Thursday, 02 April 2020 10:50

Before they were famous: Looking back at the first appearances of popular ‘Magic’ characters

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Before they were famous: Looking back at the first appearances of popular ‘Magic’ characters WOTC

Magic Untapped is looking back at where some of the most iconic characters in Magic: The Gathering made their debut. Each go-around we'll highlight five or so popular characters, looking at where they are now and how Magic players were first introduced to them.

Sound neat?  Great!

This time around, we're starting with the first mate of the iconic skyship, The Weatherlight:

Tahngarth

Most recent printing: Tahngarth, First Mate (C19)
First seen: Benaish Missionary (WTL)
First creature printing: Tahngarth, Talruum Hero (PLS)


WOTC

Born to the Three Beads clan in Talruum Mountain, Tahngarth grew up knowing vengeance and wanting justice as he saw his mother slain during a revolution that swept across the mountain while he was in his youth.  As an adolescent, he met Sisay, then captain of the Skyship Weatherlight, and was marveled by tales of her exploits against Kaervek during the Mirage War on Jamuraa.  Joining her crew, he quickly grew to her favor and became her first mate.  Judgmental, he didn’t always get along with the rest of the crew – most notably Squee (whom he detested for his cowardice) and Gerrard Capashen (whom he considered a deserter after he took leave from the crew due to the death of his good friend, Rofellos) until after he rejoined the crew as their replacement captain while they searched for the now-kidnapped Captain Sisay.

Considered beautiful by his peers in Talruum, his elegance would come to an abrupt halt while the Weatherlight and her crew were in Rath as he was taken prisoner by Greven il-Vec and tortured by lightning at the hand of the plane’s evincar, Volrath, as he tried to break his will.  He was rescued and returned to the Weatherlight just in time for the skyship to escape the plane.

After Rath, the Tahngarth and the rest of the crew found themselves in the merchant plane of Mercadia where he and others unsuccessfully defended the ship from Mercadian rebels.  After which, he and most of the rest of the crew were arrested.  Thanks to Gerrard’s smooth diplomacy, Tahngarth and Gerrard began training Mercadian troops in order to earn their freedom.  Eventually, the crew was able to break out of the Mercadian capital on the newly-reclaimed Weatherlight thanks to the eventual efforts of the other crewmembers and was able to jump back to Dominaria at last.

Of course, by this time the Rathi Overlay was in process and the ultimate Phyrexian Invasion had already begun.  Tahngarth first attempted to return to Talruum to help defend his homeland, only to discover that the entire kingdom of Zhalfir had been phased out of the time stream by the Time Lord… err… planeswalker Teferi.  That’s when he turned his attention to another race of minotaur, the Hurloon, as his chance for redemption after failing both his mission and his vanity while in Rath.  The Weatherlight’s crew was able to defend Hurloon and drive back the Phyrexians from the area and Tahngarth was heralded a hero by the survivors.

After the invasion, the Skyship Weatherlight was destroyed, having been absorbed when the Legacy was completed.  In thanks to the crew’s efforts, Sisay was presented with a replacement ship – the Victory – and she set off on more adventures along with her crew of two: Squee and Tahngarth.  What happens with the minotaur after that, however, is anyone’s guess.

Ertai

Most recent printing: Ertai, the Corrupted (PLS)
First seen: Ertai (VAN)
First creature printing: Ertai, Wizard Adept (EXO)

WOTC

When the Weatherlight crew was in need of a talented mage to assist them in their quest to rescue Sisay from Rath, the ship’s navigator, Hanna, suggested that her father, Barrin, could fill the role.  When approached, however, the Tolarian Academy Headmaster refused and instead offered the services of one of his top apprentices in his stead.  That apprentice was none other than Ertai, an arrogant and proud mage who had only recently achieved journeyman status from the Academy.  Shortly after planeshifting to Rath from Dominaria, however, the ship was attached and badly damages by Volrath’s flagship, the Predator.

Discovering from the locals that there is a nearby portal that is said to allow for inter-planar travel, Ertai stayed behind to study it and unlock its secrets while the rest of the crew continued their adventure to Volrath’s Stronghold.  The talented mage (along with the help of the Soltari shadow race), indeed, does succeed in activating the portal just in time for the Skyship Weatherlight to make a hasty retreat due to it being persued by the Predator yet again.  So hasty, in fact, that the skyship is unable to stop and pick the mage back up, leaving him behind to become captive of Predator captain Greven il-Vec.

After being brought back to the Stronghold, now abandoned by Volrath who had disappeared after the events in the Dream Halls, the search began to find the evincar’s successor.  While initially looking simply to escape back to Dominaria, Ertai began to become a dark horse candidate for the position – a position that the likewise left behind Crovax (now a ruthless vampire) was thought to assume.  Volrath returns and Crovax battles the shapeshifter with Ertai aiding the vampire from backstage.  Unfortunately, Ertai’s only way back to Dominaria, Belbe’s Portal, became inoperable soon after in part due to the recent death of Belbe herself at the hands of Eladamri who used the last of its power to escape to Dominaria himself, Ertai was left with little option but to become a proverbial lap dog to the newly crowned evincar.

During the Phyrexian Invasion of Dominaria, Ertai was on board the Predator where he succeeded in capturing Gerrard and (quite by accident) Squee as well.  Back at the Stronghold, Ertai granted Squee immortality and took glee in torturing Squee, killing the goblin over and over again until the goblin (also quite by accident) overloaded the Phyrexian healing device to which he was connected.  The explosion felled Ertai, thus ending his story.

Yawgmoth

Most recent printing: Yawgmoth, Thran Physician (MH1)
First seen: Yawgmoth’s Vile Offering (DOM)
First creature printing: Yawgmoth, Thran Physician (MH1)

WOTC

While actual representations of the Lord of the Wastes (not to be confused with Minion of the Wastes) haven’t canonically happened until recently, there have been a few cases of mistaken identity over the years.  The name “Yawgmoth” saw its introduction all the way back in 1994 with the set Antiquities and the card Yawgmoth Demon.  Back then, nobody knew what a “Yawgmoth” was, so players just assumed that the creature was either a demon named Yawgmoth (remember that the legendary supertype didn’t exist yet), a demon from a place called Yawgmoth, or that Yawgmoth was a type of demon.  Then, years later in Urza’s Saga, there were players who thought the creature depicted in the card Yawgmoth’s Will might be him, with a similar suggestion with either of the characters in the artwork on the Urza’s Destiny card Yawgmoth’s Bargain.

It wouldn’t be until spring of 2018 where we would finally see Yawgmoth accurately represented on a card.  That card?  Yawgmoth’s Vile Offering where his imposing visage can be seen towering over the Phyrexian Arena, Hanna imprisoned before him and Gerrard standing in the foreground, a beheaded Urza at his feet.  Of course, this representation is late-stage Yawgmoth.  This is Phyrexian Yawgmoth.  For original Yawgmoth – Thran Yawgmoth – you have to look at his Modern Horizons printing of Yawgmoth, Thran Physician, for that is the more-or-less origin of his story.

You see, Yawgmoth was a gifted physician on Dominaria for the ancient Thran empire.  His methods, however, weren’t exactly kosher and he was exiled for highly unorthodox and controversial solutions to medical ailments.  While in exile, he traveled the world and committed various atrocities in the name of medical advancements such as setting the fatal black cough upon a society of dwarves, evolving Argoth’s creeping molds into a virulent plague, and infecting various tribes of cat folk with rabies just to watch them destroy one another.  Unaware of the physician’s strange and cruel experiments, the Thran recalled him to the capital after the city’s chief artificer fell ill with a strange disease.

That disease, it turns out, is essentially extreme powerstone radiation poisoning and came to be known as phthisis.  Yawgmoth studied the disease and, after he got his experimental jollies in, finally succeeded in developing a cure or sorts.  It’s shortly after, however, that the races he experimented on while in exile came calling.  The Thran yet again threw him out.  And it’s in this second exile that Yawgmoth discovers a mysterious portal in the Caves of the Damned and, through that portal, the plane of Phyrexia.

From here and through a combination of deceit and careful planning, Yawgmoth began his revenge on the Thran, bringing those ill with phthisis into the plane to be “cured.”  Over time, the plane began to resemble the horror scene that Magic players think of today.  As a final middle finger to the Thran, Yawgmoth unleashed a noxious death cloud, killing everyone it could before the portal was sealed, locking Yawgmoth away in Phyrexia forever.

Or was it?

Life on Phyrexia had been perverted to Yawgmoth’s fancy as he merged with the plane in an almost literal sense.  He was all powerful, all knowing, and a god incarnate on the plane.  He developed sleeper agents, sending them back to Dominaria to perform espionage, infiltration, and sabotauge.  The Ineffable (as he had become known) even bested a rightfully invading Urza, driving him from the plane in a near-fatal state.

Finally, millennia later, it’s time to invade Dominaria one final time.  When he finally emerges on the plane, he does so in the form of a hemisphere-spanning death cloud.  In a valiant effort by the Weatherlight crew along with the assembled pieces of the now-completed Legacy, Yawgmoth finally met his demise, dissolving and finally settling on the marshy, black-leaning island of Urborg.

Tezzeret

Most recent printing: Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge (WSP)
First seen: Brilliant Ultimatum (ALA)
First creature printing: n/a

WOTC

Born on the Esper shard of Alara to an abusive scrapper father and a prostitute mother, Tezzeret was never cared for as a boy.  In fact, they never even cared enough to name him.  The moniker “Tezzeret” was given to him by his peers, the word being slang for “an improvised weapon” after stabbing an older boy who was bullying him.  He learned at an early age that the strong ruled and take whatever they want from the week.  From the age of seven onward, this would be Tezzeret’s worldview as he joined a gang and participated in petty theft until he could flee the slums.

Tezzeret then became schooled in artifice and joined a mechanists’ guild.  He mastered the manipulation of magical artifacts in record time, proving himself to be a prodigy at the craft.  After being granted journeyman status, he severed his right arm while in the midst of a ritual, replacing it with the solid etherium one Magic players are accustomed to seeing today.  Upon seeing such metalwork, he was granted the status of master upon which he departed the guild with aspirations to attend the Vectis City Academy and join the Seekers of Carmot.  He failed and was facing expulsion, in part due to his lowly birth.  In an effort to cover it all up, Tezzeret killed the academy headmaster and continued his schooling.  While studying, he broke into the academy vault to access a sacred tome learn from its pages.  The book turned out to be fraudulent and guards caught up with the student, beating him to near death and igniting his spark.

Awakening on Grixis, he soon met an intelligent dragon by the name of Nicol Bolas who promised him power in exchange for his services.  Tezzeret agreed.

Growing paranoid of Bolas’ spy network and concerned that the dragon may have telepathic powers, Tezzeret befriended illusionist and mind mage Jace Beleren.  In a confrontation with Bolas, Jace attempted to shield his friend from the dragon’s magic, but failed.  Seeing Jace as unworthy and a waste of time, Tezzeret tracked down and attempted to slay the fellow planeswalker, ultimately failing and losing both his mind and his arm in the process.

Bolas picked up the broken Tezzeret and brought him back to his meditation plane where he resurrected him to once again and, once again, forced his submission.  Making the planeswalker immune to phthisis, he was sent to the plane of Mirrodin to observe its metamorphosis into a new Phyrexian plane and report back to his draconic overlord.  While there, he found his way into Karn’s circle and, once there, he participated in a plot to usurp Karn’s throne before the silver golem’s liberation freed his mind from Phyrexian corruption.

An unknown amount of time later, Tezzeret found himself on Kaladesh.  The Bolas agent bribes his way up to the high-ranking post of Head Judge at the Consulate’s Inventors' Fair where he could inspect all of the marvelous inventions there.  He ultimately gave the elven inventor Rashmi top prize for her invention: A planar bridge.  Soon after, Tezzeret orchestrated the events that would eventually lead up to the renegade rebellion against the Consulate with the recently-formed Gatewatch on the side of the renegades.

While tending to the planar bridge, Tezzeret was confronted by Liliana who managed quite well in subduing him.  In pain, he unveils knowledge about Nicol Bolas’ residency in Amonkhet.  Before she can finish him off, however, he takes hold of the core of the planar bridge and planeswalks away.

Back on Amonkhet himself, Tezzeret incorporates the planar bridge core into his body so that he may act as the conduit between there and Ravnica.  A few planeswalkers including Dack Fayden and Samut travel through the very same portal that Nicol Bolas’ eternal deadhorde army were invading from and confront Tezzeret, ultimately destroying the portal device implanted in his chest.  Surprisingly happy to be relieved of his bridge duties, he tells his foes that he hopes they can defeat Bolas so that the dragon can finally be out of his way before planeswalking back to his home plane of Alara.

In the aftermath of the War of the Spark and with Nicol Bolas defeated, the Izzet guild leader Niv-Mizzet declares that Tezzeret is one of the three planeswalkers guity of assisting bolas.  He sends Ral Zarek to hunt him down and kill him.  Ral manages to catch up with him, but is badly beaten.  Regardless, Tezzeret gives Ral his metallic arm with instructions to bring it to Niv as proof of Tezzeret’s defeat, hoping that would be enough to get everybody off his back and let him form his own plans without interruption.

While Wizards of the Coast hasn’t officially said as much, there’s still much more of Tezzeret’s story yet to come.  He’s free from serving Nicol Bolas and there is little in his way in his quest for ultimate power.

Ixidor

Most recent printing: Ixidor, Reality Sculptor (ONS)
First seen: Dream Chisel (ONS)
First creature printing: Ixidor, Reality Sculptor (ONS)

WOTC

Ixidor was an illusionist on the Dominarian continent of Otaria during the cruel reign of the Cabal.  In a cruel twist of fate, his wife, Nivea, found herself participating in a cabal pit fight where she was slain by Phage the Untouchable.  In the fight he lost his entire fortune and was then banished to a nearly desert by the cabal for failing to pay his debts.

It’s in this harsh desert environment where Ixidor discovered that there was more to him than just an illusionist.  Unknowingly being a reincarnated Lowallyn (who, by the way, was one of the three most powerful wizards of ancient Dominaria and was responsible for slaying the primeval dragon Dromar), Ixidor found that he had the power to not only create illusions, but make those illusions corporeal.  He used this newfound power as a sort of escapism from his woes, creating a bizarre paradise for himself through the power of manifested thought.

One of these manifestations was an image of Nivea in angelic form.  That illusion would then manifest as the angel Akroma.  In an effort of revenge, Ixidor sent Akroma along with an army of his creations to wage war against the Cabal.  They failed and the Cabal found their way back to Ixidor’s fortress.  During the battle, he was consumed by a deathwurm as the Cabal enjoyed their victory.

Later on, a wounded Akroma finds the deathwurm and (even more amazingly) discovers Ixidor living inside.  He restores Akroma to her full self, but refuses to leave the wurm, insisting that the outside world is no longer for him.  Of course, that simply wasn’t meant to be.

A while later, the former pit fighter Kamahl decides it’s time to take up arms against what had since become the false god, Karona, he locates and kills the wurm, freeing Ixidor in the process.  Recruited towards the former pit fighter’s cause, Ixidor and Kamahl face off against Karona.  Ixidor summons a massive stone golem to assist in the battle.  Shortly thereafter, Karona gains control of the beast and uses it to crush the illusionist.

Thus ends the story of Ixidor.  Well, kind of.

While Magic players never got another Ixidor card (not yet, anyways), thanks to the shenanigans of alternate timelines that the set Planar Chaos brought into the game’s story, players did get a different glimpse of the reality sculptor.  Things aren’t as rosy this time around, however, (not that they were all that great for him to begin with) as Ixidor is featured front-and-center in the art of the card Null Profusion – black-aligned and all – where he creates not a white Akroma, Angel of Wrath, but instead the red Akroma, Angel of Fury.  And (even more recently), the Commander 2014 card Rush of Knowledge (a reprint from Scourge) sees Ixidor (once again blue-aligned as normal) having a bit of a mind-blowing experience.

If there are other Magic: The Gathering characters you're curious about, let us know in the comments below and keep an eye out for our next edition of "Before They Were Famous."  And don't forget to check out the previous chapter of our "Before They Were Famous" series!