The Soul of the World

Posted in Savor The Flavor on January 21, 2009

By Jenna Helland

Jenna Helland is a designer and writer for the Magic creative team. She's a member of the story team, a creative liaison with design teams, and the author of the Theros novella, Godsend.

Buried under centuries of jungle growth, something slumbers in the Valley of the Ancient. The Cylian elves constantly monitor the valley and the steam that rises from three vents on the forest floor. They believe this is the slow, even breath of the hydra-god Progenitus at rest. Many elves devote their lives to the hydra, doing whatever they can to understand his will and keep him at peace.

The elves believe that the hydra-god is both the origin and sustainer of life in Naya. But he must remain dormant under the ground. If Progenitus rises again, the world will be consumed under the force of the catastrophic storms he will unleash upon creation. Despite their efforts to placate him, Progenitus is stirring. As the planes begin to merge, blue and black mana seeps back into Naya, and the hydra-god awakens.

The Soul of the World has returned.


Until the Conflux, most Nayans viewed life as a celebration. Resources were plentiful, conflict rare, and pleasure was a way to give thanks for the blessings of Progenitus. But one Nayan shouldered a heavy burden: Mayael the Anima. A young female elf, Mayael was chosen from a line of female druids who had proven a connection to the awesome gargantuans who walk the plane. She carries in her blood a spiritual connection to Progenitus himself, infused with enough of his essence to grasp the fragility of the world in a way that her kin couldn't understand. The Cylian elves believe that the Anima is the only one who can understand the will of Progenitus; that she alone can tell them what they must do to satisfy his tempestuous nature.

Mayael was barely out of adolescence when the previous Anima summoned her to the Sacellum, a temple crafted from the living trees of the jungle. Near death, the Anima named Mayael as her successor and told the girl what was required of her before she could lead the elves. To become the Anima, Mayael must undergo a ritual called the Whitecover Gaze. During the ritual, Mayael's eyes would cloud over until they were the color of a pearl—emotionless, inscrutable, and flawless. Sight, the Anima explained, was an imperfect sense that only revealed only the thinnest layer of reality. Soon Mayael would be blessed with enhanced vision. She would be able to see the depth hidden underneath beneath the skin of the world. After the ritual, the very building blocks of creation would be revealed to her.

The previous Anima did not, however, warn Mayael about the pain and terror that the ritual unleashed in the young elf's unsuspecting heart. As her sight leaked from her eyes, her mind surged with the memories of all the Anima, going back to the very first, a shaman's youngest daughter named Cylia. Mayael had a vision of the beginning—or was it the end?—of time, when Progenitus was master of the world, the horizon, and whatever lay beyond it.

Mayael's Vision: The Breaking of the World

The world shattered. While the elves cowered in terror at the cataclysm, a young elf named Cylia climbed to the top of the mountain armed with a vial of poison and a dagger carved from a thorn. On the summit, she saw the face of Progenitus, the soul of the world.

In Mayael's vision, Progenitus had become displeased with creation and unleashed five storms to consume it: Wildfire, Earthquake, Windstorm, Flood, and Void. Falling to the ground in supplication, Cylia begged Progenitus not to scour life from the world. Furious at her impudence, Progenitus blinded the young girl and turned his back on her to watch the cleansing of creation. With blood from her mutilated eyes dripping into the vial, Cylia dipped the dagger into the poison and closed her senses to the destruction. She looked inward and in her stillness, she could hear each note of life's deathsong. She could feel the interconnected threads of life, from the terror of the fawn cowering in the forest to the heartbeat of the hawk soaring helplessly in the tempestuous sky.

Cylia shifted through the invisible strands until she found the one mystical connection to Progenitus, and she flung her poisoned dagger straight into its ethereal heart. With that one blow, Progenitus' divine essence scattered and his earthly body formed: a five-headed hydra. But two of the heads lay withered and useless against his body. Before, Progenitus embodied and controlled all colors of mana in himself. But in his physical form, the mana splintered, with each head personifying only one color. Wounded, Progenitus crashed down upon the devastated earth, where he would lay dormant for millennia as life reclaimed the world around him.

Because Cylia's blood mixed with the poison and entered Progenitus' body, she had an eternal connection to the hydra, as does all the line of Anima after her.

The Anima's Task

While Progenitus is dormant, manifestations of him walk the earth in the form of gargantuans—the behemoth creatures that walk the face of Naya. The elves believe the gargantuans are the expression of the hydra's will and worship them as divine beings. As the Anima, Mayael is in charge of discerning the will of Progenitus. After closely monitoring the actions of gargantuans, Mayael interprets what the events mean and then communes with Progenitus to determine what actions should be taken to keep him satiated. She is aided by several elite groups of elves:

Godtrackers—The warriors who track the movement of the gargantuans through the jungles and mountains. They ignore all territorial boundaries and tend to stir up fights with humans and nacatl wherever they go. The best warriors of the elves, they will kill anything that gets in the way of tracking a gargantuan. They report back regularly to Mayael.

Epicists—Based on the information of the Godtrackers, these elves write epic accounts that record the behavior and battles of the garguantuans. This oral art form is the historical memory of the elves, and one that allows Mayael to better understand the will of Progenitus.

Valley Wards—From treetop camps spread throughout the valley, elves constantly watch the Valley of the Ancient and monitor Progenitus' breathing. Alone for days at a time, valley wards communicate with each other by playing music on wooden pipes. These haunting tunes echo across the misty valley and are a language understood only by those who devote their lives to serve as stewards of a sleeping god.

Cylian elves believe that there are no coincidences in life. The world is composed of layer upon layer of meaning—a tapestry of interconnected, directorial events and omens, all waiting to be interpreted. The gargantuans are often a violent force, smashing a human settlement or altering the course of a river with their rampaging footfalls. Whether destructive or life-giving, the will of Progenitus must be interpreted and considered in future actions.

The Conflux

Although Mayael's Gaze grants her profound insight, she could not see beyond the boundaries of Naya. Isolated from the other shards, Mayael had no knowledge of the upcoming convergence. By the time Bant castles and Jund tar pits intruded in her verdant paradise, Mayael was powerless to stop it.

Naya's landscape wasn't the only one to be marred by the unfamiliar. Grixis necropolises blasted into Jund volcanoes, and the dark waters of Esper's seas seeped into Bant's fields and orchards. On each plane, shock and fear quickly turned to hostility, and Mayael rallied her army of elves and gargantuans and try to hold borders that no longer existed.

As shards, each plane only had three colors of mana. Once the planes merged, the inhabitants were exposed to strange new magic and colors of mana no one had ever seen before. With the intrusion of new mana, mages began to cast diverse and powerful spells, fueling the chaos of the situation.

In Naya, as black mana from Jund and blue mana from Bant seeped into the jungle paradise, it brought deception and destruction—and stirred the withered heads of the hydra-god. Summoned by the valley wards, Mayael raced to Valley of the Ancient just as the earth cracked, felling ancient trees and releasing a geyser of boiling steam. His earthly tomb now open, Progenitus arched into the sky. With his physical body restored, Progenitus dominated the horizon once again.

The jungle trembled in his presence, and the valley wards fell to their knees in terror as the hydra towered into the clouds. But Mayael felt no fear. She perceived that the Anima's task was now complete. At the moment that Naya needed him most, Progenitus arose from his slumber. She saw that the hydra-god had been like the shards themselves: incomplete and unaware of its missing parts. She believed Progenitus to be essence of Alara itself: reunited, uncontainable, and brimming with rage. He is fueled by the chaos, but furiously defensive of his nascent world. To Mayael, Progenitus is part animalistic protector and part calculated destruction. He is the world made flesh.

As Alara explodes into a maelstrom of violence and war, Progenitus unleashes his fury on anything that stands in his way. His body again whole, the hydra-god is untouchable. This is the first creature with protection from everything—including creatures, which means he's unblockable. Progenitus is so formidable that even the most powerful planeswalkers struggle to deal with him. For example, Ajani Vengeant can't keep him tapped or damage him, and Sarkhan Vol can't gain control of him. But Elspeth can make a creature fly over him, and Chandra can burn his controller before he kills you.

Once Progenitus is on the table, there are a few options: mass removal that doesn't use damage, such as Wrath of God; or making a player sacrifice a creature when he or she doesn't have another choice. As the first creature with the mana cost , he's a hard hydra to cast. But just as the overlapping planes created five-color monstrosities, they also give you solutions to pay for them. There are several lands in Conflux that represent “borderlands”—the places where the shards overlap between adjacent planes. By giving you access to all five colors, these "borderlands" will help you explore Alara's dynamic new landscape and wield of the mana-rich possibilities brought on by the Conflux.

Conflux FAQ: Protection from Everything

"Protection from everything" means the following:

  • Progenitus can't be blocked.
  • Progenitus can't be enchanted or equipped.
  • Progenitus can't be the target of spells or abilities.
  • All damage that would be dealt to Progenitus is prevented.

Progenitus can still be affected by effects that don't target it or deal damage to it (such as Wrath of God).

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