Strictly Vorthos – Dominaria

Howdy folks, this is Joe again with another look into the world and storyline of Magic: the Gathering! This time around, we’re going to take a brief (for values) look at the history of a plane we’re about to return to soon. I’m talking of course about Dominaria! Dominaria is a plane steeped in rich history, having been the center of attention for most of Magic’s early years. Let’s get right into the thick of it shall we?

The History of Dominaria

Dominaria is at its core a pretty big place, but most of the storylines have taken place on only a few continents, Terisiare is the largest of these; however, the continents of Otaria, Jamuura, and Sarpadia have all taken center stage at one time or another.

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A Harsh Age of Dragons

Early Dominarian history is largely only remembered by Dragons. While being one location for the Elder Dragon War, Dominaria was also ruled for some time by the Primevals. These dragons were the very primeval essence of the world; we know them by the names Darigaaz, Crosis, Rith, Dromar, and Treva. The Primevals ruled the world harshly, putting humans beneath them. This lasted many years, until a group of human wizards amassed enough magical power to defeat them, steal their powers, and seal them away.

However, it was not to be happy times; three of the wizards got together and decided to slay the other two, taking power for their own. These three would later come to be known as the Numena, powerful entities who were like gods.

The Thran

One of the most centrally defining moments of Dominarian history was the rise and fall of the Thran. A powerful empire with advanced technological marvels, the Thran were responsible for most of the artifacts unearthed by archaeologists centuries later. However, the Thran were beset by civil unrest due to a disease contracted by the lower class citizens. It wasn’t until the city’s lead artificer Glacian contracted the disease himself that the ruling council of Halcyon would do anything. They called on one of their eugenicists, a man named Yawgmoth, to help diagnose Glacian’s condition.

Yawmgoth diagnosis was phthisis, a disease contracted by overexposure to powerstone radiation. Because the lower class citizens who had the disease were shoved into caves, riots took place against the ruling class. Yawgmoth seized this opportunity to position himself into a place of power, all the while falling in love with Glacian’s wife, Rebbec.

Yawgmoth’s rise to power continued as the planeswalker Dyfed came to visit Glacian. Dyfed had recognized a latent planeswalker spark in Glacian, and wanted to encourage it. Yawgmoth took this time to befriend Dyfed, who helped him locate an unpopulated plane that the evil Yawgmoth would later call Phyrexia.

Yawgmoth’s power plays eventually came to a head as several other city states allied together against his atrocities. They threatened to move on Halcyon if he was not removed from power. Yawgmoth overthrew the Halcyon ruling council and declared martial law. He later had the council exiled to the plane of Mercadia, and established a portal link to Phyrexia. From Phyrexia he beckoned the Thran to come escape the powerstone radiation. In reality, this was the beginnings of Yawgmoth as the Ineffable Father of Machines.

The final battle of the Thran Empire saw Yawgmoth’s forces defeated by the power of the Null Sphere, an artifact that later became known to Dominaria as the Null Moon. He retreated back to Phyrexia, and the portal was closed on the Dominarian side by Rebbec. She used two halves of a powerstone containing Glacian’s essence to keep the portal sealed.

The Age of Magic and the Brother’s War

Following the fall of the Thran Empire, most technological advancement ceased. Instead, nations across the world (such as Jamuura and the continent of Corondor) developed magic. On Terisiare, artifice began to be rediscovered as people unearthed pieces of the Thran’s fallen empire.

Then came Urza and Mishra. After their father took ill, these two young boys were sent to study with the archaeologist Tocasia, one of their father’s old friends. As the two boys developed they shared a thirst for discovery, but approached artifice in very different ways. It was under Urza and Mishra’s guidance that items like the ornithopter were discovered.

However, there was always an uneasy tension between the two brothers. This tension came to a head when the two discovered a cave at a place called Koilos. Koilos was the home of the powerstone that sealed off the portal to Phyrexia. When the two brothers touched it, it split into two halves. Each brother was in possession of half (otherwise known as the Mightstone and Weakstone). Each brother coveted the other’s half, leading to a falling out between the two as well as the death of their teacher, Tocasia.

Urza left the camp and went to Yotia, where a contest to marry the ruler’s daughter drew his attention. However, he was solely interested in a Thran tome that was part of her dowry. Urza won the contest by creating an artifact, and earned with it not only the marriage of Kayla bin-Kroog but also the title of Chief Artificer of Yotia.

Mishra, on the other hand, rose in power among the Fallaji desert people. He became known as the Raki (or wizard) after defeating and controlling a dragon engine that attacked the nomadic peoples.

The conflict between the two brothers escalated after a peace talk went awry; it soon engulfed the nation in all-out war. Unknown to Urza, a fanatical machine-worshipping cult known as the Brotherhood of Gix had not only infiltrated both sides of the conflict, but had succeeded in swaying Mishra in their ways.

The Brother’s War enveloped the continent of Terisiare, culminating in a battle over the prime natural resources of the Argoth forest. During the final battle, Urza discovered that his brother was now a fully mechanical construct, having been corrupted by Phyrexian influence. With no way of stopping things, Urza turned to magic. He poured himself into the Golgothian Sylex and unleashed its power. The full force of the Sylex caused a tremendous catastrophe.

The Sylex blast completely slaughtered both armies. It decimated the landscape and sunk the Argoth forest. The power of the blast altered the the weather patterns of the world, leading to the Ice Age. It also created the Shard of Twelve Worlds. This was a barrier of energy that restricted planeswalkers’ movement; they could only travel to any of the planes contained within the Shard. Most importantly, it also transformed Urza into a planeswalker. With both halves of the Thran powerstone serving as his eyes, Urza left Dominaria searching for revenge against Phyrexia.

The Dark and the Ice Age

After the fallout of Argoth, much of the world fell into disarray due to the ever-growing winters. The continent of Sarpadia, the setting for Fallen Empires, was destroyed as various races fell to both their own hubris and the cooling of the world. On Terisiare, religious zealotry condemned the acts of artifice and wizardry; those with magical talent were hunted down. It was during this time that figures like the wizard Jodah first appeared.

The Ice Age plunged the world into endless cold, where the empires of Kjeldor and Balduvia fought each other. However, the two powers had to put their differences aside to deal with the looming threat of the necromancer Lim-Dûl.

A group of planeswalkers, chief among them the nature-oriented Freyalise, worked together to break the Shard of Twelve Worlds. They wanted to once again travel more than just the planes contained within the Shard. They were betrayed by Tevesh Szat, a dark planeswalker who sought to bury Dominaria in eternal ice.

However, through the aid of Jodah, the use of several artifacts, and the magic of the Shard itself, the planeswalker Freyalise was able to cast the World Spell, a powerful magic that broke both the Ice Age and the Shard.

In the aftermath of the Ice Age, numerous nations rose and fell, including the Soldevi and Tresserhorn. Jodah reappeared during this time, as did the pyromancer Jaya Ballard. Jaya would later ascend to become a planeswalker, after Jodah saved her from being consumed by the essences of Mairsil and Lim-Dûl.

The Age of Legends

After the Ice Age, many of the stories and figures from the set Legends took place, including the rise and fall of the Madaran Empire underneath the control of the dragon planeswalker Nicol Bolas. His champion, Tetsuo Umezawa, managed to rebel and trap Bolas.

The Return of Urza

Urza returned to Dominaria after some time, having traveled the multiverse. He discovered that Phyrexia was planning on invading Dominaria. Urza developed the Tolarian Academy on the isle of the same name. He sought to create a time machine that could be used to go back in time and prevent the Phyrexian existence. These experiments resulted in the creation of the sentient golem, Karn.

Karn’s name means ‘Mighty’ in Thran. He was named by the student Jhoira, and befriended by the young mage Teferi. Karn was made out of silver, a metal that could withstand the temporal flow of time. Urza intended for Karn to go back in time to perform Urza’s great works. However, Urza’s experiments were interrupted by an attack by a Phyrexian sleeper agent. In the attack, Jhoira died. An emergency trip back in time to save Jhoira was successful. However, it also caused a catastrophic failure that destroyed the academy and left Tolaria in a state of shattered temporal magics.

Urza and his friend Barrin returned to the island with new students. Along with Jhoira and Teferi, work began on the greatest of Urza’s efforts: the Legacy.

Throughout the work on the Legacy, Urza was involved in negotiations with Shiv to utilize the Thran Mana Rig. He made peace with the forest of Yavimaya over the death of Argoth. The nature spirit Multani even provided a seed that would create the hull of the Legacy’s centerpiece: Skyship Weatherlight.

Skyship Weatherlight was but one piece of the puzzle of the Legacy; Urza foresaw that he would need a human component to wield the might of the collection of artifacts. He began developing the Bloodlines Project. In addition, he developed Metathran soldiers to defend Dominaria during the invasion. The Bloodline Project culminated in the birth of Gerrard Capashen, the oft-unfortunate inheritor of the Legacy.

The Mirage Wars and the Weatherlight

Some time later, Teferi ascended and became a planeswalker himself. He was involved in a conflict between several nations in his homeland Jamuura when the dark wizard Kaervek tried to conquer them all. This is noteworthy because of the presence of the Skyship Weatherlight during this time, under the command of Captain Sisay. Sisay was captured by an agent of Rath, under the control of its evincar. The evincar was a shapeshifter by the name of Volrath. Volrath was otherwise known as Vuel, Gerrard’s step-brother who was corrupted by the nature of Phyrexia into serving in Rath’s role in the Phyrexian invasion.

The crew of the Weatherlight left Dominaria and headed to Rath in search of Sisay; they would eventually return during the events of the Phyrexian Invasion.

The Invasion

The Phyrexian Invasion began strongly in 4205 A.R. with the Phyrexians opening portals to the plane and sending through massive plague ships. Dominaria quickly understood the impact the invasion would have. The entire plane rallied behind the crew of the Skyship Weatherlight, a shining beacon of what would come to be known as the Coalition.

Urza and Master Mage Barrin surfaced, putting the metathran army into play. Gerrard and the rest of the Weatherlight crew struggled to contain the invasion. It’s during this time that Hanna, Barrin’s daughter and the love of Gerrard, is infected by Phyrexian plague and dies.

The invasion comes to a head when the plane of Rath overlays onto Dominaria, providing a staging grounds for Yawgmoth’s invasion. It’s during this that the Elven leader Eladamri ends up in Dominaria and becomes a focal point as one of the leaders of the Coalition.

A few major things happen during the course of the Invasion:

  • Teferi decides that he doesn’t want to be a part of Urza’s plans, and uses his planeswalker magic to phase Jamuura and Shiv entirely out of existence. He’s aided by Jhoira, who agrees with his plans.
  • Barrin, upon hearing the death of his daughter, travels to Tolaria and unleashes the Obliterate spell, completely liquefying Tolaria and himself. This spell is powerful enough that it also causes a rift in time and space.
  • The planar overlay of Rath drastically changes the geography of Dominaria forever.

Urza, along with several other planeswalkers, took the fight to Yawgmoth himself. They attempted to plant soul bombs on the plane of Phyrexia to destroy it and end the invasion. However, Urza was tempted by the opportunity to study and understand the perfection of Phyrexia. He betrays the other planeswalkers and joins Yawgmoth. It is here that Urza is pitted against his own champion, Gerrard. Gerrard had been lured into service with the promise of receiving Hanna back from the dead. This battle ended with Gerrard severing Urza’s head from his body. Gerrard betrayed Yawgmoth however, escaping with the planeswalker’s head.

Enraged, Yawgmoth entered Dominaria in full form, killing millions of people in mere minutes. With the Apocalypse looming, the crew of the Weatherlight embarked in a last ditch effort. They punctured the Null Moon to unleash the full force of the white mana that the artifact had been gathering for centuries. Despite being weakened greatly by this, Yawgmoth was able to lash out and attack once more.

Gerrard finally accepted his place as the inheritor of the Legacy; he took Urza’s gemstone eyes and placed them in the cavities inside Karn’s chest to complete the Legacy. A sentient light was created that completely dissolved Yawgmoth, killing him as well as sacrificing Urza and Gerrard. This act, combined with the magic of the powerstones, changed the silver golem Karn into the first artificial planeswalker. As a happy aside, it also ended the threat of Phyrexia.

Otaria

The continent of Otaria seemed to be the only place that had not been greatly damaged by the Invasion; many refugees migrated there. Several great powers arose in this area in the aftermath, including the Cabal, the Order, and the Mer Empire.

Karn, having left Dominaria, still wanted to keep an eye on the world. He created a probe that landed on Dominaria, but it was defective. It became known as the Mirari, an artifact of great power. Numerous factions desired its power, but many fell to its magic. Only the barbarian Kamahl was capable of wielding it in some capacity.

The Numena, once great wizards and gods of mankind during the time of Primeval dragons, were reincarnated. A great civil war occurred. Akroma, an angel created by the reality shaper Ixidor, fought against Phage, the champion of the Cabal who had once been known as Jeska, Kamahl’s sister.

This war continued until Akroma, Phage, and another figure named Zagorka were killed by Kamahl using the Soul Reaper. This act fused the three together and they became Karona, the living embodiment of all magic. Karona’s very existence tore at the fabric of the plane’s magic until she was killed by her two most loyal subjects. This act returned Karona to the three beings that created her, finally settling into the form of Jeska. It’s at this point that Jeska’s planeswalker spark ignites. Karn returns to take the Mirari away from Dominaria, and offers to show Jeska the planes.

Time Spiral and the Mending

Dominaria’s vast history of apocalypses and catastrophic events have caused numerous rifts and tears in time and space. However, the nature of these rifts changed with the appearance of Karona. The rifts began drawing mana from the land, causing the world to approach dangerously close to becoming barren and toxic.

Teferi returns with Jhoira, in addition to new characters Venser of Urborg and Radha of Keld. Their goal is to return Jamuura and Shive back to the timeline after having phased them out during the Invasion.

Several important things occur during this storyline:

  • Teferi loses his spark in sealing the Shivan rift and phasing Shiv back into the timeline.
  • Freyalise sacrifices her life and spark to seal the rift over Keld.
  • Lord Windgrace, the planeswalking panther protector of Urborg, sacrifices his spark and life to seal the rift over the Stronghold in Urborg.
  • Karn appeared and offered his assistance, going back in time to close the rift over Tolaria. Karn succeeds, giving up his own spark, but flees towards the world of Argentum (Mirrodin) when he sees a vision of his future.
  • Nicol Bolas is released from his prison in Madara. He uses the spark of the planeswalker Leshrac to close the Madaran rift and then leaves the plane.
  • Jeska reappears and uses part of Radha’s life force to close the Zhalfirin rift, which cuts off northern Jamuura from the timeline forever.
  • Jeska also sacrifices Radha’s spark to close the Yavimaya rift, which kills Multani.

Finally, the largest act of all occurs in this story. Jeska closes the Otarian rift, the largest of the rifts. Her existence as Karona permanently alters the natures of planeswalking forever in an act known as the Mending.

The Here and Now

Now we come to the here and now, based on what we know about what’s coming. Dominaria is going to be a very interesting place when we return. We know that we will be seeing familiar names and faces such as Jhoira, Teferi, and Karn, in addition to characters such as Jaya Ballard. However, we also know that Gideon and Liliana both play a part in this part of the story, since it takes place immediately after the events of Hour of Devastation.

I’m looking forward to it myself. After years of watching Dominaria’s deep history and world-building grow, I’m really excited about going back. Are you? Sound off below in the comments!

Until next time!

Joseph is an avid player of eternal Magic formats, including Vintage and Legacy.  As a Nic Fit player who will tell anyone who will listen about his deck, Joe spends his time analyzing and playing on Magic Online and various online platforms, while prepping for competitive events.  To follow more Joe, check out his Twitter!

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