Ahoy planeswalkers! It’s that wonderful quarterly season where we get to preview the new set! Which, for me, means it’s time to look through what’s been released to far to try guessing where these new cards are taking the story! So, let’s get to it!

How Does Hour of Devastation End?

Yes, that’s always the question, and I’m cutting right to it. Frankly, most of the questions I’m asking today are variants on that question. For this section, I’m considering what will become of Amonkhet. And there are two cards that we’ve seen so far that seem most useful for trying to answer that question:

The combination of the flavor text and the art on the promo version of Ramunap Excavator feels like a bit of a Zendikar Resurgent or Splendid Reclamation moment: the darkness has passed, and the surviving people of the plane are trying to rebuild. Not a shocking conclusion by any means, but credit where credit is due, Wizards has done a good job of getting me scared.

Nissa’s Encouragement (and the other special cards in Nissa’s deck) also point to an attempt to rebuild Amonkhet after the Hour of Devastation. I chose to highlight Nissa’s Encouragement in particular for its art: growing a small flower in the sand is something you do when you have time. Time is not going to be something the Gatewatch has until Bolas has skipped town. I’m also wondering if it might be a hint that Nissa stays on Amonkhet after the set ends, helping the people of Naktamun get back on their feet. (Maybe Chandra can stay with her.)

So the real question is, how do we go from the Gatewatch getting beaten up, the gods getting killed, and the plane getting overrun with the Eternal, to rebuilding society? My theory hinges on one of the defeat cards:

Bolas claims to have killed the world’s spirit—the spirit that Nissa communed with, the spirit whose pain she felt, the spirit whose gift to the world was the Curse of the Wandering. What if killing the Soul of Amonkhet lifts the Curse of the Wandering?

Bolas’s Lazotep-infused army of the Eternal would presumably collapse on the spot. The three new gods under Bolas’s thrall might either be freed or be destroyed. Life outside of the safety of the Hekma would no longer be an impossibility.

This might seem like a serious flaw in Bolas’s plan, but maybe they were never the point of his plan. An army is nice, but we’ve seen that pre-Mending Bolas could annihilate an entire army with a flick of his claw; enhancing his own power by harvesting something from the plane of Amonkhet seems more in his wheelhouse. Taking power from the world’s slain spirit for himself would do just that.

There is, admittedly, a gaping flaw in this theory: Tezzeret and the Planar Bridge. As Jay Annelli has pointed out, the “Hour of Revelation” story reveals that Bolas could manually initiate the Approach of the Second Sun, which suggests that something that just happened put everything in place for Bolas to activate his plan for Amonkhet. Tezzeret telling Liliana that Bolas was on Amonkhet could certainly be a sign that, whatever Tezzeret did with the Planar Bridge, it was aimed at Amonkhet, which is why he thought (incorrectly, as it turned out) that Bolas was there. I have no idea what the Planar Bridge might have to do with the events on Amonkhet, but this is certainly a thread to watch.

My theory about Bolas killing the world spirit would also make a potential return to Amonkhet a difficult proposition because it would take away a lot of what makes it what it is. No more mummies. No Embalm or Eternalize. No gods and trials. So, I might be missing the mark here, but this is the most logical way I can think of for the people of Amonkhet to survive without the gods and the Hekma.

The Defeat of the Gatewatch

So, let’s talk about the defeat cycle.

One theory is that some of Nissa’s visions from the Trial of Knowledge represent the defeated Gatewatch members; and Jay Annelli, building upon a post from Andrew Weisel, has suggested that this is going to trigger a series of adventures based on the Gatewatch members’ powers being wonky after the encounter with Bolas. A plausible theory, but jeez, I hope not.

I think Annelli and Weisel are spot-on that Jace’s struggles with Bolas are going to help shake loose memories of Vryn, leading to a visit to the telepath’s home plane—probably sometime 2018-2019. Beyond that, though, having a depowered Gatewatch seems like a recipe for the sort of same-y storytelling that has arguably one of the key shortcomings of the Gatewatch story thus far. Instead “the Gatewatch has to work together to save the world (again),” we could get five versions of “how ________ got their powers back.” Additionally, I’m not sure they need to be depowered; they already take their share of lumps (see their arrival on Amonkhet).

A more salient question might be, how does the Gatewatch survive? (And, for the record, I take Gideon’s Defeat not being a story spotlight as further proof that Gideon survives the block.) It could be a matter of Bolas, in his hubris, deciding that they aren’t worth killing, but I’m going to find that pretty unsatisfying if that’s the case. It might be that Djeru and Samut play a key role in saving them, but if Bolas takes down the Gatewatch so easily, should another couple adversaries really create such a roadblock?

Alternatively, look to the gods.

Their impending deaths are now confirmed. However, we have seen that the gods, although bound to the plane, are more powerful than present-day planeswalkers. Oketra and Hazoret had to save the Gatewatch at the start of the story. Hazoret temporarily stripped Gideon of his immortality. Kefnet nearly destroyed Nissa.

Oketra and Hazoret especially have been highlighted as enemies to Bolas. We haven’t seen Hazoret’s part of the “Last” cycle or any images of her demise; what if she’s being held for the end of preview season because she stands against Bolas, drawing his attention just enough to give the Gatewatch the opening they need to retreat?

Djeru’s here!

So, Djeru’s not a planeswalker. But I threw myself onto team Djeru so long ago that I have become tremendously invested in him, and I can’t help being excited to see him show up at last.

First off, I’m going to say I’m surprised he’s mono-white—given Cruel Reality, I (and many others, I suspect) expected him to be at least partially black—I was thinking Abzan or possibly Mardu. On the other hand, he might be mono-white because we will at last see him undergo a change in Hour of Devastation—his eyes are open now, and he sees the God-Pharaoh’s deception. I suspect his purification is breaking free from his religious devotion to Bolas and teaming up with the Gatewatch (likely helping to protect them, given his second ability).

If I had to guess how the story ends for him, I’d go with him taking over as the new ruler of the plane’s survivors, although a heroic sacrifice is certainly possible. Alternatively, we’ve never seen a creature who interacts so heavily with the planeswalker card type; he may just have a latent spark after all. Wouldn’t it be something if, say, he seemed to die during the final showdown with Bolas, but our heroes notice a conspicuous lack of a body, which leads to a certain someone scouring the multiverse for him?

Speaking of which…

Samut of the Gatewatch?

Hey, Samut’s a planeswalker! I was right about a first-set legend sparking in the second set! Just super wrong about who it would be! But with every answer comes a new question. In this case, that question is, what’s next for Samut?

Wizards seems unlikely to bring a brand new character into the Gatewatch. From a marketing standpoint, it makes more sense to try a character out, see how the audience reacts, and then decide about whether or not to bring the character in at their next appearance. But Samut feels Worthy, if you’ll forgive the pun, of being an exception. She has a front-row seat to the type of destruction interplanar beings can create, the type of destruction that inspired Gideon, Chandra, Nissa, and Jace to team up in the first place. She has lived her whole life seeing her people—including dear friends like Nakht—die for a false religion schemed up by a power-hungry dragon from another world. She has risked herself freely to fight to save people of Amonkhet (especially Djeru). Who should be more willing than her to join the Gatewatch in taking up their fight?

Additionally, the optics of passing on Samut are pretty bad. It would make two straight blocks in which Wizards has introduced an exciting new woman-of-color planeswalker who allies with the Gatewatch during the block and makes sense as someone who would buy into the Gatewatch’s purpose, only to end up relegated to the multiverse’s supporting cast. Toss in Kaya’s exciting but short-lived debut in Conspiracy and Arlinn Kord’s disappointing integration into the Shadows Over Innistrad story, and Wizards is not on a hot streak with regard to their handling of their new female planeswalkers of late.

So, this is a risky one, but I’m calling my shot here: look out for the Oath of Samut in next week’s spoilers! Come on, Wizards! Take a chance on her! (By which I mean, please have taken a chance on her about six months ago when this set was finalized!)

Beck Holden is a Ph.D. student in theater who lives in the greater Boston area. He enjoys drafting, brewing for standard, and playing 8-Rack in modern. He also writes intermittently about actually playing Magic at beholdplaneswalker.wordpress.com.

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