12, Jul, 23

Underrated MTG LOTR Card Overperforms in Major Format!

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Article at a Glance

Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-Earth brought a ton of great cards to various formats. Besides being a set that was dominated by flavor, the set also created multiple multi-format staples. Cards like The One Ring and Orcish Bowmasters have immersed themselves into the worlds of Modern and Legacy. Cast into the Fire has become a Pauper staple as a solid, versatile piece of interaction. Even the Landcyclers have made a major impact in Modern and Pauper.

One card that isn’t talked about enough, however, is Sauron’s Ransom. Sauron’s Ransom is a very similar card to Fact or Fiction. The fact that the Ring tempts you is an added bonus is nice for Limited but doesn’t come up super often in Constructed decks that play the card. The fact that Sauron’s Ransom is seeing legitimate play, especially in Legacy, shows just how important mana efficiency really is. The difference between four and three mana for this type of effect is enormous and is the difference between seeing lots of play and seeing almost none. Sauron’s Ransom brings a lot to the table for Dimir decks, more than may appear on the surface.

A Solid Piece of Card Advantage

Sauron's Ransom

Sauron’s Ransom, at minimum, can function like Divination at Instant speed. However, the card digs four cards deep, so you often have options. Of course, your opponent’s job is to not make your decision easy regarding which pile to take. Typically, the opponent will put two cards face up and two face down, guaranteeing that you only get two cards at maximum. While you don’t have perfect information regarding what is in the face down pile, you do have information about what you want at a given time. For example, if you are searching for Land drops and the face up pile has none, chances are the face down pile is a better option. In this sense, you still get extra looks at cards you might need, even without perfect information.

Cards like this are also super cool, because they produce decent mind games. For the opponent, it’s often better to make a slightly better face up pile, in the hopes that you will let curiosity take over and end up with a worse pile of cards by selecting the face down pile. What’s important to understand, though, is that you have the agency. You will always end up with the opportunity to gain card advantage when casting this card, and digging four cards deep gives a lot of opportunities to hit more specific cards. Much like Fact or Fiction, the card has even more going on than just the card advantage it gives.

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Graveyard Matters

Murktide Regent

A big part of the card’s value is that the pile of cards that is not chosen goes directly into the graveyard rather than back in your library or into exile. This provides some major upside for a few reasons. First and foremost, any deck with Delve cards like Murktide Regent benefits greatly from these cards in the graveyard. Not only do you get a source of card advantage out of Sauron’s Ransom, but you also help get a mana discount on one of the best Creatures available in Modern and Legacy.

The graveyard also matters for cards like Snapcaster Mage. Dimir Control in Modern has popped up recently, and this deck makes great use of Snapcaster alongside Sauron’s Ransom to gain extra card advantage and make use of the cards that go to the graveyard. With access to Snapcaster Mage, even if you end up with the pile of cards that didn’t contain any powerful, cheap cards like Fatal Push, there’s no need to worry. That Fatal Push can simply be given Flashback with the Snapcaster. Still, it’s interesting to see Sauron’s Ransom have a much bigger effect in Legacy than Modern, and there a few big reasons why this is the case.

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Legacy Dominance

Force of Will

Sauron’s Ransom shows up in lots of different Dimir decks in Legacy. From Death’s Shadow decks to Delver of Secrets decks splashing black for Orcish Bowmasters, Sauron’s Ransom shines. If the card is so efficient though, why is it much better in Legacy? Well, the first reason, and perhaps the most important, is specific to the banlists for Modern and Legacy. In Modern, as good as Sauron’s Ransom is, it isn’t a better piece of card advantage generally than Expressive Iteration. Even Wrenn and Six provides card advantage, while also being a strong piece of interaction and helping to fix your mana.

In Legacy, both those cards are banned, meaning players have to look elsewhere for card advantage. Another benefit to Sauron’s Ransom is pretty simple: it’s blue and can therefore be pitched to Force of Will. This might seem like a minor detail, but this means that against combo decks or tempo decks with Daze that may not give you time to utilize the card advantage spell, it still has use. Brainstorm further helps the card, giving you the option to shuffle it away in matchups where the effect isn’t needed.

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Additional Upside

Orcish Bowmasters

Beyond that, the presence of Orcish Bowmasters in a format dominated by Brainstorm also forces players to be mindful of the types of card advantage they use. Luckily, Sauron’s Ransom does not actually “draw” you any cards. Instead, the additional cards are simply put into your hand, allowing you to safely gain card advantage without letting an opposing Bowmasters get out of control.

Sometimes, even the bonus of the ring tempting you can matter. The first chance lets your copies of Baleful Strix attack relatively safely, and if you ever resolve two copies of Sauron’s Ransom, you can start “looting” away unnecessary cards.

Sauron’s Ransom is a great card at only three mana and helps a lot of Legacy decks have a better chance in grindy games. The card is likely underexplored in Modern too, but it’s made a major mark on the Legacy format. Between Bowmasters and Sauron’s Ransom, black is a much more prevalent color than it was before the Lord of the Rings set came out. With Bowmasters taking up a lot of the spotlight, Sauron’s Ransom is still underrated, but it’s definitely strong and should continue to make its presence felt.

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