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 Scars of Mirrodin the first set in Magic: The Gathering's original Scars block.
You can check it all out in our retrospective video (below).
The 53rd expansion for Magic: The Gathering, Scars of Mirrodin released on the first of October, 2010, and returns players to the plane of (you guessed it) Mirrodin – the artificial, metallic plane created by the planeswalker Karn.
The set, with design led by Mark Rosewater and development led by Mike Turian, contains 249 cards (including eleven reprints), several new mechanics, and (and probably most importantly) the return of Phyrexians to the Magic storyline.
Speaking of story, it can be experienced by reading the Robert B. Wintermute novel Scars of Mirrodin: The Quest for Karn. And, while the novel didn’t actually come out until April 2011 – just in time for block’s final set, New Phyrexia – we’ll summarize the block’s story in this video.
Things aren’t all well on Mirrodin as some strange corruption seems to be taking hold of the artificial plane. As such, planeswalkers Venser, Elspeth, and Koth are traveling together through the Oxidda Chain (which is more-or-less what passes for a mountain range on Mirrodin) seeking out a friend of Koth’s hoping to find out more about the land’s corruption.
Along the way, the trio pass through Koth’s hometown. There, the Vulshock planeswalker sees his mother, only for his mother to tear the flesh off of itself, revealing instead a metallic nightmare of a beast. It attacks the group, but is defeated. Koth, as one might expect, is a bit shaken from the experience.
The group presses on, venturing farther into Oxidda until they locate the hut of Koth’s friend, Malach, despite Venser thinking that they’re being followed. Instead of his Volshock clansmate, however, the trio find a group of nim. Again they are attacked. Again, they’re able to handle themselves just fine.
Taking note of the now fallen nim, Koth and Venser agree that they should investigate the Vault of Whispers as that seems to be where much of the corruption is coming from. Elspeth has a flashback of being a Phyrexian prisoner during her youth and opts to stay behind at a nearby shaman’s hut.
Before they split ways, Elspeth chats with Venser, telling him that she’s noticed him showing signs of palsy and shaking from time to time. She asks him how long he’s been dealing with the affliction. Venser, embarrassed, tells her that he’s been trying not to make it obvious when in the company of others.
Koth and Venser then depart, leaving Elspeth at the shaman’s hut. While there, Elspeth gets some sense talked back into her.
On the path towards the Vault of Whispers, Venser catches a glimpse at whatever it is that he thinks has been following them this whole time. He describes to Koth what he saw. The Volshock planeswalker listens to Venser’s description, telling him afterwards that it’s probably just one of Mirrodin’s myr creatures and that they’re mostly harmless.
As they continue towards the Vault, Venser takes a sip from a vial containing a turquoise-colored liquid. Koth questions him about it, but Venser dodges the question. Unfortunately, he was unable to dodge the attack of an extremely fast and aggressive creature the two planeswalkers encounter just outside of their destination.
Both Venser and Koth are knocked out cold.
Koth awakens first. The pair are bound and on some sort of operating table. The Vulshock planeswalker breaks his bonds and is able to get free, but before he can do the same for Venser, their “hosts” arrive.
He hides and witnesses these nightmarish machines setting up to do something unspeakable to Venser. Koth decides to fight, but is easily outmatched. Venser awakens and attempts to get to Koth so that he can teleport them both out of there. Before he can, however, an explosion rocks one of the room’s walls.
Elspeth has arrived. The nightmarish Phyrexian machinations in the room never stood a chance.
Things now having calmed down and the group now just outside of the Vault of Whispers, Elspeth confers with Koth and Venser, stating that she has an idea as to where these Phyrexians might be coming from. They take a look and find what can only be described as a Phyrexian army on the move.
With this new intel, Koth suggests they should prepare to fight this army and to warn the other Mirrans (those native to Mirrodin) about the threat. Elspeth and Venser, however, disagree, thinking a full-on fight against the Phyrexians would be foolhardy.
Elspeth also comes a bit more clean about her childhood trauma with the Phyrexians, including how she eventually escaped by hiding inside of a large corpse that was being discarded.
That’s when Koth notices through the hole in the wall of the Phyrexian examination room at the Vault of Whispers the small silver figure Venser had earlier. The Vulshock planswalker shifts gears and decides that the trio should follow it instead.
The trio re-enter the Phyrexian examination room at the Vault of Whispers. Venser suffers another bout of shakes. Elspeth asks why he suffers. Venser simply tell sher it’s because of a great mistake he had made.
The group enter into another of the Vault’s rooms and come across Geth, the Vault’s lord, berating some of his Phyrexianized (or, compleated) vampires. The trio hides and witnesses Geth’s minions open a door on the floor and enter. Thinking he saw the silver creature go in as well, the group decides to follow just as soon as the coast is clear.
At the bottom of a long and dark stairwell, the group come to another room – this time with loud banging noises emanating from inside. Venser teleports in to take a look and is horrified with what he sees: Phyrexians flaying the skin off of Mirrans, chopping them up, pulverizing their bones, and sending everything down a pair of chutes.
Elspeth and Koth barge in after Venser, ready for a fight. It’s a fight, however, that is heavily in the Phyrexians’ favor and the three make their escape down the meat chute.
At the bottom of the disgusting chute, the trio encounter a Mirran raiding party that has been making progress against the Phyrexians. Their leader, Ezuri, tells the planeswalkers that his party could use their help. And that they need his.
Koth and company tell Ezuri that they’re looking for Karn, a silver golem planeswalker, believing that he is the only hope for Mirrodin against Phyrexian corruption.
After a pregnant pause in the conversation, Ezuri tells the trio that he has no knowledge of this “Karn” person and, essentially, gives the planeswalkers two options: Join with the rebels or die.
Venser conjures up a flash of light from his hands and grabs Ezuri’s bow. The display frightens off all of the Mirrans save for Ezuri who considers fighting them three-on-one before, too, turning heel and fleeing.
Venser then has another of his fits – worse than the ones before.
He takes out his vial and drinks from it. Again, he is question about the liquid.
Venser confesses it’s a concoction of his own design that includes tree sap from Zendikar, some minerals from Dominaria, and blinkmoth serum from Mirrodin, but doesn’t offer up any other information.
Whatever the vial contains, though, Venser has very little left of it.
Meanwhile, Geth enters into Karn’s throne room. In the room along with the silver golem is Glissa, albeit not the same Glissa who saved Mirrodin from the mad Memnarch years prior. This is a compleated Glissa, fully phyrexianized.
In the room, too, is the planeswalker Tezzeret, whose job (it seems) is to counsel Karn against those who might look to take advantage of him. Geth and Tezzeret get into a heated argument and scuffle, with Geth calling Tezzeret “the toady of Bolas.” Tezzeret, however, proves the be the crueler and stronger of the two, and Geth backs down.
Glissa then begins the meeting. There it, apparently, a being of all flesh who seems immune to the effects of the glistening oil used in the compleation process. She tasks Tezzeret with locating and capturing this being so that she can be studied.
Karn, in a fit of rage, smashes a wall. Mirrodin’s figurehead is not well.
Elsewhere on Mirrodin, Venser, Koth, and Elspeth are attacked by a giant Phyrexian goliath. Venser finds himself in a heap of trouble, but before the dark, immense machination can finish him off, metal components begin to fly off of it in every which way as if it was being dismantled right there and then.
Saved, the trio look to see who their savior is, only to see a smiling Tezzeret, clapping as if at a show. Behind him is a legion of chrome-colored Phyrexians.
The four planeswalkers then talk, despite the distrust between the trio and Tezzeret with the latter saying that they can all help each other.
That’s when a few more dark Phyrexian creatures attack. Tezzeret’s chrome soldiers fight back and Tezzeret himself makes quick work of the mechanical assailants.
Hoping this a show of good faith to Koth and company, Tezzeret reveals that the silver creature who had been tailing them previously is one of his and that, if they don’t work together, all that will happen with the trio is that they will be left without a guide.
The trio agree to work with Tezzeret. For now, anyway.
After a rest, Tezzeret leads the trio to yet another room within Mirrodin’s increasingly phyrexianized substructure. In this room, the group witness some Phyrexians experimenting on someone, flaying them and cutting up their organs.
The sights and smells prove too much for Elspeth as traumatic memories from her youth take hold. The planeswalker lays waste to every Phyrexian in the room.
After the slaughter, only her group and Tezzeret’s forces are left standing.
Once things calm down, Tezzeret brings attention to one experiment subject in specific. The worse-for-wear woman, Tezzeret tells them, is Melira. He explains to the trio that she is immune to the Phyrexian infection even when injected with the race’s glistening oil directly. This, of course, leads Koth to ask Tezzeret why he’s not infected if he’s working so closely with the Phyrexians. Tezzeret simply says that he has “certain advantages.”
That’s when an alarm goes off. More Phyrexians are on their way.
He directs Koth and company to one of the room’s portals and instructs them on how to make their escape and to take Melira with them as she might be the key to stopping the spread of Phyrexia on Mirrodin – maybe even worlds beyond that.
Before the groups separate, Venser asks Tezzeret if he knows where Karn is. The etherium planeswalker informs the group that Karn is even deeper down, then departs to give Koth’s crew a chance at escape.
The foursome begin to make their way out, encountering Phyrexian forces here and there as they climb. Soon enough, they encounter a river of molten ore. They have entered into Mirrodin’s furnace layer.
Tezzeret had previously told the group that the Phyrexians of the furnace are a bit different than most on the plane as they seemed a bit more free thinking and independent that the rest. It’s something that Venser needed to see for himself. He convinces his mates to stop at the furnace layer rather than making it all the way to the surface. Koth, however, challenges Venser on this determination as he doesn’t feel the temporal planeswalker has the authority to just make decisions like this. Venser, however, is dead-set determined on finding Karn before they escape to Mirrodin’s surface.
In the furnace layer, the group happens upon some rather large Phyrexians spewing molten ore. One such colossus begins coming right for the group, but then… just… turns and walks in a different direction. It appears what Tezzeret had said about red-type Phyrexians was correct – they are a bit different from the rest.
The group then encounter a small, ragtag band of Mirrans. Despite the group’s disdain at Koth, they’re offered shelter and water as the two groups converse. Koth and company ask about the furnace and the Phyrexians who reside there. They’re told that this is where Phyrexians are smelted for reprocessing and that they think the Phyrexians of the furnace simply don’t see them as a threat.
In a separate conversation, Venser asks Koth why so many on Mirrodin seem to dislike him Koth explains that he had left Mirrodin a season ago to seek help, but that everyone else simply thought he had fled, marking him a deserter.
The Mirrin resistance fighters rake Koth and company back to their shelter, whereupon they once again meet Ezuri. Despite a bit of distrust on both sides, Ezuri agrees to allow the group to stay at the settlement so long as they are willing to help him should the need arise.
Looking around the camp, the group notices a number of children around. And that many of the children are showing signs of phyresis, or the act of transformation from a living being into a Phyrexian creature.
In one of the shelters, Elspeth is tending to Melira. That’s when a child screams.
So overjoyed was the child that her phyresis had been so instantly cured that she couldn’t help but scream. Somehow, Melira had cured the child of her affliction.
News spread fast and Melira had a line of Mirrans queued up for her miracle.
Even Ezuri was beaming, as if the miracle had come from him and him alone. The resistance leader even suggested they find a way to bottle the cure, though Venser was sure it was only for him to dispense at his pleasure (for the right price, of course).
In talking with Venser, Ezuri lets slip that he actually has heard the name Karn despite saying the contrary during their first meeting. Apparently, one of his scouts heard before his death a being among the Phyrexians saying “the golem cannot be trusted.”
Venser takes that as a good sign.
Days later, Ezuri calls for a settlement meeting. During the meeting, Koth and company request a guide. They would like to venture down and find Karn, bringing Melira down with them to cure the silver golem of Phyrexian corruption, if so necessary. Ezuri, of course, wants Melira to stay at the settlement and keep her miracle contained to him and his cause.
The meeting is cut short, however, as phyrexians of seemingly all types (including Tezzeret’s chrome crew) invade the camp, apparently in search of something or someone.
Ezuri uses the attack as an excuse for blaming Koth, saying that he had led the Phyrexians to the settlement and cannot be trusted.
As the chaos ensues, though, Koth and company make their leave. As the depart, a cloaked figure approaches them and offers to be their guide, saying that he is familiar with “Glissa’s Domain.” The honesty and tone the figure is speaking with convinces Venser that what he is saying is the truth.
The rest of the group, however, is skeptical. After all, it could be a Phyrexian spy. The figure confesses that his knowledge of New Phyrexia’s depths come from an “arrangement” he has with Glissa. Still, the group decides to take the shadowy figure up on his offer.
The group venture back down into the depths of this new Phyrexia beneath Mirrodin’s surface, including through the ruined remains of the panopticon from which Mirrodin’s previous de-facto lord, the mad golem, Memnarch, ruled, encountering some skirmishes along the way. Eventually, the reach a room large cylander vats containing partially-compleated Mirrans. Venser speculates the vats could be used for breeding, but Eslpeth, doubting Phyrexians have any need for procreation, suggests they’re probably for speeding up the phyresis process. Either way, their mysterious guide suggests they press on as there is no way to save those within the vats.
After yet another skirmish with more Phyrexians (compleated angel-type beings this time), Koth has had enough. Stating that all the party is doing is aimlessly wandering, he departs on his own.
Their group now down to three (plus the guide), Venser has another violent fit. Elspeth asks him about it again. Venser tells her that it’s sure to be fatal and he supposes he has maybe another day before it claims him.
Then, the pair notice that their group of three is only the two of them (plus the guide) whom informs them that Melira is gone as well as she had left along with Koth. The three then go after the other two.
At least, they tried to.
Venser, Elspeth, and the guide lose track of where Koth and Melira went and, instead, find themselves cornered and trapped by a large group of formidable Phyrexians – the guide skulking off and leaving the other two at the Phyrexians’ mercy.
Just before Venser is about to be killed, a voice commands the Phrexians to stop. And that voice’s owner? Tezzeret.
He informs the three that he’s searching for Melira, though doesn’t say why he’s looking for her after giving her to Koth, Venser, and Elspeth previously. Tezzeret then tells the two that they will be brought before Glissa to be skinned. They are taken prisoner and Tezzeret leaves the scene.
The Phyrexians go to take their new prisoners down deeper into the depths of this new Phyrexia, but reach a door that simply won’t budge. As tap and bang on it, attempting to open it, Koth and Melira approach and take care of the Phyrexians holding the other two planeswalkers prisoner, after which the guide mysteriously re-appears and resumes leading them to where Karn is.
Then alarms go off. More Phyrexians are on their way.
The guild leads them down another wall to where another door is, but when he taps on the portal, nothing happens – just like moments before with the Phyrexian jailers.
The group deduces that someone or something had disabled the portals, all of which predate the Phyrexian’s existence on Mirrodin. Realizing that the must have been made by Karn when he created the artificial plane, the group thinks that Venser just might be able to open it. The temporal planeswalker drinks what remains of the turquoise concoction in his vial and, indeed, succeeds in opening it.
The group soon find themselves in a more organic-looking, yet still artificial area of Mirrodin’s underbelly. More Phyrexians catch up to the group, however, and they are forced to fight. Luckily, Venser notices some explosive material and the group sets up a trap with Koth the willing bait.
The trap works and the explosion decimates the pursing Phyrexians. Unfortunately, Koth doesn’t fully escape the blast as bits of shrapnel pierces his side.
Elspeth takes a moment to mend his wounds, during which Koth apologizes to she and Venser, explaining that he took Melira with him to bring her back to the surface and help cure the Mirrans up there of Phyrexian corruption.
After his apology, more Phyrexians arrive – this time led by Glissa, who demands Melira be returned to her.
As the compleated former champion of Mirrodin approaches the group, Tezzeret steps out of the shadows.
“This was not the plan,” he says, his own chrome Phyrexians behind him.
Glissa and her Phyrexians stop their approach. “What are you talking about?”
Tezzeret then reveals that he provided Melira to Koth, Venser, and Elspeth as a means to get Glissa out into the open where he could kill her, and that he had been the one locking the portals to ensure she could not escape.
He then divulges that, once he kills her, he’ll assume control of the Phyrexians himself seeing as Nicol Bolas had sent him to this new Phyrexianized Mirrodin and he may as well make the most of the opportunity.
Glissa and Tezzeret’s forces then clash. Koth and company take the opportunity to slip away unnoticed.
The guide, whom always seems to disappear when trouble occurs, returns and leads the group down yet another tunnel.
Finally, the guide leads them into yet another room. Just as they enter, the guide stops and stands still as it a statue.
Elspeth checks his pulse, only to discover there’s no pulse to check. The mysterious guide has been a machine this whole time, but one quite different than the Phyrexians.
That’s when the ground begins to rumble and a booming voice echoes throughout the chamber: “That sound is my children running to this place. The sound of all their feet.”
Venser, recognizing the voice, calls out “Karn?”
“I have not heard that name in eons.”
“It has not been that long, old friend.”
“Old friend? Do I know you? What is your name?
“It is Venser of Urborg.”
“Venser of Urborg…. Venser… of… Urborg…”
“From not so long ago.”
“Yes… I sent somebody for you.”
“I sent a guide to lead you to me, but I cannot remember why.”
Karn then tries to descend from the huge column upon which he sits, but comes crashing to the floor instead.
The worse-for-wear, unstable silver golem then gets up and tries to scuffle with the planeswalker trio. Venser then asks Karn questions about his past and the time they’ve spent together.
Karn, now no longer trying to attack the group, still seems out of his right mind. That’s when Melira tries talking to him, asking him about his past.
Venser explains to her that Karn once thought flesh to be weak, inevitable to die, and that he felt that way because, one day, his father left for the swamps and never came back – one of a series of events that formed this worldview.
That’s when Melira tells Karn: “We are not machines. The real secret the Phyrexians are trying to hide by keeping me in captivity is that flesh is stronger than metal. They are obsessed with flesh for this reason. They cannot copy the strength. This is a secret they do not want known.”
Melira channels her energy to Karn. While the Phyrexian corruption that tarnished his body vanished, he is mentally unchanged . Karn’s heart – the very same heart given to him by Urza that once belonged to the Phyrexian sleeper agent, Xancha – was infected.
That’s when Venser asks Melira if his heart is infected.
Realizing what the temporal mage is getting at, Elspeth asks if there is any other way. Venser, however, tells her that he’s dying anyhow. And if there’s a chance to save Karn, it’s probably for the best in terms of stopping the Phyrexians.
Venser closes his eyes and turns to Karn, prepared for one final teleport. A second later, the temporal planeswalker’s body falls to the floor. The silver golem’s body gives a violent jolt, then lay still.
At first, Elspeth is unsure if Karn is cured or not.
Then Karn comes to, stating that he must travel to other planes to undo the damage he would have caused by spreading elements of Phyrexia to other worlds.
But first, he had some business to attend to on this New Phyrexia.
“Are we ready for battle? I have slept too long. Mirrodin has carried my pride and also my guilt. You all have fought my battles. Now, friends, we shall show these beasts of meat and metal the true nature of their Father of Machines.”
And that more-or-less does it for the story of the Scars of Mirrodin block. Now, let’s get back to talking about the set Scards of Mirrodin itself.
First off, let’s begin with the return of the Phyrexians. After all, thanks to the Weatherlight crew as well as (technically) Urza’s disembodied head, they Phyrexians were defeated at the end of Magic’s Invasion block.
<Maro DTW SOM-1 – 5:25-6:25 “Utterly defeated!...very visable.”
And, with this return of one of Magic: The Gathering’s most recognizable and fearsome antagonistic races comes a suitable new mechanic: Infect. It’s a creature ability that deals damage to creatures by way of -1/-1 counters and also to players in the form of poison counters. But this new mechanic, one that is pretty much synonymous with modern Phyrexians, almost never happened.
<Maro DTW SOM-1 – 16:02-18, 18:09-22 “We started with poisonous…did poison you.” “I wanted you...the job done”>
So, instead of poisonous, Wizards began looking at another past mechanic: Wither, which debuted in Shadowmoor.
<Maro DTW SOM-1 – 20:13-29, 21:01-33, 22:29-49 “Originally, when we made…played a lot better.” “Because we had…to be careful.” “And then…beautiful package.”>
Infect wasn’t the only new mechanic introduced in Scars of Mirrodin, however.
The set also introduced a new keyword action called Proliferate, which allows players to add a counter of any type already existing on any permanent or player. It played very well with Infect’s -1/-1 counters on creatures and poison counters on players.
Metalcraft, another new mechanic, gives a card a bonus if its controller controls three or more artifacts.
And, with this set taking place on the plane of Mirrodin, the Mirrodin ability Imprint made its return.
Also making its return from original Mirrodin are the Myr. Specifically, we’re talking about the cycle of mana-producing Myr, now reprinted in Scars of Mirrodin: Gold Myr, Silver Myr, Leaden Myr, Iron Myr, and Copper Myr.
Of course, these Myr reprints are not the only cycles to appear in Scars. In fact, there are a total of ten cycles in the set.
Perhaps the most notable amongst them are:
- Smiths, each of which have a triggered ability whenever you cast an artifact, such as the card Riddlesmith, which allows a player to loot as its trigger;
- Replicas, which are artifact creatures that can be sacrificed in order to get a color-specific effect, such as with the card Neurok Replica having an ability that returns a target creature to its owners hand;
- Spellbombs, which are a callback to the original Spellbombs from Mirrodin. These cards have color-specific tap-and-sac ability and also give its controller the option to draw a card when they’re sent to the graveyard, such as the card Nihil Spellbomb exiling a player’s graveyard with, essentially, a pay-one-B-mana kicker to draw a card when it leaves play.
- Trigons, which is a series of artifacts that come into play with charge counters on them. Players can put more on them for a cost and each also have an activated ability that requires charge counters being removed from them, such as the card Trigon of Corruption putting a -1/-1 counter on a target creature, and;
- Allied color fast lands. These are new dual lands that come into play tapped unless its controller controls two or fewer other lands, meaning that there’s a chance they may come into play untapped. These lands are W/U Seachrome Coast, U/B Darkslick Shores, B/R Blackcleave Cliffs, R/G Copperline Gorge, and G/W Razorverge Thicket.
Scars of Mirrodin also completes what’s known as a “Mega-cycle,” or a cycle of cards that spans many sets. The original Mirrodin cad four towers – each themed after a color: Tower of Eons, Tower of Fortunes, Towner of Murmurs, and Tower of Champions. With Scars of Mirrodin, the mega-cycle was completed with the printing of the red-themed card, Tower of Calamities.
Aside from the cycles, Scars of Mirrodin also features a handful of notable and valuable cards:
- Contagion Engine, an artifact that can double proliferate.
- Golem’s Heart, a lifegain triggered ability artifact that cares about artifact spells being cast. It’s essentially the artifact-focused version of the “lucky charm” cards from Darksteel such as Dragon’s Claw;
- Molten-Tail Masticore, a nearly functional reprint of the original Masticore from Urza’s Destiny.
- Mox Opal, the then-latest addition to Magic: The Gathering’s popular and powerful line of moxen. In January of 2020, the card was banned in Modern due, in part, to its involvement in one-turn win combos and its synergy with the then-recently printed Modern Horizons card Urza, Lord High Artificer;
- Platinum Emperion, an 8/8 for eight artifact creature that literally says your life total cannot change so long as it is in play;
- Venser, the Sojourner. The only multicolored card in the set, it also is the one and only planeswalker card for the character and the second overall after the Future Sight card, Venser, Shaper Savant;
- Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon, a popular and powerful dragon with infect that can also give itself haste and regenerate itself;
- Sword of Body and Mind, a continuation of the “Sword of X & Y” series that began in Darksteel, and;
- Wurmcoil Engine, a powerful artifact creature that essentially splits into two when killed. It’s been a win condition for a number of decks – most notable, various Tron-based strategies. The card is also the set’s prerelease promo.
As for Scars of Mirrodin’s other promotional cards, a special edition Steel Hellkite was given to participants of the set’s launch party, the set’s buy-a-box promo was a foil, alternate art Memoricide, and the game day event promo was a full-art Memnite. Also, top eight finishers at Game Day also received a full-art foil Tempered Steel.
As for the set as a whole, Magic: The Gathering Head Designer, Mark Rosewater, calls it “a hard set” that was full of “emotional up and downs.”
<Maro DTW SOM-4 29:14-24 “I’m really…set out to do.”>
So, what’s your opinion of Scars of Mirrodin? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.
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Thank you very much for watching.