If you haven’t seen the new trailer for War of the Spark, I suggest you go do so right now. It’s one of the best things I’ve seen Wizards marketing put out in a while. It took the Internet by Storm this weekend, at least as much as nerdy Magic players can, against other more popular and mainstream trends.
The trailer follows Liliana, who we haven’t seen in the story of Magic since the card In Bolas’s Clutches from Dominaria, nearly a year ago. We left her off as she became a pawn of Nicol Bolas. She’d spent a large portion of the past several years’ worth of sets trying to untie herself from various Archdemons that held her soul in contract. As it turns out, all that work of killing bad guys just made her fall into the hands of Nicol Bolas, biggest of bad guys. Turns out he had some default clause on her soul loan. Fantasy banking can get complicated. But lien or not, Liliana basically has to do whatever Bolas tells her. Up until now, her quest has been that of self preservation, and it didn’t seem like something as trivial as betraying her friends in the Gatewatch and joining the bad side of the fight would change stance on that.
That is, until we saw this trailer.
Credit: Wizards of the Coast
A key story moment
The trailer shows Liliana working with Bolas to bring chaos and destruction to Ravnica, with an army of eternals under her Command. We see a slow motion sequence of her seeing all the destruction that’s coming about because of her help. This includes getting his planeswalker spark ripped out of him by a zombie. We’re seeing all of this unfold in reverse, but we’ll get to that in a second. We see a girl and boy trying to flea from a collapsing building, only to see rubble crush them both, as the girl tries to brace the impact for the boy. Expression crosses Liliana’s face, undoubtedly remembering when she tried to save her brother Josu using magic, only to have him die and turn into a lich; an event tragic enough to cause her planeswalker spark to ignite.
She started down this path of necromancy by trying to protect someone she loved, so it makes sense that she would have an emotional response to this scene of brother and sister. A remix of Linkin Park's "In The End" backs this scene (which is corny sounding and almost a meme of itself, but I think it worked pretty well). We're seeing Liliana realize that trying to keep herself alive without having loved ones to protect makes all that work she's done for nought. We'd seen Gideon, who has been an antithesis to Liliana in the past but has been her ally for a many of the previous years' sets., getting attacked by the eternals that Liliana has been controlling. And at this moment, after realizing that the only people she cares about need protection right now, her actions change, and the scene we were just watching starts to play forward, with some changes. Liliana decides to sic her zombies on Bolas himself, making them clamber up his citadel while he watches her defiance. We see Gideon stand up (apparently being indestructible means just that) and look at the scene unfold. Bolas casts a spell, causing Liliana's magical scars to burn. She begins to burn away completely as she lets out a final shout of defiance.
A change in direction for Wizards marketing
This trailer marks the first time that a Magic set has felt mainstream. This trailer debuted at PAX East in Boston, and quickly got to the trending list on YouTube (the highest I saw it at was #5). It was something that people were talking about, even those who may have never played the game before. Between e-sports and campaigns like this, it's clear that Wizards of the Coast is trying to get a much larger audience interested in their game. If that's the case, I believe that this is something that we're going to start seeing more of. I think that we're going to have a trailer like this, maybe not every set, but for one set a year at least. Sure, this is a really important set for the lore of Magic, but I think that Wizards wants the hype train to keep on rolling.
I wouldn't be surprised if they actually start to role out some pseudo-animated lore videos as appetizers for upcoming sets, almost like the Warbringer videos that Blizzard has put out for World of Warcraft. I think we're going to start seeing higher quality marketing material like this fairly regularly. I'm sure that the cost for that trailer was expensive, but since they're already putting a lot of art resources towards "animated" cards for Arena, it may be time they already have set against these types of things.
All-in-all, I think this is a great thing for the game as a whole, and I can't wait to hear some people talking about how the trailers that Wizards of the Coast puts out made them want to play this game we all love.