My first order of business is to tell you how excited I am to be taking over the kickoff feature article for card previews from Rei Nakazawa. Rei has been writing story previews for sets literally since this site began in 2002. (Check out the number in the URL on Rei’s first feature. Yeah: 2.) That was way before I worked on the creative team and before there was such a thing as Taste the Magic. Back in 2002, Rei’s articles were the only reliable place on the site reserved exclusively for Magic flavor. I’m proud to say that thanks to the efforts of Matt Cavotta, Scott Johns, and Brady Dommermuth over the last few years, the exposure and visibility of Magic‘s epic characters and stories have broadened dramatically on magicthegathering.com and beyond, from Rei’s one feature article per set to an all-flavor weekly column, the story content of the minisites, web comics, stuff like the upcoming Planeswalker’s Guide to Alara, and more. As I’ve become more and more involved with the continuity and early review of the Magic novels, it just made sense for me to become the mouthpiece for these story features, but Rei’s tireless devotion to Magic continuity has paved the way for these flavorful horizons to broaden. Thanks, Rei!
As a final introductory note (heh), my creative team cohort and partner-in-crime Jenna Helland will be taking over Taste the Magic this week with her first card preview on the site. I hope you’ll welcome her on Wednesday.
All right then! Onward!
Next Stop: Eventide
Even if you haven’t been following the story behind Lorwyn and Shadowmoor so far, this is a great opportunity to get caught up. Today we take a look at the movers and shakers of this four-set, two-plane backstorystravaganza, so you can be up to the proper literary cruising altitude by the time you get your hands on the cards and the Eventide novel. Ready?
the latter part of the day (the period of decreasing daylight from late afternoon until nightfall); evening. (Source: dictionary.com)
Eventide covers events not long after the curtain opened on the plane of Shadowmoor. The first thing you have to understand about this world, even before you meet a single character, is:
The Great Aurora
Lorwyn’s yearly Auroras were mere light-shows in the sky, cause for no more surprise than a birthday, and no more pomp than a simple feast and some festival-songs. But every few generations, a far more dramatic Great Aurora would sweep across the plane, fundamentally transforming almost every creature and entity across the world. This change would even alter the memories of the world’s inhabitants, which is why only a few know that the most recent Great Aurora, which transformed Lorwyn into Shadowmoor, came at the wrong time—years ahead of schedule. This has caused great consternation to a certain, mysterious faerie Queen, who prided herself on her unquestioned rule over both phases of the plane.
Okay, now this stage needs some players. Let’s run it down, shall we?
Rhys was a determined elf warrior whose destiny took an unexpected turn when the Great Aurora washed away his memories. Now a newly non-disfigured member of the elves of the Wilt-Leaf Wood, he meets a group of people who seem to know him from another time. They’re strange to him, but they seem to know about a quest he once had, something vitally important that had to do with this “Aurora” event they keep talking about.
One of those people is Maralen, an elf woman whose inscrutable knowledge, and relationship with three faeries of the so-called Vendilion Clique , has yet to be discovered. She knows that Rhys is part of the key to understanding her unusual origins, but hasn’t yet come into conflict with the one person who can shed crucial light on her own soul.
The kithkin archer Brigid was once known as the Hero of Kinsbaile—but now her cheery village of Kinsbaile is an unfamiliar stronghold known as Kinscaer. The kithkin who live there are recognizable physically, but the thoughtweft, which was formerly her dependable mental connection to her extended kithkin family, now only broadcasts the paranoid thoughts of the xenophobic kith of Shadowmoor. Brigid held on to her memories and personality thanks to a lucky bit of Lorwyn magic, but that only allows her to miss something else: the sun. Her task is to find a place for herself in this new, shadowy world, and to support her friends in the upcoming dangers, whether they remember her or not.
No one listened to the deranged giant Rosheen back in Lorwyn, and very few listened to her here in Shadowmoor. But among her insane babblings were prophetic truths that held a subtle power, power enough even to change the course of history, were that knowledge in the right hands. That’s why many sought a scroll she carried, a scroll that contained her personal journal, a document encoded with more secrets than even the Aurora could erase.
One being who managed to come through the Aurora surprisingly unscathed was the young, feminine sprout of a treefolk who grew from Colfenor’s seedcone, simply called “the sapling.” Her forerunner, Colfenor, was the wizened old treefolk who served as Rhys’s mentor back on Lorwyn; his insight into the coming, off-schedule Great Aurora, and his plans for what to do about it, set all the events of the Lorwyn / Shadowmoor year in motion—and the sapling still houses all of Colfenor’s wisdom deep in her heart-rings. (You’ll learn more about the sapling later this week.)
The faeries of the Vendilion clique—Veesa, Endry, and Iliona—were as inseparable as any mischievous fae could be. But now, as Endry spends more and more time with the sapling, he’s grown to see things from the treefolk’s cyclical, long-lived point of view, which in turn has caused to him to grow distant from his petulant sisters. The events of Eventide will put him in the uncomfortable position of taking a stand not only against his beloved clique, but against his very queen.
The Queen of the Fae seeks to regain the hold on the world that has subtly slipped from her grasp. The Great Aurora arrived at a time she didn’t predict, and ever since then, things have gotten out of control. She’ll muster all of her chimerical forces, use all of the glamers and tricks she knows, and focus all of her influence to twist events to her advantage. She’s the queen of the faeries, the ultimate force behind every fairytale—and she intends to keep it that way. One element of Shadowmoor in particular has become particularly unruly—an elemental, in fact.
The flamekin that was known as Ashling the Pilgrim wandered the plane of Lorwyn, unsure what her true purpose in life was to be. The more she wandered, the more she felt connected to a mysterious elemental entity of rage and flame that trampled its way through her mind like a herd of fiery horses. As the Aurora approached, so did her destiny—until, led by two flamekin seers, she ascended Mount Tanufel and collided head-on with her destiny. The power of the elemental entity, no longer outside of her grasp, instead filled her with fiery power. The rush of elemental energy was so great that, at the very moment the Great Aurora swept across the plane, it exploded out from her, contributing to the transformation.
In a way, Ashling became the symbol for the Aurora itself. Standing at a crossroads of fate, she became a living catalyst.
And now, as Eventide is descending on us as we speak, you are ready to see the full transformation that this nomadic young elemental shaman has undergone. (Click the links below the art to watch her progression.)
|1. Ashling wanders the plane of Lorwyn, a pilgrim in search of a way that she can connect with a greater elemental.||2. The greater elemental entity merges with Ashling, letting loose a stampede of unpredictable power.||3. Together, the Aurora and the elemental entity wash away Ashling’s former nature, transforming her utterly.|
Ashling has become a catalyst—in the most dramatic sense. She’s a force for change, all right. Because the ultimate form of change, of course, is
As you can see, the elemental communion and the Aurora have torn all pretense of seeking and wandering from Ashling’s nature. She’s a relentless force of destruction—and no longer the passionate, impulsive red creature she once was, but a black-aligned monster. Wherever she goes, her unharnessed elemental power blasts everything in her wake. Those who would stand before her—die. Those who don’t—die just the same.
The cinders, the wretched and smoldering folk that her flamekin people have become, have a name for her. They call her the Extinguisher, blaming her for the dimmer flames that now sputter around their bodies. They don’t remember the full blazes they wore before the Aurora, but they know that as night after night passes on Shadowmoor, they grow colder and smokier, ever on the verge of guttering out entirely. Ashling is the symbol of the potence they might once have had, and they hate her for it. Whereas once she was seen as the prophesied savior of the flamekin, now she’s the cinders’ most reviled scapegoat.
Everyone else on the plane calls her the Destroyer. And Ashling isn’t just a force for destruction in the Eventide novel. She’s also quite the wrecking ball in card form, on the table in front of you.
First of all, she’s a 4/4 legend for with no other drawbacks. That’s already quite the powerhouse—she’s significantly “above the curve” in terms of what black usually gets for a four-mana creature. Even green gets the four-mana 4/4 only once in a while. So, when you send her on the attack, she’s likely to be bigger than anything your opponent has out at the same point in the game, creating chump-block situations that will eat away at your opponent’s resources.
But she really shines when your opponent doesn’t (or can’t) block her. If she gets through your foe’s defenses, Ashling allows you to lay waste to a creature. Black creatures (like the cinders who hate her) are affected, since the ability doesn’t have a targeting restriction. Indestructible creatures (like certain well-protected treefolk) are affected, since Ashling causes your opponent to sacrifice the creature rather than just destroying it. And although it’s a sacrifice effect similar to cards like Diabolic Edict, it won’t just wipe out your opponent’s worst creature, because you get to pick. It doesn’t matter if your opponent has a hundred Elves surrounding that Darksteel Colossus—if Ashling touches life total, you get to force your enemy to extinguish that Colossus.
Your opponent is pretty likely to want to block Ashling, because then he or she will get to decide what dies, instead of you. So you could get really nasty by giving Ashling trample with cards like Soulbright Flamekin, Tattermunge Witch, or (my personal favorite) Tower Above. If Ashling manages to trample over to your opponent, she’ll snuff out the poor chump that got in her way and the combat-shy monster of your choice!
Giving Ashling double strike (say, with Battle Mastery or Rage Reflection) is always fun; that means when she gets through, she hits for 8 and makes your opponent sac two of his or her favorite creatures. If you manage that, consider a Helm of the Ghastlord to make your opponent discard twice, too.
I think you’ll have a lot of fun with the torrent of destruction that Ashling the Pilgrim has become, so be sure to check out the Eventide prerelease. As the rest of the previews proceed, you’ll see how Eventide is more than just the conclusion of the story of Lorwyn and Shadowmoor—it also marks the time when all kinds of eerie creatures of folklore come out of the woodwork, representing the bizarre team-ups of enemy colors through the power of hybrid mana. Fans of breaking out of the traditional color pairs, rejoice, because here comes Eventide!