Moving towards the Lorwyn five origin walkers, I wanted to cover one of my favourite characters to take the planeswalking mantle and run with it. Garruk is easily one of the most well developed characters that cover a very large and broad grey area when it comes to personalities. While his overall goal is narrow and simplistic, his implications in the story have been fairly complex. Also, despite being one of our most powerful planeswalkers (if Apex Predator’s mana cost is anything to go by), he’s easily one of the most prolific failures in the storyline. He is a lonesome solitary man with muscles the size of a bus, and yet the poor dude seems to get trounced from the beginning. He pretty much wanted to be left alone, and yet a brief encounter with one of our less caring characters has set him on a path of chaos and destruction that he never chose in the first place. Like Liliana, Garruk’s destiny thus far has almost been forced upon him.
He’s a relatively short character to detail, but an interesting one nonetheless. From an early age his charge is simplistic – always listen and trust nature. Garruk was possibly one of the most “pure” green planeswalkers and general characters around, honouring nature and strength above all, and most importantly respecting it for what it is. Instead of simply conquering beasts greater than him, he would honour them by “Connecting” them to himself. Unlike most green aligned characters, he is particularly impatient, and it is this trait that seems to cause Garruk most of his woes.
His early life is similar to that of other original planeswalkers – he was raised by his father (a taskmage like Jaya), and on his tenth birthday his father taught him his first spell. As with all origin stories, the day they learn things tends to be the day their woes begin. A sheriff arrives to conscript Garruk into Faldus’ army. His father, Raklan, tells him to run and hide in the forest until he tells him it’s safe to return. Garruk spends weeks fleeing the soldiers through the forest, all while his father speaks to him through an artifact. It’s his father who originally tells him not to trust mankind, instead follow the reason of nature. Several years passed, and Garruk is essentially a wildling brought up by his own, now fierce, survival instincts. He’s bound numerous large creatures. He finds the men that seized his father, and rampages through the town with his herd of destruction. Garruk is then brought to the jail where his father died, but it had been part of his plan. While in the jail he summons a wurm to come and devour the sheriff, then adorns his helmet and returns to the wilds.
Interestingly, I don’t recall any evidence of how Garruk originally sparked; making him one of the few planeswalkers we don’t entirely know all the origins about. MaRo has recently confirmed on his blog that we’ll see more of him in the currently named project “Spark”.
Fast forward 480lbs of meat and 8ft in height and we’re on Shandalar, the source of everyone’s woes. Garruk is hunting a massive creature called the Ursoth with his big old band of summoned beasts, when Liliana turns up and kills one of them (deeming it to be an inconvenience). Enraged by her deed, he tracks her down and assaults her at the Onakke temple. Initially Garruk proves too strong and damn near kills Liliana, but she uses the Chain Veil and curses him, wracking his body and really messing up his summoning powers. In a desperate attempt to cure himself, he planeswalks to one of his most hated planes (civilisation, you see), Ravnica. He confronts Jace and demands he tell him where Liliana is. The curse sends Garruk into a supercharged rage and he comes within an inch of killing the mind mage when he suddenly comes back to his senses. Jace tells him Liliana’s last known location.
Number of lives Liliana has ruined: ??? +1
It’s then insinuated that Garruk works as a bounty hunter for a Gorgon on an unknown plane in return for information on Liliana’s whereabouts, when he then gets word: Innistrad.
Now you have to understand Garruk at this point. He is as green and green can be, and his primary skill in life is binding and summoning creatures, and being one with nature. The effect of curse causes him constant and immense pain, and causes his summoned creatures do be disfigured and altogether suicidal since they can’t cope with their existence. The curse twists Garruk’s core identity, and has now forced him beyond his comfort zone to work with other races, leave the forests and venture into civilisation. He has had everything he knows and understands stripped from him. It’s like being a gifted surgeon, but every time you touch a patients organ, is dissolves into dust, and you’re forced to do the surgery in a pool club full of drunkard orangutans.
Unfortunately Garruk’s humiliation only gets worse from this point onwards. He walks to Innistrad and tracks Liliana to Nephalia, where he attempts to annihilate her once again, but is set upon by a swarm of ghouls. Despite easily dispatching the meatwave, Liliana escapes yet again. To be frank: he mad. The curse inflicts him some more, affecting his mind. He wanders in circles, yelling nonsense to anyone that crosses his path, including animals. He succumbs and ends up a wandering madman, three lost brain cells away from a vegetable.
The events of OG Innistrad take place, and Avacyn enacts the cursemute. While it doesn’t cure Garruk, it puts him back into remission and his sanity is returned. He decides to follow the trail that Liliana walked, but then abandons his pursuit in the hopes of finding the source of the cursemute, wanting to be cured once and for all. Now take note here: an uncursed Garruk would rather find a natural remedy to his cure than track down and kill the source of his curse. He is actively seeking a nonviolent solution to his issues. He ends up finding the town of Torbach and shelters in the house of a dead woman. Because Garruk is quite the large and beastly man, everyone in the town then assumes he’s the one that killed her. This brings him to the attention of Odric, who traps Garruk and goes to kill him, but not before Grete, the second in command, intervenes. Odric vows that Garruk will be thrown before Avacyn to stand trial. We get a brief glimpse of hope that Garruk might actually be cured. Odric drugs him and prepares to travel with the planeswalker to Thraben, but the curse returns in full swing, Garruk goes mad and then escapes the convoy.
Things go south for Garruk, although he’s beginning to not to subtly accept his fate. The curse worsens, and while Garruk can’t summon beasts for toffee, his desire to hunt on his own strength increases significantly. Instead of just hunting down Liliana, Garruk (probably rightly) now views all planeswalkers as prey, finally breaking the barrier between hunter and outright serial planeswalker killer. Every planeswalker he kills strengthens him further, and what’s left of humanity slowly drifts away.
Vronos, the “Grey Fencer” planeswalker, is contracted by Avacyn to find and return Garruk to her so she can help him. Vronos however is very quickly dispatched, and despite planeswalking away, Garruk tracks him and kills him rather easily. He takes Vronos’ filigree mask as a trophy. Now the curse is back in full swing, he has no intention of finding a nonviolent solution. In fact, he no longer wants a solution at all.
With the curse nearly fully complete, Garruk heads to Shandalar to complete his transformation in the Onakke temple. This transformation into a demon would have destroyed the plane itself, and is not so dissimilar to the events surrounding Ob Nixilis. Ob Nixilis of course was stopped by Nahiri after she implanted a hedron into the demon planeswalkers head, trapping him in his demon form, rendering him unable to travel. Jace decides to take action to stop Garruk’s transformation, so he masks himself as Liliana. The ruse didn’t work out so well, and Garruk explains to Jace that while he was cursed, he relished what he had become and simply wanted to be left alone. While Jace stops Garruk’s transformation with said hedron, Garruk tells Jace that if he does not heed his wishes, he’ll kill him the next time they meet. Jace leaves and Garruk relaxes. He had been projecting an air of power about him, although in reality he felt significantly weakened.
Garruk can’t catch a break, and as Jace leaves, another planeswalker arrives. This ice-wielding planeswalker mentions that he was hired by Vronos for a large sum, but then Garruk points out the mask trophy from the now dead Vronos. This unknown planeswalker tries to escape, but Garruk decapitates him, commenting on the deceased planeswalkers slowness. The point of no return has been reached, and Garruk’s transformation from pure green to green-black is essentially irreversible.
Garruk then heads off to an unknown destination, perhaps at last with some peace and quiet that he had longed for since he was ten (around thirty years ago), but with an entirely different agenda now on his mind, thanks to the meddling of other planeswalkers.