Magic: The Gathering’s new Lost Caverns of Ixalan art, revealed

Ovidio Cartagena was a Guatemalan bus driver who would commute to and from school every day. Cartagena was surrounded by Mayan temples, statues of conquistador warriors, and Mayan pyramids in his daily life. Fast forward several years, and he’s now living in the United States, but those experiences live on through the art of Magic the GatheringIn the meantime, Ixalan Lost Caverns set.

Lost Caverns of IxalanIt is a good idea to use a bilingual translator Magic’s 98th expansion. The new expansion is set to be globally released on 17th November. It will take players back into the world of Ixalan. A land inspired by Latin America, filled with adventurers in search of a city of lost gold. The set this time explores an underground world with Gods and vibrant cultures. The set was released in anticipation of Lost Caverns of IxalanCartagena spoke with Polygon by video to discuss the making of the card set. He also revealed the artwork for eight previously unseen cards. During our interview, Cartagena talked about creating a colorful and vibrant world, which served as an ode to Latin America.

The idea of Cartagena is to Lost Caverns of Ixalan set has been in the making “for years.” He played the first Ixalan set when it was released in 2017, which inspired him to work as a Magic artist. Eventually, he applied for a position at Wizards of the Coast. When he interviewed for the position, he pitched a set that followed the concept of going underground based on the Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the Maya K’iche’ people. He pitched the idea for an interview but ended up joining a Wizards’ team to help create a world underground.

“We were thinking: Should it be on the original new plane or should it be an existing plane? And so on,” Cartagena told Polygon. “About halfway in the process or something we were like, ‘Well, you know what? It makes sense that it’s Ixalan,’ and the vision team went with that. Doug Beyer was a creative director at the time and Jessica Lanzillo, the other creative director at the time, went, ‘OK, OK, you know what? You get your Ixalan.’ And I was very lucky that I had been thinking about many ideas for a long time. I was able to get a The following are some examples of the use of of ideas.”

Aurore Folny/Wizards of the Coast

Ixalan is a game about thrills. It’s all about the excitement of riding dinosaurs. It’s also about conquest. It was a tale of factions competing to find a mythological gold city. The first time Ixalan was visited, it appeared to be a colonial story wherein outsiders invaded a mysterious and dark land in order to exploit its wealth. Now, Lost Caverns of IxalanTurn this world literally inward. As players collect cards, they’ll see art that dives deep under the surface of the land to discover entirely new worlds and cultures.

“Originally, my conception was the Popol Vuh. We didn’t do the Popol Vuh. The last set of Ixalan was all about the cultural exchanges. This time the Sun Empire encounters a culture that is different from their own. And others in the same plane under the surface.”

Cartagena wanted to make the palette of colors more vivid and vibrant than previous Ixalan sets. “I wanted it to be vibrant. Like I remember, you go into a market, there’s a lot of colors, there’s a lot of noise, there’s a lot of music, and there’s people yelling at each other or laughing or dancing.” Even with simple cards like Braided Net, artist Diego Gisbert imbues a depiction of an Oltec fisherman hard at work with hues of fuschia and turquoise.

Cartagena is a city that emphasizes the importance of Lost Caverns The original dinosaurs, Pirates, and other fun characters are still included. The four previously introduced factions are now joined by a fifth. Lost Caverns of Ixalan Three additional groups are introduced. First, there’s the Malamet, a culture of jaguar folk known for developing a rich written tradition. Next, there’s the Mycoids, a hivemind culture of fungal beings led by an ominous leader known as the Mychotyrant. And last, but certainly not least, are the Oltec, the living ancestors of the Sun Empire who live in a “highly advanced communal society with a direct connection to their gods,” as Miguel Lopez, a world-building designer on the expansion, described them in a presentation.

Braided Quipu: Draw a card for each artifact you control, then put Braided Quipu into its owner’s library third from the top. “The Oltec repurpose objects out of reverence rather than scarcity, believing them strengthened by the memory of each past function.”

“Quipu is a piece of Inca attire. The combination was of chess and language. It was a way to communicate, and we just haven’t cracked it. […] It was one of the coolest things for me to include.”
Diego Gisbert/Wizards of the Coast

“The Oltec are a love letter to Latin America, not just the history but the peoples now,” said Cartagena. “They wear clothing that are worn right now. Oltec people use ponchos, a poncho is something you wear today. Modern patterns have been used to create the designs. The colors are modern. There are colors that you just couldn’t replicate 600 years ago that you can use now, and the Oltec use it in their clothing, along with Cosmium.”

Cartagena worked previously as a senior art director for The Magic of the Word’s The Lord of the Rings – Tales of Middle-Earth expansion. In that set, Cartagena wanted to depict a warm side of Middle-earth that felt “lived in” and embraced the folk side of its fantasy world. This approach was also used in Lost CavernsThe celebration was expanded to encompass several Latin American cultures.

“In the case of Braided Net and Quipu, we wanted to highlight daily life and how dignified work is as well. You see a fisherman throwing the net, and we even had a reference of someone’s relative to get that wizened look. That’s something else about this set. In Latinoamérica, elders are very important. So there’s a lot of elderly people. Same with Quipu, it’s a gentleman who’s around [his] 60s, 60 something. This is how you code characters like abuelo and other characters. These people pass down the wisdom and are people you respect and admire from previous generations.”

Ojer Pakpatiq, Deepest Epoch Legendary Creature - God. Whenever you cast an instant spell from your hand, it gains rebound. When Ojer Pakpatiq dies, return it to the battlefield tapped and transformed under its owner’s control with three time counters on it.

“Ojer Pakpatiq is based on K’uk’ulkan, the Feathered Serpent. The creature in question has the ability to fly, so it has wings. The wings have a color that is unique to them. And they’re kind of like arms, like a big embrace. Chris Rahn was the artist who painted this piece. He also did the Temple of Cyclical Times on the reverse side. Ojer Pakpatiq was complicated to design and took a lot of phases.”
Chris Rahn/Wizards of the Coast

The heart of the matter is that Lost CavernsThe idea is to see the exploration age from the point of view of the natives, rather than the vampiric Conquistadors. The art and story both reflect this. The frames on the cards and other details help to convey this change in perspective. Land cards were framed in parchment paper for the first Ixalan Set. The new frames look more like codexes. They are inspired by visuals from the pre-Columbian Maya book, Madrid Codex, which is one of the only three that have survived.

Lost Caverns Unabashedly draws from different Latin American cultures over time. Artwork on the cards features glowing petroglyphs that are inspired by the Nazca Lines. Maya art inspired gears and ornamental designs. The Oltecs wear braided Quipu which Inca cultures created. This is true. Lost CavernsThe game is a collage that combines various Latin American periods and cultures. Polygon asked Cartagena, given the many cultures it takes from, how the team went about creating a single fantasy world.

Temple of Cyclical Time (Transforms from Ojer Pakpatiq, Deepest Epoch). Add Blue, Remove a Time Counter from Temple of Cyclical Time. Two Blue, Transform Temple of Cyclical Time. Activate only if it has no time counters on it and only as sorcery. Chimil gave the Oltec time. Pakpatiq gave them the tools to learn its lessons.

“We wanted this to be connected to water. If you notice the environment on the other side of the Temple of Cyclical Time, there’s a lot of water there. Gears were another shape that we use a lot here in the set — gears, spokes, square spirals, glyphs, those shapes show up all throughout the set. Why gears? The Mayan Calendar. The gears are connected to one another based on age, month, and year. Then we deconstructed it and made it a motif. And the reason you see gears and machinery and so on in the environment with water is because the Maya are known to be big engineers who had gigantic cities.”
Chris Rahn/Wizards of the Coast

“We only got the one fantasy world. It was based on which faction you wanted to focus on. [the faction]Does there? The jaguar people are the same as the gods, and the servants of the Popol Vuh. You’re thinking about the theme, and what they do here, and why they are here, rather than thinking, OK, well, I’m gonna pick the Aztec and the Aztecs are gonna become so-and-so. You don’t map stuff straight onto each other because you just don’t want to retell history. You want to make people curious about history enough that they’re gonna go after and seek out the sources and see, Wow, that’s really awesome. What is the source of this?It is my desire that people feel this way.

How did we do it? Then we looked at the theme, the card’s mechanics or even its philosophy to determine what would work best. And that’s how we looked at the things, and of course, every card was reviewed by consultants.”

It has a very scholarly feel to it. A linguist, consultant and other team members helped to vet and guide this set. Cartagena added that recent findings in archaeology and paleontology were incorporated into the card’s visuals. But Lost Caverns of Ixalan wasn’t just an academic exercise; it also represented a deeply personal project for Cartagena and other Latine leads on the team.

“The set had a lot of things that I love: history, archaeology, languages, encounter of cultures, Latinoamérica, and I was very happy to include all these things. It was a process that was very taxing at times, but I’m very, very satisfied with it. This became a passion project for me and became actually a beacon.”

The project felt so personal that Cartagena couldn’t resist contributing illustrations to the set. For example, a statue of Tecun Uman, one of the last rulers of the K’iche’ people, that he would pass by on the way to school inspired his art of Jadelight Spelunker. And while the idea of an artist’s background informing their art might not be anything new, the work on Lost Caverns of Ixalan It stands out within a culture which teaches Latines to hide their background.

“They teach many of us growing up in Latinoamérica to hate our own culture, and to hate indigenous languages. Sometimes we are separated from our people and ancestors. The last two decades were a journey of trying to connect with this. I’ve lived in the U.S. for maybe a decade. So I wanted to connect with things I love, experiences I lived, and people I’ve met.”

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