Dominaria: A History
In this article, I address the large, complicated, and sometimes nonsensical history of Magic's most storied plane: Dominaria. We return to the past and analyze why History is so important to Dominaria and what references the new set makes to that extensive and fantastical History.
A History Lesson
Dominaria has hit the ground running, and then some. The introduction of the set into Standard has already shaken-up the metagame to the point that Teferi is being hailed as potentially the greatest Planeswalker, ever. But who is Teferi? Who is Jhoira? Who are all you people and what are you doing in my Magic set? Let's take a walk through the annals of Magic lore and history.
Newer players can be forgiven for not necessarily being up to speed with every single aspect of Magic's history. After all, for quite a while now, the story has moved from plane to plane, with the Gatewatch effectively solving ‘Monster of the Week' style situations. It's been the same five primary characters, Jace, Gideon, Nissa, Chandra, Liliana, with a few cameos from Elspeth, Ajani, Vraska, Kiora, and Sherlock Tamiyo. There are also dozens of nations within the plane of Dominaria, and it can be a trial to string all the information together into a recognisable visual. This article will do its best to assist… Please take notes; there may be a test at the end.
Urza & Mishra
Urza, one of two brothers, the other being Mishra, was one of the main protagonists of the core story arc of Magic: The Gathering. Without going too deep into his early life, we'll just say that he and Mishra discovered the Mightstone and Weakstone in the Caves of Koilos and fell out shortly thereafter. Both stones were holding the portal to Phyrexia closed, so … fast-forward a few years … eventually Mishra became corrupted by the Phyrexians, a diverse species of mechanical and biomechanical beings, cousins to the Thran… think the Magic version of the Borg. Their plane was a Hollow Dogs eat Hollow Dogs world, with the mightiest surviving to the detriment of those whose parts would be used to further enhance the victors.
Urza and Mishra's battle for dominance continued, until Urza unleashed the power of the Golgothian Sylex – leading to what we know as the Sylex Blast. Both brothers were destroyed in the explosion, with the abovementioned stones combining to resurrect Urza as a Planeswalker. Horrified at the damage he had caused to Dominaria, Urza left, unable to return due to the delayed formation of the Shard of the Twelve Worlds, which separated twelve planes from all the rest… This takes us all way to the end of Antiquities, a 1994 set. The Planeswalker Freyalise later destroyed the Shard, heralding the end of the Ice Age (1995).
It's worth noting that only two of the twelve planes were ever identified in the story, Dominaria and Azoria, with the Nether Void as a potential third. This return to Dominaria may well, paraphrasing the words of Aladdin and Princess Jasmin, open up whole new worlds for future sets.
The Weatherlight Crew
There's no escaping this connection; the Weatherlight is back in action and, while clichéd, there are more than a few nods to the crew of yore in the new set.
Raff Capashen is a distant relation to Gerrard Capashen, the hero of the Weatherlight Saga. Gerrard is represented twice in the game, as Gerrard Capashen from Apocalype, and Master of Arms from Weatherlight. Although part of Gerrard's family tree, Raff fulfils a role more similar to that of Ertai, the original doomed Weatherlight mage.
We have Shanna, Sisay's Legacy, whose ancestor was Captain Sisay, from Invasion. Both Sisay and Gerrard were effectively bred by Urza, manipulating bloodlines to provide the best chance for Dominaria to oppose the imminent Phyrexian attack.
Arvad is a reference to Crovax the Cursed, in that both are and were vampires. Crovax's family name was Windgrace, which actually throws up some additional questions, which hopefully will be answered in future sets (see Lord Windgrace in The Nine Titans).
Tiana isn't the first Angel to be associated with the Weatherlight either. That honor, such as it is, goes to Selenia, Dark Angel. She was one of Radiant, Archangel's warriors, eventually being captured by the Phyrexians and corrupted. She was sent under guise of being a guardian angel to the Windgrace estate, where Crovax fell in love with her. That didn't work out for the eventual Ascendant Evincar.
Multani is back, and it is his help that results in the Weatherlight being reconstructed. He was part of the original crew but wasn't always onboard during their various adventures.
Slimefoot was a fungus attached to the growing hull of the revitalised Weatherlight, and the magically infused wood gave him sentience. Let's be fair, he's the comic relief, the new Squee. Of course, the old Squee is still around too. You just can't get rid of him.
Jhoira was the first captain of the Weatherlight, and she's retained her title all these years later.
There are some Planeswalkers knocking about the place as well. Gideon, Liliana, Teferi are already onboard in the future, with Chandra and the OG pyromage Jaya Ballard potentially joining them. Karn was at the center of everything in the past and we can only hope his role will be similarly important now.
The Nine Titans
There's no denying that the various current bunch of Planeswalkers are powerful indeed. But they're children playing with toys when compared to those who came before them. The Nine Titans existed before The Mending (Planeswalkers are now no longer all-powerful immortal beings). They were Urza's version of The Dirty Dozen, a rag-tag bunch of Planeswalkers gathered to combat the Phyrexians. Some, like Freyalise, are still known today, as she's referenced heavily throughout the game. Others are a mystery to even the oldest of players.
Daria and her mentor Taysir of Rabiah, Kristina of the Woods, the former and latter murdered by Tevesh Svat, a betrayal expected by Urza, who then turned around and killed Tevesh, utilising the fallen's power to create a series of weapons, the soul bombs. Taysir himself was killed by Urza in a fit of madness.
The final three were Bo Levar, Commodore Guff, and Lord Windgrace.
Bo Levar was a swashbuckling ‘Walker who eventually replaced Urza as the leader of the Titans after the death of Taysir. He sacrificed himself to protect the Merfolk of Dominaria, so you've him to thank every time an overpowered creature of scales and flesh is printed at uncommon.
Windgrace was a panther warrior from Urborg who survived the invasion, but died during the later Time Spiral crisis. His legacy continues in return as Aryel, Knight of Windgrace is seen riding a panther into battle, with the intimation being that the panther is a willing partner. In his last act he made it clear that his spirit would be standing guard over Urborg, and the denizens of the land continue the Planeswalker's endeavors against all things of artifice. Lord Windgrace was targeting Phyrexians, but the clans current battle is against the Cabal. Now, the connection of the name Windgrace is a bit of a muddle. Crovax was from Urborg too, so it may be that his family name simply came from the eminent estate of the land… This is unlikely to be an aspect of the story that will ever be resolved.
Commodore Guff had access to utterly insane levels of magic, that of the ability to write history and the future itself. As he joined the Nine Titans, he already knew that the Phyrexians were going to win, that they would fail. We know that he decided to rewrite the future, because the Titans won in the end, but he died when Yawgmoth, leader of the Phyrexians, changed into a Death Cloud and started laying waste to all of Dominaria. Windgrace killed Yawgmoth, his body, such as it might be, was entombed in Urborg.
Yawgmoth's true form was only recently revealed, in Yawgmoth's Vile Offering.
Legendary Sorceries & Sagas
Dominaria has given us so, so much in terms of new, fun cards to play with, and the legendary sorceries and sagas are twists on a classic. The sorceries, six in total, reference key moments of Magic history. Urza's Ruinous Blast, mentioned earlier, is the Sylex Blast that ended the Brothers' War. Karn's Temporal Sundering is from when he went back in time to rescue his friends from death. Yawgmoth's Vile Offering represents the Phyrexian leader's attempts to sway Gerrard over to his side, promising the resurrection of Hanna (Hanna, Ship's Navigator), Gerrard's love. Jaya's Immolating Inferno tells of when Jaya gained her spark, and Kamahl's Druidic Vow reflects the moment that the once-barbarian relinquished violence to become a healer of nature. Primevals' Glorious Rebirth represents the story of the allied colour shard Dragons from Invasion block, and how they gained their god-like powers.
The sagas, fourteen in total, reference historic events, from the Triumph of Gerrard, to The Eldest Reborn, wherein Nicol Bolas is resurrected, to The Antiquities War and The Mending Of Dominaria, which tell of the evolution of the Brothers' War and, well, of the Mending, which saw the plane returned to relative peace and health.
Dominaria Easter Eggs
Many Magic sets feature little hidden Easter eggs, something for fans to discover on their own over time, tiny nods to past artworks or cards. Here are just a few from the latest set!
Squee had a toy back in Tempest. He still has it.
This one was perhaps less of an Easter egg, and more of a giant advert taken out on the back page of The Dominaria Times. You can see the Voltaic Servant is making great use of his key.
A touch macabre, yes, but you can see that life has gotten even more dangerous for the angels of Dominaria, now that the Cabal is operating with such impunity.
So, there you have it, Dominaria cliffnotes, and you likely have as many questions again as you had at the start. The return to where it all started will surely provide an excellent springboard for future planes and give the Magic writers the opportunity to plug a few of the gaps that were left during their more haphazard storytelling years. I lied about the test, but now hopefully you can impress your newer Magic friends with some random trivia from the games earliest days. Let me know if there's any story events you want me to cover in more detail, or if you have your own old school story details for Dominaria down below! Don't talk too much about the current ongoing story though, as to avoid spoilers for those interested in reading it.
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