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Vraska, the legendary Planeswalker, from Magic: The Gathering Rivals of Ixalan.
Grzegorz Rutkowski/Wizards of the Coast

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Exclusive cards from Magic: The Gathering’s next set, Rivals of Ixalan

Including new art from Wizards of the Coast

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.
Grzegorz Rutkowski/Wizards of the Coast

One of the most interesting talks at this year’s GDC came from Wizards of the Coast's Jeremy Jarvis, franchise creative director for Magic: The Gathering. In it, he talked about the amount of effort that goes into the creation of two distinct game worlds every year.

Those worlds, called Planes in the lore of Magic, are each used as the fuel to create two distinct sets of cards for a grand total of four sets each year. On Sept. 23, 2017 Wizards introduced Ixalan, a Mesoamerican-inspired world filled with dinosaurs, pirates, merfolk and vampires. Now, on the eve of the flagship game’s 25th anniversary, Polygon has the exclusive reveal of new cards from the latest, follow-up set.

This is Rivals of Ixalan.

Angrath’s Fury
Lake Hurwitz/Wizards of the Coast

Lake Hurwitz/Wizards of the Goast

“Armed with steel and dinosaur allies, the Sun Empire meet the vampires of the Legion of Dusk as formidable equals, and the outcome of their conflict is by no means certain,” James Wyatt, Magic’s senior game designer, told Polygon. “But two other nations play a part in the conflict: the swashbuckling pirates of the Brazen Coalition and the shamanic merfolk of the River Heralds. In the context of the vampires’ invasion, all four nations find themselves racing to discover a fabled city, Orazca, where the Immortal Sun — a powerful ancient artifact — is hidden away. Its magic, each nation believes, will give them the power to emerge victorious from this conflict.”

“The art for Rivals of Ixalan is tonally the same as Ixalan,” said Cynthia Sheppard, senior art director, “except this time we had more of a focus on the continental interior and the legendary city of Orazca, over which the four groups are battling for control. We also introduced six legendary Elder Dinosaurs who evolved separately from the colorful-feathered dinosaurs of the plane.”

Swab Goblin
Josu Hernaiz/Wizards of the Coast
Josu Hernaiz/Wizards of the Coast

“Every plane in Magic’s vast Multiverse shares certain goals,” said Wyatt. “We want to create a rich, vibrant environment for storytelling; to mesh with the mechanical themes and ideas of the card set (usually in a back-and-forth partnership between the worldbuilding team and the set design team); to add variety to the play environment, so one set looks and feels different from the next; and to ensure that the diverse population of Magic players can see themselves reflected in the peoples of the plane.”

Sam Burley worked with Wizards as the lead artist on Rivals of Ixalan, setting the tone for the entire plane. This set also includes art from Tyler Jacobson, Steve Belledin, Aleksi Briclot, Christine Choi, Daarken, Steve Prescott, Chris Rahn and Chris Rallis, with contributions from Cynthia Sheppard and Raoul Vitale.

“With Ixalan, we wanted to hit a range of themes,” said Wyatt. “The conflict between invading conquistadors and an indigenous empire, an ‘Age of Exploration’ vibe, and the idea of a ‘lost world’ populated by dinosaurs. In a case like this, a significant challenge is ensuring that all those themes fit together into a coherent whole, but I’m pleased with how it all came together.

Vampire Champion
Craig J. Spearing/Wizards of the Coast
Craig J. Spearing/Wizards of the Coast

“Every Magic set features a number of important characters — both Planeswalkers and unique inhabitants of the plane. Ixalan and Rivals of Ixalan follow the story of the Planeswalkers Jace and Vraska as they join the search for Orazca and the Immortal Sun. The two have been enemies before, but Jace arrived on Ixalan with his memories in tatters. Vraska — a gorgon assassin on a mission from the evil mastermind Nicol Bolas — took advantage of this weakness, and now they’re working together. But they’re not the only story: we also met the Sun Empire Planeswalker Huatli in Ixalan, and Rivals of Ixalan introduces us to the minotaur pirate Angrath. These two Planeswalkers are also caught up in the search for Orazca, both believing the “golden city” holds the key to understanding their destinies.”

Rivals of Ixalan contains 196 cards and will be sold in random packs beginning Jan. 19, 2018. All of the cards shown here are exclusive to the Planeswalker deck product.

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