The Real Story Behind Torment

Well, as has been my tradition, I will once again analyze the flavor texts of the new set in order to increase storyline and flavor text awareness in the general Magic community.

Well, as has been my tradition, I will once again analyze the flavor texts of the new set in order to increase storyline and flavor text awareness in the general Magic community. Instead of giving you a little bit on each of the 73 cards in Torment that have flavor texts, I thought I’d spare you that madness (heh; madness) by picking and choosing the quotes most congruent (or incongruent) with the storyline (and, yes, I have read Chainer’s Torment, the book for the new expansion). So for those of you looking to see what’s going on in Cabal, read on. But, I also warn those of you who wish to find this information out on your own not to read this article, as spoilers will abound. That having been said, let us continue. If you want to follow along, I’m using the Wizards of the Coast official spoiler, sorted by rarity. (Note that I will be including the card from which the quote comes; I have not done this before, but I believe it will be a useful addition.)

Aven Trooper

~The very skies seethe with the aven’s hatred for the Cabal.~

Well, I guess all I really need to say is”Yes.” The Aven are a race of descendants of bird-folk. Some of them have evolved to be more humanoid (i.e., they can’t fly), and some of them still have their wings and feathers (these are lower on the social order). As a whole, though, the Aven can’t stand the dark deathmongering Cabal.

Teroh’s Faithful

~The light of reason follows them even into battle.~

Teroh is a major of the Order (which had a shaky alliance with the Cabal) in the vicinity of Cabal city when the story begins. Eventually, he declares a holy war on Cabal city, and thousands of soldiers follow him. Oh, and they’re all slaughtered by Chainer’s nightmares. Pity.

Major Teroh

~”I am the holy wind that shall avenge the Cabal’s victims.”~

Well, I see that Wizards has done away with the Name-comma-title format of legends. I liked that. Would it have been so hard to have Teroh, Order Major? Oh well.

Anyhow, this shows Teroh’s abhorrence for the Cabal – he really wants to wipe them off the face of the earth. I’m not sure exactly why. He doesn’t like the Cabal’s practices – however, everyone who partakes of the Cabal’s services do so willingly. But, that’s not the point I’d like to make of this card. As far as I can recall from the novel (and I could be wrong – but I don’t think I am), Teroh does not have wings as his card portrays. He is an Aven, but he’s one of the more humanoid ones. In fact, he has flying allies help him win battles because he can’t fly himself. Minus a point from Wizards storyline score.*


~”The spirits of the righteous shall rise into the sky. Even dirtwalkers will fly like aven.”

Major Teroh~

I guess what I want to say about this card is …”Huh?” I don’t remember anything about converting non-Aven into Aven. Basically, Teroh wanted to wipe out the Cabal – end of story. But, for a little drama, we all must make sacrifices, I suppose.

Cephalid Aristocrat

~It’s easy to tell the difference between the devious cephalids and the trustworthy ones. The trustworthy ones are dead.~

It’s true, it’s true! Almost. The (powerful) Cephalids are like the players in the political game in the setting of Dune. They’re constantly evaluating the situation and working things out for themselves. However, common Cephalid-folk have no idea about the political intrigue of the Empire. As far as I know, most of their political affiliations (either to Emperor Aboshan or Empress Llawan) are like most Americans today (towards Republicans or Democrats).

Hydromorph Guardian

~In front of every strong leader is a pool of loyal bodyguards.~

This applies to Llawan’s”secret service.” She constantly has nearly microscopic organisms floating nearby that can coalesce into a hard shield around her body at her slightest whim. She utilizes this force several times throughout the novel.**

Churning Eddy

~”Magic is like the tide — both ebb, both flow, and both, and both serve my whims.”

-Empress Llawan.~

This shows how fluent Llawan is with water magic. She really is quite adept, though she has a wizard retainer at her side to perform complex and powerful spells that she doesn’t have the training to perform.

Deep Analysis

~”The specimen seems to be broken.”~

Okay, this has nothing at all to do with the storyline, but I have to say that this is by far the most hilarious quote ever to grace a Magic card. Yes,”He has a right to bear arms” makes me chuckle every time, but this is truly brilliant. For those of you who haven’t seen the card, let me explain: There are two Cephalids around an examination table looking at a Masticore.

A Masticore.

“The specimen seems to be broken.”

GWA HA HA!! That’s so hilarious! If you can’t see why, please log on to MIRC and challenge someone to a game of Standard the way it was in 2000 (you’re bound to find somebody). Then return to this article, read the above four paragraphs, laugh, and continue. Thank you.

Balshan Collaborator

~”Power, gold, crackers – every bird has its price.”

-Chainer, dementia master~

This one’s a head-scratcher. Who or what the heck is a Balshan? I don’t remember reading anything about them in the book, and there’s only one mention of them in Torment. Anybody got an answer? The only guess I can venture is that it’s a form or division of the Aven, as there’s a picture of a bird-person on the card and the creature type is Bird Soldier. (Like Balshan Griffin? – The Ferrett, remembering Odyssey)

Ambassador Laquatus

~”He smiles with poisoned lips.”

-Empress Llawan~

The Empress hit the nail on the head with this one. I must say that Laquatus is one of my favorite characters in the Odyssey/Torment storyline. He’s a conniving member of the Mer Empire who’s more humanoid than most merfolk and is thus an outcast. He was given the disgraceful position of being the ambassador to the world of air-breathers, and he disdains and hates his appointment. However, he’s constantly scheming on how to return to royal favor. His chance comes with the Mirari, which he chases just like the other main characters. Eventually, he seats himself in a power struggle over the Empire against Llawan (for Aboshan was killed by the Mirari). He ended up getting magically trapped in an underwater crevice, but he didn’t give up. He found a way to sneak troops and supplies in a few at a time, so he can bide his time to make his comeback. He’s so conniving and tenacious, yet clever and patient. His ambitions are huge, and his faculties are strong enough to let him achieve those ambitions. I’m totally rooting for him in Judgment!

False Memories

~”My enemies will forget everything but their anguish.”

Ambassador Laquatus~

This is yet another tribute to Laquatus. He’s very adept at using mind-control magic. It allowed him to create an almost spiritual link with his previous champion, Turg, and it allows him to alter the memories of almost everyone around him, giving him huge advantages at all times.

Cabal Surgeon

~”Clerics give up when their patients die. Can I help it if I’m more compassionate?”~

This just shows how the Cabal act. Oftentimes, a limb lost in the pits will be replaced with a corresponding (or not, depending on how poor you are) limb from a previously-killed warrior. Additionally, the Cabal are proficient necromancers, commonly bringing zombies back from those who are killed in the pits (making it particularly unappealing to get killed there).

Waste Away

~Chainer’s insanity touched nearly every living thing – including viruses.~

Well, technically viruses aren’t living… But you get the point. Chainer has a wide array of creatures stored in his nightmares, ready to be summoned at any time. He simply has to touch a creature to literally absorb it, only to manifest it later in a twisted and horrible form. He’s better at this than just about everyone else, making him the greatest dementia summoner in the world.


~”Don’t let your mind wander – it might not come back.”

-Braids, dementia summoner~

Braids (real name: Fulla) has a valid point here. One of the dangers of utilizing the dementia space*** within you is being lost there forever. Your mind is gone, trapped in a world of nightmares, as your body remains useless in the”real” world. This, of course, is the ultimate form of insanity and the most dangerous to dementia casters. Braids is actually quite insane, but she has an uncanny ability to control herself enough to function exceptionally both in the real world and in her nightmare world. Chainer was driven insane at all by his dementia space, which is why he was so powerful. However, the Mirari drove him subtly insane instead, which eventually led to his agonizing death. (Did I pique your interest or what?)

Laquatus’s Champion

~Chainer’s dark gift to a darker soul.~

Burke is a gel-like entity that undergoes no life functions. It therefore cannot be killed by any conventional means. It is given to Laquatus by Chainer (who had help from the Mirari) and the Cabal First (Cabal Patriarch) in exchange for co-operation. Burke is really cool, as he’s amphibious, totally obedient to Laquatus’s telepathic commands, emotionless, very strong, and he has the Dhalsim effect – that is, he can stretch himself thin in order to strangle a dragon or reach after mermaids attempting to swim to freedom. I’m definitely glad they included him in Torment… And even more so that they put him on some booster packs!

Shambling Swarm

~Chainer’s madness personified, it exists only to slaughter the innocent.~

It took me quite a while to figure out what this was all about in the book. The illustration on this card actually helps a lot. Basically, Chainer put his nightmares inside a sack of clothing and sent them towards an Order hospital. As the insect-like organisms feasted upon unsuspecting flesh, they eventually grew rather large, taking out every living thing around them until they were reduced to eating each other. It was actually quite a gruesome description to read about, and the swarm isn’t done justice by the card. But since Torment gives black a Wrath effect in Mutilate, I suppose the power level couldn’t be too high on this beast.

Balthor the Stout

~”I like to think of him as concentrated barbarian.”

-Kamahl, pit fighter~

Balthor is Kamahl’s sister’s partner. He is, as his name suggests, as stout as they come. Kamahl (or was it Chainer?) has to fight against him (and Kamahl’s sister), and he was one tough cookie! He just wouldn’t go down. Think of throwing eggs against a brick wall with the intention of knocking it down. Yeah, it’s kinda like that.

Nostalgic Dreams

~Seton dreams of life renewed.~

It’s getting close to the end of the list, and they hadn’t mentioned Seton! Actually, he’s a pretty minor character in Torment, but he was huge in Odyssey. Seton is from the Krosan forest, and he travels to Cabal city trying to find out why nature’s all out of whack up there. (Of course, the reason is the Mirari, but I don’t think they’ve quite figured that out yet.) Seton befriended Cabal and together, the two of them kicked some serious butt cross-country on the trail of the Mirari. Despite his super-strength, though, Seton’s really pretty gentle, only wanting peace to return to his beloved Krosan forest. He didn’t make much of an appearance in Torment, but he’s still hanging around somewhere. Look for him in Judgment.

Cabal Coffers

~Deep within the Cabal’s vault, the Mirari pulsed like a dead sun – and its darkness radiated across Otaria.~

Like I said last week, this pretty much sums it up. The Mirari is an unbelievably powerful artifact that reaches its tendrils of power around the world. During Torment, it spent most of its time in the Cabal vault – but it still tremendously affected the outside world. Much as Torment, as a set and another step in the ever-growing storyline, affects the Magic world. (What a segue, eh?)

So, there you have it: The real story behind Torment. It may look like a bunch of black dudes casting black spells with the other colors in the background – and that’s exactly right!

Now of course, I couldn’t give you all the details, so this hardly substitutes for reading the book. But I may have whetted the appetite of those who want to read it, or I may have given just what was needed for those interested individuals without the time or desire to read the book. One way or another, I hope I’ve achieved my original goal of opening up the average player to the world to which the flavor text on each Magic card acts like a portal.

Happy storytelling!

Daniel Crane

[email protected]

* – Note that, overall, they did a great job with storyline cohesion in this expansion, so it’s only a minor mark.

** – Let me explain a bit about the Cephalids in Chainer’s Torment: Although the story is primarily about Chainer and the Cabal, there is a hefty portion (a little less than half) devoted to the Mer Empire, with the most heavy elaboration falling on Ambassador Laquatus and Empress Llawan.

*** – The whole concept of dementia space is pretty complicated, but really quite fascinating. I suggest reading Chainer’s Torment to find out more about it – I know I won’t have time (at least in this article) to expound upon its complexities.