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The majority of Magic's story is set on the plane of Dominaria, and can be broken down into several distinct time periods each detailed in certain sets:
- The Thran: The Thran were a rane of master artificers who were destroyed by Yawgmoth and his Phyrexians (converted Thran following him) during the Thran-Phyrexian War about 5000 years before the Brothers. They are only hinted at in the game, but J. Robert King's novel The Thran explores their culture in some depth.
- The Brothers' War: War between Urza and Mishra, two brothers who were trained by the archaeologist and artificer Tocasia in creating magical devices based on ancient Thran technology. As their power as artificers grew, so did their enmity, eventually erupting in an all-out war utilizing powerful constructs. Marshalling vast armies aided by their impressive machines (some of the old Thran Empire, some newly made) the brothers staged a series of battles. The war devastated the land of Terisiare on the plane of Dominaria and culminated in a world-devastating climax on the island of Argoth. This caused the Dark, the climate changes which led to the Fall of the Sarpadian Empires and finally to the Ice Age. The Brothers' War predated 5 color magic; it was fought with artifacts. This story is the basis for the Antiquities expansion and later the Urza's Saga Block.
- The Dark: The devastation wrought by the Brothers led to the fall of many civilizations and the beginning of a Dark Age in Dominaria. The destruction of Argoth caused a nuclear winter that would later lead to the Dominarian Ice Age. This story is portrayed in the Fallen Empires and The Dark expansions. In this age Terisiare's survivors were bitterly opposed to magic. Tiny, insular villages dotted a wasted, goblin-infested landscape. Fanatical priests controlled a few powerful city-states. Preachers and witch-hunters hunted the countryside for the few remaining wizards. Despite this oppression, it is during this era that mortal wizards first discover the five-color nature of magic. This story is fully explained in the novel The Gathering Dark by Jeff Grubb. The following Ice Age is detailed in Eternal Ice and The Shattered Alliance, also by Jeff Grubb.
- Fallen Empires The harsh climatic changes that followed the destruction of Argoth caused the southern continent, Sarpadia, to struggle for survival. The elves and humans of Sarpadia begin breeding primitive but adaptable subspecies: saprolings and thrulls, respectively. These creatures soon turn on their creators and terrorize the people of Sarpadia, while the Merfolk suffered an invasion of crustacean-like homarids, which benefitted from the cooling oceans. Barraged by invading orcs, goblins, homarids, thrulls, and even fungus, the civilizations of Sarpadia are destroyed, and the continent falls into darkness.
- The Ice Age: The climate-altering effects of the devastation continued leading to a global ice age. New empires rose and fought in the cold. Eventually this cooling climate was reversed and life returned to normal. This story is portrayed in the Ice Age, Alliances, and Coldsnap expansions, and in the novels Eternal Ice and Shattered Alliance by Jeff Grubb. Jeff Grubb also wrote a short story "continuing" the story for Coldsnap, which is located in the Player's Guide insert you can find in a Coldsnap Fat Pack.
- The Homelands This short interlude depicts the decimated plane of Ulgrotha, in which many civilizations struggle for power against Baron Sengir, a powerful vampire who has manipulated a number of other characters into serving his ends. The planeswalkers Serra and Feroz turn the balance in favor of the light, but are killed in battle against a crazed alien planeswalker. The story has no concrete ending.
- The Phyrexian Invasion: After millennia of peace, the machine-like Phyrexians, who originate on a hellish mechanical world, invade the world of Dominaria led by the former Thran Yawgmoth from the pocket universe of Rath. The Phyrexian invasion divides in many sub-stories.
- The Urza Saga: Following the destruction of Argoth, Urza becomes a planeswalker and foresees the invasion of Dominaria. Urza's travels lead the war to the peaceful universe of Serra's realm which is destroyed by Phyrexian armies; survivors of the plane flee to Dominaria and Ulgrota. In preparation for the invasion, Urza creates the Tolarian academy, a research and development laboratory-school in which he and other mighty wizards train mages for the upcoming invasion and experiment on weaponry development, time-travel and genetic manipulation in hopes of creating a defensive army. The time experiments lead to a temporal collapse and the academy becomes laced with time fractures, which are both dangerous and useful to the inhabitants.Urza himself develops a fearful Legacy Weapon and a self-aware golem which, combined, can defeat any foe. This story arc is linked to The Thran, Antiquities, The Dark, Ice Age and Homelands and is depicted in the books The Brothers War, Planeswalker and Time Streams.
- The Legacy: This follows the travels of many brave adventurers from all across Dominaria who, aboard Urza's vessel "The Weatherlight", seek to collect the different artifacts left by Urza and necessary to assemble the Legacy Weapon. Opposed to them, many Phyrexian allies or lords will try to stop them from their quest. This story arc is the longest in the Magic continuity and their characters are depicted in the Weatherlight, Tempest, Stronghold, Exodus, Mercadian Masques, and Nemesis card sets, later the story continues and concludes in the Invasion arc.
- Prophecy: Parallel to the "Legacy" history, and following the Mirage and Urza's Saga histories, in Dominaria the warrior kingdom of Keld ensues war all across Jamuraa. Many wizards from the Tolarian academy aid the federation of Jamuraa and succeed in stopping the Keldons' warmongering.
- The Invasion: The dreaded Phyrexians finally come to Dominaria across many "planar portals" and Urza, who has been spending thousands of years planning a defense against the Invasion, implements his plans. The Weatherlight leads the Dominarian forces, but the widespread chaos, and the uncompromising nature of Urza's tactics, threaten to destroy the plane. The arrival of Yawgmoth himself leads to the Apocalypse, but he is finally defeated by the fully-assembled Legacy Weapon. The Invasion itself occurs in the Invasion block, but is linked to all previous story arcs. From this point on, the publishers switch to a series of self-contained plotlines with occasional links to older stories, rather than sweeping epics spanning years of card releases.
- Otaria: One hundred years after the devastation of the Invasion, Dominaria is still in the process of rebuilding. This part of the story takes place in Otaria, a devastated continent that was, surprisingly, the place least affected by the Invasion. It centers on Kamahl, a barbarian, and his quest to get the Mirari, a magical orb of seemingly endless power.
- Onslaught: Having acquired the Mirari with devastating effects, Kamahl renounces it and tries to be rid of it, but the events he triggered have gone far beyond his control. The story shifts to a battle between Akroma, an angel, and Phage, Kamahl's corrupted sister, who kills with a touch. As zealous armies gather behind each of them, Kamahl needs to end their escalating conflict before Otaria itself is decimated. To this end, he recovers the slumbering Mirari and allies himself with three ancient gods who have been waiting for these events to happen again. This story is linked to Mirrodin, and sets the scene for the first major storyline not set on Dominaria.
- Mirrodin: The story of Mirrodin takes place on a new, metal world, created by the planeswalker Karn and populated by races stolen from other worlds. Glissa, an elf, and her allies strive to assemble the mythical Kaldra, so that they can defeat the crazed Memnarch, who lives inside the hollow world. All the while, we learn about the history of Mirrodin, and its loose, but nonetheless present, connection to previous storylines based on Dominaria. The Mirrodin story is the first of the new year-long, three-set story arcs, having started in 2003 with the release of Moons of Mirrodin and continuing with 2004's The Darksteel Eye and The Fifth Dawn.
- The Kami War: The plane of Kamigawa is naturally divided in two: the kakuriyo Kami world (spirit world) and the utsushiyo material world; both working and operating harmoniously until the Kami began to attack the material world twenty years before the story opens. The books follow the lone samurai Toshiro Umezawa and the princess Michiko as they try to bring peace to Kamigawa. As well as giving the game an unusual, strong Oriental feel, this storyline is interesting in that the designers deliberately tried to give the story a strong influence over the game itself. Instead of relying on the traditional "color wheel" conflict (the game of Magic: the Gathering is based on a five-point circle of allied and enemy color affiliations), the color any given card is may often be less important than whether is has a Kami or Material theme.
- Ravnica: Ravnica is a plane covered almost entirely in cityscape. The city's ten "guilds", political organizations each based on a different two-color mana pairing, warred for a long period of time. After the conflict, a magical document, the Guildpact, was created to ensure that the plane remained at peace and that the guilds would constrain themselves to their social roles. The main storyline begins 9,999 years later, as anticipation of the decimillennial anniversary builds. The once-noble guilds have corrupted and decayed over time, and a great political gridlock is all that keeps Ravnica stable. A series of protagonists - most notably Agrus Kos, a law enforcement officer from the Boros League, and Teysa Karlov, a lawmage from the Orzhov Syndicate, uncover the plots of the various guildmasters, as well as the ambitions of the "secret guild", House Dimir. The flavor of the cards again exerted considerable influence over the mechanics of the game, encouraging players to build decks devoted to a particular guild.
- Time Spiral: The Time Spiral block returns to a post-apocalyptic Dominaria. Teferi, a planeswalker, abandoned Urza during the Phyrexian Invasion by "phasing" (temporarily removing from reality) two landmasses known as Shiv and Zhalfir out. He returns to Dominaria to find it in a state of ruin. In addition to having been almost totally devastated by the Apocalypse, mysterious "time rifts" have opened in the skies across the plane, making planeswalking and spellcasting more difficult. Teferi wants to ensure that Zhalfir and Shiv return to Dominaria safely - however, the time rifts, and the considerably deteriorated state of the plane itself, mean that the two continents no longer "fit." Should Zhalfir and Shiv land, Dominaria and the entire Multiverse would be destroyed. The Time Spiral block was billed as Magic's nostalgia block, and would revisit themes and characters from every storyline up to the end of the Otaria arc. As the Invasion did before the time spiral story is linked to any other story arc before it, harkening back to many earlier settings and characters, even those outside of Dominaria. It was during this block that The Mending occurred, greatly reducing the powers of all planeswalkers.
- Lorwyn: Whereas most blocks consist of three sets, it was decided to turn the 2007/08 block into two mini blocks of two sets each. The focus of the first is the plane of Lorwyn, an idyllic, perpetually sunlit world populated by a wide variety of civilized species. These tribes are generally peaceful but keen to keep to themselves. The story centers around an elf outcast named Rhys who has triggered a series of events foreseen by his mentor, Colfenor, and a flamekin pilgrim named Ashling who believes her path and Rhys's are the same. The coming Aurora, an annual event when the plane darkens and lights appear in the sky, is the key to whatever it is that Rhys needs to do.
- Shadowmoor: Rather than passing harmlessly as it normally does, the Aurora instead transforms Lorwyn into an eerie reflection of itself. The idyllic, sunlit world is replaced by the shadows and omnipresent malice of Shadowmoor. Landscapes, races and even individuals become twisted alternatives with no indication that their Lorwyn selves ever existed. Ashling, now known as the Extinguisher, has a central role in this shift, and it falls to Rhys (an elvish hero in this place) and Maralan, a mysterious elf and one of the very few unchanged by the transformation, to discover why.
- Alara: The plane of Alara was shattered long ago by an unknown force; it is now split unequally into five unique shards, each having no knowledge of the others. Each shard was denied two of the five colors of magic by the event (the inhabitants of each shard have no recollection of the missing two colors of mana), and have evolved around their remaining three: The militant, feudal, sun-dappled plane of Bant, the scientific, order-obsessed, windy and cloud covered plane of Esper, the desperate, lifeless, blackened plane of Grixis, the violent, harsh, volcanic plane of Jund and the green, lush, stampeding plane of Naya. Many species die off, evolve, or border extinction in each shard due to insufficient mana sustenance (Zombies can't survive without black mana, angels can't survive without white mana etc..), and others thrived. The force that shattered the plane is unknown, but believed to be the five-headed hydra Progenitus (for unknown reasons) who disappears at the shattering of the plane and reappears in the expansion: Alara - Conflux when the shards are reunited.
- Conflux: The shards of Alara which were on a long but inevitable collision course with one-another finally collide together once again. This event known as the conflux was about as catastrophic as the split. Now each shard finds itself clashing borders with two foreign shards and each shard begins to wage war on their foreign invaders. Due to the new mana colors available mages and the curious begin experimenting with the new magics making the conflux even more unstable. Each shard begins to change, the land becomes altered, creatures begin to wander and live on other shards, reality of how things are drastically change. The food chain in Jund begins to deviate. The traditional organized fighting of bant starts to break down. Grixis now has a way of obtaining new life force, etc. The center of the plane touches all shards and is introduced to all five mana colors in an intense maelstrom causing incredible new creations. Over time, Planeswalker's powers have greatly diminished, and a certain Planeswalker, Nicol Bolas, once the most powerful planeswalker in existence, wants to use Alara to re-acquire his lost power. From the shadows, Nicol Bolas spreads corruption into all shards of Alara. Through different groups in each shard, Nicol Bolas spreads fear and rumors of war to achieve his own ends.