ulgrotha

6

Feroz is gone, but what remains is his final gift to his people: the right to be left alone.

With the posting of Apocalypse Charm, our journey through the early Magic: the Gathering set Homelands is complete. A lot of folks have asked recently where our information came from. Unfortunately, since we had to move from the official Wizards forums to No Goblins Allowed, we weren’t really able to point folks conveniently to our source, but I’m pleased to announce that The Story of Homelands is now officially in our archives over at NGA.

The Story of Homelands, or as we’re calling it the Planeswalker’s Guide to Ulgrotha, was written in 1995 by Scott Hungerford and Kyle Namvar and served as the guide for most of the cards that eventually made it into Homelands. It was, obviously, a VERY top-down set. The document was given to the storyline guru Ashtok by Hungerford, and it’s had many homes over the years, from MTG Salvation to the Wizards community forums all the way back to the ancient, legendary phyrexia.com storyline boards.

We’re very pleased to provide it a new home at NGA, where I hope it will be a bit more accessible from here on out.

I’m not sure what exactly we’ll be using to fill the Homelands-shaped hole in our queue (and… our hearts… [sob]) but given the popularity of this project, rest assured that Barinellos and I are already considering possible ways of providing a similar window into some of the forgotten lore of Magic. There’s a huge body of information that hasn’t been touched for years and in some cases is only accessible via very obscure means. I want to do what I can to bring some of that forward.

And hey, maybe this can serve as a reminder that the old parts of the storyline are still relevant and worthy of exploration. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this project, and M:EM as a whole, it’s that people really do care about ALL the flavor of this game, not just what’s coming up in the next few sets.

So here’s to you, Vorthosi of Tumblr. Here’s to you folks who’ve been following us on our journey to this old corner of Dominia.

Hope you keep Planeswalking with us in the future.

-Sam Keeper

Baron Sengir and The Dark Barony by Pete Venters
Autumn Willow by Margaret Organ-Kean
Feroz and Serra by Rebecca Guay

History - The Wood has been pretty much as it always was, though now because of  the mana rift, much richer and full of life energy.  When the Great War  happened that left the rest of the planet a barren wasteland, this  section of the world grew and flowered due to the mana rift deep beneath  the surface of the world.  Creatures, insects and bacteria were  created, lived and died in their same cycles as they always had - at  least the ones that survived the first years after the War.  Some of the  creatures not native to the world that had actually survived the war,  (such as the Mammoths), managed to survive in the alien environment,  though they did not prosper as a species.   

When Feroz’s Ban was put  into place, the normal flow of energy that flowed through this world  was hindered somewhat.  It still flowed in at the same rate, but left at  a much slower rate - just as if you dam a stream with a rock, the pool  will slowly build up behind the stream, even though water is still  pouring around the rock on its seemingly normal course.  The trees grew  at an incredible rate, and the forest became healthy and incredibly  fertile.  The amount of creatures and monsters within the Wood kept most  of the other survivors of the Great War clear of the forest, and the  place was mostly unmolested by outsiders.   

In every forest there is  an aura of sorts, a sense of presence between the trees.  When the Ban  started up, the aura in the Great Wood increased, to the point where it  became a sentient, physical manifestation, an avatar of the Wood  itself.  It gained in power over the years, and when the first Pioneers  arrived from Aysen to settle on the edge of her Wood, it/she went forth  and met them, and found that they were good people.  She opened up a  Path for them between the Koskun Mountains and their main settlement, a  city called An-Havva, and kept a keen guard over it with her creatures.  Traders, a necessity to An-Havva, Koskun and Aysen were allowed to  travel through, but any war parties from either Aysen or Koskun Keep  were to be detained, or even destroyed.   

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—Baron Sengir, by Pete Venters

A world barely recovering from an ancient cataclysm. A dark family of vampires headed by one of Magic’s most iconic villain. A long, careful contest between immortals. A romance that would shape the destiny of an entire plane. Ferrets. Homelands suffered infamy for its card design, but its flavor cast a long shadow over the minds of players.

This was no accident. During the set’s design, Scott Hungerford and Kyle Namvar drafted a whole document exploring the complex, intricate history of Ulgrotha, and detailing how each and every card fit into that history. That document bounced from person to person online before finally ending up archived by the Expanded Multiverse project. I love this piece of Magic history, so over the next few weeks I’ll be posting the cards of Homelands, their art (when I can find it), and the explanations from the document about what the cards represent.

But first I want to give a brief summary of the lengthy, complex plot of Homelands so that the cards make a bit more sense. I’ll get to that below the cut, so click through for the story of Homelands.

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• This is the device that ruined the world, the device that ended the Great War by destroying the mana systems of the very planet the war had been fought on for so long. The planeswalker that survived the blast is none other than Grandmother Sengir, and she was wearing the potent device around her neck when the Baron found her. Since then, she has traded away the cloth-wrapped chime to a Dwarven Trader for a few trinkets, and warned the Trader never to never ever let it be rung.

And on that apocalyptic note, our journey through Homelands is done. Safe Planeswalking, folks.

Serra Bestiary

•  The Bestiaries contain creatures from all across the Homelands.  Whatever the Serrans qualify as beasts, they will generally have one on  display. Since the Minotaurs are not within the “civilized qualities” of  the Serrans, when a Aysen party had a chance to acquire a travelling  Minotaur from the Koskun Mountains they did so and brought it back for  display. Some people believe that the Minotaurs are the servants of  Baron Sengir - and most Serrans, if they know the truth or not, aren't  telling them otherwise. 

 Text taken from The Story of Homelands by Scott Hungerford and Kyle Namvar. I’ll be posting the cards of Homelands with their respective storyline information over the next few weeks. 

Retribution is  one of Lord Eron’s favorite punishments.  When one of his lieutenants  gets out of hand, he has them brought forth before a court of their  peers.  There, he will accuse them of the crimes, present sufficient  evidence, then condemn them to death by the axes of his Anaba  Bodyguards.  But just at the last moment, just when the axe is about to  swing, Eron will bring forth a business partner or loved one of the  criminal, and offer the doomed lieutenant a deal - if he lets the loved  one die in his place, the lieutenant will be let off with only  disfigurement and and torture.  It is well known that Eron will  sometimes change the nature of the deal, and that if the lieutenant  chooses the loved one to die instead of himself, Eron will have him  killed anyway, after making the doomed man watch Eron’s henchmen torture  and disfigure the partner.  A nasty, but effective means to keep  subordinates under control, and to maintain his rule over Koskun Keep. 

Eron: lovable rogue? Noble defender of those oppresssed by Baron Sengir? Or total psychotic prick? YOU DECIDE. HOMELANDS. Text taken from The Story of Homelands by Scott Hungerford and Kyle Namvar. I’ll be posting the cards of Homelands with their respective storyline information over the next few weeks.

 Orcish Mines  are common around Koskun Keep, but the efficiency and future planning  abilities of the Orcs as a race do not even begin to compare to the  subterranean abilities of the Dwarves.  The Orcs are rather good at  tunneling out living spaces and passages through the stone, but the  careful art of mining, probing and extracting minerals from the earth is  a long and tedious process for them.  Orcish Mines are similar to  labyrinths with no center and far too many dead ends.  One can easily be  lost within these nonsensical, three-dimensional mazes of tunnels for  weeks if a person isn’t careful.  The Orcish Mines break the very  structure of the land, and commonly disrupt the flow of mana to the  surface world, as the Orcs have little feel for the natural conduits of  power through the living stone.   

Text taken from The Story of Homelands by Scott Hungerford and Kyle Namvar. I’ll be posting the cards of Homelands with their respective storyline information over the next few weeks.

Truce/Treaty

Refers  to the Treaty between Eron the Relentless and Aysen: as long as Aysen  provides food and goods to Koskun Keep (which will be bartered or paid  with an acceptable and fair amount), Eron the Relentless will do his  damndest to make sure that the humanoids of Koskun don’t raid Aysen for  food, or turn the inhabitants of Aysen into food.

Text taken from The Story of Homelands by Scott Hungerford and Kyle Namvar. I’ll be posting the cards of Homelands with their respective storyline information over the next few weeks.  

 Shamans amongst the Anaba tribe are usually female, those who are in  tune with the mountains and the weather.  Where the Minotaur  Spiritcrafter works primarily with the world of spirits, the Shaman is  much more involved with talking with storms, leading ceremonies, and  helping tattoo those who have bravely endured peril and hardship.   Shamans are sometimes tormented by wind spirits who taunt them and call  them bad names, but if a Shaman can win their friendship, the  wind-creatures have much to teach of the world and its secrets.   
•  The ability to call lightning down upon their enemies is one of their  most powerful magics, and no Minotaur would ever consider call itself a  true Shaman unless it could control the powers of the storm. 

Text taken from The Story of Homelands by Scott Hungerford and Kyle Namvar. I’ll be posting the cards of Homelands with their respective storyline information over the next few weeks.

•  Aliban’s Tower is a spell created by Aliban, a Goblin Wizard who lived  during Crank’s reign many hundreds of years ago, before Feroz had come  to the Homelands.  With a single gesture, a small tower of stone and  earth will rise up from the ground, providing a defensible place to hold  off enemies or a good site to camp for the night.  The only flaws of  this spell are that the tower has no doors, and it is prone to  collapsing and killing any inhabitants inside.   Remains of these towers  are numerous throughout the Koskun Mountains, as it is still a common  spell amongst the few Goblins who are capable of spellcasting.  You can  either summon it up so you are inside, or you are outside - your choice.  

• Aliban was a legendary Goblin Wizard, personal attendant to the  historic Goblin King Crank (the Goblin who discovered the usefulness of  the lever as a tool). However, when Crank and his entire culture were  summoned away by a planeswalker, Aliban was accidentally left behind.   In the history of the Goblins that have lived in the Homelands, Aliban  holds the level of a great hero as he was the sole survivor of the great  apocalypse (summoning spell) that vaporized the entirety of his Goblin  family without a moment’s warning.  Amongst the many families of Goblins  in the Koskun Mountains, there is a line of Goblin Wizards who are  descendants of Aliban’s, and some have even studied at the Wizards  School on the Floating Island.  Aliban is also known for the spell he  created, Aliban’s Tower. 

• This spell was used quite frequently  during the building of the Cobbleroads in Aysen.  The wizard would cast  the spell, then workers would tear the structure down and use the stones  for the roads. 

Text taken from The Story of Homelands by Scott Hungerford and Kyle Namvar. I’ll be posting the cards of Homelands with their respective storyline information over the next few weeks.

I love the ridiculous level of munchkinnery going on with this spell. Building a road out of collapsed magical towers? Yeah alright, Aysen, the Rules As Written allow it. And there’s the suggestion that you can summon a tower around an enemy rather than just yourself! Yup, Rules As Written allow it. You can tell that early Magic designers were highly influenced by Dungeons & Dragons.

•  Long ago, supposedly a young Paladin of Serra by the name of Lord Ihsan  talked with a soothsayer in the Marketplace. There, she explained to  him about the dreams he had been having of his dark future, perhaps of  his doom at the hands of Baron Sengir. It shaped his very life, and in  the end when he confronted Sengir, he came to realize how correct she  was shortly before Baron Sengir put him to death. (See Ihsan)

 Text taken from The Story of Homelands by Scott Hungerford and Kyle Namvar. I’ll be posting the cards of Homelands with their respective storyline information over the next few weeks.

 The Spiritcrafter is usually a male Minotaur who is known to talk with  spirits, read the ashes for divination, and occasionally hold long and  complicated arguments with stones and other small objects.  Even though  these Minotaurs are more than a little strange, they are one of the  focuses of the Tharoosan culture and its history in the Homelands.   Though all the Minotaurs make music in one form or another, the  Spiritcrafter is responsible for memorizing the few remaining songs the  Anaba know, and to teach the stories that have been passed down through  the generations.  When the great earthquake destroyed the pictoglyph  caverns, most of the history of the Minotaurs was lost.   

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• The  Spiritcrafter is an offerer of strange and mystic advice, and can  sometimes foretell the future by listening to the ancestral spirits that  frequent their dreams.  In case of an impending battle, they can allow  themselves to be possessed by an ancestral Minotaur champion who will  lead the group victory over any foe. 

Text taken from The Story of Homelands by Scott Hungerford and Kyle Namvar. I’ll be posting the cards of Homelands with their respective storyline information over the next few weeks.

•  Abbey Gargoyles were created by Serra to guard the city of Onella  against Orc and Kobold raids. They also make an excellent police force  in times of peace. They were created very similarly to the Serra Angels,  in that they are not true beings but complicated mana constructs. 


•  If one of these creatures witnesses a crime, they will ceaselessly  follow the perpetrator until the person turns himself in. They are also  slightly empathic, and easily can discern individuals suffering mental  instability, guilt, anger or sadness. If they see a Kobold, Goblin or  Orc, they will usually attack on sight. Thus, most of the trading that  happens between the peoples of Aysen and the denizens of the Koskun  Mountains (as per the Treaty) happens at the Border Gates, as no Goblin  in their sane mind would want to be within the walls of Onella. 


•  Abbey Gargoyles do not speak, eat, mate or drink. They have no fear of  fire, and sword-blows will not penetrate their stony white hides. They  live on the parapets of the older buildings in Onella, usually around  Aysen Abbey. They are fearsome creatures with long, sharp claws, have  non-vestigal wings, and have stony white hides. 


• The Abbey  Gargoyles are seen by the populous of Onella as one of the few signs  that Serra still watches and protects them, even though she has been  gone for nearly twenty years now. The creatures are watched almost  religiously by the populous, and are thought of as walking miracles. 

Text taken from The Story of Homelands by Scott Hungerford and Kyle Namvar. I’ll be posting the cards of Homelands with their respective storyline information over the next few weeks.

I always forget how random some of the information in this Guide is. Like there’s a lengthy entry for Wall of Kelp and Mammoth Harness. They apparently spent a bunch of time thinking about the ecological status of mammoths on Ulgrotha.

It’s at once bewildering and charming, and it makes for kind of a dramatic contrast to contemporary world design.

Red Card, Enchantment
Flavortext : None, Enchantment
Artwork : artists discretion, but snowy and mountainous background.  The ghost should be male.  
•  There is a small castle hidden within the Koskun Mountains, though it  is now no more than a tumble of stones and snow haunted rooms.  But  there is indeed a ghost there, the spirit of a dead planeswalker slain  by Tolgath trickery during the Great War.  It is said that when the dead  wizard walks through the night, all those creatures he finds are  transformed into ice-sculptures and left for the morning sun. All of the  creatures of the mountains fear this terrible creature, and will not  comfortably leave the safety of their homes if they suspect the ghost is  travelling the roads that night. 

Keeper’s Note: It seems pretty obvious that En-Sendra became An-Zerrin. The concept seems to have shifted as well, from a single ghost to a whole race destroyed by Sengir. It is unclear how the An-Zerrin, or the nameless planeswalker ghost that appears in the picture, serve Baron Sengir.

Text taken from The Story of Homelands by Scott Hungerford and Kyle Namvar. I’ll be posting the cards of Homelands with their respective storyline information over the next few weeks.

White : The Citizenship of Aysen 

I wasn’t planning on posting this huge wall of text, but Ruwin went ahead and tossed up the Red overview section, so I figured I might as well add the White for the sake of inclusivity. It’s pretty huge, so I’ve hidden the bulk of the text below the break.

History - After the Great War, the few humans that survived the destruction and  managed to find their way to the Homelands adapted and became nomadic  wanderers on the plains. As time went on, they divided into different  “families” and came to forget where they came from, and why they were in  this world. Skirmishes with the humanoids from the mountains were  frequent, but they rarely ended with more than two or three deaths per  conflict. Where the humanoids from the mountains had wolves and riding  mounts but were lousy at fighting, the nomads didn’t have warhorses of  any kind but had a good idea of tactics and archery. The nomads’ mounts  included a stock of work horse and a breed of light pony that wasn't  really any good for riding (at least for humans). 

There came a  time when the nomads were growing so numerous, they started to war  amongst themselves. A god by the name of Serra came from the skies  during one of their battles and acted as peacemaker amongst them,  bringing them together as a people. They respected her, and followed her  instructions and wisdom, and in a matter of time they were able to  scare off most of the invasions from the mountains, and began to build  their first city named after the first Abbot chosen by Serra - “Onella”.  They also named themselves the Aysen after a star constellation which  Serra said stood for “harmony”. 

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Human, Male or Female 

•  The Leeches that the Samite Alchemists use are an effective,  non-magical means to drain toxins from people suffering from toxins.  While the Serrans rely on magical means and drawn out ceremonies, the  Leeches that the Samite Alchemists breed are completely natural, and are  good for ridding the body of poisons, rather than just suppressing them  while the body slowly heals. 

Text taken from The Story of Homelands by Scott Hungerford and Kyle Namvar. I’ll be posting the cards of Homelands with their respective storyline information over the next few weeks.

This is the most important card in Homelands.