Everything that Magic: The Gathering has announced about its upcoming Lord of the Rings crossover card set has indicated a loving, slavish dedication to J. R. R. Tolkien’s foundational fantasy book series. It now seems that ethos extends to the magical craving of The One Ring itself, according to a recently teased mechanic all about carrying the ring and falling under its spell.
Publisher Wizards of the Coast dribbled another breadcrumb of information about Tales from Middle-earth, an upcoming set for the popular trading card game. Several cards will specifically state that “the Ring tempts you” in rules and ability text. Whenever this happens, either when a card is played or something is triggered during the game, that player will gain an emblem representing their time bearing the notorious ring.
Like its narrative counterpart, this seemingly innocent trinket imparts both a curse and boon as it seeks to reunite with its original owner. The first time a player is tempted, The Ring will need to be assigned to a creature they control who becomes the Ring-bearer. Unless they leave the battlefield through states such as death or exile, or another player gains control, the chosen creature is stuck with their burden. The Ring can flit between owners whenever a player is further tempted via card effects, mirroring the willful nature of Sauron’s Ring as it draws would-be owners to their doom.
It’s not all bad, though. Carrying such a powerful artefact grants the Ring-bearer with a suite of abilities that grows every time a player is further drawn into The Ring’s dark machinations. It starts by making the creature Legendary and keeping any other creature with greater power from blocking its attacks - the Ring prefers unassuming vessels such as Hobbits.
Later abilities include drawing cards whenever the creature attacks and syphoning life from all opponents during combat. These abilities are linked to the Ring and not its bearer; if it dies or is lost, the next poor shmuck to pick it up gains the entire unlocked suite of skills.
Tales of Middle-earth will reportedly include several cards, abilities and triggered effects that both tempt players and interact with Ring-bearing creatures. Some need Ring-bearers in order to work, while others such as Sauron, the Necromancer become that much scarier whenever they bear the Ring themselves.
Tempting won’t be the only mechanic players should expect to see within Tales of Middle-earth when it releases on June 23rd, but it’s a clear indication of how the first full card set in the Universes Beyond imprint will use MTG’s card engine language to tell a story through rules interactions. At first blush, it seems flavourful if clunky, throwing a lot of extra reading and parsing into a game with an already burgeoning word count. Keep checking Dicebreaker for our full impressions and other MTG news as we draw closer to its street date.