Unfortunately for Wizards of the Coast, throughout 2023, MTG players have seen a lot of leaks already. Due to MTG being a physical game, this isn’t entirely unheard of. However, 2023 has certainly been worse than usual. Spoiling story moments, new card types, and even an entire set, leaks have done it all this year. As a result, a leak is no longer a surprise to many MTG players.
Thankfully, not every MTG leak spoils an entire set thanks to some early packs being acquired. Instead, as we’ve seen a few times recently, an MTG leak can be pulled out of the literal garbage. For better or worse, The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth has now had both of these kinds of leaks.
First occurring back in February, the initial Tales of Middle-earth leaks didn’t tell MTG players all too much. The same cannot be said for the new MTG leak, however, which has emerged from a recent Whatnot stream. Similar to how oldschoolmtg got in trouble, this livestream showcased a number of Set Boosters being opened.
For better or worse, unlike the March of the Machine: The Aftermath leak, this MTG pack opening hasn’t spoiled everything. Instead, since we’re a week into Tales of Middle-earth’s spoiler season, there was a lot of what we’ve already seen before. Due to the streamer opening Set Boosters, however, there were a few new reveals. Predominantly, these were Commander cards, which are set to be later this week.
As with all leaks, it’s important to note that it’s theoretically possible these cards are fake. For this livestreamed pack opening, however, that certainly doesn’t seem to be the case. Additionally, if you want to peruse spoiler season at Wizards’ intended pace, consider this a spoiler warning!
The Balrog, Durin’s Bane
To kick this Commander-themed article off, we have a card that isn’t from the Commander section of the set. Instead, The Balrog, Durin’s Bane can be found within the main set, but they could at least be your commander! They’re certainly a more compelling choice for that role than the somewhat disappointing The Balrog, Flame of Udûn.
While The Balrog, Durin’s Bane is certainly better than the Flame of Udûn variant, it’s hardly the world’s best commander. What this Balrog is, however, is fast. Sure they might cost seven mana, however, that can easily be reduced thanks to Treasure Tokens. Due to their cost being reduced for each permanent sacrificed, The Balrog can be yours for just three treasure tokens.
Not only are they surprisingly cheap, but The Balrog, Durin’s Bane is also a rather substantial threat. Able to crash in for seven commander damage each turn, The Balrog, Durin’s Bane will force your opponents into tough situations. This is thanks to The Balrog only being blockable by legendary creatures.
Ultimately, in Commander, this effect isn’t quite as potent as one might hope. After all, since it’s a singleton format, legendary creatures are absolutely everywhere in the format. That being said, The Balrog, Durin’s Bane still looks like a lot of fun, especially since it cares about all permanents sacrificed, not just your own.
Flame of Anor
While it is another non-Commander-specific card, we just couldn’t resist talking about Flame of Anor. Affectionately already known as “Gandalf’s Command”, Flame of Anor is simply a good MTG card. Good enough that it could even see play in Modern within the right decks.
Somewhat similar to the Modern played Archmage’s Charm, Flame of Anor gives players a lot of options. Whether you need a creature dead, an artifact destroyed, or cards in your hand, Flame of Anor does it all. To make things even better, if you control a Wizard like Snapcaster Mage you can pick two of these options.
Due to also synergizing with cost reduction spells and Wizard Tribal in Commander, a lot of players are understandably excited about Flame of Anor. Whether or not it’ll break open the Modern meta, however, remains to be seen. Currently, Wizards aren’t as ubiquitous in the Modern meta as they used to be as Shamans are currently Izzet Murktide’s favorite. Subsequently, Flame of Anor will need some brewing in order to find its place in the format.
Lord of the Nazgûl
Moving into the actual Commander spoilers, we have Lord of the Nazgûl. Mercifully, as the name suggests, this card finally gives Nazgûl Tribal an actual commander. Miraculously this quality had been missing from any of the Witch-king’s cards, despite the flavor potential.
To properly support Nazgûl Tribal, Lord of the Nazgûl has a trio of compelling abilities that make Nazgûl major threats. As you can see above, the first of these grants all your Wraiths protection from Ring-bearers. While very flavorful, admittedly, in Commander this ability might not always be so useful. Not only is there no guarantee your opponent will be playing with The Ring, but even if they are, it’s only on one card.
Thankfully, following on from this flavorful if somewhat weak ability, Lord of the Nazgûl gets a lot better. Not only can they create a 3/3 Wraith Token whenever you cast an instant or sorcery, but they also make Wraiths big. Provided you have nine Wraiths in play after casting an instant or sorcery, all your Wraiths will become 9/9s. While this effect only lasts until the end of the turn, this ability should enable huge swings that can devastate your opponents.
Unfortunately, as compelling as Lord of the Nazgûl seems as a commander, Wraith Tribal is far from perfect. Currently, there are only ten wraiths on all of MTG, which makes building a themed tribal deck almost impossible. Thankfully, there are a number of Changelings in MTG to help shore up the numbers, however, they don’t quite fit the flavor.
Hopefully, over time, Wizards will create more Wraiths to support this archetype, however, there is sadly no guarantee of this.
Gollum, Obsessed Stalker
Out of all the cards that have been leaked on Whatnot, Gollum, Obsessed Stalker is arguably the spiciest. Potentially providing consistent life drain on every turn, Gollum can be a serious threat to your opponents. Thankfully, this ability does require some work to get going, however, once activated, opponents are in for a world of hurt.
To trigger the ability, Gollum, Obsessed Stalker just needs to hit an opponent once each game. From that point on they will essentially be marked for death, losing life each turn relative to the life you gained. The only way this can be stopped is to kill Gollum, which isn’t as effective when they’re your commander. To make matters worse, blocking Gollum isn’t too easy either, as Skulk means they’re only blockable by one-power creatures.
Thankfully, since they’re only a 1/1 themselves, it is possible to kill Gollum fairly easily with spells. While this does mitigate their effectiveness somewhat, when left unchecked, Gollum can wipe out opponents remarkably efficiently. Just consider casting Exsanguinate for double the value, for instance.
While this is definitely a fun combo, ultimately having Gollum, Obsessed Stalker as your commander is probably a bad idea. Sure, on the one hand, they would be repeatedly playable, however, their color identity is a big hurdle to overcome. As a result, Gollum, Obsessed Stalker is likely better as part of an Abzan life gain deck. Potentially even as part of one that uses Bilbo, Birthday Celebrant.
If you squint a lot, it’s possible to say that Cavern-Hoard Dragon is vaguely reminiscent of Dockside Extortionist. Saying that, however, it’s hard to deny that Cavern-Hoard Dragon is much worse than the competition. Not only do they clock in at nine mana, but they also only generate Treasure Tokens based on the artifacts your opponents control.
Due to these drawbacks, you might think that Cavern-Hoard Dragon isn’t worth considering for the 99. Thankfully, however, they do have some upsides to make them worth your time. Firstly, unlike Dockside Extortionist, Cavern-Hoard Dragon can generate Treasures each turn. Granted, to do this they need to deal combat damage to a player, however, it’s nevertheless a positive.
Alongside this potential upside, Cavern-Hoard Dragon also has an effective cost-reduction ability. Against the right opponent, this could turn them into an early threat, as well as a compelling ramp engine. As a result of this, Cavern-Hoard Dragon is a rather compelling choice for any Dragon Tribal deck.
This definitely seems primed to punish opponents who resolve an early Smothering Tithe or Dockside Extortionist and leave their Treasure Tokens to pile up. We can’t really say this is an anti-Extortionist card since they can easily just sacrifice all their Treasures, or use it on the turn it cast, but this card allows you to keep up with someone using Treasures to get ahead.
Last but not least, we couldn’t resist talking about Prize Pig. Alongside being an adorable mana dork, or a mana pork if you will, Prize Pig obviously synergizes with life-gain decks. With Ajani’s Welcome and Soul Warden in play, this ability could trigger rather frequently. Enough so, that this pig could be a rather effective ramp engine in the right deck. With three being the lucky number for this card, Prize Pig is obviously meant to have some Food token synergy.
More interesting than the occasional additional ramp, however, is the combo potential of this card. Should you find a way to generate infinite life, Prize Pig can then generate infinite mana. While this is certainly a powerful ability, ultimately, it’s not all too useful. After all, if you’ve got an infinite life combo up and running, the game is likely won already. Nevertheless, having infinite mana to play with is always fun, so we’re not complaining!
There’s More Where That Came From
For better or worse, these six cards are hardly the only ones leaked during the recent Whatnot stream. Thankfully, however, this time around their impact hasn’t been too devastating. Rather than spoiling the fun of spoiler season, these leaks have instead just added to the fun. After all, since we’re already a week into the latest MTG spoiler season, this leak doesn’t feel out of place.
As much as this leak has been harmless in terms of spoiler cadence, MTG players did have a brief scare. As, during the stream, one of the set’s fancy Sol Rings was found. Thankfully, this was only one of the 19,000 alternative art cards and not one of the 1,900 serialized versions. Nevertheless, this early Collector Booster opening still worried fans. After all, what if the one-of-one The One Ring gets found even before the set releases?
Thankfully, considering the rarity of the card, this hopefully shouldn’t happen. Unfortunately, however, there is no guarantee of this, as sellers do open an immense number of boxes prior to release. Ultimately, we’ll just have to wait and see what gets opened and hope that if The One Ring does get found, it’ll be shown off online. If not, MTG players may be hunting for a lottery ticket that’s already in someone’s hands.