Top 5 Magic: The Gathering Planes Everyone Wants To See Again (And Everything You Need To Know About Them)
It’s all around us – hype for Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad! SOI is yet another triumph for Wizards of the Coast’s new top-down set design that began with the original Innistrad block. What this means for the average Magic: The Gathering player is new expansions full of rich lore, awesome artwork, and intricate world building.
This new method of top-down set design, where every aspect of an expansion comes from its basic concept and lore, comes full circle with Shadows over Innistrad as we return to Innistrad once more. The Gothic horror themed world has been a fan favourite ever since its début in 2011, and we are all excited to come back and play around with the new Werewolves, Vampires, Humans, Spirits, and Angels.
Over the course of Magic: The Gathering‘s history, we have explored nearly two dozen worlds, or planes. In its early days, Magic focused on the world of Dominaria, but in recent history many new planes have been introduced. Some were so popular and had such a rich lore that subsequent expansions have returned to pre-existing planes: most recently, Mirrodin, Ravnica, Zendikar, and Innistrad.
As I have often been known to do, I recently polled the Magic: The Gathering community asking for the Magic: The Gathering plane they most wanted to return to in a future expansion.
Just like previous polls, two prominent community discussion groups were polled and the results were compiled from both. Based on those results, I present to you the Top 5 Magic: The Gathering planes every Magic player wants to see again, plus a comprehensive guide to each plane.
Rath – Rumoured to have been created by Yawgmoth, Rath was an artificial plane powered by the Hub. The Hub was a giant machine housed in the Stronghold, which was the primary military base on Rath and located inside a volcano. Rath was used by the Phyrexians as the staging point for their invasion of Dominaria and was the location of the Tempest, Stronghold, Exodus, and Nemesis expansions.
Ravnica – Although we have already seen the City of Guilds in two blocks of three expansions with the most recent completed in 2013, some players still want to see more of this unique setting. The plane of Ravnica is almost entirely covered by a city of the same name. It is home to many classic fantasy races, and is run by ten two-color guilds who work together for the good of Ravnica as dictated by the Guildpact, a living enchantment created by the factions long ago. The Guildpact was eventually ended, and the plane was almost plunged into war once again until Jace Beleren intervened and took on the role of the new living Guildpact.
Shandalar – After Dominaria’s storyline shifted its setting from Dungeons & Dragons style fantasy to post-apocalyptic, the plane of Shandalar took its place as the classic setting full of elves, goblins, and other fantasy races. Unlike the other planes, Shandalar has no fixed position in the Multiverse and drifts through the Blind Eternities aimlessly. Shandalar is full of magical energy, and even common folk cast simple spells (or “cantrips” in the D&D vernacular) on a day-to-day basis. Many planeswalkers trapped within the Shard of the Twelve Worlds escaped to Shandalar and waged war over its control.
Shandalar was originally created to fill the role of generic fantasy world for MicroProse’s Magic: The Gathering computer game. Afterwards, it was fleshed out and used as the baseline fantasy setting for Magic core sets.
OK, ready? Lets go!….
Top 5 Magic: The Gathering Planes Every Magic Player Wants To See Again, Plus A Complete Guide To Each Plane
Long ago, Alara was a plane full of mana and magic. In an event known as the Sundering, an unknown planeswalker drained it of its mana, and as a result the world split into five Shards.
Each shard is comprised of three adjacent colours. Bant is the White-aligned shard, supported by Green and Blue. The primary inhabitants of Bant are Humans, Aven, Rhoxes, and Angels. Bant is ruled by five kingdoms: Three located in the central savannah, and two in the wilderness. Elspeth Tirel eventually found a home in Bant, which lacked the violent colours of Black and Red.
Esper is the Blue-aligned shard, supported by White and Black. The primary inhabitants of Esper are Humans, Vedalkens, Sphinxes, and Homunculi. Esper is also the home of Tezzeret. Using a special metal called Etherium, the wizards of Esper create mechanical creatures of all types and even create mechanical body parts for themselves.
The Black-aligned shard is Grixis, supported by Blue and Red. Before the Sundering, Grixis was a White-aligned empire called Vithia. Now its denizens are primarily undead, including undead versions of races from other shards. The most prominent feature of Grixis is the Dregscape, a large wasteland inhabited by Demons, Necromancers, and the undead.
Jund is the red-aligned shard, supported by Black and Green. Active volcanoes litter the landscape of Jund. The shard is dominated by Dragons, but also inhabited by Humans, Viashino, and Goblins. Without White or Blue mana, the colours of order and peace, Jund is ruled by instinct and survival of the fittest. Sarkhan Vol found himself in Jund during his search for dragons.
The fifth and final shard is Naya, which is Green-aligned and supported by Red and White. Naya is home to giant Beasts, Humans and Elves who worship them, Nacatl, and Minotaurs. Ajani Goldmane was born in Naya before the events that led him to Jund and eventually Bant.
After a natural event called the Conflux, the five shards were reunited. While some were prepared for the Conflux, most were taken completely by surprise. Foreign colours of mana flowed freely across the plane, causing chaos among each shard. Progenitus, commonly worshipped as a Hydra-God, was awoken in Naya after Blue and Black mana entered the shard, despite Nicol Bolas‘s plans to keep him asleep.
Alara was nearly destroyed after the Conflux. Nicol Bolas made plans to feed upon the mana of the Maelstrom, a chaotic mana storm at the center of Alara, but Ajani stopped him and saved Alara from another cataclysmic event.
4. New Phyrexia/Mirrodin
The Mirrodin block began in 2003 and was set in a metallic plane of the same name. The block had a heavy artifact theme and introduced the Affinity mechanic, which dominated the Standard format and is also the namesake of one of the top decks in Modern.
Mirrodin is constructed of three separate spheres: The surface, interior, and inner furnaces. There are five Lacunae – large tunnels through the core of Mirrodin – each tunnel corresponding to a different colour of mana. The tunnels were created when the five suns of Mirrodin were ejected from the core, and not so coincidentally, these suns also correspond to the five colours of mana. The names of these suns, which are also called moons by some of Mirrodin’s inhabitants, are Bringer, the Eye of Doom, Ingle, the Sky Tyrant, and Lyese.
Mirrodin was created by Karn, a silver golem made by Urza and given the heartstone of a Phyrxian so he could gain sentience. When the Phyrexians invaded Dominaria, Urza’s powerstone eyes were placed in Karn so he could destroy Yawgmoth. The powerstones turned Karn into the only known artificial planeswalker.
After his spark was ignited, Karn created the plane of Argentum, a mathematically perfect plane. After Karn left Argentum to travel the multiverse with Jesk a(who later became Phage the Untouchable), one of his creations, Memnarch, terraformed Argentum and renamed it Mirrodin. The world became inhabited by various races that Memnarch abducted from other planes.
Unable to re-enter his own world, Karn sent dreams to Glissa Sunseeker, an elf of Mirrodin. After uncovering the existence of Memnarch, Glissa led a group of heroes to the core of the plane and deactivated Memnarch. Unfortunately, when Karn returned to Mirrodin at last, he accidentally brought with him a contagion, the glistening oil engineered by Phyrexians to spread corruption and turn living creatures into Phyrexians.
Before long Mirrodin became corrupted and the Phyrexians invaded. In order to fight on all fronts, the Phyrexians infiltrated all five colours of mana. This resulted in five coloured factions of Phyrexians following the invasion, each ruled by a Praetor.
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite was the White Praetor of Unity and eventually became the dominant praetor. The other praetors were Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur, Blue Praetor of Experimentation, Sheoldred, Whispering One, Black Praetor of Enslavement, Urabrask the Hidden, Red Praetor of Industry, and Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger, Green Praetor of Predation. The five Phyrexian factions ended up fighting for control of what was now called New Phyrexia, and the Black and Red Phyrexians were utterly defeated by Elesh Norn.
In the meantime, a group of Mirrans who were not turned by the glistening oil formed the Mirran Resistance. Notable leaders of the resistance were Koth, Venser, and Elspeth Tirel. Karn was eventually liberated by the resistance when Venser gave up his life and planeswalker spark to cleanse Karn’s corruption. Karn’s new purpose is to cleanse the world of the Phyrexians and restore Mirrodin.
Dominaria was the location of almost all of the early Magic: The Gathering expansions. Dominaria began as a classic Dungeons & Dragons style plane with a long history that has shifted its very landscape.
Dominaria is two and a half times larger than Earth and has not been fully explored in Magic: The Gathering expansions. There are eight known continents that have been discovered so far: Terisiare (which broke into six pieces after the Ice Age), Aerona, Jamuraa (a super-continent made up of three subcontinents), Tamingazin, Otaria, Sarpadia, and unnamed continents at both the north and south poles. There are also a series of smaller oceanic landmasses, such as Tolaria, an isolated island and home of Tolarian Academy, and Vesuva, an island of unknown location and home of Vesuvan Shapeshifters.
In its ancient history, Dominaria was ruled by dragons, then wizards, who defeated the dragons and fought over its control. During the period that followed, the Thran Empire was founded and began to spread. A man named Yawgmoth started a civil war that spread to the other nations of Dominaria, resulting in the collapse of the Thran Empire. Yawgmoth traveled to Phyrexia where he gained godlike power, but the portal between Dominaria and Phyrexia was sealed before he could return.
After the fall of the technologically advanced Thran Empire, instead of a dark age, this period is referred to as the “Golden Age of Magic”. In what became known as the Brothers’ War, two brothers named Urza and Mishra ravaged Terisaire with a 36-year-long war that culminated in Urza causing the destruction of Argoth (a large, lush island next to Terisaire), and also caused devastating tidal waves, a shift in the planet’s rotation axis, the beginning of Dominaria’s Ice Age, and the creation of the Shard of the Twelve Worlds.
The Ice Age led to the end of nearly every empire across Dominaria. Entire races were uprooted in search of warmer climates. Elves attempted to magically manipulate fungi to provide a rich food supply, but unwittedly created the Thallid, a race of sentient fungi which overthrew their civilization. Thrulls, minions created by the Order of the Ebon hand, also rebelled against their masters and then spread to the rest of Sarpadia.
The Ice Age was eventually ended by a group of planeswalkers and druids who cast the World Spell, which also ended the Shard of the Twelve Worlds. This led to the Flood Ages, in which there was once again a flux in power between different factions. Urza, who was now a planeswalker, returned to Dominaria to prevent a Phyrexian invasion.
Most stories in Magic: The Gathering that take place in Dominaria are set in this age, called the Modern Era. Yawgmoth led the Phyrexian invasion but was ultimately destroyed in the event that lit Karn’s planeswalker spark. Very little of Dominaria remained intact after the invasion. Slivers, first seen on Rath, were cloned by Empress Llawan and eventually spread all over Dominaria.
Karona was born during this time, a manifestation of all mana in Dominaria and sole user of its magic, and her death changed the way magic flowed in the plane. Time rifts became more and more common (as seen in Time Spiral), until they were sealed by Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir with the help of several planeswalkers.
If Shandalar is the Dungeons & Dragons world and Dominaria is a post-apocaplyptic fantasy world, Lorwyn is the fairy tale world… if fairy tales became evil.
Lorwyn and Shadowmoor were two mini-blocks of two sets each that told the story of an idyllic fantasy world that changed season every few centuries to its dark reflection. Lorwyn is in near perpetual daylight, and Shadowmoor is in perpetual dusk.
The races of Lorwyn lived in relative peace and usually kept to themselves. Lorwyn was inhabited by Elves, Kithkin, Faeries (the Fae), Merfolk (the Merrow), Goblins (Boggarts), Elementals, Treefolk, Giants, and Changelings.
The elves’ society was the most advanced and assumed the role of de-facto rulers of Lorwyn. Elves valued beauty and perfection above all else and banished or even executed the physically imperfect among their ranks.
The four social classes of elf culture were based around these standards of physical perfection: The Faultless, who met the minimum requirement of beauty and grace; the Immaculate, primarily dignitaries and high-ranking officials; the Exquisite, comprised of courtesans and Packmasters, and the only social class allowed to address Perfects directly; and the Perfect, equally beautiful and shrewd and the rulers of elf society. Perfects were allowed to kill anyone on Lorwyn, even other elves, as they saw fit.
Unlike elves in other worlds, the elves of Lorwyn saw nature not as inherently perfect, but as something that could be continually improved upon and rearranged.
The Kithkin are a small, quick, and agile race with a strong sense of community. They are ruled over by Cenns and live in villages called “clachans”. The community of Kithkin is so strong, they share a collective consciousness called the thoughtweft. In Lorwyn, Kithkin were always welcoming of outsiders, but troublemakers were quickly dealt with. Kithkin were as inquisitive and inventive as they were reverent and superstitious. Kithkin followed the movements of the greater Elementals much like other races follow horoscopes.
The Fae are ruled by Oona, Queen of the Fae. They travel in small groups called cliques and harvest the dreams of other races. These stolen dreams yield powerful magic that the Fae carry with them. Faeries are childish, whimsical, capricious, and vindictive. Much about the Fae is unknown, and many races of Lorwyn believe Oona to be a mythical figure since there are no recorded sightings of the queen.
The Merrow were the merchants of Lorwyn. They are humanoids with fish tails, so they are not able to easily travel across land. The Merrow controlled and maintained the Merrow Lanes, a system of rivers that flows across Lorwyn. Merrow society was organised in schools led by Reejereys. There were many different jobs and vocations in Merrow culture: Rudders, tideshapers, aquitects, troutherds, crawherds, landspanners, fallowsages, and wellgabbers.
The Boggarts of Lorwyn are organised into tribes or clans known as warrens. Goblin physiology varies drastically from warren to warren: Curved horns, stubby horns, no horns; long snouts, goat-like muzzles; long ears or pointy ears. Their skin also varies, as Boggarts can be green, blue, beige, purple, or red. Warrens are led by the oldest Boggart, who is called the “Auntie”, regardless of gender (although most are female). Aunties educate their warrens with fables, teachings, and adjudication of disputes. Fables about a popular figure known as Auntie Grub teach young Boggarts about racial enemies, predators, poisonous plants, and other important lessons.
The Elementals of Lorwyn consist of the Flamekin, lesser Elementals, and Greater Elementals. The Flamekin were humanoids made of fire and stone who wandered Lorwyn. Their bodies burned magically cool, but they could summon flames when needed. The “lesser” Elementals are embodiments of abstract ideas such as hopes, fears, and dreams. They often reflect current events on Lorwyn and types of Elementals are seen in greater frequencies based on what is occurring in the world. For example, if races have been waging war, Elementals of warfare become common.
The Greater Elementals are embodiments of more archetypal concepts, often called Incarnations: Purity, Guile, Dread, Hostility, and Vigor. While the Kithkin monitor the movement of the Great Elementals and believe them to affect the intricacies of their day-to-day lives, the Flamekin worshipped them as demigods.
Of all the inhabitants of Lorwyn, the Treefolk live the longest. When a sapling is very young, a process called the Rising imbues a Treefolk with sentience and the ability to walk. Treefolk society consists of Ash, Birch, Oak, Rown, and Black Poplar. Similarly, giants are the strongest race on Lorwyn, and are extremely territorial due to their massive size.
Changelings also wander the land of Lorwyn. They automatically mimic whatever is around them, and can only speak in unintelligible sounds much like a parrot. Though they possess powerful magic, they are not intelligent. Changelings are commonly associated with a mysterious cavern called Velis Vel.
When Queen Oona brought about the Great Aurora to bring Lorwyn into its next season, the world became Shadowmoor. Only a handful of beings retained their memories of Lorwyn, primarily the Fae and a few individuals who were nearest to the Great Aurora.
Kithkin retained their sense of community but also became xenophobic. The Merrow became pirates and coastal raiders. Boggarts became violent brutes, but there were also three other types of Goblin: Hobgoblins, Redcaps, and Spriggans. The Flamekin lost their flame and became Cinders, in constant search of a way to reignite their race. Treefolk became warped, skeletal, and malicious. Giants lost their intelligence and acted on instinct alone. Changelings, once playful and well meaning, also became malicious and were known as Pucas and Mimics. The most drastic change among the races of Lorwyn was amongst the elves, who became noble and humble protectors of the plane, constantly fighting the dark forces and protecting its denizens.
In addition, mythic beings who had slumbered beneath the surface of Lorwyn reemerged in Shadowmoor: Duergars, Noggles, Trows, Ouphes, Korrigans, Imps, Bogles, Kelpies, Scarecrows, Hags, and Nightmarish all arising, as ghosts also began to haunt the world.
At the end of Eventide, the second set of the Shadowmoor sub-block, the Great Aurora was ended by Maralen of the Mornsong and a few other beings who still had memories of Lorwyn. With this change brought a natural cycle of day and night, although it is unknown what has happened to the plane’s structure and inhabitants.
Interestingly enough, one of the least popular blocks in the history of Magic: The Gathering is also home to one of the most popular worlds in the game’s history. Kamigawa is a plane based strongly off medieval Japanese culture.
The world of Kamigawa is governed by interactions between the mortals and the supernatural Kami. The Kami dwell in the spirit world, called Kakuriyo or Reikai, and the mortals live in Utsushiyo. The two worlds of Kamigawa form a sphere.
There are five major locations in Kamigawa, each based on one of the five basic lands of Magic. Towabara is a massive plain, and its name means “eternal field”. Takeshi Konda and his samurai live here in the Eiganjo Castle. Minamo Academy is built on the largest waterfall in Kamigawa. Takenuma is a large swampland where bandits and rat-folk, or Nezumi, live. Demon spirits called Oni haunt the darkest regions of the swamp. The Sokenzan mountain range is the largest in Kamigawa. Cunning goblins called Akki live here with bandits and renegade samurai called the Ronin. Finally, the Jukai Forest is home to many types of Kami. An order of monks train and attune with nature and the spirit world. Fox-folk called Kitsune and snake-folk called Orochi live in Jukai.
The world of Kamigawa was plunged into war between mortals and spiritual beings when a part of the supreme Kami, O-Kagachi, was stolen. Eiganjo Castle was destroyed by O-Kagachi. Minamo Academy was besieged by an ogre named Hidetsugu, and the most brutal battles of the war took place in the swampland of Takenuma. The Kami War was finally ended when Mochiko Konda, Truth Seeker and her allies freed That Which Was Taken.
Community Question: What planes would YOU like to see Wizards of the Coast revisit next?
Those are the results of the community poll – what did you think? Which of the planes listed do you think have the richest lore that Wizards could potentially draw from for a future expansion? Is there an older plane that could benefit from a more fleshed out top-down design such as we’ve seen in recent years?
Let us know in the comments below. I look forward to hearing form you.
Thanks for reading,