Realms of fantasy collide sometimes, and the meeting of The Lord of the Rings and Magic: The Gathering makes for quite the mash-up. As part of Magic‘s Universes Beyond Our Own line, which brings in characters and settings from outside Magic‘s Multiverse, Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth puts a J.R.R. Tolkien-inspired coat of paint on the beloved trading card game. Nerdist joined Wizards of the Coast and other outlets for a virtual preview of Tales of Middle-earth with senior art director Ovidio Cartagena. He took us through the gorgeous set of The Lord of the Rings Magic cards, sharing insight into the design and gameplay. We’ll take a closer look at some Lands, a special Legendary Creature, and Starter Kit cards.

Wizards of the Coast

Magic: The Gathering‘s The Lord of the Rings Land Cards

First, let’s look at the basic lands. In Magic: The Gathering, lands represent locations under the player’s control.

You’ll notice all of Magic‘s land cards feature characters in this The Lord of the Rings collection—well, the silhouettes of them. Cartagena explained it’s to represent the different paths the characters in The Lord of the Rings have to traverse. Here, the land serves Magic‘s gameplay, but it also represents the journey at the heart of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. The cards are meant to show the epic nature of Frodo’s quest to destroy the ring.

Character and Creature Cards in Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth

The design team wanted to incorporate familiar characters and creatures into Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth. Beyond the names and creatures you’d expect, this extends to creatures such as Bill the Pony. The loyal and brave steed is a Legendary Creature, so you could have Bill the Pony as a Commander if you so choose. Cartagena made sure to point out the pans that are part of Bill the Pony’s pack; it’s a nod to Samwise’s cooking and one of the many Easter eggs in the set.

With Tales of Middle-earth, players can join the fellowship and fight on the forces of good, or they can serve the Dark Lord Sauron and spread shadow across Middle-earth. The Magic cards featuring The Lord of the Rings characters we know so well have different spins on them, though. Sauron is one of the cards in the Starter Kit, and though someone asked Cartagena how he was going to illustrate Sauron’s eye, he said he understands the eye as more of a metaphoric thing. So, his team designed a unique look for Sauron. And with Frodo, they wanted a more heroic look, something that reflects the many years that pass between him inheriting the ring and embarking on the journey to destroy it.

The Starter Kit has two pre-constructed 60-card decks. Get a preview of some of those cards, including Sauron and Frodo, below.

Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth Release Date and Magic Card Offerings

Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth has two launch windows in 2023, June and November. The June 2023 release (prerelease June 16-22, available everywhere on June 23) includes a starter kit, jumpstart boosters, regular boosters, a prerelease pack, a bundle to get your journey going, and more. And on June 26, a special Secret Lair release will feature a drop based on Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 The Lord of the Rings animated film.

Wizards of the Coast

We’re not the only ones who got to preview these The Lord of the Rings Magic cards, though. Frodo Baggins himself, Elijah Wood, took a look at the deck. And his expressions say it all.

Finally, no, they didn’t forget about the importance of food in this story.