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Your first look at Magic’s Lord of the Rings cards inspired by the classic Bakshi cartoon

One Secret Lair Drop to rule them all

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Frodo and Gandalf talk in a green wood. The trees are blue, and the light is dim. From the 1978 Bakshi production of Lord of the Rings. Image: Middle-earth Enterprises
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Peter Jackson’s interpretation of The Lord of the Rings trilogy looms large in our cultural consciousness. For Magic: The Gathering’s latest set, The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth, Wizards of the Coast tells Polygon it was hard pressed to move beyond it. But there is one classic version of those stories that Wizards chose to embrace: Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 The Lord of the Rings animated feature film. Titled More Adventures in Middle-earth, this special Secret Lair Drop of unique alternate art cards becomes available today. Polygon has your exclusive first look — plus an interview with the creatives who helped bring it to life.

Gandalf, Friend of the Shire, is a legendary creature, an Avatar Wizard, and casts sorcery spells with Flash. There are also unique rules for when the One Ring tempts him. Image: Wizards of the Coast

“We were all excited that the Bakshi film was in bounds for this project,” wrote principal art director Tom Jenkot in an email interview. “It’s such a beautiful movie and it has some amazing technical aspects like the rotoscoping of the characters from live footage of actors and the beautiful color wash backgrounds. For longtime fans, it was the first visualization of Lord of the Rings.”

Bakshi’s work also helped to inspire Jackson’s interpretation of The Lord of the Rings in his own live-action films. For many fans of a certain age, those florid landscapes will always be their image of Middle-earth. But at Wizards, it all came down to image selection.

“For the particular scenes/shots on the cards, we worked with the [Middle-earth Enterprises team] and poured over many key scenes and landscapes from the film and aligned them with amazing cards,” Jenkot wrote. “We balanced the selections between key characters and key locations to show off all the beauty of the film.”

Magic’s Secret Lair program started off in 2019 as a massive experiment offering unique alternate art on existing cards — some of them highly sought-after reprints of powerful cards. Each unique run was only available for a limited period of time, then printed on-demand to meet the needs of everyone who wanted some. But senior business manager Emily Floyd notes Secret Lair’s popularity has required some serious expansion.

Mirror of Galadriel is a legendary artifact that allows scry. Image: Wizards of the Coast
Shire Terrace is a land card that, when sacrificed, allows additional land to be played to the battlefield tapped. Image: Wizards of the Coast

“Secret Lair has seen phenomenal growth over our four years,” Floyd wrote over email. “We’ve made a lot of recent improvements for the customer experience. With more consistent and longer sales windows, the store is ‘always on’ — so there’s always something for the Secret Lair fans when you visit our site. We’ve adjusted our production timelines so that customers can get their drops faster; in many cases, you’ll get a shipping notification within a day or two after your order. Our team is always working to keep the Secret Lair customer experience fresh.”

Slip on the Ring is an instant and allows the player to exile a target creature they own and return it to the battlefield. Image: Wizards of the Coast

Additionally, Secret Lair cards aren’t only available online anymore. In 2023, special Secret Lair sets and promotional cards have been made available at MagicCon events — like the one recently held in Minneapolis.

“Experimentation and expression: these are the key pillars of Secret Lair,” Floyd wrote. “We take these qualities into account with every Drop design, every business decision, every weird and unexpected piece of art or snippet of flavor text.

“When it comes to bringing you weird and awesome ways to celebrate Magic: The Gathering, we’re just getting started.”

More Adventure in Middle-earth, the latest Secret Lair Drop, goes on sale Monday for $29.99. A foil version will set you back $39.99.

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