Praetors of New Phyrexia
The most vile curse to plague the multiverse since the time of Urza is that of the Phyrexians. A wicked twisting of flesh and metal which aims to bring all to heal under the banner of completion. Of those that rose from the decay of Mirrodin to form New Phyrexia there are but five of whom who have come to represent the factions within the Phyrexian horde, those being the Praetors. What is fascinating about the Praetors is that they are an amalgamation of the color pie and Phyresis, with each Praetor representing each of the five colors. This concept has more than thematic undertones and in fact dictates the motivations of each. In this way it is something I could not ignore and desired to learn more about.
With what we have seen in the past year we can be confident that the Praetors are putting into motion a great plan, and in order to understand what the future of the multiverse holds we should then aim to learn what we can of these beings. In this article we will be taking a closer look at each of the Praetors through the lens of the color pie, a tool that will allow us to understand these beings at a fundamental level. With that said let us begin with perhaps the most intriguing of the Praetors, Elesh Norn and her Machine Orthodoxy.
When it comes to Phyrexia there is always a level of religious undertones to their cause, but no Praetor exemplifies this concept more than Elesh Norn and her Machine Orthodoxy. A fanatic group who see their leader as high priestess, Phyresis as their religion and the god head being that of the Father of Machines, a seat held by Karn after his corruption during the turning of Mirrodan. Eventually Elesh Norn would ascend in her own right, appointing herself the Mother of Machines. Elesh Norn is also the face of structure when it comes to New Phyrexia as well, as before she forcibly united all under her banner each of the five Praetors vied for control and their own version of the future for their kin. Now with all under her control she has begun to make moves to spread her vision across the multiverse and bring all flesh to completion.
As we are told succinctly on the card Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. “The Gitaxians whisper among themselves of other worlds. If they exist, we must bring Phyrexia’s magnificence to them” As you can see the parallels between White and that of Elesh Norn are quite obvious. Of course it's White twisted into a sort of pure yet vile version of itself due to the Phyrexian influence, but the lines are clear. For one the religious angle of her and her Orthodoxy are something we see in White quite often, as white turns to Dogma as a way to find some greater guiding principle that one can work towards. This in turn creates Hierarchy and structure by its very design, which again is all to white.
In her own way she has found purity in corruption and fashioned a sort of new of truth from that of the oil. The messaging is one that isn't overtly evil, that of uniting all under perfection, and yet we know all to well that the consequences would be. In her mind the Phyrexian way has opened her eyes and through that vision she wishes to indoctrinate the multiverse. I find this sort of motivation in a villain so gripping. In some twisted way she believes her vile actions are a blessing to those who rely on their flesh and yet we know all to well the suffering that follows in her wake.
Jin-Gitaxias is an interesting case in that it believes that completion is simply not a step far enough. In its mind the Phyrexians should accept nothing less than the Great Synthesis, even seeing the father of machines as an imperfect being. This philosophy is directly displayed in the horrific figure that is Jin-Gitaxias, as flesh is all but forgotten on its body, its voice that of grating metal. It is through this Praetors great skills and ambitions that the Phyrexians have even been able to make progress on other Planes, and is the one who has discovered a way to complete Planeswalkers without removing their souls, allowing them to reach new worlds. Jin-Gitaxias sees them-self as the final form of what the Phyrexians can achieve and through experimenting with magic and technology true perfection can be achieved. In a way this process really has no end, and I believe Jin-Gitaxias would work away in its labs until the end of time for the simple pleasure of it all.
We can glean this concept from the card Synthetic Destiny which reads “To Jin-Gitaxias, perfection is not a goal, but a process” Jin-Gitaxias is Blue if the soul of the color were to be removed, which is fitting for the Phyrexian is not but a soulless version of what it once was. Blue is a color that can care for little else but progress, but when any morality is stripped away it becomes something else entirely, from focus to obsession. This Praetor sees no one else and no other end than that of its mission.
I find it very fascinating that there seems to be a lot of parallels between Phyrexians in general and that of Blue, both share the idea of finding perfection. Its almost as if the Phyrexians are each finding their own shade of Blue, that of the pursuit of something beyond the mortal form it began with. When it comes to blue Phyrexians it is then the purest form of this idea, as we see with JinGitaxias' unwavering hand of iteration. Of course it is pushed beyond any reasonable bounds and this is what makes it so villainous.
The Mantra of Sheoldred and those that follow her is simple, all believers shall kneel to the Praetors, the father of machines and most of all to her; those that resist will be forced to do. The Black aligned Praetor ideal goal for that of the Phyrexians is one of pure domination, nothing less. Sheoldred has shown herself to be cunning and ruthless in all things, a trait that allowed her to seize a position as the Praetor of Black mana among the seven equally capable thanes. Even after her defeat at the hands of Elesh Norn she has been a vital tool in the invasion of Dominaria, planting sleeper agents across the Plane, allowing her to have eyes and ears everywhere.
To Sheoldred the subjugation of the multiverse is a mere inevitability, her confidence echoing out from the card Phyrexian Rager. “Resist if you must. It makes no difference. As with Mirrodin, your world will bow to Phyrexia.” Once again we are witnessing a colour boiled down to its simplest form and in a way a removal of the soul of the colour. Said another way, the removal of the fleshy humanity, that even Black held onto, only to reveal the vile and twisted remains of its corpse. Black is a colour that does indeed seek power, or at the very least seeks to gain the most for itself.
For black this is a case of self ambition, but for Sheoldred it is dominance plain and simple. You see once the soul is ripped from this idea and the Phyrexians curse takes its place then there is naught but the desire to control and enslave. A concept that puts you and those close to above every other being, a true feeling superiority, as if Sheoldred believe the multiverse deserves nothing less than subjugation. As we can see so far, there is indeed a strong tie to the mana in which these Praetors exist within and that is why our next Praetor goes against the grain even if it believes in aspects of Phyrexia.
Urabrask is by all means unique among the Praetors and I believe this factor tells us a lot about the Phyrexian Curse itself. In the beginning Urabrask prided itself in what they called the Great work, an idea that meant finding perfection through the forge. Yes Urabrask was aiming to make all new in the Phyrexian image, but there was something else there. It was also a desire to help the lost find the right path through Phyresis and not a decree acted against them. In fact when the Mirrans fled to Urabrasks domain the Praetor let them be, turning away from them as they were not to be forced to be made a new. Because of the vision of Urabrask and their methods the Red aligned Praetor was at odds with the others early on.
Eventually cast out and emblazoned with the tile of Heretic. Now Urabrask aims to shake up the rule of the Praetors or at the very least create some friction between Elesh Norn and her end goal. What we see with this Praetor is something interesting and aligns with what I have touched on already with the others. The truth of the praetors and their relationship to the color pie is that of the stripping away of any other misgivings a colour might have, and yet this very trait is why Urabrask is unlike the others. The Red Praetor values freedom just as red does and this is not sustainable within a system borne of a hive mind.
Even those turned to the Phyrexian way preach of Urabrask's desire for freedom and expression, as we see declared for all to hear on the card Priest of Urabrask. “Even in New Phyrexia, red mana sparks glimmers of individualism, passion, and freedom.” Everything about this quote is at odds with end goals of the Phyrexians, as they wish to strip everything from the multiverse and make all one. This is why Urabrask would have inevitably drifted away from the others and why its title of Heretic was but an inevitability.
For Vorinclex the road to perfection is found through natural selection, well as natural as one could find on a Plane of Phyrexians. Leader of the Vicious swarm this Praetor pits all within its control against one other in order to allow the strongest to rise to the top, while the weak are left to be consumed. In turn creating an organic Hierarchy of predator and Prey, with Vorinclex rising to the top simply because the Praetor was an apex within this system. Vorinclex believes that through this viscous cycle the Phyrexians will be stronger for it. In this way it can be hard to find any forward momentum but to Vorinclex the fight is the entire point of it all. In the mind the Green Praetor, Phyrexia should be one giant arena where one can prove their dominance.
The card Unnatural Predation explains the single minded thought process of Vorinclex best “Domination by the strongest—that is all that matters in the Tangle now.” As you can see Vorinclex almost has a hands off approach, allowing what will happen to happen. This of course aligns with Green at a fundamental level, sure there is the interference with nature in that of Phyresis, but this is merely the catalyst for evolution in the mind of Vorinclex. From this point nature will take its course and bread its own vision for the beings of New Pyrexia.
The challenges of finding ones own lane is how nature forms its interweaving of responsibilities. So in this way if New Phyrexia was left alone, at least those of the swarm, a natural order would begin to form. With the apex Predators at the top. Once again this is a focus on a single aspect of Green to the point of near parody of itself. Just like with all the Praetors we have discussed so far their beliefs are a mixture of the oil and that of the colors, which in effect strips everything away except a core ideal, one that becomes an obsession and for Vorinclex that obsession is strength.
As you have noticed there is a running theme when dissecting the Praetors and that is color twisted and stripped bare'. When in their natural environment a color is rather robust and displays many nuanced forms but for some reason the effects of the Phyresis strips away a colors philosophy to a fundamental level and this is seen in how the colors are represented with each Praetor. White obsessively leans into the single aspect of religion, wishing to bring about a holy war against the multiverse. Blue is then perfection taken to its extreme, everything is but an experiment to be iterated upon. Black is pure dominance and self fulfilling arrogance.
Then there is Red, a color because of its stripped down nature ends up rejecting the Phyrexian way entirely, as freedom is the true goal. Finally there is Green, a color boiled down to mere displays of strength and the culling of the weak. All of these are but grotesque displays of what these colors ought to be, as if we are witnessing the flesh torn from each color; their soul is removed. We are not looking at the colors in their natural form anymore but rather the twisting of something beautiful into something unrecognizable.
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