A tale of Alara

The five shards of Alara were separate worlds for centuries, each one with only three colors of mana. They evolved independently: Bant, an orderly, sunlit kingdom; Esper, a hegemony of wizards and sphinxes; Grixis, an undead-infested hellscape; Jund, a primordial hunting-ground ruled by dragons; Naya, a lush jungle paradise.

But now they have merged into one plane, and the new Alara flows with all five colors of mana once more. Waves of raw power crash across the former planar boundaries, bringing long-forgotten magics to all the shards and mingling them in unprecedented ways. And as the boundaries between the shards dissolve, the cultures clash—and war ensues.

Years ago, Bolas seeded each shard with minions who spread paranoia throughout their worlds. On Bant, Bolas used the Order of the Skyward Eye to create mistrust among Bant's nations. On Esper, the Seekers of Carmot raised fears about the scarcity of etherium. On Grixis, the demon-dragon Malfegor formed armies of undead. On Jund, the shaman Rakka Mar challenged human clans to savage "life hunts," priming them for the war to come. Bolas's most subtle manipulation occurred on Naya, where even the planeswalker Ajani, native to that plane, has not yet discovered the dragon's influence.

During the conflux, each shard was exposed to the neighboring worlds. Now that Alara is whole once again, the former shards face even more enemies. Bant knights battle the undead hordes from Grixis for the first time. The ferocious warriors of Jund seek worthy prey in the metallic cities of Esper as Naya's behemoths rampage across the landscape. This confusion leads to more bloodletting, and the war intensifies—just as Nicol Bolas, the ancient dragon planeswalker, planned all along.

Bolas readies himself for the final stage of his machinations. At the center of Alara, there is a mystic storm known as the Maelstrom. Fed by the waves of rich mana from the former shards, the Maelstrom intensifies and expands as war rages around it. The Maelstrom is the key to Bolas' plan for the plane—a plan that could obliterate the new Alara.

The Shards at War

Alara's convergence is complete. All five shards overlap with the others, creating a chaotic blend of magics that feed the power of a mana-storm known as the Maelstrom. Each shard, formerly a world unto itself, is now a part of the massive world of Alara. As Alara's cultures merge, the global war between the former shards intensifies, thanks to the machinations of elder dragon planeswalker Nicol Bolas.

The shard of Naya, once a lush, untainted jungle paradise, has been burned by the touch of war. The massive behemoths worshipped by the elves and humans of the shard run rampant, indiscriminately tearing through foreign lands. Prides of nacatl leonin have been scattered, torn by confusion and infighting, their leadership swayed by dark powers.

Drawn by Naya's natural beauty—and thirsting for its living energy—the undead of Grixis have infiltrated the jungle on a campaign of domination. And the mages of Esper see Naya as a wild animal in need of etherium refinement—or a snug harness.

Bant's enemies now wage war not only on their physical borders, but on their orderly ideals as well. Bant's smaller nations have united into one mighty army to defend its peoples and values, and to march on the shards that threaten them. Angels go forth to rid the skies of demonic forces and to shield the plane from dragonfire. Knights ride onward to fend off hordes of zombies, goblins, and viashino.

But they're finding the fight to be stacked against them. Accustomed to orderly ritual combat, the all-out planar brawl catches them almost defenseless. The same virtue that formed the foundation of their society has become their downfall in war.

The mages and sphinxes of Esper sought to control every aspect of their environment—the flora, the fauna, and even the sky—through the power of the magical alloy etherium. But their etherium stores were running out, and the formula for its creation involves a red stone called carmot, which is nowhere to be found on Esper.

Now that the shards have merged, Esperites seek to plunder the other shards for carmot, but they must fight off the chaotic forces of the other planes at the same time. Prophecy-driven elves and blood-crazed barbarians seem to think Esper is some kind of sporting ground. Meanwhile, castes of Bant knights and power-greedy Grixis necromancers have glimpsed the potential of etherium and covet its advantages for themselves. Puppeteered by Bolas, the mage sect known as the Seekers of Carmot drives Esper into the very kind of anarchic conflict its society scorns.

Grixis was a closed coffin, a world locked out of the mana of light and life. It festered for centuries, becoming a hellscape of demons and the undead. Now that the planes have converged, the lid to the coffin has been thrown wide open, and its hordes of blood-hungry fiends swarm outward, led by liches and necromancer barons.

As Grixis advances on the other shards, its forces grow. Every death at the claws of the Grixis hordes becomes a lesson in zombie arithmetic: one soldier lost, one undead minion gained. The Grixis necromancers draw upon specialized powers from every shard—undead thoctars for heavy cavalry, undead mages for missile support, undead generals to lead the charge, and even undead dragons for raw destructive potential.

The only bright spot in Grixis may be the exodus of the living. Vithian survivors who have eked out a desperate existence in the hermitages and tunnels of the plane now have an escape route and are welcomed back to the rest of their living race.

On Jund, a primeval, seething cauldron-world of volcanoes and reptilian predators, the strong have always survived—because weakness meant instant death. Goblins scurried from mountaintop to mountaintop, seeking the honor of being devoured by swooping dragons. Viashino tribes battled for survival in the steaming jungles. And clans of battle-hardened human warriors called "life hunts" on the mightiest prey in the land.

As the shards merged, Jund's fierce inhabitants saw new frontiers of prey, beings that were soft and weak compared to Jund's predatory way of life. The warrior clans see more blood-trophies to braid into their hair, and the goblins and viashino see an opportunity for easy meals. And of course, the dragons see a world-sized banquet laid out before them.

The Threat to New Alara

The epic war intensifies as the former shards engage in relentless battles and bloodletting. But even as their armies assault one another, the discord sparks internal evolution in the once independent shards. As cultures mingle and the landscape changes, the shards begin to transform into something new. The old ways are dying. New Alara has emerged from the ashes.

Naya adapts to the new world day by day. Some nacatl, calling themselves simply leonin, take up arms in the armies of Bant. Some elves have chosen to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with clans of Jund warriors. And Naya's jungles serve as welcome shelter for vedalken hermits who have shrugged off the dogma of the Ethersworn. Bant adapts by recruiting all the allies it can into its legions. It enlists behemoths and hydras to besiege Grixis necropolises. It welcomes troops from Naya and Esper who seek the glorious embrace of the angels. Little by little, the war erodes Bant's strict caste system, transforming its society in the crucible of war.

The few human survivors left in Grixis have fled and found welcome among human communities in Bant and Naya. Likewise, some Jund natives have chosen a new life on the other shards. Some join rhox monasteries or take up elegant etherium weaponry. Some call wurms into service with Bant armies or explore the far realms on lizardback, learning new forms of magic into which to pour their passion. In the midst of war, the melding of cultures just might be the path toward peace.

But Nicol Bolas has no intention of letting New Alara progress beyond its infancy. At the center of the five shards, a mystic storm known as the Maelstrom has formed, fed by the waves of rich mana from the shards. Nicol Bolas has planned a ritual that could lay waste to the entire reborn plane, destroying all its extant life, but that is far from a concern to the power-hungry dragon. All he cares about is fueling the chaos in New Alara—and expanding the Maelstrom even more.

Bolas seeded the shards years ago with minions who spread paranoia throughout the worlds. His scheme has succeeded; as magic from every shard clashes in the global war, the Maelstrom grows, like a clock ticking toward Bolas's moment of triumph. Only another planeswalker would be able to discover the ancient dragon's multiplanar plan, and even a planeswalker would likely perish trying to stop him. But Bolas's work is not complete, and he has powerful adversaries who won't let their world be destroyed without a fight.

Alara has become a single plane once more—but it may die before it has a chance to be reborn.