This entry is part 23 of 23 in the series Savor That Commander Flavor

By William aka BlueRam

“Arriving home, he suddenly longed for the bloodsoaked battlefields behind him.” -Season’s Beatings

Well, it’s been a crazy year. I started writing the column at the start of the Season Six, around a spring that saw an unfortunately timed storm. Natural disasters, political campaigns, and the printing of Thragtusk, the world saw it all in 2012 (except for the end of it, thank you Mayans).

But we saw the beginning of the new year with our Return to Ravnica, and a plethora of useable cards, especially in Commander. The collectors got new shinies, casuals got cheaper duels, and we all got the early previews for the new Gatecrash set.

Every year’s got it’s good and it’s bad, but they always have an end too. Just like the year, this column’s got an end, which is going to be this one. With what I’ve got planned for the upcoming year, I’m erring on the side of keeping my finger out of too many pies. I might return to the column someday but, for now at least, I’m getting ready to call it quits for the writing gig.

So, to send ya’ll off with an end of the year classic: a fictional narrative about my journey as a planeswalker, and the paths it crossed.

When I was young, I dreamed of joining the Boros guild. To join those soldiers who wore such stunning armor, and marched with such passionate horns a blazing, there was nothing I wanted more. I longed to see the angels in action, their Skynights soar, and to take up arms with my brethren in order to defend what I knew to be righteous and pure.

This was back in the day when Agrus Kos, Wojek Veteran was still alive, and Razia, Boros Archangel was the figurehead for the whole legion. Their quick responses and refusal to hesitate drew me in and inspired me. I would live my life with at least half the glory of their highest angels, and at least twice the conviction of their lowest goblins.

I still remember the happiest day of my life as the day I was old enough to sign my enlistment forms at the recruitment center.

I still remember my first year in the academy. Working with the Boros Swiftblades and other Boros Recruits, we were taught the ways of war, law, and the camaraderie that one only finds amongst his fellow Legionnaires. Occasionally we would look up from the shouting of our drill instructors to see a squadron of Skyknight Legionnaires flying overhead. They were absolutely beautiful, with their backs against the sun, flying to unknown districts to stop the unscrupulous deeds of the Dimir, or the Rakdos.

We were allowed to carry one weapon, and a single item of personal significance. I never had a particular personal belonging that I found fitting to have on my person, but I knew I wanted my weapon to be the Sunforger. Although most recruits chose to wield swords, or lances, but the hammer was a top-tier weapon, usually only allowed to those who showed enough dedication in their training to learn its secrets. I wanted to wield the hammer with the same furious justice I’d seen Boros war heros do in the portraits and recreations that hung in Sunhome. However, I was deemed too inexperienced to properly use one and was denied every request I made to get one.

When I graduated from the academy a dear friend gave me a Sunforger to commemorate the occasion. She was a Boros Guildmage, and she’d been suspiciously vague on how she’d obtained it but I never pressed her on how she got such a beauty of a hammer past the higher-ups. As far as I knew, I had had it all along.

Working with the Legion was never dull. Every day there were Rakdos riots to quell, disputes to settle, and enough attacks on the citizens to keep us busy for several lifetimes. Even after all of my training, I felt completely lost at times, drawing the ire of my superior officers.

There were other times, though, where things were much more peaceful. During these moments, I sought out other guilds that were in favorable relations to the Boros to see if their teachings could be used to better myself. The Selesnyans tended to the most beautiful gardens I’d ever seen. Perfect rows of plants, each one standing in uniform with the ones next it, much like our battalions. From them, I learned the importance of the whole over the individual. I was granted a new perspective on what it meant to truly serve the legion as one of its many soldiers. It wouldn’t matter if I died during battle. If my death meant that the lives of innocent others would be spared, so be it.

When you’re a part of the Boros, you’re often required to take actions that go beyond what the letter of the law allows. When you do that, you often have to deal with the Azorius. I didn’t think much of them at the time but looking back, I can appreciate their foresight, and their boundaries. Studying their magic made my head spin at times, but it taught me to gather as much information as possible before attempting to take on those I don’t otherwise understand. Many times I found myself cursing my lack of knowledge regarding the procedures I seemed to break on a regular basis.

The Church of Deals, the Orzhov, show their wealth through their cathedrals and their dress. Truth be told, the finest they had were truly a marvel to behold. There were occasions where I would take one-shot gigs as security or an escort, usually protecting my charge from lowly muggers. One time saw us ambushed by an urban Gruul clan, very much an obscurity in the heart of the city. We lost half of our troupe in that attack, and were it not for the Sunforger, I doubt I would have survived either. I came away from my stints with the Orzhov all the wiser because of it though. Advantages, any you can grab at all, are the keys to coming out on top. Even if you have to chip away at your foes bit by bit, eventually they’ll crumble while you stand tall.

Despite our egregious efforts, there were still other Ozhov clerics willing to pay for Boros protection. I just happened to need the money when an offer came by. If I hadn’t, my life might’ve turned out quite differently than it did.

The urban Gruul were decidedly unsatisfied with their last raid and attacked us again, this time, in greater numbers. They attacked from all angles, stirring up a chaos that’s both familiar and alien to me every time I see it. I did my best to defend the coach that my charge was resting in, but I was speared from behind. All I can remember hearing before I blacking out are the cries of anguish as the Orzhov clerc was murdered. I’d failed my task, and my death would be meaningless. I couldn’t imagine a worse way to die. It wouldn’t be until later that I would recognize this point in time as the moment my “spark” ignited.

I don’t remember much of what happened after that. I spent five years wandering a plane where magic and mana held little sway. Only iron and sweat could keep you alive, as well as the kindness of those who find people on verge of death, as I was when I first appeared. There were no city clearings, but fields of grass. What little red mana I could garner came from large rock formations, rather than the boiling city towers. I was jarred by this new world, but I came to know it as I know my breathing. Regular, and unspectacular.

I still had the Sunforger, but without viable mana it was little more than a mallet compared to the new residents I had to learn to live among. I never bothered trying to figure out how to get back to Ravnica. I was too ashamed of my failure to return where I would probably be court martialed and stripped of what little pride I had left. My family and whoever else mattered would have already grieved and moved on by the time I could figure something out. Then what? No, for a time I was content to toil away in this land where mana was so scarce. I would continue to wear the armor that had been given to me by the Boros, but I hid my signet. I didn’t deserve to wear the ten-pointed star.

It wasn’t until the fifth year that I met someone like me, someone from another plane. He had been trying to barter off scrolls to the locals, claiming that the scrolls contained the power to summon demons and angels, powers that could either fry your enemies with lightning or manipulate their mind into thinking that they had been.

This was the first time I could remember such magic being spoken of on this plane, so I sought him out. He almost immediately recognized me for what I was, and shared with me that name my kind go by: “Planeswalker”. He was a ‘walker himself, though not a soldier as I. He was a merchant, first and foremost. He told me of how he traveled from plane to plane, collecting spells, artifacts, you name it, all in order to sell them to bidding mages interested in off-world acquisitions.

I told him how I had been stuck here for almost a half decade, and asked him if he could teach me how to planeswalk. He was a riot of laughter after that. I couldn’t well admit why I hadn’t tried to walk on my own before, so I allowed him to think me a fool rather than a failure.

He told me to imagine wide open meadows of a place called Lorwyn. He told me to focus on its essence, that of peace and tranquility. Of streaming rivers and vast woodlands. I closed my eyes and tried to picture it. I could feel something pulling at me. I let it take me away from the dead world.

When I opened my eyes, I was surrounded by Lorwyn’s beauty. The merchant was there too, giving me a slow applause. He congratulated me on my first jump as an awakened ‘walker but began speaking of the other walkers’ that he’d encountered in the multiverse. He spoke of how they battled each other for sport as often as they battled for war. He told me about gatherings of walkers’ and how they all struggled to become the strongest in the multiverse.

I was fascinated by all of this. I’d never been a part of such wondrous competitions as what was being described. I asked him if he participated in such duels. He gave me a sly smile and said that he dabbled around here and there. Would I, perchance, be interested in engaging such a bout with him?

I gripped the Sunforger that I had cherished through the years and I could feel the mana returning, coursing through my veins. I could connect with the plains and the mountains, just as I had back in Ravnica. I was ready to fight the way the Boros had taught me all those years ago.

The merchant dismissed me quickly with units of small creatures he deemed “Kithkin”, a race I’d never seen before. Unused to such organized combat, and rusty from nearly half a decade of inactivity, my spells were all over the place and my judgment horrible. I was just as much a rookie now as I’d been back on Ravnica four years ago.

Fortunately, the merchant wasn’t lying about his scrolls. He saw the opportunity to not only set up a potential business relationship, but to sell some wares and lighten his load.

He taught me how properly prepare for combat, how to focus on my goal for the duels. With his scrolls, I learned to cast a Lightning Bolt at my enemy or how  Brute Force would pave my way through any obstacle I came up against. He taught me the way of summoning, and I was able to use Elite Vangaurds at my command. He even shared with me mysterious spells from a world known as Shadowmoor, with shapeshifting Battlegate Mimics that reacted favorably to what he described as my “unusual” mix of magic.
With his help, I was ready to challenge the multiverse and those who walk through it’s many worlds…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I stood across from my foe. She smiled and began incanting a spell I’d never heard before. A symbol appeared in the aether, a symbol I would soon learn to recognize as a beacon of great power. It wouldn’t be my last encounter with the wild man, Garruk Wildspeaker, but I soon realized that I had far more to worry about than the mysterious appearance of another planeswalker in our duel.

The pair of beast mages combined their strength and called forth horrors I wouldn’t have thought possible, even for the Dimir or Rakdos to engineer. My Boros Recruit and my Skynight Legionnaire were promptly stomped underfoot of the eldritch abominations. This wouldn’t be my last encounter with the Eldrazi, but it would certainly be the worst.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Go, Kamahl, Fist of Krosal!” I cried. “Overrun the enemy and lead my saprolings to victory!”

Kamahl roared as he raised his fist. The plants before us grew three times their size and immediately charged towards the three walkers standing before me. Their defenses were ripped to shreds as wave after wave of saprolings who outnumbered them five to one.

I had started moving out of my Boros lineage and started incorporating the other colors into my tactics. This was my tribute to Selesnya, those who had taught me unity. On Ravnica I wouldn’t have amounted to anything more than a foot soldier picking up extra work as a bodyguard. Here, I was starting to come into my own. I was commanding armies larger than anyone would have imagined back home. Mastering green mana and learning how to wield it had given me greater power and greater knowledge than I’d ever thought possible.

But I needed more than just armies of munchkins. I needed to feel the heat and the fury that the Boros had instilled in me. To that end, I began mastering dragons. It didn’t matter where they were from, I sought out the largest fire-breathing creatures I could find and tamed them to my purposes. Soon, I was winning my duels with the strongest powers that red could give me. I fancied that people would call me “The Scarlet Dragon of War” as I left each warzone in ruin.

Back then, I couldn’t have imagined much more than that.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I could barely hear it….what was that roaring?

“RAAAAAAWWWWWW!!!!!”

It was clearer now, but where was it coming from?

“RAAAAAAAAWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!”

I could feel the pull of the aether that seemed to cross time and space. Red and white mana were flowing through it, beckoning to me…but there was a third color…green. These three colors were signaling something to me. I could feel my essence connecting to a greater power, a power that reminded me of the Eldrazi titans that had terrorized my past.

I pushed through the aether, walking but also not walking. These ties were from the past. I focused on these ties, pulling back into my realm. Whatever wanted to know me would do so soon enough.

“RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

A great flash blinded me for a minute as I stumbled to the ground. When I could see again, I was being watched by a large she-dragon. Her brown hide and purple wings soaked in sun that they hadn’t seen in decades. She didn’t say anything, and only stood, watching me, appraising me.

I slowly stood up, careful to not make any sudden movements. The dragon’s presence was shocking, but I wasn’t scared. It felt…familiar, somehow. There was already something akin to a bond connecting us. I could only speculate that it was the mana connection. Red, green, and white mana had clearly been used to summon her. They were the three colors I felt most strongly connected with. I slowly moved my hand up to stroke her.

She let me, and I knew her. From that day on, I would know Rith, the Awakener.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“By the chord of the legion, I call forth Razia, Boros Archangel!” I cried. The parun appeared in a brilliant flash of fire and light, brandishing her sword of flame and charging towards my opponent and his Reaper King, striking a final blow through his chest.

The scarecrow slowly dissolved, it’s mana ties severed, as Rith and cheered in victory. It was funny to me how Rith supported me. Through her, I was able to focus my mana on larger spells than normal duels would allow. Because of her, I was able to bring Boros’s figurehead into battle, whereas the angel was less involved back on Ravnica. Although she was a copy of the original Razia, she still commanded a level of power that few ever saw for themselves.

Not only that, but Rith was combining both Boros and Selesnyan philosophies of life and war. She was leading this army just as much as I was. Together, it felt like we would unstoppable for all time.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I had come to Alara seeking a dragon by the name of Karrthus. I was going to do battle with the beast and establish my dominance over one of the most feared predators in the multiverse. My need for a more dragon-oriented power in my new realm of dueling was what feed my desire to find the land that was once Jund.

What I found was a cleric of most peculiar origin.

I had no plans on being stealthy when I found Karrthus, no. I was taking him down the way the Boros had taught me to take on every obstacle: By dominating it with angelic might.

I brought forth Razia to to fight the fiend as the two quickly engaged in fire flight. Razia was quick, and able to dodge most of Karrthus’s attacks, but it became clear that the dragon tyrant had no intentions of playing fair as he let out a loud roar. Within moments, three hellkites had appeared, each of them with an eye towards devouring the winged pest before them. Razia is very powerful, but only against a single foe. Against many, her concentration was split, her defenses lowered, and she was sent plummeting to the ground, beaten but barely alive thanks to my magic buffering her defenses.

I tried to take on Karrthus myself, swinging spells from the Sunforger to keep him at bay, but I couldn’t connect to enough mana to keep his horde away too. I was forced back, putting myself between them and Razia. I couldn’t call Rith, that’d be too risky with the amount of dragons that were ready to pounce on her, and I didn’t have the strength or time to summon anything else. I was out of options, ready to pay for my mistakes and pride.

Suddenly there was a sound akin to a sonic boom, as one of the dragons exploded before my eyes. From the explosion arose a black-winged angel that I’d only seen on one other plane: Ravnica.

The new angel was now the center of attention as Karrthus and the two remaining hellkites. They took to the air to chase after the angel. One of them attempted to clamp it’s jaws on its frame when another brilliant light intervened, fighting off the grabby claws. An angel with brilliant gold was present, shielding her wingmate from harm.

I could feel the angel’s strength, and I felt it resonating in Razia as well. She was recovered now, imbued with strife’s essence. I ordered her to return to the fight, and she joined the flight as they flew circles around the increasingly confused tyrant.

I tried to find the source of these creatures. They weren’t here of their own accord, that was for sure.

“What the Hell do you think you’re doing?” I heard a voice behind me ask. I turned to see a woman no older than I, covering her red hair with a dark hood. Her shoulders were adorned with a blood red cloth that hung over her shoulders like a towel. Her staff was as tall as she was, and she carried a short sword in a sheath at her hip. Behind her were two pairs of wings; one bat-like and leathery, the other was a soft white with beautiful plumage, yet she was the only one there. They were her wings.

“I’m trying to take down this beast of a dragon right there!” I shouted, pointing at a Karrthus that was having to defend himself from a double angel strike.

“You’re an idiot” she said as she shoved her way past me. “You don’t take down the tyrant of Jund with one angel. You do it with THIS.”

She spread her wings and took off to the air, flying right at the dragon. With a glow of her staff, a large portal opened up above her as a large demon flew out of it, matching her stride for stride. The demon collided with Karrthus, knocking the dragon down, but the demon wasn’t content with just that. The demon started tearing at the tyrant, cutting him wherever it could.

The hellkites that remained swooped down, knocking away the pestilent demon, roaring at the cluster of beings that were gathering before them. The winged woman landed before me as our summoned creatures stood between the dragons and us.

“How much mana do you have left?” she asked.

“Some. Not a lot. Why?”

“Start charging what you have left, because I’m going to finish this in one shot,” she said as she called forth another portal, this one larger than the one the demon came through.

A fresh, large, red dragon crawled through, stretching its wings and roaring, ready to show off its might.

“Get ready. We need to make sure this dragon is completely mana-charged,” she said, pointing towards the cluster of wounded lizards.

The angels and demon cleared the way as the dragon let loose a torrent of flame, she and I pouring all of our mana into her dragon. The flames grew hotter until it was almost unbearable. When our mana had been spent, Karrthus and his kin were little more than overdone meat bags.

I collapsed to one knee, exhausted, and our summons dissipated into the aether. The cleric began to leave, content with saving the idiot from certain death.

“Wait!” I called after her. “What’s your name?” She looked back.

“My name is Kaalia,” she replied. “Now get lost.”

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I’ll be honest, I wanted to write more about Kaalia and I from a fictional perspective, but by the time I’d gotten to this point in the story we had reached almost 4,000 words, four times what I normally do for Commandercast articles, and too late to just go back and figure out what to cut to make it smaller. Maybe I’ll finish the story at some point. If I knew for sure whether or not I was continuing this column, I could promise you for sure that this would have been broken up into parts, allowing me to focus more the commander-centric parts of the story. Ah well, that’s life I suppose.

With that said, this IS the last article I’ll be writing for the column. It’s been all kinds of fun, folks. I have some real opportunities ahead of me, and I need to try and make the most of them. What are they? Well, you’ll know soon enough.

If you have any comments or feedback you’d like to give me (and I’m ALWAYS happy to read feedback), then you can leave a comment down below, email me at Wiehernandez(at)gmail(dot)com, or follow me on twitter @BlueRam1409. I’m on these pretty regularly, so I should get back to you pretty quick.

This is William aka BlueRam, signing off on “Savor That Commander Flavor” for the last time.

Until next time, may you spin tales as long as roads.

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