Sunday, 20 December 2015

The Duelist #27-30 (Exodus)

After all the stories, background lore and other cool stuff we've seen in the past year, suddenly it all seems to have dried up. We get another storyboard for Exodus, but it's only one page. There's no Dominian Chronicles. At first I presumed that it was because Exodus doesn't introduce any new part of Rath to chronicle, but then issue 28 is suddenly missing the Dominian FAQ as well, and a month later it is said Pete Venters has left Wizards. It's not officially announced, suddenly articles just talk about him having left. Maybe Pete leaving has something to do with the drying up of lore? Issue 29 does start Born to Greatness, the follow up to Sisay's Quest that shows how Crovax met Selenia, but as that story doesn't wrap up till issue issue 35, it will get its own review. So all in all, there's not much to talk about here.

Well, except for all the advertisements and announcements! It seems that after the success of The Brothers' War Wizards really doubled down on the novel line, promising two trilogies of stories plus some other interesting publications in the next year! Things didn't quite play out as planned though, so this review will be partly a preview of things to come and partly a look at what might have been. So maybe it was just decided that novels were a better way of presenting stories than The Duelist had been.

To give this review a bit more substance, I've also included a look at the online coverage of Rath block. I'll spoil now that it's mostly a summary of the main story, similar to the storyboards we've already seen, but there is some cool background info on the main characters in there.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Sisay's Quest

Part one: The Heart of a Minotaur
Part two: The Knife's Edge
Part three: Old Wars
Written by Kij Johnson
Appeared in The Duelist #21, 23 & 25.

The Weatherlight is en route to Oneah,where they hope to get info on a piece of the Legacy: the Juju Bubble. (Yeah, I know. Not the most epic of the Legacy items.) Unfortunately they fly to close to a dragon's lair and get in a fight, ending up crashed in a forest. To make things worse, it is in Talruum Minotaur terrain, and the Talruum kill any intruders. To try and get out of this, Sisay challenges them to single combat. This would've ended pretty badly, as no one in Sisay's camp can stand up to a minotaur, but a Talruum youngster called Tahngarth intervenes. He finds the idea of killing weak outsiders dishonorable, and thus decides to be Sisay's champion. Tahngarth wins, and claims the title of Talruum Champion. As his interpretation of honor has gotten him into conflict with the archtraditionalist Talruum, he decides to leave with the Weatherlight.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

The Duelist #23-26 (Stronghold)

The Duelist seems to have found a format that it likes. Storyboard putting all the cards in the correct order? Check! Dominian Chronicles functioning as a de facto Planeswalkers Guide? Check! Dominian FAQ? They even managed to keep the name the same this time!

Saturday, 21 November 2015

The Duelist #20-22 (Tempest)

Weatherlight had a storyline summary, plus two short stories that gave an expanded look at certain characters and scenes. Here The Duelist takes a different approach. The main feature now is the Tempest storyboard, which puts all the cards from Tempest featuring lore in the correct order and thus tells the story. Additionally there is the return of Dominian Chronicles, who gives us what is essentially "the Planeswalkers Guide to Rath". Continuity FAQ also continues, and issue 21 kicks of the story Sisay's Quest, which is a prequel telling us how Sisay and Tahngarth met. I assume that by now the plans for the novel line had progressed far enough that stories chronicling the events of Tempest itself were saved for Rath & Storm, thus we get a storyline summary and prequel stories instead. As Sisay's Quest second and third parts appear in issues 23 and 25, I am saving it to review the story as a whole later on. For now, let's get into the articles.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

The Duelist #17-19 (Weatherlight)

"Magic's New Backstory", announces the cover of issue 17. After a year in which the expansion stories were relegated to short summaries and references to the website, suddenly the story is all over The Duelist. Articles and short stories, features on the cover art, even Phil and Dixie have noticed and will be making fun of the Weatherlight crew in many coming episodes. But there is more. Online stories and novels are announced. Most importantly: the story of Magic will now be told through the cards themselves! You can collect the cards and put them in the correct order, and new Vanguard cards are announced which will allow you to build your decks around the main characters of the story. New and exciting things are happening here!

The Weatherlight Saga was originally conceived by Mark Rosewater and Michael G. Ryan and was going to be a three block long story featuring the crew members of the flying ship Weatherlight as they had adventures on various planes. Magic's story would stop jumping centuries in time with each block, instead focusing on a single story. This meant it would finally gain a regular cast, perfect for getting the audience to bond with the story. Also, it helps with licensing.

Like a lot of ongoing stories, the Weatherlight Saga's execution turned out to be a lot different from its initial inception. For some as yet unrevealed reason, MaRo and Michael G. Ryan were taken of the project early on. The creative team, then still called the continuity team, was put in charge. They stretched the saga to four blocks, but the titular ship and its crew had to share the stage with Urza, who was brought back into the story for the first time since Antiquities. All that is still of into the future though. These issues of The Duelist present the beginning of the saga as it was originally intended.

Quick note: issue 19 is already doing Tempest previews, but it mostly talks about the cards, and the one lore article in there is still covering Weatherlight stuff. Furthermore, The Duelist will go from bi-monthly to monthly halfway through their covering of Tempest, so I thought I'd spread the issues out over my reviews a little more.

Monday, 2 November 2015

The Legends of Magic

Ever since beginning my blog at the start of this year I have been covering old, old sources. A lot of them have been pretty obscure. Most people remember Arena, and know there have been comics, but the later Harper Prism novels? Serra Angel and Nightmare? This stuff has been out of print for ages and long forgotten by most people. Most old issues of The Duelist have been gathering dust in attics for the past decade, and even the websites we've looked at can only be found in archived form.

Nowadays we have the MTGSalvation wiki, which at least has a little paragraph on the main characters of these stories. What did we do before that? Well, mostly we pretended that the lore began with Weatherlight, to be honest. But there was one way for us to learn about old stuff: ask the old folks on the forums. One of those old folks was Jeff Lee, To keep all this information from disappearing altogether, he created a website: The Legends of Magic.

Obviously a very worthy cause, and I can't help but feel Jeff and I are kindred spirits in some sense, but why should this blog look at his site? Surely it is just a fan creation, echoing the stuff I've already covered? Well, there is a bit more to it than that. For one, Jeff was in contact with Pete Venters and was a friend of Teri McLaren, the author of Cursed Land and Song of Time. Thanks to those contacts his site actually contains unique material not released anywhere else! Furthermore, while I have been able to drag up most ancient sources, with some amazing help here and there, there actually is stuff no one seems to have seen in years. For example, the Elder Dragon War was first mentioned in a tear away calendar of which, as far as we know, no copies have survived. This means that until Wizards made a throwaway reference to it in Nicol Bolas' character profile, Jeff's site was the only known source on the Elder Dragon War. Yeah. Bizarre, isn't it?

A problem presents itself though. This site contains unique information, but we can't just assume it is all canon. It remains a fan creation and contains very little in the way of annotations, as well as a number of mistakes and even some fan speculation presented as facts. And don't underestimate the impact this site has had on the Vorthos community! The unique facts presented here, which unfortunately also includes some of the mistakes, were repeated first on, then the MTGSalvation forum and finally the MTGSalvation wiki, where they can still be found till this very day! So there is only one thing I can do. Going through the entry website and analyze every little corner of it to separate the true gold from the pyrite.

Shall we?

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Encyclopedia Dominia

When Matt Cavotta interviewed him, Pete Venters revealed that way, way, waaaaaay back when, there were plans for a Magic lore themed coffee table book, called "Encyclopedia Dominia". This was actually the first step in the consolidation of the storylines that would eventually get us from the mess that was the early Harper Prism days, with its wildly inconsistent portrayals of planeswalkers, to the Dominian Chronicles article we looked at a few weeks back, which finally nailed down some rules that would stick for years, at least till the Mending.

The coffee table book that started all this never materialized, but the name Encyclopedia Dominia lived on, as it was used for a part of the Duelist Online website devoted entirely to Magic lore. In fact, quite a lot of the original idea lived on in this site. It featured stories, lore facts (in the form of an encyclopedic list of people, places and objects) and even a framing sequence featuring Taysir, just like the book would have had! Pete Venters also mentions in the above interview that his consolidation of the storyline was continued after the book was cancelled because there was still the possibility of a Magic RPG being made, and I think this website was supposed to tie into that. We will see, when we look at further paper issues of The Duelist, that Pete was still trying to drum up interest for the RPG at this time.

That website, essentially the Ur-ancestor of both Uncharted Realms and the MTGSalvation wiki, is our subject for today. I'll be going through all the stories and the framing sequence one by one, like I did with the stories from the anthologies I covered in... oh jeez, that was March?! Man, time flies! Anyway. That's what I will be doing. As for the encyclopedia entries, there is not all that much to say about them. They are really neat, although sometimes a bit inconsistent in how much attention they pay to a subject. (Freyalise gets one line while the Church of Angelfire gets an entire paragraph?) What's especially cool is that stuff that is essentially thrown in here as random background fluff will remain canon for a good long while. For instance, the Order of the Steel Leaf is introduced here, but after a few years they will suddenly get their own card in Planeshift!

The Kavu are not yet mentioned, of course.

EDIT: Of course, I upload this post and the Archive goes down... luckily some very, very intelligent people decided to re-post these stories over on MTGSally a couple of years back.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Mirage & Visions Online

Issue 15 of The Duelist gave a peek into an exciting new area Magic fiction is going to appear in: the internet! A small article urged the reader to also try out The Duelist Online. By now that website has long been replaced, but thanks to the magic of the Internet Wayback Machine we can still take a look. It seems... sparse. There used to be more there though. For example, this little post by the Wizards webteam in which they decry how unclear the legislation is on who can be held liable if they implement a chatbox and somebody says something naughty on it. Oh, and by the way, check out this adorable little search button:

Okay, okay, I'll stop making fun of the early days of the internet. I myself also had a terribly designed Geocities site with a guest book and a visitors counters and everything. It was a site about the game Dungeon Keeper. But let's move on to what I actually want to talk about: the Mirage block storyline!

What I've dubbed "Mirage & Visions Online" is actually a collection of various pages which I believe all first originated on The Duelist Online. First there is this page, which gives a more detailed version of the Mirage story and the Who's Who we saw in the magazine itself. That page was actually re-posted on a later Wizards of the Coast website, which also contained a similar page for Visions. I haven't been able to find the Duelist Online version of the Visions page, but I'm assuming that's where it originated. The Visions site actually went down after WotC moved websites again, but has since been re-re-posted here. We should probably be archiving/downloading this information, since WotC has now moved websites again, and you never know when these old pages dissolve into the aether. (Quick aside: on the website above you'll also see entries for all other sets up to Mirrodin. The earlier sets all just boil down to one paragraph summaries of the stuff found in novels, comics and magazines though, and for the later sets they mostly just give a sample chapter of the novel. These entries will not be covered on this blog. I will cover the handful of more extensive entries, like the one for Tempest.)

The second batch of websites covered in this post are Mirage: Oasis and Visions: the Oracle. These are browser games (originally contests, but I assume they will be closed by now) which Wizards ran for their expansions during Mirage and Tempest blocks. The later ones are basically unplayable these days, but you're not missing much. They just turn short scenes from the story into games. "Help the Weatherlight navigate through the storms of Rath in this flash game!" or "Help Ertai solve this puzzle and open the Erratic Portal!", that sort of stuff. The Mirage and Visions entries actually have some relevant, or at least interesting, storyline information, and as they are much more text based they are still mostly navigable. Lucky us!

Finally I'd like to quickly mention one last page, an online "From the Library of Leng" article on Suq'Ata Assassins. In the last analog entry on Library of Leng (the one on goblins from issue 15) promised the column would continue online, and the Suq'Ata Assassin article says that next month they were going to run their first non-Magic related entry (focusing on Vampire: the Eternal Struggle.) I haven't been able to find any later entries, so either the plans changed or those pages have been lost in time. Like most Library of Leng articles this one just gives a few lore tidbits. It's only 355 words long, so a full review isn't really merited. But I did want to quickly mention it, both for completions sake and because I think this is the only, or at least the first, official source that states the Suq'Ata originated in Rabiah and came to Dominaria via Cyclone portals.

Well, now that you all know what to expect, let's get to it!

Thursday, 8 October 2015

The Duelist #15-16 (Visions)

I'm writing this just after the release of Battle for Zendikar, the first expansion of the two-set paradigm. How serendipitous then that I am covering Mirage block, Magic's first attempt at a two-arc story! (No, I don't count Ice Age/Alliances as a two-arc story. Alliances counts as a sequel in my book.)

But these two issues hold more than just the conclusion of the Mirage/Visions story. Issue 16 contains an article explaining planes and planeswalkers, as well as giving us a quick tour of Dominaria. That perhaps sounds fairly innocuous, but it is actually a milestone in Vorthos lore. We haven't seen an article setting down the ground rules of our cosmology since, oh... the very first review I did on this blog, and since then the actual stories, especially the early HarperPrism novels, rather mucked things up with their odd descriptions of planeswalkers. Now we finally get to reap the benefits of the behind-the-scenes consolidation that went on at this time. In fact, the rules established here will remain in place until... today really! Yet the article also makes extensive reference to the HarperPrism books and the Armada comics. It is thus on the one hand the ideal border between pre-revisionist and revisionist continuity, yet on the other a good reminder that this border is much more blurry than it is generally assumed to be.

I hope you all agree that this is pretty exciting stuff, so let's dive in!

Friday, 25 September 2015

The Duelist #13-14 (Mirage)

So far this blog has seen quite a bit of repetition. We covered Ice Age and Alliances in both comic and magazine form, the Planeswalkers War as computer game and as unfinished script and Fallen Empires as comic and as novel. Had I had access to the earliest issues of The Duelist we'd also have covered Antiquities twice and Fallen Empires three times! That's the result of having a novel line, a comics line and a magazine simultaneously I guess. But we are now finally moving into new territory!

Mirage block was a strange era for the lore. On the one hand the continuity team was working hard to integrate the various parts of it. The Viashino from The Prodigal Sorcerer make their first card appearance here, and both the continent of Corondor and Eskil, from Fallen Angel, are featured in the backstory of Mangara, although neither made in into the flavor text. On the other hand we are in the strange Sargasso after the cancellation of the Harper Prism and Armada lines, but before the start of the Weatherlight Saga. This meant that Mirage and Visions became the earliest expansions to have neither a comic nor a novel to their name. (Actually, Alliances had that "distinction" until the release of The Shattered Alliance.) The next sets to have neither are a long time off: Coldsnap (which only got a short story) and then Innistrad!

So did these poor sets at least get extensive coverage in The Duelist? Ehm... not really. Not much more than Alliances. They did get a bit more love online, so next week we'll look at the Mirage: Oasis game and the coverage of Mirage and Visions on the old version of For now though, another light entry, looking at just the stuff that made it into the printed version of the magazine.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The Duelist #11-12 (Alliances)

This is going to be a short one, since there really isn't much lore in these issues. A few paragraphs on the story of Alliances, plus the regular From the Library of Leng feature. No story this time. It seems The Duelist is still saving most of the lore for the comics, but as we know the Alliances comic was never published. Shame that.

The Homelands Document

Regular readers may have noticed that until now I've pretty much only been talking about stories, with a handful of articles thrown in. But there is another important part of the Vorthos landscape: settings! In the early days good overviews of those were hard to come by however. Nowadays, whenever we visit a new plane, we get extended looks at the world, the species within it, the main political players, etc. in the Planeswalkers Guides. Back in the day you didn't have those. You'd have the short introductions to the settings in The Duelist, you'd have the sets themselves and perhaps a comic or a novel. If you were really lucky the comic had a bunch of backmatter explaining more. You had to gather it all together yourself, and even if you did so you were always left with a feeling that there was more to the setting than was revealed.

Pictured: a typical old-school Vorthos.

This feeling of there being some kind of "Hidden Lore" was only increased years later when Brady Dommermuth revealed a few bits of information from an in-house document chronicling Dominarian lore, or when in an article on Lorwyn's treefolk Doug Beyer could suddenly talk about characters like Flann, Fionnsutha and Aidar River Span, who hadn't even made it into the flavor text! Clearly Wizards had a habit of making worlds that were far more detailed and elaborate than could be fit into the cards! I've always found it a bit annoying, knowing that until I secure a job at WotC itself, I'll never be able to have a complete picture of all the created lore!

Yet sometimes some of this behind the scenes info comes out. This is what happened with Homelands. Scott Hungerford (The lore junkie behind the set) revealed that he had a document that not only summed up the entire history of the set and explained the setting of Ulgrotha in great detail, but actually came with a list of lore on every single card in the expansion. This document was gifted to MORT (a stalwart of the storyline forums, who you may have seen commenting on this blog) after which it circulated on MTGSalvation and, before settling down on No Goblins Allowed, where you can read it in all its glory.

Many people see this as a Planeswalkers Guide to Ulgrotha. Those of you who have clicked the link to No Goblins Allowed will have noticed that "Planeswalkers Guide to Ulgrotha" is in fact the name of the thread in which the document is posted. In reality we are dealing with something else: a work in progress. An awesome look behind the scenes that shows us a snapshot of the creation of Ulgrotha, but not a finished, canonical source. Still, given how tantalizingly detailed it is you can't blame the Vorthosi of the world for wanting it to be canonical. High time thus to take a thorough look at the document, to see what could still be true, and what was dropped between the creation of the document and the release of the set.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

The Duelist #7-10 (Homelands)

For some reason it took a long time for Alliances to come out, leaving an eight month gap in the release of Magic sets, the largest gap between releases ever. Luckily the set before that was Homelands, so the lore articles in The Duelist had plenty of stuff to talk about! It was probably a trickier time for the writers of Spikey articles.

Issue 7 gives us the short story The Slowing of his Heart by Michael G. Ryan, as well as a short introduction to the story of Homelands. So basically the same set up as issue 5 had for Ice Age. Issue 8 then introduces a new feature: "From the Library of Leng", in which a single cards is featured and showcased both in lore, art and playability. I'll look into the story first, then I'll move on the Library and some other interesting stuff from the various issues.


A minotaur called Thexar's initiation into adulthood by scarring goes horribly wrong. While he's bleeding to death one of his companions, the Spirit Crafter Arrax, tells him a story to ease his passing...

Friday, 11 September 2015

Planeswalkers War

Finally, we have reached the climax of the Armada line, the Planeswalkers War of Corondor! Are you ready to find out who lives, who dies, who faces who and in what state they leave the continent? I've had to keep you in suspense for a few days longer than I had planned, so let's quickly get going!

We open with Daria, still stuck in the Amber Prison on the Null Moon. Projecting her mind, Daria sees various scenes playing out on Corondor while searching for Taysir. First she sees Jared and Sandruu dueling in the ruins of Castle Melmereth, the old Carthalion estate that was blown up in the climax of Shadow Mage. The Elder Druid send Jared there, since as it turns out the vault of the Carthalions contained the spellbook of Geyadrone Dihada, and summoning Dakkon Blackblade would be a tremendous aide to the cause of Corondor. Unfortunately he was intercepted by the raging minotaur. Still, Jared manages to escape with the book.

Next Daria, and we with her, sees Ravidel conquering a city in Shikar, in eastern Corondor. Upon completing this task Ravidel pulls out a device, which includes the piece of obsidian he took from Urborg in Prelude to War (and four other color-appropriate stones) and uses it to hinder the casting abilities of the other summoned planeswalkers. A sound stratagem, or an excuse for having every player starts with a crappy deck in the Battlemage game? You decide!

Monday, 7 September 2015

Prelude to War

Yesterday I talked about Walker of Night. It gave us a bit more details about Leshrac's imprisonment, but let's be honest, not a whole lot we didn't know already. Now though, we are embarking into true terra incognita. Sure, we knew all along that a Planeswalkers War was coming, and some of you may even have played through it in the Battlemage video game, but what actually happened in that war? the game didn't feature quite a few characters slated to appear in the comic, and in the end didn't have much plot beyond "They fight." Now finally we can see what would've happened in the war if the comics line hadn't been cancelled!

Prelude to War shows the gathering of all the various players, setting the stage for the war itself. It would've been an anthology with a number of stories, each written by different people and featuring one or two planeswalkers, with the story of Jared Carthalion split in two to function as a prologue and an epilogue. I'll deal with each of the stories individually.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Walker of Night

In the last comic Armada published, Urza-Mishra War #2, mention was made of three comics that were planned but now cancelled: Alliances, Prelude to War and Planeswalker War. It turns out even more works were in the pipeline though! Obviously the story of Antiquities was still unfinished and would've been concluded by a third mini-series. Comics based on The Dark, Mirage and the then company mascot Hurloon Minotaur, as well as the rather random sounding "Merfolk" had also been planned. In addition to the comics, more games were also being developed. An arcade game called Armageddon, based loosely on the Planeswalkers War, actually got as far as having a few proto-types made! You can find some info and pictures here, and YouTube even has a low quality clip of some gameplay.

Jeff Gomez told me that the Ash Warlord Embereck was actually created by the designer of this game, Victor Mercieca, hence his rather out-there design: he was meant to look striking in an arcade game! In addition to Armageddon a fighting game for consoles called Ironblood and a PC RPG called Rise of the Mana Wraith where in the works.

Most of these comic- and game projects were still in early development, so little can be said about them. But Prelude to War, Planeswalkers War and a comic called Walker of Night all had gotten to the point where at least story overviews were made. A few years back storyline guru Zazdor was allowed to look at the scripts and now Jeff Gomez has, after verifying their accuracy, shared Zazdor's overviews with me, so I can share a summary of them with you all! This is stuff that has been hanging in limbo for almost two decades, with only small details slipping through to the storyline community, so I am tremendously excited and very honored to be able to do this! So... let me first thank both Jeff Gomez and Zazdor an infinite amount of times for enabling me to do this, and.. let's dive into our first comic!

WALKER OF NIGHT, written by John Tynes
"Walker of Night" is of course Leshrac's title, and this comic would have dealt with his imprisonment by Taysir. In fact, I've already spoke a little about it in my Alliances review, since The Story of the Battlemage Ravidel places the imprisonment in the same paragraph as the events of Alliances. I noted there that Zazdor told me Leshrac's events wouldn't have happened in Alliances and I speculated it may have been in Prelude to War, as at the time I didn't know Walker of Night was a separate project.

We open with a Prodigal Sorcerer called Arlen who left the Institute of Arcane Studies, last seen in the Harper Prism novel The Prodigal Sorcerer, to figure out why those born in the city of Estark, last seen in Arena, are so gifted in magics. He never figures it out, but his quest is witnessed by an invisible and intangible Leshrac, who gives a monologue about his fate. Apparently after Shandalar he had settled some old scores before setting up shop in Estark to try his hand at white magic! Everything was going swimmingly until Ravidel turned up and in the subsequent duel deliberately forced Leshrac to spend all his mana on counterspells and Nether Void costs. Leshrac was then trapped by Taysir in an Oubliette. (At least, I think the Oubliette is Taysir's. It's not mentioned explicitly, but I don't think Ravidel could trap Leshrac on his own. Plus Taysir pops up directly after the imprisonment, and Oubliette is an Arabian Nights card, so...)

Monday, 31 August 2015

The Duelist #5-#6 (Ice Age)

Yes, we are starting our look at The Duelist with issue 5. It's the earliest one I've been able to get my hands on so far. But don't fret, I have had an offer of scans from the earlier issues, so reviews those should be coming soon! So between this and the reviews of the unpublished Armada stories we're doing a bit of jumping around in the coming weeks, but I thought that was preferable over a few weeks of little to no updates.

Before I begin I want to thank my friend Sven for lending me his issues of the Duelist. As I've only got about 15 issues myself the magazine would be very sparsely covered without his generosity!

Alright, on to the review! Issue 5 contains a small blurb of info on the Ice Age lore and, more importantly, a short story called Feast of Kjeld. Issue 6 doesn't have anything for us story lovers, but it has some other funny stuff I'd like to share. Plus, by at least mentioning the issues without Vorthos stuff, you'll know I'm not skipping anything!

Between the cold weather and the attacks by Lim-Dûl's undead, the people of the village of Mikkel can't go to Krov to celebrate the yearly Feast of Kjeld. Heck, only the priest and the ward of the church, Kaysa, are at the local church celebrating. The other villagers don't even dare leave their houses! Suddenly some more people turn up. First Lucilde Fiskdotter, Klazina Jansdotter and Disa the Restless. Disa has been on an expedition to the west, hoping to find allies against Lim-Dûl. She found nothing though, and her team was slaughtered by undead. Kaysa freaks out upon hearing this. While trying to comfort her Disa notices something: Kaysa has the crescent moon mark of the Elder Druid! Just then Kolbjörn, Elder Druid and Disa's husband, turns up. He's divined Kaysa will be his successor and has come to collect her. When the priest protests that she is his ward, Kolbjörn reacts... let's say less than tactfully...
"This place is hallowed ground, and I do not mean to offend you, nor he whom you adore. If you do not wish Kaysa to leave you, I respect your request. All of you will die soon; I shall protect Kaysa until then. Afterward, she and I shall return to Fyndhorn, without dishonoring your wish."
On his approach the druid saw that the village is surrounded by the undead. Everyone who didn't dare leave their house to come to the church? They're actually all dead already!

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Convocations #1

In response to my Armada continuity overview regular poster Leonardo asked about an Armada publication I skipped called Convocations. The reason I skipped it is because it is not a story. As you can see, it bills itself as "A Magic: the Gathering gallery" and that's just what you get: a collection of 23 art pieces. Some by Magic artists, others by comic book artists. Since there isn't a story, nor much else to review I was going to skip it. But I guess I should've at least mentioned what this product actually is, since it has a tendency to pop up on lists of Magic comics. So... I now have! But if I'm doing an actual post on it, I might as well show you some of the art.

Most of the arts are actually card combo's. This is Braingeyser + Underworld Dreams, by Mike Dringenberg.
This is Pete Venters' Lhurgoyf + Rocket Launcher + Nevinyrral's Disk + Spoils of Evil + Songs of the Damned combo. More of a general deck synergy really. 

Some more arts behind the cut.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Armada continuity overview

I'd like to start this blog entry with an apology: I'm sorry that the continuity discussions of the Armada comics got pretty much impenetrable about halfway through.

In hindsight it is clear that trying to discuss the canonicity of each story individually wasn't the right approach. I did realized going in that the continuity of certain comics was tricky. That's why I started with Arabian Nights, thinking I could get the discussion about "The Story of the Battlemage Ravidel" out of the way first. However, over the course of writing these reviews and talking about them with Jeff Gomez, writer and line overseer of the Aramada comics, it's become clear to me that the rabbit hole goes much deeper than I had originally thought. We are actually dealing with several layers of ret-cons. Even worse, to see the full picture we need elements from each layer. I think the true madness of what was going on here really hit me when I realized that the novel "The Shattered Alliance" on the one hand invalidated parts of the latter two Ice Age comics, yet also put the Alliances comic back into continuity, even though Alliances was never actually published.

This article is my attempt to make sense of it all. I'll first show how the comics fit together when they were originally published, and then go over the three waves of ret-cons to show what was altered each time.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Magic the Gathering: Battlemage

For the past months we've been looking at the Armada comics, a look I've been enjoying tremendously. Like the Harper Prism books the quality of the individual stories has been variable, but the greater continuity here has made even the lesser lights in the series interesting to me. (Gee, the guy who writes endless streams of articles about how Magic's various stories hang together likes continuity? Who would've guessed!) Over the course of 15 series the Armada crew has revealed much of the extensive history of Dominaria and its planeswalkers and from the very first series released (Shadow Mage and Ice Age) they have been building toward a big climax in the form of the Planeswalkers War. Today we will finally see the culmination of all this effort with Magic the Gathering: Battlemage, the second computer game based on Magic to be released.

Let me get this out of the way first though: this resolution is a huge let down. It is not the story that was planned for the comics. It doesn't resolve the majority of the lingering questions. Heck, it doesn't even feature most of the characters that were set to appear in the War! Worst of all: there isn't an actual story to play through. There is a campaign mode, but the course of the story is essentially random. Who fights who and who wins is determined by your choice of character, how you play and whatever random lands the computer opponents decide to attack. So after all this build up the only thing about the war we can say for certain is "A bunch of planeswalkers fight".

Well, there is a little more that can be deduced, which I will explain below, but those who wished to see a true ending to the Armada saga will be sorely disappointed. If you are one of those people though, I would still advice you to keep reading, as I have a rather exciting announcement for you at the end of this article!

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Wayfarer #1-5

Issue four has Gonzalo Mayo on "Ink Assist". On issue five he and Rick Bryant are both credited for "Inks". Each issue contains a painted section. Dennis Calero does these for the first four issues. Val Mayerik paints the final one.

It’s a few months on from Shadowmage and things aren't going well for Jared. He's alone, tired and keeps getting into fights. To make matters worse, the people of Hamath aren't up on their recent events and think he’s a herald of Ravidel. They sick a D’Avenant Archer called Elan on him. They've underestimated Jared though. He defeats his hunter and is about to beat seven shades of doodoo out of the archer when Kristina of the Woods shows up. She takes Jared to her woods and after a little lecture on the color wheel he decides to become her apprentice, letting go of his anger.