Gerrard grabs the Mightstone and the Weakstone, the shattered powerstones that used to be Urza’s eyes. He forces them into the chest of Karn, Urza’s silver golem built to be the greatest weapon against Phyrexia. The Legacy activates and unleashes an annihilating wave of mana. Yawgmoth falls. Phyrexia is defeated. The war is over. In the aftermath of the greatest apocalypse Dominaria has ever seen, Karn stands tall as the first artificial planeswalker, inheriting the spark of his creator.
But this is not where Karn’s story ended. Nor was this the true end of Phyrexia. Fate has a way of twisting events in unexpected ways, and today we’ll see just that happen.
After witnessing the death and destruction of the Phyrexian invasion, one of the first things Karn did was create a new plane of mathematical perfection (Pre-Mending planeswalkers were gods, capable of feats as incredible as creating entire planes.) Karn populated this metallic world with a race of golems, all constructed in his own image. Karn traveled through time and space, exploring the Multiverse at his own whims.
And then he noticed something peculiar. Karn left a viscous black oil on every plane he visited. Upon further inspection, he found the source: his own heartstone. This organ had originally belonged to Xantcha, a Phyrexian defector who had become friends with Urza. While it gave Karn his sentience, it was also poisoning the Multiverse anew.
Karn needed to know the extent of the damage he caused. He created a series of chrome orbs to act as probes to inspect the planes he had visited for Phyrexian corruption. The Mirari was the probe he left on Dominaria, but it developed a glitch and started wreaking havoc on the ecosystem. A human planeswalker, Jeska, helped Karn retrieve the Mirari and bring it back to Argentum. Karn turned the Mirari into a wizard named Memnarch, leaving him to watch over Argentum while he traveled with Jeska. This would prove to be a grave error.
When Karn eventually returned to Argentum, he ran into a troubling problem. Namely, that he couldn’t planeswalk to Argentum. In Karn’s absence, Memnarch had been exposed to traces of the glistening oil Karn’s heartstone had left in the plane’s core. Memnarch declared himself the new ruler of the plane, renaming it Mirrodin. He created a shield that prevented Karn from returning and ruining his plans.
And what dastardly plans they were. Memnarch created machines called soul traps that grabbed races from other planes and brought them to Mirrodin. Here, the glistening oil caused them to grow organic metal body parts. Memnarch’s plan was to become just like Karn, although that would require a planeswalker spark.
Memnarch’s plan almost worked. The soul traps grabbed enough victims to start vast civilizations on Mirrodin. An elf named Glissa was born with a latent spark. Guided by dreams sent to her by Karn, Glissa eventually defeats Memnarch and shuts off the barrier. Karn returns to Mirrodin, turning Memnarch back into the Mirari and leaving it under the protection of Glissa and her compatriots. All would seem at peace.
Karn helped close the time rifts during the Mending, but at a terrible cost. During the sealing of the Tolarian time rift, Karn was whisked away into the Blind Eternities. The Phyrexian corruption growing in his heart, Karn barely made it back to Mirrodin before collapsing into a stupor in the plane’s core.
Corruption was spreading on Mirrodin as well. The glistening oil carries the memories and twisted paradigm of Yawgmoth’s Phyrexia. New horrors were sprouting all over the plane, seeking to eliminate the Mirrans and convert Mirrodin into a new home for Phyrexia. Even worse, the corruption had tainted Karn’s mind so much that he ruled the Phyrexians as the Father of Machines. It wasn’t long before all-out war broke out. The planeswalker Koth, Elspeth, and Venser sided with the Mirrans, driving deep into Phyrexian lands in order to rescue Karn. Tezzeret was sent by Nicol Bolas to infiltrate Phyrexia and report their progress to Bolas.
Upon finding Karn, a human immune to the Phyrexian corruption named Melira healed Karn’s body, pulling him out of his madness. But one problem still remained: Karn would only fall back into his Phyrexian mindset because his heartstone was of Phyrexian origin. Already dying from radiation poisoning, Venser used his teleportation magic to give his spark, and thus his life, over to Karn in order to cleanse his corrupted heart.
Karn was liberated, but it was too late for Mirrodin. The Phyrexians had won the war. The plae was renamed New Phyrexia and rebuilt into a dark, twisted version of mechanical perfection. Even the savior of Mirrodin, Glissa Sunseeker, had been compleated as a lieutenant in New Phyrexia’s army.
Five mighty praetors rule New Phyrexia, each one aligning with a different color of mana. Elesh Norn is the highest priest of the Machine Orthodoxy, seeking to unify the entire Multiverse under Phyrexia’s divine rule. Jin-Gitaxias pursues The Great Synthesis, an ideal that aims to perfect the compleation of Phyexians and the world around them. Sheoldred is the most dominant of the seven Steel Thanes, horrific praetors who want to enslave the entire Multiverse. Urabrask runs the Furnace Layer, the industrial forges of New Phyrexia. Vorinclex rampages through the corroded forests, leading the hunting packs of predatory Phyrexian beasts.
One final effort to destroy the praetors failed. Elspeth planeswalked away to Theros in order to escape the onslaught of Phyrexian horrors. Koth left the plane with the hopes of returning to fight anew. After seeing the chaos and fall of his perfect plane, Karn left on a journey to identify other planes that may be corrupted. He fears that his travels have spread Phyrexian oil across the Multiverse and created a new Phyrexian threat that will be almost impossible to stop.
A Dark Future
For now, the Phyrexian holocaust is contained on New Phyrexia. Phyrexians cannot hold a planseswalker spark, so they cannot leave the plane. How long will this reprieve last? Likely not long. Phyrexian engineers are working on repairing Memnarch’s soul traps and using them to transport forces to other planes. Venser’s journal is also still on the plane, blueprints for portal-spawning ships filling its pages. In the Multiverse’s greatest irony, Urza’s weapon to defeat Phyrexia has become its vehicle for rebirth.
Until next time, planeswalkers, beware the lingering darkness deep in your hearts.
Unlike the original incarnation of the horrific race led by Yawgmoth, these new leaders each embody the five colors of Magic. The first is Elesh Norn. She is the Grand Cenobite of the Machine Orthodoxy, a religious group that sees Phyrexia’s compleation as a ritualistic and spiritual work for the betterment of society. The members of the Machine Orthodoxy take after their leader, whose skin has been replaced with white, ceramic-like metal:
Elesh Norn also appears on a few other spells. She’s depicted as a powerful being commanding respect and adoration…mostly in the form of servitude. Of course, she’s also a being of destruction, cleansing the impure flesh-ridden beings from the glorious lands of New Phyrexia.
The second Praetor is Jin-Gitaxias, the Blue Praetor. He rules with a philosophy called the Great Synthesis, which guides Phyrexia’s work to a state of perfection. The core of this belief is that Phyrexia needs to be tinkered with and engineered until it is a perfect race, with Jin-Gitaxias himself being that model of perfection. Coldly ruthless science and experimentation are the cogs of his Progress Engine.
The Black faction of New Phyrexia is bathed in conflict. The Seven Steel Thanes are a group of individuals embroiled in competition with each other over who sits as Praetor over their minions. They all share the same vision for Phyrexia, however: serve or be enslaved. The current Praetor is Sheoldred, a small figure that can mount herself into a giganic, spider-like body. She derives her power from secrecy and knowledge, using her visions to cut underneath and outsmart the other Thanes.
Deep within New Phyrexia lies the Furnace Layer, a working class environment that forges metal, incinerates waste, and fuels the plane with heat and power. It is ruled by Urabrask, the Hidden, the mysterious Red Praetor. He has a disdain for the other Praetors, more interested in running his own little part than the grander plans of those above. This dissonance, along with him representing the colors most aligned with freedom and emotion, has made Urabrask the most empathetic to the Mirran resistance. He allows them to live there, so long as they don’t get in his way.
The final Praetor is Vorinclex. The Green-aligned Praetor values a system akin to Social Darwinism; Phyrexia is to be modeled such that the strong survive and the weak are their prey. He is the one responsible for the compleation of Glissa, who leads a herd of predators through the Tangle. He is the least-scheming Praetor, mostly content with his own strength among the minions of New Phyrexia.
That’s some freaky stuff. As Praetor’s Counsel shows, all five Praetors were still subservient to the Father of Machines (Karn’s Phyrexianiszed state), and the liberation of Karn threw New Phyrexia into turmoil. We know that Elesh Norn launched an assault that decimated the realms of Sheoldred and Urabrask, and it’s unknown if those Praetors even survive. We also know that Koth and Elspeth launched an attack to take out all the Praetors, with Elspeth planeswalking away before we find out the outcome. What will finally become of New Phyrexia? Only time will tell.
As always, folks, if you liked this look into the visual representations of some of Magic’s bigger characters, like it, reblog it, and let me know! I very much enjoy bringing this type of article to you people, as it’s a unique way to experience the narrative and characters of the game. Until next time, planeswalkers ALL WILL BE ONE.