Dominaria United is still more than a month away, but that gives us enough time to delve into a very expansive topic: the history of Dominaria as a plane.
For folks newer to Magic, or those who just never paid any attention to the story, the first thing to know is that for a long, long time, Dominaria was The Plane of Magic: The Gathering. Of the first 37 sets (including Core sets), 33 of them took place at least partially on Dominaria. Tempest and Stronghold took place fully on Rath, Homelands on Ulgrotha, Arabian Nights on Rabiah, and every other set featured at least a region of Magic’s main setting.
After the introduction of more planes as full settings for blocks and stories, Core Sets would still feature distinctly Dominarian cards — and we’d eventually return to the plane proper in the aptly named Dominaria.
Dominaria United looks to bring the old mainstay of Magic back into the forefront of the story for a while, so in preparation, here’s a quick primer on the storied history of the plane… in seven parts. Over a couple of articles.
Look, there’s a lot to cover here — and even though I’m going to mostly be hitting the broad strokes, there’s still enough material to fully cover several canvases. Here’s how it’ll break down, along with the sets that correspond to these time periods:
Part 1: Dragons and the History of the Multiverse (Alpha-Antiquities)
Part 2: The Brothers War (Anitiquites, Urza’s Saga-Urza’s Destiny)
Part 3: Dark Times (The Dark-Visions, circling back to Legends…and also Coldsnap, I guess)
Part 4: The Weatherlight Saga (Weatherlight-Apocalypse)
Part 5: Various Apocalypses (Odyssey-Scourge)
Part 6: Timey Wimey Wibbly Wobbly Rifts (Time Spiral-Future Sight)
Part 7: Mending (Dominaria, and lore that touched on the entire Magic storyline post-Future Sight)
This article will cover the first four parts, with the last three coming next week. Without further ado, let’s dive in.
Part 1: Dragons, Empire and Legends
Untold millennia ago, the Elder Dragon Wars raged and five Primordial Dragons ended up ruling Dominaria for a time following their victory. These were Rith, Treva, Dromar, Crosis and Darigaaz. Eventually, they were overthrown by a cabal of human wizards known as the Numena. Once they had power, there was a string of betrayals, back stabbing and just plain bad management that led to the Numena’s downfall.
In the time that followed, the Thran Empire rose to power. A thriving kingdom that stretched across most of Dominaria, eventually a single man rose to prominence: Yawgmoth. A physician, Yawgmoth looked at the biology of humanity as a fascinating machine, and he experimented heavily on it in incredibly dark ways. This led to his exile for a time, but also to a reputation of vast knowledge.
Eventually, an important figure in the Thran empire was attacked with an incredibly powerful magical artifact — a Powerstone. Yawgmoth was recalled from exile to treat the resulting disease, known then as phthisis. Yawgmoth successfully treated the disease, but his methods had some long-term side effects that were…let’s just say less than ideal.
During this time, he befriended a planeswalker, Dyfed, and convinced her to bring him to an empty plane he could fashion as he pleased. This plane was known as Phyrexia. Yawgmoth brought phthisis patients to Phyrexia to treat them, all the while exerting more control over them, experimenting on and observing these new evolutions the treatments caused.
When his actions finally came to light, war broke out between the Phyrexians and the Dominarians. Yawgmoth and Phyrexia were eventually sealed away in their plane apart from Dominaria, but at a very high cost. Dyfed was dead, the biggest city in the empire was a barren, death cloud-ridden abattoir and the Thran empire quickly crumbled in the aftermath.
What followed is known as the Time of Legends, with the founding of Zhalfir in Jamuraa, the rediscovery of artifice in Terisiare and constant magical wars in Corondor. All of this was merely a prelude to a time of great and terrible strife known as The Brothers War.
Part 2: The Brothers War
So here’s the thing. The set after Dominaria United is called The Brothers War, and I’m pretty certain this particular period of time might come up during that set. Call it a hunch. So, we’re not going to dive too deep. Here’s the overview:
Urza and Mishra were the sons of an Argivian noble, and both master artificers. Through various, complicated machinations, they ended up leading opposite sides of a brutal, 36-year conflict that Urza ultimately won at an incredibly high cost.
Terisiare was left ravaged and barren, the rest of Dominaria was plunged into an ice age and the conflict shook the entire multiverse to its core. The Shard of the Twelve Worlds was formed, trapping any planeswalkers caught within it to a small sliver of the multiverse. Fun times!
Part 3: Dark Times (The Dark-Visions, circling back to Legends…and also Coldsnap, I guess)
The time between The Brothers War and the Weatherlight Saga was a dark, tumultuous time for Dominaria. Most nations collapsed in the face of the growing ice age.
There’s not a ton of specifics for most of the world, but we know that Sarpadia fell to the hubris of its own inventions, being overrun by thallids and thrulls. Meanwhile Terisiare fell to dogmatic religious infighting, grinding itself to dust in the conflict.
Once the ice age itself came in full force, we lost track of Dominaria history until the last few decades before the end of the age. We know that Zhalfir used magic to keep itself intact — a grim foreshadowing of things to come.
What we do know is that two nations arose from the dust of Terisiare: Kjeldor and Balduvia. Normally enemies, these two growing nations set aside their own quarrels to fight against and eventually defeat Lim-Dûl, a powerful necromancer.
Meanwhile, planeswalkers were gathering to try and find a way to break out of the Shard of the Twelve Worlds. The more evil among those planeswalkers, Faralyn, Leshrac and Tevesh Szat, conspired against their peers to escape on their own.
As he escaped, Tevesh Szat set in motion a plan to destroy Dominaria once and for all. The remaining planeswalkers, Freyalise, Kristina of the Woods and Taysir of Rabiah, banded together to stop him. Using various artifacts, allies and very powerful magic, the three planeswalkers defeated Tevesh and cast the World Spell, not only saving Dominaria but breaking the Shard and ending the ice age.
Ending the ice age did mean a whole new host of problems to deal with — rising water levels alone leveled several fledgling civilizations. But out of the ashes of the ending age, new nations like Benalia and Yavimaya were born and began to flourish.
Shortly after, Urza, having become a planeswalker, returned to Dominaria. What he found there alarmed him. Phyrexian sleeper agents abounded and seemed to be preparing for a full-scale invasion of the plane.
After a few disastrous initial attempts at stopping the invasion in its tracks resulted in the deaths of his allies and the temporal devastation of Tolaria, Urza formulated several, long-term plans. All of them culminated in…
Part 4: The Weatherlight Saga
The Weatherlight Saga was the main thrust of Magic’s storyline for several years, spanning sets from 1997 to 2001. It tells the story of the crew of the Weatherlight, a skyship capable of interplanar travel.
The full story of the Weatherlight Saga is very long, very involved and would easily double the length of this article on its own. Suffice it to say that Urza, Gerrard, Karn and a host of other characters struggled mightily and ultimately prevailed against the threat of Yawgmoth and the invading Phyrexians.
Dominaria would once again be forever changed as a result of the Phyrexian Invasion. Billions died in the conflict due to various plagues released by the Phyrexians. The moon was destroyed. Teferi sealed Zhalfir away in its own pocket dimension to protect his homeland. Tolaria was completely destroyed, and the very landscape of the plane itself was altered, having been merged with that of Rath, the Phyrexian home world.
Much of the plane was left depopulated as refugees from all over fled to Otaria, one of the few places left relatively untouched by the war. While the Dominarian side of the conflict was ultimately victorious, if there’s a trend in all the history of Dominaria it is that victory often comes at an unfathomable price.
And that is where we’ll leave off for now. There’s still, unfortunately for Dominarians, plenty more to go. Dominaria history seems to be the epitome of “may you live in interesting times” being a curse, as the plane certainly doesn’t lack for incidents. It just so happens that all of those incidents don’t seem to turn out well for a lot of folks.
We’ll be back next week to bring the history of Dominaria up to the present day and set the stage for whatever Dominaria United might bring. Until then, happy planeswalking!
Chris is the Associate Media Producer at Card Kingdom. He would like to apologize to his son for not holding onto more cards from when he first started playing, as that likely would have paid for college. He enjoys pretty much all formats of Magic, but usually ends up playing decks that make other people dislike playing those formats with him.