Magic: The Gathering recently launched the Universes Beyond series to flavorfully capture the essence of other IPs like Warhammer 40,000, Doctor Who and The Lord of the Rings. Understandably, translating those IPs into MTG cards and sets is never easy. Still, it’s not surprising that fans are disappointed when their favorite characters or artifacts are misrepresented in-game.
The One Ring is a notorious example, and not just because WotC printed an ultra-rare “one-of-one” serialized version. Players are also skeptical about the “Ring tempts you” ability, an emblem-based effect in Tales of Middle-Earth that isn’t resonating with fans. MTG‘s “Ring tempts you” effect has some potential, but the online community is already calling it a flavor fail and aren’t sure if the effect is even worth using.
How The Ring Tempts You, and Why Players Don’t Like It
Unlike The One Ring, which is an indestructible artifact card with a clear presence on the battlefield, The One Ring’s temptation is intangible as an emblem card, similar to a MTG Planeswalker’s emblem. Various cards in The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-Earth have the effect “the Ring tempts you,” and the first instance creates the Ring’s emblem and activates its first phase. Further instances of “the Ring tempts you” add more effects until all four are active at once.
The emblem also assigns a single creature that player controls to be the Ring-bearer, and that creature gets numerous synergizing effects, like shutting down large enemy blockers, drawing and discarding cards, making opponents lose life points, and more. The player can only have one Ring-bearer at a time for flavor reasons and to streamline gameplay, but new instances of “the Ring tempts you” allows the player to switch which creature of theirs is the current Ring-bearer in case player resolve some better creatures later.
However, many MTG players expressed disappointment over the effect, partly because the One Ring’s effect is intangible as an emblem and cannot be interacted with, as emblems are not permanents or spells. The game is all about interaction, so some players view it as cheap to make The One Ring’s temptation invincible as an intangible effect that’s always there.
Flavor-wise, players are concerned that the Ring’s temptation never has no downside whatsoever to represent its corrupting influences, like with Gollum, one of the most iconic characters in the LotR books. The One Ring isn’t risky to play, and it doesn’t evoke the feeling of harnessing dark powers at a price — which it should. Instead, The Ring is an unstoppable boon with no downside, turning one of the most malicious artifacts in fantasy history into a benevolent and generous card.
MTG’s One Ring Compromises Both Gameplay and LotR Lore
At a glance, The One Ring’s temptation totally misses the point of the villainous artifact, and players doubt the effect will do much good in formats like Modern, where it’s legal for play. The effect is too slow for a fast, intense format like Modern, and Ring-bearers are too vulnerable to removal effects. Also, in some cases, the game may end with a combo before the Ring-bearer can even do anything. Most likely, The One Ring’s temptation emblem will see play in casual MTG, where flavor and fun trump competitive strategies.
MTG Head designer Mark Rosewater explained that The One Ring’s temptation has no built-in downside because negative effects made it unappealing for gameplay, leading players to avoid it entirely. Cards like these make every effort to be flavorful and accurate to the lore, but if the card or effect is unusuable, then it’s all for nothing. MTG is a trading card game, after all, and some compromises must be made so cards are playable and fun things happen. It makes sense that the designers wanted The One Ring to see widespread play, but it’s a shame they couldn’t find a solution that better represented Sauron’s corrupting influences.
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