Thursday, 25 August 2022 07:58

Magic History: Remembering 'Shadowmoor'

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Magic History: Remembering 'Shadowmoor' 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 Shadowmoor, the first half of Magic: The Gathering's Shadowmoor-Eventide mini-block.

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

Video transcript:

The 45th Magic: The Gathering expansion, the 301-card Shadowmoor set, came out on May 2, 2008.

The set takes the light and bright atmosphere of the game’s previous two sets, Lorwyn and Morningtide, and turns them dark and twisted as the second half of the Lorwyn-Shadowmoor mega block takes things over.

The story of Shadowmoor can, conveniently enough, be read in the Shadowmoor anthology book edited by Philip Athans and Susan J. Morris.  And, unlike most Magic: The Gathering books, this one isn’t a novel.  Rather, it’s an anthology that includes a novella that tells the set’s story as well as a series of short stories based around the world of Shadowmoor.

Ode to Mistmeadow Jack by Scott McGough & Cory J. Herndon, Narrated by Air Bubbles Cosplay

Rosheen Meanderer, a seer giant, has lost her goat.  She wanders around Shadowmoor in search of it, oblivious to the destruction her meandering is causing to everyone and everything else.

Mistmeadow, a rather large kithkin village, finds itself in the path of the unknowingly-rampaging giant.  Maralen offers the village protection from Rosheen’s meanderings, but is turned away from the town’s cenn, Donal Alloway, who accused the elf of lying about her true intentions.

Alloway then tasks a kithkin scout by the name of Jack Chierdagh to steal an item of Rosheens as to steer her away from Mistmeadow.  Along the way, Jack faces many of Shadowmoor’s dangers, including sinister scarecrows, aggressive cinders (formerly Lorwyn’s flamekin), and a marrow gang led by the pirate, Captain Sygg, and his strange, non-Shadowmoorish first mate, Brigid.

After a fierce battle between the scout and the band of pirates, Brigid breaks rank and offers assistance to Jack by way of her magical bow, which bestows the power of flight, allowing him to escape the fray without further harm as he resumed his pursuit of Rosheen Meanderer.

Brigid, meanwhile, departs from Sygg’s band of pirates to return to kithkin life, but crosses paths with Maralen along the way.  The two converse, remembering one another from the old world, and the kithkin promises to assist the elf by doing all she can to help Jack become Hero of Mistmeadow.  Maralen then tasks her two Vendilion faeries, Veesa and Iliona, with finding and assisting Jack with his mission.

The faeries succeed in rendezvousing with Jack just as he is about to approach the unsuspecting Rosheen.  With the faeries’ help, the kithkin manages to locate and steal a scroll which the prophetic giant uses as a journal of sorts to record her visions.

Unfortunately, faeries sent by Oona, Queen of the Fae, were also seeking Rosheen’s scroll.  The two parties met and, with assistance from Veesa and Iliona, Jack was able to overcome the opposition, but not without being lightly poisoned– just enough to knock the kithkin temporarily unconscious.

When Jack awoke, he found himself near Mistmeadow, but without Rosheen’s scroll.  Alloway’s plan, however, worked, as the pilfered scroll successfully re-routed Rosheen Meanderer away from the village.  The kithkin returned to town and was warmly greeted as he was named Hero of Mistmeadow.

Five Brothers by Ken Troop, Narrated by SaffronOlive

Five kithkin brothers, Wander, Might, Kind, Clever, and Hero, each decide to depart from the safety of their kithkin village and to see the world around them.

The first brother, Wander, meets a faerie who convinces him that it would be a good idea to explore a nearby swamp.  While there, the kithkin gets hungry.  He spy’s a tasty-looking mushroom.  Unfortunately, the mushroom winds up being poisonous and Wander perishes.

The second brother, Might, runs into a boggart raidleader.  Thinking himself the stronger, he challenges the boggart, but fails to notice another group ambushing him.  He, too, perishes.

The healer, Kind, finds a marrow on death’s door.  He saves the merfolk’s life by performing surgery.  Unfortunately, upon recovery, the marrow slits the healer’s throat.

The fourth brother, Clever, meets a treefolk at a high crossing, only to find that he could only cross the bridge if he could solve the treefolk’s riddle.  Clever succeeds and is granted passage, only to fall to his death, the bridge being nothing more than an illusion.

And the fifth and final brother, Hero, departs from his home to seek revenge for the demise of his kin.  He manages to punish the very ones who led his brothers to their deaths, only to be fatally crushed by a wandering giant who simply never saw the much, much smaller creature.

Shortly thereafter, and with the brothers’ village without its five mightiest defenders, a group of cinders invaded and burnt the town to the ground.

The moral?  Never leave home.

Paths by Denise R. Graham, Narrated by Mega Ran

Amongst Shadowmoor’s cinder society is the cinder sootstoke, who are the spiritual leaders of the cinder.  Some of the sootstoke carry the belief that the flame they lost when Lorwyn changed to Shadowmoor and, subsequently, the flamekin devolved into cinder, can be rekindled.

One such sootstoke, one known as Ascaeus, learned of a tale about a river of burning stone.  Determined to find this wonder, he sets off in search of it despite his fellow cinders thinking the journey absurd.

After a harrowing and dangerous journey, Ascaeus finally found what he was looking for deep under ground.  As he gazed at the molten river, Ascaeus bellowed a joyous laugh.  So loud was his laughter, though, that the cave in which he was standing collapsed, cutting off his way back to the surface.

An optimist, the sootstoke embraced the river of fire rather than finding despair in being trapped underground with it, assuming that, eventually, he will find his way back to the surface so that he may pass the flame to others.

Mark of the Raven by Jess Lebow, narrated by Orcish Librarian

In an elvish safehold, Tekla Ironleaf, one of its five leaders, delivers a child.  But this child, a boy named Joram, is not like the rest as he is born with no horns and the mark of the Raven on his cheek.

The mark of the Raven, it is said, marks the one who is to bring salvation to the elves.  To be without horns, however, is grounds for expulsion.

Due to the child’s conflicting afflictions, the safehold’s elders agree to allow him to stay until his 14th birthday in the event that his horns eventually grow in.  By the time he turns 14, however, Joram’s horns still had not appeared, and the teenager offers to leave the safehold voluntarily.

He departs just in time to be safe from a treefolk attack on the structure.

While out in the wild, Joram meets a yew witch who offers him a spherical artifact, telling him it would make his dreams come true.  As the exiled elf tries to compensate the witch for the item, he is told that he has nothing yet to offer in exchange.

Using the enchanted copper sphere, Joram grows proper elven horns and returns to the nearly-destroyed stronghold.  Upon arrival, he then wishes the structure repaired and, through the artifact’s magic, everything returns to how it was before the attack.

That’s when one of the safehold’s druids questioned Joram about the curious curio that had come into his possession.

As the elders examined it, black tendrils sprout out from the sphere, slaying all five of the safehold’s leaders, Joram’s mother included.

That’s when the yew witch once again appears, joined by a contingent of treefolk warriors.

The safehold’s elders gone, the remaining elves stood no chance.  All are slain, save for Joram.

The witch then finds the elven teenager and informs him that this was only half his payment for the dream-fulfilling sphere.  The other half is to keep it, forever burdened by the guilt of what he has done, for the sphere could never leave him and he could never leave the sphere.

Meme’s Tale by Will McDermott, Narrated by Jim Avery

Meme is strange.  Even by boggart standards, she’s considered by most to be about three degrees off of normal.  Well, normal for a boggart.

Slender and smooth faced, she was always the subject to the other boggart’s pranks.  She remembers how her mother was slain while fighting a gang brute.  And she’s had to run from the lackeys of Geg, a boggart soul-eating shaman who saw her as prey.

One day, she decides to leave her boggart home in search of some dreadful creatures known as “elves.”

Along the journey, she faces many of Shadowmoor’s perils.  But, soon enough, the truth becomes apparent:  Meme was no boggart at all.

She was, in fact, an orphaned elf girl whom a boggart mother had taken in and raised.

Geg’s sons eventually catch up to Meme, but are soon met and struck down by elves.

Afterward, Meme and her elven saviors look at one another, then the girl turns around and disappears.

Meme had decided that, though she isn’t a boggart after all, she is not yet ready to become part of elven society.

Pawn of the Banshee by Doug Beyer, Narrated by Zbexx

A boggart named Yasgo is on a raid along with two others of his kind.  While out, he hears a terrifying shriek and, soon after, finds his two mates dead – presumably killed by a banshee.

Very soon thereafter, he meets an elvish warrior.  She introduces herself as Valya and she tells him that she is out to avenge her parents’ death.

Meanwhile, in the background, two faeries – one a Druai and the other a Scion – are conversing.  The Druai explains to the Scion about the nature of Shadowmoor and the creatures who reside there, and how he is trying to use his magic to lessen the darkness in the world.

The Druai conjures up a spell that sends black mana geysering up so that it can be sent elsewhere, only for it all to come tumbling back down instead, slaying some nearby boggarts and attracting a banshee in the process.

Meanwhile, Yasgo and Valya go in search of the banshee who had slain their friends and family, respectively.  As they together hunt, Yasgo finds himself confused as to why he’s helping this elf rather than trying to eat it as he should be doing.

Ultimately, though, they find their target.  Before they can strike it down, however, the banshee wails at Vayla.  The elf’s life flashes before her eyes, then she falls to the ground, unconscious.

The banshee then turns to Yasgo.  Instead of wailing, however, it speaks.

Yasgo learns that he is not a boggart as he believes himself to be.  Rather, he’s a tacharan – a ghost appearing as a living creature – and that he belongs to her for the purpose of luring to her new victims.

In the meantime, the Druai is being called to Oona, Queen of the Fae, but he refuses to heed the call.  He’s focused on trying yet again to exhume darkness from Shadowmoor despite the impossibility to do so.  The Scion urges him to go, but, again, he refuses.  Before he can finish another incantation, however, the Scion slays him upon Oona’s order for failing to comply.

Back with Yasgo and the banshee, Valya awakens, saved by the herbs she wears in memory of her late parents.  She plays witness to the conversation between the ghoul and the boggart.  With the banshee distracted, the elf gets up and does her in.

She then says farewell to Yasgo as the boggart fades from existence, the banshee’s hold on his soul no longer there.  Vayla then returns home, satisfied.

As for the faeries, the Scion reports back to Oona about the goings-on with the Druai and about the naming of a new one.  And Oona thinks to herself that this cycle will forever repeat in accordance with her own schemes.

Expedition by Matt Cavotta, Narrated by Matt Decker

Wyb and Gwyb Cenniks, father and son, are kithkin from the heavily fortified village of Graymeadow and it’s almost time for Gwyb to take the watch.

Just before he does, the pair meet Dagub, an elderly, one-eyed kithkin who tells them a tale about a failed expedition up river in which a group of kithkin had climbed a tall hill that would then come to life and slay all but himself, though not before taking one of his eyes and most of one of his ears.

The hill, it turns out, was a tentacled beast known as the Isleback Spawn.

During his first watch, the young Gwyb spies a dark shape in the water.  He thinks back to the story the one-eyed kithkin had shared with he and his father.  Unable to get the image out of his head, he begins to think heavily on the horrors of the Spawn.

The youth’s connection to the mindweft – the mental web that connects all kithkin – causes paranoia, horror, and panic to spread across the village and its soldiers soon break rank, firing their weapons into the dark mist that has settled around the village..

Time passes and the mist soon vanishes, revealing no enemy in sight.

The mindweft stabilizes and clam once again settles on the village.  The elders decide to build yet another wall around the town.

Meanwhile, in the river, a large school of dark-scaled razormouth fish slowly swim away.

Sootstoke by John Delaney, Narrated by ProJared

Lishe is a sootstoke whose fire is almost entirely extinguished.

Like his fellow cinders, he craves for his fire to return.  Unlike his fellows, however, Lishe is not exactly sane.

Virkole, another cinder, comes to him.  Lische informs him that fire can be found “in the wood,” which makes sense because, well, wood can burn.

Virkole, however, misinterprets Lishe’s words as a call to combat the treefolk who reside in a nearby grove, thinking that they are keeping the fire for themselves.

In the skirmish that followed, the misguided cinder sets a few of the treefolk ablaze and, for a moment, feels rekindled.  In the end, though, the treefolk contingent overwhelm him, and he is shattered by their blows.

Lishe then ventures to the site of the conflict and locates Virkole’s ice cold skull.

The mad cinder then returns to his cell, muttering to himself “Almost there, not long now…”

He places the skull amongst his collection from other cinders who had fallen prey to his “advice.”

The Cloudbreaker by Jenna Helland, Narrated by Ryan Smith

This story takes place in the safehold of Dusklight.  It used to be a place of beauty, but repeated floods have turned the area into swampland and, ever since, the safehold’s elves have been under attack from merfolk.

Under the guidance of their leader, Ehroe, his deputy, Cavan, and a seer named Eily, the elves are in search of a mystical artifact called “Cloudbreaker” which is said to give the elves the ability to summon a magical being known simply as “The Ally,” which will restore beauty and order to the world.  As such, the elves make expeditions out into Shadowmoor in search of not just the Cloudbreaker, but also other items of lost beauty that they can bring back to the safehold.

One such expedition brought Ehroe and his forces to the kithkin town of Ballygol where a beautiful lyre can be found.  The elves trade a bag of seeds for the lyre, then Ehroe demands that the kithkin surrender the Cloudbreaker to them as well.  Ballygol’s leader laughs at the elves, stating that they possess no such item.  Ehroe repeats his demand, but the kithkin dismisses it.  As he turns to leave, Ehroe shoots him in the back, then orders the village searched and razed.

Upon the expedition’s return, Eily, the seer, is horrified to learn of what happened as Eily knew the Cloudbreaker wasn’t in Ballygol and, what’s worse, Ehroe knew it as well.  The elven leader then presents the seer with a bag of dawnglove seeds, which can grow into a plant that can be used for healing potions.  As Eily goes to her garden to plant the seeds, she sees Callem, a giant living next to the safehold, is again building his stone towers and muttering to himself.

The seer sits down and begins recording the mutterings.

Eventually, the plants Eily planted sprout, but it’s apparent they aren’t dawnglove.  Rather, it’s cramoisy, which is quite deadly.  Ehroe instructs Eily to refine the plant into a potent poison.  The seer begs Ehroe to tell the rest of the elves the truth about the Cloudbreaker, but the elven leader refuses, saying the time just isn’t right.

Concerned, Eily approaches Cavan and shares with the deputy her concerns:  That the Cloudbreaker was never in Ballygol, but rather in the nearby marrow lake, that Ehroe knows that as well, and that she isn’t really a seer.  Rather, the giant, Callem, is.  And she simply writes down his words.

That night, during a marrow raid on the safehold that kills a dozen elves, Eily has a vision.  She sees Ehroe on top of one of Callem’s stone towers, but that there is no light beyond the world – no Ally that can be summoned by the Cloudbreaker, but that the journey to find the artifact gives the elves hope and purpose.

After the marrow attack, Ehroe and Cavan set out to retrieve the Cloudbreaker from the lake.  The elven leader pours the entirety of the extremely poisonous cramoisy extract into the lake and, soon enough, the lake is riddled with the marrow corpses.

As soon as the poison dissipates and the water is again safe, the elves swim in and retrieve a submerged chest which contained a single rag-wrapped item.

Callem arrives, enraged about the now poisoned river that flows out of the lake.  The elves flee, but leave the chest behind.  The giant, seeing the chest empty, howls in frustration.  He turns towards the elves as they make their escape, saying under his breath that “dark tings of the world are coming.”

Back in the stronghold, Cavan confronts Ehroe about knowing about the Cloudbreaker the entire time.  The elven leader retorts, explaining to his deputy that it was the hope of the artifact that gave his people’s lives meaning.  And, now that he holds it, that hope is even more real.

Cavan, however, tells Ehroe that he has gone too far this time before strangling him to death.

Eily then departs from the safehold which, shortly thereafter, is attacked by more denizens of Shadowmoor.  Outside of its walls, she runs into Cavan.  He tells her about the Cloudbreaker, showing her the artifact.  He tells her that the elves have fallen from grace and, in their quest to preserve beauty, afflicted the world with some true horrors and that Ehroe, through his actions, made the elves just as dark as the rest of Shadowmoor.

Cavan then explains that he refuses to use the Cloudbreaker to bring the elves salvation as, as he sees it, they are no longer worthy of it.

The elf then confesses his love to Eily, after which the seer asks him if they should cast the artifact back into the lake and continue the lie of their late leader.

As the safehold of Dusklight burns in the distance, Cavan kisses Eily, then drives his dagger into her stomach, killing her before climbing onto his mount and riding into the darkness alone.

This ends the story, well, stories of Shadowmoor.  The main story will continue in the next chapter, Eventide.  But, until then, let’s talk a bit about Shadowmoor as a Magic: The Gathering set.

Shadowmoor takes place, technically speaking, on the same plane as Lorwyn.  I say “technically” because it’s a reflection of the plane of Lorwyn.  Think of it as a sort of alternate universe sort of thing.

And that reflection concept carried over to the cards themselves.

For example, while Lorwyn has a sub-theme involving +1/+1 counters, Shadowmoor instead uses -1/-1 counters.  Additionally, while Lorwyn has very few multicolored cards, Shadowmoor has many.  Furthermore, while the races found in Lorwyn also appear in Shadowmoor, they’ve all been colorshifted as to show the races’ change from day to night.

Flamekin, mono-red in Lorwyn, became known as Cinders and, instead, became B/R.  Elves went from G/B to G/W.  Giants, R/W to R/G.  Goblins went from B/R to R/G.  Kithkin changed from W/G to W/U.  Merfolk from U/W to U/B.  And Treefolk changed from G/B/W to G/B.

But Shadowmoor also brought with it its own identifiers as to set it further apart from the first half of the overall Lorwyn-Shadowmoor mega block.

One such identifier was the use of hybrid mana – something the Lorwyn mini-block didn’t have at all.

<Maro DTW Shadowmoor 7:22-26 “How much hybrid…that was the question.”

The answer was, close to fifty percent.

<Maro DTW Shadowmoor 7:51-8:00 “It’s funny in retrospect…of the set was hybrid.” Fletcher DTW Shadowmoor 8:05-19 “Part of the way…fifty percent mark.”>

The set also introduced a new creature type not just to the mega-block, but (technically) to the game of Magic, overall.

Retroactively, the card Scarecrow from The Dark received the Scarecrow creature type as well.

Additionally, Shadowmoor introduced three new mechanics:

  • Conspire, which gives you the option of tapping two creatures you control that share a color with the spell being cast.  If you do, you get to create a copy of the spell;’
  • Persist, which cares about -1/-1 counters.  If a creature with persist goes to the graveyard and it did not have a -1/-1 counter on it at the time, it returns to play with a -1/-1 counter on it, and;
  • Wither, which deals damage to creatures by way of -1/-1 counters rather than with traditional points of damage that go away at the end of the turn.

Shadowmoor also introduced something both different and new: the untap symbol.

<Maro DTW Shadowmoor 16:23-34, 16:51-59, 17:03-43 “One of the things…Shadowmoor version.” “Untap is a very good case…complex in play.” “The problem we…play it wrong.”

The set also had a whopping 19 cycles.  Probably most notable of them are:

  • Hideaway creatures, each of which are the awakened forms of the hideaway lands from Lorwyn, such as the card Knollspine Dragon being the awakened version of Spinerock Knoll.  If you look closely at the Lorwyn card’s art, you can almost see the slumbering dragon;
  • Monocolored hybrid spells, which can be cost for three mana of one color, or you can substitute two generic mana for each colored mana in the casting cost, meaning they can actually fit into any color deck.  Beseech the Queen, for example, can be cost for three black, six generic, or a combination of the two;
  • Rare persist creatures, all of which have not only the persist mechanic, but also a powerful enters-the-battlefield ability, such as Twilight Shepherd letting you put back into play all your creatures that were sent to the graveyard that turn;
  • Lieges, which, in addition to their own specific abilities, grant a +1/+1 boon to creatures with which it shares colors;
  • Demigods, each of which have a converted mana cost of five consisting entirely of hybrid mana, and;
  • Filter lands, each of which can be tapped for one colorless mana and have the ability of tapping for a combination of any two specific allied colors.  The filter land Graven Cairns, by the way is actually a reprint as it made its debut in the set Future Sight three sets earlier.

In addition, Shadowmoor had a number of cards that were, essentially, darker reflections of cards found in the world of Lorwyn, with examples being:

As far as notable cards, Shadowmoor definitely had its fair share, starting with:

  • Kitchen Finks, a hard-to-kill persist card that does a very good job at shutting down aggressive decks.
    <Maro DTW Shadowmoor 25:28-34, 25:40-26:05, 26:42-27:10, 27:35-52, 28:08-19 “Can we talk a little…chipmunk, yes.”  “It is Heather’s…in the yard.” “It went through all…mercilessly with it.” “It was Heather’s…well with persist.” “So, this card…still very good.”
  • Faerie Macabre, which is a rather good sideboard card against graveyard strategies that can fit into basically any sort of deck;
  • Painter’s Servant, a powerful card in Legacy that can set up a nearly auto-win when paired with the Tempest card Grindstone;
  • Reflecting Pool, an already powerful card from Tempest that, roughly eleven years after its debut, finally got a reprint.  By the way, for some reason the foil version of this card was printed with a white mana symbol as a watermark behind its rules text.  Weird;
  • Runed Halo, the first Magic card to ever grant protection to a player rather than a permanent;
  • Savor the Moment, the lowest-costed free turn spell since Time Walk was printed in the game’s original set, though at the detriment of skipping your next untap step;
  • Swans of Bryn Argoll, which is used in some combo decks to deal a large amount of cards which can then be turned into damage by way of combo pieces such as Seismic Assault or Chain of Plasma;
  • Wheel of Sun and Moon, which is good at disrupting mill and graveyard strategies, and;
  • Vexing Shusher, a strong Legacy sideboard card that can really frustrate control decks.

And, finally, the set’s prerelease card is an alternate art, foil version of Demigod of Revenge and its promotional release card is a special foil edition of that rather good Legacy sideboard staple, Vexing Shusher.

So, what are your thoughts on Shadowmoor?  Are you a fan?  Either way, let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

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