Dominaria has been everything fans of Dominaria’s lore could hope for. This set is so dense with references that I’m pretty sure we’ll be discovering things for a while to come. It was truly a labor of love, and the loss of the Dominaria small set is really disappointing considering we could have gotten more. As I was writing a piece on all the flavor gems of the set, I realized the Sagas and Legendary Sorceries could (and should) really be an article by themselves. They both fill a similar function of telling the story of Dominaria, whether that be through historical moments or cultural relevance.
The first thing I want to cover are what I’m calling the Dominarian Pivotal Events. The Legendary Sorceries and many of the Sagas fall under this umbrella, as they depict historical events from Dominaria’s past that I can place on a timeline. Please note these are not literal depictions of the past, they’re in-universe representations of how the past is remembered.
Fall of the Thran (-4,500 AR)
Fall of the Thran by Jason Felix
Fall of the Thran depicts the Battle of Megheddon Defile, the final battle in the Thran-Phyrexia War, when Yawgmoth’s forces fought rebel Thran and their allies for control of the plane. At the bottom we see Phyrexian Bloodstock, which didn’t exist back then, facing off against what appear to be Thran War Machines. Above them are what appear to be three stones and a clouds of gas. Yawgmoth’s ultimate weapon in the war were called stone-chargers, devices that charged powerstones by siphoning off the lifeforce of those engulfed in the cloud. One Bloodstock appears to be holding a soul torch, a similar piece of technology used more recently by Phyrexians on Serra’s Realm.
The stones might also represent the Mightstone and Weakstone, which were split from a single stone to open the Gate to Phyrexia, and recombined to lock the portal again. Above the battle floats Halcyon, the capital city of the Thran, controlled by Yawgmoth. Further above, amongst the stars, is the Null Sphere, a Thran control device that allowed Yawgmoth to siphon off the excess energy created by the soul-chargers so as to control the blast radius. The surviving Thran crew decided to launch the sphere into space in a final act of rebellion, and Yawgmoth lost control of the last stone-charger as it detonated near Halcyon. The survivors of both sides of the battle were forced to flee to Phyrexia to escape the blast. The Null Sphere would achieve orbit and become known as Dominaria’s Null Moon (among other names). The style feels vaguely art deco, which is weirdly appropriate for such an advanced civilization during their own gilded age.
The Antiquities War (20 AR to 63 AR)
The Antiquities War by Mark Tedin
The Antiquities War (Snacktime Preview represent) is named for the work of Kayla Bin-Kroog. Kayla was the chief historian documenting what has become known as The Brothers’ War, where the brothers Urza (her husband) and Mishra were engulfed in, and the leaders of, rival nations embroiled in war. It’s done in the same style as Urza's Tome, which is a neat touch as this art reads as a page from someone’s in-universe journal. The card shows them both claiming the powerstone that split into the Mightstone and Weakstone, opening the Gate to Phyrexia again. You can tell Urza is at the top, because his Brand is on his ring and floating like a sigil near the hand. You can see some Thopters created by Urza in the art, which were his major advantage over Mishra, while one of Mishra’s Dragon Engines are below.
Urza and Mishra Vanguard
Mark Tedin and Anson Maddocks
What’s really cool is that the bottom right corner seems to imitate the classic Vanguard art of the brothers. Both the thopter and Dragon Engine depicted have gotten facelifts, but it’s the same scene. To the bottom left is a construct that seems unfamiliar at first. Looking more closely, the ball-hands and general body shape make it appear to be one of Karn’s construct tokens.
Construct Token by Victor Adame Minguez
Urza’s Ruinous Blast (63 AR)
Urza's Ruinous Blast by Noah Bradley
Urza's Ruinous Blast ended the Brothers’ War and ushered in Dominaria’s Ice Age. I love that the Legendary Sorceries don’t literally depict events, but this sums it up perfect. Waves of force demolish Argoth and smash the tectonic plate below. Urza is depicted in his most recent garb from the Tempest/Invasion eras (rather than any of the half-dozen different looks he had in Urza’s Saga), which works well because it’s hard to recognize him in Urza’s Saga sometimes, much less twenty years later on a set like Dominaria. Beside him is his staff, which is the modern design from Mind Over Matter but with three prongs like in Retaliation. On the other side from the staff is the famed Golgothian Sylex, which Urza activated to cause the blast. In the distance are two moons — one of which is the Null Moon I mentioned earlier.
Time of Ice (450 AR to 2934 AR)
Time of Ice by Franz Vohwinkel
Time of Ice was a mothership reveal which included a bunch of juicy details. It’s meant to cover the Ice Age caused by the Sylex Blast (see above), but the image itself is mostly about the final battle with Lim-Dûl the Necromancer (not depicted, unless he’s supposed to be the skeleton dude). Along the margins seem to be the silhouettes of various baddies. I spotted Dread Wight and Phyrexian Soulgorger at minimum. Blake mentions in the article that White Shield Crusader and Kjeldoran Skyknight are there, above a reference to the original Kjeldoran Outpost (and the new one, too, I guess). Darien, King of Kjeldor and Lovisa Coldeyes are the most prominent figures, standing victorious over a field of felled Gangrenous Zombies. Below the battlefield are the black tentacles in the style of Wrath of Marit Lage, encircling Jodah, Archmage Eternal and Jaya Ballard in stylized versions of their Dominaria card art. Time of Ice is just super rich with detail, done in the style of an illuminated manuscript.
Jaya’s Immolating Inferno (2954 AR)
Jaya's Immolating Inferno by Noah Bradley
Jaya's Immolating Inferno depicts Jaya freeing herself from the clutches of Mairsil, the Pretender. Jodah smashed his Reflecting Mirror into Jaya, igniting her spark to free her from the ancient evil wizard at the conclusion of The Shattered Alliance (I talk about that particular novel here). You can see Jodah in the foreground and . . . a whole lot of fire. A whole, whole lot of fire.
Karn’s Temporal Sundering (3307 AR)
Karn's Temporal Sundering by Noah Bradley
Karn's Temporal Sundering is a representation of when Karn broke time on the original Tolarian Academy. Karn, Silver Golem was built as a probe for Urza’s time travel experiments, but Urza handed off Karn to a young student, Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain, who became his first and closest friend. When the Academy was invaded by a Phyrexian assault force, Jhoira was killed. In grief, Karn used the time machine to return to the past and save her life, but unleashed chaos on the island as time itself broke, creating pockets of fast and slow time, represented in the card by the different environments behind Karn depciting the island is in various states. The darkest pocket of fast time, marked by a Grim Monolith, is the fast-time bubble where the Phyrexians became trapped.
Primevals’ Glorious Rebirth (4205 AR)
Primevals' Glorious Rebirth by Noah Bradley
Primevals' Glorious Rebirth features the resurrection of the Primeval Dragons. From left to right, those dragons are Treva, the Renewer, Rith, the Awakener, Darigaaz, the Igniter, Crosis, the Purger, and Dromar, the Banisher. These five primevals once ruled over all of Dominaria, until they were killed or imprisoned by a group of wizards called the Numena. Darigaaz could reincarnate, and during the Phyrexian Invasion, the planeswalker Tevesh Szat told him the Primeval’s story. Darigaaz began a quest to restore them, but found himself increasingly under their thrall. To free himself from their influence and save his former allies, he kills himself by diving into a volcanic caldera. His death breaks the other dragons’ power, allowing the crew of Skyship Weatherlight to overcome them. Darigaaz Reincarnated represents the most recent rebirth of the primeval dragon.
Yawgmoth’s Vile Offering (4205 AR)
Yawgmoth's Vile Offering by Noah Bradley
Yawgmoth's Vile Offering represents a scene in the novel Apocalypse. Both Urza and Gerrard Capashen had been lured into the Ninth Sphere of Phyrexia by Yawgmoth (yes, the heroes of Dominaria turned traitor), and each were promised a boon. Gerrard demanded Yawgmoth return his recently departed love, Hanna, Ship's Navigator to life for him. Urza’s planeswalker powers were neutralized, and they were pitted against one another in an arena filled with avatars of Yawgmoth of all shapes and sizes. Gerrard eventually triumphs over Urza, severing the planeswalker’s head with a soul-rending weapon, leaving him unable to reform his body. When Gerrard presents his victory to Yawgmoth, however, he realizes the Hanna he is being offered is a fake, he lashes out (Jilt) and escapes with Urza’s head.
The mechanics perfectly capture the flavor of this dark bargain, a death for a life. The image we’re presented with shows the battlefield after Urza and Gerrard have dueled using the flowstone, and we are presented with a representation of Yawgmoth’s true form (only ever shown before in a random piece of concept art from InQuest magazine, I believe). It’s a gruesome image, which contrasts nicely with the purity evoked by Hanna, whose placement as Yawgmoth’s heart isn’t a coincidence, he placed himself in the only body in the arena he was sure Gerrard wouldn’t harm.
Triumph of Gerrard (4205 AR)
The people of Benalia gloss over that last bit in the Triumph of Gerrard, which depicts the final battle against Yawgmoth in a marble statue, probably from New Benalia or the Church of Serra. After Gerrard defeated Urza and recognized Yawgmoth’s duplicity (shocking), he escapes back out the portal to Dominaria and rejoins the Weatherlight crew. Yawgmoth follows him out, manifesting on the plane as a death cloud. Urza head reveals his brilliant plan: blow up half the planet to save the other half. The crew says thanks but no thanks, and instead they crack open the Null Moon and use moon beam power (White mana) to try to eradicate Yawgmoth. Meanwhile, tentacles from this death cloud try to reach on board to kill the crew. The imagery of both of these events have been combined for this saga, which depicts Gerrard fighting off the tentacles of Yawgmoth using a spear where the blade is the Weatherlight, the shaft is the White mana from the Null Moon, and the haft is the Null Moon itself. It’s very reminiscent of the art for the original Legacy Weapon, and in my opinion one of the biggest flavor wins (on multiple levels) for Dominaria.
Chainer’s Torment (4305 AR)
Chainer's Torment by Vincent Proce
I don’t have a lot to say about Chainer's Torment that wouldn’t be a rehash of Mike’s excellent art review. Instead let me just mention that Chainer’s Torment is the second novel of the Odyssey cycle and the best regarded novel of both the Odyssey and Onslaught blocks. In it, Chainer, Dementia Master works for the Cabal Patriarch, quickly ascending the ranks as he hones his power to summon nightmare horrors. He is gifted the Mirari, a powerful device that amplifies one’s abilities but often causes them to go horribly awry. He turns on the Patriarch and exiles him, but loses control of the Mirari’s power and his body is consumed by his own horrors (hence the art). In the aftermath, Chainer’s friend Kamahl, Pit Fighter claims the Mirari. Cast Down refers to Chainer, whose true name was Mazeura.
Kamahl’s Druidic Vow (4305 AR)
Kamahl's Druidic Vow by Noah Bradley
Things only go slightly better for Kamahl and the Mirari as for Chainer. Consumed with the Mirari’s power, he fuses it with his sword (itself made from Urza’s staff) and attempts to take control of all the barbarian clans of the Pardic mountains. When this leads to him dealing a fatal blow to his own sister, Jeska, Warrior Adept, he leaves for the Krosan forest. There, he takes the druidic vow above and changes his ways (sort-of). The scene here evokes the original art for Mirari's Wake, with the Mirari-Sword stabbed into the ground.
The Eldest Reborn (4500 AR)
The Eldest Reborn by Jenn Ravenna
I talked about the exact story of The Eldest Reborn in Elders of Dominaria all the way back in January. Cary previewed it with some great quotes in April, and MJ did a fantastic job summing it up in The Fugitive, so here’s the short(?) version. Around 15,000 years ago, Nicol Bolas dueled a demonic leviathan planeswalker on what would become the island of Madara on Dominaria. That duel created the first time rift on Dominaria, to which Bolas became attuned. Over a millennia ago, the Myojin of Night's Reach used some metaphysical shenanigans dating back to Homelands to transport Toshiro Umezawa from Kamigawa to Dominaria. Toshiro begat a clan of Umezawas on Madara, whose lineage would result in Tetsuo Umezawa, Imperial Champion to the God-Emperor, Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker.
Through a series of events, the Imperial Champion finds himself at odds with the Emperor, with no choice but to fight. He tricks Bolas into following him into the metaphysical spirit pocket plane called the Meditation Realm, and casts a massive spell that essentially drops a mountain onto Nicol Bolas’s body. Without his body or his mana bonds, Tetsuo is able to overpower the elder dragon, believing him to be dead as the Meditation Realm collapses around them. Bolas was still connected to the Madaran rift, however, so when Teferi, Temporal Archmage and crew find themselves trapped in the rift network, he pushes them out on Madara. Using Venser, Shaper Savant’s rift connected spark, Bolas is able to return to the world of the living and become the big bad of the Magic multiverse. Madara is (vaguely) the analogue for Japan on Dominaria, so it makes sense that the art to depict Bolas’ return is inspired by classic Japanese art. Below Bolas in the art, you can see the Talon Gates, the site of the rift where he lingered, made from the bones of his ancient foe.
The Mending of Dominaria (4500 AR)
The Mending of Dominaria by Adam Paquette
The Mending of Dominaria is probably the most relevant Saga to modern lore fans, as it was the turning point from planeswalkers as god-like beings to the mortal mages we see today. It was previewed in an excellent video by Tolarian Community College (which I helped write some of the jokes for). It’s a Jamuraan monument to the heroes of the Mending, showing a broken Dominarian globe with a tree sprouting out of it. Teferi is a small figure at the bottom, holding up the weight of the tree and overshadowed by the noble busts of the other planeswalkers. His outfit actually flows into the broken world, implying he’s the cause. We’ll get to why in a moment. Above him are the three heroes of the Mending, Karn, Lord Windgrace, and Freyalise, Llanowar's Fury (who is reaching to pluck a flower). It’s a beautiful memorial representing the renewal of Dominaria following the Great Mending.
Except there are a few things missing. Jeska was the planeswalker who sealed a fair number of the rifts and initiated the Mending by sealing the final Otarian rift caused by Karona, False God. Leshrac’s spark was used by Nicol Bolas to seal the Madaran rift I talked about earlier. So why do none of these other planeswalkers appear, and why is Teferi not represented in a positive light? These are monuments by the cultures of Dominaria, and none of these figures are particularly well regarded, especially by Jamuraans, many of whom lost their homeland of Zhalfir thanks to Jeska sealing it before Teferi could phase it back in, creating the Zhalfirin Void.
The rest of the Sagas fall under what I’m calling Cultural Sagas. They don’t describe specific events but instead give you insight into the cultures that created them. There is generally one for every major faction represented in Dominaria. Please note that there aren’t neat lines between the Pivotal Events and Cultural Sagas, but I did feel that some represent one thing more than another.
History of Benalia (Benalia)
History of Benalia by Noah Bradley
The History of Benalia tells you a lot about the Benalish people. Their affinity for stained glass and their obsession with the number seven, of which there are seven ruling houses over the nation. It represents an in-universe historical work by the same name, which literally tells you what you need to know about it. The art itself depicts a stylized version of Torsten Von Ursus, who, according to the old Encyclopedia Dominia, founded Benalia from the ashes of the Sheoltun Empire before leaving control of the nation in the hands of his seven lieutenants. Control of the nation rotates through the seven houses founded by those lieutenants, hence the obsession with the number. In the art you can see seven swords, seven moons, seven towers, and seven mountains. It also clues you in on the New Benalian obsession with stained glass, and the outward tapering symbol of the nation is hidden in the background.
Song of Freyalise (Llanowar)
Song of Freyalise by Min Yum
Song of Freyalise is interesting because I’m not sure what in-universe medium is meant to be used here, or if it’s just depicting the Llanowar’s idealized image of their goddess. There’s not a lot to say about it, except that in terms of Dominarian goddesses, both Serra and Freyalise make up a huge chunk of the worship, despite having really been planeswalkers. The (formerly?) xenophobic elves of Llanowar aren’t aware that Freyalise herself was only half-elf, but the elite Steel Leaf warriors have adopted her signature eye path as a sign of religious worship. The art itself connects Freyalise to nature, having her literally bloom out of leaves and vines surrounding her.
The First Eruption (Shiv)
The First Eruption by Steven Belledin
The Card of the Day for The First Eruption already describes the Shivan creation myth for this piece, so I just want to quickly talk about what the medium itself means. It’s meant to evoke a tapestry, which is important, because most of Shiv’s residents are nomadic due to the harsh conditions there. A tapestry (the process of painting which was just insane) that could be rolled up and moved along with tents and other things critical to the nomads. It also tells you all about what drives the people of Shiv: fire and dragons, and a life that needs to be mobile.
The Flame of Keld (Keld)
The Flame of Keld by Lake Hurwitz
The Flame of Keld is an wrought iron work depicting a scene that represents the coming of the first Keldons to the mountains of Keld. They were fleeing the cold in Parma to the north, and to survive, Kradak, the first doyen (Keldon Warchief), made a pact with the mountain and was gifted the flame. His followers became the first Keldon Warhost, and with the flame they formed the warbond, which strengthens both chief and host based on the size of their warhost. You can even see, below Kradak and the flame, an opening in every Keldon showing the flame in their hearts.
What’s more interesting is the message behind the artwork. The wrought iron is part of a Keldon forge, as the Keldons are literally reforging their identity under Grand Warlord Radha. She’s trying to change the Keldon cultural identity from one of takers (raiding other nations) to one of makers (hence the forge and apron imagery). Check out the rest of Kelly Digges’ tweets for more on the Keldon nation these days.
Rite of Belzenlok (The Cabal)
Rite of Belzenlok by Seb McKinnon
Rite of Belzenlok is creepy as heck, and it’s neat that the new Cabal’s style was foreshadowed with the Masters 25 version of Dirge of Dread. Death and glory to Belzenlok seem to be major themes in this piece, and it probably represents Belzenlok being freed from the War in the Abyss, mentioned briefly in an Access Magic video.
The Mirari Conjecture (Tolaria)
The Mirari Conjecture by James Arnold
The Card of the Day article for The Mirari Conjecture explains what is going on here, but while the subject may be the Mirari, it’s really telling us about the Tolarians and their obsessive research. The art itself shows a bunch of notable locations where the Mirari was used over the course of the Odyssey and Onslaught novels. It’s a blackboard, so you can see (probably unrelated?) chalk markings haphazardly erased from some previous research.
Phyrexian Scriptures by Joseph Meehan
Phyrexian Scriptures is kind of the odd man out in this situation. It doesn’t depict a specific time or modern culture, but instead one that was majorly important to Dominaria’s past: the Phyrexians. The Phyrexian Scriptures were the Phyrexian’s religious document, documented in a bunch of flavor text. This particular card is a reference to the Urza’s Saga Dark Ritual, so much so that a translation of the Phyrexian script reveals the writing is the flavor text from that same Dark Ritual!
All the Sagas and Sorceries ended up being so much, you’ll have to wait until next time for my flavor gems of Dominaria. In the meantime, keep looking, as I’m positive we’re still missing references everywhere.