Phyrexia and the Vaultlord

Posted in Savor The Flavor on September 8, 2010

Its name is spoken in whispers. It is synonymous with death on a mass scale, relentless and merciless predation, and the corruption and debasement of life. It is civilization founded on genocide. It is evil in its purest, most insidious, most hideously effective form. Once the nemesis of Dominaria, it now sets its sights on a new world.

It is Phyrexia.

Divide and grow. That was the first rule of any organism, especially one that had been created as a weapon. For what seemed an eternity, the oil had lain dormant, waiting to be unleashed upon a new world. The war for which it had been created had long since passed, but when a new pair of travelers came, it awoke again and followed them to this new, this pristine world.

Divide and grow. Divide and grow. That was the first rule. Divide and grow until the oil infused the entire world. There was time enough for contamination and control later. For now, it must simply divide and grow.

—The Moons of Mirrodin, prologue

The Phyrexian Invasion of Dominaria ended in defeat. Urza and his planeswalker allies devastated Phyrexia, pushing back its witch engines and machine priests with the power of the assembled Legacy. Phyrexia was destroyed, its plan to turn Dominaria into its new home world a failure. The heroes won.

Legacy Weapon | Art by Terese Nielsen

    Karn's Tainted Heart

Karn, the keystone of the power of the Legacy Weapon artifacts, realized his destiny and obliterated Yawgmoth—and became a planeswalker in the process. He now carries within him the combined power of his creator Urza and all the artifacts of the Legacy.

With Yawgmoth destroyed, Phyrexia had no recourse, no retreat plan. The armies of Phyrexia fell. Dominaria became littered with the hollow shells left behind by the Phyrexian apocalypse.

Since its defeat, Phyrexia is no longer a place. But it is still a force in the Multiverse. Thanks to an innocuous quantity of strange black oil, Phyrexia lives—and grows.

    The Phyrexian Oil: Source of the Infection

The "glistening oil" is both a contagion and a means of colonization, a viral substance engineered to spread Phyrexian corruption wherever it travels. Without knowing it, Karn carried a trace of the Phyrexian oil within him, inside the Phyrexian heartstone granted to him long ago by Urza. Karn left traces of the oil in his travels from plane to plane, including the artificial world, the world Karn himself created: Mirrodin.

The glistening oil planted a virus on Mirrodin that has spread. Unknown to most Mirrans, Phyrexia is rebuilding itself, using their world as its host substrate. The metal structures and metal-infused inhabitants of Mirrodin create a perfect breeding ground for the spread of Phyrexian corruption. As the nascent civilization of Phyrexia expands in secret, it struggles to evolve a unified purpose, and the danger for the plane of Mirrodin grows.

    First Contact

Some Mirrans have begun to encounter horrible amalgams of necrotic flesh and corroded metal unlike anything seen on the plane before. They have no word for these creatures, but the creatures' destructiveness is clear, and the casualties have already been dramatic. The creatures' necrotech mimics forms found in nature—skeletons, teeth, viscera—yet their forms are a mockery of life. They are a race of killing machines, living to destroy, envelop, and replicate.

It is becoming clear to the innocent Mirrans that they face a new threat, something far, far worse than the power-mad Memnarch.

    The Spread of Phyrexian Influence

Phyrexian oil-spreaders have sprung up unbidden in certain areas of Mirrodin, infecting the surrounding area with the glistening oil. Some Mirrans, such as the vedalken of the Quicksilver Sea, study the oil with curiosity, not understanding the danger lurking within. Traces of the oil have even begun to corrupt the beasts within the Tangle Forest, its treelike copper structures providing an unlikely haven for Phyrexian monstrosities.

But the growth of Phyrexia seems to be centered on the Mephidross, a vast, oily swamp on the surface of Mirrodin. Over the ever-present, churning drone of the necrogen chimneys can be heard the scraping moans of the nim: Mirrodin's relentless, ravenous zombies. The noxious necrogen gas transforms living tissue into the undead, exposing and corroding metal endoskeletons, turning the Dross's native Moriok people into horrifying, deadly fiends.

At the center of the Mephidross lies Ish Sah, the Vault of Whispers. The Vault encloses the black lacuna, the opening where the black sun once emerged from within Mirrodin's core. As a potent source of black mana, the black lacuna has guided and facilitated the evolution of Phyrexia. And one who has regained power over Ish Sah has learned how useful collaboration with the Phyrexians can be.

    Geth, Lord of the Vault

Geth was an undead warlord of Mirrodin since the time before the coming of the green sun, sadistic and power-greedy to the core. His head became severed from his body, but even in that state, the deathlessly decapitated Geth maintained his cruel need for power. After the elf Glissa defeated Memnarch, she disappeared, leaving Geth to trudge back to Ish Sah in the Mephidross. In his decapitated state, he struggled to regain power over his legions of nim zombies. But he encountered a new power, and negotiated a deal.

For reasons only they understand, the Phyrexians granted Geth a new, Phyrexian metal body, grafting his undead head to it. Geth's new host body is arachnoid, repulsive, and unnaturally strong—perfectly to Geth's liking. Geth expects to have to repay his newfound dark masters for their gift, but for now takes advantage of the sinister powers it has granted him, and monitors the Phyrexians' movements in the Mephidross.

Art by Whit Brachna

With the Phyrexian necrotech supporting him, Geth quickly wiped out other challengers to the Vault of Whispers and reclaimed it as his own. He builds a new army of nim, preparing to conquer a wider dominion, but with the patience of the undead. He remains bunkered inside Ish Sah, controlling the black lacuna and learning secrets about the Phyrexian newcomers.

For now, Geth is content to watch and wait for the best time to strike. Perhaps no single being knows more about the Phyrexians' plans and tactics on Mirrodin than Geth. Perhaps no single being sees as clearly the danger that Mirrodin faces.

    Let's See the Preview Card Already

Now you can summon Geth in all his miscreant glory.

First of all, Geth is certainly large and in charge with that new Phyrexian body of his. He's a 5/5 with intimidate, meaning only black and artifact creatures will stand in his way. You could certainly use him as a "finisher" in a black deck, meant to tear great chunks out of your opponent's life total with near-impunity. Be sure to pack removal spells that can target black and/or artifact creatures, so as to pick off anything that's not intimidated by Geth's daunting carriage.

His other ability is much more complex, and has some subtle interactions with itself. The first part is easy: Geth reanimates the dead, turning one of your opponent's previously-killed creatures into (in flavor terms) a nim zombie. Black is already the grim reaper color, scything through your opponent's forces with effects like Smother, Disfigure, Doom Blade, and Infest. Or use discard spells to liberate those creature cards from your opponent's hand. Use those fallen forces for your own benefit, popping into being as newly-birthed nim on your side of the battlefield, ready to lurch to their feet and attack their former master.

Geth can also salvage an artifact from your opponent's graveyard, which will be especially relevant in the artifact-heavy Scars of Mirrodin block. Knock a key artifact out of your foe's hand with Duress, or simply use Shatter effects like Nature's Claim or Manic Vandal to put them into the graveyard the old fashioned way. Equip Geth with your opponent's Sword of Vengeance, or reuse a spent Armillary Sphere! Even set up a nasty loop with your opponent's Eldrazi Monument, sacrificing creatures you stole to it and then reanimating them again.

The tricky part comes in the fact that Geth's reanimation ability feeds itself. Once you get to reanimate one thing, Geth mills your opponent for X cards, giving you fresh salvage-fodder—X more chances to find a tasty future nim or stolen artifact prize. And then once you reanimate that, the cycle begins again. Geth also combines well with other milling effects. Try him alongside cards like Archive Trap, Hedron Crab, or Jace's Erasure, creating a well-stocked graveyard for Geth to plunder.

Note that Geth's reanimation/milling ability doesn't require him to tap, so if there are enough cheap targets, you can use it multiple times in a turn. Pay to grab a dead Fauna Shaman, and maybe you'll flip over a cheap Birds of Paradise or Basilisk Collar to slurp up for a mere more. Untap with Geth and you'll raise an army of multitalented nim before your opponent can say, "Ow, my brains!"

    Mirran Roots, Phyrexian Cahoots

The struggle between the Mirrans and the Phyrexians has begun. With one metallic limb planted in the history of Mirrodin, and another planted in the future of Phyrexia, Geth stands at the crossroads between the two sides. With such a strong interest in slaughter and control, the undead warlord has a strong pull toward the Phyrexian side, but ultimately he's looking out for number one.

Next week we turn to the other side of the conflict, with a look at a race of artifact creatures that are uniquely Mirran.

    Just Released: A Flavorful New Mirrodin Site

All Magic players—and especially you, dear reader, being interested in the flavor and lore behind the game—should check out the new sites at and Explore the plane of Mirrodin from two perspectives as you gain insight into the art, flavor, and cards of the Scars of Mirrodin set. Keep checking back, because there are more goodies to unlock day by day.

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