Welcome back, my Worthy, to your unofficial guide to Magic: The Gathering! Today we’re delving into the lore of Amonkhet, Nicol Bolas’s personal plane. Amonkhet, or a place like it, has been hinted at for a long time. From the Osiris beard that Bolas appeared with when we saw him on Alara, to Vengeful Pharaoh’s Bolas iconography, an Egyptian theme starring the elder dragon was surely coming. During the Mending, Bolas conquered this plane for himself and corrupted five gods into administering trials to those who wished to become one of Bolas’s Worthy.
Naktamun, the only known city on Amonkhet, is a beautiful oasis.
Island by Titus Lunter
Setting the Stage
- The Art of Magic: the Gathering - Amonkhet
Amonkhet, while a neat setting, is perhaps one of the least developed worlds in a long time. It is also the first set in about a decade not to get its own Planeswalker’s Guide. This makes sense, because the whole point is that it is a single city on a dead, desert world. And it is not heading for a good ending. Naktamun itself is well developed, or at least the gods and trials are, but a return to Amonkhet will be a return to a blank slate.
Amonkhet is a desert plane; all life and civilization is based around a central oasis called Oashra. The oasis is protected by a magical barrier called the Hekma, and inside resides the city of Naktamun. Naktamun is fed by a central river called the Luxa. Directly outside the Hekma is a dune sea called Shefet, the Scouring Sands. Beyond Shefet lies an arid badlands full of ruins of previous civilizations called Ramunap, the Broken Lands. Somewhere deep in the desert outside the city is Ifnir, a demons' nest.
Hidden behind the façade of paradise in Naktamun is a dark secret.
Visage of Bolas by Titus Lunter
Amonkhet is ostensibly ruled over in absentia by Nicol Bolas, who is considered their God-Pharaoh. Since Bolas is not present on the plane, five gods, one aligned with each color of magic, rule in his place. These five gods administer trials for the people of Amonkhet to earn an honored place in the afterlife. Each trial tests a different aspect, including Solidarity, Knowledge, Strength, Ambition, and finally Zeal. The winners of these trials are called the worthy. Escaping the ravenous hordes of undead and horrors that lie outside the protection of the Hekma motivates the people to train to attain the rank of worthy.
The people of Amonkhet are divided into crops, and all but the viziers train their entire lives to face the Trials of the Five Gods. There is a dark side to this, however, as the trials are fatal; only those who survive through the fourth trial are declared worthy. The fifth trial is overseen by Hazoret to determine one’s place among the worthy. When all five trials are complete, the winner is declared worthy and is impaled by Hazoret’s spear. Their body is taken beyond the Gate to the Afterlife, where it resides in the necropolis beyond.
Actual administration and day-to-day tasks are left to viziers, people of Amonkhet who forgo the trials to ensure the city functions. Naktamun itself is managed by Temmet. Most of the tasks in the city are completed by the anointed, mummified zombies of those who die in the trials. They are controlled through cartouches made of a stone called lazotep.
In truth, however, this entire system is a scheme by Nicol Bolas to create an undead army. The trials are designed to find the strongest and then kill them. Their bodies are preserved and their power enhanced with lazotep. These new zombies are called Eternals. With this deception unknown to them, the people of Amonkhet fight and die waiting for the prophesized Hours (the end of days) to come, and hoping to be found worthy.
Demons, horrors, and the undead control the sands outside the Hekma.
Archfiend of Ifnir by Slawomir Maniak
Amonkhet is a rather unique plane in that there isn’t much in the way of life outside of Naktamun. The desert is sparsely populated by deadly insects, arachnids, hyenas, demons and giant sandwurms. Throngs of zombies dot the landscape in the desert, and ancient demons hold sway over colossal ruins. The city of Naktamun isn’t much safer, with giant crocodiles prowling the waters of the Luxa River and drakes prowling the skies. These deadly creatures typically only need to be faced when completing trials, however. Sphinxes are an obvious presence on this Egyptians-inspired plane, but also introduced are the cat-snake serpopards and the ammit, both inspired by Egyptian mythology.
The people of Naktamun are diverse. Humans, aven, jackal-like khenra, minotaurs, and cobra-like naga are all among the intelligent denizens of the city who undergo the trials. The trials themselves are administered by a race of gods with human bodies but totemic heads. These gods are the physical manifestation of the plane’s leylines.
Gideon earning his beefslab nickname.
Gideon, Martial Paragon by Daarken
Chandra Nalaar is a human pyromancer from Kaladesh. After running afoul of a corrupt consulate official at a young age, she fled the plane, believing both her parents were dead. She studied at the Keral Keep Monastery on Regatha until she was manipulated into helping free the Eldrazi on Zendikar. Returning to Regatha, she became head of the monastery. Shortly thereafter, she decided to help her new friends, once her bitter enemies, and destroy two of the Eldrazi titans on Zendikar. She returned home to Kaladesh and ended up sparking a rebellion that ousted Tezzeret, an agent of Bolas and usurper of Kaladesh’s government.
Gideon Jura is a human hieromancer from Theros. His primary powers are an indestructible aura of unknown origin and his law magic. He is an expert at wielding the whip-bladed sural. Born Kytheon Iora, he was chosen by Heliod to stop Erebos’s rampaging titan; instead, his hubris caused the death of his friends. He lived for a time on Bant and worked for the Order of Heliud until he met Chandra Nalaar. He followed her to Zendikar, only to find the Eldrazi titans ravaging the land. He split his time between helping the people of Zendikar and Ravnica until he realized he needed more aid. His actions gathering planeswalker allies led to the formation of the Gatewatch.
Jace Beleren is a human telepath from Vryn. After losing most of his own memories, he adopted Ravnica as his home until he fell in with Tezzeret and his Infinite Consortium. Sickened by Tezzeret’s methods, he fled, meeting and falling in love with Liliana Vess. Unbeknownst to Jace, Liliana was working on behalf of Nicol Bolas to recover the Consortium from Tezzeret in exchange for aid getting out of her demonic deals. When he found out about the betrayal, he left Tezzeret for dead and Liliana empty handed. He later solved the Implicit Maze and become the Living Guildpact of Ravnica. When Gideon arrived asking for help on Zendikar, Jace couldn’t resist - especially because of his part in helping them get released.
For the first time in a decade, Bolas takes an active role.
Behold my Grandeur by Zack Stella
Liliana Vess is a human necromancer from Dominaria. As a young woman, she was tricked by the mysterious Raven Man into damning her brother. Fearing death for herself following the Mending, she had Nicol Bolas broker four demonic deals to restore some semblance of her old power. When those deals came due, she attempted to use the Infinite Consortium as leverage to get Bolas to help her out of them, but her plan failed when Jace learned of her manipulation. On her first mission for the demon Kothophed, she was sent to Shandalar for the Chain Veil, but ended up using its power to kill the demon (and curse Garruk Wildspeaker). She would go on to use it to kill another of her demons, Griselbrand, but joined the Gatewatch after realizing the toll the Veil was taking on her. Following her fight with Tezzeret on Kaladesh, she learned that Bolas is on Amonkhet, the home of one of her remaining demons, Razaketh.
Nissa Revane is an elf elementalist from Zendikar. She is not sure of her place in the Gatewatch, but a deep connection has developed between them since they linked their powers to destroy the Eldrazi titans on Zendikar. Since then, she was a good sport about the metropolitan plane of Ravnica, while her adventures on Kaladesh have taught her that nature is everywhere, even if it does not appear to be at first.
Nicol Bolas is an elder dragon Planeswalker, and the only known survivor of the Elder Dragon War. He killed a demonic leviathan on Dominaria and would go on to rule the land where he was victorious, Madara, as God-Emperor. He nearly killed Ugin on Tarkir, but was himself killed by his own Madaran Champion. He was resurrected years later by Venser, and would go on to seal the Madaran rift using the spark of the vanquished Planeswalker, Leshrac. After the Mending, he brokered Liliana’s demonic deals and used Alara’s Conflux to restore his lost power. Ajani Goldmane stopped him from destroying the entirety of Alara, however. He manipulated Jace, Chandra, and Sarkhan Vol into releasing the Eldrazi, sent Tezzeret to New Phyrexia as a spy, and had the Esper-born Planeswalker plunder Kaladesh. Now the Gatewatch is coming for the elder dragon, and they are woefully unprepared.
The gods are good, at their core.
Vindicate by Igor Kieryluk
The Gods of the Trials
Oketra the True is the god of solidarity. She is kind and nurturing, and her trial is designed to make crops work together to achieve a common goal. She immediately sees through to Gideon’s heart, recognizing him as Kytheon and attempting to help his spiritual journey.
Kefnet the Mindful is the god of knowledge. He is the aloof guardian of the Hekma, and his trial is designed to make initiates use their minds and their spellcraft instead of their physical strength.
Bontu the Glorified is the god of ambition. Her trial determines if one is worthy and is set up to force the initiates who have spent their entire lives together to sacrifice one another for their own success. Of all the gods, she is the most devoted to the God-Pharaoh and securing a place for herself by his side.
Hazoret the Fervent is the god of zeal. Her trial is the last, taking the initiates who have been proven worthy in the Trial of Ambition and pitting them against dissenters or each other. The last survivor receives the honor of being killed by Hazoret’s spear.
Rhonas the Indomitable is the god of strength. His trial involves a journey through his lush jungle, losing magical abilities, and having to rely on raw physical strength. Rhonas is frequently outside the walls battling back the horrors of the world.
The Three Lost Gods
When Nicol Bolas arrived on Amonkhet, there were three more gods than there are today. He took those gods and imprisoned them in his necropolis, transforming them into grotesque parodies of divinity. Now, they don’t even have names. The Scorpion God is the first among them, the god of the Hour of Glory. Their duty is to kill the other gods, and he starts with Rhonas, the strongest. They kill two more, Oketra and Kefnet, but Bontu is killed by Bolas himself. The Locust God is second, god of the Hour of Promise. Their job is to devour and destroy the Hekma with their locust swarm. The third and final lost god is The Scarab God, who has dominion over the Eternals in the Hour of Eternity.
Did someone say Kool-Aid? OH YEAH!
Crash Through by Izzy
Samut was a young girl when a tragic loss beyond the Hekma caused her to seek the truth behind the plane. When she discovered Bolas’s duplicity, she was labelled a dissenter. Now she seeks to protect her childhood friend Djeru from Bolas’s deception, which is easier said than done. Over the course of the story, her Planeswalker spark ignites.
Djeru is Samut’s childhood friend. The loss of their young friend when venturing outside the Hekma convinced him of the God-Pharaoh’s grace, and he has dedicated himself to the trials ever since. He resents Samut’s interference in his trials to stand among the worthy, but still cares deeply for his old friend.
- Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons - A vizier of Rhonas who becomes a leader of the survivors.
- Neheb, the Worthy - One of the worthy dead who has become an Eternal. The story of his trials were told in Magic Duels’s Amonkhet expansion.
- Razaketh, the Foulblooded - One of the demons Nicol Bolas brokered a deal with on behalf of Liliana Vess. He was left in charge of setting the Hours in motion.
- Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun - The young man who oversees the city.
- Unesh, Criosphinx Sovereign - A mysterious sphinx from outside Naktamun.
The Story of Amonkhet
About eight years before the beginning of the story, three children named Djeru, Samut, and Nakht had their Day of Harvest, officially being organized into a crop. That evening, they are all celebrating and sharing secrets. Djeru shows the others a small hole he found by accident in the Hekma. They venture outside, only to discover ruins and horror. Their friend Nakht is killed by a Grim Strider while the others escape. Djeru becomes more sure than ever in his faith, but Samut begins investigating the truth of the plane...
Jace reminds us that he was, at one point, depicted as a water mage.
Open into Wonder by Tyler Jacobson
Following the events of Kaladesh, the Gatewatch know that Tezzeret's master - the elder dragon Nicol Bolas - has taken up residence on his personal plane of Amonkhet. The pre-Kaladesh members, Gideon Jura, Jace Beleren, Chandra Nalaar, Nissa Revane, and Liliana Vess all disregard the advice of their newest member, Ajani Goldmane. Ajani is the only one among them to successfully face Bolas in a duel, but his victory was by the slimmest of margins and mostly luck. Liliana is interested in using her new allies to help her destroy the third of her four demons, Razaketh, who also resides on Amonkhet. With a pledge to rendezvous on Dominaria after Ajani gathers more allies, they leave to confront Bolas.
Things immediately go wrong. Given their lack of preparation, they barely survive the plane’s brutal desert. Hordes of zombies and voracious sandwurms almost immediately pickthe team apart. They are only saved by a literal miracle, in the form of an arrow from Oketra and the personal intervention of Hazoret. Only Gideon is still conscious to see it, and he’s enthralled by the divinity intervening on their behalf. When the others awake, they head in the direction of the giant Bolas horns in the distance. There they discover the city of Naktamun in its magical oasis, protected by a barrier called the Hekma.
Gideon realizes just how crappy the Theros gods are.
Renewed Faith by Wesley Burt
Jace gets the group through the Hekma’s barrier, but they immediately draw the attention of a vizier of the Hekma guard. Temmet is brought to greet them, and they imply that they were sent by Bolas himself. They are given lodging, but not without managing to arouse suspicion. Gideon is particularly taken with Oketra, who stares straight into his soul and calls him by his true name, Kytheon. The others remain suspicious, but Gideon insists that Oketra is a truly good god.
They are interrupted by a woman fleeing from viziers of Bontu. She decries the gods, the trials, and the Hours as false, and Chandra immediately wants to help her. Gideon holds her back, and they observe. Temmet tells them the woman was supposed to undertake Bontu’s trial that day, but something must have gone wrong. While the team retires, Gideon leaves for Oketra’s temple. To him, Oketra provides the positive divine influence he's been craving since his youth.
Then again, maybe the Theros gods aren't so bad.
Cruel Reality by Kieran Yanner
"What are you seeking, Kytheon Iora?" she asked him, kneeling again.
Answers, he thought. Meaning. Stability. Faith.
"You," he said.
The next morning, the Gatewatch splits up and each set out to explore the plane on their own. Nissa attempts to commune with the plane’s spirit, but finds it broken and dying. Bolas has done something to this place, something terrible. Chandra and Nissa try to follow the trail of the woman who had been shouting the day before, but it leads to a dead end: a row of sarcophagi. Reading the hieroglyphs in the area, Nissa realizes what the plane had been trying to tell her the horrific truth. Bolas appeared three generations ago and slaughtered the population, leaving only orphans. He also killed three of the plane’s eight gods and suborned the rest.
Believe it or not, this quickly turns into the "Thriller" music video.
Anointed Procession by Victor Adame Minguez
Oketra and Gideon (who now wears a cartouche) appear behind them, and Oketra warns them away from the forbidden place. Nissa asks Oketra if she remembers before, and it’s clear the god’s memory has been wiped somehow because she doesn’t remember anything before the God-Pharaoh. Whatever Bolas’s dark design for the plane, the gods are as much victims as the people.
Liliana relaxes elsewhere that day with the mummy servants attending to her every whim. She has another conversation with the Raven Man, who reveals he took control of the Veil to save her from a sandwurm in the desert, but he disappears with Jace’s arrival. Jace and Liliana argue, though they go to investigate what Bolas’s intentions are for the plane. Liliana, secretly, is trying to locate Razaketh. They find the anointed embalming those who fail the trials, and Liliana discovers heiroglyphs depicting Razaketh. Apparently, Razaketh guards the gate to the afterlife on Amonkhet, but reading the glyphs activates some kind of curse. Only the Veil protects her from the demon’s magic. Temmet discovers them and confirms his suspicions that they’re not sent by Bolas and attacks them with the mummies nearby. To escape, Jace knocks the vizier unconscious (and likely kills him).
Gideon has fought gods and titans. He's got to be a demi-god.
Gideon's Intervention by Daarken
The Five Trials
Nissa ends up undertaking the Trial of Knowledge when she comes to Kefnet for answers to the questions that have been plaguing her on Amonkhet. She is wracked with symbolic nightmare visions of Bolas taking over the plane, co-opting the gods, and the deaths of the Gatewatch, but then an angel appears to her. The angel is far from holy, and is in fact Emrakul, reiterating what she’d said way back during The Promised End. She asks if Nissa is a pawn or a queen, then in a rage shouts that neither are good enough. The Emrakul angel departs as Kefnet arrives, and he demands to know who is making a mockery of his trial. Nissa realizes the god is made of leylines, and to save herself from the god’s rage, she manipulates his leylines. He tells her she has passed his trial and departs… with Nissa’s magic still intact.
Nissa privately ponders what it would be to be more than a queen. To instead be "the and that moves."
"Oh dear, were you expecting someone else?"
A Reckoning Approaches by Yeong-Hao Han
Gideon is led by Oketra to the join the Tah crop, who are about to undergo the Trial of Ambition. He’s greeted by Djeru, the crop’s de facto leader, and meets everyone in the group. He is replacing Samut, a dissenter who was removed from their number just the day before. Bontu arrives and intiates the trial. Inside, Gideon is disgusted with how the initiates, such close friends outside, have turned on each other inside the temple. In the final room, Bontu requires a heart from each remaining initiate. She uses her power to force Gideon to watch as Djeru murders his crop-brother and cuts out his heart. Furious, Gideon tells Bontu that if she wants a heart, she can come and take his. She laughs and chides Gideon for his folly, calling him shallow because his ambitions don not extend past vindication for his past arrogance. Bontu orders him to leave the temple.
Outside, he watches the procession as all those who died are carried off by the anointed. He vows to fight Bolas for what he has done to this place.
The Gatewatch regroup and head for the sarcophagi that Nissa had found earlier. To their horror, there are people inside. They free the dissenters, including Samut, who explains that she has to rescue her friend Djeru. He is her only chance to convince everyone of the truth of the world. Liliana reveals that her third demon is on the plane. Before anyone can react to either of these revelations, all five gods appear, and the Gatewatch and Samut fall unconscious.
But maybe the Amonkhet gods aren't so bad, either.
Solemnity by Greg Opalinski
The Gatewatch and the dissenters wake up in Hazoret’s arena amidst the fifth trial. The four survivors of Bontu’s trial are tasked with slaughtering the dissenters. At first their magic is suppressed, leaving Chandra, Jace, and Liliana relatively helpless against the formidable worthy. Nissa, as an elvish warrior, is more than capable of holding her own. Gideon and Samut confront Djeru, who prays for her soul to Hazoret. To keep her friend alive, Samut fights back to back with him, helping to kill the dissenters that would attack him. When only the Gatewatch, Samut, and Djeru remain, their powers are restored. Djeru tells Hazoret that the Gatewatch are outsiders, and thus are not dissenters for him to kill because they do not know their ways. He prays for Hazoret to grant Samut an honorable death.
Hazoret hears Djeru’s prayer. Samut rejects her offer, instead asking for her to spare her friend, and begging for her favored god to remember who she once was. Hazoret is enraged, and Samut uses a speed spell to attempt to save Djeru from the goddess’s spear. But it is Gideon who saves his life by planting himself in the way of the divine. In that instant, when Gideon’s power stays her spear, she whispers into his mind:
We certainly hope you stick around!
Puncturing Blow by Eric Deschamps
I am neither the first nor the last immortal whom you will cross.
Cursed is the man who forgets his own past,
for I see your death, Kytheon Iora.
You are no god.
The five gods, gathered for this last trial, all depart for the Gate to the Afterlife, leaving behind a stunned Gatewach. The Hours that signal the God-Pharaoh's return have begun. Djeru mourns for his lost place in the afterlife, and together he and Samut head for the Gate. Samut wants to save as many people as she can; Djeru wants to beg for Bolas’s mercy.
Gideon lingers behind, with looming dread at the prospect of what is to come.
This is all happening because Bolas can move the Eternals with the Planar Bridge.
Hour of Eternity by Tyler Jacobson
Hour of Devastation
The population rushes to the banks of the Luxa to watch as the Hour of Revelation dawns. The Gate to the Afterlife opens… and behind lies nothing but barren desert. As the doubt and horror begin to settle in, Razaketh flies out and enacts a blood magic spell, turning the Luxa red and awakening the three lost gods of Amonkhet. The Scorpion God emerges first, and believing it to be a test, Rhonas challenges the being. He puts up a valiant fight, but is dispatched by this twisted deity. In his death, Bolas’s spell over Rhonas fades, and he has a chance to warn his siblings that Bolas is a deceiver. The other gods have little time to ponder his words, as The Locust God’s titular insects begin devouring the magical protection of the Hekma. Marauding mummies and sandstorms invade Naktamun as The Scorpion God turns his attention toward Kefnet and Oketra.
Poor Razaketh got more screentime that Liliana's other demons, at least.
Doomsday by Jaime Jones
In the chaos, Razaketh hunts for Liliana. He uses his power to manipulate her like a marionnete, as the gatewatch moves into position to save her. The Raven Man appears to Liliana, reminding her that only by killing all of her demons can she be free. Gideon and Chandra face the demon directly, while Nissa and Jace support them. With Razaketh distracted, Jace breaks the demon’s hold on Liliana, and she summons up her necromantic power. She bids all the dead things in the red Luxa to rise, and undead crocodiles grab hold and begin to tear the demon apart. She is thrilled by the feeling of devouring Razaketh through her minions, but the rest of the Gatewatch is disgusted; Jace seems to consider this side of her he has never seen.
Back at Rhonas’s temple, Hapatra and the other viziers feel the death of their god. Spurred to action, Hapatra rides her basilisk into the city to protect what people - and gods - she can. Along the way she meets both Samut and Djeru, who hitch a ride. They have front row seats to the deaths of Kefnet and Oketra. A furious Hapatra berates Gideon, who was mourning over Oketra. She demands he and his kind kill the trespasser (Bolas) and leave her city. In the wake of the deaths of her brothers and sister and the horrors unleashed upon them, Hazoret seeks out the God-Pharaoh for answers. Bolas's first order of business is to wipe out the remaining people of Naktamun. Hazoret pleads with him, only for Bolas to order Bontu to kill her sister. As Hazoret and Bontu battle, the control Bolas has over Hazoret slips… but to her horror she learns Bontu serves the God-Pharaoh willingly. Hazoret is too busy reeling from the revelation of what Bolas had done to her and her world, and what she had done, to put up a proper fight. Bontu drags her before Bolas, claiming victory. Bolas cruelly responds with a killing wave that destroys the god of ambition. Bolas heads to an unknown goal as Hazoret watches her final sister die.
But the Gatewatch can't lose, right? Mary Sues, AMIRITE?
Hour of Devastation by Simon Dominic
Just as it seems things can’t get any worse, the angels all sing out the arrival of the Eternals. Led by The Scarab God, they descend upon the city and slaughter all they can find. Samut and Djeru lead as many survivors away as they can, but upon the death of Bontu, they decide they can't let all their gods die. A small force goes to try and rescue Hazoret. When they arrive, the god of zeal is already facing off against The Scorpion God. She blasts them with fire, trapping them in a circle of flame that super heats the twisted god's armor. Her movements have slowed, however, and she is caught off-guard by a sudden attack. The Scorpion God stings Hazoret on the arm, and in response Hazoret heats her spear and slices off her own arm before the infection can spread. Samut realizes the heat has left The Scorpion God's armor soft and malleable, and her team manages to drive The Scorpion God back just enough that they fall on an obelisk, piercing their armor. In the aftermath, Hazoret's gratitude so profoundly impact Samut that her spark ignites. She briefly travels to Theros before returning home to help her people.
It is only then that Bolas arrives to personally greet the Gatewatch. He picks them apart with ease, starting with Jace. All along he mocks them for their weaknesses. Jace's mental powers are far too weak. Liliana knows better than to fight him. Chandra is impulsive and easy to manipulate. He has far more pull with the plane than Nissa could hope for. Gideon is a terrible leader. Along with the verbal assault, Jace defends against a mental assault. But when he sees an opening into the elder dragon's mind, he quickly learns it is a trap. Bolas crushes his mind, and as Jace feels mind death coming, he planeswalks away. Everyone is shocked by the sudden defeat, and in the confusion Bolas convinces Liliana to work for him rather throw away her life. Interestingly, the Raven Man agrees while the Onakke Spirits scream to destroy the elder dragon. Chandra and Nissa are easily dispatched, with their powers coming to naught against Bolas's might. In the end, only Gideon remains. As Bolas's claw pierces Gideon's indestructible aura, he too determines that he wants to live, if only to prove the elder dragon wrong.
In the aftermath, Tezzeret appears to his master. In a surprise reveal, we learn that Ral Zarek is working for Bolas as well, and the elder dragon tasks Tezzeret with finding out why the Izzet mage's progress on a mysterious project is too slow.
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 that 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 at @vorthosjay on Tumblr.