Sunday, 23 June 2019

The Monsters of Magic

The Monsters of Magic
Editor - J. Robert King
Cover art - Ron Spears
First printing - August 2003

This is the final installment of the anthology series, and it is pretty much like all the others. By now the creators have figured out that it's a good idea to tie all the stories into either the cards themselves or to the rest of continuity, so there are no completely random stories anymore, but the quality is still very variable. The monsters featured range from very famous Magic creatures (LhurgoyfAtogMorphling) to some also-rans (Vampiric DragonPhantom Monster), but curiously the four on the cover weren't included for some reason, even though they are pretty iconic Magic monsters! (Okay, Two-Headed Dragon isn't quite in the same league as Sliver QueenHypnotic Specter and Masticore, but it was played as a finisher back in the day!)

The stories are divided up into three parts: Ancient Monsters, Modern Monsters and Otherworldly Monsters, with four stories each. This is a bit less useful than the more specific time periods from The Secrets of Magic, as the division between "Ancient" and "Modern" is actually just "Pre-Invasion" or "Post-Invasion" and everything in the Otherworldly section fits in the "Pre-Invasion" bit as well. We'll have to see if the stories themselves guide us to a clearer placement.

Who is Queen?, by Scott McGough
Wasitora is living on her own in a jungle when one day a bunch of Suq'atans wander into her territory. From them she learns her species is called the nekoru and that there are more of them gathering nearby. She tracks her fellow cat-dragons down, gets into a fight in which she proves herself the strongest female, declares herself queen and mates with the strongest male. Annoyed by all the pomp and ceremony of the other nekoru, Wasitora decides to raise her kittens far away from her own kind. The Suq'atans had tasty fish from Madara on them, so she decides to head over there.

For the longest time Magic had a habit of dropping its characters forever after just a handful of books, so its nice to see Scott McGough use an anthology to revisit a character he and the fans really liked. It's ultimately not a very deep origin story or anything like that, but it's fun (any cat-person will enjoy the self-important antics of Wasitora) and it is exactly the type of story I want to see in an anthology; one that takes an underdeveloped part of the continuity and gives it a little more time in the limelight. Though I will say it is perhaps a bit odd to open up a book based on Magic the Gathering's cool creatures with a story about a character that had never appeared on any cards at the time. If I had been the editor I would've put it a few stories further in.

Though that criticism is no longer relevant 13 years later.
Continuity-wise, when Ethan Fleischer mentioned Suq'atans having trade links all the way to the Tivan part of Jamuraa in the Dominaria Podcasts he was referencing this story, which takes place in "the wilds of southeast Jamuraa". Nekoru are said to be more common in central Jamuraa. We also hear of the Myar mountains here.

Trivia-wise, Wasitora is 20 years old and her name means Eagle Tiger. Her partner (for one week) is called Mayonako, Midnight.

Timeline-wise, Wasitora is pregnant at the end of this story and says this will last a few months. Her kittens are born between her appearances in Assassin's Blade and Emperor's Fist, so this story happens pretty close to Legends II's beginning. Since that entire trilogy exists in this nebulous "between 3600 and 4073" period, the exact time between this story and that trilogy is completely swallowed up by the error margins, so I'll stick it alongside those three books on the timeline.

Oh, and perhaps of interest: the Suq'atan Wasitora talks too is Imrul, grand vizier to the great suzerain, Akhmer. During the Mirage War the vizier of Amiqat (Suq'ata's capital) is called Qhattib. Perhaps the vizier of the capital and the grand vizier are different roles, but it sounds like they should be the same, which would be another strike against Legends II happening at the same time as Mirage block.

Ach! Hans, Run!, by Will McDermott
Two guys kill a lhurgoyf and steal its eggs, but the lhurgoyf's mate chases them down and kills one of them. The other runs into Kjeldoran territory for safety, but the beast follows him, killing any humans in its path. Belenda Danisdotter is ordered to deal with the issue, but it is her friend Jaya Ballard who solves it in the end, by using an amulet to do a kind-off mind swap between the lhurgoyf and the poacher. The beast is given consciousness and a conscience. It vows to protect the people of Balduvia to make amends for those it killed before. The poacher runs of into the woods, now a feral man.

Look, this is a story to open your anthology on! Lhurgoyf is an iconic Magic card and a creature unique to its multiverse to boot, Jaya Ballard is probably the most famous flavor text character, and in the middle of this story we even get that other famous bit of Ice Age flavor text, the one that the story is named after. Stories don't come more steeped in Magic lore than this.

Is it any good though? Well, it's okay. Jaya is fun as always, the scene of the lhurgoyf finding its mate dead is suitably horrific, and it is generally well written, though Jaya's nature-swapping amulet does come out of nowhere. It's not a compulsory read, but a fun one nonetheless. I am a bit surprised to see a story picking up on Jaya's friendship with Belenda from The Eternal Ice that doesn't go for a "how they met" story but rather does a random adventure of the two. Then again, I've been moaning about wanting that "how Barrin met Urza" story for several anthology reviews now, so what do I know?

  • Saffi Eriksdotter and her brother Hans are Balduvians. We don't learn much about them, but Hans is too young to join hunting parties. The two are on guard duty when the lhurgoyf attacks. Saffi gets out her famous line before the creature eats her, Hans then runs screaming into their village.
  • Lhurgoyf eggs look like gemstones and are very valuable. The surviving lhurgoyf gifts one to Jaya to repay her, which she says she will give to someone who can raise the baby properly and who will give her a favor in exchange, like perhaps recharging her amulet. The person isn't named but its obviously Jodah.
In this story Belenda Danisdotter has been a skynight for a month, so presumably this happend a few years before The Eternal Ice. I'll put it on "~ 2930 AR", but it could very well be a bit earlier.

The Reluctant Student, by Tim Ryan
Speaking of not getting a story about how Barrin met Urza...

Barrin is looking for someone who is draining magic from the hawk engines protecting the Tolarian Academy and thinks he's found the student responsible in a guy called Skaven. Turns out though that it was actually a Phantom Monster, which is some godlike being accidentally trapped in a monstrous form by Barrin himself. Barrin was feeling inadequate next to Urza so he tried to summon this being so it could reveal the secrets of time travel, thus Barrin would have succeeded in doing what Urza couldn't. Only he messed it up somehow. The monster kills Skaven before Urza steps in and saves Barrin. Barrin is humbled (he was telling Skaven the whole time that there are no shortcuts to power, and then fell into that trap himself). Urza then tells Barrin "Perhaps you are finally learning what it means to be human".

This story is just weird, seemingly messing up Urza and Barrin's characterization completely. I can see many people getting frustrated while having to work with a nigh-omnipotent weirdo like Urza, but Barrin was always portrayed as the more sensible one of the two. And that last line... Urza is the type of guy who would happily sacrifice a student to gain more knowledge. He should either be commending Barrin for trying to get the secret of time travel in a novel way, or reprimanding him for trying it while Urza already knew it wouldn't work.

The thing is, I can imagine a version of this story that would actually have a point in the larger canon. Perhaps it could be used to explain why Urza is later dismissive of Barrin's concerns, or why Barrin doesn't argue harder against Urza's worst impulses. But as written the story really doesn't work very hard to fit into the rest of continuity, so it just seems like characterization is all messed up.

There is one line I really really like though: Barrin tries to swear and then gets frustrated because even the curses on Dominaria invoke Urza. That is some lovely use of all the Urza-related curses from all over continuity and a neat illustration on how it would feel to be working with someone that you grew up thinking of as a historical figure.

For the timeline, this story takes place while the hawk engines are protecting Tolaria, but before K'rrick's Phyrexians escaped the Giant's Pate. It takes some calculating with vague dates, but from Time Streams we can figure out this puts this story between roughly 3340 and 3350.

Unlikely Allies and Unjust Desserts, by Brian M. Thomsen
Strothor, Elam and Borg, the three unfunny mercenaries from "Because of a Twig", are stationed at the front-line by the orc warlord they work for. Their commander tries to get rid of them by ordering them to kill more of the opposing zombie army, but just then they find another Serpent Generator and immediately afterwards a Lord of the Pit shows up who loves to eat serpents, so they get it to collect zombie scalps for them. They become so successful that at one point the orc warlord comes to congratulate them, but the Lord of the Pit shows up and eats the warlord. It then also eats the generator. The Lord of the Pit will eat them the next day if they don't get more snakes, so they run away and leave a note for it, sending it to the banquet that the warlord had promised them.

...what on earth did I just read? This is perhaps the most painfully unfunny attempt at humor I've read for this blog, much, much worse than the (already not stellar) previous story about these three. The "jokes" here are things like the warlord being addressed as "your ugliness", or the maker of the Serpent Generator being called Mutter just so the Lord of the Pit can say he was "reared on Mutter's ilk". (Apparently everyone is just making Serpent Generators, as the one from the last story was made by "Dirk the Dastardly"...). the jokes are terrible and the plot is just a bunch of random coincidences thrown on top of each other. Absolutely terrible.

This story is grouped among the "Ancient Monsters", so this story takes place pre-Invasion. The story about these guys from The Dragons of Magic didn't give any indication about when it happened, but there were some other stories in that book that took place in Magic's "original present", so I'll plop both of these stories there as well. Not the strongest of placements, I know. Ever since we've left that "original present" behind placing these context-less (or context-light) stories has been pretty tricky.

Ereth the Mighty, by A.L. Lassieur
In post-Invasion Yavimaya the Phyrexians appear to be raiding again.The clumsy elvish student Ereth is recruited by her teacher Zorich to find a solution. They end up summoning a Thorn Elemental. To Ereth's horror it is then revealed that the supposed Phyrexians were summoned by Zorich himself in order to exterminate the human refugees that moved into Yavimaya after the Invasion, and that he is now going to finish the job with the elemental. Ereth sacrifices her life by taking control of the elemental and having it kill both her and Zorich to prevent further loss of life. The story ends with a flash-forward that shows that humans eventually integrated into Yavimaya, but that they believe it was Zorich who defeated the Phyrexian raiders. Ereth, who always wanted to be a famous wizard, is only known as Zorich's unnamed student.

I liked this one. Ereth becoming a true hero but one that is forgotten to history while the bad guy is honored... that's the kind of bittersweet stuff I'm a sucker for. Also, it's directly tied into the Invasion, showing us something of the aftermath that the main storyline rather ignored by skipping ahead to a rebuild Dominaria 100 years later, and I really appreciate seeing this part of the continutiy. Another great use of anthology stories.

In the main story Ereth is old enough to remember the Invasion, but she's an elf, so that's not saying much. More importantly, there are still human refugee camps in Yavimaya. So we don't have a definitive date, but within a generation of the Invasion seems logical. The epilogue could happen around the time of the Dominaria set, or ages further into the future. I don't think I'll bother putting that one paragraph on the timeline though. Just imagine it hanging out in the same hypothetical future as the Rath and Storm framing sequence.

True Enough, by Denise R. Graham
A town drunk runs into a monster, then another monster is sighted in the vicinity of the village just as a monster hunter turns up. The monster hunter gets the townsfolk to pay him to kill the second monster and seemingly does so, with the creature's body supposedly disappearing. The drunk figures out that both monsters and the hunter are in fact one and the same shapeshifter (because the monster hurt its foot on his first meeting with it, and the hunter was walking with a limp). The townsfolk seem to believe him, but are too embarrassed to have been tricked, so they decide to do nothing. The shapeshifter goes off with the money, ready to dupe the next town.

Anyone who is even slightly familiar with fantasy and horror stories should know the rest of this story the moment a monster hurts its leg: obviously this is going to involve shapeshifting. Then when an unrelated beast and a monster hunter show up at the same time, it should be even more obvious. The only twist in this story is that the townsfolk decide to let the shapeshifter get off scot-free. It's not a terrible story, but not very exciting either.

When describing what the hunter really is, the drunk says "he's a morphling, a shapeshifter", so it seems a Morphling isn't a special kind of shapeshifter, its just a synonym. When I first heard there was a story featuring a Morphling I was hoping it would tie into Tolaria's original description as an island full of shapeshifters, as the Morphling art shows it imitating someone in Tolarian dress. If that's what you're hoping for it is a bit of a disappointment to learn that it is a completely generic shapeshifter here, and that we learn nothing of its origin. If you're not expecting anything though, the story is decent.

At one point a villager asks the monster hunter if he thinks the drunk saw a Phyrexian, as "those things have been all over the place since the war", after which the drunk gets angry, saying "You think I don't know a Phyrexian when I see one?". This, plus the fact that the hunter says he's been to Zhalfir and nobody remarks on Zhalfir being gone, suggests this story happens fairly close to the Invasion, so I'll put it alongside the previous one as "within a generation after 4205".

Seasons of Slaughter, by Vance Moore
Every five years Otarian nomads bring their herds to get slaughtered and turned into Cabal sausages. When a vampiric dragon starts eating from the beasts the Cabal overseer has to summon a demon to kill it, killing a whole load of his own people in the process. But hey, at least now he has more meat for the sausages!

Completely pointless. Just a big smashfest with some tepid horror at the beginning, all building up to the "hilarious" joke of people being turned into sausages, only it even ruins that by making the same joke earlier when a murdered guard is send to the meat grinders.

The only thing that piqued my interest was a reference to Keldons using their stasis ships (which we first learned about in Vance Moore's book Prophecy) to take livestock around the world. That's a cool continuity reference. Though it does surprise me to see a global food trade within a century after the Invasion. Dominaria really bounced back before Karona came around didn't it?!

There is no indication when this story happens, other than that it is in the modern/post-Invasion section and that it obviously has to happen before Karona devastates the entire continent. My timeline already has a few stories labeled simply "within a generation before 4305", which is where I'll place this one as well. That way the Keldon's have plenty of time to rebuild after the Twilight and start up their global meat distributing industry.

An Atog Comes to Aphetto, by Steven E. Schend
A mega hunter named Rasarm breaks into the mansion of a Cabal member who enslaved his sister and killed the rest of his family. Afterwards he gives his sister to a local rebellion group and allows himself to be arrested to keep the Cabal of their trail. He is forced to fight in the pits, but that's okay: that allows him to challenge the Cabalist's brother/accomplice. He demands vengeance from the First, who sets up a duel between the two. Rasarm kills that guy as well, and then the First gives him a choice: join the Cabal and take over the role of the guy he just killed, or fight in the pits until he's repaid the Cabal for all the deaths and collateral damage he caused. The story ends with Rasarm realizing he'll either die working for the Cabal or fighting against them.

Oh, yeah, and he has an atog as a pet/partner. He's called Yekol.

Yeah, the monster in this Monsters of Magic story is fairly inconsequential to the plot. Still, it's good to have at least one story that features this iconic and unique Magic creature type. And he's fun enough. Atogs are apparently sapient, but still very wild and capable of only limited speech. You'd think that a story featuring an atog in Otaria would use the most famous Otarian atog, the Psychatog, but Yekol just eats artifacts, so apparently he's an ordinary atog-atog. (No, not an Atogatog, and atog-atog... ah, you know what I mean).

Luckily the story doesn't really need to focus on the atog, as it is quite good on its own. Rasarm and Yekol have good chemistry, and the horribleness of the Cabal is portrayed very well. Plus, it makes very good use of the setting. Rasarm whispeing "the Cabal isn't here" into the dying Cabalist's ear is a very neat callback to the Cabal greeting/response of "the Cabal is here"/ "And everywhere" from Chainer's Torment. Between this, the description of the First's sickening aura, him disgracing "Flamescar" by using his real name in front of the crowds and the sudden appearance of a gigantipithicus in the fighting pits it seems clear Steven E. Schend has read the Otaria Saga carefully. More importantly, it shows he knows which bits are cool and deserve to be reprised, and which are really, really stupid and should be swiftly forgotten.

As for the timeline... eh... the First is alive, so it's pre-Legions. In fact, he unexpectedly teleports into Aphetto, suggesting this happens before he permanently relocates there in Chainer's Torment, but that's all we have to go on. I'm going to put this story just before the rest of the Otaria Saga which is where all the pre-Odyssey Otaria stories tend to end up, though this one could have happened earlier as well.

Delraich, by Jess Lebow
The sorcerer Raitrick from Mercadia city finds a Phyrexian portal which he plans to use to make a fortune by providing easy transportation to Saprazzo. He's stupid enough to boast about this to the caravan captain who's bringing him to Saprazzo to get the thing repaired, who promptly steals it to stop the competition. Raitrick then sues but fails, and is sentenced to working for the magistrate for wasting his time. While delivering a package he runs into the caravan people again, gets into a fight and is beat up. He's nursed back to health by the black mage Kirch, but when he's better he finds out the package he was delivering were his own release papers, which he's now forfeited. Angry, he accepts Kirch's offer of vengeance. The black mage then summons a Derelor and merges it with Raitrick, forming a creature he dubs Delraich. The Delraich, still with Raitrick's mind, goes out and murders the entire caravan.

Meh. One of those "be careful what you wish for" stories where someone gets turned into a monster. In many ways it is quite similar to Versipelis from The Colors of Magic, where a guy got turned into a bear. This one isn't very good. In practice we just get to see Raitrick's humiliation conga, followed with a rather rushed bit where he turns into a monster and an epilogue in which he kills the entire caravan off-page. It didn't really engage me. I did like the unexpected Derelor appearance. Those two weird monsters having a link is a cute bit of Vorthos trivia. And speaking of trivia...
  • The head of the caravan smokes cigars from Urborg, casually saying he gets them from a planeswalker. This is obviously referencing Bo Levar, and ties into the idea that Mercadia is a city where you can buy anything. It might even explain why Tahngarth was able to find Talruum weaponry there.
  • The weird streets of Mercadia City that don't seem to match up correctly are also referenced. Some pretty good continuity in this anthology!
  • Derelor + Raitrick = Delraich apparently. Don't ask where the "H" came from.

The caravan boss mentions Bo Levar in the present tense, so this should take place before his death. Other than that we don't get any clear indicators about when this story takes place. Which leaves me at a bit of a loss with the timeline. At least in The Dragons of Magic there were some introductory texts that made a difference between "pre-Invasion" and, say, "the Ice Age", and The Secrets of Magic made a difference between "Ancient History" and "Pre-Invasion", which gave me some justification to put stories of which we only knew they happened before the Invasion in that "original present". But this anthology has gone out of its way to dump all pre-Invasion stories in the same section, and to keep the non-Dominaria stories apart from any timeline indicators...

So to put this on the timeline I'm going to invoke one of the most obscure rules on this blog, which I don't think I have used since The Slowing of his Heart, which is that if there is really no other way to date a story, but the story is linked to a set somehow, I will place it alongside that set on the timeline. So while this story could happen... well, essentially at any point on the timeline between Phyrexia's infiltration of Mercadia and Bo Levar's death, I'm putting it on 4205, alongside Mercadian Masques itself.

Tap, Kraken & Pop, by Tom Dupree
Tap is a guy who wants to marry Evangeline, but her father says he has to bring back a golden leaf from the Gilded Tree on some distant island first. Tap is scared of the sea, but his own father charters some of his old pirate friends to take him along. Eventually they figure out the girl's father has send him on a fool's errant to get him out of the way and the pirates are about to kill him, but then a kraken attacks. They fight the creature long enough to get away and find a treasure in the kraken's lair. Then Tap goes home and his new pirate friends convince his girlfriend's dad to allow her to marry him.

The characterization of the pirates is really weird here. When they figure out the tree isn't real they are willing to kill Tap and when he says "wait, then my father will never pay you!" they suggest robbing the father as well. But after they find the kraken's treasure they are suddenly his best friends and willing to "persuade" the girl's father for free. Surely it would be better practice to hold the guy ransom to get the money from his father? And if they are that greedy, why do they care if the guy gets his girl?

Eh, a minor issue I guess. But there is nothing else to say about this story. It's a big confusing fight scene, and not very entertaining. It also gets multiple points deducted for naming the main character "Tap" just so the story can have that awful pun as a title.

The story further annoys me by giving no indication about when it happens. In fact, a single mention of Saprazzo and the Tidal Kraken itself are the only things indicating this is a Magic story. So eh... yeah. I'm invoking the same rule I mentioned in the last story again. This is going to happen more and more the further we leave the "original present" behind by the way. Just wait till we get to the Kamigawa vignettes or the Guildpact/Dissension short stories!

Crucible, by Stephen D. Sullivan
Salla and her brother Milgen are Dal living among the Vec. Salla is somewhat respected as she's the village blacksmith (and widow of the former blacksmith), but Milgen is a pickpocket. When a shaman thinks the savior of his people is behind a mysterious door in the mountains, Milgen goes with him, but when he opens the door a Laccolith Titan comes out and kills them both. The Titan then rampages through the Vec settlement but is eventually defeated when Salla uses white mana and a chain she and her late husband made to tie it down long enough for the wooden structure of her smithy to give way, plunging it into the water below. Unfortunately Salla herself is blasted with magma in the process. The story ends with a post-Invasion epilogue in which one of the other villagers, now old and grey, tells some kids that it was Salla's sacrifice that thought the Vec that they could work together with the Dal, which in turn inspired them to work together with the Dominarians after the Rathi Overlay.

So... I guess neither Gerrard nor Eladamri, but Salla was the real Korvecdal?

This story is in many ways quite similar to Seasons of Slaughter, in that it has an ominous beginning followed by a lot of fighting, yet it is also somehow a thousand times better, mostly thanks to its use of continuity. In Seasons the tension comes from what the monster is, so when it is revealed it was a random Odyssey creature no one cares about all tension is gone. In this story the ominousness comes from knowing the Overlay is coming. If you're familiar with the story of the Phyrexian Invasion, you know the Vec and Dal are living on borrowed time, and that the shaman might even be partially right. The ending, where the actions of a character you actually grow to care about over the story are tied into the larger continuity is also much better. Especially since the Vec and Dal were rather forgotten in the Invasion trilogy, so its good to have at least some idea of what they were up to. And while I'm sure some people will not like the "minority character sacrifices themselves to teach the majority characters a lesson" ending, I certainly prefer it to a "hur hur, you don't wanna know what goes into these sausages" punchline.

As for the timeline, the shaman invokes Phyrexians that are massing on the plane as a herald of the end times, and the epilogue shows us this happens within one lifetime of the Rathi Overlay, so it seems this story happens right before Invasion, as the Phyrexians are gearing up for the war. In Nemesis we saw relatively few Phyrexians: Crovax had to rely on regular Rathi troops. So I think this story happens after the main body of Nemesis, but before its epilogue, probably around the same time as that Invasion chapter where the Weatherlight goes to Rath for a few moments and sees fields full of Phyrexians.

The Voice of Command, by Paul B. Thompson
A Rathi general is send to take charge of some backwater outpost. Before long he's receiving rapports send by percher about a charismatic leader whipping up a rebellion. He sends out more and more troops, getting back messages about their defeats. One day he wakes up and he's the only one still in the fort. An army appears... but it is all Rathi forces. Turns out the discharge papers to the former commander contained a secret message from the evincar: the new general had made too many powerful friends at court so a good reason to have him eliminated needed to be devised. There is a scuffle and the general falls off the building.

Yeah, perchers. Those are the monsters that we end on. Those well-loved, well-known, iconic... two random creatures from Nemesis. I'm being a bit facetious here, as they are actually well used (perchers can repeat messages verbatim, and hearing all the rapports of the supposed rebellion drives the general paranoid) and the story is decent, but... you don't include any of the creatures on the cover, and you instead give us a story focused on these things? Pretty weird.

The timeline and continuity of this story are a bit wonky. Davvol, from Bloodlines, is said to be evincar, the general has a moving picture machine which was invented by evincar Burgess (we heard a throwaway line about his "mechanistic fetishism" in Nemesis), and the flowstone plateau where the story takes place was created "an eon ago some forgotten evincar".

The fact that Davvol calls himself evincar places this story during the latter part of  Bloodlines, after his master Croag has been injured. Before that Davvol was just a steward. Thing is, before that Rath was controlled by another minion of Croag, the Phyrexian overseer Koralld. We don't quite know if there was anyone before Koralld, but when Yawgmoth woke Croag up he told him the evincar "would come of its own time, and until then Croag would be responsible for administrating the duties of evincar or finding someone who could", so if someone ruled before Koralld, they shoudn't be called evincar, but steward or overseer or something.

I think the best way to explain this away is to suppose people are using the term evincar anachronistically. Croag is wounded by Kreig in 3863 AR, from which point on Davvol essentially rules Rath on his own. Sometime after 4013 he start calling himself evincar instead of steward and Croag doesn't dispose of him until 4169 AR. So I can imagine that by the time this story happens Rathi humans with average lifespans have always been ruled by an evincar, and that they have thus started using the term for previous rulers as well, even though Burgess and whoever created the platform actually had some other title.

It's either that or assuming this story happens under a Davvol the Second, but after that last article I'm all out of duplicate characters!

Final Thoughts
This was a strange mix of some real clunkers and some great stories. Nothing essential, but some lovely views into underdeveloped bits of the continuity and a final chance to shine for some fan favorite characters. At the very least every story was tied into the cardgame and/or larger continuity, so it seemed all these stories, even the not-so-great-ones had at least some point behind them.

The Monsters of Magic was released just before Mirrodin block. Champion's Trial came out concurrently with it. With these two reviews we've reached the true end of the Otaria era of the storyline and the beginning of the Planeshopping era. The supplementary trilogies and the anthologies were not selling very well (perhaps because they were not promoted) and thus discontinued, another blow to the storyline community after the terrible resolution of the Otaria Saga and the announcement that storyline and cards were consciously being separated.

Of course, with Mirrodin we also saw the beginning of a whole new type of lore for Magic, as the process of world-building was put into a higher gear, and from that the importance of the storyline would eventually start growing again. But the fans couldn't know that at the time. To them Mirrodin was, at best, a bottoming out, with the storyline having sunk as low as it could go with Scourge. So to see the supplementary trilogies go after Legends II was probably the best storyline stuff that had been put out in 2002 and 2003 combined, and to see the anthologies end just after they were getting a handle on what sort of story they should be telling was quite sad. Furthermore, it was seen by those who saw the then-creative team as a bad caretaker of the storyline as more proof that things were being screwed up. This crisis of faith large parts of the storyline community had in Wizards of the Coast would reach a temporary nadir during Mirrodin block, after which Kamigawa and Ravinca blocks salvaged things... only for the Mending to make it so much worse...

For this blog that's all still in the future though. I'll talk more on the WotC/Community relationship when we get to the Mirrodin and Time Spiral blocks. But first I'd better finish up that War of the Spark review before all chapters of the prequel novel have been released!

1 comment:

  1. You bring up that Kamigawa and Ravnica are coming up soon, but then say we have to first go through War of the Spark in addition to Mirrodin...