Writer - J. Robert King
Cover art - Brom
Back cover art - Donato Giancola
Interior art - Brian "Chippy" Dugan, Dana Knutson, Todd Lockwood, Anson Maddocks, R.K. Post, Mark Tedin & Anthony Waters.
First released in February 2001
We pick up directly where the last book left. Everyone is still at Koilos as the Rathi Overlay starts dumping hordes upon hordes of invaders all around. The coalition army braces itself for the oncoming wave, but then the nine titans suddenly planeswalk away, transporting the troops to various positions across the globe. The Weatherlight and the metathran army end up on Urborg, where Crovax has set up shop (after eating Tsabo Tavoc for her failure). Eladamri and his half of the army are taken to Keld, where the Skyshroud forest has just materialized.
Finally, Darigaaz and his dragon army are taken to Shiv where the Phyrexians are trying to kill an ancient dragon encased in stone. Turns out there are 5 of these Primeval Dragons imprisoned across Dominaria, and that they once ruled the world. The Phyrexians succeed in killing the one in Shiv, but Tevesh Szat convinces Darigaaz to release the others to help fight against the invasion.
After dropping off the armies the planeswalkers themselves journey to Phyrexia where they plan to install a network of bombs that will destroy the entire plane. They initially make good progress, until they are betrayed. Tevesh Szat seemingly kills Kristina due to accidental friendly fire, but later hunts down Daria when she's out of her Titan Engine to sneak around. Urza then reveals he knew of Szat's betrayal, but didn't do anything. You see, he needed souls to charge his most powerful bombs, but Barrin convinced him killing loads of people to do so would be unethical, thus he convinced himself he needed an a single, immensely powerful criminal instead. Thus he recruited Szat and let him commit crimes against other immortals. Upon this revelation the other planeswalkers just stare at Urza in silence, realizing just how far gone he really is.
In Urborg Agnate is seriously depressed over losing Thaddeus, and nearly gets himself killed in quicksand. However, he is saved by the troops of the lich lord Dralnu. Dralnu takes Thaddeus to the underground city of Vhelnish, where he claims to give fallen soldiers a second shot at glory. The two commanders make an alliance, and Dralnu washes Agnate's feet as part of the alliance ritual. Agnate meanwhile falls badly for Dralnu, seeing him as a replacement for Thaddeus.
While Agnate is gone, the metathran army fares badly. Gerrard, inspired by seeing Tahngarth fight, decides to hop over to Hurloon to recruit an entire army of minotaurs. Unfortunately Hurloon has been completely overrun with Phyrexians who are busy transmuting its inhabitants like they did with Tahngarth back in Rath. The Weatherlight manages to destroy the Phyrexian command there and bring their new army to Urborg. During a short moment of rest the saved minotaurs gather to honor Tahngarth, who had been dreading facing others of his species since his mutilation.
In Keld Eladamri meets up with Astor, the warlord from Myths of Magic, but their armies don't fare well. The losing battle turns into a rout when the Keldon Twilight prophecy comes true and the warlords of old rise... only to start fighting for the side of the Phyrexians. Then things get weird. The cudgel of Doyenne Tajamin hits one of the resurrected warlords, but this holy cudgel can't handle the sacrilege of that act and starts burning red hot. She tosses the thing away and it melts the entire glacier the fight takes place upon. The Phyrexians and zombies die, as do a lot of the coalition forces, but a number of the good guys survive, ending up in a huge underground cave where they are saved by the Golden Argosy, the ship of Kradak, the founder of Keld. Most of the Keldons then leave the ship again to rebuild their home, but Eladamri and his troops enter a dreamlike state and are whisked away to Urborg by the Argosy.
There things are not going much better. Agnate discovers he is dying, as Dralnu has infected him with a wasting disease when he washed his feet. Eventually he signs over his part of the army to Grizzlegom, the commander of the Hurloon forces, who immediately has Dralnu and his troops destroyed. Meanwhile the Predator attacks the Weatherlight. Tahngarth manages to kill Greven il-Vec and Sisay dumps the disabled ship into the Stronghold volcano. But in the chaos Gerrard and Squee are captured by Ertai and brought to Crovax's throne room.
While all this is going on Darigaaz is paying little attention to the Phyrexians. Instead he journeys across the globe to awaken the Primevals. But this proces brings out a darkness in him. First he awakens Rith in Yavimaya, but this requires the sacrifice of the lord of the black dragons. The awakening of Treva in New Argive requires the sacrifice of all the other dragon lords, and in the proces of awakening Dromar in the ruins of Old Vodalia countless dragons die as well. But as the Primevals awaken, Darigaaz also feels power growing inside himself. As it turns out, he actually is a Primeval himself: a reincarnation of the original red Primeval, recreated to awaken the others. Finally the four Primevals head to Urborg to awaken the fifth: Crosis. They sacrifice themselves, but are then reborn, more powerful than ever. Immediately they start killing Phyrexians and coalition forces alike, seeking to reconquer Dominaria.
Darigaaz himself attack the Weatherlight, where he is confronted with Karn, whose memories have begun to come back ever since he broke his vow of pacifism in the last book. Karn reaches out to Darigaaz, and manages to pierce the bloodlust of the Primevals. Darigaaz kills himself in order to break the Primeval's chain of power. Then Rith is re-devoured by the giant treefolk in which she had been imprisoned (revealed next novel to by Nemata), who had followed her all the way from Yavimaya. The Weatherlight drives Crosis back into his tar pit prison, but crashes in the proces, after which Treva and Dromar are killed by the dragon nations.
Back in the Stronghold, Crovax tells Gerrard Yawgmoth has the power over life and death, and promises the rebirth of Hanna if Gerrard joins the Phyrexians. To prove this, he kills Squee, who is then resurrected. He also tries to demoralize Gerrard by showing him how Agnate and Darigaaz both fell to evil temptations, and then reveals the true bombshell: so did Urza!
While journeying through Phyrexia Urza started getting more paranoid. Shaken by Barrin's death, enamored by Phyrexia's beauty and dismayed by the glee with which his companions would destroy that beauty, he eventually fell to Yawgmoth's attempts to convert him. He killed Taysir when that planeswalker tried to stop him, and even succeeded the final test Yawgmoth gave him by walking away when he was shown Mishra, who apparently has been tortured for millennia in the depths of Phyrexia.
Having heard all this, Gerrard stepts through a portal into the ninth sphere of Phyrexian where he and Urza bow before Yawgmoth himself.
Then, just as every hope seems lost, Karn emerges from the wreckage of the Weatherlight with the Thran Tome, saying he knows what must be done to save the world. To be concluded!
- There still is no sight of empress Galina in the story, but the Vodalian merfolk to join the coalition, without any fanfare, during the attack on Urborg.
- Skyshroud is freezing in the Keldon climate, but Eladamri gets Freyalise to cast a spell to maintain its warmth. As a bonus the spell also keeps out the Keldons, but she can't ward the forest against Phyrexians because they were the ones who made Rath... which sounds a bit odd to me, considering Skyshroud didn't originate on Rath either, but hey, I'm not a planeswalker.
- This is actually the first time we see Urza's inner thoughts since the epilogue of Planeswalker!
- And what inner thoughts they are... Barrin told Urza he couldn't ethically charge the soul bombs as "no mortal crime would merit an immortal punishment". So Urza recruited Szat, expecting a betrayalm so he could punish the immortal Szat for an immortal crime (killing planeswalkers), and thus Szat could be executed as a way to ethically charge the soul bombs. It's a fantastic scene, suddenly revealing that Urza isn't just a socially inept weirdo, but completely off his rocker. But we'll talk more about that in the review.
- It's not really clear why Szat betrays the titans. Urza just counted on it because he is "untrustworthy and evil", but the guy is killed before he can even do an moustache-twirling monologue about why he did it!
- A bunch of cards are referenced while the planeswalkers attack Phyrexia: Phyrexian Devourer, Phyrexian Dreadnought, Diabolic Machine, Steam Beasts... More about that last one in the continuity section.
- There has been a lot of debate about just which sparks are/were inside Karn. Did he have Urza's? Glacian's? Both? Well, if you want to get even more complicated... read these lines from Planeshift:
"Darigaaz reeled at that touch. What was this? Divinity was awakening in Karn. Power undeniable. The silver man had lived a forgetful millenium, but now that his memories were returning, they were transforming him. Memory was creating this fledgling god, and with a touch, Karn awoke Darigaaz's own memories"
- That almost sounds like Karn is ascending already! An entire book before Urza's powerstone eyes are placed inside him! Of course, there is no way we can square that with everything else we know about how the spark works, but still... This actually sort of falls by the wayside in the next novel, so maybe someone came in and told King to find a better way of turning Karn into a planeswalker?
- Okay, about those Steam Beasts. Their appearance on Phyrexia is a bit odd, since the Steam Beasts from The Shattered Alliance were imitations of Phyrexian War Beasts, created by Arcum Dagsson. The Shattered Alliance only came out a few months earlier, so clearly King and Grubb each didn't know how the other would be using the things. They were probably both basing their usage of the pre-revisionist version of the Alliances story. If you read what Skaff Elias had to say about the Steam- en War Beasts in Urza-Mishra War #1 (see the last paragraphs of that article) it does sound like the Steam Beasts where also brought over from Phyrexia by Gix (then still just an unnamed Yawgmoth demon.) As it stands though, I guess we should say Dagsson based the Steam Beasts on the War Beasts, but then later the Phyrexians brought some Steam Beasts back and adopted them for their own purposes.
- Phyrexia probably also improved the things, as Urza faces one and has trouble with it. Back in The Shattered Alliance Jaya Ballard killed a whole host of War Beasts! And she was just ascended!
- Not much attention is payed to the powerlevel of the cards anyway. A Phyrexian Walker is also talked about as if it is a worthy challenge for 5 planeswalkers! Now that's an Archenemy set I want to see!
- The first metropolis of Phyrexia is called Gamalgoth. Sprawling like a fungal growth, this city appears to by Rebbec's infirmary from The Thran having continued to grow for 9000 years.
- We are told that the Sylex Blast turned Urborg from a lush jungle into the swamp it is today, and that Windgrace predates that event.
- The most obvious reference to The Myths of Magic is of course the inclusion of Astor. There is another reference to it though: when Darigaaz and Rith go to New Argive to awaken Treva, they see that the city has been sacked and it is specifically mentioned that all the books of the great library where burned. This is of course the work of Godwyn, which we saw in the story "Phyrexian Creations" from that anthology.
- Dromar is imprisoned in Old Vodalia, which is pretty cool. It is one of the very few peeks of Sarpadia we get between the pre-revisionist days and Time Spiral.
- The imprisonment of Mishra in Phyrexia might be a reference to the story "Tande's Journal", from the Encyclopedia Dominia. There Tande sees what appears to be Urza and Mishra, still locked in eternal battle, inside Phyrexia. As for whether this is the real Mishra... Later Yawgmoth seems to think so, but he thinks a lot of crazy, clearly not true stuff as well. And this would leave us with a whole load of Mishra's. On blown up in the Sylex Blast, or perhaps turned into Ramos, part of him being reincarnated as Xantcha, and now this one? I prefer to think of the one we see here as an illusion meant to torment Urza and give Yawgmoth some sick pleasure. But we never do get a definitive answer.
- Crovax implies that he killed his parents while he is playing with their corpses:
"When I was growing up, I thought you'd never understand me. If I'd known all it took was your murder and immolation, I would have done it sooner."
- Of course, Crovax's family was actually killed by Phyrexians. And since J. Robert King himself wrote his origin story in Born to Greatness, I'm assuming this was just a weird choice of words.
- Crovax is also suddenly back to being in love with Selenia. In fact, he is constantly praying to Yawgmoth to be allowed to see or touch her, and his ultimate reward will be to have her fully restored to life. At least, that's what he thinks. This while Nemesis opened with him telling the Phyrexian operating on him to remove his feelings after being tormented with visions of her. More on that in the review.
- In Prophecy the Keldons believed they originated in Jamuraa. In The Myths of Magic they believe Kradak came from Parma, which is right next door from Keld. Planeshift tries to merge these two ideas:
"The Golden Argosy, ship of titans. It was stolen from the lords of Parma by Kradak, first doyen of our people. In it, he sailed all the world and claimed it for Keld. This was before the other races spilled out across the land, stealing it. Since that time, we have journeyed afar to regain the lands that are ours."
- Of course, the Keldons who attacked Jamuraa in Prophecy were heretics, so any inconsistencies in their religion is easily explained away.
|See Keld and Parma in the north.|
- Karn says Tolaria is a myth at one point... I guess he must be considering the viewpoint of the average Dominarian at that moment, as he visited the island back in Rath and Storm!
- In the Sixth Sphere of Phyrexia Urza finds the Inner Circle members, but they look very different from what we saw before. They are now called pneumagogs, and , well... I'll just let the book itself describe them.
"While most Phyrexians were creatures of flesh and machine, Yawgmoth's Inner Circle belonged to another phylum entirely. The pneumagogs dwelt between the physical and the metaphysical worlds. They had bodies, yes - red-shelled bodies of living metal. Their insectoid legs could gallop across ground, and their rasping wings could slice through air. But these mechanisms were only the loci of their being, rooting them in time and space. Pneumagog bodies were wrapped in layer upon layer of scintillating spirit. This was the true essence of pneumagogs - brilliant, glowing, emphatic souls. Nowhere else in all the Nine Spheres did pneumagogs exist fully. When they ascended to higher spheres, only their living-metal bodies went. When they descended to lower spheres, only their spirits went. In was here, in the sixth sphere, that they were a glorious amalgam of physic and metaphysic."
- ...yeah. That sounds nothing like Gix, or Croag, or anything else we've heard about any Phyrexian up to this point. I could maybe sort of accept it if it was developed further, as there has always been a lot of hypocrisy in Phyrexia's attitude to its own dogmas. Remember how there were supposed to be no genders in Phyrexian language, yet Gix and Yawgmoth clearly retained their male identity? But there is no further explanation of these things, so they stick out like a sort thumb. More on that in the review though.
We get a bunch of information on them throughout the novel. But too be honest, it's all a bit muddled, and most of it just seems to by self-made mythology rather than actual facts.
- They once ruled Dominaria, in a time "before magic was divided by color", although I feel they are a bit too neatly distributed on the color wheel for that to be true.
- They were imprisoned for 10.000 years, though a different date will be given during Onslaught block.
- They were defeated after a King Themeus tricked Darigaaz into thinking he was his friend, after which he trapped the dragon a volcano. There is no mention of the Numena yet, that will also be new info in Legions.
- Oddly, Treva is trapped in a giant library. You'd think Dromar, the blue-centric Primeval, would be. But no, Dromar is in a jeweled hoard under the sea.
- Also weird: the mortals apparently stole various aspects of civilization from the Primevals. Fire from Darigaaz, then agriculture from Rith, writing from Treva and desire from Dromar. No idea what they took from Crosis. But... surely desire should be the black-centric Crosis' thing? And... really? They stole desire AFTER fire and writing? That seems highly unlikely to me.
- Anyway... the original library on top of Treva's prison was destroyed with the Thran. Then there was a university build on it that was destroyed when Argoth went ka-boom. And finally another library was build on the site, which in turn was destroyed during the invasion, as shown in The Myths of Magic.
- The Primevals also somehow represent conception, childhood, youth, adulthood and death (starting with the red Darigaaz as conception and going in color wheel order to Crosis representing death)
Well check back on all that to see how it fits with future revelations in the Legions review.
That is everything for now. Check back next week when I wrap-up Apocalypse and review the entire cycle!