Welcome to our 2016 52 in 52 series. This year I will be reading 52 Magic: the Gathering novels spanning two decades of Vorthos lore. Each week I’ll share my review of the book along with a synopsis for those of you who are just interested in the core of the story.

by J. Robert King

Thank the Ineffable that’s over.

In all seriousness though, I’m really glad to put this whole story behind me. What started out as an amazing tale really turned into a completely unfocused mess ending in Yawgmoth toying with everyone until Urza had one last crazy plan that actually worked out but made zero sense.

In the end nothing made any sense. I could probably write ten thousand words on the plot holes in the story of Urza Planeswalker. I guess we’ll get to address some of them when we read Time Spiral. For now though I want to focus on the single most disappointing part of the entire story: Yawgmoth.

When we first met Yawgmoth as an exiled Thran eugenicist we met the incarnation of pure evil and ambition. This was a being who was cold, calculating, and manipulative to take what he wanted. He put science, charm, and wit to work for him and duped the masses of Halcyon, capital city of the Thran civilization. He had everyone eating out of his hand as he slowly turned Thran into Phyrexian.

Everyone believed in Yawgmoth except for Glacian, chief engineer of Halcyon, and through Glacian eventually Rebbec, who was chief architect of Halcyon and Glacian’s wife. Yawgmoth failed because of Rebbec. He destroyed the Thran but at the cost of exiling himself and his followers to Phyrexia when Rebbec restored the power stone that kept the Gate to Phyrexia sealed at the Megheddon Defile, which would one day come to be known as Koilos.

When we first met Urza, five thousand years later, it was in the deserts near Koilos with his brother Mishra in the care of Tocasia the Argivian archaeologist. Urza and Mishra discovered Koilos, uncovered Thran artifice, and unsealed the Gate to Phyrexia. They each took half of the power stone that had sealed the gate and had also contained Glacian’s essence. They fought a bloody war for decades that brought Dominaria to its knees. Urza had defeated Mishra but his war with Phyrexia had just begun.

What followed was not the promising story we all hoped for. Instead we were treated to a never-ending carousel of completely expendable side characters who were simply tools for Urza to ultimately reach the final goal of destroying Yawgmoth. Characters like Xantcha, Ratepe, Barrin, Jhoira, Teferi, Karn, the entire crew of the Weatherlight, the inhabitants of Serra’s realm, Cho-Manno, Eladamri, Liin Sivi, Volrath, Belbe, Rayne, and on and on and on and on were simply tools for Urza to manipulate to do his bidding.

But none of that was as disappointing as the Ineffable. When Yawgmoth finally decides to enter the battle he is all-powerful. A collection of planeswalkers go through the process of destroying much of Phyrexia but it is only because Yawgmoth has already decided to move to Dominaria that he allows them to do so. Yawgmoth is able to easily manipulate all living and dead characters. Nothing can stand in his way.

So what’s the motivation for this demigod of death and evil? Revenge. After nine thousand years Yawgmoth wants to destroy all of Dominaria to get revenge on Rebbec, who he believes manifests as Gaea, the spirit of the world. What a load of shit. The Yawgmoth of nine thousand years ago was evil, cunning, and manipulative but the Yawgmoth of the Apocalypse is a boring collection of cliches looking to get revenge on a woman who had the audacity to say no to him one time.

I can’t believe I read a dozen books to get to that conclusion.

Overall Rating: 1.0 — I only give this story anything over a zero because it’s over. It ends how you’d expect a collection of tropes to end. There isn’t a single dynamic character in the whole damned story. Thousands of pages of storytelling and not one bit of it contains compelling character development. Especially not in Yawgmoth or Urza.

I know that a lot of people pine for the “good old days” of the Magic story but let’s be perfectly clear: this story was bad. It started out strong, but then it kind of went on a tangent, and then it got weird, and then it introduced a ton of new characters and sub-plots like the last season of Lost, and then it decided the best way to end the story was to just blow everything up and call it a wrap like when Luke took out the Death Star.

Complain all you want about the new Planeswalker Era but don’t tell me that the story of Urza Planeswalker is something to be revered. The Thran and the Brothers War are worth reading. Parts of the rest of the Saga, like Rath and Storm, are worth reading. But ultimately you’re better off with the cliff notes.

Next Week’s Book—Odyssey by Vance Moore

Some indiscriminate amount of time in the future, on the continent of Otaria which is somehow not mentioned once in the previous two-dozen novels about Dominaria outside, perhaps, of a few short stories, we find ourselves with a new tale featuring a shadowy Cabal, a barbarian named Kamahl, and a plain metal sphere that will turn what’s left of this badly damaged plane into a complete nightmare.

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52 in 52 is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. Each week we will take a look at the past seven days of major events, big news items, and community happenings so that you can keep up-to-date on all the latest and greatest Magic: the Gathering community news.

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