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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Alara Unbroken - Section 19

Ajani Goldmane vs. Nicol Bolas! ...or... Ajani Goldmane vs Nicol Bolas?

Alara Unbroken - Section 19

The Maelstrom

Sarkhan and his dragons clash with the elves of Bant, and Ajani realizes that all the mana being spent is feeding the Maelsrom. Then a fifth large stream joins the others and he knows something must be done.


Jazal's voice congratulates Ajani for figuring it out and tells him to do something about it.

"But I have to stop them all from feeding it."

So, stop them all.

Ajani taps into every mana source available to him and unleashes it all one violent burst. Every single being on the battlefield pauses for a moment, just a moment, and then when mages try to return to their spells, they find their mana gone. Every dragon soon realizes its fire breath is no more. Sarkhan realizes he's no more use here and turns his dragons to fly away. The elves and nacatl cheer and Zaliki congratulates him for doing whatever it was that he did. He's saved them.

"And I can't thank you enough," said the dragon planeswalker Nicol Bolas, as he appeared out of the sky.


Nicol Bolas lands in front of Ajani and there is no doubt that this is the being that is behind everything. With a simple thought, dozens of elves fall down dead. Ajani yells for everyone to retreat. Zaliki tries to tell him he doesn't have to be a hero, that he doesn't have to fight the dragon, but he sends her away.

The Maelstrom

Nicol Bolas greets Ajani and comments on how long it's taken for the "little walker" to show up. But now that he's finally put everything together, Bolas asks him what his next step is? Does he think he can get vengeance for his brother? Does he think he can stop his grand plans?

Nicol Bolas then simply flicks Ajani off his feet as emphasis of the power gap between the two.

"I've lived hundreds of your lifetimes," continued Bolas. "I've survived more apocalypses than you've had chest colds. I've experienced more of this cosmos than any being there has ever been. And you think you're going to stand in my way, matchstick? You think you're the one to finally take me down? I can tell you now, if Nicol Bolas is to fall, it won't be because of the likes of you."

Ajani elbowed his way off his back into a sitting position with his weight on one arm and blood dripping from him mouth, he spoke. "For being so old, you throw a tantrum like a child."

Bolas tells him to stop pretending he's going to be the hero from a story. He's not even a minor annoyance. Ajani challenges him and asks why did he needed others to plant the spells they planted, and why bother making up a prophecy about him, and Nicol Bolas says sometimes he just needs entertainment. Ajani calls him a liar and says it's because he's discovered his mortality and is afraid. Nicol Bolas is taken aback by those words and decides that it's time to get on with business.

(Wait... he made up that prophecy? I must have missed that.)


Ajani shields his eyes when Nicol Bolas steps into the maelstrom. The power explodes and then recedes and Ajani knows the power is now within the dragon. Nicol Bolas is the same but somehow larger, more powerful, and more majestic than before. What now?

Bolas spoke, and his voice was everywhere at once. "I fear nothing."

"Don't do it, Bolas," shouted Ajani up at the dragon god. "Just go. You've done enough damage here."

"Why should I not? It's a disgrace now, a ruin bereft of value."

"No. It's my world."

There was a tiny ball of energy of the Maelstrom left, either because Nicol Bolas couldn't absorb any more or just didn't care. Ajani jumps in and takes the mana for himself.

Ajani Goldmane
Ajani's mind sees a white void, completely empty except for the presence of his brother. He apologizes to his brother that he can't avenge him, that's he's failed everything. This battle, this merging of worlds, everything is just too much for him to handle. Nicol Bolas already has the power he's wanted from the beginning. They've lost.

Jazal councils to not give up. He's still alive. Evertyhing about about this core of mana. He just needs to listen to it and he has an opportunity to learn. Ajani says all he hears are echoes. Jazal asks what it is that they're telling him. He repeats the question one more time and fades away while Ajani yells for his brother to not leave.

(Wait... so he really is real? He seemed to insidious this whole time.)

The Maelstrom

Ajani returns to himself and Nicol Bolas just laughs. Every spellcaster on Alara couldn't beat him if they tried. Ajani understands the the truth of his words, but he's also reached a moment of clarity and knows what to do. Within Nicol Bolas there is the tiniest aspect of a soul. Ajani may not be able to destroy it, but his greatest strength has always been to nurture and bring out the strength within of those around him.

(Oh no. Is he going to guilt Nicol Bolas into defeat?)

"You've always brought out the best in others, Ajani," he imagined Jazal saying. "That was always your gift."

Ajani evoked the essence of Bolas.

Energy streams out from Nicol Bolas and solidifies into a mirror image of himself. They stare each other down with pure hatred and then attack. Blow after blow neither can seem to get an upper hand on the other. Physical and mental attacks are negated one after another because each knows what the other is about to do. The magical energy reignites the storm, but the two dragons are too busy fighting each other to notice. When the Maelstrom goes large enough to envelope the dragons, there is a blinding light... then they're gone.

* * *

Deus Ex Machina.... Times Two!

What just happened. Everything about this final confrontation felt so cheap.

Ajani has the ability to nullify magic on the entire plane? Since when did that happen! That just came completely out of nowhere. It could possibly be an extension of his +1 ability on his Ajani Vengeant card, but that's a stretch, and still within the narrative of the story there has never been any kind of indication that he has any talent in this area whatsoever.

[Note: Toccactid pointed out the obvious that I missed. The severing of all mana bonds is Ajani's ultimate on the Ajani Vengeant card. The problem within the context of the story is still that there was no build up at all to this ability. Ajani's had the most screen time of all the characters, and we see all these small steps in his character growth... and then oh yeah. He does this too and it saves the day.]

And if I thought that was bad... Nicol Bolas was defeated by his own soul? That Ajani reanimated? What-... whe-... how? I'm so confused what just happened. Where did that come from. That's even more bizarre. I don't-... I can't-... Oh man. Deep breaths. I gotta take deep breaths.

This is how it ends?

This is not a satisfying conclusion at all. I knew going into this that it seemed kind of impossible that Ajani could take on Nicol Bolas, but this ending needed a lot more setup. Getting Ajani to let go of his vengeance and embrace his protective/enhancement nature of his magic is one thing, and maybe could have worked out fine... but what he could actually do with his power seriously needed to be developed for this ending to not feel like it was all cheat. Like the author just snapped his fingers and the problem is resolved.

One more Section to go.


  1. Severing the mana bonds is actually his -7 ability.

  2. Oh yes. That's actually pretty obvious. I shouldn't have missed that. A new section's been added to the post. Thanks!