The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth Predictions

The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth Predictions

Chris CornejoStandard

The Lord of the Rings is upon us, with previews starting next week and Card Kingdom’s presale already live! We know a bit about Tales of Middle-earth at this point, but today I’m going to make some predictions for what we might see as previews progress.

Normally, I also make some story predictions. But, well…we kind of already know the full story here, as there are a pretty famous series of books and movies out there about the subject if you’re interested. So, these predictions will be fully card and mechanic focused.

One more note before I dive in – I get that these books have been out for decades at this point, as have the movies (although for far fewer decades) which helped solidify this story’s place in culture and break out into the mainstream, but I’m still going to put a little effort into not giving away too many specifics.

Yes, the statute of limitations on spoilers for these stories are long past. But new people are finding them all the time, and a kid just finding their way into them now deserves a chance to experience the tales how they wish.

Now, without any further ado, let’s get to it!

Legendary Weaponry and Cookware

Legendary weapons play a large role in the Lord of the Rings saga, which means I’m betting we’re going to see a slew of legendary equipment in the set. There’s plenty to choose from — Frodo wields Sting, an elven dagger inherited from his Uncle Bilbo, which glows in the presence of orcs and goblins.

Glamdring is Gandalf’s blade, and while it plays more of a role in the Hobbit, he does use it plenty in these books. The Barrow-blades given to the hobbits by Tom Bombadil play a deceptively large role in the story — particularly the one given to Merry.

Aragorn’s sword, Anduril, I could see getting special treatment. Arguably the most storied weapon in the literature, it originally began as Narsil, the sword that defeated Sauron far in the past. It was shattered in doing so, and during the course of the story is reforged anew.

I’d love to see it as a double-faced card, starting out as the Shards of Narsil, and when some condition is met flipping into some powerful equipment, along the power levels of the iconic Swords of X & Y in Magic.

All that said, all I really want to see is Sam’s Frying Pan as an equipment. It can be very basic, doesn’t have to do much, but him wielding it is iconic. If it isn’t there, I will riot.

Tales Within Tales

Tom Bombadil
Tom Bombadil

If there’s one thing J.R.R. Tolkien didn’t skimp on when writing his books, it was filling out the backstory of his world. Between all of the appendices in the books themselves, the Silmarillion, and journals and pages full of other writings, the history of Middle-earth is not lacking in detail.  

So how best to honor all of this supplementary material, only some of which has a material bearing on the events of the actual War of the Ring? Sagas! 

(A quick note for the Tolkien die-hards out there, yes, I know all of the histories lead up to and have an influence on the War of the Ring to at least some extent, but the same can be said for real-world history leading into any other event. There’s only so much time and space, especially when we’re talking about a Magic set of somewhere around 300 unique cards) 

Sagas allow for a lot of storytelling in a very compressed space. Obviously you’re going to lose out on a lot of finer details, but if you need to cover the first alliance of Elves and Men that marched on Mount Doom 3,000 years before the main events of our story take place, or if you want to flesh out the history of the Nazgul and the Witch King of Angmar, Sagas are a very good way of acknowledging the depth of story without needing to take up multiple cards to do so. 

With all that said, my next prediction is a bit of a contradiction to all of that. 

No Characters or cards from the Hobbit or other writings

Bilbo, Retired Burglar
Bilbo, Retired Burglar

Outside of the aforementioned sagas, I don’t think we’ll be seeing any cards that directly represent characters or events of any works other than the three books that comprise The Lord of the Rings. So, no Thorin Oakenshield here, no young Bilbo, and only passing references to Morgoth and his contemporaries.

The reasons for this are twofold. First, there’s plenty to draw from in the main story of the Lord of the Rings to fill out multiple sets, and we’re only getting one right now. 

In a perfect world where vast sums of money and negotiations weren’t necessary to license IPs, I’d love to see a full block dedicated to the story, with one set for each of the books, and then multiple set thereafter for the Hobbit and other tales. But we don’t live in that world, and so Magic has this one shot to tell the story.  

That said, if this set makes everyone involved enough money, I could see us getting a return trip to Middle Earth, and that’s when I could see us dipping more directly into The Hobbit and the Silmarillion. Which is the second reason I don’t think we’re getting any of those cards now — Magic is going to want to save them in case they do get a second set sometime in the future. 

Two Board Wipes 

Here’s a really specific called shot — I think there will be two board wipes in the set.  

First the more traditional White one. This will be your more traditional version of a board wipe, destroying all creatures on the battlefield. If I had to guess (which I do, if I want to get paid for this article specifically about guessing), it will be flavored around the ending of the battle of Helm’s Deep. 

The second board wipe will be Red, possibly Red-Black, but certainly Red if it’s going to work the way I think it should. It will be based around the events that take place at Cirith Ungol, which I hope is cryptic enough for those wishing to avoid spoilers while cluing in those in the know. 

I imagine it to be worded something along the lines of “each creature your opponents control fights each other creature your opponents control.” So not strictly a guaranteed wipe, but one that handily depicts a group turning on each other. 

A Lonely Role

So, here’s the thing. There are plenty of Dwarves in Tolkien. The Hobbit alone is nearly overflowing with named dwarves, each with their own distinct character. In The Lord of the Rings, however, not so much. 

That is why I think that Gimli, son of Gloin, is not only going to be the only named Dwarf in the set, but the only Dwarf in the set, period. He might show up on multiple cards in multiple iterations, giving more than one card the Dwarf creature type. But every time there is a Dwarf creature type, it’ll be Gimli. 

Other dwarves get referenced in the story, but he’s the only one to actually appear (unless you go really digging into the appendices and whatnot, and I already covered that earlier). 

Walking, the Normal Way

Magic in Middle-earth works very differently from magic in Magic (that was a strange sentence to type). 

Magic in Magic is very flashy, with wizards flinging fireballs and lightning bolts, mystical portals opening up, arcane jets of power flitting through the air. 

Magic in Middle-earth is much more subtle, despite the series being considered high-fantasy. Magic imbues beings with power, is in the very soil of the earth, and allows for the creation of objects of immense importance. 

Still, you almost never see magic used in the way it is in the game. The Balrog is a magical being, but Gandalf doesn’t fight it by shooting ice out of his staff. 

And so, while you could make it fit in a mechanical way, depicting beings of great power, I’d actually like to see this set not have any planeswalker cards in it. I know this will never happen, but if any setting was going to omit the powerful card type, this would be a good fit. 

Even exceptionally powerful folks like Gandalf and Sauron aren’t depicted as wielding their power in the same way as Chandra. It’s just a different way for magic to work. 

…And Back Again 

We’ll know soon enough whether any of these predictions amount to anything, as previews actually started yesterday! In the meantime, you can preorder any sealed product you want from the set at Card Kingdom’s presale, which is already live.