Blake Rasmussen: Hello and welcome to the Magic Story Podcast, where we go behind the scenes with the people who create the worlds and characters of Magic: the Gathering. I’m Blake Rasmussen and I’ll be your host. I’m joined today, as I often am, by story guru Alison Luhrs.
Alison Luhrs: Hi Blake!
BR: How are you doing?
AL: I’m doing pretty good.
BR: You excited to talk about some tribes for the Commander product?
AL: Extraordinarily excited!
BR: Me too. So what we’re gonna do, dear listeners, is over the next five weeks we’re going to be talking about the tribes of the Commander release. Their stories, the legends, and the lore, and more.
AL: So those of you at home may be wondering “Hey! The last time that they did this sort of podcast, didn’t they say that they were going to do more story for with less gaps?” And you are correct, past Alison did say that. She did not know that current Alison would be- so the story team is kind of in a state of transition right now, with one of the key goals being “Don’t leave Alison sobbing from overwork under her desk.” And as awesome as it would be to have five stories in a row over the next couple weeks, unfortunately I really don’t want to die from writing four in a row like I did a couple weeks ago.
So, these podcasts are meant to be informative, we’re going to get you hyped about Commander, and we’re going to talk about each of the ones that will be introduced in these sets.
BR: And just because we’re podcasting doesn’t mean you’re not going to get story tidbits that you haven’t heard before. We’ll be talking about each of the Commander tribes as well as their legends, a little bit about the legends’ stories—what we know, what we don’t know—and maybe even a few things you’ve never heard before from Alison.
AL: Yup, all of that will be in here so listen up.
BR: So we’re going to start today with the toothiest tribe: vampires. Since Commander previews don’t start til next week, we aren’t going to spend a ton of time talking about specific cards, but we will talk about some of the characters you might see for the first time in C17.
We will get to that. Let’s just start, Alison, by talking about vampires kind of generally.
So in Magic, vampires aren’t the same across the Multiverse. So Zendikar vampires are different from Innistrad vampires are different from Sengir vampires. Can you talk a little bit about the different types of vampires in the Multiverse?
AL: Sure! So vampires vary depending on which plane you’re on. With a lot of our main creature types, they’re kinda different depending on what place in the Multiverse you’re looking at them at.
So Innistrad is home to some of the more meilleur vampires that you’ll think of if you think of vampires in pop culture. They have fangs, they look kind of pasty and they are quite mean. They’re the classical archetypal vampires that fit in very nicely with the horror-trope-heavy Innistrad. So all the vampires on Innistrad come from one sire, that’s Edgar Markov. He’s the grandfather of Sorin, everybody’s favorite wallflower. Yeah, you’re welcome.
BR: [laughs] Thanks Alison.
AL: But those vampires are regal, extremely fancy, and most recognizable by their eyes. They have black sclera, so that white part in your eyes is all black on Innistrad vampires. And gold, silver, or red irises in the middle. But heavy emphasis on the fancy.
On Dominaria, Sengir vampires are all descendants of Baron Sengir and Ulgrotha and can be found in Aerona and in the pits of the Cabal in Otaria. So these vampires are very monstrous nowadays, they’re looking pretty rough around the edges.
On Zendikar, we have even more rough around the edges. These vampires are not immortal but they do need to feed on blood. It doesn’t have to be sentient blood, sometimes they just feed on whatever critter is nearby. And long ago the Eldrazi warped them and adapted their anatomy for servitude, so they’ve got these hooks on them and easily pull them around by the shoulders. They physically look very different from other vampires.
Perhaps the most different looking vampire of all of them are the vampires of Tarkir. They’re the ones with the huge tongue and they look really, really spooky and scary.
Whereas on Kaladesh, their vampires aren’t really like any others. There’s a few aetherborn that are able to draw from the lifeforce of others, which kinda qualifies them as vampires. It’s a very rare skill and it allows them to gain a little more time on their lifetimes, but not too much. So no fangs for them,= since they don’t have mouths, but they do live off the lifeforce of others so it’s kind of an umbrella term vampire.
BR: Okay, so it sounds like there aren’t many like singularly defining characteristics about Magic vampires.
AL: I think the closest one would be that they gain something from someone else losing something, which is also the definition of life, like so . . . ? [laughs] But at its core, I think that’s what you can drill it down to, and then there’s a myriad of possibilities from there.
BR: Okay, so if that’s the main thrust of what makes a vampire in Magic, what are the mechanics that are typically associated with Magic vampires?
AL: So lifelink, again, is the most obvious one, draining life from others to gain it in oneself. Flying is also a thing. Depending on what brand of vampires from pop culture you roll with, sometimes they can fly and sometimes they can’t and it’s kind of the same with our vamps as well. Sometimes they’re able to magically lift themselves off the ground, sometimes they’re able to kind of just float up and you know have their parties three feet above the ground, and other times they’re just like terrestrial bound. But yeah, there’s obviously a couple other one-offs, but those are the two main mechanics for them.
BR: Okay, so what are some aspects of popular culture vampires that are found in Magic vampires?
AL: Definitely blood-draining, usually with sapient beings. So in pop culture, usually in order to be a vampire you have to drink the blood of humans. Sorry about that. There’s a couple of times where vampires in pop culture will get around that by drinking the blood of animals, but they’re wimps so uh . . . [laughs] Those really classic sort of trope sort of descriptors do apply to Magic vampires too. I can pretty firmly say that you will never a vampire in our world that owns an Audi and lives in the Pacific Northwest and dates human girls. But, you never know!
BR: Maybe some day.
AL: Maybe some day. Some day, some day.
BR: What about ones that are not, besides not living in the Pacific Northwest, what are some traits that Magic vampires don’t share with popular culture vampires?
AL: Usually, the aversion to holy relics is sometimes a thing? With Innistrad, there’s a couple of symbols that do keep away specific vampires, but for the most part that isn’t really a rule that applies across all vampires in Magic.
Aversion to silver is also sometimes a thing. It’s called out pretty specifically in Innistrad that certain deal with types of wood very well, like there are very specific sorts of wood, and I think that’s kind of how stakes and staking vampires came into Magic‘s lore.
Let’s see, seeing oneself in a mirror, I honestly can’t think of any time that one of our vamps has seen themselves in a mirror.
BR: I can’t think of anything, but I wouldn’t rule it out?
AL: Yeah, so whoever at home wants to yell at me, don’t. Just yell it out at the internet instead. [laughs] But yeah, I think those are the kind of big ones.
BR: What about turning into a bat?
AL: Oh! Sometimes that is a thing. I remember there is one card that does transform literally into a bat, which I wish we did more often because it was always my favorite weird power for vampires. Like why a tiny bat? I don’t know. It’s kind of weird. Maybe it’s some deviation of them flying, but only like sometimes.
AL: What if they turned into like fruit bats, that’d be kind of-
BR: Fruit bats, I’d be kind of entertained by a vampire turning into a snake because both of them are terrifying.
AL: Oh, you don’t like snakes?
BR: I hate snakes.
AL: Oh, I’m sorry.
BR: It’s a whole thing. I was listening to a podcast the other day that tried to ssssay that—that hissing was not on purpose there—that tried to say that if you understood how snakes moved that it’d clear some of the fear up? So they explained how snakes moved, to the best of science’s ability, and it did not help.
AL: Well I feel like with our lizard brains, there’s only so much you can tell it. Like “Hey brain, logically you shouldn’t be scared of this,” and your brain will just be like “No, idiot, this is terrifying.”
BR: Terrifying, want no part of it.
AL: Well I like snakes but we’re all allowed to have irrational fears and such.
BR: “Irrational?” These are terrifying.
AL: “Have you seen a snake?” [laughs]
BR: Anyway, so let’s go back to C17. So there are a ton of different types of vampires in Magic, what types will we be seeing in C17?
AL: We’ll be seeing a tour of vampires! Innistrad, Zendikar, there’s even a Tarkir vampire in there. It’s a pretty good spread. So if I get anymore specific than that I think that you guys will be able to guess which specific cards they are, so I’m not going to say anything else.
BR: Well, I’m gonna let you off the leash for one of them.
BR: So pick a cool character that we’re reintroducing in C17. Maybe one that we haven’t seen on a card before?
BR: Maybe one that I’m leading the question to? And I already know what you’re going to say?
AL: Oh, I think you do! So one character that our fans have been asking for for forever and that we’ve been wanting to show on cards for forever is the one, the only, the grandfather of all grandfathers, Edgar Markov.
BR: So, tell us about Edgar Markov. What do we know about him already?
AL: So Edgar Markov was the first vampire of Innistrad. I actually wrote down his intro because it’s just so awesome.
“Thousands of years ago, he was an alchemist seeking immortality for himself and his grandson Sorin. Encouraged by a demon, Edgar performed a dark ritual, feeding on the blood of other beings, and was transformed into an immortal vampire. He shared the secret with his most loyal subjects, each of whom became a founder of one of Innistrad’s vampiric bloodlines.”
BR: So why did we pick Edgar Markov to highlight in C17?
AL: He is one of the cards our fans have been asking for for a really, really long time. Lorewise, he’s a really big deal, I mean he’s the granddaddy of Sorin, and he’s the papa of all vampires on Innistrad. That’s pretty badass!
But mostly, we just wanted to show this really classic figure in a really, really prominent light. And so, if you’d like, I’m not able to share what the card does, but I can assure you that his art is amazing and I brought his art description. Would you like to hear it?
BR: I would.
AL: Alright, so I clipped out the juciest bit for you. So, picture with your brain “This is a glamour shot of Edgar Markov, the progenitor of all vampires on Innistrad. He’s never been seen on cards before but he’s known as one of the most powerful characters on Innistrad. He is a tall imposing figure in his mid-forties with long white hair drawn back away from his face. His golden yellow eyes with black scleras. His expression is both cool and confident with an air of superiority. Think Hannibal Lecter.
“In this shot we see him standing straight with his arms held out to either side as his squires buckle him into red enameled plate armor with silver accents. See reference packet for armor style. Two other squires kneel before him, one with a two-headed sword raised towards Edgar and the other with a goblet of blood. We don’t have to see these squires in their entirety, but we need to see Edgar.”
BR: So I’m pretty sure that this podcast is gonna set a record for saying “scleras.”
AL: Scleras? I’ve never said it more than once in like a day before.
BR: We’re up to at least four.
AL: Do you have a count?
BR: I think that’s four? It’s super important.
AL: Yeah, I think you’re right, keep that tally. [laughs]
BR: So my question, after hearing that fantastic art description: We didn’t see Edgar on modern day Innistrad, so where—again, you can’t say what the card does yet—where’s the timeline for this snapshot that we’re seeing Edgar in on the card?
AL: To be entirely honest, I don’t know. I’m pretty sure this is before everything got all Eldrazified. There’s no hint of any sort of Emrakuliness, which is my new favorite word.
BR: Totally a word.
AL: In the art, this is Edgar at his height. Whether that height is two years ago or two thousand doesn’t matter. He’s an immortal, this is him powerful always. And I’m really excited for you guys to see both the card and the character himself.
BR: So, you sound pretty high on Edgar.
AL: I’m so hyped, so hyped on granddaddy Edgar.
BR: Would you say he’s your favorite Magic vampire?
AL: Hmm, no. I don’t think I would.
BR: Okay. Who would qualify there?
AL: Ah, I will always have a soft spot for Yahenni. Yahenni is technically like cardwise a vampire, but they’re an aetherborn so they are one of the races of Kaladesh that sprung from aether itself. They are just kind of like sentient living energy and they only have about two years before their lifespan just flatlines. And so they have a real passion for life and they want to go out and experience as much as possible. So Yahenni, in the Venn diagram of “vampires” and “self-tragic figures,” they’re that tiny little sliver in the middle. I loved writing their story, I loved being able to find a way to talk about the vampiric struggle of “How do I cope with staying alive by any means necessary, knowing the harm and feeling the harm I inflict on others?” That was really, really fun.
BR: Yeah, Yahenni was kind of one of those characters that was represented on the card, kind of cool, but really came to life—I’ll pay you a compliment now—through the stories you told.
AL: Oh, thank you!
BR: And I know the community was really, really high on Yahenni after that as well. So solid answer.
AL: Thanks! Yeah, Yahenni’s character themselves was very loosely based off my gran. She is tremendously British and really loves going out of her way to host parties and make sure everyone’s feeling fantastic.
BR: And suck the life from some of them every once in a while?
AL: Man, when she’s in a bad mood she does a lot of things . . . But yeah, it’s always been her passion for making other people happy and being happy in return. So I kinda put a little bit of her into Yahenni. I will never tell that because she won’t understand.
BR: Unless she listens to this podcast?
AL: You know, she might be right now.
BR: She could be a fan. No idea.
AL: Hi gran! I love you. I’ll give you a call later.
BR: Well, my favorite Magic vampire has gotta be Baron Sengir.
AL: Aw yeah! Tell me why! What are your feelings?
BR: I mean, if I’m being honest, it’s because it was during my formative years and it was just amazing.
BR: But it’s also, you know the Homelands story is really cool actually.
AL: it is! It is.
BR: You know Homelands gets a bad rap. It has some pretty fun cards in it, the story is really cool. Because it was one of those stories that almost had a Commander’y feel to it, because it had a lot of legends all fighting with each other and it had weird relationships. Baron had a grandmother-
BR: Not technically, but there’s a grandmother Sengir—god and I’m not up on the lore on Grandmother Sengir entirely—but I believe she’s supposed to have been a former Planeswalker that went mad or something.
AL: Oh, I like that.
BR: I’m gonna get roasted online, it’s- just a million different ways.
AL: It’s totally fine! this is out of my expertise so by my account you’re fine.
BR: And he also had a daughter. The daughter of Sengir, her card was not very good, but the daughter of Sengir was Irini? I believe? And it wasn’t his actual daughter, it was I think a dwarf that he kidnapped as a child.
AL: Ah, who hasn’t done that?
BR: You know, that’s just standard evil vampire kind of things.
AL: “You know I could really go for just having some kiddos running around. Let’s go snag one!”
BR: It’s cliche at this point, get some dwarves. But yeah, he was very powerful and the art was amazing and he was a little bit of vampire tribal back in the day. So yeah, I definitely have to go with Baron Sengir.
AL: Aw, nice.
BR: And somebody on the internet can tell me all about his lore that I completely missed.
AL: Thanks, internet.
BR: So we’re not going to kill you with stories in this period, but if we were to kill you with stories and we made you write a vampire story, who would you most like to write one about?
AL: Ah, Olivia. Olivia Voldaren, like for day. Like probably just because she’s Yahenni without a conscience, but still. Eccentric bon vivants are like my bread and butter. So that’s kind of like my thing.
BR: Fancy clothes, party.
AL: Fancy people, parties, marginally caring about other people, yes. I’m in. That’s exactly what I’m here for.
An alternative, a bit less obvious for me, I think would be Sorin. He’s a complicated ass dude. He’s been around for a long time, he’s had his fingers in lots of different stories and lots of different parts of Magic lore, and I don’t think he’s going to be in that wall forever.
AL: No, I know. I think that’s a little bit heartbreaking, but Sorin won’t be stuck in a wall for forever, but he’s got good reasons to go all after somebody right now. Like what Nahiri did warrants one hell of a comeback, so I would love to go and write that story. That sounds like a blast.
BR: Next question: What non-vampire character do you think would make the best vampire?
AL: Oh . . . I can’t think of a character that could be a vampire without absolutely ruining that character. The best I could think of is someone dumb and unexpected, so my go to dumb and unexpected character for these kinds of questions is always Tibalt, god bless him.
BR: [laughs] Tibalt the vampire.
AL: Oh god, yeah, he would dig that. He would dig being a vampire in addition to being a demon.
BR: It would give him something to do.
AL: He’s so extra! Like yeah, exactly. He would love that.
BR: That is the perfect way to describe Tibalt. He is so extra.
AL: God, he is so extra.
BR: He’s there, he doesn’t really need to be.
AL: He just doesn’t really need to be there but you know what he’s just going to dress real fancy and, I don’t know, just show up and throw a rock at someone. But also be a vampire, yeah that sounds great. It will never happen.
AL: Maybe! You never know. We should just throw-
BR: Tomorrow we’re going to see like twenty Tumblr posts that are all Tibalt as a vampire.
AL: Good! Hell yeah, the world needs more Tibalt fan art. I love that character, he gets so much trash but I love it.
BR: So that’s about all we have time for today. Before we go, are there any other fascinating vampire tidbits you can share?
AL: Yeah! So I pulled up some info on the Eldrazified vamps of Innistrad in Eldritch Moon and you know I was really struck by the Stromkirk vampires. So one of the lineages of vamps on Innistrad. And in the world guide that we write that we write from internally, it mentions that they gave themselves over to the Nephalian cults. Like they just handed their bodies over, and they were some of Innistrad’s first to be transformed to Emrakulified, awful half-monster people. I thought that was really interesting that they would just voluntarily be like “Okay! Let’s go for it! If this is gonna be our future then we might as well say like ‘Yup, sign me up!'”
BR: Like at least be first in the line if you’re going to be turned into an awful tentacle monster.
AL: Right! Right!
BR: Like you’ll get the best tentacle parts, I guess maybe?
AL: Maybe? And they’re the coastal cults so maybe they’ll have like cool fishclaws. Or some kind of little crab legs, who knows! But it was also never really clarified whether the process of transformation hurts or not? So you know, maybe it’s not so bad.
AL: The entire town of Hanweir was okay with it so.
BR: The Gatewatch? They were just coming in, imposing their non-Emrakul ways without ever asking anyone.
AL: I could be bigger, I could have more limbs, I could have less spine.
BR: You could always have your horse with you.
AL: Yeah! That doesn’t sound so bad.
BR: Horses are great!
AL: Horses are great! I could be the horse.
BR: Well, thank you Alison!
AL: That went to a weird place.
BR: That went to a very strange place, but that’s okay!
AL: Podcast as one.
BR: Thank you, Alison-
AL: Thank you!
BR: for that injection of vampire knowledge, straight to the jugular.
AL: Oh, nice.
BR: There’s going to be a lot of puns in these.
AL: I’m into it, let’s do it.
BR: That’s all for today’s episode so we will be back next Wednesday to talk about the next tribe on our list: Wizards.
BR: Which are not just for blue anymore . . .
BR: We will see you then!