Artifacts II: Lines of Time of Blood

The Vorthos Guide to Magic: The Gathering
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Welcome back to Archive Trap, the unofficial guide for the incompleat. Last solar cycle, we educated you on the grandeur of the Phyrexia Origin, predecessor of New Phyrexia. This cycle, we educate you on Urza Planeswalker's pathetic attempts to eradicate our predecessors. Through failed experiments in time, and by trying to replicate our methods, it appears that it is only through pure random probability that Yawgmoth, Father of Machines and Lord of the Wastes, was ever defeated by one as pathetic as designation Urza. We admit, his use of the Academy on Tolaria kept Phyrexia from learning his plans, but who could have known a scattering of unrelated artifacts would focus power to create a tool as powerful as the Legacy Weapon? We must be careful in our endeavors against the Mirran Resistance that they do not learn the secrets of this weapon, for we would risk destruction of our new home itself.

Phyrexia was a lovely mix of basically every kind of modern horror.
The Fourth Sphere by Dave Kendall
HistoryWe are now on the second half of the Artifacts Cycle, and honestly this is where we start to get into the good stuff. Time Streams is one of my favorite Magic novels, and it introduces not only one, but four major characters from Magic's history... three of which are still relevant to today's story: Karn, Teferi, and Jhoira!

On Phyrexia
This is a brief summary of Phyrexia. If you want to learn more, the Wiki has an excellent section. The original Phyrexia was nine spheres layered one on top of the other, each with a different and perfect purpose.
  • First Sphere: An artificial parody of natural life.
  • Second Sphere: A layer of rubble and scraps.
  • Third Sphere: A layer of metal pipes and lurking horrors.
  • Fourth Sphere: Home to most of the Phyrexians, the planar portals and the Fane of Flesh.
  • Fifth Sphere: The Boiling Sea, a massive underwater ocean of Glistening Oil.
  • Sixth Sphere: The Phrexian Inner Circle, home to Demons and Praetors.
  • Seventh Sphere: The Punishment Sphere, home to a massive furnace and torture chambers.
  • Eighth Sphere: A layer of pure energy.
  • Ninth Sphere: Phyrexia’s control center.
On the fourth sphere of Phyrexia lies the Fane of Flesh. This is where Phyrexian Vat Priests grow new Phyrexians (called newts) using Glistening Oil. Glistening Oil itself seems to be semi-intelligent and is vital to Phyrexians, reproducing on its own and capable of spawning new Phyrexians when properly cultured. Each newt is predestined for a purpose in Phyrexia, and once grown and given some minor education, is sent onward for compleation. Each Phyrexian Newt has an associated Heartstone, a black powerstone magically linked to the Phyrexian. These Heartstones are hoarded deep inside the Fane of Flesh.

Phyrexians are driven by their cycle of self-improvement through compleation, and their attempts to become perfect. They are directed by the Phyrexian Inner Circle, made up of demons (not true demons) and praetors, each with their own agendas. The Inner Circle are perhaps the only individuals allowed to be free-thinking on Phyrexia, They, ultimately, serve their master Yawgmoth, who resides in the Ninth Sphere of Phyrexia the majority of the time, delegating the running of the plane to the Inner Circle. In order to continue this cycle (what with Phyrexia being a rather limited closed system and all), the Phyrexians use planar portals to pillage the multiverse of artifice and resources. Only in some cases do they invade, usually preferring to simply take what they need (and perhaps a little bit of wanton slaughter). The exception being Dominaria, for reasons explained below.

Tolaria is like Hogwarts if Dumbledore was a sociopath...
Okay, maybe it is exactly like Hogwarts.
Tolarian Academy by Stephen Daniele
The Tolarian Academy

Decades later, Urza (assuming the name Malza) founds the Tolarian Academy. On the surface, the Academy is the foremost institution for magic and artifice, with the cream of the crop from around Dominaria being invited to attend. In reality, it is the front line in Urza’s ongoing war with Phyrexia. The Academy only accepts students as children, because Phyrexian Sleeper Agents only come as adults, and thus Urza ensures that none of his students are infiltrators. Urza receives help in running the Academy through the one person that could be considered his friend: Barrin, a master wizard and the only person who knows Urza’s true nature. Barrin assisted Urza in the culmination of his decades-long obsession with time travel. Urza completed a device capable of time travel (seemingly using Gix’s gem), but the stressors of time travel destroyed every probe he attempted to send through. He experiments with every substance, until he discovers that common silver can survive the journey. With that epiphany, Urza builds a silver golem to use in his experiments. Realizing that the golem would need to observe, think critically and act appropriately - more so than the average powerstone-powered artifact could accomplish without direction - Urza turned to the one device he knew was capable of intelligence: Xantcha’s Heartstone.

The silver golem becomes conscious the moment Urza is finished installing the Heartstone - referred to by Urza has a cognitive affective matrix. The golem, now self-aware, wants to connect with Urza but is hurt when Urza regards him as a ‘thing’. Urza entrusts one of the academy’s most promising young students (and pranksters), Teferi, with the job of socializing and educating the golem. Teferi is one of the youngest students on the Island and his ‘antics’ are rather cruel to the golem. The golem’s plight is recognized by another student, Jhoira, a talented student herself, who is homesick for her tribe, the Ghitu, and the mountains of Shiv. She strikes up a friendship with the golem, immediately recognizing him as a person and not a thing. Jhoira is the one to finally give the golem his name: Karn.

Jhoira is feeling lonely herself. She feels that there is not anyone at the academy who understands her, so when the handsome Kerrick washes ashore, she hides him. Strangers are not allowed on the island, and they are to be reported and killed at once. Unbeknownst to Jhoira, there is a good reason for this: Kerrick is a phyrexian sleeper. Once recovered, he signals his masters and Negators storm the island, killing just about everyone. Karn, horrified, uses Urza’s time machine to go back in time to just before the Negator attack. He manages to warn people about the impending attack, and chases down Kerrick. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Urza’s time machine cannot handle the stress of changing the past and explodes. Time tears ripple throughout the Island, killing almost everyone in their way. Urza only manages to save Barrin and about a dozen others by quickly turning them all to stone and ‘planeshopping’ (a short planeswalk to move around a single plan) to safety. He only manages to return Barrin to human form before being spent himself.

And you thought your high school ex was bad.
Ostracize by Chippy
Karn, who was chasing Kerrick, manages to save another thirty or so people. He is able to move more freely through the time tears, as being inorganic himself he is not instantly killed by the time differentials. Unable to locate Jhoira, he escapes with the people that he can save. They would not return until years later. In the meantime, Urza upgrades Karn to be more battle ready. When Urza, Barrin, Karn and the survivors of Tolaria return ten years later, it is aboard the grand sailing ship New Tolaria. They discover that the time tears have settled into pockets (or ‘bubbles’) of fast and slow time. Pockets of fast time are dark and arid, owing to the relativistic effects between outside and in. Pockets of slow time are the opposite; they are bright and humid. This leads to the island having the appearance of being pock-marked by deserts and oases. Crossing from one time to another is deadly (for obvious reasons).

Jhoira survived the cataclysm and has more or less mapped out the dangerous regions. When the New Tolaria expedition reaches her, she leads them to the ruins of Tolaria, where they find Teferi trapped in a pocket of extremely slow time. For him, only seconds have passed since the time machine exploded, and he is moments from being engulfed in flames. In pity, they throw a wet towel in to put out the fire… but it will not actually reach him for years, relatively. Jhoira reveals how she survived and how she continues to appear so young: water leaving pockets of fast and slow time retain their temporal energy. Drinking water from a pocket of slow time retards the aging process by a huge margin. After a decade, Jhoira has not aged more than the equivalent of a few days. This discovery extends the lifespan of everyone at the academy as long as they keep drinking it.

But water of slow time was not Jhoira’s only news. The Phyrexians who invaded the island are still alive, and trapped in a pocket of fast time. For them, 100 years have already passed and they have strip mined the inside to create a massive Phyrexian fortress, with Kerrick - now compleated and known as K’rrik - iterating generation after generation of negators to engineer their escape.

Phyrexians actually prefer to be called Alt-Life.
No Mercy by Mark Tedin
The Fast-Time War

Tolaria is rebuilt in the ruins of the old - all the while preparing for the Phyrexian Invasion lurking nearby. Jhoira makes a breakthrough that changes everything: using mist made from fast-time water, they can create a bridge to pockets of slow time. They develop a prototype and Karn (who is the safest from the time differential) passes through such a bridge to rescue Teferi. It works, and Teferi (who is still a teenager at this point) is saved.

Meanwhile K’rrik develops negators capable of surviving passing through into normal time. Tolaria repels these attacks and slowly grows more militant over time. Multiple attempts to attack the fortress are made, but from the outside the Phyrexians can see everything coming in slow motion. At one point, Urza becomes trapped inside the Phyrexia bubble - K’rrik learns that if you keep mortally wounding a planeswalker’s ‘body’, their mind cannot repair the damage fast enough to do anything else. Urza is rescued by Karn… who feels oddly at home due to his heartstone. The Tolarians settle into a defensive posture, and Urza leaves for Shiv. It turns out that a trinket Jhoira carries — a token from her native Shiv — is made of ancient Thran metal, the strongest metal ever created. An army of artifacts made out of it would be unstoppable.

When he arrives at Shiv, Urza begins negotiating with the native Viashino to control the Thran Foundry and Mana Rig located at their home. He easily defeats a horde of goblins and the Viashino champion, Darigaaz (then still known as Rhammidarigaaz and called a Fire Drake). In exchange, the Viashino demand Karn. Urza agrees (this will not be the last time Urza sells Karn as if he were a thing). He returns to Tolaria to help with another wave of Phyrexians, and brings Jhoira, Teferi and Karn (among others) back to Thran Forge. The Tolarians work on getting the rig operational, making more Thran metal. Urza’s first attempt at creating Karn-like golems with the material is a failure - he discovers that the metal actually keeps growing, and a humanoid shape will not be able to accommodate the growth. He realizes that a Thran metal warship would be the perfect solution. The problem: it would take half of Tolaria’s powerstone supply to power, leaving the island severely underdefended.

Curiously, they discover that only 30% of the power generated by the mana rig can be accounted for by Thran metal fabrication. Jhoira, Karn and Teferi go to investigate the forbidden areas of the mana rig and are ambushed and captured by goblins… but not before stumbling onto a treasure trove of powerstones and the mechanisms for making more. Trespassing into the forbidden areas — holy to the goblins — has brought three goblin tribes together for war. It turns out that the Thran employed the goblins to operate the facilities. Urza arrives and puts an end to the fighting, but not before both sides take some losses.

Sure Urza, build one ship. It's not like Phyrexia has ships, right?
Opportunity by Ron Spears
Urza, in what is becoming an uncharacteristic habit, is the peacemaker once more. The goblins agree to work the powerstone forges again. With the power supply taken care of, Urza leaves for Yavimaya to get the wood he needs to build his warship. There, he is greeted by Multani, but tricked into reliving the events of Argoth from the perspective of the forest over and over. Multani knew he could not kill Urza, but Gaea (the world) was still bitter about Argoth, so he went with capturing the planeswalker instead. Urza disappears for years.

In his absence, Barrin and Tolaria fight a losing war. The Viashino complete their end of Urza’s agreement, and Jhoira cannot prevent them from taking Karn. Barrin, with no other options, uses the “in case of apocalypse” device given to him by Urza. It snaps Urza out of the trap, and he begins to pull his essence back together. Multani, in a last attempt to capture Urza, fuses their essences together. He gets more than he bargained for, and his glimpses of Phyrexia inside Urza’s mind sway him to help. Urza’s penitence for what transpired thousands of years earlier does not hurt, either. Now free, Urza leads the final assault on the Phyrexian’s Tolarian fortress.

With the sum total of Tolaria’s artifacts and mages pitted against the Phyrexian Negators, Urza slips away into the Phyrexian fast-time pocket. Karn, Darigaaz (and his mother), the Viashino, Jhoira, Teferi and the Shiv goblin tribes add their strength to the fight. In the fortress, Urza is taken off guard when his own drones (basically flying buzz saws) are turned against him. It is so effective that K’rrik is about to deliver the coup de grace when Multani gives Urza a burst of mana. Urza ‘planeshops’ directly into K’rrik, killing him as messily as possible (this will not be the last time a magic character kills someone by teleporting inside them).

Outside, Multani turns the entire island against Phyrexia. With nowhere to hide and every tree a deadly threat, they are quickly wiped out. In the aftermath, Teferi returns home to Zhalfir on the continent of Jamuraa, where at some point his spark ignites and he begins experimenting with Time Magic. Jhoria returns to the Mana Rig, while the Viashino give Karn his freedom for his nobility in battle. A select few, comprised of the Shiv alliance, Multani and select Tolarians are shown Urza’s Thran metal warship. Multani encompasses the metal design with the wood of the weatherseed to create a fusion of life and artifice. The ship will continue to grow over the years, becoming more powerful as time goes on. They dub it the Weatherlight. All it needs is a powerstone capable of powering its planar engines. None exist, but Urza has an idea.

You were not using this plane of existence, right?
Planar Collapse by Mark Zug
The End of Serra’s Realm

Urza returns to Serra’s Realm to find Serra herself departed and the archangel Radiant, in the grip of madness, leading a fascist regime in her place. Radiant and her war advisor Gorig are leading an inquisition against the Phyrexian taint on Serra’s Realm, which has already begun collapsing. Urza accompanies an angel purification squad and discovers to his horror that rather than rooting out Phyrexians, they are slaughtering dissidents. He realizes that Gorig is in fact a Phyrexian sleeper agent himself, draining the plane of its mana through the use of Soul Torches. Urza returns to Dominaria with this knowledge, and decides to use the Weatherlight to rescue the remaining people in Serra’s Realm before it collapses for good.

To charge the Weatherlight, Urza uses soul torches he captured from Radiant’s forces. It gives the ship just enough power to planeshift to Serra’s Realm. With Jhoira as captain and Karn as the master of engines, they depart. Urza and Barrin ride Darigaaz and his mother into battle. The battle is vicious and bloody, and Darigaaz’s mother sacrifices herself to save the rest. Barrin defeats Gorig, but in Serra’s Sanctum Radiant gouges the mightstone and weakstone out of Urza’s skull. She tries to reunite them, but the resulting energy blast destroys her and levels the sanctum. Urza re-forms and joins the Weatherlight and the survivors of Serra’s Realm they managed to gather, and they all planeshift home, the final collapse of Serra’s Realm energizing the giant powerstone in the Weatherlight’s engines.

The Bloodlines Project

Shortly after their return, Urza initiates his next project in secret: a eugenics program to create warriors more capable of fighting Phyrexia. His initial programs seeds what he calls the first generation — magical alterations on prospective parents to enhance intelligence, resiliency, etc. He needed a new generation of Tolarians capable of seeing the bloodlines through.

Decades later, the ‘main’ Bloodlines project begins in full. It is a two-pronged approach, the first program, and for ease the one called the bloodlines, enhances humans by splicing Thran genes and making minor magical alterations into them slowly through the generations to create leaders to fight Phyrexia. The second is the creation of an army of vat-grown Metathran (totally not Newts, no-sir-ee-bob) to serve as shocktroopers in the coming war. The Tolarian Academy accelerates this process by using the fast and slow-time pockets to extend the lives of the researchers while work that should take centuries is done in years or decades instead. The Academy is not aware that Urza has been conducting his own trials in the field for some time. It is during this time that Barrin meets Rayne, a brilliant artificer who quickly ascends the ranks at the academy. She and Barrin hit it off rather quickly and begin to fall in love and finally marry years later, although Urza seems disapproving. Together, they advance the Bloodlines Project despite their reservations. They learn that the bloodlines, when raised in fast time, do not develop ties to the land, which is problematic as it leaves them without empathy for their home plane.

Barrin and Rayne are unsure what to do about Karn (Urza is, as typical, uninterested). The golem finds himself living more and more in his past, with depression settling in at the fact that his only friends in the world are people he goes decades without seeing. Barrin convinces Urza to address the problem, and his solution is a Thran metal cage around Karn’s heartstone. The pressure of the cage growing over the years would limit Karn’s memories to just 20 years at a time (with vague recollections of anything else). In order to not forget his friends, Karn keeps detailed journals of his life and repeats a mantra to himself so that he will not forget Jhoira.

"Hush now, my sweet. No tears, only dreams."
Urza's Incubator by Pete Venters
Keld and the Gathans

One promising young student engaged in the Bloodlines project is an arrogant young mage named Gatha. Gatha believes himself to be the smartest person at the academy, and seethes at the restrictions placed upon his work by Barrin and Urza. He begins to conduct his own unethical experiments on the side, to mixed results. When the Academy heads find out, he is restricted even further and a close watch is put on him to ensure he stays within the bound of protocol. Gatha, furious at what he sees as attempts to limit his brilliance, leaves the academy with stolen materials to continue to conduct his experiments elsewhere.

He finds a home in Keld, whose barbarian, mercenary culture embraces his experiments. Their culture already practices eugenics in the form of life or death coming of age trials for their children. The Keldons willingly sign up for Gatha’s trials, and over the years (centuries, even, as Gatha stole slow-time water when he left Tolaria) his experiments bear fruit in the witch-kings. The warlords who benefited from Gatha’s experiments are the dominant force in Keldon culture. The mightiest of these witch-kings is Kreig, with whom Gatha shares his water of slow-time to reap the benefits of Kreig’s power.

Yavimaya’s Evolution

Multani returns home to Yavimaya after years away on the Weatherlight to find his place supplanted by Rofellos. Worse, the Tolarians Multani was travelling with are no longer welcome on the island. Rofellos was sent to Yavimaya as a bridge from the forest of Llanowar. While Multani was away, Yavimaya bonded with Rofellos and together they began preparing Yavimaya for war. The elf was not built to hold Yavimaya’s consciousness, however, and Multani vows to help the elf regain his sense of self.

Guardian of the Heir

Back on Tolaria, it becomes clear that due to the time pockets used to accelerate the process, the bloodlines begin to fail. In order to ensure that the project continues, Urza reveals that the Tolarian bloodlines — including Gatha’s — were just one of several that he was monitoring. Barrin is rather horrified at Urza's secret and unethical experiments, especially when it becomes clear his wife is one of the products of the genetic tampering. Together, they begin to produce the ‘true’ bloodline, which they estimate will take 30 generations. One of the major bloodlines is in Benalia, where Urza negotiates favorable marriage alliances (and the unions of separate bloodlines). Long after this has begun, Urza once again gives away Karn in order to secure a marriage between rival clans - one of whom is the Capashen. Karn, now owned by the Capashen, is also secretly there as the guardian of the most promising bloodline. In the meantime, refugees from Serra’s Realm settle in Benalia, founding a town called Devas. The Devas stay out of Benalian affairs, but train several of the most promising bloodlines at Karn’s request. Though Karn does not remember, the Serrans feel they owe him a great debt for his role in saving their people.

Rath both makes and is made out of Flowstone... but where did Flowstone come from?
Stronghold Furnace by Jim Pavelec
The Overseer of Rath

Behind the scenes of all of this were Davvol and Croag. Davvol was a human recruited by Phyrexia for his ability to astral project and view events elsewhere. He had a terminal illness and was desperate for compleation to extend his life. For it, he turned on his own people and provided the Phyrexians with the ancient artifacts from his home they wanted. His reward was stewardship of Rath, handed to him by the Phyrexian Inner Circle member Croag. He was denied true compleation, but he was modified just enough to keep him alive indefinitely. His mandate? Hunt Urza. Davvol was not a strong leader, and his tactics towards those tending Rath’s forges are exceeding brutal. He meets his quotas, though, and with no better candidates, is allowed to continue, despite the forming insurgency. When he and Croag discover the Capashen bloodline, they capitalize on their affinity for Phyrexia. Raids to destroy (or capture) these bloodlines that Urza created begin all over Dominaria, and the Capashen bloodline is whittled away to almost nothing.

Krieg and Gatha have enjoyed centuries of power, but against the Phyrexian onslaught the witch-king cannot compete. Rather than be captured for his knowledge, Gatha kills himself. Croag is gravely wounded in the battle, and the Soltari — phantom enemies trapped by a overlay gone wrong — wreak havoc with Davvol’s plans. His attempt to invade Yavimaya is an utter failure, and no Phyrexians sent there are ever heard from again. Rofellos, in one of the battles on Yavimaya, discovers the overlay works both ways, only barely escaping Rath in time. He pushes Yavimaya to be more warlike, and he becomes lost to the war lust. Multani vows to help Rofellos regain his sense of self.

Over the centuries, Davvol sent more and more advanced Negators after Urza. He follows a wounded one back to Rath, where he meets the Soltari and learn they were victims of the first attempt at abducting beings using the overlay. For his failures and his ambition, Croag kills Davvol, and begins to seek a candidate for Evincar. Karn is thought lost, but in reality he is gathering the scattered pieces of the Legacy left behind in Benalia, and safeguarding the last of the bloodline: Gerrard Capashen.

The Weatherlight Saga

An epic story about interplanar travel where they go, like, two places.
Skyship Weatherlight by Mark Tedin
And thus beings the Weatherlight Saga. We already republished what I consider to be the best summary of the Weatherlight Saga in the form of Remember the Weatherlight:
In summary: Gerrard's childhood friend Vuel is recruited as the next evincar of Rath, and is transformed into the villainous Volrath. Gerrard and friends chase him down, but get stuck on Mercadia, where they meet the descendants of the Thran who Dyfed left there. They eventually make their way back to Dominaria, and the Weatherlight Crew wins fight after fight, but are losing the war. Urza leads a group of Nine Titans, nine planeswalkers of legend including Freyalise, Lord Windgrace, and Tevesh Szat. They attack Phyrexia directly, severely damaging the artificial plane, but almost all the titans perish in one way or another (only the surivivors Freyalise and Windgrace have a role to play later). Teferi, tired of Urza, phases out his homeland in Jamuraa and Shiv, where Jhoira was, ensuring they would both live to see another day as well.

In the end, Yawgmoth returns to Dominaria as a death cloud. In order to defeat him, Urza activates his Legacy Weapon, the sum of his many inventions, using Gerrard, Karn, the Weatherlight, and his own Powerstone Eyes, along with the Null Sphere, to create a blast of white mana so powerful it destroys Yawgmoth, even as a god. It also wipes out most of civilization on Dominaria (again). The blast fuses the Legacy Weapon and Urza's Powerstone Eyes into Karn, turning the silver golem into a planeswalker.

Thanks for reading! Next time, we dive headfirst into the metal plane of Mirrodin!

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 want to see? Let us know, and we may address it in a future column. You can also follow me on twitter @Jay13x or Archive Trap Mini on Tumblr.


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