Magic: The Gathering has been expanding its worlds beyond the usual realms it inhabits, with a card set exploring the world of Transformers last year, and sets encompassing Doctor Who, Final Fantasy and Assassin’s Creed on the horizon. Today, Wizards of the Coast launched The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-Earth, a 300 card set which brings Tolkein’s fantasy world to life in Magic’s card game, with new art, mechanics and an insanely valuable One Ring to find.
THE 1 OF 1 RING
The chief component you might have already heard about is the ‘1-of-1’Ring card, a single production of a Foil treated One Ring card, which has been placed in a Collector Booster for someone to come across. Already there have been claims it has been found, but nothing that has panned out as official as yet, so it’s potentially still out there like one of Willy Wonka’s golden tickets in a Wonka Bar. Its flavour text is written in Elvish, but I suspect that whoever actually finds the card is never going to actually play it, or need to read the writing easily.
I had the chance to play a few rounds of Tales of Middle-Earth at a pre-release launch event, and check out some of the new mechanics at play. Chief among these is the Ring itself, which features as new ‘Ring tempts you’ text which appears on several cards. You’ll need a Ring helper card to help keep track of how this works across a game, but the general idea is if you play a card where the Ring tempts you, you get to nominate a Ring-bearer among the creatures you control. They immediately become Legendary and can’t be blocked by creatures with greater power. If you’re tempted again, whenever your Ring-bearer attacks you can draw a card and discard a card. If you’re tempted again, whenever your Ring-bearer is blocked by a creature, that blocking creature must be sacrificed. Finally, if you’re tempted a final time, whenever your Ring-bearer deals combat damage to a player, each opponent loses 3 life. In terms of theming, there aren’t really negative consequences to being tempted by the Ring as most characters in the book experience, and the danger a Ring-bearer poses to the game, especially as time goes on in a 4-player match, only increases every turn.
You can also ‘Amass Orcs’ with certain cards, essentially allowing you to either utilise an Army creature or create a creature token which can accumulate +1/+1 counters to become a force to be reckoned with.
Beyond this, there are plenty of cards with powerful abilities activated when entering the battlefield, but also plenty of humbler, useful hobbits and helpers, particularly with the ability to create ‘food’ tokens, a returning mechanic, which can be sacrificed to gain 3 life each. Sagas also return, with some extremely powerful and disruptive ones like ‘One Ring to Rule Them All’, which on the first turn tempts the player with the Ring, then forces every player to mill cards equal to the Ring-bearer’s power, then on the next turn destroys all non-legendary creatures.
The set has a range of beautiful art, which combines influences from Peter Jackson’s films as well as the range of artwork which has been inspired by the books themselves since their publication. While some cards have border-busting artwork which clearly recalls some of the films’ biggest cinematic sequences, there are also plenty with the traditional chubby hobbits enjoying themselves in the Shire, or joyfully enigmatic Tom Bombadil waving on.
The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle Earth is currently available in a range of options, including a Starter Kit with Aragon/Arwen and Sauron, Commander Decks with Frodo, Eowyn, Galadriel or Sauron, and Jumpstart Boosters with a range of themes within each of MTG’s colours that can get you started on some of the core mechanics (like Orc amassing decks). Of course, if you want the 1-of-1 Ring card, you’ll have to look at English Collector Boosters, and even then there’s only a tiny chance of your pack containing one… but you never know. To make things more transparent, there is special disclaimer text on the back of every booster pack, collector’s or no, clearly identifying whether the 1-of-1 Ring card can be found in it or not. You can find out more details on the official website.