In the opening lore dump at MTG, the stage is set. I’m really pleased with the amount of info we’ve gotten so far, but there are still a lot of questions to be answered.
I don’t won’t to spoil the whole thing, so you may want to read THIS before you read on.
The roil has always been thought to be a natural phenomenon of living on Zendikar. Even more, it was seen, for so long, as a defense mechanism to protect Zendikar from danger or a saftey mechanism to ‘purify itself from corruption’. But, now, the greatest of threats to any plane, the Eldrazis, are gone, but the roil remains. The question is whether the roil, as we have it now, was a part of the original outpouring of mana on Zendikar or have they been corrupted or damaged by the Eldrazis. This clarification will be the driving force in the new installment to MTGs lore and game, ZENDIKAR RISING.
Two of Zendikars most well known living residents, Nahiri and Nissa, have come home. Both have the same thing on their mind. THE HEALING OF ZENDIKAR. The problem is how they define that and go about it.
I don’t think either of them dispute the fact that the Roil has always been with Zendikar. In an article from 2009, the roil was blamed on the ‘unique mana’ and a ‘fierce ecology’ that combined to violent and erratic ends. Most of the lore points to the very creation and make up of Zendikar. The mana itself, being different from other worlds, expresses itself in its own special way. Even if that way is violent, wild and unpredictable.
The residents of Zendikar have know this as far back as history has been written down. This is evident in their unique, druidic shamen called either Lullmages or Roilmages. Before the Eldrazi, these mages worked hard to calm or suppress the roil so that life could be lived in some civilized manner. Warring against the Titans, they turned this sorcery to aggravating and manipulating the roil to aim it like a gun at their enemy. Both are testament to the long tradition of elemental magic sporting a varied relationship with Zendikar itself.
Nahiri said that when she was young (being called an ancient by Nissa means that could be a long time ago) Zendikar was peaceful. She said that was none of ‘this’ meaning the roil? And she also mentioned that the Eldrazi did ‘an unspeakable amount of damage’ to the plane. Every word out of her mouth, her very motive for every act stems from a need to ‘heal’ Zendikar. But heal it from what? From the roil? Or what the roil’s become?
Nissa went along willing also to do anything to ‘heal Zendikar’. But, much like the Kor who followed Nahiri in the debut cinematic, Nissa soon found that the way that Nahiri was going about all of this would not only subvert the roil, but do damage to the elementals and life around her. This is the deal breaker between them. But Nahiri’s made up her mind and, as is her nature, won’t let anyone or anything get between her and the accomplishment of her goal.
For Nissa, ‘healing Zendikar’ means healing the whole plane down to and especially the elementals that she has such a direct connection to. To her, Zendikar IS the plane; the full essence of life. She is unwilling to sacrifice one for another.
Nahiri, I believe, has a different definition of what ‘heal Zendikar’ means. She has a more direct connection to its people and her Kor upbringing. Being ‘ancient’, she has seen so much more than any who survived the Eldrazis, even Nissa. She has seen several stages of her peoples relationship with Zendikar and the roil.
She claims there was a time of ‘peace’ insinuating that there was a time that her people existed either in unison with the roil or without it. If in unison, this was a time of unity between Zendikar and the Kor (and all other peoples). The roilmages would be representatives of their world and the roil. The roil would either have been tolerated in more peaceful upheavals or there would be no concern for such extreme elemental reactions. If we accept that there may have been a time without the roil, we go against all of the given lore. But did the Kor and the other peoples of Zendikar live peaceably with the roil? What does MTG lore seem to say about this?
For so long we have seen Zendikar with no visible civilization. But, for the most part people lived in small settlements unable to raise cities on the ground due to the changing and unstable nature of the elements themselves . But, now, ruins have raised from the ashes of the conflict with the Eldrazi: very advanced ruins. We come to find that the Kor have not always been the nomadic, peaceful people Nahiri makes them out to be.
Enter the rise of the Skyclaves
Massive, very elaborate ruins rose from the debris. These seven specific structures lifted to the skies testifying to a civilization that dominated Zendikar so long ago: a civilization controled by the Kor. Nahiri knows this and also knows there is power within these ruins that can change everything. In the cinematic, we saw one such orb that shined like a sun and, not only froze, but destroyed an elemental of magma and earth. She also spoke of them while reading the walls of the Akoum Skyclave with Nissa. Apparently, the Kor created them or, at least, used them to power the mighty sky cities, seven in number, from where they ruled Zendikar with an iron hand.
Now for my conjecture: If we follow the fact that the Kor ruled from the skies with so much power that all other peoples stayed under them, not only geographicly, but in control and power, then, what relationship did this rendition of the Kor have with the roil and, therefore, Zendikar? These power sources are the center of Nahiri’s quest and, apparently, with them, the Kor were able to build a massive civilization of sky cities. Now, it can be argued that the very act of launching your cities to the sky gets you well out of range of the roil. But, I’m not sure about that. I think it can be said that possibly these ancient Kor found power to either/or protect them from the roil or subdue it altogether.
This brings us to the question of how the power of the roilmages/lullmages evoloved.
The lore, I think, demands that the roil has always been with Zendikar, is a part of Zendikar and that the mages either began at peace with the roil or, at least, learned up until the invasion of the Eldrazi how to calm or subdue the roil. However, the first chant I posted tells a story of great upheaval and a people used to this chaos. So, this leads me to believe they were living in a world that existed naturally with the elements and, therefore, the roil.
During the whole Eldrazi conflict, the mages learned to go one extra step with their effects of the roil. Instead of calming the roil, they began controlling it. Desperate for answers to fight these nightmares, they begin to manipulate the roil into conflict with them. I think, if there is a problem with the roil, it may be that, instead of being tainted by the Eldrazi, they feel that there’s a broken relationship between the roil and the mages due to their overt manipulation.
Now, Nahiri is using the artifact that shines like the sun to, not only manipulate, but subdue and outright destroy the roil. But, as seen in the scene with Nissa, pushing back the roil in this way may be killing all life and elementals in the surrounding area. This alone is a red flag and means we’ll be wearing ‘NISSA WAS RIGHT‘ shirts in no time. AND, I don’t think Jace is going to help much. Nissa couldn’t make any headway with him and he seemed more interested in containing it and studying it than doing what’s right for Zendikar.
What’s your take? Is there something I’m missing? Am I right in my assumptions about both the past lore and the new lore. Let me know in the comments below. Can’t wait for the next lore dump on #MTG website!
COMING NEXT: What’s up with the Skyclaves?