War of the Spark is out, we have a new Mythic Champion (Mythic Championship Champion?), the format is settling, and we’re finally getting the prequels to Greg Weisman’s War of the Spark novel. All the major plot details are known. But there’s a big, looming question:

Where does Magic’s story go from here?

The Gatewatch

For almost four years, Magic’s story has featured the Gatewatch. We have followed its most developed characters as they grew individually and together. We have seen them win and lose, their ranks grow and contract, and the stakes continually rise up to their epic confrontation with Bolas on Ravnica. Along the way, there’s always been a clear trajectory for the team: their fight against Bolas. With Bolas defeated (and thought dead by all but Jace and Ugin), the Gatewatch lacks a clear objective for the first time.

If you don’t believe me, here’s a brief recap of everything that the Gatewatch has done in the past four years:

The Gatewatch initially formed to defeat the Eldrazi on Zendikar, a threat unwittingly released by members Jace, Chandra, and Nissa (an event orchestrated by Bolas back in Worldwake, setting all these events in motion and making himself an enemy of the future Gatewatch).

After their initial victory, Jace went to Innistrad to recruit Sorin Markov. This brought the Gatewatch into conflict with Emrakul, and after fighting the Eldrazi a second time (and this time technically losing to them, or at least doing Emrakul’s budding), they were invited to Kaladesh at Dovin Baan‘s behest. (Which, given Dovin’s propensity for seeing the flaw in plans, seems surprising for him to do in retrospect.)

Kaladesh brought them into closer conflict with Bolas via his always-rebellious minion, Tezzeret the Schemer.

From Tezzeret, they learned that Bolas was based on Amonkhet, a plane they traveled to and were soundly defeated on.

A mindwiped Jace fled to Ixalan while the rest of the Gatewatch gathered forces on Dominaria in anticipation of a showdown on Ravnica.

War of the Spark brought us that showdown.

This brings us to the present, with a Gatewatch lacking both immediate business and a primary antagonist.

So where do we go from here?

The Big Question

Liliana’s status is unclear. She’s still technically a member of the Gatewatch, although it’s unlikely that the others have much they want to do with her. She did just commit war crimes, which she admittedly participated in under extreme duress and did her best to mitigate, but war crimes are war crimes.

Also, Liliana’s three biggest connections to the Gatewatch are frayed at best—Gideon is dead, Jace may have moved on, and she has no more demons for them to slay, no major enemies to pit them against. The only member of the Gatewatch who currently has active business with Liliana is the newly-joined Kaya, and she’s been tasked with killing Liliana by Niv-Mizzet. But speaking of Kaya . . .

A Very Different Gatewatch

What is the Gatewatch actually like now? There have been massive roster changes, but we’ve really only ever seen them as a team of Chandra, Gideon, Nissa, Jace, and Liliana (after Oath of the Gatewatch). Gideon is gone, and he was in many ways the glue that kept the team together. Will we see the team go to Theros to bury him (and maybe save an Elspeth while they’re at it)?

Also, we haven’t seen the Gatewatch integrate all the additions to the team.

Ajani joined back in Aether Revolt, but has been off-world, preoccupied, or a minor character every since. Teferi joined in Dominaria, where his relationship was mostly developed with his daughter, Karn, and Jhoira, not the Gatewatch. We don’t know how the powerful and ancient time mage fits in with the group—perhaps he’ll fill the missing leader role in the team. Kaya has just joined the Gatewatch, and we’ve only gotten to know her in the War of the Spark novel and a Conspiracy: Take the Crown story. I’d love to see the team come together and find a new status quo with this dramatically shifted membership.

There’s the question of the Gatewatch’s allies. They’ve interacted with and fought alongside a lot of Planeswalkers along the years (and especially on Ravnica). What is the future of their relationship with characters like Jaya, Karn, Tamiyo, Sarkhan, and Ral? Are Jace and Vraska dating? Are Chandra and Nissa dating? How does the multiverse change now that so many Planeswalkers know of each others’ existence and that they’ve fought side by side? There’s a lot of fertile ground here for storytelling, and that’s something I’m fairly certain will pepper Magic’s stories for years to come.

The Rogues’ Gallery

The Gatewatch may have defeated their greatest foe, but they have made plenty of enemies over the years. Garruk is still on the loose, has a bone to pick with both Liliana and Jace, and has a big role to play in the coming story (according to Blogatog).

Tezzeret is finally free of Bolas’s control. Yes, he’s been bested by Jace in the past and Ral is currently out for his head, but Tezzeret is a powerful and crafty Planeswalker (who may or may not still have access to the Planar Bridge). That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if his conflict with Ral (and Vraska’s conflict with Dovin Baan) aren’t Gatewatch stories.

Dovin Baan is kind of an enigma. He’s never been a big bad—he was the tertiary antagonist on Kaladesh (behind Tezzeret and Baral). His evil was fairly banal—his desire for knowledge and perfection led him to collaborate with monsters. That said, it’s not at all clear to me why he was so strongly allied with Bolas. What did he have to gain by helping Bolas achieve godhood? Bolas’s only other aides on Ravnica were Eternals (with no free will), Liliana, and Tezzeret (who were forced to obey Bolas or die). Could Dovin not see the weaknesses in Bolas’s plan or the weakness in him acceding to the dragon’s will?

I don’t really expect to see Dovin return for some time, or to return as a major threat, because he’s never been one. He’s a mid-boss with nebulous motives at best and no real axe to grind with anyone.

Ob Nixilis is a jerk. He was forced to help Karn, Samut, and Dack on Ravnica and Amonkhet during War of the Spark; but he’s still a jerk. He’s out there and he’d probably be happy to either have his revenge on the Gatewatch for embarrassing him on Zendikar (although they were also integral to him getting his spark back). Granted, he mostly disliked the now-deceased Gideon, so perhaps he’s just going to do his own thing for the next while. (Or perhaps I’m just confusing Magic’s story with Levi Byrne’s awesome Theros stories that were on Hipsters a few months ago?)

Nahiri isn’t exactly a Gatewatch villain, but she’s both a war criminal (she set Emrakul loose on Innistrad, even if luring her away from Zendikar could have been essential to the Gatewatch’s triumph there) and the only non-Bolas villain whose machinations the team dealt with. We’ve not yet seen what her motives are, or whether she knows that Zendikar is still around. It will be interesting to see her come into contact, and possibly conflict (or alliance) with the Gatewatch.

There are several questions relating to the Eldrazi. First and foremost, Emrakul is still alive and exactly where she wants to be. Secondly, she might have been the reason that Jace planeswalked randomly to Ixalan, the exact place he needed to be. Why was the poorly executed Induced Amnesia a major plot point only to be quietly undone off-stage? What’s up with that? Did Jace just have a random vision of Emrakul or did Emrakul want Jace mucking in Bolas’s affairs? And finally, will we ever see those “consequences” Ugin foretold after the Gatewatch killed Ulamog and Kozilek?

We’ll finish today with a villain only a single member of the Gatewatch even knows about: the Raven Man. While he was a non-character in War of the Spark (which was, admittedly a very full story with not a ton of time for Liliana), we still know next to nothing about him. We also know little about the Chain Veil, and what it means for Liliana and Garruk.

Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the next story featured a rematch between Liliana and Garruk, one where the Chain Veil possibly changes hands. It’s just a cursed implement of power now—Liliana no longer has demonic creditors to slay or a Dreadhorde to command. I’d bet that this story is addressed sooner rather than later, since it plays so strongly into Garruk and the Raven Man has been a hanging plot point for a decade now.

Oh. Oh yeah. Phyrexia still exists. And the Gatewatch knows that now.

Also, Karn has the Golgothian Sylex, is totally over pacifism, and wants to blow New Phyrexia up. When something inevitably goes horribly wrong, the Gatewatch will need to swoop in, meet Koth, and fight Magic’s oldest antagonist.

And that’s where we’ll conclude for today. We know our main cast of characters well, we know their many antagonists and dangling relationships, and we’ve had a glimpse into the various adventures they could go on. Here’s looking forward to many more years of Magic stories, even though it’ll certainly be a while before we get a massive event set like War of the Spark.

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 Deadly Recluse. In some formats, it’s a Doom Blade. In others, it’s a weak-hitting two drop. It’s a super context-sensitive card that punishes aggression and is punished by both control decks. It does a whole lot for a Squire with two keywords.

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