Over the weekend, Wizards of the Coast dropped a trailer for its new expansion set for Magic the Gathering, War of the Spark. The almost 3-minute long trailer is centered upon the dark planeswalker Liliana and featured some significant story developments that pay off years of narrative for the character leading into the third expansion for the Guilds of Ravnica block.
For long-time fans of the character and the story itself, the trailer tells a powerful tale of humanity, defiance and ultimately, tragedy as it befalls one of the game’s most beloved characters.
Watch the trailer here before we unpack everything below.
First of all, it has to be said that I adore this cover of Linkin Park’s In The End by Jung Youth & Fleurie, produced by Tommee Profitt. The vocals are haunting and ominous, accentuating the curious way the first part is shot in reverse, making it feel otherworldly and surreal. The song itself is cold and almost unfeeling which mirrors how Liliana acts here, detached from the violence and decimation that she herself is causing.
Liliana Vess is front and center here. She commands the Dreadhorde Army of the malevolent Dragon-God, Nicol Bolas, laying siege to the city-plane of Ravnica. In the past, Liliana had sold her soul to four demons, in a pact to secure her youth and power. She has since then fought and slain all four of those demons to regain her freedom but in doing so Liliana’s Pact defaulted to its broker, Nicol Bolas himself.
Enslaved by the Pact, Liliana appears here doing the Dragon-God’s will, annihilating Ravnica and siphoning off the Planeswalker Sparks which lay dormant in its denizens to add to Bolas’ power.
The decimation takes its toll.
As Sparks fly from the distance, even innocent civilians, not actively targeted by the culling meet their untimely end. A mother and a child fleeing from the chaos catch Liliana’s gaze then are promptly buried in rubble. This rattles Liliana and visibly shakes her.
A cold realization begins to dawn on her even as she presses on in her dark task. She coldly witnesses the murder of the fellow planeswalker Dak Fayden and even sets her Army to an old ally, Gideon Jura, in front of her.
But then she looks back.
Back at the rubble, the mother and child, at the cost of all this madness. She ponders. Up to this point, she had been an incredibly selfish character. She valued her life above everyone else’s. She had betrayed her friends at every turn, committed atrocities for power, and saved herself at the cost of other people. That’s what makes what’s to come so poignant and tragic.
She knows that she was not powerful enough to ever take down Bolas. She knows that the Pact could easily obliterate her if she disobeyed its Broker’s wishes. But in an act of pure defiance, she does so anyway.
She cannot stand for it any longer.
She sets her army to Bolas’ Citadel, to the Dragon-God’s meager surprise. He calls upon the Pact’s magic and it does what its was meant to do. As Liliana is engulfed in flames and she begins to wither and disintegrate, she gives a guttural scream, not nearly of pain, but of resistance, of contempt and of fury.
Liliana is defiant in the end.