Magic: The Gathering story lead Roy Graham spoke at a recent press preview for the upcoming Wilds of Eldraine and told those in attendance that the popular trading card game’s next set would be more than a transitional buffer. Instead, September’s return to the storybook world of Eldraine will part the curtains on the next year of MTG’s narrative ambitions.
The aftermath of the multiplanar war at the heart of March of the Machine has left indelible scars across many worlds, both material and existential. Most Planeswalkers have been stripped of their sparks, and thus the ability to travel between worlds. Twins Will and Rowan Kenrith, natives of Eldraine, are grieving the loss not only of their sparks but their royal parents as well.
Wilds of Eldraine picks up the story amid a crisis of identity for the siblings - one attempts to hold the realm together from a throne that dwarfs his meagre experience, while the other is determined to seek any means necessary of saving her home from yet another disaster. The populace of Eldraine similarly grieves the losses inflicted by the Phyrexians on their homes and their psyche. This is, by all measure, a card set steeped in trauma and learning how to move forward with grace.
Players will see new and returning faces amongst Wilds of Eldraine’s movers and shakers. Ashiok, the only planeswalker featured in the set’s card selection, spins a web of conspiracy and nightmare while the populace are inflicted by a magical slumber with seemingly no cure. Kellan. A young boy with Fey blood in his veins, is given an important task by a mysterious benefactor. Graham said this brand-new character will prove pivotal in the events to come, likely implying that he will crop up in other sets planned for the rest of the year.
But how will he travel without a spark? The Omenpaths hold the answer. Originally sequestered to Kaldheim, these winding, root-like connections allow anyone - not just Planeswalkers, to jaunt through the Multiverse in search of adventure and opportunity. This is the beginning of the Omenpath Arc, the first year in a multi-year plan to move MTG’s narrative into fresh, new directions.
Graham and other Wizards staff at the press preview said all of the teams were cognisant of the story’s tone following the defeat of Elesh Norn and the Phyrexian Invasion. Wilds of Eldraine will be a “palate cleanser” while still acknowledging the horror and trauma wrought by the invasion. They don’t want the set to stay mired in sorrow and loss, but Eldraine’s humour could easily come off as too overtly goofy. Graham stressed that their teams have become very good at walking that particular tightrope.
Imagine Grimm’s fairy tales mixed with all of the iconic legends, bed-time stories and cautionary tales from your youth and it’ll land somewhere close to where Wilds of Eldrainse is aiming. Ashiok will not be a major antagonist but instead weave their conspiracies from the safety of the shadows. Kellan will take centre stage for a brief moment but is promised to pop back up in later sets, while established characters fade into secondary roles within their home plane. It’s a whole new chapter of MTG storytelling, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the start of a new core cast being assembled amongst the upcoming set’s cards.
One interesting note is that neither Wizards of the Coast nor the set design teams anticipated Lorcana being a thing, much less a booming phenomenon amongst TCG collectors and players. The roadmap for sets is long and involved, so the superficial similarities between Lorcana’s whimsical style and Eldraine’s distinct fascination with faeries and related high fantasy tropes is being positioned as a coincidence.
The Omenpath Arc will end with Outlaws of Thunder Junction, the long anticipated Western card set that will be chockablock with well-known villains from MTG’s past. Will we see a nascent band of heroes cut their heroic teeth by dismantling this shadowy scheme? Or will the bad guys succeed in a critical moment and create the inciting action for the next three years of premiere set releases.