Ahoy planeswalkers!

It’s that wonderful time of year! It’s preview season for another standard-legal set (the last small set ever)! Rivals of Ixalan looks like a sweet set that’s going to power up the tribes for standard and shake up the metagame in a big way. It’s also giving us some long-awaited new characters and our first look at where the block’s story is going. So, let’s dive in and see what’s going on in some of the earlier previews!

[Editor’s note: Beck’s article was scheduled to be published on Friday ahead of the full set image gallery, but due to a technical error it was pushed back to today. Please excuse any claims Beck makes which were immediately affected by the release of the full image gallery -Rich]

Check out Kumena’s pose, standing on the edge of Orazca’s wall as the water cascades down. I strongly suspect that this is where we find him as the story resumes: it looks like he got to Orazca first, causing it to rise from the earth (and causing Jace to take quite a fall). This lets him take initial control of the Golden City, which is probably why he’s Tyrant of Orazca. The choice of the word “Tyrant” in his name also strongly suggests that, as I proposed in my article on possible outcomes to Ixalan’s factional struggle, Kumena is going to be an antagonist in this block.

I had floated the theory that Elenda might actually be here to protect the Immortal Sun; this card design suggests otherwise. The flavor text tells us that she is only just now completing her search. Her rules text also makes her the Dusk Legion as a single person: she feeds upon death and destruction and creates a swarm of vampires. The fact that she so perfectly mimics the parasitic, swarming nature of her faction tells me that she will soon be taking the reigns of the Dusk Legion’s operations in trying to claim the Immortal Sun from Orazca.

And speaking of Elenda…


Alright, this is a cool moment, and I really want this to be an episode of Magic Story. Apparently Elenda has been taking a nice death-snooze in the manner of Deathless Ancient, within a temple whose mouth-like doorway is reminiscent of the Temple of Aclazotz. What’s hard to tell, though is… Is this in Orazca? If she’s been able to secure a temple-tomb for herself inside Orazca, maybe there’s something more to her and her relationship with Azor. Or, maybe she made it to the Golden City and found herself stymied by some of its defenses, and so decided to create her own base of operations.

Well! I was not expecting a second Huatli! The movement into green-white from red-white is particularly interesting. Planeswalkers generally shift colors as a representation of shifts in their philosophies and the values that they prize; this was recently depicted for Nissa in “The Hand That Moves” from Amonkhet block. Red is the color typically associated with the creativity of artists; do her adventures lead her to a place where she prizes her work as a poet less? Might she actually turn down the mantle of Warrior Poet if offered?

Oh. Oh my. That’s a big dinosaur.

I’m curious what the elder dinosaur cycle means from a story standpoint. Were they summoned by Orazca’s revelation as another line of defense for the Golden City? Were they sealed away and something that happens in Orazca releases their seal? Are they going to terrorize the continent of Ixalan beyond the events of the block, or can they be harnessed by the Sun Empire like most dinosaurs? I’m really curious to
see how this all plays out. The mightiest dinosaur’s name as Primal Calamity, however, strongly suggests that these six elder dinosaurs are not good news for Ixalan’s other denizens.

Story Spotlights

We also have our Story Spotlights for the set (only three of them this time, though, which makes me a little sad). Let’s take a quick look:

Alright, this is where our story picks up: Jace was just receiving his cascade of memories after surviving the fall depicted on Perilous Voyage. I’m keen to get a higher-quality look at this art– it’s cool-looking, and I want to see if any of the spectral memories floating around Jace clearly identifiable.

Hoo boy. I am usually a pretty positive person in my columns, but… this card makes me think of Triumph of Ferocity. And when that happens, that’s a pretty good sign that something has gone wrong. The good news is that it seems like the story beat depicted here isn’t as bad as it looks; I don’t want to spoil too much, but based on a section from the Ixalan Art Book that has been making the rounds on Twitter, this is part of a mutual plan between Jace and Vraska, which, I must begrudgingly admit, seems reasonable.

That said, I think it’s a big issue that nothing on this card signals to me that Vraska is on board with Jace’s mind-sculpting. The art doesn’t signal it; Vraska is looking away, and the way her head tilts up into Jace’s spell reads as surprise more than anything to me. It looks like a sneak attack. (Sure, Jace looks like he feels really bad, but that doesn’t imply that he’s acting with her consent.) Perhaps this was unavoidable if Wizards wanted to show the moment of the spell; what if they had aimed to show the moment before, instead? Jace and Vraska’s last moment together before he erases her memory, with just the faint wisps of Jace’s spell starting to float up, so that we could see her facing him, seeing and accepting the spell that’s coming?

The card title also doesn’t signal it; how differently would this art read if the card name were, say, Voluntary Amnesia instead of Induced Amnesia? And I know there’s a lot of rules text on here and I don’t know if Wizards still shrinks rules text to make room for flavor text, but if ever a card needed it, it’s this one. Something simple, in Vraska’s voice; even “I’ll miss you, Jace” would give the card some signal that
Vraska’s on board with this. Without any of these signals, this looks like Jace deciding he needs to rearrange Vraska’s memories (something that he, frankly, has a history of doing).

It seems probable that this is intentional on Wizards’s part, that they want this to be a “WHAT?” in previews that is revealed not to be so bad in the story. Given that many players do not read Magic Story and only get their sense of the story from the set itself, however, for a large protion of the community, this will look like the story is Man Decides He Must Reshape Woman’s Mind For The Greater Good (But He Feels
Really Bad About It). And the appearance of this profound betrayal of trust and assault upon Vraska’s mind is bad optics, just as Triumph of Ferocity was. After all, there was more to the story of Triumph of Ferocity too: Liliana escaped, and Garruk had no actual triumph. That didn’t spare the card deserved criticism.

(Sing with me, now) Whatever Bo-las wants…. Bo-las gets…

So, it looks like Vraska claims the Immortal Sun and arranges its delivery into Bolas’s hands. Andrew Weisel was quick to point out that this looks like the Planar Bridge at work. I’m not precisely sure how that is possible (judging by the timeline presented by “Hour of Devastation” and “The Talented Captain Vraska,” it doesn’t look like Bolas could have expected to have a working Planar Bridge at this time, and the hot Vorthos theory is that Bolas needs the Immortal Sun to serve as a power source for a new Planar Bridge being constructed by Ral Zarek), but I suppose it’s magic, after all. Presumably, given her memory erasure, this is where Vraska’s story ends for the block. The question is, is there some twist hiding here? It looks like Jace is the one to unseal the entry to Azor’s inner chamber, where the Immortal Sun is kept; how do we get from Jace being here first to the memory-wiped Vraska standing alone with the Sun? And is there something that happens following this moment that will change the resonance of this card, much the way Emrakul’s involvement in her own imprisonment changes the perception of Imprisoned In The Moon?


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.

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.