MTG Top 8: Playing the Weatherlight
Welcome to the second episode of Top 8, where every week I pick a subject somewhere in Magic: the Gathering and rank cards, moments and other things relating to the game. This week I’m taking it old school and looking back at the Weatherlight Saga. Many longtime players remember the Weatherlight Saga as it’s story was told through many of the cards beginning in the Weatherlight expansion in 1997, culminating with the Phyrexian invasion of the plane of Dominaria as told through the Invasion Block, ending with the Apocalypse expansion in 2001. Since then, Wizards has referenced the story and characters that from that era through supplemental products such as the Commander products every November and even once a nostalgia-driven Time Spiral block. Time Spiral contained numerous references to the Weatherlight era, which were unfortunately lost on many players that had begun playing Magic in years post-Phyrexian invasion.
Regardless that even more time has passed between the conclusion of the Weatherlight Saga and where we are now, I’m here to rank my Top 8 moments of that story arc as told through the cards. With Magic Origins, we’ve entered a new era of storytelling through the cards themselves, which is much closer to how the story was originally told. To celebrate this change in direction and the story being brought to the forefront of Magic again, let’s take a look at some of my favorite story moments printed on cards between 1997 and 2001.
Note: Obviously this article will contain many spoilers regarding this story arc. You’ve been forewarned!
Although he had been defeated multiple times on Dominaria, and even on the plane of Shandalar, he apparently learned nothing from his past failures when he attempted to turn on Urza and the Nine Titans. He killed two important allies of The Coalition and convinced Darigaaz to free the other Primeval Dragons of Dominaria, who would wreak havoc across Dominaria on both Coalition and Phyrexian forces, making victory that much harder for Dominaria. However, as depicted on the card Confound, Urza had expected Szat’s betrayal and even counted on it. Urza was always a very morally gray character, and in an example of this, he trapped Szat in his power suit and drained his life essence to fuel the Soul Bombs that would later be used to devastate Phyrexia itself beyond repair.
#7 Seismic Assault
#6 Urza’s Guilt
Only tragedy followed these events, with Mishra having nightmares about a dark place hosting a mechanical parody of nature; then later warring with Urza; and finally discovering that in the caverns beneath Koilos lie the original portal to Phyrexia. Through sleeper agents and a Phyrexian priest known as Gix, Mishra was manipulated and taken back to Phyrexia where he was “compleated“. After he returned from Phyrexia, Urza discovered he had been turned into a Phyrexian construct of metal and flesh. With Mishra having abandoned his humanity, he released what became known as the Sylex Blast, destroying both Mishra and the sentient forest over which they were warring.
During the Phyrexian Invasion, after Urza enters Phyrexia with the Nine Titans, he falls prey to the artificial beauty of the plane. Yawgmoth preys upon Urza’s awe, eventually turning Urza towards Yawgmoth’s will. He is confronted by two of his Planeswalker allies, who he then kills, after which Yawgmoth shows Urza the corpse of his brother as a test of loyalty. Yawgmoth claims that his brother has been tortured in Phyrexia ever since his death at Urza’s hand. Urza still gives himself to Yawgmoth, despite his great grief.
#5 Phyrexian Arena
At the same time that Urza pledged his loyalty to Yawgmoth, so did Gerrard, and to that end Yawgmoth created an arena filled with avatars of himself. He made Urza and Gerrard fight, promising to fulfill the greatest wish of the victor. The card Phyrexian Arena depicts Gerard and his victory over Urza, during which he decapitates the Planeswalker (though in this age Planeswalkers were godlike, so Urza did not die). Not only is Phyrexian Arena considered one of the best Black Enchantment spells of all time, but it’s also one of the few cards depicting Yawgmoth’s direct interaction with the heroes in it’s artwork and the lead up a turning point in the story.[/column]
#4 Gerrard’s Verdict
Gerrard’s Verdict is a pivotal moment in the climax of the Weatherlight Saga where he ovecomes Yawgmoth’s temptation and deals a huge blow to the Phyrexian forces. This is the scene in which Crovax is finally put to an end, and Ertai is killed by Squee which is represented on another card in Squee’s Revenge. After this scene, the Weatherlight Crew arrives at The Stronghold and gathers all of their forces to leave, but not before the Coalition forces reactivate the dormant volcano that The Stronghold sits upon, engulfing it in lava.
#3 Pernicious Deed
“Yawgmoth,” Freyalise whispered as she set the bomb, “now you will pay for your treachery.”
#1 Invasion Plans
Probably one of the most interesting things about Invasion Plans is that we get one of very few official looks at the geography of Dominaria. There are other map that were part of the lead up and promotional efforts online during the Invasion Block, but this is probably the earliest glimpse of a globe of Dominaria and likely the only such view of Dominaria on the cards until Yawgmoth’s Agenda in the Invasion expansion a few years later.
VindicateLegacy Weapon fulfilling it’s purpose, destroying all of Yawgmoth’s essence on Dominaria.[/column]
Mind Over Matter
Time Spiral Out
Many other cards depict important points or events within the story of The Weatherlight Saga, including but not limited to Jilt, Planar Portal, Fugue, Cataclysm, Diaboilc Intent, Ertai’s Trickery and many more. It was a really difficult journey to pick these cards and rank them, but in the end these Top 8 cards were the ones that resonated with me most as I opened them in my packs and played them. The wide variety of moments depicted in the cards during this era were what really hooked me into Magic alongside the artwork. The game has always been amazing fun and a social outlet, but early on it was the story being told and accompanying artwork that made me pour over the cards, flavor text and eventually dive in head on.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this look back at what some consider the Golden Age of Magic, despite it’s lengthy and long-winded nature. If some of the events or places described make no sense to you, or it’s just too much to take in outside of the context of understanding The Weatherlight Saga and events therein, then I encourage you to read all about it. Numerous friends have started out or even been playing for years not realizing the depth of the setting and Multiverse of Magic.
What are some of your favorite parts of Magic’s story since you’ve started playing? Do you have any favorite cards depicting these events? Let us know on Twitter @_QueueTimes or in the comments below!