Hello everybody and welcome to the first MTG lore guide! To celebrate the launch of Zendikar Rising, I thought it would be a fun chance to tell a lot of the stories of what has happened on the plane. It is easily one of my favorite planes and is jam packed with all sorts of lore and great characters. I hope you all enjoy and if there is any planes/characters you would want to cover or just learn more about in general, make sure to let me know in the comments!
One of the defining traits of Zendikar is its landscape, which is perpetually changing due to its incredibly rich mana. This mana cannot be contained, creating what is known as the Roil, which acts as a defense system for the plane. This happens in the form of elementals being made from turbulence, as well as certain mages being able to tame certain parts of the Roil and weaponize it. Despite this, the Roil did not always exist, and is seen as a blight by numerous inhabitants.
Thousands of years ago, Zendikar was home to the Skyclaves, flying cities that existed in every continent. The Kor lived here and had an oppressive rule over the entire plane for centuries. However, every civilization must come to an end someday, with many different events culminating in the fall of the Skyclaves, leaving ruins across the skies.
Another main attribute is the countless ruins that scatter it. While the purpose of these are unknown for the current residents of the plane, there are a few clues as to what these were originally for which I’ll get to in a little bit. In addition to remnants of past civilizations, there are these structures known as hedrons that litter the plane. These possess magical powers and have a close connection to the mana of the plane.
The last main thing to note about the physical plane are the 7 continents.
- Akoum, which is covered with mountains. Deep within the the mountains is the Eye of Ugin.
- Bala Ged, known for its lush jungles and marshes.
- Guul Daaz, the region with the most ancient ruins.
- Murasa, a continent defined by the Plateau it rests on.
- Ondu, which is the smallest continent yet one of the most vertical.
- Sejiri, a frozen tundra.
- Tazeem, home to Sea Gate and several other cities. Flying high above Tazeem is the Sky Ruins of Emeria.
Zendikar is also known for having a diverse population, being the homes of Goblins, Elves, Merfolk, Humans, Vampires, the Kor, Angels, Ogres, Minotaurs, Elementals, Giants, and the Eldrazi.
Of these species, the most notable is the Kor, which were abducted from Zendikar and brought to other planes. They live in nomadic tribes, often on pilgrimages to sacred ruins across the plane. They are well known for being a stoneforgers, mages who specialize in making weaponry. There are some groups that worship Zendikar's ancient gods, such as the Eternal Pilgrims who worship Mangeni, also known as Ulamog.
Another notable species the Eldrazi, one of the few non-planeswalker races that are able to travel to planes. While their origin plane is currently unknown, it is known that they live within the Blind Eternities, the space between the planes. In order to sustain themselves, they siphon mana from planes they visit. Of the Eldrazi, there are three known titans, who then create all the smaller Eldrazi, referred to as their spawn. Another important part of the titans is that they did not have a physical body at first, instead creating manifestations of it on planes.
-One of the three Eldrazi titans. He is the one that siphons the mana from the landscape, turning it into wastelands. He is an embodiment of plague and destruction. While he does have a physical body, he is not bound to it, like the other titans.
-One of the three Eldrazi titans, He specializes in warping reality, being able to enslave people by manipulating their thoughts and emotions. In addition to that, he is able to create tears in the fabric of the plane,
-The last of the three Eldrazi titans. She is able to twist any organic matter, as well as showing the ability to possess people and distort gravity.
-A Kor planeswalker native to Zendikar. When her spark ignited, she met another planeswalker named Sorin, who took her under his wing. Her magic specializes in lithomancy and is able to create essentially anything out of stone.
-A vampire planeswalker born in Innistrad. His grandfather, Edgar Markhov, made a deal with a devil to learn about Sangromancy, turning himself into a vampire. When he applied the same treatment to Sorin, his spark ignited and he started to traverse the multiverse.
-One of the few remaining Elder Dragons and brother to Nicol Bolas. His goal is to acquire as much knowledge as possible and as such, has transcended the 5 colors and as such, solely uses colorless magic.
-A physical manifestation of Zendikar’s turbulent mana locked away in a prison. Twice a year religious pilgrims would perform the Ritual of Lights to ensure he stays locked away in prison.
Nicol Bolas and Sarkhan Vol
-Nicol Bolas is Ugin’s twin and significantly more focused on obtaining power over knowledge. Sarkhan Vol is a planeswalker who wanted to worship a dragon and learn to become strong from them, only to become enslaved by Nicol Bolas and go through a mid-life crisis.
Chandra Nalaar and Jace Beleren
-Chandra is a pyromancer who often acts first and thinks later while Jace is a mind-mage who thinks first, then thinks later. Chandra ends up stealing a scroll talking about a mysterious Eye of Ugin, only to have Jace retrieve it later on from her. 3 years later, the two would have their interest piqued and both headed to it, unbeknownst to the other.
-An elf planeswalker native to Zendikar. She is an Animist who has a close relationship with the soul of the world, being compared to her own blood. When her spark ignited, she was exiled from her clan.
-A human planeswalker native to Theros. He specializes in hieromancy and after tragically killing all of his friends, his spark ignited, and vowed to do whatever was in his power to protect the weak.
-A merfolk planeswalker native to Zendikar. Her specialty is with controlling the ocean and its inhabitants. Her spark ignited from being eaten by a serpent while she was exploring the sea.
-A planeswalker who became a demon after being cursed by the Chain Veil. He went to Zendikar in hopes of using the mana to turn him human once more. Instead the mana stripped him of his spark, and Nahiri implanted a hedron into his head, removing his demonic powers. From then he vowed to destroy the plane and all its inhabitants.
-A human who had put an angel out of their misery and claimed the halo for her own in order to remember her. This cursed her with bad luck, inevitably forced to take a job at Sea Gate being a part of the militia. Her talents caught interest of her superior, eventually giving her the rank of being the general of the Sea Gate militia.
Events on the Plane
As hinted by the remains of prior civilizations, the first important event took place, this being the Eldrazi first arriving on the plane. Given Zendikar’s rich mana, it was only natural that they would eventually come to the plane and start siphoning it. Instead of seeing the three Eldrazi titans for who they were, these being Ulamog, Kozilek, Emrakul, the inhabitants saw them as gods, being worshipped under the names of Ula, Cosi, and Emeria and made temples to worship them.
Eventually, the titans started to siphon the mana from the environment, only to be eventually sealed by Nahiri, Sorin, and Ugin, becoming bound to the plane by what became of the hedron network, with the Eye of Ugin serving as the key to unleash the three titans. In order to prevent them from ever being released on accident, it would take three planeswalkers meeting in the same area to undo the spell.. These three planeswalkers promised to one another that if anything were to happen to the hedron network, they would work together to seal the Eldrazi away. Thousands of years passed without anything going awry. The Eldrazi stayed bound due to the hedrons, but it became disrupted, letting some of the brood escape. This would inevitably be thwarted by Nahiri, who later set out to find Sorin about why he did not come to her aid. However, this outbreak would leave an impact on the plane, these being the birth of Vampires on the plane.
Another thousand years passed before anything notable would happen. There is a ceremony known as the Ritual of Lights, which helps contain Zendikar’s mana imprisoned. As one could probably predict, one of the rituals is disrupted, breaking the prison that held back Zendikar’s true power, the elemental made completely of the mana that flooded the plane, Omnath. With him on the loose, the plane became even less stable, the Roil became more deadly, the world had awoken and the residents of the plane would surely feel its wrath.
While the mana of the plane was being unleashed, another conflict was happening at the Eye of Ugin. Nicol Bolas had sent his servant Sarkhan Vol to guard the Eye and make sure it was never disturbed. Coincidentally, Chandra Nalaar and Jace Beleren would meet him at the Eye and get into a fight, weakening the bond that is formed with the hedron network and allowing the Eldrazi brood to escape once more.
A few months later, Nissa would investigate where the Eldrazi were coming from, eventually being joined up with Sorin, who had returned after discovering the Eye had weakened. The two of them came up with the plan of going back to the Eye and reinforcing it, driving the brood to stop being released. However, Nissa got the smart idea of instead breaking the Eye in hopes that the mana-hungry titans would flee the world currently being ravaged by a massive influx of mana. Unsurprisingly, Nissa was wrong and the titans immediately started to wreak havoc on Zendikar.
Two years passed of the Eldrazi just tormenting all those who lived on the plane, completely decimating Sejiri, Bala Ged, and were heading towards Sea Gate. Despite this, the people native to Zendikar would not give up without a fight, rallying under the banner of Gideon Jura. With the help of other planeswalkers, these being Kiora, Nissa, Jace, and Chandra, they were able to fight off the invading Eldrazi and save the city. Unfortunately, a scout showed up and warned them that Ulamog was approaching the city. This warning had given them time to prepare for the incoming Eldrazi titan, with Nissa raising the hedrons with the goal of aligning and later imprisoning the lone titan. Ulamog continued directly into their trap, Jace activated the hedrons, successfully imprisoned him. Unfortunately for them, Ob Nixilis reignited his spark by siphoning some of the hedrons, destroyed the hedron network that had trapped Ulamog, and finally took Nissa, Jace, and Gideon as prisoners. This left Ulamog to destroy Sea Gate.
In the wake of Sea Gate’s destruction and the imprisonment of most of the planeswalkers trapped by Ob Nixilis, who had fled, the residents of Zendikar started to rally together, under the leadership of General Tazri. With the help of Chandra, Tazri and her forces were able to rescue the captive planeswalkers and drive off Ob Nixilis, allowing them to deal with the ever-looming threats of the Eldrazi Titans. Understanding that they are powerless on their own, they swore oaths to protect the multiverse, creating the Gatewatch.
With the Gatewatch formed, they simply had to come up with a plan. Every plane has leylines, which are pathways that mana flows by. With this in mind, Jace was able to come up with a plan, utilizing Nissa’s natural affinity for Zendikar. She would be able to use them to detain and eventually assimilate the Titans into the plane. While this plan worked at first, the Titans started to absorb the mana from the plane even faster before, putting their entire plan at risk. Taking note of this, Chandra offered to instead take the mana that Nissa was using to detain them and instead use it to incinerate them. With Nissa funneling the mana into Chandra, she was able to create such an intense flame that both Ulamog and Kozilek were turned to ash.
With the Eldrazi Titans slain, the Gatewatch moved on to find the remaining Eldrazi Titan, Emrakul. The rebuilding of the world was left in the hands of General Tazri, who decided to start with rebuilding Sea Gate. With the help of Linvala, an angel who lost her halo, they were able to rebuild the city within a year.
With the Eldrazi no longer posing a threat to residents, they returned back to their normal activities of exploring their world. One of these groups had went to explore the the Sky Ruins of Emeria since Iona, the angel who normally protects the ruins, left her guard post. This group had triggered a defense system within the ruins and the other six Skyclaves that had fallen out of the sky had risen from the ground again. These ruins were inhabited by monsters, but that did not prevent the explorers from heading out to explore the new floating ruins.
Since raiding these forgotten ruins was dangerous, only the elite would be chosen to explore them, these being picked out by expeditionary houses. With the new ruins scattering the skies directly above some of the houses, as well as the infrastructure of the old ones being demolished with the rest of old Sea Gate, a new house was formed named the Sea Gate Expeditionary House. A group of adventurers was formed and went to explore the ruins, only to find a necklace laced with red gems. A kor woman named Kesenya put it on and while leaving the ruins with her party, she triggered a pyrotechnic trap and would have burned her entire party to a crisp. Luckily, this necklace not only made her flame retardant, but also gave her basic control over flames, letting her save the party from perishing. She named the artifact, calling it Dragon's Frill, and it brought along tons of attention to the party, as well as a benefactor who helped Kesenya make her own expeditionary house. While unknown to all the inhabitants of the plane, this donor was none other than Nahiri.
Not only has she been funding the discovery of these powerful relics, but she has also been finding them on her own. High above Akoum she was exploring ruins with Nissa, who had met up after Nahiri's request. Together they explored the Skyclave, but they stumbled onto more traps. To help protect them for the rest of the journey, Nissa summoned an elemental from a fern. Eventually they got to heart of the Skyclave, which in the center of it, lay an orb. Upon inspecting the ruins covering the wall, they were able to discover that this orb was known as a lithoform core, as well as it being one of the last in existence. In addition to that, it was a key, with the lock being located in the Skyclave in Murasa. Upon speaking the words needed to use the key, the lithoform core let out a burst of light, stitching the Skyclave back together in exchange for stopping the Roil completely. This resulted in Nahiri being grateful to have finally found a way to save Zendikar, while Nissa being disgusted as she viewed Nahiri's actions as killing the plane. As a result, Nissa planeswalked away seeking help from her friend Jace.
Once back at Sea Gate, Nahiri went to Kesenya in hopes of gathering a party who can assist with exploring the Murasa Skyclave. This crew consisted of Akiri, Kaza, Orah, and Zareth. Due to this expedition being one of the most dangerous ones in the history of the plane, the party needed some convincing, which resulted in Nahiri promising all the riches in the world, as this party would be its saviors. However the more they discovered about Nahiri and her quest, the more concerned they were about what her intentions truly were.
Meanwhile, Jace had returned to the plane and had started to track both Nahiri and Nissa, to little to no prevail. Eventually he pieced together some clues and found out that the two were last seen in Murasa, and as such, he head there to search for them. However on his way there he was ambushed by a Swarm Shambler and most likely would have died to it if it were not or Nissa saving him. Kind of embarrassing for one of the greatest mind-mages to have almost died to a group of mushrooms so its a good thing Nissa met up with him. Together they set out to track down Nahiri.
Back to Nahiri and her party, they had just managed to get to finish the treacherous climb to the top of the Skyclave. Nahiri used the key to enter the chamber, which is where the Lithoform Engine was discovered. The engine waas not the important part, and rather the core it had inside. However once the artifact was taken from its pedestal, the Skyclave had started to crumble even more, causing the party to flee as fast as possible. Not everyone was able to escape, with Orah and Kaza becoming trapped. The Roil started to become more aggressive, creating elementals as if trying to top Nahiri from taking the artifact. The three remaining members were ble to land on a large strip of land. Soon after landing, a fire elemental was formed and threatened the party. With nothing else to resort to, Nahiri pulled out the Lithoform Core and obliterated the elemental, as well as Zareth.
With Akiri realizing what type of person Nahiri was, she tried to steal the core back, only to be unsuccessful. Nahiri had drawn a Hedron close to the island and used it to pull Akiri off the ledge.
Unfortunately, this is where the story ends as of now. Wizards of the Coast has made the good decision to go back to telling the stories online instead of through books that made the storyline a laughing stock. However, with all the cards revealed we are able to extrapolate the rest of the story. Before jumping into this territory, I just want to note that this is all speculative and can totally be wrong. The first main card is Nahiri's Lithoforming, which is her trying to restore the plane back to what she sees as the 'true zendikar'. Jace and Nissa try to stop her, but Nahiri is able to bind Jace and possibly Nissa, letting her go through with her plan of terraforming the plane. The final card comes in the form of Lithoform Blight. I am not sure what exactly the blight is referring to, as the only previous blight on Zendikar was with the Eldrazi and I feel like the ancient Kor society was relatively untouched by the Eldrazi. Regardless of what the blight is, Nahiri's actions have caused it to reappear on the plane and it is hurting the plane.
While the main storyline of Zendikar has been great and kicked off one of the longest running arcs, the plane is also home to many small stories which are what flesh out the world so much more.
As mentioned earlier, Omnath is Zendikar’s mana given a physical form. Since his initial release on the plane, he has absorbed different colors correlating to the different events. Starting off as a mono green, this was when Omnath was trying to absorb as much mana as possible in order to try protecting the plane from any invaders. Once the Eldrazi were released, the plane had to defend itself, which happened in the form of Roil becoming more hostile as well as Omnath absorbing red mana to become more aggressive. The two ended up uniting in the form of picking up blue as one of his colors. Finally, with the Eldrazi threat gone, the mana of the plane can heal the plane, resulting in Omnath picking up white mana.
On the initial arrival of the Eldrazi six thousand years ago, the angels were quick to respond to them. Unsurprisingly, they were made short work of and the remaining ones laid hidden until Nahiri, Sorin, and Ugin sealed them all. In shame of what had happened, the remaining angels started to wear their halos over their eyes, showing that they are blind to the Eldrazi monstrosities. When the Eldrazi were unleashed later on, their halos shattered and it gave them the option to redeem themselves by fighting off the Eldrazi. This went about as good as one could expect, with most of them dying.
Like the Eldrazi, Vampires are not actually native to the plane of Zendikar. Instead, they were created by Ulamog, who had corrupted the humans who lived in the mountains of Akoum. These corrupted humans essentially became cultists, doing rituals to weaken the bonds made by the hedrons to free their masters. Once the first outbreak of the Eldrazi spawn occured, the vampires transformed, becoming even more enslaved to their overlords. However, once Nahiri resealed the hedrons, the bond was broken and the vampires were finally free. This would be good news, if it were not for the fact only 12 vampires were left, becoming known as bloodchiefs. Flash forward to when the titans broke loose, there are 5 main houses, each led by a bloodchief. These were Kalastria, Nirkana, Emevera, Urnaav, and Ghet, all of which control a part of Malakir, a city ran entirely by the five different families. However with Ulamog on the loose again, some vampires became enslaved, such as Kalitas, the bloodchief of Ghet. This launched a civil war between the vampire families, with only one bloodchief alive after the war was finally over, Drana, the bloodchief from Kalastria.
In one of the goblin tribes, there was a young explorer named Tuktuk, who wanted to prove his worth to his tribe. He decided to explore the most dangerous ruins he knew of. The ruins he decided to explore had been tainted by Eldrazi magic, resulting in rock formations to appear on the walls resembling hedrons. Eventually Tuktuk found the treasure he set out for, a powerful hedron which was fused into the walls of the ruin. In classic goblin fashion, he decided he would touch it, which triggered a rune-trap, exploding and killing him instantly. However, the hedron was designed to protect the inside of the ruins, which included Tuktuk. This caused the Eldrazi-infused stone from the walls to slowly come together, forming a goblin-golem creature, only to have Tuktuk’s mind inhabit it. He returned to his tribe only to be essentially worshiped and proclaimed the leader of the tribe. He started to teach other goblins that eating the hedrons and the other rocks. Inevitably, this would be his undoing, as another goblin named Zada, would unknowingly eat Tuktuk.