There was a lot of apprehension as we approached spoiler season for Tales of Middle Earth. A lot of people feared the set was really Modern Horizons 3. Wizards of the Coast assured us this wasn’t the case, but I’m not sure how many were convinced. Our own David Ernenwein approached the topic of whether the set was the third in an overpowered trilogy. When I looked through the set, I originally didn’t think it was, but it’s starting to appear that like many others, I might have been fooled. After just a week past its official release, the set is having a major impact on the Modern format.
One Ring to Rule Them All
Even people who have never seen or read Lord of the Rings are familiar with “The One Ring.” Being the single most important artifact in one of the most important media pieces of all time, it was crucial that Wizards get this card right. Unfortunately, I’ve seen people saying this is among their least favorite cards of all time. I’ve also seen people saying it’s among their favorites. All I know is they definitely got it right from a power (and flavor) perspective.
People often scoff at four-mana cards that don’t affect the board, but this one is different. Gaining protection from everything means you can pretty freely tap out for this card. When you untap with it, it quickly becomes one of the most busted draw engines to ever exist. Yes, the life can become a real burden, but in the words of a great Magic card: “Greatness at any cost.”
So what’s the home for this powerful card? Well, that’s the thing. Being a not-too-over-costed colorless artifact, it can slot into a variety of homes. I want to start with my personal favorite home for this card so far.
Corey Baumeister was recently able to take down the Magic Online Modern Challenge and a Last Chance Qualifier with this archetype. The One Ring slots right into flex slots we usually see filled by copies of Ledger Shredder, Urza's Saga targets, or additional combo pieces. The card has a lot of really strong synergy in this deck.
So Why Breach?
Let’s start with the obvious: drawing cards in your combo deck is good. Being able to dig a few cards deeper sometimes just leads to drawing the last piece needed for the combo. The slightly less obvious part is that the protection is also useful for combo-ing. If you have the mana to play Ring on your critical Breach turn, it protects against certain cards that can shut down the combo such as Abnormal Endurance or Tormod's Crypt.
There are also a few tricksy things you can do to take full advantage of Ring. If you have two copies of the card and an Emry, Lurker of the Loch, you can cast a copy every turn and let them "legend rule" each other out. Not only does this let you get the enters the battlefield trigger every turn, but it also lets you reset the burden counters if you’re low on life. If you only have one Ring and a Grinding Station, you can pull off a similar trick. You can sacrifice Ring to mill your opponent three cards each turn while staying untouchable yourself.
What Had to Change?
One last interesting thing to note is the return of Thassa's Oracle. Lately, we have been seeing Grapeshot in that slot, but Grapeshot can’t win if opponents have protection from everything. Despite still having very solid stats, Grinding Breach has been on a downswing in popularity. I’m hopeful that Ring can bring some life back to my favorite archetype. I got the chance to play it some over the weekend and it was a lot of fun.
One Ring, Two Towers, Seven Mana
Tron is, in my opinion, the most obvious home for Ring. The deck does two things: make a lot of mana and play colorless spells. I’m not a Tron player, but was able to get some insight from my Tron-loving friends.
One of the weaknesses with traditional Tron decks is occasionally they don’t assemble Tron and get stuck with unuseable expensive spells. Another issue, particularly with traditional Tron, is that decks can be full of air. Sometimes you resolve your first threat, it’s not enough, and then you don’t draw into anything that matters.
Ring is such a perfect card for this deck because it helps to plug all these holes. It offers something to do when you can’t produce Tron and will very quickly draw into other threats.
While the traditional lists are likely the Tron variant best suited to use the Ring, it is seeing play in Eldrazi Tron as well.
As if we weren't sick of Tron, I do want to touch on Prison Tron before getting out of here. SCG Colombus winner Brady Munroe was kind enough to fill me in on his thoughts. Brady has been playing the deck for a long time and even he is having a hard time evaluating this card. It's similar in the deck to Mystic Forge. The ceiling is much higher, but there are also plenty of times it's worse. He's still got more testing to do, but it's interesting that we may have at least one Tron variant where Ring doesn't belong.
While we’re on the subject of big mana, I have to touch on a deck I’m known for. It seems like Amulet Titan is constantly doing something new with its flex slots. With that in mind, it’s not surprising to see Amulet aficionados Jack Potter, aka HouseOfManaMTG, and Mistakenn putting up strong results with the card.
This card feels perfect for the archetype. Amulet needs ways to bridge from the early game to its Primeval Titans. We often see Andrios, Roaming Explorer fill this role, but it’s no secret that it's one of the weakest cards in the deck. Ring being a card with text relevant against aggressive strategies that also digs deeper toward an end game is incredibly potent here. Also, the fact that it’s easy to play under a Blood Moon is a huge perk, as it can dig into answers to the enchantment.
Ever since the printing of Ring, A-Omnath, Locus of Creation has been putting up a ton of results. This was a bit surprising to me. Omnath decks have never struggled in the card advantage department.
After thinking about the deck some, it's actually a great home for our favorite piece of jewelry. Omnath's landfall trigger ensures a nice life cushion to pay the Rings upkeep cost. The pitch Elementals combined with plenty of one-mana interaction means the deck can actually cast the extra spells drawn. Looking through the results, there is no consensus on how to build the deck. I know some might see that as a negative, but the fact that this deck is doing so well and might not even be optimized makes Omnath a deck I'm very interested in.
The above four decks are far from the only places Ring has seen play, but are just the ones most likely to see widespread play. The card has been propping up tons of strategies though. As we’ve established, the card is incredibly powerful. Lots of people will see it as the card their brew was missing. Some decks that have seen play before but have never been format mainstays will look to adopt this card. Mono Black Coffers, Mono Blue Svyelun, Dice Factory, Ponza, and many others all seem like decent homes for the card.
How to Fight Back
If Ring continues to be as prevalent as it seems, it’s going to warp things around it. Players need to come prepared to beat this powerful card advantage spell.
The best way to fight this card is by not letting it come down. If you have to remove Ring from an opponent’s board, they are achieving a two-for-one at worst. If the enemy untaps with their Ring, it's even worse news, as it's now drawn three cards.
While only a few decks want them, the new card Graceful Reprieve and its older brother Goremand are also solid options. (Notably, Graceful Reprieve can stop Ring even through protection from Delighted Halfling.)
Lastly, Thoughtseize backed up by a quick clock can stop it from resolving. The major concern, of course, is that resolving Ring is insanely good versus the card Thoughtseize. That being said, maybe Dimir is well situated to beat the hot new thing.
So, The One Ring Resolved?
Let’s face it, life’s not perfect. Sometimes, Ring gets cast and we can’t stop it. Even though it’s indestructible, there are still answers. Multi-color decks that happen to play white get two excellent answers in Prismatic Ending or Leyline Binding. If those won’t work for your deck, A-Haywire Mite and Cast into the Fire are both very playable cards that will also permanently deal with the problem. A slightly more fragile answer is playing Pithing Needle. The downside to running Needle is you shut off your own Ring.
There is another option to beating a resolved Ring that will likely fly under most people’s radars. There are multiple ways to ignore the protection clause, which guards by preventing damage.
Okay, so some of these might be a stretch, but they work. It’s not hard to imagine a world where your opponent taps out for The One Ring and then dies to Stomp and an attack from two Rhinos, or a flurry of Skullcrack and other burn spells.
If It's So Good, Why Isn't There A Two Ring?
There will never be a sequel to The One Ring. It doesn’t evolve throughout the source material. If you're playing it in Modern, though, you'll likely be playing four copies in your deck. It will be precious to whatever strategy it's included in.