As the climactic end of the Phyrexian Arc and the next premier MTG set, understandably, all eyes are on March of the Machine right now. With the set’s story chapters steadily releasing, many players are utterly enthralled by the nail-biting story. Despite the engaging story chapters, however, some players can’t resist a peek at what MTG’s future holds. Unfortunately for these curious players, future MTG sets are typically shrouded in secrecy for the better part of the year. The Wilds of Eldraine, for instance, is still a mystery wrapped in an enigma that players haven’t heard a peep about. The Lost Caverns of Ixalan is a similarly mysterious story, with barely any details being known. That is, until recently, when MTG’s Lead Designer remarkably revealed a tiny tidbit of information. Despite barely being a reveal, this morsel of information has still whipped the MTG community into a frenzy of speculation.
Ixalan Goes Underground
First revealed back in August of 2022, during Wizards Presents, incredibly little is known about The Lost Caverns of Ixalan. Due to the popularity of the first set, however, several MTG players are nevertheless excited about what’s in store. After all, who wouldn’t get excited for the chance at Colossal Dreadmaw being reprinted once again? The answer to that question appears to be Tumblr user Jjustin1379, who recently complained about The Lost Caverns of Ixalan’s direction. Voicing their frustrations to MTG’s Lead Designer, Mark Rosewater, via Blogatog, Jjustin1379, questioned why Ixalan’s vampires don’t get the limelight.
“Ixalan has a whole continent that the vampires are from and live in but we never saw it in the cards. The new Ixalan seems like it won’t focus on this either in favor of another unseen part of Ixalan. Why did you do this?”Jjustin1379
Responding to this question, Mark Rosewater revealed that The Caverns of Ixalan isn’t, first and foremost, an Ixalan set. Instead, Wizards “were making an underground set, and Ixalan felt like the best fit for it. It wasn’t the other way around.” While it wasn’t exactly a major secret, this answer nevertheless confirmed that The Caverns of Ixalan is predominantly set underground. Technically, this is a new reveal and enough of one to excite the MTG community. That being said, it’s not exactly the most surprising revelation. After all, the set is literally called The Caverns of Ixalan. Alongside this obvious detail, during the reveal at Wizards Presents, host Jimmy Wong stated players will be “spelunking for buried treasure.”
Even from these minor details, the themes of The Lost Caverns of Ixalan were plain to see. From Rosewater’s reveal, however, it appears the set will be a top-down adventure that’s almost exclusively focused on cave diving. While obviously, Ixalan will still be the backdrop for this adventure, this top-down focus nevertheless shifts expectations. For instance, it’s now unlikely that the recent Phyrexian invasion will factor into the set beyond a brief story mention.
While not the greatest revelation, the confirmation that “Ixalan will be an underground set” nevertheless stirred up plenty of debate. Predominantly, across Reddit, this led to plenty of preemptive speculation about what might be in store for the future. Reddit user u/PulsatingOrb, for instance, played into the top-down nature of the set for their prediction, even suggesting The Caverns of Ixalan may be a pastiche of a classic Jules Verne novel. For better or worse, beyond the set having an underground theme, there’s no telling if this prediction is actually accurate.
“I imagine it’ll be a ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ type thing where the good guys and the villains race to obtain (Insert set MacGuffin) so we’ll get a bunch of cave-dwelling merfolk, magma creatures, and fossilized zombie Dreadmaws.”u/PulsatingOrb
As much fun as a Journey to the Center of the Earth top-down set could be, not everyone was so enthused about the idea. Reddit user u/MorningMoonlight, for instance, reiterated Jjustin1379’s concerns that Ixalan appears to be having its potential wasted. Rather than celebrating the plane itself, it instead seems to be becoming a nebulous adventure plane that sadly lacks impact. Coming off the back of the monumental and impactful Phyrexian Arc, this feeling may be amplified significantly more than usual.
“I am skeptical because nothing I liked about Ixalan or want to see more of from Ixalan has anything to do with ‘Underground Exploration’ nor do I even really understand how you would make a whole set out of such a concept. That being said the things I’m skeptical of surprise me the most and the things I get excited for end up being disappointing so maybe it’ll actually be super rad. (Also the last ‘Adventure’ themed set (ZNR??) ended up not really having a strong theme or flavor so that idea does not really excite me)”u/MorningMoonlight
Alongside players sharing their excitement and concerns, others dared to theorize more specific details about The Caverns of Ixalan. The most common theory centered around everyone’s favorite dinosaur Colossal Dreadmaw, who will surely make another appearance. As Reddit user u/Blees-o-tron suggests, this could be as the rather fitting “Coal-ossal Dreadmaw.” Meanwhile, other players sarcastically theorized Wizards could be adding another game piece to MTG. “’Venture into caves’” mechanic incoming. /joking,” u/WizardExemplar commented.
The Story So Far
While we won’t see Ixalan properly again until “Winter 2024” the plane is appearing far sooner. Namely as one of the planes being invaded by the Phyrexians during March of the Machine. We don’t know exactly how this pans out with the set’s story still ongoing. That being said, thanks to the chapter “Three Hundred Steps Under the Sun,” we’ve had our first taste of the action.
Within this chapter, Ixalan isn’t precisely faring the best, as one of the plane’s Elder Dinosaurs, Etali, has been Compleated. Requiring the might of Ixalan’s remaining Elder Dinosaurs to fight back, thankfully, the battle against the Phyrexian forces was won. Albeit not without significant casualties, that will likely reshape the plane and its Mesoamerica-inspired tribes as we know it. Thankfully, in this chapter, at least, players didn’t have to suffer through the deaths of any more Planeswalkers. Although… the fact each of the Elder Dinosaurs was pretty keen to chomp down on enemies oozing Phyrexian ichor probably isn’t for the best.