Friday, 27 May 2022 10:24

Magic History: Remembering 'Future Sight'

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Magic History: Remembering 'Future Sight' WOTC/MAGIC UNTAPPED

Sometimes it's nice to look back and see just how far things have come since the early days of Magic: The Gathering.  To that end, we're bringing you a series of short videos that highlight Magic: The Gathering expansions throughout the years.

In this video, we take a look back at Future Sight, the final set in the Time Spiral block.

You can check it all out in our retrospective video (below).

Video transcript:

The final in the Time Spiral block, Future Sight came out on May 4, 2007, and brought with it 180 cards.  Whereas the block first set, Time Spiral, was based on the past and the second set, Planar Chaos was based on the present (albeit an “alternate” present), Future Sight (as the name might suggest) was themes around the future – including some looks at cards, card types, and card frames that “may be” at some point in the game’s future.

We’ll get to more about that in just a bit.

As for the story, it can be experienced by reading the Future Sight novel by Scott McGough and John Delaney, and it picks up just as the previous novel is ending.

On the beaches of Madara, the planeswalker, Leshrac, is approached by the Myojin of Night’s Reach, a powerful spirit from the plane of Kamigawa.

Ever since the Nicol Bolas was released from his ethereal prison shortly before the rift above Shiv was closed, the draconic planeswalker has been on a revenge tour of the multiverse, settling debts he feels are owed to him.  As one of those in debt to him, she finds herself on the run.

Looking to end Bolas’ vendetta, she offers Leshrac a powerful artifact – her porcelain mask that can drain black mana from others – and asks for nothing in return in hopes that his own ambitions will accomplish her goal.

Leshrac accepts.

Elsewhere on Dominaria, the planeswalker Jeska is questioning Venser, Jhoira, and Teferi as to the whereabouts of her mentor, the silver golem planeswalker, Karn, as well as the state of things.  The group informs her of the various temporal rifts threatening not just Dominaria, but the multiverse as a whole, but that four of the rifts – the ones over Shiv, Tolaria, Urborg, and Skyshroud – have been dealt with.

Unsatisfied that four more rifts – the ones above Zhalfir, Yavimaya, Madara, and Otaria – still remain, Jeska decides to look into things for herself and departs, bound for the island nation of Otaria.

Once there, she encounters the Leshrac.  The nightstalker planeswalker says that he has been watching Teferi and his companions from the shadows, and that, while they’ve succeeded in closing a few of the rifts, the ones that remain have been growing more violent in the process.  He suggests to she use both Venser and Rahda’s unrealized sparks to channel mana into and close the remaining rifts seeing as, as far as he could tell, their sparks are immune to the rifts’ mana-stealing nature.  Justifiably untrusting of Leshrac, she refuses, but decides nevertheless to travel to Keld to see Radha for herself.

The Keldon Warlord, however, rejects Jeska’s request for proof and, seeing no other alternative, enters into a duel with the half-elf, striking her down and taking her unconscious body with her as she departs.

Teferi, Jhoira, and Venser, meanwhile, decide to travel to the ancient forest of Yavimaya to seek the aid of its protector, the maro-sorcerer Multani.  Upon their arrival, they find that Multani is in a vegetative state, having tried and failed to merge with and consume the rift above his forest.  Despite his ability to speak, he tries to communicate his need for assistance.

Using is ambulator, Venser teleports directly into the rift and is able to separate the Multani from the rift’s influence, returning the maro-sorcerer’s full facilities back to him.  Their audience together, however, is short lived as Teferi senses that Jeska may be trying to pull something in his native Zhalfir.

At the time mage’s request, Venser brings the trio to the Zhalfirin rift whereupon they view Jeska using Radha as a buffer against it.  Despite Teferi and Jhoira’s pleas for her to stop and reassess, Jeska was too far in to stop now.  The Pardic planeswalker succeeds in sealing the rift, but the experience leaves Radha on death’s doorstep.

Jeska taunts Teferi, pointing out that she was able to seal the rift above Zhalfir without sacrifice, unlike he with the Shivan rift.  Teferi, in anger, retorts, informing her in not-so-kind words that, as a result of her actions, Zhalfir can no longer be properly phased back into being and that the civilization and millions of lives that made up the kingdom are now lost.

Realizing the gravity of the situation, Jeska tries to show remorse, but claims that her actions were for the best despite Teferi’s complaints.  She and the newly-enfeebled Rahda then travel to Yavimaya to continue her work there.  Teferi, Venser, and Jhoira follow.

Back in Yavimaya, we find Multani trying to restrain a hot-headed Jeska.  The maro-sorcerer tries to calm her mind, but dark influences from Leshrac cause him to fail and Jeska goes aflame with rage.  She attacks Multani with full force, obliterating the maro-sorcerer, leaving only his ancient wooden mask, which falls to the ground.

The enraged planeswalker picks it up and aims it at the rift above Yavimaya with a Radha, only recently having regained consciousness, once again acting as a buffer between the rift and the her.  Using Multani’s mask as a lens, she focuses intense mana into the rift above.  Much like at the Zhalfir site, the rift is sealed and Radha once again falls unconscious, much worse for wear than before.

Jeska drops the mask picks up Radha, then ventures to Madara to repeat the process there.

Teferi’s group, meanwhile, had arrived at Yavimaya in time to witness Jeska’s actions.  Jhoira takes Multani’s discarded mask and buries it in the soil with the hopes that the maro-sorcerer can be born again.  The group then resolves that they will do everything they can to catch up to Jeska and reason with her.

In Madara, Jeska appears with Radha in tow.  Before the planeswalker can begin work on the rift there, however, Leshrac appears.

The nighstalker planeswalker confesses that he’s been influencing her actions since before they first spoke before paralyzing her.  Leshrac then utilizes the mask the Myojin gave him to sap out the black mana that still resided within her from her pre-planeswalker days when she was the Cabalist, Phage, explaining that he intends to use her darkness to help him defeat (and subsequently absorb the power of) Nicol Bolas.

Teferi and friends arrive at about this time, but can do little but watch Leshrac in action.

The nightstalker planeswalker then calls out to Bolas, beckoning the draconic planeswalker return to Madara to duel.  Bolas agrees.

The battle was intense, and Leshrac was proving to have the upper hand.  He had Bolas trapped between the Talon Gates, negating the dragon’s planeswalker powers and allowing him to use the porcelain mask given to him in Kamigawa to rot away the dragon’s body.

Bolas now drastically weakened and mortally wounded, Leshrac prepared one final spell to end the draconic planeswalker once and for all.

Not even a moment before his ultimate demise, however, Bolas swung the skeletal remains of his tail, impaling Leshrac.  The dragon then revealed that he had succeeded in defeating the Myojin of Night’s Reach and was in possession of her original porcelain mask.  Leshrac’s mask, as it turns out, was merely an inferior copy.

Using the mask’s powers, Bolas regenerated himself before capturing Leshrac within it.  Mere minutes later, Bolas uses the power of the mask and the essence of Leshrac it contains – planeswalker spark and all – to close the final rift above Madara, thus ending Leshrac Nighwalker’s existence.

Sensing that, despite the closing of Dominaria’s time rifts, the multiverse was still doomed, Bolas planeswalked to a new realm to focus on his own preservation.

Jeska, now finally back in her right mind, greatly apologizes for her recent actions and takes personal responsibility for the final remaining rift above Otaria, which was formed by her transformation into and back from being the false god, Karona.  Venser and very forgiving Radha agree to assist her.

The three teleport directly into the violent rift where Jeska found herself facing an image of Karona.  Drawing upon the power of her allies, she changed the image of the false goddess and shattered it, allowing the planeswalker to spread her essence across the rift and beyond – across the planes and forever changing the nature of the planeswalker spark.

The next thing Jeska saw was a white void, populated only by her and her late, loving brother, Kamahl.  The two siblings finally united in death, Jeska happily embraced oblivion, knowing she’ll forever be in his company.

Back on Dominaria, an era known as the Great Mending has begun.

Their work done, the group disbands.

Radha returns to Keld and resumes her duty as warlord.

Teferi returns to the continent of Jamuraa to help its people rebuild.

Jhoira asks Vensor if she could borrow his ambulator to that she can seek out Jodah, a person for whom she feels quite strongly for.

As for Venser, the experience within the Otarian rift had changed him, for he was now a not just a planeswalker, his spark having been awakened, but one of a new breed of planeswalker.  He makes his first natural planeswalk and ventures into the unknown.

Thus ends the story of the Time Spiral block and, really, marks a major change in Magic: The Gathering from here on out, both card- and story-wise now that planeswalkers were no longer nearly-omnipotent beings with an quasi-immortal, god-like status.

In fact, this change in the nature of planeswalkers was actually planned to be shown in card form.

<Cavotta DTW: “So knowing these new kind…take a stab.”>

Only, it wasn’t meant to be.  Simply put, this new card type just wasn’t ready yet.  So, they delayed the debut of planeswalker cards for a soon-to-be-released future set, which allowed Wizards to put back in a neat card that they had taken out to make room for these planeswalker cards.

<Maro DTW: “So, I made…”near future.”>

And, part of this was because Future Sight was a future-looking set.  The nature of planeswalkers has been changed, therefore planeswalkers will be very different going forward.

But planeswalkers weren’t the only future-looking thing being exhibited in Future Sight.  Truly, it was a glimpse into not just THE future, but also POSSIBLE futures, both story-wise and gameplay-wise.

<Maro DTW: “A lot of what we did is riffing…was a lot of extrapolative design.”

As such, there was a lot of new and unique things that made their debut in the set.  Partially due to this, Future Sight introduced not just a few, but a whopping 16 new keyword mechanics (and that was in addition to the eight or so existing ones such as scy, transmute, and cycling, that were also in the set).

Three of those 16 were abilities that had already existed, yet never officially had a name: Lifelink, reach, and shroud.

As for those remaining 13?

  • Absorb, which prevents a specific number of damage that would be dealt;
  • Deathtouch, which says whenever a creature deals damage to another creature, destroy the latter. This ability is now evergreen;
  • Delve, which allows you to remove cards from your graveyard to assist in paying for spells;
  • Fateseal, which is an extrapolation of the Scry ability;
  • Fortify, which is kind of like equipment for lands;
  • Frenzy, which grants an offensive boost to an unblocked creature;
  • Grandeur, which provides additional functionality for legendary creatures that have the ability by providing an effect directly from one’s hand;
  • Gravestorm, which is kind of like storm, but only counts when things go to the graveyard;
  • Poisonous, which riffs on a concept that has long been within the game and gives a player hit by a poisonous creature poison counters in combat;
  • Aura swap, an activated ability that lets you exchange it with an aura card in your hand.
  • Transfigure, an evolved version of transmute from the original Ravnica block that turns a creature in play into one from your deck with the same converted mana cost;
  • Tribal, a card supertype in which non-creature cards can be denoted by a creature-based sub-type, and;
  • Type-cycling, which is an evolution of the land-based cycling introduced in Scourge, but expanded for other types (in this case, specifically slivers and wizards).

By the way, the design team made way more than the 16 mechanics that actually made the set.  How many, to be exact?

<Maro DTW: “Design turned over…”insanely, insanely complicated.”>

Adding to that complexity is a cool dozen cycles.  While we won’t go over all of them here, there are a few worth pointing out:

  • There’s the cycle of legendary creatures – all of which have the grandeur ability – and are also descendents of prominent legendary creatures from Dominaria’s past, such as Korlash, Heir to Blackblade being descended from Dakkon Blackblade.
  • Pacts, which are rare instant spells that one can cast for free, but must pay a cost during their next upkeep. Unless, that is, they want to forfeit the game.
  • Future-shifted dual lands of varying themes, all of which tap for two colors of allied mana as well as have some other (at the time) yet-unexplored extra facet to them, and;
  • Textless vanilla creatures. These are notable mainly because of their striking appearance with a card frame that could (at some point in the future) actually be.

<Maro DTW: “One of the things…not to revisit.”>

Though, you’d probably be shocked to know (that’s sarcasm) that none of those neat-looking vanilla creatures got much traction on the tournament scene.  Of course, a good selection of others sure as heck did.  Such as:

  • Bridge from Below, a strong card that, in 2019, was banned in modern due to its tendency to create an insane amount of zombie creature tokens with very little effort;
  • Grove of the Burnwillows, which combos quite well with the burn spell Punishing Fire;
  • Nacromoeba, a popular inclusion in graveyard-focused strategies;
  • Magus of the Moon, part of Future Sight’s magus cycle and (quite literally) a Blood Moon with legs;
  • Sarcomite Myr, the first-ever colored artifact – something that would become commonplace a number of years later in the Alara block;
  • Sword of the Meek, a card that was heavily discounted at first, but then became briefly banned due to abuse with the Alara Reborn card Thopter Foundry;
  • Tombstalker, a 6/6 that can be cast for just BB so long as you have six cards to exile from your graveyard;
  • Barren Glory, which is more-or-less a functional reprint of the Unglued card The Cheese Stands Alone (which, itself, is a reference to the childrens’ song “The Farmer in the Dell;”)
  • Tarmogoyf, an extremely aggressive card and (quite possibly) the most sought-after card in the set, and whose reminder text foretold of the impending introduction of the planeswalker card type, and;
  • Dryad Arbor, a forest land card that is also a creature. It’s quite versatile, but also can cause a lot of headache.

<MTG COVERAGE CLIP>

And, in the end, was there anything the folks at Wizards of the Coast learned with this Future Sight experiment?

<Maro DTW: “So, but what I did learn…blatant in your face.”>

So, what are your thoughts on Future Sight?  Are you a fan?  Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Thanks for watching.