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.

52 in 52

This week we finished our sixth book of the year. We jumped a bit out of order to read Distant Planes which is the second Magic anthology. What’s really interesting about this collection is that even though it came out in January of 1996, some of the authors clearly had advanced knowledge of the set Mirage which didn’t come out until October of 1996.

It’s important to note that even 20 years ago there were members of Wizards trying to push the idea of tying the cards to narratives to help increase the experience of the fans of the game. Today we kind of take this for granted. Two decades ago the internet was much less robust and there was no Uncharted Realms/Official Magic Fiction.

A lot of people equate the original Magic storyline with the story of the Weatherlight crew. This story began in the 1998 book Rath and Storm which came out just after the Exodus expansion. The Brothers War, which tells the story of Mishra and Urza, didn’t release until 1998 either, just a few months before Urza’s Saga hit shelves. It took four years, from 1994 to 1998, for the “Magic Story” to really start to coalesce.

But, in early 1996, we got one of our earliest looks at what writers could do if they were able to lay the groundwork for the story for upcoming card sets, an experiment that would ultimately pay off massive dividends for Wizards and continues to do so with today’s Zendikar stories.

Distant Planes
edited by Kathy Ice

Let’s talk about Teeka’s Dragon. Or, more importantly perhaps, lets talk about Teeka. Who the hell is Teeka? My best friend used to play a deck that revolved around this six-legged metallic dragon from Mirage. And why not? Nine mana? Flying? Trample? Rampage? This was basically the Reality Smasher of my holiday break in 1996 and the early half of 1997. Long before Wurmcoil Engine, Karn Liberated, or Mindslaver, we had Teeka’s Dragon to go with our Mishra’s Workshops and Urza’s Towers.

But what the hell is a Teeka’s Dragon anyways?

The only way you could get the answer to this question was by reading Distant Planes. There are over 15,000 Magic cards and the word Teeka appears on exactly one of them. She gets no flavor text. She gets no other artifacts. There is no legendary creature named Teeka to represent her. How do I even know to refer to Teeka with feminine pronouns?

Jane Lindskold is a phenomenal fantasy writer who, in 2001, began her best-selling Firekeeper Saga. However, back in 1996 she wrote an entire short story titled “Better Mousetrap” which is all about this single Magic card which has no flavor text and zero related Magic cards.

Lindskold tells the story of a dark-skinned woman who is an amazingly talented artificer. So talented in fact that she’s referenced as such in one of the other short stories in this anthology. Some of Teeka’s creations have been vanishing and then mysteriously reappearing some time later with minor battle wounds. To the reader it’s obvious that her creatures are being summoned by planeswalkers. But Teeka can’t fathom that this is going on so she sets out to create her masterwork. She builds a guardian dragon to protect her other works and find out who is taking them. The dragon eventually follows another clockwork creation and returns with many battle scars and a note that reads “how much to lease this dragon?”

The story of Teeka’s dragon isn’t phenomenal, but it answers an incredibly important question for Magic fans opening packs of Mirage in the fall of 1996: “Who is Teeka and why do they have a dragon?” If you read Distant Planes you could answer that question. In fact, even in today’s world it’s difficult to answer this question.

Here’s the entirety of MTG Salvation’s comment on the topic: “Teeka’s Dragon was an artificial dragon created by the artificer Teeka in the short story “Better Mousetrap” in the Distant Planes anthology.” As far as I can tell, this review is about to become the second place on the internet you can learn this fact.

Overall Rating: 2.5 — I didn’t mean to only talk about Teeka’s Dragon but honestly Distant Planes doesn’t have a the fantastic collection of Vorthos lore that Tapestries contained. Tapestries was a wealth of Vorthos storytelling about The Dark and Legends. If the writers knew about Mirage, or even the Ice Age block, why are there no more stories focused on actual cards? “Better Mousetrap” may have been an experiment and one that Wizards wasn’t too comfortable with but it’s very much to their detriment. Ice Age and Mirage block clearly had stories to tell but we’re just going to have to wait for them.

Next Week’s Book—The Cursed Land by Teri McLaren

Next week we’re traveling back to 1995 for Teri McLaren’s The Cursed Land which was the fifth full-length Magic novel and sixth book overall. We’re still in the world of Dominia and one can assume that this story is in some way inspired by the card Cursed Land. If this story is about an epic quest to figure out how to cast Disenchant I’m going to be sorely disappointed. The preview blurb on the back reads as follows:

“Centuries ago, hungry for power, the wizard Nohr destroyed the Clan Tree of Cridhe, trying to harness its magic for his own uses. Nohr’s deed brought a curse upon his family, divided the Clan—and plunged the island of Cridhe into generations of darkness. Now a turning point has been reached. Aylith, a gifted but untried mage, has been kidnapped by the cruel Nazir in an attempt to wrest away the last of her family’s legacy. But what Nazir intends to take by force can only be given freely—or the ancient wounds of the Parting will never be healed.”

The back cover also has the art for two cards on it. They don’t leave me much hope. See you next week for my review of The Cursed Land.


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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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