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...)