furnace layer

New Phyrexia’s Geography

Ok, so during the original Mirrodin block their was 2 layers: the top and the second layer around the core. In Scars block, we hear it has 3 layers: Top, Furnace(repurposed second layer), and the Third layer made by drilling out the core.

Now this causes quite a conundrum because if the second layer is the furnace layer, where does this

and this

and also this take place?

Top Five Tuesday: Mountains

It’s week four of my look at my favorite basic land art for each type. This quest began with Plains, Islands, and Swamps, which means today’s article is going to be about my top five favorite Mountains. I find that Mountains have a similar problem as Swamps: much of the basic land art is so generic and similar that many planes fail to create a Mountain identity. You’ll see today how much I value Mountain art that can set a plane apart from others in Magic.

#5: John Avon’s Post-Post-Post-Apocalyptic Dominaria

We begin with one of the most dramatic interpretations of Mountain-ness in the game. The basic land art of Time Spiral took plenty of liberties to convey the devastated landscape of Dominaria. Grasslands can wither. Islands erode into the sea. Swamps are tainted by Phyrexian oil. Forests die and decay. But how do you go about showing post-apocalyptic Mountains? Aren’t they the steadfast formations that are supposed to survive anything? Apparently not.

In order to show that even the Mountains were dying, we see these eroded spires of rock instead of your basic, everyday mountain. It’s as if the mountains themselves are starving, emaciated from the lack of mana on the plane. It isn’t just the people who are struggling to survive, it’s the very land itself.

What I love about Avon’s piece is that it places us right in this forest of mountains. They don’t even tower miles above the land anymore. We can walk through them like ants in blades of grass. They’re so small and so unstable that we, mere humans, might even be able to push them over. Dominaria is so blasted to hell that it crumbles at the tough of mortals.

The parallel vertical orientation of these spires helps sell death in a few ways. First, it creates a static image void of life. Dominaria is simply done living, done moving, finished with a dynamic history that shaped the Multiverse. Second, these spires break the image up into segments. Dominaria,and time itself, is literally falling apart. The pieces can’t be put back together again, at least not totally. This art mimics this decay. Finally, the foreground spire extends out of our vision almost like a cage or jail cell. If the time rifts aren’t fixed, all life will die in the prison that is Dominaria.

#4: Titus Lunter’s Tundra Volcano

I like volcano art. There, I said it. More basic Mountain art should feature volcanos. The caveat, however, is that they can’t just be boring volcanos like many lands have boring mountains. Volcanos have to mean something, like the one on Lunter’s art for the Atarka Mountain in Dragons of Tarkir.

Qal Sisma is a rugged region of Tarkir that it usually frozen. At least that’s how it was portrayed for the entirety of the block so far. Then we get to Sarkhan’s reforged Tarkir, a world of Dragonlords. Atarka herself has dwelled in the frozen tundra of Qal Sisma for over a millennium now. How has that changed the frigid wasteland we once knew?

A lot, apparently. Volcanos are generally representative of the raw power of nature. They explode with forces great than nuclear bombs and are the dominant geological force in their regions. You know, like the dragons of the Atarka brood. And what happens when you heat up ice? It cracks. Project that on a geographic scale and you get this land. That Mountain is literally fractured by volcanic forces, the fires of the Atarka melting through the glacial landscape. If volcanos are the standard for the mighty power of nature, what does that say about the dragons that can crack them in half?

There’s a lot of cool things happening in this piece as well, especially with color. High contrast pieces will be a recurring theme whenever I talk about Magic art I enjoy, and this one makes it easy. It doesn’t get any more contrasting than black and white, the colors most prominently featured here. The white snow (or is it ash?) plasters the side of the mountain, as the blackened, charred rocks erupt with glowing lava. Bright color is another recurring theme, and vivid lava flows highlight the shape of this scene’s geography. Steam mixes with soot as opposite ends of nature’s spectrum of power clash in a wild and unrelenting ecosystem.

#3: Tomasz Jedruszek’s Red Sun of New Phyrexia

I’ve previously talked about the way New Phyrexia’s basic lands show the fully corrupted versions of Mirrodin’s landmarks. One of my favorite versions of this metamorphosis involves Kuldotha, depicted on the art of Great Furnace. Kuldotha is the central forge of Mirrodin’s goblins, a fountain of molten metal and location of the red lacuna that ejected the plane’s red sun into the sky.

Jedruszek’s Mountain is pretty much a total recreation of the Great Furnace art (One of each of the New Phyrexia basic lands recreates the matching artifact land, in fact.) This is great, as it gives us a way to directly compare the before-and-after of Mirrodin-to-New Phyrexia. In fact, let’s put the cards next to each other:

Two objects prominently play into these images: Kuldotha and Sky Tyrant, the plane’s red satellite. The sun/moon is actually a burning globe of raw mana. In the Great Furnace art, we see it up in the sky casting a soft orange light on the rusted landscape. But in the New Phyrexian slice of life, this sun is larger and lower on the horizon. It’s much closer to the ground, scouring the landscape with burning heat. It looks more molten, reminiscent of the Planechase art for The Fourth Sphere. The satellite has even hopped over to the other side of Kuldotha, signifying a changing of the guard, so to speak. Mirrodin is no more. We New Phyrexia now.

Kuldotha itself has also vastly changed. What used to be controlled flows of molten metal are now gaping holes that lead into the plane’s furnace layer. The grime of industry cakes the scorched land, twisted metal spires mimicking the spindles that decorate Phyrexia’s inhabitants. The Great Furnace is almost totally blackened with death, necrotic with the cancer from below.

#2: John Avon’s Oxidda Mountains

Of course, I’ve always been fond of Mirrodin’s lands. John Avon makes a return to this list for a Mountain from the original Mirrodin set. Another common trait I enjoy on my basic lands is a strong sense of depth. This piece achieves that by placing some in-focus spires on the edges of the foreground and hazier mountains in the background. We even have details in the far-away sky to complete the ecosystem. Are they chemtrails? Probably not. Mirrodin’s dragons use jet propulsion to fly, so those are likely just regular, normal vapor trails that won’t alter your DNA or control your brain.

I think what I find most intriguing is the light source in this piece. The farther down we look on these mountains, the brighter they get. We also know the light is coming from beyond our location since it’s not lighting the mountain right next to us. What’s down there? Is there a river of molten metal eroding a canyon in these rusty hills? Maybe there’s a chasm that’s opened up over a volcanic pit. We can’t be certain what it is, which gives this piece a sense of mystery.

Even more subtle, however, is the chance that this land is foreshadowing New Phyrexia. After all, the contagion came from within Mirrodin, eating its way out from the core. Does the light draw our eyes down to warn us to beware what’s beneath? Intentional or not, it taints the sense of mystery with a dangerous vibe now that we know what Mirrodin has become. This is intertextuality at work, altering the perception of older art through the lens of newer art.

#1: Véronique Meignaud’s Stargate

I’m not alone in liking Meignaud’s inclusion in Zendikar’s full-art cycle of Mountains. From what I’ve seen it’s regarded as one of the best pieces in the entire basic land pantheon. I guess people just like Stargate.

What really draws me to this piece, my second favorite of hers after her Island, is the way shapes are used outside of their normal environments. Mountains are generally thought of as rugged, angular landscapes. They’re even shaped like giant triangles! Meignaud decided that this part of Zendikar would buck the trend, so she put a circle on top of a mountain instead. We’re looking at it from the side, which also gives depth to this odd geometry. I think the reason I love the Zendikar lands in general is that they visually play with geometry and geography in such abstract, yet simple, ways.

As always, color is an important factor in my favorite Magic art. Meignaud is one of the best when it comes to incorporating a vivid spectrum into fantasy art. She’s so good at it, in fact, that this Mountain is one of her blander pieces in this regard. Reds and oranges are predominant through the whole piece, with blues and purples only really dwelling in the shadows. Those colors are still there, however, and partner with muted whites to break up the rusty colors of the slopes. I like how Meignaud’s use of color plays into Zendikar as a mana-rich plane. We don’t always know where the color or light is coming from; it just sort of manifests as an ethereal part of the landscape.

Mountains out of Molehills

Many Mountains have pretty standard art, showing one peak against the sky. But when it comes to my favorite Mountains, I prefer the ones that signal unique locations and bizarre twists on what being a Mountain means. As always, I’m also drawn to basic lands that reflect the mood of the plane they represent. With four basic land types down, the final part of this series will look at my favorite Forests.

Until then, planeswalkers, may your aspirations take you to heights above the tallest mountain.