Monty Ashley revealed the name of the first set in the new Magic: the Gathering block that begins this fall: Innistrad. Innistrad will be released on September 30, 2011.
Other than the release date, little is known for sure about the new set. The tagline “Horror lurks within” provides few clues, though the preview artwork provided shows what appears to be black planeswalker Liliana Vess seated upon a throne, with a man/vampire collapsed on the ground behind her.
Speculation is, of course, running rampant. It is exciting to see Liliana Vess here, for combined with the recently revealed promo image for upcoming core set M12 which featured Sorin Markov instead of mainstay Liliana, it can be assumed that a new version of Liliana Vess will be released in Innistrad. A great deal of speculation is dealing with the expansion symbol and with the plane that the set will take place in. Some believe that the person on the ground is none other than Baron Sengir, last seen in the Homelands expansion of 1995, which means a return to the plane of Ulgrotha. It seems unlikely, however, that the plane will be Ulgrotha, because since 2003 the name of the set usually indicates the plane that the set takes place within. In this case, the plane will be Innistrad, not Ulgrotha.
Others speculate that the expansion symbol is very similar to that of the symbol for the Onslaught expansion, which represented a “morph” creature and that the morph mechanic will be returning. Some speculate a Lovecraftian horror feel, and that the Eldrazi will return. The overall feeling of the image leads many to believe that the set will have a “Castlevania” or “Ravenloft” feel, with a traditional Gothic horror setting. A return to Ulgrotha would support that, for despite its shortcomings, Homelands had a great Gothic flavor. Overall, my particular speculation is that Innistrad will have a Eastern European flair, more Bram Stoker than Lovecraft, since the name Innistrad sounds Eastern European/Russian. However, if the Eldrazi return (something that the tagline could suggest since the Eldrazi have been seen to be “horrors” trapped within worlds during the Zendikar block) it could create a Dracula meets Cthulu flavor.
Moving Sorin Markov to the core set helps to support the idea of a Eastern European flavor, since, as was the case with M11, there are usually key cards in the core set right before the release of a new block that point towards that block’s flavor. For example, in M11 cards such as Steel Overseer, Triskelion, and Voltaic Key all pointed towards the artifact heavy Scars of Mirrodin block. Likewise, a suite of cards related to the Eastern European-sounding named Sorin Markov will be keys to the flavor of Innistrad. As some have mentioned, however, it is strange to have the vampire-heavy Zendikar block rotate out only to make a vampire-heavy block. One speculation I would like to make is that M10’s Mythic Rare Vampire Nocturnus will return in M12, if indeed, Innistrad will be a Gothic Vampire set.
One of the perhaps most exciting parts of the Innistrad annoucement is that Richard Garfield, the man who originally created the game Magic: the Gathering, is a part of the design team for the set. One can hope that this will cause some sort of return to the overall feeling the game once had, back in its infancy, the mid-1990s.
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