Saturday, 24 November 2018

Magic: the Gathering - Battlegrounds

Following our look back at Battlemage, I want to have a short talk about the other Magic-related video game with "Battle" in the title: Battlegrounds. Just a look though, not a full review. In fact, I haven't even bought or downloaded the game, so I couldn't review it if i wanted to.

Why am I being so lax? Well, let's take a look at the story here, which I have been able to learn through Let's Plays on YouTube. All there is to it are a bunch of cut scenes that have been uploaded here. In the game you play the reincarnation (it's kinda vague, but I think that's what it is) of a planeswalker who was defeated in a duel long ago. You must now defeat the minions and slaves of the dude who defeated you to gather the bits of a magic macguffin to regain your power. Those minions and slaves include Multani, Akroma, Arcanis the Ominpotent, Maraxus of Keld, Ishan's Shade and Tsabo Tavoc. The big bad himself? Mishra.

Regulars to this blog should already see the problem here. But for any new readers, let me explain: Mishra died in the year 63 AR. Multani was not born until 2934 AR. Maraxus died in 4204 and Tsabo in 4205. Akroma was created and destroyed in 4306!

So yeah. Any attempt to put this thing into canon is doomed to failure. At best this is an alternate universe. If any of the player characters ever turns up in the main continuity (which I'm not expecting, but weirder things have happened. This year.) we should consider it as just a reference, nothing more. If anyone at WotC does want to do a cool obscure reference some redesign might be needed though. Let's just say the outfits of the female characters might run into trouble with Magic's "no chain-mail bikinis" rule.

I'm sure the rule extends to chain-mail garter belts as well.
So why do I talk about this game at all? Well, there is actually one interesting lore tidbit that came from it, albeit one of very dubious canonicity considering all the weirdness mentioned above.

Either in the game itself or in the booklet (again, I didn't buy a copy just to check) there are blurbs about the various characters in the game. If memory serves most of them were pretty accurate descriptions of the actual lore surrounding them but, as we discussed in the Onslaught block online article, when this game was released Arcanis the Omnipotent did not have any backstory at all... so the developers just made something up! It's not much, but apparently Arcanis got all his powers by visiting the ruins of Tolaria! This revelation was of course shared on MTGNews back in the day, and from there disseminated into the storyline community at large. When MTGNews disappeared from the internet this tidbit of info seems to have gone with it, thought here and there you can still find (non-annotated) references to it, like on this Italian Magic Wiki.

So is it true? Well, I guess it could be. There is nothing that contradicts it. However, since 2003 WotC has really doubled down on the mysterious nature of Arcanis, with him not getting a species in several creature type overhauls and his later flavor text specifically telling you not to think about his origins. So even if it is true, I doubt we will ever get any kind of confirmation.

With the rest of Battlemage having nothing to do with the regular continuity I think we can safely write off this origin of Arcanis as well. It seems the collective consciousness of the Vorthos community has pretty much done that already, judging from the fact that I had to look at non-English wiki's to find references to this supposed trip to Tolaria. But you never know when these kinds of factoids will resurface. So if you ever see that origin story pop up again, at least now you know where it came from.

If you see anyone saying that Arcanis is actually Ixidor, or even Jace, claims I found on the MTGSally forums and on Reddit while Googling around for this article... I've got no idea. Some people just have a vivid imagination I guess...


  1. Perhaps this is best seen as an interpretation of the actual act of playing Magic. After all, I could summon each of these characters to the battlefield when I'm playing a game of Magic. It doesn't really explain why Mishra is the final boss, but eh, it's the only guess I got.

  2. I believe it is a good moment to point out this little discovery, since you are looking at different sources: do you know the Heroes of Dominaria boardgame? If you look at the map of the Domains included, you can see - among the famous Benalia, Llanowar, Keld and such - some other less known place... Like Kieve and Coraleon! Kieve was the land ruled by the good wizard Thane Du Morris in Tapestries, while Coraleon was the citu of the Festival of Sorrows from Distant Planes, both in the Harper Prism anthologies!
    How cool is that?! :-)

    1. The location of Coraleon was known before. It was on one of the old maps. Ironically, I think it was where the Heroes of Domainria put Kieve. But hey, times change, apocalypses come and go - maybe they've moved.

    2. There it is...

    3. Heroes of Dominaria is definitely on my list of stuff to get. Is it finally out yet? :P

  3. I remember this game quite well. It was kinda fun, but just awkward when I was so use to playing traditional magic.