By week’s end, War of the Spark will be fully spoiled. Then we will know how this tale, three years in the making, will end. Sure, we won’t have all the particular details until Greg Weisman’s book comes out, but we’ll have the broad strokes. This approach was quite satisfying for Eldritch Moon, where the true ending was much darker than the one seen on Imprisoned in the Moon.

While it’s exciting to reach the final payoff to years of buildup, the plot has been mostly hidden this past year, ever since Magic began outsourcing its stories to external authors. On Dominaria, we spent most of our time getting to know the Weatherlight’s crew. In the six months we’ve been on Ravnica, we’ve had environmental stories—great for folks who love Magic’s worldbuilding and its D&D supplements, but meager scraps for those who’ve been enjoying the plot. We will eventually get to the details of GRN and RNA’s stories in Django Wexler’s set of 20 shorts stories—which will come out in May or June—after we’ve gotten Greg Weisman’s book. We’re getting the setup over a month after the payoff, which is a strange way to tell the story of a major, years-in-the-making event.

Today, we’re putting on our Vorthos hats and doing our best to figure out exactly what the plot was for the past six months.

Guilds of Ravnica

Something is Rotten in the State of the Tenth

Isperia, the Inscrutible recognizes the something is amiss. Perhaps it’s related to Vraska the Unseen suddenly becoming guildmaster (on Vraska, Golgari Queen). As the audience, we know that Nicol Bolas did this as a reward for her procuring The Immortal Sun for him, but we don’t know how.

The guilds haven’t collaborated for quite some time. While they will be forced to do so when Bolas invades in War of the Spark, this clearly isn’t the moment.

Going, Going, Gorgon

It could have been that Isperia was getting through to the guilds, or it could have been that Isperia had simply figured out too much about Vraska’s patron and ascendancy. While others, like Lazav, Dimir Mastermind and Niv-Mizzet, Parun would presumably also know as much, only Isperia would cry it from the guild halls. And so Vraska took her out, creating a convenient power vacuum for a Kaladeshi Planeswalker to fill in the next set.

Niv has Plans

Niv-Mizzet realizes bad stuff is happening. While the Dimir’s response to the tumult is to Sinister Sabotage everything, this ancient dragon is concocting his own plans. We’ll later see these plans bear fruit in War of the Spark, when Niv-Mizzet dies (currently off-screen, but a card depicting his death or at least explaining how and when it happened could still be spoiled), his plan is enacted, and he becomes Niv-Mizzet Reborn. But if you’re looking at this card with only the context of Guilds of Ravnica, it tells you very little.

The Lightning Bug Man

In the Return to Ravnica story, newly-introduced Ral Zarek oversaw Project Lightning Bug, something which gave him the ability to track Planeswalkers coming and going from Ravnica. He kept this project a secret from Niv-Mizzet and begrudgingly had Jace, the Living Guildpact keep his confidence. Well, now Lightning Bug is going wild, and Planeswalkers are showing up. But we don’t know who, or why yet. Also, in War of the Spark, we’ll see that the majority of the arrivals come far later, when Ral Zarek summons them. So these infiltrators are probably few in number, mostly Bolas’ agents.

Ravnica Allegiance

Wait, What?

The Ravnica Allegience story spotlight cards are perhaps the least clear that I’ve seen, raising more questions than answers, or raising neither at all. Here, we see that Dovin Baan has filled the power vacuum Vraska created when she killed Isperia. There’s no explanation of how this off-worlder managed to circumvent the byzantine succession procedures the Azorius certainly have, or why he’s allied himself with Bolas. That said, the art makes clear that Dovin is indeed working for Bolas, and Bolas already demonstrated his ability to name a guildmaster with Vraska.

To his credit, Bolas has previously wielded considerable influence on Ravnica; he founded the Infinite Consortium back in Agents of Artifice, so him having such sway isn’t ludicrous or out of left field. We don’t know why Dovin is working for Bolas or is leaving his home plane to rule a guild that’s not all about artifice, but that’ll get explained later, hopefully.


If you know one thing about Kaya, it’s that she hates ghosts. If you know two things, it’s that she’s a mercenary who takes jobs that involve killing ghosts. It’s not much of a stretch to see that Bolas probably hired her to take out the Obzedat, Ghost Council. It’s not immediately clear why she decided to settle down on Ravnica and take over (something she could have easily done on Fiora after killing Brago, King Eternal), but perhaps this is part of her contract with Bolas.

Limited Bomb

Kaya ruling over a guild that enslaves ghosts for profit doesn’t make much sense, and Kaya agrees. She frees all of the ghosts from their servitude with her guildmaster powers (and not her innate, ghost-murdering powers). This is a major change in the status quo of Ravnica’s wealthiest guild, but we don’t see the consequences quite yet.

(It’s a good thing Kaya didn’t show up on Innistrad, because a major plot point was humans being possessed by helpful geists to shake off Emrakul’s influence. Killing Saint Traft would’ve been pretty fatal for Thalia, but that’s a different set of stories.)

…and the status quo remains the same

For the past ten thousand years, the Gruul have been downtrodden. Their purpose in the Guildpact has been lost, their homes destroyed time and time again, and their rage only grew with time. So, they rioted and hit back against the ceaseless incursions of the city. Now, Domri is in charge, and nothing has changed.

This card could have communicated how Domri bested Borborygmos in a challenge, or that Domri had Bolas’ backing. It’s not like this card was needed for Constructed or Limited, or that its flavor text communicates anything we didn’t already know about the Gruul. But no, it tells us nothing that we didn’t already know. The Gruul are just perhaps a smidgen angrier, because Domri says so.

War of the Spark, Act I

Time for a bwaaaah

We’ve arrived at War of the Spark, which means a few things:

  1. There are a lot more Story Spotlight cards here, so we’ve got to be much briefer.
  2. Many of these cards crisply communicate clear moments.
  3. Some of these cards explain what was happening with previous, confusing cards.

Bolas arrives, giving a big middle claw to Jace and all of Ravnica as Tezzeret activates the Planar Bridge—something which he spent the entire Kaladesh story acquiring before quietly grafting it to his body in Core 2019.

This part is also Tezzeret’s Fault

Tezzeret has been busy. In addition to being the living gateway to the unliving Eternal army, he also delivered The Immortal Sun to Dovin Baan, possibly around the time of Emergency Powers. Dovin turns it on with some Skyscribing floursh, and suddenly planeswalking to Ravnica becomes a one-way trip.

I wonder if Dovin knew what he was doing? Why would he want to be a jailer?

An Eternal Enemy

Amonkhet block established that Bolas had raised generations of warriors, taken their very best, and turned them into zombies. Zombies with all of their skills and strengths intact. Zombies which he could transport with Tezzeret’s Planar Bridge, thanks to their metal plating. Unfortunately for the Eternals, the Inverse Ninja Law means they can’t be that big of a threat.

Let’s review

We aren’t learning anything new from this card, but it definitely makes clear that the set features a war—if you hadn’t already seen the set’s name.

A Cry for Help in being Trapped

While this isn’t a story spotlight card, Interplanar Beacon tells you why all the Planeswalkers are amassing on Ravnica. Ral Zarek called out to them, either due to being complicit in Bolas’ plan or genuinely wanting their aid in stopping Bolas (and thereby being unwittingly complicit in Bolas’ plan).

Ral had help?

I’m not sure what’s happening here. To be honest, when I first saw this image in Boston, I thought it was the sparks getting sucked out of these Planeswalkers. But this is them calling for help. Ignore the fact that the color and shape of their energy looks nothing like the Interplanar Beacon and this isn’t how Planeswalkers planeswalk, I think. It’s not a moment that’s frequently depicted.

Bolas is a Jerk

He made this statue to make sure everyone knew this about him. This statue will serve as the first mini-boss, because Eternals still fall victim to the Inverse Ninja Law.

War of the Spark, Act II

Act II: Ravnica Rises

Just as the eagles came to Frodo’s aid, so too do the Boros angels. Ravnica is not defenseless, and finally Feather gets both redemption and her own card. Also, the Parhelion II is a crazy awesome skyship that got downshifted from mythic because there wasn’t enough room.

Nissa’s Back!

After leaving in Dominaria’s Broken Bond, Nissa has returned to save the day and defeat the mid-boss.

…well, that was easy

Fblthip loses its great view and Bolas’ statue comes crumbling down. Everyone gets their brief moment of triumph before, inevitably . . .

Things get worse!

All four of the Amonkhet gods that Bolas killed are here, as Eternals themselves! Bolas didn’t bother to resurrect The Scorpion God or bring along The Scarab God that reanimated these four gods, ’cause redoing your old tricks is lame (except for bringing Neheb back to life a second time, and calling back to all the Hours with the Finale cycle).

In a cool twist, since Hazoret lives, Bolas dives into Ravnica lore and gets Ilharg, the Raze-Boar on his side. It could be a fake, or it could be the real thing. Perhaps we’ll find out later.

Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!

Unfortunately for Domri, the Ravnica traitor who we ultimately know little about, Bolas is the jerk we all know him to be. Bolas doesn’t need Domri, since he’s not a zombie made in his likeness, or a statue made in his likeness, or a God-Eternal remade in his likeness. So, he begins to cast . . .

Harvest souls, become a god

I like what this card is doing mechanically. A lot. I also would never have guessed that “Destroy all planeswalkers your opponents control, gain a benefit” would cost only BB.

The story here is clear and potent (and well communicated via the trailer): Bolas is harvesting sparks (likely of mostly nameless Planeswalkers) to consume them and become a god. Given how old this spell is, it’s presumably supposed to make him even more powerful than he was before The Mending.

Bolas’s Yawgmoth’s Will

I’m not entirely certain what’s going on in this card, but damn that Seb McKinnon artwork is amazing. It looks like the Gatewatch are surrendering themselves to the ascendant God-Bolas, or despairing at his triumph. Perhaps they’ve been in hiding and Bolas has called them out by threatening a bunch of people. There isn’t enough room on this twist on Gifts Ungiven for flavor text, so we’ll find out later.

A Heroic Speech

Never one to shy away from public speaking, Gideon rallies the people of Ravnica and the Planeswalkers. This could have happened before the fall of Bolas’ statue, or in response to The Elderspell. I kind of like it here, since him holding Blackblade Reforged aloft strongly suggests what he’s going to do with it.

War of the Spark, Act III

Bet you didn’t see that coming!

Niv-Mizzet’s plan has come together and—wait, what?! He died?! WHEN?!

Oh okay. That doesn’t explain how he died, but it does explain what Firemind’s Research was apparently into.

So Niv’s plan for after his death—which we still don’t know the details of—involves Jace, Ral, and a no-longer-amnesiac Vraska coming together to resurrect him. But it’s contentious. Maybe it involves Niv channeling The Elderspell into himself and becoming the Super Parun of Guilds. Maybe it involves something else. All I know is, I really, really want to see Vraska get her memories back on a card and for her and Jace to grab that coffee.

That’s it for all the Story Spotlight cards at the time of writing. There’s just one final card we should take a look at.

Heroic Murder, er, Capture

Let’s talk about the Triumph cycle. It’s cool to see a twist on Hour of Devastation’s Defeat cycle. It’s cool that the flavor text of each card shows each Planeswalker being themselves, not giving in to violence or breaking character. But then there’s the art, with the classic villian half-face, full-smirk on each of them (well, Nissa doesn’t look that evil). This art is the most problematic, since it really looks like Chandra is roasting Dovin Baan alive—the thing she almost did to him when they last met in Aether Revolt, except he was able to planeswalk away. The art is cool, but it (and the mechanics) seems to communicate the exact opposite message of the flavor text. Chandra is rejecting Dovin’s perfection by capturing him alive, not by roasting him alive.

So that’s the story of the entire block, according to cards spoiled up to yesterday. And with a lot of conjecture and more than the usual amount of snark. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this dive into the story—honestly, I’m loving the sheer amount of plot. It’s something I really missed since Rivals of Ixalan block. It’s nice seeing the payoff for all that setup, even we won’t get to read the setup for at least another month. But, that’s a concern for another time.

And, as always, thanks for reading.

Zachary Barash is a New York City-based game designer and the commissioner of Team Draft League. He designs for Kingdom Death: Monster, has a Game Design MFA from the NYU Game Center, and does freelance game design. When the stars align, he streams Magic.

His favorite card of the month is Conviction. While initially designed as an aura that wasn’t nigh-guaranteed card advantage, it’s proven far more flexible over a decade later in sets like Aether Revolt (where it enabled Revolt) and Ultimate Masters (where it was quite strong alongside Heroic).

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