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PostPosted: Wed May 26, 2021 5:31 pm 
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I've been wanting to make this thread since I've worked on the thread about Dominarian geography, and I've had all those notes I compiled sitting on my computer for ages, but I guess now that we are getting all those amazing Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar-related cards, it's time to get off my butt and finish it. See? My nerdy fringe interests are, like, totally relevant!

When Dominaria came out in 2018, we were introduced to the set's Big Bad: the Demonlord Belzenlok, "an Elder Demon from the dawn of time" who had fought in a conflict called "the War in the Abyss". The Cabal summoned him from said Abyss some time after the Mending, hoping to make contact with a demon who could bring back Kuberr. What's interesting about this is that this wasn't the first time the War in the Abyss was mentioned in the canon, or at least it's very reminiscent of the conflict that is alluded to in the short story 'Angel of Vengeance' in The Colors of Magic. Once you start looking at the info in that story in particular and various other sources in general (not to mention certain cards), the rabbit hole goes deep.


Terminology: What (the) Hell are we talking about?

Spoiler



Ecology: So what's it like down there?

Spoiler


History: What about that war?

So let's look at the one story that actually introduced the idea of "the War in the Abyss", namely 'Angel of Vengeance' in The Colors of Magic. We don't learn that much, but what little we do learn is some pretty Miltonian stuff (emphases mine):

“Long ago, in the morning of the world, a benevolent order of wizards had aided she [the angel Kotara] and her sisters in the first great war against the legions of the Pit. In gratitude the angels had sworn to serve the mages and their heirs whenever they called, and a daughter of the Divine Will didn’t chafe at her obligations” (p. 3).

“Kotara tensed, for she recognized the fiend for what it was, a knight banneret in the hosts of darkness. She recalled the first time she’d seen such a creature, riding at the head of a column of lesser fiends, during that primordial rebellion when the spirits of darkness had nearly overthrown the Divine Will, destroyed her people, and extinguished the sun, moon, and stars” (pp. 27-28).

“its race and hers had been at war since the dawn of time” (p. 29)

So I guess the War in the Abyss is more of an ongoing conflict that started in the misty ancient times and has flared up again and again ever since? And I reckon it was/is being fought in the Abyss? It's not quite clear what the exact scope of that war is in relation to the larger multiverse or what we are supposed to make of that Divine Will, though.

Cosmology: How does it all connect?

So, on to the biggest question. What the hell is Hell? What is its exact nature and its place in the multiverse?

First things first, we know one important thing in regards to Belzenlok's summoning: It explicitly happened after the Mending. That means there is still some kind of connection between Dominaria and the Abyss, even though the Mending shut down all connections between "normal" planes. It's also suggested in The Art of Dominaria that pocket dimensions still exist (like the Patriarch's money bin full of gold coins or Bolas' meditation plane in Legends II), because the Tolarian Shadow Academy uses one, at least according to rumours. I don't think that Hell is a pocket dimension, however. Dominaria at least knows of a multitude of different Hells, so I think that hellscape would be too big to be a pocket dimension. What's more, it's implied that many different planes throughout the multiverse have a connection to at least one Hell, and that at least some Hells have knowledge of other Hells. It also seems to be easier to travel between a Hell and an adjacent overworld, and there seem to be stable connections like the garbage chute in Vincent's realm. That and the Dominaria-connection after the Mending would imply that Hell is indeed not a normal plane that can be perceived or visited by planeswalkers under normal circumstances (which you'd expect to have come up by now if that was the case), and it's probably not a completely independent plane that just sits in the Blind Eternities on its own. In that regard, it's more like a pocket dimension.

In addition to the weird plane in 'Dual Loyalties', a lot of cards from throughout the multiverse also make reference to Hell-related terminology in their name or flavour text, as we've seen in the 'Terminology' section. In addition to Dominaria, Innistrad in particular comes to mind (although that one might warrant a deeper look at some other time), but Ravnica and Zendikar as well.

So if it's closely attached to other planes like a pocket dimension (even after the Mending), hidden and inaccessible to 'walkers from the Blind Eternities like a pocket dimension, but connected to many others of its kind and probably to different "normal" planes as well (instead of just one), what is it? I suspect it's a kind of planar network that can't be accessed or perceived from the Blind Eternities but that spreads throughout the multiverse, attaching itself to natural planes in order to corrupt them and gain access to the "proper" multiverse. Basically like interplanar cancer, a Parasite Plane if you will. It's a manifestation of pure evil (or black mana?) that grows and corrupts and that can only exist by attaching itself to other planes. The quotes from 'Angel of Vengeance' suggest that the forces of the Abyss want to extinguish the light and overthrow the Divine Will (whatever that is), and I think all of those things could go together really well. My guess is that you could travel from, say, Dominaria, through various hells and maybe, if you travelled far enough along the right paths, you might be able to reach other planes that are connected to the Hells, like Innistrad for instance. The fact that the Abyss was accessible from Dominaria after the Mending and that travel to and from Hell seems to be easier than normal planar travel raises the question whether Hell might be the only "natural" way for non-'walkers to travel to other planes post-Mending. Of course that's kinda speculative, at the very least the Mending might have ripped some of the connections between different Hells in the network apart, even if it didn't sever the connections of the Abyss to normal planes.

But I'd say the fact that there are so many of them ("the thousand hells"), that similar phenomena are connected to different planes, plus the possibly more large-scale implications of 'Angel of Vengeance' would make my suggestions somewhat plausible.


*looks at wall of text*

Are you still here? Hello? :paranoid: Well, I guess that was excessive, but I just wanted to compile the facts, try to make sense of them and get it all out of my system.

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Tell why Truth must fight with Falsehood, and why Truth will always win."
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PostPosted: Thu May 27, 2021 11:06 am 
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I'm torn on this. On the one hand, it is a cool concept, but I feel like it reduces the uniqueness of each plane's demons and with the divine will thing it might make MTG too Christian.

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PostPosted: Thu May 27, 2021 4:44 pm 
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I'm torn on this. On the one hand, it is a cool concept, but I feel like it reduces the uniqueness of each plane's demons
I don't think it has to, though. I think demons could (and probably do) spawn independently of Hell (especially if the plane in question isn't connected to it) since they are basically just manifestations of black mana. And different Hells could spawn very different kinds of demons. Innistrad in particular is implied to have many different kinds of demons that diabolists have written entire tomes about. Some demons even have origins that are particular to their plane and have nothing to do with Hell, like those on Theros or *shudder* Kaladesh for example.

and with the divine will thing it might make MTG too Christian.
This is a very important point and I'm glad you're raising it, because I think I should have addressed that more clearly. It's worth keeping in mind that the "Divine Will" is mentioned by an angel from Dominaria, so I'd say whatever she means by that, it's just her perspective on what is actually going on. It could be completely imaginary, or it could refer to some underlying order or fundamental principle of the multiverse that nobody fully understands but that isn't really a deity in that sense. Brady clarified that there are no gods in Magic on a multiversal scale. Magic is a secular game and I certainly don't want Creative to look at those quotes from 'Angel of Vengeance' and take them to literally talk about a capital G "God".

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Tell why Truth must fight with Falsehood, and why Truth will always win."
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PostPosted: Fri May 28, 2021 3:38 am 
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Granted, I could accept a multiversal counterpart to hell if it was evil.

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 19, 2021 3:46 pm 
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Granted, I could accept a multiversal counterpart to hell if it was evil.
I don't know if it's "a multiversal counterpart to hell" per se, but there are some things in the Coldsnap shortstory 'Vannemir's Choice' that I wanted to point out, not least because it might somehow be relevant to the Svyelun discussion I started in the MH2 thread a while ago. I've finally found the time to reread the story, which you can find here: https://web.archive.org/web/20090826000 ... e/fiction3

So, Vannemir, the protagonist, is killed by some orcs but brought back to life by an Adarkar Valkyrie called Ysidra. She then takes him to some round, domed building somewhere in the mountains where the following conversation between them takes place (emphases mine):

Spoiler


This is all pretty crytic, but it vaguely reminds me of some of the background lore we learn in 'Angel of Vengeance', especially the part about the "Divine Will". The same caveats to what is being said apply here, namely that, while I don't think the angel is lying to Vannemir, she can only say what she believes to be true from her perspective, she isn't necessarily a completely reliable source in this matter. That being said, the takeaway here is that the Kjeldoran beliefs in a Valhalla-style afterlife are said to be true and that a "realm of the gods" is said to exist. This is all super weird because it never comes up again, and if the part about the afterlife is actually true, it really makes you wonder how this is supposed to work for other cultures on Dominaria with beliefs in a different kind of afterlife.

Now, Brady suggested that every plane has its own afterlife and that people end up in the afterlife of the plane they die on, which matches planes like Theros and Kaldheim that have explored the whole afterlife aspect in more detail. So it makes sense to assume that Dominaria would have some kind of afterlife as well. When it comes to 'Vannemir's Choice', I could see two possible explanations for the valkyrie telling Vannemir that the tales about the Halls of Valor are true. Either

1.) all she knows is that the souls of the dead go somewhere and that there is some kind of afterlife (where would she bring them back from otherwise?), but she just assumes that that must be the Halls of Valor, maybe because it's the only concept of the afterlife she's familiar with, or

2.) the Halls of Valor are real and she knows it, but maybe there are other kinds of afterlives that other cultures believe in, and each little bubble of the afterlife is shaped by the beliefs of the people who end up there.

The latter option would be similar to the theory I have about Dominaria's dreamrealms and the way they might relate to religion. Whichever option is true for the afterlife, the "realm of the gods" that's mentioned could absolutely be a part of the dreamrealms exactly as I suggested in my theory about Svyelun. (And for the record, until WotC comes out with a proper official explanation that somehow addresses all those metaphysical loose ends without calling into question Dominaria's established worldbuilding, I 100% stand by my opinion that printing that Svyelun card was a really, really stupid idea.)

Yeah, WotC is probably never going to pick up any of this obscure metaphysical stuff ever again*, let alone use it in a way that makes sense, but I like trying to make sense of it because I just love it when things make sense, if that makes sense. Don't you just love it when things make sense? :paranoid:


*Then again, the War in the Abyss suddenly popped up again in Belzenlok's backstory, and we got things like, say, a canonical explanation for the ending of Arena, so maybe if the stars align...

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Tell why Truth must fight with Falsehood, and why Truth will always win."
—Love Song of Night and Day


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