Today, Magic: the Gathering‘s official website revealed that this year, the game will return to the fan favorite world of Ravnica once again.
Last visited in 2012-2013’s Return to Ravnica block, Ravnica’s entire landscape is composed of an endlessly sprawling city. That unique concept immediately captivated players’ imaginations during the original 2005-2006 Ravnica: City of Guilds block of expansions. Players fell in love with the concept of a city governed by ten guilds, each of which aligns with two of Magic‘s five colors. The guilds had distinct identities, such as the barbaric and destructive Gruul Clan as well as the secretive and scheming House Dimir, allowing players to align with a color pair that both supported their personality and play style. Now, beginning this fall, players will get to fight alongside their favorite guilds once again in not just one, but three expansions.
In Guilds of Ravnica, which releases on October 5th, 2018, players will get to play with five of the ten guilds on the plane. They include:
the harmonious Selesnya (green-white), the militant Boros (red-white), the life-and-death-focused Golgari (black-green), the frazzled geniuses of the Izzet (blue-red), and the mystery of the Dimir (blue-black).
Then, in Ravnica Allegiance, which releases in January 2019, the focus will shift to the other five guilds, including:
the orderly Azorius (white-blue), the chaotic Rakdos (black-red), the wild Gruul (red-green), the experimental Simic (green-blue), and the devious Orzhov (white-black).
Players will be able to take their guild affiliation to the next level on this return to Ravnica thanks to the release of Guild Kits. These special box sets will include a 60-card deck “flavored after your favorite guild, plus guild schwag like pins, stickers, and Spindown life counters. Play as any one of the Guilds of Ravnica guilds with the Guilds of Ravnica Guild Kits releasing on November 2, 2018. Ravnica Allegiance Guild Kits release March 2019.”
So what does that leave for the third Ravnica expansion? Well, if you’ve been following Magic‘s story, you’ll know that for many years now, its focus has been on the battle between the heroic alliance of Planeswalkers known as the Gatewatch and Nicol Bolas, an ancient Elder Dragon planeswalker. Over the course of several Magic expansions, Bolas has been executing a plan of mysterious intent. On Kaladesh, a world of invention, he stole a planar portal that would allow him to transport non-natural materials between worlds. Then, on Amonkhet, a plane which Bolas had taken over many years ago, he collected an army of zombified and embalmed warriors known as Eternals. After that, on Ixalan, he collected the Immortal Sun, a powerful tool that is designed to prevent Planeswalkers from travelling between worlds. Finally, although Dominaria’s story is not yet complete, it seems like by the time it ends, he’ll have control of a Gatewatch member, Liliana Vess, as well.
All of these schemes will culminate next year with the third consecutive set that takes place on Ravnica. That set has not yet been publicly named, but Wizards said that instead of focusing on the guilds themselves, the set would focus on the ultimate battle between Nicol Bolas and the Gatewatch on Ravnica. And although all three sets will take place on the same world, they will be drafted separately, as has become the standard for Magic sets in recent years.
In Wizards’ press release for Ravnica Allegiance, the company characterizes this set as the “penultimate moment of the Gatewatch’s story.” When asked if this meant that we would be leaving the Gatewatch and Bolas behind after the third set on Ravnica, they had no comment. But it certainly seems like we might see a radical shift in the storyline following the end of this plot, which arguably began with 2008’s Shards of Alara block and has dominated most of Magic‘s plotline since 2014’s Khans of Tarkir block.
One interesting element that the new Ravnica storyline will likely center on is control of the Golgari Swarm. Philosophically, the guild is based around the concept of cycles– its members believe in the natural progression of life and death feeding into one another. Thus, their seat of power is constantly in flux as well. Over the course of our two previous trips to Ravnica, we saw a variety of factions and individuals via for control of the Swarm. While an undead elf, Jarad, had taken over the guild during Return to Ravnica‘s story, the Gorgon planeswalker Vraska has been eyeing the seat for some time as well. She even went to Ixalan on Nicol Bolas’ behalf to retrieve the Immortal Sun in exchange for Bolas’ help in unseating Jarad, which he gave after Vraska successfully delivered the Sun to him.
However, before Vraska retrieved the Immortal Sun, she met Jace, another member of the Gatewatch who had been stranded on Ixalan following a failed assault on Bolas on Amonkhet. Though she and Jace initially started off as antagonistic towards one another, they ultimately grew quite close, leading Vraska to decide to align herself with him in the fight against Bolas– albeit secretly. Vraska had Jace erase all memory of him from her mind so she could complete Bolas’ task without betraying her true allegiance. She told him that when they next met on Ravnica, with her in control of the Golgari, he could restore her memories and count on her in the ensuing battle against the Elder Dragon. While it remains to be seen whether the plan will run so smoothly in reality, we should expect to see it come up at some point during our extended stay in the City of Guilds.
Along with today’s announcement blog, Magic‘s YouTube channel posted a video with further details about the latest return to Ravnica.
And in that video, as a special treat, we even got some cool new previews from Battlebond, Magic‘s attempt to design a cooperative set where you and a friend can team up to draft or build sealed decks that you’ll then play in a 2 versus 2 format known as Two-Headed Giant.
In the above video, senior set designer Gavin Verhey talked about the “Partner with” mechanic. Although at first glance based on the reminder text of Pia and Toothy, this new mechanic seems functionally different from the Partner mechanic that graced Legendary Creatures in Commander 2016, these two mechanics are indeed linked. Verhay says:
This is a new version of kind of an old mechanic. ‘Partner with’ means a few different things. The first really cool thing is that they’ll always show up in Booster Packs together. … You can play both these together as your Commander, so if you have Pir and Toothy, they can both start the game in your Command Zone helming your Commander deck.
Ready to draw some cards, folks?!