The Real Story Behind Onslaught

I found so many Judgment flavor texts that stated nearly blatant falsehoods, at least according to the book Judgment (upon which we can only rely for the”truth” about the storyline). Similarly, there are some incongruities in Onslaught.

It’s that time again! We’ve once more been graced by a new set, fresh from Wizards. Onslaught is going to be extremely important very fast because of its rotation into Standard in November, pushing out one of my favorite blocks of all time: Invasion Block. Although I’m sure Onslaught articles will be all over the ‘net before I pipe in my comments, I’ll once again exercise my tradition of looking at the flavor texts of the cards in relation to the storyline, according to the book.

As I mentioned in a parallel article about Judgment, Wizards’ new policy of flavor texts is interesting. Not basing the cards on the storyline allows for more freedom while still allowing for some elements of the storyline to leak through. However, as I also mentioned in the Judgment article, it seems like continuity is not being held in as high regard as it should. I found so many Judgment flavor texts that stated nearly blatant falsehoods, according to the book Judgment (upon which we can only rely for the”truth” about the storyline). Similarly, there are some incongruities in Onslaught.

But I think this has less to do with disregard for congruity and more to do with disregard for continuity. See, many flavor texts of this set seem to be coming from the next two expansions: For instance, the only mention of the Order in the book is when Nivea summons Order soldiers to fight in the pits. Additionally, many blue cards reference the Riptide Project, apparently something Empress Llawan is instigating to control the Mirari. However, Cephalids aren’t even mentioned in Onslaught, let alone the Riptide Project.

Rei Nakazawa affirmed my suspicions on www.MagicTheGathering.com, saying that pictures from the entire block have been taken and developed onto the cards in Onslaught. Although I can see the reasoning behind this (the only marginally blue creature in the book, in my opinion, is Ixidor). I only hope that they don’t get too carried away with a disregard for what is actually happening right now – I wouldn’t want to see on the flavor text of a card in the next expansion (in which I do not think it’s possible for Kamahl to die),”Kamahl grabbed the sword in his chest and gasped. As his life faded away, so did his hope of saving his sister.” Oops!

One more note before I get to the flavor texts: J. Robert King is a Magically literary genius! You can definitely tell from reading his books that he plays Magic as he drops bits of Magic humor into the book. It’s really quite masterful! For instance, Ixidor, an artist, fights in the pits by constructing a”deck” of”cards” on which are painted illustrations of different”creatures” and”spells.” During the duel, he”draws” a card from the deck and throws it into the arena, thereby making real whatever was on the card. Sound familiar?

Additionally, my favorite quote of the book is found while describing Kamahl during a particularly difficult battle. He was worn out, having used up all his physical and magical strength. His resources were spent. In the words of King,”He was tapped out.” Brilliant!

Well done, Mr. King. I definitely look forward to reading the next two installations of the saga!

(Note: Since the rest of this article will be devoted to the storyline, I once again urge you not to read it if you plan to read the book Onslaught and want the experience to remain unspoiled.)

Akroma’s Vengeance

~Ixidor had only to imagine their ruin and Akroma made it so.~

So here’s the deal: Ixidor and Nivea were partners in the arena and lovers outside it. Phage (a truly evil woman whose touch can kill) killed Nivea on the duo’s last battle in the pits. Sure of their victory, Ixidor had bet counterfeit money on Nivea – and when he couldn’t pay his debts to the Cabal, he was dropped off in the desert as punishment. There, in desperation, he found his ability to sculpt mud, blood, and sand into living things (and water and what-have-you). He creates a little world for himself (a big forest with a lake in the center), and he makes a home full of optical illusions in which he plans to hide from the grief that he feels about his lost love, Nivea. In his dreams one night, he vividly imagines nearly being killed by Phage but being rescued by the angel Nivea, who slays Phage. He wakes up to find the angel, real, though not Nivea. Akroma, the right hand of Ixidor (who indeed lost his right arm in the creation of his Protector) vows to guard Ixidor at all costs. When Kamahl and Phage (who’s Kamahl’s sister, Jeska, at heart) lead two armies against Ixidor with the hope of killing Akroma (for neither Kamahl nor his sister want Akroma to succeed in killing Phage), Ixidor sends Akroma among his created legions to protect him. Akroma’s one bad mamma jamma, so this task is one she completes well, bringing the ruin (though in individual strokes) that Ixidor wishes.

Aura Extraction

~Every day, Order clerics contain as much of the Mirari’s energy as possible, hoping to delay Otaria’s demise.~

This is one of the quotes about which I spoke earlier. The Order are hardly mentioned in Onslaught, during which the Mirari is tucked away inside Krosa.

But this might be a good time to mention why the Mirari’s so destructive. When Kamahl pierced Laquatus with it in Judgment, it imbedded itself in the Krosan Forest. There, it combined with the spirit of the Forest and made it grow unbelievably fast. This dangerous growth no doubt threatens the world, though there’s no knowing what surprises lie in store to which this text could be referring.

Righteous Cause

~”Until the world unites in vengeful fury and Phage is destroyed, I will not stay my hand.” -Akroma, angelic avenger~

Here’s a perfect example of how dedicated Akroma is to getting rid of Phage. Now, the whole”world unit[ing] in vengeful fury” is new to me and will probably be the focus of the next book. See (HUGE SPOILER AHEAD), in the end of Onslaught, an effigy of Nivea in the form of a giant wurm erupts from Phage – and, to make a long story short, eats Ixidor. Akroma’s pretty upset about this, so I can definitely see her rallying troops around the world to avenge her master and fulfill her promise to him. Sounds interesting (if not unlike Invasion).

Future Sight

~”My past holds only pain and loss. I will conquer it by creating the perfect future.” -Ixidor, reality sculptor~

This shows Ixidor’s living style. He surrounds himself with beauty and illusion that he might not be faced with the constant grief of having lost Nivea. At the same time, he’s doing this so that he will face the grief of losing Nivea. One way or another, Ixidor is using his power to deal with his feelings of lost love. Sounds like a planeswalker in the making to me!

Ixidor, Reality Sculptor

~Reality has exiled me. I am no longer bound by its laws.~

This is such a cool quote… And is actually very apt. Ixidor has the ability to create regular old stuff (like birds and fish), but he does so rarely. His forest is full of miles-high trees; he gets to his floating castle by having an unman boat him across a lake; his”clouds” are actually flying jellyfish with toxic tentacles; his army is made of mudmen. He is truly open to creative creation, and he goes all out. Ixidor is definitely an excellent character, if not in development, then in sheer coolness.

Psychic Trance

~The Riptide Project was perhaps the only school devoted to preventing the spread of knowledge.~

I chose this flavor text as a Riptide Project representative. I have nothing much to say about the Riptide Project that I didn’t say before – only that I wonder why Llawan is all of a sudden concerning herself with the Mirari when she never cared about it before….

Aphetto Dredging

~Phage became both executioner and savior, helping others to the same rebirth she had found.~

Now, as far as I can tell, this is just plain wrong. Unless the”rebirth” that Phage found when becoming herself from Jeska was death, it’s not the same as what she doles out to others. Even a brush with Phage causes one to melt away in an agonizing death. I definitely see her as executioner… But savior? The only connection I can make is when each person she has killed gets ejected from her body and turned into massive, world-destroying wurms, though I don’t know what kind of salvation that is.

Doomed Necromancer

~”His sacrifice shall not be forgotten. Now toss his body over there with the others.” –Phage the Untouchable~

This quote serves double-duty: First, it shows the true evilness of Phage, who has complete disregard for all life but hers, the First’s, Braids’, and her commander, Zagorka’s. Secondly, it depicts Phage’s deadly skin by labeling her as the Untouchable. Her caress, like the First, causes instant death – making a handshake a definitely bad idea around her!


~”It is from Phage that this evil springs, and to her it shall return.” -Akroma, angelic avenger~

The picture seems to show the roaches that spewed from Phage’s body when the darkest part of her soul was tapped by one of Ixidor’s thought-sparks. Every person she’d killed was vomited out of her as a roach and then transformed into hideous, league-long wurms. On the bright side, Jeska was brought back to her senses long enough to talk to Kamahl. However, Akroma correctly noted that the only way to save Dominaria from such monsters was to stick them back in Jeska; they did, changing Jeska back into Phage.


~”I have seen life’s purpose, and now it is my own.” -Kamahl, druid acolyte~

I think this is a pretty cool metaphor. See, Kamahl and Krosa communicate, with Krosa asking Kamahl to leave it the power of the Mirari and to use its forces in spreading the forest. Kamahl agrees. Therefore, I’m thinking that”life’s” purpose is that of the Forest to which Kamahl feels so much affinity.

Centaur Glade

~The Mirari called to the centaurs, and all who heard it were forever changed.~

Were they ever! Although it was less Mirari and more Kamahl, several centaurs were changed into gargantuan versions of themselves, and they accompanied Kamahl in all his journeys afterwards. The most important of these centaurs was Stonebrow, who ended up being Kamahl’s second-in-command.

Kamahl, Fist of Krosa

~My mind has changed. My strength has not.~

I love this quote – almost as much as Ixidor’s! Kamahl is definitely still a stick; in fact, I’d say he’s even more powerful as a druid than as a barbarian! He’s got a century staff, which is chock full of power. ‘Course, he’s got an ever-festering wound in his belly, but the staff continually keeps him healthy. As long as he stays with his staff, he’s unstoppable, and he’s still a force to be reckoned with without it.

Kamahl’s Summons

~As Krosa unleashed the peace in Kamahl, he unleashed the fury in Krosa.~

This more or less happened, though it wasn’t so simple. Krosa certainly changed Kamahl to be a more peaceful person, and Krosa is definitely more violent because of the warrior… But this exchange didn’t happen at the same time. What did happen that is vital to the story involved the Mirari. Kamahl poured all his anger and hatred into the Mirari, showing the artifact what destruction it caused. I actually think that the Mirari became aware of its destructive nature and”decided” to try to do something about it. We’ll see about that in the upcoming sets, I reckon.

Towering Baloth

~The Mirari twisted all that lived in the Krosan Forest into gross mockeries of their former selves.~

This is perhaps one of the most accurate flavor texts I found on Onslaught cards. Beetles the size of centaurs, Centaurs the size of trees, trees the size of – well – huge trees! Even brambles and branches become near-sentient and have a protective instinct. The Mirari does a real number on Krosa, and it’s not all for the good. Such unimaginable growth makes Krosa get out of hand with foreshadowing towards eventual overextension. Perhaps the Mirari’s self-containment will help to save the Forest in the next expansion!

Well, that’s about that for flavor texts. There are a lot more in the set, but I think the above represent the most (and least) of what Onslaught had to offer. Hopefully, those unrepresentative flavor texts will actually refer to something that happens in the future. Check back in four months to find out the answer!

Daniel Crane

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