Magic: The Gathering has a fairly involved story, despite the limitation of having to tell that story on playing cards. But, due to the limitation of having to tell that story on playing cards, a lot of players aren't aware that said story exists.
The First Age: Pre-RevisionThe first age of Magic storytelling was, actually, mostly via tie-in products: novels, comics and video games. At some point, Wizards themselves started taking over the story, and many of these things were contradicted or made non-canon. Most or all of them took place on Dominaria, the hub world of the Multiverse.
- Whispering Woods
- Shattered Chains
- Final Sacrifice
- The Cursed Land
- The Prodigal Sorcerer
- Ashes Of The Sun
- Song Of Time
- And Peace Shall Sleep
- Dark Legacy
Because most of them aren't particularly relevant to the actual plot of Magic: the Gathering, we're going to leave them and move on.
Alpha, Beta, UnlimitedThe first three sets of the game did not feature an overt storyline, though they did mention a number of characters and locations who would go on to be prominent in...
Antiquities, The Dark, Fallen EmpiresThe true start of the storyline, released in 1994, Antiquities told the story of "The Brothers' War." The eponymous brothers were Urza and Mishra, a pair of artificers who liked building things. They were apprenticed to Tocasia, an archaeologist who was digging up technology left by a race of Precursors called the Thran. The two were Conveniently Orphans and only had each other, though they were also Different as Night and Day. In addition to a Red Oni, Blue Oni split where Mishra liked the archaeology whereas Urza preferred tinkering with the finds, Urza was born on New Year's Day, and Mishra on New Year's Eve of that same year. Eventually, the two fought, and Tocasia was caught in the middle, after which both Urza and Mishra went their own ways. Mishra ended up the Royal Wizard to the ruler of the Fallaji Empire, while Urza won a "The Worlds Strongest Man" contest and got married to the princess of Yotia... though he was more interested in the Thran book that was part of her dowry. In this way, both brothers were in control of different halves of the continent of Terisiare.
The two entered into a Lensman Arms Race of robots and artifacts which became called the "Brothers' War." Both sides were also infiltrated by the "Cult of Gix." This cult was being run by people from another plane — a place called Phyrexia — led by a being known as Yawgmoth. Yawgmoth was a Thran, and brought about the downfall of his people, killing most of them and moving the rest to another plane, wherein they all began to pursue cyborgization and mechanical perfection. The center of the Phyrexian ideology is that Cybernetics Eat Your Soul, and that this is a thing to be aspired to. At some point Mishra was either forcibly seized by the Cult of Gix or voluntarily became "compleated" [sic] by the Phyrexians; either way, by the Final Battle, he was a machine wearing human skin.
Urza ultimately won the war, but at a horrific price: he detonated a massive bomb, plunging Dominaria into an ice age via nuclear winter, the actual shroud of debris being called "The Dark." This traumatic event also resulted in Urza becoming something called a "planeswalker," which is a word you'll hear over and over again in Magic: namely, an extremely powerful Dimensional Traveler (IE someone who can "walk" "planes"). Very few sentient beings have the necessary "planeswalker spark," and even fewer of them have their spark "ignited"; it almost always requires either extreme emotional trauma or imminent death. Urza was the first, though by no means the last: players are considered to be planeswalkers as well.
The Dark and Fallen Empires don't particularly advance the story. The Dark concerns the rise of an Anti-Magical Faction that blames wizards for the nuclear winter. Fallen Empires concerns the continent of Sarpadia, where the ice age caused the five races who lived there to turn on themselves.
Arabian Nights, Legends, HomelandsThese sets also do not advance the plot and don't really have stories. Arabian Nights was set on a plane called Rabiah and was inspired by the fairy tales of the same name. However, Homelands introduced the white planeswalker Serra, and Legends introduced elder dragon Nicol Bolas. Both of them will be important later.
The Second Age: BlocksThe Second Age of Magic storytelling introduced the idea of the "Block," which was also a new age in gameplay design. Prior expansions were all basically stand-alone, in terms of both gameplay and story. Starting from "Ice Age," sets were now organized in Blocks, a group of three sets which were released over the course of a scholastic year (the first set in the fall, the second in winter and the third in spring), attempted to tell one centralized Story Arc concerning specific characters on a specific plane, and used the same set of game mechanics to do so. The Block is intended to be played as a cohesive unit, using cards from all three sets, and are drafted together over the course of a year in competitive play. The first set of the block typically consisted of 250-300 cards, and set the stage for the year's contents; the following sets would be 150-200 cards, continuing gameplay themes and story arcs. Since Blocks only cover three of the four seasons, Summer was reserved for "Core Sets," semi-simplified sets which were intended to be introductory products for newer players.
Ice Age Block (Ice Age, Alliances, Coldsnap)To be clear: Wizards didn't get the whole Block thing correct at first. Ice Age, released in June 1995, was followed by Homelands in October and then Alliances in June '96. As mentioned, Homelands doesn't even have a story, much less one that ties into the Ice Age arc. Eventually, it was retconned out of the block to make room for Coldsnap, which came out in July '06.
Freyalise, a Dominarian planeswalker, is able to use magic to lift the ice age; the plot of the first set concerns her travailas in doing so. Alliances depicts the inhabitants of Dominaria starting to sort themselves out now that they can have any sort of meaningful society again. Coldsnap details the adventures of a wizard named Heidar who accidentally stumbles upon some Phyrexian ruins and becomes indoctrinated into using them to halt The Thaw and keep the ice age going. He is eventually driven mad by the Phyrexian power, and turns the Phyrexian machines on ally and enemey alike, resulting in him being assassinated by menions sent by an ally.
Mirage Block (Mirage, Visions, Weatherlight)Mirage, released in October 1996, is where Magic's longest-lasting Myth Arc started. Mirage and Visions detail a civil war on a Dominarian continent known as Jamuraa. Most of the plot honestly isn't important; but the character of Teferi, a time mage, is introduced. He's going to be important later.
The Myth Arc truly kicks off in Weatherlight, the final set of the block. This is the start of the Weatherlight Saga. It's named after the Weatherlight, a Cool Airship capable of planeswalking. The captain of said ship, Sisay, is abducted to a new plane, Rath. The ship's Number Two, The Hero Gerrard Capashen, recruits a crew to go after her. Some of the crew, crucially, consists of the following: Squee, a goblin deckhand and the Comic Relief; Hanna, The Engineer and Gerrard's old flame; Orim, a healer; Ertai, a Too Clever by Half representative of a mage's college at Tolaria (run by Hanna's father Barrim); a hurloon minotaur named Tahngarth (The Big Guy); a Cat Girl named Mirri whom Gerrard knew from childhood; a repentant aristocrat named Crovax, as well as his literal guardian angel, Selenia; and a sentient silver golem known as Karn, who has sworn to never take a life.
Tempest Block (Tempest, Stronghold, Exodus)This Story Arc was novelized as Rath and Storm.
The Weatherlight travels to Rath, and immediately it's Gone Horribly Wrong. They clash with Evil Overlord Volrath, his Number Two Greven il-Vec, and their airship the Predator, and have to befriend the Rathi natives, the Kor, the Vec and the Dal, in addition to the "sliver" Hive Mind. Selenia is killed, causing Crovax to become a vampire, and accidentally kill and feed on Mirri. The Weatherlight is by Volrath, who also has Sisay. He tortures Tahngarth and Squee, making the latter immortal mostly so he can torture him forever, and removes parts of the Weatherlight to dismantle her planeswalking mechanism. Through the help of the Rathi natives and slivers, the remaining crew manage to break into Volraths Stronghold, free the prisoners, and escape. In the process, several things happen: they discover that Rath is an artificial plane; that Volrath is a Phyrexian agent and a shapeshifter; that the Phyrexians are planning an invasion of Dominaria, with Rath as its staging area. Crovax is left behind due to his vampiric madness; and Ertai volunteers to stay behind to open and then close an interdimensional portal so that the Weatherlight can escape with all of this information. He is aided in this task not only by the Rathi natives but also by... Urza, last mentioned on a card five years ago.
Urza's Block (Urza's Saga, Urza's Legacy, Urza's Destiny)The Urza Block is a Whole Episode Flashback, detailing exactly what Urza has been up to since the end of the Brothers' War. And the answer is, Worrying about the inevitable Phyrexian invasion. To stop them, Urza tries a lot of Time Travel, even going so far as to build Karn, the silver golem, because silver is the only thing that can survive time travel in this franchise. He also establishes a Wizarding School at Tolaria, and trains Barrin, Ertai and Teferi. Tolaria is partially devastated by a massive Time Crash, and Dominaria is assailed by Phyrexian sleeper agents. Urza also traps some invading Phyrexians in slow-time bubbles in various places on Tolaria, further wrecking the island. The Phyrexians invade an artificial plane known as Serra's Realm (created by Serra, natch) and kill most of the inhabitants. Urza collapses this plane into a battery for a ship he's asked the forest spirits of Dominaria, led by Multani the Maro-Sorcerer, to build; that ship will be named the Weatherlight. Urza also begins a series of genetic breeding experiments on various tribes on the continent, which eventually culminate in Gerrard.
This Story Arc was made into a trilogy of novels: Planeswalker, Time Streams and Bloodlines. They form the final three novels of the "Artifacts Cycle" quartet, of which The Brothers' War was the first instalment.
Masques Block (Mercadian Masques, Nemesis, Prophecy)The Masques Block is kind of a cleaning-up-loose-ends block with three fragmented stories.
In Mercadian Masques, the Weatherlight has come to a plane called Mercadia, a mostly business-focused culture, with a group of rebels waging war on the city. The big twist here is that everything is upside down; for instance, the goblins, typically the Comic Relief because of their idiocy, are smart and in charge. The crew of the Weatherlight meet a dragon engine, Ramos, who was originally from Dominaria, and responsible for bringing humans to Mercadia, saving them from Urza's Nuclear Winter. Ramos repairs their ship with five powerstones, restoring its planeswalking ability. Alas, Volrath had disguised himself as one the prisoners they freed from Rath, and is unmasked, although Gerrard beats him in combat and stops his last-ditch attempt to destroy the Weatherlight. Thereafter the Weatherlight returns to Dominaria.
In Nemesis, Volrath returns to Rath, and discovers that people believed he was dead. A Phyrexian emissary, Belbe, has showed up to choose a new "evincar" (Rathi for "Big Bad"), with the candidates being Greven, an extremely evil Crovax, and a horribly tortured Ertai. Ultimately, Crovax beats Volrath in single combat with Ertais help, and becomes the new ruler of Rath. Crovax then enhances Ertai into a Phyrexian creature, like himself. (Both of them are now card-carrying Phyrexian enthusiasts at this point.)
Invasion Block (Invasion, Planeshift, Apocalypse)The Grand Finale of seven years of story is here. The Phyrexians invade! Oh, Crap!.
- Barrin destroys Tolaria as a funeral pyre for the Phyrexians killing Hanna. (Oh, Hanna died.)
- Teferi makes his entire homeland disappear to stop the Phyrexians from eating it. Also, Teferi's a planeswalker now.
- Rath is Colony Dropped on top of Dominaria, conveniently bringing with it about a billion Phyrexian troops (the eponymous Planeshift).
- Ertai has taken up Volrath's hobby of torturing Squee, but Squee breaks free and kills Ertai. Crovax is killed in combat with Gerrard. Greven dies at Tahngarth's blade. However, vast swaths of Dominaria's La Résistance are slain as well, though that probably doesn't mean much since their names aren't even included here.
Several planeswalkers come together under Urza's command, a group called the Nine Titans, and do a commando deployment inside Phyrexia, blowing up part of it. However, the Phyrexians capture both him and Gerrard, and force them into a Duel Tothe Death. Gerrard kills Urza, cutting his head off. Yawgmoth, the literal Phyrexian god, offers to resurrect Hanna if Gerrard joins them. Gerrard says no. He escapes and brings Urza's head to the Weatherlight, and it's suddenly revealed that Gerrard, Karn, Urza's head, the ship itself, and various things they had collected over the course of the whole plot arc combine to form a thing called the Legacy Weapon, a Wave-Motion Gun which blasts Yawgmoth from existence. Gerrard dies in the process.
Karn somehow manages to inherit Urza's planeswalker spark (normally the spark is non-fungible, but, eh, A Wizard Did It) and goes off to walk the Multiverse. Sisay, Tahngarth, Orim and Squee continue to have their own adventures aboard the Weatherlight.
Odyssey Block (Odyssey, Torment, Judgment)After a Time Skip of 100 years, the story contemplates a Dominarian continent called Otaria.We are particularly interested in Kamahl, a Screaming Warrior who fights in a gladiatorial arena, and his friend Chainer, a Nightmare Weaver. The prize in the arena is an object called the Mirari, a Reality Warper which grants untold power to whoever holds it. Naturally, everybody wants it, and it goes skipping around until it finally lands in Chainer's hands; he uses it to summon even more powerful nightmares for the pit fights. Chainers nightmares threaten all of the continent, and Kamahl kills him, taking the Mirari with him. Kamahl begins to wage war among his own people, until the moment where he gravely wounds his sister Jeska in battle, and hits an "My God, What Have I Done?" moment. He then retreats into the forests with the Mirari, vowing to calm his mind and learn how to overcome its effects, and becomes a druid.
Onslaught Block (Onslaught, Legions, Scourge)The Mirari begins warping all of the creatures on the continent of Otaria. The barbarians become more barbaric and hulking, the beasts more bestial. The elves begin to grow into trees, and the wizards lose corporeal form, composed of pure magic. Also, Jeska is back, but now she's called Phage the Untouchable, the result of being saved from the brink of death by cabal magics. They put Phage into the pit fights where she encounters a Battle Couple, Ixidor and Nivea. Phage immediately kills Nivea, and Ixidor flees the city into the wilderness, where he discovers a new power over illusions, and creates the angel Akroma, an angel of vengeance, with only one objective: a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against Phage. Phage and Akroma fight several times, and Kamahl finally intervenes, killing both of them with a single blow from his Mirari-hilted sword. But instead of dying, they fuse into Karona, a godlike being who proceeds to wage war all over the continent before heading out into the multiverse. There, she visits the ruins of Serras Realm and Phyrexia, before finding her way to a new artificial plane made by someone named Lord Macht. She finally returns to Dominaria, where she is killed by servants of Lord Macht, separating back into Akroma and Phage. Akroma dies, while Phages planeswalker spark ignites, and she becomes Jeska again, now a planeswalker. We learn that the Mirari was a probe sent by Lord Macht to see what Dominaria was like now, and that Macht was in fact Karn.
The Third Age: The Planehopping EraIt's 2003. The game's 10 years old, and literally all of its story has centered on Dominaria, despite the fact that the whole point of a planeswalker is that there are other worlds to visit. Wizards of the Coast decided it was time to cut loose. The Third Age of Magic Storytelling began the game's habit of going somewhere new every Block. While Onslaught provided a Sequel Hook for the next block, this habit was soon abandoned, and the game began to simply jump to new planes without segue.
Mirrodin Block (Mirrodin, Darksteel, Fifth Dawn)Mirrodin is the plane Karona visited. It's a completely artificial plane which Karn created while he was out wandering the Multiverse. Everything is an Magitech artifact there, and even organic lifeforms have metal integrated into their anatomy. The world has 4 suns, of the 4 colors of mana that are not green. The plot follows an elf named Glissa, trying to seek the 5th sun, in the heart of the world. There, she comes face to face with a machine known as Memnarch — the current form of the orb once called the Mirari — which was originally made by Karn to watch over the plane. Memnarch was corrupted by Phyrexian glistening oil that somehow found its way to the plane, likely from Karn. Glissa defeats Memnarch, awakens the 5th sun, and restores balance to the world... but the Phyrexians linger on.
This Story Arc was novelized as the Mirrodin Cycle, with one novel per set.
Kamigawa Block (Champions of Kamigawa, Betrayers of Kamigawa), and Saviors of Kamigawa)Kamigawa is a plane inspired by Japanese mythology, in which the spirits (Kami) are at war with the living, one of whom kidnapped the child of O-Kagachi, the God of Kami. The war is resolved by the safe return of That Which Was Taken, through the actions of a man named Toshiro Umizawa. In doing so, he pisses off the black-aligned Myojin of Nights Reach, who banishes him to another plane — Dominaria, but way in the past; it turns out that Toshiro was the ancestor of one of Nicol Bolas' mortal enemies way back in Legends. Chronologically, that makes Kamigawa the earliest block in the timeline.
Ravnica Block (Ravnica, Guildpact, Dissension)Ravnica is a City Planet, whose primary feature is a giant piece of magic called the "Guildpact," which swears the different factions of the planet to peace and prevents The End of the World as We Know It via all-consuming violence. To move against the Guildpact is an unthinkable crime, and punishable by absolute death. The signatories of the Guildpact became the ten guilds of Ravnica, one for each pair of colors:
- The Azorius Senate (WU) create the laws and bureaucracy of the planet.
- The Orzhov Syndicate (WB) is the plane's major organized religion and largest bank.
- The Boros Legion (WR) are law enforcement.
- The Selesyna Conclave (WG) are a competing religion and focus on natural conservation.
- House Dimir (UB) is officially a group of couriers, information brokers and librarians. They also do contractual espionage and assassinations.
- The Izzet League (UR) are Ravnica's equivalent of Aperture Science. Stuff Blowing Up is pretty normal around those parts.
- The Simic Combine (UG) focuses on life sciences. Gone Horribly Right is pretty normal around those parts.
- The Cult of Rakdos front themselves as food, entertainment and service industries. In practice they're demon-worshippers and engage in civil disorder and human trafficking.
- The Golgari Swarm (BG) operate Ravnica's agriculture and waste management services.
- The Gruul Clans (RG) are Ravnica's park rangers, gamekeepers and so on. In secret, they're enviro-anarchists who want to tear down civilization.
The plot itself involves the investigation of a Boros policeman named Argus Kos into violations of the Guildpact, uncovering the fact that the Dimir Paruun, Szadek, and the Simic leader Momir Vig are attempting to conspire against the Guildpact. He stops them, but not before a massive Simic experiment is loosed upon the city/plane, and defeated at great cost. We learn that most of the original Paruuns are dead or gone, but some remain, such as the demon Rakdos of the Rakdos cult, and Niv-Mizzet, the dragon in charge of the Izzet. (While the later presence of Azor, founder of Azorius, confirms that the Guilds were named after their founders, we still have no idea who most of them were.)
Time Spiral block (Time Spiral, Planar Chaos, Future Sight)It's October 2006 and Dominaria is in terrible shape. Given the strife that has reigned over the past many, many centuries, the whole plane is on the verge of collapse. And the problem is that Dominaria is the hub world of the Multiverse; its destruction threatens a Class-Z Apocalypse How that will consume all creation.
Teferi returns from his magic safe space, in preparation for his homeland returning from the safe pocket he put it in to keep it safe from the Phyrexian invasion. However, he learns that Dominaria is now shot through with deadly time rifts, unmooring whole continents and cities from the fabric of reality. Given how Teferi constructed his magic, another territory, Shiv, begins to phase in before Zhafir. As Shiv phases in, it is the straw that breaks the camels back, tearing open all of the rifts and beginning to blow up the whole plane. Teferi, along with Karn, Jhoria (an artificer from Tolaria) and Venser (a temporal mage), begin to work on sealing the rifts. They discover that the rifts will close with the sacrifice of a planeswalker spark. The first rift, in Tolaria, is so severe in the present that it cannot be closed, and Karn chooses to time travel into the past and sacrifice his spark to close the rift. At this point, Jeska returns from planeswalking, and, manipulated by an old black planeswalker named Leshrac, begins to work with an elf named Radha to close various time rifts without losing her spark. They successfully close a few of the rifts, but in the process destroy the pocket protecting Teferis homeland, as well as the forest spirit Multani. Leshrac manipulates Jeska to give him access to Phage, whose power he takes and uses it to challenge Nicol Bolas (remember him, the dragon from "Legends"? It turns out hes also a planeswalker and super-powerful). Bolas defeats him, and uses his spark to close another rift. Jeska, no longer manipulated, performs a Heroic Sacrifice to close the final rift, and in doing so also awakens Venser's spark.
The Fourth Age: Post-MendingThe Fourth Age of Magic Storytelling was actually driven by the Minovsky Physics of the Time Crash in "Time Spiral." Specifically, it involved the nerfing of planeswalkers. The planeswalkers of Urza's time were Physical Gods, to the point where it was hard to conceive of a real threat to them: planeswalkers were about as vulnerable to harm as players are vulnerable to being hurt by Real Life Magic cards (that is, not particularly). However, with the end of that block, planeswalkers (the ones which survived) were massively depowered. They still had superhuman abilities, but were much more susceptible to damage and weakness. They were weak enough to be represented by cards. So the focus of the stories changed: instead of just getting an entire new cast of characters every year, the plot begins to follow planeswalkers from block to block, set to set, plane to plane. So suddenly there were a bunch of new characters to follow, who get (and continue to get) lots of fiction and backstory not contained only in the cards but in spin-off fiction, but who are also represented in-game with cards of their own.
Lorwyn Block (Lorwyn, Morningtide, Shadowmoor, Eventide)Lorwyn is a Lighter and Softer plane that, every 2,000 years, turns into a Crapsack World called Shadowmoor. Everything on Lorwyn was bright and colorful — even the Swamp cards had flowers. Likewise, everything on Shadowmoor is Grimdark and horrible.
Nothing happens thats relevant to the overall story, except we get to meet 5 planeswalkers Telepath Jace Beleren, pyromancer Chandra Nalaar, necromancer Liliana Vess, Cat Folk Ajani Goldmane, and The Beastmaster Garruk Wildspeaker. These are the original five planeswalkers, one for each color, and whether by coincidence or not all of them are still part of Magic's ongoing story; in fact, Jace, Chandra and Liliana are basically the Main Characters of the franchise.
This Story Arc was novelized as the Lorwyn/Shadowmoor Cycle, consisting of four novels. Additionally, a trilogy of novels focusing on planeswalkers were released: Agents of Artifice concerns Jace's adventures as a powerful but naive telepath with Laser-Guided Amnesia; The Purifying Fire focuses on Chandra's Power Incontinence and sets her up against law-mage planeswalker Gideon Jura; and Test of Metal is a direct sequel to Jace's book but focuses on Manipulative Bastard Tezzeret the Seeker.
Alara Block (Shards of Alara, Conflux, Alara Reborn)A long, long time ago, there was a World Sundering that split the plane of Alara into 5 different shards, each only containing 3 colors of mana: a central color, listed first, and its two allies.
- Bant (WUG) is a world of order and structure, with a caste system and single combat to decide disputes.
- Esper (UWB) is a tightly-controlled magocracy, where everyone is infused with a form of phlebotinum called "etherium" and the night sky has a grid laid upon it.
- Grixis (BUR) is a Death World dominated by zombies and Blood Magic.
- Jund (RBG) is a volcano world where everyone is free, and consequently all sorts of crazy things happen.
- Naya (GRW) is a glorious jungle that can turn problematic in an instant when something really, really big comes along.
On Bant, the planeswalker Elspeth Tirel begins to investigate some strange happenings. On Esper, planeswalker Tezzeret the Seeker works towards a nefarious purpose for his unknown boss. On Jund, dragon-loving planeswalker Sarkhan Vol speaks with dragons about the whispers in his mind. And on Naya, Ajani returns, beginning to seek vengeance on Nicol Bolas for having killed his whole family and tribe in the past. During Conflux, we learn that all of this has been the machinations of Nicol Bolas himself, seeking to acquire the power he lost in the closing of the rifts, moving him from a new-walker (to use the Fan Nickname) back into an old-walker AKA Physical God. He started by sundering Alara into its shards, and his continued efforts along these lines constitute the next major Myth Arc of the Magic universe. Finally, at the end of the block, the shards are all reunited and begin interacting again, Bolas has begun to regain power, and it is revealed that Tezzeret is working for Bolas.
Zendikar Block (Zendikar, Worldwake, Rise of the Eldrazi)On Zendikar there is tons of mana, more than on other planes. The whole world seethes with it, creating constant earthquakes in a process called the Roil. Zendikar is an Adventure-Friendly World with lots of dungeon-crawlers scurrying around to find treasure, much of which is related to odd 8-sided hedrons which float all over the landscape. Legends tell us that tens of thousands of years ago, three planeswalkers met on Zendikar to do something impressive, but no one knows what.
Onto this plane come three planeswalkers Sarkhan Vol, seeking a dragon of some kind; Chandra Nalaar, having learned some powerful fire magic at the monastery of Keral Keep, and following a treasure map; and Jace Beleren, in the employ of Tezzerets Consortium, pursuing Chandra. At a location known as the Eye of Ugin, the three meet. Chandra uses some of her newly acquired magic, called ghostfire, to defend herself from Sarkhan, and the ground begins to quake.
Out of the earth comes the Eldrazi: Eldritch Abominations who eat mana of any color and produce nothing but destruction. Theyre beings of pure hunger, or so it seems, each warping reality around them. There are, in a certain sense, only three Eldrazi Ulamog, Kozilek, and Emrakul — although they intrude upon each plane at multiple points, creating smaller eldrazi, drones, and broods. It turns out that the vampires on Zendikar are actually designed to become eldrazi when they reawaken, for instance. The Eldrazi can planeswalk, or at least move through the space between the planes (the Blind Eternities), although it remains unclear if this is a conscious effort or them simply foraging for more food, aka mana. It becomes clear that Zendikar was a trap laid for the Eldrazi, this world rich in mana and overflowing with life: the "something impressive" those three planeswalkers did was to build the hedron network, which trapped the Eldrazi on Zendikar and kept them subdued, removing them from randomly threatening the multiverse anymore. Those three planeswalkers were Ugin the Spirit Dragon, a being with an affinity for colorless mana; the vampire Sorin Markov; and a being known only as the Lithomancer, a kor named Nahiri.
As the Eldrazi emerge and begin to slaughter the world, Zendikar rises up to fight back. Three more planeswalkers all begin to work towards the defeat of the Eldrazi. The first, a merfolk named Kiora, attempts to make an army of the leviathan, kraken, and other deep sea creatures on Zendikar, only to find that they are not enough, and departs the plane. An elf, Nissa Revane, born of Zendikar, returns from walking the planes (although, mostly Lorwyn) to hear the soul of her world, Ashaya, cry out, and ask for her help. She begins leading the elves and summoning elementals to fight off the Eldrazi. The last one, Gideon Jura, was trained by the Boros on Ravnica, although not native to there or Zendikar. He begins to rally the humans before departing the plane to seek more allies against the Eldrazi. One final character of note is Ob-Nixilis, a demon of Zendikar who used to be a human planeswalker, until he was bound to the plane by Nahiri, sealing away his power with a hedron similar to the ones that held the Eldrazi.
The events of this Story Arc were novelized as Zendikar: In the Teeth of Akoum, which oddly seems to contradict certain story beats from the game itself — for instance, it claims that Nissa is who unleashed the Eldrazi, figuring they'd just pull a Screw This, I'm Outta Here (which they obviously did not).
Scars of Mirrodin Block (Scars of Mirrodin, Mirrodin Besieged, New Phyrexia)Scars of Mirrodin, released October 2010, was a watershed moment for Magic: it was the first time the story had ever come back to a plane that wasn't Dominaria. Keep in mind that some planes, as of 2022, still haven't had this happen to them: we've never gone back to Lorwyn or Alara, and the return to Kamigawa happened only this year.
Back on Mirrodin, the Mirrans find themselves locked in fierce battle with creatures like them, mixtures of flesh and metal, but possessed of a slick black oil that poisons everything it touches, an evolution of the glistening oil. Deep in the heart of the world, Karn has been corrupted by this glistening oil, and it's spreading out across Mirrodin to convert the place itself into a new Phyrexian plane. The creatures already "compleated" have begun to wage war on the living. Sadly, most of the previous heroes of Mirrodin fall to the oil, most notably Glissa. Three planeswalkers have come to Mirrodin to fight back against the Phyrexian invasion (if a thing from within can be thought of as an invasion), Elspeth Tirel, Venser, and the native Mirran Koth of the Hammer. As the battle plays out, Tezzeret arrives, seeking to learn what new artificial innovations the Phyrexians and Mirrans have come up with in this war. Elspeth, Koth, and Venser fight their way to the heart of the world, and Venser gives his life to free Karn from the influence of the oil, allowing him to break free. Karn saves Venser's planeswalker spark and becomes a planeswalker again. He and Elspeth flee the plane in fear, while Tezzeret returns to Nicol Bolas.
Meanwhile, the Mirrans lose. The Bad Guy Wins. Mirrodin is replaced by New Phyrexia, ruled over by five Praetors who are competing to decide how best to carry out Phyrexia's mission as The Assimilator. Elesh Norn, the white one, is mostly winning. For unknown reasons, the red Praetor, Urabrask, allows the remaining Mirran natives to hide in its section of the world. And above all, the Phyrexians are trapped on New Phyrexia: the problem with "Cybernetics Eat Your Soul" is that "your soul" includes your Planeswalker spark, so without enormous machinations and technological advances, the Phyrexians aren't going anywhere. That's probably a good thing for the Multiverse as a whole, but the one thing you can assume about Phyrexians is that they aren't going to let a little problem like "We don't have the technology" stop them...
The events of this Story Arc were novelized as Scars of Mirrodin: the Quest for Karn.
Innistrad Block (Innistrad, Dark Ascenscion, Avacyn Restored)Innistrad's Hat is Gothic Horror. Humans are beset by zombies, vampires, werewolves and demons, which are held at bay by local militias and an entire flock of angels. The angels' leader is Archangel Avacyn, but no one has seen her in years. The angels, as they captured demons, bound them to a sliver of the moon fallen to earth, the Helvault. As things grow darker, it turns out that Avacyn herself was bound in the Helvault while fighting the demon Griselbrand. The Helvault is reopened, and Avacyn is restored, saving the plane.
That's the story of the Innistrad block. Here's a Sub Plot that's more important.
Liliana Vess is a black-aligned planeswalker who began her life as a healer on Dominaria. She killed her brother and countless others, and in doing so ignited her spark, becoming a necromancer. All of this happened before the Mending back in Future Sight, so Liliana used to be an Oldwalker. After meeting with a seemingly-empowered Nicol Bolas, she ends up brokering a Deal with the Devil — with four devils, actually — for youth and power, promising to do deeds for them in exchange. One of the demons sends her after an artifact called the Chain Veil, which seems to enhance her planeswalker abilities, and begins whispering to her. She uses the power of the Chain Veil to kill Kothophed, the of the four demons, and begins to track the others down. Also, she too worked on Ravnica for Tezzeret for a time, and knew Jace.
When Liliana retrieved the Chain Veil, she was also attacked by Garruk, who was on the same plane hunting a large predator. Liliana curses Garruk with her magic, causing him to move from a pure green planeswalker to a green-black one, corrupted by her necromantic magic. He begins to hunt her, hoping to free himself from her curse.
Liliana returns to Innistrad seeking to kill the second of the demons she is bound to — Griselbrand, who else. Garruk chases her. Liliana yet again manages to defeat him in combat, corrupting him further. Garruk begins to lean into his newly black nature, and vows to hunt and kill only the most dangerous game from now on: other planeswalkers. Liliana destroys the Helvault, freeing Avacyn and Griselbrand, and kills the demon.
Sorin Markov, the vampire planeswalker who helped trap the Eldrazi in Zendikar, is native to Innistrad, and he was the one who made Avacyn to watch over the human population. We also learn that theres a Kamigawan planeswalker, Tamiyo, studying the unique properties of Innistrads moon, and a demonic planeswalker, Tibalt, who is, uh, here. Tibalt is a Tier-Induced Scrappy, a failed experiment at making a planeswalker card who doesn't cost a lot of mana but is appropriately less powerful. (His other editions have been better received.)
Return To Ravnica Block (Return to Ravnica, Gatecrash, Dragon's Maze)After the events of the first Ravnica block and the Mending, the Guildpact is fraying. But there is a competition that can be held among the guilds to restore the Guildpact, which involves solving a maze of Niv-Mizzets design, the titular Dragons Maze. Each guild puts forth a participant, but the maze is actually solved by Jace Beleren, who becomes the living Guildpact, and has absolute force of law on Ravnica.
New planeswalkers are introduced: Vraska, a Golgari gorgon working to kill the lich lord and restore the gorgons to power. Also kills quite a few of the Azorius. She leaves at the end of the set, and Jace vows to track her down. We also meet Ral Zarek, an Izzet lightning mage who is hiding his planeswalker status from Niv-Mizzet; and Domri Rade, a Gruul bruiser. Gideon is also here, recruiting for people to fight against the Eldrazi. He convinces Jace to come help.
The events of this Story Arc were made into a eBook, The Secretist.
Theros Block (Theros, Born of the Gods, Journey into Nyx)On Theros, a block inspired by Classical Mythology, the Gods are real. Theyre actual beings who appear in Nyx, the mythical realm of the night sky. Theyre worshiped and respected and feared. Its said that the gods created all life on Theros, but this seems weird, as the gods only seem to materialize and become embodied in the world when enough of their worshippers are around. A newly awakened planeswalker, Xenagos, is attempting to become a god, having noticed an absence in the pantheon. If he holds enough revels, gains enough fanatical, insane worshippers, he may ascend to godhood, and the other gods have an issue with that. The king of the gods, Heliod, recruits Elspeth, who happens to be on the plane looking for allies against the Phyrexians, to find and use a weapon capable of killing a god, and thereby to stop Xenagos. She is aided in this quest by Ajani, who has calmed down quite a bit since we last saw him attempting to fight Nicol Bolas on Alara. Everyone is successful in their quests Xenagos ascends into the heavens, becoming a god, and Elspeth strikes him dead, removing him from existence. Heliod, fearing her power, then kills her. But since Theros is an adaptation of Greek mythology, theres a literal underworld, and Elspeth is sent there, stripped of power and memory, but not fully dead.
Theres a secondary plot thread of the war between Kiora and the blue goddess Thassa. Kiora is trying to raise an army to fight the Eldrazi, and in doing so, comes into conflict with Thassa. More people follow Kiora because shes around all the time and can always do incredible things, as opposed to Thassa who only incarnates with enough worship. Kiora steals Thassas trident and takes it back to Zendikar with her army. In backstory, we learn that Gideon is originally from Theros, known here as Kytheon. He was a soldier, and a successful one, before he used one of Heliods spears in a battle and killed all of his troops and friends, igniting his spark.
Also, it becomes clear that the gods a) know of the multiverse, b) know of Nicol Bolas, the Eldrazi, and the Phyrexians, c) fear all of the above and d) desperately dont want that knowledge to either become public or have their plane become often-visited. They know that Gods Need Prayer Badly, but mortals don't need gods, and that anyone who visits the plane can take advantage of that fact.
Tarkir Block (Khans of Tarkir, Fate Reforged, Dragons of Tarkir)On the plane of Tarkir, we come again to five factions. Unlike Alara, where the five shards were totally separate, here, the various clans are all in active and passive conflict, each of them worshiping one aspect of dragonhood. Also unlike Alara, they are made up of wedges, not shards. (A "shard," like the ones found in Alara, is one color and its two allies — White with Green and Blue to either side would be Bant. They are also called "arcs" by Magic R&D because they represent three colors in a crescent. A "wedge," so named because it forms a triangle on the color wheel, is one color, one of its allies and one of its enemies; therefore, you get Abzan as White, Green and Black instead. The reason it isn't White, Green and Red is that WGR is an arc, Naya, just with Green in the center. And while, obviously, there are philosophical differences between "WGR" and "GRW," the real problem was that a non-zero number of Naya-arc cards had been printed before; WGB hadn't.)
- The Abzan Houses (WGB) focus on endurance, with their symbol being a dragon scale. The family is the most basic unit of the clan, and it focuses on stability and trade.
- The Jeskai Way (UWR) focuses on cunning, and use the dragon's eye as their emblem. They favor strategy over brute force and live in isolated mountain strongholds.
- The Sultai Brood (BUG), using a dragon's fang as its symbol, focuses on ruthlessness. They use necromancy, but are said to protect Tarkir from the deeper horrors of the jungles and wild places.
- The Mardu Horde (RBW), dragon wing, focuses on speed. Blood Knights, they rely on raiding and bestow a Meaningful Rename on themselves after their first kill in battle. (This made room for the introduction of Magic's first Transgender character — the male-to-female Alesha, Who Smiles at Death.)
- The Temur Frontier (GRU) prize savagery and style themselves with the claw of the dragon. They live where it's Grim Up North and fight with bestial ferocity — best exemplified by their khan, Surrak Dragonclaw, renowned for punching a bear.
Dragons are not made in the normal way on Tarkir, and are instead created whole-cloth from storms known as Dragon Tempests. When the storms died out, so too did the dragons, hunted to extinction by the humans.
Into this world comes Sarkhan Vol, seeking the voices in his head. He finds a region called the Tomb of Ugin (gee, doesnt that sound like that place on Zendikar?), and uses a mechanism within the tomb to travel back in time, to the point where the dragon tempests were still going. Sarkhan is particularly excited to do this because he is a native of Tarkir (he worships dragons, they worship dragons, what do you expect), but has actually never seen a dragon from Tarkir before on account of that whole "extinction" thing.
Fate Reforged covers Sarkhan's travels 1,300 years in the past. He arrives near the end of the Dragon Tempests, and also finds Nicol Bolas and Ugin fighting. Both dragon planeswalkers, Bolas and Ugin, its revealed later, are brothers, twins, with a long and storied and angry history that we're going to leave out. Ugin, like Bolas, is a scheming dragon, but appears to be more benevolent. At this point in the past, Bolas kills Ugin, which kind of puts an end to all of Ugins plans, such as helping his friends Sorin Markov and Nahiri rebind the Eldrazi, or maintaining peace across all of the multiverse. Sarkhan, using his magic, saves Ugins life after the duel, keeping him in a restorative cocoon for a few thousand years, and returns to the present.
In Dragons of Tarkir, Sarkhan learns that Ugins death was the thing that destroyed the dragon tempests, and by keeping Ugin alive, the dragons never died out. As a result, the whole of Tarkir is different: the clans never arose because, in the constant war of humanoid vs dragon, the dragons won, and humanoids now live in thrall (or, at best, tenuous co-existence) to them. All of the characters we knew in Khans of Tarkir, we meet again, except this time, as servants of the dragons — Zurgo Helmsmasher, the Small Name, Big Ego khan of the Mardu, is now a mere ceremonial bellringer, while Surrak Dragonclaw is renowned for punching a dragon.note A character named Narset, a neurodivergent woman who had led the Jeskai in the old timeline, is revealed to be a planeswalker in this one; only she and Sarkhan remember the old timeline. The clans slowly begin to re-emerge, fighting against the dragons with Narset and Sarkhan's help, but Ugin heads out to see what has become of all of his plans in the multiverse.
As mentioned previously, Blocks are designed to all be played together. Tarkir block is the exception. Khans and Dragons are Alternate Timelines of each other and their cards are not meant to intermix; each clan has one gameplay mechanic in Khans and a completely different one in Dragons. Fate Reforged, on the other hand, is designed to be compatible with both sets, having half the mechanics from Khans and the other half from Dragons. This did create some fan outcry, as players had been hoping for a wedge-oriented block for a long time, and instead only got one wedge-oriented set (Fate Reforged and Dragons are all about allied pairs, a space which was first explored by Invasion back in 2000 and is very well-trod territory). MtG's Creative department recognizes this fact, have said that they wished they had not erased the Khans timeline, and are working on ways to get back to the original continuity if we ever return to Tarkir.
Magic Origins"Magic Origins" was, at least as intended, the final Core set. Wizards made the decision to discontinue them (they've since been restored), and used Origins to tell the back stories of five planeswalkers who would become important moving forward.
- We have already discussed Gideon, born on Theros, imprisoned, freed, mercenaried, and now, revealed to have first planeswalked to Bant, before he went to Ravnica for more training.
- Similarly, we have discussed Nissa, a Zendikari native with a strong connection to the plane itself, who went to Lorwyn and became an Elvish fanatic before returning to Zendikar.
- We have also gone extensively into Lilianas backstory, her origin on Dominaria, her time on Innistrad, her contract, the Chain Veil, and her murder of the first two demons guaranteeing her contract.
- Jace was born on Vryn, a plane with mana trapped and stored by rings. He was a telepath, and was trained by another telepath on Vryn, a sphinx Alhammarret. The sphinx manipulated Jace for political power, and they ended up fighting, which ignited his spark. His first visit was to Ravnica, where he joined Tezzerets consortium and worked with Liliana.
- Chandra was born on Kaladesh, a plane of aetheric energy and amazing technological advancements — its Hat is Steampunk. Chandra's parents were rebels against the ruling order, and an overzealous police officer attempted to arrest them, explosively. Her parents were killed and her spark ignited, sending her to the abbey of Keral Keep, a school of pyromancers where she trained.
The Fifth Age: The Decline of the Block, the Rise of the GatewatchThe decision to discontinue the Core Sets was part of the transition into the Fifth Age of Magic Storytelling. Blocks were changed from having three sets to two, meaning that Magic could tell two two-act stories per year instead of one three-act story. (This also eased the burden on the Game Design team, since it's easier to create fewer cards along the same theme.) They also decided to focus on a specific group of planeswalkers, the Gatewatch, a Super Team who are introduced in the first block of this age.
Battle for Zendikar Block (Battle for Zendikar, Oath of the Gatewatch)All three Eldrazi titans have awakened, wreaking havoc on the plane. However, Kozilek and Emrakul are nowhere to be seen, with only Ulamog and its brood savaging the landscape. Into this mess comes Jace, Gideon, Chandra, and Nissa, all together, all at once. After a particularly devastating massacre at the Sea Gate, they band together to come up with a plan to tackle the existing Eldrazi. At this moment, Kozilek returns, emerging from its sleep below Zendikar. (Oh, Crap!.) It turns out that Ob-Nixilis, sick of being trapped on Zendikar, was searching for a way to reignite his spark and remove the hedron from his body. He tapped into the power of an active hedron network, siphoning all of it within himself, reigniting his spark, and awakening Kozilek. Ob nearly kills Jace and Gideon, before taking them and Nissa captive, only to be saved by Chandra. Ob finally flees into the multiverse.
The four planeswalkers swear the Oath of the Gatewatch, that in the name of the Sea Gate they will keep watch over the multiverse, searching for new threats and working to proactively stop them. The Gatewatch will prominently feature in the next few blocks, and has gained the derisive nickname of "the Jacestice League" by people who dislike the narrow focus on this group of planeswalkers.
The other planeswalkers eventually decide to draw the bulk of Ulamog and Kozilek into the plane, tie them to the plane using the hedron networks, and then kill them with a massive amount of fire. Ugin, being consulted on the plan, flat-out states that it is a bad idea — the multiverse needs the Eldrazi alive, they serve some kind of ecological function, and trapping them is one thing but killing them is something else entirely. He also reveals how the entire rise of the Eldrazi was engineered by Nicol Bolas, whose motives are unknown but can safely be said to be malicious, seeing as how he deliberately tricked Jace and Chandra into releasing Eldritch Abomination Planet Eaters onto the multiverse. Regardless, the four planeswalkers decide to go through with the plan.
Guess who else is back: Kiora, with her improved command of sea creatures. She brings the denizens of the deep of the world to bear against the eldrazi, most notably the giant octopus, Lorthos. They attempt to stop the Eldrazi, only for the giant octopus Lorthos to be ripped in half by Kozilek, and Kiora to go into a kind of shock she had always assumed that she would be the hero of a story, not just the thing dead before a god.
The Gatewatch planeswalkers draw upon Zendikars mana and leylines to create an irresistible snack for the Eldrazi titans, pulling their physical forms onto the plane. They then activate a hedron network to trap them, find a way to strip the Eldrazi protections from them, and Chandra, channeling the near-infinite power of the Roil, burns Ulamog and Kozilek to a crisp.
Shadows Over Innistrad Block (Shadows over Innistrad, Eldritch Moon)In searching the multiverse for problems, the Gatewatch returns to Innistrad. You see, there are Shadows over Innistrad; the angels have started to go insane and kill humans, strange rocks known as cryptoliths have begun to turn up, and the population has begun to behave strangely, growing extra fingers and scaly patches that are sensitive to light. It appears as though there is something in the moon. The four planeswalkers learn that the person responsible for all of this is none other Nahiri the Lithomancer, gone insane from the years stuck in the Helvault, come to destroy Innistrad and Sorin in the same way that Sorin allowed the Eldrazi to destroy her home plane of Zendikar. She starts by inflicting most of the Markov vampires with a permanent case of Taken for Granite, while continuously pumping mana into the cryptoliths.
Sorin, distraught, finally managed to trap Avacyn and destroy her completely, unmaking her, and freeing her from Nahiris influence. It turns out that this is not enough to save him, as Nahiri arrives, and duels Sorin, emerging victorious and trapping Sorin within the walls of Markov Manor. At this point, the true end of Nahiris plan is revealed, with the emergence of the last Eldrazi titan, Emrakul, in the skies above Innistrad. All of the strangeness has been the result of Nahiri calling Emrakul to the plane, and her slow emergence into reality. Millions of Innistrad natives, vampires, angels, werewolves, and humans alike are consumed into Emrakuls brood. An Eldritch Moon has fallen over Innistrad, moving the plane from one of gothic horror to one of cosmic, Lovecraftian horror.
None of the Gatewatch knows quite what to do here, especially with Sorin trapped in a rock. However, Tamiyo, the moon sage, is still on the plane, as is the necromancer Liliana. Using Tamiyos research and arcane knowledge, all the planeswalkers decide on a plan to try to trap Emrakul in the moon, given its helvault-ish properties. Liliana then raises an army of zombies to fight against Emrakul, as they are unaffected by its corruption, and as the zombies overwhelm Emrakul, it retreats moonward where it is imprisoned by Tamiyos magic. In the moments before, though, Emrakul reaches out to Nissa, and communicates that the plane is not ripe, and the Emrakul is choosing to go into the moon to sleep and wait.
"The Travails," as the residents of Innistrad call these events, are over. The Gatewatch has saved the plane, but they have not really won, since Emrakul allowed her pacification. Tamiyo leaves to return to her family, and Liliana takes the Oath of the Gatewatch, closing the circle as its final founding member.
Kaladesh Block (Kaladesh, Aether Revolt)The Gatewatch, now fully assembled, is chilling on their home base of Ravnica. They have agreed to go after multiversal threats, and are using a detector built by Ral Zarek to track when planeswalkers enter and leave Ravnica. Jace is told that Vraska was here, but that she left, disappearing to nowhere instead of arriving on another plane. The Gatewatch are contacted by Dovin Baan, a vedalken planeswalker from Kaladesh, to provide security for their annual Inventors' Fair. Liliana turns him down, until they all receive evidence that Tezzeret is operating there, and head out to find out what he is up to on behalf of Nicol Bolas.
Kaladesh is a steampunk world, where aether in the air is condensed and use to power fantastic machines, and the primary form of entertainment is either the Inventors' Fair, where people show off their spectacular creations, or the various aether-vehicle races that happen with some regularity.
At the Fair, the Gatewatch take in the sights, only to find a familiar face in the crowd; none other than Pia Nalaar, Chandras mother, whom she thought dead all of these years. After a Big Damn Reunion, they learn that Pia is still leading a rebellion against the authority of the Consulate, whom she views as corrupt. Shortly thereafter, she is taken into custody by consulate troops, as are Chandra and Nissa, trapped in a prison which removes their planeswalker powers. It is clear that Dovin Baan and Tezzeret are aware of each other and in league, given that Tezzeret turns out to be one of the judges for this years Fair. One of the notable objects in the fair this year is a functional planar portal, a Cool Gate which would allow non-planeswalkers to easily move between planes, and looks to be a huge prize.
The rest of the Gatewatch free Chandra and Nissa. Tezzeret and Pia face down in a combat arena, as a kind of gladiatorial sport, until the rest of the Gatewatch, as well as Ajani, intervene to defeat Tezzeret and save Pia. At this point, Dovin Baan institutes martial law and begins confiscating all of the inventions in the Fair in the name of the consulate. Pias revolutionaries spring to action and a rebellion occurs the Aether Revolt.
Throughout all of this, there is much fighting in the city. However, it becomes clear that the Consulate, mostly Tezzeret and Dovin, are not particularly interested in the fighting, and instead are more interested in stealing whatever inventions interest them most. After a push through to the heart of the consulate called the Battle of the Bridge, Tezzeret immediately absconds with the planar portal to a plane called Amonkhet, straight into the arms of Nicol Bolas. Ajani vows to join the Gatewatch, but then argues with Jace about whether or not the Gatewatch should go straight to confronting Bolas or take more time to plan. Ajani believes that without preparation, they are doomed, while Jace believes that Bolas knows they are coming, and giving him time to prepare is the greater mistake. The others all side with Jace, and the five Gatewatch founders immediately planeswalk.
Amonkhet Block (Amonkhet, Hour of Devastation)Amonkhet is a very strange plane, mostly comprised of a city, Nakatum, surrounded by an endless desert filled with angry, mindless zombies. The city is protected by a shield called the Hekma. But within the city is the strangest thing of all; five gods who walk among the people, the embodiment of the divine in their everyday life, constant and present. The gods and people all worship Nicol Bolas, the God-Pharaoh, who will return to the plane one day and reward the faithful. They all strive to fulfill the trials overseen by the gods to prove worthy of Bolas honor. The people also practice a form of mummification that allows the dead to retain the skills of their lives.
Gideon, of course, freaks out at the literal gods, given his experiences on Theros. He finds their presence beautiful and calming. Investigating the city, the Gatewatch find out that as crops of citizens complete the trials, the final stage involves one of them killing all the rest, and taking their place within Bolas afterlife, consumed by a kind of Lapis Lazuli, and turned into a different kind of zombie, an "Eternal." Everyone finds this distatestful, Gideon most of all. The Gatewatch lashes out and destroys many of the sarcophagi holding the Eternals, and seek to bring about an uprising, aided by Samut, the voice of dissent, a particularly keen human native to the plane. Gideon intervenes in one of the gods trials, stopping her from killing some of the humans. Gideon then learns of a prophecy that he will die the next time he confronts a god.
The Gatewatch also discover some more secrets. There were 8 gods here, before Bolas corrupted the plane. Liliana also reveals that the third demon of her contract, Razaketh, is located on the plane, and she plans to kill him. However, all of this knowledge is for naught, as Bolas arrives.
The eponymous Hour of Devastation is actually five hours. They are the Hour of Revelation, where the gate to the afterlife opens and the army of the immortal lapis zombies is revealed; the Hour of Glory, where the three nameless gods emerge, and begin to slaughter the other gods and the people; the Hour of Promise, where the Hekma is destroyed and the zombies come rushing into the city; the Hour of Eternity, where all of the dead are raised as zombies to fight for Bolas, and the Hour of Devastation, where all which remains dies.
Samuts spark is awakened by this awfulness, and she attempts to lead some survivors out into the sands, aided by the god Hazoret, who managed to escape destruction. Liliana uses the chaos to track down and kill Razaketh. The Gatewatch decides to bring the fight to Bolas, and, somewhat predictably, is utterly defeated. Jace is first to fall to Bolas mind magic, which wipes Jaces memory and causes him to flee into the unknown. Liliana, knowing Bolas power, flees in fear. Nissa is attacked by corrupted elementals, and Chandra has dragonfire turned on her. Gideon is the last to go, his impenetrable aura ripped to shreds by Bolas might.
Finally, Tezzeret shows up with the planar portal. Its revealed that the lapis lazuli Army of the Immortals can use the portal without damage, and Tezzeret takes them away to parts unknown. We also learn that Ral Zarek is probably helping Bolas and Tezzeret at least some of the time, although he has also worked to aid Jace against Bolas.
The Fifth-And-A-Half Age — The End of the BlockAs mentioned above, the decision was made at the start of the Fifth Age of Magic Storytelling to change blocks from three sets to two. As of "Ixalan," the creative team actually abandoned blocks entirely. The plot would stay in a certain place until it was done telling the story it was meant to, but sets were no longer meant to be drafted together; "Ixalan" and "Rivals of Ixalan", despite being continuous story, are stand-alone sets that are meant to be played in isolation.
Ixalan, Rivals of IxalanAnd so we follow memory-less Jace to Ixalan, where he finds himself, missing his memories and his powers, unable to planeswalk and thus unable to leave. Ixalan is dominated by a massive set of unexplored jungles, supposedly containing Orazca, the lost city of gold. Searching for this city are four different factions the River Heralds, the merfolk with power over the rivers of Ixalan; the Legion of Dusk, a nation of vampires from across the ocean, who believe that the city might contain the cure for their vampirism; The Sun Empire, a nation of humans who tame the planes wild dinosaurs and ride them, who believe the city might contain the mightiest dinosaurs and would enable them to fight off the various invaders; and finally the Brazen Coalition, pirates who want the city because, well, treasure. These four factions are particularly interesting because the magic number of Magic is five. The divisions are accomplished by having the Merfolk and Vampire Conquistadors be two-color factions (green-blue and white-black respectively), while the Dinosaurs and Pirates are three-color factions (WRG and BUR, respectively). Every color appears in two factions, but Red only appears in 3-color factions.
Jace, stranded on a useless island, manages to build a raft and escape, and drifts for several days before he is fished up by a pirate ship crewed by Vraska, who was sent to the plane to retrieve something by Nicol Bolas. She, knowing who Jace is, and Jace, minus all of his memories, begin to track down the golden city, throwing Ship Tease all the way. As the city reveals itself to them, deep in the center of Ixalan, Jace falls into the waters of the city, and regains all of his lost memories, including those that were stripped of him early in life by his teacher. Jace, remembering Vraska, forgives her for past misdeeds.
As the two of them explore the city, they come upon a sealed vault marked with the symbol of the Azorius guild of Ravnica. Upon opening it, they come upon Azor, the sphinx Paruun of the Azorious and the author of the original Guildpact. They learn that the Immortal Sun, a device built from Azors planeswalker spark, creates a No Warping Zone that prevents planeswalkers from leaving the plane naturally, and Azor has been trapped there since the Sun was built. Jace, invoking his powers as the Guildpact, banishes Azor to the useless island, and, after talking with Vraska, erases her memories of the two of them, and hides while Tezzeret arrives via planar portal to take the Immortal Sun and leaves the plane, enabling the rest of the planeswalkers to leave.
Other planeswalkers we meet on Ixalan include: Huatli, a dinosaur rider whose first experiences of planeswalking involve flickering to other worlds but being unable to stay; and Angrath, a minotaur planeswalker who had been trapped on Ixalan for many years, mostly angry and desperate to get home to his daughters. He is the one who first taught Huatli to planeswalk.
DominariaFor the 25th anniversary of Magic, we return to Dominaria, with the rest of the Gatewatch. Immediately upon convening the group, Nissa leaves, afraid and worried about her responsibilities and the uselessness of the group. Then the narrative spits into two parts, one following Chandra as she attempts to find the old planeswalker Jaya Ballard for guidance, and the other of Gideon and Liliana going off to find and deal with deal with the demon Belzenlok, the leader of the New Cabal, claiming that he was responsible for all evil things that had befallen Dominaria over the last millennium. Belzenlok may or may not be the final demon on Liliana's hit list.
On the Chandra plotline, she knows that at one point in the past stayed at Keral Keep. In the process of searching high and low, she meets Karn and the Yavimaya forest, where she used some of Nissas techniques to bring Multani, the forests avatar, back to life. She finally finds Jaya, and learns that Jaya was her old mentor at Keral Keep, responsible for most of her training. The four of them rejoin the rest of the group.
Gideon and Liliana deal with several different issues, from the Cabal having raised Lilianas brother Josu as a Lich, to finding the spark-less Teferi to get some help. They help him retrieve an artifact that Urza left behind, which could help him bring back Zhalfir from outside of time. Its revealed that Teferis friend Jhoira kept a powerstone containing his spark during the events of Time Spiral, and gave it back to him, allowing him to become a planeswalker again. The two of them then rebuilt the Weatherlight, and gather a new crew, assisting Liliana and Gideon in their plans against Belzenlok. Chandra, Jaya, Karn, and Multani return, and Gideon and Chandra manage to infiltrate the New Cabals stronghold, taking the Blackblade, a weapon capable of killing demons and planeswalkers. Gideon and Liliana use the Blackblade to kill Belzenlok, freeing Liliana from her demonic contract and leaving her feeling confident about taking on Bolas.
Karn departs for New Phyrexia; his main objective was actually to recover the Golgothian Sylex with which Urza triggered the Ice Age, hoping to use it against the Phyrexians. Jace arrives and informs them that Bolas has designs on Ravnica, and begs them to come with him. Everyone departs but Liliana, and as she is about to leave, Bolas arrives, informing her that she is in breach of contract, and thus now his property, due to a clause that he had inserted in her contract when he arranged it. Trapped, she departs with him.
Guilds of Ravnica, Ravnica Allegiance, War of the SparkMeanwhile, back on Ravnica, events are happening parallel to Dominaria, and indeed parts of Ixalan. Vraska has taken over the Golgari, and Niv-Mizzet has stepped down from leading the Izzet, leaving day-to-day operations up to Ral Zarek, who is deeply immersed in some unknown project, building up a mighty storm. Niv is pursuing something more private, and much more unknown. Isperia, the current leader of the Azorius, convenes the guilds to discuss the strange goings-on in the city, the Golgari amassing below its surface, and she is killed by Vraska, turned to stone and left as a trophy and a warning. The Azorius are temporarily powerless.
Nicol Bolas has orchestrated a huge gathering of planeswalkers on Ravnica: he wants to trap them on Ravnica with the Immortal Sun and steal all their sparks in order to return himself to Oldwalker status. The result is a huge war between Bolas-allied planeswalkers like Tezzeret, Vraska and Liliana, augmented by the Eternal zombie mooks he got from Amonkhet, and the resistance, led by the Gatewatch and with most of Ravnica behind them. In the end, a number of Bolas's lieutenants betray him, and Bolas is thrown down when Ugin locks the two of them in the Meditation Realm, but a number of planeswalkers are slain — particularly Gideon, who sacrifices himself so that Liliana can break her contract and turn on Bolas.
The Sixth Age: Return To PlanehoppingThe story returns to the Fourth Age anthology model of bouncing between discrete storylines as well as planes; so far we have only had one occasion where two sets took place on a contiguous plane during a contiguous story. It also moved away from being focused exclusively on the Gatewatch.
Throne of EldraineThe plane of Eldraine is a high-fantasy medieval world inspired partially by Arthurian Legend and partially by Fairy Tales. (The latter are more memorable, even though there's more of the former.) There are five orders of knights, one for each color, holding the line against the magical beasties of the Wilds.
To upend the equilibrium, planeswalkers Oko and Garruk Wildspeaker show up and kidnap High King Kenrith. His children, Half-Identical Twins Will and Rowan, set out to save him. In the doing, they manage not only to free Garruk from the curse inflicted upon him by the Chain Veil, but to ignite their (mutual, shared) planeswalker spark.
Theros: Beyond DeathWe return to Theros, but mostly The Underworld there. Elspeth Tirel is caught there, being tortured by Ashiok. However, hubris gives her an opening: Heliod wants to erase all traces of the other gods, leading to an Enemy Civil War that results in people being able to escape the Underworld. Elspeth, like many others, makes a play for freedom. Ashiok let this happen mostly because Elspeth was having dreams of encountering the Phyrexians as a child, and Ashiok, a Nightmare Fetishist to the core, buggered off to go find them. However, this also resulted in the return of Klothys, the Goddess of Fate. Formerly in self-imposed exile as gaoler to the Titans who preceded the gods, she got pissed off at all the mortals changing their own fates (cf the whole "Back from the Dead" thing), and created an avatar named Calix who would chase them down, particularly Elspeth.
Elspeth manifests a shadowspear, "Khrusor," out of her dreams and leads the forces of the Underworld towards freedom; every time they win a battle, she shouts, "Behold, the real Khrusor! Heliod wields a fake!," and her followers Clap Your Hands If You Believe. This turns out to be the fatal blow: when Heliod comes to challenge her, her instance of Khrusor has become the real one, and Heliod is forced to surrender. Erebos, the god of the dead, imprisons Heliod under a giant boulder, and lets Elspeth go; she planeswalks away, much to the frustration of Calix... who then discovers he has the power to planeswalk after her, and does.
Ikoria: Lair of BehemothsThe setting is Ikoria, a plane of beasts and monsters, specifically inspired by kaiju and featuring tie-in cards that feature (Wizards-created) creatures but have images of Godzilla monsters. As the world of Ikoria developed, humans quickly realized what types of defenses were needed to stave off monsters. The humans were quick to become both militaristic and ingenious. Unfortunately for the humans, the monsters of Ikoria have begun to mutate and the fortresses that were previously successful at protecting humans have now become fodder for the monsters to annihilate. Featured planeswalkers are Vivien Reid, Lukka and Narset as The Cameo.
Lukka is an Ikorian native and military officer, The Beastmaster who can bond with the monsters. He discovers that they are being compelled to attack the human settlements. He's imprisoned by the world's leading military officer, General Kudro, but escapes with the Vivien, who is also The Beastmaster. Lukka's girlfriend Jirina is forced by her father, General Kudro, to help hunt him down.
Lukka fails to find out who is compelling the monsters to attack, but decides to bond all of them and turn them into his personal army. But With Great Power Comes Great Insanity, and eventually he turns against the humans, with Vivien and Jirina leading the defense. When the giant crystal with which he is brainwashing monsters finally shatters, it ignites his planeswalker spark and he leaves.
Zendikar RisingNahiri has returned to Zendikar, and is willing to do anything to get rid of the Roil. Nissa has also returned home, but for reasons of her own. The two come into conflict, with Nissa triumphing and managing to heal the plane of the scars that have been inflicted on it by the Eldrazi. (Also, Jace appears as Nissa's ally, his first — and, as of 2022, only — appearance since the War of the Spark.)
KaldheimThe planeswalker Kaya, a ghost whisperer, visits a world inspired by Norse Mythology. She encounters a planeswalker, Tyvar, who is wearing something from Zendikar, but doesn't know he's a planeswalker: he thinks he's just traveling between the Ten Realms of Kaldheim, all of which are constantly shifting around and can even crash into each other.
Kaya has been assigned to hunt a very large monster. This turns out to be none other than Vorinclex, one of the Phyrexian Praetors — the first appearance of the franchise's Big Bads in a decade. Remember how we said they were trapped on Phyrexia, but wouldn't be for long? Yeah...
Strixhaven: School of MagesMagic's take on the Wizarding School trope, Strixhaven is a magical academy on the plane of Arcavios, the most elite university in the Multiverse. The institution has five colleges, each named after a dragon founder and focusing on the conflict between an enemy-color pair:
- Silverquill (WB) concerns The Power of Language, which can support White's goal of The Needs of the Many or Black's goal of It's All About Me.
- Prismari (RU) is the performing-arts college, focusing on the dichotomy of art: should Blue's emphasis on Fridge Brilliance or Red's emphasis on Don't Think, Feel be at the forefront?
- Witherbloom (BG) is the college of natural sciences. Everyone knows that the natural world is ruled by the cycle of life and death; but which one is stronger?
- Lorehold is the college of history, anthropology and archaeology — the study of societies, and of the rules communities create to (try to) prevent passion from overwhelming order.
- Quandrix (UG) is the college of mathematics. However, they don't always agree on whether "math," as a concept, is an actual Background Magic Field that rules the cosmos (the Blue take), or simply a useful abstraction for perceiving the grandeur of the universe (the Green perspective).
Innistrad: Midnight Hunt and Innistrad: Crimson VowThe so-called Innistrad Double Feature takes place a few years after The Travails.
Emrakul's presence in the moon is believed to be altering the world, as the nights are getting longer. The humans of Innistrad, led by Arlinn Kord the werewolf planeswalker, turn to an ancient ritual called the Harvesttide Festival to restore the balance. This leads to a Fetch Quest: they need to use a device called the Celestus, which cannot be activated until someone finds the Moonsilver Key. Meanwhile, the werewolves, led by a fellow named Tovolor, are getting stronger. Arlinn grabs the Gatewatch, currently consisting of Teferi, Kaya the ghost whisperer, and Chandra, for help. The fetch quest leads them to cross paths with Sorin, who managed to un-rock himself a while ago (he was actually part of the War for the Spark).
The actual festival, however, goes pretty poorly. Obviously, Tovolor and his pack aren't much interested in letting things happen, and Arlinn has to fight him paw-to-paw. Then, when they get the Moonsilver Key to the witch Katilda, the only one who can complete the ritual, they're interrupted by Olivia Voldaren, one of the oldest vampires on the plane. They're forced to trade the Key for the Katilda's safety, and are unable to prevent the long night — especially since Olivia traps Katilda's soul in the Key first.
After a several-month Time Skip, we find the humans of Innistrad beset from peril from all sides (as usual). The Gatewatch turn to Sorin, who is willing to help this time: with night eternal, humans are dwindling, and his vampires are going to starve before long. He decides to turn to his grandfather, Edgar Markov, the original Innistrad vampire... only to find he has been kidnapped by Olivia Voldaren, who plans to marry him.
Obviously, the Gatewatch plan to attack the Voldaren estate while the wedding is going on, but they discover it's been ensorceled, and only those who have been invited — IE Sorin — can enter. Within, he finds himself trapped and held hostage, and even worse, the strongest of Innistrad's angels — Sigarda — present. Olivia plans to control her with magic and thereby become undisputed master of the plane.
Sorin makes his move, and in the ensuing chaos, the spirit of Katilda emerges from the Moonsilver Key. She frees Sigarda, whose power destroys the spell keeping everyone else out, allowing the Gatewatch to carry the day. Katilda's spirit is reunited with her body, and the dawn comes for the first time in months.
Kamigawa: Neon DynastyWe return to Kamigawa a good thousand years after the previous set. The plane which once replicated Feudal Japan now looks much more like modern-day Japan with a cyberpunk twist; there are cards for things like Voltron. The plane is split down the middle: conservatives embody the older ways, focusing on samurai and enchantments, while liberals push for the future, focusing on ninja and artifacts. This encapsulates one of the age-old conflicts in Japanese culture: modernity versus tradition.
The story focuses on Kaito Shizuki, a planeswalker ninja, who used to be friends with the Emperor of Kamigawa. The Emperor went missing a while ago — it turns out she's The Wanderer, a planeswalker of no particular import who showed up at Uncommon rarity during War of the Spark. Kaito is one of those modernists who wants to push Kamigawa's technology, which puts him in contact with Tezzeret, as well as Jin-Gitaxias, another Phyrexian Praetor. Jin-Gitaxias has already managed to compleat Tamiyo, achieving something the Phyrexians have never managed before: assimilating a planeswalker without destroying the planeswalker spark.
Streets of New CapennaThis set takes place in a plane inspired by street gangs and wielding an Art-Deco The Roaring '20s art style. It returns to the Arc emphasis of Shards of Alara, but with completely new spins on each arc.
- The Brokers (GWU) are a group of demonic lawyers, led by Falco Spara the Pactweaver.
- The Obscura (WUB) are information brokers, led by Raffine, Scheming Seer.
- The Maestros (UBR) are vampire hedonists who specialize in assassination. They are led by Lord Xander, the Collector.
- The Riveteers (BRG) are both construction workers and skilled demolitionists, focusing more on acts of passion than some of their brethren. Their leader is Ziatora, the Incinerator.
- The Cabaretti (RGW) are fun-loving druids who run the city's nightclubs under the supervision of Jetmir, Lord of Revels.
Capenna, the plane, was built by angels, but after they finished, demons betrayed them. Some citizens of Capenna believe the angels will return; others believe they were imprisoned by the demons and are being used to fuel production of the Fantastic Drug "Halo," which acts as an Amplifier Artifact for magic. One thing that's certain: Halo is harmful to Phyrexians, which the demons discovered when Phyrexians invaded long ago.
Elspeth Tirel returns to Capenna, the plane of her birth, to seek answers about her past. Her planeswalker spark ignited when she was imprisoned by Phyrexians during their last invasion. She ends up working for the Maestros, where she meets Vivien Reid. Reid is here for the weirdest reasons: she has agreed to help Urabrask, the red Phyrexian Praetor, to get Elspeth to help him fight against Elesh Norn. Urabrask is also interested in getting his hands on the Cabaretti's recently-found and apparently infinite source of Halo, since all Phyrexians hate it. The new Halo source turns out to be a girl named Giada, the last angel, who can simply create Halo with a wave of her hand.
At the new-year's festival, things go sideways: The Adversary makes his move. He's been planning to take over the plane and has been subverting all five crime families this entire time. He is otherwise known as Ob Nixilis. He, like everyone else, wants Giada, and Elspeth and Vivien save her. Ob follows them, and Giada pulls a Heroic Sacrifice to save them, and furnishing Elspeth with a new Halo-infused sword, "Luxior." This allows the two women to come through, and Ob Nixilis planeswalks away to lick his wounds. Afterwards, Elspeth and Vivien go through Xander's archives and get a complete history of how Capenna withstood the Phyrexians the first time. They planeswalk to Dominaria to update the Gatewatch. Meanwhile, unlocked by Giada's sacrifice, angels begin to return to Capenna.
Dominaria UnitedSheoldred, the black-mana Phyrexian Praetor, has begun an invasion of Dominaria. Karn is digging through the Caves of Koilos, where the Thran once lived, searching for information on how to use the Golgothian Sylex, when he encounters the Phyrexian staging grounds — and, despite defeating everyone there, becomes trapped there. He is stuck for months until Ajani, sent by Karn's friend Jhoira, comes to free him. Ajani takes him to a peace conference between New Benalia and Keld, who have ever debated the Soldier vs. Warrior dilemma across their borders; while Aron of House Capashen and Radha of Keld — not to mention Jodah the Archmage and Jaya "Kill It with Fire" Ballard — are sensible of his worries, the simple fact is that Karn has no proof that the Phyrexians have managed to break the "We can't leave New Phyrexia" rule. That proof is delivered by Teferi, who has just arrived with the sighting of Jin-Gitaxias on Kamigawa... not to mention the fact that Tamiyo has been compleated.
Stenn, a paranoid partisan of New Argive, has been tasked with guarding against the Phyrexian aggression: they have ever liked Manchurian Agents, and their first invasion was filled with them. The problem turns out to be more widespread than that: the Phyrexians are now using birds to do their spying for them, and the nearest tweeting flutter of feathers could mean compromised security. And that's on top of the sleeper agents; Karn knows that, for good or ill, he can't trust any of the people around him; he is, after all, the single sentient being in all the Multiverse who cannot be corrupted by the Phyrexians at this point. This is proven when some of the Benalish guards suddenly explode into Body Horror Phyrexian monstrosities. (It does, at least, convince both the Keldons and the Benalish that "We ARE Struggling Together" is better than the alternative.)
Karn finds himself in the uncomfortable position of becoming The Captain of Dominaria's defense; only he knows where the Golgothian Sylex is, and Sheoldred will stop at nothing to get it. However, this gives Karn an opportunity: he tells each of his companions (Teferi, Jodah, Jaya, Stenn) a different location for the Sylex. It works, too: Stenn, upon learning this, transforms himself into a Phyrexian antenna and transmits the location to Sheoldred. Jaya burns him to a crisp, and Karn calls for a Gunship Rescue from the Weatherlight, under Captain Shanna Sisay and the rest of the crew established five years ago.
Karn decides to bait the Phyrexians out, by dangling the three things they want most: the Thran Mana Rig on the continent of Shiv; the Golgothian Sylex; and he himself. While Ajani and Jaya lead a joint Llanowar and Benalish attempt to rescue Aron Capashen, Jodah and Teferi head out to try and win more allies, with Teferi succeeding at getting the Shivan Dragons, not to mention the viashino, the ghitu and the goblins, to help. Jodah's attempt to convince the Yavimaya elves to help is... less successful. However, the Phyrexians have help: the resurrected Ertai is here to lead them. Fortunately, Radha, at the head of the Keldons, saves the day. Additionally, Jodah's lack of diplomacy is rendered moot when the Phyrexians attack, convincing Meria, the leader of the Yavimaya elves, of the truth of his words. However, Jodah is convinced, and tells Karn, that there is at least one more Phyrexian agent in the upper reaches of Karn's administration.
Karn's Coalition prepares to Hold the Line atop the Mana Rig, but almost immediately things go wrong: the Weatherlight has been compleated and now acts as air cover for the Phyrexians (the crew managed to get away, Red Shirts notwithstanding). Ertai descends to take the fight to Karn, the only remaining member of the original Weatherlight crew (Squee the Eternal notwithstanding — and he actually does get a card in this set, so he's out there somewhere). Fortunately, Ajani arrives to Back Stab Ertai. However, this is when Ajani discovers the identity of the last Phyrexian spy: himself. So subtle is Phyrexian brainwashing that it can be done without the subject even realizing it. He kills Jaya and captures Karn, and Sheoldred takes possession of the Sylex and the silver golem. She brings them, using the Planar Bridge, back to New Pyrexia — to Mirrodin — to Argentum, where Karn's children await him.
Teferi steels himself for Time Travel. With Johah and Saheeli Rai wishing him luck, he prepares to head back to where it all began...