I'm gonna be a bit of a doomer here so let me try and set my cards on the table. I like Magic the Gathering. I like Modern. I like when WOTC tries some new things here and there. I even liked both of the Modern Horizons sets for the most part! I don't feel like I'm a crusty boomer here complaining that these days you can't cast an honest Tarmogoyf or whatever.
As of time of writing, we've gotten our first look at the new Lord of the Rings set, with a few cards revealed and a new mechanic hinted at. I think it's a really bad sign for how the game is going to end up.
We got The One Ring, another Karn wishboard card for all the tron players like myself that I wish they just quit doing; Mount Doom, another legendary land that a bunch of rakdos midrange players will slot into their manabase because it's basically free anyways and the extra damage might be fine; we got Reprieve, an upgraded Remand but colorshifted to white with a name that screams "this is a pre-print into modern before it goes into standard"; we got a 1 mana 1/2 with the text "that player loses the game" on it. We originally heard some talk that this wasn't going to be a Modern Horizons-type set where the powerlevel is through the roof, and while I still generally trust that, the fact that WOTC feels more than comfortable printing tons of these new roll-fillers in a set completely mired in licensed IP feels like a mistake.
I recently talked to a roommate about the Modern Isekai Anime and why I'm not too much of a fan, where the general flavor trappings of the show are heavily influenced by fantasy-themed MMORPGs. I mentioned that it has a lot of similarities to a lot of high school slice of life shows, in that a big draw of the setting is convenience - that a lot of basic things can be shortcut with "Because they go to school", or in the isekai case "because we're in an entirely new world". They also draw on a lot your memories of that thing in order to make you feel closer to the setting than you might otherwise be, sure you might have never been in a high school club exactly like this one, but you've probably been to high school and have at least been in proximity to a school club and know the general experience. Isekai also do this, but to me the wink and nod falls completely flat because I never played any MMO, I honestly barely played any video game that wasn't Pokemon until 2016-ish. It's a wink and a nod to an experience and sentimental feelings I just don't have.
This is what the set is to me. A wink and a nod to all those fun memories we all definitely have about reading and watching the struggle over The One Ring™️, rather than the less important, lamer, and harder to imagine shared experiences like playing fucking Magic the Gathering. Who's ever played that game and enjoyed it? Don't you want some Licensed IP Sealed Product instead?
The lesson learned here is that we simply were not mean enough to WOTC over the Walking Dead Secret Lair. They should have ended up with a non-functional DDOS'd shop page and people yelling at them at all times. We were 500x too kind to WOTC, the company.
This set will probably sell very very well, have Mark Rosewater and Gavin Verhey give some nice kind reasons why it's good for the game to continue doing these sets, and I'll hate every second of it.