As most of the regular readers of this blog know, I am on a journey of Magic discovery. Recently, I purchased my very first Magic the Gathering set (which should totally be a toy for kids to bring them into gaming – My First MtG Set) in the hopes of understanding the game. To do this I bought the Nissa vs Ob Nixilis set, which is a pretty cool way of getting into the game, to be honest. It provided me with two duel decks, one which is kind of leafy and full of elves. The other one is far more interesting, the Warlord of Death, Ob Nixilis.
Finding the Balrog-esque appearance of Ob Nilixis appealing and understanding Magic the Gathering has a rich backstory, I decided to read more detail into Ob Nilixis to see how in-depth the story really is. Is it something amazing and epic, along with the same lines as The Lord of the Rings, or is it just enough backstory to cover the game?
Who Is Ob Nilixis?
Who Ob Nilixis is, is somewhat of a confusing question. On one side, what he was is actually not that interesting. He is the sole survivor of a war on a plane no-one else knows, presumably because he was the sole survivor. He was a brilliant tactician (but aren’t all super villains?), warrior, and wizard (source) who, when the war turned south, resorted to underhand tactics to win.
Who he was is a very generic villain-esque warlord. What he did next, however, is where he becomes interesting.
The story goes that Ob Nilixis, towards the end of the war, stumbled across an ancient demon summoning chamber. Instantly, he knew what to do and sacrificed his last remaining, loyal, men to summon forth the demons within. Being corrupt, the demons saw that he wasn’t a nice guy and decided to destroy everything – trees, people, grass…snails…piglets…benches…everything.
Ob Nilixis, mutated and horrific, wandered the wasteland and eventually ascended (“once his spark ignited” – spark being the innate thing inside of someone that makes them a planeswalker) to a new plane in the hope of gaining enough mana to return him to his original form. This, for the record, looked a little bit like Jason Statham, as opposed to the Balrog he had later become.
Once on this new plane, named Zendikar, another planeswalker called Nahiri took a dislike to Ob Nilixis as he was a threatening presence, trying to absorb all their mana and all. She implanted a hedron on his forehead which stripped Ob Nilixis of his power. After centuries imprisoned, and decades studying the hedron, Ob Nilixis managed to lure a child to take it out for him. That child was, needless to say, not exactly healthy once Ob Nilixis was done with him.
Ob Nilixis then had the return of the majority of his powers, however, no longer had the spark. This was his next quest, and it was a bloody one at that. This is where Nissa also comes in, with Ob Nilixis wanting to take power from others on Zendikar with Nissa protecting them. Nissa successfully beat Ob Nilixis, who went slinking off to find the imprisoned titan Ulamog. Ob Nilixis noticed he was being held in place by hedrons, which he drained of power and reignited his spark. Interestingly, a bit of digging discovered that this is the event the Aligned Hedron Network card is named after.
Since then Ob Nilixis has been in constant battles with the planeswalkers Gideon, Nissa, and (by proxy) Chandra Nalaar. That is more or less, to my understanding, where Ob Nilixis is now and, coincidentally, where my decks come in.
So What of the Backstory?
Most of that story came from the Magic the Gathering wiki that I linked to throughout. I have to admit, that most of the way through reading it – it did read like a high barrier to an entry fantasy novel.
That being said, it all changed when I started reading, not about Ob Nilixis, but about Ulamog, the titan. Why? Well, in that moment, I kind of understood what it is all about.
What won me over was not the descriptions of what happened, but rather the fact that the cards are a part of that world. Seeing Aligned Hedron Network as a card, seeing the character and the backstory, depicted in the game is so incredibly cool. It shows that there is a lot of thought that has gone into each card. It made me wonder, as a newbie, which came first: the chicken or the egg? Or, to remove the analogy, what came first: the story or the cards?
I imagine the relationship is symbiotic to some degree. I imagine in some cases it is one, in some, it is the other.
Now, for the first time though, I am actually excited about the game. I am going through the deck wondering where cards such as Desecration Demon, Despoiler of Souls, and Indulgent Tormentor come in. What is it that makes those cards special?
So I’m curious – what do you think of the Magic the Gathering stories? Let me know your favourite parts or stories below.