Today at Emerald City Comic Con, Wizards of the Coast and Del Rey Books gathered to host a panel discussing the start of Magic: the Gathering’s huge War of the Spark storyline. The panelists included Magic’s franchise communications specialist Steve Sunu, story consultant Jay Annelli, writer Greg Weisman, Wizards Entertainment Designer Nic Kelman, and Del Rey’s editorial director Tricia Narwani.
War of the Spark is the culmination of over a decade of Magic storytelling. It features a huge collection of Planeswalkers, beings that can travel between Magic’s many worlds instead of simply within them, being drawn to the city world of Ravnica thanks to the machinations of Nicol Bolas, a greedy and powerful Elder Dragon planeswalker.
The panel kicked off with an introduction of a secret panelist: author Django Wexler. The panel revealed that Wexler had written 20 free prequel stories that lead into Weisman’s upcoming War of the Spark novel, which will release through Del Rey. The prequel stories will be released online.
As Narwani mentioned, Magic’s lead protagonists, Planeswalkers who join forces to form a league called the Gatewatch, have been the focus of Magic’s story for quite some time. When asked how Wizards balances the needs of the Gatewatch story against the introduction of other planes and story elements, Kelman explained that Wizards tries to keep the two story tracks closely aligned, making sure the story of each Magic expansion’s plane stays closely related to the personal stakes of the Gatewatch in one way or another.
In creating War of the Spark’s novel, the panelists said that they were ironing out the story for the set eighteen months before looking for a writer. Then, when Weisman was brought on, they gave him some leeway to play with some of the ideas that the story team had concepted prior to putting words to page. For example, lead character Teyo Verada was concepted as a character in his mid to late 20s, but Weisman was allowed to make Teyo younger to make his character interactions with other leads feel more functional and make his own journey start from a place of less experience and more naievity.
Weisman shared some backstory on Teyo. He said that he comes from a world that is surrounded by two storms, the Eastern and Western storms. He is in an Order of the Shieldmage as a trainee. He hopes to become a mage that can defend a town in his world from the dangerous storms, but Teyo is considered the worst Shieldmage in the Order at the start of the story.
Another character joining Teyo on his journey through Ravnica is Rat, a sixteen year old street urchin who is guildless and is stuck between choosing whether she wants to be in the Gruul, Selesnya or Rakdos. She helps Teyo navigate his way around the guilds, as she is welcomed by several of them.
The panel showcased a character design for Rat exclusively to the attendees. Her design incorporates elements from multiple guilds to showcase her status as between homes.
Wexler was then asked to talk about the story of the prequels to War of the Spark. His stories focus on Ral Zarek, a Planeswalker and agent of Bolas. They take place prior to the arrival of the Gatewatch on Ravnica.
When asked what the role of Magic’s story was relative to the game, Kelman said that it helps to “dimensionalize” the characters of the Multiverse, giving players a way to relate more to the heroes and villains of the game. Sunu added on that it adds an additional way, beyond everything else that Magic is doing, to engage with Magic as a brand and creative universe.
Weisman succinctly summed things up: “we’re hoping the [War of the Spark] novel is a gateway drug.”
When asked by an audience member where fan-favorite planeswalker Garruk Wildspeaker is, Kelman said “patience. Patience patience patience…but not too much patience.”
Another fan asked whether Magic has plans for a webseries, film or otherwise at present. Sunu noted the crowd’s enthusiasm at the idea, but said Wizards has nothing to share at present.
Magic’s head designer Mark Rosewater showed up to briefly answer a question about whether wedges, characters and cards based around three of Magic’s colors, would show up again (he said they would).
The panel concluded with one more surprise: Weisman is writing a book two for Ravnica’s epic storyline. Teyo, Rat, Kaya, and Liliana will be the four main leads for this story.
Alex is the New Media Editor of the Comics Beat. He is also a freelance comics editor with previous credits at First Second, Top Cow, and Papercutz. He primarily covers DC Comics and Magic: the Gathering.