The Rise of New Phyrexia

Welcome back, newts and germs, to your indoctrination into the Machine Orthodoxy! Your compleation is at hand, all that remains is for you to prove your obsequiousness with this unofficial guide to Magic: the Gathering. Last cycle, we discussed how the pathetic fleshlings on the surface of our world believed there to be hope. Today, as we flay you alive, we will discuss the intrusion of beings from outside our glorious paradise.

By the time New Phyrexia revealed itself, it was already too late.
Art by Aleksi Briclot
The Story of New Phyrexia
The Quest for Karn
Venser, Koth, and Elspeth arrive on Mirrodin at the outskirts of the Oxidda Mountains. Venser complains he would have come willingly, but Koth scoffs, his dislike of the artificer evident. They begin the long walk to Koth’s village, but are attacked by a leveler en route. Venser easily freezes the artifact creature in place, then opens it up to find it was not infected. He leaves the construct alone, telling Koth it has done nothing to them. Koth attempts to tell them all about the Mountains, but Venser interrupts, stating his friend Karn brought him here long ago.

After a few hours of walking, even Koth is tired of the journey and summons three boulders for the trio. He uses his geomancy to cause them to float, and the planeswalkers ride the boulders all the way back to Koth’s village. The village is curiously empty, but haunting cries in the distance cause them to seek out Koth’s homestead. There, they find his mother acting strangely. Venser notices tubes coming from the woman’s legs, and Koth’s mother begins speaking of eating and roasting his father. They realize that things are horribly wrong, and then everything happens all at once. Koth’s mother splits open to reveal a monstrosity inside, which Elspeth cuts down in a panicked rage. When the thing’s controller bursts through the next room, she summons up hundreds of swords that cut it to pieces.

After, they talk briefly. Venser is worried about Elspeth’s state of mind, but she claims that she is ready for the fight. Venser is angry with Koth, as now he cannot leave without risking infecting other planes. Venser worries for Karn, whose last message told him not to follow to Mirrodin. The group decides to seek Karn out, if possible. Koth states they need to go find his comrade, Malach (not that one). They travel through the night, but when they reach Malach’s home, they find a hazy green gas and are beset by nim. Koth uses his fists to smash them, Elspeth slices them apart, and Venser teleports them into the sky and lets gravity do the work. Malach is dead, and the Mephidross has reached much farther into the Oxidda than when Koth left.

Elspeth and Venser use finesse. Koth just punches with fire.
Art by Jason Chan
They hear nerve wracking Phyrexian calls, and Venser sets an explosive trap. They kill the small group, but answering cries reveal the Phyrexians are everywhere. They continue on past a shaman’s hut, and spy Ish Sah in the far distance. They argue over whether Karn could be there, and whether Mirrodin is hollow, when Elspeth points out that Venser’s hand is shaking. Venser denies the palsy. Elspeth, shaken after their Phyrexian encounters, goes to seek out the Shaman they passed earlier, believing herself to be a burden. Venser and Koth make it to the edge of the Mephidross quickly, and with the sun's dawning they observe the corruption of the mountains. Venser points out some glistening oil, and explains how it is the reason they cannot leave.

Elspeth sits to lunch with Vadi, the shaman, who seems unconcerned by the encroaching Mephidross, to Elspeth’s chagrin. Elspeth tells Vadi in detail what the Phyrexians do to their captured subjects. Sensing the woman’s hesitation, Vadi confronts Elspeth. Vadi knows Elspeth is not an Auriok, and believes her to be either a spy or a coward.

Koth and Venser set out across the Mephidross, but as they approach Ish Sah, the atmosphere gets progressively more toxic, and their lack of provisions becomes an issue. Koth spots a gel fruit grove, but obviously in the swamp, there is always a catch. Stinger mechs attack, and when Venser teleports in to aid Koth, he gets stung in the back. He is unconscious for a long time, opening his eyes occasionally as Koth transports him to safety. While Venser is unconscious, Koth finishes the trip to the Vault of Whispers. Venser has a palsy episode, and takes a swig of a vial he carries, but refuses to answer any questions about it. They attempt to fight a monstrous serpentine Phyrexian… and fail, utterly. They are both knocked unconscious.

Koth wakes up on some sort of examination table in a Phyrexian lab. He breaks free of his restraints, but cannot wake Venser. Phyrexians enter the room as if to examine their prisoners, but Koth scares them off. A clamp descends from the ceiling toward Venser, but when Koth moves to intercept it, it grabs his neck instead. Venser wakes up and teleports out of his restraints, but cannot get the device off Koth. Just then, Elspeth cuts through the wall and blasts the Phyrexians with light, destroying them, and then cuts the device off Koth. Reunited, they head for the Vault’s hub, only to encounter a Phyrexian invasion force exiting the Black Lacuna. Koth spots a silver form he saw earlier in the lab before freeing himself, and suggests that they follow. Elspeth and Venser talk about her history, and Venser is taken aback when she reveals that she grew up in a Phyrexian dungeon, forced to choose which prisoner was next for their twisted experiments.

Glissa's heel turn is both poetic and tragic.
Triumph of the Hordes by Izzy
Returning to the lab, Venser is again wracked by palsy. He finally tells his comrades that his episodes are the result of his own mistakes. They follow the path left by the small silver being into a cavern full of compleated vampires led by Geth, in a hulking new body. He and his minions open a hatch in the floor and descend, and moments later, so does the small silver being that the planeswalkers were following. They argue over how to proceed. Koth wants to turn and fight the army they saw, but Venser and Elspeth believe that they should follow their silver guide instead. Outvoted, Koth goes with the others, but spends the rest of the novel complaining about it.

At first, they are unable to find a seam for the hatch which Geth descended through. Koth superheats the whole floor, revealing it, but they wish that they had not. At the bottom of the shaft, are table after table of Phyrexian butchers dissecting Mirrans. They are separating flesh and bone, then dumping them down chutes. The planeswalkers are spotted and quickly overwhelmed, forcing them to retreat through one of the disposal holes. They choose the flesh chute, because it is softer for the landing (Eww). At the bottom, they encounter an ambush in the form of Ezuri and his renegades, who are upset that the planeswalkers are causing such a ruckus, which is making their lives more difficult. After some discussion, it becomes clear that Ezuri does not want to end the war that has put him in a position of power. They refuse to go with Ezuri, and with a small display of force, they chase his band off.

Venser gets hit by another episode of palsy and drinks more of his concoction. Elspeth pushes him, asking what he is drinking, and he reveals that it is a mixture that he made, which includes Blinkmoth Serum. For those paying attention, Blinkmoth Serum is a highly addictive drug. Venser’s concoction gives him a temporary mental and mana boost, but leaves him worse off afterwards than he was before.

Deep in the core, Geth arrives at Karn's Chamber. Glissa, fully compleated, sits at the base of Karn’s throne. The two are now rivals under New Phyrexia’s factions, and there is no love lost or sense of comradery from defeating Memnarch. Karn begins to rant and removes himself from his throne, crushing a Phyrexian peon. It is clear that neither Glissa nor Geth really believe in the Father of Machines, but are merely looking for ways to use him to their advantage. When Tezzeret arrives, the three discuss how the oil does not appear to control Karn, and how he continues to fight the infection. Tezzeret angers Geth, but his Etherium arm easily overpowers Geth’s Phyrexian body. Glissa is suspicious of the interloper in their midst, but keeps him close anyway. Glissa orders Tezzeret to go with her forces to find a person reported to be resistant to Phyrexian oil.

The planeswalker trio do not make good progress. After following a long tunnel, they emerge into a huge, bright cavern — so bright they can barely see, and so hot they quickly get dehydrated. It is not long before their water supply is drained. They are attacked by a compleated crusher, which Venser teleports inside and destroys. An even bigger construct attacks, but the planeswalkers are too drained to fight. Elspeth and Koth try to keep it occupied while Venser destroys it, but the artificer is kicked into a wave of newly approaching Phyrexians. He is grabbed by one of them, when out of nowhere all the metal in the Phyrexian’s body is ripped away and crushed into a compact cube. The metal cube falls and crushes some of the attacking Phyrexians. In the distance, they see Tezzeret, who has begun to clap (mockingly).

Nobody knows what Tezzeret was doing on New Phyrexia.
Tezzeret's Gambit by Karl Kopinski
Tezzeret walks toward them, flanked by chrome Phyrexians, and greets them. Venser is not sure what to think, but Koth and Elspeth take an instant dislike. Tezzeret shows off by killing the second crusher, then turns its metal into a throne for himself, upon which he then sits. Elspeth recognizes his arm as Etherium and identifies him as an Esperite, but when she asks if Phyrexia has Etherium he does not reply. He also does not respond about how he lacks the Phyrexian corruption. Instead he tells them that his only allegiance is to himself, and that he is actually there to help them. As a show of goodwill, he has his chrome Phyrexians destroy the other Phyrexians that had attacked the planeswalkers. When that does not buy him any trust, he tells them that he is here to offer a gift, one he cannot hold any longer. When even THAT does not buy him much trust, he tells them that they can follow him or wander in vain forever, revealing that he sent the small silver construct to lead them here. They still do not trust him, but they follow him still deeper into Mirrodin, toward the Furnace Layer.

He leads them to the most horrific area of the core, a place so corrupted that the passageways are the maw of some huge creature. The other planeswalkers follow Tezzeret into an experimentation chamber dedicated to testing reactions to Phyrexian oil, where Mirrans (some corrupted, some not) are cut apart. Elspeth flashes back to her childhood and loses control, slaughtering all the Phyrexians in the room. Tezzeret prevents his own chrome Phyrexians from attacking her in retaliation. He guides them to a cage in the back corner, inside of which is a young woman untouched by mycosynth infection. At first, they do not believe that she is from Mirrodin, but Tezzeret insists that she is, in fact, Mirran. She is the only being that Tezzeret has found who has a natural immunity. The Phyrexians have mauled her rather badly in their experiments, and it is clear that she needs medical aid if she is to survive.

If Tezzeret is working with the Phyrexians, why would he hand Melira over to them? The answer is pretty simple: Tezzeret is not aligned with the Phyrexians; he infiltrated their ranks. If the Phyrexians encountered significant resistance in the form of more compleation-proof Mirrans, it would help his goals. If the planeswalkers can figure out a way to give her cure to others, the Mirrans might have a fighting chance. Their discussion is interrupted by a horrific living alarm, and Tezzeret aids their escape to the Furnace Layer, staying behind to distract the responding Phyrexians. They ascend through Mirrodin until they happen across a Blinkmoth Nexus, a hidden cave where the nearly extinct creatures have managed to survive. The Phyrexians, giving chase, catch up with them, and Venser teleports Melira away toward the ceiling of the cave. A blinkmoth melds with her up there, and her eyes glow with magical light, healing her wounds. Venser’s palsy worsens with each teleport, and this encounter with blinkmoths greatly accelerates his decline. After Koth and Elspeth fight off the Phyrexians, they head toward a glow in the distance. Koth is overjoyed when he senses that it is molten ore; it means that they are in the Furnace Layer below Kuldotha and the Red Lacuna. On their way up, they discover common rocks, something not normally present on Mirrodin.

When they finally find their way to the furnace level, the planeswalkers are confused when the Phyrexians there ignore the group. They meet a Loxodon and Vulshok, who lead them to a resistance hideout. Venser sneaks another sip of his concoction, and broods on the events that caused his palsy. In his greed, he tried to teleport a Phyrexian artifact, something he now believes was tainted with Yawgmoth’s death cloud before the former Father of Machines was killed. Venser knows that because of this mistake, he will die. He is resigned to his fate, but wants to make a difference when he dies.

Mirrodin's transformation was planned for a long time.
Furnace Layer by Kekai Kotaki
Koth’s reception by these Mirrans is tepid. They all know him as the son of Kamaath, but he is not well liked. When he left to find aid on another plane, to those left behind it seemed that he was a coward who fled the fight. Worse yet, when they are taken to the resistance camp’s leader, it is Ezuri. Ezuri clearly wishes that they were not there, and has an instinctual dislike for Melira (fleshlings are shunned by Mirrans), but he lets them stay in the camp anyway. How would it look if he forbade them? He gives the planeswalkers a tent, and Elspeth goes to work to mend Melira’s remaining wounds. Observing the camp, the planeswalkers notice the signs of Phyrexian corruption on many of the residents. Koth and Venser discuss how Koth can win back respect, when a little girl who had been following them around screams from the entrance of their new shelter. The young girl, previously infected with phyresis, is completely healed.

Inside the tent, Elspeth recounts that Melira had glowed as she heard the young girl talk about losing her family, and a blinding light emerged from Melira. When it was gone, the girl was healed. Venser suspects this ability, new to Melira, is a side effect from their blinkmoth encounter. Soon the whole camp lines up for the cure, and Koth is immediately in the good graces of his people once more. Ezuri tries to take the credit for taking in the strangers, but he privately demands that the planeswalkers make the cure available without Melira, somehow. Venser has no idea how to do it, and figures Ezuri will just try to profit off of it, anyway.

A few days later, Melira is fully recovered from her injuries. Ezuri holds a camp meeting in which he implies that the newcomers should be moving on, and quickly. The people of the camp disagree, and Koth decides to stay and help the rebels fight, while Venser, Elspeth, and Melira decide to venture into the core and find Karn. They are interrupted by an attack from chrome Phyrexians, and the camp is nearly wiped out. In the aftermath, Ezuri lays the blame on Koth, trying to remove his political rival. Koth is banished when he attacks Ezuri in retaliation, and the group leaves the resistance behind them. A mysterious hooded figure offers to be their guide — he was a double agent in the late stages of Phyresis until Melira healed him. Now he offers to show them the way and make amends. The group is wary of their new guide, but have little choice.

Eventually, they emerge into what Venser believes to be the core. The remnants of the Panopticon are visible, but it is no longer a giant hollow interior. The Phyrexians have been hard at work creating new ‘layers’ in the core. Koth is aggravated by this revelation, as he did not believe his world to truly be hollow. As they proceed up through what must be the remnants of Slobad’s ascension web, they carefully pick their way into the Panopticon. Venser seems to have some knowledge of it, and explains the history to the others. They are attacked mid-explanation by what appear to be corrupted trolls. They leave the Panopticon and find a hole, and the unique physics of the interior allows them to float softly down. On their way, they pass through more horrific chambers, including breeding vats where the Phyrexians seemingly endeavor to speed up the corruption process (or may just intend to create new kinds of newts).

They encounter yet more horrors, including a room where the Phyrexians blow up the Mirran equivalent of a horse for no apparent reason. Venser ponders the pointlessness of every Phyrexian experiment they have come across. They sneak through the chamber and find themselves in another vast cavern. They follow the cavern hand-in-hand in darkness. Near the end, they discover a light. To their horror, they realize the light is emitted by grotesque corrupted angels. The formerly divine beings pounce at the planeswalkers, but while Koth can fight one toe-to-toe with his magma fists, Elspeth and Venser are outmatched. Venser distracts one so that Elspeth can get a sneak attack in. Ever the noble knight, she taps it on the shoulder before dismembering it. She then pours healing magic into Venser, and notices that his hair is now long. With a start, she realizes that they do not know how long they have lingered in the bowels of Mirrodin, but at this point it must be weeks, at the least.

I am not sure that Robert Wintermute actually read the Mirrodin cycle.
Phyrexia's Core by Franz Vohwinkel
Koth, fed up with almost being killed in the dark, decides to return to the surface to fight Phyrexia head-on, and Melira follows. The others are determined to bring them back. Venser tells Elspeth the truth of his condition, and along with their guide, they set off to find their companions. Along the way, Tezzeret keeps another Phyrexian horde at bay while demanding Melira. When he learns that they no longer have her, he has his minions capture Venser and Elspeth and bring them to Glissa. It is clear that Tezzeret is playing both sides here, but even he does not know why Glissa wants the other planeswalkers. Tezzeret departs with his chrome Phyrexians through another door. The horde he leaves behind cannot seem to exit through their door, and it is clear that Koth and Melira snuck back around with their guide to free their friends.

While the Phyrexian horde mills about in confusion, the planeswalkers sneak away, but find the other exits locked as well. The doors are not Phyrexian made, either, and they wonder who installed them and who opened them. Did Tezzeret deliberately give them the chance to escape, since he seemed able to use them? Regardless, Venser has a spell to unlock the door but he is completely drained of mana and forced to down the last of his concoction for a small boost. He sticks his hand in the mechanism and opens it, but afterwards, he becomes useless.

The next few rooms are adorned with material (called Lamina) from the Tangle, but their guide — supposedly a Sylvok — doesn’t recognize it. This troubles the group, as Melira claims that the Sylvok revere the Lamina. Unfortunately, the planeswalkers have no time to think about it, as the horde they left milling about behind them has found their escape route and chases them down the hallways. Venser finds some more compounds he can use to make an explosive, and teams up with Koth to be a living detonator for a trap. Their explosion kills the first wave, but Koth catches some shrapnel in the process. Elspeth heals him with a potion, and the three planeswalkers retreat to a side room. It quickly turns into a siege, with the remaining Phyrexians lurking outside their hiding spot.

Koth, healing, finally apologizes for disappearing and taking Melira. He only wants to help his people, even though they despise him. A short time later, Glissa arrives in person and demands Melira. When they refuse, she orders a charge. Her attack is cut short when a rival faction of Phyrexians attack her own forces, and Tezzeret reveals himself. He used Melira and the planeswalkers as bait for Glissa, to lure her out and kill her. His goal is to take over Phyrexian control from her. The two rival factions slaughter each other. In the chaos of the battle, the rest of the group slinks away. Note: The Praetors were created late in the Design and Development process, and did not actually exist when the book was created, so they are not mentioned.

At the end of their path they reach an elaborately decorated, yet horrifying chamber belonging to Karn. Once inside, their guide simply stops moving. On closer examination they realize he was an artifact creature himself, but a cleverly created one, designed to bring them to Karn. Karn’s booming voice calls out to them as little silver creatures lower him from a massive darksteel pillar, until he falls most of the distance to the ground. He is clearly unwell. Venser goes to help Karn back up, but after a brief talk, it is clear that Karn is as crazy as Memnarch ever was. The massive golem attacks Venser, breaking his arm. Koth is enraged and tries to plunge a molten hand through Karn’s chest, but Elspeth stops him, reminding him that Karn is their only hope. Karn turns on Elspeth and nearly kills her, but in the confusion, Melira is able to use her power on Karn.

Karn is Voltron if Voltron was also made up of dead people.
Art by Igor Kieryluk
Visibly, Karn looks better, but he is not fully healed. Defeated, Melira tells the others that the corruption must have reached his heart, the point at which there is no turning back. Venser asks what would happen if he got a new heart, and she tells him it might be enough. Elspeth, knowing what Venser intends, tries to talk him out of it. But Venser does not have long anyway, and in a final sacrifice, he teleports his heart into Karn’s chest. Do not ask me how Karn is able to use a human heart when his ‘heart’ is a Phyrexian Heartstone, much less when the infection came from his heart in the first place... The less questions asked about this novel, the better.

Following Venser’s sacrifice, Karn stands before Elspeth and it is not quite clear whether or not the move worked. Elspeth readies herself to fight to the death, if she must. Karn charges an electrical attack, but to her surprise, he attacks the Phyrexian forces that have once more caught up to the planeswalkers. The power arcs through the Phyrexians, felling them all instantly. Over the top of the smoking corpses, Karn turns to his new companions, and pledges to cleanse the Multiverse of the taint he inadvertently spread. But first, he will kill every Phyrexian that he can find on Mirrodin. Melira and Koth vow to find more Mirran survivors and build a resistance.

As they all leave, Koth vows to Venser that the planeswalkers will make everything right.

New Phyrexia Victorious At some point, Koth meets with Ajani again, but the circumstances are unclear. Ajani learns of New Phyrexia’s rise and Melira’s inoculation. Karn leaves Mirrodin, leaving only Koth and Elspeth to aid the resistance. Elesh Norn gains the upper hand among the Praetors, becoming the de facto leader, and all the Praetors soon turn on Tezzeret. The resistance is whittled away, until finally Koth and Elspeth are separated from Melira and her defenders. Elspeth assumes that they were captured. Their final mission is simple: plant the most powerful spellbomb ever made (modified based on Venser's Journal) beneath the new throne room during a gathering of the Praetors to decide who shall be the true leader of New Phyrexia.

The planeswalkers are, as always, overrun. The bomb is planted, but without an escape route, Koth tries to protect Elspeth by sinking her into the floor and creating a dome around her. He gives her a simple choice: leave or die. She planeswalks away to safety just as the explosion occurs, and is not sure if her friend survived the blast, as well. (He did.) With the resistance almost gone, and no guarantee that she can find her friend again, Elspeth heads to Theros, a plane which she visited for a short time in her youth.

To celebrate their victory, the Praetors gather to fully compleat an angel. Only the mercurial Urabrask declines to participate.

Thanks for reading! We do not know how Koth and the resistance continue to fare on New Phyrexia, but the pieces we have learned indicate that it likely does not go well.

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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