Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth has been out for quite some time now. While it hasn’t quite been a month since the set’s prerelease date, players have had ample amounts of time to digest the set’s Limited format. This is the best opportunity, in an MTG lens, to immerse yourself in Tolkien’s lore completely. You don’t get to only play with the broken new cards like The One Ring and Orcish Bowmasters, but you get to play with everyone from Legolas to Faramir to even a bunch of stompy Ents.
That said, even a Limited format is going to have a best strategy. Its become painfully clear to many that the Lord of the Rings Limited has one of the cardinal sins for a Limited format: the colors are not balanced. Black is absolutely absurd and red is not far behind. White and Blue stand as great support colors for the two best ones.
That leaves green. Many have written this color off but, after drafting it repetitively and cashing in $1000 during the Arena Open at the beginning of July, I would wager that, instead, players are not drafting the color correctly.
Green’s Got a Big Secret
Green is, by far, at least statistically, the worst performing color in Lord of the Rings Limited. The bomb Mythic Rare in the color, Radagast, the Brown only has a 55% winrate when maindecked on 17Lands.com, a far cry from the 62.5% winrate of Orcish Bowmasters just existing in your maindeck.
Past that point, the best performing card in all of Green’s arsenal is Generous Ent. We talked about how revolutionary these new Landcyclers are repetitively, and the role they play in Limited isn’t any less impressive. These are, essentially, low-risk splashes at the top end of your curve. If you happen to draw your splash, you can play your gigantic body. If you don’t, turn your Ent into a Forest to enable your other cards.
The point here is, however, that the second-best performing card in all of green is a card that allows other colors to splash in some powerful green spells. The point is to play as little green as possible. This can help hint at green’s massive secret, but it doesn’t exactly address the abundance of green cards that may appear in packs.
The point of arming yourself with this information is to take the otherwise useless green cards wheeling in your drafts and turn them into something that can shock your table. At a table like the second draft of an Arena Open, players are going to know that black is where it’s at. That color will dry up quickly, likely followed by red. Unless someone opens a bomb rare like Radagast or Arwen, green can end up completely uncontested at these tables. That’s how bad the color is on paper.
So, what if you could turn this into a powerful tool that is almost always open? Let me introduce to you the archetype that I’ve drafted the most in this set and ultimately won $1000 with: five-colored green.
The objective of five-color green is to, basically, play all of the powerful multicolored cards that other players aren’t picking up. Many of the most powerful cards in Lord of the Rings Limited at the rare and the uncommon level are multicolored, but not every one of those multicolored cards are supported well. As we mentioned previously, archetypes that do not include green, but do include black or red, generally have some power to them. That doesn’t mean the multicolored cards that are outside of these parameters are no good. Quite the opposite, actually.
Some of the most powerful tools in colors outside of the aforementioned parameters are the Doors of Durin and Faramir, Prince of Ithilien. Many are starting to realize that Faramir was actually busted the entire time and is worth playing a weaker archetype to support, but I commonly see Doors of Durin, and other powerhouses passed to me way later than they should be because no one can utilize them in their chase for the other colors.
In the uncommon slot, Old Man Willow is a fantastic example of a card that this archetype wants to utilize. Because the card is in green, it can be somewhat difficult to utilize for players chasing the best colors. The card, however, is absolutely nuts. For four mana, you get access to an Ent that scales as the game progresses, and can turn your leftover Food tokens, or creatures that have been lost to enchantment-based removal like the Fog on the Barrow-Downs or Bewitching Leechcraft into removal for your opponent’s smaller creatures. Partner this with effects like Grishnakh, Brash Instigator, and you have an incredibly threatening presence on your hands.
To give you an idea of cards that can fall through the cracks in this manner, here is a list of powerful multicolored cards that do not fit in the strongest archetypes that Lord of the Rings Limited can offer:
- Faramir, Prince of Ithilien
- Doors of Durin
- Aragorn, the Uniter
- Arwen, Mortal Queen
- Butterbur, Bree Innkeeper
- Elrond, Master of Healing
- Friendly Rivalry
- Frodo Baggins
- Galadriel of Lothlorien
- Old Man Willow
- Pippin, Guard of the Citadel
- Rise of the Witch-king
- Samwise Gamgee
- Shelob, Child of Ungoliant
- Smeagol, Helpful Guide
- Strider, Ranger of the North
- Aragorn, Company Leader
These aren’t all the multicolored cards that fit in this category, but they are the powerful ones that, in my opinion, you should be watching for when trying to decide whether this archetype is worth playing. Do keep in mind that you can still splash some of the more powerful cards in favored archetypes like Shadowfax, Lord of Horses. The point of this deck is to clean up all the powerhouse cards that other people aren’t taking, or are otherwise trying to wheel.
An additional caveat here: don’t just limit your multicolored bombs to the cards above. The Mouth of Sauron is an example of an absolutely ludicrous uncommon, but Dimir is an archetype that has legs, so it may not always be available. If you do see it, and you’re confident in casting it, pick it up!
Obviously, the most difficult part with taking multiple cards mentioned above is that they’re going to be pretty difficult to cast when put together. All five colors are represented in the cards above and, if you’re playing this archetype right, there’s a very good chance you’ll be running at least four of them. For that reason, we need green to play the fixing role. Green is the glue that can allow us to play all of these powerful cards together while ignoring their prohibitive mana costs.
When drafting this archetype, Many Partings and Wose Pathfinder are the commons you should be prioritizing first. Both of these cards are core in allowing you to play four of five colors in your deck and, generally, are much more efficient ways of doing this than your other fixing options.
Using Many Partings correctly will affect your overall land count. More often than not, running multiples of these means running them in your land slots. Take the above example from MTG streamer and genius drafter Dafore. Running multiple copies of Many Partings allows you to only run 13 lands. Just make sure you have enough green to consistently cast your Many Partings in the early turns.
Wose Pathfinder is really powerful when played on turn two. A majority of the powerful multicolored cards come online at four mana, and being able to start playing those out on turn three can be an immense amount of pressure. Don’t write off the activated ability of the Pathfinder either. +3/+3 and Trample, especially when the opponent misses it, is usually enough to break a board stall when paired with a big creature.
Less Ideal Fixing Options
If you can’t find the above two cards, chances are someone else is trying for this deck. Unfortunately, this deck is not one you should spend effort fighting for, primarily because the bombs that you can both cast will dry up fast. Do note that, as long as you can get a healthy amount of copies of one of the above cards, this deck may be worth trying for.
In that situation, you may need a few weaker options to shore up your fixing. Shire Scarecrow doesn’t really line up well with the format, but it does help fix your mana and can block some damage. Inherited Envelope isn’t great in multiples. This particular card has a nasty habit of flooding your draws with non-threats when drawn in multiples, creating the problem of having too many wheel spinning cards that don’t get anything accomplished. Wizard’s Rockets is less offensive in this manner, but cannot be used immediately and is only a one-time fix. The upside is the card replaces itself but, personally, I have not had great experiences with this card. It does, occasionally, end up as my last card though.
Get Your Fixing Lands
Remember that useless golden land you see cycling around in packs that just seems terrible? This is the archetype that land is meant to help. A lot of the cards that you’re going to be casting on your splash colors are covered by the Great Hall of the Citadel. Able to fix your mana to cast any Legendary permanent, this can be a big help making sure your bombs get deployed on time.
This card can help do the same thing no matter what your core colors are but, since the best way to use green is to use it to cast all the other cards, be on the lookout for it when trying for this deck.
Otherwise, the Shire Terrace is a fine pickup. This fixes your mana a bit slower than the other options discussed, but may be needed if a lot of your splashes aren’t covered by the Great Hall of the Citadel. Rise of the Witch-king is an example of a card that may miss here.
Landcyclers are Important!
In order for this archetype to work, you need a lot of big spells that can close the game. You’re generally sacrificing early game pressure and a bit of consistency for raw power, so when you do manage to get your power online, it needs to pack a punch!
the Landcyclers play both the role of a late-game threat and a way to up your consistency. These cards are just great in general but, in this archetype, Landcyclers don’t just need to fill out the top of your curve. They can also be a splash within themselves.
Access to multiple copies of Many Partings and Wose Pathfinder should allow these to be easily castable but, in the situation where you needed to find different colors for different bombs, or your draws just aren’t getting there, these can replace themselves for a much-needed fixing color.
Pick Your Second Color
More often than not, you’re going to dip into a secondary ‘core’ color. At the end of the day, playing a deck that is predominately green is what we’re trying to avoid. Like it or not, green cards just don’t add up to what other colors can do. This also means that, unless you’re really heavy on late-game bomb fixing, which happens, you may be playing some commons from a second color.
More often than not, this will just be whatever ends up being open. Your commons should, in my opinion, either delay the game to get to your bombs, or be bombs themselves. Past the point of what cards in this color should do, the color will also impact how consistently you can cast your splashed bombs.
A good rule of thumb to up your consistency with this archetype is to try and structure most of your splashed multicolor rares to have one of your two core colors. This will make casting them much more consistent since you only need to fix for one color instead of two. A Simic deck, for example, can cast Azorius and Gruul cards somewhat consistently with the five-color core, but can still have issues casting Boros or Rakdos cards.
Personally, I commonly end up in blue as my second color. Since the scry matters archetype needs green to work, a lot of players tend to stay away from it. Blue also has a lot of cheap cards that delay the game until you can deploy your threats like Hithlain Knots, Stern Scolding, Glorious Gale, and Soothing of Smeagol. It also allows you to pick up the mediocre Simic uncommons at no fixing costs if the archetype is open.
Pictured above is the decklist I used to win $1K in last weekend’s Arena Open. I ended up in this archetype after, quite literally, being passed three green rares in pack one. The first one, Legolas, Master Archer, I passed up for Faramir because it synergized better with the Horn of Gondor. I was then passed a Doors of Durin and an Elven Chorus (which I sideboarded since its very tempo-negative, but it got sided in and won a fair number of games). At this point, I decided that green was likely going to be open, so I tried for the five-color deck.
Ironically, this is not the best example of what a five-color green deck should look like. A lot of the draft decks that players ended up playing at the Arena Open were rather abysmal because everyone was fighting over the best cards.
A few points about this particular build:
- Yes, Horn of Gondor is broken and probably should not have been printed in this Limited format. Yes, it won me a game or two on its own without any other cards needed (though I don’t think I needed it in one of the games). I did win a majority of games without seeing this card. Doors of Durin won me a majority of my games.
- My personal rares were the Horn of Gondor in pack one, Aragorn, Company Uniter in pack two and Samwise Gamgee in pack three.
- This particular draft was a lot more about the two core colors than these decks can be. I did not find any copies of Wose Pathfinder and only one Many Partings. This affected my ability to play all the splashes I wanted. I did not play Rise of the Witch-king, for example, because the Great Hall of the Citadel cannot cast it.
- On that note, the Great Hall was the glue that ended up keeping this deck together. All of my splashes were playable via the Great Hall except for the Friendly Rivalry. I played these cards anyway because I was light on removal.
- Because Friendly Rivalry was not playable with the Great Hall, Shire Terrace ended up grabbing red a lot of the time. This fixing situation is not entirely ideal, but the tough draft tables resulted in a lot of players having weaker decks.
- Even though my fixing was not great, I still did not play Inherited Envelope. Honestly, this could be better than Wizard’s Rockets.
- Sting, the Glinting Dagger and Elven Chorus were the cards I sided in the most. A lot of players forced Rakdos, and Sting’s ability to grant my creatures First Strike did a lot of work. Elven Chorus came in against slower decks.
- Consider siding out your Spiders against slower Red decks. Breaking the Fellowship becomes a bomb when you’re running spiders.
This ‘unplayable’ draft card was the reason I lost my last set. Since my mana base is rather fragile, Fire of Orthanc does a great job at making my fixing uncastable. A Treason of Isengard putting this back on top shut out my ability to cast spells. Its unlucky, sure, but it was a fantastic sideboard decision from my opponent. Do watch out for slower strategies siding this in. Maybe this was a fluke, maybe it was something more.
Either way, if you find your colors drying up quick, or you open a Radagast in your pack one, there may a better option for green than players are giving credit. If the color ends up being relatively open, you can construct a rather powerful deck of cards while your opponents fight over the scraps to everything else. This may not be the best archetype in a void, but it could be the best option at your table if everything else doesn’t seem quite there.