Rewind$4.94 (-79.19%)
Rowan, Scion of War$3.99 (+66.25%)
Food Chain$30.75 (-37.17%)
Sheoldred's Edict$4.69 (-34.86%)
Angel's Grace$2.00 (-33.33%)
The Girl in the Fireplace$10.00 (-33.33%)
The First Sliver$39.99 (-32.79%)
Jeska, Thrice Reborn$13.97 (-30.15%)
Rampant Growth$16.63 (-29.95%)
The One Ring (Borderless)$49.00 (-26.54%)
Mass Hysteria$14.97 (-25.15%)
Questing Druid$3.74 (+24.67%)
Solphim, Mayhem Dominus$8.00 (-23.52%)
Preordain$2.59 (+22.17%)
Alluring Scent$2.72 (-22.06%)
Serum Visions$2.76 (-21.81%)
Rakdos Signet$2.02 (+20.96%)
The Locust God$4.19 (+20.06%)
Inquisition of Kozilek$9.59 (+19.88%)
Mountain (1363)$6.43 (-17.35%)
Mountain (1365)$6.43 (-17.35%)
Mountain (1367)$6.43 (-17.35%)
Treebeard, Gracious Host$5.31 (-17.03%)
Kellan, the Fae-Blooded$3.50 (+16.67%)
Slip Through Space$6.25 (-16.67%)
Gaea's Blessing$5.01 (-16.50%)
Seething Song$2.56 (+16.36%)
Forest - Innistrad Cycle$3.49 (+16.33%)
Hallowed Haunting$19.49 (+15.60%)
Fleshbag Marauder$8.47 (-15.30%)
Mirror March$2.05 (-15.29%)
Ondu Spiritdancer$14.04 (+15.27%)
Swamp (1384)$12.41 (-15.12%)
Forest (1386)$12.41 (-15.12%)
Mountain (1385)$12.49 (-14.57%)
Island (1383)$12.49 (-14.57%)
Blood Artist$2.29 (+14.50%)
Abu Ja'far$43.54 (+13.95%)
Flamekin Harbinger$7.80 (-13.24%)
Grim Hireling$3.60 (+13.21%)
Selfless Savior$2.92 (-12.57%)
Plains (1382)$12.94 (-11.49%)
Spirit Mantle$2.53 (+11.45%)

Modern Times - Tales of Middle-earth

14 Jun
by Corey Williams

Hello everyone! Today on Modern Times we’re taking a deep dive into The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth (LTR). Specifically we've set our sights on some of the highest potential Modern-playable cards the set has to offer.

This direct-to-Modern set is turning the MTG finance community on its head with the infamous 1-of-1 serialized The One Ring transforming Collector Booster packs into lottery tickets. The shadow The One Ring has cast over the set has pushed many competently designed and promising singles to the wayside in most folks' minds. Without further adieu, let’s dig in!

Stern Scolding

Stern Scolding is the one-mana blue counterspell tailor-made for Modern that counters any creature spell that has a power or toughness of two or less. Given how creature-centric the format is, a counterspell such as this serves to neutralize the vast majority of threats in the meta for a single blue mana.

What cards can Stern Scolding hit, you might ask? Oh, where to start… Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, Solitude, Grief, Ledger Shredder, Dragon's Rage Channeler, Shardless Agent, Brazen Borrower, Stoneforge Mystic, Puresteel Paladin, Giver of Runes, Dryad of the Ilysian Grove, Orcish Bowmasters (more on that later), and the list goes on. 


A better question is what doesn’t this counter? In terms of the big name main-decked creatures in the meta: Murktide Regent, Fury, Primeval Titan, and Death's Shadow. There’s certainly a couple more, but you can count on one hand what relevant Modern creatures Stern Scolding cannot hit. This card will see play. The question is, how much?

Izzet Murktide decks usually play a full set of Counterspells, a Spell Snare, and a Spell Pierce. 2-4 of each of these existing counters could, and probably will, easily be replaced by Stern Scolding. In a mirror match, being on the play and holding up a Stern Scolding when your opponent is on the draw guarantees that no creature can resolve that turn putting pressure on early at no cost to your gameplan. Holding up one blue mana will signal that you could have a Stern Scolding in your hand making for more complex mind games in otherwise linear Murktide mirror matches.

Pricewise, this card is pre-ordering around $3, with foils around $5. Ordinarily I would never mention foil prices in my articles. However, given that the demand for the serialized The One Ring along with the demand for the set in general is pushing Collector Booster boxes well above $350 (and climbing), as more Collector Boosters are opened to reveal empty promises of serialized Rings, so too will foils of almost every card in the set. I wouldn’t be surprised to see foil prices from this set, particularly for the commons and uncommons, be worth as much (if not slightly less) than the non-foil versions in the long run.

Abstracting from this, so much product is going to be opened for this set that this card will probably fall to $1.50 if I had to guess today. This could of course change, but it’s tough to imagine this card staying at its current price point. At the same time, it’s also tough to imagine it falling below $1.


I love Remand. It was my favorite counter in Modern for a long time. In blue decks, Remand has been usurped and cast to the wayside by strictly better and more efficient counters, including Counterspell, Force of Negation, and soon-to-be Stern Scolding. That being said, Reprieve is white! Reprieve is also not Remand. The upside of Reprieve compared to Remand is that it can circumvent "this spell can't be countered" text on cards like Supreme Verdict.

So what does this mean in terms of playability? Sadly, probably not as much as one would hope. Reprieve is simply too slow at times in Modern, particularly in white decks that want to build up steam quickly. Leaving mana open usually means slowing your roll, which can be the difference between winning and losing in the current meta. Having said that, decks like Hammer Time and Azorius Control, which have been popping up in top finishes at SCG CONs and other high-profile events, do run Spell Pierce, Mana Tithe, and similar cheap counter spells depending on the decklist, and justifiably could benefit from toying around with Reprieve.

There’s not much else to say. Reprieve is just a white version of Remand with a small upside. As such, its adoption in the format will depend on how well it slots into Hammer Time, and Azorius Control (which can already play Remand but usually doesn’t). The market price is around $2.50 and looks to be falling further. This card will likely be less than a dollar a week or so after release. Easy and cheap playset to pick up for a unique counter that could see play now and in the future, depending on other white decks on the margins of the format.

Orcish Bowmasters

This card has received the largest amount of discussion in the Modern community. It’s incredibly powerful, and well-crafted specifically for the existing Modern meta. Its color choice makes it unplayable in top meta decks like Izzet Murktide, but works perfectly to counter their gameplans. A black card with flash is also an oddity in-and-of itself, giving much needed versatility to decks like Golgari Yawgmoth, Rakdos Scam, and Grixis Death’s Shadow. At instant-speed, for two mana, Orcish Bowmasters comes in, Amasses you a creature, and deals one damage to any target. You can block with the 1/1 Orc, sac it, or attack with it on the back swing the next turn. What's more? Its ETB effect, which is already solid, is also a triggered ability that activates each time your opponent draws an extra card outside of their draw step and for every additional card, dealing more damage, and amassing a larger Orc Army.

Orcish Bowmaster is Ragavan’s worst nightmare, and stands toe-to-toe with some of the best low-cost creatures in the format. Furthermore, dealing the one damage it does when it enters and upon extra draws is incredibly relevant for taking out cheap planeswalkers in the format. Your opponent plays a turn two Wrenn and Six and uses its +1 to return a fetchland to its owner’s hand? Cool, flash in Bowmaster, deal it a damage, Amass 1, and then begin your turn with two power on the board, and swing to put Wrenn and Six at one. If your opponent cares about keeping Wrenn and Six in play, they have to put down a blocker, or waste a removal spell on a 1/1 creature, and +1 it. If they draw an extra card before they plus Wrenn and Six, Bowmaster triggers and kills it.

This is just one of many scenarios where Bowmaster creates some complex decision trees for your opponent to consider and play around. That’s the real value of Bowmaster. It won’t win you games per se, and on its own won’t put immense pressure on your opponent like some of the heaviest hitters in the format, but it complicates gameplans considerably and is the single most disruptive black creature card to be seen in Modern in years - or at least since Grief reared its ugly head.


Overall, Bowmasters is a punishing and pushed card. The preorder price reflects the expectations the market has for it - both in Modern as well as cEDH (Wheel of Fortune effects with this card in multiplayer games can win matches). The average price is just above $30 right now. Will it go up? Possibly. Will it go down? Possibly. It’s tough to evaluate just where this will land. We won’t know much about how dominant the card will be in Modern until after the set releases and it makes its way into decklists.

A good starting point for speculating on this card is to consider its potential upper-and-lower bounds. Ragavan serves as the top-end for Modern creatures, so naturally we must ask if this card will exceed Ragavan in price ($50). The answer is no. I don’t see Bowmasters exceeding Ragavan, despite being the most pushed Modern-legal card since Ragavan. So how low can it go? Well, the only other comparable card in the meta now is Ledger Shredder, which is around $16 (peaked at $26). Is Bowmasters worth more than Ledger Shredder from a gameplay standpoint? Probably (ironically, Bowmasters is also the perfect counter to Ledger Shredder and can be flashed in as a response to its Connive ability).

The big problem with Bowmasters and its long-run potential is the fact that it doesn’t slot into Temur Rhinos, Izzet Murktide, or Indomitable Creativity Decks, which are the top-end of the meta. If Bowmasters hits, and can’t push out the share these decks hold, it likely won’t hold a high price either. On the other hand, if its inclusion in Modern is disruptive enough to push Grixis Death Shadow, Rakdos Scam, and Golgari Yawgmoth decks into top meta shares (or into higher shares than Izzet Murktide in the case of Rakdos Scam), then it could very well hold its current preorder price or even go up to as high as $35-$40. Ultimately, you have to be the judge. If you play decks that Bowmasters is compatible with, then you’ll probably be picking up a playset regardless. I expect its price to fall a little post-release once copies of it flood the market, but that dip will probably be small, and stabilize fairly quickly, meaning there’s a small window of opportunity to pick it up before it swings higher.

Stern Scolding
Orcish Bowmasters
Orcish Bowmasters (Borderless)

Concluding Remarks

The cards discussed today are all very powerful, and playable at some level in Modern. Interestingly, beyond these cards, there aren’t nearly as many Modern playables as one would expect in a direct-to-Modern set. Some honorable mentions include the legendary lands cycle in the set, Cast into the Fire, and even The One Ring itself. Despite this, it’s very clear that LTR is somewhat designed with Commander players in mind, making many of the multicolored cards especially difficult to operationalize in Modern. These points notwithstanding, this set has given us a few of the most pushed Modern playable cards since Modern Horizons 2! Speculate safely, and good luck!

Check out these other articles:

History, Restapled - Tills, We Meet Again by Steve Heisler

New Horizons: From Cute to Brute by Matt Grzechnik

Tom the Bomb by Jason Alt

Corey Williams
Corey Williams

Corey Williams is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Shippensburg University in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. He considers himself a macroeconometrician with his research body reflecting work in applied macroeconomics and econometrics. Corey is an L1 Judge who started playing Magic around Eighth Edition. He enjoys Modern, Commander, cEDH, and cube drafting. Outside of Magic, he loves running, teaching, and the occasional cult movie.

More from Corey Williams:

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