This section describes the Progress Engine, the Phyrexian faction associated with blue mana.
"Our Purpose? Experiment. We are the engine that furthers Phyrexian progress by developing new life, new tools, and new methods that seek to attain sublime compleation. Our Structure? We are an integrated network of facilities each in pursuit of perfection."
—From the Great Synthesis by Jin-Gitaxias
"BEHOLD, THE PROGRESS ENGINE."
"First, let us bless the sea."
During the onset of the invasion, Phyrexian engines began pumping untold quantities of glistening oil into the Quicksilver Sea, to propagate its infection. The oil sea can transmogrify flesh into metal and vice-versa with alarming alacrity. Any non-Phyrexian unfortunate enough to be tossed into its fluid finds itself quickly decomposed and reprocessed into raw material for compleation.
Inexorable Tide | Illustration by Dave Kendall
"Within Lumengrid, let us create our masterpiece."
The former capitol city of the vedalken, Lumengrid now serves as a research center for the Progress Engine's most hideous experiments. Fueled by untold volumes of mana that emanate from the mana-charged lacuna, slaughterhouse-style laboratories investigate the most rapid and effective forms of compleation for Mirrans of all races and species. Common disciplines include how to attain maximal lethality with minimal effort, how to preserve the body as a resource while eliminating the will, and how to mimic and improve upon the strengths and weaknesses of the plane's natural beings.
Illustration by Jung Park
Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur
Jin-Gitaxias dwells within the now fully Phyrexianized Lumengrid, and has converted the topmost chamber into his own personal laboratory and study. Glistening oil vats filled with special batches of growing newts and germs line the labs. Jin-Gitaxias personally oversees and perfects these labs in his efforts to bring about the ultimate Phyrexian creation: a representation of the philosophies he has presented in his "Great Synthesis."
Illustration by Eric Deschamps
In an effort to attain the supreme synthesis, Jin-Gitaxias has moved toward the realms of the occult, dipping into both the necromantic and the "divine" in order to achieve the ultimate form and function for his super-strain newts. His behavior is increasingly being noted by members of the Phyrexian sectives, but few are ready to challenge his authority. His lab is stacked with arcane passages from the Phyrexian Scriptures, transcriptions from Sheoldred's necromantic visions. Jin-Gitaxias attempts to produce the creatures from these prophecies and combine them with his vision of perfection.
Illustration by Anthony Francisco
"It is not a goal, but a process—the process of creating the perfect Phyrexia. Such an endeavor must be undertaken with great seriousness and discipline. Every step must be logged and every experiment transcribed so that we may have an ever-refined map that leads us toward the perfected form. Mistakes are only abhorrent if they go undocumented."
"The Great Synthesis is the perfect vision of our goal."
Jin-Gitaxias has modified the Phyrexian Scriptures in their mentioning of "The Grand Evolution." He sees it as "The Great Synthesis" and has etched his own lengthy treatise about its merits. This came about due to his distaste of the word "evolution," which has been so slobberingly thrown about by Vorinclex and his puppet-queen, Glissa. Jin-Gitaxias views Glissa and Vorinclex as naïve beast-creatures incapable of comprehending basic logic, let alone the true master plan of Phyrexian destiny as written by Gitaxias. He sees the selection of predators through survival of the fittest as a crude, aimless process.
"The Gitaxian Standard of Purity is our infallible metric."
Within the Great Synthesis, Jin-Gitaxias laid out a guideline for the sectives who began work compleating the Mirran population. This scripture is known as the Gitaxian Standard of Purity. Taking ideas from many lengthy discussions with Elesh Norn, the Gitaxian Standard of Purity gives Malcator and Uulbrek the basic rules and measures of compleation.
"The whole of Phyrexia hums along every nerve fiber, guiding my sense of design as I create a new breed of Phyrexian on this metallic world. The will of the Father of Machines shall be realized in every compleated creation that I deem worthy to receive the blessing of our scalpels."
—Malcator, Gitaxian sective
Roles within the Engine
Jin-Gitaxias emerged as one of the five Phyrexian ordinals before the invasion of Mirrodin's surface. While acknowledging and appreciating Yawgmoth's cunning, vision, and ambition, Jin-Gitaxias feels that Yawgmoth failed because he didn't think things through. To him, compleation is a systemic process with a deliberate end: the creation of a perfect system.
Illustration by Raymond Swanland
Analogous to generals on other worlds, subpraetors oversee different schools of Phyrexian thought, or oversee massive projects such as the Meldweb.
Phyrexian pontiffs are delegated with the authority to execute projects or systems of experiments given to them by the Praetor and subpraetors. They are typically of the sective that takes the raw materials and diagrams to carry out the designs of the Great Synthesis.
Exarchs. They are the elite of Jin-Gitaxias' creations, disabling the will of the Mirran resistance through mental domination at a distance, generating a thought-field specifically attuned to the Mirran mind.
Illustration by Izzy
The vat-priests oversee the conduct of an experiment from beginning to end and ensure its adherence to aims. Vat-priests monitor and supervise surgeons and servitors.
"Infiltration is the easy part. It's what I do. The hardest part, which I was not prepared for, was the horror of what I saw when I got inside Lumengrid. They have changed it. The walls are covered with pulsing, living tissue that is carrying various fluids throughout the complex. Tubes drape from the walls to the surgical theaters where all manner of abominations are taking place. What I saw there I don't have the stomach to repeat."
—Kara Vrist, Neurok agent
Surgeons conduct incisions, amputations, dissections, grafts, brain excision, nerve stripping, ocular resecting, blade grafting, phyretic implants, maxillary prosthetics, xenotransplantation, and so on. The responsibility for keeping tests subjects alive or quasi-alive also falls to the surgeon.
Vivsection | Illustration by Anthony Francisco
All Phyrexian experiments are precisely and antiseptically recorded by special servitors called transcriptors. They record all data of experiments, surgeries, excisions and all resulting pathology down to the time, the type of instrument used, sounds the subject made, blood loss, smell, and other ghastly pieces of information. Each ward has its own staff of transcriptors scuttling about.
These creatures ensure that the equipment for a given experiment—everything from the room to the altar to the specific materials necessary to carry the experiment out—is available for the surgeon's ready use.
Illustration by Chippy
Phyrexian drones are hulking, barely sentient specimens most often used as raw materials for higher Phyrexian life forms. They display overt and immediate hostility to outsiders—including other Phyrexians—and for practical purposes form a first line of defense between Gitaxian facilities and the rest of the system.
Judging the vedalken homunculi far too inefficient, Jin-Gitaxias engineered the skites to fulfill menial functions. Jar skites skitter from lab to lab, serum sloshing in their tanks awaiting consumption. Scalpel skites function as living implements, drawing their orders from various servitors and awaiting their summons. Roughly every inanimate tool has been co-opted by a skite of some form.
Illustration by Chippy
"It appears that they all seem to understand exactly what they are doing, even though there is little communication vocally. Only the occasional grunting and clicking of their disturbing language can be heard between the monsters, but mostly they move about in an eerie silence within Lumengrid. I wonder if it is the accursed oil coursing through them all that commands them?"
—Kara Vrist, Neurok Agent
"Listen, how the Engine throbs with the glorious work of the sectives."
In order to process the Mirran population expediently and thoroughly, Jin-Gitaxias has organized his laboratories into "sectives," reminiscent of the vedalken sanctives. Each sective has a specific function and directive under the auspices of a subpraetor.
Vedalken Anatomist | Illustration by Greg Staples
Malcator, Executor of Synthesis
He is the head of the executors of the Great Synthesis. He is in charge of determining what is deemed abomination and what is deemed ideal as per the scientific edicts and illumined scriptures of Jin-Gitaxias. The executors are interpreters of Scripture and executors of his will. They oversee all flesh created by the other sectives and make certain it adheres to the Gitaxian Standards of Purity.
Sarnvax, Gitaxian Sective
Oversees the sective of stitchers, splicers, and excisors who work in the creation of Uulbrek's horrors, compleated Mirrans and an assortment of other imaginings. His lab is a cross between a surgical theatre, an assembly line, and a slaughterhouse.
Illustration by Stephen Martiniere
Uulbrek, Gitaxian Sective
Uulbrek's duties lie in xenomorphology and "compleation." The members of his sective envision and experiment to find the perfect anatomy for a variety of horrors. Uulbrek and his technicians dwell in a laboratory in which revolting etchings and schematics lie alongside metal tables and corpses.
Illustration by Brad Rigney
Avaricta, Gitaxian Sective
Avaricta oversees and directs her virologists and biomancers in charge of perfecting phyretic infection and its virulence. They are also exploring new methods of proliferation throughout Mirrodin. Her latest creations are the crawl-needles, small, biting insectoids that have been released into the surrounding area by the thousands. They provide a formidable phyresis delivery system to any Mirran who roams within their territory. Her laboratories are located in one of the large spires close to Lumengrid. Pipes of failed, infected corpse matter and mycosludge run from her lab out to Quicksilver Sea to be disposed of.
Compleated Mirran Creatures
"How quickly their shrieks of pain turn to enraptured adulation."
Glisteners. In the midst of the war between the Mirrans and Phyrexians, most Mirrans fought valiantly against the Phyrexian onslaught. A small few, however, submitted to the Phyrexians willingly, either resigning themselves to the inevitability of their fate, or perceiving in phyresis new opportunities for power, knowledge, and eternal life. Some of these individuals came to be called glisteners.
Illustration by Steve Argyle
Vedalken. Vedalken have been compleated into skeletal husks, their distended brains looming over frail, but lethal and burr-pocked, bodies. In New Phyrexia, many vedalken have evolved into vehicles for intellect entirely, their brains literally brimming with knowledge. Phyrexian scientist-surgeons carry these new vedalken around by the spine, hanging them over their experiments to observe and opine. Other vedalken conduct lesser experiments in service to their masters, reporting results up the chain of command. Still others are frequently employed as envoys to Elesh Norn's temples, and as de facto diplomats when different factions decide to communicate openly with one another.
Illustration by Kev Walker
"Only now do I realize our grave error in logic. Such short-sighted and self-absorbed entities we were, squabbling among each other for scraps, while beneath our feet, the end of our world was breeding and festering like a fatal contagion. So small were our disagreements and so petty our wars. Now I see they only served to divide and weaken us. We could not work together. Now we suffer the consequences."
—Nunic, vedalken certarch
Neurok. While Phyrexia quickly recognized the potential value of vedalken intelligence, the Neurok were quickly dismissed as far less useful. Most were drained of their serum and tossed into the oil-choked seas to be recompiled into raw materials. Many that remained were folded into the Phyrexian rank-and-file. Some effectively serve as laboratory assistants, ferrying implements and bodies through the twisted tunnels of Lumengrid's labyrinthine halls. A select few are chosen to donate their bodies to new forms of Phyrexian life. A host's head is removed but its life and consciousness are preserved. Then the host is "infected" by the new life form, which uses its body to feed and propagate itself. After the infection has run its course, the new organism's consciousness takes control of the body and the transformation is complete.
Sphinxes. With the Phyrexian ascendancy, capturing the plane's elusive sphinxes became a top priority. Researchers were eager to dissect them to get a glimpse into their mystical physiology, and they hungered for the knowledge that every one of the beings seemed to harbor. Some researchers believed that unearthing sphinxes' inherent connection to magic could offer them insight into the very nature of the plane.
Illustration by Nils Hamm
Disciplines within the Engine
"See? We are like the many nerve fibers that converge here into this single brain."
Jin-Gitaxias is not monolithic in his goals, tactics, ideologies, or aims. Multifarious disciplines exist under the broad heading of "research," and different factions within the same discipline carry out their experiments via different means.
Phyrexia views every non-Phyrexian thing in the Multiverse as a resource to be consumed in order to fuel the continued spread of phyresis. The carnitors study the most effective means of harvesting these resources. Because other living organisms frequently resist phyresis, the carnitors devote a tremendous amount of time to figuring out how to kill efficiently so that the rest of Phyrexia's work can continue unimpeded. The most gruesome battle-scythes, plague engines, torture implements, carapaces, and the newest evolutions of the glistening oil itself are all products of the carnitors.
Illustration by Steven Belledin
These workers study the nature of the æther itself, but they also conduct research into the mechanics of mana, summoning, and spellcasting. Prrackx was one of the higher-ranking metatect pontiffs. Another high-ranking metatect, Vrig, unearthed remnants of Memnarch's soul-traps and is driven to reverse-engineer them.
Locations of the Progress Engine
"This world is merely a foothold for our expanding spheres."
Illustration by Jung Park
Panopticon. Resting at the heart of Mirrodin's core are the ruins of Memnarch's former command center, Panopticon. Here, Karn sits confused and delirious atop a throne designed to grant him access to the whole of New Phyrexia's combined thoughts, mana, and power—and his inability to process the flow of information through him only furthers his delirium. Unbeknownst to Karn, however—as well as to Elesh Norn's Phyrexian priests who oversee his sanctuary—this flow of information is not one-way. The overseers of Lumengrid have altered the throne itself so that they can monitor the inflow of information to Karn.
Corrupted Conscience | Illustration by Jason Chan
The Dome of Synthesis.
A massive, corroded chromium dome sits within the oil slick that was once the Quicksilver Sea. These are the meditation chambers and meeting halls of Jin-Gitaxias and the subpraetors. The Dome is located a good distance from Lumengrid, and most visitors are ferried here by giant spider-walkers that carry their passengers on thin, chrome legs that rise up hundreds of feet above the sea's surface.
In the deepest area of the Quicksilver Sea is an "underwater" facility known as the Fathom Ward where highly dangerous creatures are worked on: leviathans, sea serpents, and other monstrosities. Rumors abound about the experiments that go on here, supposedly splicing various creatures together to make a "super-weapon" to eradicate all who oppose the Great Synthesis.
The Sixth Spire.
The Sixth Spire is a massive, corroded spire near Lumengrid where Avaricta works on perfecting and spreading the glistening oil and studying the effects, symptoms, and types of phyresis.
Darkslick Shores | Illustration by Charles Urbach
Many of the servitors—usually compleated Neurok—are kept in installations around the shores of the Quicksilver Sea. More often than not, these were Neurok villages that have now been transformed into Phyrexian facilities.
"Only the finest may lead the Engine."
Politus, Gitaxian morphologist.
During the assimilation of Lumengrid, Politus was captured and compleated. He then became integral in developing Lumengrid into the multi-tiered facility that it is in New Phyrexia, while processing the rest of the vedalken and Neurok populations as a high-ranking member of Uulbrek's sective.
Unctus the Freed.
Occasionally a particularly promising compleated Mirran specimen rises through the ranks into a position of true power. Unctus gave himself over to Phyrexia in the earliest stages of the invasion and ascended through the ranks of the subpraetors at an unprecedented rate, largely due to the numerous experiments he conducted upon himself. Transformed almost beyond recognition, with a brain-cavity spanning several feet, a body composed entirely of chrome and glass, and four long appendages bristling with instruments, he now directs all Phyrexian research into native Mirran organisms. He views himself as a hero, one of the true saviors of Mirrodin.
Sheudra is a surgeon who has been saving the choicest offal from her compleations to build a construct of her own sinister design. She is also the most outspoken against the Machine Orthodoxy and the fact that Elesh Norn and her theocracy weaken the primacy of the Great Synthesis.
Known to some Mirrans as "The Chromium Butcher," he has been known to be one of the only surgeons to wander from the walls of Lumengrid to personally harvest Mirrans from the surface and process them all the way through completion. He has been modified into a multipurpose tool of the Progress Engine.
Grgur and the Meldweb.
Phyrexian "scientists" are driven by two goals: the perfection of phyresis and the drive to extend Phyrexia to every corner of the plane. Whereas the Knowledge Pool holds the collective result of all experimentation, it offers nothing in the way of processing power. A subpraetor named Grgur devised the Meldweb to remedy this problem. He robbed swaths of compleated vedalken of their bodies, stripped them of their will, and bound them together into a network that could harness the raw computing power of several hundred vedalken brains. His ultimate goal is to link this network with the Knowledge Pool and exponentially accelerate the pace of Phyrexian research.
Prrackx and the Argent Sphinx.
The elusive creature known as the Argent Sphinx was so rare on Mirrodin that most Mirrans believed it a myth. It was said to disappear into the æther the second a creature caught a glimpse of it. A Phyrexian pontiff named Prrackx became obsessed with trapping the sphinx, reasoning that if the goal of compleation was to realize the maximum life form, and there existed another life form that compleated organisms could not conquer, then phyresis was itself was fundamentally flawed. Cast out by his fellow Phyrexians and branded a heretic by Norn's priesthood, Prrackx became obsessed with the Argent Sphinx. Eventually he devised a trap for it and succeeded in freezing its connection between realities. Returning triumphant to Lumengrid with his prize—the sphinx in a cage appearing continually to flicker in and out of existence—Prrackx eventually transposed its essence into himself, and is now spoken about in the same reverent tones as the Sphinx he enslaved.
"It makes vocal vibrations while hyper-stimulating its nerve pathways, making its skeleto-muscular structures move about with no purpose. Perhaps it is not capable of comprehending the bonds which secure it so tightly, in which case the perceptual centers must be re-organized so that it is capable of understanding such factual input. Proceed with compleation starting with the eyes."
—Excerpt from a surgical transcription
"Puzzling. Their world has fallen and still they resist."
Setting aside their differences and traditional prejudices, the scant remaining vedalken and Neurok have bonded together for survival.
Desperate times breed desperate measures, and Kara Vrist is the master of the desperate measure. Trained as a spy, Kara Vrist is the only one who has seen the inside of Lumengrid and has lived to tell about it. She delivers intelligence to the healer Melira and her allies in the Furnace Layer.
Illustration by Austin Hsu
Vy Covalt continued to elude the Phyrexians even after the taking of Lumengrid and the mass slaughter of hundreds of vedalken and Neurok. He shepherded many Mirrans through dangerous fields of Phyrexian death machines to relative safety in the Furnace Layer before being caught and dissected by Threx himself.