9, May, 23

MTG Designer Addresses Massive Lord of the Rings Flavor Fail!

Article at a Glance

The upcoming Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth crossover is potentially the most anticipated MTG set ever released. Tying in two of the most adored fantasy IP’s in history, this crossover seemed like a no-brainer for many after it was announced. As players watched early spoilers launch for the set, one core mechanic kept resurfacing over and over in many of the cards: it appears that you can be Tempted by The Ring. While this phrase could be tied with an indescribable feeling of power, the One Ring to Rule them All also corrupts those who dare use it, trying to return home to its master. After months of waiting, this mechanic was finally revealed to Magic players everywhere during Magic Con Minneapolis.

Despite the initial hype for this mechanic to be revealed, many players were left confused and underwhelmed after the Tempting by The Ring mechanic was finally revealed. Many content creators alike were left dumbfounded that, in the context of MTG, being Tempted by The Ring is a good thing. This lead to a lot of questions which, eventually, found an answer from MTG designer Mark Rosewater, giving reason why being Tempted by The Ring has no real negative side-effects.

Tempted With No Downsides

After the powerful, and somewhat complicated, Tempted by The Ring mechanic was revealed, the MTG community, while excited, was also pretty confused. It’s pretty clear for anyone who has engaged with the Lord of the Rings movies and books that being Tempted by The Ring is not without its downsides. One of the simplest examples of this is looking at the state that Gollum was left in after being Tempted by The Ring for years. He has been reduced to being a monster with multiple personalities that simply lusts to have The Ring once more.

Even though the consequences of falling under The Ring’s influence are clear, being Tempted by The Ring in Magic has almost no downside at all. The only arguable one is that it makes your Ring Bearer a Legendary Creature which can mess things up if you have multiple copies of the same permanent (that are, for some reason, also Legendary, which makes this as a potential downside an extreme corner case), but there are no other obvious downsides to be seen. We won’t explain the actual mechanic here since its a bit complex, but we did explain it here.

Either way, players’ confusion were obvious. It didn’t take long for some players to take to Blogatog, a Tumblr platform that MTG designer Mark Rosewater uses to engage with the more vocal playerbase. Turns out, Rosewater had a good reason why being Tempted by The Ring had no downsides: people wouldn’t play it.

No One Would Want to be Tempted

Considering that the Tempted by The Ring mechanic for the new Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth set was revealed on Friday, it did not take too long for Tumblr user akkkkaall1ttyynnn to ask the burning question on everyone’s minds:

“Shouldn’t the ring have negative effects flavor wise? Were there any mysterious tall dark cloaked strangers on the dev team saying it was a good idea?”

MTG Designer Mark Rosewater simply had this to say:

“We did try that. It made people not play the mechanic.”

While this does address the reason why the Tempted by The Ring mechanic has no downside, many players may be hoping for a bit of a more detailed explanation. Fortunately, seeing as many community members share some concerns about this, this wasn’t the only question that Rosewater responded to. Moonsliceman also asked a question regarding the absence of a downside to Tempted by The Ring mechanic:

“Why isn’t the Ring at least partially a downside mechanic? In game, the mechanic plays just like Initiative, where you want to tempt as much as possible, whereas lorewise this couldn’t be farther from any reasonable objective.”

To this, Roswater gave a much more detailed response:

“We tried granting downside effects. It wasn’t fun and it made players not play the mechanic. We did find having the ring makes the ring-bearer more of a target for your opponent to kill, and that did feel like a downside while not stopping people from playing the mechanic.”

Mark Rosewater

Ultimately, it seems that, despite the mechanic’s massive flavor fail, adding negative implications to being Tempted by The Ring made the mechanic unattractive to play. It makes sense that, at the end of the day, MTG wants to make the play experience of the Lord of the Rings set attractive to new players at may attract.

The theme of the Ring Bearer becoming a target for opponents as a downside reappears in Rosewater’s other responses regarding flavor for this mechanic.

Change the Mechanic’s Name?

Despite the absence of a major flaw to the Tempted by The Ring mechanic, many players understand Rosewater’s concerns. Taking to Reddit, players sympathized with Rosewater’s perspective, but some criticisms remained. The most common one was some confusion regarding what the mechanic’s name was not changed to match its function more flavorfully:

“I think this is a fair-enough reason not to have a downside mechanic. They’ve seen downside mechanics not work out many times before already, it shouldn’t take much for them to realize they hadn’t found an exception to that pattern. But, they should have changed the name from “The Ring Tempts You” when they made this change.”


“100% that second thing. The first thing I thought was “oh so the more tempted the worst” it definitely reads all wrong when getting tempted is just getting you bonuses. Should have chosen a different word”


“This is a big issue with large UB products. They have to be top-down, and the source material is set in stone. If a big, flavorful mechanic in a normal set has problems, they can tweak it and tweak the flavor to match it. But they can’t tweak Lord of the Rings. I have no doubt that this plays better than a more resonant version of the mechanic. But there’s no way to make it more resonant. They’re kinda stuck here.”


Either way, following this response from Mark Rosewater, players now understand why no downsides have been associated with a mechanic that suggests it would have one from its name in regards to the source material.

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Other Questions Adding Context

These were far from the only questions regarding the new Tempted by The Ring mechanic. Some burning questions I personally had have already been asked by other players and have allowed for further insight as to why this mechanic does what it does. I for one, was interested why Rosewater did not take a similar approach to the Monarch.

Since this mechanic grants you an emblem that gains additional effects, many MTG players drew lines between this and The Initiative from Battle for Baldur’s Gate or the Monarch that was introduced in Conspiracy sets. Both The Initiative and Monarch is a mechanic traded between players. For Tempted by The Ring, instead, everyone can have their own iteration of The Ring and be Tempted by it. As such, Tumblr user placeholder-name-179 posed a question asking if this was a tested interaction:

“Also on the note of the ring tempts you mechanic, have you tried having it be more monarch-like, having only one “The One Ring” on the board at any time, instead of having up to 4 at the same time?”

Rosewater simply responded that this created a “super swingy” experience when they tried it.

Another Tumblr user by the name of flakmaniak also wrote to Rosewater discussing their dislike of the lack of a downside for being ‘Tempted by The Ring. To this, outside of the minor Legendary downside (which isn’t even debatably one), Rosewater simply responded with a cryptic “It tempts you with power, but that makes you a greater target for bad things to happen to you. That’s pretty on flavor.”

In other words the downside for this mechanic could simply be painting a target on your Ring Bearer’s back. Its true that, should one have The Ring, others will lust for it as well, but the absence of an inherent downside on the creature bearing The Ring itself still has many MTG players wondering if we are really being Tempted by The Ring with this mechanic.

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