Magic: The Gathering is returning to Zendikar and Theros in 2020, two beloved planes that have hosted some of the biggest story moments in the game's recent history. Zendikar has been a central part of Magic lore since it was first introduced in 2009, with a return in 2015 that brought with it the reprint of fetchlands, powerful mana-fixing tools in decks across all of Magic: The Gathering's formats - not to mention the Eldrazi, Lovecraftian cosmic horrors who consume worlds for energy and spawn miniature versions of themselves to corrupt whatever they come into contact with.
Theros, on the other hand, has yet to be revisited since it debuted in 2013 as a Greek mythology-inspired set. The narrative on Theros was one of the most important ones in modern Magic, as it featured the death of Elspeth, one of the game's premier planeswalkers, as well as providing backstory for Gideon, who has since also met his demise at the hands of Nicol Bolas. Although Theros was definitively less popular than Zendikar, it has many fans all the same, and the two worlds are some of Magic's finest. They'll be set to follow Throne of Eldraine, the fairy tale-inspired set releasing this October.
That's probably why Wizards of the Coast took to Twitter to announce the decision to have Magic: The Gathering return to Zendikar and Theros in 2020. Fall 2020 will bring Zendikar Rising, a set that will eschew the usual Eldrazi concerns now that they've departed the plane and instead embrace the adventure that characterized the 2009 version of the world. Before that, however, winter 2020 will bring Theros: Beyond Death to Magic: The Gathering. Theros: Beyond Death will explore the legendary world and, crucially, its underworld, too - meaning Elspeth may make her triumphant return as one of Theros' Returned, dead souls with no memory of their past lives who exist under Erebos' rule. Magic: The Gathering will also introduce a new core set, Core Set 2021, which will see Teferi make an appearance, as well as a new plane altogether in Ikoria, the "Lair of the Behemoths."
Coming Winter 2020, it's Theros: Beyond Death. We're going back to the legendary world of gods, heroes and monsters. And this time, we're going to the underworld! #MTGTheros pic.twitter.com/LtS5lYgRDe— Magic: The Gathering (@wizards_magic) September 4, 2019
And finally, Fall 2020 brings us... Zendikar Rising! With the threat of the Eldrazi gone from the plane, Zendikar Rising is all about adventure. pic.twitter.com/lv5vkxFrqV— Magic: The Gathering (@wizards_magic) September 4, 2019
Needless to say, these expansion announcements are absolutely massive for Magic: The Gathering and MTG Arena both. Players are already speculating on what a return to these worlds will mean. Will Gideon return as a god of Theros? Will Zendikar have any more hidden secrets for adventurers to find? There are a huge number of story beats to explore, not to mention mechanics. Zendikar's Landfall mechanic remains one of Magic's most popular, while Theros' "enchantments matter" sub-theme and god cards were both hits the first time around that had room for improvement. The ceiling on these sets is extremely high, while the floor is historically pretty elevated, too.
It seems like Magic: The Gathering will enter 2020 in its strongest iteration yet. The game is thriving digitally, and recent Magic esports announcements have revealed that Wizards of the Coast is doubling down on commitment to tabletop events, too. Balancing both will inevitably be the trickiest thing about 2019 and beyond for a company that now has two distinct playerbases it will attempt to unify, but the future looks bright for Magic either way, and a return to popular planes is a great method to ramp up player investment even more.