Planeswalker's Guide to Gatecrash: Part 1

Posted in Feature on December 5, 2012


Dimir Overview

In the dark, slick corridors of the undercity lurks the unfathomable network of the Dimir guild. House Dimir is Ravnica's dark but open secret: the people know Dimir exists but they pretend it doesn't. The Dimir's role in Ravnica is to provide covert services that other guilds can't or won't, using secrecy as both weapon and defense. Dimir is hidden even from itself, using pockets of covert agents who are aware of only a few other contacts. Dimir agents leave no trace, destroying memories of witnesses to their crimes, and even going so far as to eliminate their own memories of assignments.

Backstory: The Fall of Szadek and the Rise of Lazav.

At the end of the last Ravnica trilogy, the former Dimir guild leader, the vampire Szadek, was all but destroyed: his physical body was killed, his spirit was banished to the ghostly realm of Agyrem, and his rule of House Dimir was ended. In his absence, the Dimir guild vanished almost entirely. Some guild members defected to other guilds and others rejoined the Ravnican general populace, but all retained their memories of once being part of House Dimir.

Meanwhile, a being of unknown origins took advantage of Szadek's dissolution: a magically adept shapeshifter who calls himself Lazav. In a series of inscrutable steps and using a number of disguises, he claims to have sought out obscure magics that would allow him to commune with Szadek's fading spirit. As the spell came together, Lazav was heard calling out Szadek's name and mumbling about ancient Ravnican history; some believe he attempted to avail himself of the vampire's thousands of years' worth of residual memories. After the ritual was complete, Lazav's behavior became erratic and his schemes for power deepened. Few people, even Dimir guild members, understand what power Lazav has tapped into or what effect it has had on him. But some Dimir agents claim to have heard Lazav's whispers in their minds, believing he is somehow able to create tenuous links to the psyche of any Dimir guild member, past and present.

Art by David Rapoza

Lazav: Dimir's New Guildmaster. Lazav may be uniquely qualified to be the Dimir guildmaster: he is a shapeshifting mage whose mysterious genius flashes with telepathic impressions of the entire Dimir network. He shapeshifts into a variety of guises as his needs and plans require; he may step out into the Ravnican streets as an elderly widow to eavesdrop at the bazaar, become a vedalken hussar of the Azorius Senate to sidestep a checkpoint, or transform into a Tin Street merchant to deceive a passing noble. Some Dimir agents believe that Lazav now plots against Niv-Mizzet to discern the dragon's hidden endgame and twist it for his own purposes.

Dimir: Above and Below. There are at least two levels of the Dimir: the overt level, the face of the guild the general public of Ravnica is allowed to see, and the covert level, that which consists of the inner guild and the members Ravnicans suspect exist but rarely, if ever, see.

Overt Level. The Dimir are just like any Ravnican guild, serving a public purpose for the good of the city. They often serve as couriers, investigators, reporters, and archivists. They serve twin purposes: to give the rest of Ravnica a "friendly" face of the guild and to be the street-level eyes and ears of the Dimir. Many entry-level candidates to the Dimir guild begin as overt agents until they can prove their trustworthiness.

Covert Level. The Dimir are a network of agents, spies, assassins, and mind mages. The covert level of House Dimir uses secret symbols, runes, and signals to communicate, often in plain sight. Covert Dimir also employ various mysterious forms of mind magic, such as telepathic communiqués that are erased from memory as soon as the operation is completed.

Art by David Palumbo

Clandestine Level. But there is a level of Dimir hidden even from its own members. At its lowest level, the guildmaster Lazav and his direct contacts guide and manipulate the operations of the guild. Members of House Dimir assassinate, extort, and destabilize without knowing who made the order or why. Orders pass through thought trails and mindcouriers, leaving no trace of their connections with this deepest level. This bottommost level of the guild is protected by Lazav's memory wards, powerful one-way enchantments that allow contacts and witnesses to receive their orders but prevent permanent memories from taking hold.

Duskmantle: Restored but Undisclosed. Duskmantle, the Dimir guildhall, fell into disrepair after Szadek's fall from power, as the knowledge of how to find it was lost. Duskmantle has been restored deep within the Ravnican undercity, shielded by memory wards so no one really knows if it exists, let alone remembers its exact location.

The Ismeri Library. One of the Dimir's major locations is well known throughout Ravnica: the officially guildless Ismeri Library. The library is open to all citizens and is run exclusively by Dimir guild members. Many guilds—namely the Azorius, Orzhov, and Boros—all know there must be something going on within the library walls, but they have not been able to figure out what. The thought of crimes being committed in plain sight drives them mad as they try to decipher and detect what the Dimir are up to. The Ismeri Library is one of the centers of Dimir communication. Messages are magically hidden within the hundreds of thousands of books stored here. Dimir agents use the library to trade messages, gathering message fragments taken from across several documents. Ravnican citizens never know if the book or scroll they're reading might contain encrypted messages that spell out Dimir assignments, directives, or assassination targets.

Dinrova Heights: Mages' Meeting Ground. On the rooftop of a massive building known as the Dinrova, the highest-ranked guildmages of the Dimir hold counsel. Normally, the rooftop is closed. During the nocturnal rites, though, the roof panels open, revealing the Dinrova's bat-like architecture, as typical of the Dimir. Specters and other unspeakable horrors patrol the skies above the Dinrova to ward off any prying eyes or unwanted visitors.

Art by Johann Bodin

Bane Alley. For those who have asked the right people and greased the right palms, Bane Alley is most likely the final destination to gain access to the tip of Dimir's massive network of extortion, intimidation, murder, and graft. Many a Ravnican with a problem has wound up in Bane Alley only to walk away several hundred coins lighter, without a clue where he or she just was. But when the person returns home the problem has mysteriously been solved.

Nightveil. The precinct of Nightveil is where the Dimir elite reside. Built on a tract of land that has among its features an elaborate natural system of caverns, Nightveil is an urban adventurer's paradise if one can get past the patrolling spectral guardians. Tunnels and gates twist and turn, leading to sunken crypts and high-walled mansions all in the Dimir style of architecture. Although there is great suspicion about the involvement of the residents of Nightveil in various shady plots, somehow they escape all attempts to pin any wrongdoings on them. This is due to the Dimir's painstaking erasing of any and all memory trails to them but also to their numerous agents planted in the various guilds involved with prosecuting criminal endeavors. Orzhov lawmages, Azorius barristers, and Wojek commanders all have agents of House Dimir among them.

In Plain Sight. Anything predictable can be tracked, so the Dimir have no special days, customs, or rituals. If a gathering at Duskmantle occurs, one can almost be certain another will not occur again at the same time or the same day. Some have even suspected that the location of Duskmantle is never in the same place twice, that the guildhall is taken down and rebuilt again like some moveable fortress. On the surface of the guild, the Dimir are encouraged to live predictable and custom-filled lives, being as normal as possible, holding steady jobs, and taking part in the community, but always keeping their eyes and ears open, absorbing all possible bits of information, and awaiting their moment to finally serve the guild.

Sleeper Agents. When Lazav contacted the spirit consciousness of Szadek, or claimed to, he became aware of several Dimir sleeper agents scattered around Ravnica—even some who are now embedded in other guilds. Szadek's intent was that these sleeper agents would be able to receive missions telepathically, "activate" to undertake those missions, and then magically forget their involvement again. So far, Lazav has only begun to learn how to control the sleeper agents, and he has been able to activate some to gather data about the other guilds. If he learns to control them more deeply, he may be able to destabilize, exploit, and terrorize the other guilds to enact his own schemes.

Art by Zoltan Boros

Dimir Attitudes Toward Other Guilds

Azorius: "What a waste of knowledge's true power. Let them shuffle their papers some more."
Orzhov: "Their ostentatious structures are a façade for their rotten, tiny minds."
Izzet: "They are true seekers of knowledge, but their tools are chaotic and lacking in direction."
Rakdos: "Their flesh is willing but their minds are weak."
Golgari: "Take our corpses and our trash, and don't forget to take your stink with you."
Gruul: "Whenever we need a riot, a scapegoat, or both, the Gruul are always so doltishly accommodating."
Boros: "Anything so predictable can be destroyed or altered with a minimum of forethought."
Selesnya: "As soon as we can infiltrate the Worldsoul, they will serve us as no other guild could."
Simic: "Their minds are alien but their inquisitiveness intrigues us. We must find a way in."


The Boros Legion is the guild of righteous law and fierce justice. The most formidable military force on Ravnica, the Boros are efficient, self-assured, and passionate in the pursuit of their ideals. Sunhome, the Boros guildhall, serves as both barracks and focal point of worship. The floating citadel known as Parhelion II, restored from the remains of the destroyed Parhelion I, occupies an awe-inspiring place in Ravnica's sky.

The Boros believe passionately in law; to them it is the structure by which society functions and acts as the road map for the community's health and safety. Anything that violates the letter of the law, threatens the spirit of the law, or obstructs the enforcement of the law is considered an enemy of the Boros Legion. In effect, anyone who disagrees with the Boros is an enemy of the Boros.

Art by Eric Deschamps

Boros Guild Structure

The Boros zealously embrace justice and the good of the community, and they are willing to use any means to enforce those beliefs. The structure of this guild is hierarchical and authoritarian. Every Boros member knows his or her place between superiors and those of lesser ranks, and there are protocols for interactions among those different ranks. Ambition toward personal advancement is discouraged. Guild members are taught to respect each other for what service they provide to the guild and to society. In the Legion, everyone has a well-defined function based on rank. From the grunts to the angels, each individual is tasked with particular responsibilities to ensure an efficient execution of Boros ideals. Passion and zeal are encouraged as long as they fit within the belief structures of the guild.

Aurelia: The Belligerence Behind the Boros. The current guild leader is Aurelia, a former angel warleader who ascended to the rank of archangel. After the death of Razia, the Boros parun, and the disgrace of the previous angel guildmaster, Feather, warleader Aurelia won authority of the guild. Aurelia challenged Feather's ascendancy, arguing that a disgraced angel couldn't command authority or respect. Many agreed, and the few who didn't were quickly shamed into silence. Now that her authority is secure, Aurelia engenders the same respect and awe as Razia, the original parun. But while Razia was more of a figurehead, aloof and untouchable, Aurelia is an active, forceful leader who is directly involved with her underlings.

Aurelia's Changes to the Guild. Aurelia has reconceived Boros battlefield philosophy and rewritten Boros attack plans that had existed for thousands of years. She has also deployed a new strategic arrangement of the troops, calling for more mass assaults with soldiers in great number. While she continued the standard presence of the Wojek police force and the traditional Boros army in every Ravnican district, she also imposed a superstructure of command divided into "theaters." There are four theaters, each under the command of one of her close advisors. This shift caused some surprise among the commanders of the Wojek and army, although no significant opposition to her decision exists.

Aurelia believes that weakness cannot be tolerated in the ranks of Boros. She espouses new battle tactics and coordinated assault groups. In effect, Aurelia has taken all of the existing Boros ideals and increased their intensity. To outsiders, she is a warmonger. To her devoted followers, she is slicing through old inefficiencies to achieve greater effect while staying true to the impassioned ideals of the guild.

Art by Slawomir Maniak

Boros Roles

There are so many ranks and tiers in the Boros Legion that most other guilds can't keep track of them all. Some are summarized here.

Warleaders: Angelic Strategists. In the past, this tier of ancient angels comprised the meta-tacticians who created millennia-spanning strategies for the Boros. Despite the scope of their knowledge, they were divorced from the everyday planning of battle or logistics of the guild. Aurelia has changed their focus to more practical implementations of war.

Firemanes: Paragons of War. The firemane angels are holy champions who specialize in single combat. While a firemane can outfight almost any single opponent, she will rarely give or follow orders, preferring to fight alone.

Battleforce Angels. This rank of warrior angels actively participates in maneuvers and the formations of skyknights. Some command their own legions and work in conjunction with generals and commanders. Under Razia, this would have been an unthinkable mingling of ranks, but Aurelia believes this is a more effective way to achieve Boros ideals while still maintaining the rank system.

Guildmages. For the Boros, guildmage is a profession that merges religious devotion, arcane mastery, and military might. It is one of the highest ranks a non-angel can achieve in the Boros Legion. According to Boros tradition, guildmage is the only rank that may initiate contact with angels. However, Aurelia has recently relaxed this restriction, as she believes in effectiveness above historical precedent.

The Boros Army: Fighters for Ideals

The army wing makes up the bulk of the Boros guild. It has a reputation of being devoted, effective, and merciless in defense of its ideals. Boros army roles include:

Swiftblade. These are the first soldiers into combat. They're the elite marines of Boros specializing in assault and occupation.

Flamekin. Elemental soldiers made of fire who wear Boros armor. They fight with the rank and file but are also a focal point of valor for the soldiers—a sort of living banner to rally around.

Art by Todd Lockwood

Skyknight. Mounted Boros soldiers on rocs function as Ravnica's air force. They are well loved by most Ravnicans. Many have become near-celebrities, celebrated for their bravery and daring. They are counterparts to the Wojek League's Skyjeks.

The League of Wojek: Enforcers of Order.

This is the division of the Boros that enforces law and order.

Wojeks protect property and the safety of citizens, and they investigate crimes and establish cases against criminals handed over to the Azorius. The League of Wojek is tasked with eliminating civil disorder, and its members function as peacemakers in crowded Ravnica. They also are expected to keep the peace between the guilds. To preserve order by any means necessary is the driving force behind the League of Wojek.

Skyjek. Skyjeks are counterparts to the Skyknight legionnaires. They ride rocs to patrol and are a frequent sight in the skies above Ravnica. They do not do investigative work and instead focus on patrolling and keeping the peace.

The Theaters of War

Aurelia assembled a special task force of advisors, each overseeing a theater. Each theater is a subdivision of the guild dedicated to a particular project valuable to the Boros.

Theater of Order

  • Overseen by: Commander Grozdan
  • Headquartered in: Kamen Fortress
  • Emphasis: Eliminate Rakdos assassins and spree killers

Commander Grozdan. A male minotaur soldier, Grozdan is assigned to arrest or eliminate Rakdos assassins and spree killers. Aurelia's orders state that the threat of random violence is a community-killing disease and must be eradicated. Grozdan's strategy is to target Rakdos locations and hotspots rather than focus on tracking individuals. In the past, the Boros have left the Rakdos pleasure clubs alone until there was a killing or other mayhem that spilled beyond its doors. But now, Grozdan's forces are targeting the clubs—even the ones that make a pretense of being legal establishments. So far, this hasn't affected the Rakdos all that much. Most of their clubs move around so frequently that the Boros can't stamp them out. But Grozdan is very aggressive, even to the point that the Rakdos are getting quite annoyed with him.

Art by Greg Staples

Theater of Integrity

  • Overseen by: Lieutenant Anksa
  • Headquartered in: Zelzo Base
  • Emphasis: Dimir and other underworld activities

Anksa, investigator of corruption. Lieutenant Anksa is a female Wojek—the youngest ever to reach her rank. She has been placed in charge of a task force to end the criminal activities of Dimir. She is also tasked with investigating the web of crime that extends into the Orzhov and possibly other guilds as well. At the behest of Aurelia, Anksa has appointed a special group to look into a new Izzet invention—part of the Warmind Initiative—that neutralizes spirits. Internally, the group is called the Dead Brigade. Aurelia is paranoid about ghosts, particularly the Orzhov Ghost Council, and wants to eliminate the threat.

Theater of Fortification

  • Overseen by: Advisor Tajic, First Guildmage of the Legion
  • Headquartered in: Sunhome
  • Emphasis: Warmind Initiative

Tajic, guildmage. Advisor Tajic is the highest ranking Boros guildmage. He's in charge of the Warmind Initiative, which is an effort to collaborate with the Izzet to increase Boros weapons and battle effectiveness.

The Warmind Initiative. At Sunhome, the Boros view collaborating with the Izzet as a necessary compromise to achieving ultimate soldiers, ultimate order, and ultimate discipline. Aurelia believes it is through the advancement of the means of war that the Boros will be able to achieve the perfect society. Some of the Warmind Initiative projects currently under way include:

  • Using Izzet alchemy to build electrified walls, checkpoints, and warning systems around the Smelting District.
  • Enhancing Boros soldiers with elemental-infused steamsuits.
  • Developing more powerful armaments for flamekin soldiers.
  • Animating stone titans and creating other elementals to serve as city guardians.
  • Using Izzet magic to fashion more powerful siege machines, weapons, and battlefield traps.

Art by Anthony Palumbo

Theater of Recruitment

  • Overseen by: Commander Yaszen
  • Headquartered in: Horizon Military Academy
  • Emphasis: Education and conscription

Commander Yaszen, recruiter of the youth. Yaszen is a male human skyknight who ascended through the ranks based on bravery and strategic thinking. He is now commander of the forces at Horizon Military Academy as well as its superintendent. Aurelia believes that to create the perfect Boros society, the guild must target the young, so while the other military branches have their own training centers, Aurelia has intentionally made this the flagship of their educational efforts.

Overseeing the Skies. Yaszen has established watches and outposts in outlying districts. He has expanded the mounted divisions and encouraged the breeding and training of rocs and griffins. Almost all the Boros's handlers and riders of flying mounts are now based at Horizon. Under Yaszen, at least ten squadrons of skyknights are patrolling the skies at all times.

Boros Attitudes Toward Other Guilds

Azorius: "Legalistic, arrogant pontificators who use law as a weapon to wield power they don't deserve."
Orzhov: "Selfish pretenders with no sense of justice or righteousness."
Dimir: "Immoral snakes who need to be exterminated for the good of the community."
Izzet: "As long as their spellcraft is controlled, it can be beneficial to society."
Rakdos: "Immoral rats who need to be exterminated for the good of the community."
Golgari: "An unfortunate guild that serves a necessary function for the good of all."
Gruul: "Lost souls who haven't been exposed to true righteousness but will embrace Boros ideals if provided the right opportunity."
Selesnya: "While their devotion to their community is noble, they are mistaken about what a perfect society should look like."
Simic: "A wasteful guild preoccupied with arcane, meaningless experimentation."

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