(Editor's Note: In addition to Roy Graham and Ethan Fleischer, before moving on from Wizards of the Coast, Jenna Helland and Gerritt Turner also contributed to the Planeswalker's Guide to Dominaria.)
Welcome back to Dominaria!
Dominaria is an ancient plane where every patch of ground seems to mark an age-old struggle, a forgotten ruin, or an ancestor's grave. It's been battered by natural disasters, mighty spells, and even the fracturing of space-time, but has emerged stronger than ever. We return to Dominaria during a time of regrowth and rejuvenation—the plane is bursting with vitality, its people well fed, its flora and fauna abundant. It's a tempting prize for a would-be invader, but the inhabitants of Dominaria are at the peak of their strength and ready to defend their home with blade, tooth, and spell.
When things were at their worst, Dominaria was nearly uninhabitable, covered in salt ﬂats, acidic lakes, lightning storms, dust bowls, and worse. Those who survived did so through ingenuity and spellcraft, their cultural legacies almost forgotten in the desperate struggle of daily life.
Then came the Mending, when the damage to Dominaria was healed through the heroic sacriﬁce of multiple Planeswalkers. Vitality ﬂowed back into the land, which recovered with supernatural speed. Ecologies, communities, and nations were restored. Towns were rebuilt and trade routes reestablished. Within decades, Dominaria was healthier than it had been in centuries.
Benalia is a land of natural and architectural beauty: vast ﬁelds of sun-kissed grain crisscrossed by meandering rivers and dotted with cities of white limestone towers and vivid stained glass. One would hardly guess that less than a century ago, this great empire was fractured, its people scattered, its shining capital city a salt-choked ruin. Today, the seven noble houses of Benalia once again rule one of the most prosperous and powerful nations of Dominaria. The Benalish are keenly aware that their new Benalia is in its infancy, with a thousand years of heroic ancestors and tales of bravery to live up to. But they are a proud people also—proud enough to consider themselves equal to the task.
Benalia is ruled by a council of seven noble houses, who regularly trade authority in an annual cycle. Each of Benalia's ruling houses can trace their lineage back to heroes of yore—such as House Capashen, whose heritage stretches from ancient Sheoltun nobility to the hero Gerrard, who brought about the defeat of the Phyrexian leader Yawgmoth. The Capashens are led by a devout Serran named Aron Capashen, father of the daring young knight Danitha Capashen and Raff Capashen, navigator and ship's mage for the famous flying ship, the Weatherlight.
Church of Serra
Gracefully curved towers ﬂoat in a golden sky, so serene that not even gravity can touch them. Devout priests sing beautiful songs of veneration. Winged angels ﬂy through the air on their way to bring gentle comfort to the meek and swift justice to the cruel. This is the Church of Serra, a benevolent religion founded to honor the memory and example of its goddess.
Serra, the namesake of the church, was not quite a true god, but a Planeswalker—albeit at a time when the distinction between Planeswalkers and gods was largely academic. It was her power as a Planeswalker that allowed her to create angels, and even an entire angelic world—an artiﬁcial plane—known as Serra's Realm. Serra died almost eight hundred years ago when she dispersed her essence into the land of Sursi. That essence still protects the Cathedral of Serra at Sursi, and new angels even appear there occasionally.
The great island of New Argive is part of the archipelago of Terisiare, along with Yavimaya, Lat-Nam, Almaaz, and Gulmany. Terisiare was once a continent, but Urza's Sylex blast at the end of the Brothers' War shattered it, carved up by glaciers during the Ice Age, and ﬁnally inundated during the Flood Age. Argivians are a diverse people, for Terisiare was settled by many successive waves of immigrants. Humans, dwarves, kor, and aven all call this place home and are willing to defend it with their lives.
The capital city of the nation of New Argive, Argivia is, in truth, the second city to bear this name. The original city was destroyed by Phyrexian forces hundreds of years ago; they slew every inhabitant, destroyed all the buildings, and, most tragic to a nation of scholars, burned every book but one, The Rise and Fall of the Thran. When the Argivians had sufficiently recovered from the horrors of the Invasion, they rebuilt their home as the greatest fortiﬁcation in all Dominaria. Today, Argivia is surrounded by a system of walls and crenellations, powered by clockwork and powerstones, that can move and adapt to meet any conceivable threat.
The Balduvian Steppe
The rich and fertile soil of the Balduvian Steppe makes this region the breadbasket of New Argive. While most inhabitants of the steppe are farmers or herders, this humble way of living belies the technological prowess all Argivians possess; here, even the humblest home usually incorporates at least one powerstone shard, which can power tools of the trade such as blacksmith's forges, miller's grindstones, or farmer's churns.
Argivians are fascinated by history and what ancient artifacts can reveal about how people lived in previous eras. Many archaeologists delight in restoring relics from the Brothers' War and the Phyrexian Invasion to working order. Other artiﬁcers are more forward-thinking, following in the footsteps of innovators like Urza, Mishra, Tawnos, and Ashnod. By harnessing the energy stored in powerstones, artiﬁcers imbue mechanical simulacra with the semblance of life, direct powerful beams of energy, and send vehicles soaring through the air.
Argivians have restored several ancient Thran constructs to working order, and ambitious artiﬁcers have built novel designs. The coastal city of Bak-Fal is built atop an enormous construct, which can carry the city to safety in the event of a tsunami. Ornithopters, both crewed and autonomous, ﬂit through the skies of New Argive.
The Tolarian Academies
To the mages and scholars of the Tolarian academies, magic is one science among many. Their books contain eldritch runes as well as complex equations, and they employ complex constructs alongside enchanted golems. What happens to tin if you transmute the bronze it contains into iron after smelting? Does introducing an electrical charge enhance the scrying ability of a crystal ball? To the Tolarians, there's nothing strange or even interdisciplinary about these questions—even if the answer in either case could easily turn out to be "it explodes." When he isn't occupied with other matters, the immortal archmage Jodah can often be found lecturing in one of the academy's vaulted halls.
There are rumors of secret societies of Tolarian academics operating in the shadows—the Society of Mishra, malcontented wizards who believe that Mishra was on the right side of the Brothers' War, and the Gixians, cultists who worship the Phyrexian demon that almost destroyed Dominaria ages ago. These Phyrexian sympathizers believe that the improvement of the body through genetic and artiﬁcial modiﬁcation will lead humanity to its final apotheosis. The chancellors of the Tolarian academies maintain that such rumors are little more than ghost stories, though, and not to be given any serious attention.
Dominaria is home to many continents and many different species and nations. But most of the world is covered in water, and the vast expanses beneath the white-capped waves belong to the merfolk. Secretive and proud, they rule the world's only true global empire, a federation of tribes and states knit together by trade and common heritage. The center of this society lies in the Voda Sea off the coast of Aerona, in the empire known as Vodalia.
Opportunities Above, Enemies Below
The merfolk of Vodalia do not, by and large, consider anyone on the surface their enemy. Though it is possible for a surface power to harm them, it is difficult, and the Vodalians can retaliate by completely locking down oceanic travel if necessary. At present, the Vodalians charge for safe passage through their seas but take no sides in the political struggles of the surface. By contrast, merfolk have waged bitter, generations-long wars against other subsurface peoples—most especially the cryptic, cold-loving crustacean race of homarids.
The island of Urborg is one of the foulest places on the plane, a vast swamp choked with Phyrexian wreckage and dominated by the Stronghold, fortress of the slain demon Belzenlok. The earth beneath Urborg is restless as well; mounds of ash, gas plumes, and the occasional volcanic vent dot the landscape. Yet even here, there is new life on Dominaria—or, if not new life precisely, at least life after death. The spirits of the restless dead and the few living people who remain have built a society within the swamps of Urborg that is, in its own way, as vibrant as the rest of the world.
The spirit creatures and few remaining mortals who inhabit Urborg are a weirdly charming bunch. Many of them are, in a sense, ordinary folks just trying to make a living in the world. They have markets and houses, boardwalks and boats. It just so happens that most of them are dead, weird, and a bit creepy. Others, though, are true swamp horrors—the monsters that go bump under those weird dead people's beds.
Hailing from the merciless and barren land of Keld on the far northern continent of Icehaven, the brutal Keldons are hulking, gray-skinned humans. Though they are often perceived as a horde of brutish, unthinking barbarians, a threat to civilization in all its forms, they in fact have a deep and rich culture that goes back many centuries. Having endured devastation on a massive scale and lived through their own prophesied apocalyptic judgment, today's Keldons ﬁght to be worthy of their glorious ancestors, their unforgiving home, and their strongest champions.
In the wake of both the Invasion and the Mending, Keld ﬁnds itself in a new adolescent stage. A powerful leader, Radha—the granddaughter of a heroic warlord and a Skyshroud elf—is trying to piece together what it means to be Keldon against the new backdrop of a recovering Dominaria. Keld realized it was not invincible and now must ﬁnd fuel to return the ﬂame of Keld to glory as a modern Dominarian power.
Baked by volcanic heat and reshaped constantly by geothermal forces, the isolated island continent of Shiv is known for its dragons, who are utterly at home among its lava ﬂows, eruptions, and jagged peaks. Under the shadow of the Shivan dragons' wings lives a variety of mostly reptilian life, several tribes of especially crafty goblins, and the Ghitu—a human culture of nomadic pyromancers and warriors.
The Mana Rig
The Mana Rig is a massive facility built by the ancient Thran. It was originally devised as a prototype powerstone factory and later restored by the artificer Jhoira, who has established a workshop there. Jhoira knows the inner workings of the Mana Rig better than anyone else on Dominaria, and if pressed, could surely use it to create artifacts of extraordinary power.
Few outsiders dare to venture into the vast and ancient Llanowar forest, where huge old-growth trees tower a thousand feet into the air. Among the trees live the ﬁerce Llanowar elves, whose appearance of savagery and reputation for xenophobic hostility are enough to keep most intruders away from even the shadow of the forest. But the reality is that the Llanowar are a reclusive people, and careful visitors can enter and leave the forest without ever seeing its inhabitants. When the Llanowar elves are seen, it is because they wish to be seen—often to the dismay of trespassers.
Kavu are reptilian creatures that are either very ancient or a relatively recent creation on Dominaria. They first appeared during the Phyrexian Invasion centuries ago, suddenly introduced to the plane's ecosystem at a time when all nature on Dominaria was threatened. The Phyrexians found the creatures a far more difficult opponent than much of the plane's other wildlife. Now, the Llanowar elves breed them to ﬁll a variety of roles, believing that the kavu were the goddess Gaea's means of intervening in Dominaria's defense. The close relationship between elves and kavu is a constant reminder of Gaea's beneﬁcence.
The island of Yavimaya is beautiful but entirely unwelcoming to human life. Its scale is tremendous, with ancient trees towering three thousand feet tall. The ground is choked with shifting roots, making it almost impossible to walk on the forest ﬂoor. Nothing here is built or constructed; everything needed is grown or evolved, as directed by the will of the forest. The forest teems with life, but every individual plant and animal is basically an organ—one part of the whole, living organism that is Yavimaya.
The elves of Yavimaya are an ancient and long-lived people who, until recently, lived in total harmony with the forest. Once, the elves were the planners of Yavimaya. It was they who devised the nested rings of living defensive siegeworks that protected the island. It was elves who imagined the marker and signal insects that alerted every Yavimayan to the presence of enemies. Forced by the raging spirit of the elemental Multani to leave, the Yavimayan elves have lost more than just their home—they've lost a part of themselves. While pockets of Yavimayan refugees exist across Dominaria, the largest faction is led by Meria. These elves live on the outskirts of Yavimaya, near the Ruins of Kroog, and cling to the belief that one day soon, they will be allowed to reenter their ancestral home.
The Phyrexians are hideous amalgamations of ﬂesh and machine parts. They are one of the worst scourges of the Multiverse, spreading from plane to plane like a disease, butchering people and reassembling them into new Phyrexians. Their predecessors have already tested themselves against the people of Dominaria—now the terrible praetor Sheoldred leads a new invasion, and she is determined to succeed where others have failed. During the first Phyrexian Invasion, the plane's inhabitants banded together to form the Coalition, an alliance that spanned a myriad of species, peoples, and nations. It remains to be seen whether the denizens of Dominaria can unite in such a manner again.
Sheoldred does not intend to conquer Dominaria with brute force alone; across the plane, her agents have kidnapped hundreds of people and surgically altered their bodies and brains. Once compleated, they were returned whence they'd come, unaware of what had happened. When they receive a speciﬁc signal, the Phyrexian implants in their brains will activate, compelling them to act according to their master's dark will. More than just a twisted recruitment process, this tactic sows paranoia and fear throughout the ranks of the enemy—after all, anyone could be an agent of the enemy.
That's all for now—to learn more about the fate of this ancient plane, check out the story for Dominaria United!