Ahoy Planeswalkers!

What a lovely time to be a Vorthos! The Magic Story for Rivals of Ixalan has been extremely good, and we just got confirmation that Bolas’s plan is leading us back to Ravnica! So, this might seem like a weird time to talk about something else entirely, but we are coming up on the season where we might expect Wizards to reveal the fall block and/or more details about Dominaria, so it’s time to strike with some predictions for this spring’s highly-anticipated return to Magic’s home plane… and beyond.

We Will See the Gatewatch Reunite on Dominaria

Yeah, yeah, yeah, this flies in the face of the theory I devoted an entire article to a few months back. But, here’s the thing: the Gatewatch is supposed to rendezvous with Ajani on Dominaria (per the Kaladesh Art Book), and Jace has just confirmed he’s late to the meeting. While Jace has been having his adventures on Ixalan, the other four founding members have surely been doing some soul-searching, flung to random planes across the multiverse. (Although, until I hear otherwise, I will persist in assuming that Nissa and Chandra landed on the a peaceful, tropical plane and have been hanging out and feeding each other grapes for the last three months.) They were relying on Liliana to be their planeswalking guide, but I would expect Gideon, Nissa, and Chandra to have found someone else who can get them to Dominaria. I don’t expect their reunion to be the focus of the set–indeed, I half expect that they will stumble upon each other at the very end, after the set’s main action has happened–but I think this will be the moment where we see the Gatewatch recommit to the battle against Bolas.

I don’t know if Liliana is going to attend this meeting, but with Dominaria being her home plane, I think she will be our primary Gatewatch character for purposes of the set’s story. She will probably brush shoulders with the Gatewatch, but I’m tentatively predicting that she blows them off. After all, she has a lot going on, what with the Raven Man and the Chain Veil and her last demon and her new deal with Bolas. And speaking of things Liliana has going on…

Josu Vess Lives (Sort Of)

In case you missed it, the Raven Man’s trickery caused Liliana to turn her brother Josu into some kind of powerful, sentient, undead monstrosity; it was her confrontation with him that caused her spark to ignite a couple hundred years ago. Notably, her spark ignited in the midst of her confrontation, meaning that she did not kill him. And, when there’s no dead body (undeath notwithstanding), TV Tropes reminds us that we should assume the character lives (well, sort of). Look for Josu to be a cool mono-black zombie design for commander (and possibly pushed for standard, to give Amonkhet’s zombies one more shot at a day in the Sweltering Suns), and look for a confrontation with him to be a key moment in Liliana’s post-Amonkhet chaacter development (akin to the wonderful development Jace has undergone over the course of Ixalan through his relationship with Vraska).

Get Ready For an Onslaught of Planeswalkers

We have Karn on the banner art for the set, presumably at least one Gatewatch member (Liliana seems likely to be the most story-relevant one, but it might be too soon after Amonkhet), possible art of Narset, art that seems to show an elderly Jaya Ballard (who also may or may not have secretly been Chandra’s mentor at her monastery, Mother Luti), a de-sparked planeswalker who may find a way back out into the multiverse (Teferi), the looming specter of the Raven Man (who may or may not be the ancient necromancer Lim-Dul), and the perpetual possibility of a known planeswalker’s surprise return or a new planeswalker’s debut.

In the Gatewatch era, large sets have tended to feature three planeswalkers; I’m predicting we will see at least four occupying mythic slots in Dominaria (with the number in the core set scaled back to compensate). There are just so many characters who look like they might need planeswalker cards in this set.

Now, how might the core set compensate? Might it look back to a time before planeswalkers?

Dominaria Is Going to Set Up a Core Set Retelling of the Weatherlight Saga

When Mark Rosewater announced the return of the Core Sets, he had this to say about how they relate to the story: “The set will have some story relevance, but more in a ‘filling in information of the past about relevant characters’ way.” It just so happens that Dominaria is pushing a couple of very important characters who haven’t been seen in quite a while (at least in standard-legal sets): Karn last showed up during the events of Mirrodin Besieged, seven years ago. Teferi has been missing in action since he sealed himself inside Zhalfir during Time Spiral in 2007. These are characters with a deep history, stretching back to their work alongside Urza to thwart Yawgmoth’s Phyrexian invasion of Dominaria; heck, Karn first appeared on a card in fall, 1998–nearly twenty years ago!–in Urza’s Saga.

This is the biggest story of Magic’s history. It’s also one that newer players are apt to have only a fleeting familiarity with. So, how’s this sound? The Gatewatch regroups on Dominaria; they meet Teferi, Jhoira, and Karn; Urza’s old associates learn about the multiverse’s hottest supergroup’s defeat at the hands of Bolas; they decide to share their own hard-won wisdom from their own efforts, trying to team up against an immensely powerful foe.

A sorely-needed reprint of Captain Sisay! Better versions of cards like Gerrard Capashen and Volrath The Fallen! The Weatherlight as a vehicle! My heart sings with joy!

The Year After Dominaria Will Bring Us To Theros And New Phyrexia (But Not Ravnica)

A lot of Vorthos Twitter thinks that we’re getting Ravnica 3: Orzhov Drift this fall to round out Magic’s 25th Anniversary. Sorry, my friends, you’re destined for disappointment. Ravnica is the new Dominaria (Magic’s top plane and the heroes’ home base), and this conflict with Bolas is the new Invasion. We aren’t ready for the climax of this story arc barely a year after Bolas beat the Gatewatch.

No, I still think we’re heading into a recruiting phase for the Gatewatch. They surely realize by now that Ajani was right, and meeting Karn, Teferi, and Jhoira (and perhaps learning about Urza’s battle with Yawgmoth) should reinforce their sense that they need more allies.

The Gatewatch strengthening its ranks also jives perfectly with a theory that Cary Thomas Barkett proposed last week: that Bolas’s plan for the Immortal Sun is to trap a bunch of planeswalkers on a plane so he can harvest their sparks to empower himself. The end of Hour of Devastation suggested that Bolas saw it as a better result that the Gatewatch survived; assuming they would gather more allies to try fighting him again seems like a logical expectation on his part, and if Barkett is right about his plan, an enlarged Gatewatch is exactly what Bolas wants.

The bigger question, however, is where the Gatewatch will expand. The prospect of the Gatewatch crossing paths with Karn also opens up a plot opportunity that I’m tremendously excited about: the rescue of Koth from New Phyrexia. I’ve said it before, but this looks like the perfect single-set block to me: we see what New Phyrexia looks like now and the praetors jockeying for power as a couple of Gatewatch members pop in, keep a low profile, and help Koth (who is a slam-dunk addition to the Gatewatch) bust out. It also helps lay the groundwork for the next Phyrexian invasion, as the Phyrexians seem like the most logical successor as Magic’s chief villain if/when the Gatewatch defeats Bolas.

I also have eyes on a Return to Theros. If Wizards decides to bring Chandra and Gideon together, this could be a good way to do it (and while I prefer Chandra/Nissa, I’m not going to get too bent out of shape for now, since Gideon’s time as a living planeswalker might be limited). Theros would also put more merfolk into play (possibly revitalizing the merfolk archetype for standard next year, similar to Amonkhet with Shadows Over Innistrad and Eldritch Moon’s zombies and Aether Revolt’s seeding for pirates and vampires), and Elspeth is another obvious addition to the Gatewatch (assuming she can be returned to life).

So, tentatively, I’m predicting one set on New Phyrexia, two sets on Theros, and Elspeth and Koth joining the Gatewatch for the 2018-2019 year. Which sounds like a great year of Magic to me!

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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