Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Magic Calendars

One of the more obscure entries in the Magic canon is the collection of calendars WotC has released over the years. Most of them just have some pretty pictures and nothing else but a few actually contained relevant lore, including the backstory of some legendary creatures and maps of various continents of Dominaria. I had pretty much resigned myself to not covering them, but then the always excellent Magic Librarities website uploaded a whole bunch of scans of them, allowing me to take a look anyway.

The ones that I will be covering here are the monthly calendars up to 1999 and the 1997 "365 days in Dominia" daily calendar. The ones released later (at least the ones that I know off) just show art, so they are not as interesting for lore junkies. I don't know if this list is exhaustive, but we can always do another addendum article, can't we?

Quick note: for a long time I thought there must've been another daily calendar, as Jeff Lee claimed to have taken his info on the Elder Dragon War from one. His description matched the "365 days in Dominia" calendar pretty well, except for the inconvenient fact that there is nothing on Elder Dragons in that one! The later discovery of unused flavor text for Elder Land Wurm which did talk about the War suggests to me that Jeff was misremembering things. I think it is likely that he took info on various legendary creatures from the "365 days in Dominia" calendar but was given the stuff on Elder Dragons by Pete Venters directly, and that he conflated the two when talking about it years later. (If another daily calendar ever turns up though, I'll certainly cover it!)




1995 Calendar & 1996 Calendar
The first two calendars are pretty light on lore. Both of them showcase larger versions of card arts. The first also talks about how the artists approached their work and what techniques they used, the second just has pretty pictures. I'm mostly just mentioning them here to show the development of the calendars over the years, though do like seeing what Anson Maddocks has to say about Hurloon Minotaur. It sounds like he just made up something he thought looked cool, inadvertently laying the basis for the whole Hurloon culture that was developed out of that one piece of art in a variety of pre-rev sources.

1997 Calendar, 1998 Calendar & 1999 Calendar
Now here things get interesting. These calendars are the origin of some of the most detailed maps of Aerona, Jamuraa and Terisiare we have! In addition to that the first two do not just show bigger versions of card art, but alternate arts with accompanying lore tidbits. For example, here the Hurloon Minotaur entry tells us "The Hurloon's decorative tattoos, echoing the cave hieroglyphs of their mountain homes, are symbols of status within their society", which is quite a bit deeper lorewise than just that Anson Maddocks thought they looked awesome.


There is plenty here to prove that the pre-revisionist continuity wasn't just a collection of random contradictory sources. The 1997 calendar has references to the Jedit Ojanen, Ice Age and Homelands comics, as well as the Feast of Kjeld short story from The Duelist. Of course it is all pre-rev, so there are references to things like the Phyrexians' "Yawgmoth masters", showing that in those days "Yawgmoth" tended to refer to either Demons or Priests, not yet to the character from the Weatherlight Saga. Oh, and one mistake did slip in: it is said those War Beasts came from the Caves of Korlis, rather than Koilos. The difference between those two places was well established by this time so this must have been a typo.

The 1998 calendar gives us what is probably the first picture made of Teferi. He previously appeared in very pixely form in the Battlemage video game in 1997, but this piece of art was made in 1996 (As confirmed by artist DiTerlizzi in this tweet). Here Teferi is looking a bit older and with a different outfit than what we've come to expect from him.


The entry for Zirilan of the Claw mentions that the viashino are descendants of dragons. The official sources we've seen so far go back and forth on whether the viashino are lizard-people or dragon-people (or creations of Terrent Amese), but we've seen this specific claim before on Jeff Lee's site, so perhaps he did take some dragon-related information from a calendar after all!

From 1999 onward there is no text presented on Magic Librarities, so I assume there wasn't any. That year we do still get the map for Terisiare though. Librarities doesn't have a scan of it, but it really can only be this one.


We already knew the placement of the most famous Terisiare locations from either the "potato" map from The Duelist Supplement #0 or the Ice Age-era map from The Duelist #5. This map gives us a much more realistic looking continent though, and adds a few locations like the Colekgan Mountains and Sumifa.

The Jamuraa map from the 1998 calendar is by far the most detailed map we ever got of the Mirage setting, as it otherwise only showed up as a small part of larger world maps or on one tiny, pixelated map in the Oasis Choose-Your-Own-Adventure game. It matches very well with all the descriptions of the region we've gotten from various sources and contains pretty much every location name checked in the cardgame itself.

The 1997 map of Aerona is the most important one, as it is the first time we got a clear view of where all these places from Alpha and the earliest Harper Prism novels were located. The Magic Librarities scan isn't very clear, but you can find a better version on the MTG Wiki. That one doesn't include the text underneath, but MTGSally user KavuMonarch provided us with that text here. Since it has been brought to my awareness that a lot of the old forum isn't visible anymore, I'll just repost the text here before it goes missing as well:
"Of all the regions of Dominaria, the Domains are the favorite of planeswalkers for the rich variety of creatures, cultures, and fierce warriors nurtured there.
The islands of the Eastern Domains stretch for thousands of miles, pointing the way to shattered Terisiare in the west, Sarpadia to the south, and the eternal ice of the north.
The Central Domains consist of three continents: inhospitable Icehaven, and North and South Aerona, which are linked by the Hurloon Mountains, a range of impassable peaks. Many of the greatest civilizations of Dominaria are found here. 
Benalia, risen from the ashes of the Sheoltun Empire, is a prosperous city-state thanks to the rich harvests of the Spice Isles she controls.
Estark, the once-proud festival city in the heart of Kush, has declined since the Time of Troubles. Many of its citizens now live modestly in the countryside.
The Llanowar forest shelters a range of elvish civilizations, from communal treetowns to tribal matriarchies. One imperative unites these disparate groups - protecting their nomes from the orcs and goblins of the Ironclaw Mountains.
The minotaurs of Hurloon arrived in North Aerona centuries ago after being forced from their homeland by the encroaching glaciers. They traveled south until they faced an impassable chain of mountains where they chose to take shelter in the caves until the cold ended. They now dwell in the mountains, living in small tribes, the largest of which is in the fertile Hurloon Valley.
Icehaven is home to many small states, separated by this barren land's indigenous tribes of stone giants. the Kingdom of Parma and the Land of Keld are foremost among those states.
The people of Parma believe that the hardship of their environment is a spiritual purifier that winnows out the weak and strengthens the worthy. Their paladins travel throughout the Domains spreading their society's central teaching.
The warlords of Keld tipify this cruel land, enslaving their people through magic, and sacrificing them in battle for the glory of Keld.
Oneah once was one of the most enlightened of societies. Though famous for their martial skills, Oneahns viewed the ownership of a bladed weapon as strictly taboo. In time, the goblins of the Red Mountains overran and destroyed this beautiful city.
Shanodin and Savaea lie south of Oneah, mysterious forests that even goblins fear to enter. Little is known of these places, for few who enter them survive, and those who do cannot bear to speak of their experiences within.
Mysteries Remain
There are many other lands - blighted Muronia and Wrenna, both succumbing to corruption's cold embrace, but from different causes... Coraleon, the city of continued festival, where every emotion is celebrated... the Green Lands, home of the centaurs... Foriys, inhabited by giants... Sursi, with its pegasii... the Whispering Woods, so full of life that its sounds can drive one mad... Avenant, with its noble warriors... Efrava, the secluded home of the cat people. Each place holds countless stories - of hope and despair, of the rise and fall of individuals and societies, and the heart's struggle to survive. All these stories are waiting to be revealed in this part of Dominaria."
The first thing I want to say about this: Oh thank god I finally rediscovered where it was implied the Hurloon moved into the mountains during the Ice Age! That I couldn't find that bit has been bothering me for ages!

Other than that there isn't a whole lot to say. It all matches up pretty well with what we knew of all these locations in those pre-rev days. The only weird thing is that it lists Efrava among the Aeronan states. This has led some people to suggest there may be two Efrava's, one here and one in Jamuraa, but I prefer to just write it off as a mistake. Bad enough that there are three Scarwoods hanging out on Dominaria!

While I'm talking about Aerona maps, I should also mention that according to KavuMonarch in that thread I linked to above, the other Aerona map originated in an issue of Top Deck.

My blog being what it is means I talk a whole lot about maps and continuity stuff, but very little about how great the art in these is! Look at this awesome picture of Baron Sengir!

"365 Days in Dominia"
As you would hope from a 365 page document, this one has a whole bunch of interesting stuff.
  • Jeff Lee was clearly thinking about this calendar, as his description of a few Legendary Creatures form Legends are taken from here almost word for word. Notably Gosta Dirk's story about killing pirates that attacked his village (May 9), Ur-Drago not needing to eat or breathe, just to kill (May 23), Hazezon Tamar uniting the desert clans (June 24), Jasmine Boreal's trail of death and destruction (August 22), Nebuchadnezzar's wandering through the Domains (September 2) and Rubina Soulsinger's speaking of truth and wisdom (November 4)
  • In other cases though his entries are curiously a lot shorter that what is given here, like with Angus Mackenzie (January 23). Although Angus's city of of Karakas (May 15) does get its description entirely from this calendar...
  • Jeff's info on Jedit Ojanen (August 15) came mostly from the comics though, same goes for Dakkon Blackblade (March 25) and Sol'kanar the Swamp King (November 14).
  • Note that Ur-Drago's entry also says that "it is said" it has scorpion pincers at its hand and feet. I do not remember those from its appearances in Final Sacrifice or Hazezon, so whomever is saying that is just wrong.
  • Oh and about Hazezon, here the Sand-Warriors are called that because they are as numerous as grains of sand. In revisionst continuity he actually summons warriors made out of sand instead.
  • Luckily the entries of other characters who turned up in revisionist sources, like Gosta Dirk and Jasmine Boreal, are pretty context-less here, so those can still be in-continuity.
  • Abu Ja'far (January 3) is said to have visited a whole bunch of worlds in Dominia in his lifetime! If he was a planeswalker he wouldn't have leprosy anymore though, so he's probably one of those wizards who figured out how to travel to other planes. Those kept popping up in pre-rev sources.
  • "Amrou" means "The People" and is a title given to kithkin warriors. (Amrou Kithkin entry, January 28) Later sources turned the place where the kithkin lived into Amrou Haven, but I guess the city could be named after the warriors.
  • Azure Drake (February 20) mentions drakes are related to dragons. I guess just about every bit on dragon related information Jeff Lee had came from these calendars... except the bit about the Elder Dragon War and the Elder Land Wurms that everyone remembered!
  • Kjeldoran Knight (May 8) references the Ice Age comic, as does Kjeldoran Warrior (July 12/13). Note that the latter entry mentions Skeletons of Morej among a whole list of undead creature cards. These were also mentioned in the double page spread where Lim-Dûl summoned all of them in the comic. Perhaps Skeletons of Morej was a playtest name that was changed late in development?
  • The Sage of Lat-Nam entry (May 3/4) is pretty funny: Pete Venters chose the colors for his painting on the hunch that it would be used for a blue card! I don't think they still commission art that way!
  • The description of Urza's Power Plant (June 7/8) seems to be talking about a different version of the art than the one showcased next to it.
  • Tolaria (June 10) is said to be full of illusions and phantasms that drive people mad. This reputation is probably why Urza's picked the place for his secret academy.
  • In the Dominaria Art Book review I talked about Pendelhaven being a single tree contradicting the flavor text of Jacques le Vert, but the entry for Pendelhaven (June 13) also talks about a single tree, rumored to be as old as the universe. I will stick to my theory that Llanowar as a whole was called Pendelhaven in pre-Brothers' War times to explain Jacques' flavor text.
  • Veldrane of Sengir (June 26) is apparently really annoyed about the fact that Faerie Noble (July 8) looks a lot like him.
  • The entry for Arena (July 25) mentions, of course, the arena from Arena.
  • Leviathans (Augustus 4) are apparently made from nothing but clouds and mist.
  • Phantasmal Forces (October 7) are rumored to be the "a manifestation of the war spirits that are bound into Serra Angels". This is a reference to the Homelands comic, where it was said that Serra Angels were "souls of fallen warriors, taken new form in white mana". This claim is also repeated in the 1997 monthly calendar.
  • Like we learned in And Peace Shall Sleep, Orggs (December 5) are orc/ogre hybrids.

And with that one more pretty picture I've reached the end of all the calendars that seemed to be worth mentioning. Although perhaps not the most important parts of the canon, I love that these obscure sources have finally been unearthed and shared with us all!

4 comments:

  1. The map of Aerona could use a scale, which makes it impossible to tell how large it's supposed to be. The 7th edition flavour text of Llanowar Elves claims Llanowar forest covers a million square miles, however, on the map it seems smaller.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Uh, the first sentence of my comment should be "The map of Aerona lacks a scale, which makes it impossible to tell how large Aerona is supposed to be."

      Delete
  2. Is the title a pun on bronze calendar?

    ReplyDelete
  3. About Pendelhaven: In the Jedit novels trilogy Jedit encounters a banyan, which is basically a single tree with numerous trunks that alone makes a forest. Jedit reflect if it could be the legendary Pendelhaven so...
    You have it. Pendelhaven can be a banyan: a single tree which is also a forest by itself.

    ReplyDelete