Lord of the Rings is headed to Magic: The Gathering this summer, bringing JRR Tolkien’s inhabitants of Middle-earth to the trading card game. That, of course, includes Frodo’s companions in the Fellowship of the Ring - and we’ve now had our first full look at the complete Fellowship in Tales of Middle-earth.
The Fellowship of the Ring, if you somehow needed a refresher, is the group of nine heroes that serve as protectors for the hobbit Ring-bearer as he makes his way from Rivendell to Mount Doom in order to destroy The One Ring. The group is formed during the Council of Elrond (familiar from quotable lines in Peter Jackson’s movie like “One does not simply walk into Mordor!” and “You have my bow.” “And my axe!”) and includes hobbits Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin, men Aragorn and Boromir, the dwarf Gimli, elf Legolas, and wizard Gandalf the Grey.
Tales of Middle-earth takes direct inspiration from Tolkien’s original books, rather than Jackson’s movies, with Wizards of the Coast confirming that MTG’s upcoming Lord of the Rings set will additionally only draw from the core trilogy of novels - without any elements from prequel The Hobbit or later story collections such as The Silmarillion.
The set’s dedication to Tolkien’s books can be seen in some notable changes from the familiar faces of Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen and their on-screen companions. Tales of Middle-earth’s Sting-wielding Frodo, Determined Hero is notably more middle-aged than Wood’s fresh-faced Frodo, more explicitly reflecting the 17-year gap between Bilbo’s eleventy-first birthday party and Frodo leaving The Shire in Tolkien’s book.
At the other end of the timeline, Samwise Gamgee’s card depicts the hobbit hero after the events of the War of the Ring depicted throughout most of the trilogy, after he’s married Rosie Cotton and had (at least some of) their 13 children together.
“[Character cards in Tales of Middle-earth are] not just about fighting, but about what they fight for,” explained Magic: The Gathering’s senior art director Ovidio Cartagena during a recent press preview.
With the Fellowship being the focus of the Lord of the Rings books, the characters will appear in both cards with the standard MTG format and in new ‘Ring Showcase’ cards. The Ring Showcase cards depict pivotal moments from throughout The Lord of the Rings. In one example shown during the preview, Sam stares into Galadriel’s mirror and sees the Scouring of the Shire by Saruman - a major event in the books that wasn’t seen in the films.
The Fellowship cards similarly depict the group during major moments from throughout the entire trilogy of novels. Merry, Esquire of Rohan and Pippin, Guard of the Citadel see the hobbits as they appear during the climactic Battle of Pelennor Fields during The Return of the King. Aragorn, The Uniter likewise sees the former ranger-turned-king of men take his place at the front of the charge towards Sauron’s troops, with Minas Tirith visible in the background.
Legolas, Master Archer’s cards pay tribute to the elf’s keen eyesight and proficiency with a bow. (Along with what appear to be sly references to “That only counts as one!” in his ability text and power value.) Gimli, Mournful Avenger’s standard card sees him kneeling in Balin’s tomb in Moria, while his Ring Showcase card depicts the flames of the fearsome Balrog.
Darker moments also appear on the cards of Boromir, Warden of the Tower, the doomed Gondorian. His standard card quotes his dying words to Aragorn - along with artwork depicting his final stand at Amon Hen - while his Ring Showcase card depicts his temptation by the Ring as he attempts to take it from Frodo. In keeping with the character’s tragic fate, his MTG card allows the player to sacrifice it in order to grant creatures Indestructible, along with triggering the set’s new The Ring Tempts You mechanic.
Gandalf appears in two separate cards for his Grey and White incarnations, each with unique abilities and artwork. On his standard card, Gandalf the Grey appears holding Glamdring, and offers the player multiple single-use abilities whenever they cast an instant or sorcery spell, including tapping or untapping a permanent, dealing three damage to each opponent, copying an instant or sorcery spell, or placing Gandalf on top of their library. The Ring Showcase variant of the card depicts the wizard falling into darkness with the balrog of Moria during The Fellowship of the Ring’s emotional encounter on the Bridge of Khazad-dûm.
Gandalf the White’s card instead grants wizard the power to cast legendary spells and artifacts as if they have flash - allowing them to be cast instantly - and trigger the effects of permanents an additional time if they’re activated by a legendary permanent or artifact entering or leaving the battlefield.
Gandalf the White’s standard card shows him illuminating his hand with magic during the battle at Minas Tirith, while his Ring Showcase card appears to depict his transformation from Gandalf the Grey to Gandalf the White after his battle with Durin’s Bane, drawing from Tolkien’s description: “There I lay staring upward, while the stars wheeled over, and each day was as long as a life-age of the earth.”
Take a look at the full set of Fellowship of the Ring cards from Tales of Middle-earth below, ahead of the Magic: The Gathering set’s wide release on June 23rd.