Ahoy planeswalkers! Regular readers might notice that this isn’t the article I promised in my last column. I do want to briefly apologize for that. I had every intention of doing an Unstable set review, but these last couple weeks—well, I just didn’t have it in me. So, if anyone was desperately looking forward to my pass at a flavor review of silver-bordered Magic’s glorious return, I hope you’ll accept my apologies for now. I’ll try to be back up to the task of a set review when Rivals of Ixalan comes to town next month.

In the meantime, Wizards made a big story-related announcement last week, and I’ve been champing at the bit to talk about it! The announcement is that Wizards’s geocache game for Rivals of Ixalan will, in fact, help determine which of Ixalan’s four tribes ends the block in control of Orazca!


Now, given the involvement of planeswalkers in the scrum for the Immortal Sun and the fact that, much like one of musical theater’s greatest devils, whatever Bolas wants, Bolas gets; it seems likely that this particular magical MacGuffin will be leaving Ixalan. Even so, however, players are being given the chance to shape what Ixalan’s status quo after the block’s events and the starting point for any possible future Return to Ixalan. And that’s pretty gosh-darn exciting.

The obvious thing to do here might be to try ranking the tribes by their goodness on a cosmic moral scale, but that proves challenging in general. While the vampires tend to land at the “evil” end of the scale for their colonialist and expansionist ways, the other three tribes have strong claims to the “good” side: the pirates are refugees, and the Sun Empire and River Heralds are indigenous civilizations trying to hold back invaders. What I’d like to talk about today, though, is the interesting dynamic where any of the four endings in play could be a “good” or a “bad” ending because of the tensions within the factions.

The River Heralds


The River Heralds have faithfully guarded Orazca for centuries, keeping the Immortal Sun from falling into the hands of anyone who would use it for ill (or would use it at all, really) until a moment of crisis saw all of the tribes rushing towards the Golden City at the same time. Under the wise leadership of Tishana, Voice of Thunder, they might reap their just reward for their faithful service, claiming the city that they defended for so long. Tishana’s interactions with Huatli might also pave the way to a new alliance between Ixalan’s indigenous peoples, their combined strength helping to ensure a period of stability for the foreseeable future.


Unless Tishana is not the leader when all is said and done. The brash Kumena punched Tishana in the face before bolting to join the race for Orazca, intent on claiming the Immortal Sun and using its powers to crush Ixalan’s invaders. Ixalan’s lore suggests that anyone attempting to use the Immortal Sun is bad news. On the off-chance that one of Ixalan’s tribes does manage to retain the Immortal Sun, a victory by Kumena’s branch of the River Heralds might portend a devastating conclusion to the block and may set him up as a powerful antagonist in a future return to Ixalan.

The Sun Empire


Like the River Heralds, the Sun Empire are indigenous defenders of Ixalan, and their current nation actually rose out of the city-state of Orazca. Successfully delivering Orazca back into the hands of the Empire would ensure Huatli can take up her deserved mantle as Warrior-Poet. Emperor Apatzec Intli seems to be an adept ruler, based on his portrayal in “The Third Aspect of the Sun.”


On the other hand, Emperor Apatzec can also be seen as shrewdly manipulative in his Magic Story appearance. He continues to hold the Warrior-Poet mantle over Huatli’s head without bestowing it upon her; while his expansionist policies suggest that, given sufficient power, he might be a true tyrant. The Planeswalker’s Guide to Ixalan further notes that he bears the same name as the Emperor who used the Immortal Sun centuries ago, unleashing the horrific destruction depicted in Star of Extinction. Huatli’s visions have inspired him (apparently quite quickly) to devote significant resources to the hunt for Orazca. Could taking Orazca drive him into an even greater frenzy of conquest, spurring him to claim the entire continent of Ixalan for the Sun Empire?

The Brazen Coalition


The pirates of Ixalan have largely been depicted as a charming, roguish, Swashbuckling bunch. Taking Orazca would give them two things: all the gold their hearts desire, and a home—something they haven’t had, really, since fleeing the Dusk Legion’s rule on Torrezon. Admiral Beckett Brass seems like the most likely leader of the pirates to oversee a successful claiming of Ixalan, and her success in building a coalition among the various pirate fleets suggests that she would prove an adept statesman if the pirates suddenly gained an inland base. Perhaps she could broker a reasonable peace with the River Heralds and the Sun Empire.


Of course, not all pirates are as free-spirited as Captain Lannery Storm. I strongly suspect we’re going to see a grimmer legendary pirate printed in Rivals of Ixalan, possibly a captain of the Dire Fleet. There are also pirates like Angrath’s Marauders who, even if everyone’s favorite murderous minotaur dad does escape the plane, are still likely to be quite happy to burn everything to the ground. If these branches of the Brazen Coalition end up taking power in Orazca, we might see a pirate army as vicious as Torrezon’s vampires seeking to take control of the continent of Ixalan. And heaven help us if someone as eager to burn the plane to the ground Angrath or his followers sets their hands on the Immortal Sun.

The Dusk Legion


For the Dusk Legion, I’m tweaking my formula, because they are the only faction where the “bad end” is more obvious. The vampiric masters of Torrezon have expanded eagerly over the centuries. There is little reason to think that would stop with Orazca, especially if the Immortal Sun still slips from their grasp in the hands of one of Ixalan’s planeswalkers. This seems like a recipe for Adrian Adanto, Mavren Fein, and their legions of conquistadors to conquer Ixalan as they did Torrezon, feasting upon any who do not recognize the invaders’ authority. And yet . . .


There is one spark of hope that a vampire victory would not be the absolute worst case scenario: Saint Elenda. She was one of the Immortal Sun’s guardians before becoming a vampire, much like the River Heralds are now. While one might expect her choice to embrace vampirism in order to give herself and her people the power to conquer Torrezon and reclaim the Immortal Sun to suggest a perversion of her commitment to that goal, what if it isn’t? What if she truly only wants to take it in order to protect it, as she once did centuries ago? What if she found the Immortal Sun when she set off to Ixalan alone, and has remained in Orazca all these years to help guard it? There is at least a glimmer of a chance that the first vampire of the Dusk Legion would seek to curb her people’s hunger and try to broker a peace of sorts among the four tribes.

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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