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Alara Planeswalker's Guide

A Planeswalker's Guide to Alara:
A Magic: The
Gathering Field Guide
by Doug Beyer and Jenna Helland.

Although this title will be released on September 2, 2008, the most excellent BlueNu was able to obtain an early copy, crash read and provide the following summary for us . . . Thanks BlueNu!

I strongly recommend purchasing this if you have not already pre-ordered it.


Races: Rhoxes, Avens, Humans, Leotau (semi-intellegent feline mounts), Angels.
Avens, Humans, and Rhoxes exist peacefully with each other, but share a common caste system similar to the Lorwyn Elves. Those of the Blessed caste are nobles who are allowed to interact with Angels. The Sighted are clerics and monks that take orders from the Blessed, but do not look to Angels for guidance. Sigiled are basically the Knight class, a lower class member who has performed a great deed may be given a "sigil" to increase their power and caste rank. The Mortar class fills the commoner role, but does give the ability to increase to Sigiled or decrease to Unbeholden. Unbeholden are thiefs and outlaws who for whatever reason exist outside of the rule of the Blessed.

Angels are given the duty to protect the ideals and well being of the other Bant inhabitants but are not permitted to interfere with the politics of other mortals. Angels are born when human heros die. The spirit is joined with what is called "meta-sigils" which is described as physical manifestations of the land and sky.
In each Shard, there is detailed two specific characters, more than likely legends within the set. For Bant, they are:
Lisha of the Azure - Princess turned Robin Hood-esque pirate.
Rafiq of the Many - Highest ranked Sigiled Paladin, so named for his many Sigils.
The book goes into great detail with the different nations of Bant and the political problems and struggles as well as the different knight and monk rankings and the inner orders of the Angels, but that's not really relevant here (although an interesting read.)
Races: Humans, Vedalken, Sphinxes, Aether-Liches, Homunculi, Gargoyles, Drakes, Stirges
The environment of Esper consists of Islands, a great sea called the "Sea of the Unknown", various underground waterways, and a great desert where the sand is actually finely broken down glass. It is said that despite the vast pursuit of knowledge, not much is known about the inhabitants of the sea. The glass in the desert occasionally shifts and fuses with itself to form giant glacier-like masses of glass.

Humans and Vedalken exist for the sole purpose of furthering the plane's understanding of magic. The Sphinx are treated as Prophets and Consults, but rarely rule or give judgements regarding disputes. What we know of as Filigree is a metal called Etherium which is an alloy infused with Aether (the essense of the universe). The inhabitants of Bant believe that all life and every physical form is incomplete without some connection to the Aether via Filigree or Etherium fusing. The supply of Etherium is very limited, so the mages who infuse different life forms are beginning to use more subtle fusions with lower class life forms. Filigree is administered to humans as a graft by the Aethersworn, a group of gifted mages who dedicate themselves to instilling every life form with a connection to the Aether under the belief than doing so will cause the plane to transcend its physical and mortal limitations. Vedalken filigree consists of replacing much more of your body with Etherium. The body's functions are kept up through a series of complex enchantments.

While the Vedalken mages specialize in learning more about magic specifically, the human mages tend to specialize in one of many types of sorcery:
Arcanist: Studying lost lore
Stormcaller: Weather Magic
Mechanist: Artificer capable of infusing creations with magic.
Clockworker: Manipulates the forces of time
Mentalist: "Trafficer of thoughts"
Tidemage: Uses magic to affect tides and the sea
Mages of high ranking have entourages to showcase their power, sometimes these consist of mages that are intentionally lower ranked to gain notoriety, these are called Telemins, and are basically servants who have given their masters control of their minds.
The specific characters in Esper are all Sphinxes, one of which we know already (but there are three).
Sharuum, the Hegemon: An ageless, female philosopher-queen of Esper who cannot create new Etherium, but taught mages how to thin the existing Etherium.
Crucius, the Mad: A genius artificer who created the Etherium and taught the inhabitants of Esper of its signifigance, believed to be a planeswalker by many. Humans and Vedalken took his teachings too far and ended up replacing too much of their anatomy with Etherium, eventually becoming Aether-Liches. He was blamed for these abominations and that's how he earned his moniker. After that, he disappeared from Esper, and it is rumored that only Sharuum has any idea where he may be.
Kemuel, the Hidden One: A nomad Sphinx who lives in a maze in the middle of the glass-deserts of Esper. He lost a wing and hind leg in a fight with a great Leviathan centuries ago, and the few travelers that actually meet him find his words and his advice to be prophetic.
Grixis is described as a hellscape where the landscape is made up of the remains of various large corpses, eroded earth, and the stench of death.
Races: Humans, Skeletons, Zombies, Fleshbags, Fleshdolls, Dreg Reavers, Incurables, Banewasps, Kathari, Vampires, Devils, Demons, Lich-Lords and the Damned.

The still living beings on Grixis are called Vitals, and the lifeforce of those beings is called Vis. Vis empowers Demons and fuels all of the magic on Grixis. Necromancers actively hunt down Human and Ogre encampments to take slaves to obtain this Vis through arcane rituals. Demons have the power to drain a vital of its vis at will. A Human or Ogre whose life force has been drained is still considered alive, and actually is alive, and oftentimes not distinguishable for some time is called "the Damned". There are two groups of Humans: Necromancers and a group of humans who adhere to an ancient Kingdom that was destroyed when the shard was removed from the rest of Alara. This group is called the Vithians and they actively hunt the undead.
Incurables are the Ogres on Grixis, inflicted by a terrible form altering curse that happened when the shards split.

Dreg Reavers are huge undead designed to lay waste to other armies or necropolises in times of war. (The art shown looks strikingly like the Ravenous Baloth judge promo)
Banewasps are insects that feed on carrion and are used by necromancers as a weak source of Vis.
Kathari are Vulture-humanoid scavengers that feed on the dead before necromancers are able to harvest their Vis.

The Legends of this shard are three-fold as well:
Eliza of the Keep: A young human necromancer who uses necromancy and vis to keep her own vis safe and retain her vitality.
Thraximundar: His name literally translates to "He-who-paints-the-earth-red" is a seven-foot tall undead abomination who is muscular and clad in spiked black armor. He can be seen wielding his greatsword astride his Dreg Reaver mount as he fulfills his need to simply slay the living.
Malfegor: A beast who is the product of a Dragon and a Demon. His appearance is mostly Draconic, but he has black scales, huge bat-like wings, eight limbs, and is said to possess the soul of a demon.
Jund is comprised of active volcanoes, sharp mountain ledges, and lush jungles. The land has huge gashes in it that resemble huge claw marks if seen from above. These deep gashes in the land are where the Jungles and Swamps are found, and the deepest of which (the Pit) is over 2 miles deep.
Races: Dragons, Viashino, Humans, and Goblins.

Dragons are at the top of the food chain and feed on everything and anything below them. Fiercely territorial, they will fight over any scrap of food taken from their territory. When a dragon becomes to ancient to protect his territory, he performs a ritual called the Shriek of Flame where he will plunge himself directly into an active volcano, causing that volcano to erupt- often eradicating much of the prey left in its territory.
Second on the pecking order are the Viashino, stronger than the other humanoid races, Viashino are able to occupy the deep jungles and swamps where the hunting is harder for Dragons. These Viashino closely resemble Crocodiles and are muscular brutes that form tribes called Thrashes.
Humans are next on the Food Chain. These humans form nomadic tribes which are necessary for survival. Humans live in the small jungles at the base of mountains and in the scarred volcanic flats. At the age of ten, humans undergo a dangerous rite of passage where the warriors will climb an active volcano and are forced to bring back a glass shard to become a warrior. Shamans take a dangerous drug called Dreamfire Draught which attracts elemental entities. The young shaman must bargain with the elemental for a cure to this poison to become a Shaman. With either test, failure results in death. These humans have developed reptilian features such as forked tongues and scales covering some of their skin. In battle, a human warrior will mark a victory by weaving part of his hair into a small braid and binding it with a piece of his enemy's flesh.
Goblins are last on the food-chain, and are so used to being devoured by dragons, that their culture has become one glorifies that death and recognizes itself as "divine-food". Goblins inhabit the highest regions of the mountains which are easy prey for young dragons. The goblins resemble rodents (and were seen in that predator dragon art).

There is one character depicted for this shard and that is:
The Warrior Kresh: A human warrior said to be in his forties (where the average lifespan of a human in Jund is 30). Kresh does not desire the politics of leading a tribe, but lives for the hunt. He boasts twenty-two braids: more than anyone has ever recorded.

Naya is a lush jungle very intuned with nature and nature magic.
The main tribes of Naya are Nacatl (leonin),
Humans, Cylian Elves, and Gargantuans.
The Gargantuans are enormous mammalian behemoths whose movements are said to be able to change the course of rivers, and whose enormity commands its own climate. There is a group of Elves that follow these monsters, said to be manifestations of the will of Progenitus, the Soul of the World. This group is called the Godtrackers.
The elves of Naya are Canopy Dwellers and are named Cylian after their ancestor "Cylia" who was said to be present at the breaking of the world. It is said that while the world shattered, most of the elves hid in terror from the cataclysm, but one elf, Cylia, climbed to the top of the mountain wielding a vial of poison and a dagger made from a thorn. There she saw the face of Progenitus, the five headed soul of the world. Progenitus was tired of the world and sought to end it with 5 storms - Wildfire, Earthquake, Windstorm, Flood, and Void. Cylia plead with him to spare the world, and so Progenitus struck her blind for her insolence. Her tears of blood mingled with the vial of poison as she dipped her dagger in it and thrust the dagger into Progenitus's Ethereal heart and his true form, that of a 5 headed hydra was revealed. The amazing art of the woman with the blank stare in the blossoms accompanies this story. The entire elf culture revolves around worshipping this god of creation and making sure his slumber is not disturbed.

The Nacatl are divided into two groups, one lives lavishly in ancient Nacatl cities carved out of a mountain top. The other is a feral tribe that hunts along the forest floors. The Nacatl in the cities are dwindling in number and only their leader, Timus the Orange keeps them together through sheer strategy and intelligence.

The humans of Naya are divided as well. Those that hunt in nomadic tribes are called drumhunters, and those that have advanced in agriculture and in domesticating animals are called Sunseeders. These two groups are divided further and further as the civilization of the Sunseeders advances under the Charismatic lead of Hadran. Humans of both divisions come together in open areas to play games, most notable of which is Matca. In this game, two humans will attempt to wrestle each other to the ground in an attempt to pin them. The advanced Matca fighters wear spike armor.
Planeswalkers of Alara:
Elspeth Tirel:
A human female planeswalker (yes, that one) residing in the Bant shard, her origin is unknown, but is reported to be a plane of turmoil and strife. Her specialties are Human Summoning and the Protection of Others. Her spark flared when she was 13, and she Planeswalked to find a plane with peace, love, and community and found it in Bant. She believes she has found her utopia and no longer wishes to planeswalk. Her biggest desire is to protect the utopia she has found and to be among them.

A human male planeswalker (Mr. Filigree Arm) born on Esper who specializes in Artifice and Mental Magic (Mental Magic rules!). His current whereabouts are unknown, but he had joined a Sect on Esper called the Seekers of Carmot who were said to possess the Codex Etherium, a sacred tome containing Carmot's teachings. He joined in hopes of seeing the Tome and inheriting its secrets. The night he snuck into the inner sanctum to steal the tome, he was caught and the ensuing battle almost killed him. During this battle, his spark flared and let him escape. With his newfound knowledge of adjacent planes, he seeks the driving force behind the Seekers of Carmot.

Sarkhan Vol:
A human male of unknown origin who currently resides in the Shard of Jund. His specialties are Creature magic and Dragon-Summoning. Sarkhan's home plane is ruled by Warlords who constantly battle for control. There he belonged to a Shamanic cult that worshipped the dragon (who had long been hunted to extinction for sport). During meditation, an ancient dragon spoke to him and the experience caused his spark to ignite. After some time searching for a place to spiritually connect with a worthy dragon, Sarkhan's hunt has led him to Jund where he has spent the last two years in a Plane ruled by Dragons.

Ajani Goldmane:
A native inhabitant of Naya, this Leonin male planeswalker specializes in Protecting others, inspiring the souls of others, and justice magic. Ajani's signature weapon is a double bladed axe which represents his brother who was murdered. After he was unable to reunite the pride, Ajani's spark became active and he sought revenge for his brother's killer. When Ajani became aware of other planes outside of his own and the clues he found led him to other planes, the search for his brother's killer found him in the middle of a much grander scheme that he is just beginning to perceive. As Ajani's quest broadens, so do his powers, as his violent emotions empower more powerful magic.

Stay tuned for more Shards of Alara Spoilers and art !
We expect to soon be sliding into individual card discussion for the new set.


Alara Art Spoiler 4

More art, More flavour . . .

Another Plane, Another Time. In The Age Of Wonder. This Plane was multicoloured and good, Until it was rent assunder . . .

Where there was one, there are now five separate planes : the Shards. Each plane was all but severed from two of the five colours of mana. This mana imbalance caused the Shards to evolve in wildly distinct directions of the course of thousands of years. Now their environments and denizens could hardly differ more.

- BANT -
Primarily a white world that does have blue and green mana. The good citizens of Bant have never seen fire magic, and necromancy. A world cut off from red and black mana for hundreds of years has evolved to be a very orderly utopian society. This plane is populated by knights, angels, aven, and rocs. Should combat occur, it is very chivalrous, honorable and generally takes place between champions selected from each side.

This plane is totally cut off from green or white mana. So there is no access to life mana there. What few humans that are left here, are constantly evading necromancers who intend steal their life energy to fuel their spells. It is a horrible world of decay populated by demons, vampires, goblins, and skeletons.

- JUNT -
Primarily red world, a world of chaos and fire. Humans here are barbaric. The apex predators of the food chain on this plane are the dragons. Sarkhan Vol is a denizen of Junt.

- NAYA -
Primarily green world, a bountiful world of growth and life. This plane are populated by elves, cat people, and humans, as well as very large beasts.

Primarily blue world. Denizens here have organised themselves into a strict orderly society. The denizens here focused on measuring things, and preoccupied with knowledge and wisdom. Even the clouds are measured in Esper.

Until next time, Happy & Safe Gaming !
Don't forget to head out to FNM at your local gaming store tonight.
~ CopySix


Shards of Alara Boosters

~The world waited with bated breath as the new Magic: The Gathering site was redesigned and reloaded. Just one word - Fantastic. It looks great and kudos to Scott Johns and other staff who burned the midnight oil to get the site back up.
Now - to the goodies ->
You may recall my previous post where we treated your spoiler appetite to some tasty Shards of Alara packaging. We now have from WoTC, the official release of the Shards of Alara Booster Packaging.

We have seen all of these images previously and even have a few names for these. Now onto the boxes themselves . .
If your spoiler appetite is not quite satiated, then we also have the image for the Shards of Alara sealed tournament decks as well . . .
bWe have for you a lot more spoiler goodness on the way including speculations on new Shards of Alara cards so stay tuned !


Alara Vedalken

The regular feature article writers over at Wizards took today off.

With the exception of Editor-in-Chief, Scott Johns, who had a brief announcement regarding the overhaul of the website.

To appease the hungry audience, we were treated to a sneak peek of the sited including a new Shards of Alara image to be hosted in the 'Multiverse' flavour section.
A note about these 'filigreed' blue creatures. These creatures share appear very much like the Vedalken in Ravinca block. Vedalken are a tall, thin, hairless blue-skinned race.

Vedalken Entrancer
(Ravnica: City of Guilds)

Azorius Guildmage

Some nay-sayers may tell you that Vedalken have four arms and indeed in Mirrodin, the vedalken there mutated to sprout two extra arms and gills but in Ravinca, they were rather like in appearence to the tall blue creatures we have been seeing in the Alara realm of Esper.

Looks like it may very well be a brave new world over at Wizards tomorrow if all goes right . . . we will just have to wait and see.

Until next time, Happy & Safe Gaming.


Alara Art Spoiler 3

We have yet another installation of art spoilers from the new set Shards of Alara. This time courtesy from the fine folks over at (
Мир Фэнтези).

There are six critters to mull over and speculate about . . .

Druid of the Anima
Another elf to populate the realm of Naya.

Kresh the Bloodbraided
The nasty agro critters having fun alongside Kresh all appear to be orc-like but perhaps a stretch to be called goblin.

Master of Etherium
As discussed previously, the volume of filigree on this individual indicates big-time magic.

Prince of Thralls
The plane of Grixis seems to absolutely swarming with these sorts of critters.

Sedris, the Traitor King
Very nasty looking indeed, I would suggest you let this fella pass you on the road and provide your lunch money to him when requested.

Sharuum the Hegemon
We here at MTG Realm are at a loss as to what to make of this new Alara creature other that she really likes Curaçao.

Until next time, Happy & Safe Gaming !


Ontario Champs

Ontario Provincial Standard Championships

Presented By OMG! Games and Collectibles
Prizes: $2500.00 in CASH Prizes Available to be won!
Saturday, November 15th, 2008
Trials and side events to be held as well.


Registration begins at 8:00 AM with the tournament starting promptly at 10:00 AM.
Registration closes ten minutes before the event is scheduled to start. Any player who wants to enter after registration has closed will be able to do so, but will receive a round one-match loss. Players arriving after round two has been paired will not be able to register in the tournament.

DCI Sanctioned Standard w/ Shards of Alara! Legal sets and the most recent version of the ban list may be found in the Magic Floor Rules on the Wizards of the Coast website. K-Value TBA, Competitive REL.

Modified swiss with a cut to the top 16 players. The number of rounds will be based on number of players in the event.

$35.00 - Credit cards are not accepted at the event site. Anyone wishing to use a credit card to pay for his or her tournament entry must pre-register. Please remember that pre-registration closes on the FRIDAY NIGHT before the event at 11:00 PM. Only the first 200 Pre-registered People will be Guaranteed seats for the Provincial Championships.

The Ontario Provincial Standard Trials (NEW!)
Trials are listed By date. Each trial has its own format, cost and prizes. Please make sure you check each event for details.

Phoenix Games and Hobbies
(86 Queen St. South, Kitchener, ON)
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Entry Fee: $5.00 (WOW)
Format: Lorwyn/Shadowmoor Block Constructed
Start Time: 11:00am
Structure: Modified Swiss format wth top 8 playoff
K-Value: 16
REL: Regular
Prizes: The top 2 players participating in the trial receives a two-round bye into the Provincial Championships on Saturday! Please note that these trials are the ONLY way to earn byes for the Provincial Championships.

1st/2nd - free entry & byes to Ontario Provincial Standard Champs
- If attendance is 20 or less, then prizes for 3rd & 4th are $1.50 per player in store credit.
- If attendance is over 20, prizes for 3rd & 4th are $0.90 per player in store credit, for 5th-8th it's $0.30 in store credit.


North Bay Games and Hobbies
(393 Main Street East, North Bay)
Saturday, September 20th, 2008
Entry Fee: $15.00
Format: Standard
Start Time: 11:00am
Structure: Modified Swiss format wth top 8 playoff
K-Value: 16
REL: Regular
Prizes: The top 2 players participating in the trial receives a two-round bye into the Provincial Championships on Saturday! Please note that these trials are the ONLY way to earn byes for the Provincial Championships.
1st Prize - 50% of Prize Pool + Trial Award for OPC's
2st Prize - 30% of Prize Pool + Trial Award for OPC's
3rd Prize - 10% of Prize Pool
4th Prize - 10% of Prize Pool


Untouchables Sports and Gaming
(377 Burnhamthorpe Road East, Mississauga)

Saturday, September 20th, 2008
Entry Fee: $25.00
Start Time: 11:00am
Structure: Modified Swiss format with top 8 Draft playoff
K-Value: 16
REL: Regular
Prizes: The top 2 players participating in the trial receives a two-round bye into the Provincial Championships on Saturday! Please note that these trials are the ONLY way to earn byes for the Provincial Championships.

Additional Prizes TBA


OMG! Games and Collectibles (Barrie)
(130 Bell Farm Rd, Barrie)
Saturday November 1st,
Format: Standard
12:00pm sharp (registration closes at 11:50pm)
Cost $15.00
Structure: Modified Swiss format wth top 8 playoff
K-Value: 16
REL: Regular
Prizes: The top 2 players participating in the trial receives a two-round bye into the Provincial Championships on Saturday! Please note that these trials are the ONLY way to earn byes for the Provincial Championships.
Additional Prizes will be awarded based on turn out.


Alara Promo Card

Today on Magic Arcana, we were shown the Shards of Alara Prerelease Card which will be given out during Prereleases (September 27/28, AND Launch Parties (October 3/4/5). This unique alternate-art promomotional card is printed with the date the set goes on sale.
Ajani Vengeant {2}{R}{W} / Shards of Alara
Planeswalker - Ajani
+1 : Target permanent doesn't untap during its controller's next untap step.
-2 : Ajani Vengeant deals 3 damage to target creature or player and you gain 3 life.
-7 : Destroy all lands target player controls.
Comes into play with 3 loyalty counters.
Artist - Jason Chan, *154/249

First, lets have a quick look at the previous Ajani Planeswalker . . .
Ajani Goldmane {2}{W}{W} / Lorwyn
Planeswalker - Ajani
+1 : You gain 2 life.
-1 : Put a +1/+1 counter on each creature you control. Those creature gain vigilance until end of turn.
-6 : Put a white Avatar creature token into play with "this creature's power and toughness are each equal to your life total."
Comes into play with 4 loyalty counters.
Artist - Aleksi Bricolt, 1/301

Now, a few comments / opinions on the new Ajani . . .

For those players who may be thinking of having both the Lorwyn and Alara Ajani in play together - you are out of luck. The Planewalker rules state that if two or more planeswalkers that share a subtype are in play, they're all put into their owners' graveyards as a state-based effect.

- First Ability -
This may allow you to bog down one your opponent's creatures and provide an additional counter to strenthen Ajani. Typically, this is the point where many Planeswalkers

are the weakest. Ensure you have blockers available for Ajani or an instant which may protect from a 'Timmy'.

- Second Ability -
This ability is akin to the card Lightning Helix from Ravinica. This may be used if you are in a bind during the turn Ajani is played but is not reccommend. Unfortunately, with starting loyalty counters, you would need to wait every 3 turns to use this.

- Third Ability -
This could be rather devastating for your opponent - if only Ajani could survive this long. This ability is somewhat similar to the old Armageddon card but in this case only destroys your opponents lands - very nice.

Comparatively, Ajani Goldmane comes into play with 4 loyalty counters as opposed to Ajani Vengeant's 3. For this reason, some players may be hesitant to consider Vengeant for deck inclusion. The abilities between the two may arguably be similarily scaled but may again leave some players wondering if Vengeant is a bit on the expensive side.

The initial feelings of some in the community is that Vengeant may be a good card within the set but when compared to the other Ajani, Goldmane wins hands down.
In other news . . .
Folks around the forums have been using new Alara banners courtesy of the very talented Mr. Stuff. These look fantastic . . .
Until next time, Happy & Safe Gaming.


Shards of Alara Packaging

Some very cool Shards of Alara Packaging was leaked yesterday on a German site which gave us some more art spoilers & details as to what we may expect with the new set.
From close-up looks at the two 'Intro Packs' (formerly theme decks), we can make out the feature creatures -

This Intro Pack is named 'Naya Behemoths' and features 'Spearbreaker Behemoth' - 3GG.

The second Intro Pack is named 'Primodial Jund' and features 'Flameblast Dragon' 4RR which, from other sources previously studied will be a Rare.


Also in other spoiler news, head flavour dude at WoTC, Doug Beyer, in his regular weekly article, Taste the Magic, provided a quick peak at a Shards of Alara Elf.

In the article, titled, 'The Art of Elves', revealed a yet-unknown elf from the red-GREEN-white Alara Realm of NAYA . . .
By the looks of her, most likely a Druid.

Until next time, Happy & Safe gaming.

Magic Humour

~I hope all have found their way over to the new site . . . our apologies for the lack of advance warning but it was something that we had mulled over for quite some time.

To make it up to you, here are some funnies we have fabricated from the latest set Eventide . . .

Chilli Night

College Night

Fly Swatter

Yellow Pages

Athlete`s Foot

Until next time, Happy & Safe Gaming !



Scott Johns, Editor in Chief of the website, provided us with a sneak peak at the new look and new features coming with the website redesign in an article today titled The New

The organisation of materials are to fall into catorigories such as
The Multiverse : contains a new flavour-based section,
Trading Card Game : provides product information and other materials formerly hosted as 'minisites'),
Daily MTG : contains the familiar Ask Wizards, Card of the Day, Magic Arcana, all of the current columns, and event coverage content. Will also include a new Booster Draft Simulator (which will provide card pools updated weekly), AND
Digital Games : ( ), and Publishing (currently the information contained within the 'Books' section).
In addition, a new public beta-version of the card database, Gatherer, is set to go live shortly. The new application is promised to provide a streamlined simple search, the option for advanced search with a whole menu of options (including Boolean operators), the chance to rate and comment on every Magic card ever made, the ability to view any search as a visual spoiler, and more.
The screen shots of the new & improved website also provided us with a few more spoilers of Shards of Alara art as well as flavour . . .

"Alara was whole once. But that was millennia ago. Where once there was a plane, now there are five: the Shards. The plane of Alara was a world rich with mana, a world in balance . . . until the Sundering. In a cataclysm of unimaginable proportions, alara was rent asunder in five separate worlds, each a refraction of the others."

First of all, this is awesome art.
Secondly, what the heck is that monster breathing thunderbolts ?
We were also provided with a glimpse of two other Alara denizens -

Wings, sword, and all white and gold

. . . I will hazard a guess that this may be an angel .

Another image from the screen shots show this soldier of Knight of Jund . . . very nice.

This banner, however, was a bit more difficult to make out . . . It shows how the (old) minisites will incorporate into the new site design. This image shows the expected categories of flavour exploration, puzzle activities, visual spoilers as well as product information. The visual spoiler image provides 3 Alara cards with traditionally coloured subjects in white, red and blue. The product information thumb also possibly shows booster box packaging and a new intro-pack packaging.
Lastly, a quick look at an image provided at the recent GenCon gaming convention in Indiana.

You will certainly recall the Esper wallpaper posted last week at MTG.
Did you get a close look at winged-creature lurking in the mists behind the Esper denizens

I am thinking that this is the same beast that was shown at GenCon. Wings, tail, hooves ?

It appears that Esper has a flier as well as wizards.

Until next time, Happy & Safe Gaming everyone !