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Ringsight Art by Campbell White

The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-Earth Limited Mechanics Guide

J2SJosh provides you with a guide to the limited mechanics for the Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-Earth MTG Arena events!

Hey everyone! We’re only a few more days away from The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-Earth launching on MTG Arena. Whether you’re teaming up with the hobbits or more interested in taking them to Isengard, it looks like we’re all set for some crazy adventures. Today we’re going to be looking at the mechanics of LTR and how they will be playing out in limited.

The Ring

The Ring is, of course, the biggest mechanic in the set that tons of cards are based around. Luckily, we have this handy dandy reminder card to check whenever you need a refresher. I’ll be breaking it down so that we all know how it’s going to work in limited.

Starting off, when the ring tempts you for the first time, you create an emblem named The Ring (as shown above). It gains it’s first ability and you choose a creature you control to become the Ring-Bearer.

Every other time you are tempted, the ring gains a level and you choose a Ring-Bearer. It can be either the current Ring-Bearer or a new one. Once the ring has reached a level, it retains all of the abilities no matter what. It doesn’t matter if you choose a new Ring-Bearer, your creature dies, or your whole side gets swept. The next time you are tempted, it still goes to the next level from where it was while retaining all previously attained levels.

Your opponent cannot interact directly with your ring. There is no way to take away a level or do anything tricky to it. Even if they steal your Ring-Bearer, it stops being a Ring-Bearer.

Even if you don’t have a creature, you can still advance the ring. That means that if you play Birthday Escape on turn one, you reach level one of the ring so that the next time you choose a Ring-Bearer, it will already be going to level two and ready to loot.

If you do have a creature when you are tempted, you have to choose one. You also can’t have more than one Ring-Bearer at a time.

Properly understanding how the different steps of the ring work is huge for maximizing your win percentage in the format so I’m going to break it down step by step.

Level one makes your Ring-Bearer legendary which is extremely relevant because there are a ton of cards that care about having a legendary creature such as Nasty End and Gimli's Fury. It also helps make Errand-Rider of Gondor much better. Basically, being legendary is almost always a good thing (Lost to Legend begs to differ).

That’s not all folks! Level one also makes your Ring-Bearer unable to be blocked by creatures with greater power. This makes cards with funky stat lines such as Bill the Pony or 1/3s play much better as ring bearers because it’s extremely difficult to profitably block them. It works similarly well on low power evasive creatures like Dunland Crebain.

While it can be instinctive to put the ability on your biggest creature, there are a lot of times when you want to put it on your lowest power creature. I’ve also seen some people miss out on a free attack just because the opponent had a few chonkers out. It takes a bit to get used to, but stop and consider the options each time you choose a new Ring-Bearer.

Once you get the ring to step two, you get to draw a card, then discard a card whenever your ring bearer attacks. It doesn’t require dealing damage, just attacking triggers it so it doesn’t matter if they can brick wall your creature.

Looting is a very powerful limited ability when there is no mana cost attached to it. It helps smooth your draws by mitigating both flood and screw. It also lets you discard things to potentially reanimate if that’s your thing.

Step three adds that when your Ring-Bearer becomes blocked, they have to sacrifice all creatures that blocked it at the end of combat. This is great for breaking board stalls where your 1/3 is attacking into their 1/3.

Step four adds that whenever the Ring-Bearer deals combat damage, each opponent loses three life. This speeds up the clock immensely by making your little 1/1 functionally deal four damage every time. For extra fun, you can use Theoden, King of Rohan to give your Ring-Bearer double strike so you can trigger this twice per turn.  

Once you have it fully powered up, it puts your opponent in the damned if they do, damned if they don’t position on blocking. They probably won’t have too many creatures that can block a low power ring bearer. Even if they do, their option is to lose that blocker or let you take a big chunk out of their life total.

You may have noticed that there was no negative effects involved here and that being tempted was all upside. That’s pretty much how it actually worked out, it’s a powerful ability that shouldn’t be underrated.

Amass Orcs

Amass is pretty simple in that you add the appropriate number of +1+1 counters to an army you control. If you don’t control one, you create a 0/0 black Orc army creature and add the +1/+1 counters to your newly created army. There’s a whole thing about previous zombie armies, but it won’t come up in this limited format (if you’re curious you just combine them into one zombie orc army conglomerate).

The most important thing to remember here is that you don’t have the option to make a new one if you already have an army out. You can only grow the one that you have. They did make sure the Pacifism effects can’t permanently leave you unable to amass so you don’t have to worry about that happening.

It’s also an interesting ability because it opens up the possibility to play a technically creatureless deck while still having creatures from spells.

Food Tokens

Food tokens are very simple. It’s an artifact token that you can pay two and sacrifice to gain three life. There are plenty of other ways to sacrifice them such as Improvised Club or use them in some hobbit related fashion like Samwise Gamgee.


There is a cycle of land cyclers that only cost one mana to discard and search your deck for the appropriate basic land. These are all pretty solid because they get you a land early while still being decent later in the game.


These are pretty common (well mostly uncommon and rare) these days, but I’ll explain for the newer players. When they enter the battlefield and after your draw step, you add a counter and whichever chapter you put the counter on triggers. After the last chapter, you sacrifice the saga.

Just in case it comes up (I’m looking at you Goldberry, River-Daughter), if you add an extra lore counter to a saga you do still get the trigger for the next chapter even if you already had a trigger from the saga that turn.


Historic cards are artifacts, sagas, and legendary cards. All of the cards that refer directly to historic permanents spell out what qualifies as one of them on the card so you don’t necessarily have to memorize it.

Stun Counters

Stun counters are pretty simple. If a card with a stun counter on it would untap (including untap step), it stays tapped and removes a stun counter instead. That means that even if you have an ability or spell that untaps The Watcher in the Water it’s not untapping until all the stun counters are gone.

Wrap Up

Thanks for reading! Hopefully this gave you a pretty comprehensive guide to the mechanics that you’ll run into during your adventures into Middle-Earth. I’ll be back tomorrow with my archetype skeletons. Until then, stay classy people!

Fine…I guess I will add that I’ll see you LTR! I’m pretty ashamed of that one, but I have a brand to uphold here.

If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below.

You can also find me at:

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Josh is a member of the elite limited team The Draft Lab as well as the host of The Draft Lab Podcast. He was qualifying for Pro Tours, Nationals, and Worlds literally before some of you were born. After a Magic hiatus to play poker and go to medical school, he has been dominating Arena with over an 80% win percentage in Bo3 as well as making #1 rank in Mythic.

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