Saturday, 7 April 2018

Dominarian Annotations, episodes 3 & 4

Two weeks on, with two new episodes of the Dominaria story released. High time to see what old lore has been referenced in them, so let's just dive into the annotations for Return to Dominaria episode 3 and episode 4!

"They were on the coast of Bogardan"
Bogardan is one of the Burning Isles. Before it crashed into the sea the Weatherlight was hovering above Urborg, another island in that chain, so it makes sense that the closest shore to its wreckage is Bogardan.

Bogardanian history is less well explored than that of Urborg, but we do know it is the island that most clearly fits the "Burning" description. Every card named after it shows fire of some sort, and we've seen Bogardan fire-magic used from Keld (in The Myths of Magic) to Madara (In the Legends II trilogy, which I have not yet covered on this blog.)

"All that was left was the skyship's Thran metal skeleton"
I've talked about the Thran last time, but I'll note here that the Weatherlight wasn't made by them. Urza found a Thran Mana Rig on Shiv, restored it and used it to produce Thran metal. This metal keeps growing after it is cast, hence the weird spikes on the Thran Golems Urza made from the same material.

"She missed Karn, Venser, and all the others. At least she knew where Teferi was, though there was no telling whether he could be persuaded to help or not. And there's Jodah."
Do I need to tell you who these people are? Ah well. I'm nothing if not a completist.

Karn is of course our favorite silver golem, first introduced in the set Weatherlight as part of the eponymous ship's crew. He was actually one of the Legacy artifacts, a collection of devices mean to be the ultimate weapon against the Lord of the Wastes (Then still a name for Yawgmoth, though I imagine the Legacy Weapon would work fine against Belzenlok as well.) We learn in Urza's block that Urza was behind the creation of the Legacy, and that he specifically created Karn for his time travel experiments (which, as we talked about last time, resulted in the destruction of the original Tolarian Academy and the sundering of time on Tolaria). He animated Karn with the Heartstone of Xantcha, a rebellious Phyrexian Sleeper Agent who had accompanied him on his travels and who had brought him back from the brink of madness, before sacrificing herself to save his life during a duel with the Phyrexian demon Gix.

Explaining the rest of Karn's history would require spelling out the stories of entire Weatherlight Saga, Otaria Saga, Time Spiral and both Mirrodin blocks, which you can get from the Wiki as well. (Or by reading this blog all the way through!) Here I'd like to just focus on the relationship between Karn and Jhoira. While Teferi was initially a bit of a bully to the golem, Jhoira was kind to Karn right from the beginning and the two became best friends. After Urza capped Karn's memory at 20 years, because the golem couldn't handle the emotional weight of immortality (he lost this cap during the Invasion story), he developed a mantra to remember the most important things:
"Jhoira is my friend-my best friend. We met at the original academy, before the accident drove us from Tolaria. She named me. Karn, from an old Thran name. She said it meant strength."
The two best friends don't actually see much of each other after Jhoira left Tolaria for Shiv and Urza send Karn to Benalia to look over the Capashen clan. They both appear in Invasion, but before they can meet Teferi phases out Jhoira alongside Zhalfir and a large part of Shiv. When Jhoira returns to Dominaria in Time Spiral she somehow already knows Karn has become a planeswalker at the end of Apocalypse, but only in Planar Chaos do we see the two reunite, after ~1150 years. At that point they are in the middle of a Multiverse-threatening disaster though, so they only share a quick moment before Karn goes of to close the Tolarian time rift. While doing that he is suddenly gripped by Phyrexian corruption and runs away, ending up on Mirrodin where we find him in Mirrodin Besieged as the new Father of Machines. He is stuck there until he is saved by Venser. We haven't seen him since, and as Jhoira doesn't seem to know where he is, I'm assuming she hasn't either.

I can be slightly more brief about Teferi. We first meet him in Mirage block, where his time magic accidentally removes his island form the timestream for 200 years, attracting Mangara, Kaervek and Jolrael and thus kickstarting the plot of that block. He also made a cameo appearance in the computer game Battlemage. In Urza's block we then learn he was a student at the Tolarian Academy, and ascended when Urza's time machine blew up and he got stuck in a slow time bubble for years (although he would only realize he had become a planeswalker years later.) While at the Academy he grew close to Jhoira and even ask her to marry him the short story Scars of the Legacy. She declined, but the two remained good friends. So much so that she was part of his plan to phase out his homeland of Zhalfir and a large part of her homeland of Shiv to protect them form the Phyrexian Invasion. The two returned to the timeline in Time Spiral and were instrumental in fixing the time rifts that threatened to destroy Dominaria, although Teferi had to sacrifice his planeswalkerhood to accomplish the safe return of the chunk of Shiv he had phased out.

Venser was one of the first new-style planeswalkers which Jhoira and Teferi met in Time Spiral. (After the Mending planeswalkers are "just" wizards who can travel between planes, but before they were immensely powerful, godlike beings.) Venser actually had some feelings for Jhoira, but she was much more interested in Jodah (whom I'll talk about next). After the crisis with the time rift had been averted he started exploring the Multiverse, and eventually returned to his hobby of building teleportation devices. Years later he was forced by Koth to come to Mirrodin to help fight against the Phyrexians, ultimately sacrificing his life to cleanse Karn from his corruption. I wonder how Jhoira will react when Karn tells her what happened...

Jodah, finally, is an 4000 year old wizard and the main character of The Gathering Dark, The Eternal Ice and The Shattered Alliance. Born during The Dark, he became immortal after hiding from goblins in a fountain that turned out to be the Fountain of Youth. Using a magical mirror to remain sane, he became the Archmage Eternal of the College of Lat-Nam, one of the longest continuously existing schools of Magic on Dominaria (Although... if your appetite has been whetted by these annotations and you want a truly deep dive into Dominarian lore, check out this article on Lat-Nam's history to see what a convoluted mess its continuity is!) Jodah became involved in many events in history. He dueled with the necromancer Lim-Dûl during his last battle against Kjeldor and Balduvia, he helped both Freyalise and Jaya through the trauma of ascending as planeswalkers and his mirror was part of the Worldspell that Freyalise used to end the Ice Age.

After that we don't really know what he has been doing until Planar Chaos, when he turned up to help with the time rifts. While doing so he and Jhoira notice some chemistry between them. The last we see of them in Future Sight is her seeking him out to get to know each other better. Their final conversation is a bit weird though, as Jhoira mentions that he is different from the Jodah she read about in histories. It's all worded rather vaguely, and people have been debating ever since if this just refers to history having the wrong idea about Jodah (this was a recurring theme in his novels), or if the Jodah we saw in Time Spiral block was an alternate timeline duplicate who ended up in our timeline due to all the Planar Chaos. Hopefully Dominaria will finally answer that question!

"It had been so long since Urza's final powerful spell had all but ended the Phyrexian invasion ... "The shape." She gestured towards the Weatherlight's bare spine. "It's Gerrard's blade in the portraits."
Phew! Finally on to the next reference!

The ending of Apocalypse is... I'll be honest, it's a bit vague and weird. As Yawgmoth enters Dominaria in the form of the death cloud, the Weatherlight tries to trap him in a volcano by bringing down a Phyrexian skyship to cover the caldera. He just slithers around it. Then Urza suggests a very strange plan of cracking open the Legacy artifacts to destroy Yawgmoth, and half of Dominaria, but the Weatherlight crew decides against that. Then they fly to the Null Moon, which is actually a Thran artifact that had been gathering up white mana for 9000 years, crack it open and channel the mana stored inside through the Weatherlight into a huge blast against Yawgmoth. This is what is shown, in a symbolic way, on the Dominaria card Triumph of Gerrard, and what Tiana means when she refers to Gerrard's blade in the story. The irony is... this attack does absolutely nothing against Yawgmoth. He just shrugs it off! Only after that do they come up with another plan, in which  Gerrard takes out Urza's eyes, the Mightstone and the Weakstone, and places them inside Karn, creating the light that killed Yawgmoth and caused Karn to merge with the rest and become a planeswalker.

If that sounds weird or silly... well, I'm not going to lie to you, the Weatherlight Saga has a rather strange and disappointing ending. But it is still crucial to the history of Dominaria, so it's nice to see that the Serrans have come up with a cooler in-universe version of the story!

"a new hull seed Jhoira had obtained from the tree elemental Molimo"
Molimo previously only made a very short cameo in Invasion. He is the nature spirit of Llanowar, the same way Multani is the nature spirit of Yavimaya. Him giving Jhoira a new Weatherseed recalls Multani giving the original Weatherseed to Urza. It came from the oldest Magnigoth tree in the forest, the Heart of Yavimaya.
"to the city of Suq'Ata"
Suq'ata is a nation on Jamuraa, known for its merchants. The people who inhabit it originally came from the plane of Rabiah, the setting into which the Arabian Nights set was retrofitted after it was decided that having the actual stories of 1001 Nights be canon in Magic would be weird.

I actually have no idea what the "city of Suq'ata" refers to. Suq'ata used to be an entire country, not just a city, and its capital was called Amiquat. We'll have to see if this is a mistake, or if Suq'ata fell apart since we last saw it.
"the locals mostly had the brown skin and dark hair of northeastern Jamuraa, or the much darker coloring that marked Femeref and the descendants of lost Zhalfir"
Coming from Rabiah, the Suq'atans were designed with Arabic influences in mind, while the other two nations of north-western Jamuraa, Zhalfir and Femeref, were more African inspired. Zhalfir used to be one of the most ancient nations on Dominaria, predating even the Brothers' War. Suq'ata was also described as quite old, though we don't know quite how long it has been around. Femeref was a much more recent creation, splitting of from Zhalfir over religious differences. We first saw these three nations in Mirage when they were on the brink of war, but a peace was brokered by Mangara. Kaervek, jealous of Mangara's influence, eventually did bring the region to war, but the three nations banded together against him.

Zhalfir is "lost" because Teferi phased it out of the timeline during Invasion to save it from the Phyrexians. During Time Spiral block he tried to bring it back but before it could be returned another planeswalker, Jeska, mended the temporal rift it had left, preventing it from ever returning.

"Shanna Sisay ... "And you are immune to magic. The cleric's dementia spellcasting had no effect on you." Shanna shrugged, watching her thoughtfully. "It's a family trait." "I know. I knew your ancestor, Captain Sisay. I see you carry her sword.""
As the story explains, Shanna is a descendant of Sisay. Jhoira knowing Sisay is new information, but it could certainly have happened. We know from the Gerrard's Quest comic that Sisay kept in touch with other people dealing with the Legacy artifacts, and we have no idea what Jhoira was up to in the 845 years between her leaving the Tolarian Academy and the Invasion. She could very well be one of Sisay's contacts. The magic resistance stuff is harder to place though. There was never any mention of Sisay having it. In fact, she was mind controlled by Volrath at one point, so we've seen spells have effect on her. Hopefully we'll get more of an explanation about this ability down the line. Maybe Sisay had kids with someone who was immune to magic?
"Cabal agents, trying to get the merchants' route maps, so the Cabal can attack their ships and caravans. People forget they started out as common thieves in Otaria."
Otaria was the continent on which Odyssey and Onslaught blocks happened. It's where the Cabal are from, so Shanna is right about that. But it's worth noting the creation of the Cabal is shown in the story "Family Man" from the anthology The Secrets of Magic. This story was reposted on the official WotC site Legendology (which is now defunct), and then further reposted on MTGSalvation. You can go read it now! I won't spoil it for you, but I will say "common thieves" is selling the Cabal short.

"The demon Belzenlok wants to rewrite the history of the world, with himself as the force behind every act of darkness, all the way back to the fall of the Primeval Dragons twenty thousand years ago."
The Primeval Dragons were the five Legendary dragons from Invasion, Darigaaz, Rith, Treva, Dromar and Crosis. They are of uncertain origin, but immortal and infinitely powerful, and conquered Dominaria in very ancient times. They claimed to be the origin of all civilization and that they predated the splitting of Magic into five colors, though this might just be boasting (especially considering Nicol Bolas is older than them...)

Darigaaz was befriended by a King Themeus, but was betrayed by him and imprisoned in an volcano. This broke the link of immortality between the primevals, and they were defeated by a group of mortal wizards called the numena, who took their powers for themselves. One of these numena was Kuberr, who was later worshiped as a god by the Cabal. Rith was swallowed whole by the gigantic treefolk Nemata. Treva, Dromar and Crosis were imprisoned in a library, an underwater treasure hoard and a tar pit respectively.

Millennia later Darigaaz was reincarnated, though he did not remember his past life. He was recruited by Urza into his coalition against Phyrexia. But the evil planeswalker Tevesh Szat, bent on the destruction of all life on Dominaria, tricked Darigaaz into releasing the other primevals. When all five were restored they regained their ancient power, which included control over the Dominarian dragon flights, and attacked coalition forces and Phyrexians alike, wanting to once more rule the plane themselves. Only Karn could bring Darigaaz back to his senses. Realizing what he had unleashed, Darigaaz killed himself by plummeting into a volcano. The Weatherlight then drove Crosis back into his tar pit and Nemata once again ate Rith. Treva and Dromar were torn apart by the dragon flights they had controlled moments before.

"they sailed the barque to Aerona and reached Benalia City"
Unlike Suq'ata City, this one actually makes sense. The capital of Benalia has always been Benalia City.
"Danitha Capashen, who was distantly related to Captain Gerrard ... I'm Capashen. I'm Raff. I heard everything. I want to go in my sister's place."
In addition to the Legacy, Urza also started up the Bloodline Project, which guided breeding across Dominaria to create the perfect hero to wield the Legacy. One of the families involved in this project was clan Capashen, one of the seven noble families of Benalia, with Gerrard ending up as the "Heir to the Legacy".

It's actually kind of amazing there are still Capashens left. The Phyrexians discovered the Bloodlines Project centuries before the Invasion, and had been raiding locations where they detected its subjects ever since. Gerrard's closest family was killed in such a raid while he was just an infant. Clan Capashen's guardian, Karn, took the him to Sidar Kondo to be raised in secret. Gerrard later returned to Benalia, but during the Invasion Benalia City was routed, and the leaders of clan Capashen where killed and displayed on their palace walls.

Clearly some Capashens where hiding out somewhere though. We already saw an Adom Capashen turned up in the flavor texts of Time Spiral block. From the character descriptions WotC has been posting on Tumblr we know Danitha and Raff are the kids of an Aron Capashen. Perhaps a son or grandson of Adom?

"Jodah of Tolaria himself said I was one of the most accomplished students he had ever seen."
Jodah being "of Tolaria" is new. He has millennia experience running magic schools though, so I imagine he's a natural fit. As for why he wasn't at the Original Tolaria? Well, we know from the epilogue of The Shattered Alliance that he talked to Urza to fill the planeswalker in on all the stuff he missed during his long absence from Dominaria since the end of the Brothers' War. I wouldn't be surprised if Urza left such a bad impression that Jodah wanted nothing to do with Tolaria as long as he was the headmaster. Urza has that effect on people.
"Jhoira pulled her timepiece out of her vest. "I'm expecting a-" With a rush of wind and golden light, Ajani Goldmange appeared on the shore. He gazed up at the Weatherlight with a satisfied expression. "-a friend to arrive." Jhoira smiled. "Now we are ready."
We already knew Ajani visited Dominaria before (we actually saw him there in the comic Gathering Forces) but him being friends with Jhoira is new information. His inclusion makes a lot of sense though. With Belzenlok usurping the plane's stories, a member of Tamiyo's Story-Circle is a natural fit for the good guys.
"Tiana's first conscious thought came as she stood in the Cathedral of Serra"
There are of course many cathedrals of Serra across the Multiverse. But the most famous one, the one who got a real crappy card in Legends, is located in Sursi. This country, originally introduced in the flavor text of Mesa Pegasus, is where Serra died at the end of the Homelands comic.

"Lyra Dawnbringer stepped forward"
Lyra is obviously a reference to Reya Dawnbringer. There is not much more to say though, as Reya was one of those unfortunate legendary creatures that never made it into any story.
"She had been born knowing that Lyra was one of the angels who had come to Dominaria from Serra's Realm, that Lyra was as close as any angel would ever come to the blessed Serra, lost when she had sacrificed herself to heal Benalia."
Big bad Belzenlok may be all about distorting history, but apparently that doesn't mean the good guys are the ones who keep the story straight on how everything used to be. This account of Serra's death doesn't match at all with what we've seen before.

Serra left her Realm after the Phyrexian infestation there began, moving to Ulgrotha, the plane where Homelands takes place. There she fell in love with another planeswalker, Feroz. Together they nurtured Ulgrotha, which had been ravaged by the Apocalypse Chime, back to health, but they refuse to let it go once it could stand on its own. One day Feroz was killed by a fire elemental during an experiment. Serra left Ulgrotha for Sursi, where she was attacked by someone claiming to be a planeswalker. She decided she no longer wants to fight and let herself be killed.

That story sounds really weird when summarized that way. Keep in mind that the Homelands comic treats Serra as a person, not a goddess. It is all about her and Feroz tempering each others bad sides and learning to let go. Later stories kind off ruined it, as Urza's block has her creating the Realm after a disaster on her home plane, then leaving it after the Phyrexians invade. If you put all that together it kind of starts looking like Serra is a person who runs away every time things get hard. Not exactly what you would expect from a goddess, so I can see why the Serrans would try to come up with a better story!

"Buildings floated in midair, all with round turreted roofs and elegant high arches"
This architecture looks like the original Serra's Realm, and is new to Dominaria.
"The knowledge she had been born with told her that the man with the brown hair and goatee, dressed as a Benalish man of arms, was a depiction of the martyr Gerrard. Her brows drew together as she studies the spear he held."
Poor Gerrard! He wasn't just a man of arms, he was a Master of Arms!
"So far she had to drive off a kavu, its tongue aflame"
The Kavu first appeared in Invasion. They were slumbering in caves underneath Yavimaya, so deep that even Multani had never sensed them, but they were awakened by druids to fight against the Phyrexians. "Kavu" means "Ever watchful" and "Carved from stone" in druidic. In the stories we never see them outside of Yavimaya, but cards like Kavu Monarch make clear that they did show up elsewhere as well. The one Tiana fought is obviously a reference to the most tournament viable of all of them.

That's all the references I spotted. Let me know if I missed anything or if you want more information on anything I've discussed above, and check back in two weeks for my annotations for episodes 5 and 6!


  1. Judging from the quote about the fall of the Primeval Dragons, I assume the date of 20000 years ago used in Legions for their imprisonment is now confirmed (instead of the Planeshift one)?

    1. I guess so! I'll talk more about that when I get to the Legion review.