The Real Story Behind Judgment

Wizards has divorced the storyline, making sure the plots of the books and the flavor text on the cards aren’t too interlaced. So what happens when characters start getting flavor text that’s out of character?

Before I begin my article proper, I thought I’d share with you a few responses I got in regards to last week’s article on the translation of Glory. I made a request for those with bilingual capabilities to make a translation of some of the other prerelease cards with ancient languages on them. I received translations for Stone-tongue Basilisk (Arabic) and Raging Kavu (Latin), both of which you can see below:

This translation of Stone-tongue Basilisk is provided by Jeremiah Driscoll, who can be reached at [email protected].

Basil Leesk — Stone and Tongue

Creature – Basil Leesk

When Basil Leesk — Stone and Tongue, is directed to a combat disadvantage by another creature, undertake the destruction of this appointed creature with the end of combat.

The Limit* — It is upon the group of treacherous creatures who block the attack of Basil Leesk – Stone and Tongue, they do that. (You have the Limit when seven cards or more are present in you graveyard.)

“They wrote Basilisk as a cognate,” writes Driscoll,”but split it into two words to emphasize the double ‘L’ sound, which was unnecessary. Also, the whole ‘Stone and Tongue’ thing is specifically not an adjective in this case. And my Arabic instructors would probably get on me for the grammar in the translation of the Threshold ability, but that’s what it looks like to me; it’s probably exactly grammatically correct in the Arabic, though. I was unable to translate the (probable) ‘Illustrated by’ line, as I can’t see the type that small on the version I have.

“All in all, this is one of the more accurate of the latest pre-release translations. Compare it to your own ‘Praise’ card… Or to the Laquatus’s Champion. It was pointed out by someone online, and by the Russian linguist I was living with at the time, that the Russian version said ‘target player’ twice, allowing you to target your opponent with the ‘lose life’ ability and yourself with the ‘gain life’ ability. I believe this to be accurate, although I don’t speak Russian myself.”

(I checked this out, and, according to simply reading the number of Cyrillic words on the card, this appears to be correct.)

This translation of Kavu Furens is provided by Stijn van Dongen, who can be reached at [email protected].

(Note: Stijn translated the card first from Latin to Dutch, then from Dutch to English, so he expects some loss of accuracy.)

Enraged Kavu

Creature/beast – Kavu

Hasting himself/is in a hurry (It is allowed to the creature to lay siege and T the shift it comes to you.)

It is allowed to you to ‘take control of’ Enraged Kavu at that moment during which it is allowed to you to ‘take control of’ a right now.

Yavimaya needed a thousand years to attract them, but needed only a moment to make their use clear.

Arnie Swekel has made the picture (literally!)

“The italicized words,” writes Stijn,”are the sole translation of ‘quandocumque!’ Adhibere: the words between the apostrophes could also be translated with ‘gain.’ Notably funny is the ‘right now’ translation of instant. Of course, these are only the words I learned in school. ‘Laying siege to’ could just as well mean ‘attack.'”

Thanks to both of you for writing in – any others who wish to do so are still highly encouraged!

Now, on to the rest of the article…

As you may have noticed, with each new expansion since Planeshift, I’ve taken a look at the flavor texts of the cards and related them to the storyline. I usually try to have the book read by the time I write the article, and this is the case with Judgment. Now, I know that the previous pre-article addition was somewhat lengthy, but that might turn out to be all right – because the flavor texts of the cards in Judgment have very little to do with the storyline! (Though upon proofreading, I’ve found this article to be quite a bit longer than I thought it would be!)

A while ago, Mark Rosewater made the announcement that Wizards’ obsession with Gerrard and his crew, which many believe to be a failure, will not be repeated. Although the books will still maintain the same level of depth, that depth will not be reflected in the cards. This is extremely evident in the case of Judgment – and in my opinion, it’s too evident. Some of the information on the cards is just plain wrong and makes me wonder if the flavor text writers had even read the book before writing them. But most of all, the flavor texts hold a sort of generality that is more often found in flavor texts on edition cards.

For instance, each Wish has a flavor text along the lines of,”He wished for *blank* but not for the *blank* to *blank* it.” That’s all well and good; the Wishes weren’t mentioned in the story, and the Wishes didn’t mention the story. No harm done. Additionally, the flavor texts regarding the Ancestor as a sort of god – I can’t say that the nomads don’t believe in the Ancestor as their god, but it’s not addressed in the book. Also, the Cephalids are mentioned a lot in the flavor texts, but hardly at all in the book. Finally, each Incarnation has a flavor text quoted from the Scroll of Beginnings – which I think is totally cool, but, again, nothing to do with the storyline. There’s nothing wrong with this facet of these flavor texts – they show Wizards’ intent to keep the story away from the cards.

Now, what I find I disapprove of is the inclusion of quotes that you’ll see below. According to the Judgment novel, these quotes represent incorrect information. They’re fine flavor texts in and of themselves – but in relation to the Judgment storyline, they’re just plain wrong. Let’s take a look. (Note: From this point on, I may reveal spoilers about the novel Judgment. If you don’t want anything spoiled for you, read no further.)

Commander Eesha

~”War glides on the simplest updrafts while peace struggles against hurricane winds. It is the way of the world. It must change.”~

After Pianna and Kirtar were killed, directly or indirectly, by the Mirari, Commander Eesha – an aven – took control of the Order. This quote implies that Commander Eesha wants peace to flourish in Otaria. I find this very hard to believe. Look at both previous leaders of the order: Lieutenant Kirtar and Captain Pianna. Now, we have Commander Eesha. These are not titles of peacemakers – they’re the marks of the military. Eesha wants to destroy the Cabal as much as she wants to destroy the Mirari; I see no struggles for peace in those ambitions.

Epic Struggle

~”If our foes will not listen to words, perhaps hooves and claws will make them take notice.”

-Seton, centaur druid~

I quote Seton from the book Judgment:”Predators kill to survive and prey only lives on when consumed.” The ‘guardian’ of the Krosan forest, Thriss, said,”There can be no life without death.” Also said by Thriss:”But if it is truly the will of the forest that my time on this world has come to an end, it is not for me to say otherwise… I do not fear death, but welcome it as a rebirth in the forest that is to come after.”

The point is that Thriss, and the idyllic druids that surround him, do not fear death, and they are not warriors.

The whole idea behind this card gives a very different light to the Krosan forest. Krosa is not Llanowar – it’s not even Yavimaya. The Krosans have an understanding about the circle of life – don’t kill unless you need to eat, and don’t believe that your death is unfair. If the circle of life is broken, then all is lost. The card Epic Struggle makes it appear that the forest itself was fighting against the Cabal and Order invaders; that simply was not so. The defenders of the forest are Nantuko warriors, and as soon as Laquatus proved his power to turn one Nantuko against another, Thriss recalled them in order to preserve the harmony of life. He’d rather the whole forest be destroyed in due course than risk the unnatural invasion of the willpower of his Nantuko warriors. Even if the forest could defend itself – which, I believe, it can’t (unlike Yavimaya) – Thriss wouldn’t allow it because it would be unnatural. So this quote just doesn’t sit right with anything Krosan.

Ironshell Beetle

~”Why waste time creating weapons? Nature provides us with all we need.”

-Centaur warrior~

Well, I don’t know where this Centaur came from… But it’s probably not Krosa. The only reason Seton went to the pits in the first place was because Thriss told him to check out the Mirari. Krosan creatures don’t fight for the sake of fighting, and the only Centaur mentioned in any of the Odyssey cycle books was Seton, as far as I remember. So if this Centaur is just a random guy, then I guess he fits into the category of”generic flavor text”; otherwise, he, too, brings a bad name to Krosa.

Sudden Strength

~The Mirari’s magic transformed the Krosan Forest – and its inhabitants.~

Um, not according to the book, it didn’t. (If you still intend to read the book but have suffered through my previous spoilers, that’s great – but I urge you to skip to the next quote, as I’m about to give away the whole ending of the novel. You’ve been forewarned.) After wounding his sister Jeska in a blind fit of fury, Kamahl renounced the Mirari and only carried it to Krosa because his mentor Balthor hid it away with them when they traveled to the forest. Thriss wanted Kamahl to be the champion of the forest, because Kamahl was the only one who could resist the allure of the orb. Eventually, Kamahl becomes enamored with the forest and uses the Mirari to restore the damage done to the forest – and, sadly, to kill Laquatus once and for all. As far as I can tell, the only Krosan transformation at work here is the restoration of the damage the Order and Cabal did – nothing really spectacular.

Balthor, the Defiled

~He remembers enough of his life to weep for what he has lost.~

I don’t have a problem with this flavor text – I think it’s quite clever, actually. My problem is with the card Balthor, the Defiled. Balthor gets killed by Laquatus’ champion Burke, though he kills Burke in the battle. Later, he’s raised by Braids with the sole purpose of killing Laquatus. He still maintains his memory of being Balthor, but he also has the distinct purpose of killing the former mer-Ambassador. The problem with Balthor’s card is that it has him raising Zombies from the dead and pumping them up. The Balthor from the novel wouldn’t be anything like this, though I understand it works well for the game.

Venomous Vines

~”True strength comes from within. The false promise of unnatural power only incurs Krosa’s wrath.”

-Seton, centaur druid~

Yes, true strength comes from within. However, Thriss certainly didn’t have a problem with Kamahl using the Mirari to be the champion of the forest! Additionally, I didn’t see Krosa’s wrath at all in Judgment – and, like I said before, I don’t think that Krosa is capable of fury. I think this quote is incomplete. It’s not a total falsehood, but it’s a poor representation of the Krosan forest. But it does serve as a fine bridge between the flavor texts nonrepresentative of the story and the more accurate flavor texts that you’ll find below.

Thriss, Nantuko Primus

~”When you live for others, you live for yourself.”~

Now we’re getting to the true sentiments of the forest! The druids in the heart of the Krosan forest take turns replenishing their home in different ways. Some druids meditate, giving spiritual energy to the forest, while others tend to the crops that give life to the inhabitants (who, in turn, give life to the forest). The Primus himself described the living conditions as idyllic, with all the druids living toward a common cause of general welfare.


~”Even the threat of power has power.”

-Jeska, warrior adept~

I think Jeska’s got half of the Mirari figured out. Part of the Mirari’s power is the magnification it performs on its holder’s power; the other part of its significance is the non-physical power this physical prowess grants its holder. Jeska witnessed this firsthand when Kamahl won a tournament of champions that he designed to lead the barbarians. The strength the Mirari gave Kamahl earned him political sway in the tribes – that is, until he forsakes the power and left the mountains after realizing how far he’d gone (that is, too far).

Jeska, Warrior Adept

~”My brother and I both come from Balthor’s forge. Kamahl has a temper of fire. I have a temper of steel.”~

Jeska once again hits the nail on the head – at least, for most of the Odyssey cycle. Kamahl is all about the thrill of battle, overcoming challenges… That is, of course, until he becomes one with the forest. Also, Jeska tries to calm Kamahl down from his Mirari-induced illusions of grandeur. She tries to reason with him, though she nearly holds her own in a one-on-one battle (hence both facets of steel). Overall, I’d say this is a very astute quote of the siblings’ characters.


~”What you made will be unmade. What you learned will be unlearned. And when you’re done, you will be undone.”

Ambassador Laquatus~

This is just an example of Laquatus’ character. There’s not a lot of these in Judgment, though if you want to learn more about Laquatus, you should check out my installation on Torment. Basically, this shows Laquatus’ tendency to control minds as he sees necessary. He’s really very good at it, able to encourage ideas in even the most controlled minds. It also shows Laquatus’ disregard for life – at least, as long as it’s not helping him. I always liked Laquatus; he was such a cunning, ambitious, and powerful – yet not naive – character. It was such a shame to see him meet his demise in Judgment. No less, he was killed by a hill being grown over him! Now, I suppose there’s a chance he escaped in an underground tunnel in the end (and I certainly hope so), but only Onslaught will tell.

And, on that mysterious note, I call this”real story” to a close. Although I know I gave a somewhat thorough breakdown of the story in this article, I could hardly touch on everything (like everything Cabal-related). Will McDermott’s Judgment is not a spectacular read – but it’s definitely worth checking out, especially since the flavor texts no longer relate to the story nearly as much.

Daniel Crane

[email protected]