You may have thought Magic: The Gathering was done with The Lord of the Rings after its Tales of Middle-earth set earlier this year, but it’s back for more! We’ve got the exclusive reveal of 24 new cards spread across four new art scenes, all of which are available in a brand new product called a Scene Box – as well as five new rock poster art treatments of past LOTR cards that will be available in upcoming Special Edition Collector Boosters this holiday season.
You can watch me unbox the scene themed around Gandalf in the video above, and flip through the gallery below to see photos of all four boxes, images of all 24 new cards, and five of the twenty rock poster cards. Then read on below for more details and an interview with Wizards of the Coast about this latest LOTR collab.
Magic: The Gathering – The Lord of the Rings Scene Boxes and Rock Poster Cards
Each of the four Scene Boxes is themed around a legendary character from The Lord of the Rings: Gandalf, Galadriel, Aragon, or The Witch-King. They come with a brand new card featuring that character, plus five more new cards within their color identity that fit them both visually and mechanically. When placed in a two-by-three grid, the six cards make up a full art scene – the box even comes with cards that are just the art on their own and a stand to display them, as well as three LTR Set Boosters.
While Wizards of the Coast made similar scenes as part of the main set, Game Architect Mike Turian tells us that they had more freedom when designing these scenes and the cards that fit into them since they were all brand new. “We captured many of the key moments throughout the June release,” says Turian, “so with this holiday release, we wanted to focus in on a few favorite characters and show them at the full height of their powers.”
Because each box has a legendary character and some new cards that go with it, they almost feel like little commander precons without any of the reprints, waiting to be fleshed out however you see fit. (I may have gotten an unfair headstart, but Galadriel in particular was so cool to me that I’ve already built a Commander deck around her.) But while Turian says they did initially consider pairing these scenes directly with the previous LOTR commander products from earlier this year, they decided to make them stand on their own to allow for more design space.
“For Gandalf specifically, it helps that he was a powerful wizard, which opens up itself to lots of fun card designs, and that his character evolves significantly throughout The Lord of the Rings,” Turian explains. “Another factor playing into our selection was making sure that there was diversity, even with just four Scene Boxes to highlight characters, we wanted to make sure that all of our fans felt included as much as possible.”
In addition to the four scene boxes, Wizards of the Coast will also be rolling out new Special Edition Collector Boosters for Tales of Middle-Earth around the same time, which will potentially include any of twenty cards from the original set in a brand new 60s rock poster art style – as well as rare serialized versions of these cards numbered up through 100. “It’s incredible, the far-reaching effect of LTR on fantasy and art and music,” says Art Director Sarah Wasell, “and we loved taking the space to honor one of the more surprising areas of Tolkien fandom through these ‘band posters.’”
Magic’s Lord of the Rings set has already been making headlines with special serialiazed cards: its one-of-a-kind One Ring card was sold to Post Malone for a whopping $2 million. You can read on to see our full interview with Mike Turian and Sarah Wassell, or if you want to even more fancy foiled unboxings, we opened up the shiny Compleat Edition from Magic’s Phyrexia: All Will Be One set earlier this year
IGN: This is a brand new kind of product for Magic, why return to making scenes and why like this?
Mike Turian, Game Architect: When we created Scenes for the initial release of The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth this past June, we knew we had struck upon something special. The way that the Borderless Scene cards came together and formed these iconic moments from the novel in a stunning way was incredible. By bringing the Scene cards together into a single product, it really lets us highlight these cards individually and offer ways to display the art of The Lord of the Rings in a way that only Magic can. We captured many of the key moments throughout the June release, so with this holiday release, we wanted to focus in on a few favorite characters and show them at the full height of their powers. We knew that each scene would be two cards high and three cards across, so we wanted to pack in a lot of goodness into just these six cards per box.
The previous scenes were more restricted since they had to use cards from the main set, while all of these cards are brand new. Did that give you more freedom to design them or depict characters and events exactly how you wanted?
Turian: One of the great things about this release is that we were creating brand new cards for these scenes, so yes, that let us customize the cards and their abilities to best fit the scene. The challenge became with so much freedom, how do we best capture the spirit of the characters and their setting? Early on, we discussed closely tying the characters to cards that were made in the June release. It became clear that we would have more success by choosing new color options for each Scene Box and building the cards that we made around the central character of the box. So for instance, in the Gandalf in the Pelennor Fields Scene box, the Gandalf that you receive is white, blue and red so we wanted to make sure each card in his box a one or more of those colors.
How did you land on these four characters?
Turian: For each product we took a number of factors into account as we went about choosing what characters to feature. For one, we took [a look] at the characters of The Lord of the Rings that were fan favorites and that was a great starting point. We needed to make sure that there was more design space available for the character. The combination of being prominently featured in the novel really helps when we choose Gandalf, for instance, because even though we had done a number of other Gandalf cards, being able to find a place in his development that we wanted to capture was key. For Gandalf specifically, it helps that he was a powerful wizard, which opens up itself to lots of fun card designs, and that his character evolves significantly throughout The Lord of the Rings. Another factor playing into our selection was making sure that there was diversity, even with just four Scene Boxes to highlight characters, we wanted to make sure that all of our fans felt included as much as possible.
These boxes almost feel like little “build-your-own Commander precon” kits: each one has that multicolored legendary, some brand new cards that support their mechanics, and some packs to get your collection going. Was that the intent with them?
Turian: For these four characters, there initially was some thought that the cards in the product would pair directly with our The Lord of the Rings Commander product but due to other constraints like design space, we moved away from that. We knew we had a new opportunity here to create cards that would really appeal to our Commander players. One of the pieces I really enjoy about the cards is how they have lots of throwback mechanics that we don’t often see in Magic anymore. With the cards being legal for Commander play, it also meant that the designs could both capture the characters and moments depicted but also be sweet standalone cards to add to your Commander decks. For those players who are going all out with The Lord of the Rings, hopefully this gives their themed The Lord of the Rings Commander decks enough added cards to win the day!
You’re also revisiting the rock poster style for some of LTR’s previous cards, what’s so appealing about the treatment that you want to give it another spin here?
Sarah Wassell, Art Director: We’re splitting hairs a bit on this treatment: the LTR poster art style is specific to a style of band poster that emerged during the counter culture movement in the US in the 1960s (Seymour Chwast, Pushpin Studios, etc). There was a three book LTR set published with amazing cover art by Barbara Remington that was a cult hit on US college campuses in the 1960s. This surge of interest fed directly into cultural moments with stadium rock bands referencing Tolkien in their lyrics in the 1970s. It’s incredible, the far-reaching effect of LTR on fantasy and art and music, and we loved taking the space to honor one of the more surprising areas of Tolkien fandom through these “band posters.” And we love the chance to turn Magic cards with all their rule and mechanics into full poster art—it’s such a mind-bending way to approach a format that is so rigid that the elements can disappear through familiarity.
These poster-style cards will be available in special booster packs rather than a Secret Lair like some might expect, why was that decision made?
Turian: While the Borderless Poster cards are something that would fit into a Secret Lair, we wanted to bring these cards into booster packs because we knew that they would be another element that would make our Special Edition Collector Booster shine. As the twenty cards that are found in the Borderless Poster style all came from the main set of Tales of Middle-earth, this was an opportunity to do a new take on those cards and bring it into a place where we could even offer them in an incredibly collectible serialized version with each of the twenty being offered numbered out of 100. Lastly, typically when we are deciding on what cards to include in Collector Boosters, we need to consider that our Collector Boosters are available in a number of different languages. With Special Edition Collector boosters, they are only being offered in English so that allowed us to make hand-lettered styles a possibility and we took advantage of that!
Tom Marks is IGN’s Senior Reviews Editor. He loves puzzles, platformers, puzzle-platformers, and Magic: the Gathering. You can follow him on Twitter @TomRMarks.