The Vorthos Guide to Magic: The Gathering
In anticipation of this summer's Conspiracy:
Reign of Brago The Empty Throne Take the Crown, our Storyline mods have prepared a definitive guide to the setting of this new set and its predecessor, Conspiracy. Follow our guides exploring the world of intrigue that is Fiora, and try not to get caught up in the plotting!
Welcome back to Archive Trap, the unofficial story column for all things Magic: the Gathering. This time, we take you to a plane whose name you might not recognize: Fiora. Fiora was home to the popular draft-centric set Conspiracy, but it was actually created a few years earlier for the IDW Magic: The Gathering comic series about Dack Fayden. The announcement for Conspiracy was coded behind various ciphers, but eagle-eyed fans were first clued in to the setting when they noticed that the glass window behind the spoiled promotional Magister of Worth and the IDW Consume Spirit promo were suspiciously similar. The whole reveal around Conspiracy was a pretty awesome mind trip. If you want to take a trip down crazy town, take a look.
Paliano takes class divisions to a whole other... level. (Deal with it.)
Paliano, the High City by Adam Paquette
Setting the Stage
Fiora was originally introduced as Dack Fayden’s home plane in the IDW comic series. Although at the start, it was not clear how much of an impact the comic would have on the plot of the game, Bred for the Hunt surprised everyone by including the character subtly in its art. We expected the cancellation of the comic to be the end of the character, but shortly thereafter, Conspiracy was released, complete with a planeswalker card for Dack.
What is interesting about Fiora is that it was created somewhat backwards. Unlike most planes in Magic, which have an extensive amount of world-building before they are introduced, Fiora was just a generic fantasy setting for Dack’s background. It was not fleshed out as a world until Conspiracy came out. Another neat feature is that Sydri, one of the 2013 Commanders, was actually from Fiora. Her story contained yet another coded message hidden for the fans.
Not a whole lot is known about Fiora’s geography. The High City of Paliano is set upon massive pillars and is raised thousands of feet in the air above The Lowlands, the city's name for the land below. It is only reachable on foot via The Thousand Stairs, an exhausting physical climb to the top. The Academy at High Paliano is located in the city, as is King Brago’s Palace, Marchesa’s opulent nine-story mansion, and a vast network of interconnected sewers and dungeons.
There are settlements elsewhere on Fiora, including Drakeston, Talon, a number of unnamed townships, and a vast wilderness. Drakeston is the hometown of the planeswalker Dack Fayden. The entire town was slaughtered by Sifa Grent and remains a ghost town to this day, inhabited only by the leader of the vampires Sifa used in her attack. The town is misspelled as Drakestown on Drakestown Forgotten, representing the shambling corpses of zombies presumably made from the town’s inhabitants. Talon is a port city near Paliano. Not much else is known about the location.
"Meesa propose that the Senate give immediately emergency powers to the Supreme Chancellor."
Plea for Power by John Severin Brassell
Class divisions in Paliano are divided mainly by those who reside in the High City and those who reside in the low. The High City is home to the elite: nobles, merchants, and scholars, while the low city is home to everyone else. King Brago rules over both cities, and part of his success is due to appealing to the lower classes. It's unclear how far out from the city King Brago's rule extends, or if Paliana is a city-state. Everyone has the ability to move up in social ranking, but upwards mobility generally requires you to have exception skill, ability, or a wealth patron. Status is generally determined by one’s political acumen and willingness to engage in less than ethical activities to secure power. Elsewhere in Paliano the divisions are less overt, although classism is rampant. While it seems that the races of Fiora all mix and fall under the same political system, goblins still maintain a low social standing despite generally being more intelligent here than on most planes, with examples like Daretti and Grenzo being power players.
The Academy (also known as The Academy at High Paliano or the Academy of Paliano) is ostensibly a meritocracy, but the tuition is so expensive that only the children of wealthy nobles and merchants can afford to study there. Positioning on the board is just as competitive as the politics in the rest of the city, and the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor of the Academy have a huge amount of resources available to them. The sewers of Paliano connect everywhere in the city, and a network of secret passages ensure than anyone who controls the literal underworld of Paliano holds a great deal of power.
Daretti was designed as the planeswalker commander for the Built from Scratch deck of Commander 2014. Daretti is an accomplished goblin who created quite a stir in Fioran high society on his quest to become a master artificer, gathering a number of enemies in the process. His spark ignited when one of his projects exploded, leaving no sign of him and causing the Paliano elite to heave a great sigh of relief at no longer having a goblin in their ranks. His accident didn’t leave him unscathed however, and Daretti now uses a cogwork device of his own design in place of his legs. His protégé, Muzzio, is suspected of killing him, but it is far more likely that they remain in contact due to Muzzio’s knowledge of other planes. Daretti specializes in creating artifacts from what others would consider junk, and he continues to wear the distinctive garb of Academy elite, even after leaving them.
Dack Fayden's story has been told in two previous Archive Trap Articles, Dack Fayden Part I and Dack Fayden Part II. Dack is a sly, charming thief with a heroic side. He was formally trained as a mage in his youth (it is unclear whether or not this was at a campus of The Academy, or just a random school), but his primary gift lies in Psychometry. When he touches an object, his Psychometry gives him visions showing how the artifact works and important pieces of the history of others who touched the artifact. He uses this ability to track down more artifacts and people of interest, but more importantly to learn the spells behind powerful magical artifacts. This ability means that when he steals an object, he rarely needs to keep it, as he is only stealing it to learn the secrets contained within. Dack’s defining feature is that he has a red stain on his right hand that extends from his fingertips to his elbow. This stain is the result of a punishment he endured for thieving on another plane early in his career. It is during this time while he was away that his entire hometown was slaughtered. He keeps this stain as a reminder to himself of what his selfishness and sloppiness cost him.
Sifa Grent is a planeswalker native to Grixis, likely a Vithian, who slaughtered Dack’s hometown. Like most natives of Grixis, her power seems to stem from her absorption of Vis, or life energy. Sifa came into possession of a dagger called the Ancient Fang which has the ability to control vampires. She used the dagger to manipulate a small army of vampires into rounding up the people of Drakeston. She was searching for a planeswalker she sensed in Drakeston, intent on stealing his power, but instead she restored her youth by killing Dack’s childhood friend Mariel and then slaughtering everyone else in the town. She was long gone by the time Dack returned home, vowing to track down the person who butchered his hometown.
Selvala is really the only 'good' character in this set.
Conspiracy Key Art
King Brago started life as the third son of a minor family, but his ambition and vision pushed him toward greater things. Along with his friend Selvala he began ascending the political ladder by pushing for reforms in Paliano. With every victory he secured more power for himself until he was made king. A few years after ascending to the throne, he was diagnosed with a terminal, incurable illness. He employed the Custodi, a shadowy and secretive group of priests, to help extend his life, but the treatments ravaged his body until he could feel nothing. These treatments, seemingly intended to kill him, had an unexpected outcome: when he asked his friend Selvala to kill him, rather than dying, his spirit broke free of his body and remained in the world of the living. While he may have once had noble intentions, his continued grasp on power turned him into a tyrant.
Grenzo is a slightly mad goblin and warden of the dungeons of High Paliano. He is reportedly aligned with Marchesa, but so far those are only rumors. He and his minions control the literal underworld of the city: the dungeons and sewers. You would not think that controlling the sewers would lend him much power, but there are secret entrances to every location of note down there. Grenzo carries around a set of keys that give him access to virtually all of them.
Marchesa, known as the Black Rose, is kingpin of the High City's criminal underworld. Her mansion is opulent, even by the standards of the High City’s elite, standing at nine stories tall. She is a master of thinking many steps ahead of her enemies to outwit them, and while she is ruthless, she is not overly cruel. Marchesa's status is well known to the Paliano elite, where her title is spoken of only in whispers and every shady dealing is thought to have her hand involved.
Professor Muzzio is a brilliant artificer on the High Paliano Academy’s board of senior advisors. He is responsible for the creation of the cogwork automatons that have become incredibly common throughout Paliano, to the point where almost every mundane cleric or servile task is performed by his creations. He is rumored to alternatively be supporting Sydri, working for the Black Rose, or to have killed his mentor Daretti. In truth, Muzzio’s knowledge of other planes implies that he remains in contact with Daretti after his mentor’s supposed death (there are alternative theories, but this is the most simple explanation). Muzzio’s vision for Paliano involves a city that runs like clockwork, although he recognizes that the human element will always get in the way. Tales of worlds ruled by artifice are at the forefront of his aspirations. While seemingly emotionless, he is in fact only carefully calculating, and he uses his clogwork constructs to advance in power. Whether he is just fascinated by tales of worlds where artifice melds with living creatures, or wants to reproduce it on Fiora is unclear.
Selvala is an elven woman and one-time ally of King Brago in his bid to secure the throne of Paliano. Brago’s continued persistence in extending his own life and grasp on power and put a wedge between the two to the point where they barely speak at the beginning of the story. She believes Brago to have become a tyrant, but thinks well of her old friend right up until he betrays her. Of all the conspirators listed here, Selvala is the one with the good of the common people most at heart.
Sydri is an artificer of uncommon skill first introduced in Commander 2013 as one of the alternate commander options for the Eternal Bargain deck. She is skilled both with artifice and enchantments, often combining spellcraft with her artifacts to create powerful objects. On the surface, she sells simple trinkets and minor artifacts, but her speciality is custom artifacts and enchantments for the wealthy. She is a dropout from the Academy and while it is rumored that she enjoys continued support from Muzzio, it seems unlikely. Her profile from The Ten Commanders mentions that she has fallen in with a dangerous circle of elite priests, which could only mean that she is a member of the Custodi.
The Stories of Fiora
Please note that some of this material, relating to Dack Fayden, has been repurposed from the Dack Fayden articles of Archive Trap. These stories also are not going to appear in strictly linear order, although we will do our best.
So forgotten, the name of their town isn't even spelled correctly.
Drakestown Forgotten by Steve Prescott
The Drakeston Slaughter
Dack Fayden was born on the plane of Fiora and spent his early life in his hometown of Drakeston. He enrolled in a magical academy in a larger city nearby, where he excelled but also grew arrogant. One night, Dack and his friend Marsh were out celebrating after acing an exam. They were casting all sorts of mild spells to show off around town, when one of Marsh’s spells hit a trio of thugs. They grew angry with Dack and Marsh, and when Marsh shoved the leader, his cockiness cost him. The thugs attacked, and the leader revealed himself to be a mage who cast a powerful fire blast at Dack. Dack defended himself with a magic shield and dueled with the mage. Marsh faced off against the other two, the first of whom he turned into a frog, but in his cockiness the second snuck around him and ran him through with a sword. Dack’s grief caused him to drop his guard, and the leader struck him with lightning, almost killing Dack and igniting his spark.
Dack became a thief by necessity at first, but quickly found he enjoyed it. At some point while he was away, however, Sifa Grent came looking for the young planeswalker to steal his power. She had gained control of a group of local vampires she forced to do her bidding through an artifact known as the Ancient Fang. Unable to find him, she settled for killing his whole village and absorbing their life force. The death of Dack’s childhood friend revitalized her youth, and the slaughter of the townsfolk gave her immense power. When Dack returned, he found his hometown destroyed with no apparent cause or reason. It would be years before he learned of Sifa Grent when, by chance on his newly adopted home of Ravnica, he had a vision of the slaughter after stealing the Ancient Fang from the Rakdos.
Later, while in pursuit of Sifa Grent, Dack returned to Drakeston. There Dack noticed a light in one of the buildings. Since the town was completely abandoned after the slaughter, he moved to investigate. Inside he found Yarl, leader of the vampires who helped Sifa kill everyone in the town. Dack used the magic he learned from the Ancient Fang to control Yarl and get answers. Yarl pleaded that he deserved death; that he is an exile with nothing left. Dack took Yarl's sword and had a vision: Yarl desperately tried to fight against Sifa’s control. Yarl hadn’t wanted to slaughter the townsfolk, but the magic forced him to do so and he lost everything because of it. Caught in a moment of conflict between conscience and revenge, Dack ultimately decided Yarl’s death would not help him and left Yarl to his exile.
Dack’s complete story can be found in the previous Archive Trap Articles, Dack Fayden Part I and Dack Fayden Part II
Seventy years ago, Brago was a young count with ambition. He and his friend Selvala worked as a team to fix the problems they saw with their home. Slowly but surely, they transformed the city, rooted out corruption and limited the tyrannical powers of the nobility. After years of work, their final goal, a city charter, was signed into law. It is not explicitly stated, but the charter seems to be what made Brago the king. A few years after he ascended to the throne, King Brago was diagnosed with a incurable terminal illness. Worried their work would be lost, he agreed to let the Custodi, a secretive group of priests, begin treatments on him so that he could hold on to power. This continued for some time.
Meanwhile, in the High City, a Lord Zangari was speaking with his mistress during a ball. Zangari was frustrated with his wife embarrassing him and his mistress — a friend of his wife’s — suggested taking steps to eliminate the competition. Zangari did not want to become beholden to Marchesa, but his mistress instead suggested Sydri, who was unaffiliated with Marchesa and was known to provide custom solutions for the right price. Zangari met with Sydri and initially tried to subtly imply his desire, but Sydri forced him to spit out what he really wanted: an artifact to kill his wife. Sydri offered to make him an enchanted music box that would do the trick but at an outrageous price. Zangari agreed.
When Zangari returned to Sydri’s Workshop, he delivered the first half of the payment. While there, a boar’s head broach (the sigil of his house) caught his eye. Sydri told him that it was not for sale, so he paid her the half he owed and left. When he returned again, Sydri had packed up, giving the reason that she has to move often in her line of work. Zangari’s artifact is the last one she had left to sell. She gave him one last chance to back down from his course, but he insisted. She then told him the owner of the broach that caught his eye did not return for it, and gave it to him because the music box did not cost as much as she expected. Soon after, he put on the broach while he plotted to give his wife the killer music box, but realized too late that the broach was a trap, seemingly cursed in the same way as the music box intended for his wife.
At some point in the years prior to Brago's ascension, two things happened. The first is that Sydri was approached by the Custodi and joined them. The second is that the brilliant goblin artificer Daretti ascended the ranks of the Academy, much to the social elite's chagrin. Daretti mentored Muzzio before being injured in an explosion and presumed dead, as no body was found. The explosion caused Daretti's spark to ignite, sending him away from Fiora and presumably replacing his academy ambitions with something much grander. It is likely that when Daretti returned he told Muzzio of other planes, explaining the weird amount of otherworldly knowledge that Muzzio possesses.
Shadowy group promising eternal life? Seems legit.
Custodi Soulbinders by Karla Ortiz
Brago and Selvala grew distant over the years, until their only contact was irregular dinners during which they barely spoke. Selvala developed serious concerns about Brago's clinging to power long past his natural lifespan. At one such dinner, the two began to converse again, arguing over Brago’s policies and whether or not he lost sight of their common goals. Selvala realized something had changed. Brago admitted he would no longer be taking treatments from the Custodi, because he could no longer die and was living in misery. Selvala was stunned, and when Brago asked his old friend to end his life, she agreed. Selvala was one of the few allowed a weapon when seeing the king. She forgave him and killed her old friend, afterward allowing herself to be escorted off by the guards for regicide. The Custodi immediately began plotting how to hold on to their power, but were surprised when a blue mist materialized in front of them — a mist which coalesces into Brago. With their king returned and their work done — although it is unlikely that this was their intent — they swore allegiance to the risen king once more.
Elsewhere, other plots were being carried out. The smuggler Ervos Trax came to the city to dine with his business partner, Marchesa. She had invited him, but neglected to send a ship to carry him, forcing him to climb from the Lowlands all the way up to the High City. They had been friendly rivals, each content with their slice of the the crime business, but as his smuggling empire slowly moved in on her territory, they both knew that one or the other had to take action soon. As they ate, Ervos suggested that he had to kill her. They hypothesized all the ways in which he could have done it, and as the meal goes on it became clear Ervos had been poisoned. Move and countermove are discussed, and in the end he concluded that there was simply no way for him to have Marchesa killed without compromising his own business. He knew that she would have to remove him, so he poisoned himself as a means of securing victory by implicating her and thus harming her business dealing with all of his contacts. Marchesa had already worked this out as his only option, but allowed her friend Ervos to believe he had secured a final victory in death, telling him she was going to have him killed in two days. Behind her home, however, Ervos’ grave was already being dug.
And so the mind games begin again.
Conspiracy: The Reign of Brago Key Art... or is it?
At The Academy at High Paliano, Muzzio was attempting a coup of his own. His creations kept the city running, and he was preparing to move on to the second phase of his plan. His work was disturbed by Brago’s undeath and the political upheavel it caused. His intention was to be voted in as Vice Chancellor of the Academy after the previous one retired, but the academy board voted more cautiously than he anticipated. Rumors that he worked for the Black Rose, or was supporting Sydri, or had killed his mentor Daretti all surrounded him. He summoned his apprentice Irie to his secret workshop, a place unknown to his fellow professors and home to a hundred cogwork soldiers and a scale model of the city. There he discussed his plans with Irie and revealed that he had never killed anyone, despite the rumors, because he did not have to. Every construct in the city was based on his designs and he could control them if he needed to. Information was Muzzio's weapon. He revealed that he viewed the city as a device that he must tinker with until his goal — an undefined aspiration for the good of the people of Paliano — was set in motion. (His knowledge of other worlds — especially worlds ruled by artifice — implies that his goal is less magnanimous than he states.) The Vice Chancellor position would have given him what he needed to move forward. Instead, to pave the way to the Vice Chancellor position, Muzzio bankrupted one of his opponents, fabricated a scandal (with the recently deceased Ervos Trax) as a threat for another, and revealed the Chancellor’s affair. When the vote was held again, Muzzio’s succession to Vice Chancellor was unopposed.
For an undetermined period of time, Selvala was locked away in the dungeons for having 'killed' Brago. Grenzo appeared to her at her lowest point, and offered to help her escape — for a price. He unlocked her door and let her follow him out. He took her around the sewers and showed her the secret entrances to every building of import: the palace, the treasury, Sydri’s latest shop, a secret council chamber, and finally Muzzio’s workshop. He stopped there to tell her the price of her freedom is an assassination. Grenzo attempted to tell her how a big a threat Muzzio would be, that Muzzio would bring about a cold metal world if he could, but Selvala refused. In a scuffle, the pair activated Muzzio's defenses by mistake. Selvala used this opportunity to escape and led Muzzio's artifacts into a confrontation with Grenzo's minions, who were hidden throughout the sewers. The chaos allowed her to slip away in the turmoil, to one day return and fix what Brago had done.
That is it for this week, thanks for reading! We hope this article got you interested in the world of Fiora. There is a lot of room for more stories in Fiora, now that Brago has made his play and Selvala her escape. Brago is now King Eternal... but for how long? What started as a generic home plane for Dack Fayden has turned into a pretty interesting world of its own. Conspiracy 2 releases this August, and the mind games have already begun! It appears that Brago has been assassinated and another has taken the throne, but is this the true reveal or are there yet more mind games to come?
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments or on the forum, and we will address it in future updates. Have a suggestion for something you would 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.