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PostPosted: Mon Sep 28, 2020 1:41 pm 
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Towards the end of the Dominarian geography thread I started earlier this year, Ethan suggested that - according to some clues in the canon - Sarpadia might not be as dead and overrun by monsters as most Vorthoses assume. That lead to the start of a promising discussion that didn't really go anywhere because it would have been a huge (and off-topic) can of worms to open, and I said I was probably going to start a separate thread about it "one of these days". Now, to show you that I'm a man of my word (even if it took me several months), and because I had the sudden itch to discuss the topic again, here we go now! :D

I'll start by copying everything that people have written about it in that thread into spoiler tags. Also, here's a link to the thread in question: viewtopic.php?f=18&t=26167&start=40

Spoiler


Spoiler


Spoiler



Now, first of all, I love the point that Tevish made about the thrulls being sapient. I think it would be really cool to see a functioning thrull society, something that's both alien and also incorporates some familiar elements from the Ebon Hand. Playing up their ability to reason and communicate - which they clearly have - is also a really elegant and simple solution to the "Why didn't they just kill everyone?" problem. Heck, maybe there could be something like a schism among the thrulls, with some of them embracing the legacy of the Ebon Hand and others fiercely rejecting it.

Second, let's look at some more stuff from the canon that might give us a hint of what was going on there after Fallen Empires. I found an interesting tidbit in And Peace Shall Sleep (p. 3), namely an Icatian children's rhyme with two stanzas. It goes like this:

Nail the robin way up high
to hush away his many lies
Keep the traitor from our door
Stay away! Come no more!
Praise the army, praise the king
The traitor will no longer sing

(whispered)

Robin bring us meat and bread
And stay the demons of the dead
Robin fly high into the night
I'll say nothing of your flight
Robin fly here to your home
The king is dead, the rest are bone.


Given the context of the text as a whole, the final line is rather ambiguous. Was it made when the king was still alive to emphasise that the traitor and friend of the people Robin Davies (aka Reod Dai) would outlast the king and the army that were after him? Or was it made after the fall of Icatia when the king and the army were actually dead? Because in that case, somebody must have still been around - at least for a while - to make it and sing it.

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1) Somebody wrote and reads the volumes of Sarpadian Empires. True, the source could be a foreign scholar, but given the geographic isolation of Sarpadia, this registers as unlikely to me. If it was a planeswalker, it wasn't Tev Loneglade, considering he went off his rocker before the end. And when he did, he wasn't opposed (that we know of) by the actions of another Planeswalker, casting doubt on the idea that there was one there, especially given the nature of the Shard of Twelve Worlds, we should have seen the Chronicler if they were a 'walker and spared for that reason. You could say that the books might trace to Guff's library, but I think that's kind of a last resort. All in all this suggests the survival of Sarpadian culture that can be perused and appreciated by later generations.
As usual, the answer lies in Ashes of the Sun (seriously, I love that book). One of the healers that treat Ayesh shows her an ancient handwritten tome, a history of Sarpadia. He explains: "It was written by a scribe in Windenby, who lived to see the fall of the Five Empires" (p. 38). And on the same page: "Books burn, and whole libraries are lost to time. Where, in the chaotic lands that are the Sarpadian continent, where would you go to find the library that contains the sister volumes to this tome?" A history book on Sarpadia that comes in multiple volumes? Yeah, it's not made explicit, but I think the implication that this is indeed a volume of Sarpadian Empires is clear enough. What's more, at least this one volume was written in Windenby, which, according to the wiki (which in turn has it from the Duelist), is (or was) in Sarpadia. The quore from the novel also calls Sarpadia "chaotic lands", but it's no statement along the lines of "here there be monsters". Ayesh's reply makes it clear that "[the] Five Empires of Sarpadia are dust and sand" (p. 38), so all things considered, the Fallen Empires have indeed fallen and apparently hadn't recovered by the time Ashes of the Sun takes place (not too long before the Phyrexian Invasion), but that doesn't necessarily mean that every single person there was dead.

Quote:
3) Icatian Crier. The rifts typically didn't displace objects in space very much, and the fact that she has appeared in the ruins of an Icatian Town suggest this is true: she's still on Sarpadia, in the Rift era. However, her news of war has not lost its relevance, suggesting that there are still people that the news can reach, to be warned of impending doom (different, unrelated war and doom) and not just an endless mass of hostile Thrulls. For her news to be relevant, there must be a recipient.
That's actually a really good point, and I had never noticed that the crier is standing in the ruins of the actual Icatian Town from the card until you pointed it out.

Looking at Time Spiral block, Flagstones of Trokair suggests that the place is still in ruins, or at least it was during the Rift Era (but then again, what places weren't?). Shade of Trokair is also a thing, but doesn't really clarify anything. Haunting Hymn... exists. The Hymn to Tourach is also sung in Coraleon at the start of the Festival of Sorrow (according to the short story of the same name), so we don't really know the context of that new hymn. Havenwood Wurm is an interesting one, because it clearly has an elf in it (you can see the guy has pointy ears when you look at the largest version of the image in Scryfall). So if this is any indication, there seem to be at least some elves left in or around Havenwood. Sporoloth Ancient was recently confirmed in one of Maro's Future Sight articles to foreshadow a possible return to Sarpadia. Then there is Thelonite Hermit, which could technically be from the past, but between Sporoloth Ancient and the elf next to Havenwood Wurm, he might just as well be from the present.

Speaking of cards, Dominaria had that cycle of basic lands that depict Sarpadia, but there is no sign of habitation and everything is still in ruins. They are just snapshots, though, doesn't have to mean everyone on or near the continent is dead.


Matt Cavotta's interview with Pete Venters touches on a couple of Sarpadia-related things as well: https://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/a ... 2007-06-07

This interview is probably the main reason why "Sarpadia is all thrulls" got enshrined in the Vorthos community, but when you take a closer look, the facts he establishes in it mostly seem to describe the state of Sarpadia during or shortly after Fallen Empires, and some of the other stuff seems to be merely speculation.



So, yeah, I'll just let this compiled wall of text breathe for a bit and ask all of you guys: Would you be excited to see Sarpadia again? How would you do it? Are there any clues about modern Sarpadia in the canon that haven't been mentioned yet?

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 28, 2020 3:13 pm 
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A member of the Sisay-era Weatherlight crew, Dabis, was Icatian. See: Mercadian Masques p. 263. That doesn't necessarily mean he was from the plains in central Sarpadia. The Icatians who fled to the outlying islands could have continued to call themselves Icatians, just as the English colonists in America continued to call themselves English for centuries.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 28, 2020 3:59 pm 
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In answer to the main question: Honestly, if we had a good Sarpadia revisit, I would be buying live cards again. Sarpadia is the closest specific thing I have to a "home" setting in magic, the world (or slice thereof) I got wrapped up in when I first started playing and will thus always have a nostalgic soft spot for. It's one of three returns (Along with Kamigawa and Ulgrotha) that would be a guaranteed hit for me if handled decently.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 28, 2020 4:12 pm 
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Hey Ethan, good to see you!

WotC_Ethan wrote:
A member of the Sisay-era Weatherlight crew, Dabis, was Icatian. See: Mercadian Masques p. 263. That doesn't necessarily mean he was from the plains in central Sarpadia. The Icatians who fled to the outlying islands could have continued to call themselves Icatians, just as the English colonists in America continued to call themselves English for centuries.
I agree that Icatians settling on nearby islands is a likely scenario. In fact, the island where Loot Niptil and his gang were stranded had some ruins of a Sarpadian outpost, so even if there were no Sarpadian natives left on that island in the Loot Niptil stories, colonising nearby islands is clearly a thing people from Sarpadia did at some point.

Ethan, I understand if you can't really talk about it, but just out of curiosity, how likely do you think it is that a future set on Dominaria might have a strong focus on only one particular continent (or part of a continent) again? Like, is it possible we might get a straight up "Return to Continent X", or do you think future visits to Dominaria will probably all be more diverse than that? Granted, Dominaria was mostly focused on the Domains, but it also heavily featured Shiv and Yavimaya and had some individual cards from all over the place, plus the Tolaria stuff that could have been from any of the campuses. Then there were sets/blocks like Time Spiral or Weatherlight that basically just crammed a bit of everything into the space they had. I guess the latter option isn't entirely practical because there is a limit to the amount of concept art that can be produced and worldbuilding that can be done for each set, but what would you say is the sweet spot in terms of focus going forward? (And to be clear, personally, I don't really have a strong preference one way or the other, I'm just curious and dying to get more Dominaria).


And I totally second what Tevish is saying about Kamigawa and Ulgrotha. Heck, I wouldn't even say no to another set on Mercadia at this point. A "mercantile plane" could be cool if it's done right and properly gets the theme across.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 29, 2020 12:58 am 
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I think the default assumption for Dominaria sets would be the kind of globe-spanning, multi-continent view into lots of different cultures we saw in Dominaria. However, as War of the Spark shows, we don't always have to take the default approach if we have something else in mind.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 29, 2020 11:37 pm 
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I read the title as "Could we return to Segovia?"
I was thinking, "Sure, why not. But they ain't going to place a whole set there".

Edit-
Couldn't the elf in Havenwood Wurm's art have been taken through the time rift with it? Heck, it could be from a non-Sarpadian group of elves that colonized the continent centuries after the elves of Sarpadia fell.

...
WotC_Ethan wrote:
A member of the Sisay-era Weatherlight crew, Dabis, was Icatian. See: Mercadian Masques p. 263. That doesn't necessarily mean he was from the plains in central Sarpadia. The Icatians who fled to the outlying islands could have continued to call themselves Icatians, just as the English colonists in America continued to call themselves English for centuries.
I agree that Icatians settling on nearby islands is a likely scenario. In fact, the island where Loot Niptil and his gang were stranded had some ruins of a Sarpadian outpost, so even if there were no Sarpadian natives left on that island in the Loot Niptil stories, colonising nearby islands is clearly a thing people from Sarpadia did at some point.

Ethan, I understand if you can't really talk about it, but just out of curiosity, how likely do you think it is that a future set on Dominaria might have a strong focus on only one particular continent (or part of a continent) again? Like, is it possible we might get a straight up "Return to Continent X", or do you think future visits to Dominaria will probably all be more diverse than that? ...

Wasn't the followup to Dominaria originally slated to be focused on Zhalfir?

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 30, 2020 2:02 pm 
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TPmanW wrote:
I read the title as "Could we return to Segovia?"
I was thinking, "Sure, why not. But they ain't going to place a whole set there".
:D

I mean, I still like the idea of getting a Modern Horizons style set full of fringe planes like Segovia, Rabiah, Wildfire, Equilor, Pyrulea etc. that I brought up in the thread about "Magic's IP". And I really dig the visual gimmick they used on Segovian Angel and on that Planechase card to make them look tiny. I guess they could use more Segovia-themed cards to give smaller and cheaper options to tribes that normally cost more mana, like Dragons, Beasts or Giants, and that angel might be somewhat useful if Angel tribal ever becomes a "real" thing. I'd also love to see Segovia developed a little bit more beyond "everything is tiny next to other planes", although it probably works fine as a pretty generic fantasy world apart from the size. :two:


TPmanW wrote:
Couldn't the elf in Havenwood Wurm's art have been taken through the time rift with it? Heck, it could be from a non-Sarpadian group of elves that colonized the continent centuries after the elves of Sarpadia fell.
I don't think the elf came through the rift with the wurm, partly because the flavour text suggests the wurm arrived somewhere underground and had to work its way up to the surface, and partly because the elf looks like pretty much every other elf from the Rift Era. I guess he could be part of a colony that sprang up much later, but even if WotC decides that's the case, it would give them something to work with if they wanted to return to Sarpadia.

TPmanW wrote:
Wasn't the followup to Dominaria originally slated to be focused on Zhalfir?
Yep, that's kind of what I had in mind when I asked the question, although we technically don't know for sure how that set would have looked like in terms of focus. I think starting with Dominaria as an establishing shot to check off the most iconic locations and doing a more focused set about Zhalfir after that would have been a good strategy, though. Heck, the fate of Zhalfir is arguably the oldest unresolved plot thread in Magic right now, at least among those that have a very good chance of being picked up again in the foreseeable future. It technically started in Invasion...

Sidenote about Zhalfir's return:

Spoiler


As to Sarpadia, we learn a little bit about post-Empires Sarpadia in the short story 'Foulmere' in Distant Planes (p. 95):

"Legend has it that during the brief dark age that followed the collapse of the ancient Sarpadian civilization, diligently carrying the torch of ignorance and privation through the land until the Ice Age arrived to finish the job, there was a particularly cruel Neo-Ebonic priest-king named Vetro, a man so vicious that he was held by some (himself included) to be Tourach reincarnate. He was finally murdered by his slave-wife, Dobeh."
The same guy - according to legend - then cursed his wife (and presumably her daughters) from beyond the grave to become the first dobéhma (basically girls and women with lavender hair and butterscotch-coloured skin who can only bear female offspring).

So it looks like there were still remnants of the Ebon Hand for a while, although we don't know whether they were kicking on mainland Sarpadia or a nearby island. Heck, between this story and the fact that Oliver Farrel claimed Tymolin Loneglade to be Tourach reincarnate, you really start to wonder whether Tourach being reborn had any theological underpinnings as far as the Ebon Hand was concerned, or, you know, whether that's something that could actually happen... :shifty: Do we even know what became of the Ebon Praetor? I mean, was he some kind of black equivalent to the Hand of Justice that could just be summoned by skilled mages at will (we see that happen once or twice in the lore)?


Mechanically, I hope Sporoloth Ancient can be reprinted if we ever return to Sarpadia. One card isn't worth an entire set, of course, but it's always a bit disappointing when future shifted cards don't find a place in the setting they are supposed to be from. Besides, I think using spore counters again would be a great way to show that the Sarpadian thallids have been isolated from those in the rest of Dominaria, so they'd be a bit closer to the original ones. Fallen Empires actually introduced creature tokens to Magic IIRC, so I guess having a token theme there in general would make a lot of sense. Maybe with Proliferate or Populate?

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 02, 2020 7:29 pm 
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The Hive was the first card to make tokens.

Randy Asplund doesn't really explain much about Ebon Praetor, but he does explain the rabbit-thing in the art, here: http://www.randyasplund.com/pages/fantpg/darkJudge.html

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 08, 2020 10:17 am 
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WotC_Ethan wrote:
The Hive was the first card to make tokens.
Oops, yeah, and then there's stuff like Tetravus and Bottle of Suleiman, too. I've actually played the Duel and Deckbuilding modes of that old Shandalar game so much that it feels like I should have known that in my sleep... :doh: Still, I think it's fair to say that Fallen Empires was the first set that actually had a proper token theme. It's no coincidence that Sarpadian Empires, Vol. VII does what it does. At the very least, I think people would expect saprolings and probably some thrull tokens if we revisited Sarpadia.

WotC_Ethan wrote:
Randy Asplund doesn't really explain much about Ebon Praetor, but he does explain the rabbit-thing in the art, here: http://www.randyasplund.com/pages/fantpg/darkJudge.html
That one I did know! But yeah, it tells us more about that Easter Bunny than about the Praetor himself. I love the Praetor's visual design, though. The hat, the skull face... I think new artwork of the same guy in a modern style and without the silly stuff could look really dope.


At this point, I speculate freely

~~~

The biggest question, if we are to reject the "Everything is thrulls" result, as I believe we have evidence to do, is "Why isn't everything thrulls?" But here is what I find to be the biggest likely controlling factor on the Thrulls: They are sapient. Everything suggests that the later generation of Thrulls, that organized and led the rebellion, are of at least human intelligence. They may even have forms specialized for intelligence. They can communicate and build their own society and culture, one that seems to be most strongly based on their own freedom and self-determination. So, would they necessarily come into conflict with the Icatian surviors? On one hand, the Icatians are humans, as were the Ebon Hand cultists. On the other hand, if the Thrulls have theological understanding, they could know that Icatian humans aren't followers of Tourach and the Ebon hand, or even that they (the thrulls) and the Icatians have a common enemy in the Ebon Hand. On the other side, Thrulls are creepy and frightening, an Icatian soldier's first instinct would probably be to stab the horrid thing, and that could well sour relations. But the Icatians are in no state to go thrull stabbing, as they have to worry about the Orc and Goblin raids one one side and dwindling resources on the other. The Orcs, on the other hand, are very strong, and looking for fresh meat. They absolutely would, I think, attack Thrull groups. And thallids. And basically anything else they can attack alongside Icatian survivors and the dwarves they wrapped up early. This makes the Orcs a main mutual war front.

I actually think this could be a novel and interesting direction: the thrulls are intelligent. Nothing is stopping them from being intellectual or even diplomatic. Creatures bred to die came to see the value in their own lives and threw off their murderous oppressors, is it too much of a stretch to think that they evolved empathy?

I would personally guess that the Thrulls became a preeminent power on Sarpadia, but not the universal hegemon. Containment against the Orcs would be hard fought, and the humans and any elven survivors would be struggling to survive against the climate more than they'd be able to make trouble for thrulls. The equilibrium state of Sarpadia's land is an advanced thrull society, a smattering of post-Icatian city states, and finally a breakdown of the Orcish forces running out of steam and/or turning on each other. The elves might or might not be dead, but the Thallids certainly survive given how they're found in later eras and certainly "control" what used to be Havenwood. Naturally, the strength of these forces can shift with the resources available, waning in the depths of the Ice Age and the Rift Era, waxing between the two and now. Especially if, like Otaria, Sarpadia was spared the worst of the Invasion, it could have rebuilt quite a bit at that time.

Nowadays, what remains? Probably a number of city-states rising out of the ashes of the Rift Era, all of which claim to be the inheritors of old Icatia's glory but none of which really have the force to unify humanity. Scattered elf populations, surviving hidden away. Creepy forests full of Thallid overgrowth. Starving orcs scratching their living from rocks and howling at rage from the mountains and the hollow, echoing halls of dwarves millennia dead. A Thrull society, fundamentally inhuman but possessing a core reasonable humanity, which may have gone through its own divisions in the intervening years as new minds write new values in new tablets and discover new ideologies and mutations. Waters where Homarids practice their inscrutable ways. Depending on just what a refined, modern-era thrull society looks like, this is a continent that (consistent with Fallen Empires) seems a harsher and less civilized place than the rest of Dominaria, sort of an alpine Sword-and-sandal theme, recalling Robert E. Howard's hyperborea. A place dominated by the ruins of what was and has no place to be again, but for itself very much alive.

There is a lot of cool and evocative stuff in there that sounds really on track. I think they could do a fresh new take on the Sarpadian orc tribes as well. We know that the original tribes there were the Brassclaw Orcs, the Ironclaw Orcs and the Iceclaw Orcs (pretty sure that's in And Peace Shall Sleep). Now, the problem with the Ironclaw Orcs is that they are actually tied to Aerona these days, you know, where the Ironclaw Mountains are and all that. I think it's fair to assume that they migrated from Sarpadia to Aerona, but it would probably be redundant and confusing to have them around for a return to Sarpadia. The Iceclaw Orcs never got a card, but what was the deal with them anyway? Maybe they used to live high up in the frigid mountains, and their shamans used magic to make really durable iceclaws as weapons? No idea, but the concept of Iceclaw Orcs sounds kinda silly when you think about it.

So I'd keep in the Brassclaws since they are the most well-known of the bunch as far as Sarpadia is concerned. But what if there were new tribes of orcs with a flavour that could be analogous to the original ones? Maybe you could have Woodclaw Orcs with elaborate war paint who prey on the elves and thallids and mostly use weapons made of wood (and maybe stone), and Boneclaw Orcs who raid thallids and use bones as weapons and are covered in thrull carapaces (Armor Thrull is a thing after all).

I brought up the idea a while ago that maybe the Magnigoth treefolk from Yavimaya came through post-Empires Sarpadia while they were wandering around and picked up their saproling spores there. Maybe that could be true, and maybe some of them (or at least their seeds) stayed behind? Maybe the surviving elves have allied themselves with the treefolk and are now living in their branches as they wander across the continent? That would keep them safe from most dangers on the ground and even allow them to farm thallids or saprolings up there.

Also, man, Thrull Wizard has to be the coolest looking thrull ever. I hope they take a leave out of that guy's book if they ever choose to show us a society of advanced Sarpadian thrulls.

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Tell why Truth must fight with Falsehood, and why Truth will always win."
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