Trapped in Ravnica, the planeswalkers of Magic: The Gathering have two choices – fight, or die, and have their spark consumed by a power-hungry elder dragon. This is the War of the Spark, the battle where the strongest of planeswalker-kind face off against Nicol Bolas on his quest for godhood. It’s a colossal story of conspiracy, betrayal, and a marching legion of Dreadhorde zombies.
You can find a retelling of the War of the Spark in the accompanying MTG book, or you can live the cataclysmic event through the cards of 2019 MTG War of the Spark set. If you’ve not got the time to draft a deck or settle down with a complete novel, however, we’ve got you covered. Here’s an overview of the War of the Spark story and set you can gobble up faster than Nicol Bolas feasting on a planeswalker spark.
MTG War of the Spark story
The elder dragon Nicol Bolas is known for being conniving, and it’s his plan to replace Ravnica’s guild leaders that kicks off the events of the war. Bolas helps install five guildmaster leaders he thinks he’s able to influence – Ral Zarek, Kaya, Vraska, Dovin Baan, and Domri Rade. However, the first three planeswalkers suspect Bolas has less-than-pure motives.
Ral Zarek, Kaya, and Vraska work to unite Ravnica’s guilds against Bolas, but negotiations fall apart after Vraska kills the sphinx guildmaster Isperia. Ral seeks to kill Vraska for her deeds, but she escapes. Meanwhile, the elder dragon is busy murdering two more members of the anti-Bolas movement – Niv-Mizzet and Hekara.
Ral Zarek uses the Interplanar Beacon to summon as many planeswalkers as possible to take on Nicol Bolas. The Gatewatch are among those that arrive – including Gideon, Jace, Chandra, Nissa, Ajani, and Teferi. Liliana Vess also turns up, summoned by Bolas’ ally Tezzeret and accompanied by her zombie army. To make a bad situation worse, Bolas traps the planeswalkers in Ravnica, and his Eternals attack.
The elder dragon then begins to harvest planeswalker sparks. Swallow enough of these, and Bolas will reach ultimate power – basically becoming a god. This, it turns, out, had been the plan all along – Bolas was banking on the Gatewatch and its pals to turn up and interfere with his plans.
The planeswalkers focus on defending civilians, weakening Bolas’ forces, recruiting new allies, and preventing more planeswalkers from being drawn to Ravnica. They almost destroy Liliana, but Nicol Bolas staves off the assassins. With all ten guilds finally united, a ritual can be performed to resurrect Niv-Mizzet and grant him the powers of the Living Guildpact.
The planeswalkers trap Nicol Bolas in Ravnica, but he’s consumed so many sparks that their attacks are near-useless against him. Liliana betrays the elder dragon, and Bolas messes with her demonic pact – causing her to start disintegrating. Gideon gives his life to spare hers.
Liliana frees two God-Eternals who, along with Niv-Mizzet, attack and weaken Nicol Bolas. Bolas’ brother Ugin arrives, and he takes Bolas to the Meditation Realm to prevent him from returning to Ravnica. He and Jace create the illusion of Bolas’ corpse to ensure the elder dragons aren’t followed.
Powerless and nameless, Nicol Bolas is trapped in the Meditation Realm with his brother. Kaya joins the Gatewatch, but she, Ral, and Vraska are tasked with tracking down the remaining planeswalkers who fought for Nicol Bolas as penance for once working with him themselves.
MTG War of the Spark set
The War of the Spark MTG set was released in May 2019. It was the 81st Magic set, and the third in a series of sets set in Ravnica (with Guilds of Ravnica and Ravnica Allegiance preceding it).
Given how important planeswalkers are in the War of the Spark storyline, these cards were a big part of the set. Each booster included a planeswalker card, and there were 36 to collect. What’s more, there were no planeswalker reprints in War of the Spark – each of these planeswalkers was new, shiny, and ready to unite the guilds of Ravnica.
While there were plenty of rare and uncommon planeswalkers in the set, some of the biggest players in the War of the Spark storyline were included as mythic rare planeswalkers – Liliana, Gideon, Bolas, and Tezzeret. It would end up being an entirely different Gatewatch member that made the MTG banlist, though – Teferi, Time Raveler is still banned in Pioneer and Explorer.
A new mechanic called Amass was introduced for War of the Spark, and this was an easy way to create and buff at least one zombie army to fight in Bolas’ Dreadhorde. A few other mechanics returned in War of the Spark – Crew, Proliferate, and Affinity all made a comeback for the big battle.