While I haven’t played Magic the Gathering in well over 10 years I still think about the cards I had and the worlds they were part of. The game had a story you had to piece together via the cards, or in some cases it was up to you to make sense of the world (I’m looking at you Zuran Orb!).

Magic the Gathering was extremely efficient in forging a vivid world via a single picture, a line of dialogue or the abilities each card came with. Books were written but they weren’t necessary because your imagination could fill in the gaps.

I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Viz Media’s new art book The Art of Magic: The Gathering: Zendikar, (which focuses on an entirely new world in the MtG universe) to see where the game has taken the story. Sure I’d know next to nothing about how we got here, but to delve into a whole new world fresh? You don’t get that opportunity often! Here are ten reasons why Zendikar is a world you’ll want to explore.

The Art of Magic: The Gathering: Zendikar (Viz Media)


© 2015 Wizards

1. It introduces the Magic the Gathering.

In two short pages this book establishes who Planeswalkers are (that’s the people playing and casting the spells — yes, we’re all kinda wizards) and the general concept of mana and the different planes. This includes the swamps and plains but also fleshes out other locales in Zendikar. If you’re a complete newbie this book does you right and makes it easy to understand what is going on.

2. Zendikar’s creation story is fascinating.

The world itself is dangerous and unforgiving as it’s willing to kill anyone who walks on it. The reason behind this is because it’s actually trying to kill a threat of magical and almost godlike proportions, but doesn’t know any better that most of the life living on it isn’t the threat itself. The threat are the Eldrazi, who were imprisoned on the planet due to their desire to consume everything. These story elements are interesting and make the world feel important and huge in scope. The story goes on to describe the planet creating god like forces made of dust, rock and gas to name a few, which makes the world lifelike and a character in itself that hides many mysteries.

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© 2015 Wizards

3. Under each Eldrazi is a swarm of monstrous drones!

Hordes of spawn that have been created from the Eldrazi’s poisonous movements show there is a complex life cycle at play. This further increases the compelling nature and dynamics of the creatures on the planet. Each come with fantastic painted images in this book that vividly capture the alien lifeforms. There are many creatures in this book that are incredibly original and these drones make up a huge part of that.

4. There are many races that live on Zendikar and they balance each other out.

This book delves into all the races that live on the planet from Humans to the Kor and the Merfolk to name just three. Each race is explored with great detail discussing their tactical advantages, the gods they worship and their history on the planet. Like a good Dungeons and Dragons supplement book this book opens your imagination to the variety of races and what they’re capable of.

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© 2015 Wizards

5. The world varies greatly regarding environment types.

The Art of Magic: The Gathering: Zendikar does a great job establishing the variety of locations on the planet. Like the detailed history, culture and abilities of each race this section opens up your imagination so that you not only want to play the game, but make up your own stories in your head.

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© 2015 Wizards

6. Everything builds a foundation and then let’s you in on story.

Close to the two thirds mark the book delves into the main Planeswalkers who are involved in the history of the world. The book details amazing adventures and battles these Planeswalkers partook in with vivid descriptions and great painted artwork. With so much magic involved these battles are epic and do well to create a fantastical world.

7. The beasts are familiar but all new too.

This world has a variety of monsters and beasts we’re all familiar with like dragons, griffins and angels (wait they’re beasts? Harsh), but have you heard of a Felidar? How about a Gomazoa? Sure there are Krakens and Drakes too, but the bottom line is this book gives every creature a few paragraphs description and some wonderful images to go along with them (with some surprising new additions).

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© 2015 Wizards

8. You get a fantastic insider look at how the card game was built around the world of Zendikar.

In the last few pages of this book Mark Rosewater delves into how the card set of Zendikar was built. He goes in depth into how the world was developed (fun fact: it was inspired by Dungeons and Dragons and Raiders of the Lost Ark. These pages detail the process, but also the general steps of creating a world. It’s all very fascinating and anyone interested in building their own worlds should check this out. There are basic process steps outlined here that could help anyone build their own world.

9. The art is fabulous.

The types of art are widespread in this book from digital paintings to hand painted work. The images capture not only moments, but character too. While the detailed descriptions help considerably there is nothing like an atmospheric image to capture a fantastical moment. An image of say, the Flooded Grave cast in mist helps convey the magical and odd nature of the scene. And some things are just impossible to detail with just words, especially the moments and scenes that involve magic that defies logic. Objects that defy gravity or powers that explode with energy are best seen to be believed and this book delivers them all incredibly.

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© 2015 Wizards

10. Like any good fantasy you’re going to want to come back again and again.

In some ways this book is encyclopedic as it details the history, characters and creatures of the incredibly well built world. There’s magic everywhere and mysteries too and while reading this book I too was inventing things as I went along in my mind. A cool image or idea has a way of making your imagination become playful and lets you enjoy the scene beyond what the page can deliver. Simply put this book has a way of making you imagine a thing and then run with it.

Conclusion:

This book gives you everything you need to let your imagination run rampant. You’ll quickly drop into this world and by book’s end feel like you travelled to a far away place only you have access to. Speaking as a person who fell out of playing Magic the Gathering this book is a wonderful read for any fantasy lover. I can only imagine current players will love it even more.

10 Reasons Why 'The Art of Magic: The Gathering: Zendikar' is Worth Exploring
So much great art there isn't a page that's not gorgeous.Thoroughly establishes the world, the culture, the creatures and the history. Feels very definitive.Awesome info on the process of world building
10Fantastic
Reader Rating 14 Votes
8.6
  • Jorden Carlson

    alright, wanted to point out that Zendikar is not a new plane when this book is released. We first visited the plane in fall of 2009 with the set aptly named “Zenkikar” it was followed up with “Worldwake” and a cliffhanger conclusion was reached with “Rise of the Eldrazi.” This set explores both the art from that set and the art from the returning set “Battle For Zendikar” along with “Oath of the Gatewatch.”