Magic the Gathering’s War of the Spark expansion is one of the most innovative the game has seen. In addition to a record 37 Planeswalker cards showing up in the set, the story is the culmination of a massive three-year plot featuring Nicol Bolas invading Ravnica to claim sparks and ascend to godhood. Wizards of the Coast have carefully planned the release of each spoiler in this cycle in a serial order to best capture this riveting story. Let’s take a deep dive into the first act of this epic conflict.
War of the Spark is set on Ravnica, a City-Plane that is ruled by ten guilds, each using a different pairing of one of Magic’s five colors of mana. The guilds have long been rivals, and by infiltrating half of them with Planeswalker leaders loyal to him, Bolas has set the tensions on Ravnica to a boiling point and softened the plane up for his invasion.
The Golgari, Black and Green masters of death and regrowth, have been taken over by the Gorgon Vraska. After assassinating Isperia, the previous leader of the Azorius Guild, she has stewed an uprising among the undercity of various races oppressed under Ravnica’s old order.
The Azorius, the White and Blue masters of law magic, have been taken over by Kaladesh’s Dovin Baan. Dovin’s magical ability to see the flaws in any system let him exploit loopholes to become the guild’s new leader. By enacting emergency powers, he has turned the city into an Orwellian state under constant watch by his Thopters, where future seers arrest people before they can even think of committing a crime.
The Gruul, savage Red and Green masters of the wild have been taken over by the young beastmaster Domri Rade. They are rioting in order to bring about the End-Raze, the prophesied return of their Boar-God Ilharg, and the devastation of all civilization.
The Orzhov, White and Black debt masters who combine church with mafia, have been taken over by Kaya, the Ghost assassin. Kaya (permanently) killed the Ghost Council that previously ran the guild and then freed the enslaved ghost workers from their debts. By raising taxes on the living to offset this, she has critically devastated the plane’s economy.
Finally, the Red and Blue Izzet civilization of mad scientists is being run by Ral Zarek. He’s been working Project Lightning Bug, a device to track Planeswalkers entering Ravnica. Izzet’s true leader, the vain Draco-genius Niv-Mizzet, has retreated to work on a secret project unknown to all.
On Amonkhet, a plane themed around Ancient Egypt, Bolas has taken over. He corrupted the gods of the plane and built its culture around trials, in which the strongest warriors would train their entire lives for the ultimate reward: death. Rather than ascending to a promised blessed afterlife, their bodies were coated in Lazotep, a metal with mystic properties that transformed these warriors into the Dreadhorde, an Eternal Army of zombie super soldiers.
On Kaladesh, a technologically advanced plane of inventors, Bolas had his agent Tezzeret, a Master of Artifice, steal a Planar Bridge from its inventor Rashmi. It couldn’t transport living matter, but with a zombie horde, this didn’t really matter. Tezzeret fused the bridge into his body, Planeswalked to Ravnica, and open a massive portal, letting Bolas’s Eternal Army invade the city.
This army of Eternals is lead by General Liliana, the Necromancer. Bolas allowed Liliana to gain eternal youth by signing a binding magical contract with four demons. Seeking freedom, she joined the Gatewatch, a heroic team of Planeswalkers. With their help, she was able to kill all four of her captor demons. This, however, activated a secret clause that transferred the contract, and control of Liliana, over to Bolas.
With Liliana at the head of Bolas’s army, Ravnica is razed.
In response to Bolas’s Dreadhorde invasion, Ral Zarek, who in truth was working with Niv-Mizzet all along, betrays Bolas and modifies Project Lightning Bug into a beacon, alerting Planeswalkers through the Multiverse of Bolas’s attack.
Once the Planeswalkers arrive to stop the invasion, Bolas springs his trap. On the Plane of Ixalan, he had Vraska capture an artifact known as the Immortal Sun. This sun, formed from the Spark of Azor, the creator of the Guildpact that magically defines Ravnican law, prevents any Planeswalking and thus traps all the Walkers on the plane. Dovin Baan activates it from the Azorius Citadel of New Prahv and, in an instant, the Walkers who came to save Ravnica are now trapped themselves.
With dozens of Walkers trapped in the city while his super army pours in through the Planar Portal, Bolas has now set the stage for his masterstroke.
Jim Harbor is a writer of articles, plays, comics, songs and animation.