Archive Trap: The World of Innistrad

The Vorthos Guide to Magic: The Gathering
To prepare everyone for the upcoming Shadows of Innistrad set, our Storyline mods delve into the lore behind one of the most popular planes in Magic history. This edition of Archive Trap is ready to guide you through the gothic horrors Innistrad has to offer, and return you with your spirit intact!
Welcome back to Archive Trap, the unofficial story column for all things Magic: the Gathering. Today we’re going to talk about Innistrad, one of the most popular sets ever produced thanks to its dual-faced card mechanic, top-down gothic horror theme, and well-developed world building. It also doesn’t hurt that Richard Garfield, the creator of Magic, returned to design a set for the first time since Ravnica: City of Guilds. Innistrad is also notable in that it has the weakest story of any Magic set released in the last 20 years. With the dismal performance of the novels, Wizards completely discontinued the line of books and webcomics that had helped establish the post-Mending storyline. This left Innistrad in an awkward place, and the actual "plot" of the block was relegated to two articles. The story-focused Uncharted Realms articles wouldn’t debut until the following year’s Magic 2013, and I imagine there just wasn’t time to write an e-book for the block like with Return to Ravnica and Theros. Despite these challenges, Innistrad remains one of the most flavorful blocks ever created, ripe for new stories in next season's Shadows over Innistrad.

Sorin is Magic's Boba Fett: Totally awesome, but effectively does nothing.
Dark Ascension Key Art
Setting the Stage
Innistrad is the subject of quite a few Planeswalker’s Guides that actually do a fantastic job giving you a clear picture of the layout and rules of the world. I highly recommend reviewing them, as I can't possible cover all the great details. As always, you're encouraged to read the source materials this article is based on. Everything from the Innistrad block is available for free online on Wizards' website.
Unlike, say, Zendikar, the layout of Innistrad is extremely clear. The clues are all there if you’re paying attention to the descriptions of the plane. Innistrad is divided into four provinces: Stensia, Kessig, Gavony and Nephalia. As best as can be inferred, if you consider mountainous Stensia the north end of known Innistrad, Kessig is located to the ‘west’, running from the border with Stensia all the way to the southern end of Gavony. Gavony is located in the center of the known plane, and Nephalia to the east. These are not exact compass points, but give you a sense of how the provinces are laid out.

Gavony is made up of rocky hills and is the center of human civilization on Innistrad. The northern edge of Gavony is home to Thraben, the largest settlement on Innistrad. Thraben itself is divided into numerous sections, but the only important thing to remember is that it is ringed by many layers of walls. The Cathedral of Avacyn lies in Thraben and hides the Helvault in a triangular courtyard created by the Cathedral. Thraben itself sits in the middle of the Lake of Herons on a plateau, and the lake is fed by a river that originates in Stensia. In addition to Thraben, there are four other districts called parishes in Gavony, moving from north to south.

Innistrad is one of the few places to have a clear layout.
Gavony Township Art by Peter Mohrbacher
The area just south of Gavony is called Nearheath and has three parishes, one of which contains rolling hills and vineyards, another a forest, and the third a rockier area. The villages of Estwald and Hanweir lie in these parishes. Further south is the Moorland, which is larger than the rest of Gavony and is much more dangerous. The Moorland borders Kessig, and features one village of note: Trostad. Humans are more populous here than anywhere else, and due to that there are more grafs, or graveyards, than anywhere else in Innistrad. As such, they’re plagued by geists and zombies here more than anywhere else as well.

Kessig is the vast woodland of Innistrad. Its forest is known as the Ulvenwald. Humanity is fairly sparse here, as the woods are haunted by geists and the land is plagued by werewolves. Towns of note include Lambholt, Gatstaf, and Hollowhenge. Formerly known as Avabruck, Hollowhenge is the former capital of Kessig, which was overrun and subsequently destroyed by werewolves. Kessig has its own opening into Innistrad’s underworld, called Devil’s Breach, but it is remote and isn’t well used by anything but a handful of devils. After Avacyn is restored, the Devil's Breach opens wider and begins releasing far more devils than ever before.

Stensia is the dark, mountainous region of Innistrad. The major mountain chain is known as Geier Reach. There are three major passes into and out of Stensia. From Gavony, one must take Kruin Pass, which is watched by the Markovs and the valley that houses Markov Manor. Getander Pass is watched by the Falkenraths and is the only way in and out from Kessig. Ziel Pass lies at the far end of Geier Reach and is the only way to the sea. Along this last pass lies the Voldaren Estate. Stensia is home to a small forested area called the Somberwald, and in the center of Geier Reach lies the Ashmouth, the largest gateway to the realm of demons and devils. Stensia is the primary home of the vampires of Innistrad. Humanity are fairly sparse here as well, and the land is split between isolated human villages and vampire manors. Of special note here is the Ashmouth, the portal between the world of Innistrad as we know it and the underworld where demons and devils originate.

Nephalia is the coastal region of Innistrad where the beaches are made of a sand-like silver. The population is mixed between humans and vampires, and the region is home to many geists as well, a surge of which comes in and out with the tide. The two major towns are Havengul, the largest port in the region, and Drunau, where the Stromkirk vampires make their home. Jenrik’s Tower is located here in a remote stretch of beach.

It's a shame there were no Werewolf Legends in the Innistrad block.
Moonmist Art by Ryan Yee
The Moon, while not strictly speaking a physical feature of Innistrad itself, has such a profound effect on the world that the moon is worth mentioning. The commonly accepted belief is that the moon is a vast silver desert, much like the silver sand on the beaches of Nephalia. This year’s Checking In with the Planeswalkers seems to confirm it is made of a magical silver ore. The phases of the moon are thought to be significant in how strong the monsters of the world are, but it’s unclear if this is the truth or superstition. The people of Innistrad believe there to be a heron in the moon, and associate it with Avacyn's power. In Nephalia, the moon controls the tide and by extension the large number of geists brought in and out. Every year the humans of Innistrad celebrate Goldnight, the safest two days of the year because the moon doesn’t come out.

Human society on Innistrad is a theocracy governed by The Church of Avacyn. It is ostensibly controlled by the archangel Avacyn herself, followed by her angels. The human head of the church is known as the Lunarch. Under the Lunarch are the bishops, followed by the mayors who govern individual parishes and priests who handle the day to day administration. The church also employs holy warriors known as cathars that take the fight directly to the monsters of the world. In the beliefs of the church, Avacyn isn’t expected to vanquish evil but instead protect people from the evil of the world. There isn’t really a belief in a heaven or hell, instead the end goal is known as the Blessed Sleep, which is simply that the faithful’s souls to rest in peace after death. Faith in the church is rewarded directly by holy magic, but that magic doesn’t always work quite the same way every time.

However, while the power behind the church is real, the church itself is a lie. Avacyn is a being created by the planeswalker Sorin Markov to keep balance on the plane between the forces of darkness and the human population, to ensure that humanity is never completely wiped out. The tenants and power of the church come largely from pre-existing Innistradi beliefs and magics that the church has codified. Not all humans follow the church, either. As the protections of the church began to fail during Avacyn’s absence, many humans in more remote regions turned to the pagan or folk traditions of their ancestors for protection. The church itself has been infiltrated by a cult of demon worshipers known as the Skirsdag, who hold places throughout the church’s hierarchy all the way up to the bishop’s council. The Skirsdag are another example of pre-Avacynian worship, and were led by Griselbrand before his death. Demons themselves may have a society, but little of it is currently known other than that they have influence over the devils of the world.

Sparkles not included.
Stromkirk Noble Art by James Ryman
Vampire society on Innistrad is controlled by four major Vampire Bloodlines, each with a different specialty. There are around nine remaining bloodlines on Innistrad, but these four control the majority of the power. The first is the Markov bloodline led by Sorin’s grandfather, Edgar Markov, who have strong psychic powers. The second is the Falkenrath bloodline, who have mastered flight, but whose progenitor died long ago. The third is the Voldaren bloodline led by Olivia Voldaren, who have mastered shapeshifting. The last is the Stromkirk line, who reside away from the Stensian Vampires in Nephalia. and who are strong in glamours and some even the ability to turn to mist.

Werewolves are the remaining sentient race on Innistrad, and are divided into Howlpacks. The largest of these howlpacks is the Krallenhorde, led by Ulrich, which averages over 100 members that vary between those that embrace their nature and those that do not. The Mondronen are far more vicious and are led by a mute alpha named Tovolar, who, curiously, is said to stay in werewolf form. The last group is the Leeraug, led by Skaharra. The Leeraug transform at the new moon instead of the full, and use much sneakier tactics than the rest. It’s also heavily hinted that the village of Estwald in Gavony is controlled by a howlpack.

Innistrad is home to some unusual varieties of monsters, very different from what is encountered in the rest of the multiverse. One thing they all share in common is a weakness or aversion to silver, although that manifests in different ways to various degrees. Demons here are beings of pure black mana that, upon death, are simply reborn in a different form, retaining at least some memory of their former selves. This has been confirmed to mean dead demons are dead, but their power and some inkling of their schemes come back with them. Because of this, they can only be "removed" permanently by imprisoning them. This is done by the Church of Avacyn in the giant shard of moon silver known as the Helvault, but it has also been done using spells to imprison them in other artifacts, such as a dagger made of bone. Devils are no less malicious than demons, although they usually content themselves to cruel "pranks" and wanton mischief unless otherwise directed by demons.

Vampires on Innistrad are very different than the rest of the multiverse, because Innistradi vampires aren’t undead. While everything else about them is classical vampire fare, this important difference is why the vampire Sorin Markov is able to be a planeswalker, because the spark resides in the soul, something the undead do not have. When a vampire is turned, they are granted agelessness and develop a thirst for blood that often make young vampires feral.

It’s unclear how werewolves are made on Innistrad, but to be afflicted at some point a human’s soul becomes split or entangled with nature’s essence. In this split soul, the nature element is represented by the wolf transformation. It is believed by the Innistradi that other kinds of werecreatures exist across the sea. Following Avacyn’s Restoration, any werewolf who wanted had their two essences merged in the Cursemute, turning them into the Wolfir, loyal servants of the church rather than vicious monsters.

It’s pronounced ‘Fronkensteen.’
Grimgrin, Corpse-Born Art by Peter Mohrbacher
There are two kinds of zombies on Innistrad: Ghouls and Skaabs, the results of magic and science respectively. A ghoul is the prototypical zombie in the magic universe, a shambling body resurrected by dark magic. A skaab, however, is more akin to Frankenstein’s monster which has been stitched together and reanimated using alchemy.

Finally, we need to talk about the Spirits of Innistrad. Innistrad is choked with ghosts, known as Geists. Geists are the souls of people who, for one reason or another, can't pass on to the Blessed Sleep. The souls of humans are a commodity, some have found how to channel Geists into power, and demons pursue mortal souls for power. It's unclear why Innistrad harbors so many more ghosts than any other plane we've seen, but the only reason we've ever seen for a large number of ghosts to remain is because they are bound to the world of the living for some reason. On Innistrad, that reason might be the silver moon, as the silver beaches of Nephalia have a higher concentration of Geists than anywhere else on the plane. Burning the bodies of dead is forbidden, as it is believed to result in the most dangerous and vengeful of geists.

Sorin Markov is a vampire planeswalker native to Innistrad. He is one of the oldest known beings in the multiverse, following only the dragons Nicol Bolas and Ugin. He was one of the first vampires born on the plane due to the machinations of his grandfather. His agelessness as a vampire has allowed him to survive even after the mending mutated the spark. While traveling the multiverse, he realized that unchecked the vampires of Innistrad would wipe out the human population and then perish themselves. In an attempt to preserve his home plane, he created the angel Avacyn to keep the balance. While not a "good" character by any stretch of the imagination, Sorin is occasionally moved to help stop world ending threats when it suits him. His role during the original Innistrad block was simply as backstory, as by the time he arrived after leaving Zendikar in disgust, Liliana Vess had already freed Avacyn. He has a brief confrontation with Dack Fayden before leaving again to find his old ally Ugin. The knowledge that Sorin created Avacyn is known to the vampires of Innistrad, and he is not well liked, nor does he like the excessive cruelty of the Innistradi Vampires.

Is anyone actually rooting for Liliana?
Liliana of the Veil Art by Steve Argyle
Liliana Vess’s story is captured in another Archive Trap article, but some of that material is reproduced here in the story section due to Innistrad’s relatively light plot. Liliana is another character that could never be mistaken for a "good," but she’s the main character of the Innistrad block. Liliana has been on Innistrad a number of times before, it was the first plane she visited after ascending and where she first learned to hone her necromantic powers. She returned later to make a demonic bargain with Griselbrand, and finally during the events of the Innistrad block to renege on that bargain.

Garruk Wildspeaker’s story is also told in our previous Archive Trap article alongside Liliana. Garruk doesn’t have much of a connection to Innistrad, only coming to the plane to hunt Liliana. While on Innistrad, his curse is briefly dampened by the Cursemute, but that isn’t to last, and it’s not long before he leaves the plane again in search of vengeance.

Dack Fayden’s adventures are already chronicled in two previous Archive Trap articles. His time spent on Innistrad is implied to be around the time of Dark Ascension. He came to Innistrad hunting the planeswalker Sifa Grent, who had been using Falkenrath vampires to help her in an interplanar plot to gain power. Dack Fayden last left Innistrad after being confronted by Sorin Markov and being forced to hand over an artifact with the power to control vampires. While on Innistrad, he befriended two Cathars and defeated one of the current leaders of the Falkenrath bloodline.

Sifa Grent was the primary antagonist for the Magic: The Gathering comic book published by IDW. Around the time of Dark Ascension, she uses the power of an artifact called the Ancient Fang to gain control over a number of Falkenrath vampires. She uses Innistrad as a base for planning the various schemes she has in motion, including an unrealized plot against Malfegor and her plan to drain the power from Vitu-Ghazi.

Tamiyo is a Soratomi moonfolk native to Kamigawa. She is a scholar in search of knowledge throughout the multiverse, and she’s come to Innistrad to study the moon and its effect on the monsters of the plane. The last time we heard about her, she is still on Innistrad studying the ramification of the recently released Avacyn. Tamiyo was not an active part of the original Innistrad block’s plot, but it’s possible she’ll factor in to future plots on the plane. While on Innistrad, she has been studying with the astronomer Jenrik, who is believed to know more about Innistrad’s moon than anyone else.

Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded is a half-devil planeswalker native to Innistrad. Tibalt was once a necromancer’s apprentice, but lacked the skill or the talent required for the job. He began to grow bitter and resentful because of it, and found his true calling in torture and inflicting pain. He honed his skills on animals until he moved on to people, which drew the attention of devils that sought to give him the insights into pain he desperately wanted. His experiments also drew Cathars, and in desperation he unleashed a spell that fused him with the devils and ignited his spark. He’s played no role in the story, although at some point he came into conflict with Sorin Markov, depicted in Sorin vs Tibalt. There was no resolution to this story thread, and it’s likely it was just a contrivance for the duel deck and not intended to be an official story point.

Vronos started life as a portrait for the player’s avatar in Duels of the Planeswalkers video game series. He was turned into an actual character for DotP 2015, where he appears briefly being hunted, and then executed, by Garruk. He was given more of a background in a short story tied to the game, where he was a Cathar whose entire team was wiped out by a howlpack. His spark ignited and he planeswalked to Esper. There he lived among the Ethersworn while gaining control of his power. He returned to Innistrad and was tasked by Avacyn to pursue Garruk, who ultimately killed him.

Not Nahiri.
Avacyn, Angel of Hope Art by Jason Chan
Avacyn is the head of the church but her origins harbor a dark secret: she was created by the vampire planeswalker Sorin Markov to keep the balance between humans and monsters. Avacynian imagery is tied to Herons and the Moon. She is attended by her archangels Bruna, Gisela, and Sigarda each of whom head one of her flights of angels: Flight Alabaster, Flight Goldnight, and Flight of Herons respectively. Flight Alabaster is charged with the defense of Thraben and maintaining of wards, Flight Goldnight is the militant wing and Flight of Herons scouts the locations of roving monsters. Interestingly, Avacynian angels seem tied to wards, making it impossible for them to operate for more than short periods of time in areas like Stensia which have few. This seems logical, as Sorin’s intent with Avacyn is keeping the human population from being wiped out, not defeating the monsters of the world.

Mikaeus Cecani is the human head of the Church of Avacyn. He was aware of Avacyn’s true nature as a being created by Sorin Markov, and kept the secret from the rest of the Church. He and the highest members of the clergy were present when Avacyn was trapped in the Helvault, and he struggled to keep the Church going in her absence. He was ultimately killed by Geralf during the Siege of Thraben, and zombified by Liliana Vess a short time later.

Thalia was a high-ranking member of the Thraben City Guard during the Siege of Thraben. When her commander disappeared during the siege, Thalia took command and ultimately defeats the zombie horde at the cost of one of the city’s outer rings. She later surrenders to Liliana to save her troops, which gives Liliana the opportunity to destroy the Helvault.

Odric is the commander of the Gavony Riders. Following the restoration of Avacyn, his Cathars are tasked with hunting down the necro-alchemist Ludevic, but lose track of the mad scientist. His Cathars are responsible for transporting the captured Necromancer Gisa after the Siege of Thraben, and captured a weakened and confused Garruk following the cursemute. Odric was not a part of the original Innistrad block, but was instead one of a cycle of legends from Magic 2013.

Gisa and Geralf are twins that terrorize the Moorland in Gavony with their necromantic arts. The two are in a constant rivalry, as Gisa is a necromancer and Geralf a stitcher. They are distant cousins of Mikaeus, which seems to have afforded them a small degree of protection as the Lunarch repeatedly dismisses reports of their behavior. The two are engaged in a running zombie war when they seize upon the idea of attack Thraben itself. During the siege, Geralf sneaks into the city and kills the Lunarch, but in his absence the siege is defeated and his sister captured. Geralf shows Liliana where the Lunarch was killed, but it’s unclear whether he was later captured or killed. Geralf's most infamous creation is Grimgrin, the zombie who leads the attack on Thraben. While both Gisa and Geralf were part of the original Innistrad's story, they wouldn't get cards until Commander 2014.

Bad Luck Griselbrian
Griselbrand Art by Jaime Jones
Griselbrand is the strongest demon in Innistrad’s modern era. Shortly after the Mending, Liliana made a pact with the demon, brokered by Nicol Bolas, in exchange for power that she had lost. Later, the demon tricks Avacyn into imprisoning herself in the demon-capturing Helvault along with him. Liliana, who has been seeking a way out of her demonic pacts, hunts him down and destroys the Helvault, freeing everything captured inside. Griselbrand leaves, but is hunted down and killed by Liliana.

Saint Traft was one of the finest demon hunters who ever lived and one of the youngest priests to ever be anointed a Saint. He was so respected that even angels would come at his call to fight alongside him. In order to save a young girl, He was tricked by cultists into using Elbrus, the Binding Blade to slay the entire cult. This action freed the demon lord Withengar from the blade who slew Traft. A single angel came to his aid, but she was too late and instead slew Withengar in vengeance. As penance, that angel now follows Traft’s Geist as he continues his crusade in death. Traft and Withengar are featured in the short story, The Saint, the Geist and the Angel.

Olivia Voldaren is the head of the Voldaren bloodline. As a human, she was a wealthy recluse. As a vampire, she’s known for throwing the best - and most depraved - parties. She’s invented a number of particularly cruel games to play on the humans ‘invited’ to her parties.

Jeleva is a vampire of some renown on Innistrad, and is engaged in her own private war against the Church of Avacyn, who have put a price on her head. She enjoys devouring the minds of her victims before drinking their blood, and she prefers Archmages, the most powerful mages the church of Avacyn has to offer, as her meals. She first appeared as part of the second Commander product. [Note: This article initially incorrectly attributed her to the first Commander product.]

Some other characters have yet to get their own cards, but are important to the story or the background of the world:
  • Edgar Markov, the progenitor of vampires on Innistrad and Sorin's grandfather.
  • Shilgengar, the demon who convinced Edgar to make vampires.
  • Marycz, the angel they sacrificed.
  • Runo Stromkirk, the head of the Stromkirk bloodline.
  • Ulrich, Alpha of the Krallenhorde Howlpack.
  • Tovolar, Mute Alpha of the Mondronen Howlpack.
  • Skaharra, Alpha of the Leeraug Howlpack.
  • Ludevic of Ulm, Necro Alchemist and Innistrad’s Dr. Frankenstein, the most prolific alchemist we know of.
  • Jenrik, An astronomer working with Tamiyo who resides in a lonely Tower in Nephalia and believes the moon is a silver desert.
  • Volpaig, the leader of the Skirsdag cult and a Bishop of the Church of Avacyn.
The Story of Innistrad
Please note that some of this material has been reworked from a previous article. In addition, a lot of the details used here are actually from the flavor text of various cards in the set, when not directly from the references I've given here. Deathtrap is a short story about a young Cathar under attack. Not relevant to the overall story of the plane, but an interesting read. It is not included in the overall summary here, but takes place just before the Siege of Thraben.

Sorin culls Team Jacob
Barter in Blood Art by Eric Deschamps
Ancient Innistrad
Thousands of years ago, Innistrad wasn’t the plane of monsters we know it to be. There was a small amount of demonic activity, but by and large people thought they were myths. During that time, Edgar Markov was an alchemist in Stensia, although because the Parishes were defined by the Church of Avacyn, it was not yet known as that. Edgar was getting on in his years, and wanted to discover the secret to immortality. Edgar’s experiments were influenced by the demon Shilgengar, but Edgar wasn’t quite ready to commit to an atrocity. So Shilgengar gave Edgar a push, causing a great famine that threatened the entire region. Left with no other choice, Edgar performed the blood ritual Shilgengar had suggested.

Edgar, along with his sons, captured the angel Marycz and imprisoned her in his laboratory. They drained the angel of her blood and used it to create a formula that would allow humans to survive by feeding on blood. The result was the creation of the vampire race. The vampires solved the famine crisis by reducing the number of mouths to feed in two ways: by turning part of the population into vampires and by the elimination of the humans the vampires would feed on. Edgar himself became the first vampire, and the Markovs the first vampire bloodline. Edgar used this new concoction to turn his grandson, Sorin Markov, but to his surprise Sorin disappeared as he transformed, his spark ignited. Sorin had ascended as a planeswalker.

Over the years, Sorin traveled the multiverse and became more and more distant from his plane-bound race. The wider perspective of the multiverse gave him insight into his home plane’s troubles. The vampires of Innistrad grew bolder and bolder in this time, and it wasn’t long before Sorin began to see the effect they were having. Humanity was greatly diminished, and if something wasn’t done the vampires would hunt their only food source to extinction. In an effort to preserve balance, using unknown means he created the archangel Avacyn and he co-opted existing beliefs to create what became the Church of Avacyn. The goal was for Avacyn to keep the balance and ensure what his grandfather set into motion didn’t destroy Innistrad.

The existing angels flocked to Avacyn and her power, and the Church was born. Avacyn began sealing demons into the Helvault, and for thousands of years there was balance. The origins of the Helvault, and exactly what Avacyn knows about her own creation are unclear. Mikaeus, the Lunarch, learned the truth at some point, and it’s likely that every Lunarch learns the truth, possibly dating back to the first Lunarch. As time went on, humanity became used to Avacyn’s protection and Avacynian magic, and forgets or otherwise puts aside their old magical abilities.

Thousands of years later, and about a hundred years before the current story, Liliana’s first planeswalk took her to Innistrad, where she honed her Necromancy. After the Mending, Liliana returned as part of a pact brokered by Nicol Bolas. Liliana bargained her soul to Griselbrand in exchange for power, along with three other demons from other planes.

If this shard of moon silver can hold thousands of demons, what is in the moon itself?
Helvault Art by Jaime Jones
The Dark Ascension
Eventually, Griselbrand rose to power among the demons and began enacting his own plans. His scheme: to remove Avacyn. Tired of Avacyn sealing away demons one after another, Griselbrand dueled with her in the Helvault courtyard and tricked her into sealing herself in the Helvault alongside him. The highest order of the clergy were there to witness the event, and they immediately moved into crisis mode. The church covered up this event, and the people were left to wonder at the waning power the church’s magic provided.

Monsters become more and more common, and it becomes harder and harder for humanity to hold back to forces of darkness. As the church’s power fades, the people of Innistrad look for protections. In Kessig, they turn to the pagan rituals of their ancestors and unlock powers that hadn’t been used in thousands of years. Among the church’s elite, ancient tomes are dusted off and the old magics embraced to supplement the church’s waning power.

Sorin, fresh off his failure to prevent the Eldrazi’s release on Zendikar, returns home for the first time in ages. Avacyn’s disappearance disturbs him, and he sets about looking for her. At some point around this time, he stumbles upon Dack Fayden, another planeswalker who had been wreaking minor havoc as he faced off against fellow planeswalker Sifa Grent. Sorin confronts and easily defeats Dack, taking from him the Ancient Fang, an artifact with the power to control vampires.

Liliana’s quest to free herself from her debts takes her to Innistrad to confront Griselbrand. After her acquisition of the Chain Veil, she discovered she had the power to free herself from her demonic masters. But when she arrives on Innistrad, Griselbrand is nowhere to be found, and neither is Avacyn. Liliana begins tracking down any connection she can find to the demon. Eventually, she learns of a cult of human demon worshippers known as the Skirsdag, and their trail leads her to the capital city of Thraben. She spends her journey dodging the cursed Garruk, who continues to hunt her. He befriends a pack of werewolves who try to do good with their curse, but he finds himself consumed more and more by the bloodlust. When he catches Liliana, her powers overwhelm him and she leaves him for dead in a swamp.

They're coming to get you Barbara.
Zombie Apocalypse Art by Peter Mohrbacher
Siege of Thraben

The twins Gisa and Geralf, necromancers through magic and science respectively, spend months terrorizing the Moorlands. Geralf, tired of Gisa’s failure to adhere to his "rules" of necro-warfare, seizes on the idea of assaulting Thraben itself. Gisa, suddenly interested, agrees to help. Together, along with the Skaab Grimgrim, they decimate the countryside on the way to Thraben. The Cathars attempting to deal with the twins are overwhelmed, and their correspondences are met with incredulity from the church. The defender of Thraben, Lothar, does little to prepare until it’s too late. When the twins reach the walls with their zombie horde, he’s nowhere to be found, having killed himself, and they begin to lay siege to the city. During this siege, Geralf sneaks into the city and murders Mikaeus. Thalia, second to Lothar, takes command and sacrifices the outer ring of the city in a bid to defeat the zombies. Her plan succeeds, and the zombies are ignited in a massive fire, lifting the siege.

Liliana arrives at Thraben just after the Siege. She tracks down and questions the leader of the Skirsdag, the bishop Volpaig, but he reveals that only Mikaeus, now dead, could give her the answer to what happened to Griselbrand. Liliana gets the location of his burial place and raises Mikeaus from the dead. Mikeaus informs her of the truth, and Liliana raises a fresh, or not-so-fresh, as the case may be, army of zombies to storm the cathedral where the Helvault is located. Thalia moves to stop her, but Liliana paralyzes her holy soldiers known as Cathars and gives her an ultimatum: allow Liliana to open the Helvault or she kills all of Thalia's people. Thalia makes her decision and the Helvault is destroyed, releasing Avacyn and every demon she had contained therein, including Griselbrand. Avacyn’s release begins a resurgence in the church’s power and the balance finally tips in favor of humanity. Griselbrand attempts to escape, but Liliana follows him across Innistrad. The two face off, but the Chain Veil gives Liliana too much of an edge. Griselbrand is obliterated. The victory continues to worry Liliana about the cost taken on herself by using the veil.

Still not Nahiri.
Avacyn Restored Key Art by Jason Chan
Avacynian Restoration
Once Avacyn is freed, the magic of her faith surges once more. For the people of Innistrad, who had begun to learn to make do without her power, they were stronger than ever. Creatures like the gryffs that had disappeared during the Dark Ascension reappeared. With this restored power, the people of Gatstaf organized a great werewolf hunt.  But the restored magic didn’t just help them, it helped the werewolves they were hunting turn back into human beings. The people of Gatstaf are so grateful, they ask for Avacyn’s help curing the curse permanently. Avacyn appeared, but is unable to cure the curse. Instead, she offered an alternative that most of the werewolves were willing to accept, and she unleashes the Cursemute.

This cursemute changes most werewolves, beings created from an inharmony in the spirit, to Wolfir, more majestic beings that fight for Avacyn. The cursemute helps Garruk as well, but only temporarily. Defeated by Liliana, he wanders Innistrad in attempt to pick up her trail. The cathar Odric comes across the weakened Garruk and subdues him, but for a reason not explained does not return to Thraben with him as he intends. Instead, Avacyn tasks the newly returned planeswalker and former cathar Vronos track down and capture Garruk. Vronos fails, and is beheaded in the process in the opening scene of Duels 2015, with Garruk taking his mask as a trophy. Elsewhere on Innistrad, those people from Kessig who denied Avacyn had to flee to the forest. Some former cathars, unhappy with the creation of the Wolfir, decide to abandon their posts to hunt the former Werewolves.

Avacyn's resurgence is threatened, however, by the discovery made by Comitant Dovid. After being injured in battle, he was given the honored place of being the attendant to the Angel’s Sanctuary, along with a sword made from the shards of the Helvault. Soon after Avacyn’s return, he is sent into the sanctuary to prepare it for the angels, and finds a man dressed in black strangled and half-submerged in a cistern. It’s unclear who killed him, but in the man’s pocket is Mikaeus’ journal. The journal contains the truth about the origin of vampires and Avacyn herself, and sparks a crisis of faith in Dovid. After a time, he can’t take keeping the secret anymore, and puts pen to paper to record what he has learned - a secret so terrible it could topple the thousands of year old church and risk destroying the precarious balance of Innistrad itself.

That’s it for this week, thanks for reading! We hope this article got you caught up on the world and players of Innistrad. Not much is known about the plot to Shadows over Innistrad just yet. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon has instructed Sorin Markov to find Nahiri to help set to rights what has happened on Zendikar. In turn, Ugin also told Jace to seek out Sorin on Innistrad. The preview image we’ve seen indicates that something bad is happening - but on Innistrad, that’s like saying it’s going to rain.

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments or on the forum, and we’ll address it in future updates. Have a suggestion for something you’d like to see? Let us know, and we could address it in a future column. As always, you can check out our Wiki to learn more.


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