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Recapping Rivals of Ixalan

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When we left Ixalan's story, Jace, Cunning Castaway and Vraska, Relic Seeker managed to find their way to the lost city of Orazca, but they were not the first. Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca, a merfolk leader not satisfied merely keeping outsiders away from Orazca, claimed the city's power for himself. The city was unearthed for the first time in centuries, and in the geological chaos, Jace was thrown down a waterfall. I talk about the entire story in Recapping Ixalan, but let's assume you didn't read it. Vraska was sent to Ixalan by the elder dragon Nicol Bolas to retrieve The Immortal Sun, an object of great power. Jace came to Ixalan by accident after a confrontation with Nicol Bolas left him near mind death and a total amnesiac. The fall, and subsequent head injury, in true literary fashion, began to jog Jace's memory.

Oh yeah, and while Vraska and Jace are friends now, Vraska once tried to recruit Jace to help her overthrow the guilds of Ravnica, and when he refused she attempted to kill him. Jace is the Living Guildpact, the arbiter of law on the plane, while Vraska is an assassin to whom Bolas has promised control of the Golgari Swarm.

The Flood

You can see Vryn, the mage-ring bullies from Jace's Childhood, and Emmara Tandris.

Flood of Recollection by Magali Villeneuve

The Rivals of Ixalan story begins with The Flood and a point of view piece starring Kumena. Kumena travels through the city of Orazca, eventually finding his way to Azor's Gateway. Unable to figure out the lock, he heads to a side door that leads him above, to the controls of the city. Along the way, a strange voice speaks to Kumena, and he learns The Immortal Sun needs a power to reflect. When he reaches the peak, Kumena's Awakening occurs and he feels the power of The Immortal Sun. Unfortunately, Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle and Vona, Butcher of Magan were close on his heels, and he has no time to wield his new power before they feed on him and throw him out a window. The Vampires now control the city, as shown in Vona's Hunger.

The story returns to Jace and Vraska, as Jace loses control of his powers. He and Vraska suffer through memory after memory of Jace's life. He finally recalls his mother, and the tender moments they shared. He remembers his gruff father who disapproved of his mother's goal for Jace to become a scholar. The memory of being handed over to Alhammarret, High Arbiter at a young age, and how time and again the sphinx erased Jace's memories of being a planeswalker. Jace recalled their final confrontation, when Jace's attack fractured his own mind but made Alhammarret forget how to breathe, and the tender moment that followed as young Jace realized he'd condemned the sphinx to a fate worse than death. The memory of punishment that Tezzeret the Seeker inflicted when Jace failed to protect his mind from Bolas on a mission, and the physical and emotional scars left behind as Jace finally ran from the Consortium. Memories of Liliana Vess, and her cruel indifference to Jace's need for affection, treating him as a treasured pet instead of friend or lover. And he even remembered Vraska's own viciousness in their first encounter, ready to kill the Living Guildpact when he would not go along with her schemes.

In the aftermath, Jace did not recover all of his memories, but enough that he and Vraska have a touching a moment where they acknowledge the confrontation in their shared past. Jace admits he doesn't have enough friends to part ways with Vraska after their time together. More importantly, Jace admits he's been a coward, afraid to get physically involved in a fight. Together with Vraska, he sets out into Orazca proper.

Glimpse the Far Side of the Sun

In Glimpse the Far Side of the Sun, as Jace continues to process his returning memories, he has a revelation: upon confronting Bolas, the memory of Ugin, the Spirit Dragon slipped from his mind. Jace realizes Ugin planted a trigger to make him forget, and the same trigger is what instinctively brought Jace to Ixalan. Further, Jace realizes he learned Bolas's end game while inside the dragon's mind!

Enter Angrath, the Flame-Chained and Huatli, Radiant Champion on their own entry into Orazca. While the two planeswalkers couldn't be more philosophically opposed, Huatli finds that Angrath makes some good points despite his angry and wrathful demeanor. Angrath's people value freedom above all else, and are willing to kill for it, so his fourteen years stranded on Ixalan have made him a bit impatient to leave. Huatli wonders if her slavish devotion to the Sun Empire is really worthwhile, or if she's just an ant in a hive like Angrath calls her. The two stumble upon what I assume is the Tomb of the Dusk Rose, and Huatli helps Elenda, the Dusk Rose get free of the rubble that covers the tomb. The planeswalkers are shocked to find Elenda is nothing like the rest of the Dusk Legion. Upon learning her people have used her gift to become invaders, she leaves to teach them what she intended to in the first place: humility.

Sphinx 'walkers in Magic do not have great luck with their own magics.

Azor, the Lawbringer by Ryan Pancoast

Meanwhile, after dodging Zetalpa, Primal Dawn and discovering with his restored memories comes greater control over his powers, Jace and Vraska make their way to Azor's Gateway. Jace is immediately struck by what appears to be the Azorius symbol in the center of a maze-like puzzle to open the door. With the dawning realization that this might be the work of Azor, they're beset by the sphinx inside. The sphinx introduces himself as Azor, the Lawbringer, but when Azor launches into Vraska's mind with a threat, Jace intercedes and blocks him. Azor's demeanor reminds Jace of Alhammarret, the sphinx who used and abused him for years. After Azor derisively dismisses Vraska as 'gorgon', he shocks the sphinx with one of the best quips in Magic.

"You will refer to her as Captain," Jace said in a measured tone.

The sphinx growled and looked past Vraska at Jace. "And what does that make you?"

"I am Jace Beleren, the Living Guildpact," he said with confidence.

The sphinx's wings flinched. "The fail-safe?!"

"The pirate."

-Quote from Glimpse the Far Side of the Sun

The Arbiter of Law Left Chaos In His Wake

In The Arbiter of Law Left Chaos In His Wake, we start with the continuation of Huatli and Angrath's story, but when Huatli spots Tishana, Voice of Thunder, she leaves Angrath pinned under a summoned dinosaur. Together with her old ally, they race into the city, with some of Vraska's crew hot on their tail. Tishana saves Kumena from falling to his death with a gust of air to settle him more gently to the ground, and they ascend the temple to find Vona and Mavren Fein in control of The Immortal Sun, a short battle ensues, interrupted by a very angry Minotaur Planeswalker, who immolated the dinosaur holding him hostage. The representatives from all four factions each grab on to The Immortal Sun at once.

Huatli's consciousness expands to the whole city, where she senses the minds of the elder dinosaurs and takes control, but shortly after Vraska's crew hear Jace below them...

Down below, the confrontation with Azor continues. Azor at first believed Jace was bringing Vraska as a prisoner, and becomes physically (and mentally) threatening when he realizes their goal is The Immortal Sun. Jace gets him talking and the sphinx soon turns to explaining why he's there. One thousand years by yourself gets a little lonely, I suppose. He details a plot whereby he and an unnamed partner (heavily implied to be Ugin) were going to trap Nicol Bolas. Azor and his partner devised the plan, and a hundred years later Azor carried out his part on Ixalan, sacrificing his spark to power The Immortal Sun. His partner, however, never sent the signal to activate The Immortal Sun and summon Bolas to Ixalan. Bereft of his spark and not wanting to be constantly reminded of it, he gave it to the people of Torrezon for safekeeping, setting the events of the last thousand years on Ixalan into motion.

Jace finds that as the Living Guildpact, he has power over Azor, who was the Azorius Parun and is bound by the Guildpact's magic. Vraska and Jace try to make Azor see the damage he has caused in his quest for the greater good, but Azor merely blames the people and not the 'perfect systems of law' he forced on them. Frustrated and unwilling to kill the sphinx, Jace condemns him to 'Useless Island', the uninhabited island Jace himself arrived on. Before carrying out the sentence, Jace asks to see what Azor knows of Bolas, and Azor allows him into his mind. When Azor departs, bound by the Guildpact, Jace turns to Vraska.

It's finally time for them to talk about Bolas.

Sphinx's Decree and Golden Demise were memories Jace implanted for Bolas.

Induced Amnesia by Chris Rallis

Sabotage

Sabotage opens some 1,300 years before the modern day, on an unnamed plane. We learn that the plan to imprison Nicol Bolas came from Ugin, not Azor. They hatched a plan to imprison Bolas using The Immortal Sun, but Azor's vanity brought him to Bolas's attention. When Bolas learned of their plan, he decided to strike first, kicking off their confrontation in the Fate Reforged story The Reforged Chain. It's nice to finally see a pay off for

their confrontation, and doubly nice to see that I wasn't off-base about Ugin's involvement on Ixalan (The Mysteries of Ixalan). In the aftermath, Ugin lay in the hedron cocoon and Azor was trapped on Ixalan without his spark. After a number of decades, he grows to hate the reminder of failure and leaves The Immortal Sun in the hands of a monastery on Torrezon.

A lot of people have discussed Ugin and Azor's plans since this story, so I feel compelled to point out a few things. Ugin is rather specific that he has a means to destroy Bolas, and that led to speculation that perhaps he intended to unleash the Eldrazi on Ixalan to kill the elder dragon. It's also worth noting that The Immortal Sun somehow absorbed Azor's spark and there was no way for Azor to get it back on his own, yet Azor believed with Ugin's help he could get his spark back. That makes me wonder if the plan was to steal Bolas's spark and trap it in The Immortal Sun while they kill him.

But in any case, we jump back to the modern day as Jace tells Vraska of Bolas's goal: Ravnica. Now knowing the true horrors her employer is willing to unleash, Vraska is determined to stop him from destroying her home. She comes up with a plan to use Jace's abilities to create a memory trigger much like the one Ugin planted in Jace. Jace will Induced Amnesia so that she forgets their time together on Ixalan and make Bolas believe she is still a willing pawn. She'll return with The Immortal Sun, take Bolas's help in becoming guildmaster of the Golgari Swarm, and then, when he has a plan to defeat Bolas, Jace can restore her memories at a crucial moment. Together they decide to seek out Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind for help, as he is the only being on Ravnica who stands a chance against Bolas' brilliance, and who might be able to help them sabotage The Immortal Sun and Bolas's grand plan. With a bittersweet goodbye, Jace removes Vraska's memories and she summons Tezzeret to use the Planar Bridge to transport The Immortal Sun away (Tezzeret doesn't actually come, but teleports it away remotely). Jace heads to Dominaria to rendezvous with the Gatewatch (several months late), but he doesn't intend to stay long. He's done shirking his duties as the Living Guildpact.

Tezzeret

Mastermind's Acquisition by Svetlin Velinov

Who Tells the Stories

Who Tells the Stories is a sort of epilogue to the central Jace and Vraska plot on Ixalan. With The Immortal Sun gone, Angrath loudly declares his hatred for the plane and everyone in it before finally planeswalking away. Elenda appears and roughly chastises Mavren and Vona, taking them with her and intending to erase the Dusk Legion's presence on Ixalan (the continent), returning them all to Torrezon.

Huatli reaches a tentative accord with Tishana and vows to return to her emperor to cement the peace. She uses her magic to ride Zacama, Primal Calamity back home, where she's warmly welcomed. When she meets with the emperor, however, he demands she inspire the people for conquest instead of peace. Frustrated with the emperor and changed by her experience with Angrath and how limited her perspectives are (now knowing that the truth is shaped by who tells the stories), she returns to her family who throw a banquet in her honor. She tells them about her ability to planeswalk and they insist she go and explore the multiverse for more stories to tell. Her cousin 'borrows' the helm of the warrior poet, and she departs to learn new stories.

Wool Over the Eyes

Wool Over the Eyes wraps up the story with a number of vignettes. Huatli's first planeswalk turns out to be to Ghirapur on Kaladesh. Saheeli Rai notices her out-of-place outfit and they become fast friends. Vraska returns to Nicol Bolas for her reward, and she's given a location where Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord has been imprisoned and will be at her mercy. It's a fun note that moments that didn't actually happen, like Sphinx's Decree and Golden Demise, are incorporated as alternate memories Jace left behind. Angrath returns to his distinctly wild western-sounding town and finds his daughters, who have taken over the family smithy in his absence. Back on Ixalan, the Sun Empire marches into Orazca virtually unopposed.

When Jace finally leaves Ixalan, he planeswalks toward Dominaria searching for Gideon. He discovers Gideon is moving faster than he thought was possible, and when he lands, he's aboard a ship that seems to be the Skyship Weatherlight. Gideon is overwhelmed at seeing his friend alive, but before they can reunite (newly freed of his insecurities regarding Gideon), a mysterious woman interposes herself. That woman? Her description is suspiciously similar to the updated Jaya Ballard artwork.

The Art of Magic: the Gathering - Ixalan Giveaway

If you've read all the way down to the bottom, a final note. This is my 52nd published lore article. It was going to be my 50th, but then Rivals of Ixalan went and added a sixth story, throwing my publishing schedule off, and I had to swap it with Magic Story: Elder Dragons to the Mending. But let's pretend it's the 50th as intended, and as a nice round number I thought that it would be a great time to do something nice for my readers. If you're reading this, all you need to do is respond to this tweet (following/retweeting/liking is not required) and I'll randomly select one person to get a copy of The Art of Magic: the Gathering - Ixalan. The author James Wyatt was creative lead for Ixalan, so it's jammed pack with fun details about the plane! If you want to be eligible, just respond to that tweet by 11:59 PM EST on Friday, February 23, 2018, and I'll select the winner over the weekend. You must have a contiguous United States address to win (sorry).

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