Elesh Norn. The Mother of Machines. Grand Cenobite. Currently, the greatest villain in Magic's recent history. What are her goals? How did things get turned inside out to the point where the beloved heroes are now metal creatures, crazy and completely devoted to a cause called Phyrexia?
To understand the villain's schemes, we need to raise some important points of the story that also involve the well-known Father of Machines: Karn, Silver Golem.
Mirrodin's war against Phyrexia
On Mirrodin, there were five moons that served as suns for the plane as well. However, these moons were not natural satellites or giant balls of plasma, but five gigantic spheres of mana. And during the Phyrexian infection, each of the praetors was born from each of these moons, with their dogmas related respectively to their colors.
Elesh Norn was born of white mana, and in her white-aligned faction, she decided to use humans and elves to begin her plans. Elesh Norn is extremely obsessed with the concept that perfection is achieved only by metal, a teaching greatly distorted from the ideals of the Father of Machines.
Her goal is to indoctrinate everyone about the truth and perfection of metal, imposing that everyone needs to be like her.
Her religious fanaticism is insane to say the least, and because of that, Elesh Norn increasingly desires power and authority to spread her word, even if that means going over the top and using anyone in her favor, and that doesn't leave out the other praetors. Manipulation and selfishness are extremely present in her actions.
Until the end of the war against the Mirrans, Norn "worked alongside" the other praetors, and at the end of the war when the Phyrexians officially dominated the plane, Atraxa, a Mirran angel, was captured. Impressed with Atraxa's resistance, the villain decided that this angel would be rewarded: it would be completaed to become the Praetors' Voice, the symbol of victory and glory of Phyrexia.
Except for Urabrask, the Hidden who refused to be part of it, all the other praetors helped in the creation of Atraxa, Praetors' Voice, thus becoming the definitive sign that Mirrodin no longer existed and that Nova Phyrexia was victorious in that war.
Shortly after the creation of Atraxa, Elesh Norn increasingly expanded her army and decimated the factions of Sheoldred, Whispering One and Urabrask. Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger wasn't a problem, as he didn't claim power to the same degree as the other praetors. Both he and Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur ceded their domains and spheres to Norn.
Urabrask was the only one to resist until the end, but that didn't stop Elesh Norn from gaining the much-claimed title of Mother of Machines. Now the leader and dictator of New Phyrexia, Elesh Norn controls the entire plane the way she sees fit: with orthodoxy and extremely fanatical dogma.
Elesh Norn orders everything from the deepest spheres where she resides, and Atraxa is yet another of her pawns, doing whatever the praetor commands. For some reason, no one but Norn can enter the two deepest layers of Phyrexia, not even the other praetors.
Remember that Phyrexia originally had nine layers, and once Mirrodin was invaded, the Phyrexians adapted to a plane that was also separated in this way.
"We Are One" - Elesh Norn's Nightmare
At one point during Theros Beyond Death, Ashiok, Nightmare Muse decided to visit New Phyrexia to test whether Phyrexians were afraid of anything. Its target was Elesh Norn. The praetor was about to compleat a human in front of many Phyrexians, until the moment she failed. This had never happened before.
The praetor does not believe that she could fail, that Perfection was not Perfect, that orthodoxy had failed. Because of that, she went to investigate. On the scattered limbs of the human across the basilica of Elesh Norn, vines grew that tangled everywhere.
What Elesh Norn most disliked, organic life, now invaded and permeated the metal environment. The praetor, disgusted by this, saw a figure near the basilica: Ashiok. Upon realizing the Planeswalker's presence, Elesh Norn came to her senses: it was all just an illusion. Ashiok was impressed with Elesh Norn's mind, and said it was testing the Mother of Machines to see whether the Phyrexians were a good canvas.
The enraged praetor replied that Phyrexians are not afraid. In an ironic tone along with a smile, Ashiok showed a silhouette of a woman, forming in the rocks and vines: Elspeth, Sun's Nemesis. Ashiok commented on Elspeth's fear of Phyrexians, and decided to find out what a Phyrexian's nightmare would be like.
Elesh Norn took a deep breath, and then suddenly from the shadows, doors opened and dozens of Phyrexians from Elesh Norn's army rose beside flags of crimson and ivory. Ashiok was confused since it didn't project them into this illusion. "We are one. Did you think you could control us so easily with this nightmare?" - After a brief silence, the praetor whispered, "You underestimated us". In chorus, the Phyrexians repeated the words, echoing in the room.
Finding that interesting, Ashiok materialized a mirror in front of Elesh Norn. In the reflection, there was Elspeth, who was copying his movements. Seeing that impure, imperfect and impossible figure being her reflection, the praetor launched a hail of blades, making the planeswalker's body fly away. It was all an illusion.
"You are the canvas indeed, Mother of Machines. Another masterpiece."
All the illusions gradually disappeared, but the last one to disappear was Elspeth's body, which, before disappearing, opened her eyes and faced the praetor with mercy and sympathy. That was enough to take Elesh Norn's breath away. Disgusted by this, the human thought plagued her mind, and to erase that feeling once and for all, she decided that she would erase Elspeth Tirel from the multiverse.
All will be One - The Masterplan
"We are one."
This speech by Elesh Norn reflects her desire to bring not only New Phyrexia together, but the multiverse as a whole. Shortly after the events of War of the Spark, with the help of Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge, Elesh Norn gained access to the other planes, since it granted him a body made of Darksteel so that he could withstand being the Planar Bridge.
In exchange, he should help with the invasion, since the Planar Bridge would be able to transport Phyrexians to other planes, especially now that it was linked to a Planeswalker. So, little by little the plan came to pass: in Kaldheim, Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider infected Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor and blackmailed him to achieve his goal: to get the seed of The World Tree to create a new tree that would serve as a catalyst to spread the glory of Phyrexia throughout the multiverse.
But for that to be possible, a power was needed that was able to control the tree, while also being able to move that power throughout the multiverse. Coincidentally, there was a Druid Planeswalker capable enough to perform such an act: Nissa Revane. But they've never managed to compleat a Planeswalker before. So, how would they do it?
Norn sent Jin-Gitaxias, Progress Tyrant to Kamigawa to find out how to compleat Planeswalkers, as the plane now had enough advanced technology to do so. Along with Tezzeret Betrayer of Flesh and Tameshi, Reality Architect.
Despite having his plans frustrated by The Eternal Wanderer, thanks to the methods of Jin-Gitaxias and tests with The Reality Chip in Tamiyo, it was finally possible to discover the method of how to compleat Planeswalkers, being Tamiyo, Compleated Sage Phyrexia's first Planeswalker.
Shortly after this, Elesh Norn sent Sheoldred, the Apocalypse on a secret mission to invade Dominaria, to capture Karn, Living Legacy. During this invasion, they already had the help of some Planeswalkers, like Ajani, Sleeper Agent, who had already recruited several Planeswalkers to Phyrexia.
They successfully killed Jaya, Fiery Negotiator and dismantled Karn, taking him across the Planar Bridge to the Grand Cenobite.
"Welcome Father. Welcome home. You've been away too long. We miss you. You deserve to share in the glory of what's to come." said Elesh.
"What is it?" Karn asked, fighting for his life while surrounded by monsters.
"This is the beginning of great things, Father. It's the beginning of everything."
Thanks to this series of factors, at some point in history Nissa was compleated so that she could spread the power of the Phyrexian tree across the multiverse. Kaya, Intangible Slayer and Kaito, Dancing Shadow even tried to destroy the tree with the knowledge they gained from the Sylex thanks to Teferi, however due to the Sylex's great destruction effect of destroying not only New Phyrexia, but all the planes that were accessible from there.
However, this hesitation was enough for Elesh Norn to put her plans into action and actually use Nissa, Ascended Animist and order her to control the tree, starting the invasion of New Phyrexia into the entire multiverse: All Will Be One.
It is interesting to note that since Praetors were first released, their ability is to favor you in something specific and in that same something to disadvantage opponents.
The new Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines was the last praetor to be released to complete the cycle of the new 5 praetors, with a very intense and strong ability, being an interesting addition to the formats you can play.
And we come to the current moment in history! What will become of the future of the multiverse from now on? Will more Planeswalkers be compleated? So far, in addition to those already mentioned, we have Vraska, Betrayal's Sting, Jace, the Perfected Mind, Lukka, Bound to Ruin and Nahiri, the Unforgiving.
Will Phyrexia finally become one with the multiverse?