This is a new type of content that has never been attempted for ChannelFireball to my knowledge, so please let us know in the comments if this is something you want to see continued. If you want to read the Magic Stories in full, you can do so on the Wizards website. Today I will be focusing on Ixalan only, but if there is demand for it I will continue with Rivals of Ixalan and beyond in the future. I will try to make these as spoiler free to future sets as possible.
At the conclusion of the Hour of Devastation, the Gatewatch—which is Magic’s version of the Justice League (AKA the Jacetice League)—was summarily defeated by Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh. Although the whereabouts of the rest of the Gatewatch are as of yet unknown, following Jace’s Defeat, he was able to narrowly escape to a mysterious Dinosaur, Pirate, and Vampire infested meso-American themed plane called Ixalan.
Jace regains consciousness to find that he does not remember who he is, where he is, or how he got there. He does not recognize his surroundings, although he quickly discovers that he is alone on a tropical island filled with feathered Dinosaurs. Instinctively, Jace attempts to planeswalk away, but Ixalan’s Binding prevents him from succeeding and a mysterious circle inside of a triangle symbol briefly appears above his head as he is forced back to Ixalan. Following a brief period of the Castaway’s Despair, we follow him through the art of Ixalan’s basic lands as he takes the day to explore the islands, plains, mountains, swamps, and forests that Ixalan has to offer.
Disconnecting himself from the troubles of his forgotten identity, Jace shifts his focus from remembering his identity to basic survival. While he searches for food and shelter, he is haunted by hallucinations from his forgotten past, eventually discovering that they are actually illusions of his own creation.
Over the next week Jace builds a raft, and after several days at sea he crashes on a new island due to a storm. On this new island, Jace learns his identity from Vraska, who arrives captaining a pirate ship.
A Question of Confidence
We are introduced to Huatli, Dinosaur Knight, a talented Dinosaur-mounted warrior of the Aztec-inspired Sun Empire. The Sun Empire is in conflict with the Legion of Dusk, a nation of Vampire Conquistador, and the Brazen Coalition, a band of rowdy Pirates. In one of the skirmishes with the Brazen Coalition, Huatli faces off against the forces of the Minotaur Pirate Angrath, who is in search of The Immortal Sun located in the fabled Golden City of Orazca. Upon losing the battle, Huatli’s planeswalker spark ignites and she sees a vision of Kaladesh before she is forced back to Ixalan by the mysterious force that also prevented Jace from planeswalking with the same circle inside of a triangle symbol appearing. Recognizing that she was attempting to planewalk, Angrath stops attacking and invites her to team up to try to leave the plane. Uninterested and confused, Huatli flees, believing that the golden spires of Kaladesh that she saw were actually the Golden City of Orazca. Upon returning home and sharing what she saw with the emperor of the Sun Empire, he sends her on an expedition to locate the lost city and promising her the honored title of Warrior Poet if she succeeds.
The Talented Captain Vraska
Vraska’s story starts with a flashback to Ravnica, where the assassin receives a note directing her to Nicol Bolas’ meditation plane. Once there, the Dragon planeswalker expresses interest in hiring her to find the Golden City of Orazca and offering to make her the guildmaster of the Golgari as payment when she is done. Although she wants to do good for her people by leading the Golgari, she does not trust Bolas, but his mind-reading discourages her from thinking she can betray him. Bolas gives her a compass to lead her to Orazca and forcefully places the knowledge into her head on how to call Bolas’ minion when she has achieved her quest and also imparts onto her the knowledge of how to sail the seas.
In the present, we catch up to Vraska guiding a fleet of the Brazen Coalition, where she enjoys being a captain and the freedom that comes with the role. She instructs her crew to follow the guidance of the compass from Bolas which leads her to Jace, who she is not excited to see until she sees that he is stranded and struggling to survive. She decides to nurse him back to health, question him, and then kill him, if necessary. Jace does not remember her so instead Vraska, remaining suspicious, decides to spare him and put him to work on her ship. Jace helps the ship in a naval battle against the Legion of Dusk, where Jace is instrumental in the victory over the opposing Vampire captain. After the pirate crew’s successful display of skulduggery and swashbuckling, Jace and Vraska realize that they fight well together and she invites him to join the crew.
Also located on Ixalan are a nation of Merfolk known as the River Heralds consisting of several loosely aligned bands that strive to keep Orazca hidden. The Shapers are the leaders of each of nine bands of Merfolk, and some of key Shapers are Kopala, Tishana, and Kumena.
Kumena learns from a captured Sun Empire warrior that Angrath, Vraska, and Huatli are searching for Orazca. Kumena wants to find the Golden City so that the River Heralds can protect it and this almost leads to a fight with Kumena and Kopala until they sense that outside ships have landed on their shores, but not before Kumena kills his prisoner in anger. Together, Tishana and Kumena are able to rebuke the invaders by calling on the help of the ocean. Once successful in crashing the ships, Kumena knocks Tishana unconscious so he can find the Golden City and wield the Immortal Sun for his own gain.
Something Else Entirely
Jace rediscovers his ability to read minds, and uses his ability to recall images of Ravnica from Vraska. Vraska discusses Ravnica and her past with Jace and her desire to lead the Golgari to a brighter future than what the current leader can. Jace has a sudden memory of a winged lion with the face of a man gasping for breath, a long-forgotten memory of Jace’s first planeswalk from Vryn. Jace asks Vraska if he has broken anyone’s mind before and then they discuss the nature of redemption for past deeds. Jace believes in redemption and comforts Vraska in the thought that she can be redeemed for her past actions as Jace wants to be for his. They then discuss the nature of planeswalking and her past torture in an Azorius prison, which led to her planeswalker spark igniting. He admits to himself that he is attracted to Vraska and cares for her.
Jace examines the Thaumatic Compass and finds that it reacts to his attempt to planeswalk away, explaining why it led Vraska to him when he was marooned. Before he can share this information on how the compass functions, they see a Legion of Dusk ship about to make landfall at the same time as them when both ships are caught in the defensive measures of Tishana and Kumena. The Pirates abandon the ship before it crashes into the rocks.
The Race, Part 1
Mavren Fein, a vampiric priest, stumbles upon Adanto in a blood-starved stupor. He is then locked up for the safety of himself and the humans in the fort, and in the cell he recounts the history of the vampire nation to an imprisoned human criminal that will be used to break his blood fast. He speaks of Saint Elenda, the first vampire and ancestor to the Legion of Dusk. She was a human warrior nun (seriously, I didn’t make that up) who was tasked with protecting The Immortal Sun until her people were betrayed and a winged beast stole it. She turned to dark magic to retrieve the object and became immortal so she could search for the Immortal Sun for eternity. She returned to her people many centuries later and taught them to convert themselves into vampires. Mavren feasts on the prisoner, which returns him to sanity, and then is released by Adanto’s priest to continue his search for The Immortal Sun on foot.
Vona, a ruthless vampire warrior, agreed to join a search party for Saint Elenda in order to allow Vona to have as much access to blood victims as she desired. Despite the Legion of Dusk’s rules allowing for feasting only on the blood of the guilty, Vona wants to kill and eat as much as she can and warps the line between guilty and innocent to satisfy her thirst. She is the captain of the Legion of Dusk ship that approaches landfall the same time as Vraska’s and is also caught up in Tishana and Kumena’s spell, crashing into the rocks. Vona survives and decides to allow Vraska to escape into the jungle so that she can hunt her down later for sport.
Vraska and Jace use a stray Dusk Legion dinghy to sail upriver and into the jungle where the compass is pointing. A battle breaks out with the beached Vampires while Vraska and Jace escape inland on a river fishing boat away from the drowned catacombs that once were her ship.
Huatli finds Tishana’s unconscious body and wakes her to ask for a guide to Orazca. Tishana is weak after Kumena’s betrayal and realizes that she will need help to save the denizens of Ixalan from the unbalance that tampering with the Immortal Sun will cause and agrees to join forces. Huatli sends her second in command after Vona, and Tishana and Huatli follow the river after seeing the illusion that Jace had created. Tishana reveals that they need a way to find Orazca, and a Merfolk spy informs her that Vraska has a magical compass, which will lead them there.
The Race, Part 2
Nightfall arrives and Vraska admits to herself that she would like to have Jace in her life after they escape Ixalan, although she reflects that she would be fine if he did not want the same. Later, after they leave the river and travel on foot through the trees, they encounter Vona who quickly steals the compass and disappears into the jungle. Before they can begin to follow her, they encounter Huatli and Tishana who demand the compass. Finding that Jace and Vraska no longer have it, Tishana and Huatli go after Vona using Tishana’s connection with nature to track her through the dense jungle.
Many hours later they catch up to Vona, and Huatli commands her mount to attack Vona while she rests. They acquire the compass and Huatli summons a raptor to finish off Vona. Before they can depart toward Orazca, they are ambushed by the Brazen Coalition and Huatli’s mount is petrified by Vraska. Tishana summons the river and washes away many of the pirates, although Jace and Vraska escape with the compass. Tishana tells Huatli that she is going to stop Kumena on her own and disappears after them. Angrath comes out of the trees and surrenders to Huatli in the hopes that she will want to work together since they are both planeswalkers, an idea that does not appeal to her.
Following the guidance of the compass, Vraska and her crew first see the Spires of Orazca before the ground begins to rumble and the Winged Temple of Orazca is revealed. An intense stream of water from a nearby river changes course due to the shifts in the landscape and Jace is swept off a cliff. Vraska briefly grips his fingers, but Jace falls and she can do nothing but call out his name before falling down after him. As a reflex, her body tries to send her to Ravnica before she hits the bottom, but the Ixalan magic which prevents planeswalkers prevents her again. At the bottom she sees Jace clung to the side of the water with a head injury. She can see illusions of Jace’s memories return to him in a Flood of Recollection and dreads that he will soon remember that he is the embodiment of the law on Ravnica and she is a mercenary assassin.
Well that’s it for Ixalan’s story! What details from the first set in the block did I leave out? What are your favorite plot points from Ixalan? Please try to save your Rivals of Ixalan related spoilers for the Rivals of Ixalan story recap.