Magic has changed. I feel it in the packs. I feel it in the cards. Spoiler season is upon us and kickstarting the Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-Earth comes a few hints from one of Magic’s most prolific game designers.

Mark Rosewater, head game designer on Magic: The Gathering, released his pre-spoiler season blog post, giving vague hints as to what players will find in the upcoming set. In it, he revealed 10 of the many legendary creature types we can expect to see in Tales of Middle-Earth. In a regular Magic set these creature types might not give us much information about which characters they represent. But, in this Lord of the Rings Universes Beyond set, it gives us more than enough information to predict which characters from Lord of the Rings each creature type will represent.

Note: It’s important to remember the Tales of Middle-Earth set is explicitly based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings book trilogy and as such, some of the depictions and events will diverge from the films.

Creature Type: Avatar Demon | Character Prediction: Durin’s Bane

The real name of the Balrog known as Durin’s Bane has been lost to time, but it has become the most infamous in Lord of the Rings lore. An entity of ancient power born before the world began, the corrupted Maiar slept for ages deep beneath the Misty Mountains until it was disturbed by the mining of the dwarves.

Traditionally balrogs are only a little larger than a human but are coated in both shadows and flame. They are also possibly wingless, only having been described as having dark shadows behind the balrog in Moria that appear “like two vast wings”. Different interpretations have depicted Durin’s Bane in different ways, but you can expect this card to be a powerful creature in the set.

Creature Type: Bird Noble | Character Prediction: Gwaihir the Windlord

Lord of the Great Eagles in Middle-Earth, Gwaihir is an easy pick for this legendary creature. One of a race of massive, sentient eagles that helped out Gandalf several times throughout the books, rescuing him from both the top of Isengard and later the peak of Celebdil, eventually rescuing Frodo and Sam from Mount Doom.

Gwaihir could prove to be a powerful white commander if he has good enough abilities, potentially allowing players to create a Bird-themed deck with some power in the command zone. Fun fact, Gwaihir is really old! At least 6,500 years old, having lived during the First Age, and helped save two other heroes in a similar way as he did with Sam and Frodo.

Creature Type: Halfling Knight | Character Prediction: Pippin

This one is an easy one, likely being Peregrin “Pippin” Took during his time as a Guard of the Citadel after swearing himself to Denethor in Minas Tirith. We know many characters will receive several iterations depicting different times in their journey.

During this time Pippin was also known as “Ernil i Pheriannath” or Prince of the Halflings since he speaks very casually with Denethor, Ruling Steward of Gondor. Rumors spread that because he spoke as if he were equals with Denethor, he must be a great lord of the Hobbits. Turns out Hobbits talk to everyone as if they’re all friends.

Creature Type: Halfling Soldier | Character Prediction: Merry

On the other side of the Hobbit duo comes Meriadoc “Merry” Brandybuck, likely from his time as an esquire to King Théoden of Rohan. Merry was not supposed to ride out in battle against Minas Tirith but was able to thanks to the help of Éowyn.

Merry and Pippin’s creature types might be reversed since the line between Knight and Soldier can get a little blurred in Magic at times, but it seems to fit if the interpretations are correct. But since Merry was trying to blend in with the other soldiers of Rohan, making his card a Soldier makes sense.

Creature Type: Horse | Character Prediction: Shadowfax

Bearing only the noblest of riders, Shadowfax is the finest of the Mearas, a lineage of horses which were stronger, faster, and more intelligent than other mounts. The Mearas only allow those they deem worthy to ride them, with Gandalf a rare exception outside of the kings of Rohan.

Alternatively, this could also be Bill the Pony, a lovely pony Strider and the Hobbits were forced to purchase on their way to Rivendell. Sam quickly becomes very fond of Bill, reluctantly sending him back home before they enter Moria and making sure to come back and retrieve him after they destroy the Ring.

Creature Type: Kraken | Character Prediction: Watcher In The Water

While calling it a Kraken might be a bit of a stretch, the Watcher in the Water is the only thing which fits the creature type of Kraken in The Lord of the Rings. This creature is as mysterious as it is full of tentacles, attacking the Fellowship just before they enter the Mines of Moria.

The Watcher in the Water is the only beast of this type mentioned in Lord of the Rings, with the distinct possibility that the Watcher might be an escaped ‘nameless thing’ found deeper in the earth than even the balrog of Moria. These entities are older than most other beings in Middle-Earth but are never explained in any sort of detail.

Creature Type: Nymph | Character Prediction: Goldberry

Another mystery of The Lord of the Rings is Tom Bombidil and Goldberry. It’s unknown who or what Goldberry actually is, with some speculation she might be a spirit since Bombidil calls her a River-daughter in one of his songs.

Goldberry could very well be an uncommon legendary creature, possibly creating Food tokens as she helped care for and feed the Hobbits after they were rescued by Tom Bombidil. She could also work with the Tom Bombidil card, perhaps helping to tutor for sagas or giving your sagas hexproof.

Creature Type: Spirit Noble | Character Prediction: King of the Dead

During the Second Age, Isildur, leader of the War of the Last Alliance against Sauron, called upon the ancient Mountain Men to help defeat Sauron. The people of the mountain swore allegiance to Isildur, but when they were called to help push back the forces of evil, they refused. Isildur cursed them, denying them rest until they fulfilled their oath.

Now the Lord of the Oathbreakers returns to help Aragorn, heir of Isildur, in a renewed alliance against Sauron, giving them the opportunity to fulfill their broken oath. There is a chance this could also be Witch-king of Angmar but as we’ll see shortly, there is a better fit for the Ring Wraith.

Creature Type: Spider Demon | Character Prediction: Shelob

Spawn of Ungoliant and one of the last of her kind, the only Spider Demon found in The Lord of the Rings is Shelob, Watcher of Cirith Ungol. Sam and Frodo encounter Shelob, albeit at different times, after being led astray by Gollum.

Magic has plenty of Spiders in it, but never has it had a mono-black legendary spider, which is likely what a Shelob card would be. Since Shelob has a powerful stinger, though not one intended to kill, we could see a Shelob card which gets stronger the more Stun counters she distributes.

Creature Type: Wraith Noble | Character Prediction: Witch-king of Angmar

The chief of the Nazgûl, and one of Sauron’s strongest allies in his quest for domination. The Witch-king of Angmar was a powerful fighter and sorcerer, possibly even rivaling Gandalf the White at the peak of his power.

A card based on the Witch-king likely would be indestructible, since the Elven hero Glorfindel prophesied “not by the hand of man shall he fall,” leaving room for his eventual defeat by Éowyn during the Battle of the Pelennor Fields just outside Minas Tirith. It wouldn’t be too surprising if the Witch-king also had some sort of evasion, like flying, thanks to his winged Fellbeast. He could possibly have shadow, since as a wraith he truly lives in the Unseen world.


Ryan Hay (he/him) has been writing about Magic: The Gathering and video games for years, and loves absolutely terrible games. Send him your bad game takes over on Twitter where he won’t stop talking about Lord of the Rings.

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