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Magic: The Gathering – The Lord Of The Rings’ Mike Turian On The Long-Time-Coming Collaboration

When you think crossovers, nothing feels more appropriate than combining one of the most influential fantasy book series in history with one of the pioneers of competitive collectable card games. Such is the case of The Lord of the Rings trilogy for the former and Magic: The Gathering for the latter.

It took them a while, but it’s actually happening this 23 June in the form of the Magic: The Gathering – Universes Beyond expansion block: you can now summon and cast spells, heroes, and creatures from Middle-Earth lore either offline or online. Check out our recent MTG feature on some of the cards here.

Kakuchopurei managed to speak with The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-Earth’s game architect Mike Turian about the product and game design of the upcoming expansion.

 

What was the inspiration behind The Lord of the Rings collaboration and how long has this collaboration been in the making?

For The Lord of the Rings and Magic to come together and bring a shared offering has been a work in progress for years now. Personally, I’ve been working on this for four years. With The Lord of the Rings being a genre-defining fantasy novel that helped inspire so much, we knew that Magic fans would love to see Middle-earth brought to life and combined with the gameplay of Magic.

 

The Lord of the Rings is generally considered to be the grandfather of fantasy and Magic: The Gathering is the biggest TCG in the world. What was the most daunting aspect of bringing the two massive franchises together?

With The Lord of the Rings being the grandfather of fantasy and Magic being the start of TCGs, we knew this would provide both great opportunities and challenges. We wanted Magic to capture everything that made The Lord of the Rings so compelling including the characters, the locations, the objects and the story.

This leaves a lot of ground to cover hundreds of Magic cards. So, to me, from the outset, the thing that was most daunting was how epic The Lord of the Rings is and how we capture each and every piece of beloved content and get the details of that content right so that fans of both franchises would feel that epicness each and every time they open a pack.

The Lord of the Rings is an expansive universe, with a huge roster of characters from Bill the Pony to Tom Bombadil. Were there any characters that were missed that you wish you could have included? How do you decide who makes the cut?

Early on the design teams made a giant layout of everything included as part of The Lord of the Rings. It was broken into Characters & Creatures, Moments & Events, and Places & Things. From there, it was further divided onto a scale from things that everyone who is familiar with The Lord of the Rings knows (Gandalf, Fighting the Balrog, Mount Doom) and the things that only those with a higher familiarity would know (Bill the Pony, The Palantir is recovered, Balin’s Tomb).

I’m proud of how well the team connected Magic to the novel and all of that rich world and content.

 

Is there anything in particular about The Lord of the Rings set that fans should keep an eye out for?

One of my favourite parts of the set is the Realms and Relics cards that you get as a Box Topper with each Set, Draft and Collector Booster display or inside Collector Boosters. These are some of the most powerful land and artifact Magic cards brought into The Lord of the Rings universe.

I love how we really were able to connect The Lord of the Rings together with Magic’s rich history of fan-favourite cards and turn them into something beautiful.

 

What do you enjoy most about being a Game Architect?

The reason I love being a Product Architect is that I get to help bring new products and cards to life. Every day, I get to work on my favourite game with amazing people as we strive to make a game that honours its rich history and forges into new space.

As someone who, at 14, discovered a groundbreaking new game, new friends, and a platform to find my way in the world, there is a lot of meaning to now getting to help bring that joy to others.

 

Outside of Magic: The Gathering, what else do you enjoy playing?

Well first, I love getting to play games and do activities with my family. When I get together with my friends, in addition to Magic, I enjoy playing tabletop games such as Terraforming Mars, Great Western Trail, and Ark Nova (among the many games we play) as well as classic card games. From a video game perspective, I typically enjoy real-time strategy games the most with my all-time favourites of Starcraft and Warcraft III.

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