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Against the Odds: Magic the Way Tolkien Intended

Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 381 of Against the Odds. This week, rather than playing Magic the way Garfield intended, we're heading to Historic to play Magic the way Tolkien intended, by trying to be tempted by the Ring enough to win with a single attack from Frodo, Sauron's Bane! Our deck's plan is simple: we're basically acting out the Lord of the Rings movies with Magic cards. Frodo grabs Bilbo's Ring and heads for Mount Doom while endlessly fighting the Call of the Ring. Thankfully, he has help on his perilous journey from Pippin, Guard of the Citadel, Samwise the Stouthearted, and Boromir, Warden of the Tower, along with Skrelv, Defector Mite—a leftover from the Phyrexian invasion of Middle-earth that didn't make the movie but is most definitely in the books. What are the odds of winning with Frodo and friends in Historic? Let's find out on this week's Against the Odds!

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Against the Odds: One-Shot Frodo

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The Deck

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Stop me if you've heard this story before, but here's our deck's plan. Our protagonist is the hobbit Frodo, Sauron's Bane. If we can help guide him to Mount Doom while being tempted by the Ring at least four times (while also leveling him up, which isn't really that difficult since it only costs a total of six mana), our reward is that we can kill our opponent with just a single attack!

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Of course, we need a ring to throw into the volcano for any of this to work. We have the perfect one for our deck in Bilbo's Ring, which not only turns Frodo invisible by giving him hexproof and unblockable during our turn but also generates card advantage as we attack! Most importantly, Bilbo's Ring helps ensure that once we are tempted by the Ring and have a fully leveled up Frodo, Sauron's Bane, we can get in that final attack to kill our opponent!

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Along the journey, Frodo feels the Call of the Ring, to the point where, when we finally reach the volcano, he nearly gives up on the entire plan and keeps the Ring for himself, which would likely lead to his demise. Call of the Ring is basically the Magic version of this process. For as much criticism as the "Ring tempts you" mechanic has taken for not having a drawback, Call of the Ring itself is actually a pretty good representation of the Ring's burden. You get a lot of power—drawing an extra card every time the Ring tempts you—but at the cost of two life, which means we'll die to the Call of the Ring itself sooner or later if we don't make it to the volcano fast enough (or stop drawing cards, which, of course, isn't really an option). Most importantly, Call of the Ring has the Ring tempt us every upkeep, which means if we can play it early, we should be tempted at least four times by the time Frodo, Sauron's Bane is fully leveled up, turning Frodo into a one-shot-kill threat.

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Backing up Frodo are a bunch more "the Ring tempts you" cards. Samwise the Stouthearted can save Frodo or one of our other permanents by returning it from our graveyard to our hand while also upping our Halfling count for Bilbo's Ring (which really wants to be equipped to Halflings). Boromir, Warden of the Tower can sacrifice itself to make our other creatures indestructible, offering another way to ensure that Frodo can fight through our opponent's removal until it manages to swing for lethal. Meanwhile, Birthday Escape is just one of the most efficient ways to be tempted by the Ring in all of Magic. One important note about "the Ring tempts you" is that the mechanic does nothing if our Ring-bearer dies until we are tempted by the Ring again. This means even after we max out the Ring and have been tempted enough to win with Frodo, additional tempts still have value since they let us choose a new Ring-bearer.

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Last but not least, we have the final two members of the Fellowship: Pippin, Guard of the Citadel and Skrelv, Defector Mite, both of whom can save Frodo from targeted removal thanks to protection or hexproof while also letting him swing through our opponent's blockers to make it to Mount Doom and close out the game. Yes, I know that Skrelv isn't technically a Lord of the Rings card, but remember, Lord of the Rings is part of Magic now, which technically should mean that the Phyrexians from March of the Machine invaded Middle-Earth, so it's not really all that far fetched that Skrelv is chilling in The Shire. Maybe the Mite saw the error of their oily ways or decided to help save the world instead of destroy it to atone for their past sins in Elesh Norn's multiverse invasion? Either that or I just wanted more ways to protect Frodo from removal...

The Odds

Record-wise, our Lord of the Rings deck was middling. All in all, I played 15 matches with the deck and won five, giving us a 33% match-win percentage. The good news is that we did manage to win with Frodo, Sauron's Bane multiple times, and when things go well, it's actually not all that unrealistic. Removal-heavy decks can be tough. While we have a lot of protection in Pippin, Boromir, and Skrelv, decks like Rakdos can just overload our removal. The other tricky matchups are fast aggro and combo. Hobbits are small, not just in Lord of the Rings but also in Magic, which means our clock isn't especially fast unless we're winning with Frodo. And it takes a while for us to get the one-shot Frodo kill set up, which means we often get run over in these matchups before we can kill our opponent.

A couple of quick notes on the new Lord of the Rings cards:

  • Pippin, Guard of the Citadel really impressed me. Sure, it's basically a legendary two-mana Mother of Runes with some upsides, but maybe a legendary two-mana Mother of Runes is still a good card? Its ability to fizzle removal is nice, and protection from creatures allows it to play defense much better than Skrelv, Defector Mite. I'm not sure Pippin is a new Modern staple or anything like that, but it was one of the most impressive cards in our deck, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it sneaking into some decks in Modern and Historic.
  • Bilbo's Ring was way, way better than I expected, to the point where it was often the card we wanted to draw most. Being able to chip in for damage and draw an extra card each turn is solid; plus, it supports our combo kill. The only problem is that it only really works with Halflings because its equip cost for non-Halflings is too high, which probably means it won't really make the cut in many decks. But if you are playing a bunch of Hobbits for some reason, keep it in mind. It was powerful.
  • Finally, in a more meta sense, I was impressed by the deck's flavor. It really felt like we were playing the Lord of the Rings movies. All of the cards worked together, and it took us way too long to close out games, but Frodo eventually managed to sneak out some improbable wins. If you're a fan of Lord of the Rings and want to play a deck that essentially role-plays the movies, this is the one. Just don't cut Skrelv. The Phyrexian invasion of Middle-earth is in the books—I promise.

Vote for Next Week's Deck

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Anyway, that's all for today. Don't forget to vote for next week's deck! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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