On 27 April 2019, a huge chapter in Magic: The Gathering's history ends. Up to that point, Nicol Bolas' conflict with the Gatewatch was Wizard of the Coast's most ambitious storytelling endeavor ever, during which they rethought the whole design process. However, all the while, they knew how it would end – with war!
The whole saga was always going to culminate in a massive war between all the living Planeswalkers with Bolas at the center. As Mark Rosewater put it in his elevator pitch, which he outlines in his Waging War of the Spark article: "Imagine every Planeswalker you know, all together on Ravnica—fighting!" And fight they shall. Mechanically, WotfC had to grapple with the problem of having dozens of Planeswalkers in one set and as a result, War of the Spark features the first Uncommon and Rare Planeswalkers, as well as passive Planeswalker abilities and a couple of new and returning mechanics. Now that the stage for war is set, let's discuss the actual battle!
It would be difficult to call War of the Spark diverse, but that's understandable given the task of bringing 37 (!!) Planeswalkers to life.
Proliferate makes a return with slightly different rules – It now upticks all types of counters on a permanent instead of letting you choose what counters to uptick. Planeswalkers, as already stated, now have passive abilities to go with their activated abilities. The number of abilities Planeswalkers have varies based on their rarity. Uncommon planeswalkers like Tibalt, Rakish Instigator have two slots, usually a passive and minus ability, meaning without additional counter manipulation, it has limited uses. Tibalt will definitely be at home in Burn archetypes, as a relatively low-cost way to keep your opponent from gaining life, while putting incidental damage on the battlefield. Rare Planeswalkers like Teferi, Time Raveler have three slots, usually a passive, a plus, and a minus ability. Teferi will slot nicely into control mirrors with his ability to force your opponent into playing at sorcery speed, while allowing the controller to turn his powerful sorcery-speed options into instant-speed options. It's a great nod to the original Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir. Finally, Mythic Planeswalkers like Liliana, Dreadhorde General, have four slots, usually a passive and three abilities (think normal Planeswalker plus a passive). Liliana is reminiscent of Elspeth, Sun's Champion, another six mana Planeswalker with a token-generating plus ability, a powerful minus ability, and a great ultimate.
So that covers Planeswalkers. Now let's talk about the other mechanics! Well, there's only one really worth talking about: Amass is a mechanic of war. You can tell because it makes an Army – more specifically, a Zombie Army – creature token. More specifically, it makes an Army token, but only if you don't already control an army. Otherwise, it places a +1/+1 counter on the Army you already have. It seems counter-intuitive to have only one creature representing an army… and it is! Originally, it was supposed to be multiple tokens, but it made board states too complicated during its testing phase, so Wizards axed it for a single token… that gets bigger! Spells like Lazotep Plating give you an idea on where you'll find the mechanic, but we'll have to wait and see whether it will be good enough to stand on its own or if it will go the way of Bolster (a similar, counter-placing mechanic).
Planeswalkers and Zombie Armies aren't the only thing you'll find in War of the Spark… we're on Ravnica for Pete's sake! Coming with them are great spells and creatures, from our good friend Fblthp, the Lost to powerful counterspells like Dovin's Veto. There is a lot to explore in War of the Spark, so take a look for yourself! Wizards no longer releases manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSRP), but booster packs should cost you approximately 3,99 €. See you all on the battlefield!