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?