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Lord of the Rings in MtG: 1993 vs 2023

I think even the fogeys occupying this corner of the Internet noticed that WotC released a Magic set based on Lord of the Rings earlier this year. But what fewer might know is that WotC wasn't just broadly inspired by the high fantasy style of Lord of the Rings when they made Alpha, they designed proper Middle Earth cards for that first Magic set. Due to copyright concerns these cards changed names between playtesting and print (or had very generic names), but if we know where to look we can still get an interesting view of designs 30 years apart. We could - as usual - go very deep if we wanted. A lot of things could be said for how WotC represents the likes of orcs, elves, dwarves, trolls, wraiths, or dragons today versus 1993. Or how they present powerful rare warriors in classic Tolkien tribes. Elvish Archers (1993) compared to Orcish Bowmasters (2023). Both have the same rarity (rare), both represent Tolkien-inspired archers, and both were good cards in their original formats.

Big White at Montebello

Some cards I simply like. They might not be in the highest tier, but they often lead to interesting games and "good Magic". Cards like Sindbad or Guardian Beast. Or Witch Hunter. I'd been looking for a home for Witch Hunter. During a peak of covid-reclusiveness in 2020 I wrote a single-card post about him , but still had no deck carved out. 'Cause if we want to enable Witch Hunter, we want to build a deck where landing him seems like a natural part of midgame - a deck where Witch Hunter is somehow inconspicuous and not a lightning rod for removal. It's reasonable enough to construct a deck where Flying Men or Sindbad or some other one- or two-mana spell fly under the radar, but incognito four-drops demand a bit more effort. Let's start by paving the road. There are some really solid utility 1/1s in White. King Suleiman not pictured, but not forgotten. Three-drops look good if our goal is to stick a four-drop. And if we accept that combat is a phase, there are

Mana Vortex

Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. - Herman Melville My White Whale. Febrary 2013 : "At some point every year I spend a few moments to try to break Mana Vortex, still wi