Magic: The Gathering cracked open the vault containing its crossover with the beloved Fallout video game franchise, and quite a few details spilled out including the face cards for the four preconstructed Commander decks, two new Fallout-centric mechanics and plenty of familiar faces.
Fallout x MTG was first revealed at Gen Con 2023 in a flurry of teasers for the popular trading card game’s future, so if you somehow missed the initial news don’t feel too bad. Unlike The Lord of the Rings’ translation to cardboard, this Universes Beyond won’t be a full set on its own. Instead, Wizards of the Coast will publish four preconstructed Commander decks suitable for MTG’s dominant multiplayer format, and each will contain both Fallout-themed reprints of older cards along with some fresh designed pulled directly from the irradiated wastes of America.
For the unaware, the Fallout video games series - published by Bethesda Softworks - is a series of games that takes place in a post-nuclear fallout version of the US that barely resembles our current reality. Everything changes when the bombs fell, so it tells players, and now the blasted land is full of irradiated ghouls, monstrous creatures and (perhaps worst of all) the hungry remnants of humanity. The player-character is almost always someone from one of hundreds of Vaults buried beneath the ground and ostensibly protected from the apocalypse, and their emergence signals great change for the wasteland.
The Commander Decks
Wizards of the Coast captured this evocative and sometimes wacky world with four Commander decks that each capture a major theme or faction of the Fallout Games. Scrappy Survivors (Red-Green-White) is full of Vault Dwellers, loyal companions and those who would reform the wasteland into a sort of home. Face commander Dogmeat, Ever Loyal - a fan-favourite canine follower - collects equipment from your graveyard and scavenges potentially useful Junk tokens from the environment (more on that in a bit).
Mutant Menace (Black-Green-Blue) is led by The Wise Mothman from Fallout 76 and cares about buffing mutated creatures by spreading deadly radiation in the form of Rad Counters (check the mechanics section below). Mill both yourself and your opponents before returning your irradiated horrors to the board stronger than ever. Hail, Caesar (Red-White-Black) will be the home of Fallout’s litany of radical armed factions, such as face Commander Caesar, Legion’s Emperor. Fill the board with loyal soldiers - or a vault full of Gary Clones - by sacrificing one of your witless pawns– er, faithful adherents.
The last Commander deck, Science! (Blue-White-Red), brings back a mechanic many players haven’t seen since the Kaladesh set: energy! This unique resource is generated by cards such as face Commander Dr. Madison Li and then is used to power artefacts, buff robotic creatures like Rex, Cyber Hound and otherwise give you the upper hand through the power of applied science.
Fallout’s foray into Magic: The Gathering will bring with it two new mechanics. The first, Junk Tokens, evoke the fantasy of discovering long forgotten treasures and resources from the ruins of pre-Wasteland society. By tapping and sacrificing the token at sorcery speed, a player can exile the top card of their library and play it this turn. Maybe you’ll find a dud, but you might also topdeck the perfect answer - and it was just lying under this pile of rubble!
Radiation counters applied to players by spells and abilities will gradually strip them of both resources and health. Right before the combat phase, players mill cards from their library equal to the number of radiation counters they currently possess. Then, they lose both a life and a radiation counter for each non-land card lost that way. Smart players will find a way to either cure or harness their radiation poisoning, else it’s a slow and agonising death.
The Squad mechanic returns from the Warhammer: 40,000 Commander decks, and the early previews also teased Storm, Proliferate and Split Second on at least one card. Wizards of the Coast has previously stated that Universes Beyond products will often draw deeply from MTG’s design annals to help the team evoke these crossover worlds in a way that is both fun and faithful. Radstorm feels especially powerful with its paired Storm and Proliferate triggers, but it also translates the mortal danger of being caught outside and unprotected in a hostile world.
The full-art basic lands that will accompany Fallout’s four Commander decks will be a mixture of sweeping vistas showcasing the ruined beauty of the wasteland along with isometric views reminiscent of Fallout 1 & 2’s classic RPG structure. Accompanying collector booster will include 26 cards with a Pip-Boy showcase frames with artwork closer to the style seen in Fallout cutscenes, all encased in the in-game V.A.T.S. display.
Borderless Vault Boy versions of nine artefact cards - including Command Tower, Sol Ring, Arcane Signet, Wasteland, Crucible of Worlds and the new Nuka-Cola Vending Machine - will also be found in collector boosters boasting the in-universe Vault-Tec mascot and his colourful, cartoonish aesthetic. Players might pull serialised, double rainbow-foil versions of the bobblehead cards corresponding with the seven character stats in the video game. 500 of each - Strength, perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck - can be found in Collector Boosters, only.
Universes beyond might not be everyone’s cuppa tea, but the team at Wizards of the Coast seems to have taken great care in adapting Fallout’s particular - and not always consistent - tone to the tabletop. All of the major titles in the franchise are represented here, from New Vegas’ Mr. House and Fallout 3’s Madison Li to the ever present Dogmeant and deep cuts such as the vault full of Gary clones. Warhammer 40,000’s turn in the MTG spotlight was a massive success, so here’s hoping lightning strikes twice for fans of a slightly different apocalyptic future.
More previews for Magic: The Gathering – Fallout are scheduled for February 20th, 2024 ahead of a global retail launch on March 8th.