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Matt Smith as the Doctor in Doctor Who, medieval helmets with fiery torches backlit by a massive spaceship. Image: Wizards of the Coast

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Magic’s 2023 sets will wrap up the Phyrexian war, welcome Gandalf and Doctor Who

The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth set is slated for later this year

The upcoming year marks the long-awaited conclusion to Magic: The Gathering’s ongoing Phyrexian invasion storyline, a yearslong saga that has embroiled the multiverse in a war that promises lasting consequences for some of the game’s most beloved heroes. But grand finales also mark new beginnings, with the eventual return to Magic’s divisive fairy-tale world, along with a couple highly anticipated crossovers with Lord of the Rings and Doctor Who for both paper and digital players.

Dominaria Remastered

But first, 2023’s busy slate of Magic releases kicks off with a final ode to the game’s historic 30-year run. Dominaria Remastered comes out in paper and Magic: The Gathering Online on Jan. 13, featuring cards from throughout the game’s past.

Vampiric Tutor is an instant that allows players to search their library at the cost of two life.
Birds of Paradise is a flying creature that adds mana.
Force of Will is an instant that allows you to pay one life to exile a blue card rather than pay its mana cost.
Sneak attack allows you to put a creature card form your hand onto the battlefield. The creature gains haste, and is sacrificed at the beginning of the next end step. Image: Wizards of the Coast

Pulled from 27 different sets that span the world of Dominaria, this draftable set features beloved cards dating as far back as Magic’s very first release. Although it’s not legal in the Standard format, Dominaria Remastered will feature a variety of highly sought-after classics including Vampiric Tutor, Birds of Paradise, Force of Will, and Sneak Attack.

Phyrexia: All Will Be One and March of the Machine

Next, players will witness an epic conflict years in the making, as the current Phyrexian storyline comes to its climax and conclusion across two sets and an epilogue, starting with Phyrexia: All Will Be One arriving on Feb. 10.

Early glimpses into the set reveal fan-favorite planeswalkers get corrupted by the sinister substance known as Phyrexian oil, so stakes are high, as this could mean the official death or even final cards for treasured characters. Unlike Dominaria United, this set will be legal in Standard, along with its follow-up, March of the Machine.

Elesh Norn, as imagined by Junji Ito.
Koth, Fire Resistance is a legendary planeswalker. This borderless card is rendered in black and white.

Then just over two months later, the storyline comes to a close with March of the Machine on April 21. Although little is known about this release, Wizards of the Coast announced it is being paired with a follow-up mini set called March of the Machine: The Aftermath. An apparent epilogue to the story arc, The Aftermath will be out on both of Magic’s digital platforms, and in paper distributed in small packs of only five cards.

The Aftermath and its cute little packs come out on May 12, and will also be legal in Standard.

Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth

The battle of Pelennor fields as depicted for a set of cards in Magic: The Gathering Image: Wizards of the Coast

Then, around Q3, the long-awaited Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth comes out in paper, Magic: The Gathering Arena, and Magic Online featuring renditions of legendary characters (from the novels, not the films), as well as creatures and settings in a draftable set that will be legal in Modern and eternal formats such as Commander, Legacy, and Vintage.

First announced in 2021, Wizards of the Coast has remained mostly tight-lipped about set specifics. Among the limited information it has offered since the announcement is a stunning collage illustrated across 18 cards, depicting the Battle of the Pelennor Fields from The Return of the King. Although this preview features no text, the art suggests there could be cards for Middle-earth’s oliphaunts, riders of Rohan, ringwraiths, and even the city of Minas Tirith.

Image: Magali Villeneuve/Wizards of the Coast

Similar to previous years’ Modern Horizons sets, Tales of Middle-earth will skip the Standard and Pioneer formats, and instead jump straight to Modern, Commander, Legacy, and Vintage. The set will also be draftable and will even come accompanied with special edition Secret Lair releases.

And even though it’s skipping Standard and Pioneer, it is still slated to be playable on Arena, where it will also become part of the Historic and Alchemy digital formats.

Whether Tales of Middle-earth bears the price tag of Modern Horizons is a particularly noteworthy question. Booster packs from those sets were usually a few dollars more than a typical Magic product, sometimes even double the price of a Standard release, but Hasbro got away with it since they’re designed for some of Magic’s most enfranchised players.

Will Tales of Middle-earth opt for the usual pricing model to help invite fans of the books that might be new to Magic, or will it position itself as a premium product like some other non-Standard releases? More details could potentially arrive in the next few months.

Shadows Over Innistrad Remastered goes digital

Around this time, Magic Arena players will also see a long-awaited re-release in Shadows Over Innistrad Remastered — two sets combined into one and added to Magic Arena in a single release.

Although Shadows Over Innistrad and its follow-up, Eldritch Moon, first came out 2016, they were not included in the eventual release of Arena in 2018. Over time, Wizards of the Coast has slowly backfilled the Arena catalog with similar remastered sets that combine multiple releases into a single release.

The addition of Shadows and Eldritch Moon will introduce some important competitive cards to Arena’s Explorer format, making it one step closer to eventually becoming a true digital parallel to Pioneer.

Thing in the Ice is a 0/4 creature that uses ice counters that, when remoeved, transforms the creature into a powerful ally.
Tireless Tracker is a human scout creature that sacrifices clue tokens to become more powerful.
Westvale Abbey is a land that helps put 1/1 cleric creatures onto the battlefield.
Traverse the Ulvenwald is a sorcery with delirum: “If there are four or more car types among cards in your grayard, instead search your library for a creature or a land, reveal it, put it into your hand, then shuffle your library.”

Some of the most anticipated cards expected to hit Arena with Shadows Over Innistrad Remastered include Thing in the Ice, Tireless Tracker, Westvale Abbey, and Traverse the Ulvenwald.

Doctor Who

Various Doctors stand on a misty plain, a vast space battle raging overhead. Image: Alexander Gering/Wizards of the Coast

The year’s second Universes Beyond release that we know of features another ambitious crossover with a deeply beloved universe and cast: Doctor Who. Scheduled for fall 2023, the Doctor Who tie-in will bear some resemblance to last year’s Warhammer 40,000 crossover, with the release of four new preconstructed Commander decks, each featuring 100 ready-to-play cards with a mix of brand-new designs and reimagined reprints.

Along with the new Commander decks, there will be additional Doctor Who collectors’ boosters and a limited-edition print-on-demand Secret Lair release featuring 60 years of Doctors, companions, and villains from the series. Along with fan favorites such as Matt Smith and Tom Baker, the cards arrive just in time to feature the TV show’s newest Doctor, played by Ncuti Gatwa.

Wilds of Eldraine

As the year comes to a close, players will get one last Standard set on a familiar world we haven’t seen since 2020 with fall’s Wilds of Eldraine release. The exact release date has not been announced, but anticipation for this set is high following the competitive impact of 2020’s Throne of Eldraine, which led to seven different card bans across various competitive formats due to its significant power level and ambitious card designs.

Will Wilds of Eldraine give us new bombs along the lines of Oko, Thief of Crowns or Once Upon a Time, or will Magic’s designers play it safer this time around? More details will likely emerge in the second half of the year.

Oko, Thief of Crowns is a legendary planeswalker. He’s shown here toying with a large dagger.
Once Upon a Time is an instant that allows you to scry 5, reveal creatures or lands found there and place them in your hand.

Magic endured quite a few ups and downs in 2022. While the return of formal competitive tournament play reinvigorated paper players with a brand-new chance to compete at the Pro Tour, the business of Magic came into stark focus when Bank of America accused Hasbro of mismanaging the Magic: The Gathering brand.

Fortunately for players, there’s no shortage of brand-new cards and reprinted classics on the horizon in 2023, but time will tell whether the Magic brand has the strength to endure another 30 years.

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