Since the moment it was announced, The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth has been a hugely anticipated MTG release. So much so, the set looks primed to escape the constant controversy surrounding Universes Beyond products. Following Wizards releasing new details, players have grown more excited than ever despite the set’s launch still being months away. Thankfully for players who don’t want to wait until June, the first leaks for the set have already appeared online.
For better or worse, the Tales of Middle-earth leaks are the pinnacle of Magic: the Gathering leaks. With poor camera quality, miscuts, literally destroyed cards, and a spread of different languages, these certainly are MTG leaks. That being said, it’s important to note that MTG leaks aren’t always the genuine article. While we have recently seen a number of players happen upon unreleased cards, the authenticity isn’t always guaranteed. Subsequently, as tantalizing as these leaks are, they may be simply cleverly concocted fakes. With that in mind, however, let’s get into the latest round of leaks, as they’re too good to resist.
The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth Leaks
First things first, due to the languages and camera quality of these leaks, here’s a quick rundown of what the leaked cards actually say. Huge thanks to u/pepperonipodesta for translating and transcribing the cards on Reddit.
Aragorn and Arwen, Married
Legendary Creature ~ Human Elf Noble
Whenever Aragorn and Arwen, Married, enters the battlefield or attacks, put a +1/+1 counter on each other creature you control. You gain 1 life for each other creature you control.
Aragorn, King Elessar, wedded Arwen Undómiel, and the tale of their long and laborious wait came to an end.
Gollum the Conspirator
Legendary Creature ~ Halfling Horror
Whenever Gollum the Conspirator attacks, look at the top two cards of your library, put them back in any order, then choose land or nonland. Any opponent guesses whether the top card of your library is of the chosen type. Reveal the card. If it guesses right, Gollum is removed from combat. If not, you draw a card and Gollum can’t be blocked this turn.
Frodo, Sauron’s Bane
Legendary Creature ~ Halfling Citizen
W/B W/B: If Frodo, Sauron’s Bane is a Citizen, it becomes a Halfling Scout with base power and toughness 2/3 and lifelink.
BBB: If Frodo is a Scout, it becomes a Halfling Rogue with “Whenever this creature deals combat damage to a player, that player loses the game if the Ring has tempted you four or more times this game. Otherwise, the Ring tempts you.
Unlike most leaks, the Tales of Middle-earth cards posted to Reddit by u/Alston1991 come with a smidgen of story. Selling the allure of these leaks, Alston199 claims in their post that the trio of cards were “found in garbage.” While this certainly explains the extensive damage seen on the cards, there’s no word on who is haphazardly throwing out early print sheets. After being questioned on this by u/Pvh1103, Alston1991 stated “right place, right time,” keeping up the mystery.
While these shrouded details do cast some doubt upon the leaks, it’s unsurprising these cards would be thrown away. The sheet of Frodo, Sauron’s Bane, for instance, is not only scuffed and damaged, but it’s also missing the Universes Beyond security seal. Aragorn and Arwen, Married, suffered the same fate, being creased and crumpled before landing in the trash.
Despite the damaged appearance of the cards, it’s safe to say that many MTG players were thoroughly excited. This is in spite of some players, such as u/B_H_Abbott-Motley, stating the cards are “boring enough to be real.” While this might be the case for Aragorn and Arwen, Married who simply give counters to creatures, Frodo, Sauron’s Bane is much more enticing. Offering a first look at a Tales of Middle-earth mechanic, it appears the Ring will aptly play a major role.
For better or worse, the extent and effects of the “the Ring tempts you” mechanic is currently unknown. Similarly to Jhoira, Ageless Innovator’s ingenuity counters this mechanic may be exclusive to Frodo, Sauron’s Bane. Some players, such as u/Spiderbot1810, however, suspect the mechanic could be a new game piece and variant of Monarch. As exciting as that may be, this prospect is somewhat concerning, as u/cephalopodAcreage highlights.
“I mean, this set is gonna be Modern Legal, so that means the Tempted by the Rings mechanic is balanced around 1v1, right? There’s no way that WotC would redo the Initiative/Legacy debacle but in Modern, right?… right?”u/cephalopodAcreage
Throughout myriad posts across the various MTG subreddits, countless players shared their delight and dismay at the leaks. Some players, such as u/BKWhitty, for instance, lauded the already incredible style of the set. “That Gollum is peak flavor, I f*cking love it! Frodo seems cool too and has me really interested to see what being tempted by the Ring entails.” Alongside these excited players, several others shared their relief that these leaks are unexpectedly tame. “Rejoice! These are unplayable in Modern,” u/Windturnscold commented. Despite these enticing factors, however, conversations around u/Alston1991s’ leaks predominantly centered around one topic. In The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth set, Aragorn is black.
Technically, this detail was first revealed back in August 2022. Showcased during Wizards Presents 2022, Aragorn appeared on one of the set’s 18 borderless scene cards that depict The Battle of the Pelennor Fields. For better or worse, at the time, it was somewhat difficult to spot Aragorn amidst the cacophony of combat. Thanks to the leaked Aragorn and Arwen, Married card, they’re now front and center. This has put Aragorn in the spotlight, where their skin color has quickly caused controversy.
Disappointingly, many comments around this topic were shamefully vulgar and racist, causing the subreddit’s moderators to step in. Thankfully, alongside these deplorable comments, some players like u/LunarLancaster rationally explained why, to them, Aragorn doesn’t look like Aragorn.
“To me, this feels like a replacement. It’s a drawing of someone else with the name “Aragorn” stapled to it. It doesn’t feel or look like the one I grew up with. If I had some connection to this art or the artist, or maybe if there was a depiction of this Aragorn that I had consumed, it’d be different. But seeing this kinda takes the wind out of my sails a bit for this set.
Hopefully, there is a solo Aragorn card that portrays him in a way that lives up to the man from my childhood. If it doesn’t, I’ll still buy and support the set since this is one of my favorite franchises. I’ll just have to get proxies to play with alongside them.”u/LunarLancaster
As u/Absolutionis went on to point out, the reason for this change is likely due to licensing issues. This presents quite a difficult situation for Wizards, as it’s not easy being deliberately different from such a cultural juggernaut. Thankfully, WotC’s R&D team and artists should still do the franchise justice, albeit with their own unique spin.
Unfortunately for Wizards, the color of Aragorn’s skin isn’t the only point of controversy around Tales of Middle-earth. As we highlighted recently, the set’s pricing is another contentious issue causing major concerns. Priced at $249.99 for a Set Booster Box, players are understandably worried the product may be simply too expensive. Similarly to Commander Masters, this may ultimately ruin the appeal of the product for both players and Local Game Stores.
As u/KosstDukat points out, this is an absolutely baffling decision from Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro. After all, as a Universes Beyond set, The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth can introduce Magic to a massive new audience. Should the product be priced too aggressively, however, this prospective audience may be quickly turned away. For better or worse, the myriad of products on offer should marginally mitigate this issue. However, $499.99 for a Collector Booster Box is still insane.
“This is what I’ve been hearing, insanely expensive for some damn reason, no clue why. At regular price, these things would sell like hotcakes for all the LOTR fans out there, but at this price, they’re just driving actual sales down to the ground and isolating fans who actually *want* this product.”u/KosstDukat