Dec 7, 2010

[Books] Invasion (Magic the Gathering Invasion Cycle - Book 1)

Invasion (Magic the Gathering Invasion Cycle - Book 1)When Wizards of the Coast decided to re-tailor their card expansions to follow one large expansive storyline, it change the face of the fictional universe of Dominaria. After at least nearly ten card expansions that were all connected to this story in one way or another, it was time for the big pay off.

This book is the first of what could be called the final arc of the experiment. After sticking with the crew of the Weatherlight for so many books and thus ultimately expansion sets, we're finally going to find out what's going to happen to all of them.

Of course at the end of the path, you know it also means that characters lose their momentary immunity. It's not something unique to stories created by Wizards of the Coast - everyone does it sooner or later in the literary world. As you approach the clearing beyond the end of the path, then you end up with people dying.

Invasion is the first book of the similarly named Invasion Cycle / Block of stories set in the Magic the Gathering multiverse. It was written by J. Robert King.

Urza Planeswalker as he appears in the card 'M...Image via WikipediaAs the novel begins, so does the Phyrexian invasion of Dominaria. After centuries of preparation by Urza Planeswalker and his allies, the time has come to test their preparations and the true strength of Dominaria. The invasion begins with three massive portals opening in the skies above Benalia. Gerrard Capashen, heir to the Legacy, leads the charge together with the crew of the Weatherlight in an attempt to stop the Phyrexians from sending their forces through. At the same time, Urza and his companion Barrin watch the battle and eventually join with the aid of Metathran troops and Serra angels.

The invasion expands to other points around Dominaria. The Metathran commanders Thaddeus and Agnate are dispatched to take the Cave of Koilos, which houses the only permanent portal to Phyrexia from Dominaria. The forests of Yavimaya and Llanowar are under siege by Phyrexian troops and plague ships and it's up to the Maro-Sorcerer Multani to lead the defenders. Elsewhere Teferi has different plans for defending Zhalfir. But the Phyrexians are not some mindless horde either - the compleated beast that is Tsabo Tavoc has a different game in mind as she organizes this invasion.

The book is one action-packed battle right after another, which is a nice change from a lot of the drama that has been the highlight of past stories. But at the same time, it's a battle without order or reason and I suppose this was the intent of the author. It was important to drive home the point that Urza was determine to win at any cost without any consideration for long-term survival of their own side. He only wants to kill Phyrexians.

I was a bit disappointed with the fact that he didn't really have much else prepared to defeat the Phyrexians. It was a bit of a surprise that his main strategy relied solely on the Metathran instead of having a lot more artifact creatures fighting alongside them. I didn't even see any ornithopters used to any significant degree in this book. Where are the Yotian Soldiers? Where are the Triseklions? Instead we have lots of tall blue men being sent to their deaths.

The Phyrexians were a lot smarter for sure. They had a complex invasion strategy divided into clear stages and phases with a variety of attack patterns and forces used in different ways. An aerial assault in one location. Plague bombs in another. Good job Phyrexia.

If anything, I have to give points to Gaea as manifested in the development of the Kavu. Now that's an effective strategy that shows years of planning and preparation against this sort of alien incursion. They were highly effective in holding of the Phyrexians and they also tend to destroy everything else in their path when they get the chance.

The book could have used a bit more story though. Beyond the battles, there really wasn't much else. And given my earlier problems with the lack of artifacts in Urza's ultimate defense for Dominaria, the battles weren't enough to carry things along either.

Invasion is a functional book but not an amazing one. The plot definitely got trampled by the demands of the larger story arc. It still gets 3 creative ways for the living forests to fight off Phyrexians out of 5.
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