In the announcement video for Commander Legends, we got to see the art for a new planeswalker card. Though the character was not named, the internet community quickly determined that the art depicted a character named Jeska, first depicted in the card Jeska, Warrior Adept. As someone who knows very little about old Magic lore, I was surprised to find that this character Jeska played an extremely important role in several of Magic’s stories. She died at least three times, ascended to (false) godhood, became Karn’s apprentice, and sacrificed herself to begin the Great Mending! But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s start at the beginning…
Jeska, Warrior Adept
Jeska was born in Otaria, on the plane of Dominaria. She and her family lived as a part of a barbarian tribe led by the dwarf Balthor Rockfist (Balthor the Stout). She lived a quiet life with her tribe, until her brother Kamahl left them to fight for fame and fortune in Cabal City’s fighting pits (as seen in the card Kamahl, Pit Fighter). She and Balthor soon grew concerned for Kamahl’s safety, and so they journeyed to Cabal City to find him. Unable to find him immediately, they began fighting in the gladiator pits in the hope that they would cross paths with him. Eventually it became clear that Kamahl had left Cabal City to go on his own odyssey, so they abandoned their search and headed home to the Pardic Mountains.
When Kamahl finally returned to the tribe, he had completed his quest to obtain the Mirari (a magical artifact of incredible power which ALWAYS ends up ruining things for its user). He knew of the Mirari’s dangerous ways, but he was overconfident in his own willpower and so he affixed it to his sword. The Mirari began to infect Kamahl’s mind with desire for power, and despite Jeska and Balthor’s best efforts, Kamahl attempted to unite all of Otaria’s barbarian tribes under his dictatorial leadership. Opposition mounted, and during a battle between tribes Kamahl went berserk and began to slaughter everyone in sight. Jeska attempted to stop her brother, but in his rage Kamahl drove his Mirari-sword through her chest.
Seeing what he had done to his beloved sister, Kamahl snapped out of his rage (and the Mirari’s influence). The incredible power of the Mirari corrupted the wound in Jeska’s body, causing the wound to constantly burn at her flesh and resist healing magic. She was dying, but Kamahl knew that disposing of the Mirari was of utmost importance. He felt called to the center of the Krosan Forest, so he headed there immediately, taking Jeska with him. On the way he ran into an old friend, a centaur druid named Seton, who took Jeska in under his care so he could attempt to heal her with druidic magic.
Unbeknownst to Kamahl, armies were converging on the Krosan Forest to claim the power of the Mirari for themselves. One such force was a Cabal army led by Braids, Cabal Minion. While tracking Kamahl’s path, Braids happened upon Seton’s home; seeing Jeska in his care, Braids killed Seton and took Jeska captive, bringing her to the Cabal Patriarch as a gift. The Patriarch was pleased by this gift, and decided to kill Jeska as an act of revenge against Kamahl, who had caused him a great deal of trouble. However, fate (and an entity named Kuberr) had other plans…
A Brief Aside
Before we can understand what happened next, we need to learn a little about the Cabal, their leader, and the “god” they worshiped.
Ancient Dominaria was ruled by five dragons imbued with awesome power by the plane itself, called the Primevals of Dominaria (Crosis, the Purger, Rith, the Awakener, etc). Five extremely powerful wizards called the Numena (one representing each color of mana) conspired to kill the Primevals and steal their power for themselves.
The Numena succeeded in their ploy and became godlike entities. Not wanting to share the power five ways, the blue, black, and red Numena killed their white and green counterparts. They lived as wizard-kings for centuries, until a cataclysmic event destroyed their kingdoms and killed them.
When they died, the Numena’s essences were scattered across Otaria, waiting to be invoked. The essence of Kuberr, the numen representing black mana, sought to be worshiped; his first worshiper was a man named Virot Maglan, who was rewarded for his worship with a near-immortal lifespan and the ability to kill and decay anyone or anything he touched.
Virot Maglan went on to create the Cabal, an organization dedicated to commerce, profit, and the worship of Kuberr. As the Cabal Patriarch, he became an extremely wealthy and powerful figure in Otaria, eventually constructing an entire city (Cabal City) operating under his control.
Got it? Good! Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming:
When the Patriarch tried to kill Jeska, he used the killing touch granted to him by Kuberr’s power. When that power entered Jeska’s body, it felt an immense power within Jeska, and caught the attention of Kuberr’s essence. Kuberr decided that such a power should not be destroyed, it should be harnessed and used; the Patriarch’s killing touch did not kill Jeska. Instead, it transformed her body and mind into something else entirely. Her skin and eyes became a pure white, she became a loyal servant of the Cabal, and anything organic she touched instantly rotted away.
Jeska was no more: She had become Phage the Untouchable.
End, Part I
That’s it for this article, but that’s not the end of Jeska’s story! Next time we’ll dig into the story of Phage the Untouchable, her deeds as a cabal agent, and her brief stint as the mother of a horde of enormous deathwurms!