The announcement of this season coincided with the overwhelming success of Russia confirming the series up until season 30 and the planned fourth All-Stars game. Sandy confirmed his intention to host the season along with regulars Tucker, Jermaine and Joe. Rachel returned for iS Live! but after the first episode she departed the team with Constance (Russia) assuming hosting duties. Ricky departed the Production Team during Tibet with his responsibilities in casting given to Noah but left shortly before the game began to focus on other projects. Zack (India) and Tanya (Russia & Tibet) join as an interns whilst Mike T. departed the team but returned for the fourth Immunity Challenge.
The forum was designed by Tucker and inspired by the mysticism of Arabian folklore. Casting began almost immediately after the Tibet reunion with the team contacting those who were unsuccessful in the previous season alongside new auditionees. The seasons logo was revealed during the Tibet finale using the hashtag "#PlayToWin". On March 6th, 2016 Sandy announced the intention for previous alumni to audition for a coaching role in this season with the three tribe names and buffs released a few days later. Lorii from Hawaii, All-Stars and Montenegro was approached to return as a coach but declined due to work commitments.
The new players were introduced one by one starting from April 2nd, 2016 with their "Meet Me" videos though their tribe designation was not revealed.
Thirty former players will be announced as potential coaches with the top three entering the game via public vote similar to that of the Illyria tribe from the first Fans vs. Favorites. Notable auditionees include Allan, Joey and Mike T. who have earned the title of Sole iSurv1vor in seasons past. Allan, Britti and Taylor are campaigning for their fifth game and additionally share the distinction of being the first four-time players in Macedonia.
The first round saw the thirty players divided by seasons competed previously
The second round saw the twenty-four players divided by highest, medium and lowest votes from round one
The third round saw the eighteen players divided by their intended tribe affiliation of Mental, Physical or Social
The fourth round saw the twelve players face off against somebody from their grouping in the third round. The matchups were;
The final round saw the last two from each grouping go to a vote determined by the Production Team, the player with the most votes would secure their coach role. Hooker and Ky as the Karak and Anjara coaches withdrew, they were replaced by Ricky and Nicole respectively.
During the final round, Sandros announced a wildcard vote wherein those eliminated would have the opportunity to enter the game as a regular player alongside the coach though they must be chosen by their potential tribe mates who remained unknown. Desireé joined Karak, Debbie, who was later replaced by Emily joined Anjara and Dylan joined Madaba after Ricky moved to a Coach role.