ‘land’ or ‘nonland’. Your opponent has to guess whether the top card of your library is what you say it is. If they guess right, Gollum is removed from combat. If they guess wrong, you draw the card and Gollum temporarily gains a power and unblockable status. No matter the outcome, Gollum will not be able to be blocked but, if your opponent chooses wrongly, you get card advantage and a threatening clock.

Despite the card being a starter deck exclusive, there does not appear to be too much interest in Gollum, Scheming Guide. The card has dropped in price, currently retailing for between $2 and $3 on average. Honestly, this seems like a rather powerful effect at that price point.

Read More: MTG Players Want More Bizarre One-Card Decks!

Witch-king, Bringer of Ruin

Here’s a Starter Kit exclusive worth a decent chunk of change! The card itself is a definite bomb in the context of a Starter Kit battle, but the Witch-king, Bringer of Ruin isn’t too powerful in a Commander setting. Should it be allowed to attack, the effect of causing a defending opponent to sacrifice their least power-ful creature can be devastating, but getting to the stage where you can attack with this card may be harder than you expect.

Either way, as we’ve recently discussed, Wraith Typal is trendy right now. As a result, the Witch-king, Bringer of Ruin is a hot commodity. While the market price on TCGplayer suggests this card is retailing for $15, sales tell a different story. According to recent sales, this card is slowly increasing in price, commonly selling for around the $17 mark.

The Balrog, Flame of Uldun

This particular iteration of The Balrog is the least exciting that the Tales of Middle-earth set has to offer. A 7/7 with Trample for five mana is a good rate, but the card has a startling downside. Should a Legendary Creature an opponent controls die, The Balrog will put itself on the bottom of its owner’s library. This is rather flavorful, especially if an opposing Gandalf dies, but it does not translate well into being a playable card. As a result, this card is currently worthless.

Read More: Top 10 Worst Creatures in MTG

Fires of Mount Doom

For a $1.50-$2.00 price point, the Fires of Mount Doom looks like a pretty powerful card. Firstly, this acts as removal to a small creature. If that card is being buffed by a bunch of equipment, the Fires will not spare those either, making this quite cute against equipment-based Commander decks. I still do not think this is quite good enough against a Modern deck like Hammertime, however.

The real value of this card comes in its activated ability. Three mana is not cheap when exiling a card that can only be played for that turn but, should you play it, Fires of Mount Doom will deal two damage to each player. This can be a win condition in a drawn-out game of Commander.

Fires of Mount Doom definitely isn’t a card to write home about but, for the price point, its effect is interesting.

The Fellowship

This, like many other aspects of Magic’s Lord of the Rings crossover, highlights the struggle between good and evil. While we explored all of the unique tools that the Sauron deck provides, there is another deck represented by Aragorn and Arwen’s marriage, one of the biggest events that represents the vanquishing of evil within the LOTR lore.

As far as this card goes in a playability sense, the card is fine at casual Commander tables. Six mana is a rather expensive cost to pay for a card that needs a board presence to shine, but Aragorn and Arwen can snowball your board out of control rather quickly. As a result, the card is worth about $5.

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Frodo, Determined Hero

While Frodo’s viability in a deck like Modern Hammertime may seem strong at first glance, its important to note that this card cannot equip one mana equipments, despite being able to equip two and three mana value equipments, for free, which really feels like a ‘Frodo cannot equip Colossus Hammer for free’ clause.

Outside of that, though, Frodo is fantastic in any white Commander equipment decks. Able to equip the Sword cycle while ignoring all damage dealt for free, Frodo can generate a ton of value when sorrounded by powerful equipment. There is definitely a home for this card in the Commander format and, as a result, Frodo retails for about $3 on the secondary market.

Gandalf, White Rider

Gandalf, White Rider is another creature that excels when you have a board presence. As long as you’re casting a lot of spells, Gandalf can represent a lot of power across a lot of creatures while helping you fix your draw. Gandalf itself is rather difficult to kill, giving you the option of placing Gandalf fifth from the top of your deck upon death.

While this card does need a large presence outside of itself to function efficiently, Gandalf is a decent shout in token decks that want to cast a lot of spells, like a Young Pyromancer-themed deck. For that reason, the card is worth about $3.

Read More: Top 11 MTG Most Expensive Mythic Rares: July 2023

Galadriel, Gift Giver

Considering Galadriel’s mana value, this card has some serious secondary market value. For five mana, Galadriel offers the opportunity to, on entry and attack, create either a Food, Treasure or place a +1/+1 counter on a target creature. Considering the uptick in Food matters decks, Galadriel could be considered an interesting asset there. Otherwise, the ability to generate Treasure Tokens is a powerful way to ramp. Finally, having the Elf creature type could allow this to see play in Elf Typal decks.

Either way, grabbing a Galadriel on the secondary market may cost more than expected. This card tends to retail for between $8.50 and $10 for its Starter Kit variant. That said, I personally would not advise trying this card unless your heart is set on it. Galadriel seems a bit lacking for her mana value and price point.

Bilbo’s Ring

Last, but certainly not least, is Bilbo’s Ring. This equipment spell saw an explosive rise in price on the secondary market right after set release, hitting a peak of $14! Its come down since then, but still has about a $9-10 asking price.

Bilbo’s Ring is an incredible upgrade to the Food and Fellowship Commander deck. As we’ve mentioned a few times already, this particular Commander deck, in comparison to the other preconstructed decks, needs some help.

While best when used alongside valuable Halfling creatures, Bilbo’s Ring makes any creature that wants to attack very difficult to deal with. Offering Hexproof and unblockable, your equipped creature will be nigh-untouchable during your turn. Should the creature attack alone, you can even generate card advantage.

This is great alongside Frodo, Adventurous Hobbit since the card wants to attack to generate Ring Tempts and draw cards already. The life gain present in the Food and Fellowship deck will even help mitigate the minor downside that this card has.

Total Value of Mechanically Unique Starter Kit Cards

Taking into account all of the values of these mechanically unique cards (while taking the median of the prices in ranges) comes to a startling $57.40! For reference, the starter kit itself is worth $30, and offers two full decks that you can play before stripping it for parts. You even get codes to get these cards on MTG Arena!

Outside of the cards above, however, there is not much value to be found here. The kit has already almost doubled in price since release since these used to go for about $17, so people are aware of just how valuable the mechanically unique cards are.

Either way, this Starter Kit seems like a slam dunk for a wide variety of players. Between wanting to simply play with two fun Lord of the Rings-themed preconstructed decks and offering Lord of the Rings fans a great way to access the game of MTG, this product seems to pass in many different lights. Should the Starter Kit exclusive becomes easier to access, or become less desirable as Commander interest fades, these cards may lose some value but, for now, this product is a good example of a Starter Kit done right.

Read More: MTG Lord of the Rings Limited Has Massive Balancing Problems!

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