Magic: The Gathering comes to Arda in The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-Earth on June 23, 2023. As one of the most iconic fantasy stories of all time, The Lord of the Rings is often seen as one of the major influences on modern fantasy, including Magic’s expansive history.

Don’t miss our coverage of today’s other The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-Earth news—the four pre-constructed Commander decks and the Secret Lair drop based on the animated film.

Tales of Middle-Earth is the first full Universes Beyond set and is thus not a traditional Magic expansion set. As such, it will not be legal Standard—instead, it will be legal in Modern and eternal formats, similar to Modern Horizons. There will also be plenty of other products accompanying the main set: Commander decks, a Secret Lair drop, Jumpstart packs, and bundles, as well as new “Scene Bundles” that show off some of the panoramic art from the set.

Before digging in to today’s previews, it is also important to remember that the set represents the adventures in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy of books, not The Hobbit or the Peter Jackson films. The films are a wonderful undertaking in breathtaking cinematic majesty but are just one interpretation of the books.

There And Back Again: The Story

The One Ring and Bilbo’s Ring

There are dozens of books, songs, novellas, and more in the vast lore of Middle-Earth, but for the Tales of Middle-Earth set, we only need to know about three books: The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. Not even the prequel story, The Hobbit, is included in the set.

These three books follow Frodo Baggins, a Hobbit who lives a quiet life in a land far to the west called The Shire. His eccentric uncle, Bilbo, bequeaths him his magic ring as a parting gift as he goes to spend his remaining years living with the Elves. Unbeknownst to either of them or their kindly Wizard friend Gandalf, that Bilbo’s Ring has been imbued with the spirit of Sauron, an impossibly powerful dark lord who needs it to regain his full strength.

Shadow of the Enemy, Sauron, the Dark Lord, and Witch-king, Bringer of Ruin

Together with three other Hobbits (Sam, Merry, and Pippin), two Humans (Aragorn and Boromir), an Elven prince Legolas, and Gimli the Dwarf, Frodo volunteers to return the ring to the heart of a volcano called Mount Doom, the only place where the ring can be destroyed. Tragedy strikes at the heart of the fellowship early on, splitting the party up but ultimately leading each member to their destiny.

The Fellowship of the Ring

While traditional Magic sets will often feature Story Spotlight cards that are specifically designed to correspond to a specific scene or event in that set’s plot, the entirety of Tales of Middle-Earth follows the characters’ journeys. Some characters will even have multiple legendary creatures cards that show their evolution throughout the story, from humble beginnings to heroes in their own right.

Sarumon of Many Colors, Treason of Isengard, and Storm of Saruman

Themes, Mechanics, and Abilities

Legends Matter

Like all good epic tales, there are tons of heroic figures in Tales of Middle-Earth. There are tons of legendary creatures in the set, which can be expected, but there are lots of cards that synergize with your legendary creatures too.

Eomer, Marshal of Rohan grants you additional combat phases if an attacking legendary creature you control dies, giving you a chance to throw away legendary copy tokens you might have lying around, or to capitalize on a desperate swing to take down a climatic foe.

Continuing the cycle of legendary lands comes Minas Tirith, a massive city built into the side of the White Mountains and the seat of power for humans in Middle-Earth. Minas Tirith comes into play untapped if you control a legendary creature, a powerful land with all the legendary creatures in the set. It also lets you draw a card for just two mana if you’ve attacked with two or more creatures, rewarding your aggressive strategy with more cards.

Nasty End is your classic “sacrifice a creature to draw two cards” Black instant, but if that creature is a legendary one, you draw three instead, which is both a great representation of Saruman’s end in the books, and a powerful new draw spell for Commander.


Songs have always played an important role in the Lord of the Rings books, and those songs are represented as Sagas in the Tales of Middle-Earth set. While we only have one Saga revealed so far, The Long List of the Ents is a song sung by Treebeard to Merry and Pippin that listed every known living creature to the ents.

The Long List of the Ents is the longest Saga ever printed at seven chapters, representing all the creatures the Ents know and giving you plenty of options to pick from depending on your deck. At each chapter, you pick a creature type that hasn’t been picked already, and the next time you cast a creature spell of that type this turn, it comes in with a +1/+1 counter.

Of course, Ents take a while to do much of anything, so even if you don’t have anything particularly relevant when you cast Long List of the Ents you’ll have seven turns to draw something to give a boost to.

We also know that the lyrical Tom Bombadil is getting his own Saga-based card you can expect some neat Sagas in the set.

Amass Orcs

Returning to Magic for the first time since 2019’s War of the Spark is the Amass mechanic—with an Orcish twist.

Now called Amass Orcs, this ability allows you to put +1/+1 counters on an Army token you control, turning it into an Orc Army creature, as seen on Gothmog, Morgul Lieutenant and Barad-dur. If you don’t have a token of this type, you get to create one first.

This is a perfect mechanic to represent Sauron’s legions of Orcs, Goblins, Uruk-hai, and other dark creatures that fight against the good people of Middle-Earth. There are several Orc Army tokens in the set, some featuring the mighty Uruk-hai while others show off Saruon’s Orc and Goblin forces.

Food Tokens

We all know about Second Breakfast, but with elevenses, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner, and supper also on the menu, you’re going to need a lot of food. Thankfully, the Hobbits have you covered with tons of Food token cards.

There are a lot of Food synergies in this set, primarily in Green and White, and provide alternate uses for your tokens. Some cards, like Peregrin Took, always gives you an additional Food token whenever you make tokens of any kind. There are several cards such as Pippin’s Bravery that let you sacrifice Food tokens specifically to gain other effects, providing alternate ways to use your tokens other than just gaining life.

Land Cycling

So far we’ve only seen two cards with Land Cycling—Generous Ent and Oliphaunt—but this valuable mechanic helps smooth out your land drops to you can reach your bigger spells, or to let you play a little greedy in three, four, or five-color decks. There doesn’t seem to be any big reanimation spells or pay off for sending these creatures to the graveyard at this time, but they can be invaluable for Limited decks looking to cast mana-intensive spells.

The Ring Tempts You

Gollum, Scheming Guide, Call of the Ring, and The Ring emblem

Even the strongest cannot deny the power of the Ring, slowly corrupting its wielder and bringing them ever closer to shadow. This ability functions similarly to Venture into the Dungeon, creating an emblem called The Ring that has various abilities. Each time this ability triggers you designate a creature to become your Ring-bearer and then move one step down the track. Even if you have no creatures in play you still move to the next phase of The Ring.

Your Ring-bearer gains all abilities listed on The Ring so long as you’ve reached that level on it. Once it reaches the final level, your Ring-bearer has gained all abilities it can from The Ring and further triggers of The Ring Tempts You will not move the track forward, but let you pick new Ring-bearers or keep it same creature.

Artistic Interpretations

There are a bunch of themes and little surprises to keep an eye out for in this set that even hardcore Lord of the Rings fans might not pick up at first.

Sam’s infamous cooking pans pop up on a number of cards, including Bill the Pony, Stew the Coneys, and Many Partings. Cooking is often how Sam shares his love for home and represents what he is fighting to protect. Even small acts of kindness like cooking a meal are integral to Sam as a character.

The Nazgul are the fallen spirits of the nine lords and kings of Middle-Earth that fell to Sauron’s power and eventually lost their physical bodies and became Wraiths. Only one of the Nazgul has their own card so far—the Chief of the Nine, Witch-king of Angmar—the more generic Nazgul card has the extremely flavorful ability to have nine copies in your deck. There are even nine different pieces of art for the card, letting you wield the power of the Nine in a single deck.

Showcase Cards

If you’re looking for something a little more unique, Tales of Middle-Earth has 30 cards that have showcase variants, all of which can be found in Set, Draft, and Collector boosters. These alternate art cards feature new art that depicts pivotal scenes for each character, surrounded by the poem that circles the One Ring. Gandalf the White’s card appears to show him upon his return to the Arda 20 after he died fighting the Balrog of Moria.

Arena Details

Along with the tabletop release of Tales of Middle-Earth, it will be launching on Arena June 20. With it comes some new upgrades to Arena and your digital collection. There’s a new battlefield for players to play on, a cozy little Hobbit hole (likely Bag End!), complete with a desk, an ornate rug, and what looks like a lovely second breakfast.

There are also new pets, an Ent blooming across different seasons, and if you preorder the Mastery pass you can get The One Ring. You’ll also be able to collect new sleeves for your decks based on several of the cards including Aragorn the Uniter, Gandalf the White, and Sauron, The Lidless Eye.

Important Dates So You Won’t Be Late

There’s more to Tales of Middle-Earth than other traditional Magic sets, so knowing what is happening and when can help keep everything together.

  • May 30 – June 9: Card Previews
  • June 8: Commander Previews and Decklists
  • June 9: Complete Card Image Galleries
  • June 16–22: In-Store Prerelease Events
  • June 20: MTG Arena Digital Release
  • June 23: Global Tabletop Release
  • June 23–25: Launch Party Events
  • July 7: Bundle: Gift Edition Release
  • July 7–9: The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-Earth In-Store Celebration Events
  • July 21–23: Commander Parties
  • July 28–30: MagicCon: Barcelona featuring The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-Earth
  • August 5–13: Store Championships
  • November 3: Holiday Release

You might have noticed that Tales of Middle-Earth has a fairly extensive calendar, stretching into the holiday season at the end of this year. Under the Holiday Release umbrella comes at least three new products:

  • Scene Boxes: Special boxes that include borderless scene cards with a classic foil finish.
  • Special Edition Collector Boosters: Details are scarce but Wizards promises that longtime Magic and Lord of the Rings fans will enjoy it.
  • The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-Earth Jumpstart Volume 2: A second Jumpstart set with new cards and themes to mix and match with the previous Jumpstart.

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