Sunday, 6 May 2018

Dominarian Annotations, episode 7 & 8

As I predicted last time, the number of annotations for the stories have decreased dramatically now I don't have to explain the backstory of all the main characters. So today, in addition to covering episode 7 and episode 8 of Return to Dominaria, I will also talk about the map that was released alongside episode 1!

"He had been wandering for the past several years, since the Mending, exploring Dominaria but never feeling the urge to settle down."
Right, the Mending. In previous annotations I've already talked about how certain characters gave their life or their spark in order to close the time rifts over Dominaria, but lets talk a little about the capstone of that process.

In Time Spiral we saw Dominaria ravaged by time rifts that had been created by various disasters that had befallen the plane over the last few millennia. These brought creatures over from the past, future and alternate timelines, but also sucked away all the plane's mana. There were a bunch of big ones, but also an entire network of smaller rifts over the entire globe. When Jeska gave her life to close the last big one, the rift created by the death of Karona, which stretched over the entire continent of Otaria, she started a chain reaction that closed all the smaller rifts as well. (Although the flavor text of Armored Cancrix suggests it took a while for that proces to complete.) This was, as Nicol Bolas dubbed it, The Great Mending.

This Mending also had other effects though. Planeswalkers are now no longer godlike immortals, but regular wizards. All planar portals ceased to exist. And according to the last Magic Story Podcast, Dominaria stopped being the Nexus of the Multiverse. What being a Nexus means exactly has always been very vague, so that's not much of a loss, but it sure sounds significant!

"No. I wouldn't let them arrest me. Being confined in a cell is not something..." Teferi decided not to finish that thought. It wasn't the same as being trapped in a time bubble, but it wasn't something he wanted to experience again. He would never let himself be imprisoned, and anyone who tried it would find out just how dangerous he was."
A reference to Teferi's ascension, when he was trapped in a slow time bubble after the temporal disaster. The explosion had set him on fire, and from the outside he was burning for years, until a wet piece of cloth thrown in to the bubble finally dropped on him. For Teferi only seconds passed in the 25 years he was in the bubble, but apparently the experience did leave him with something like claustrophobia.

Also, remember that he used to be an old school planeswalker. During the Ice Age, when Dominaria and 11 other planes where locked off from the rest of the Multiverse, some planeswalkers went stir crazy from "only" having a dozen world to roam in. These are not the kind of people who would handle being locked up very well.

"My ancestor was Mageta the Lion." Kwende's gaze was hard as iron. "He was in Ki'pamu when you destroyed it."
Mageta the Lion was a general of the Ki'pamu League, an alliance of city-states on the northern Jamuraan continent. He played a small role in the Prophecy novel. The geographical location of the Ki'pamu League has always been a bit odd, as Ki'pamu was also the name of Zhalfir's capital, which was located on the western Jamuraan continent. We did learn in Prophecy that there was a Lord Kipamu in ancient history, so presumably both the city and the League were named after him. Mageta being in the Zhalfirin Ki'pamu when it was phased out suggests there may be even more of a connection between the two.
"Oh, it's the kobolds of the Kher Ridges again, and that horrible god-dragon of theirs, Prossh."
The Kher Ridges have been around since forever, both in-story and out. In-story they have been called the Kher Ridges since at least the Brothers' War, despite all the places around them changing name many times over the years. For us, we first hear of the place on Roc of Kher Ridges in Alpha. Then in the first supplement of The Duelist, from may 1994, it was brought into the storyline. The Caves of Koilos, where Urza and Mishra found the Mightstone and Weakstone and accidentally opened the portal to Phyrexia, were located in the Kher Ridges. Kher Keep has so far only been seen on the cards.

Prossh was introduced in the Commander 2013 set, but we don't know much about him. From the description of the Commanders in that set we learned that he is worshiped by the kobolds, and that he is a big old meany.

"Muttering to herself, "Don't burn down the forest"
This is a neat reference to the beginning of the novel The Purifying Fire, in which Chandra does just that.
"To the Yavimaya forest, I believe. It's just off the coast on the far side of the Kher Ridges."
Yavimaya was a sentient forest, which was first introduced to us in Ice Age, and first became significant in Alliances, when the elves of Fyndhorn migrate there when their own forest is falling to the rising seas. Later sources reveal the forst is much, much more ancient though. It was here that Rith was imprisoned after being eaten by the magnigoth treefolk Nemata, millennia before the Brothers' War!

There is a bit of a continuity conundrum surrounding Yavimaya. According to some flavor texts (Defiant Elf, Firewake Sliver) it was destroyed. Then in the Future Sight novel it turned up alive and... not exactly well, but still there. Weirdly though, it was said to be on the location of Argoth, and the time rift that had been created when Urza activated the Golgothian Sylex (which he did at Argoth) was seen right above it. For a while I theorized that maybe the original Yavimaya was destroyed but that Multani saved a part of it by transplanting it to the former location of Argoth (like how he transplanted part of Yavimaya to Urborg in Apocalypse). In the last Magic Story Podcast Ethan Fleischer and Kelly Digges take another approach though. They assume Jhoira is simply mistaken when she says Yavimaya is located where Argoth once was, and that the rift may have moved, or even that is was simply so big it covered both forests. That still leaves me wondering about that Defiant Elf saying Yavimaya was destroyed... Perhaps there was a period just after the Invasion in which it nearly fell to some unknown threat, and the elf left before the situation was turned around?
"They are animated trees, created and sent by Multani ... Multani is an elemental, and has been stuck in a semiconscious state, recovering from terrible injuries."
Multani was the Maro-Sorcerer of Yavimaya, who spoke for the forest. When Urza first arrived to get wood for the Weatherlight Multani lured the planeswalker into a trap in which he would feel all the pain he and his brother did to the land during their war, but after he learned of the Phyrexians the elemental decided to aid his former prisoner against them. This included training Gerrard in Maro-Sorcerery. (Yes, Gerrard was capable of spellcasting. He just never seemed to do it.) Yavimaya ended up becoming one of the most successful bastions of defense during the Phyrexian Invasion. During the Rift Era Multani merged with the rift above Yavimaya, which protected the forest from its mana draining effect, but took its toll on the Maro-Sorcerer. Eventually Jeska came in and used Multani's energies to close the rift for good. We now have confirmation that Multani survived, although he is still in a pretty bad state from the look of things.

"I am Karn. And I am someone who has been gone for a long time."
Karn being a friend of Jaya is new information. I guess the must have met in the 300 years between Karn's ascension at the end of Apocalypse and his corruption in Planar Chaos.
"Mother Luti lifted a brow, and pointed to Jaya's goggles hanging from Chandra's belt. She said, "I believe those are mine."
And here we have the revelation we've been waiting for ever since the new look of Jaya was spoiled: the confirmation that Jaya has been with us for years in the form of Mother Luti! Luti was introduced as a mentor figure for Chandra back in The Purifying Fire. I could get into more detail, but you really should check out Jay13x's article over on MTGSalvation on the Luti/Jaya theory for much more details than I could give you!

And with that we've already reached the end of episode 8! Let's move on to some map stuff!

Obviously if I covered every story than happened on every landmass on this map, this article would end up as big as all the articles on this blog put together, so I'll stick to listing where the sets and the most important books take place, as well as giving the first appearance of places. Many thanks to Ethan Fleischer for giving a few more hints in the comments of the last annotations article, as some of these place names are so obscure I had no idea where to start looking!

I'll be going through these in a roughly north-west to south-eastern fashion, with a few jumps here and there when the continents don't neatly line up.

We start with a doozy! We've known of the northern polar continent since The Duelist #16, which gave us the first glimpse of the Dominarian globe. There is some interesting archaeology to do behind its name though. In a thread on MTGSalvation, Pete Venters said the part of this continent that stretches down to Terisiare is called Upper Videnth. In a later post in the same thread he mentioned that the story "The Light in the Forest" from the Tapestries anthology happened here. When placing that story there, he hoped to tie the werewolves mentioned in it to a werewolf card from Ice Age, only to later discover that Lesser Werewolf is a card from Legends, not Ice Age. Still, the placement stuck, and in 5th Edition Greater Werewolf was reprinted as a reference to the werewolves of Upper Videnth. And what name turns up in the flavor text of that 5th Edition Werewolf? Exactly: Northland!

So now we know that that is the official name for the entire polar continent. Is the bit that reaches south towards Terisiare still called Upper Videnth? I would assume so. But we'll talk a little more about that when we reach "Greater Videnth" on the map.

The Spice Isles and Tolaria West
The Spice Isles were first mentioned in Final Sacrifice, when the crew was making their map of Dominaria so they could send people back home after they were involuntarily summoned by wizards. These islands have proven an enduring part of Dominaria's geography, even though barely any stories happen in them. Note that the chain actually loops around the back of the map to Terisiare.

Tolaria West was of course introduced in Future Sight with its eponymous card. It wasn't seen in the story though, only in some background articles. It was first shown in The Prodigal Sorcerers, but we didn't visit it until the current story!

The Domains
The Domains are not mentioned on the map, but I would like to quickly point out that this term was introduced in the Greensleeves trilogy, although those books were very vague and inconsistent about what they contained. At one point they even suggested it was simply another name for Dominaria! In The Duelist #16 it was cleared up: The Domains are a region that is made up of Aerona,the Burning Isles, and all the islands in between. The name didn't make it into the cardgame until Time Spiral's Tromp the Domains.
Which, appropriately enough, featured the Domain mechanic!
Aerona & Icehaven
The continent of Aerona, and the fact that it was named after a fertility goddess who according to legend sacrificed herself so people could plant crops on her body, also comes from Final Sacrifice. As does the fact that Icehaven lies north of it. That part of the book also mentions Stonehaven lying east of Aerona, which ended up being the western part of Corondor. We've seen this continent's shape many times before, including on the 1997 Magic Calendar map and this map, of which the origin escapes me at the moment. Those two maps are extremely detailed, showing that Aerona is filled mostly with places originally mentioned in Alpha or throughout the Harper Prism novels.

Of the locations that are mentioned on the new map, Keld, Benalia, & Llanowar have appeared very often in the storyline, most notably in the Encyclopedia Dominia, Urza's block, Invasion block and, for Keld, Prophecy and the anthology The Myths of Magic. Sursi, Verdura, Foriys & Shanodin have been namechecked often, but rarely seen. For example, I don't think we've got a single story in Foriys. Just some cards showing giants and the patrols that fight them.

The Eastern Domiains
Now we reach some very obscure places. Stahaan and Orvada originated in the novel Ashes of the Sun. Orvada later made one or two appearances in the Encyclopedia Dominia, and was then forgotten about until this newest release! Denawa comes from Rath and Storm. Gerrard mentions he killed a scarmithal (whatever that is) of the coast there. That's it. That's all we ever heard of this place before Dominaria came out! I can also be short about Sardnia, which was named in Bloodlines among a list of nations that the Phyrexians invaded because they detected Urza's genetic manipulation among the population there, and Ru-Nora, which was featured in the story "Deathwings" in The Dragons of Magic. It was a strange tropical island where the native seemed to be descendants of the Thran who had somehow lived there in isolation for millennia, despite their island being the spawning grounds of a flight of blue dragons.

Finally there is Walassa, the one place on the map that was never mentioned before. It was made up for the upcoming Heroes of Dominaria boardgame. We have since learned that one of the new Tolarian academies is located there.

The Burning Isles
On the eastern edge of the Domains lie the Burning Isles. Urborg and Bogardan are the two most famous ones, though there was also Steel Island, from The Duelist #13, and from the looks of it many others. Urborg and Bogardan were introduced in the set Legends, but only really expanded upon in Mirage block. Urborg later played a prominent role in Invasion block, as it became the center of the war after the Stronghold was transplanted there from Rath. Bogardan has remained more mysterious. We've seen characters from there, like Kolo Meha in the Legends II trilogy (A relative of Naru Meha), and we've seen characters as far away as Keld use Bogardan fire magic, but we've never visited it until Jhoira parked on its beach in the current story.

The continent of Corondor was first shown in the Shadow Mage comic and was the setting for several Armada comics, including Dakkon Blackblade (if you look closely on the map you can see the Duelist Chasm of Golthonor on Cornodor, which was formed by the energy released when Dakkon killed the Elder Dragon Piru), as well as the videogame Battlemage. Several places on the continent where referred to in Mirage, as Mangara hailed from its White Woods and brought over some Quirion Elves to Jamuraa, but the name itself didn't find its way into the cardgame until, you guessed it, Time Spiral, when Mangara of Corondor was printed.

The supercontinent of Jamuraa was first introduced in Mirage, though that block really only focused on the north-western tip of the western continent, where Zhalfir, Femeref and Suq'ata are located. After that we've seen that region in a number of short stories, but the main stories that impacted it were of course Invasion, when Teferi phased out Zhalfir, and Time Spiral block, in which he failed to bring it back. That peninsula was given a detailed map in the 1998 Calendar, though it abruptly ended in the east with the edge of the Great Desert. We later got maps of the entire supercontinent on, so we at least knew the outline of it.

The Jedit Ojanen comic took place in Jamuraa and introduced Sukurvia (and the surrounding locations, which didn't make it into this map), but it wasn't until the comic was replaced with the novels of the Legends I trilogy that we knew exactly where that was. These books also placed Arboria and Scarwood from the card game on south-western Jamuraa. Although, if you read my Jedit review and its reactions, you'll find that there may be Scarwoods on Terisiare and Aerona as well!

Prophecy told the story of a Keldon invasion of the northern continent of Jamuraa, introducing us to the Vintara, Nakaya, Zerapa and the Ki'pamu city-states. Honestly, they weren't very inspiring, so I know of only one short story, in The Dragons of Magic, that revisited this place.

The central Jamuraan continent was never shown before we saw Teferi go through Urza's giant puzzlebox there. I initially thought it was new as well, but Ethan said it was from Ashes of the Sun. About an hour of skimming the book later I found it: when the main character Ayesh is asked by her minotaur captors to tell them of human civilizations, she lists a whole bunch, including "the eastern lands where only women own property, the Tivan Desert where only men do and women are property..." Here's hoping the society of Tivan changed in the last 400 years!

As I mentioned last time, I am bit disappointed Jamuraa's entire middle continent is just one massive desert. But I do find it funny that now there is a Great Desert on Jamuraa, as well as another desert that is about 5 times bigger!

Oh, and just so I can find it on Google searches in case Dominaria suddenly starts referencing it: in the same speech Ayesh mentions Varnalca, which can be found on those two detailed Aerona maps I linked to above.

Madara was the setting of the Legends II trilogy, which told the story of Tetsuo Umezawa, Ramses Overdark and Nicol Bolas. It was also briefly glimpses in Time Spiral block, where we learned that it was now overrun with nekoru, and that the Talon Gates we had seen in Legends II were actually the remains of a demonic leviathan Nicol Bolas had killed ages and ages ago. It is also where The Eldest was Reborn, so to speak.

Madara's location was never shown on a map before now. Scott McGough, who wrote Legends II, has said that he had imagined it in the sea in the middle of the Jamuraan supercontinent, but this official release moved it much further west, which also allows for it to be a bit bigger.

This island was the setting of Portal: Second Age. It got a little description in the strategy guide for that expansion and a volume of the Magic Encyclopedia, but that's it. I imagine we will either never see it again, or that it will be in a much transformed form, as all the guns going around there are a big no no for creative.

Obviously, this is the home of the Shivan Dragons. While the dragon was introduced in Alpha, and we saw several of them in the earliest stories, we didn't get a description of their home until The Duelist #16, which revealed that it was a large island surrounded by a volcanic "ring of fire", which boils the water around it. Shiv didn't get a major story feature until Urza's Saga/Time Streams. Only then did we get to see its non-dragon inhabitants, including the viashino (previously we had seen viashino on Tamingazin and in the Great Desert of Jamuraa). After that, just like Zhalfir, its main stories are the phasing out of a large chunk of it in Invasion block and that chunk's return in Time Spiral block.

Otaria is the continent on which Odyssey block and Onslaught block took place. As I mentioned in the Odyssey review, we were originally given a map that looked much different from the continent we see here, but apparently this version already existed on the globe created by Pete Venters way back when. As the map from Odyssey is a rather simplistic blob, I prefer this more realistic looking version. The fact that only Pardia and Krosa are named on this new map suggests that none of the other landmarks have survived the ravages the Mirari and Karona inflicted upon the continent. (See upcoming review on this very blog for more details on that destruction!)

As Ethan revealed in his article on the creation of the map, the inclusion of Tamingazin is actually a way to fix a mistake made by the creative team behind Odyssey block. They thought they had a completely empty piece of land to work with, but the northern part of that continent had already been used to place Tamingazin, the setting of the novel The Prodigal Sorcerer! In fact, its placement and shape are exactly what Pete Venters said about Tamingazin in that MTGSally threat from earlier. Ethan's fix, making the events of The Prodigal Sorcerer part of the backstory of the Cabal's rise to power is in my opinion a brilliant idea. Exactly the way I think continuity should be handled!

Long live new-old Otariamingazin!

Oh, and by the way, Umber, the island to the north of Otaria, is also from The Prodigal Sorcerer. We learn nothing about it, but it is said the Garan elves come from the north, "beyond even the Umber". Now we have Umber on the map, we can see that north of it... lies Upper Videnth. So, the Garan, those small martial artists with color-changing eyes, are actually polar elves?

This is an odd one. And also a big one. Terisiare was the setting of Antiquities, The Dark, Ice Age, Alliances and Coldsnap, all the novels and comics related to those sets, Song of Time, and the non-flashback half of Planeswalker. That's quite a lot. In fact, if you look on the timeline between the year 0 and the year 3285, pretty much everything you see happens on Terisiare. From the other continents we hear only snippets. Yet after Coldsnap it suddenly gets very quiet over there. Yavimaya plays a big role in Time Streams, Bloodlines and the Invasion trilogy, and New Argive gets mentioned a bunch of times, but that's it! It's a continent with loads of history, but barely any present!

It is also a continent that is no longer a continent. Between the massive strip-mining during the Brothers' War, the detonation of the Golgothian Sylex, the erosion by glaciers during the Ice Age and the flooding that followed it, it has now broken up into a number of smaller islands. New Argive is the biggest, housing the country of the same name that was created by the merger of Kjeldor and Balduvia in Alliances. Yavimaya we discussed in the annotations above. Gulmany comes from Planeswalker, and Almaaz from Song of Time. Barely anything of these last two has made it into the cardgame. Lat-Nam, finally, was the location of a wizarding school whose complicated past I've delved into in this article.

Though perhaps this card will make me write a little addendum to that article one of these days... 
Greater Videnth
Hey, another Videnth! Where did that come from? Well, it is from the first supplement of The Duelist. That magazine contained an article on the story of Antiquities written like an argument between two historians who couldn't agree on what exactly happened. One of them says that Terisiare is way too big for Urza and Mishra to have ruined completely, and suggests Greater Videnth as the location of the war, and Little Videnth as the former Argoth. (In the early days of the canon there was some talk of Terisiare being a "lost continent" with a mysterious past. That has quietly been dropped over time.)

Then the comic Shadow Mage listed the known locations of Dominaria, but instead of Greater Videnth it mentioned Upper Videnth. We never really heard from it again, until years later, as I mentioned at the beginning of this whole conversation, Pete Venters said Upper Videnth was the part of Northland that stretches to the south above Terisiare. He also said it was called this because it was once colonized by people from a long ago civilization on the island labeled Greater Videnth on the current map, which he just called Videnth.

For those confused by all the Videnths:
  • In The Duelist it was said a Greater Videnth and a Little Videnth existed, no hint as to where.
  • Shadow Mage turned it into Upper Videnth, rather than Greater. Still no idea where it was.
  • Pete Venters then said Upper Videnth is a bit of the polar continent, and an island near it used to be called just Videnth.
  • ...and now we have a map calling that island Greater Videnth, with no name given for that south-stretching bit of Northland.
If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that the little sliver of land east of Greater Videnth is called Little Videnth, and that the two together form (or used to form) just plain "Videnth". That bit of the polar continent could then still be called Upper Videnth, though I would guess we never hear that name again because it will only cause confusion!

And thus I end up writing the longest explanation of all for a tiny bit of land that was never shown in any story and was only mentioned twice in official sources, two decades ago.

Since its so obscure, I don't have good picture for it either. Have one of a cute polar fox.
Sarpadia was the setting of Fallen Empires, and hasn't really been seen since in any big way, though we got a few glimpses. 5th Edition's Brassclaw Orcs and remarks by Pete Venters suggest the whole continent was overrun by Thrulls in the end, who never figured out that there might be more land over the seas. A bunch of stories from the anthologies Tapestries and Distant Planes do seem to happen in a post-Fallen Empires setting full of humans, elves and cat warriors though. None of them outright state they happen on Sarpadia, but they have Sarpadian ruins, or people speaking Old Sarpadic as a lingua franca. My suggestion to make these two portrayals fit is to say those anthology stories happened on the small islands surrounding the continent, and that Sarpadia itself is still a thrull infested wildernis

Frozen Reaches
We end on another weirdo. We've never even seen this continent before and only knew it existed because Pete Venters mentioned a continent on the southern pole in that good old Dominarian Geography thread at MTGSally. As for the name... no one has any idea! Even Ethan Fleischer had to admit they took the name from a fan-made map! So somewhere out there we either have someone who could tell us where they got that name from, or there is a fan we should congratulate on the fact that their random made-up name made it into the canon!

There is loads more Dominarian geography we could talk about, but I've covered everything on the new map, and this article is long enough already, so I'm signing off for now. Next week will be the review of Chainer's Torment, and the week after there will be more annotations. Perhaps I'll look at the Magic Story Podcasts then, as they contain some interesting timeline tidbits.

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