Dominaria coalesced around Gideon and the first thing that struck him was the stench of rotting plants and dank earth. He stood on a high stone foundation between a ruined town and an overgrown stinking marsh, the landscape desolate under a cloud-covered sky. Gray stone structures once tall and graceful had lost sections of walls and roofs, and some were just heaps of tumbled stone. Mist cloaked the tall grass, bubbling mud pools, and rotting trees of the marsh, empty of any life except clouds of insects. It was like an artist’s attempt to visually capture a representation of death and failure. He couldn’t suppress the bitter thought, How fitting for this moment.
For its 78th expansion, Magic: The Gathering returns to where it all started: Dominaria, the original setting for the card game’s storylines before those narratives branched off into a multiverse full of “Planewalkers” moving between Dominaria and other planes. With the Dominaria expansion out in late April, MTG is serializing a tie-in story, “Return to Dominaria,” penned by new head writer and The Murderbot Diaries author Martha Wells.
Wells’ Murderbot has stolen readers’ hearts, but she also has a rich history writing tie-in fiction (for Star Wars and Stargate: Atlantis) as well as a number of fantasy novels. In her hands, “Return to Dominaria” explores what happens to necromancer Liliana, hunting the demons who bound her, and warrior-mage Gideon, atoning for past sins, immediately following the events of Hour of Devastation.
Wells summed up the plot of “Return to Dominaria” for io9 when the new story was announced:
Gideon and Liliana have arrived on Dominaria following the Gatewatch’s defeat at the hands of Nicol Bolas. Together, they begin a mission to kill Belzenlok, the final demon holding Liliana’s contract. They get to see a lot of Dominaria in the process, which gives fans a look at how the plane has changed, and make some allies who may be familiar to longtime players.
Accompanying Wells’ words are new pieces of art by MTG illustrators, featuring characters and key moments. This new storyline marks the first return to Dominaria in over a decade, since 2006’s Time Spiral. Players should expect to see the plane altered, both physically and in terms of its culture, as it recovers from the Phyrexian invasion and faces the growing threat of the Cabal, overtaken by the demon Belzenlok. But for Liliana, the fight is intensely personal:
Liliana lifted her hand to destroy the last knight, but something whispered in her mind: the Void awaits.
Liliana froze, her heart pounding. Then her lips curled in contempt. It was a trick. The undead knight’s master had to be the lich who had devastated Caligo for the Cabal, and the lich had to be the one behind the arcane preservation of Vess Manor. Liliana explored along the connection, curious. How could this lich know so much about her? Was it possibly . . .
An image of the lich’s face burned before her. The face was Josu’s.
No. Liliana’s heart seized in her chest. It can’t be. “No!” she shouted.
Her rage and dismay snapped the connection. The knight’s corpse exploded and armor and rotting bones flew across the plaza.
The townspeople had caught the human cleric and pinned him to the ground with a spear to his chest. Liliana shouldered them aside and grabbed him by the leg to drag into the firelight. Her voice rough with rage, she demanded, “Where is Josu? What has Belzenlok done to him?”
Above you get a taste of Gideon’s first impression of Dominaria, but there are already two chapters to dive into! Episode 1 and Episode 2 are available to read now, with the remaining ten episodes of “Return to Dominaria” to be released every Wednesday through May. The Dominaria expansion will be available April 27.
Top image: Art by Eric Deschamps