12, Jun, 23

MTG Promo Cards Banned in Lord of the Rings Prerelease

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Article at a Glance

The event that many MTG players have been fervently anticipating is finally at our doorstep. This coming weekend marks the beginning of the Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth Prerelease. It’s not an overstatement to say that this is one of the biggest sets in all of MTG history and, as a result of Wizards of the Coast’s crossover masterpiece, there are going to be a lot of LOTR fans interested in what this set can offer.

With many new players potentially making their MTG debut at these events, making the gameplay easy to understand should be a necessity. Therefore, the availability of unplayable cards in players’ Lord of the Rings Prerelease kits may cause some concern. Even more concerning is the potential to open legally playable copies of the same cards. What’s going on here?

The Return of Unplayable Promos

Interestingly, a highly controversial move made with the March of the Machine Prerelease kits seems to have reappeared for Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth. Before we get further into it, it’s important to say that these extra bonuses, ultimately, are only a good thing. This is additional content for players at no additional cost. The issue is that it makes communication a bit more awkward than normal. As long as this communication problem is solved, then the inclusion of these ‘unplayable’ promos is strictly a good thing.

Recall the March of the Machine Prerelease you attended and you may remember a series of promo cards exclusive to Prerelease packs that were unplayable in your Prereleases; or at least they were supposed to be.

Katilda and Lier, Goro-Goro and Satoru as well as Slimefoot and Squee, who even sees Historic play on MTG Arena, were found in players’ Prerelease kits. These tri-colored Legendary Creatures offered incredibly powerful benefits, especially in the context of Sealed play.

However, these Commander promos were not legal for Sealed play, but instead legal for Commander play. This in itself isn’t really an issue, but it does become a problem if Prerelease players start to build their decks around cards they’re not allowed to play.

Communication becomes the issue here. Players are not used to having cards in their Prerelease kits that they cannot play in their Sealed decks. If this is communicated clearly at the start of a Prerelease, then problems shouldn’t arise. That said, not every MTG player that shows up at a Prerelease is tuned into everything going on in the game. Should this not be communicated at the beginning of the Prerelease, chances are some of the player base will know that this card is banned in Sealed, while others will build their decks around the powerful abilities these cards offer.

This problem is made worse if the Prerelease hosts are not aware of it, which is a real possibility. Of the four March of the Machine Prereleases I personally attended, I needed to remind/announce this rule at two of them.

What Do These Promos Look Like?

The Lord of the Rings Prerelease promotional cards are quite different from the March of the Machine ones. Firstly, the March of the Machine Prerelease promotional cards only had three different possibilities, and all of these were mechanically unique Commander cards. The Lord of the Rings prerelease cards differ in both these categories.

Instead of these being mechanically unique Commander cards, you will instead receive one of six cards from the main set. These all have a unique artwork that depicts their status as a promotional card, and the six cards, when combined together will create the large scenic piece pictured above. Don’t be tricked, though! Even though you can open original copies of these cards in your other packs, you cannot use these particular full-art cards in your Sealed decks!

Delighted Halfling

delighted halfling

Of the six cards offered as potential promotional ones, Delighted Halfling is definitely the Golden Ticket that players will want to find. Not only is Delighted Halfling one of the best Commander cards in the entire Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth release, chances are it’s the best Mana Dork Commander has ever seen.

Able to make Legendary spells cast with its mana uncounterable, there’s a good chance that Delighted Halfling will even see Modern play. Going turn one Delighted Halfling into an uncounterable Teferi, Time Raveler on turn two is an absolutely disastrous combination that is very difficult to interact with should you be able to untap with the Halfling.

Bilbo, Retired Burglar

Commander players should be aware of how powerful Treasure Tokens are. This goes double for a format like Sealed. Bilbo, Retired Burglar offers some serious upside should it connect with your opponent. Even when it dies, Bilbo progresses the set’s core mechanic. Unfortunately, Bilbo’s lack of evasion combined with lackluster stats could make it difficult to connect with. Fortunately, making Bilbo your Ringbearer should alleviate this issue.

If you open some of these in your Prerelease packs, and have a good amount of Ring Tempting going on, this could be a strong payoff. Just remember that this full-art version of the card is not legal for Sealed play!

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Frodo Baggins

Another multicolored uncommon payoff, Frodo Baggins also shows potential for Tempted by the Ring synergies… as long as you have enough Legendary creatures to allow Frodo’s payoff to shine.

Frodo’s ‘must be blocked’ clause combined with the rules of the Ring-bearer stating that creatures with greater power than the Ring-bearer cannot block it will make your bigger threats harder to chump block.

Lobelia Sackville-Baggins

Including Delighted Halfling, Lobelia Sackville-Baggins is the other Rare that you can open as a part of these Prerelease-exclusive promotional cards. This threatens to be quite the powerful ramp tool with its ETB ability. Of course, the card needs some setup to work, but it can be incredibly powerful in the right circumstance. At worst, Lobelia is a three-mana 2/3 Menace with Flash, which can potentially catch a weaker creature off guard in the early game.

Wizard’s Rockets

Wizard’s Rockets is the only common that you can open in this Sealed-illegal Prerelease slot. The card offers a one-time opportunity to fix your mana in any way you like. Past that point, Wizard’s Rockets also replaces itself, which makes the card a lot more forgiving to run. Depending on how widely available fixing is in this set, Wizard’s Rockets could be a strong tool should you want to run a lot of powerful bombs that are a bit difficult to access in terms of mana. Just remember that this particular copy of it is a no-bueno for Prerelease play.

Notably, Wizard’s Rockets enters tapped, which prevents the card from functioning as the second coming of Chromatic Star.

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Gandalf, Friend of the Shire

Gandalf, Friend of the Shire is the last full-art Sealed illegal promotional card you can find in your Lord of the Rings Prerelease kits. Notably, this Gandalf card has multiple promotional copies.

Gandalf, in terms of being an uncommon, is pretty impressive. Not only can this card come in at instant speed, but Gandalf also speeds up your sorceries, allowing you to use them as combat tricks. The Ring-bearer payoff this card has is also incredible. Not only will this allow you to draw a card every time you choose a Ring-bearer other than Gandalf, but this also frees up your other cards to showcase their Ring-bearer synergies. Only costing blue mana otherwise, Gandalf could be quite powerful if he shows up in your Prerelease packs.

You Can Open These in Your Packs, but These Full-art Cards Cannot Be Used!

Unfortunately, the ability to open these cards in your Sealed packs may make communicating this topic even more confusing. The takeaway is basically this: you cannot play with these full-art versions of the cards you receive in your Lord of the Rings Prerelease kits. However, you can play with other variants of these cards that you open in your packs.

As soon as you’re not playing Sealed, these cards are perfectly Modern-legal, just like the rest of the core Lord of the Rings set. Players who open the Rare cards offered in these promotional slots may have a distinct advantage over those who don’t.

As stated earlier, the core issue here is communication. While players aren’t supposed to use these in their Prerelease decks, Prerelease hosts could decide to allow them to be played. The issue arises when different players are building their decks with different rules. As long as this unusual change is communicated clearly, then these promotional cards only serve to make the Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth Prerelease just that much more memorable.

Otherwise, if you’re planning on attending Prerelease events for Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth, more context on what to expect can be found in Wizards of the Coast’s official article.

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