Earlier this week, Wizards of the Coast dished out spoilers for a new set,  The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth™.

This set is self-explanatory, and doesn’t really need an introduction. There’s some cool alternate artwork, and some very interesting design choices. I’m not really going to touch on that here, as the two elephants in the room are what I want to focus on.

The first, being this absolute unit of a card:

A serialized Magic card representing The One Ring. The gold ring sits atop a bed of magma, its gold sheen unbothered by the heat.

I’m going to cut the fluff: extreme rarities like this aren’t much of a bad thing. Yes, there are bad things surrounding the implications of things like this existing. Everything involving extreme wealth and money, potential exploitation of the unaware that MTG finance has been known for the better part of a decade.

I don’t really care.

It’s one thing to make a card incredibly rare or will artificially, yet intentionally, become rare over time. It’s another thing to make them readily available, but have one alternate version that functionally does the same thing but is exclusively a collector’s item. I do think there is an argument to be made about FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), and tugging the strings of those who may buy into that. There is definitely an argument for lottery-esque, almost blatant cash grab methods of companies or even individuals with big followings. I’m not terribly concerned with that as much as I am the notion that any sort of collectible thing that isn’t produced exactly the way we like it is bad. If anything, this is one of the only ways a large company could do something like this, and I’m not convinced that anyone is being harmed by this, either. This is skirting along the lines of “whataboutism”, but are we really more worried about this piece of alternate art over actual, factual Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer or any of the Modern Horizons elementals? 

This isn’t a Reserve List situation; quite the opposite. This isn’t an artificial restriction on availability of a whole slew of cards for no viable reason. I understand we live in a capitalist whatever-Twitter-likes-to-see-here, and yes, this isn’t the cleanest or most ethical or most noble thing out there.

But neither are we.

Funny enough, we seldom look unto ourselves when talking about how we contribute to things in a positive way. What we think should be right doesn’t actually mean much in the grand scheme of things. Conversely, we also don’t touch on how things that don’t matter to some can be an important and big deal to another.

But really, that’s a segue into talking about representation.

Before we continue, I want to preface this: I am but one person. There is no monolithic point of view to this, or any topic of discussion when it comes to these things. This is simply my opinion on the matter. I’m sure if you ask another Black person about this topic, you may get a different opinion; either slightly or radically, and that’s okay. There is no “correct”, here amongst Black folks’ opinions, and if you are someone who is not affected by this, I urge you to listen to any Black person speaking on the topic.

Again, I am but one, single person.

Aragorn and Arwen, Wed has, of course, been a hot topic of discussion, for reasons you can expect. Certain fans of Lord of the Rings apparently don’t like that Aragorn is Black because he was depicted as…something something having pale skin something something. 

That’s it. That’s the reason.

So, I am not well versed in Lord of the Rings lore or whatnot, and I don’t particularly care. I just find it very interesting when people bring up race-swapping or Blackface when a character perceived as white (but not integral to the character) ends up Black in an adaptation, remake, or otherwise different retelling, without malicious intent or reasoning to Blackness itself. The weaponizing of the very thing that harms Black folks is being used as a counterargument against Aragorn being Black, and intent is completely disregarded just to create a “gotcha!”. 

And you didn’t even think about how you loved Hamilton while you had a problem with this.

The crux of this is that you cannot ignore intent.



Blackface is considered Blackface because of intent. It is a lot more than just painting your skin Black or making a white character or person Black. It’s your mannerisms, behavior, and intent, collectively, that make it a problem. It’s the mockery of Black people and culture that makes it a problem. It’s the intent of the matter of fact. There is nuance to this topic, and a lot of people don’t seem to understand that just because things don’t work one way, doesn’t mean it can’t work another way. There is nuance, nuance that most of the people against Aragorn don’t seem to, or want to, understand. Now, again, I do not know much about the lore, but I don’t really see any complaints about how Aragorn being Black is intentionally mocking the franchise or the series, or mocking “pale” people, or that a pale Black person can’t exist. Large majority of Black folks I’ve seen and talked to certainly aren’t seeing this as Blackface. Unless there’s a unique, very apparent, oxymoronic parody of Blackface in general (Kirk Lazarus comes to mind), this is neither Blackfacing, nor taking away from anyone.

So, I ask again, what’s the issue?

Did you have the same problem with Mina Harker?

You didn’t. You probably didn’t even know that card existed. Or you forgot about it. 

(Why’d you forget about it?)

If your knee-jerk reaction to that is to retort with an opposite scenario, I implore you to remember the word intent. Black folks are adapted as white in many pieces of artwork and media, but the intent is very often implied, and later realized as negative. Black folks do feel like something like this opposite scenario is taking away from Black representation because…well…it quite literally is. When (arbitrarily) 80% of representation in media is white, taking 1% away isn’t going to hurt anyone. When Black folks are (again, arbitrarily), 10 or so percent, that 1% is noted way, way more. 

Does it sound equal or fair? No. But I also don’t particularly care if this one instance is so heartbreaking to those negatively impacted so much that they’ll have to go to the next 15 or so pieces of media with 10 characters that all look just like them. This is not something that is an argument or debate. Representation feels like exclusion to those who never had to think about it, and if you’ve never had to think about it, you probably don’t know nearly enough to talk elegantly about it. It only seems to be about fairness when losing a fraction of a fraction of the unfair, even if the way it happens is forced.

This brings me to the final point of contention: forced representation.

To which my response is: good

Force more. It’s probably uncomfortable for some, but there’s nothing wrong with discomfort. You aren’t suddenly a terrible person for initially not liking changes like this, but I promise you those 27 iterations of Batman, Superman, and whatever Jessica Jones is will be there. That additional slice given to us from the 4th extra cake you got for free from the bakery isn’t going to ruin your party. I know it’s uncomfortable to not have everything be the same as you’re used to, but discomfort is a good thing, it means you’re in a position to change for the better, for you, and everyone around you.

And change is good.

Anthony Lowry (they/he) is a seasoned TCG, MMORPG, and FPS veteran. They are extensively knowledgeable on the intricacies of many competitive outlets, and are always looking for a new challenge in the gaming sphere.

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