The only TCG I’ve ever properly collected or played is Pokemon, because, well, I’m a Pokemon fan. I dabbled in Yu-Gi-Oh as a kid, and got dangerously into Duel Links’ predatory microtransactions years later, but Pokemon is the only one that stuck. That’s entirely down to the fact I’m already a fan of the video games and monsters – I see a sick Jolteon or Gengar, I buy it. I don’t have that with Yu-Gi-Oh, Marvel Champions, or Magic: The Gathering.

I’ve never cared for Magic. One time a university friend tried to get me involved, but I bought some kind of starter deck and never looked at it again. Why would I want to play with a bunch of fields? Magic’s latest crossover, however, asks me if I’d play with those fields if they had a little Hobbit hole in the middle. The answer is yes.

Related: No Matter Who Finds MTG's Unique Lord Of The Rings One Ring Card, We All Lose

There’s nothing I love more than The Lord of the Rings. Okay, maybe my daughter beats it, but it’s close. I’m not one of those fans who automatically loves anything with the logo on though, so I was viewing Magic’s Tales of Middle-earth with trepidation and healthy scepticism. After all, we’re not even a year on from The Rings of Power, which I largely enjoyed, but it made some huge lore contradictions that I found hard to reconcile with the books. The Shadow of Mordor game series was fun to play but handled the text even worse. From what I’ve seen, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum game takes a little too many design cues from the Jackson, Boyens, and Walsh films and too little from Tolkien’s descriptions for my taste.

LOTR Legendary Matters

Magic: The Gathering’s Lord of the Rings crossover looks great, though. It’s certainly aided by the fact that it’s not trying to tell a new story, simply depicting characters and locations instead. I love new artistic interpretations of Tolkien’s prose, and that goes double for anything that doesn’t take the ‘00s trilogy as its primary inspiration.

The artwork that Magic has already shown has been fantastic. The rolling hills of The Shire look lush and dreamy, but it’s the characters that have really caught my attention. Gollum doesn’t look like a street illustrator giving Andy Serkis a go, he looks like the pitiable creature that Tolkien describes. Gandalf has his wonderful blue hat and enviable eyebrows extending past its brim. The Balrog is truly a beast of shadow, and Wizards has even had a shot at Tom Bombadil, who looks resplendent in his yellow boots and blue jacket.

The crossover takes things a step further, though, with alternate artworks and different versions of our heroes representing various stages of their journeys. Samwise has different variants depicting him venturing through Shelob’s lair, carrying Frodo up Orodruin, and watching Frodo dispatch the Ring into the fiery pit from whence it came. This not only allows three different artists to deliver their interpretations, but the latter is part of a large diorama spanning four cards. Collect them all, or just buy a bundle box where all four will be included, and they’ll come together to form a vignette of the Ring’s final moments. Maybe Mount Doom, Pelennor Fields, or the four other scenes will change my mind, though.

Scene Cards MTG LOTR

I’m not hugely enamoured with this idea – while the image is beautiful, the edges of the cards break up the picture in a way that displeases me. I’d love a print of the whole thing, but as cards? Not for me. I can still appreciate the idea, but this – and the large Middle-earth map that spans ten full-art lands – don’t quite work for me. The individual cards, though? Stunning.

I’d be remiss to talk about the artwork without mentioning the most divisive element of this set: the fact that Wizards has depicted some of Tolkien’s characters, most notably Aragorn and Éowyn, as people of colour. I’ve been over this before, but Tolkien didn’t spend long describing characters. He was a master of telling you just enough to draw an outline of a character in your mind, but leaving plenty of blanks for you to fill in with your own interpretations. Magic has masterfully filled those blanks with a diverse cast. If you think Tolkien wrote an all-white story, pause the Peter Jackson and go and read the texts again. If you think the fact that he was writing a European mythology means that it should be all-white to be ‘accurate’, check your history books. While medieval Europe wasn’t as diverse as it is today, suggesting that there were no people of colour is ahistorical.


All this is to say that I love the artwork for Tales of Middle-earth. It feels like it was created pre-Jackson, which is the biggest compliment I can give it. I want You Cannot Pass! as a giant poster on my wall, I want to collect all of the Hobbits and Wizards and Ents and Bombadils and Bill the Ponies, I want Aragorn and Arwen, Wed to live out their happy little lives together in peace. I can’t wait to see more of this artwork, especially depicting the best moments of the books. How will Wizards’ artists interpret Éowyn’s iconic, “But no living man am I!” face off against the Witch King? I’m ready to empty my bank account for a card game I don’t even play.

I even like the fact that Wizards is printing a one-off One Ring card, with the Ringverse printed on it in Quenya. This card will be bafflingly valuable, and likely cause chaos with scalping and so on, but it’s thematically perfect. One Ring to rule them all, and I’m going to chase it until I go broke.

Next: The Lord Of The Rings: Gollum Looks Good, But I'm Still Worried