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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
May 30 2014 11:00am
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I love this game. I love writing about it. Compiling lists about it. Evaluating it. Sometimes, I even play it. I'm an Accidental Player

 It's Worship Week, and like one of my colleagues aptly observed, "worship" is a very vast concept. After all, when we talk of a "cult movie", aren't we indirectly involving some degree of "worship"? (And when the movie is Sharknado, well... enough said indeed.)

 But we're discussing Magic: The Gathering here, and that's a fantasy game where "worship" takes a more ponderous meaning, what with all those gods and deities the setting threw at us during these 20 years. But what if we actually wanted to create our own little cult around some of the most awe-inspiring cards available (and maybe build an observance deck around them while we're at it: that's entirely up to you)? What can we worship? Here's a few answers, organized into 10 categories. Enjoy. Respectfully.

1. The Old Gods

   

 Once upon a time, Magic was all set in Dominaria, which is the original plane (and, indeed, setting, give or take some Arabian Nights extravaganza), and also one that, interestingly, we came back to only once in the almost 11 years of the Modern-bordered era (namely, with Time Spiral). The Dominaria of yonder is a place teeming with locations and characters and often chaotic, overcomplicated stories. Not surprisingly, there's also all sorts of deities and quasi-deities in there, although back then the game wasn't willing – or equipped – to deal with cards that would aim to directly represent powerful beings right there on the battlefield. Still, some of the Dominaria gods have familiar names because of the vast range of cards named after them, and that we can use as indirect objects of worship.

 Gaea: Just like the Greek primordial goddess with the same name (we were still in that awkward phase where Magic carelessly blurred the boundaries between its fictional setting and the real world), Gaea is the personification of the earth and the land. The idea is that she is the mother goddess of Dominaria, though all the mythology with these old figures is complicated by further revisions and retcons, often due to the difficulty to tell apart the original planeswalkers from godlike beings (in fact, Gaea herself was considered a green planeswalker at some point). Anyway, there are 14 cards named after Gaea, but Gaea's Cradle is of course the most famed and sought-after. So if you want to worship Gaea, just make a green creature-based deck (not necessarily Elf), include some Cradles, and you're good to go. Also, you'll need a lot of tix.

 Serra: Remember when I said that the old stuff was confusing and sometimes incoherent? Well, Serra is a divinity (from whom the Serra Angels stemmed), but it's also a female human planeswalker who took her name from that divinity, and was worshipped in her own right. So out of the 19 cards with Serra in their names, Serra's Sanctum reference the goddess-goddess, while (Cathedral of Serra) is about the planeswalker goddess. I'd go with the former, which is the classic centerpiece of an enchantment deck. Whereas Cathedral of Serra is well-positioned for the title of Worst Card Ever Printed. But hey, worship is about faith, not reason, right?

 Titania: Titania is a Maro-Sorcerer, which are elemental manifestations of the land (yeah, they managed to work Mark Rosewater's nickname into the mythology too), also called Forces of Nature. It goes without saying, the original Force of Nature was one of them. They're sort of like the Weapons in Final Fantasy VII. Except a few of the known Maro-Sorcerers are sad, sad figures like Gaea's Liege and (my God!) (Lord Magnus) (seriously, if you worship this guy, you might want to reconsider your entire concept of deity). Among the others, Autumn Willow, Multani and Molimo. Titania was a major one, from the forest of Argoth, and as such she doesn't have a card to represent her (but she's recalled in the names of 4 others). Her priestess, though, have been very active in the past 15 years, spreading Titania's words via Elfball.

 Freyalise: As far as Elven deities go, Freyalise is not as famous as Titania (her 4 namesake cards are all pretty obscure), but is interestingly the green lady portrayed in the original art from Pernicious Deed (in which she's doing something against Yawgmoth – her backstory is really complicated, she was a half-human half-elf planeswalker that became worshipped during the Ice Age. Also, she's mad and xenophobic.)

2. Angels (and other celestial beings)

   

 They ostensibly come from the heavens, they bring hope and cleansing fire, and sometimes they judge our sins. The major angels or angelic avatars of Magic might occasionally be the object of devotion and figureheads of a cult.

 Avacyn: She's simultaneously a straightforward and peculiar case. The Church of Avacyn in Innistrad is the religion that gives hope and strength to the human followers fighting the great darkness of that plane. And yet, she's actually the progeny of Sorin Markov, a planeswalking vampire. So she's actually a manufactured god that originates from someone who's himself a monster. Theological concerns aside, the lady can fight, hugely impacts the board, and has great goth looks. She's a natural centerpiece, and very worshipable.

 Razia: As the founder ("parun") of the Boros Legion in Ravnica, Razia is not exactly a divinity, but she nonetheless reached the status of a demigod, with all the Boros angels created in her image. All scanty black leather armor, flaming swords and holy fire, Razia is another archangel that would look good on your deck-shaped altar.

 Asha: The archangel of Bant, enemy of Malfegor. She sacrificed herself to banish the dragon-demon, which is why we don't have an actual card depicting her avatar. We still have her legacy, though, first and foremost that Sigil of the Empty Throne that's a great way to demonstrate your devotion to create a bunch of angels and send them to kick your opponent's butt.

 Hand of Justice: Remember this guy? He was actually a big deal in Sarpadia, worshipped as the avatar of justice. His ability can still come in handy, but it shows all the signs of its almost 20 years.

 Gabriel Angelfire: Look at this guy. Now, you just look at this guy!

 Can you believe that this angel that can't even block flyers, and is just sitting there on the floor not sure what to do with his sword (it suits someone who apparently wonders what ability he should get between flying and rampage), was WORSHIPPED in some place in Dominaria? I don't even.

3. Demons (and other dark fiends)

   

 In fantasy and horror literature, the Dark Overlords make for some sexy objects of worship, from Chtulhu to Sauron and beyond (plus, you know, Satan). Magic has even devoted whole mechanics to depict mad cultists trying to summon their evil masters, often by sacrificing themselves, like in the case of Shadowborn Apostle and Blood Speaker spilling their own blood to generally evoke demons (probably with Shadowborn Demon and Kuro, Pitlord on their minds). The oldest occurrence of this routine has to be Spirit of the Night being brought to life by the combination of Breathstealer, Feral Shadow, and Urborg Panther, an unlikely team-up whose greatest merit was to feature Cliff Nielsen's excellent artwork.

 Rakdos: He's the epitome of the worshipped demon, given that he's the living dark deity at the center of the Cult of Rakdos, down in Ravnica. His first card incarnation, Rakdos the Defiler was flashy but underwhelming; the latest Rakdos, Lord of Riots is more likely to generate worshipping decklists, especially in Commander.

 Yawgmoth: He's not a demon per se, but sort of The Man Who Would Be (Dark) God. Yawgmoth was a Dominarian mad doctor who came to Phyrexia and became a god there. As old Magic celebrities go, we never got his card, but we've got a lot of card with his name, Yawgmoth's Will being the most (in)famous, with Yawgmoth's Bargain just a step behind. There aren't a lot of formats where you can play with these cards anymore, but where you do, and once you experience them, you're going to feel the urge to worship the name of Yawgmoth and pay homage to his tomb on a regular basis.

 SolKanar: He was originally a benevolent Maro-Sorcerer (see above), corrupted by the influence of black magic or something (actually, it was the work of a planeswalker lady with the preposterous name of Geyadrone Dihada). Sol'kanar is an old fella who didn't really have a place anymore in modern Magic, but he's still beloved. You might want to revisit him someday, maybe in Commander.

 Tourach: Did you know that Tourach, the founder of the Order of the Ebon Hand, was actually the Ebon Praetor? I think you might want to worship him through his Hymn, instead. That crazy, crazy art remains legendary, though.

4. Dragons (and other scaly things)

  

 The perennial fan favorite among the creature types, the dragons can also be gods on their own right, the main example being the five Primeval Dragons (of which I already talked about at length in my Dragonpedia).

 Nicol Bolas: Everybody knows who Nicol Bolas is. He's the oldest being in the multiverse, and a damn good evil schemer. Is he also worshipped? You betcha.

 Niv-Mizzet: Almost as old and as cunning as Nicol Bolas, the leader of the Izzet guild is considered godlike by his followers. There are few deities, in dragon form or ortherwise, more fit to embody the mercurial power of the mind. If that's your worship, Niv-Mizzet is your man. Or dragon.

 Progenitus: The Soul of the World, the hydra-god of Alara, is one of the most suggestive (and scariest) higher beings ever conceived within the MTG lore. He's simultaneously protector and destroyer. Definitely not one to mess with, and that's what his cult would likely communicate. Not coincidentally his signature enabler is Natural Order.

5. Eldrazi

  

 In the plane of Zendikar, Kor and Merfolk share a trinity of gods. Their Merfolk names are Emeria, Ula and Cosi. In a great twist, they would be revealed to actually be the distortions of the ancestral names of the three Eldrazi Titans, unfathomable Lovecraftian beings from the Blind Eternities, devourer of worlds. And nothing says "awestricken" like the annihilator mechanic.

6. Myojins

  

 

 At this point, things are becoming more straightforward: the Myojins are simply the resident deities of the plane of Kamigawa. They all are indestructible, if not always particularly battle-worthy, and they all can sacrifice their indestructibleness to achieve larger-than-life effects. The extent of their powers, which is inevitably paired to casting costs in the 8-10 range (with a "no cheating into play" clause), make them more suitable for Commander, although not as commanders themselves, since playing them from the command zone doesn't count as playing them from your hand. The ranking goes more or less like this: black's massive discard is the most popular and effective, followed by green's one-sided Eureka; then white's Day of Judgment and red's Armageddon; and finally, blue's conditional card-drawing, an effect that can be achieved more easily and with better results through other cards, and that is coupled in this case with a measly 3/3 body.

7. Patrons

  

 

 The Kamigawa world also gets patron deities for all its non-human humanoid races: the white Foxes (Kitsune), the black Rats (Nezumi), the green Snakes (Orochi), the blue Moonfolk (Soratami) and the red... well, Goblin, that on Kamigawa are called Akki (Kiki-Jiki is one of them, by the way, so he's bound to worship that bizarre, wurm-like thingie). The offering mechanic is nice, mostly in that it allows all these big dudes to have flash, on top of a mana discount. The big dudes themselves aren't super-exciting, though. Both the black and the red ones do things that can be done way quicker with different cards; the blue one mainly acts as complementary of the Moonfolk mechanic of returning lands in hand to do stuff; the white one is a strong life-gainer/damage preventer; the green one is possibly the best of the cycle, providing a potentially high level of ramp, but is hard to exploit it at its fullest outside of Commander (where it plays second fiddle to Vorinclex, anyway; but it's still worth including in any mono-green ramp build.)

8. Demigods

   

   

 

  The demigods from Shadowmoor are a mixed bags. Some of them are really really good, namely Demigod of Revenge (haste + evasion + mad recursion for 5 mana? Yes, thanks!) and Oversoul of Dusk (the half-Progenitus). Some of them are pretty good, like Divinity of Pride and Ghastlord of Fugue. Some of them need support, like Deus of Calamity only really working if you cheat it into play in an early turn, or Dominus of Fealty seriously asking for a sacrifice outlet to pair with its Act of Treason routine. Others, and that means all the ones I didn't mention, range from "meh" to definitely underwhelming. They all feel godlike enough, though, what with all those mana symbols that fuel devotion – which is actually a bit weird, because it's like they're gods that procure devotion count for other gods. But oh well, whatever works.

9. Theros Gods

  

  And here they are, these are the gods that benefit from that devotion count I just mentioned. The Theros pantheon has been largely discussed in the past months, so I'm not going to repeat myself. I'll just put these three up there as my three favorite gods for eternal formats that aren't Commander. Because I just won a Commander event with Kruphix, I would be remiss if I didn't give him credit.

10. Miscellanea

  

 Memnarch: To tell it simply, Memnarch was the artificial guardian of the plane of Argentum, later known as Mirrodin, created by the golem planeswalker Karn. He acquired sentience, and started scheming and went all Skynet + HAL 9000, and in the end the Vedalken were worshipping him as a god. As a card, he's the ultimate stealer, and that's worship material for sure.

 Oona: She's the queen mother of the faeries, and has powers over the entire Lorwyn/Shadowmoor system (she's one of the few entities that don't lose their memories after the switch from one state of the plane to the other, and she schemes to take over the plane, as they do). Of course the faeries adore her, and if you adore the faeries, she's your deity/dark overlady of choice.

 Karona: Finally, here she is, the False God. As a card is pretty bizarre (but I've no doubts there's a deck that uses her somewhere), and as a character she possibly has the most baroque backstory of the entire setting. Just to quote the first line of her entry on MTG Salvation Wiki, "Karona was the manifestation of all Dominarian mana, brought into being by the aggregation of Akroma, Phage, and Zagorka being slain by the Soul Reaper." Now, be aware that: Akroma was an illusion in the shape of an angel created by Ixidor in his dead wife's image; Phage was actually a transfiguration of Jeska, Kamahl's sister (from before he became a druid); and the Soul Reaper is Kamahl's special weapon with which he killed Akroma and Phage, creating Karona in the process (Zagorka, she's not that important, but she ended up added to the mix, too). If you worship Karona, you worship sheer craziness.

 So, this is it. At the end of this quick excursus on some of the possible devotions in the world(s) of Magic: The Gathering, what's your favorite, MTG-related cult? (As a green player, I think I'd have to go with Gaea.)

6 Comments

Great Article by Adam_the_Mentat at Fri, 05/30/2014 - 20:09
Adam_the_Mentat's picture
5

I love the knowledge and recaps in this article.

1) Kumo, or anyone really, what the frakkin' heck is actually going on in Ebon Praetor's artwork?

2) Speaking of Praetors, I think you forgot them! I think the 5 new phyrexian praetors blur the line between ruling-class worship and god-like worship. https://www.wizards.com/Magic/magazine/Article.aspx?x=mtg/daily/stf/142 is a link to their backstories if anyone is interested.

3) The Myojins: While this doesn't particularly bear mentioning in your article, I thought I would let everyone know that if you use That Which Was Taken alongside the myojins you can "reload" their divinity counters and reuse their ultimates.

4) I mostly play casual room, but the only Commander deck I have literally never lost with, due to whatever universal chaotic forces that control the shuffler and what decks your opponents chose, is Karametra. So I would just like to say, form a casual perspective, she's my favorite God.

Great article Kumo

1) We don't speak of that. We by Kumagoro42 at Sat, 05/31/2014 - 03:42
Kumagoro42's picture

1) We don't speak of that. We never speak of that.

2) I figured that might have been the case, but they're also very clearly part of a hierarchy that in turn looks at superior ideals — after all, if they're praetors, they've a clear function (then again Tourach's Ebon Praetor moniker disproves that. In his defense, he was batshit crazy). The line is often blurred, indeed. And if Gabriel Angelfire is a deity, pretty much anything can be.

3) It is known.

4) Never played Karametra. Have you ever played Kruphix? They're probably similar, but Kruphix has an additional function. Also, he gives you 12-13 mana by turn 7 – or more likely earlier.

Who's Kumo? :P

Who's Kumo? :P you are. by Paul Leicht at Sat, 05/31/2014 - 04:15
Paul Leicht's picture

Who's Kumo? :P you are. Accept the perversion of your nick name with grace. It will be less painful that way.

What perversion? by Kumagoro42 at Sat, 05/31/2014 - 07:15
Kumagoro42's picture

What perversion?

I need to spell it out for by Paul Leicht at Sun, 06/01/2014 - 21:22
Paul Leicht's picture

I need to spell it out for you? Kumagoro...Kuma...Kumo. Perversion in declining size and from a to o at that end.

yeah that was my um intent. I by Adam_the_Mentat at Wed, 06/04/2014 - 18:23
Adam_the_Mentat's picture
5

yeah that was my um intent. I wasn't exhausted and not proof-reading or anything :P If you want, I could just transpose and start calling you the letter I left out, Agor.