Magic History: Apocalypse

Magic Untapped takes a look back at the set Apocalypse.

Wizards of the Coast's popular and long-standing collectible card game, Magic: The Gathering, has been out since 1993.  That stated, it's nice to look back at older sets to reminisce and see just how much the game has changed over the years.

In this video, we look back at Apocalypse, the last set in Magic: The Gathering's original Invasion block.

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Video Transcript:

In June of 2001, the 23rd expansion in Magic: The Gathering history and the third and final chapter of the Invasion block was released.

Featuring Yawgmoth’s mask as its set symbol, the Apocalypse set picks up where Planeshift left off and includes not just notable cards, but events extremely important to the overall Magic story.

For a full account of the events that unfold in the set, we recommend you pick up a copy of the Apocalypse novel by J. Robert King.  Otherwise, here’s a summary of the set’s story:

Urza and Gerrard are kneeling before the dark Phyrexian lord, Yawgmoth, on the ninth sphere of Phyrexia.  The land around them changes into that of an arena and Yawgmoth commands the two fallen saviors of Dominaria to duel for their greatest desires:  The opportunity to study under the Lord of the Wastes himself should Urza win and, should Gerrard prove the victor, Hanna’s resurrection.

Elsewhere on Phyrexia, the remaining Titans – Bo Levar, Commodore Guff, Freyalise, and Lord Windgrace – discover Urza’s treachery, the death of Taysir, and the destruction of the master soul bomb.  The foursome decide it’s up to them to set off the remaining soul bombs manually.

On Dominaria, Karn is having a mind-blowing experience.  It seems that in breaking his oath of pacifism as he had done during the events of Invasion, the also broke a sort of memory block it was now able to access thousands of years worth of memories and knowledge – including a full knowledge of the Legacy and its purpose.  In a flash of light, the golem merges the Thran Tome with the wrecked Weatherlight, which repairs and rebuilds itself to be stronger, faster, and (this time around) sentient.

With the Weatherlight now sentient, Multani can no longer live in its wooden hull.  He travels back to his home in Yavimaya, discovering on his travel homeward that Benalia, Llanowar, and the merfolk kingdoms (Vodalia included) have all fallen to the Phyrexians.  To his relief, Yavimaya is safe, though the maro-sorcerer knows it’s only a matter of time until his forest also falls under attack.

Deciding to take the offensive, he transplants a large chunk of Yavimaya directly into Urborg.  Crovax leaves the stronghold to confront Multani’s forces, but is overwhelmed and flees to regroup.

Aided by the new Yavimaya forces, Eladamri, Lin Sivvi, and Grizzlegom attempt to locate a backdoor entrance into the Rathi Stronghold.  While they don’t find one, they do happen upon a party of dwarves who were planning to blast a tunnel towards the Stronghold with plans to activate the dormant volcano underneath.

Back in Phyrexia, the seemingly endless duel between Urza and Gerrard drew to a quick close as Gerrard decapitates the planeswalker.  Yawgmoth rewards the victor by increasingly his strength, endurance, knowledge, and will tenfold, but Gerrard’s only want is to have Hanna back.  Yawgmoth sends her into the arena to gather Urza’s head for him, but Gerrard, rather than embracing his dearly departed friend, trusts his instincts and strikes her instead.

His instincts were correct as this Hanna proved only to be a simulacrum, created by Yawgmoth’s essence.  Before he could land the killing blow, however, Yawgmoth had Gerrard jettisoned from the plane, returning him to the stronghold on Urborg.  Once there, he is reuinited with his goblin crewmate, Squee, and the two of them make short work of the Phyrexian troops inside.  Ertai, realizing that he can’t defeat Gerrard alone, summons Crovax to return to the stronghold.

As Gerrard and the now-immortal Squee fight Ertai and Crovax, the dwarves manage to blast their way into the volcano.  Coalition forces breach the stronghold, as does the Weatherlight, having located Squee on its sensors.  Gerrard manages to kill Crovax and Ertai escapes to his rejuvenation chamber to prepare for round three.  Squee, being the goblin that he is, messes with the chamber’s controls and it malfunctions, fatally frying Ertai in the process.

The battle ends and the Coalition forces (Weatherlight included) flee just before the whole place was engulfed in lava.

Back in Phyrexia, the four planeswalkers that remain from Urza’s original nine Titans succeed in setting off the final of the soul bombs, gutting Phyrexia.  Guff, however, reveals that Yawgmoth has already departed from the doomed plane with plans to make Dominaria his new home and, 9000 years after his departure, he indeed does in the form of a death-cloud, killing everything living and resurrecting everything dead.

How does he know this, well, as it turns out, the eccentric Guff is the keeper and editor of sorts of all of the knowledge of the multiverse past, present, and future and already knows how things will turn out.  After all, he’s the one who approved the Lord of the Wastes’ victory and wrote it down in one of his books.

The planeswalkers depart Phyrexia just in time to avoid being caught in its destruction.

Back on Dominaria, the Weatherlight drops everyone off on Urborg save for the main crew just in time to see Yawgmoth’s arrival in his new gaseous form.  Unfortunately, they have no idea how to fight it.

All this time, however, Gerrard has kept Urza’s head with him and the darn thing speaks!  Apparently, Urza has been alive in head form all this time.  It… err… he… umm… whatever you want to call it wants to open the Weatherlight’s power matrix to recreate Serra’s Realm on Dominaria.  Sure, this’ll probably decimate an entire hemisphere, but at least the other half will be safe.

Karn, thankfully, has a better idea.  The golem tells of the Null Moon, which has been gathering white mana ever since it was brought into orbit by the Thran some 9000 years prior.  The Weatherlight planeshifts to the moon and gathers the white mana within with plans to channel it directly into Yawgmoth, thus finally killing the Dark Lord.

Thankfully for all life on Dominaria, Bo Levar manages to convince Guff to make one final edit to this future that is yet to come by leaving it open ended.  A dismal future now potentially avoided, the planeswalkers go their separate ways to defend the plane.  Levar sacrifices himself to save a colony of merfolk from Yawgmoth’s death-coud.  Freyalise spends her supposed last moments in the Skyshroud forest, and Lord Windgrace takes Grizzlegom and his forces home to make one last stand.

As Yawgmoth decimates the rest of the Coalition army, Eladamri and Lin Sivvi commit suicide by jumping to their death off of an enormous treefolk as one final act of defiance against the Dark Lord.

Finally, the Weatherlight launches the Legacy Weapon, losing its sentience in the process.  Yawgmoth attempts to flee through the stronghold’s portal, but finds the portal (and, indeed, the stronghold itself) overrun with lava.  Unable to run, Yawgmoth turns to face blasts of concentrated white mana emanating form the Legacy Weapon.  He not only survives the attack, he morphs into enormous tentacles that grab hold of the Weatherlight.

Just as it seems like the Weatherlight crew and, indeed, Dominaria as a whole is done for, Urza’s head has Gerrard remove his powerstone eyes and place them into Karn’s silver chest.  The result is a radiant light that seems ever expanding as it absorbs all parts of the Legacy into it.  The crew, save for Karn and Gerrard as they, too, are parts of the Legacy, manage to disembark from the ship just in time.

Nobody really knows exactly what happened or how it happened, but once the light dissipated, the Dark Lord, Yawgmoth, was nowhere to be found.  The Lord of the Wastes now finally defeated, all of the Phyrexian forces on the plane became instantly brain dead, Yawgmoth’s control over them now gone.  The Coalition has little trouble in defeating the remaining Phyrexians, disassembling them with the greatest of ease.

A year after the final battle, a ceremony is held in Urborg with survivors from all over the plane in attendance.  A monument is constructed on the former grounds of Crovix’s family estate and, after the ceremony, Squee and Tahngarth rejoin Sisay as members of her crew.  Orim is invited to join them, but she declines.

Karn, now a planeswalker after merging with Urza, appears and wishes the crew well before taking Orim to Mercadia so she can marry Cho-Manno, leader of the Cho-Arrim.

Finally, Sisay, Squee, and Tahngarth set out on new journeys on their new ship, one which they’ve dubbed “Victory.”

And Apocalypse, well heck, the entire Invasion block was a victory of sorts for Wizards of the Coast when you consider how poorly received the previously-released Masques block wound up being.

The set sees the continuation of kicker and split cards, but what’s really kind of neat with Apocalypse is that each color gets a handful of cards – mostly creatures – that have their own color-specific unique abilities.

Red’s bloodfire creatures each have abilities that mirror sweep damage spells Tremor, Pyroclasm, and Inferno.

Green’s penumbra creatures all create a black creature token of their respective power and toughness when they die.

Black’s siphon cards all let their controller draw cards at the expense of one life per card.

Blue’s whirlpool creatures each have “When this creature comes into play, sjuffle the cards from your hand into your library, then draw that many cards.”

And White has the flagbearers, which are a creature type that force one’s opponent’s spells and abilities to target a flagbearer if at all possible.

But those are mono-colored strategies and Apocalypse is a multi-colored set.  Don’t fret – there’s plenty of multi-color to go around.

Whereas the previous set, Planeshift, is all about allied colors, Apocalypse has a focus on enemy color pairs.  As such, the set is full of enemy color cards such as Putrid Warrior, Quicksilver Dagger, Ebony Treefolk, and enemy-colored split cards like Fire//Ice and Illusion//Reality.  Even Apocalypse’s kicker cards feature an enemy color, as is the case with Orim’s Thunder.

The set also has a cycle of enemy colored dual lands.  Whereas Planeshift’s lands are tap lands, however, Apocalypse’s are pain lands, finally completing the set that was introduced with the ally-colored ones from Ice Age.

Apocalypse also featured a number of “wedge” cards (even if they don’t seem like it at first) such as with the disciple, sanctuary, and volver cycles.  There is also a cycle of three-color rare spells in the set such as Lightning Angel and Overgrown Estate.

Notable cards in the set include Vindicate, Mystic Snake, Spiritmonger, and the powerful board sweeper Pernicious Deed, which was an inclusion in many top-eight Pro Tour decks for years after its release.

And, just like with Invasion and Planeshift, Apocalypse featured a pre-release promo card written in a language previously unseen on a Magic card.  This time around it was the card Fungal Shambler and the entire card is written in Sandskrit.

<<I can’t read this!!>>

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

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Barry White

Barry White is a longtime Magic: The Gathering player, having started in 1994 shortly before the release of 'Fallen Empires.' After graduating from the University of Nevada, Reno, he went on to a 15-year journalism career as a writer, reporter, and videographer for three different ABC affiliate newsrooms.