History of Dominaria, Part II: Early Saga Lore

It has long been said that a picture is worth 1,000 words, but on Dominaria, some of the pictures are worth three whole chapters. A Saga in Dominaria is a new card subtype that depicts an epic moment in the history of the plane and conveys that story across several turns.

The vertical card frame is the first set of individual cards completely in this orientation, underlying their importance and uniqueness. It’s also an allusion to the process of unraveling an ancient scroll or looking up at ornate stained glass in a medieval church, and each piece is based on actual referenced literature in the story so it includes a unique art style/medium, a potentially biased perspective of history, and many fine details to satisfy your lore interest.

This Saga lore series will be split up into two articles: this is the early Saga lore, which will cover the first seven chronological Sagas up until the Phyrexian invasion, and my next History of Dominaria article which will cover the remaining seven modern Sagas’ lore up until the present day. After you read through both sections, you will understand the background of these historic stories and be able to appreciate the detail and flavor that was put into their creation.  If you are looking for more Dominarian lore, check out my first article on the subject and look out for future installments in this series.

The First Eruption

This Saga depicts the creation myth of Shiv as told by the Ghitu people. They believe that their fiery home was “hatched from an egg of stone around a yolk of flame.” The art shows two Shivan Dragons flying above one of Shiv’s many volcanic landmarks.

The first chapter of The First Eruption represents the beginnings of an eruption where molten lava oozes from a volcano and burns everything in its path as it flows downhill. Since this is relatively calm as far as natural disasters go, only ground dwelling creatures are affected.

Later during the eruption when things start to heat up, the air is filled with fire and brimstone and red mana is more plentiful, as shown in chapter two.

Chapter three shows the explosive devastation of life surrounding the volcano, which even destroys the volcano itself, but still not those Shivan Dragons.

The original art is an 8×18” woven tapestry by Steven Belledin who talks in depth about the process behind the art on his blog.

Fall of the Thran

The Thran were an ancient race of artificers who would later become the Phyrexians. The most famous denizen of the realm, Yawgmoth, was exiled from the empire for supporting an insurrection. While in exile, he terrorized the people by creating plagues and vivisecting their political leaders under the guise of scientific exploration. He eventually seized control of Halcyon, a large and important Thran city, and a civil war broke out to stop him from gaining more power.

Unfortunately for his rivals, by this time Yawgmoth had become involved in Phyrexia and had harnessed its power of corruption. He may have easily won the war if his weapons were not sabotaged in the end, but first he managed to destroy Halcyon and ordered the destruction of the rest of the Thran empire. Witnessing the destruction of their cities, the inhabitants fled to Phyrexia where they eventually became the first mutated Phyrexians. The legacy of the Thran lived on only in the ancient texts and artifacts left behind on Dominaria by the political rivals of Yawgmoth, who he banished to Mercadia while he was consolidating power before the start of the war.

The first chapter represents the destruction of Halcyon during the Thran Civil War and the remaining two chapters represent the survivor’s efforts to rebuild their homes and lives on Mercadia. The art depicts the floating city of Halcyon above a battle between the Thran War Machines and the Phyrexian Bloodstock. The concentric circles at the top are a known symbol for Phyrexia, representing the many layers of the artificial plane that center around the core of the plane, which has merged with Yawgmoth’s essence itself.

The original art by Jason Felix was digitally produced.

The Antiquities War

The Antiquities War, also known as the Brothers’ War, was so devastating that the plane reset the calendar so that all Dominarian history is referenced as happening before or after the “Argivian Reckoning,” which effectively ended the war. The focal point of the art of The Antiquities War is conveyed from the perspective of poet and historian Kayla bin-Kroog, who also happened to be wife of Urza and brief lover of Mishra, and shows the brothers Mishra and Urza vying for control of a powerstone. The brothers eventually end up with two halves of the stone, better known as the mightstone and the weakstone.

The art’s background shows the proxy war that the brothers fought for nearly a decade using artifact creations, such as a sketch for an Ornithopter. The war abruptly ended when Urza discovered that his brother had been corrupted by the Phyrexians and released a blast that destroyed the island, killed his brother, caused his planeswalker spark to ignite, initiated an ice age, and became the reference point for all of Dominarian history. The devastation of the war was the plot of the Antiquities set and tells the story as the plane leads first to the dawn of the dark ages with the shunning of magic and artifacts by the inhabitants and then to an endemic ice age that lasted for two millennia.

The first two chapters of The Antiquities War allude to the arms race of constructs and artifacts that the brothers created to gain an edge. The third chapter references their artifacts mobilizing for war and deploying into battle.

The original art is white chalk and watercolor pencil on toned paper by Mark Tedin.

Time of Ice

Time of Ice represents the plot of the Ice Age block and the lore references are very dense. The Time of Ice lore, which influenced the art depiction, is the history shared from the perspective of historian and hero Taysir. The two characters in the foreground represent Darien, King of Kjeldor and Lovisa Coldeyes standing over the fallen corpse of the once animated skeleton Lim-Dul, a main antagonist of the block. Featured at the bottom are the block’s main protagonists Jaya Ballard and Jodah, enshrouded in the tentacles of Marit Lage emerging from the ice.

Lim-Dul attempted to assassinate the king before Jaya and Jodah intervened to prevent the attack. Darien then consolidated the king’s previously weak power and created a strong alliance against Lim-Dul with regional rival Lovisa of the Balduvian barbarians. The art’s background features a Pegasus mounted White Shield Crusader and a Kjeldoran Skyknight patrolling around a snowy fortress at a Kjeldoran outpost. The border contains what appear to be six supporting villains to the block. Starting in clockwise order from the top left we see an Ashen Ghoul, a Dread Wight, a Phyrexian Soulgorger, a lhurgoyf, a Frost Raptor/Blizzard Specter, and the beast depicted on Prismatic Ward.

The original art for Time of Ice is an 8.5 foot tall tapestry by Franz Vohwinkel.

Song of Freyalise

The art depicts Freyalise, a half-Elven planeswalker. The first chapters reference her aiding the Fyndhorn and Llanowar Elves in surviving through the Ice Age, for which she was believed to be a goddess. The last chapter references the rewarding strength the Elves received after kneeling in devotion to her, which is flavorfully represented by tapping sideways in the first two chapters. She also cast the World Spell, which brought an end to the ice age and led to the eventual flooding of Fyndhorn.

The original art by Min Yum was digitally produced.

History of Benalia

The figure character is likely Torsten von Ursus, the founder of Benalia. He is surrounded by seven swords, which reference the seven clans (including house Capashen, which still has notable descendants alive today) and seven phases of the moon, representing the rotating system of social stratification among the houses based on the lunar calendar. The city at the bottom of the art is potentially what the original Benalia looked like before it was destroyed during the Phyrexian invasion or New Benalia after it was rebuilt.

The original art was digitally produced by Noah Bradley and is designed to look like stained glass.

Phyrexian Scriptures

While not obvious at first glance, both the name and the art of this Saga have been directly foreshadowed multiple times in the past. The art itself is a direct callback to Dark Ritual from Urza’s Saga, showing the same ritualistic table with mysterious Phyrexian etchings, which some Vorthoses believe can actually be translated. The flavor text of Dark Ritual also starts a series of quotes from the scriptures itself, which continues through Unworthy Dead, Sanguine Guard, Lurking Evil, and Bog Raiders to recite the origin of Phyrexia:

“From void evolved Phyrexia. Great Yawgmoth, Father of Machines, saw its perfection. Thus the Grand Evolution began […] Great Yawgmoth moves across the seas of shard and bone and rust. We exalt him in life, in death, and in between […] Father of Machines! Your filigree gaze carves us, and the scars dance upon our grateful flesh […] Ash is our air, darkness our flesh […] Let weak feed on weak, that we may divine the nature of strength.”

-Phyrexian Scriptures

The first chapter of Phyrexian Scriptures itself mirrors the corruption of Phyrexia, where organic parts of the body metamorphosize into machines, often increasing their power in the process. The second chapter references the ability of the corruption of the Phyrexian glistening oil to spread to other creatures and planes across the multiverse, eventually resulting in their colonization and destruction, as was the later plot of the Mirrodin block that transformed the plane into New Phyrexia due to Karn unknowingly transporting the oil there. The third chapter is less straightforward, but it may reference the Phyrexians deleting the past of their colonized planes, causing their history to be forgotten once they become Phyrexia.

The original art is acrylic on stretched 22×9.4” canvas.

To be continued…

The next installment of the History of Dominaria series will cover the modern Saga lore including the mending, the rebirth of Nicol Bolas, the summoning of Dominaria’s main antagonist, Belzenlok, and more!

What did I miss? Which moment in Dominaria’s history did not get a Saga that you think earned it? Which Saga art is your favorite and why is it The Eldest Reborn? As always, let’s discuss in the comments!

1 thought on “History of Dominaria, Part II: Early Saga Lore”

  1. Pingback: History of Dominaria, Part III: Modern Saga Lore

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top