On August 29, Magic: The Gathering head designer Mark Rosewater shared several snippets of “the story that could have been” for the upcoming set Dominaria United. It seems the set’s returning big baddies, the Phyrexians, were meant to start turning up far earlier – all the way back in 2019’s Throne of Eldraine set.
The spoilers shared ahead of the Dominaria United release date show off a new card for black Phyrexian praetor Sheoldred, and Rosewater says she was once key to revealing the Phyrexian return. “Sheoldred’s story that didn’t come to be takes place in Throne of Eldraine”, he says in a blog post from Monday. “At least once upon a time it did.”
After concluding the Nicol Bolas story arc in the War of the Spark set, Rosewater says the MTG team “were figuring out how to start layering [the next Phyrexians] story into the upcoming sets”. “The idea we really liked was that the first time we saw a praetor, we wouldn’t say anything about it”, he adds. “When we last left the Phyrexians, they were trapped on New Phyrexia with no way to planeswalk. This meant seeing a known Phyrexian on another plane was a big warning sign that something had gone terribly wrong.”
According to Rosewater, Throne of Eldraine was originally going to be two sets rather than one. The first set would mention a villain known only as the Whispering Witch, but she wouldn’t appear on any cards. The second set would then have revealed her to be Sheoldred.
“But then a lot of things changed”, Rosewater says. “We decided to make Eldraine just one set. We got a lot of feedback that players wanted to take a bit of a breather from the overarching storyline. The creative team got some other interesting ideas about how the story could work.” All of this meant Sheoldred’s return to Magic was pushed back.
Unfortunately for Sheoldred, the honours of revealing the Phyrexian comeback went to Vorinclex, the green Phyrexian praetor, instead. This hint came in 2021’s Kaldheim set – a whole two years after Sheoldred’s intended Eldraine appearance. Two other praetors also got to jump ahead of Sheoldred in the queue. Jin-Gitaxias appeared in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, and Urabrask was included in Streets of New Capenna.
Rosewater’s blog post includes further insights into MTG storylines that could have been, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the design process for Sheoldred’s new card, Sheoldred, the Apocalypse.
To keep up with Magic: The Gathering, check out our 2022 release date schedule – and our newly minted 2023 release schedule. There’s also the banlist to keep a close eye on as new sets and cards release.