Is Tempted by the Ring the New Initiative?

Is the Ring Tempts You the New Initiative?

Michael RappLegacy, Modern

The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth brings us the newest Magic mechanic “The Ring Tempts You.” Naturally, once players saw the ring tempts you in stages on a track that exists outside the game, comparisons to the Initiative mechanic started flowing. 

Is being tempted by the ring going to be as format defining in Modern as taking the initiative has been in Legacy? There are a few keys to look at in making that assessment. 

How many of the respective mechanics need to go in a deck? How powerful are the cards that these mechanics are on? How quickly do these cards enter and impact the game? Before I get into those answers it seems like a refresher on each mechanic and its background is in order.

Mechanics and Background

Initiative was first found in the Baldur’s Gate commander products. Makes sense for a Dungeons and Dragons themed set to have initiative as a core mechanic, as it is something that happens at the beginning of every combat in the tabletop classic! 

Initiative does have a couple of important distinctions separating it from its less successful counterpart, Venture into the Dungeon. First, the initiative grants you access to the Undercity, a special dungeon that can only be accessed by gaining the initiative. 

Looking at the possible paths available in the Undercity, it doesn’t take much at all to snowball the game to a point where the opponent is simply buried under free value. Initiative works similarly to the Monarch where, once you have taken the initiative, you retain it until either another player takes it by playing a card that grants the initiative or they deal combat damage to you — in which case they now have the initiative. 

Whenever you take the initiative, either by effect or combat damage (or at the beginning of your upkeep) you venture further into the Undercity. 

The Ring Tempts you work similarly, but differently. Similar to initiative, being tempted by the ring uses a progression track that can’t be interacted with from inside the game. However, unlike the initiative, the ownership of the ring isn’t passed back and forth. Each player must progress along the temptation track by playing their own effects that allow the ring to tempt them. 

Tempted by the ring is also combat focused, but in a different way than initiative. Instead of combat revolving around ownership of the initiative, tempted by the ring only pays you off for attacking, instead of defending and riding the free advantage to a victory. 

Initiative wanted you to play in such a way that you were never vulnerable, but being tempted by the ring encourages a more aggressive style of play, which naturally comes with additional risk. 

One vs Four

With the initiative, you really only needed to play one copy of an effect that would grant it, as long as you could reliably protect it. Bonus copies of the initiative would fast track your way through the dungeon but weren’t required to make the mechanic powerful. When you back-up a turn, one White Plume Adventurer with Swords to Plowshares and Solitude, that makes it easy to protect the initiative. 

When it comes to being tempted by the ring, you don’t get a rolling effect. You need to make a conscious effort to continue the temptation track. 

That means instead of putting a few cards in your deck to start the initiative train, you need to include a lot more tempted by the ring cards to get to the end of the reward track. As a result, it may not be an issue if the power level of the cards with tempted by the ring are high, leading me to my next point. 

Power Level of Individual Cards

Of all of the cards that can tempt you with the ring, I believe only a couple of them are close to Modern power level on their own merit. Things could change, but Samwise the Stouthearted, Boromir, Warden of the Tower, Frodo, Sauron’s Bane and Call of the Ring are the only cards that seem to have a shot. 

Boromir is the only card on that list I’m fairly confident will amount to much of anything, and that is because of its ability to counter free spells much more than its tempted by the ring text. That being said, it is much more of an ask to put a larger number of cards that are below rate into your Modern deck to keep triggering tempted by the ring, compared to a few cards in a Legacy deck to turn on initiative. 

It is simply too much that needs to work, and I don’t think the payoff is nearly strong enough compared to something like initiative. 

The Impact of Fast Mana

Legacy has much cleaner solutions to cards being below rate than Modern does. City of Traitors, Ancient Tomb, Chrome Mox and more allow legacy decks to cast three and four mana initiative creatures on turn one, not only getting the train rolling for the rest of the game, but putting a body in the way to defend it. 

Modern is a lot less impressive in that regard. All of the powerful fast mana has already been banned out of Modern, which means if you want to accelerate, you’re stuck with more traditional means — like Utopia Sprawl or Birds of Paradise

Not only are the ring tempts you cards coming out slower, but they need more time to develop into a meaningful advantage given that outside of Call of the Ring, you need to spend subsequent turns casting more tempted by the ring cards, eating more of your time while your opponent plays other powerful Modern cards. 

It is likely that without fast mana, by the time you are fully tempted by the ring, you’ll be too far behind because your opponent spent those few turns playing a normal game of Modern. 


I can see why players have made the comparison between tempted by the ring and initiative, and I believe Wizards of the Coast not only learned from their mistakes with Initiative but overcorrected. As a result, it’s unlikely the ring will be tempting many Modern players.

Honestly, I think it is OK that tempted by the ring doesn’t seem like it will change much in the Modern landscape, because rewarding players with tangible benefits that are not interactable within the game engine can become problematic quickly. 

End Step

It is entirely possible my assessment is off base here given we haven’t had the opportunity to play with the Lord of the Rings cards yet. But on its face, it seems like many of these cards will be non-starters for Modern. And since they are still  flavorful and cool, formats like Commander are a perfect home for them.  

Be sure to check out all of our Lord of the Rings content in the meantime. And as always, you can find me on Twitter @RappaciousOne for questions, comments, or feedback. I’ll see everyone back here next time for more Modern content!