Next February, Wizards of the Coast’s trading card game Magic: the Gathering is releasing a murder mystery expansion named Murders at Karlov Manor, themed after the classic board game Clue. But the clues don’t stop there: in a recent preview of the set, Blake Rasmussen noted that there will be a series of puzzles beginning at the game’s prerelease on February 2nd and culminating in a meta-puzzle that will, once solved, “unlock information about the future of Magic.”
A Brief Primer on Magic: the Gathering’s Story
Before getting into what sounds suspiciously like Magic’s foray into the world of puzzle hunts, a little backstory on how lore functions in Magic: the Gathering might provide some helpful context. Because while Magic is first and foremost a competitive trading card game, the franchise has hidden an overarching story through its expansions. While Magic fans are likely most familiar with experiencing the story through “flavor text” added in the marginalia of the game’s cards, those stories are supplemented and expanded through a series of short stories, comic books, and novels. So what starts as the slow process of piecing together the story of two estranged artificer brothers engaged in a protracted war through narrative snippets and artifacts are expanded upon in novels and short stories that help fill in the gaps.
For the past three years, that story has focused on the war between Planeswalkers and Phyrexians. Within Magic’s lore, Planeswalkers are entities who possess a “spark” that allows them to cross between planes, hopping between the deeply thematic universes and worlds that make up Magic’s Multiverse with relative ease. A race of biomechanical creatures known as Phyrexians don’t naturally possess the ability to cross planes, but stumbled across a number of artificial methods to cross universes in pursuit of their goal of assimilating or destroying all inferior life across the Multiverse.
At first, it started simple. A single Phyrexian infiltrating a plane and spreading chaos and dissent, setting the stage for future invasion. But then, Phyrexians started assimilating Planeswalkers to their side, through a process known as Compleation.
The three year story arc culminated in a massive confrontation that saw Phyrexians and their involuntarily conscripted Planeswalker allies invading practically every known plane. And while the Phyrexians were defeated, in the process something happened that stripped many Planeswalkers of their powers. Currently, Magic’s Multiverse is rebuilding from an inter-planar war, while simultaneously adjusting to life with considerably fewer Planeswalkers capable of crossing those planes. And the most recent expansions have focused on that fallout.
A Magical Murder Mystery
Which brings us to Ravnica: a world with an industrial city the size of its home planet, dominated by competing guilds. Kaya Cassir is a Planeswalker who previously served as leader of the Orzhov Syndicate, although she was replaced by Teysa Karlov when she went to fight against the Phyrexians, returning as one of the few to retain her ability to shift between planes.
Author Seanan McGuire released the first chapter of Murders at Karlov Manor‘s story, setting the stage for murder as Teysa Karlov throws a grand fête for her rival power-brokers in the planet-city. Told from Kaya’s perspective, readers are introduced to a colorful cast of characters before getting left hanging on a cliffhanger, as Kaya chases down a scream from across the manor. Has someone been murdered?
A handful of cards (and their flavor text) have already been spoiled, and it appears that in addition to an actual murder, an attempt has been made on Boros legion guildmaster Aurelia’s life, and the story’s detectives are on a deadline to solve the mystery. Rasmussen noted that this set is particularly heavy on “Story Spotlight” cards that feature key moments of the expansion’s narrative, so fans looking to piece together the narrative on their own will have a lot to work off.Continue reading