Friday, 29 January 2021 08:00

Magic History: Taking a look back at 'Judgment'

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Magic History: Taking a look back at 'Judgment' WOTC/MAGIC UNTAPPED

Sometimes it's nice to look back and see just how far things have come since the early days of Magic: The Gathering.  To that end, we're bringing you a series of short videos that highlight Magic: The Gathering expansions throughout the years.

In this video, we take a look back at Judgment, the final set in Magic: The Gathering's Odyssey block as we continue the story of Otaria and the Mirari Conjecture.

You can check it all out in our retrospective video (below).

Video transcript:

The third and final set in Magic: The Gathering’s Odyssey block, Judgment came to market on May 27, 2002. Featuring a set symbol that represents the scales of justice, it came 141 new cards, two reprints, and the completion of the Mirari story arc that began in Odyssey, though the story of the barbarian Kamahl will only be halfway finished when all is said and done.

The conclusion to the Odyssey Cycle can be experienced by reading Will McDermott’s novel, Judgment. Failing that, here is a brief summary of the events found in the novel.

The barbarian Kamahl, having promised his fallen friend, Chainer, to protect the powerful artifact, Mirari, from misuse, affixes the orb to the pommel of his sword and heads out of Cabal City. Almost immediately, Kamahl realizes what sort of challenge protecting the artifact will be as its allure causes the barbarian to be attacked numerous times by those trying to steal the Mirari from him as he ventures home to the Pardic Mountains.

Meanwhile, in the Mer Empire, a down-but-not-out Laquatus decides to try yet again to win the throne of the undersea realm. He reaches out to both the Order and the Cabal, seeking to start diplomatic relations that will ultimately lead to their support of his desires. He proves to be a tad late, however, as the Mer empress, Llawan, had beaten him to it.

Frustrated, the merfolk departs for the mainland. He once again seeks the Mirari to achieve his goal.

Back in the Pardic Mountains, Kamahl feels like he’s finally somewhere safe. The Mirari, however, shows him that numerous foes are already on their way to challenge him for the artifact. It convinces him to call together the mountain’s various barbarian tribes to his defense, despite the misgivings of his sister, Jeska, and mentor, Balthor.

To find the most worthy defender, Kamahl sets up a Cabal-like tournament with the champion of each of the mountains’ eight tribes in attendance. The tournament’s winner will be crowned the leader of the collective tribes.

In the tournament, Kamahl shows excessive strength and a lack of restraint. Not even Balthor and Jeska are able to subdue the raging barbarian, the Mirari’s corruptive nature beginning to take hold of him.

Kamahl easily overwhelms each opponent and the barbarian heralds himself as the tournament’s champion and, thusly, the one who will be in charge. The others, however, refuse his rule on the grounds that he has gone mad with power. The barbarian tribes plunge into civil war.

Meanwhile, a contingent of Order soldiers, led by Commander Eesha, and a Cabal battalion, led by Braids, each make their way towards the Pardic Mountain. The two groups each feeling the call of the Mirari. Laquatus, too, is on the move and attempts to befriend both sides with aspirations of playing them against one another.

Back in Kamahl’s village, the barbarian prepares to fight the dissenters. His sister, Jeska, knows that her brother needs to be stopped by any means necessary. The dwarf Balthor agrees and suggests that they steal the Mirari, thus taking away Kamahl’s corruptive influencer. Jeska agrees to do the job, as she had already been banished from a previous quarrel with her brother and had nothing much more to lose should she be caught.

To prevent Balthor, who had hoped to do the job himself, from interfering, she knocks the dwarf out. Jeska attempts to pilfer the Mirari-enhanced sword, but is caught by Kamahl himself who attacks her on the spot. As the two are fighting, Kamahl gets word that Balthor had been killed and Jeska was the one who had slain him. This enrages Kamahl, who fatally strikes his sister.

Not a moment later, Balthor himself arrives to inform the village that news of his death were greatly exaggerated and that he was, indeed, just fine. This update on Balthor’s status is sobering to Kamahl who realized the tragic mistake he had made out of rage. Just then, Cabal troops arrive and attack the village.

Those loyal and against Kamahl’s rule unite and rally against the invading cabalists while the mad barbarian grieves over his sister’s body, his Mirari sword discarded off to the side. The cabal attack is successfully repelled and the tribes of the Pardic Mountains agree to set aside their differences to defend against the Cabal and Order invaders.

Shortly after the attack, Jeska comes to. She’s alive, but just barely. Surprised and with a newfound resolve, Kamahl resolves to take her to the Krosan Forest and to his friend, the centaur Seton, to assist in her recovery. Balthor accompanies them and carries Kamahl’s Mirari sword, despite the barbarian swearing to never again wield the weapon.

The trio’s exodus from the mountains does not go unnoticed as Cabal and Order forces alike (both aided by Laquatus’ magic) close in on the party as they reach the forest’s edge. The Ambassador and his Cabal-gifted champion engage them, but Balthor holds them back, allowing Kamahl time to venture into the forest to seek Seton’s aid. Despite Laquatus’ Champion being highly durable, Balthor unleashes an attack so powerful that it destroys both the minion and the dwarf.

Enraged by the loss of his champion, Laquatus reaches out to his own army only to discover that they have been either hunted down by Llawan’s or have deserted him, considering his rule tyrannical. Now without a troop to command, he flees back to the Cabal and Order camps. There, he manages to form a paper-thin alliance to go after the barbarian.

In the forest, Kamahl reunites with Seton. Upon seeing Jeska, the centaur confirms that her situation is, indeed, dire. While he tends to her, he sends the barbarian deeper into the forest to consult with an enlightened nantuko named Thriss. Kamahl finds the druid, who gives the barbarian great assistance in not only controlling his own strength and urges, but also in better communicating with nature.

He also tells Kamahl of the Mirari’s origin, saying: "I have been observing the orb since Chainer discovered it ... It is of this world but comes from beyond this world. It seeks knowledge, not power, for it has no need of power. It is alive but has no thought, no purpose beyond the search for knowledge."

In the meantime, the joint contingent of Order and Cabal has been having a difficult time traversing the Krosan Forest. They’re being harassed by the nantuko natives and there is an aura of mistrust between the two groups that is causing more and more of a tear in their flimsy alliance.

Back at the Order’s camp, an unknown assailant attacks and kills its leader. Blame is immediately placed on the Cabal. Laquatus tries to keep the two factions allied, but the Cabal wants to part of his games anymore and departs.

Afterwards, Eesha, Braids, and a few representatives of Llawan’s Mer Empire have a conference at the attacked Order camp. They figure out that Laquatus was plotting against everyone the entire time. All parties involved agree to abandon the former Mer ambassador’s quest to retrieve the Mirari. Laquatus gets word of his abandonment and, along with the few troops that are still loyal to him, venture into the forest to claim it for his own.

Thriss, the nantuko druid who is tutoring Kamahl, informs him that Laquatus is approaching Seaton’s home where his Mirari sword is being kept. The barbarian cuts his training short and runs to defend it. He is nearly taken down by the former ambassador’s troops when the unknown assailant who earlier had attacked the Order encampment arrives, dispatching them.

This mysterious person turns out to be his fallen dwarven friend, Balthor, resurrected and zombified by Braids as a weapon against the former Mer ambassador. However, since Balthor fused with Laquatus’ champion upon death, there’s a part of him that is loyal to Laquatus. The former ambassador recognizes this and he orders zombie Balthor to attack Kamahl, which he does. The shock of this causes Kamahl to kill his zombified friend and former mentor, causing the barbarian to break out in tears.

Laquatus mocks Kamahl for being week and weeping for his late comrade. Kamahl responds by running the former ambassador through with his sword, pinning him to the ground. He then uses the Mirari to finally end the merman. Thanks to the barbarian’s druidic training, however, he no longer sees visions of battle and destruction. Rather, he sees visions of growth, peace, and prosperity.

Out of Laquatus’ corpse grow flowers and grass as the Krosan Forest is rejuvenated. With the forest’s rebirth comes confidence in Kamahl that no one will again come for the Mirari, as it is now protected forever by the forest it has helped to revive.

Thus ends the story of the Odyssey Cycle – though not necessarily that of the Mirari, but that’s a tale for another video as there’s still plenty to tell about Judgment as a set in this one.

Whereas its predecessor, Torment, was a decidedly black-heavy set, Judgment went heavy on green and white. In fact, the set only has 16 black cards in total, along with 27 each for blue and red. Green and white have 33 cards apiece. All four of the set’s multicolored cards as well as all three of its non-basic lands are also green/white. This was done, in part, to balance the colors across the block’s three sets.

It’s also considered to be the most often misspelled set in all of Magic. And that’s largely due to the word “judgment” being one of the most often misspelled words in the English language.

(Maro DTW: Judgment – 00:33-47 “It doesn’t have an…wants an 'e' there.”)

Judgment continued to evolve the threshold and flashback mechanics that were introduced in Odyssey, as well as the unnamed nightmare mechanic from Torment. The Torment mechanic madness, however, would not see use on a single card in the set as it fits neither Judgment’s theme nor story.

The set features three cycles with:
• Incarnations, which are creatures with static abilities that are active so long as they are in the graveyard;
• One-drop sacrificial creatures, and;
• Wishes.

Wishes were spells that were inspired by the Arabian Nights card Ring of Ma’Ruf. They allowed players to add a card to their hand from outside of the game (for organized play, that would be the sideboard). Cunning Wish, Living Wish, and Burning Wish are considered the most powerful and useful of the five with the latter being deemed so cheap and powerful that it was full-on banned from Vintage play from January 2004 through September 2012.

((Maro DTW: Judgment – 24:00-19 “The wishes turned out to be mega popular…is very big.”

There were also a couple of vertical cycles. Blue got two sets of common-uncommon-rare cycles of nightmares called “Wormfang” that have enter-the-battlefield and leaves-the-battlefield abilities. Red received the “Worldgorger” cycle, which had a similar setup to blue’s Wormfangs. The most famous of which is Worldgorger Dragon.

A popular-yet-janky combo at the time was to discard the dragon to the graveyard and reanimate it using the enchantment Animate Dead. The result would be an infinite loop of ETB-LTB effects that would provide infinite mana for use in an instant-speed “X” burn spell such as Ghitu Fire or Volcanic Geyser to break the chain and get the win.

Judgment also completed two mega cycles that were assembled across the Odyssey Block’s three sets.

The first was a cycle of tapping lords. Each costs three of the same color mana and provides an effect by tapping other creatures of the same subtype. Odyssey has Master Apothecary for clerics, Patron Wizard for wizards, and Seton, Krosan Protetor for druids. Torment has Zombie Trailblazer for zombies. And Judgment has Dwarven Bloodboiler for dwarves.

The other cycle is a series of alternate win cards. Odyssey brought with it Battle of Wits, which is concerned with deck size, and Chance Encounter, which deals with coin flips. Torment’s Mortal Combat is all about the number of creatures in your graveyard. Judgment introduced the cards Epic Struggle, which cares about the number of creatures you have, and Test of Endurance, which is all about your life total.

The set also introduced two new creature types to the game: Incarnation and Gorgon.

Overall, Judgment didn’t have too many cards that made too much of an impact on the tournament scene outside of Burning Wish, Cunning Wish, Living Wish, and Cabal Therapy, which is a “go fish” type of repeatable discard. There were a handful, however, that did find their way into slots in people’s decks such as Phantom Nishoba, Hunting Grounds, Balthor the Defiled (the game’s only minion lord), Worldgorger Dragon, Mirari’s Wake, and Seedtime, which is a green situational Time Walk.

There are also two specific green cards that are worth their own mention.

One is Sylvan Safekeeper, a 1/1 one drop that grant a target creature shroud until the end of the turn. But that’s not why it’s noteworthy. The card is the one for which Magic: The Gathering hall of famer Olle Råde is responsible for and bears the likeness of for him winning the 1996-97 Magic Invitational tournament, though he didn’t take the opportunity to create his own Magic card seriously at first. In fact, it took the creation of cards from future Magic Invitational winners for him to finally submit a serious card for inclusion in a set.

((Maro DTW: Judgment 3 – 16:13 “I was a little sad…we made Sylvan Safekeeper.”

The other is Ernham Djinn, a popular and fairly strong creature from the set Arabian Nights. Like with Sengir Vampire in Torment, the card was brought back in large part due to nostalgia and its perceived popularity. And, like with Sengir Vampire, the reprint didn’t hit nearly as hard as Wizards of the Coast was expecting.

((Maro DTW: Judgement 2 – 19:58 - 20:48 “Ernham Djinn in its day…brought this card back.”

There is also a specific white card that deserves a special mention. That would be Glory, the set’s prerelease card. As with the five sets before it and for the very last time ever, the prerelease version of the card was printed not in English, but in a language not yet seen on a Magic: The Gathering card. This time around, the card was printed in Hebrew.

L’chiam.

So, is Judgment among your favorite Magic: The Gathering sets? If so, let us know in the comment section below.

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