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 Paul B. Thompson

The story of Nemesis takes place immediately after the events of Rath and Storm and concurrent to the events of Mercadian Masques. To bring you up to speed if you’re new to the story, or if you’ve simply forgotten, Rath and Storm tells the tale of the Rath Cycle, which was represented in the expansions Tempest, Stronghold, and Exodus. In it, Gerrard and the crew of the Weatherlight travel to Rath to rescue Captain Sisay from Volrath’s Stronghold. They do so, but at great cost to the crew, and escape the plane but Mirri is killed while Crovax and Ertai are left behind. In Mercadian Masques, Gerrard and the surviving crew find themselves on Mercadia where they need to assemble Voltron to repair the Weatherlight and return to Dominaria. Today we learn what befell Crovax and Ertai back on Rath.

It’s important to note that at this time in the storytelling of Magic, there wasn’t as direct a correlation between the cards and the main story that appears in the novel. However, Nemesis the novel and Nemesis the expansion set have a lot of shared key moments and characters. It may have taken Wizards a long time to get where they are today with storytelling, but they had the right idea, to an extent, more than a decade ago. The problem is no one really knew it.

For example, the card Massacre actually represents a major plot point in the Nemesis storyline. I never knew that until reading the novel, which not a lot of people have done. The actual massacre marks a change in Crovax and also in how Belbe views Crovax. Belbe is a central character in this tale. She is an emissary from Phyrexia sent to oversee appointing the next evincar of Rath (the position Volrath abandoned to chase Gerrard to Mercadia). After the massacre of almost six thousand innocent hostages, Belbe decides that Crovax is too cruel to become evincar and she seeks to hinder both his ascension and the impending planar overlay.

The other two main characters of the tale are Ertai and Greven il-Vec. Greven remains the leader of Rath’s armed forces while Ertai has become the only close friend of Belbe. Wait, back up a minute, wasn’t Ertai helping Gerrard? Well it turns out that Ertai isn’t just an arrogant wizard, but he’s also an ambitious and selfish one as well. After being tortured by Greven, Ertai is healed in Volrath’s laboratory but the infusion of black mana begins to change him. Ertai becomes Crovax’s main competition for the title of evincar.

As we know, Crovax still succeeds in becoming the evincar of Rath. There is another plot going on however which is the growing rebellion led by Eladamri. Crovax tries to prove his worth as evincar to Belbe by putting down Eladamri’s rebellion. This goes very poorly for Crovax who is a poor military leader. However, he is insanely powerful. Eladamri eventually decides to infiltrate the stronghold anyways, with a small rebel force, and try to destroy the Predator from within.

Everything with this plan goes south but eventually we get another major plot point depicted in the cards when Eladamri rescues Takara who then informs the elf rebel of the bigger plans for Rath to overlay with Dominaria paving the way for the Phyrexian invasion. You may recognize the card this event is depicted on, but maybe never knew its importance.

Overall Rating: 3.5 — From a Vorthos perspective, Nemesis is a fantastic story. But, also from a literary perspective it holds up pretty well. In the Magic universe this is the first book I can think of since The Thran that so prominently features the darker side of Magic. Crovax is cruel and ruthless. Belbe is mechanical and cold. Ertai is selfish and arrogant. Greven is a maniacal warmonger. Rath is a horrible place. Phyrexia is even worse. Nemesis is almost certainly the Empire Strikes Back chapter of this story as it ends on such a down note.

While the Mercadian Masques, Nemesis, and Prophecy expansions may not hold up very well for the value of the cards printed in the sets, the story is definitely worth reading. It’s a shame though that the cards and story didn’t align better back in this time period, because it could have truly enhanced the experience as we’re seeing today with the Innistrad story.

Next Week’s Book—Prophecy by Vance Moore

Next week we conclude the Masquerade Cycle with Prophecy by Vance Moore. I will touch on this more next week, but I think one of the things that really hurts the Masques block as a whole is the disjointed nature of the story. Book one follows Gerrard on Mercadia. Book two follows Crovax on Rath. Book three (which we’ll get to next week) follows Barrin, Rayne, and Teferi on Dominaria. It’s not very cohesive.

Prophecy‘s story actually doesn’t even deal with the Weatherlight crew at all. Instead the focus is on a war between Keld and Jamuraa as we revisit some of the stories from the Mirage and Visions expansions. Once we get through Prophecy it will be time for the biggest story of them all…

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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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