Dominaria has come and gone, but Magic's 25th Anniversary is still going strong! What better way to celebrate by hitting the other major plane in the multiverse: Ravnica! With this fall's Guilds of Ravnica, Ravnica becomes the most visited plane after Dominaria. But still, it's been five years since we last saw a set devoted entirely to Ravnica (it appeared in Magic Origins and supplemental sets) and we have a ton of new players in the interim. A lot of people found Preparing for Dominaria helpful, so I'm going to follow that same general format. Want to know the history of Ravnica? Or maybe you want to see the latest plot threads leading into Guilds of Ravnica and Ravnica Allegiance? Look no further!
The Ten Guilds of Ravnica have become synonymous with the ten color pairs.
Tablet of the Guilds by Nic Klein
What is Ravnica?
Ravnica is both the name of the plane and the world-spanning city that exists on that plane. Just over 10,000 years ago, Azor, the Lawbringer and the leaders of nine other factions came together and signed the magical Guildpact. Thousands of years later, each faction specialized in their own role on the plane, although they still vied for power within the confines of the Guildpact.
The main city is divided into ten districts, referred to by their number, converging on the center of the city where many guilds are headquartered. Beneath much of the city proper lies the Undercity: the ruins, sewers, and caverns where the less reputable elements of Ravnican society reside. Beyond the city proper Guild influence wanes and you'll find the less populated regions that have been named rather than numbered. The guilds themselves are complex and it would take an entire article just to talk about one, so instead I'm going to link you to the Return to Ravnica era Planeswalker's Guides to read more about them:
- Planeswalker's Guide to Return to Ravnica, Part 1 (Ravnica and Selesnya)
- Planeswalker's Guide to Return to Ravnica, Part 2 (Izzet and Golgari)
- Planeswalker's Guide to Return to Ravnica, Part 3 (Azorius and Rakdos)
- Planeswalker's Guide to Gatecrash, Part 1 (Dimir and Boros)
- Planeswalker's Guide to Gatecrash, Part 2 (Simic, Gruul, and Orzhov)
If you read nothing else, read Ravnica, Then and Now. The article does a lot of what I'm attempting to here, summarizing the Ravnica cycle of novels, updating you on where things stand for Return to Ravnica and filling in the gaps between the two sets. We know, thanks to the Timeline I put together, that there was about sixty years between the original Ravnica: City of Guilds block and Return to Ravnica. Guilds of Ravnica and Ravnica Allegiance doesn't have quite that jump of time separating it from Return to Ravnica, as I estimate it's been between 2-3 years since Jace became the Living Guildpact. And what is the mysterious third Ravnica set about? I speculate somewhat in Ral Zarek and the Elder Dragon, but I would imagine it's where Nicol Bolas's plans for Ravnica come into effect.
The planeswalker Azor founded systems of law across the multiverse.
Azor, the Lawbringer by Ryan Pancoast
A (Very) Brief History of Ravnica
Because Ravnica has a pretty handy timeline already mapped out, I'm going to use it to talk about the key events you should know. Z.C. stands for Zal Concordant, or after the Guildpact. No official dates for Ravnican events exist after 10,014 Z.C., which is the epilogue for Dissension, but math gives us approximations! Any date with an asterisk is dependent on Teysa Karlov's birth being approximately 9965 Z.C. (something mentioned in Guildpact) and Kaladesh taking place exactly sixty years after the Mending (the resulting math depends on both those things).
If you want a more detailed breakdown of events, check out my more detailed plot summaries in Ravnica: the Broken Guildpact and Ravnica: the Living Guildpact, neither of which include this handy timeline, however!
Pre-History: Order vs Chaos
In the beginning, Ravnica saw many planeswalkers come and go, seeding the plane with beings from across the multiverse. Over time, the people of Ravnica notice that planeswalkers became less and less frequent, until they stopped coming altogether. From the remnants, ten armies of order and chaos waged war on Ravnica's surface. (Dissension).
0 Z.C. -- The Guildpact is Signed
The sphinx planeswalker Azor, known as Azor I, brings the leaders of the other nine factions together to sign the Guildpact. The Guildpact enforces a magical peace that allows the newly formed guilds to conduct their business without interference, so long as it doesn't interfere with the others. The signatories of this pact are referred to as Paruns. Only nine guilds are made public knowledge, with the tenth, the Dimir, being kept hidden over the years (Ravnica: City of Guilds).
9000 Z.C. -- Svogthir is deposed by the Sisters of Stone Death
The Sisters of Stone Death, last of the gorgons on Ravnica, tire of the abuses heaped on the teratogens (the non-humanoid members of the guild) and lead a revolt against their Parun, the lich lord Svogthir, also known as the god-zombie. They do not kill Svogthir, but imprison him beneath Svogthos, the Restless Tomb and drain his power for themselves (Ravnica: City of Guilds).
9943 Z.C. -- Myczil Zunich dies in the line of duty
Agrus Kos, Wojek Veteran and and his partner Myczil Zunich are working a case tracking a Rakdos witch when Myc is tricked into killing a child. The Golgari bounty hunter Jarad vod Savo had been tracking the same target and witnesses the event. Myc kills himself afterwards, but Kos never reveals what really happened (Ravnica: City of Guilds).
9965 Z.C. -- Zomaj Hauc tests a new mana bomb on Utvara
The Izzet Guildmage Zomaj Hauc is commissioned by the Karlov Patriarch to build a prototype mana bomb and deploy it on the plague infested region of Utvara. The bomb detonates but leaves behind a rift called the Schism. In secret, Hauc's goal is to resurrect ancient dragon eggs buried beneath the region. Teysa, Orzhov Scion is born around this timeframe (Guildpact).
9989 Z.C. -- The Rakdos Uprising
Hordes of Rakdos fill the streets, causing mass mayhem and killing a huge chunk of Wojek officers in the process. The Boros are forced to go on a recruiting spree, and experienced officers become hard to find (Ravnica: City of Guilds).
Agrus is a genre savvy cop who is always a delight to read.
Agrus Kos, Wojek Veteran by Donato Giancola
9999 Z.C. -- Ravnica: City of Guilds
Ten years after the Rakdos Uprising, the Wojeks are still stretched thin, with most of their ranks being relatively recent recruits. The forthcoming Decamillenial Celebration threatens to overwhelm them. An old and burned out Agrus Kos is promoted despite his objections, and reassigned from his partner, the penitent angel known as Feather. Kos begins training his replacement, a younger Wojek named Borca.
Savra, Queen of the Golgari, launches a coup against the Gorgon Sisters that control the Golgari, with the aid of a mysterious benefactor revealed to be Szadek, Lord of Secrets. Savra sends her brother, Jarad Vod Savo, on a mysterious mission after Bayul, the Living Saint of the Selesnyan Conclave. While Kos and Borca are on patrol, a goblin suicide bomber kills Bayul. Borca is caught in the explosion, and Kos is wounded. Jarad rescues Fonn Zunich, daughter of Kos' old partner, a half-elf Selesynan Ledev assigned to safeguard Bayul. Kos wakes up in the hospital, where Borca's ghost appears as part of a life insurance policy he took out from the Orzhov. Together with Feather, they follow a lead to an Orzhov information broker, the imp Pivlic.
At Pivlic's, they encounter Jarad and Fonn, who are also looking for answers. Their quest is cut short as they're attacked by Selesnyan Quietmen (ghostly messengers secretly infiltrated by the Dimir), and are forced to flee back to the Boros Ninth District League Hall. At the League Hall, they learn the Wojeks have been infiltrated by Dimir shapeshifters who are after the gem that connected the Bayul to the Chorus of the Conclave's hive mind. Fonn tries to protect it, but they just take her instead. At Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree, Savra reveals she's been plotting to subvert the Selesnyans by joining the Conclave with the gem. She connects to the Conclave and corrupts the City-Tree, revealing the Selesnyan Parun, Mat'Selesnya.
Szadek appears and kills Savra, then begins feeding on Mat'Selesnya. With Jarad's help, Kos is able to arrest the Dimir Guildmaster. In the aftermath, Kos relates what really happened to Fonn's father, and Jarad takes over the Golgari in the wake of his sister's death. (Ravnica: City of Guilds). The Azorius quickly execute the Dimir Guildmaster in secret. Kos and his allies are unaware his actions inadvertently created a paradox within the Guildpact's framework, breaking the Guildpact.
10,000 Z.C. to 10,012 Z.C. -- The Parhelion disappears
Shortly after the events of the Decamillenial, the angels of the Boros and their great Skyship Parhelion disappear. They search the universe for any signs of the former planeswalker visitors, hoping to repair the Guildpact with their aid. Instead, they find nothing but Agyrem, a ghostly realm directly connected to Ravnica through the Schism. Inside Agyrem, they discover Szadek leading a phantasmal army. Razia, Boros Archangel commands Feather to return to Ravnica to warn everyone (Guildpact, Dissension).
Teysa has featured into more Ravnican stories than any other character.
Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts by Karla Ortiz
10,012 Z.C. -- Guildpact, Dissension
Kos retires to Utvara to work as head of security for Pivlic. Teysa Karlov is manipulated by her Patriarch into travelling with him to Utvara for an unknown purpose. En route, the Karlov Patriarch is killed and his ghost ascends to the governing body of the Obzedat as Karlov of the Ghost Council. Crix, a cybernetically modified Izzet goblin messenger goes missing in the attack, and Kos and Pivlic are assigned to find her. They discover Crix's master, Zomaj Hauc, plans to hatch three ancient dragons eggs using power he's been drawing from the Schism. Armed with this knowledge, Teysa gathers a ragtag force to assault the Izzet compound in Utvara.
They only succeed in destroying a single dragon egg before the others hatch. Teysa and Hauc both gain control of one of the dragons, but how long they can control the rapidly developing dragons is left in question. Teysa's dragon is mortally wounded, and Kos steals Hauc's personal rocket to ram the other one, ending the mad Izzet's plan for world domination. Kos is fatally wounded in the assault, and Feather appears through the Schism as he dies (Guildpact).
Nephilim, monstrous ancient beings lurking in Utvara, begin to consume the crushed dragon's remains and grow large enough to level Utvara. Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind is called in to handle them, but he's run off before he can kill them all.
Second only to Teysa, Niv-Mizzet looms large over Ravnica's stories.
Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius by Todd Lockwood
Feather turns herself over to the Azorius for trial, revealing why the angels disappeared and that she is the sole survivor. As her trial continues, the Parhelion reappears through the Schism . . . on a collision course for Prahv, the Azorius senate building. The ghost of Agrus Kos, kept in Prahv as a spectral guard thanks to his Boros contract, is reawakened and tasked with tracking down the ghostly Szadek. A witness places Szadek as working with a zombified Savra and the Simic Guildmaster Momir Vig, Simic Visionary. Before Kos can investigate, the Parhelion crashes into Prahv, destroying much of the building and killing most of the occupants.
Meanwhile, Fonn and Jarad's young son is kidnapped by the Rakdos. They reunite to save their son, but Jarad is killed buying time for their escape. Their escape comes alongside Rakdos the Defiler returning to the surface. As a spirit, Kos is able to infiltrate the Simic Guildhall, but accidently reveals himself. He jumps to Savra's body, and discovers that Svogthir is secretly controlling the elf. Kos overpowers the Golgari Parun's spirit and attempts to sabotage the Simic's Experiment Kraj.Momir Vig is killed, and Kraj rises to fight in the city, taking down Rakdos before being stopped.
Kos returns to Prahv, feeling like he's been led on a wild goose chase. He learns that Szadek's spirit was under the control of Grand Arbiter Augustin IV, who was attempting to use the chaos to make himself dictator of Ravnica. Kos' allies set the Parhelion to self-destruct, killing Augustin and severing Kos' bond to the mortal world. Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord is resurrected in his own body to continue leading the Golgari.
10,014 Z.C. -- Dissension (Epilogue)
Agyrem manifests on Ravnica, and Feather, now the Boros Guildmaster, brings Kos's spirit back. She asks her old partner to found an Agryrem League Hall, as Szadek is still out there. Kos agrees.
10,019 Z.C.* to 10,077 Z.C.* -- The Broken Guildpact
Agryem splits off from Ravnica again during the Mending, leaving the fate of Kos and Szadek's ghosts unknown. Without the Guildpact, the power of the Guilds begin to fade. Please note, as of this point all dates are estimated. Tezzeret the Seeker kills everyone who knows that the Infinite Consortium, an interplanar syndicate headquartered on Ravnica and secretly belonging to the elder dragon Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker, taking control for himself (Agents of Artifice, Test of Metal).
Aurelia, the Warleader usurps Leadership of the Boros from Feather, decreeing that a former penitent angel can't be the Guildmaster. Lazav, Dimir Mastermind hires Krenko, Mob Boss to steal a feather from Feather, and the goblin succeeds, freeing Feather in the process only to raise the alarm at her escape. (Krenko, Mob Boss)
The gorgon Vraska the Unseen is tortured after a corrupt Azorius raid. She is used by her own people, the Golgari, as a weapon against the prison guards. Her spark ignites in a prison riot, and when she returns, she becomes an assassin, killing with poetic justice and getting her revenge on the corrupt officials who imprisoned her (The Shadows of Prahv, Part 1, The Shadows of Prahv, Part 2). The young Gruul, Domri Rade's spark ignites during a coming of age ceremony, transporting him to Naya on Alara. He returns to his clan with a greater understanding of the multiverse and a love of the giant creature of Naya (The Burying, Part 1, The Burying, Part 2). Fblthp gets lost (Fblthp).
10,072 Z.C.* to 10,075 Z.C.* -- Jace Beleren joins the Infinite Consortium
Jace Beleren, a young mind mage with amnesia, is recruited into the Consortium with the promise of training on how to use his powers. His friend Emmara Tandris warns him about the Consortium, but he doesn't listen. Jace finds himself more and more morally compromised as he works for the Consortium, culminating in two major failures, including failing to keep Nicol Bolas out of Tezzeret's mind. Tezzeret's abusive personality becomes apparent, and Jace flees the Consortium with his partner, Kallist.
What will Jace do when he discovers Tezzeret scheming on Ravnica?
Art by Karl Kopinski
On the run, they meet Liliana Vess, who worked as a sort of contractor for the Consortium. She seduces Jace and attempts to turn him against Tezzeret, but when Jace proves intransigent, she manipulates them both into continuing the conflict, including selling out all of Jace's contacts to Tezzeret. Jace falls for it, but when he realizes she was working him to trade the Consortium for Bolas' help with her demon deals, he leaves Tezzeret for dead and abandons Liliana. Nicol Bolas reclaims Tezzeret in the aftermath of their conflict (Agents of Artifice).
After discovering the horrors of the Eldrazi on Zendikar, Gideon Jura allies himself with the Boros. He would find dividing his time between the two planes would begin to wear on him (The Greater Good, Battle for the Ninth).
10,077 Z.C.* -- Return to Ravnica
The Izzet begin researching the Implicit Maze, believed to be a secret of great power hidden on Ravnica. Jace finds himself researching the same mystery from a different angle, and brings himself to the attention of Niv-Mizzet, who sends his lead researcher, Ral Zarek, to investigate what Jace knows. Despite Jace's best efforts, the Implicit Maze's secrets are laid bare for all the Guilds. Behind the scenes, Lazav manipulates events to encourage the Guilds to be on the verge of all-out war. Niv-Mizzet organizes a race to follow the Implicit Maze.
Jace learns that the Maze was a failsafe left by Azor, and that if the Guilds don't learn to cooperate, the Supreme Verdict will be unleashed, wiping out all life from the district. He aids Emmara as she runs the race, but Ral's vendetta against Jace causes problems for the mind mage. As all the runners make it to the Maze's End in the Forum of Azor, Lazav pushes on all the divisions he's created. Before the Bailiff can unleash the Verdict, Jace connects all of the runner's minds, calming them and allowing them each to see from the other's point of view. This act earns him the power of the Living Guildpact. (The Secretist Parts I, II, and II).
Vraska is the Gatewatch's best hope for defeating Nicol Bolas.
10,077 Z.C.* to 10,079 Z.C.* -- Era of the Living Guildpact
Jace, the Living Guildpact comes into conflict with Vraska, who wants Jace's help in righting the wrongs of the Guilds, and will kill to get it. Jace defeats her, revealing the assassin (The Gorgon and the Guildpact). Vraska's scheming would continue, with her allies in the Golgari helping her plot against Jarad (Pride of the Kraul). She takes an assignment from Nicol Bolas to recover The Immortal Sun and spends months on Ixalan (The Talented Captain Vraska).
Teysa, likewise, wants to subvert the Obzedat, Ghost Council lording over her Guild. She enlists the aid of Tajic, Blade of the Legion and uses Jace's inattentiveness to create loopholes in the law magic of the Guildpact to break into the Obzedat's most secret vaults and destroy their corpses (and their tethers to reality). She discovers the Obzedat have a room that defies the Guildpact, and Tajic is hauled away as she is forced to submit to them once more. (Teysa Karlov, Family Values)
Ral Zarek is forced to ally himself with Jace as the Izzet launch into a project that can detect planeswalkers, Project Lightning Bug. Together, they fool the device to make it appear as if it's malfunctioning, and Niv-Mizzet cancels the project. The two planeswalkers attempt to discover the identity of a third, mysterious planeswalker, but Gideon gets the drop on them, learning the Guildpact is a planeswalker (Project Lightning Bug). Gideon splits his time between his struggle on Zendikar and aiding the Boros on Ravnica, but finds he can't manage both (Limits). He recruits Jace Beleren, leaving behind a Liliana desperate for Jace's help (Catching Up).
Off-Plane -- The Gatewatch's Story (Kaladesh through Dominaria)
When they return, it's with new allies Chandra Nalaar, Nissa Revane, and even Liliana herself in the freshly formed Gatewatch. They're pulled away again months later to Kaladesh, where they discover Tezzeret still lives. While the Gatewatch believe they've stopped Tezzeret from acquiring the Planar Bridge, they head out to Amonkhet to confront his master, Nicol Bolas. It ends very poorly.
An amnesiac Jace winds up on Ixalan, where he meets and bonds with Vraska. As his memories return, he finds himself a changed man, finally whole for the first time in his life. He finds Azor trapped after giving up his spark to power The Immortal Sun, and uses his power as the Guildpact to banish the Azorius parun to a remote island . . . but not before learning of Nicol Bolas' plans for Ravnica from the sphinx. Afterward, he and Vraska concoct a plan to undermine Nicol Bolas's schemes for their home, planning to enlist Niv-Mizzet and use Jace's increased mental control to convince Bolas that Vraska is still a willing agent.
Jace returns to his Gatewatch allies on Dominaria, but continues on to Ravnica when they insist on aiding Liliana. When the Gatewatch finally arrive with new allies, including Jaya Ballard, Karn, Scion of Urza, and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, the others are distraught to see Liliana having abandoned them. In truth, by freeing Liliana of her demon deals, she's fallen In Bolas's Clutches, forced to serve or rapidly age to her death.
10,079 Z.C.* -- Guilds of Ravnica
It's not entirely clear where Guilds of Ravnica will pick up the story. We know that Guilds of Ravnica will focus on the Selesnya, Boros, Golgari, Izzet, and Dimir guilds while Ravnica Allegiance will cover the Azorius, Rakdos, Gruul, Simic, and Orzhov guilds. Intraguild conflict seems to be where things are heading, with both the Golgari and Izzet leadership being contested by a planeswalker ostensibly working for Nicol Bolas. After Jace has recovered all of his memories, I feel like he is best suited to take ownership of the Dimir guild. After all, the skills imparted to him by Alhammarret, High Arbiter and Tezzeret are not well suited to legislation, but instead spycraft. During the events of The Secretist, the Bailiff encourages Jace to use the abilities that earned him the power of the Living Guildpact to maintain the new order. Abilities, the story noted earlier on, that are very similar to those employed by the Dimir.