“To us this is the beginning of a new era of Magic.”
That was how Mark Rosewater kicked things off at the annual Magic panel at San Diego Comic-Con early Saturday evening. He was talking about the elimination of core sets, the creation of two blocks a year and the new 18-month Standard rotation. The final piece of that puzzle — and this was something that was emphasized over and over again throughout the panel — was a shift in storytelling. He pointed to Mirage, Visions, then Weatherlight and Zendikar, Worldwake, and Rise of the Eldrazi as examples of disjointed storytelling across a block.
One of the side effects of twice as many blocks is having to tell twice as many stories. The pace of the story is just going to accelerate with more chapters being unfurled each year. This has led to the desire for there to be a more continuous story. Joining Maro on the dais were Director of Magic R&D Aaron Forsythe, Magic Senior Art Director Jeremy Jarvis, Brand Manager Liz Lamb-Ferro, and Magic creative designer Jenna Helland. It was Jenna who began to speak about how they solved this problem.
“We wanted a central cast of characters. This is who became the Origins Five; Gideon, Jace, Lilliana, Chandra and Nissa.”
Once they finalized their cast of characters the next step was to take a deep dive into each of those characters and find out more about what made them into the Planeswalkers at the forefront of the Magic mythos. She went on to show how the story of Gideon is woven throughout the art in the past sets and up through Magic Origins which leads him to planeswalk to Bant when his spark ignites. We were then treated to a glimpse of Gideon from the upcoming set — sans frame, text, casting cost and all that.
Another of the Orgins Five that had upcoming art showcased was Nissa.
Once all the characters have had their origins revealed there is the small matter of getting all these characters to interact with each other. In the continuity of the game after Magic Origins these characters still don’t know each other. Jenna talked about the writer’s room where not only are all the character’s stories are workshopped but also the dynamics of how the Origins Five deal with each other. One of the little exercises they might use to figure this out is to ask what would happen if Jace and Gideon had to move a couch together. The audience laughed but Jenna assured them that it was a very real exercies. Later during the Q&A someone asked what the resolution to the scenario would be. Maro had the perfect response.
“I think Gideon moves the sofa by himself but thinks Jace helped him.”
Jenna revealed that only 80% of the Origins Five would make their way through The Battle for Zendikar. Lilliana is still dealing with the ramifications of The Chain Veil and will be sitting this one out. Much of the art in Battle for Zendikar will feature these characters interacting and building out that story such as this piece.
The Uncharted Realms column on DailyMTG.com is going to become more and more central to the telling of these stories and next week will feature the first Prelude to Zendikar story which gets out heroes from the end of the Magic Orgins into the first act of the Battle for Zendikar. Jenna teased out some of the upcoming stories. Jace will get a visitor that will shake up his world, Lilliana is still struggling under the Chain Veil, Chandra has gotten herself into a position of authority, and Nissa who is “boots on the ground” battling the Eldrazi.
Pivotal events were the next topic of discussion — such as when Elspeth slayed Xenagos on the card Deicide. We were given a glimpse of a pivotal event from Battle for Zendikar and given three words — that were warned were not likely in the correct order. “Gate Slaughter Sea”, which I am just going to venture a guess unjumbles into Seagate Slaughter.
Picking up loose ends — and tying them off — from older stories is another stated goal of the creative team. They were intrigued by the story potential of Ob Nixilis from the last trip to Zendikar and looked to revisit the Planeswalker who lost his spark in the new set. If you are looking for a likely villain in the new story you need search not farther. Ob Nixilis hates Zendikar and the Planeswalkers native to it. This is fine artisinal aged hatred and you can expect this baddie to be very, very bad.
Then they unfurled the wings…
Earlier in the panel Jenna had discussed Jace having a mysterious visitor. Spoiler! Later on Jeremey Jarvis whowed off a meeting of the minds between Jace and none other than the Spirit Dragon himself Ugin.
One of the reasons I was able to unjumble “Seagate” earlier was because…well…it really wasn’t that hard but my notion was confirmed when Maro referred to an upcoming Seagate story on Uncharted Realms that will feature this art. Art that features both Kiora (!) and what appears to be the Bident of Thassa.
Before they let everyone out of the room they showed off a pair of Angels from the next From The Vault set.