Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Dominarian Annotations, episode 9, 10 & 11

Sorry this installment of Dominarian Annotations is a little late. Real life things came up. I haven't been able to write about the Magic Story Podcasts either, so that's still coming up in a future article, but I did cover the references in today's article, so these annotations will cover episode 9, episode 10 and episode 11 of Return to Dominaria.

Episode 9 was a bit of a controversial one, as it contained a bunch of continuity errors. With all the continuity references in Dominaria one or two of those were bound to happen at some point, but to see a whole bunch of them pile up on top of each other at once is a bit surprising. Let's run through them and see if we can't come up with some explanations for them. And let's not forget about the regular references!

"The Cylix" he told her. "It was created by Urza to help defeat the Phyrexians. I intend to take it to New Phyrexia and detonate it there."
This Cylix is the Golgothian Sylex, the artifact Urza used to explode Argoth, thereby ending the Brothers' War and beginning Dominaria's road to the Ice Age. No idea why it is suddenly being spelled differently. Magic does have a bunch of other Cylixes, and Cylix is an actual word, so perhaps it was just done to make things line up? I do get why they dropped the Golgothian though. It was always a bit weird that one of the most important artifacts in the canon was named after the hill Jesus died on. Especially since Urza is practically the opposite of Jesus. Worlds tend to die for his sins, not the other way around.

Now, the first weird thing is that the Sylex/Cylix is buried in Yavimaya. Last time I talked about the Time Spiral continuity error that said Yavimaya was located where Argoth once was, and how that week's Magic Story Podcast had suggested a few possible way to explain this problem away. So it is pretty weird to see another Yavimaya/Argoth equation just one week later! The Sylex was detonated at Argoth, so how did it end up in Yavimaya? Did the explosion just fling it up in the air and did it crash land in the next forest over? Is that why the two locations were linked through a time rift? Did the Sylex fall through the time rift? We can build on any of the explanations Ethan and Kelly gave to explain this away, but it is still kinda funny that we have to revisit this problem so soon after it seemed to be solved!

The second problem is that Urza didn't create it. It was fished up from the sea and given to Feldon of the Third Path. After the Third Path, a coalition of early Magic users focused on resisting both brothers, was destroyed by Mishra the Sylex fell into the hands of Ashnod, who only passed it on to Urza (via Tawnos) on the very last day of the Brothers' War. So Urza only knew about it for a few moments before activating it. You'd think Karn would know this, considering Urza merged with him at the moment of his ascension to planeswalkerhood in Apocalypse. Still, we do not actually know the extend to which Karn absorbed his memories, so maybe he only knows about the Sylex from Dominarian legends and history. And even if he does have Urza's memories in full, those may be compromised. Just before the merger Urza spoke about the origin story of Ramos from Mercadian Masques, which has Urza reprogramming the dragon engine to save people from the Sylex Blast, another Sylex-related continuity impossibility. So who knows, maybe Urza was deluding himself, inflating his anti-Phyrexian efforts during the Brothers' War, till the very end.

The third continuity error in this one sentence (yes, we're really still talking about the first reference in the first episode!), is that the Sylex was supposed to be destroyed. In Wayfarer the evil planeswalker Ravidel has the thing (it is later revealed he took it from "the submerged ruins of a city in Terisiare.") Ravidel uses it to threaten the Sages of Minorad so they wont interfere with his plans, but his nemesis, the young wizard Jared Carthalion, ends up destroying it. (Using the one spell capable of such a feat... Rust! Yeah. Early storylines didn't have all that many cards to base things on.)

Perhaps the best way to explain away this inconsistency lies in the weird language used to describe the Sylex in Wayfarer, which was released long before the story of Urza using the artifact as a magical nuclear bomb. (The original Antiquities story was very vague, with an unclear ending) In the comic Ravidel's sidekick, the Scarlet Vizier, says it will "annihilate anything or anyone with a direct lineage to the time of the Brothers' War." This is not what the Sylex does in the novel The Brothers' War. There it just goes boom. In my Wayfarer review I suggested maybe the working of the Sylex changed in 4000 years, or maybe the Vizier just didn't know what he was talking about. But now that we have Karn digging up the Sylex at Yavimaya, it is more likely that Ravidel just had a different bowl.

As for where that one came from... well, we know from Shattered Chains that the sages of Lat-Nam created the Stone Brain, a super powerful artifact to face the brothers with. And in The Brothers' War Feldon remarks that Drafna, the leader of Lat-Nam, might be suicidal enough to use the Sylex after the death of his wife Hurkyl. So... maybe after the actual Sylex was taken by Ashnod, Drafna attempted to create a copy? One that ended up submerged with the rest of Lat-Nam, and then dredged up by Ravidel? Just a theory, but it could explain a few things!

"He senses that the Cylix is being uncovered, brought closer to the surface, and he fears it. For good reason: it caused great damage to him."
Okay, finally, another reference! Oddly, this one also clashes a bit with a recent Magic Story Podcast. But a close read of the original material it is referencing actually suggest it is not a continuity error at all. You see, in the never released Alliances comic a group of Fyndhorn elves migrated to Yavimaya and faced "a malign sentience which takes a dislike to visitors." Though the comic was never published due to the cancellation of the whole Armada line, it is later referenced in The Eternal Ice, where "something ancient stirred" in Yavimaya in response to Freyalise's Ice Age-ending World Spell, and in The Shattered Alliance, where Jaya Ballard says she helped the Fyndhorn elves get to Yavimaya and that "something nasty" is stirring there. We never got an explanation of just what this malign/ancient/nasty something was, but in their podcast Ethan and Kelly say it was Multani, who was created by the World Spell and was in an anti-social, sapient-life-outcasting mood back then as well. That seems to contradict the claim here that Multani was hurt by the Sylex/Cylix. The World Spell was 2870 years after the Sylex Blast after all. But as The Eternal Ice talks about "something ancient", perhaps an earlier incarnation of Multani was hurt, or even killed, by the Sylex Blast, and lay dormant until the World Spell (re)created him again?

"Karn leaned forward to look. "It's your spark?" Teferi's brow furrowed. "How?" he said. "The Mana Rig." She held it out to him."
This may be me slipping from annotations into review for a moment, but I would have liked a bit more of an explanation here. The Mana Rig was never able to create or capture sparks before. On my Twitter I joked that Jhoira might have taken the amulet of Ti-Fu from Dakkon Blackblade and transferred the remnants of Dakkon's spark from it to the powerstone with the Stone Brain, but I would also have also accepted something simpler like "Your spark went into the Shivan rift when you closed it, but I have been breaking into time rifts to save you since we were students at Tolaria." I don't need an extensive magi-babble explanation, but something that gives the reveal a bit more gravitas, to make clear just how unique this is event is, would've been nice.
"Then Gideon froze, recognizing the aether trail almost before he recognized the newcomer's face. "Jace!""
And now we get to the real problem. Cause all that talk about Yavimaya, Multani and the Golgothian Sylex is nice, but those are problems you only notice if you are kind of continuity obsessive who... I dunno... runs a blog on which you review two decade old novels and comics or something weird like that. But this is where the finale of Ixalan, Wool over the Eyes, intersects with the Dominaria plot. This is part of the ongoing storyline, and the scene that was used to start the hype for Dominaria. So when this turned out not to match up, a lot more people got upset.

The main thing that got people's goat was Jace's characterization. He does seem a lot less hopeful and a lot more smug this time around. Now perhaps we could blame that on stress, or the shock of actually being confronted with Liliana again, but it is still a shame that after an entire story all about Jace learning to be who he wants to be none of that character growth comes across in his next appearance. Here's hoping for a better portrayal of him when he comes back for more than a walk-on part.

Characterization isn't the only problem though, as there are also a bunch of outright continuity errors. In Wool Over the Eyes Jace landed in something sticky. For months this had people worrying, first over Squee, then over Slimefoot after it became clear Squee wouldn't rejoin the Weatherlight crew, but now that entire bit is missing and Slimefoot isn't introduced until the next episode. Perhaps one of his saprolings went on ahead and was crushed underfoot? We can talk our way out of it that way, but it's still a shame we didn't get any pay off after three months of wondering.

This scene also comes with a pretty hefty timeline error. The Dominaria story has been going on for only a couple of days, but Jace was on Ixalan for months! Are we going to have to resort to the timeline-maker's nuclear option: "time moves differently on Ixalan"? I'm going to reserve justice on this until Jace's next appearance as well. Perhaps his stay will be ret-conned to be shorter. But if he keeps referring to his stay on Ixalan as months long, we may have to assume some temporal weirdness.

Even the dialogue in the two scene's doesn't line up! This really makes me wonder why they didn't just take the original scene, copy-pasted it in and then continued the writing from the point where Jaya goes "Who's the bookwurm?" Are the lead-in times for external writers really so long that Martha Wells couldn't have read the Ixalan ending before writing this scene? I doubt that. And even if they are, is WotC really so reverential of her work that they wouldn't edit the scene to make things match up? I mean, I get that that could be awkward, but, again, this is a scene people have been anticipating for three months! Let's hope WotC learns from this debacle and allows their continuity chief to overrule future writers in such cases.
"They were originally created as a... Uh, I'll tell you later. It's a little awkward to get into all that with it standing there."
The thallid were originally created by the Havenwood elves as a food source they could grow in the worsening climate as the Ice Age approached. Then in And Peace Shall Sleep the mercenary Reod Dai tried to detonate a dragon's egg by pumping it full of mana (essentially a terrorist act to get them to pay their outstanding bills to him.) The energy was absorbed by the thallid crops around the egg instead. They became sentient and rose up in rebellion. By the time of the Fallen Empires comic the thallid had progressed so far that they are building shelters for themselves. The Havenwood elves were still eating them though!
"It's had like ten babies already."
I've seen some people point out that saprolings aren't thallid babies, but creatures they farm to eat. They do sprout from thallids though, so I can see why Raff would mistake them for thallid babies.
"There was the time my younger sisters burned the honey on Solstice morning because she was flirting with the neighbors."
The Femeref religion is based on the sun disk, so it makes sense for Solstice to be important to them.
"I must have brought them here with Molimo's seed, so we'll have to take them back to Yavimaya when we have a chance."
Molimo is from Llanowar, so I don't really get why they would bring the thallid's "back" to Yavimaya...
"The monument to the fallen of the Phyrexian invasion was there"
The monument to the fallen is shown on the card Martyr's Tomb, and was created by Freyalise a year after the Invasion ended. It had big sculptures of Gerrard and Urza at the top, and the names of all those who died in the fighting inscribed in it. As we saw on Monument to Folly though, it has since been wrecked by the Cabal.

"Gideon managed to spot the heavy shapes of monolithic Thran structures, but most of the ruins had the spiky organic look of Phyrexian remnants."
As I mentioned before, the skyline dominating Thran structures are actually new to Dominaria. The only one we've seen before is the Thran mana rig. I guess they must've been just over the horizon in all previous stories! The organic looking Phyrexian buildings though, those are straight from the Time Spiral style guide.

"There is a Yavimaya here, woven into the ground, from long ago. It came to fight."
Here the spirits of Urborg are referencing the part of Yavimaya that Multani transplanted to Urborg during the Invasion. It later became Lord Windgrace's base during Time Spiral, and we now know it spawned its own nature spirit in Muldrotha. Again though, I'm not sure what to make of Slimefoot being called by it. Is he really from Yavimaya? In which case, did Molimo go to there to fetch the new Weatherseed, rather than just growing one himself? Or is Slimefoot simply called to the bit of Yavimaya because it is also a forest?

1 comment:

  1. The origin of the thallids is super incorrect in the recent articles. In one of the story articles (I think it was the one where Raff says the thallid origins are complicated), Raff says that thallids are from Yavimaya.