|Sources||The Secretist: Part One, The Secretist: Part Two|
Ral Zarek is a blue and red-aligned planeswalker native to the city plane of Ravnica and a high ranking guildmage devoted to the Izzet League. While he has ascended, he's managed to hide this fact from Niv-Mizzet, an impressive task in and of itself. Indeed, Ral has never looked to the ancient dragon as a role model or mentor, but as a nuisance at best and a likely adversary at worst. Ral is the chief researcher investigating the ancient codes laid out in the Tenth District, the leylines and secrets that make up the Implicit Maze that so fascinates his guildmaster.
Deep into the project, Ral's efforts took him underground to the most ancient catacombs of the undercity with his attendant Skreeg. He was drawn by the potency of the leylines, the invisible bands of energy running deep beneath Ravnica's heights. Unfortunately for many involved, the Izzet team ran afoul of the Golgari Swarm, who insisted that any unclaimed territory was their own. When Ral refused to be cowed by the Golgari threats, the swarm of shamans raised the myriad dead to drive them out of the tunnels, or murder them, whichever was most expedient. His team overwhelmed, Ral used the mana coils, a device meant to track the leylines, as a power source, funneling the entire energy of a leyline through his elemental gauntlets. It blew apart virtually everything in the tunnels, leaving only himself and several of his Izzet accomplices standing. Unfortunately, the activity under the skin of the world drew the attention of the Golgari Swarm, adding them to the ever growing list of guilds concerned about the Izzet activity. Luckily, the explosion had the unintended side effect of exposing the pattern they'd been looking for in the first place. Several days later, in search of the Dimir gate, Ral and his goblin assistant caught the attention of Jace Beleren. Their activity had drawn the young telepath to the Izzet's goals and he had begun his own line of research. As they were followed, the pair made directly for Izzet territory where they gave their report directly to Niv-Mizzet, who detected their erstwhile shadow.
Ral continued his research, his attentions drawn vertically as the leylines rose into the sky. As his quest continued, Ral became more and more reckless and less inclined to let anything stand in his way. When the leyline crossed an Azorius aerie, Ral took the most immediate solution he could think of, summoning a massive storm elemental to wreak havoc across the tower, forcing a confrontation with the Azorius occupying it. A short battle ensued with Ral one step closer to his goal.
Ral reported to Niv-Mizzet, having traced the mana braids through every territory except Orzhov and Simic. However, the massive casualties of the people under his command finally roused the ire of the great dragon and Ral was taken from the project. Under threat of being devoured, Niv assigned Ral the task of tracking down the mage who had touched his mind. Ral was to find Jace Beleren.
The guildmage began by finding Beleren's sanctum, but mostly found naught but ash and rumors. Within those ashes though, he knew the secrets of Beleren's research remained, and weaving a complicated spell, he learned what Jace had sought to destroy and how close he had come to solving the riddle of the Implicit Maze. So close... that he felt he didn't even need Niv anymore.
Using Jace's notes, Ral traced the patterns of the maze, finally tracing it to the Forum of Azor. The place teemed with power, but it seemed utterly inaccessible. Ral was left dumbstruck, unable to cope with the failure and bridling with resentment over everything he was denied. Left with little choice, he reported back to his guildmaster. The dragon patiently explained that the maze had been built by Azor not to test the brightest or most powerful, nor to grant power to either of those. It was a failsafe in the event the Guildpact was ever disrupted. Niv revealed that the only way the maze would activate is if every guild took part in its activation... and to facilitate that, he sent Ral to reveal nearly everything they had worked on to the other guilds.
Once his task was accomplished, Ral returned to Nivix and began preparing to run the maze. However, Niv-Mizzet revealed that he was not to be chosen, instead working to produce the ideal champion, a weird they dubbed Melek. Wroth, Ral objected, but was ultimately silenced by his draconic guild master. Ral was still chosen to accompany Melek and act as the coordinator for the event. The assembled champions declared themselves and their allegiance, but as Melek stepped to declare himself, Ral absorbed the weird's essence into his gauntlet, effectively murdering the rightful champion. Without an alternative, he declared himself the Izzet maze runner and began the race with a surprise attack upon every other entrant.
He easily made his way through the gates and finally waited for Jace to show up at the Izzet Guildgate. There, he forced the telepath to tell Emmara Tandris the truth about himself, an act that cost Jace dearly. For Jace's perceived slights against him, Ral planned to end the other planeswalker, but he was ultimately foiled when Jace used his illusions to escape Ral's justice.
Ral eventually found his way to the Forum of Azor once more, just as Lazav arrived and drove each of the other champions into fighting. The maze prepared to execute the contingency that would wipe away the guilds and all of the Tenth District when Jace reached out to each of them with his telepathy, uniting them mentally and stopping the destruction Ral and the others were going to unleash.
- Ral Zarek made his debut in the Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 expansion. The third such character to appear in such a way.
Quoted or referred to:
- Wizards of the Coast. (August 17, 2011.) "Archenemy, Innistrad Highlight Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 Expansion", Daily MTG, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Monty Ashley. (October 18, 2012.) "The Magic: The Gathering Coloring Book", Daily MTG, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Trick Jarrett. (November 12, 2012.) "Announcing Dragon's Maze", Daily MTG, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.