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Recent Magic sets have tied the art to the story quite closely. War of the Spark takes this up to a new level, with effectively the entire story told through various cards in the set.
Wizards have helpfully focused on some of these cards, calling them spotlight moments, and those moments are divided into 3 acts.
For those not up to speed, War of the Spark is a culmination of a 4-year story putting the Gatewatch, a loose alliance of Planeswalker, against Nicol Bolas, a dragon planeswalker intent on gaining ever more power.
The Gatewatch were previously defeated by Bolas in the realm of Amonkhet. Here they learned Bolas had corrupted an entire world to his design, turning it into a factory for undead soldier who could travel the planes. In the search for a powerful weapon to defeat Bolas, the Gatewatch killed a demon. This triggered a clause in Liliana’s contract putting her under the control of Nicol Bolas himself. To the other Gatewatch members, she simply failed to follow them to Ravnica. But they would soon meet again.
Wizards started us off towards the end of the story, with this epic trailer for the set:
But how do we get here?
As I mentioned, the story of War of the Spark is divided into three acts.
Bolas achieves three things on Ravnica, all of which have been featured in recent sets over this story arc. The planar bridge is activated, connecting Ravnica, with Amonkhet. Next, and interplanar beacon is activated to attract planeswalker to Ravnica, and finally the Immortal Sun is placed in Ravnica to prevent any planeswalkers who arrive from leaving again.
Clearly, whatever Bolas has planned will involve a lot of planeswalkers.
The plan soon becomes clear. As the army of undead advance through Ravnica, they begin harvesting sparks from planeswalkers as well as laying waste to the city. Planeswalkers and citizens alike rally to fight back, but the dreadhorde bceoms even more powerful witht he arrival of four of Amonkhet’s gods, tranformed into zombies under Bolas’ control.
Their relentless advance continues as Bolas casts his elderspell to strip the powers from planeswalkers and take them into himself. Gatewatch members Gideon and Ajani desperately rally as many as they can to oppose Bolas.
The art above is one I like, showing the implacable dreadhorde, and the posing reminds me of a scene from a different story of urban chaos:
However no one is getting strapped to a chair to listen to Beethoven here.
Planeswalkers are dying, Ravnica is being laid waste, and Bolas’ power grows ever greater. It looks hopeless. People have joined together to fight back and now Bolas deploys Liliana as his general to take charge of the dreadhorde.
Gideon has a plan to fly towards Bolas and try to wound him with the Blackblade, an artifact of great power. They plan goes awry when the zombie god Oketra shoots the pegasus steed out of the sky. The demon lord Rakdos intervenes to deliver Gideon to his destination. Although he managed to wound Bolas with the Blackblade, Gideon is struck down by the dragon and swarmed by the zombie army.
This is where we catch up to the trailer video. Liliana, seeing Gideon still fighting in spite of the odds, remembers her own oath to the Gatewatch and turns on Bolas.
However a Liliana goes up in flames Gideon intervenes to save her and take the curse onto himself. This costs him his life, but buys Liliana the time she needs to use her control over the gods Bontu and Oketra, and take Bolas’s spark. The dragon is a planeswalker no longer.
With Bolas helpless before Liliana, Ugin shows up to whisk his draconic brother away to the place known as the Meditation Realm. This becomes Bolas’ new prison where he can spend the rest of his long life in solitude. And who knows, maybe there’s some Beethoven playing.