MTG: Wilds of Eldraine is a dazzling fairytale collection

Eldraine is a gorgeous backdrop, and continues to impress in the brand new MTG set.
mtg wilds of eldraine set

Magic: The Gathering has returned to the fairytale-inspired world of Eldraine for its latest themed card set – appropriately titled Wilds of Eldraine – and while this stunning setting has established lore and characters, its re-introduction feels perfect for players of all levels, thanks to strong core theming, and a devotion to storybook adventures.

As with all MTG sets, Wilds of Eldraine revolves around a core storyline that can be engaging for players who enjoy strong narrative – or ignored completely, should you wish to focus more on combat and stomping through enemy hordes. The choice in Magic is always up to players, but Wilds of Eldraine does an excellent job of integrating its plot within gameplay naturally, cluing you in as you’re fighting for your life on the battlefield.

This story concerns a curse: the citizens of Eldraine, a world where magic and fairies exist, are at the mercy of a spell known as the Wicked Slumber. Slowly, everyone is falling asleep, leaving the land vulnerable to attack from a range of creatures. As a commander in Eldraine, you must save the land by assembling your troops and taking down enemies, one enchantment at a time.

Read: The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth is the perfect MTG intro

>mtg wilds of eldraine set
Image: Wizards of the Coast / Steve Prescott

Hints at this story can be found throughout the set, in slices of lore description on cards, and in flavourful character text. It’s also sweetened by new mechanics: one action that allows you to bargain your cards for a potentially greater reward, and another that allows you to enchant creatures with new abilities. Various collectible Sagas also allow you to play through a series of events, storytelling as you go along.

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There’s a fair amount of imagination needed to fill in the gaps between gameplay – which so often revolves around simply attacking with and defending your armies – but Wilds of Eldraine also goes several steps further to spotlight its primary tale, and the stakes at hand, thanks to its incredible artwork and easily recognisable themes.

Each character in Wilds of Eldraine is not only gorgeous, they also feel fully realised. Eriette, who covers the set, is a dark and powerful witch whose influence can be felt in a variety of cards – her own, commanding Legendary Creature card, and in various other enchantments. With a sullen slump and a charmed apple in hand, her presence is commanding. You know who she is at a glance.

Her fellow witches are similarly well-designed – like Hylda, of the Icy Crown, who rocks an ice-capped gown, and a spiny crown. There’s also Alela, Cunning Conqueror, a Faerie Warlock who spins glowing purple magic alongside her fairy sisters in an idyllic glade. Each fulfils an archetype, yet feels brand new, spun into the Magic format.

MTG has always been primarily about gameplay. Collecting monsters, fighting monsters, and so on. Wilds of Eldraine fully embraces the other most important aspect of MTG, with its stunning world and characters brought to life in art cards worth drooling over.

Eriette unfortunately eluded me in my own quest through various booster and card collector packs – but I was delighted to gather Alela, and another of my favourites from this set: Goddric, Cloaked Reveler – a Human Noble who transforms into a dragon under certain conditions.

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Image: GamesHub

Not only are both creatures extremely handy on the battlefield – particularly given Alela is immune to ground attacks as a flying creature, and Goddric has access to haste – their art is also genuinely stunning, with gorgeous blue and red hues, and stylish, highly-detailed fantasy outfits.

Even in less powerful cards, there’s a lively storybook aesthetic clear in Wilds of Eldraine, and an imagination that combines the high fantasy of MTG with familiar tales of childhood. It’s a very strong theme, and one that imbues the set with a sense of real magic. There’s also the notable, and delightfully strange, motif of gingerbread and candy that runs throughout the set, likely inspired by the tale of Hansel and Gretel.

Not only is the set littered with gingerbread heroes, but you can also find a man who collects the heads of gingerbread men. You can also find multiple Food Golems – the Gingerbrute, and the Tough Cookie – who resemble human-sized gingerbread heroes. When they’re defeated, they create a Food token that allows players to regenerate health. While only a minor mechanic, it’s incredibly fun – and it fits seamlessly into gameplay.

Perhaps my favourite creature I’ve pulled in Wilds of Eldraine so far is the delicious-looking Mintstrosity, a creature made of candy canes.

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Image: GamesHub

The Mintstrosity is representative of the wilder ideas in this Eldraine set, and it really is a beautiful creation. With its spindly, twirled legs and candy cane hooks, it manages to make a Christmas treat feel delightfully sinister – and that colourful, painterly art really brings it to life.

In a plain word, the new MTG set is whimsical. It’s silly and over the top, and an abundance of gingerbread monsters makes its battles occasionally laughable. But in essence, it captures the joy and horror of childhood fairy tales, charting the depth of these stories with darker and lighter cards complimenting each other.

There are horrific spells of body horror, and creepy monsters made of oozing candy, but equally, there’s a bouncing sense of fun in cards like The Goose Mother – a Bird Hydra with multiple goose heads – and the Cheeky House-Mouse, a tiny rodent who steals jewels. Traditional fairy tales have always maintained that balance between humour and horror, and it’s great to see it replicated in MTG: Wilds of Eldraine.

In some ways, it feels like this set is its own Universes Beyond for traditional fairy tales – which makes it a great starting point for newer players, who may be less familiar with wider MTG lore. You don’t really need to know much about this new world to kick off with this set. Its themes, styling and tone are extremely familiar, in a way that ensures its characters and unique mechanics sing on their own merits.

MTG: Wilds of Eldraine is now available at your local games retailer, and online.

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Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.