Getting to Know the Praetors (New Phyrexia)
By Doug Beyer (5/11/11)
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Role: Elesh Norn is the praetor of the
white-aligned Phyrexian faction, the Machine Orthodoxy. She oversees all sects
of the Machine Orthodoxy and commands great respect from all those who belong
to the entire faction. She often goes by the title “Praetor of
Appearance: Like many of her faction, Elesh
Norn has no skin, but is outfitted with cracked, porcelain-like metal over her
raw musculature. Her most recognizable characteristic is the set of broad
blades of that bonelike metal that sweep back and away from her face. She often
has lower-ranked cenobites and suture priests carrying her train and inscribing
Agenda: Elesh Norn rules over all the sects
of the Machine Orthodoxy but abides by the particulars of none. She does
believe, however, in the importance of unifying all of Phyrexia under a single
banner by indoctrinating all life with Phyrexian beliefs. She sought to help
induct Karn as the Father of Machines, but in her heart she believes that the
Father of Machines is more of a symbolic figurehead than a true position of power,
and she means to install a puppet in that role whom she can influence.
is an English word; it refers to a member of religious group who lives with
others in a convent or community. The white-aligned Phyrexian faction, the
Machine Orthodoxy, includes many cenobites as lesser priests and hierarchs, and
the praetor Elesh Norn is the highest-ranking of such clergy—hence “Grand
Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur
Role: Jix-Gitaxias is the praetor of the
blue-aligned Phyrexian faction, the Progress Engine. He serves as the brilliant
mastermind behind the sociopathic experiments of the so-called Great Synthesis.
Appearance: Hunched and barbed, Jin-Gitaxias is
covered in the chromelike metals common to Phyrexians of the Progress Engine.
Jin-Gitaxias can communicate in a variety of modes and languages, including
mental speech, which he uses to drill his ideals of perfection into the minds
of others. As part of Jin-Gitaxias’s optimized homeostasis, his ribs and spinal
pillar flex and pulse disturbingly.
Agenda: Jin-Gitaxias seeks the perfection
of all life through the most perfect of methods: clinical experimentation. Of
all the praetors, Jin-Gitaxias is the most concerned with converting the face
of the world formerly known as Mirrodin to its Phyrexian ideal, from the
smallest organism to the greatest sea. Jin-Gitaxias is a living storehouse of
research data, collated from every tidbit of vicious exploration conducted
throughout the plane.
Trivia: Even though the five praetors weren’t
going to become cards until New Phyrexia,
they were quoted in flavor text as early as Scars
of Mirrodin. That meant we had to finalize what the praetors would be
called in New Phyrexia the better
part of a year before we would actually make cards for them. Some of the
praetors’ names were long and elaborate, though, and their mana costs were
likely to run up into three or maybe four symbols. (For example, takes three mana symbols to express, which can
eat up space for longer names. would have taken four symbols and even more
So we had to make sure that those
names—including their including their postnominal epithets, such as “Core
Augur"—would fit in the name bar of Magic
cards. (Even then, their mana costs lost a colored mana during New Phyrexia development to make sure
that the by-then-set-in-stone names would fit.) Jin-Gitaxias’s initial name was
the longest of the five—he was originally called "Jin-Gitaxias, the Augur
of the Core.” A bit of rearrangement and editing yielded the nicely
efficient “Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur.” Note that “augur”
here means “prognosticator” or “prophet.” It doesn’t mean
“driller"—that’s "auger,” with an e. Handily for Phyrexia, Mirrodin’s core came pre-drilled.
Sheoldred, Whispering One
Role: Sheoldred is one of the seven Steel
Thanes that struggle for power over black-aligned faction of Phyrexia, and she
currently holds the title of praetor.
Appearance: Sheoldred appears as a feminine
humanoid torso emerging from a huge-mouthed, many-jointed fiend. Her movements
are spiderlike in their grace, her limbs finding purchase among the mycosynth
and metallic structures of the Core. Her body is covered with plates of oily,
corroded metal. Her voice is a soft, grinding whisper, and she is kept informed
at all times by a constant stream of informants, spies, and underlings.
Agenda: Although the agenda of the Steel
Thanes in general is to overpower, corrupt, and enslave all other beings,
Sheoldred herself has managed to hold power through the use of subtler methods.
She collects debts and manipulates relationships in order to keep her allies in
check and her foes as powerless as possible. Her goal is nothing less than
control of all of Phyrexia—and she may just get her wish.
Trivia: Shudderworthily, Sheoldred’s body
separates into two pieces. Her relatively humanoid torso actually locks into an
access inlet built into her monstrous lower half. Though few have seen it
happen, Sheoldred is able to shed her large, predatory, more motile lower body
and slither-skitter to a new home.
Note that the bizarre visual designs
for the praetors (all thanks to our resident concept artist Richard Whitters)
might have made their creature types quite hard to figure out. Thankfully we
had already decided that the cycle would all have the creature type Praetor,
since we knew that their names would not contain the term “Praetor.”
By the way, congratulations to Ebon Praetor and Sanguine Praetor on their new
Urabrask the Hidden
Role: Urabrask is the praetor of the
Quiet Furnace, the red-aligned Phyrexian faction. Urabrask commands a more
industrial side of Phyrexia, coordinating the forge workers and slag harvesters
of the plane’s Furnace Layer. Urabrask is unique among the praetors in that he
and his faction interact only in limited fashion with the rest of Phyrexia.
Appearance: Urabrask is a vicious living
machine, a weapon of forged excellence. His core of molten metal is housed
within a frame of bone, claw, sharpened steel, and rusted iron. Flues on his
back and chest vent heat and noxious gases. Urabrask’s fractiousness and
unpredictability are legendary; the other laborers in the Furnace Layer give
him a wide berth, and his followers know that random acts of violence are to be
Agenda: Mirran survivors have found refuge
in the Furnace Layer, and Urabrask has commanded his furnace legions to turn a
blind eye to the refugees. Rather than planning an endgame, Urabrask focuses on
the now—and right now, he knows only that the monolithic, freedom-crushing
hierarchy of the rest of Phyrexia irks him. For the time being, he works to
supply the rest of Phyrexia with the fuel and raw materials it needs to
dominate a world.
Trivia: It was decided early on that red
would be the color most resistant to Phyrexian corruption for the Scars of Mirrodin story. Red’s values of
self-determination, independence, and passion conflict most with the
authoritarian, universal, coercive nature of Phyrexia. It took an entire block
to play out, but now it’s clear that the color red is sort of like the last
victim to die in a zombie movie—it escapes the touch of corruption the longest
and maintains defiance even as the enemy swarms around it.
Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger
Role: Vorinclex is the praetor of the
Vicious Swarm, the green-aligned Phyrexian faction. While Vorinclex leads the
faction and holds ultimate authority, the Phyrexianized elf Glissa (“the
Traitor”) controls much of the Vicious Swarm’s fighting force. Glissa
pressed for Phyrexians to leave the Core and begin the assault on the surface
of Mirrodin, while Vorinclex spends much of his time in the ruins of Tel-Jilad.
The nature of the Vicious Swarm means that no leader is particularly revered,
however—the survival of the fittest is the only sovereign among this bloc of
terrifying apex predators.
Appearance: Bestial and hideously anatomical, Vorinclex is the praetor who
appears the most organic in his construction—and yet his philosophy aligns with
Phyrexia’s hatred of flesh and idealization of the machine. Grown deep within
the Core from a system of vats and birthing pods, Vorinclex is an artificial
design that represents one of Phyrexia’s greatest successes in replicating the
ferocity and ruthlessness of nature.
Agenda: Vorinclex seeks to achieve
Phyrexian perfection by using the plane as one grand arena, subsuming the
strong and devouring the weak. Any flaw in Phyrexia’s strength is to be hunted
down and consumed in a process of simulated, guided, “natural”
Trivia: The earliest depiction of the New
Phyrexia’s praetors on cards was Vorinclex, shown counseling Karn in the art of
Praetor’s Counsel from Mirrodin Besieged.
Many of the praetors show up in the art of other cards in New Phyrexia. You can also see a shot of Urabrask in the background
of Act of Aggression. Jin-Gitaxias is depicted doing something horrible to a
victim in the art of Psychic Surgery. Elesh Norn lashes out on Marrow Shards.
And Sheoldred can be seen taking possession of an Auriok’s soul in the art of
Can we just talk about how absolutely terrifying Sheoldred is?
First of all her body resembles a giant spider WITH A MOUTH…
EXCEPT IT’S NOT.
It’s like some weird fetus thing that can fucking SLITHER around and shit because it doesn’t have legs.
Imagine waking up in the middle of the night to your bedroom door creaking open and you see someone standing there, but suddenly they drop to the floor and slither toward you really fast and there is nothing you can do about it.
Combined, they lasted maybe 45 minutes, the first game being 15 minutes alone.
Mine: Atraxa, Herald of the Legion
Opponent’s: Breya, Machine’s Uprising (calling it now)
Game 1: Opponent conceded after getting Isochron Scepter w Abrupt Decay onto the field and slowly started destroying their stuff (most of which was CMC 3 or less) and killing Daretti.
Game 2: It looked like opponent’s favor until a few turns after i cast Rashmi and he had Remand on an Isochron Scepter. Sheoldred pseudo-cascade trigger, which he kept bouncing back to my hand (also tons of Mana Ramp T2, with Jace tMS cast T3.) T4-7, Jace at 6 Loyalty, unactivated. Cast Sheoldred, topdeck Ajani Unyeilding (which he Remands Sheoldred.) Ajani hits, +2 to topdeck for a Progenitor Mimic (which i have the mana for after getting Paradox Engine on the field) and copy Deepglow Skate which he has on his field, and ETB to bump Jace up to 12 and instant ult, to which he responds by tapping Sensei’s Divining Top and getting an Everflowing Chalice before everything gets exiled. Then, as he had 3 turns left to win, he scooped before i could swing out.
And the Golgari experiencer arrives! Specific to only creatures you control, and with a reward similar to Sheoldred, Whispering One, it’s a wonderful balance that let’s you reap the reward of filling your graveyard the old-fashioned way! What are your thoughts?