MTG Character Profile: Ral Zarek

Mara Katz Magic Story

This is the second in a series of profiles of some of the planeswalkers appearing in War of the Spark. Today, we’ll discuss the career of Ral Zarek: an Izzet weather wizard torn between loyalty to his guild and the power promised by Nicol Bolas.

An Ambitious Izzet Mage

Ral grew up in Ravnica’s Tenth District, where his affinity for rainstorms made him an outcast. When he joined the Izzet League, he finally saw a way to gain the respect he felt he deserved, so worked hard to move up the ranks within the guild.

When the Implicit Maze was discovered running through Ravnica, Niv-Mizzet sent Ral to map out its leylines. In return for his work, Ral expected Niv-Mizzet to appoint him as Izzet’s maze runner; however, Niv-Mizzet disapproved of the violent methods Ral had used to prevent members of other guilds from finding out what he was doing.

Instead, Niv-Mizzet chose Melek, a Weird elemental designed specifically to be Izzet’s maze runner. Ral killed Melek on the way to the start of the maze and declared himself Izzet’s champion, but he was disappointed again when Jace Beleren was declared the winner of the race.

Niv-Mizzet was also disappointed: he’d hoped that Ral would win the race and give the power of the Living Guildpact to the Izzet League. The Izzet parun became suspicious of the new Living Guildpact, so he assigned Ral to track Jace’s movements.

Project Lightning Bug

Per Niv-Mizzet’s orders, Ral built a device called Project Lightning Bug. He harnessed the storm clouds over the Tenth District and was able to tell where Jace was at all times. Project Lightning Bug turned out to be very good at detecting planeswalkers entering and leaving Ravnica, so Ral began using it to track both the Gatewatch and Bolas’ minions.

Ral did his best to prevent Niv-Mizzet finding out about the existence of planeswalkers, fearing what Niv-Mizzet might do to him if he found out. Niv-Mizzet likely already knew about planeswalkers, but he pretended not to until he could no longer ignore the chaos Bolas’ minions had begun to cause on Ravnica. He ordered Ral to modify Project Lightning Bug, transforming it into a beacon that could summon planeswalkers from all over the Multiverse to defend Niv-Mizzet’s territory from Bolas’ invasion.

But Ral’s changes to Project Lightning Bug were not only for Niv-Mizzet’s benefit. Ral had been working for Bolas for some time, undermining Niv-Mizzet’s control over the Izzet League. The beacon that summoned planeswalkers to Ravnica’s defense also lured them into a trap: by now, Tezzeret had already brought the Immortal Sun to Ravnica, preventing all the planeswalkers there from leaving.

In War of the Spark, Ral faces a difficult choice between his loyalty to the Izzet and Ravnica and his desire for fame and power. And in the end, when Bolas strikes down Niv-Mizzet, he chooses Ravnica. Working with his former rival Jace and rival guild leader Vraska, Ral resurrects Niv-Mizzet so he can serve as the city’s protector.

The Clouds Grew Teeth

The following decklist uses Ral Zarek’s weather-working skills and connections within the Izzet League to unleash a powerful storm. It uses instant and sorcery spells to build up the power of flying creatures, and borrows Niv-Mizzet’s power to deal damage to your opponent every time you draw a card.

Creatures

4 Goblin Electromancer
4 Enigma Drake
4 Crackling Drake
4 Guttersnipe
2 Niv-Mizzet, Parun

Noncreature Spells

2 Ral, Storm Conduit
2 Ral, Izzet Viceroy
4 Ral’s Outburst
4 Expansion // Explosion
4 Teleportal
2 Thousand-Year Storm

Lands

4 Sulfur Falls
4 Steam Vents
8 Island
8 Mountain