With the holidays approaching, Wizards of the Coast has created a new product for their holiday releases of Tales of Middle-earth. This year Wizards of the Coast has introduced four Scene Boxes alongside The Special Edition Collector Boosters and Volume Two of Jumpstart Boosters. While the Collector Boosters and Jumpstart Boosters are additions to existing products, these Scene Boxes are something entirely new. There isn’t any standalone game to be found within the Scene Boxes so this is a product review. For good and bad there’s a lot of Magic: The Gathering products and they serve different players across the game. So, are the Scene Boxes worth a purchase and who are they for? Let’s start with figuring out what is in a Scene Box.
Rohirrim Chargers – What’s in the Box?
There are four Scene Boxes with each one depicting an important moment in the Lord of the Rings. The four boxes are: Aragon at Helm’s Deep, Flight of the Witch-King, The Might of Galadriel, and Gandalf in Pelennor Fields. Each box comes with six foil unique borderless panorama cards that can be combined to form the full scene for each box. These are similar to the borderless panorama cards found in the main Tales of Middle-earth set (LTR), but this time you don’t have to hunt for the cards for the panorama, you get them all in one box together. In addition to the six panorama cards you’ll also find three Tales of Middle-earth Set Boosters (LTR), six art cards identical to the scene cards, and a cardboard display easel. The art cards can be displayed instead of the scene cards to form the panorama, but I’m not sure why you would do that considering the full scene is also on the back of the display easel. The main draw to this product is that you know what six cards you are getting with the rest of the additions largely being a bonus.
The six scene cards are similar to the previous borderless panorama cards that were released with the Tales of Middle-earth draft set, but these cards have an important difference. These cards are for Commander and are a part of the Tales of Middle-earth Commander set (LTC). These cards were specifically designed for Commander and are therefore not legal in any competitive format. Is this bad? No, it’s just an important distinction buyers need to be aware of. This is something I want to point out as it’s not entirely apparent these cards are not a part of the main LTR set. Commander is the most popular format in Magic: The Gathering. The casual multiplayer format is one of the best ways to play Magic as Commander allows players to do powerful things all while enjoying the company of their friends. With this distinction in mind let’s take a deeper look at one of the boxes and examine the six cards inside.
Call Forth the Tempest – What’s on the cards?
Let’s explore Aragorn at Helm’s Deep as all of the boxes follow a clear template. The strength of this product is that you know what six cards are inside and you will have to determine if they are for you. Inside Aragorn at Helm’s Deep, you will find the following six cards: Anduril, Narsil Reforged, Aragon, Hornburg Hero, Legolas’s Quick Reflexes, Gimili’s Reckless Might, Isengard Unleashed, and Rohirrim Chargers. So what’s the pattern? Aragorn, Hornburg Hero is a Naya (RGW) legendary creature. Alongside this each of the remaining cards are within the legendary creature’s color identity. With this we can surmise what these Scene Boxes are.They are the start of a Commander deck. Aragorn, Hornburg Hero being the Commander and the remaining cards in their color identity to add to the ninety nine. I like this idea as for new players it creates a starting point for building a new deck. For established players these just might be the Commander they’ve been waiting for or something new to brew with. In particular Galadriel, Light of Valinor seems very strong and I predict she’s about to be a popular commander.
Without delving too deep into the cards I was surprised by the mechanics within every Scene Box. Across the six cards within Aragon, at Helm’s Deep we have the mechanics: Ascend, Renown, Split second, Formidable, Flashback, and Exert. These are mechanics from all across Magic’s history and seeing them on cards again was a mini history lesson. I think this is a great way to use mechanics from the past on new cards. A new player who’s never seen Exert might be inspired to build around the mechanic letting them delve into Amonkhet. The other scene boxes follow this template of a legendary creature for a Commander and five cards within that color identify with each card having mechanics from across Magic’s history.
Lastly, as usual, the artwork on the cards is amazing. Maybe the panorama style isn’t for you, but I’ve loved all of the artwork across the Tales of Middle-earth sets. Since there is a display easel and art cards that would also seem to be another focus of the product.
Galadriel’s Dismissal – Negatives
In terms of what is offered inside the box I don’t have too many things to criticize. I think a few more Set Boosters would help the value of the product as three seems low. The art cards and the cardboard display easel are of little value to me. The easel is a nice idea, but it’s just thin cardboard and isn’t something I’d display in the long run. I understand the point is to display the included cards, but I wouldn’t slot them into the easel without sleeving them first for fear of scratching the bottom of the card. The back of the easel has the full artwork all together and I found myself simply turning the easel around to admire that side.
A potential downside of the Scene Boxes could be something that affects you or not at all. When I unpacked the cards, I found the six included foil cards had slightly curled. The quality of Magic: the Gathering foils has been a topic of discussion for years now. For me, Magic foils have been inconsistent in their quality. I’ve had a variety of experiences where some foils curl immediately and other foils never curl. Only time will tell if these cards will continue to curl further. Overall, this isn’t a deal breaker, but as someone entrenched in Magic, foils curling is something I consider. These are not the worst I have seen, but it was noticeable when I unboxed the cards. Is this a huge deal? Not really, as Commander is a casual format, but it’s something to keep in mind if you like or dislike foil cards. After all, the main reason to purchase a scene box is the six known cards inside the box.
Sorcerous Squall – Final Thoughts
I think it’s no coincidence that these Scene Boxes are a part of this year’s holiday release. It’s nice to see a product where you know what you’re getting. As a consumer you can decide if the value is there for you. However, this product really shines as a gift. If you’re not sure what to get the Magic player in your life, the Scene Boxes serve a good middle ground. Inside the box are six known foil Commander cards and three Set Boosters. Commander is the most played format so it’s a safe bet for MtG players. The six cards are fun designs while also having more amazing artwork. While the foil quality is still in question, the holiday Scene Boxes make a good gift for the Magic: The Gathering player in your life.
Chris began tabletop gaming in college and quickly fell into the addictive world of cardboard. Beginning with D&D and Catan he became an enthusiast of all things gaming; analog or digital. Chris, now a recovering MtG player, loves connecting with people via gaming through RPGs, board games, and video games. A particular favorite is testing friendships through social deduction games.
Magic: The Gathering
I think it’s no coincidence that these Scene Boxes are a part of this year's holiday release. It’s nice to see a product where you know what you’re getting. As a consumer you can decide if the value is there for you. However, this product really shines as a gift. If you’re not sure what to get the Magic player in your life, the Scene Boxes serve a good middle ground. Inside the box are six known foil Commander cards and three Set Boosters. Commander is the most played format so it's a safe bet for MtG players. The six cards are fun designs while also having more amazing artwork. While the foil quality is still in question, the holiday Scene Boxes make a good gift for the Magic: The Gathering player in your life.