Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Hugh Grant and the rest of the Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves crew will have their likenesses etched in cardboard and ink when they appear in-character on Magic: The Gathering cards bundled as a Secret Lair drop.
The promotional tie-in for D&D’s latest major film was announced as part of a March 28th D&D Direct stream. Jeremy Jarvis, senior creative director at Wizards of the Coast joined copywriter Sarra Scherb to discuss how the MTG team translated the characters’ personality and role within Honor Among Thieves - along with their actors’ likenesses - onto unique cards.
All six of the core cast, from Chris Pine’s Edgin and Hugh Grant’s Forge to the shapeshifting druid Doric portrayed by Sophia Lillis, will appear on cards and bear mechanics derived from both their D&D class abilities as well as how they act in the film. For example, Doric, Nature’s Warden is the one dual-faced card in the promotional set and can transform into Doric, Owlbear Avenger when a player attacks with her and pays a small Mana cost.
Jarvis mentioned during a press briefing that the MTG design team focused on “expressing new characters through a known Magic vocabulary”, meaning they didn’t want to fabricate fanciful new abilities on a lark. Instead, it was important to translate the characters into a mechanical language that would immediately read as familiar to players of the trading card game. Five of the six also cleanly mapped to MTG’s five-colour Mana system, Jarvis said. We’ll get to that outlier in a second.
Where the team did push the creative envelope was in the naming convention. As legendary creatures, all six cards follow a ‘name + title’ format separated by a comma. The most flagrant example is Chris Pine as Edgin, Larcenous Lutenist (“I can’t believe you let me do this,” Scherb commented during the preview). Xenk, Paladin Unbroken preserves a class identity that isn’t used in MTG’s creature typing while also nodding towards his character’s preoccupation with upholding sacred oaths.
Let’s talk a bit about some rules highlights, though. Edgin, Larcenous Lutenist, a Human Bard creature that costs one Red and Blue Mana along with one more of any colour, is one of only a handful of cards printed outside the Kaldheim set to bear the Foretell keyword. In fact, all the others have come from the other D&D tie-in release, Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. Forge’s Ward ability means opponents who target him with a spell or ability must first sacrifice a creature to do so, which just so happens to trigger his Treasure generating ability. Jarvis said this loop was a perfect example of the team’s “expressly narrative” design approach.
It’s important to note that while the six D&D: Honor Among Thieves tie-in cards will only be available through Secret Lair, they are not considered part of the Universes Beyond imprint that Wizards of the Coast uses for crossover products, such as the upcoming Tales of Middle Earth set based on The Lord of the Rings. D&D and MTG are both owned by Wizards, and the company deems the cross-pollination of their respective universes as fair game.
Normally, Universes Beyond cards are reprinted with more MTG-appropriate art and names at a later date under the Universes Within imprint. It's unclear if D&D: Honor Among Thieves’ Secret Lair drop will receive the same benefit. Dicebreaker asked for more information during the press briefing but did not receive an answer. Pre-orders for this collection, which is print-on-demand for a limited time, are now open on the main Secret Lair site.