Image: Wizards of the Coast. “Injury” by Lucas Graciano.

The next addition to the realms of Magic: The Gathering is taking players to the desert oasis of Amonkhet, a magical land that’s essentially Magic’s own take on the mysticism of Ancient Egypt. Ahead of the 74th expansion’s arrival in stores later this month, io9 is proud to debut a few of the new cards and the art behind this new plane of mystery.

An entirely new setting within Magic’s vast lore, Amonkhet is a sand-strewn land ruled by the planeswalker Nicol Bolas, one of the most powerful magic users in Magic’s vast pantheon of elemental planes. A world driven by quests for worthiness, Amonkhet is a land that forges hardy warriors who look to enter the Trials of the Five Gods, a series of trials where victory grants you death, and supposedly a cushy place in the afterlife, courtesy of Bolas himself. Check out three new “split cards”—special cards that have two different sets of characteristics depending on whether the card is in play or in your stack of discarded cards—from the 269-card set below, making their debut here on io9.

“Split cards are a neat cycle of before-and-afters,” Alison Luhrs, one of the writers on Magic: The Gathering’s creative team, told io9 in a statement. “One effect happens when you cast it, and the other can be cast only after it is in the graveyard. Most of the action you’ll see on these cards showcase initiates training and sparring for the Trials, but in the case of Rags to Riches we see the touching tale of a scrappy lil’ tomcat who gets a second chance at life. Literally, in this case.”

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“The residents of Amonkhet spend their lives training to compete in the Trials; physical and mental tests to prove their worth,” Luhrs continued. “Before they begin their trials, they start by being sorted into groups of acolytes called “crops.” From there they’re trained by the finest viziers of the city of Naktamun, and cared for by a host of servant mummies.”

Those crops of citizens all factor into the way the people of Amonkhet live—and see—their lives on this harsh plane. “We often use the word “crop” in everyday English to describe a group of people—this year’s “crop” of high school seniors, for example. Just like this year’s crop of, well, agricultural crops.” said Luhrs’ fellow Magic: The Gathering writer, James Wyatt. “But draw the metaphor out to its logical conclusion and it gets a little grim: ‘Like the crops of the field, we will be harvested when the season is right,’ says a nameless acolyte, looking forward to a day when they will finally achieve a glorious death. Sooner or later, each crop will be gathered into the glorious afterlife.”

As well as the actual expansion set, Amonkhet will also release an accompanying art book, helpfully titled The Art of Magic: The Gathering–Amonkhet, filled with artwork from the card set as well as information about the lore of the Amonkhet plane. You can check out a spread from the art book below, also making its debut here on io9, as well as higher-resolution versions of the art for both those pages and the above Amonkhet cards. Don’t forget to click the magnifying glass in the top left of each image to enlarge each one, and then open them in new tabs to see their full resolution!

“Spring” by Josu Hernaiz.
“Mind” by Josu Hernaiz
“Oashra Cultivator” by Sara Winters
“Rags” by Greg Opalinski
“Riches” by Greg Opalinski
“Cut” by Raymond Swanland.
“Ribbons” by Raymond Swanland.
“Insult” by Lucas Graciano.
“Injury” by Lucas Graciano.

Amonkhet, the 74th expansion set for Magic: The Gathering, will release on April 28. The Art of Magic: The Gathering—Amonkhet will release in July.

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