Gold Records

Posted in Savor The Flavor on May 20, 2009

Every world has its criminals, its lowlifes, its cruel and vindictive scum, who prey on the innocent and flout the law of the land, spreading violence and exploitation. Alara has five worlds of these wanted beings, and now that the shards have converged into one massive, multicolored plane, the instances of solid-gold sin are on the rise. Today we get a peek at the case files of seven of Alara's most wanted. Before you go planeswalking to Alara's gilded realms, study this intelligence well, and take it as fair warning.

Subject: Revin Skoros

Aliases: Dead Reckoner; The Anathemancer; Ol' Flame Eyes

Wanted for:Corruption of mana bonds in three shards. Consumption of the flesh of the living, minor. Consumption of the flesh of the dead, disgusting. Assault. Arson. Unauthorized tissue reanimation in a holy zone.

Bio: Centuries ago, Revin Skoros was a brilliant human æthermage of Grixis. Skoros traveled the plane, studying the art of the mana bond, its relationship to the mind of the spellcaster, and the nature of magic itself, advancing knowledge of the mystic arts like none before him. If the demon Banath'thur hadn't tempted Skoros with promises of exotic new bonds to sources of mana he hadn't been able to discover on his own, Skoros might never have become one of the Damned, an undead husk who had surrendered his soul. Despite his condition, Skoros retained his mystical connection to mana bonds of all types. But in a mockery of his detailed knowledge of mana, his new unnatural life caused him to corrupt the mana around him. He is now known to stalk Alara, following the lure of potent mana wherever it draws him, instilling all sources of power with his baleful aura.

Subject: Ranalus of Palandius

Aliases:Ranalus the Heretic; Queen of the Coatls; The Blue Hermit

Wanted for: Heresy. Maltreatment of a member of the Ethersworn. Desertion. Unlawful removal of etherium enhancements. Suspicion of protection and harboring of a wild beast.

Bio: The vedalken scholar Ranalus was no star pupil or master of etherium. She was uncouth in sanctum discussions, talked back to her mage-superiors, failed to respect the Ethersworn etiquette protocols, and was once scolded by the Sphinx Hegemon, Sharuum herself. Though her intelligence was substantial, Ranalus had no place in Esper society, finding herself increasingly distanced from those around her. When the war broke out, she volunteered for reconnaissance duty as a civilian sojourner amid the Seekers of Carmot. Once in deep cover in the jungles of Naya, the heady bouquet of wild green mana appealed to her, and she made the decision to renounce Esper and to repudiate the principles of the Filigree Texts. Laboriously and excruciatingly, she extracted every thread and joint of etherium from her body, while a huge Nayan snake known as a coatl offered its regenerative powers to her. The painful ritual excised the magics of Esper from her mind like a surgeon's scalpel, and replaced it with a new kind of enlightened jungle mysticism. Her mind blossomed, forming new connections with the living jungle around her, her power of divination and evolution growing each day. Clearly, she is a danger and must be stopped.

Subject: Haaach of the Bloodhall

Aliases:The Hackblade; What the Hell Was That?; The Piranha of Valeron

Wanted for: Twelve infractions of Bant war-laws, including three aggravated prayer violations and five instances of dishonorable initiation of force outside the lawful hours of war. Possession of a stolen weapon. Assault with a jagged golden sword. Speeding.

Bio: Haaach is thought to have originated from the warren of Jund goblins that originates from the Bloodhall, possibly Jund's deepest geothermic cavern system, whose hot underworld supports an ecosystem of scaly black insects and immense carnivorous oozes. Haaach was not the largest or the strongest of his fellow goblin warriors, but he was well-known for his astonishing ferocity and speed, once carving up and devouring the choice parts of a fallen rockwurm before it had managed to stop breathing. Since he stormed across Naya, Haaach has carried an ancient ceremonial dagger originating from a jungle shrine near Qasal; the Nacatl prides have posted a reward for its safe return. Haaach was last seen at the Battle of the Bloody Gate in Valeron, where he is believed to have been responsible for the deaths and partial ingestion of over twenty neophyte soldiers. Those who encounter Haaach are advised not to approach.

Subject: Dollun Spinebreaker

Aliases:The Rhox Brute; The Stars of Jund; Dollun the Bloody

Wanted for:Assault, on all five shards. Dereliction of duty, on Bant.

Bio: Dollun was one of the foremost rhox champions of the army of Jhess, on the Bant coast. Dollun's rise through the Sigiled caste was meteoric; he had earned the title of Knight-Captain in only seven years and had commanded the Eleventh Legion of soldiers, Sigiled paladins, and leotau cavalry during the Jhess-Valeron conflict. A stickler for religious tradition and military procedure, Dollun was known for his perfect pre-battle recitations of long passages of the Prayer to Asha to inspire his troops. Soon after the war between the shards began, Dollun's military career came to a rapid end. Dollun saw his men slain by the hundreds on a long and chaotic campaign into Naya, their blood shed in senseless battle with brutish monsters that knew nothing of procedure. The experience shattered Dollun's sense of propriety and honor, and he began to command his troops to execute wild maneuvers and bloody, backhanded tactics. One night, after almost all of the Eleventh Legion had been slaughtered on the catastrophic campaign through the jungle, Dollun emerged from his tent in tribal garb, blood-spattered and wielding two massive spiked maces. He left the rest of his own Jhessian soldiers alone, but immediately charged and butchered the Naya and Jund enemies that had encamped nearby, then escaped into one of the lowland chasms of Jund, raving and roaring fragmented passages from the Prayer of Asha.

Subject: Banath'thur

Aliases: The Demon of Qasal; The Defiler of Souls; Hell's Lash

Wanted for: Mass destruction and soul-corruption throughout Jund, Naya, and Bant. Conspiracy to commit genocide. Entering a contract with a minor. Forgery. Torture. Two counts of destruction of a holy being.

Bio: The demon Banath'thur was imprisoned by astute Vithian humans of Grixis. They used complex warding enchantments to intern him in the vaults deep under their hermitage in a region south of Unx. When the ongoing Conflux forced the surrounding region to coincide with part of Naya, their hermitage broke through a rocky hillside, irreparably damaging the building and, unfortunately, the Vithians' binding spells. Banath'thur turned the Vithians and the nearby Nacatl pride into his own personal minions, tempting them with lies and lashing the souls of the noncompliant with his demonspine whip. Those who survived his onslaught helped him find his way to the souls he craved: the angels of Bant. He has already slain two of Bant's angels, and it is believed he wishes to take more if he can find them. Banath'thur is difficult to approach, as his deadly whip destroys all who are not already overrun by his soul-crippled human and leonin underlings.

Subject: The Viashino of Thunder Thrash

Aliases: The Lost Thrash; The Etherium Thunder; The Skyclaw Thrash

Wanted for: Theft of etherium (methods unknown). Unlawful implantation of etherium (methods unknown). Assault. Intimidation. Violence on academy grounds. Airspace violations (methods unknown).

Bio: The Thunder Thrash was already notorious on Jund as one of the most vicious, bloodthirsty, and instinct-driven viashino clans on the plane. Their dragon-hunts were legendary, their human hunts infamous. Their success on that cutthroat plane was even more impressive given their utter, thick-skulled primitiveness. Believed to possess an even smaller brain pan than some goblins, the Thunder Thrash never excelled at feats of memory, intuition, or conceptual thought. But when their blood-raids took them all the way to the shard of Esper, they were surrounded by a culture founded on the power of the intellect. At first they met with their traditional success, using brazen surprise and a natural immunity to mind-control effects to smash their way through the Esper mage-forces. But once their enemies' plans adapted to their strength, they lost many of their number. Eventually, their elder Jkkhah led the thrash to attack a facility that turned out to be a temporary wartime storehouse for etherium. The vedalken and homunculus guardians were overwhelmed, and fled—and no one was seen leaving the facility for days. Then, just as an Esper army was assembled to take back the etherium, the Thunder Thrash emerged, strange etherium enhancements suffusing their muscular frames. Their etherium was improperly and illicitly installed, but it functioned well enough to offer strange new abilities to the viashino. The Esper strike force was quickly dispatched as the Thunderers flew into the air, blasted them with waves of piercing psychic energy, and then fell on them jaws-first, flashing teeth made of the æther-infused metal. Any who meet the Thunder Thrash are advised not to engage them, and under no circumstances should anyone agree to any form of negotiations, deals, or mental probing with any of their number.

Subject: Sarrasa, Guardian Angel of Giltspire

Aliases: Sarrasa the Traitor; The Fallen One; The Shame of Giltspire

Wanted for: Crimes against the holy order. Failure to defend a holy site. Failure to protect wards under angelic charge. Murder of a Blessed-caste.

Bio: The angel Sarrasa, of Amesha rank, guarded the castle Giltspire, a holy site whose history traced back hundreds of years. Sarrasa had defended the castle through centuries of relic robbers, flashfires, foreign paladin crusaders, and war. Her worshippers left her offerings, sometimes of extreme value, at her shrine inside the castle walls; the gifts were repaid in turn with angelic favors: moments of divine strength, healing miracles, protection from deadly mishaps, and victory in battle on the grounds outside the castle. But one day not long before the Conflux began, Sarrasa deserted the castle for reasons unknown. She gave no show of explanation, and hinted nothing to the Blessed-caste leaders who interpreted her will; she merely vanished from her post in the heavens above Giltspire, never to return. It is believed that she may have struck down one Blessed-caste priest who witnessed her departure, but beyond that, her only crime has been her absence. Since the recent events at Giltspire, the impact of her desertion has been catastrophic. To this day it is unknown whether she still lives, and if so, whether she feels spite or remorse with regard to her actions.

Letter of the Week

Timo has a great question about Equipment.

Dear Doug Beyer,
I have some issues about one piece of flavor. How is possible for a creature like Enormous Baloth to carry a weapon like Loxodon Warhammer? Is the Baloth suddenly able to walk on two legs, so he can hold the Hammer? Or does it become implanted to his head, so he looks like some kind of big green unicorn? Or does he put it into his mouth? And what happens if wears something like a Vulshok Battlegear? Does the suit grow to his size?

I'm quite confused.

Best regards,

This is a classic flavor question, and I appreciate the opportunity to address it. Clearly a baloth would have a hard time wielding a hammer, just like a Craw Wurm would have a hard time wearing Lightning Greaves (or a Faceless Butcher wearing a Mask of the Mimic—ha!). Equipment is so modular a mechanic—it allows such a wide range of combinations between Magic's thousands of cards—that it's pretty easy to find cases where we get into serious flavor trouble.

My usual answer about weird creature-equipment combinations, Timo, is that the equipment grants its magic to the creature just by being "on its person" in some way. The Warhammer is intended to be wielded in the hands, but it still grants trample, lifelink, and its magical bonus to power to a baloth that has the Warhammer strapped to its flanks, or clenched within its teeth. And yes, although a lot of mundane armor is so fitted that it must be custom-built for the wearer, some magical armor can expand or contract, to some degree, to fit the dimensions of the equipped.

But no matter what Vorthosian tap-dancing I do, there will still be some difficult-to-explain cases. We can't take every creature that exists into account when we come up with new, cool Equipment. How can an insubstantial Ghost Warden wear a Horned Helm? (I almost said Skulking Ghost, but realized, it can't!) How does Chromeshell Crab fit its claws into those little tiny Vulshok Gauntlets? The answer is: if it says it can equip it, then it can—somehow. In these hard cases, I would advise you to enjoy the mental challenge of coming up with how it works on your own, and to just have fun with the weird cases. The issue of mechanics vs. flavor can be a tough one, with Equipment in particular. But we think the flavor of Equipment is so fun and rewarding that it more than makes up for those kinds of oddball cases.

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