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Try Not to Drool as We Unbox the Most Wanted Trading Cards from SDCC 2016

Magic: The Gathering‘s main characters are dead. Well, most of them, and at least in the absolutely beautiful exclusive cards from this year’s San Diego Comic-Con.

Last year’s exclusive cards were also a set of the trading card game’s “planeswalker” cards — powerful cards that function almost like additional players in the game — featuring alternate art and a gorgeous black foil finish. This year however, that foiling process was retooled, head MTG designer Mark Rosewater told me on the SDCC floor, giving each card a homogeneously luminous sheen that makes each card significantly easier to read (and actually play with). But before we get too far, let’s check out the box:

MTGSDCC_Box2Click to enlarge.

The exclusives sit in a black box labeled “Planewalkers,” which comes with a handle making it easy to walk around with and show off to other expectant nerds. Inside the box is planeswalker Liliana Vess’ telltale outline, a cutout that shows off the purple lines that subtly display Liliana’s inner power (and shine through on her card). Beyond the cutout is the planewalker display box:

MTGSDCC_Box3Click to enlarge.

The material of this smaller box is like a mixture of cardboard and felt, and it feels expensive. Every aspect of the packaging implies importance. Slip off Liliana’s “seal,” and the rest of the planewalkers show themselves. They’re all dead:

MTGSDCC_FEAT!Click to enlarge.

As you can see above, the foiling process is a bit different than your traditional MTG foil. It looks cleaner, perhaps to help you focus on the wonderful alternate art on each card (more on that below). Behind each planeswalker card is even more art naming the characters and giving each a bit of flavor. Again, the quality of the packaging is noticeable everywhere:

MTGSDCC_Box1Click to enlarge.

Then we get to the cards themselves. Nissa, Voice of Zendikar is first up, and she’s pushing daisies.

MTGSDCC_NissaClick to enlarge.

Jace, Unraveler of Secrets is next, and he’s eating his own brains:

MTGSDCC_JaceClick to enlarge.

Chandra, Flamecaller has been burnt to a crisp:

MTGSDCC_ChandraClick to enlarge.

Gideon, Ally of Zendikar has fallen apart:

MTGSDCC_GideonClick to enlarge.

And finally, Liliana, the Last Hope is…fine. She commands the armies of the dead, so she hasn’t been infected by the zombifying magic that is infesting MTG‘s storyline at the moment:

MTGSDCC_LilianaClick to enlarge.

The zombie planeswalkers aren’t just some artistic folly either. Rosewater told me that since a set called Origins, the way MTG tells its stories has shifted dramatically. These five planewalkers are now a through-line binding story elements together as the game and lore progress. The current set, Eldritch Moon, which released last weekend (review to come), is a zombie, angel, werewolf, and vampire-filled world, now taken over by Lovecraftian horrors known as the Eldrazi. Seeing the four dead planeswalkers and Liliana commanding the shambling hordes isn’t just cool, it makes sense canonically.

Rosewater also pointed out that each planewalker card has been printed in the set it released in, meaning that they are legal wherever that set is legal. Very shortly, players will be seeing dead planewalkers busting down the barred doors of their homes and tournaments. It’s a nice little tweak to an already beautiful collection of cards.

What do you think of the exclusives? Are you dying to get your hands on them (good luck on eBay, oof); how amazing is that alternate art? Let us know in the comments below.

Images: Kyle Hill; Wizards of the Coast

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