Welcome back, newts and germs, to a new iteration of the Progress Engine. For you to be worthy of compleation, you must partake in this unofficial guide to Magic: the Gathering! This cycle we are talking about the glorious victory of Phyrexia over the foolish Mirrans. Through the leadership of our Father of Machines, Karn, we have grown strong deep beneath the surface. It is already far too late for the Mirrans to stop us, and whatever pathetic resistance they put up will soon be crushed. Mirrodin is gone. There is only New Phyrexia.
The super tragic Mirrodin Cycle works much better as Glissa's villainous origin story.
Art by Jason Chan
Setting the Stage
- A World Sculpted from Metal
- Phyrexia, the Strong and the Scattered
- Phyrexia and the Vaultlord
- Planeswalker's Guide to New Phyrexia: Introduction
- Planeswalker's Guide to New Phyrexia: The Machine Orthodoxy
- Planeswalker's Guide to New Phyrexia: The Progress Engine
- Planeswalker's Guide to New Phyrexia: The Steel Thanes
- Planeswalker's Guide to New Phyrexia: The Vicious Swarm
- Planeswalker's Guide to New Phyrexia: The Quiet Furnace
- Getting to Know the Praetors
The first and most important note about New Phyrexia is that originally New Phyrexia was supposed to come first, followed by the reveal that New Phyrexia used to be Mirrodin. This is likely the cause of a lot of the continuity fudging that had to occur to make the continuity between Mirrodin and Scars of Mirrodin work. While The Fifth Dawn ended on the note that all the souls trapped on Mirrodin, save Glissa and Slobad, had returned to their home plane(s) and been reincarnated, Scars of Mirrodin retconned that. Instead, only the elder generation, those originally from other planes, had returned. But the problem is that Mirrodin implied that multiple generations had come and gone for the Mirran people (at least for the non-elves). Some of this is explainable by Memnarch's weird power over the plane, and you can head canon some of the changes to be that the elders had the souls of the first beings brought to Mirrodin, hence why they disappeared. Either way, it's best not to think about it, or some of the other problematic continuity involving Venser and Phyrexia's rise. Just enjoy their victory, as the exact details ultimately matter little.
Beware the Eye of Norn-aun.
Norn's Dominion by Igor Kieryluk
The geography of Mirrodin's surface has not changed much between the Leveler War and the rise of New Phyrexia. The Mephidross has continued its spread across the plane, and much of the Oxidda chain has now fallen into the dross. What is left is a corrupted landscape that seems to be almost melting and rotting under New Phyrexia's influence. Kuldotha seems to be changing into an almost living organism, affected by Mycosynth as the metals break down.
Deep underground, however, everything has changed. New Phyrexia has been working to hollow out the space between the surface and the core, creating layers reminiscent of the original Phyrexia. Even the core has been sealed up, creating many more rooms and spaces in the plane.
The events described in the finale of The Fifth Dawn would become known as the Vanishing by the people of Mirrodin. This was a fairly major retcon in order for Scars of Mirrodin to work, but essentially instead of everyone disappearing when the soul traps were destroyed, only the elders of Mirrodin disappeared.
All the elders of Mirrodin disappeared in one mysterious swoop, leaving behind a confused generation without most of their cultural and institutional knowledge. For the Neurok and Vedalken, this was especially troubling. The remaining Neurok split into Networks of specialists (Vrist and Covalt being the biggest) that began searching for a way to free themselves from Vedalken control. They found it in poorly guarded archives, where they learned how to power down Vedalken drones. They used this during to their advantage at the Battle of Lumengrid, and afterwards the two forces reached a tentative truce. The Vedalken have not admitted it, but the Knowledge Pool is no longer what is was - it was corrupted somehow and is destabilized.
For the Moriok, the end of the Leveler War just meant the beginning of the Nim Onslaught, where all those Nim sent back home from the war suddenly swarmed, masterless, into the Mephidross. The Vulshok fared much better, as they largely kept out of the conflicts. The Leonin, without their Kha, split into two factions: the Kha-Tal pride and the Obu-Tal pride. The Kha-Tal rally behind skyknight hero Kemba, who refuses to take the mantle of Kha - instead calling herself the Kha Regent, until their true Kha returns. Kemba's first project is the rebuilding of Taj-Nar, stronger than ever. The Obu-Tal are led by Juryan. They are a relatively small faction made up of disillusioned youth, but believe the Vanishing was the perfect opportunity to reform Leonin society.
This weakened and divided Mirrodin turned out to be exactly what New Phyrexia needed. While a few rebel outposts remain, most of the plane has fallen to New Phyrexia. Exceptions include the rebel encampments inside New Phyrexia's furnace layer and the Auriok settlement of Bladehold, which holds a tunnel called the Razor Circle Passage that allows access to other refuges.
Who even is this guy?
Art by Aleksi Briclot
New Phyrexian Politics
When the black substance that first infected Mirrodin was introduced, it had one simple goal: grow. While it was originally conceived as an end-of-war weapon, it has since been officially revealed as the glistening oil:
Quote fromDivide and grow. That was the first rule of any organism, especially one that had been created as a weapon. For what seemed an eternity, the oil had lain dormant, waiting to be unleashed upon a new world. The war for which it had been created had long since passed, but when a new pair of travelers came, it awoke again and followed them to this new, this pristine world.
Divide and grow. Divide and grow. That was the first rule. Divide and grow until the oil infused the entire world. There was time enough for contamination and control later. For now, it must simply divide and grow.
And so deep in Mirrodin's mantle, this Phyrexian force did just that. It caused the Mycosynth infection that would plague living beings and artifacts alike, transfiguring flesh to metal and metal to flesh. The metal world was the perfect breeding ground, and while the inhabitants of Mirrodin warred with Memnarch, New Phyrexia prepared for their glorious ascension. Without Phyrexia's rich black mana or the iron will of Yawgmoth, however, New Phyrexia is divided between five factions, each aligning with a color of mana. While New Phyrexia has some ancestral memories of the original Phyrexia, they're in large part their own culture.
The white faction is the Machine Orthodoxy, led by Grand Cenobite Elesh Norn. They are a perverse and overly literal religion focused on unity through phyresis and follow a scripture called the Argent Etchings, which abhors flesh as the symbolic barrier between peoples. While they are divided into a few different sects, they are all generally marked by flesh replaced by what appears to be porcelain, and often welcome compleat Mirrans into their ranks. They are the faction most concerned with uniting all of Phyrexia under a single leader. The Orthodoxy is led by machine priests called Cenobites. As Grand Cenobite, Norn sits above all the sects and manipulates the faith to her own ends.
We do what we must because we can. For the good of all of us, except the ones who are dead.
Vedalken Anatomist by Greg Staples
The blue faction is the Progress Engine, led by Jin-Gitaxias. The Progress Engines conducts most of New Phyrexia's 'scientific' experimentation, as well as growing new newts and germs and designing the perfect compleated form. Many members of the Progress Engine have a chrome-like exterior, and work out of either Lumengrid or Panopticon. They take a more deliberate approach than the other factions, and have filled the quicksilver sea with glistening oil. Most frighteningly, they have a group of researchers called Metatects studying the Aether. One in particular, Vrig, is reverse-engineering Memnarch's soul traps.
The black faction is made up of the Seven Steel Thanes, a group of fractious fiefdoms in the Mephidross and the core. Sheoldred currently holds the position of Praetor, but it is a tenuous one among the Thanes. Sheoldred leads an army of spies, sabateours, and assassins, and uses information as a weapon. Geth controls Ish Sah, the Vault of Whispers, and with it the black lacunae. Azax-Azog controls the border with the Oxidda Chain, and is at constant war with the praetor Urabrask. Kraynox has begun building more layers into the world, to recreate old Phyrexia. Roxith hates flesh and has bound himself to a golem. Vraan is a compleated vampire and former leader of the Bleak Coven. Thrissik waits for a prophecized 'Destroyer' to become Father of Machines. Together, the Steel Thanes function as feudal lords of a sort.
The green faction is the Vicious Swarm, ostensibly ruled by Vorinclex, but he is cloistered away and his closest advisor Glissa rules in his name. The Vicious Swarm was the first to attack the surface, and Glissa had control of the Tangle before the rest of New Phyrexia emerged on the surface. They believe in a policy of natural selection, where only the strongest survive. Unlike the others, they believe Yawgmoth's defeat was a sign of his weakness, and wish to forge their own path.
The red faction is the the Quiet Furnace, led by Urabrask. The Quiet Furnace is the most divergent from all the other Phyrexians, because they actually have a small (very, very small) amount of concern for other living beings, and have a slight independent streak. To adapt to this, they throw themselves wholesale into their work recycling and reclaiming the materials of the world by working their forges. When the Mirrans retreated from the surface into the interior, many were killed until Urabrask decreed that they were to be left alone. Urabrask cares only for his work. He has no grander aspirations, nor does he care for the politics of the other Phyrexians.
Welcome to the Thunderdome.
Phyrexian Arena by Svetlin Velinov
Koth is a Vulshok planeswalker native to Mirrodin. Sometimes known as the son of Kamaath, he grew up on a gelfruit orchard run by his family. At a relatively young age it was determined that he was an Earth magic prodigy, so when the ore the Vulshok tribes depend on began to degrade for unknown reasons, Koth stepped in. He could purify enough to satiate the tribes, but when the threat of Phyrexia began to appear, Koth went in search of allies. This lost him the respect of his people, believing he had fled, instead.
Elspeth Tirel is a human knight from an unknown plane with a tragic past. Her home plane was also infected by the Phyrexian taint, and the things she saw and was forced to do are horrific by any measure. When her spark ignited, she fled from plane to plane, landing on Theros just long enough to take her blade, Godsend, before eventually settling on the Alaran shard of Bant. Following the Conflux, she left and took up pit fighting, where she meets and nearly kills Koth for bearing the Phyrexian symbol.
Venser is a human artificer from Dominaria. He grew up on Urborg, scavenging old parts from destroyed Phyrexians. When the planeswalker Teferi crossed his path, Venser's path was forever changed. He was the first known planeswalker to ascend with a mutated spark, and he was the last person to see his friend Karn before the corruption took him (however, Venser's recollections don't quite line up with the amount of time he'd had with Karn). His speciality is teleportation magic. Venser has a terminal illness from teleporting with a powerful Phyrexian artifact, and is addicted to a serum concoction of his own making.
Tezzeret is a human artificer from the Alaran shard of Esper. Tezzeret joined the Seekers of Carmot believing them to hold the secret to making Etherium, but the revelation that they're a sham and being stabbed by a guard ignited his latent spark. He lands on Grixis, where Nicol Bolas binds the young planeswalker to his service. Years later, chafing under Bolas' thumb, he usurps control of several cells of the Infinite Consortium from Bolas. Over a decade later, the manipulations of Liliana Vess and the enmity of his former protege leaves him in Bolas' hands once more. He's sent by Bolas to spy on New Phyrexia.
Karn has too deep a history to get into here. (Check out my series on the Artifacts cycle and the fantastic Remember the Weatherlight by Shannon Rezendes if you want to know more.) Suffice it to say he was originally constructed with the heartstone of the rebel Phyrexian Sleeper Agent, Xantcha. Following his sealing of the Tolarian rift during the Time Spiral crisis, Karn feels a corruption taking hold of his mind. He flees to his personal plane — once Argentum, now Mirrodin — only to find that the corruption runs much deeper than he thought. The plane has been infected with the Glistening Oil from the start, breeding and waiting for this moment. Now, his mind and body fight the corruption, and it remains to be seen whether he shall work to destroy the New Phyrexians, or lead them as the Father of Machines.
Tired of losing swords all the time, Glissa found a convenient solution.
Glissa the Traitor by Chris Rahn
The Praetors I spoke of above, so here I will list the non-praetor legends.
Ezuri is an elf bandit who found his way into a position of power following New Phyrexia's rise. He is less interested in New Phyrexia's defeat than he is keeping his position of authority, and finds himself quickly and repeatedly at odds with Koth, Elspeth, and Venser. He leaves before he can be given immunity to the Glistening Oil by Melira, and ends up getting captured and compleated by the Progress Engine. Ezuri now serves New Phyrexia as Ezuri, Claw of Progress.
Geth was a necromancer that ruled the Mephidross before the Vanishing. He ended up losing his head to a former minion turned vampire, and temporarily allied himself with Glissa Sunseeker to defeat Memnarch. His head made the journey back to the Mephidross on the back of a Memnite, where he first encountered New Phyrexia. In exchange for a powerful body, Geth now serves New Phyrexia's will.
Glissa was the hero of the original Mirrodin cycle. A potential planeswalker, Memnarch chased her across the plane to capture her and steal her spark. Her friend, Slobad, had been captured and forced to build the Ascension Web for Memnarch. In their final battle, he and Glissa both fell into Mirrodin's mana core, dying instantaneously. With nowhere else to go, the power of the Ascension Web, and Glissa's Spark, transferred into Slobad. Karn appeared to the goblin and offered to train him, but he refused, wishing only the return of his friends. For his sacrifice, all the Mirrans connected to soul traps were returned home. Glissa found after that her people blamed her for all the tragedies that had occurred, and in her retreat back into the core she was captured and compleated by Phyrexians. Now she serves New Phyrexia and the praetor Vorinclex.
Melira, Sylvok Outcast is a young Mirran woman who has a natural immunity to the Mycosynth, and by extension the Glistening Oil. She was a Phyrexian prisoner, but was freed by Elsepth, Venser, and Koth after being directed to her by Tezzeret for unknown reasons. An encounter with blinkmoths gave her the power to transfer her immunity to others, and now she ensures no more Mirrans will turn to Phyrexia.
- Atraxa, Praetors' Voice - An angel compleated with the efforts of four Praetors. Urabrask declined to contribute.
- Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer - A leader of the Mirran Resistance.
- Kemba, Kha Regent - Leader of the largest faction of Mirran Leonin.
- Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon - A compleated dragon.
- Thrun, the Last Troll - The only remaining troll on New Phyrexia, who adopted Melira as a young woman and knows the truth of Glissa and Memnarch.
"Wait, are you guys still mad we took colored artifacts first?"
Art by Karl Kopinski
The Story of New Phyrexia
What Lies Beneath?
On an unknown plane, Tezzeret pursues his own ends when imps sent by Nicol Bolas keep appearing. Their message, delivered in pieces because Tezzeret keeps killing them, is to go to Mirrodin and spy on the rising New Phyrexians, learn their methods, and try not get infected in the process. Eventually, Bolas comes to see Tezzeret personally, and Tezzeret claims that he is not beholden to Bolas, despite his resurrection and repair after Jace Beleren left him for dead. Bolas simply states that Tezzeret will find that is false soon enough. Arguing with a being that could snuff you on a whim is obviously not conducive to one's health, so Tezzeret planeswalks to Mirrodin. There, on the Quicksilver Sea, he is met by a vedalken contact.
The contact gives Tezzeret an innoculation, a means of slowing (or implied in the novel, stopping) the Glistening Oil from infecting him. He dives into the blue lacunae beneath the Knowledge Pool, and ventures down toward the core. He realizes he is less spy than bait, but figures he can always planeswalk away if captured. He does the dragon's work begrudgingly, but considers how he might rule a place such as Mirrodin or New Phyrexia easily. In the core, he is met by Jin-Gitaxias, who orders his minions to dissect the planeswalker. Tezzeret channels a spell that wipes them out, and demands to be taken to Phyrexia's leader. Jin-Gitaxias agrees, and leads Tezzeret to Karn's chamber. Tezzeret is made to kneel, and he vows to play the faithful servant while looking for a means to strike.
On Dominaria, Elspeth battles another warrior in the fighting pits. After wounding him, she spots the Phyrexian Symbol etched into his arm. In a rage she almost murders the man, but is stopped by the sudden appearance of Ajani Goldmane. Ajani brings her the armor she left behind, and begs her to return, and that Bant is not lost. Elspeth refuses, believing Bant will eventually be overrun. Ajani is disappointed in her lack of hope, and leaves his friend in peace. That evening, the warrior from the fighting pits stops Elspeth, demanding what she knows about the symbol on his arm. He names himself Koth, and tells her the symbol on his arm is a reminder of his purpose, and that his plane is overrun. He needs allies.
"You've failed Gerrard. You've failed the Legacy. You've failed yourself. I can do no more."
—Volrath, to Karn (Propaganda)
Art by Jason Chan
Together they travel to the Tomb of Flesh, a Phyrexian ruin on Urborg. They discuss the possibility of corrupted places to still be beautiful - the implication being that change is natural. Elspeth has a vision inside the Tomb of her childhood, of the torture devices used by the Phyrexians on her own plane. They go to the Heroes' Memorial, where Windgrace's Acolytes have been aiding Koth. From them he learns a divination spell. He performs a ritual, and discovers he must find a man named Venser.
Venser is an artificer and one of the first of the new breed of planeswalkers. He has kept his youth and vitality through unknown means, and has a workshop in Urborg where he studies Phyrexian artifice. When Koth and Elspeth arrive, he is happy to have guests, especially planeswalkers. Koth is a surprise, being from Mirrodin, his friend Karn's personal plane. When he tells Koth about the planeshifting ship he wants to build using Phyrexian technology, Koth flies into a rage. He berates Venser opening up every world to danger with such technology, and encases his head in a stone bubble, forcing him to travel to Mirrodin or suffocate and die. Elspeth is unsure of Koth after this display, but follows to Mirrodin anyway, and the implication that she is a coward rankles her.
Deep beneath Mirrodin's crust, Karn sits atop his throne. He is corrupted to the point of madness, and his mind is split between the Karn we once knew and a compleated Karn ready to assume the mantle of Father of Machines. His attendants, from the different factions, are pushing for their own agenda. They report the Mirrans are organizing against them, and that they cannot wait any longer. Karn, not lucid, shouts 'Offense' (meaning that he himself has given offense), which the Phyrexians take to be the order to finally invade the surface.
That is it for today, fleshlings! Next time, Koth, Venser, and Elspeth arrive on Mirrodin, only to learn that Phyrexia has roots far deeper than they ever could have suspected.
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 on Tumblr.