Last time, I gave a quick recap of the Ixalan story, and this time I am going to be closing out Ixalan block with Rivals of Ixalan. If you are interested in reading the complete stories for yourself you can find them on the Wizards of the Coast website. For a quick summary: Jace lost his memory while fleeing Nicol Bolas, no planeswalkers can leave Ixalan, Vraska is not a villain anymore even though she was sent to Ixalan by Nicol Bolas, Pirate and Merfolk things happened, we were introduced to Angrath, the marooned minotaur planeswalker trying to escape Ixalan, and everyone is in a race to find Orazca, the Golden City and the power that it contains.
After an online poll by Wizards of the Coast in which Merfolk were the winners, the story was written so that Kumena would be the first to reach the Golden City. He was careful not to use much magic as he moved toward The Immortal Sun so that Tishana could not track him. He paused at the top of the waterfall as he looked down at the Golden City. He eventually finds an entrance and begins to climb. Once inside, the walls literally talk to him and invite him to find and wield the power of The Immortal Sun.
Eventually, after navigating a labyrinthine labyrinth, he finds The Immortal Sun embedded in the floor of a tower. Once he steps on it, he can feel everything on the plane and in the Matrix style he has mastered the concepts that he had dedicated his life to learning. Using this new ability, he can sense the other adventurers approaching the tower and knows that conflict is fast approaching for the fate of the plane and the power within the city. He laughs (probably like a tacky James Bond villain) before he is interrupted by the Vampires Vona and Mavren Fein, who naturally introduce themselves before attacking him. Somehow, despite possessing the power of The Immortal Sun, Kumena is easily defeated and is thrown from the window of the temple by Vona before she then steps into The Immortal Sun and gains the power.
We cut to Jace and Vraska, where Jace has injured his head and now lays at the bottom of the waterfall with his memories flooding back to him, including long suppressed memories of his early life on Vryn. Vraska fears Jace will no longer want to associate with her after he remembers their embattled past. Vraska can see and experience Jace’s memories as they flood back to him. She sees Zendikar. She sees his time as a spy for the Infinite Consortium and the torture, which explains how he got those scars. She sees a young Jace getting tattoos on Ravnica that match his cloak. She sees Jace after the story of Eldritch Moon having an awkward and desperate conversation with a disinterested and dismissive Liliana as she manipulates him. She sees Jace’s hometown of Vryn, his loving mother, and the traumatic experiences under his former teacher. She sees how he lost his memories in a clash of wills, which made the Sphinx forget how to breathe, which triggered immediate guilt that led to his first real planeswalk. Trying to comfort Jace, Vraska reassures him that the visions they are seeing are not happening now and are just in his mind. Jace finally snaps back to reality and begins to cry as he releases all of his forgotten emotion and pain. Vraska then is confronted with an illusion of her past self and experiences the fear and death that she brought to people. They casually apologize for trying to kill each other in the past and begin to climb the staircase to Orazca.
Glimpse the Far Side of the Sun
Huatli finally gets some character background, and we learn that her destiny to be a planeswalker was foreshadowed in her childhood when everyone suspected that she would be the Warrior-Poet and she was interested in stories beyond the sun. In the present, she and Angrath find the Golden City, which she now realizes was not what she saw when she attempted to planeswalk away. Angrath shows her how to planeswalk and together they see the plane of Kaldheim before being pulled back to Ixalan. Huatli starts to doubt what she has learned her whole life. As they approach the city, Angrath reveals that he has been away from his family for 14 years and wishes to see his daughters again. Along the way they also encounter Elenda, who has imprisoned herself in a tomb until Orazca is awoken. Turns out that she is a Christ-like figure who intended to guide her people to humility and peace but is shocked to hear that her Vampire brethren are now basically the opposite. The Vampire vanishes and Huatli and Angrath decide to continue on to the City.
Elsewhere, Jace and Vraska are approaching the City of Orazca. He now has control of his memories and remembers seeing the overarching plan of Nicol Bolas in the Dragon’s mind but cannot immediately recall what it is now. Jace discovers that he only survived the Dragon’s counterattack into his mind because of a trap that Ugin had placed there without Jace’s knowledge to bring him to Ixalan if it were triggered. Vraska and Jace eventually arrive at the entrance to Orazca where Jace recognizes the symbol of the Azorius. Beyond the door Jace can sense a Sphinx, and using these new found clues deduces that it is Azor, the founder of the Azorius on Ravnica. They confront the Sphinx and Jace reveals that he is the Living Guildpact.
The Arbiter of Law Left Chaos in His Wake
Tishana catches up to Huatli and Angrath and the ladies decide to continue their agreement to find the Golden City to prevent others from damaging it. Huatli commands a Dinosaur to subdue Angrath so that he cannot interfere with them. Huatli and Tishana arrive in Orazca just in time for Tishana to catch Kumena’s falling body from the tower where they discover that Vampires have taken control of the City. Hearing the Brazen Coalition of Pirates in the distance, they begin to scale the tower. Once at the top, they engage Vona and Mavren in battle, but Vona using the power of The Immortal Sun proves to be too strong and they are on the edge of defeat when the song of a Siren causes everyone to become entranced by the music. Angrath barges in like the Kool-Aid man and he and a Pirate Goblin join the scuffle. Tishana, Angrath, Huatli, and Vona all touch The Immortal Sun at the same time. Huatli immediately feels radiant power and becomes more connected with Ixalan. She can sense the heartbeats of five elder Dinosaurs (why she cannot sense the sixth is never mentioned). The floor of the tower collapses and everyone falls through.
Jace is locked in a mental battle with Azor as he describes his millennia spent establishing legal systems on chaotic planes, such as he did with Ravnica. He created The Immortal Sun as a trap for a diabolical planeswalker using his own spark. He had a partner, but their plan failed and the prisoner never arrived. Azor spent one thousand years waiting for the signal from his partner but it never came. Vraska is very opposed to Azor’s meddling in the governance of so many planes and blames him for the wars and the conflict between factions on Ixalan. Jace, using the law magic imbued upon him as the Living Guildpact, sentences Azor to banishment on the isolated island where Jace originally arrived on Ixalan.
We learn that around 1,300 years ago Ugin and Azor devised their plot to trap Nicol Bolas on Ixalan, which at the time was a plane with no order. The plot would require Azor to give up his planeswalker spark to build The Immortal Sun, but Ugin would help Azor reclaim it after they were successful. Azor could use his magic, with the help of the amplification of The Immortal Sun, to lure Nicol Bolas from anywhere in the multiverse as long as he knew the coordinates, and Ugin decided to make his home plane of Tarkir that location. Unfortunately for them, Bolas had heard rumors of Azor from planes that Bolas tormented, and also because Azor had a habit of erecting statues of himself wherever he went. He eventually learned of Ugin and Azor’s plan to defeat him from mindreading/torturing commoners that had overheard their discussions. He ambushes Ugin on Tarkir and in the ensuing battle leaves Ugin for dead. As luck would have it though, Bolas never searches for the body to ensure that he has finally won (he’s only an immortal Dragon who has defeated the only being to ever challenge his power—who has that kind of time?), which allowed Ugin to call out to Sarkhan and eventually draw him to Tarkir to seal Ugin’s physical body into a cocoon of stone while housing his spirit in the mind of Sarkhan, driving him mad. Alive but dormant, Ugin spent the next 1,300 years recovering from his defeat and unintentionally abandoning Azor. Now trapped on Ixalan, Azor decided to establish laws on the plane since he had nothing else to do.
Meanwhile, Jace and Vraska exchange intel on Nicol Bolas and they deduce that Vraska is meant to contact Tezzeret, who will use the stolen Planar Bridge to retrieve The Immortal Sun, suspecting that it was also stolen to transport the undead army across planes. Wondering what Bolas’ endgame is, Jace looks back into his own memory during the Hour of Devastation when he tried to read Bolas’ mind and sees Ravnica. Distraught at being a pawn in her own plane’s destruction, Vraska devises a plan to betray Bolas. She asks Jace to seal all memories of him from her mind so that when Bolas inspects her memory he will not see Jace or know that they are aware of his plans. Thinking that Vraska is a capable and loyal accomplice, Bolas will fulfill his promise and make her the leader of the Golgari. Later, Jace can restore her memories to her and Vraska can access Ravnica’s immense power via the uniting of the Guilds and hopefully that will be enough to defeat Bolas. They also determine that Niv-Mizzet might be a potential ally against Bolas if they can harness his physical strength, mental prowess, and jealousy of knowing that there is a Dragon smarter than he. After Jace and Vraska make the pact, Jace reveals that he will go to Dominaria to meet the rest of the Gatewatch. They make plans for a coffee date on Ravnica after the plans are all over as Jace removes all of their fond memories together on Ixalan. After some time, Vraska finds herself alone in the room and calls to Bolas’s accomplice that she has succeeded. The Immortal Sun vanishes in a violet circle and she planeswalks away.
Who Tells the Stories
Angrath senses that the planeswalker lock on Ixalan has been removed and says a capslock filled goodbye to everyone before vanishing. Learning that The Immortal Sun has vanished, the Pirates flee just before Elenda arrives. Vona and Mavren kneel before her in reverence and Huatli convinces her to return to the Vampire empire and lead it toward peace, which was Elenda’s goal all along while her memory became warped and misapplied by her Vampire successors and used as a cause for conquering the remaining continents of Ixalan. Vona objects, but Elenda can control her body via bloodbending and forces her to kneel again. Huatli and Tishana agree they should have negotiations to share rule of Orazca between the Sun Empire and the River Heralds, and Huatli promises to discuss the prospect with the emperor. On her way out, Huatli tests her powers now that she touched The Immortal Sun and the lock on planeswalkers has been lifted, and she calls triple roar, who then gives her transport back home.
The emperor was not as impressed with Huatli’s story as she had hoped he would be, and instead informed her that the empire would take advantage of the impending Legion of Dusk retreat to claim territory that had belonged to the River Heralds before the Vampires invaded. He offers her the title of Warrior Poet and encourages her to lie to the people in a public address to improve morale and support for the impending battles, which Huatli thinks are no longer necessary when peace is within grasp. Huatli returns to her family and shares with them her story and shows them her newfound ability to planeswalk. They encourage her to forget about the emperor’s wishes and leave Ixalan. Despite the fact that she is the best orator on the plane with an appointment to address the people of her empire already scheduled, that she is now a renowned champion of her people, and that she is a powerful, magical warrior that can command 6 fierce elder Dinosaurs, Huatli decides the she cannot do anything to stop the war and decides to planeswalk away for a week.
Wool Over the Eyes
Huatli arrives on Kaladesh and wanders around the city before Saheeli Rai, now a celebrity on Kaladesh, recognizes her as an outsider and invites her to return to Saheeli’s home so they can speak privately. They share stories of their home planes and Huatli explains what a Dinosaur is. They go to Saheeli’s workshop to make one.
Angrath returns home to his foundry on an unnamed plane and his two daughters are happy to see him after 14 years.
Vraska arrives to her chamber on Ravnica and then travels to Bolas’s meditation plane, where he is waiting. He probes her memory and sees the false recollections that Jace has planted there such as Azor battling against the invaders and Vraska turning her rivals into stone. Seemingly fooled, Bolas gives her a gift and promises to fulfill his end of the deal to make her the leader of the Golgari. He also expresses his interest in working together in the future. Back in her study she decides to read a bit of her book before going to assassinate the Golgari Guildleader that Bolas has imprisoned on the outskirts of Ravnica. Vraska feels like she is missing something, but cannot figure out what it is.
We find out that Jace was wearing his invisibility cloak when Vraska took The Immortal Sun and Elenda arrived on the scene. He prepares to travel to Dominaria but pauses to reflect positively on his time with Vraska and how remarkable he thinks she is. He finds Gideon’s aura radiating out and planewalks to him. Arriving on a fast-moving ship of some kind, their reunion is interrupted by another traveler, an old woman in thick red robes with silver hair in a braid.
In the conclusion of the story, the Sun Empire takes control of Orazca and the emperor vows to conquer the Vampire continent of the Legion of Dusk.
Despite intriguing overall themes, the Magic story has been notoriously weak at times. I believe a large portion of this is because the responsibility for the stories has appeared to be split among many people who hold other roles in the organization and the stories did not really get the attention that they should have with varying quality week to week. Fortunately, Wizards has announced that from Dominaria on, there will be a new approach where a well-established author with serious writing accolades (Martha Wells in this case) will be overseeing the story. This promises to greatly improve the style and I’m looking forward to reading the future stories.
So where would you like the next installment of my Magic story recaps to go? Should I dive into the history of Dominaria’s Cabal since Liliana’s final demon of her contract is now in charge of the organization? Should I explore the backstory for Karn/Jhoira/Teferi who will be featured in our return to Dominaria? Maybe you would like to hear more about Jaya Ballard and Chandra’s interest in meeting her? Should I speculate on the potential foreshadowing from Nissa’s vision in Amonkhet where she sees a golden disc shaped like a sun merge with a stone tablet? Let me know in the comments!