Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The Official MTG Timeline

Today I uploaded my review of Final Sacrifice, In it I explain how we can put an accurate date to the first four novels of the Harper Prism line. So from now on, I will not only be reviewing stories, I'll also maintain a timeline to show how they all fit together. The timeline will be uploaded shortly after this post.

To give some context to the first few entries though, I thought I'd first show you an official, WotC-made timeline. We've already discussed the earliest one, from the Fourth Edition Players' Guide, but there is a far more detailed timeline out there. For years Wizards of the Coast kept stock of when their stories happened on their website, but around Onslaught block they lost interest in the specifics of the story, and from Mirrodin onwards the timeline was forgotten. Eventually they overhauled their website, and in the process the timeline was lost. Except it wasn't! Thanks to the miracle of the Internet Wayback Machine we can actually still find this timeline! Let's have a look at it. All dates are given in AR (Argivian Reckoning). 0 AR is the year Urza and Mishra were born.

This gives you a pretty good idea about when each set takes place. It is an increadibly important source for us storyline fanatics, since for many sets this is the only thing giving us a definitive date, or even just a general place on the timeline. Unfortunately it is not entirely without mistakes. I'll quickly go through those here.
  • First there is the placement of "Urza's Saga (Argoth)" in 65. The green cards in Urza's Saga actually tell the ending of Antiquities in further detail, so them happening a year after Antiquities is just silly.
  • Alliances happens in ~2900, while the Ice Age ends in 2934. I guess that's technically correct, if you interpret the "~" as "Give of take 100 years", but it's still a bit silly. Alliances is the sequel to Ice Age, so place it at ~2940 or something.
  • The Mirage and Homelands entries give us an approximate span of years for those sets to take place, but in both cases the span doesn't really match up with the timelines we have of those sets. This probably has something to do with the fact that this timeline doesn't make clear what exactly it counts as "Mirage" or "Homelands" and what it counts as "The Backstory of Mirage" or "The History of Homelands". I'll go into more detail on those issues when I review the relevant stories.
For now I'll copy all dates from this timeline onto my own, except for the "Urza's Saga (Argoth)" and "Alliances" dates. As my project continues I'll refine unclear dates, like the ones of Mirage and Homelands. Also, since my project covers stories rather than sets, I'll eventually replace the sets with the accompanying story. So "Alliances" will eventually be replaced by "The Shattered Alliance", and "Tempest", "Stronghold" and "Exodus" by "Rath and Storm".


  1. * agreed on the Urza's Saga/Argoth problem. Clearly a mistake.
    * not so sure about the Ice Age/Alliances timing being a mistake though (although my knowledge of that period was always lacking). The question is - what do these dates point at? Is the date given for the end of the Ice Age a year when Freyalise cast the World Spell? (Can that date be independently verified? I do not own the last two books of the Ice Age trilogy). Or is it a date for the time when the climate changed for good (some time after the World Spell, when after the rise of temperature destructive thaws began)? Or maybe it's a date telling us how far the cards of the Ice Age set itself reached with their depiction of reality (whatever time that was)? The same can be asked about the starting date for Alliances on that timeline. I didn't go through all of the cards, but possibly some of them could be referencing time that is overlapping with some of the cards from the Ice Age. And remember the Homelands file that Scott Hungerford shared with me? It may have been exceptional, but if by any chance (at least some of the) cards of the Ice Age and Alliances sets got descriptions as detailed as those of Homelands, then it is possible the sets do overlap in timing and we won't be even able to verify it judging merely from pictures and some flavor texts. Although cards like the Flooded Woodlands or Jokulhaups could indeed depict not immediate, but later (and ongoing) effects of the World Spell. The overlap theory seems plausible to me at this point).

    Then of course, it could be a mistake. ;)

  2. The events of 9 sets all take place in the same year? That seems like a bit much. Perhaps spreading out the events of 4205 over a few more years might be better.

    1. It may seem a lot, but remember that all of Tempest block takes place in only one or two weeks, and that the three stories in Masques block take place simultaneously.

      There is a case to make for moving Apocalypse to 4206, based on a comment made in the novel. But I'll cross that bridge when I get there.