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Nicol Bolas

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Nicol Bolas
Nicol Bolas
Birthplace Unknown
Lifetime ~−20,000 AR
Race Elder Dragon Planeswalker
Sources Assassin's Blade, Emperor's Fist, Champion's Trial, Time Spiral, Future Sight, Agents of Artifice, Alara Unbroken, see external links

The planeswalker Nicol Bolas (also known as the Forever Serpent, the Horned One and the God-Pharaoh of Amonkhet) is the most powerful of the five Elder Dragons to have survived the Dragon War. He is considered one of the most powerful planeswalkers of the Multiverse and at 25,000 years old, possibly the oldest being alive. Bolas' hallmark is his touch, an inborn ability that causes a mind shattering effect with the slightest caress. It makes coherent thought nearly impossible.

Bolas is a master of Black, Blue, and Red magic with many lifetimes worth of experience and knowledge. In his duel with Teferi in Time Spiral, Bolas proved skilled enough in blue magic to completely nullify the time magic Teferi created.

History[edit | edit source]

Dragon War and ascension[edit | edit source]

A younger Bolas

Thousands of years before the Brothers' War, the Elder Dragons were engaged in a conflict that tore the fabric of countless planes. Nicol Bolas emerged victorious, though there were survivors other than himself, and during the crescendo of the war, became a planeswalker.

Some thousands of years later, Bolas fought a demonic leviathan in what would become the first planeswalker's duel on the still-young plane of Dominaria. The fight lasted a month, reduced Madara to a third of its original size, and created the first temporal rift. In the end the dragon relied upon his touch to defeat his foe. After the battle Bolas feasted on the remains of the leviathan over the course of a year, absorbing its power in the process. When he finished, naught was left besides what eventually became known as the Talon Gates and an assortment of blubber. Bolas regards the Talon Gates as his finest trophy and visits them and Madara as often as he can to relish that victory.

Madaran Emperor[edit | edit source]

On Madara, three mana lines, blue, black, and red, intersected at a single point that was ideal for Bolas's purposes. His presence had grown so powerful that he required those three lines to anchor himself, lest his presence overwhelm the plane and crack its foundation. Bolas slew the then Empress of Madara and erected his Imperial Shrine on the focal point. From there, he reigned for 400 years as god-emperor of Madara.

Unfortunately, Bolas created his own worst enemy in the form of his Imperial Champion, Tetsuo Umezawa. After several trials, Tetsuo renounced his title and declared his intention to slay Bolas. Using the Meteor Hammer spell, Tetsuo destroyed Bolas's Imperial Shrine, while Bolas's body was inside, severing the elder dragon's anchor to Dominaria completely. The dragon had abandoned his body, unaware of the trap, and followed Tetsuo to the Meditation Plane, where he was killed by Umezawa in this weakened state.

However, a ghostly remnant of his life force still lingered in the rift by the coast connected to the Meditation Realm.

Time rifts[edit | edit source]

Bolas remained present in his land as the time rifts became dire, presenting himself under the alias of Sensei Ryu. His lands were overrun by the nekoru descendants of Wasitora and their followers. When he sensed that Teferi was lost in a rift and had become separated from his companions he arranged for them to arrive on the Madaran beach near the Talon Gates. Using Venser's latent planeswalker spark he was able to escape his prison and was reborn into the physical world. After Teferi located his companions, he challenged the dragon to a duel in an effort to stay Bolas's "gratitude." Bolas easily won, absorbing and planeswalking away from Teferi's attacks, after which he tortured him with his mind shattering touch and ripped his body to pieces. While Bolas was taunting Teferi's allies with his head in his claw, Teferi shared his knowledge of the collapsing planes with him and he was made aware of the severity of the rift problem. He left soon after swearing a vow to take terrible vengeance on anyone related to the Umezawa line, and anyone who had ever aided or come into contact with it, then presumably left for Kamigawa.

Bolas later returned to Madara, where he was ambushed by the planeswalker Leshrac, who formally challenged him to a duel; the latter was defeated after an epic battle and was imprisoned in the mask of the Myojin of Night's Reach. Bolas implied that he had stripped most of Night's Reach's dark power but she had managed to escape.

Bolas then confessed to Teferi and his companions that he had observed the rift phenomenon and took responsibility for closing the Madaran rift, in a way. After Bolas used Leshrac's life to close the rift, Bolas left for an unknown destination. Believing that it was unlikely Teferi and his band could forestall the imminent collapse of the multiverse, Bolas claimed that he had devised a plan to preserve himself in the event that happened. Although the multiverse survived, Jeska's Mending spell changed the nature of the planeswalker's spark. Bolas, like all other "old planeswalkers" who survived past the Mending, lost a significant portion of his powers. Still, he retained the formidable powers of an Elder Dragon as well as his unmatched intellect.

Invasion of Amonkhet[edit | edit source]

At an undisclosed point before, Bolas turned his attention to Amonkhet, drawn to the strange metal named Lazotep and its reaction with necromancy. During his arrival, he found himself opposed by the gods of the world. Despite his waning power, the Elder Dragon proved to be a formidable enemy, laying waste to the population and driving the gods before him, until they gathered in the city of Naktamun for a desperate last stand.[1] In secret, the god Bontu conspired with Bolas to betray her brethren.[2] When the dragon broke through the protective barrier of the city, he cast a spell that killed every single adult being on the plane, weakening the gods enough to subdue them and corrupting them to worshiping him instead. The spells that maintained the corruption would be maintained by Bontu, who hoped to be rewarded by Bolas later.[2] Using the mummified dead of the plane to raise the children, he built himself monuments and wrote prophecies that would tell of his glorious return.[1] Drawing on the phenomenons like the Curse of Wandering, one of these promises when he returns, he will shatter the Hekma, the magical barrier protecting the populace of Amonkhet from the horrors of the broken lands, and call those who have passed the Trials of the Five Gods to his side to grant them a true afterlife. The remaining ones, including the gods themselves, will have to prove their worth to him just like the mortals they tested before.[3] The theology of this religion would kept in the Accounting of Hours. Afterwards, Bolas left, waiting for the time his scheme would pay off.[1] Additionally, Bolas warped the Angels of the plane to serve as his agents.

Bolas also spread rumors that he was the one who had created Amonkhet, which was later reiterated by Liliana. The people of Amonkhet found his false prophecies that he will return when the second sun is positioned between the effigy of Bolas' horns on the plane. This is highly anticipated and reflected in figures of speech.[4]

Once, We Were Gods[edit | edit source]

At some point after the mending a severely weakened Bolas met with a wizened Liliana Vess. She was jealous at the fact he was seemingly unaffected by the mending. He berated her stating that he had lost more power than she could learn in a dozen lifetimes. Bolas lamented that only a few years previously planeswalkers like them were akin to living gods who exerted their power and influence throughout the multiverse. Bolas proceeded to act as a middleman for 4 demons to form a contract with her to restore some of her power and youth at the cost of her soul. His price for this was presumably her service to him in the future.

Involvement in Alara[edit | edit source]

After the Mending, Bolas lost the ability to retain much of his 25,000 years worth of arcane knowledge. He managed to escape to the plane of Alara where he began machinations while dwelling in the Shard of Grixis, claiming the necropolis of Kederekt as his own. He prepared to take advantage of the coming Conflux to regain his power, and started to manipulate certain individuals and organizations on the multiple shards to create an environment rife with tension and ready for war:

  • Bant: The Order of the Skyward Eye and Gwafa Hazid spread xenophobia and disorder along the borderlands of Bant's nations.
  • Esper: The Seekers of Carmot warned Esperites about dwindling supplies of etherium, and created a fervent demand for the otherworldly red stone called carmot.
  • Grixis: Malfegor led massive armies of the undead, gathering hordes ready to invade the other shards and cut chaotic swaths through any living resistance they find.
  • Jund: Rakka Mar stirred fervor for greater and greater "life hunts" among the warrior clans there.
  • Naya: Marisi stimulated the emergence of the philosophical schism of the nacatl Cloud Empire and the revolt of the Wild Nacatl, that resulted in the destruction of most of the advanced Cloud Nacatl civilization and cities and in the cat-people nation's regression back to savagery.

The Seekers Fall[edit | edit source]

Tezzeret survived a near death experience on the shard of Esper, awakening his latent spark. He found himself on Grixis, atop the Kederekt. After fighting off several creatures, all of whom presumably hoped to gain favor with Bolas, the artificer was approached by the dragon himself. Bolas offered him power in exchange for servitude which Tezzeret accepted.

Agents of Artifice[edit | edit source]

Sometime after the Mending Bolas founded an interplanar consortium which was usurped by Tezzeret in a bloody coup d'état. Bolas retained his mind-reading ability and Tezzeret, fearful for his secrets, tried to counter it by using Jace Beleren. This ended in disaster as Bolas easily overwhelmed both planeswalkers mentally, and the pair barely escaped with their lives fleeing from Bolas's hired barbarian horde.

At the end of Jace's struggles, after he defeated Tezzeret in a duel and crushed the artificer's mind, it was revealed that this was all a plan Bolas agreed to in order to regain his consortium. Liliana Vess was the original architect of this plot and had approached Bolas with her plan. Bolas did not regain his organization, but he had obtained Tezzeret's still living but mindless and crippled body.

Alara Unbroken[edit | edit source]

The full gravity of Bolas' plans came to fruition with Alara's conflux. Through the manipulation of the peoples of all five shards, his plan to trigger full scale war erupted across Alara, awakening the obelisks of mana on each of the shards and causing the Maelstrom to grow in magnitude. Over the course of the conflict he acquired the servitude of Sarkhan Vol to help spread seeds of destruction across Naya.

Ajani's quest to find his brother's killer eventually led him into conflict with Bolas, and knowing that he could not defeat the dragon-god himself, he summoned the essence of Bolas' own soul to fight for him. The ersatz dragon battled Bolas in perfect symmetry, before they lunged at each other with powerful bites. Both connected simultaneously, and in a flash of light the dragons disappeared. It is unknown how badly hurt Bolas was, having harvested the essence of most of the Maelstrom immediately prior to this climactic battle.

The Elder Dragon on Zendikar[edit | edit source]

At some point, Nicol Bolas took notice of the volatile nature of Zendikar. He investigated the Eye of Ugin and left after studying it. Long afterwards, Bolas sent Vol to guard the Eye, to make sure nothing disturbed it.

Sarkhan was, however, misled. Bolas had sought out and defeated Ugin,[5] extracting a great deal of information about the Eldrazi and the lock that kept them contained. Knowing of the titans and what it would take to unleash them, Bolas sent Sarkhan to the Eye and manipulated the pyromancer Chandra Nalaar into arriving at the same time. Unfortunately, that only solved two thirds of the problem, and so Bolas gambled that Jace would show up if prodded in that direction. The purpose of his manipulations was clear -- the release of the Eldrazi; but the reason he wanted them released remains shrouded in mystery.

Mirrodin Besieged[edit | edit source]

Bolas demonstrated great interest in the war on Mirrodin. He sent Tezzeret to observe and assess the rise of the New Phyrexians on the plane, and to serve as Bolas's eyes and ears in the Phyrexian hierarchy. Ultimately, the artificer's mission was to delay the rise of a central leader for as long as possible, a task which was doomed to fail.

Fate Reforged[edit | edit source]

In the distant past of Tarkir, Yasova Dragonclaw, Khan of the Temur, sought to end the reign of Tarkir's oppressive dragons. Her conviction and commitment to the destruction of Tarkir's dragons coincided with the ambitions of the Elder Dragon Planeswalker himself. To this end, Yasova was given a vision of a peaceful and idyllic Tarkir littered with the bones of dragons. In her vision, a great dragon with scales of burnished gold and a golden orb floating between his horns promised Yasova that if she would lead him to the lair of Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, he would slay him, and the dragons of Tarkir would be no more. Unbeknownst to her, this was a vision from Nicol Bolas, who would utilize Yasova as a pawn in his plot to kill Ugin.[6] Guided by Yasova, Bolas found Ugin and killed him. 1280 years later, Sarkhan travelled back in the past to that exact same moment and saved Ugin.[7] Thus, the Time stream was changed.

Bolas returns to Amonkhet

Hour of Devastation[edit | edit source]

On Amonkhet, Bolas's scheme worked as intended, with hundreds of the Worthy Dead being converted into his Eternal army. When he came to the plane and materialized above his throne in Naktamun, he found the city in ruins, its gods fallen and the population under assault from his minions. Pleased, he turned to the treacherous Bontu, commanding her to kill the last of the gods, Hazoret. When Bontu managed to defeat her sister, Bolas instead rewarded her with death, forcing several undead to tear her apart.[2]

Seeing his plans come to fruition, Nicol Bolas now turned his attention on the Gatewatch, a meddlesome group of planeswalkers that had come together to stop the Eldrazi Titans on Zendikar. Asking himself if they were suitable for what he required, Bolas waited for them to form their strategy. As each of them attacked him with their own methods, the dragon proved resilient and even condescending. Using his tail, he kept the invulnerable Gideon at a distance by whacking him against the structures of Naktamun, and simply ignored Chandra's flames, Nissa's vines and Liliana's zombies. Focusing on Jace, Bolas let him briefly enter into his mind before crushing that of the telepath, sending him fleeing from the plane. Turning to the rest of the Gatewatch, he addressed Liliana and offered her a chance to survive the confrontation. Offering to tutor her in the use of the Chain Veil, he demanded her to leave and retreat to another plane where he would contact her. The necromancer took the offer, even asking her team mates to join her. Bolas now turned his attention to the rest, taking Chandra into one of his claws and breaking several of her ribs with brute force while lecturing her on the futility of using fire against a dragon. As the pyromancer planeswalked away to save her own life, Bolas turned to Nissa. Using his command over the corrupted world, he turned her link to the land against her to attack her with necrotic magic, forcing her to flee. Now facing Gideon, the sole member of the Gatewatch remaining, Bolas took him into one of his claws and used magic to pierce his invulnerability, giving him a choice: stay and die, or live and betray the oath he had sworn at Sea Gate. Eventually, Gideon fled, too, leaving Bolas victorious.

Only a few minutes later, Tezzeret appeared and was sent by Bolas to check on the progress of Ral Zarek. Reveling in his victory, Bolas celebrated the first steps in his plan for reclaiming his stolen power.[8]

Test of Metal[edit | edit source]

Key events in Test of Metal have been contradicted by later stories. Chief among these contradictions are Jace and Liliana believing Tezzeret to be dead prior to the events of Kaladesh,[9] and Jace having not seen Liliana between the events of Agents of Artifice and Catching Up.[10]

In a cave composed entirely of sangrite, Bolas rebuilt Tezzeret’s body and mind and tasked him to find Crucius the Mad. Bolas ultimately saw this mission come to fruition when he tracked Tezzeret to an island made entirely of etherium. There he demanded to know what Tezzeret had been up to. In order to get direct answers, Bolas formed a mental link to Tezzeret and read his memories. There, many of Tezzeret's plans and actions were laid out.

Bolas soon learned he would not be the only visitor upon the Metal Island though. Jace arrived next, followed lastly by Sharuum, stripped of her etherium. As soon as the sphinx left, a terrible fight broke out among the assembled walkers, and it ended with Bolas apparently victorious. However, during the fight, his concentration and powers severely waned. This was revealed to have been engineered by Tezzeret, who was the true victor of the fight. Tezzeret himself left Bolas trapped on the island, infested with a mental device that would keep the Elder Dragon there as long as needed.

Little did Tezzeret anticipate that the dragon he had been fighting was nothing more than a poorly constructed simulacrum, specifically made to fail at reining in the artificer. Bolas himself appeared on the island and informed his copy that it would not be alive by the time Tezzeret returned, and he had served his purpose in making Tezzeret reveal the secrets he had learned.

Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • Nicol Bolas was originally printed as a creature in Legends, and reprinted in Chronicles, Time Spiral, and From the Vault: Dragons, the last featuring new artwork.
  • Nicol Bolas also appears as a card in the Japanese TCG Duel Masters, which is likewise published by Wizards of the Coast. [11]
  • In Conflux he was printed as a Planeswalker card with the type Bolas. This would later be reprinted in Duel Decks: Ajani vs. Nicol Bolas and finally in Magic 2013, being the first ever multi-colored card in a core set.
  • He is considered by many fans to be one of the major antagonists of the MTG storyline.[12]
  • He is considered by Kruphix, one of the gods of Theros, to be one of the greatest possible future threats to the plane putting him on the same level of danger as the Eldrazi and New Phyrexia. By Kruphix's own admission, any of the three would be able to defeat all of the gods of Theros. However, Kruphix does not realize that the Bolas he sensed from Ajani's memories is merely a shell of his former self and true power.

In-game references[edit | edit source]

Represented in:

Depicted in:

Associated cards:

Quoted or referred to:

References[edit | edit source]

  1. a b c Alison Luhrs. (June 7, 2017.) “The Hour of Revelation”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  2. a b c Michael Yichao. (July 5, 2017.) “Favor”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  3. Flavor text of Nimble-Blade Khenra
  4. James Wyatt. (April 5, 2017.) “Trust”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  5. Magic Creative Team. (September 10, 2014.) “Planeswalker's Guide to Khans of Tarkir, Part 2”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  6. Kelly Digges. (January 14, 2015.) “Unwritten”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  7. Doug Beyer. ( January 21, 2015 .) “The Reforged Chain”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  8. Ken Troop. (July 26, 2017.) “Hour of Devastation”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  9. Doug Beyer. (October 12, 2016.) “In This Very Arena”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  10. Kelly Digges. (July 22, 2015.) “Catching Up”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  11. Mark Rosewater. (January 30, 2016.) "I recently learned about Jace and Nicol Bolas cards being released for Duel Masters in Japan.", Blogatog, Tumblr.
  12. Mark Rosewater. (April 06, 2009.) “If I Had a Nicol...”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  13. Doug Beyer. (January 19, 2009.) “Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  14. Tom LaPille. (April 10, 2009.) “Building Bolas”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  15. Magic Arcana. (April 07, 2009.) “Nicol Bolas in Conflux”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  16. Magic Arcana. (February 03, 2009.) “About That Fifth Ultimatum...”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  17. Doug Beyer. (January 28, 2009.) “Bolas's Secret Minions”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.

External links[edit | edit source]