Leviathan fantasy collectible card game Magic: The Gathering is launching a new series of cards including characters and themes from Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000 sci-fi franchise, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth setting, parent company Hasbro surprise-announced in an investor call yesterday. The news was confirmed in a Magic blog post, which clarified the new set would release some time in 2022, and let slip that there was a range of Warhammer 40K commander decks coming. Warhammer excitedly hailed the collaboration in a community post the same day, though next to nothing has been said so far about the Lord of the Rings content.
The new franchise crossovers are announced as part of Magic’s “Universes Beyond” premium set, a significant and widely unexpected new venture by publisher Wizards of the Coast to marry Magic up with other beloved nerdy worlds, in an effort to attract new players into its 28-year-old flagship card game.
Beyond the reveal of Warhammer 40K-flavoured decks for Magic’s longer-game, 100-card Commander format, we don’t yet know how much content each different property will receive within the greater expansion. 40K and Middle-earth could each get anything from the full-fledged expansion set treatment (upwards of 100 unique cards) to just a handful of specific cards. Unsurprisingly, Wizards’ blog post confirmed that none of these special cards will be legal in Magic’s mainline competitive ‘Standard’ format.
What we know for certain is: this is really a thing, and it’s not made up (we checked our calendars and it’s still February 26, not April 1).
The unquestioned granddaddy of collectible card games, and a mainstay of tabletop gaming in general, Magic: The Gathering (MTG) has its own fictional universe and diverse body of fiction from which most of its card sets are inspired, but these new sets could see the likes of Primaris Space Marines and Ringwraiths translated into Magic form, with mana costs, tap-abilities and – we expect – some stunning card art for our eyes to devour.
In the Warhammer Community post announcing its involvement, Games Workshop said “smushing” the two gaming worlds together made sense for both tribes of players.
“For Warhammer 40,000 fans, it’s a chance to command the forces you know and love in an entirely fresh way – while cooing over some lavish new art,” the post said.
“For Magic: The Gathering fans, it’s an opportunity to discover a rich universe of galactic conquest and betrayal that’s been shaped by decades of games, novels, and media.”
For UK-based tabletop titan Games Workshop, this is just the latest in a recent spree of corporate crossovers with other global nerdy brands. Warhammer’s historically much-maligned licensing department has busied itself the last couple of years in partnering with the likes of Marvel Comics, Bandai, McFarlane Toys and the ubiquitous Funko Pop, to monetise its traditionally grimdark, gothic sci-fi properties through the more brightly-coloured, accessible formats of comic books and action figures.
Magic: the Gathering has also dabbled in cross-franchise projects – including exporting its well-loved Ravnica setting to Wizards of the Coast stablemate Dungeons & Dragons in a recent RPG sourcebook. It’s already tentatively allowed characters from other universes to venture within the sacred, printed frames of Magic cards, too – in the form of Godzilla-themed re-skins of cards from the Ikoria set, and a standalone MTG adaptation of The Walking Dead – but on nowhere near the grand scale that Universes Beyond is promising.
Nothing has yet been heard about the deal from Tolkien license-holders Middle-earth Enterprises, but we’ll keep you appraised of new details in this surprising tabletop gaming collab. It’s like when big brands make mildly amusing, cutesy banter with each other on Twitter, except we’re going to get some cool Magic cards out of it…