Worldwake: A Plane in Revolt

Posted in NEWS on January 19, 2010

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

It's a force more powerful than history and more far-reaching than gravity. It's more pervasive than time and more all-encompassing than consciousness. It's mana, and it's the force that makes magic possible.

On Zendikar, mana flows ferocious and wild, containing within it so much raw potential that even the simple act of forming a mana bond there can generate spectacular magical effects. For this reason, planeswalkers flock to the plane, eager to explore its lands, brave its perils, and weave its coveted mana into potent spellcraft. The plane itself, for its part, has always been clear in its reaction.

Zendikar disapproves.

Carnivorous bogs devour whole teams of explorers. Fierce windstorms slap expedition ships to their watery doom. The Roil tears landscapes apart and rearranges the pieces, destroying settlements and blocking access to precious landmarks and treasure-filled ruin sites. The plane churns with displays of self-defense—but still, it's not quite enough to break the wills of adventurers.

But in recent times, the danger has intensified. Zendikar's lands are not just trap-laden and predator-protected, but awake and vengeful. The lands themselves have come alive, shambling to animation as elementals and angry avatars. They rip free of their terrestrial bindings, focusing their inherent mana toward the purpose of motion, giving form to Zendikar's resentment. Done with passive resistance to centuries of pillaging, these land-creatures personally stalk and hunt those who would despoil their mana.

The denizens of Zendikar are accustomed to peril, of course. They're hardy adventurers who've clung to the edge of survival for generations. But this new wave of dangers has caught them off guard. Outposts have collapsed under comet storms and Roil tides. Expeditions of expert travelers have folded after suffering massive, unexpected casualties. Something new has been triggered deep inside Zendikar, and many who once ventured out into the wilds now hunker down in the relative safety of villages and base camps, leaving only the bravest and hardiest to continue to explore.

The volatility of the plane has impacted other long-held institutions as well. A bitter schism grows between the elf nations. Many of the nomadic kor have abandoned their travels. Festivals and anniversaries go uncelebrated. Forsaken traditions and abandoned trade routes grow over with the creeping power of wildness.


But it's one disrupted custom in particular that we focus on today. An assault by land-elementals has interrupted a ceremony called the Ritual of Lights. The attack wounded and killed a number of the humanoid ritualists, ending the chants and scattering the sacred candles. The result is the awakening of an ancient being made of pure mana.

Omnath, the Heart of Zendikar's Mana

Deep in wilds of the continent of Ondu, on top of a vast mesa, through a dense thicket of dangerous woodland, in the center of a murky marsh, inside a binding circle of seventy-seven candles, trapped in the invisible depths of an unfathomable pit, lies the Prison of a being known as Omnath. The stories tell of Omnath as a being made of pure mana, a manifestation of Zendikar's chaotic, primeval forces that would wreak massive destruction if it were released. Although skeptics wonder whether anything actually lurks there and whether such a thing is even possible, the devoted pilgrims who travel there claim that only their faithful recitation of the Ritual of Lights has contained Omnath and its terrible power.

But Zendikar is changing. The old bonds that have kept Zendikar dormant have been broken. The candles have been snuffed. The Prison of Omnath has been destroyed.




How big is today's preview card, Omnath, Locus of Mana? The real question is—how big do you want him to be? Do you want to untap after you cast him on turn three, play a Forest, and dump four green mana into your mana pool, making him 5/5? Do you want to let that mana "float" through to your next turn, play another Forest, and add five more Gs, making him 10/10 on turn five? Then add six more mana next turn, making him a 16/16? Or do you want to use Omnath's Upwelling-like ability to ramp you up to casting fifteen mana worth of spells and creatures? Or do you want to attack with your raging 16/16 Elemental first, then spend your GGGGGGGGGGGGGGG as you see fit?

Then do it. Do all of it. Omnath's been imprisoned for a long time. It's ready to crank some mana, get huge, and wreak some vengeance.

Omnath has two main powers that work in harmony together. First, it collects and harbors mana. It lets you break a fundamental rule of Magic, letting you pass from phase to phase and turn to turn without having your mana pool deplete itself. This allows you to build up a large supply of green mana across turns, which can get massive fast. Use this power to grow your mana pool to some gigantic target number—say, the mana cost of a kicked Gigantiform, a Darksteel Colossus, or a monumentally polycephalic Protean Hydra. (Another powerful option is to cast a spell with the new ability multikicker—Joraga Warcaller is a great example—but you'll see more of these as Worldwake previews continue.)

Omnath's other power is that it grows with power as you build mana in your pool—specifically, his favorite color: green mana. Omnath is an elemental made from pure mana, so the more that you have hanging around, the bigger he is. You can use this aggressively, using lands and Llanowar Elves and Noble Hierarchs to strengthen Omnath on your turn, making him crash across the table for massive damage. Use Elvish Archdruid with a team of elves to generate ridiculous amounts of green mana. (Omnath's favorite phrase ever might be "ridiculous amounts of green mana.") Then after you attack with Omnath, you can choose to spend that mana in your pool (being careful not to let his toughness sink down to the amount of damage he's received). Use some of it to play combat tricks, if you like—Omnath will get a little smaller, but he'll still be a monster if you spend it wisely. After combat, slurp some more of that mana off of Omnath and continue building up your army. Or let it float through to your opponents' turns, using it if you wish—or storing it up in Omnath's elemental form for the next turn, when you can add it on top and crash in with an even bigger Omnath. Together, these two abilities form a potent and versatile threat—only fitting for an Elemental made of the multiverse's most primeval force.

Omnath's ability is a bit like the Scourge card Upwelling, but with some powerful advantages. Yes, Omnath is green-centric, but he's also asymmetrical. Whereas Upwelling let your opponents beat you up with their own mana-gathering, Omnath only gives this advantage to you. Why? Because you're the one with the angry mana elemental. Also, back in the Upwelling days, mana burn was a very real concern. You had to worry about getting caught by a Naturalize with twelve mana in your pool and nothing to spend it on. If Omnath dies and you have a bunch of mana hanging around, you get to spend all of it that you can, and then the rest of it dissipates harmlessly.

And of course, Upwelling couldn't attack for 16.

The World Awakes

The terrain of Zendikar has come to life, like one gigantic immune response fighting off a plane-wide infection, and the sentient races of the plane squabble about the reasons for this new plateau of danger. Was it the desecration of holy relics by treasure-hunters? Was it the invasive study of archaeological sites? Was it the attentions of otherworldly planeswalkers? As the forces of Zendikar awaken, these primeval elementals and avatars seem enraged beyond the scale of any possible stimulus, a reaction disproportionate to the apparent cause. As the world's daring adventurers fortify themselves to withstand Zendikar's ire, some wonder whether they might be caught in a battle much greater than they had ever imagined.