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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2015 9:55 pm 
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Since Elder Dragons are such a hot topic again, I as inspired to write an article I had been thinking about for a while now: an appraisal of all sources dealing with Elder Dragons, to see what we actually know about them. The sources are often old or obscure, and thus a lot of people have only heard about it indirectly, which leads to Chinese whispers-style mistakes. For example, look what is being presented as fact over on Magic's TVTropes page: "Nicol Bolas ascended as he fought the other four Elder Dragons, allowing him to win their war and become the last surviving one." Yeeeeeeeaaaaaah... No.

You can find the article I wrote here. I'd cross-post the entire thing onto here, but that would require me to edit in all the links to sources and upload all the scans from the old Acclaim comics, and I'm simply to lazy to do that. I'll just do a quick TL;DR version below. If you want the rest of the article, with the full discussion and all the scans and quotes I've based my analysis on, you can click the link :)

The TL:DR version of the article:

Some stuff that might surprise you about the sources: The old comics tell us nothing about what they actually are and don't mention the Elder Dragon War. We do learn that the Elders are old, powerful and that they can travel between planes. The War, the fact that Elder Dragons are a race, that the losers became Elder Land Wurms etc. comes from an old tearaway calendar that is, as far as we know, lost to us. (It is not the one Gavin Verhey has been posting pictures of, that one doesn't match the description we have of it) This information was saved by Jeff Lee, who put it on his website. Lee's website is also where we learn that the Elder Dragons dominated the entire multiverse, that their War spanned multiple planes and some other minor facts. Unfortunately it also contains at least one mistake (regarding Sivitri Scarzam being active during the Dragon War) and one big assumption (Piru and Scarzam being Sub-Elders. Lee has later stated that this came not from any official source, but was the consensus opinion of the early storyline forums). Luckily later appearances of Nicol Bolas in the Legends II cycle, the Time Spiral cycle, and even his bio on Magicthegathering.com back up a lot of stuff from Lee's site, though there are also some surprising omissions.

What we actually know
That Elder Dragons are ancient, the progenitors of all draconic races and are immensely powerful is mentioned many times in Legends II and Time Spiral block. The only official source that states they can travel to other planes is a text piece in the Elder Dragons comic (which is pre-revisionist, but not contradicted elsewhere. Unless you count Doug Beyers recent statements about the Elders being from Dominaria). The fact that there was a War and that the five from Legends were the only survivors is actually only mentioned in Nicol Bolas' bio on the Mothership! Yes, the only official and still extant source about the War stems from around the time of Alara!
The fact that the losers of the war became Elder Land Wurms, and the ancestors of all other wurms, is never mentioned in official sources, except in the now-lost calendar, so the only extant source we have on that is Jeff Lee's site, which is technically not official.

Stuff we have no proof of
We don't know what on earth is up with Piru. The Acclaim comics call her "The Sixth Elder" time and again, but Bolas' bio on the mothership states that there were only five survivors. (Though it is likely that was written by someone who never even heard of Piru, considering how long ago her appearance was). She could be a Sub-Elder, but we don't have proof for that.

We also have no idea about Nicol Bolas's ascension. It seems very likely he ascended during the climax of the Elder Dragon War, but that's not stated anywhere. I've often heard it said that whatever ended the war caused his ascension, or that he ascended and used his new powers to end the War, but there is no proof of either claim.

There is no proof of the Elder Dragons having an empire. Jeff Lee mentions them "dominating Dominia", but doesn't mention whether that takes the form of an empire, a loose coalition or independent Elders ruling over independent realms. Heck, it could even just mean they were the strongest beings in the Multiverse rather than be a reference to them ruling any kind of states. Lee does use the words "civil war" to describe the Elder Dragon War, which you could argue sounds like there should have been one Elder Draconic state, but remember that this site is not an official source. We have no idea whether WotC at the time thought of the Elder Dragon War as a civil war, or if it was just a phrasing Jeff Lee liked.

There is no proof of a Worldspell turning all the losing Elder Dragons into Elder Land Wurms. Jeff Lee's site only mentions them being "stripped of their power", but doesn't say if this was done on a Multiversal level, a planar level, or even a case-by-case basis. The only reference to a Worldspell I've been able to find was on the MTGSalvation wiki, on the timeline page. The reference to it was put in by an anonymous editor who did not cite any sources.

There is no proof of the Elder Dragon War lasting millennia. In fact, we know nothing of how long it lasted at all. An article on Dragons on Phyrexia.com claims the war lasted "epochs", but that article is riddled with mistakes, and other articles by the same author show a lot of fanon being passed of as canon, so we should ignore the article in question.

...unless there actually is proof of any of the above in a source I'm missing of course. I've done my best to find every single source that mentions the Elders and their War. I think I found them all, but you know how it is with Magic, there could always be some obscure online story you've missed, so if you find I've missed a source, do let me know, then I can add it in!

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2015 11:00 pm 
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Thank you for taking the time to write up the facts given on the Elders. For a good while, the entries at Phyrexia were my sole source of storyline information.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2015 11:09 pm 
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Squirle wrote:
What we actually know
The only official source that states they can travel to other planes is a text piece in the Elder Dragons comic (which is pre-revisionist, but not contradicted elsewhere. Unless you count Doug Beyers recent statements about the Elders being from Dominaria).

Do not forget the mention from Time Spiral outlining Bolas's duel and I think there might have been something in a soliloquy that Bolas was having in one of the Legends II books, most likely Emperor's Fist.
But anyways, we are informed in Time Spiral that one of the very first things to have happened on Dominaria was Bolas's duel with the Demonic Leviathan. It was heavily implied in that passage that Dominaria was not the Elder Dragon's homeworld, and since the survivors ended up on Dominaria anyways...

Quote:
The fact that the losers of the war became Elder Land Wurms, and the ancestors of all other wurms, is never mentioned in official sources, except in the now-lost calendar, so the only extant source we have on that is Jeff Lee's site, which is technically not official.

Matt Tabak has been posting that calender on his tumblr each day for the past year.* He might be done with it at this point, but it is NOT lost... but finding the exact day with Elder Land Wurms might be a problem. The point is, the information is out there though.

*haven't I told you that like... twice now?

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2015 11:14 pm 
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Barinellos wrote:
Squirle wrote:
What we actually know
The only official source that states they can travel to other planes is a text piece in the Elder Dragons comic (which is pre-revisionist, but not contradicted elsewhere. Unless you count Doug Beyers recent statements about the Elders being from Dominaria).

Do not forget the mention from Time Spiral outlining Bolas's duel and I think there might have been something in a soliloquy that Bolas was having in one of the Legends II books, most likely Emperor's Fist.
But anyways, we are informed in Time Spiral that one of the very first things to have happened on Dominaria was Bolas's duel with the Demonic Leviathan. It was heavily implied in that passage that Dominaria was not the Elder Dragon's homeworld, and since the survivors ended up on Dominaria anyways...

Quote:
The fact that the losers of the war became Elder Land Wurms, and the ancestors of all other wurms, is never mentioned in official sources, except in the now-lost calendar, so the only extant source we have on that is Jeff Lee's site, which is technically not official.

Matt Tabak has been posting that calender on his tumblr each day for the past year.* He might be done with it at this point, but it is NOT lost... but finding the exact day with Elder Land Wurms might be a problem. The point is, the information is out there though.

*haven't I told you that like... twice now?


I'd keep that hush-hush, lest newbies latch onto the idea that the original Elder Dragons are from Tarkir. :/

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"...the historians will write of our suffering, and they will speak of it as the suffering of those who served the Crippled God. As something … fitting. And for our seeming fanaticism they will dismiss all that we were, and think only of what we achieved. Or failed to achieve.

And in so doing, they will miss the whole **** point.”


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2015 11:16 pm 
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Barinellos wrote:
Squirle wrote:
What we actually know
The only official source that states they can travel to other planes is a text piece in the Elder Dragons comic (which is pre-revisionist, but not contradicted elsewhere. Unless you count Doug Beyers recent statements about the Elders being from Dominaria).

Do not forget the mention from Time Spiral outlining Bolas's duel and I think there might have been something in a soliloquy that Bolas was having in one of the Legends II books, most likely Emperor's Fist.
But anyways, we are informed in Time Spiral that one of the very first things to have happened on Dominaria was Bolas's duel with the Demonic Leviathan. It was heavily implied in that passage that Dominaria was not the Elder Dragon's homeworld, and since the survivors ended up on Dominaria anyways...

Bolas was already a planeswalker in that duel. Bolas' soliloquy doesn't mention anything about Elders being able to travel planes, Bolas is really just ranting about himself there. I got both cases quoted in the article.

Quote:
Quote:
The fact that the losers of the war became Elder Land Wurms, and the ancestors of all other wurms, is never mentioned in official sources, except in the now-lost calendar, so the only extant source we have on that is Jeff Lee's site, which is technically not official.

Matt Tabak has been posting that calender on his tumblr each day for the past year.* He might be done with it at this point, but it is NOT lost... but finding the exact day with Elder Land Wurms might be a problem. The point is, the information is out there though.

*haven't I told you that like... twice now?

You mean Gavin Verhey, not Matt Tabak. And as I mentioned in my original post, that is not the calendar in question. It doesn't match Jeff Lee's description at all. The one where the Elder Dragon stuff is from is supposed to have loads of stuff about the Legendary Creatures from Legends. The one Gavin has been posting hasn't mentioned a single one of those all year. So unless the coming month is chock full of nothing but those, it's quite clearly a different calendar. There actually where quite a few of those in the early days.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2015 11:19 pm 
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Squirle wrote:
You mean Gavin Verhey, not Matt Tabak. And as I mentioned in my original post, that is not the calendar in question. It doesn't match Jeff Lee's description at all. The one where the Elder Dragon stuff is from is supposed to have loads of stuff about the Legendary Creatures from Legends. The one Gavin has been posting hasn't mentioned a single one of those all year. So unless the coming month is chock full of nothing but those, it's quite clearly a different calendar. There actually where quite a few of those in the early days.

The thing is, I could still swear that Elder Land Wurm was one of the entries on the calender during this past year.
It might not be the same calender, I honestly wouldn't be able to tell you, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have relevant information as well.

Or it might not. I won't make any definitive statements there.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2015 11:32 pm 
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I went through it just now. There are actually a few Legends from Legends in it I missed. Only a handful though, and I couldn't find an entry on Elder Land Wurm.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2015 11:34 pm 
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Squirle wrote:
I went through it just now. There are actually a few Legends from Legends in it I missed. Only a handful though, and I couldn't find an entry on Elder Land Wurm.

Odd, but only because I really honestly remember it pretty clearly.
But oh well, I can admit I could very well have been mistaken.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 04, 2015 1:45 pm 
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Well this is... eye opening. It's kind of amazing/horrifying how tenuous our knowledge of this stuff actually is.

So is all the stuff that was posted at various times on Phyrexia about the legends from that lost calendar? That's... eesh.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 04, 2015 2:49 pm 
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Thanks for the info.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 04, 2015 4:03 pm 
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Well this is... eye opening. It's kind of amazing/horrifying how tenuous our knowledge of this stuff actually is.

So is all the stuff that was posted at various times on Phyrexia about the legends from that lost calendar? That's... eesh.

There was a lot of stuff posted on Phyrexia.com over the years. Which do you mean exactly?

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 04, 2015 6:31 pm 
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Squirle wrote:
There is no proof of the Elder Dragon War lasting millennia. In fact, we know nothing of how long it lasted at all. An article on Dragons on Phyrexia.com claims the war lasted "epochs", but that article is riddled with mistakes, and other articles by the same author show a lot of fanon being passed of as canon, so we should ignore the article in question.

I would just like to point out that an "epoch" is not an actual defined measurement of time the same way, say, a millennium is. Saying the war lasted "epochs" doesn't actually say anything about how long it lasted.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 05, 2015 11:07 am 
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Thanks for taking the time to compile all this stuff and share it with us! Maybe this will prevent the sources we still have from becoming forgotten and even more obscure.

When I was reading your article, I was particularly happy to find the topic of Bolas's age in relation to Dominaria addressed as well:

The reaction to these claims in the community, as far as I have seen, has been mixed. Some assume it's just Bolas grandstanding or the Elder Dragons having become mythologized.
Others have accepted the claims at face value. Personally I'm in the first camp. If Bolas predates Dominaria, it means Dominaria is less than 25.000 years old, and I've always assumed
natural planes were like our universe in that they take a couple of billion years to form.


That point has been bothering me, too, but I wasn't aware there was actual controversy. Anyhow, I agree with everything you write about it. I was actually wondering
whether the thing about mythologisation could also be said about the claim that every single wurm, drake, dragon and viashino is a descendant of the Elders. It's conceivable
that many of them are, but if it was true for all of them, that would mean the Elders set foot on on every single plane that has any of those species. They are certainly the Chuck Norrisses
of the multiverse, but that seems a bit too over the top even for them.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 05, 2015 11:27 am 
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Squirle wrote:
Well this is... eye opening. It's kind of amazing/horrifying how tenuous our knowledge of this stuff actually is.

So is all the stuff that was posted at various times on Phyrexia about the legends from that lost calendar? That's... eesh.

There was a lot of stuff posted on Phyrexia.com over the years. Which do you mean exactly?

Specifically stuff that isn't really available anywhere else.

Just now looking at this again though I think what I'm actually recalling is stuff that was posted there from Jeff Lee's site, so really I suppose the question is: is the big long list of the Legends characters on Jeff Lee's site that includes a bunch of characters that weren't expanded on anywhere derived from the calendar?

I wish Lee had cited his sources more. Or. At all. :(


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 05, 2015 12:06 pm 
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Citing sources is something I would like to see more in our little community in general :P

As far as I know the entries from the list of Legends form Jeff Lee's site come from various sources. Some come from the Acclaim comics, some from the calendar, some from his personal contact with people within the continuity department. For example, the list mentions Torsten von Ursus as the founder of Benalia. Pete Venters, in a forum post from (I think) the old Gleemax forums (that MORT saved by reposting it on over on MTGSally) says that the Torsten/Benalia link was a creation of his team.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 05, 2015 12:52 pm 
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I think we should send your write up to Doug. Maybe they'll make actual use of it at some point, like they should.

Seriously, good work.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 05, 2015 1:31 pm 
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Yeah, I was very scrupulous when putting together the Ulgrotha and Jamuura guides about stating where I got everything from, but like if I hit Jeff Lee's site I can't trace his sources back further because he never listed them :( It's a big problem. And I'm not always aware of everything that you and Ashtok did, since I was always more associated with Phyrexia than Salvation. (Wow, which when you put it that way really just sums up my whole attitude towards life actually...)


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 05, 2015 2:39 pm 
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Fascinating read Squirle, very well written and researched.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 06, 2015 4:45 am 
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With this research showing such a vast paucity of information on the Elder Dragons, I'm more confused than ever about why there is/was such outrage over the "Elder Dragon" typeline on the Dragonlords.

Given that there's so little of consequence we actually know for sure about the original Elders, and that even the majority of that is from prerevision sources which have long been explicitly subject to contradiction by more recent material... Can someone ELI5 it? Because it just doesn't compute for me. Somehow I just don't understand why anyone can get upset that WotC's contradicting a two-decade-old page-a-day calendar we don't even have anymore.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 06, 2015 11:21 am 
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With this research showing such a vast paucity of information on the Elder Dragons, I'm more confused than ever about why there is/was such outrage over the "Elder Dragon" typeline on the Dragonlords.

Given that there's so little of consequence we actually know for sure about the original Elders, and that even the majority of that is from prerevision sources which have long been explicitly subject to contradiction by more recent material... Can someone ELI5 it? Because it just doesn't compute for me. Somehow I just don't understand why anyone can get upset that WotC's contradicting a two-decade-old page-a-day calendar we don't even have anymore.

I guess it comes down to understanding a Vorthos's life. See, the Elder Dragons (the real ones) have always been a particularly interesting bit of lore, and arguably the most memorable product of Legends (though I'm a big fan of Hazezon Tamar...) Anyway, as Vorthos, many people have spent a great deal of time and energy trying to discover ANY information about the Elder Dragons and this mythical Elder Dragon war, about which very little is known. Various flavor gurus like Barinellos, Keeper, and some even before them (was it Kerrick?) were basically information archeologists, and dug up every scrap of information they could, and then painstakingly struggled to keep that information alive and pass it on to others.

So, while to you, the fact that there is so little information out there and that it came from such a small source may indicate that the information is inherently unimportant, to me, it's just the opposite. That knowledge was hard-fought for and hard-won, and it's an indication of the love Vorthosi have for MTG lore. If anything, it's MORE upsetting that they disregard obscure knowledge than readily available knowledge, because readily available knowledge is easy to rediscover and point to. Wizards is doing a disservice to the people who care and who have spent considerable amounts of time and energy to get things right, only to see that effort shot to hell. And, back to my main point about this entire thing, it's been shot to hell for what I view as no good reason. There were plenty of other good options for the Tarkir dragons.

That's my take, anyway.


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