Phyrexia is one of several fictional planes featured in the storyline and cards from the trading card game Magic: The Gathering. It is often called the final Hell for artifacts, or simply The Nine Hells.
Phyrexia is an artificial plane formed from nine hollow spheres, each darker and more unpleasant than the last.
The spheres are each distinctly different from each other:
- The first sphere, the surface, is a mechanical parody of nature. A soot and smog streaked sky lowers over a broad, dusty plain spotted with clumps of oily trees and rusting remains of tormented artifacts. Unimaginably large furnaces throw ash and fire into the skies. Water in the streams is slick with oil. Although appearing to be a complete, natural ecosystem, the sphere is in fact composed entirely of machines and semi-magical constructs. Most notable are the dragon engines, which are both organic and mechanical warbeasts in the form of dragons.
- The second sphere is composed of the debris of the first, and smokestacks from lower levels. It lies under a ceiling of twisted beams and metal structures. It is an ashen waste filled with broken machinery. The only light and a hellish heat come from vast, smoke-grimed chimneys. This sphere also contains ammunition dumps which are the size of several large Dominarian cities.
- The third sphere is a virtually impassable tangle of pipes and ducts filled with horrors. It contains spatial distortions that prevent planeswalking to the lower spheres.
- The fourth sphere houses great furnaces, and the facility where new phyrexians are born/constructed. Most phyrexians live on this sphere
- The fifth sphere is home to the Boiling Sea of Glistening Oil, a corrupt substance that is the Phyrexian equivalent of blood. It is also home to a massive steam creature.
- The sixth sphere houses the chambers of Yawgmoth's Inner Circle of praetors and minions. As Yawgmoth himself is largely imprisoned within the ninth sphere, it is they who see his will done.
- The seventh sphere is known as the "Punishment Sphere," and is the closest thing to hell seen in Magic continuity. Those who defy Yawgmoth's will are tortured here for millennia. This sphere is inhabited by Phyrexian Gremlins and Yawgmoth Demons. Phyrexian Gremlins are short, hairy, ebon beings which serve as semi-intelligent servants. They evince an extreme excitement at the prospect of destroying artifacts or artificers.
- The eighth sphere is described as 'pure energy'.
- The ninth sphere is the Sanctum of Yawgmoth, a place where he controls reality itself.
On Phyrexia exist warped versions of the Thran Portals, which make artificial planeswalking possible. Phyrexian Portals are opened through the sacrifice of creatures, artifacts or a great deal of magical energy.
Phyrexia was created by an ancient Planeswalker who liked to take the form of a dragon; it was not named Phyrexia at that time. When he died, it was taken over by a Thran named Yawgmoth with the help of another planeswalker named Dyfed, whom he personally killed later. Yawgmoth had been artificially and magically modifying his Thran followers in a process that he called phyresis, the diametric opposite of the Powerstone Phthisis that he'd been working to cure. A war broke out between the Phyrexians and the other Thran, which both forced Yawgmoth's retreat to Phyrexia and caused the collapse of the Thran nation.
Yawgmoth was closed off from Dominaria for 5,000 years, until the brothers Urza and Mishra discovered the powerstone used to close the portal, unintentionally splitting it in half and igniting an epic power struggle and devastating war. Mishra became tainted by Phyrexian intrigue, and was provided with dragon engines and Phyrexian modifications. Urza discovered what the Phyrexians were doing and blamed them for corrupting Mishra. The war culminated with Urza nearly destroying the world with the Golgothian Sylex, also resulting in his ascendence to become a Planeswalker. Urza vowed to destroy the Phyrexians and avenge the loss of his brother.
Phyrexia suffered at least two direct attacks by Urza himself, each of which devastated small portions of Phyrexia but failed to cause permanent harm, and nearly cost Urza his life. During one of these attacks, Xantcha, a Phyrexian outcast assisting Urza, was able to recover her personality matrix, or "heart". This would have important ramifications later. Urza then changed tactics and began building up a military force on Dominaria.
Artificial planes are inherently unstable, and Phyrexia was no exception. Yawgmoth knew that he had to find a permanent home for himself and his Phyrexian followers. His focus was his home plane of Dominaria located in the Dominian Nexus. Thus the Phyrexians began planning for their eventual invasion of Dominaria. These invasion plans involved the use of another artificial plane, Rath, which would be fused with Dominaria. This Planeshift required Rath to first increase substantially in mass, so the Phyrexians set up a flowstone furnace that continuously synthesized matter out of nothingness. The Phyrexian-appointed ruler of Rath was titled the Evincar.
Years later, during the reign of Evincar Volrath, the crew of the flying ship Weatherlight invaded Rath in search of its captain, Sisay, kidnapped by Volrath in an attempt to gain control of Weatherlight and her Commander, Gerrard. During this incursion, Tahngarth, a minotaur warrior, was tortured and twisted in an attempt to convert him into a Phyrexian, Karn, a pacifist and the ship's engineer, was tortured and forced to slay other beings, the shipmate Crovax turned into a vampire and was left behind, while Volrath himself left the plane aboard the Weatherlight. This did not please the Phyrexians, who wanted their Evincars to stay in Rath instead of chasing after personal vendettas. So they enlisted Crovax to their cause and began modifying him. They killed the Elvish princess Avila, daughter of Eladamri, and completed her to create Belbe, who would be their emissary to Rath and would choose a new Evincar. Belbe had four contenders to choose from. The first was Commander Greven il-Vec, Volrath's second-in-command and commander of the airship Predator, who did not want to be Evincar because he "would rather be the sword than the hand that wields it". The second was Ertai, another Weatherlight crew member who'd been left behind, who was having an intimate relationship with Belbe at the time and who also did not want the title. The third was Crovax, who had become completely psychopathic and whom Belbe personally despised. The fourth was newly returned Volrath, who was reluctantly given a second chance. Ultimately, Crovax was chosen to be the new Evincar, Volrath was executed via flowstone injection, and Ertai fully joined the Phyrexians after Belbe was killed by Eladamri, leader of Rath's Skyshroud Elves.
Not long after this fiasco the Phyrexians, led by General Tsabo Tavoc, launched their long-awaited invasion of Dominaria. The Phyrexians' most devastating weapons were engineered plagues, which were enhanced using Phyrexian nanotechnology. In a last-ditch attempt to stymie the invasion, nine planeswalkers (including Urza) entered the plane of Phyrexia, in gigantic titan engines of Urza's design, and planted bombs to destroy the plane. Though four of the planeswalkers were killed, and Urza was twisted by Yawgmoth into slaying the planeswalker Taysir, dismantling the detonator, and pledging his loyalty to Phyrexia, the remaining planeswalkers were successful in setting off the bombs manually, causing severe damage to the first seven spheres. Dominaria ultimately won the war with Phyrexia using the combined items of Urza's Legacy, namely the flying ship Weatherlight, assorted artifacts, Gerrard himself, and Urza's powerstone eyes to destroy Yawgmoth.
Phyrexia was thought to be destroyed during the Apocalypse, However, in Scourge, a new god-like being, Karona, travelled to Phyrexia and encountered a badly weakened but still-living Yawgmoth. This may mean that Yawgmoth and Phyrexia still survive, but given Karona's nature, this may have been a creation of her own will, see the Yawgmoth article.
The first stage of a Phyrexian lifecycle is the Newt. Newts are descended from the Thran, but have been bred to be genderless, among other things. Newts are grown in vats, from which they emerge in a fully adult state.
Once a Newt emerges, it is usually put through the process of Completion, wherein most of its normal body parts are removed and given mechanical replacements. Organic weapons like stingers and venom sacs are often implanted as well.
Many Phyrexian soldiers are Completed so thoroughly that they no longer resemble humans in the slightest. Generally speaking, the most heavily modified Phyrexians are also the most highly regarded, because destructive capability is valued above almost all else. For proof of this, look at the Phyrexian General, Tsabo Tavoc.
Phyrexians' most important values are efficiency and the search for perfection. One card says "Phyrexia wastes nothing. Its food chain is a spiraling cycle". Another says "Everything will find its use in Phyrexia. Eventually." The character Xantcha often repeats the phrase "waste not, want not", which is one of the first lessons taught to newts.
Phyrexians can be divided into the following categories (Take note, however, that these categories might overlap. Most Phyrexians are partly mechanical and partly undead at the same time, and all of them are certainly horrific.)
- Sleeper Agents--Sleeper agents are designed to spy on other planes, and gather information before other phyrexians come to invade. Usually they are newts that have not been compleated. They can resemble males or females but not children. They are not always aware that they are phyrexians. Xantcha and K'rrik were sleeper agents.
- Minions -- Minions of Phyrexia serve a variety of roles including spies, assassins, shock troops, and priests. Such examples include the Priest of Gix, Sleeper Agent, Phyrexian Infiltrator, and Phyrexian Slayer.
- Undead--Reanimated corpses. Creatures such as the Monitor, Unworthy Dead, Reaper, Scuta and Bloodstock are examples of the various skeletons and zombies that make up this category. These creatures are particularly noxious; some even have the capability to instantly kill living creatures that come into contact with them.
- Carriers--Biomechanical constructs bred for the sole purpose of spreading Phyrexian engineered plagues. The Denouncer, Debaser, Defiler and Plaguelord are members of this type. All of them are suicide bombers, self-destructing to release clouds of highly infectious plague spores.
- Mechanical Constructs--Although most Phyrexians are partly mechanical, these particular constructs are completely mechanical. These are war machines meant to completely crush any enemy forces that survive the various biohazardous attacks that the Phyrexians employ. These unthinking monsters range from the medium-sized War Beast and Hulk to the enormous Colossus. The largest inhabitant of Phyrexia save for Yawgmoth himself, the Dreadnought, is also mechanical. Another mechanical construct would be the Dragon Engine.
- Horrors--Monstrous creations (perhaps combinations of the above three categories) that are horrific beyond description. These are the most difficult Phyrexians to control (as opposed to the blindly obedient mechanical constructs) and can cause serious damage to both allied and enemy alike. The Rager, Witch Engine, Plague Spitter, Devouring Strossus, Gargantua and Negator are examples of Horrors.
- Knights--This category is one that is based more on role than physical construction and is composed of certain Phyrexians who are more than simple killing machines. These Phyrexians still possess human-like intellect and will, though these are subservient to Yawgmoth. There are at least three separate "Orders" of Knights in Yawgmoth's service: The Eastern Paladins, devoted to the extermination of natural life; the Western Paladins, devoted to the annihilation of non-Phyrexian forms of society; and the Order of Yawgmoth, which is the Phyrexian "royal guard." Another Phyrexian knight is the Sanguine Guard.
No one and nothing ever created on other planes survives Phyrexia, or is even considered worthy to survive by the Priests of Yawgmoth. Artificers and Thrull Breeders are the most despised for the transgressions against the faith.
The Phyrexians' holy documents are titled the "Phyrexian Scriptures", and speak of a "Grand Evolution". Some quotes follow.
"From void evolved Phyrexia. Yawgmoth, Father of Machines, saw its perfection. Thus the Grand Evolution began."
"Great Yawgmoth moves across the seas of shard and bone and rust. We exalt him in life, in death, and in between."
"Father of Machines! Your filigree gaze carves us, and the scars dance upon our grateful flesh."
"Let weak feed on weak, that we may divine the nature of strength."
"Ash is our air, darkness our flesh."
Additionally, there is an Oath of the West and an Oath of the East, which are taken by the Western and Eastern Paladins, and also refer to the Grand Evolution.
The Phyrexian way of life derives from the instinct for survival. Darwin's theory of survival of the fittest is represented here with Yawgmoth as the directional co-ordinator. While it is without a doubt the most effective as well as efficient way of gaining superiority, it is one tracked and single minded in its approach. Whereas Yawgmoth delved only in the aspect of "war" and its applications to life, he had to forsake the aspects of art, exploration, and thought. The very nature of Phyrexian "life" is a countermeasure to the culture and morality of Dominaria. For the sole means of destroying another, Yawgmoth's "phyresis" is really insurpassable in its success, yet it is a path to sterility. The ultimate result of a mechanically cruel existence like Phyrexia's is the eliminations of all adversaries, and without enemies the causal drive of the race drops out.