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Commander 2019 Flavor Gems

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Wizards of the Coast seems determined to print as many fan favorite characters as possible this year, and Commander 2019 is no exception. Packed to the brim with flavor, this set features no less than four characters from the legendary Weatherlight Saga, with new cards to replace lackluster originals from two decades ago. I wrote a pretty extensive script covering the entire Weatherlight Saga if you need a refresher, which I'm linking below.

With so much to cover, let's dive in! The first few characters originate primarily from the Tempest block, so if you want more background, feel free to check out the Tempest Characters article from way back in the dawn of the mothership. Oh yeah, and my podcast, The Vorthos Cast, spent the last three weeks covering the Weatherlight saga, so check that out too!

Gerrard Capashen

I can't say enough nice things about how fantastic this artwork is.

Gerrard, Weatherlight Hero by Zack Stella

Featured in Gerrard's Quest (Dark Horse Comics), Rath and Storm, Mercadian Masques, Invasion, Planeshift, and Apocalypse, Card Art and Flavor Text.

There isn't a character from early Magic as resonant as the Dominarian hero Gerrard Capashen. While only appearing in the story for four years, Gerrard has appeared on more Magic art than all but a handful of characters. His original card, Gerrard Capashen, is widely considered a failure to capture his flavor, as so I'm incredibly happy with this new piece. His new card, Gerrard, Weatherlight Hero is a ton of fun.

A 26-year-old Benalish Master of Arms, Gerrard's existence had been orchestrated by the planeswalker Urza, unbeknownst to him. Gerrard's clan was slaughtered while he was a baby, and he was rescued by Karn, Silver Golem, who gave him to Sidar Kondo of Jamuraa to raise as his own. Gerrard ran afoul of Kondo's son, Vuel, and the two became bitter enemies. Vuel sought darker powers, and was transformed by Phyrexia into Volrath, the shapeshifting Evincar of Rath.

Gerrard spent time on the Weatherlight, hunting down a collection of artifacts known as the Legacy, but the death of a friend caused him to quit the crew. When Sisay was kidnapped by Volrath, Gerrard was brought back into the fight. Gerrard led the rescue mission for Sisay, and discovered that the Phyrexians were planning an imminent invasion of Dominaria.

Gerrard was a leader in the fight to repel the Phyrexian Invasion, but despite the Weatherlight's small victories, the overall war was going poorly. Gerrard's love, the ship's navigator Hanna, perished from a Phyrexian contagion. The despondent Gerrard was vulnerable Phyrexia's manipulations. Gerrard was lured by the promise that Phyrexia's dark god, Yawgmoth, could resurrect his lost love. All he had to do was kill the planeswalker Urza, depicted in Yawgmoth's Vile Offering.

Gerrard managed to behead Urza with a soul-cutting blade, but realized Yawgmoth was lying to him. With Urza's still-living head in tow, Gerrard escaped and enacted Urza's final, desperate plan: the Legacy Weapon, killing Gerrard in the blast while saving the plane from Phyrexia and slaying Yawgmoth. Gerrard is honored to this day as one of the greatest heroes of Dominaria, especially in his homeland of Benalia.

Gerrard's new art features many members of the crew. On the left 'wing' are Tahngarth, Squee, and Sisay, the three crew members to survive the Phyrexian Invasion and remain behind on Dominaria. They would go on to crew a new (sailing) ship named Victory. Above Gerrard and to the left is the Phyrexian symbol, and directly above him is Hannah, his lost love. To the right are Orim, who returned to Mercardia following the Invasion to be with Cho-Manno, Mirri, who died on Rath, and Karn, who ascended as a planeswalker.

Tahngarth, First Mate

Tahngarth's design here was inspired by MMA fighters and Bruce Lee.

Tahngarth, First Mate by Anna Steinbauer

Featured in Gerrard's Quest (Dark Horse Comics), Rath and Storm, Mercadian Masques, Invasion, Planeshift, Apocalypse, Card Art and Flavor Text.

Tahngarth, First Mate is another returning original Weatherlight Crew member, a Dominarian minotaur hailing from the Talruum mountain range on the continent of Jamuraa. His new card depicts the stalwart minotaur, wielding his trademark Talruum crystal blade, in the years before the Tempest block. In Tempest's story, Tahngarth is captured by [Greven, Predator Captain] and subjected to horrific experimentation by the Phyrexians. Tahngarth, Talruum Hero depicts him in his post-mutation form.

Tahngarth was just 20-years-old when the Phyrexian Invasion began. He had served as the Weatherlight's First Mate for years under Sisay, and when Sisay was kidnapped (kickstarting the events of the Weatherlight saga), it's Tahngarth who recruits Gerrard to lead the rescue mission. When the crew arrives on Rath, they're immediately attacked by the Predator, commanded by Greven Il-Vec, who overpowers the massive minotaur and takes him away for his aforementioned torture and mutation.

Tahngarth is left is a difficult position after he's rescued. He's hesitant to return to his people for fear of being shunned for his horrific appearance. By the time the crew returns home, that fear is moot, as his entire homeland has been phased out by the planeswalker Teferi along with Zhalfir. He never gets the chance to reconnect with his people.

Instead, the crew heads to Hurloon, where Tahngarth has the chance to save an entire village from a fate similar to his own. Rather than shun him, the entire Hurloon clan honor Tahngarth together, and the minotaur realizes he was a fool to think his appearance, and not his character, would matter. After the Invasion, Tahngarth joins Sisay on her new ship, the Victory.

Volrath, the Shapestealer

Volrath loved to experiment and create new mutations.

Volrath, the Shapestealer by Heonhwa Choe

Featured in Gerrard's Quest (Dark Horse Comics), Rath and Storm, Mercadian Masques, Nemesis, Card Art and Flavor Text.

The big bad of the Tempest block, Volrath the Fallen, is another early Legendary Creature that just didn't have a particularly exciting or flavorful execution. Volrath, the Shapestealer represents the shapeshifting Evincar of Rath much better. Born as Vuel to Sidar Kondo of Jamuraa, Vuel was the adoptive brother of Gerrard Capashen. But when Gerrard interfered in Vuel's coming-of-age ritual, he humiliated Vuel ended any hope Vuel had of inheriting leadership from his father.

The embittered Vuel was lured by Starke of Rath, an agent (but not Sleeper Agent) of Phyrexia from the artificial plane of Rath. Seduced by the power they could provide, Vuel was mutated into Volrath with the ability to change his form at will. Volrath became Evincar, the leader of Phyrexia's forces on Rath and their invasion plans for Dominaria.

Volrath began plotting his revenge against Gerrard, luring him to Rath by kidnapping the Captain of his former crew of the Weatherlight, Sisay. With Starke's daughter, Takara, dangled as an additional hostage, Volrath's forces tormented the crew. Disguising himself as Takara, he allowed himself to be 'rescued' by Gerrard. He murdered Starke while in the shape of the traitor's daughter, but when he revealed himself and took command of one of his skyships on Mercadia, his ship was shot down by the Weatherlight and the crew thought him dead. In defeat, he returned to Rath.

There he found the Weatherlight crewmembers abandoned on Rath having usurped his position, with Crovax the Cursed having claimed Volrath's throne in his absence. Crovax defeated Volrath (with a little help) and claims the title of Evincar officially just before the Invasion of Dominaria began in earnest. Volrath's card references his depictions from earlier artwork, both his experimentations table in Whim of Volrath and the blue gem from Coercion.

Greven, Predator Captain

Greven was defined by his rage, the only freedom he had left.

Greven, Predator Captain by Zack Stella

Featured in Gerrard's Quest (Dark Horse Comics), Rath and Storm, Planeshift, Card Art and Flavor Text.

Greven Il-Vec was a native of the artificial plane of Rath, a cruel man heavily modified by Phyrexia in exchange for his service. Greven was the captain of Predator, Flagship, but he was bound to Volrath's service by a spinal implant. When the Weatherlight arrived on Rath, Greven and the Predator ambushed the crew. Greven personally defeated the ferocious minotaur warrior Tahngarth, taking him prisoner alongside the silver golem Karn. When the upgraded Weatherlight attempted to escape from Rath, Greven and the Predator were damaged attempting to recapture them.

Greven fared poorly when returning to the Rathi Stronghold, finding that things had changed and Crovax was now in charge. When Volrath returned and forced Greven to aid him, he earned him the ire of the new Evincar, and his mind was dominated to ensure compliance. At the peak of the Invasion on Dominaria, Greven boarded the Weatherlight for the last time as they assaulted the Stronghold. He quickly found that the 'enhancements' he had inflicted on Tahngarth gave his foe the advantage in their rematch. In possibly one of the most metal moments in Magic history, Greven's corpse was thrown back aboard the damaged Predator, to crash with his ship into the Stronghold below as a calling card for Crovax.

K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth

Home Plane: Phyrexia

Featured in Time Streams and Flavor Text.

Kerrick was a handsome Phyrexian Sleeper Agent, disguised to blend in with humans. He was part of a concerted effort by Phyrexia to infiltrate Tolaria, the island upon which Urza's Tolarian Academy was founded. Urza's defenses proved inadequate when Kerrick washed ashore on Tolaria and Jhoira of the Ghitu, then just a teenager, took pity on him. Through Jhoira, Kerrick spied on the Academy until he discovered something worth breaking his cover. In the original timeline, Kerrick calls in his masters and Phyrexian Negators kill almost everyone.

Karn uses Urza's Time Travel device and goes back in time to prevent it, but Karn's Temporal Sundering fractures time on the island. Kerrick and the Negators become stuck in a pocket of fast time, experiencing time at an accelerated rate. Kerrick makes the most of this, and becomes a sort-of mini-Father of Machines (Yawgmoth's title), creating his own brand of Fast-Time Phyrexians who iterate and expand with lightning speed, using the very weapons the Tolarians employ against them. Kerrick compleats himself, becoming K'rrik.

Sleeper's Guile
Ostracize
No Mercy

Eventually the Phyrexians find a way to break out of the fast-time zone they've been imprisoned in, and assault Tolaria, and the damage mounts as Urza is away. The planeswalker returns with Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar as a new ally, and nature's fury wipes out K'rrik and his Phyrexians once and for all.

Chainer, Nightmare Adept

Chainer is younger in this card. No beard, and not yet a master.

Chainer, Nightmare Adept by Steve Prescott

Home Plane: Dominaria

Featured in Odyssey, Chainer's Torment, Card Art and Flavor Text.

Mazeura, aka Chainer, Dementia Master is the star of the only book worth reading from the Odyssey and Onslaught cycles, Chainer's Torment. A member of the nefarious Cabal in its original incarnation, Mazeura took the name Chainer as part of the Cabal's custom. As a youth he was trained to be a pit fighter, wielding chains as his unique 'hook' to draw the crowds, eventually being able to conjure chains magically. As he grew, he eventually left for Cabal City, where he trained with a dementia caster named Skellum. The two grew close, and when Chainer discovered the mysterious Mirari, he brought it before the Cabal Patriarch himself. As Chainer fought in the Pit Fights of Cabal City, he befriended Kamahl, Pit fighter, the protagonist of the Odyssey and Onslaught cycles.

When the Mirari was taken from the city, and Kamahl followed, Chainer remained behind to continue learning the Cabal's dementia magic. Kamahl's sister, Jeska, Warrior Adept, and mentor Balthor the Stout defeated Chainer after cutting off his arm in a pit fight while searching for Kamahl. Skellum replaced the arm with an artificial prosthesis, and Chainer continued to climb in the ranks, mastering Dementia magic. Dementia magic related to a sort-of pocket dimension at the time, where nightmarish 'dementia' creature languished until called upon by skilled Dementia casters.

Eventually, after the Patriarch orchestrated Skellum's death, Chainer was seduced by the power of the Mirari. He acquired the powerful artifact and, upon realizing he couldn't kill the Patriarch, exiled him across the continent instead. Chainer, under the influence of the Mirari's power, decided to wipe the slate clean with the Cabal and start over from scratch, opening up every dementia space and pulling every nightmare inside into reality. Kamahl was unable to stop his old friend, who tried to absorb all the nightmare creatures into his own body, but the power overwhelmed him (as depicted in Chainer's Torment). The pain proved too much for Chainer, and he asked his old friend to end his life. You can read a slightly longer version of this story in A Man Named Chainer.

Marisi, Breaker of the Coil

Home Plane: Alara (Naya)

Featured in Alara Unbroken, and Flavor Text.

Once upon a time on Naya, the Nacatl (leonin) were one people, living on their mountaintop cities of Antali and Qasali. They were led by a complex code of 121 guiding principles called the Coil, inscribed onto a white granite disc. In Marisi, Breaker of the Coil's day, he shattered the Coil, believing the civilized life had weakened his people and made them soft. When the leaders of Antali, the Nacatl capital, tried to stop him, Marisi and his followers destroyed the city and led the people into the valleys below to eek out a life among the massive Gargantua.

The Nacatl were split that day into the Cloud Nacatl, who remained in the mountaintop city of Qasali, and the Wild Nacatl, who followed Marisi and split into prides each led by a Kha in the valleys. Those prides honored Marisi for generations with the Feast of Marisi, believing him a great hero long dead. In truth, the would-be revolutionary was a pawn of the elder dragon Nicol Bolas, sowing chaos to stoke the flames of war. Marisi survived through the reunion of Alara's five shards.

Marisi appeared to Zaliki, a healer from Jazal Goldmane's pride, and gave her the magic which caused Jazal's death. This tragedy caused the spark of Ajani Goldmane, Jazal's brother, to ignite. Marisi was killed by Zaliki, as penance for her mistake, not long afterwards.

Anje Falkenrath

Home Plane: Innistrad

Featured in Flavor Text.

Of the four major vampiric bloodlines of Innistrad, only Falkenrath exists without its progenitor. Slain long ago and his ancestral home taken by cathars, the Falkenrath line's strongest leader is Anje Falkenrath. Anje has brought together many of the bloodline for a single purpose: to retake Castle Falkenrath.

Ghired, Conclave Exile

I love that Ghired is still clearly wearing Selesnyan armor.

Ghired, Conclave Exile by Yongjae Choi

Home Plane: Ravnica

Ghired, Conclave Exile is a Gruul Shaman formerly of the Selesnyan Conclave (hence the name). Ghired's Belligerence is a boar to honor Ilharg, the Raze-Boar, who he caught a glimpse of during the War of the Spark and converted. What I love about Ghired's design is how much of his Selesnyan outfit remains in his costume.

Rayami, First of the Fallen

Home Plane: Zendikar

Rayami, First of the Fallen appears to be one of the original cultists transformed by Ulamog into Zendikar's first vampires. Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief is another such being. There were originally twelve Bloodchiefs created when the Eldrazi were first loosed from their bonds about 1,000 years before the modern story. Note the bone growths similar to Ulamog's.

Atla Palani, Nest Tender

Home Plane: Ixalan

Atla Palani, Nest Tender is a Sun Empire shaman from Ixalan. I love the flavor of her card, as she guards over mysterious eggs that hatch into the creatures of your deck. It's a cool idea for the dinosaur-revering Sun Empire to dedicate themselves to the protection and tending of eggs.

Sevinne, the Chronoclasm

Home Plane: Dominaria

Sevinne, the Chronoclasm is a Wizard from the Tolarian Academies, wearing the famous mantle of the Tolarians. Note that Sevinne's art shows him carrying the same artifact he's seen 'restoring' with his temporal magic in Sevinne's Reclamation.

Elsha of the Infinite

Home Plane: Tarkir

Elsha of the Infinite is a Jeskai monk from Tarkir, the Abbot of the Sage-Eye Stronghold. You can see a Mystic Monastery in the background of her art. Whether this is the Khans timeline or Tarkir's past isn't clear. She's also Magic's second Legendary Djinn ever!

Kadena, Slithering Sorcerer

A Sultai-colored Naga in the Dragons-timeline would sure be interesting!

Kadena, Slithering Sorcerer by Caio Monteiro

Home Plane: Tarkir

Kadena, Slightering Sorcerer is a Naga from Silumgar's brood on Tarkir. She plots to seize power for herself with her network of spies.

Idol of Oblivion

Idol of Oblivion is the only non-Legend I'm devoting more than a sentence or so to, and for good reason. The art features a statue of the god Mangeni, framed by light in the shape of a hedron (you can see the same statue in Shrine of the Forsaken Gods). Mangeni was worshipped by the Kor of Zendikar after the legends of Ulamog morphed over millennia, hence the tentacles. We see this particular scene, or something much like it, in the story Stirring from Slumber. Given that last year we saw the same deep cut with Ancient Stone Idol and Stone Idol Trap, I'm looking forward to the Emeria statue getting some love next year!

Flavorful Tidbits:

That's all for this week folks! Join me next week as I continue my flavorful look at Commander decks in Building for Flavor!