The Master at Arms

Posted in Savor The Flavor on September 23, 2009

By Doug Beyer

Senior creative designer on Magic's creative team and lover of writing and worldbuilding. Doug blogs about Magic flavor and story at

The Kor forsake roots for the winding of the path; forsake voices for the silence of the mind; forsake all else for the poverty of isolation.
-Nomads en-Kor

The kor are a race of nomadic, mainly white-aligned humanoids that have light blue or pale white skin. Male kor have chin barbels (sensory organs that look like short, catfish-like tendrils). We last saw the kor on Rath, where they, alongside the human Dal and Vec, had to choose between evading the ruthless evincar or allying with him. The noble en-Kor can be seen mainly in Stronghold, and the sneakier il-Kor can be seen during the revisitation of Dominaria's storylines in Time Spiral block (and on Cat Burglar). There are also some kor in Nemesis, such as the Rebels Lawbringer and Lightbringer.

Note that Kor was not adopted as a creature type until around the time of Time Spiral, at which time the Kor creatures in Stronghold and Nemesis actually got their Oracle-ized race types (they were simply Soldiers or Rebels or other class types before). The Zendikar set takes full advantage of this Kor creature type innovation, elevating them to the status of a well-supported humanoid culture. The kor are native residents of Zendikar, and Zendikar may well be the origin world of Dominaria's kor.

The kor follow a nomadic lifestyle, chasing the winds across Zendikar, hunting the mikunga—a leathery, vicious species of flying eel that soars on the Roil-churned air currents. Hunting the windrider eel is tricky business for people who don't themselves fly, but the kor have a secret advantage. They believe deeply in the importance of connection: connection between the individual and community, between the spirit and the unknown, between the self and the land, and between hunter and prey. And as you'll see in Zendikar card art, the kor rely on their gear to extend this idea of connection into the physical realm; they use lines, ropes, and hooks to literally connect themselves to their surroundings. As any skyfisher knows, a good line isn't just a symbol of a spiritual bond, but the perfect thing to snare an enemy or to hook a two-ton flying eel behind the gills.

Windrider Eel

This reliance on gear fits hand-in-glove with the kor's nomadic nature. They travel light, taking with them only what they need, so they need their equipment to be tough, well-designed, and multipurpose. From their kitesails to their quickly-struck canvas tents to their trusty grappling hooks, kor gear sets the standard for explorers' essentials.

Get your Butt in Gear

Start with the basics. A good pack, tool belt, and waterskin are crucial on those long trudges over the pistonlike mountains of Akoum or through the jagged Makindi Trenches. Mind that you don't fill your canteen at the clear, clean water at Glasspool, tempting as it might appear; as the Glass Haven kor will tell you, something isn't right about that hexagonal lake's perfect placidity.

A quality scope will get you everywhere. The lenses were ground at great expense in Sea Gate; the bronze metalwork was salvaged from a worn-out tower shield from North Hada; the eyepiece was handmade by the famous navigator Chadir. Get the lay of the land before you go marching into an unexplored region.

Stomp exotic dirt with these well-weathered trailblazer's boots. The enchantment built into them may have worn thin, but as a result of their age they fit like a dream, and it's said that they still possess the knack to guide you to ambush-avoiding shortcuts even in unfamiliar or hostile territory. If you're not a seasoned traveler, wear the boots of one.

A machete is for slashing through Zendikar's often-carnivorous foliage. But it works just as well at chopping through the ogre slaves of the cliff tyrant Kazuul, an obsidian fireheart that crunches through the crust of the Skyfang Mountains, or an Onduan mother-baloth protecting her brood. The blade was forged in the geothermic vents of the Boilbasin and honed by the Tajuru elves of the Kazandu jungle canopies. They say you can live three weeks without food. Without your trusty machete, you'll last about three hours.

The grappling hook is the most fundamental implement of the kor. Half weapon, half tool, it's the kor's method of connecting with the world around them, friend or foe. They might use one end to whip a flesh-hungry giant scorpion and the other end to save a falling ally, or one end to lash themselves to the dizzying vertical village of Cliffhaven and the other end to bind themselves to a vampire warrior for an inescapable battle to the death.

I'll stop there. There's much more of the story of the kor and the artifacts of Zendikar to tell you, but I should save some for A Planeswalker's Guide to Zendikar. As you'll recall, the Planeswalker's Guide will run as a special feature of Savor the Flavor every few weeks.

It's Preview Card Time!

So, really, I've told you everything you need to know to grok the flavor of today's preview card. The kor bond together as a spiritual community, and they use their equipment not only for the practicalities of a nomadic life but also as a sacred symbol of their kinship and united strength. Given all that, you could probably figure out today's preview card by yourself. Want to check your work?

Check out Armament Master.

Armament Master

Now, of course, this preview has a problem common to any previewed "lord"—doubly so. You haven't seen all the cards in Zendikar yet, and so you don't know that there are tons of Kor creatures in the set—and you haven't seen all the Equipment that can be played alongside this guy. So let me give you the stats.

Number of different Kor creatures in the set: 12 (8 common, 2 uncommon, 2 rare, including Armament Master himself). So you could run as many as 48 Kor creatures in your deck from Zendikar alone.

Number of Equipment cards in the set: 8 (3 common, 3 uncommon, 2 rare). So you could run as many as 32 pieces of Equipment from Zendikar alone ... plus all the other Equipment in recent sets.

There are some serious deck-building decisions to be made. Armament Master is a Kor "lord" that trades a little bit of work (finding a piece of Equipment for him wield) for a lot of power (the +2/+2 bonus, double the usual +1/+1 lord bonus). It's not just that he gives that extra-fat +2/+2—it's that it's +2/+2 for every piece of Equipment on him. So pile it on. Get ridiculous. Don't worry, he can carry it. Your rugged Kor army is nomadic anyway—it's not like they have a storage facility to keep all that stuff in. The whole flavor of the kor is that they carry their homes on their backs, toting with them everything they'll need to survive in their endless trek across Zendikar. Equip away!

Kor Soldier Token

Plus, did I mention that there's a spell in Zendikar that makes six Kor Soldier tokens? That has kicker? That makes twelve Kor Soldier tokens if you kick it up? Instant army. Just add gear.

Plus, did I mention that there are other Kor in the set that gain special benefits from Equipment? And that there's a quest that lets you do something very flavorful for the kor? But let me stop there. I have to leave some surprises for the Prerelease. Just know that there's a flavor-rich Kor deck to be built with Zendikar, full of tough and resourceful fighters and culminating in a mighty assault behind the Armament Master himself.

Prerelease Weekend!

Zendikar Prerelease events are this weekend, and the plane awaits your exploration. So sling on your trusty pack, expedition to your favorite local game store, and bust open some rare treasures. You can even collect some goodies for a new Kor-and-Equipment deck.

Letter of the Week

Vawn's question concerns traps, such as this one from the Visual Spoiler.

Pitfall Trap

Dear Doug Beyer,

I have a question regarding the flavor of the trap cards of Zendikar. If traps are spells, how does a Planeswalker go about summoning a trap? If a trap spell is "cast" in the same way as another instant spell, wouldn't the act of casting a spell to set up a trap while fighting your opponent give away the fact that it's there, and thus prevent it from working?

Or do Traps, flavor-wise, work completely different from other instant spells? Is the trap considered set while it's in your hand? Would this mean that the act of drawing the trap spell from your deck signifies setting the trap, or is the trap already set from the moment your opponent begins the fight with your?

So far I'm liking the trap cards, but I'm a bit confused as to how they work flavor-wise.

Think of Traps as spells readied in your mind—like all instants—except that they have a special connection to some danger in the world of Zendikar. When you draw a Pitfall Trap, you've identified a particularly dangerous—but hidden—location or situation somewhere on Zendikar, and your opponent might help you out and stumble right into it, enabling you to cast it on him much more easily.

As a planeswalker, you could very well cast the trap the hard way, causing a pit full of spikes to open up under your enemy's attackers, even if they're nowhere near such a pit. If you're a planeswalker who has plenty of mana, then you can do what you want when you want it, reality be damned. But if you're familiar with the terrain and have Pitfall Trap already in hand, you can look for an opportunity for your opponent to help you with its casting by getting into a dangerous situation for you. The closer your opponent is to the right conditions of falling into a Pitfall Trap (i.e., charging in with exactly one reckless little ground guy), the easier it is to open up the trap right underneath his dude (and so the less mana it takes). When you draw Pitfall Trap, the trap is set, and you're just waiting for the right circumstances to spring it—either the brute-force way for full price, or with a little finesse for a single .

Of course, part of the fun is that your enemy doesn't know when the trap is set and when it isn't. After falling victim to your first Pitfall Trap, he or she might perform ridiculous contortions to play around the conditions of the Trap, seeing your every untapped Plains as a suspiciously unsuspicious pile of obscuring reeds. Suddenly the battlefield looks like a minefield, and you get to sit back with your empty board, not getting attacked, thanks to your knowledge, a little spellcraft, and some well-timed exploitation of the dangers of Zendikar.

Note that there's another card in Zendikar that has the very strong flavor of setting up a Trap in advance. It's an instant-speed Trap tutor, and it allows you to either fire off the perfect Trap right when the right condition comes up, or to taunt your opponent, Infernal Spawn of Evil-style, letting you grab a Trap from your library and show off that you have it, ready to spring.

Latest Savor The Flavor Articles

Daily MTG

December 24, 2012

Is This Your Fateful Hour? by, Doug Beyer

Before the city-plane of Ravnica devoured the spotlight, the shadow-lurking forces of Innistrad were the ones doing the devouring. In this interactive article, you play the role of a tr...

Learn More

Daily MTG

March 28, 2012

Thanks and So Long by, Doug Beyer

Today I'm hurling huge explosions of gratitude and appreciation at you. To everyone who has read these articles and shared this enthusiasm for Magic flavor: you are awesome. I've loved ta...

Learn More



Savor The Flavor Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All