Welcome back, Lore Seekers, to this week's article on Commander Legends! There are a lot of returning Legends, or Legends that are otherwise connected to existing lore, so let's take a moment and dive in. Now, each of these characters gets a nice bio in The Legendary Characters of Commander Legends Part 1, so I won't be doing a ton of backstory for each this time around, but instead providing some meta-commentary along with my usual handy references to find more of these characters! I'm going to pull the two planeswalkers into their own article later this month.
Alena, Kessig Trapper & Halana, Kessig Ranger
Alena, Kessig Trapper by Zoltan Boros
Homeland: Kessig, Innistrad
I'm combining Hal and Alena here, as they've only ever been seen together. These two lovebirds are also an excellent team and seasoned Kessig scouts. They hunt the monsters of the wilds while keeping people safe. They became massively popular after their premiere story in Under the Silver Moon in 2016, and Wizards of the Coast has been looking for a place to print them ever since.
Belbe, Corrupted Observer
Belbe, Corrupted Observer by Igor Kieryluk
Homeland: Skyshroud Forest, Rath
Timeframe: The Phyrexian Invasion
Belbe has to be one of the most requested cards I saw between the era of Weatherlight Saga diehards and the influx of post-Origins vorthos. Many of you might not know who she is, which is perfectly fine. Belbe was a Skyshroud Elf from Rath, and daughter of famed hero Eladamri, Lord of Leaves. She appears in a number of pieces of card art, including Belbe's Portal which was once a rather famous card. She was also the star of the beloved novel Nemesis, and so used to have a lot of fans.
Breeches, Brazen Plunderer & Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator
Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator by Eric Deschamps
Homeland: Ixalan, Ixalan
References: Something Else Entirely, The Race, Part 1, The Race, Part 2, The Arbiter of Law Left Chaos In His Wake, Sabotage, Who Tells The Stories, Wool Over The Eyes, War of the Spark: Ravnica, Card References (Breeches), Card References (Malcolm)
DEBT AND ALE AND CARDS AND FESTIVITIES! Breeches shouted his way into our hearts during the Ixalan story, and like many of the characters mentioned above, was created as part of the story writing process and didn't get a card in the set. Malcolm, meanwhile, was the stalwart, if someone mischievous in spirit, navigator of the ship. Being able to fly really helps with navigation, I would imagine. With these two printed, we're missing three more members of Vraska's crew: Kerrigan, the orc cook, Amelia, the quartermaster, and Gavven the boatswain. I'm always happy to see a new legendary goblin, and I'm excited to see what Breeches, Malcolm, and the rest of the Belligerent crew might be up to when we return to Ixalan.
Brinelin, Moon Kraken
Homeland: Akoum, Zendikar
References: In The Teeth of Akoum
There's one name in Commander Legends that made me do a spit take, and Brinelin, Moon Kraken is it. I wasn't expecting an original character from the relatively unpopular In The Teeth of Akoum to get a card over a decade after the book was published, especially when the Zendikar Art Book's bio for Lorthos, the Tidemaker seemed to use some of the elements of Brinelin's backstory, namely his friendship with Tajuru Speaker Sutina. I'm actually pleased to see Brinelin, as that was one element of lore that always bothered me, and it never hurts to see more sea monsters in Magic.
Colfenor, the Last Yew
Colfenor, the Last Yew by Filip Burburan
Homeland: Murmuring Bosk, Lorwyn
Timeframe: The Great Aurora
References: Lorwyn, Card References
Colfenor is another case of a major character appearing in artwork (Colfenor's Plans feature's his... eye for some reason) and card names but not getting an actual card (much like Belbe). Colfenor was one of the oldest and craftiest beings on Lorwyn until his death, upon which his seedling, Sapling of Colfenor was born to carry on his work. This card is a big deal for Lorwyn fans, but another one that anyone who isn't a fan of the setting already probably won't recognize.
Ghost of Ramirez DePietro
Timeframe: Legends I Cycle (In Life), Potentially Contemporary (Ghost)
References: Ramirez DePietro, Hazezon, Emperor's Fist (Halfdane), Champion's Trial (Halfdane)
Ghost of Ramirez DePietro is in esteemed company, as one of only seven of the original Legendary Creatures from Legends to receive a second card, and the only non-Elder Dragon besides Jedit Ojanen. Although he got a joke mock-up in 2008 for Duel Decks: Pirates vs Ninjas (the joke being there weren't enough pirates or ninjas at the time to justify such a deck), now that Pirates are a legitimate Magic tribe, he makes a lot of sense. As a ghost, he's potentially a contemporary character who may be haunting Dominaria's seas to this day.
DePietro's continuity is a slightly wonky, as Berend Boer can attest to in his excellent blog, Multiverse in Review. The timeframes of many early Magic legends weren't tracked well, leading to some continuity snarls, of which DePietro is a more infamous example. His new status as a ghost actually streamlines that continuity somewhat, allowing him to serve on a vessel with people long after he should have died. And, for fun measure, his new bio adds new wrinkles to continuity, but also sort-of solves them by suggesting that maybe Ramirez is just full of crap.
Gor Muldrak, Amphinologist
Gor Muldrak, Amphinologist by Steven Belledin
References: Card References
Shandalar's seventh Legendary Creature! Gor Muldrak is referenced on several flavor texts from Magic 2013 and 2014 (the Core Sets that had a minor Shandalar theme) as an anthropologist (or... amphinologist) who didn't seem to be taken particularly seriously by mainstream Shandalar society. I really like Shandalar, especially for the apocalyptic cryptids that lurk in the background of its otherwise generic fantasy environment. The Amphin are a big part of that, and it's cool to see Gor Muldrak referenced here!
Kamahl, Heart of Krosa
Kamahl, Heart of Krosa by Kekai Kotaki
Homeland: Otaria, Dominaria
Timeframe: Odyssey and Onslaught
Oh, Kamahl. As the main character of Odyssey and Onslaught, the most 90s storyline Wizards of the Coast ever produced, he was of course a muscle bound protagonist who killed things a lot (including his sister a couple times, as mentioned above). What's interesting about Kamahl is that after his pit fighter days and stabbing Jeska, he retreated to the Krosan Forest to live a druidic life where he couldn't hurt anyone anymore. Remorse and atonement, in Magic story in the 90s? That's actually a pretty cool twist. There he learned to control the power of the Mirari, which had fused to his sword (made from Urza's staff).
Kodama of the East Tree
Kodama of the East Tree by Daarken
Homeland: Jukai, Kamigawa
Timeframe: The Kami War, Potentially Contemporary
References: Card References
The Jukai forest on Kamigawa is known for five mythical tree spirits, called Kodama. The original block mentioned The Poem of the Five Trees, but only printed three of the Kodama. This tree spirit is the fourth, Kodama of the East Tree, leaving the West Tree as the final holdout.
Krark, the Thumbless
Timeframe: Decades prior to the Original Mirrodin Block
Krark, the Thumbless was a Mirran goblin who first discovered that Mirrodin was hollow, and he was promptly killed by the goblin orthodoxy of the time for his heresy. His journal, however, became the basis for a small cult, who would eventually seize power during the original Mirrodin block and become the dominant goblin religion.
Krark is interesting because he's the first original Mirrodin goblin to receive a card with the modern Mirrodin art style for goblins. Back during the original Mirrodin, the goblins were largely the same as Dominarian goblins, with lanky bodies and a green skin tone. That look was updated for Scars of Mirrodin (and was the subject of some consternation at the time), which revised them to have squatter proportions with oversized heads and a peachy skin tone. The new Krark splits the difference niceley, with a greenish cast to his skin tone and an oversized head.
Liesa, Shroud of Dusk
Timeframe: Ancient Innistrad
References: A Gaze Blank and Pitiless (Referenced)
Speaking of Innistrad, Liesa, Shroud of Dusk is the fourth angel sister that fans have been clamoring for since Shadows Over Innistrad. Before Sorin Markov created Avacyn, Angel of Hope, there were four archangel sisters that protected the plane: Bruna, Light of Alabaster, Gisela, Blade of Goldnight, Sigarda, Host of Herons, and Liesa, Shroud of Dusk. Liesa was not as extreme in her views as her sisters, though, and frequently consorted with demons and other dark creatures to mitigate their impact.
Once Avacyn was around, however, the new archangel viewed Liesa as a threat. Monsters were not to be bargained with but imprisoned or destroyed, and so shortly after Avacyn's creation, Liesa was killed.
Numa, Joraga Chieftain
Homeland: Bala Ged, Zendikar
Timeframe: The Mending, Potentially Contemporary
Magic Origins featured a cycle of mentor-type characters for each of the planeswalkers. For Nissa's story, that was actually just Dwynen, Gilt-Leaf Daen, a random Lorwyn elf she met right before The Great Aurora. Numa, the Joraga Chief who had Nissa exiled for her growing animist powers, was only found in a few bits of flavor text. At the time, this didn't sit well for fans, but that problem has now been rectified!
Prava of the Steel Legion
Prava of the Steel Legion by Matt Stewart
Homeland: Unnamed Roman Vampire Plane
Timeframe: Unknown, Presumed Contemporary
References: [Licia, Sanguine Tribune], [Saskia the Unyielding]
Prava is interesting in a very different way than most of the other characters here. Prava is now the third entry in the unnamed Roman Plane! What is that, you might ask? Well, frequently new Legends for a Commander product (or other plane agnostic product, like a core set) are set in an unknown plane, usually to be able to play around with character designs that isn't restricted to an existing, fleshed out setting. Very, very rarely do the one-offs become two-offs, and even more rarely still, three-offs. In fact, outside of Krond the Dawn-Clad and Vela the Night-Clad, there's only one other case of multiple legends explicitly being from the same unnamed plane! That case was Saskia the Unyielding and Licia, Sanguine Tribune. We learned about Saskia's origins in It's Time To Talk Commander (2016 Edition):
Saskia was the sole survivor of a massacre conducted against her village by an invading army from across the sea. The warrior tradition of her people calls for the survivors of a battle to erect a monument of stones for the fallen - a task Saskia toiled at in solitude for nearly ten years. As news of her labor spread among her kindred, thousands of warriors journeyed to see Saskia place the final stone upon this symbol of defiance. The monument complete, her mind turned from mourning to vengeance. With axe in hand and a host at her back, Saskia brought war to the doorsteps of her enemies.
Then we got the connect to Licia, Sanguine Tribune in her Commander (2017 Edition) product insert:
Emphasis mine. The gaulic tribal design of Saskia combined with Licia's roman look made this implicit connection very strong, for those who know their history. Now, we've got a third legend to add to this plane's story. Prava's blurb from The Legendary Characters of Commander Legends Part 1 mentions Licia by name, making an explicit connection:
Emphasis mine, again. It's cool to see this isn't just 'Roman Vampire' plane (which, with a vampire conquistador plane in Ixalan, isn't exactly a novel idea), but instead a Roman-inspired plane with diverse cultures where Vampires and Leonin can serve in the same military together.
Radiant, Serra Archangel
Radiant, Serra Archangel by Chris Rallis
Homeland: Serra's Realm
Timeframe: Urza's Saga
Poor Radiant. An early White-aligned villain, Radiant was an archangel of Serra who was forced to assume power after Serra fled the plane. Radiant was misled by Phyrexian sleeper agents and quickly became a murderous tyrant. In any other situation, Radiant might have been known as a benevolent deity in her own right: she was so powerful she defeated Urza in single combat (then again, Urza wasn't exactly known for his martial power). As it stood, Radiant presided over Serra's Realm's slow collapse and made terrible choices in a vain attempt to keep the realm together in Serra's absence. She finally realized what she'd done at the end, as she was burned away by the power of Urza's powerstone eyes (which she had plucked from his head) and exclaimed, at the end, "I'm the mad one!".
Rebbec, Architect of Ascension
Homeland: Terisiare, Dominaria
Timeframe: Ancient Thran
References: The Thran
Rebbec is a fascinating character from deep in Dominaria's past. An architect of the Thran Empire, Rebbec was responsible for creating many of their most impressive edifices, including the floating city of Halcyon. She was also created in the 90's, which led to some, uh, interesting design choices on the cover of The Thran.
Despite the general squickyness of the Thran (who, among other things, used goblin slave labor), Rebbec shines through the story as a hero. Yawgmoth, Thran Physician is a creep throughout, beyond his eventual Phyrexian machinations, and Rebbec is constantly underestimated by the villain. When she finally realizes what Yawgmoth is up to, she's the sole reason Dominaria is saved from an early Phyrexian conquest by locking them out of the plane.
Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh
Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh by Chris Seaman
Homeland: Terisiare, Dominaria
Rograkh himself is not an existing character, but instead a new character tied to Kher Keep, a long-time Magic location that has been around since the original Legends. We've learned that Prossh hunts the mountains on Terisiare more recently, placing Kher Keep in the Terisiare mountains, but beyond that we know very little about these elusive Kobolds.
What's cool about Rograkh is that he uses the classic Red Kobolds of Kher Keep design, rather than the somewhat varying Kobold designs over the years. They've been both Blue and Green, and sometimes were just straight-up goblin look-alikes (like Rohgahh was), so it's nice to see them having settled on a design.
Sengir, the Dark Baron
Sengir, the Dark Baron by Bastien L. Deharme
Homeland: Unknown (Presumed to be Dominaria)
Timeframe: Ancient, Potentially Contemporary
References: The Secrets of Magic (Song for the Plague Rats), Homelands #1, Card References
Long before Innistrad, Magic's iconic gothic horror plane was Ulgrotha, the setting of 1995's Homelands. The setting brought to the forefront two names from Limited Edition Alpha that Magic players knew well: Serra (or Serra Angel fame) and Baron Sengir (of Sengir Vampire fame). Serra and Sengir's battle for the soul of Ulgrotha was the subject of Rebbeca Guay's beautifully illustrated Homelands comic. You can learn all about him in this CSI produced video:
While Magic may have moved on from Ulgrotha (there were problems with the setting that would make it hard to sustain a modern Magic set, like it being very, very small and relatively generic), it has not moved on from the Baron. Sengir's Castle had a portal beneath it called the Dwarven Gate, and it's possible (even likely) that the Baron travelled through it at some point to another plane.
These handful are new characters flavored as explicitly being from existing planes.
Blim, Comedic Genius is a Rakdos Devil.
Keskit, the Flesh Sculptor is a New Phyrexian under the Steel Thanes, although it leaves the disposition of Sheoldred's domain in doubt.
Livio, Oathsworn Sentinel is a Fioran vigilante.
Nymris, Oona's Trickster is a Lorwyn Faerie.
Siani, Eye of the Storm is a Jeskai monk.
The Prismatic Piper is an interplanar being.
Yurlok of Scorch Thrash is a Jund viashino.
Zara, Renegade Recruiter is a Kaladeshi renegade.
That's all for today folks! Join me next week as I cover the remaining Legends with any existing lore surrounding them!