Magic The Gathering heads to the Wasteland with the upcoming Fallout-themed decks

As someone who has been slinging spells and summoning creatures in Magic: The Gathering since the mid-90s’, there hasn’t been much of a chance to really speak talk about the game here at RPG Site - seeing as it’s not very RPG-y. But, thanks to Wizards of the Coast’s Universes Beyond sets of cards, Bethesda’s post-apocalyptic RPG franchise, Fallout, has made the jump into Magic. Recently, I had the opportunity to check out some of the new cards that players will soon be able to use and the decks you will be able to buy, and my initial impressions are that the team looks to have managed to capture that radioactive spirit of Fallout.

For those that may have zero idea what Magic: The Gathering is, here is an incredibly brief gist of the game - players build decks of spells and creatures that are composed of five color options - red, blue, white, green, and black (colorless is also an option) -  with the goal of being the last person with any life points remaining. There are a variety of game types that the community and Wizards have created over its 30-year history, with one of the most popular currently being “Commander,” which forces players to have a deck at 100 cards, with one of those being their “commander,” a legendary creature that dictates what colors of cards they can use. Players take turns smacking one another with powerful spells and fearsome creatures while fending off attacks from their opponents and the same time. There’s your “Magic in a nutshell” crash course, now back to the Fallout.

Releasing on March 8th, the Universes Beyond Fallout line will contain four preconstructed Commander decks and Collector Booster Packs, which can contain special variants of cards designed to resemble Fallout’s Pipboy accessory in addition to some cards that can only be found in these packs. As this is the first time Wizard’s has adapted a video game property on such a large scale, being able to incorporate the feeling and personality of Fallout in such a different medium could be a challenge. But luckily, with Fallout’s rich library of characters, locations, and it’s aesthetic, Wizards has plenty of material they have been able to work with. 

The characters you meet are some of the most memorable parts of a Fallout game, and Wizards has made sure that many fan favorites have made the leap into the realm of Magic. Right from the start, the four preconstructed decks each highlight characters from Fallouts 3,4,76, and New Vegas with the ever-faithful Dogmeat, Dr. Madison Li, and Caesar leading three of the four decks. Diving a bit deeper, fan favorites such as DJ Three Dog, Liberty Prime, and the Synth Detective himself, Nick Valentine, all make appearances, but as cool as their inclusions are, what really matters is the effort Wizards has taken to make sure that the cards they are featured on do justice to the characters themselves.

Using Three Dog as an example, his card read, “Whenever you attack, you may pay two (mana - the resource used in MtG) and sacrifice an Aura (think of Aura’s as a power-up that can be cast on a creature card) attached to Three Dog, Galaxy News DJ. When you sacrifice an Aura this way, for each other attacking creature you control, create a token that’s a copy of that Aura attached to that creature.” In Fallout 3, Three Dog is a DJ whose radio signal you will no doubt stumble on, who relays information that he has gathered and shares it with the residents of the wasteland. This aspect of his character of sharing the news I feel fits with the part of the card where he gives aura (his information in this sense) and grants copies of said aura to all of that player’s creatures (like you would spread information to DJ’s listeners, perhaps). It all just fits so well both thematically and as a card mechanic.I think it will be an incredibly good card, and it has me a bit terrified that my friends will run a copy in their deck. 

But, Wizards hasn’t just thrown a bunch of Fallout characters onto some cards and called it a day - plenty of existing staple cards have redone artwork to fit the Fallout theme, along with plenty of brand new, noncreature cards too that will tickle fans of the Fallout games. As an example, the series-staple S.P.E.C.I.A.L bobbleheads make their cardboard debut as artifacts - with the Perception Bobblehead being the only one shown so far  - along with the T-45 Power Armor that you can equip on one of your creatures - granting increased strength that would make even the Paladins of the Brotherhood of Steel blush. Now, I can finally put my Jeff Goldblum into some power armor, though my dream of giving Gandalf a Fatman Mini Nuke remains up in the air (just for clarification, there are cards that feature both Lord of the Rings and Jurrasic Park - including Jeff Goldblum’s character, Dr. Ian Malcolm - available in Magic now).

Universes Beyond Fallout introduces a brand new - and very nuclear wasteland-appropriate - mechanic in the form of radiation and its associated radial counters. Unlike most counters in Magic, which are applied to creatures, artifacts, or other cards, Rad counters are instead applied to a player, causing that player to be afflicted with Radiation. For each Rad counter, a player has on them, early in each of their turns, they have to discard cards from their deck, losing life and possibly some rad counters in the process. While some of the cards we were shown featured this effect, I still find it too soon to be able to tell how prevalent or worthwhile this new mechanic will end up being in the long run. The likelihood of this mechanic remaining a thing in non-Fallout sets is also considerably low, further reducing its viability as more and more new sets get released. That said, Wizards has nailed it just in terms of the feel it gives off being very much in line with Fallout; I just hope it’s more than a one-hit-wonder.

There are still a ton of cards from this Universes Beyond Fallout set, both in terms of the four precon decks and the cards exclusive to the Collector Booster packs. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, previews will be released detailing the remaining cards leading up to the launch in early March. So far, from what I’ve seen, Wizards seems to have done an admirable job adapting this prolific and beloved video game series, and hopefully, the rest of the cards will continue to impress and invoke those similar feelings from the Fallout titles. This may be Wizard's first foray into bringing video games into their world of Magic: The Gathering, but with the previously announced upcoming releases of Final Fantasy and Assassin’s Creed, it certainly won’t be the last.