Understanding the origins to understand the future
Magic Origins will be the last Magic core set to ever be made, but don't worry! At the same time it will herald the beginning of a glorious new Magic era. To signalize the upcoming changes the set will be breaking the naming convention for core sets, which was just “Magic” or “M” followed by a number in recent years.
Magic Origins sets a new Standard
For Standard players Magic Origins enables a smooth transition to the new release schedule of two blocks per year, with each block consisting only of two sets instead of the former three. Starting with the next rotation the Standard format will always consist of five or six sets (exactly three blocks) instead of varying between five and eight legal sets at any given time.
The new block structure
The third set in a block had always been causing problems for the design of the draft environments, as a single pack from the last set could rarely impact the general feeling of any given draft format enough to make it feel fresh and exciting for all the players. At the same time most of the third sets were printed and sold in smaller numbers, because they were not opened as much during draft tournaments as the first two sets of the respective blocks, which caused card availability problems for constructed formats in the long term. Therefore, Wizards of the Coast decided that thematic blocks should be changed to consist of only two sets in all blocks released after Magic Origins.
This change allows for a faster pace in Magic storytelling as well, as we get to see two blocks per year, each with their own storyline and specific plane. While in the early years of Magic the sets were more focussed on displaying creatures and places on the different planes, the storylines describing different Planeswalkers, their plans, motivations and adventures have become much more intricate and compelling by now. Magic Origins will increase the epic storytelling element even further than we already saw during the Tarkir Block, which allowed us to experience all the changes on Tarkir caused by Sarkhan's time travelling.
Igniting the spark
Magic Origins will tell the origin stories of Nissa, Chandra, Liliana, Jace and Gideon before they even became Planeswalkers. Planeswalkers are born with the potential to travel between the different worlds in Magic's Multiverse, but they have to learn to control and master their powers for a long time. Most of them are humanoids and live among their own kind, until a moment of extreme emotional stress causes their spark to ignite, turning them into beings wielding much greater power than before, while also inducing them to perform their first uncontrolled travel to another plane of existence. In Magic Origins we will get to see what five of our favourite Planeswalkers were like as humans right before their sparks ignited and changed them forever. We will also be right with them in their moment of transformation, if we can trigger their conditions and flip those cards over to their powerful Planeswalker side.
Magic Origins' five important Planeswalkers
Magic Origins will be focussing on five important characters, the seminal moments that transformed them into Planeswalkers, and the pivotal experiences that shaped them into who they are today. By doing so it will also give us quite a few glimpses at the planes, on which those Planeswalkers were born, and the planes they first travelled to. Some of those planes have been featured in Magic sets in the past, while some of them are unknown to us yet and might be the worlds we see in upcoming thematic blocks.
We will follow Gideon Jura on his path as he turns from being a troubled street kid into a powerful protector of the innocent.
We will see Jace Beleren's transformation from a talented pariah into a brilliant and mysterious telepath.
We will witness the tragic events that changed Liliana Vess from an aspiring healer into a devious necromancer who commands legions of zombies.
We will observe Chandra Nalaar on her way from being a rebellious troublemaker to become an accomplished pyromancer who challenges authority.
And we will monitor Nissa Revane to find out what turned her from a misunderstood outcast into a warrior dedicated to protecting life on all worlds.
The transformational mechanic
There is not a lot of space on any given card to portray a whole lot of a storyline, especially if you are trying to depict a significant change or process. Therefore, we see the return to double-faced cards as we saw them in Innistrad. Once used to symbolize transformational processes like Humans turning into Werewolves, this mechanic fits the flavour of a Planeswalkers spark igniting quite nicely.
So far only the card Liliana, Heretical Healer
has been spoiled, but we can imagine the other four Planeswalker cards in Magic Origins will work in a similar fashion. We will see them in their human form, characterized by the skills they acquired and the niche they had to find because they were inherently different. The back of the card will showcase what they became after arriving on the first plane they ever planeswalked to.
Understanding the past to understand the future
These five Planeswalkers were chosen as a focal point for Magic Origins because they will all take a central role in Magic's story in the near future. To better understand the future adventures of those characters it is important to go back and explore their origins, to see the tales of what made them who they are. We get to learn about their motivations and life histories before future blocks will be bringing us the next phase of the storyline.
Magic Origins focuses just on those five characters, but it has not made any other Planeswalker character obsolete. Future storylines will continue to focus on a diverse array of Magic's Planeswalkers, legendary heroes, ambitious villains, self-serving iconoclasts, fantastic creatures, and other weirdos aside from these five. The creative team wants to explore the backstories, spark moments, and home planes of more characters someday. For now, these five have some especially epic stories in front of them. Therefore, it was important to show us the life events and the ten worlds that formed their character traits up to this point.