Magic: The Gathering- The Plane of Innistrad | Explore the Lore

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Welcome back! 2 weeks ago we explored the monsters of Supernatural. Today we delve into the magical planes of Magic: The Gathering.  I have played this game since I was in 7th grade, when I opened my first starter deck of Revised and found a Fork (this was an expensive card back then).  Through out the years Magic has changed in many ways but in some ways it has stayed the same.  Each block of three sets tells a story. (Going forward, new card blocks will consist of only 2 sets.)

For the purpose of this post I am going to cover Innistrad because of the new set coming out April 8th, Shadows Over Innistrad. For this post I will cover lore for the original sets of Innistrad, Dark Ascension, and Avacyn’s Return. I will also speculate at the end on what will come from our return to this plane on April 8th, given public knowledge at the time of writing this post.


The Land of Innistrad & Its Inhabitants

The Beginning Markov Family and The Rise of Vampires

Innistrad is a plane of gothic horrors.  Humanity is always on the brink of extinction.  Zombies and ghosts are constantly attacking them. In the woodlands, there are packs of werewolves threatening to destroy villages and in the mountainous regions the vampires are always hunting for prey. In the beginning there was an alchemist named Edgar Markov. He lived in the land that would become known as Stensia.  There was a famine in the land that made him look into dark experiments to find a solution.Through a pact with the demon, Shilgengar, he learned the secrets of sangromancy.  Using a blood ritual he was able to give people agelessness and the ability to live on blood alone; creating the first vampires.  He used this ritual on his grandson, Sorin Markov.  The strain of this ritual caused Sorin’s spark to ignite and made him a planeswalker; able to travel to many different planes (aka worlds/locations).
There were originally 12 families of vampires in Innistrad.  Over time, 3 bloodlines died out and 5 others are so small they aren’t worth mentioning, leaving 4 major bloodlines that affect the land.

Sorin MarkovSorin Markov | Photo credit: imgur
Map of InnistradUnofficial Map of Innistrad | Photo creidt: rebrn

Vampire Families

Markov: This is the top bloodline created by Edgar Markov himself.  They have grown steadily through the years and have vampires seeded through out all of Innistrad. These vampires can be talented with psychic magic.

Falkenrath: These vampires take pleasure in picking their victims from deep within communities that consider themselves safe. Their original sire was a falconer leading them to master flying to snatch up humans.

Markov Servant
A Markov vampire servant | Photo credit: darkvenger81.deviantart
Falkenrath Aristocrat
Falkenrath Aristocrat | Photo credit: channelfireball

  Their original sire was Olivia Voldaren. She was a hermit who kept to the edges of society.  These vampires tend to master the ability to transform into animals like bats, cats, and rats.

Stromkirk: The original vampire was Runo Stromkirk. He held a strong affinity to the coastal land of Nephalia and this clan holds true to this.  They are proficient with glamors (magic) that allow them to blend in with humans and can also make themselves become like mist.

Olivia VoldarenOlivia Voldaren | Photo credit: mtgfanatic.wikia
Stromkirk NobleA Stromkirk noble vampire | Photo credit: mtgsalvation.gamepedia

Due to his planeswalking, Sorin could see the bigger picture on Innistrad. As the vampires spread, he began to worry that over hunting of humans would lead to their extinction, in turn, making the vampires turn on one another. He new something needed to be done.  To save his race he created the archangel, Avacyn, and through her was created the Church of Avacyn.  This gave the humans a way to combat the darkness. However, most vampires now see him as a traitor to his race.

How Vampires are Created

Vampires are made by siring. This is a special type of bite that will turn a human into a vampire.  A siring bite will usually be made in a place that is not easily seen to show respect to their soon-to-be equal. In order for a bite to be siring, they must introduce their blood into the wound, usually by biting their own tongue before they feed.  Not all bites will transform a human into a vampire. There are cases were a vampire is interrupted before they can fully drain a human.  The human will not change but will have  disturbing and erotic dreams for years afterwards. In order for the siring to be complete, the victim must feed on the sires blood before the next full moon or they will die.

The blood trade is a booming industry in Innistrad.  Vampires prefer the blood of the living; it taste like a fine wine to them and must be delivered within days of being “collected.”  Old blood, or blood from dead humans, taste like vinegar to them.
Any mortal weapons can kill vampires but weapons made from living wood will be especially potent at dispatching them.

Avacyn RestoredAvacyn | Photo credit: darkvenger81.deviantart
NephaliaNephalia | Photo credit: mtgsalvation.gamepedia

Nephalia: Giests, Zombies and Mad Scientists

Nephalia is the borderland along the ocean. Its shores are known as Silver Beach. Here we find the Nebelgast. This is a mist that comes in and out with the tide, bringing geists in with it. Due to the vast waterways and river systems, Nephalia is a major player in transporting goods.  There are 3 major settlements in Nephalia.Havengul: This is the largest city full of merchants and artisans. But it has a dark side. Due to the amount of people living in the city, it is easy for someone to go missing without being noticed. People are usually abducted and taken to the underground passages known as the Erdwal. Once here, they are sold to ghoulcallers and skaberen to be made into the undead or sold to vampires. The most prominent merchant here is Ludevic. He is an alchemist who uses his vast fortune to fund his experiments, which look into forbidden realms & planes.

MtG alchemist from InnistradAlchemist | Photo credit: tumblr
'Slayer of the Wicked' -The Fauchard Order
‘Slayer of the Wicked’ -The Fauchard Order | Photo credit: magic.wizards

This is the main influential town of the Stromkirk vampires. Here they use their glamors to blend in with the humans. They used their power to encourage the deforestation of Nephalia because living wood is a hazard to them.  There is also a secret order in this town known as The Fauchard. They are a secret order of vampire hunters that are not associated with the Church of Avacyn. They communicate through secret codes to hide their members, because if the vampires found out who they were, they would be hunted down and killed.

Selhoff: This is the town most affected by the Nebelgast. It is almost always covered by the mist. This has turned most humans away, but has drawn others; namely the skaberen and alchemists.  The elite of Selhoff live in towers, leading to people referring to the town as the Towers of Selhoff.  One notable tower is Jenrik’s Tower. The mortar for this tower was mixed with the sands of The Silver Beach, making it glisten in the moonlight. Here, Jenrik the Astronomer spends his time documenting all the movements of the stars. For this reason he is feared by the vampires.

NebelgastNebelgast | Photo credit: media.wizards
MtG ghoulGhoul | Photo credit: artofmtg

Nephalia is heavily infested with the undead. They come in several different iterations.

Ghouls: Ghouls are corpses raised from the grave by ghoulcallers using black magic. They tend to carry on the tools of their trade, even being able to perform magic if they could in their past life. They are usually raised from the grafs of Nephalia; these are the burial grounds of the area. There are 3 major types of grafs:

  • The Fengrafs: these are were peasants and common folk are buried.
  • The Seagrafs: were sailors and fishermen are buried.
  • The Diregrafs: these are places were major battles usually happened and the ghouls usually have the weapons they possessed in life with them.

Once a ghoul is raised, the ghoulcaller will give them a purpose and they will pursue that purpose at all costs.

Skaabs: Skaabs are creations of alchemy created by the Skaberen. Using bodies purchased from the Erdwal  the skabren create life. (Think of them more like Frankenstein.) The alchemists use a combination of alchemy and dark magic to create these creatures. Once created they are in a calm state and must be taught what their purpose is. The Skaberen see the ghoulcallers as heretics who produce unacceptable results in comparison to their own work.

: These are the ghosts of Innistrad.  When a spirit decides to stay attached to the world, rather then rejoin its natural essence, it becomes a geist.  Usually it is because they feel a regret or grudge that makes them stay chained to the metaphysical world. Giests come tied to all colors of magic.

  • The white aligned geists tend to be less harmful and more protective, usually Cathers or family members that want to protect their charges from the afterlife.
  • The blue aligned geists tend to be manifestation of thought and will try and posses people making them speak in tongues and do things they would not normally do.
  • Black aligned geists are always malicious and must be exorcised immediately. If not, the end result will be death to whoever they are haunting.
  • The red aligned geists are the most dangerous in Innistrad. They are manifestations of emotions; unfulfilled desire and revenge. They often manifest as a red, blood-dripping mist and will inflict wounds upon those they encounter.
  • Green aligned geists are usually manifestations of people who were closely linked to nature and can be summoned by druids. They are protective and often link themselves to plants, animals and landforms.  If you have an angry green geist they can cause blights and famine until they are appeased.
MtG skaabSkaab | Photo credit: tumblr
Innistrad GeistGeist | Photo credit: media.wizards

Gavony: Humanities Bastion.

The land of Gavony is where Humans thrive the most. It holds Innistrad’s largest city, Thraben, where you can find Avacyn and her flight of angels. Due to the amount of humans in the area though, it also has the most problems with the undead.Thraben sits on a mesa in the middle of the Lake of Herons. It is the center of power for the Church of Avacyn.  The leader of the church and town is the Lunarch, Mikaeus. The city has a complex set of walls designed to defend the city.

  • The outer wall is the main defense of Thraben; it is thick and high.
  • The Merchant’s Wall is a grouping of halls that make a market square and the center of trade in the city.
  • The Child’s Wall is a wall that surrounds the old cathedral at the center of town. It is tradition that when a child is born in Thraben the parents place its name on the wall, giving the child extra protection.
  • The Fang Wall is were werewolves who are caught are hung. The fangs of the dead werewolves are then placed in the cracks of the wall.
  • Last is the Bloodless Wall where vampires are chained up to die.

In Thraben you will find the Cathedral of Avacyn. This is were Avacyn and her angels reside. It also houses a well kept garden and training grounds for Cathers, who are holy warriors sent outside the city to battle evil. Inside the garden you will find The Helvault. This silver mass is a prison used by Avacyn to house evil demons so they will not reform into new evils.

Just south of Thraben is the lands of Nearheath. This area is made up of several smaller villages that are afforded protection for being so close to Thraben. Beyond Nearheath is the Moorlands. This area is full of many dangers and few venture there.

Thraben clifftopHigh City of Thraben | Photo credit: mtgsalvation
Magic the Gathering HelvaultThe Helvault | Photo credit: media.wizards

Gisa and Geralf:

These insane siblings reside in the moorlands. Gisa is a powerful ghoulcaller who uses her black magic to raise armies of ghouls.  Geralf is a skaberen who has amassed army of skaabs.  They are insane and use their armies to battle one another. They are relatives of Mikaeus but were exiled in some scandal.

Ghoulcaller GisaGisa the Ghoulcaller | Photo credit: mtgedh
Stitcher GeralfGeralf | Photo credit: channelfireball

Angels of Thraben:

There are currently 3-angel flights lead by Avacyn.

  • The Flight of Goldnight are the angels associated with the sun.  Their leader is Gisela.
  • The Flight of Alabaster are the angels associated with the blessed sleep (term for death). Their leader is Bruna.
  • The Flight of Herons are the angels associated with birth and purity. Their leader is Sigarda.
GiselaGisela | Photo credit: magic.wizards
Bruna the AngelBruna | Photo credit: pinterest
Sigarda, Host of Herons
Sigarda | Photo credit: media.wizards 

Kessig: Werewolves and Danger Abound
Kessig is a superstitious land. The people there live off the land and will make their tools rather then buy them.  Ulvenwald, the Misty Wood, cuts them off from the rest of Innistrad. This dark forest is home to many creatures including werewolves, geists and other dark forces.  Due to the nature of where they live, the folks of Kessig tend to be superstitious and have very set beliefs.

Werewolves and Howlpacks.
The werewolves of Innistrad are humans afflicted with the curse of Lycanthropy. They are essentially one soul split down the middle between their human side and wolf side. They can transform into a werewolf during the lunar cycle closest to the full moon. Sometimes intense stress can cause them to transform as well. Some werewolves are repentant and feel ashamed for what they do when they transform. Others give into their wolf-side and relish for the feeling again. Most werewolves are lone hunters but some seek to form groups known as howlpacks.When most Kessigers think of howlpacks they think of The Krallenhorde. This pack can consist of anywhere from 50-200 werewolves depending on the moon cycle.  The leader, or alpha of the pack, is Ulrich. He stays with the pack even when in human form. Another well-known pack is the Mondronen. These werewolves practice blood magic.  Their alpha is Tovolar, a silver furred wolf who is said to never revert back to human.

KessigKessig | Photo credit: magic.wizards
Innistrad werewolf
Werewolf | Photo credit: magic.wizards
Devils’ Breach.
Far from the towns in the woods is fissure known as Devils’ Breach. It is said that smoke and flame waft from this crevasse.  You can also hear voices cackling from inside.  Some people have even reported seeing devils dancing at the entrance.
Demons of Innistrad.
When Sorin created Avacyn she pushed back on the evils of Innistrad.  This created an equilibrium and left the opportunity for exploitation.  The Soul of the plane of Innistrad consists of light and dark (white mana and black mana). The light and dark cannot be destroyed. When the equilibrium was reached in the real world it lead to a unbalance in the Soul causing the creation of demons that were once thought to be just myths.  The demons and devils were quick to rise into this vacuum of power left by Avacyn. Demons are black mana reformed into a powerful entity. Devils are their servants.
devil's breechDevil’s Breech | Photo credit: media.wizards
Reaper from the Abyss DemonReaper of the Abyss Demon | Photo credit: mtgeezer

The Story-line of the Original Innistrad Block

Now that we have covered a brief layout and view of what makes up Innistrad -it’s “people”  places – I will give you the story line of the Magic block.

The story begins with the forces of evil pushing back on humanity.  Vampires are becoming more brazen, killing without want.  Howlpacks are growing to alarming sizes, ravaging the lands. Ghoulcallers and Skaberen are raising massive armies and attacking settlements.  The powers of the Church of Avacyn appear to be waning and disappearing in some areas.

Sorin has returned to find out why his creation has failed in her duty.  We also meet several other planeswalkers during this block.  Liliana has come to Innistrad to find Griselbrand, one of the Demons that holds the contract on her life.  Garruk has come searching for Liliana because she has used her Cursed Veil to corrupt him and he is slowly turning into something dark. We also meet Tamiyo the Moonsage who is on the plane to learn everything she can about it.  Last we meet Tibalt, a part human, part devil who is causing chaos in Innistrad.

Liliana of the Veil
Liliana of the Veil | Photo credit: ihititwithmyaxe.tumblr
Liliana and Garruk
Liliana & Garruk | Photo credit: gatheringmagic

For most of the story we are actually following Liliana. She is searching for Griselbrand. While looking in Nephalia, Garruk finds her and attempts to slay her. She summons a host of ghouls to kill him and escapes.  From her findings, she assumes Avacyn’s lack of presence must have something to do with Griselbrand so she travels to Thraben.  She finds the city under siege by hordes of ghouls and skaabs, lead by the siblings Gisela and Gerralf.  She aids the siblings in sacking Thraben.

When Gerralf reaches Mikeaus he slays him. Liliana retrieves the body and raises him from the dead. She learns that Avacyn was challenging demons to combat and in defeating them, she would imprison them in the Helvault.  Griselbrand challenged her to battle.  The battle lasted for several days. In the end, Avacyn was mortally wounded, but with a last burst of effort she was able to seal Griselbrand in the Helvault. While he was being sucked in he grabbed her and pulled her in with him. So they are both currently residing in the Helvault.  The only witness to this besides the angels was Mikeaus. He chose to keep this a secret in hopes that the people would not lose faith.

Liliana is unable to open the vault and must trick a servant of Avacyn into doing this. Cathers led by Thalia are protecting the Helvault.  Liliana gives Thalia a choice: open the Helvault or she will destroy all of Thalia’s Cathers. Thalia destroys the vault releasing all of the demons inside. This also releases a fully restored Avacyn.
At this point Liliana tracks down Griselbrand.  He offers her power in exchange for his life.  She sees through the lies and destroys him.  She then leaves the plane in search of the other released demons.

Undead hordePhoto credit: kromdizzle.tumblr
Avacyn vs. GriselbrandAvacyn vs. Griselbrand | Photo credit: klappscheinwerfer.deviantart

 While this is happening, Sorin (having traveled back to Innistrad and finding the darkness closing in on humanity) seeks out to find out what happened to Avacyn, killing any that get in his way.  However, he is distracted!  Tibalt, finding glee in chaos, attempts to try and lead his devils against Innistrad while Avacyn is gone and Sorin is forced to deal with him. This battle keeps him busy while the rest of the story is unfolding.

Once Avacyn is restored, her angel flights return to their full power. They begin cleansing the land and pushing back the darkness once again.  In her crusade to cleanse the land she comes across a group of werewolves that wish to be turned human again.  She tells them she is unable to cure them but she can cast a spell that would fuse their two warring sides of man and beast. They agree, becoming the noble Wolfir servants of Avacyn.  There is a unintended side effect as the cursemute spell takes hold though. It travels through the lands, abolishing many curses that are affecting the people. The cursemute even has an effect on Garruk. It causes the curse to recede and gives him back his sanity.  In newer stories coming out for Shadows Over Innistrad, we find out that some werewolves found them selves cured and would not transform thanks to the cursemute. But the madness of Avacyn has caused them to start transforming again.

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben | Photo credit: media.wizards
Sorin vs. Tibalt
Sorin vs. Tibalt | Photo credit: gatheringmagic

 Innistrad Trailer

Dark Ascension Trailer

Avacyn Restored Trailer

Shadows over Innistrad Trailer

 The Future of Innistrad -Shadows Over Innistrad Block Jumping forward we once again find our selves coming back to the plane of Innistrad. Based on what’s been released about the upcoming block & set, we’ve found out that something is corrupting Innistrad. Avacyn has gone insane and turned on those she is supposed to protect.  Everything is turning to chaos.  Sorin returns home to find Markov Manor destroyed, his family incased in blocks of stone.

Things we know so far: Jace is on Innistrad trying to find Sorin and discovers that something crazy is going on. He starts following the clues. One of them is Tamiyo’s journal. We don’t know if she is dead or alive at this point. Avacyn has gone insane and is killing humans. We don’t know what has caused this. She has already turned two of the angel flights against humanity.  Sigarda is holding out and trying to find allies to fight Avacyn.  Avacyn has reversed the cursemute, causing werewolves to run rampant again.  Sorin has returned to Innistrad looking for Nahiri and finds that she has destroyed Markov manor.

Avacyn Casting the Curemute & Creating Wolfir
Avacyn Casting the Curemute & Creating Wolfir | Photo credit: ubermonster.deviantart
Planeswalker Jace
Jace | Photo credit: mtgsalvation

My speculations for the set are as follows.
Some people speculate that the Eldrazi menace known as Emrakul is on Innistrad causing the corruption. I believe this to be false.  I think that there are several possible reasons that Avacyn has lost her mind:

1. Tibalt is trying to seek revenge on Sorin. What better way then to corrupt Avacyn and create chaos?
-This one I like and hope to be the truth.

2. Nahiri has corrupted her to get back at Sorin for the near annihilation of her home plane of Zendikar.
-I don’t like this reasoning because this is not her mana affinity style. She is more likely there tearing up the vampires to get to Sorin rather than trying to corrupt Avacyn.

3. Avacyn has just gone insane all on her own. She hears every prayer on the plane. Maybe it has just finally gotten to her.
-I don’t like this one because the way she is acting; it seems like an outside force is effecting her.

4. Originally the 3 three heads of the angelic flights had a 4th sister. She sought to understand the darker side of Innistrad and regularly interacted with vampires and werewolves.  Avacyn declared her a heretic and had her destroyed when she sought conversations with demons.
-What if she wasn’t destroyed and this is her way of getting revenge on Avacyn; causing her to go mad and destroy those she was to protect?  I like this one but would find it more appropriate if she showed back up to help Sigarda fight Avacyn.

5. What if when Avacyn used the cursemute to cure Garruk the corruption of the Cursed Veil rubbed off on her?
-This could explain why she slowly got corrupted and is very plausible.

Avacyn Gone MadAvacyn Gone Mad | Photo credit: namesjames.deviantart

So this is where we leave off for now. I can’t wait for the full set to come out so that I can get the full pieces of the puzzle and learn the story. If you have any questions about what I covered, or Magic the Gathering in general, please ask. Till next time may each story be an adventure.

Ron, author of Explore the Lore

Meet the Author: Ron
Hello, I’m Ron. I’m a passionate nerd who loves a good
back story. I look forward to sharing that love with you.







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Showing 4 comments
  • Julie

    Very detailed information,to assist those that know very little about Magic.

    • Jessica (aka The Nifty Nerd)

      Honestly, it was a great refresher for those of who do play too!
      The lore is so rich though, you don’t even have to play the game to enjoy the story-line I feel.

  • Mandy Stone

    I never knew there was such extensive lore with Magic! Thanks for sharing! <3 <3 <3 <3

    • Jessica (aka The Nifty Nerd)

      Sure is! It’s actually the underlying foundation that drives the creation of all the individual cards, their abilities, etc.

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