Last week on the official Magic Story a major plot point was revealed when we learned what happened when Nahiri confronted Sorin a thousand years ago, after the first time the Eldrazi awoke from their imprisonment on Zendikar. Now, Avacyn is unmade and Nahiri is wreaking havoc on Innistrad. Eldritch Moon is right around the corner, releasing in a few weeks, and it’s time we look back and see how we got to this point, with two of the multiverse’s most powerful planeswalkers ready for a rematch centuries in the making.

Building Up Nahiri vs Sorin

At first I thought it might be interesting to take a look at a timeline of events that brought us to the upcoming Eldritch Moon saga, but instead what we’re going to do is take a deeper look at how the creative team at Wizards of the Coast has been sowing the seeds of this epic battle for almost an entire decade.

May, 2007 – Future Sight

Future Sight was an incredibly ambitious expansion set for Magic. By featuring glimpses of the future, Wizards was setting very lofty expectations for cards they would design further down the road. One of the innocuous cards with the future-shifted border was Ghostfire. It’s difficult to say if Wizards R&D knew that colorless spells that required colored mana would one day return, but the creative team sowed the very first seed of a larger story with the flavor text line, “Only those gifted with the eye of Ugin, the spirit dragon, can see his fiery breath.”

Ugin wouldn’t actually appear in the story for many years, and the Devoid mechanic which applies to colorless spells with colored mana costs would take even longer to show up, but both now existed in our minds.

October, 2007 – Lorwyn

Our first actors were introduced to the multiverse when the new card type of Planeswalker was introduced on the fairy-tale world of Lorwyn. Five characters who represented the new post-mending breed of plane-hopping adventurers were printed in the expansion and forever changed the way the game is designed, the way it’s played, and the way the creative team tells the story.

Three of these characters would go on to play pivotal roles in the series of events that will ultimately lead to Nahiri and Sorin facing off again in Eldritch Moon. Jace Beleren, Chandra Nalaar, and Liliana Vess have time and again been focal points of this storyline taking place on Zendikar and Innistrad.

October, 2008 – Shards of Alara

On this strange plane that was split into five shards and being manipulated by the evil dragon-planeswalker Nicol Bolas we were introduced to a new planeswalker: Sarkhan Vol. Vol, who we would later learned hails from Tarkir, was in search of a powerful dragon to serve, and became a servant/slave of Nicol Bolas. Vol eventually started to lose his sanity after the events that reunited the shards of Alara into a single plane.

April, 2010 – Rise of the Eldrazi

The adventure world of Zendikar was a place of mystery and wonder in the multiverse but it held a dark, dark secret. The world wasn’t just a glorified Dungeons and Dragons quest but in-fact was the secret prison of a trio of insanely powerful beings known as the Eldrazi. Many planeswalkers converged at this point of the story including the newly introduced Sorin Markov and Nissa Revane, the newly introduced Sarkhan the Mad, and two incarnations of old favorites in Chandra Ablaze and Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

The convergence of these characters, partly orchestrated by Nicol Bolas, led them to the Eye of Ugin, and caused the release of the Eldrazi, something that Sorin had gravely wished to avoid. The unlocking of the eye could not be undone and the world of Zendikar was now at the mercy of the threat of these Lovecraftian beings.

It was also at this time that Wizards let us in on a bit of the secret past of Zendikar, and the origins of the Eldrazi imprisonment. In it we learned that three planeswalkers were responsible for this miraculous feat. The first was Sorin Markov, who we had just been introduced to. The second was Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, who we first learned of in Future Sight and were now made aware of through the relics he left on Zendikar. The third was cryptically referred to only as The Lithomancer.

May, 2012 – Avacyn Restored

A few years later we were brought to Innistrad, the home of Sorin, Lord of Innistrad, for a story featuring one of the planeswalkers absent from the Zendikar disaster: Liliana of the Veil. The main arc for Liliana is fairly straight-forward. She sold her soul to four demons in exchange for the restoration of her youthfulness after the mending. She then discovered the Chain Veil and has been hunting down the demons who she owes her debt to. One of these demons, Griselbrand, happened to be imprisoned on Innsitrad.

Liliana offered Thalia, the guardian of the Helvault, an option. Either Liliana would destroy the vault or destroy Thalia’s loyal soldiers. Thalia conceded defeat and the Helvault was destroyed releasing Griselbrand, the angel Avacyn, and every other inhabitant. Freed from his prison, Liliana was able to destroy the demon lord and Avacyn was able to restore her protection to Innistrad.

September, 2014 – Khans of Tarkir

Some time after the events on Innistrad led to the release of the Eldrazi, Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker returned to his home plane of Tarkir. This was when we learned that Ugin, creator of the Eye of Ugin, had died long ago on Tarkir, and with his death came the end of all dragon-kind on the plane, leading to Sarkhan Vol’s downward spiral into insanity. However, the voices in Vol’s head spoke of a way for him to restore the past and bring the dragons back to Tarkir.

November, 2014 – Commander 2014

The 2014 edition of the now annual Commander set of decks featured mono-color decks with planeswalker commanders. The idea was that Wizards couldn’t print insanely powerful planeswalkers in Standard, but they could print them in supplemental sets as a way to pay homage to pre-mending planeswalkers. They featured five powerful walkers from the game’s history including Daretti, a powerful artificer from Fiora, Freyalise, the Dominarian ‘walker who ended the Ice Age and fought alongside Urza, the original human incarnation of Ob Nixilis, an insanely powerful young Teferi, and last but not least a previously unnamed Lithomancer.

It was then, in the fall of 2014, that the pieces began to come together, when we learned that Nahiri had been a protege of Sorin Markov, and that after meeting Ugin, the three agreed to imprison the Eldrazi on Zendikar. Nahiri agreed to remain as their jailer and Sorin and Ugin agreed to return if they ever escaped.

January, 2015 – Fate Reforged

Sarkhan Vol successfully traveled back in time to witness the battle between Ugin and Nicol Bolas. He was not able to prevent the mortal wound that killed Ugin in the past, but he was able, with the help of hedron magic he brought back from present-day Zendikar, to put Ugin in a stasis field and keep him on life support (or the ethereal dragon-equivalency of life support). Sorin had searched for Ugin and was unable to find him but then returned and found Ugin remade in the present. After informing Ugin that the Eldrazi were once again free, Ugin told Sorin to find Nahiri and return to Zendikar immediately.

Sorin was reluctant and told Ugin he may not be able to find Nahiri. Ugin cared not for Sorin’s problems and left for Zendikar. Sorin never traveled back to Zendikar. Eventually we learned in the official Magic story that Nahiri had slumbered on Zendikar for four thousand years before the Eldrazi began to stir. She summoned Sorin and Ugin but Ugin was dead (in that timeline) and Sorin did not answer her call. After resealing the Eye of Ugin, Nahiri left in search of her former friend and mentor, but that still leaves a thousand-year gap in our tale…

October, 2015 – Battle for Zendikar

Six years after the release of the Eldrazi (Earth years, not Zendikar years) our heroes returned to battle the great threat to multiverse. But it wasn’t the original trio who sealed the Eldrazi in the first place. Instead it was Jace, Chandra, and Nissa who had unwillingly been part of the original Eldrazi escape, and their new leader Gideon. Jace met with Ugin who warned the mind mage against destroying the Eldrazi but in the end, in order to save the people of Zendikar, they destroyed Ulamog and Kozilek.


Zendikar was saved, but at what cost? And why didn’t Sorin Markov show up to help? And where was Nahiri all this time? Jace decided to travel to Innistrad to find out more about what was going on, and search out Sorin Markov.

April, 2016 – Shadows Over Innistrad

When we left Innistrad it was safely in the hands of Avacyn. Now the angel had gone mad, werewolves once again roamed the forests, and Jace was slowly losing his own sanity seeking Sorin Markov. Eventually Jace, and his new friend Tamiyo, came face to face with Avacyn, and would have been destroyed, if not for Sorin finally making an appearance and un-making his now-insane angelic protector. But something was still very unsettling, and the flavor text was littered with it. All of this was somehow Nahiri’s doing. But why?

June, 2016 – Eldritch Moon

Finally we got the answer we had been waiting for. It turns out that a thousand years ago, when Sorin did not come to Zendikar to help put the Eldrazi back in their prison, Nahiri traveled to Innistrad looking for answers. What she found was Sorin, Avacyn, and the newly created Helvault. Sorin was unapologetic and the two battled for some time before Sorin imprisoned his former student in the Helvault.

For one thousand years Nahiri waited. During that time the Eldrazi escaped their prison. During that time Sarkhan Vol saved Ugin from his destruction. During that time the mending stripped Liliana of her youth, setting her on the path to destroy Griselbrand. A thousand years later, Liliana destroyed the Helvault freeing Avacyn, Griselbrand, and unbeknownst to anyone but Wizards’ creative team: Nahiri, the Lithomancer.

I have to say, I’m really impressed. Go back to the top and look at the date. In May of 2007 the creative team introduced us to Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. Over the next nine years the story twisted and turned but ultimately brings us here, to a showdown on Innistrad between Sorin Markov and Nahiri. Bravo, Wizards. Bravo, indeed.

What does the future have in store? Look back at the unfinished stories. Koth. Elspeth. Ajani. Phyrexia. Nicol Bolas. Tezzeret. Dominaria. Ravnica. Lorwyn. Vryn. Gideon. Chandra. Kaladesh. Know that the creative team isn’t making this up on the fly. The seeds of Kaladesh have been sown for years. The seeds of what follows will likely be just as deeply-rooted and make no mistake, new seeds are being sown all the time.

I spend a lot of time reading Magic’s history and I have to tell you that the creative team has never in the past two decades been doing such a smash up job as they are now. If you haven’t been keeping up, do yourself a huge favor and read the last nine years of the official Magic story.

What We Learned 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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