Sunday, December 22, 2013

Magic the Gathering Characters - Ice Age

Hi all!  Here is a Christmasy (well, snowy, at least)  post for you which I actually wrote back in 2011, but shelved because I did Christmas themed gamebooks in 2011 and took my one and only opportunity to cover the Mayan apocalypse in 2012 (wow.  Considering we had an apocalypse a year ago, things are going pretty well).  Don't forget to check out Tin Man Games' 12 Days of Gamebooks at their blog.  They have opened door 11 today!

There are plenty of interesting characters in the multiverse of Magic the Gathering. My only problem is that they always get killed off far too quickly and easily.  However, there are a lot of interesting characters which can be used in gamebooks.  I will look at two from the Ice Age, Alliances and Coldsnap sets.

They are the friendly enemy double act of Arcum Dagsson and Sorine Relicbane.

The world they live in is now covered in a permanent winter bought on by a huge explosion caused by Urza at the end of the Brother's war.  

The war had been fought between Urza and his brother Mishra with artifacts inspired by the designs of a lost race known as the Thran.  Urza caused a huge explosion (the equivalent of several nuclear warheads) in a battle between his army and his brother's army.  Just before he caused it, he discovered that the Mishra he was fighting was not actually Mishra, but a robot replacement from the evil machine hell known as Phyrexia.

Some of these Phyrexian relics have been found in the Ice age and Arcum Dagsson, an artificer of the country of Soldev really wants to use them to make his own artefacts in order to help his land, which, like most civilisations is beset from the harsh weather and cruel monsters.  However, Relicbane a Soldevi heretic (because he hates machines), fearful of the disaster of the Brother's war and the horrors from Phyrexia want all of these artefacts to be destroyed.  They both have valid points of view.  For example, Dagsson has several useful items:

—Arcum Dagsson, Soldevi Machinist  

But Relicbane is fearful of another war with machines which may have even worse consequences than a plane wide ice age.

He thinks that there is a cult which wants to open a portal to Phyrexia and let its horrors loose on their plane, destroying all life.

At one point, Dagsson has to defend himself in a tribunal and the debate between the two is written in the flavour text on many Magic cards.  Dagsson demonstrates several artefacts that can be helpful towards the people of Soldev.

Take this item, for instance. How would it destroy us, Relicbane?" —Arcum Dagsson, Soldevi Machinist

However, Relicbane counters by pointing out some of the more dangerous and twisted artefacts.

Dagsson does acknowledge that some artefacts are dangerous and that they have been misused.

However, Dagsson can't stop focusing on all the secrets and wonders that his artefacts have uncovered.

He also can't see past his ambition of the power of humans combined with machines.

The trouble is that both men refuse to compromise.  Dagsson loves machines to the point where he has forgotten that the ice age that he is living in was caused by them.

In the end, it is revealed that there is a secret cult which wants to open a portal to Phyrexia and they use Dagsson's steam beasts as part of their plan.  Dagsson is mortified.  

"Nothing has ever broken my heart so much as this—the betrayal of Soldev by my beloved machines"Arcum Dagsson, Soldevi Machinist

They cause widespread devestation, but Relicbane gets no joy from seeing this happen.  They are both on the same side after all and they both wanted the best for their people.  

The tragedy from this story is that both mens' views were too far and they refused to compromise.  Relicbane wanted all artefacts destroyed, but Dagsson had demonstrated that some of them were harmless and his own creations such as his sleigh and the whalebone glider would not be corrupted by the influence of Phyrexia.  
Dagsson, however, refused to see that Phyrexian machines are evil and want to destroy all life.  He still wanted to replicate them despite living in an ice age caused by a
war between artefacts, half of them Phyrexian.

I like the way the artist used the
victim's perspective on this card..
Why I like this story

This conflict is different to most of the conflicts in gamebooks and in Magic the Gathering in that both of the opponents want the best for Soldev, but they have different opinions on what is best.  No blood is spilt between them and I feel that Relicbane takes no joy in taking this stance.  He would love Soldev to thrive but he thinks that any machines would lead to its destruction.  His mistake is taking a too extreme stance against artefacts.  It is clear that those not of Phyrexian origin are purely beneficial and so by demanding that all artefacts should be destroyed, he alienates any sign of credibility and deserves having his claims being called hysterical.

Dagssson can see that improper use of machines is dangerous but he goes too far and he is blinded by his passion for artifice and so he goes too far.  His mistake is delving into Phyrexian lore.  If he had stuck with making things himself, then he would have made some great harmless artefacts.  Steambeasts, however, were able to be controlled by the Phyrexian cult and so they were turned upon Soldev.

Its a complicated story that goes beyond the prevalent and simple 'kill the sorcerer' plot and using an antagonist with the same goals but a different approach would add more depth to a gamebook and more possibilities with the hero's response.

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