Who Is: Zurgo

Illus. Raymond Swanland

Magic Untapped takes a look at the story of Zurgo Helmsmasher (or Zurgo Bellstriker, depending on which timeline you prefer).

Video Transcript:

Welcome back to Who Is on Magic Untapped as we take a look at the origins and stories of characters from throughout the Magic: The Gathering multiverse.  I’m Barry White.

In this episode, we’re looking at the story of a character who was a proud leader of men in one timeline, only to be little more than a peon in another.

This is the story of Zurgo Helmsmasher (or Bellstriker, depending on which timeline you’re referring to).


Zurgo Hemlsmasher, Khan of the Mardu Clan on the plane of Tarkir, is a ruthless, violent orc and he has a bone to pick with one Sarkhan Vol.

Vol had been one of his generals whom had, as far as Zurgo cares, deserted the Mardu mid-battle, leaving his troops to die.

Once he learned that the coward had returned to the land, he mobilized his army in hunt of the deserter.

Travelling through hostile lands controlled by the Temur, Zurgo’s forces faced increasing losses.  As morale got worse and worse, challengers arose to put Zurgo to task for what seemed like a fruitless mission.  Zurgo killed the first of his would-be challengers but lost his army in the process as they all chose to instead follow his second-in-command and return to Mardo territory.

Zurgo, realizing that he can only regain rightful leadership after personally killing Vol, became even more determined.

On his own, he tracked down Vol and his travelling partner, a the Khan of the Jeskai, a woman named Narset.  Viciously, he dueled them both, killing Narset whom had been playing interference as Vol slipped into a place known as Ugin’s Nexus, falling out of time altogether…

…The sun rises on a new day on Tarkir and Zurgo, a peon in the Kolaghan clan, rings the bell as he’s done for years.  The orc, whom is looked down upon by most all in his clan and is constantly bullied and harassed by Tarkir’s dragons, just goes through the motions as he has most all of his life.

That is, until the plane was threatened by something no being on Tarkir could ever have imagined.

A strange, metallic army had somehow appeared on the land and was slaying or converting into its own fold every living thing in sight.  Zurgo, understanding that dragons and non-dragons alike did not stand a chance against this new threat unless they banded together, swallowed his bitterness and what little pride he had and approached one of the plane’s dragon lords – the one he felt would be most likely to listen to reason: Ojutai.

As dragons and non-dragons alike fell one after another across Tarkir, Ojutai listened to Zurgo’s pleas and reasonings.  Ultimately, the dragon lord agreed with the orc.

Together, Ojutai and Zurgo fought against the advancing threat – one they would learn are called Phyrexians.  They would set an example for others on the plane, inspiring them to do the same – to work together against the threat despite their differences.


Ultimately, the Phyrexian invasion of Tarkir would fail, as it had everywhere else in the multiverse.  Of course, not without first leaving scars on not just the land, but also the lives of those who had to experience it.

But, for Zurgo and those living on Tarkir, it hinted at a new age for the plane.

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Thank you for watching.

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.