Looking Ahead to Dominaria

Kyle Massa
March 07, 2018
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Eleven years is a long time to wait. But with the Masters 25 spoiler now complete, the stage is set for Magic: The Gathering to return to its original plane: Dominaria!

For longtime players, this should be a fun nostalgia trip. For newer players, Dominaria promises to reiterate the many reasons people fell in love with the setting to begin with. Our last visit came in 2007 with Future Sight, the concluding set of the Time Spiral block.

What can we look forward to from this upcoming release? Listen, I'm not a Prognostic Sphinx. But I do have some theories. Let's get started.

I Said Hey, What's Goin' On (On Dominaria)?

Let's start with a recap. When we last saw Dominaria, time rifts had torn open throughout the plane, causing all kinds of paradoxes, alternate realities, and general mayhem. The plane's inhabitants fought tirelessly to seal these rifts, culminating in the fabled Mending.

What was the Mending? Here's the gist: Jeska, a.k.a. Karona, a.k.a. Phage, sacrificed herself to seal the final time rift on Dominaria. In doing so, she set off an event which rippled throughout the Multiverse and fundamentally altered planeswalker sparks. This was called the Mending. From this moment onward, planeswalkers were no longer immortal, godlike beings; their power was significantly diminished. (Conveniently for players, this allowed them to start appearing on their own cards.)

Which Characters Are Officially Confirmed So Far?

Wondering which of your characters will definitely make a comeback? Thanks to the set's key art, we're certain about three classic characters: Jhoira, Karn, and Teferi. Karn is a planeswalker (as any self-respecting Tron player already knows). Jhoira is an immortal human and Teferi is a former planeswalker. It's a safe bet all three of these characters will get their own cards in Dominaria.

Of these three characters, Teferi is the most interesting to me. The Magic story team certainly has a history of taking characters without sparks and making them planeswalkers—we've seen this with Samut in Amonkhet and Narset on Tarkir. So why not take a former planeswalker and give him his spark back? The last time we visited Dominaria, Teferi surrendered his spark to close a time rift. I predict that he'll get it back in Dominaria.

Beyond this, we also know that Wizards hired fantasy and science fiction author Martha Wells to pen Dominaria's stories. In her interview on the subject, Wells revealed some hints at what we might see. As far as returns, she confirmed that we'll be seeing both the Cabal and the Weatherlight once again. Woo hoo!

Welcome Home, Liliana Vess

As we learned in Magic Origins, Liliana's home plane happens to be Dominaria. Her last visit was not great; She accidentally turned her brother into a bloodcrazed zombie thanks to the manipulation of a mysterious being known as the Raven Man. Lily was understandably upset, so she swore revenge on the Raven Man for what he did. Could more of this story develop in Dominaria?

Another interesting tidbit: The last of Liliana's four demons, Belzenlok, is lurking on Dominaria. For context, Liliana made deals with four powerful demons in order to preserve her youth and reclaim some of the power she lost during the Mending. Since then, she's been killing those demons one by one. Liliana already defeated Kothophed, Griselbrand, and Razaketh, meaning Belzenlok is the last on her list. I'd expect to see a card for him in this set (likely at mythic rare).

Though we'll almost assuredly see Liliana in this set, it's unlikely she'll appear on a planeswalker card. Magic's story team has acknowledged that players are tired of seeing Gatewatch planeswalker cards dominate Standard, and will therefore print fewer of them in the future. Expect to see Liliana in the art of many cards—just not her own.

What About Nicky B?

Considering the events of the past few sets, it's likely that we'll see Nicol Bolas return to Dominaria. He's the biggest, baddest guy in the whole Multiverse, after all, and Dominaria is his home plane as well.

Need further evidence? At the conclusion of the Hour of Devastation story arc, Bolas soundly defeats all five members of the Gatewatch. For Liliana, he makes a special offer: he'll train her to harness the full power of her ancient artifact, the Chain Veil, in exchange for her cooperation. She accepts, then planeswalks away to another plane, where Bolas promises to rendezvous with her at a later time. We know she chose Dominaria, so Bolas will undoubtedly follow.

Enough About Planeswalkers—What About Slivers?

Players would love it. Slivers are a classic species native to Dominaria, so their return is certainly possible.

That said, I'd expect to see the original snakelike style of old slivers rather than the newer Predator style we saw in Magic 2014. In fact, the appearance of Sliver Hivelord just a year later suggests that they're moving away from the humanoid style. Players generally didn't like it, so why bring it back?

No matter what slivers look like in Dominaria, if they do reappear, don't expect them to affect both sides of the battlefield like they used to. This post on Magic Head Designer Mark Rosewater's Blogatog makes it pretty safe to assume slivers will only affect their controller's side of the board.

What Other Minor Characters Might Return?

On Blogatog, Mark Rosewater got a great question and had a great answer for it. Check it out:

Though his answer doesn't necessarily confirm the appearance of Sisay or Squee specifically, Rosewater is clearly hinting at some returning favorites. Who might those be?

Well, aside from the characters I've already mentioned, I think it'd be interesting to see Leshrac finally appear on a card. For the non-story buffs, Leshrac is a powerful and mysterious planeswalker who's been a classic behind-the-scenes baddy for many Dominaria storylines. When we last saw him, it appeared Nicol Bolas defeated him and eliminated him from existence.

But is Leshrac really gone? My inner Vorthos wonders. Like any great comic book villain, the best time to bring back a bad guy is when everyone thinks that bad guy is dead. Furthermore, if Bolas does indeed appear in this set, he and Leshrac would have a pretty potent conflict going on. This would be a great opportunity to challenge the Elder Dragon with a powerful enemy while simultaneously putting a classic Magic villain into print for the first time.

Who else might return? Well, I think the commenter above was onto something when he or she asked about Sisay and Squee. They and the minotaur Tahngarth are the only surviving members of the Weatherlight, the fabled crew which inspired stories for numerous Magic sets. Though they haven't been mentioned in years, these characters would stir up strong nostalgia among longtime players—and Wizards has been all about nostalgia, particularly this year. I'd expect to see at least one of these three characters reprinted on a new card, if not all of them.

For my final character prediction, I'm pretty convinced Jaya Ballard is returning in Dominaria. You might remember her from her card in Time Spiral. Here's my evidence...

First off, Ballard is a fan favorite with a connection to Magic's modern characters. Chandra Nalaar, one of the founding members of the Gatewatch, has followed in Ballard's footsteps—she even wears Jaya's goggles, as depicted on Pyromancer's Goggles from Magic Origins. Furthermore, though it's suggested that Ballard died, the evidence supporting the claim is flimsy at best. We hear it from a planeswalker named Jodah, who makes pretty vague claims about Ballard's demise and how it happened. But this next part is what really convinces me.

In an MTG story published just a month ago, Jace reunites with Gideon on an airship in Dominaria. Now here's the interesting part. Gideon is accompanied by an unnamed woman with the following description:

"She appeared to be in her seventies. She wore thick red robes, and her silver hair was tied in a loose, somewhat frizzy braid at her side. She looked Jace up and down with a distant, amused smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. The woman looked over her shoulder at Gideon and raised an eyebrow.

'Who's the bookworm?'"

To me, this character's appearance and mannerisms feel very much like Jaya Ballard's. Plus, since Wizards revealed Dominaria's packaging early at PAX Unplugged, you'll notice an older pyromancer on this booster:

As far as I know, there's been no official confirmation that this is Jaya Ballard. But it seems very, very likely.

Conclusion

A week from today, some of these questions might be answered. That's because we'll get our first glimpse at the Dominaria storyline on Daily MTG starting March 14th. Get hyped!

Kyle Massa is a writer and avid Magic player living in upstate New York with his fiancée and their two cats. When he's not writing, you'll find him down at the East Greenbush Flipside store jamming booster drafts. For more of Kyle's work, visit www.kyleamassa.com or follow him on Twitter @mindofkyleam. 

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