1, Aug, 23

MTG Head Designer Hints at Return of Major Villains!

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Article at a Glance

In the world of MTG lore, a lot has happened over the past few years of sets. Between the defeat of the Phyrexians and the Planeswalkers losing their spark, there’s a lot to talk about. In some cases, major characters supposedly die off or get exiled, only to become integral parts of the story once again. In 2019, Nicol Bolas was one of these characters that was banished at the end of War of the Spark. Not only that, but he was also stripped of his spark and name, while even being looked after by Ugin, his brother.

Fast forward to last year, where we saw the Phyrexians go on an all-out offensive across multiple planes, resulting in the Compleation of many Planeswalkers in Phyrexia: All Will be One. With the interjection of Karn and other Planeswalkers, the war was ultimately not a success for the Phyrexians, who were seemingly obliterated. In both the cases of Nicol Bolas and especially the Phyrexians, their re-emergence in the main storyline seemed extremely unlikely. Nicol Bolas’ escape appeared nearly impossible, and the Phyrexians were literally disintegrated. Yet still, Mark Rosewater confirmed at minimum the high potential of both Nicol Bolas and the Phyrexians returning in the future!

This is Nothing New


With regards to the Phyrexians, Mark Rosewater stated that he “doubt[s] we will never see the Phyrexians again – but not soon.” Going further into detail, he explains how fighting against the odds is nothing new for the Phyrexians. Going way back, Rosewater mentions that Urza had destroyed the Phyrexians and tried to wipe away all hints of their existence. Unfortunately, Urza missed a drop of oil, causing universal chaos once more. In this sense, Rosewater makes it clear that characters can come back from seemingly impossible circumstances, so long as the story flows forward.

While talking about the Phyrexians being dealt with, at least for the time being, Rosewater mentions that Nicol Bolas was locked away too, and sarcastically suggests the possibility of his return to the storyline as well. After all, Nicol Bolas had simply been banished to the Meditation Realm, rather than having been killed off. Rosewater jokingly stated “He’s locked away, what could possibly happen?” The thing is, even if the Phyrexians had emerged from dire consequences already before, they appeared to be dealt with completely this time around. What suggests that they could be revitalized and come back to the lore once again?

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Resurrection to the Extreme

If anything confirms MTG’s willingness to allow characters to return, even from horrific circumstances, it’s certainly the confusing case of Ertai Resurrected. Ertai was obliterated during the Invasion expansion, way back in 2001. Roughly two decades later, the character was essentially brought back to life by none other than Sheoldred in Dominaria United. Many players believe that Mark Rosewater gave a reasonable description about the potential return of Phyrexians and Nicol Bolas, at least in comparison to the lack of information given about how Ertai was able to be resurrected in the first place.

Some speculation, however, actually makes the “resurrection” of Ertai seem somewhat closely linked to Rosewater’s description of how the Phyrexians reemerged after Urza’s attempt to destroy them for good. Despite the name “Ertai Resurrected,” the word used to showcase the process of Ertai being brought back by Sheoldred was actually “Reconstituted.” The comment above makes the case that this implies that Ertai’s resurrection was successful by using his ashes alongside Phyrexian oil.

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Ertai and Dominaria United

As mentioned, Urza missed a drop of oil, which allowed for the Phyrexians to come back initially. Given the powers of the Phyrexian oil itself, this theory regarding Ertai’s resurrection may not be too far-fetched. While this may seem somewhat irrelevant to Rosewater’s comments suggesting that the Phyrexians and Nicol Bolas may come back, the Ertai situation shows that, even in extreme situations, characters can be brought back after long periods of time if it helps move the story along.

Given that Ertai was associated with the Phyrexians but had direct ties to Weatherlight, he was a crucial part of the Dominaria United story. His interactions with major characters such as Squee were super important. This is because he now served the Phyrexians and seeked revenge on those he previously considered friends. Ertai’s resurrection helped tie the whole story together, and Rosewater’s comments suggest that something similar could very well happen with the Phyrexians or Nicol Bolas.

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The Importance of Major Villains

In some ways, Rosewater did make it seem like the return of these villains was more than just a possibility. In addition to his doubt about the Phyrexians never returning to the world of MTG, he mentioned that they would likely be featured as different factions of Phyrexians.

He claims that “they’re awesome villains.” Given how important both the Phyrexians and Nicol Bolas have been to the lore of MTG as a whole, it makes sense that they could return in some capacity. As the above comment suggests, recognizability and nostalgia matter for players. Nostalgia was part of what made Dominaria United as a set largely a success in the first place. The ability to bring back characters, even in different forms, is an integral part of MTG lore.

It makes sense that with the aftermath of March of the Machine leaving many Planeswalkers desparked, a major threat like the Phyrexians wouldn’t be returning for quite some time. Still, as the Ertai story suggests, characters can return after many years to the story. As big as Nicol Bolas and the Phyrexians have been, it will be interesting to see how Mark Rosewater and the MTG design team handle them moving forward, with Rosewater certainly hinting at their return in the future.

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