Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Rath block wrap-up & continuity overview.

Up to now I've looked at all the parts of Rath block individually. Now it is time to take a step back and look at the big picture. Al the various media outlets were meant to go hand in hand, each focusing on a different aspect of the story but creating a bigger picture when all taken together. So how did that work out? Does the story hold up? Do we like this format, and what can Wizards learn from Tempest block now we are returning to a similar set up? Can we make sense of the continuity between all these versions, and will I finally update the timeline? Lot's of things to do, so let's go and look at all of Rath block in one go!

Sort off.

Let's start off with something my regular readers should know already: I like the story. The setting is great. Rath is by far the most original plane Magic my blog has visited so far, introducing a whole slew of cool creature types and places, many of which will be mainstays in Magic for a long time. I also like the characters. The flavor text quotes alone get their personalities across quite vividly, and the other media outlets do a great job of fleshing them out more. (With the possible exception of the Mirri story in Rath and Storm.) I especially like Crovax and Starke, who are revealed to be quite complex and conflicted, while staying on the unpleasant side of the morality scale. But I also like how Karn is portrayed as an actual pacifist, or how Tahngarth was fleshed out in Sisay's Quest.

So the setting is great, the characters are great, and the plot is... fine.

In reaction to my review of Rath and Storm commenter Antoine asked whether I was going to look at the similarities between the Weatherlight Saga and the cartoon Pirates of Dark Water. I must admit that I never heard of that comparison before, and honestly I don't have the time to watch the entire series to put the two side by side. But I will say this: it doesn't surprise me in the slightest that the initial Weatherlight Saga is similar to a cartoon adventure series.

Here's a little experiment to explain that. If I told you there was this story about a flying ship, with a multicultural crew, exploring new worlds and fighting against bio-mechanical baddies with a sort off hivemind... is that the Weatherlight Saga or Star Trek? If I described a story as one about a hero who faces down an evil empire alongside his motley crew of friends, who then discovers the empire's foremost henchman is actually related to him, what would you say? Weatherlight Saga or Star Wars?

What I'm trying to get at, is that this is a Mark Rosewater story. And Mark Rosewater loooooooooves his tropes. This is the man who wanted to make Theros block about Jace versus Dark Jace. Who upon announcing the Weatherlight Saga proudly declared Star Wars would be its inspiration! As a result, the Weatherlight's story really isn't the most original. There is a Call to Adventure when Gerrard joins the Weatherlight. There is a Refusal of the Call after Rofellos dies. The Supernatural Aid doesn't really pop up until Urza reveals himself to us at the end, but there is a very clear Crossing of the Threshold when the crew goes to Rath... Theros really wasn't the first story based on the Hero's Journey.

It's fitting that MaRo invoked Star Wars in his announcement, as those movies were also written with the Hero's Journey firmly in mind. And in both cases the beauty is not in the plot itself, but in the execution. Yeah, the story is your basic adventure romp, hitting a lot of the expected beats and featuring a slew of stock characters. But the hurdles our hero's face, from Flowstone to Slivers, are original and have cool designs. The characters, perhaps due to having them distributed among several different flavor text writers, have very clear voices and personalities, elevating them beyond their stock origins. Add to that a whole bunch of neat moments, ties to Magic's larger continuity and a willingness to avoid plot-armor and really put the main characters through the wringer, and you have the recipe to make me a huge fan of the Weatherlight Saga.

The Weatherlight Saga was a huge shift in format. Cards and story were suddenly intertwined, and Wizards would have a much tighter hold on the story itself. Did that shift pay off? Well, I am always impressed by Wizards' willingness to experiment, and I think the Saga's format had a lot of cool aspects that I am glad have finally been returning in Battle for Zendikar. But this first attempt at an ongoing story had some serious teething problems as well.

To start off, I don't think it was a good idea to spread the story out over so many versions. The book, the comics, the magazines, the cards... With none of these even containing a clear list of all the other story outlets or how they fit together, it just gets confusing. Worse, since they tried their best to save an important part of the story for each version, all of them end up feeling incomplete. The cards have character but are very unclear on the order of the plot, while the magazine summaries are all plot and no character. Gerrard's Quest is littered with rushed scenes, since their full versions are saved for Rath and Storm. That book itself is probably worst off, as it spends most of its time building up to the Gerrard/Volrath show down, only to gloss over it, since it's being saved for the comic!

Now, I have no problem with transmedia integration in general, and as a lore junkie I'm always up for an extra comic or two. But it has to be done well. How would I have done it? I would have told the story of the Weatherlight's Rathi quest in Rath and Storm, told the history of Gerrard up to him leaving the Weatherlight in the comic, and used The Duelist to tell stories like Sisay's Quest and Born to Greatness for the rest of the crew. The cards and the art book would be used for world building and the character quotes. That way each media outlet could stand on its own, providing a satisfying stand alone experience, while enticing you to read more about these characters in the other outlets.

It would also mean you wouldn't have to slog through the same story five or six times. Having done just that for this blog, I can tell you it gets quite tedious. In the end all you notice are the continuity errors between the various versions. Which, by the by, could also be limited by giving each media outlet a different story to tell. Although tasking a single person with keeping continuity oversight and not replacing the authors halfway through would also help with that.

Luckily Wizards seems to have learned its lessons, and handled things much better in Battle for Zendikar. I've already talked about the way Rath block and BfZ block used their cards to tell the story. While I personally like the collectible nature of Rath block, where you can piece together pretty much the entire story by collecting all the cards, I realize it's not ideal for everyone. The Rath story is not ideally suited for the card format, having for to many twists and turns for it to make sense without a guide telling you the order they go in. And things can get repetitive if the same characters are on every card. We don't really need to see Gerrard getting iodine smeared in his wound or every second of him talking to Eladamri. Having a smaller ratio of story relevant cards is probably a good idea. I maintain my criticism that most of the Battle for Zendikar story events where a bit too vague (Nissa's Renewal is just her waving a staff, Outnumber is just one of many Zendikari vs. Eldrazi arts in the set), but Oath of the Gatewatch was already much better in that regard.

It's not just the cards though, they've also got a much better handle on the transmedia thing. You want to know the story? Easy, read Uncharted Realms. Eh... Magic Fiction. No, wait, Magic Story. Okay, so they changed the name and I still like the original version most, but my point stands. It is the one version of the story that counts. Sure, there are also versions in the fatpack booklet and the art book, but it's clear that those are just summaries, with the art book providing mainly background info and world building. The cards meanwhile serve also as world building, and the story relevant ones as illustrations to that story. There are still some hiccups, the main one being the fact that the ending of the story is often spoiled way in advance by the fatpack booklet or by the cards themselves, but on the whole it's a much better approach than was taken at the start of the Weatherlight Saga. One version of the story, one take on continuity. Very nice.

There are two aspects of continuity I'd like the look at today. Obviously we need to untangle to discrepancies between the various versions of the story. Before that though, I'd like to take a look at the way Rath block fits into continuity as a whole.

It is generally thought that this block is the start of Revisionist continuity. That originally Wizards, Armada and Harper Prism were each doing their thing, resulting in a huge continuity mess, and that with the Weatherlight Saga Wizards took charge, straightened out the rules about planes and planeswalkers, made the older material questionable continuity and moved forward with its revised canon, free of continuity errors. Yet what we have seen so far greatly nuances that picture.

First off, we saw that the continuity team under Pete Venters had been straightening out continuity long before the Weatherlight Saga even began. From the incorporation of Taysir in the Pocket Players' Guide and the Encyclopedia Dominia, to the use of the Viashino from Prodigal Sorcerer in Mirage, Magic canon was being tightened a far earlier than is generally thought. The Dominian Chronicles article that finally laid down the modern ground rules for planes and planeswalkers was only featured in The Duelist one month before Weatherlight previews began, but it's hard to see that as a clear start of a new continuity when it makes extensive references to Harper Prism and Armada stories. It's clearly the culmination of an effort to organize and unify the earlier stories, not to discredit them.

Secondly it should be noted that the Weatherlight Saga flows very neatly out of that effort. Sisay and Tahngarth come straight from Mirage's story. Benalia is just as it was described in the Encyclopedia Dominia. While Rath block is mostly stand alone (it does happen on another plane after all), there are a few references back to older stories, like how Oneah is featured in Sisay's Quest, or the way Keldon Warlords are described in the art book. From the sources I've looked at so far, there is not a single clue that we are entering a revised continuity with this Saga.

There is one big caveat to that last statement of course: in sticking to the Rath story for now, I've skipped over The Brothers War, a novel that outright replaces the Antiquities comics. I have to admit that, yes, the book is a huge revision. But keep in mind that those comics were never actually finished. With the Phyrexians being brought back into the story with the Weatherlight Saga it makes sense to finally finish the story that featured their first appearance, and if you are doing that story again, why not change a few things in the book adaptation? Yes, it's a revision, but does it really deserve to be called The Revision? Is it that much worse than the revisions made earlier by Pete Venters, or those that will be made later during the Weatherlight Saga, which even changed parts of the then still ongoing Saga itself?

Yeah, you read that right. Later during the Weatherlight Saga we get stuff that contradicts what we've seen in the Saga so far. In the previous reviews I already noted that a number of details given during Rath block don't match with Urza's block. Tolaria barely knowing anything about artifacts for example. Urza's block will reveal Tolaria is actually where most of the Legacy was made! Hanna thinking her mother is dead is another big issue. Something I haven't covered yet, but which surprised me a great deal, was how in The Brothers War (full review coming in a few weeks), Gix doesn't seem to know what the Thran were, despite the novel The Thran revealing that he was once Thran himself! Heck, we've already seen ret-cons happen between the Weatherlight short stories from The Duelist and Rath and Storm!

So I've come to realize more and more that the division between revisionist and pre-rev is artificial at best. There was the Pete Venters revision halfway through what we now call the pre-revisionist era, there was the Brothers War revision, where an incomplete story was replaced by a new version, and there were the later Ice Age and Legends I revisions, where even completed comics were replaced by new novels. Alongside those big revisions were a whole host of smaller ones, where story details where changed from one book to the next. I really would not know anymore which of the revisions fall under "The Revision".

Every time Magic changes part of its continuity, like has recently been done with Magic Origins, there is always a lot of grumbling from the longtime storyline fans. I understand that. I would also prefer a perfect continuity without any errors at all. But we should come to accept that Magic is in for the long run, which means it will be made by different people at different times, with different ideas about how the story should be told and what it should be about. Everyone should certainly let WotC know what we want from the storyline, including those of us who would most like tighter continuity, but I think a perfect canon without any revisions ever is going to be an unreachable utopia.

Alright. Onto the real difficult part. How do all parts of the Weatherlight Saga fit together? Or rather, since we know they don't really fit together all that well, what parts do we consider the definitive version of events? I've already outlined a few rules I try to follow in my look at how the Armada comics fit into continuity. Stories trump articles, and later sources trump earlier sources. This time I'd like to add the rule that Wizards of the Coast material trumps third company material. This wasn't relevant in the case of the Armada stuff, since any WotC material it clashed with also fell under the "later stuff trumps" rule, but here we have Gerrard's Quest and Rath and Storm clashing, which were published around the same time. Issue one of Quest is dated March 1998. Issue four is dated September, but Rath and Storm came out in July... No way to neatly untangle that, and I'm not going to say the novel trumps the entire comic except for the last issue. Nope, better to see the book in which actual WotC employees wrote stories as the definitive version, and keep the comic as an adaptation of sorts.

These rules already solve a lot of problems. Rath and Storm is the most definitive version of Gerrard re-joining the Weatherlight, as it came out later than Maelstrom and Torrent, and it is the definitive version of Vuel and Karn's backstory, since it was published by WotC, whereas Gerrard's Quest was published by Dark Horse. It's not as simple as just declaring Rath and Storm the sole canonical source though. For example, in Rath and Storm Gerrard still has his hourglass pendant, which he drops of somewhere between scenes. We see him give the pendant to his mate Pol Cordel in Maelstrom. Since the pendant story thread is never picked up again in future stories we could decide to shunt even its mention in Rath and Storm out of continuity, but I prefer to keep as much sources as possible in-continuity. Which leaves me in the unfortunate position of having to say everything is canon, except for the parts that are contradicted by later/more official sources. It's not very neat, but the alternative of striking whole stories from canon for containing a few inaccuracies would leave us without any in-canon depictions of pivotal scenes like the final confrontation between Gerrard and Volrath, which is way worse in my opinion.

One last thing we have to decide: what do we make of the continuity errors within Rath and Storm. The librarian quite often contradicts the events in the short stories. On the one hand the stories are supposed to be in-universe documents written by their respective characters, which suggests they could have a bad case of the unreliable narrator. Yet the librarian is heavily hinted to be telling this stuff from memory years, possible centuries, after the fact. That guy could just as easily be making mistakes. Furthermore, a lot of the authors clearly ignored the conceit of their story being written by their main character. Why would Mirri be writing about herself in third person? Scratch that, the main question is how would Mirri be writing about herself, considering she dies at the end of the story! But does the introduction of an omniscient narrator mean the story is more believable, or more likely to be an in-universe forgery? In the end you have to decide for yourselves, but I'm going to give the stories the nod over the librarian, for two reasons. One, the story of the Weatherlight Crew actually continues, while the librarian is relegated to a limbo in a possible future, thus it is more relevant for us to know the actual stories of the crew. Second, while the librarian's bits aren't articles, they are still less of a story and more of a glorified summary, and my golden rule is that the storyline should be about stories first whenever possible.

To make all this rambling a bit more concrete let's take a look at all the continuity issues I raised over the last months. I'll restrict myself to what I see as genuine problems. There are also a bunch of things like clothing or specific lines of dialogue, or the exact method of how Karn carries the smaller Legacy items in himself, that don't match up, but I'm going to write those off as aesthetic changes. Otherwise we'll also have to start explaining differences like why Sisay has darker skin in some pictures and lighter skin in others, and down that route madness lies.

  • The definitive version of the battle in which Rofellos was killed is the one from Born to Greatness, as it was published after Gerrard's Quest, and was featured in an WotC publication.
  • The definitive version of Karn and Vuel's backstories are in Rath and Storm, trumping those in Gerrard's Quest.
  • The definitive version of Gerrard rejoining the Weatherlight is in Rath and Storm, though parts of Maelstorm (Sisay's abduction, Pol Cordel getting the pendant) still count.
  • The definitive version of Starke leaving the Weatherlight after Sisay's abduction and him rejoining the ship is in... Torrent. Yes, Rath and Storm contradicts this story at various points and came out later, but the contradictory bits are in the librarian interludes, while the actual stories better support the version from Torrent. Heck, the librarian even contradicts himself later in the book in a way that supports Torrent. Yeah, it's a complete mess. Bottom line is that the Torrent version of events are still the most probable though.
  • Karn was semi-conscious during his time as a statue, as is stated in Karn's Tale. This is contradicted by the librarian, but surely Karn himself would know better.
  • Gerrard's Tale ends with the Weatherlight plotting a course to Tolaria, but the next story picks up in Llanowar. Llanowar is on the way to Tolaria though, so that's not too difficult to explain.
  • Sisay was an adult when her parents died. This is supported by Rath and Storm, Sisay's Quest and the artbook. Gerrard's Quest shows her as a little girl, but that's either an art mistake or an impression of Gerrard's mistaken interpretation of her story. Depending on how charitable you are feeling towards the comic.
  • Many ages given for characters on The Duelist Online are just wrong. Karn is not thousands of years old, as will be shown in Urza's block, Volrath is just one year older than Gerrard, not five, as shown in Rath and Storm. There is also probably something wrong with Tahngarth's given age, and either Squee is older than stated or Crovax is younger, but we'll dive deeper into those issues in the timeline section below.
  • The Weatherlight needs a wizard to planeshift as far as I'm concerned. The artbook suggests the engineers can operate the planar engine themselves, but then why on earth would the crew need to recruit Ertai?

Those are the big things we can deal with now. There are a few more problems: the supposed link between Crovax and Lord Windgrace, the fact that at various points the Weatherlight is stated to be unique as a flying ship while Invasion will feature whole fleets of them, the fact that Hanna thinks her mother is dead and, most bizarre of all, that the wizards of Tolaria know nothing of artifacts. Before I answer these I want to re-read the rest of the Weatherlight Saga though, since the answer to these riddles will involve later sources. So you'll have to wait a little a good while longer I'm afraid.

For now I will just thank my lucky stars that from this point on WotC will be content with just releasing one version of events!

Finally, the timeline. There are also some issues here, but luckily not nearly as many as with the continuity.

Let's start with the basics. We know from the official timeline that Weatherlight happens in 4204 and Tempest, Stronghold and Exodus in 4205. The 4205 date is confirmed in Rath and Storm itself. It's surprising to have Weatherlight in a different year when there is no break in the story between it and Tempest, but there is nothing that contradicts it either. Presumably the new year begins sometime between them recruiting Ertai and them going to Rath. It makes sense that Ertai would need some time to figure out the planar machinery. This all places Maelstrom, Torrent and the first part of Rath and Storm in 4204 and the rest of Rath and Storm and Gerrard's Quest in 4205.

Well, I say "the rest of Rath and Storm", there is also of course the framing sequence with the librarian. That happens at some vague moment in time when the events of Rath block are referred to as "early Dominarian history". I'm shunting the entire framing sequence into the "possible future" part of the timeline.

From the official timeline we also know that Visions ended in 4196. We know from the Scalebane's Elite story that Tahngarth was already with Sisay at that point, which would place Sisay's Quest before Visions. This becomes a potential problem when we look at the ages of the crewmembers on The Duelist Online. There it is said Tahngarth is just 20. Which would make him about 11 when he's promoted to first mate! Odd, but not necessarily a problem. Cattle only live to 20/30, so who knows how long minotaurs live and how quickly they mature. Of course, with all the other problems with the ages it could also very well be that Tahngarth is actually a few years older than 20. In keeping with him being one of the younger crewmembers however, I would like to put Sisay's Quest as close to Scalebane's Elite as possible. Probably during the Mirage War even, which could tie the dragon attack from the start of the story to the increased draconic activity during that war. I'm going to put it on the timeline at "~4195".

Now for an unexpectedly exciting moment: Sisay's Quest not only featured a visit to Oneah, but also the revelation that it was destroyed 30 years ago! This finally allows us to place a date for it! An approximate date based on another approximate date, yes, but still! That's much better than nothing. Furthermore, it allows us to give more definite dates for a few Harper Prism stories. Ashes of the Sun, for example, is stated as happening 20 years after the fall of Oneah. Heart of Shanodin, from Tapestries, and What Leaf Learned of Goblins from Distant Planes, each happen many years after the fall of Oneah. No idea exactly when, but as there are still some people from the time of the fall alive in each of them, it's probably before the Invasion. (And sticking Harper Prism stories before the Invasion makes sense anyway, as Invasion was clearly intended as a big break with the earlier storylines.)

Next let's figure out the timeline of the big events of Gerrard's life. His age is given as 26 in both the online source and Rath and Storm, making it the most believable of all of them. In Rath and Storm we learn that it has been 12 years since Starke muddled with Vuel's initiation ritual, and that Vuel subsequent war against his father covered the next two years. From Karn's Tale we know that Gerrard was 16 when Karn was frozen. From Art of Rath we know that Gerrard was 17 when he was send to Multani and 18 when Vuel attacked Multani.

Those of you quick with numbers may have spotted an apparent continuity error here. If Gerrard is 26 in Tempest, he would be 14 twelve years earlier. So how could he go from 14 to 18 in a war that only lasted two years? Keep in mind though that Tempest happens at the very beginning of the year, since it continues on from Weatherlight in 4204. Which means that Gerrard probably hasn't had his birthday yet. If he does turn 27 in 4205, that means he would be born in 4178, meaning he turns 15 in 4193, twelve years before 4205, and 18 in 4196. If we assume that Starke was rounding down when he says the war lasts two years, and that the war actually lasted two years and a few months, that could mean it stretched into 4196, passing Gerrard's birthday.

Am I making assumptions there? Yes. Could this actually just be a continuity error? Sure. I just wanted to show this error isn't too difficult to solve. As such, I am quite confident about putting Vuel's initiation in 4193, with his war wrapping up either just before the Mirage War, or shortly after that conflict began. Which opens up the possibility of neat fan fiction involving Vuel dealing with Kaervek. Maybe Kaervek gave Vuel some men or supplies in order to help destabilize the region? But let's return to the actual canon before I get lost in fanon. We still have some other stuff to figure out.

Considering Gerrard's later years, we know from Art of Rath that Mirri spend three years in Llanowar after returning Rofellos' body, before rejoining the Weatherlight in 4204. From Gerrard's Quest we know Gerrard, Mirri and Rofellos spend three years on the ship. This would put Rofellos' death in 4201 and them joining in 4198. This fits fine with what we know of the rest of Gerrard's life. It does create a possible problem with Born to Greatness, but as I'll argue in the next paragraphs, there are enough problems with Born to Greatness anyway to make me question that story more than these dates.

Born to Greatness starts with Crovax as a 12 year old. Part two happens fifteen years later. The Duelist Online put Crovax's age at 37 at the time of Tempest. This would put Born to Greatness part two in 4194 or 4195, depending on how you feel about my "the crew hasn't had their birthdays yet during Tempest" reasoning. Here our first problem rears its head: part two features a goblin cabin boy on the Weatherlight, who is surely meant to be Squee. But Squee is only 10 years old according to the online source. Goblins may age quickly, but I don't see Sisay hiring an actual infant!

A further problem of arises in part three. We are not told how much time elapses between parts two and three, but we know from Gerrard's timeline above that part three is supposed to happen in 4201, as it features the battle in which Rofellos is killed. If part two did happen around 4195, that would mean Crovax kept putting off freeing Selenia for six or seven years! Which would make him even more of an asshole than the story originally intended! If that had been the only problem, I might have decided to let the dates stick and go with a version of the timeline that made Crovax even more horrible, but since we also have the Squee issue in part two, it's a better idea to disregard Crovax's age from the online sources instead, and to move parts one and two of Born to Greatness to later points in time. The original intent of the story seems to be that parts two and three happen fairly close to each other, so I'll put them both in 4201, with part one in 4186, fifteen years earlier.

That would put Crovax's birth in 4174, going by him being 12 in part one, but at this point I find the ages of the Weatherlight crewmembers so unreliable that I've decided not to put them on the timeline at all. The one exception to that is Gerrard's, since his age is actually supported by Rath and Storm, and since it becomes important later on for dating the epilogue of Bloodlines.

So, to summarize, the timeline will be updated thus:

  • ~4165: Fall of Oneah
  • Years after 4165, but before 4205: Heart of Shanodin, What Leaf Learned of Goblins
  • 4178/9: Gerrard born.
  • ~4185: Ashes of the Sun
  • 4186: Born to Greatness, part one
  • 4193: Starke interferes with Vuel's initiation
  • 4193-1495/6: Vuel's war against Kondo and Multani
  • ~4195: Sisay's Quest
  • 4196: Scalebane's Elite
  • 4198: Gerrard, Mirri and Rofellos join the Weatherlight
  • 4201: Born to Greatness parts two and three
  • 4204: Maelstrom, Torrent, Rath & Storm (first quarter)
  • 4205: Rath & Storm (last three quarters), Gerrard's Quest
  • ??? (Possible Future): Rath and Storm (framing sequence)

Phew! Finally all that is done! Not gonna lie, getting all this stuff untangled was a bit of a chore, and it took way longer than I thought. Hence this update being late. But don't worry, I will make it up to you all. This weekend I'll put up a short bonus review of the earliest issues of The Duelist! These have been made available to me at just the right moment, as they contain the earliest version of the story of Antiquities, and two weeks from now I'll be looking at the definitive version of that story: the novel The Brothers' War! Hope you will all join me for those reviews!


  1. Monumental article! Yo da man. Welcome back, Berend.

    That being said, HEADS-UP TIME:
    - "an import part";
    - "one the one hand";
    - "not to difficult";
    - "exiting moment";
    - "Konda and Multani".

    1. Thanks for the heads up! I couldn't find the "one the one hand" one, the rest has been fixed.

  2. Great article, and a nice summary of all the continuity mishap that happened during this period.
    I'm glad you insisted on the fact that the Weatherlight Saga wasn't this Great Revision that most people associate it with today, but i fear it might be too ingrained in most storyline fans to have this fact acknowledge elsewhere (unless the wiki consider your blog a primary source and allow us to edit it accordingly...)
    It's nice to see you answer my question about Pirates of Dark Water, i though my comment had gone unnoticed: even if the heavy-trope writing of Maro may explain the general similarity, I remember that the rumor of plagiarism came about when people realised that Wizards bought TSR (who was publishing a Pirates of Dark Water RPG at the time) just several months before the Weatherlight Saga started.
    I won't go into too much details, but with a similar cast (headstrong female leader, impulsive proud-warrior, plucky comedic sidekick, reluctant young hero unaware of his destiny and legacy), a similar premise (alien world torn up by magical storms, good guy agile pirate ship chased by bad guy enormous monstrosity of a pirate ship), and some very specific identical details (the young hero's destiny is to use his magical pendant to find and unite a collection of magical artifacts in order to defeat the darkness, they use a ship that can fly because it was build from mystical wood that end up giving the ship sentience...) i'm genuinely curious if Maro is prohibited from talking about his original vision for the Weatherlight Saga because Wizard's copyright on this cartoon franchise expired (it went back to Warner as far as i can tell).
    But as i said, if it really inspired the storyline, it could be used to guess what that story would have been had the original team retain creative control (there's no doubt in my mind that Gerrard's Hourglass pendant and the hero's Compass pendant that allowed him to find the last artifacts are one and the same).

    But i digress; this serie of articles has been highly enjoyable, because you had the courage to do what many could not: piece together the puzzle that was the Rath-era story and make sense of it.
    You talk about the later part of the Saga contradicting the earlier ones: don't forget to check who was in charge and what authors were employed at that time.
    I personnaly blame J. Robert King for all the insanity and most of the retcons that happened in the second half of the story (and i guess his editor, for not reining him in). I'm probably in the minority, but I view The Thran as barely anything more than fan fiction written by an out of control author enamoured with his creation (seriously...that book should NOT be canon)
    As opposed to your next big project, The Brothers' War (it might still be the best Magic book published to date) which i eagerly await.

    1. (!) sorry about the wall of text, seems i got carried away...