Magic: The Gathering is launching its next big story arc alongside its next expansion set, Dominaria United. The set's story launches the second invasion of Magic: The Gathering's original home plane by the Pyrexians. Wizards of the Coast has been revealing the story behind the card set with short fiction pieces released on the Magic: The Gathering website. Earlier previews of the set revealed that Phyrexian sleeper agents had infiltrated the Dominarian coalition. A surprising sleeper agent has been revealed and taken out one of Magic: The Gathering's oldest planeswalker heroes. SPOILERS followed for Magic: The Gathering's Dominaria United story.
In Dominaria United, the Phyrexians are again invading Dominaria, and seem to have a particular interest in capturing Karn, the planeswalker golem, and destroying the Golgothian Sylex, an artifact of great destructive capabilities. The Phyrexians had managed to capture Karn, but Ajani finally found and rescued him. The two planeswalkers returned to the Mana Rig, Jaya Ballard's workshop doubling as a headquarters for Dominaria's defensive forces and the hiding place of the Sylex.
Unfortunately for Dominaria, the Phyrexians found the Mana Rig and attacked it. It was then that Ajani revealed himself to be a sleeper agent, "compleated" by the Phyrexians during his attempt to rescue Karn. He slew Jaya Ballard, but not before Jaya set the Mana Rig to self-destruct. The Phyrexians managed to recapture Karn and destroy the Sylex, but at a great cost to their ground forces. Her death is represented by the card Extinguish the Light.
Jaya Ballard is a native of Dominaria, having been born there during the Ice Age. She appeared as a background character in art included in Magic's Ice Age set in 1995, but her character became prominent in Jeff Grubb's Ice Age Cycle novels. She wouldn't get her own card until Jaya, Task Mage, representing her pre-spark powers, in 2006's Time Spiral set. For years, she was presumed to have died during the Ice Age but reemerged as a powerful pyrokinetic planeswalker in Magic's Dominaria set in 2018 and returned to fight in War of the Spark.
To commemorate Jaya's passing, Wizards of the Coast took at an advertisement in The Seattle Times. The ad presents itself in the form of an obituary for Jaya. It reads:
"It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of the planeswalker Jaya Ballard – hero, guardian, teacher, and fiery defender of Dominaria. She lost her life when her fellow planeswalker, Ajani, was revealed as a compleated sleeper agent of Dominaria's long-time foes, the Phyrexians. Jaya's flame burns on through her friends, and the many, many individuals she fought for and saved. The fight is not yet over, but Jaya Ballard's flame burns eternal."
Fans who want to pay their respects can visit a website set up by Wizards as an in-Memorium. Fans can place a rose in Jaya's memory and view the service's guest list, comprised of other Magic: The Gathering heroes. Wizards of the Coast is also selling a Jaya Ballard-themed Secret Lair drop, which includes five cards: Jaya Ballard, Jaya's Immolating Inferno, Pyretic Ritual, Repercussion, and Pyromancer's Goggles.
Dominaria United comes to Magic: The Gathering Arena on September 1st. Pre-releases begin on September 2nd, and the full set release happens in stores on September 9th.