Sets are collections of cards released together in a single batch. Sets normally have various themes or mechanics that cards emphasize in an effort to give the set an identity and focus.
There are three major kinds of sets: base sets, expansion sets, and supplemental sets. For example:
- The Return of the King (set 7) is the base for King Block, as it establishes the King Block site path, reprints cards from earlier sets that are necessary workhorse cards for the new block, and otherwise lays the foundations of the new block's identity.
- Siege of Gondor (set 8) and Mount Doom (set 10) are expansions for King Block, building on ROTK's foundation and pushing the limits further.
- Reflections (set 9) is a supplemental set, which cannot be used on its own and instead introduces small groups of special cards which must be injected into some other block.
Each block was defined as one tentpole set and two expansions, with supplemental sets cropping up here and there as necessity demanded. The Promotional set (set 0) was a special supplemental set which repeatedly had new cards added to it which were reprints of cards from other sets, usually with alternate images or foiling or handed out in special circumstances.
Initially, official Decipher sets were centered around the movies that they were released with and named after: sets 1-3 around The Fellowship of the Ring, sets 4-6 around The Two Towers, and 7/8/10 around The Return of the King. This era is appropriately dubbed Movie Block.
In November 2004 the new base set, Shadows, marked a turning point in the game in more ways than one. For the first time, a single set would have cards with imagery and concepts drawn from all three movies, forcing the sets to forge their own identity in something other than plot. In addition, Decipher reworked several core mechanics of the game, including introducing a more dynamic Site Path and reorganizing the Shadow Cultures along different lines. These changes were controversial, and created a permanent rift between the Movie era and everything that came after.
|Block||#||Name||Release Date||Size||Cultures Introduced||Notes|
|Fellowship Block||1||The Fellowship of the Ring||6 November, 2001||365 standard + 365 Foil + 3 Oversized + 15 Tengwar||Dwarven, Elven, Gandalf, Gondor, Isengard, Moria, Sauron, Ringwraith, Shire||Established the baseline of the game.|
|2||Mines of Moria||6/13 March 2002||122 standard + 122 Foil + 4 Oversized + 3 Tengwar||-||Introduced Artifacts, Twilight Nazgul, the Balrog, and the Creature race and Tentacle keyword.|
|3||Realms of the Elf-lords||19 June / 3 July 2002||122 standard + 122 Foil + 2 Oversized||-||Introduced Saruman, Isengard Orcs, and Ring Artifacts.|
|Towers Block||4||The Two Towers||6 November, 2002||365 standard + 365 Foil + 2 Oversized + 14 Tengwar||Dunland, Raider, Rohan||Established a new Towers Block site path. Divided all companions into unbound and Ring-bound, and introduced Site Control, culture tokens, discarding companions from play, playing characters from the dead pile, and the mounted state. Introduced Faramir and the other Ithilien Rangers, Treebeard and the Unhasty keyword, and Grima and the Isengard Men subculture. Introduced Eomer, Eowyn, and Theoden, the Theoden signet, and the keywords Valiant and Villager. Introduced Fortifications and Machines, Easterlings and Southrons and the Ambush keyword, and Battleground sites. The first set to not have cards for every existing culture. (This set has no cards for Moria, Ringwraith, or Sauron.)|
|5||Battle of Helm's Deep||12 March 2003||128 standard + 128 Foil + 2 Oversized + 4 Tengwar||Gollum||Introduced both Smeagol and Gollum, and the first Ent companions. Introduced the Knight and Warg-rider keywords.|
|6||Ents of Fangorn||2 July 2003||128 standard + 128 Foil + 3 Oversized + 1 Tengwar||-||Introduced the Wraith race and the first Ent companions that are not Unhasty.
Continued the fixed rares in Starter Decks.
|King Block||7||The Return of the King||5 November 2003||365 standard + 365 Foil + 1 Oversized + 7 Tengwar||-||Established the King Block site path. Introduced the Initiative and Threat mechanics, and the Support Area and Phase subtypes. (Previous cards said "Plays to your support area" or began their gametext with (for example) "Skirmish:".) Introduced Denethor. Introduced the Sauron keywords Engine and Besieger. Introduced Morgul Orcs.|
|8||Siege of Gondor||10 March, 2004||122 standard + 122 Foil + 6 Tengwar||-||Introduced Corsairs, the Enduring keyword, Gondor Wraiths, and Shelob.|
|-||9||Reflections||12 May 2004||52 Foil||-||Introduced alternate Ring-bearers besides just Frodo, and included many Weta-designed concepts that never made it to filming, such as Tom Bombadil, The Master (9R+52), Radagast, The Brown (9R+26) and The Red Arrow (9R46). Also introduced Second Age characters as playable cards, such as Gil-galad, Elven High King (9R+15), Elendil, The Tall (9R+32), Isildur, Bearer of Heirlooms (9R+33), and Sauron, The Lord of the Rings (9R+48) himself. The first set that isn't part of a block, and the last set with allies and Dunland culture.|
|King Block||10||Mount Doom||14 July, 2004||122 standard + 122 Foil + 5 Tengwar||-||The only set with Sauron uruk-hai. The last appearance of Raider culture.|
|War of the Ring Block||11||Shadows||3 November 2004||266 standard + 18 RF Legends + 6 Tengwar||Men, Orc, Uruk-hai||Established the Shadows site path, doing away with numbered sites. Restructured all Shadow Cultures to follow racial lines rather than faction ones, and renamed Ringwraith culture to Wraith culture. (The other old Shadow cultures were retired except for occasional cameo appearances.) Introduced the Resistance mechanic to all companions, not just ring-bearers, adding resistance icons to all companions and borne cards that modify resistance. Introduced the Dwelling, Lurker, Muster, and Toil keywords.|
|12||Black Rider||18 March 2005||194 standard + 18 RF Legends + 9 Legends Masterworks + 6 Tengwar||-||Reprinted many workhorse cards from The Fellowship of the Ring that had been lost with the introduction of rotation into Standard, a practice that would be continued in later sets.
In addition to RF Legends cards, a selection of those Legends would be reprinted an additional time as Legends Masterworks, which were foil and received an alternate template for their culture (first used in the Countdown Collection).
|13||Bloodlines||12 August 2005||194 standard + 18 RF Legends + 9 Legends Masterworks + 6 Tengwar||-||Introduced Followers.
After this set, Decipher's financial troubles began to impact the company's output. From here onward, quality control issues and major delays plagued set releases.
|-||14||Expanded Middle-earth||17 February 2006||15 standard||-||A small, one-pack set that included more Weta-designed cards, mainly featuring characters that did not appear in the films. While this wasn't the first set to have Gandalf men, it developed them into a subculture of their own.|
|Hunters Block||15||The Hunters||9 November 2006||194 standard + 18 RF Legends + 9 Legends Masterworks||-||Introduced the Hunter keyword.|
|-||16||The Wraith Collection||26 August 2006||6 Foil||-||A stop-gap measure in the face of major set delays, this very small one-pack set included various non-Nazgul Wraiths, including Weta-designed Barrow-Wraiths.|
|Hunters Block||17||Rise of Saruman||1 March 2007||148 standard + 18 RF Legends + 9 Legends Masterworks||-||Includes a Rohan version of Aragorn, the only companion that appears in a different culture from the character's first appearance. Also includes no less than 5 versions of Saruman. Riddled with errors and typos.|
|18||Treachery & Deceit||May 2007||140 standard + 18 RF Legends + 9 Legends Masterworks||-||Rushed to print in time to beat the expiration of Decipher's license, this set and the previous one had very low print runs and remain rare to this day. This set had several errata issued almost immediately to cover oversights, including one that made it impossible to play Frenzy of Arrows (18U79) at all.|
|-||19||Age's End||June 2007||40 Foil||-||This final farewell set included versions of every major character as a last hurrah, as well as an ill-timed introduction of a Fellowship keyword.|