Dark Intimations

Posted in Card Preview on January 5, 2017

By Cassie LaBelle

Cassie LaBelle is a freelance writer. When she's not at her keyboard dreaming up stories, you can find her playing with his cats, listening to records, or building yet another Magic deck.

Back in the spring of 2005, I decided to see if I could drive from Massachusetts to Ohio in a single day. I was nineteen years old, finally had my own car, and knew that a friend of mine at Oberlin College would let me stay in his dorm for the weekend. So I tossed my Kamigawa-era Standard decks in the back seat and set off across the verdant landscape of upstate New York.

I had been on long trips before, but they had all been by air. And to me, plane travel is similar to planeswalking—a bleary, disorienting jump from one world to another without any real knowledge of the spaces that lie between. I knew intellectually that Massachusetts and Ohio were connected, of course, but the actual experience of that connection—watching the Acadian hills of New England slowly flatten into the sparse plains of the Midwest—was life-changing. It felt like my world had somehow become both larger and smaller at the same time.

The first preview card I have for you today gave me that same feeling. One of my favorite aspects of modern Magic design is how each plane is unique, yet there are strong lines of connection running between them—characters and storylines that give Magic's Multiverse a thrilling sense of continuity. Emrakul's appearance on Innistrad was one example. Here's another:

Let's clear the elephant out of the room first: Nicol Bolas is not on Kaladesh. Even though this card references a Bolas planeswalker spell, there is no such card in Aether Revolt. After all, this spell is called Dark Intimations, and what does "intimation" mean? A hint or clue. While I have no insider knowledge about when we might see another Nicol Bolas card, I believe that it will come sooner rather than later.

My favorite part of Dark Intimations is that it manages to hint at the future by including a nod to the past. Cruel Ultimatum is Nicol Bolas's most famous spell, and Dark Intimations is full of direct Cruel Ultimatum references. Both spells are Grixis, both spells make your opponent sacrifice creatures and discard cards, and both spells allow you to return creatures from your graveyard and draw cards. Cruel Ultimatum has a lot more raw power, of course, but that's because it is a direct reflection of Nicol Bolas's immense power. Dark Intimations merely hints at it.

The artwork on Dark Intimations also includes a spectacular amount of clever visual foreshadowing. The actual scene depicted on the card appears to show a crashed copter or some other damaged piece of Kaladeshi artifice, but every line and curve seems to scream "Bolas!" Look hard enough and you can spy the curve of his horns and the semi-transparent feel of his wings in several different places. The color scheme is also reminiscent of Bolas, who is usually depicted in a palette/palate of dark browns, oranges, yellows, and golds. Artist Chase Stone even manages to work his foreshadowing into the steam rising from the ground, which is painted such that it cleverly evokes the idea of a Dragon's massive claw.

And standing in the center of it all, his shadow dominating the frame like a proper villain, we find Tezzeret.

Tezzeret's current connection to Nicol Bolas remains something of a mystery, but we do know that the artificer has worked for Bolas in the past and is likely working for him again now. The second mechanic on Dark Intimations hints at this—not only is Tezzeret front and center on a Bolas-related card, but his presence (via the casting of this spell) increases Bolas's loyalty when he does show up later on. Whatever Tezzeret is up to on Kaladesh, I have no doubt that it is laying the groundwork for...well, in Tezzeret's own words, "This is bigger than you. All of you."

Here's my second preview card, and it gives us a better look at what Tezzeret is up to. While I am not privy to any knowledge about what occurs during the Battle at the Bridge, I do know that improvise is the perfect keyword for a Tezzeret-related removal spell. Tezzeret may not be a native of Kaladesh, but he can quicksmith with the best of them—a skill he showed off during that epic duel with Pia Nalaar. Improvise is a flavorful way to illustrate this; I'm imagining Tezzeret running around the battlefield grabbing pieces off his various devices to power up his spell. Sounds like a fun deck idea to me!

We can also see that Tezzeret hasn't entirely rebuilt the etherium arm that Jace cut off, but whatever he's got going on now looks to be even more intimidating. I doubt it's a coincidence that his three magical fingers look a little bit like a Dragon's claw. Artist Chris Rallis also did a good job of using dust, curved lines, motion blur, and shallow focus to clue us in to the fact that Tezzeret's metal tendrils are on the move. And while I don't know exactly what those tendrils are—etherium from Alara? Something even scarier from New Phyrexia?—Tezzeret certainly appears to be using aether in a way we haven't seen on Kaladesh so far.

In the end, I'm left with a feeling of excitement about the present as well as the future. I love the flavor of Kaladesh and Aether Revolt, but that these cards manage to stay on point while also hinting at what's to come is a great way to make Magic's Multiverse feel more cohesive and interconnected. I'm not entirely sure where we're heading, but the journey is pretty dang awesome.

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