29, Jun, 23

MTG Lord of the Rings EDH Sleeper is Incredibly Underrated!

Article at a Glance

The verdict is out: Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth is having an impact on Magic: the Gathering as a game and as an icon that we’ve never seen before. The set is warping every format it’s legal in, massive streamers are getting involved with the hunt for Magic’s two million dollar card, and in an arms race to get all the cards every player needs, prices for the set are only increasing.

With all this in mind, some definite forerunners for cards are taking center stage in MTG’s various formats. The One Ring is the main character, slowly increasing to ludicrous play and price levels. Orcish Bowmasters fills out the villain role, making a massive impact in Commander and Legacy while seeing strong amounts of play in Modern and MTG Arena’s digital formats. Finally, Delighted Halfling is an obvious contender for the best mana dork ever.

Because of these three cards’ overwhelming presence, some other cards are slipping through the cracks. Sting, for example, seems like a fantastic piece of equipment that could see cEDH play. Call of the Ring is a great value piece that is a slam dunk in Commander and is seeing some fringe competitive play. What if I told you, though, that the best card in the set for Commander hasn’t even been mentioned yet?

This, admittedly is a hard sell. It is very difficult to argue that anything in the Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth set is better than Orcish Bowmasters, but some Commander players are claiming just that. At absolute worst, Lotho, Corrupt Shirriff is way better than people are giving it credit for.

Lotho, Corrupt Shirriff

In any other MTG set, players would be losing their minds over Lotho, Corrupt Shirriff. For one black and one white mana, you get an absolutely deadly combination of abilities that have shown up on other Commander staples. Players are still aware of Lotho, but it seems to be outshone by The One Ring and Orcish Bowmasters at the moment.

Each time a player casts their second spell per turn, you lose a life and create a Treasure Token. Smothering Tithe and Dockside Extortionist’s existence in the Commander format has shed a painful amount of light on how powerful Treasure Tokens are when offered in abundance, and Lotho can create as many as 16 Treasure tokens in one turn cycle! You’ll be hard pressed to ever see that happen but, even four Treasure tokens from a two-mana creature is an incredible investment. Heck, two Treasure Tokens and a body is still an incredibly powerful ability.

The Return of Another Sleeper?

Some players may notice a startling similarity between Lotho and another sleeper card that appeared in Streets of New Capenna. Both Ledger Shredder and Lotho care about players casting their second spell each turn, and when left alone, Ledger Shredder was prone to trigger a lot in a game of Commander.

Even though these two cards share this one aspect, they are quite different otherwise. Ledger Shredder, for example, Connives instead of creating Treasure Tokens. The Shredder isn’t ramping you as a result, but it is doing two things that Lotho isn’t. While this doesn’t really affect Lotho’s playability in Commander, it does in competitive two-player formats.

Firstly, Ledger Shredder’s Connive ability helps sculpt your hand while fueling your graveyard. This makes Ledger Shredder more powerful in low resource situations where you need to find cards with significant impact. Getting more mana, in these situations, probably isn’t going to help.

Ledger Shredder, as a threat, also scales as it continues to trigger. This is thanks to Connive offering the option to grant Ledger Shredder +1/+1 counters if you discard nonland cards to its trigger. This, over time, will make the Shredder individually more powerful than a 2/1 with no evasive keywords.

Lotho in Commander

Ultimately, Commander is simply not the same as constructed two-player MTG. Lotho has a lot more opportunities to trigger, and having this card create just a few Treasure Tokens per turn still turns it into a powerful ramp tool. Untapping with four mana on turn three puts you absurdly far ahead of the table.

Commander, as a format, is a lot more mana hungry than competitive formats, which makes Lotho’s upside a lot more appealing.

Of course, in more casual games of Commander, it’s rare to have players consistently playing two spells in their early turns. Regardless, just one or two players, including yourself, triggering this card can easily make it pay off. That said, Lotho is stronger at tables trying to end the game quicker since it threatens a bigger impact in the early game. For that reason, Lotho’s impact is probably biggest at a cEDH level.

Avoiding the Trigger

When discussing Lotho personally amongst peers, this is the biggest argument against running a card like Lotho, Corrupt Shirriff. What if players decide not to play multiple spells per turn in an effort to avoid triggering Lotho? This, my friends, is actually still an upside, but it’s not a crystal clear one.

Ledger Shredder, once again, is a very strong card to help describe this conditional trigger as a limitation. One of the most powerful aspects about Ledger Shredder in competitive formats like Modern is that the card is not only a value machine, but it also encourages your opponents to cast only one spell per turn. This can be viewed as a restriction.

Put into practice, if your opponent is slowing down their rate of development to avoid triggering your Lotho or Ledger Shredder, you can use that time to develop to the point where your opponents can’t keep up. This may force your opponent to start double-spelling to try and rectify the situation, which just gives you more value.

This doesn’t play exactly the same role in Commander since there are four players at the table. This, outside of a cEDH environment, where everyone is trying to win too quickly for this to matter much, is a bit less effective if you establish yourself as an obvious threat. Because you have three opponents, the game can turn into an ‘Archenemy’ state until they feel you’re not an issue anymore. More often than not, three players will have enough resources to keep you in check. For that reason, playing the game at parity with your opponents, while triggering Lotho, building up to one big turn where you immediately win the game is likely how to pilot Lotho at a slower table.

Lotho as a Commander or as a Card in the 99?

Personally, I think Lotho, Corrupt Shirriff does its best work as a card and not a Commander. That said, having Lotho as a dedicated Commander is likely to make opponents a lot less weary of it. Either way, using Lotho to ramp up to powerful Commanders as a piece in the 99 is definitely more interesting to me. Lotho is certainly powerful enough to fill either role.

Either way, for a card that appears to have such a major impact on Commander tables, Lotho is surprisingly cheap. For just $2, you can start experimenting with Lotho, Corrupt Shirriff in your own black and white Commander decks. This is a lot cheaper than the $40 entry for the Bowmasters and the $55 dollar entry to The One Ring. If this is really as good as it looks, however, these numbers may not stay the same forever.

Read More: These 19 Premium MTG Lord of the Rings Cards Do Not Exist!

*MTG Rocks is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more