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.

  • Like Ice Age and Alliances Mirage story is principally told in a few paragraphs. There isn't anything shocking here for those who are familiar with the story of Mirage, but it is interesting for us concerned with Magic's timeline. We learn that Teferi was gone for 200 years and only returned after the Mirage War had begun. We already saw the implication of this in the review of the Battlemage game. As it features Teferi and "Kaevek of Jamuraa", the game must take place during the Mirage War. (And, spoilers, we will learn in Visions that this war only lasted one year, so...)
  • We get some additional information in the form of a Who's Who. I wont dwell to much on this, as the entries will be significantly expanded upon in the online version of Mirage's lore, but it's still a significant source: it's the first mention of Captain Sisay!
  • The Library of Leng series continues in these issues. Like last time, only one of the two entries was later reposted on That is the one from issue 14, on Serra Angel. It may be a disappointing read at first, since it doesn't say anything about Serra or the origin of her angels, but the lore it does contain is actually very interesting. Here we learn that the village of Darien's Roost (obviously named after King Darien) turned into Epityr over the course of 300 years and was then conquered by the Sheoltun Empire. Forty years later a Song Wizard called Thabit of Almaaz liberated the city by summoning Serra Angels. This signaled the end of the Sheoltun Empire, which was eventually replaced by Benalia. 
  • First of: that's a great showcase of the grand integration of lore that was going on in this period. Not only does it tie together cards from Alpha, Antiquities and Ice Age, but it even invokes Almaaz and the Song Wizards from Song of Time! And second, this is important since we can use it to date the fall of Sheoltun and thus, very roughly, the rise of Benalia!
  • The other entry is quite interesting, if rather obscure. It tells the story of the Zhalfirin ship Wavecrester, which discovered a place called Steel Island, in the Burning Isles. (The other known Burning Isles are the far more famous Bogardan and Urborg) On it they found a bunch of mechanical gnomes building a dreadnought, planning to use it to search for their missing master. The conclusion of the conflict isn't known, but two years later a chest with the ship's log is found on a Zhalfirin beach. There are then two decks, The Wavecrester and Steel Island. Play them against each other to discover who won! The Wavecrester deck wins if you ping your opponent to death with Pirate Ship, the Steel Island deck wins if you cast Soar on Phyrexian Dreadnought, allowing the gnomes to take of and search for their master!
  • I'd say the canonical status of this "story" is difficult to asses. There isn't really a conclusion, nor do we find out anything about where the gnomes came from. (The dreadnought isn't called "Phyrexian" in the article, but it is represented by that card in the deck) Still, Steel Island has made it onto the MTGSalvation wiki, albeit under the name "Steel" rather than "Steel Island". I don't think I'll put it on the timeline, but if you disagree I'd say putting it shortly prior to Mirage itself is a good place for it.

  • There is an article on the design of Mirage that has some tidbits that are quite funny in hindsight. For example, the designers of Mirage liked a "creature heavy environment", so they upped the number of creatures in the set to... 50%, compared to the 42% found in Ice Age. Oh, the early days of Magic...
  • Or this bizarre statement: "We had creature classes at one point: animals, humans, dragons ... and cards that affected them, but that didn't work out because it simply wasn't compatible with Magic"... eh...  Sounds like an early attempt at the race-class system introduced with Mirrodin!
  • The look of the set was based on Pete Venters seeing a painting of "a Nubian guard at an Arabian temple". I'd quite like to know what painting that was! But since it was from a local African art shop I doubt we could re-discover it.
  • Check out this advertisement for the Battlemage game. Isn't that just the scariest Lord of the Pit you've ever seen? Also note that the game went through quite a few changes before being released. Here it is still called "The Planeswalkers War" and promises 3D graphics!
  • Another advertisement I thought noteworthy was this one from Battletech. It's quite confrontational, but not as bad as the "'Meching it happen" line on the cover.
  • In the "they made card games of everything in this period" department: these issues talk about the release of XXXenophile, the game based on Phil Foglio's humoristic porno comics, and say that, Chaosium (The guys who do Call of Chtullu) have bought the rights to a Doom TGC! I can't make to much fun about that though. I'm fairly certain that around this time I myself was making Doom II-themed custom Magic cards...
And that's it for today! Join me next week for the digital version of the Mirage story and the next two issues of The Duelist, covering Visions!


  1. So the phyrexian dreadnought isn't from phyrexia? or are the gnomes phyrexian?

    1. The story doesn't go into the origin of the gnomes at all, it just mentions they have a master, who they are now missing. Perhaps the master was a Phyrexian? Or perhaps the master or the gnomes were influenced by Phyrexians the same way Heidar was in Coldsnap. (See the card Phyrexian Etchings.)

      The Dreadnought created here isn't from Phyrexia but its design must be. Otherwise why would it be called Phyrexian? And I'm fairly certain a Phyrexian Dreadnought will show up in Phyrexia itself in... Planeshift I think?

      Another explanation could be that while the Dreadnought is represented by the card Phyrexian Dreadnought in the deck, the actual Dreadnought is a different 'Nought. The card Pirate Ship doesn't specifically show the Wavecrester after all.

      Thanks for the question. I probably should have speculated more on this issue in the review itself!