Exclusive First Look at Magic: The Gathering's Dark Ascension Expansion Set

Coming off the heels of a major success with its last expansion set, Innistrad, the Magic: The Gathering community is amped up to see what Wizards of the Coast has planned for a follow-up. That set, Dark , won't hit pre-release until January 28th, but we're here to give you a sneak peek. Read on to see today's exclusive Dark Ascension spoiler card, a red creature that goes by the name of Hellrider.

As detailed in the "Making Magic" blog post by lead designer Mark Rosewater, Dark Ascension embraces its role of the second act in a struggle between man and monster. In this set, the humans truly have their backs against the wall, and the monsters seem scarier than ever.

To represent this thematic shift in the cards of Dark Ascension, two new keywords will come into play: Undying and Fateful Hour. Undying will appear on monsters, and is an amped up version of the old Persist keyword. Now, when a creature with Undying is killed, it immediately comes back into play with a +1/+1 counter on it. That's right, the monsters are back, and they are stronger than ever.

As a balancing factor, the Fateful Hour keyword gives human creatures some fairly substantial powers that kick in only when their controlling player is nearly out of life. For instance, having the human cleric Thraban Doomsayer in play when you have 5 or less life will grant all of your other creatures a +2/+2 boost.

Beyond these two new keywords, Dark Ascension seems to just pile on with more of everything that made Innistrad a great Magic: The Gathering set. I'm looking forward to seeing what else is in store here, and of course, what else Wizards has up their sleeve for the human return to power in Avacyn Restored, the final Innistrad-block set due to release later this year.