- Dominaria as of Time Spiral. The entire plane has been ravaged by war and destruction, from the fall of the Thran to the Brothers' War to the Golgothian Sylex activation and subsequent Ice Age to the Phyrexian Invasion to the Mirari/Karona incidents. All of its most powerful heroes such as Urza, Freyalise, Lord Windgrace, Bo Levar, etc., have been dead for centuries or died trying to close the time rifts. Once-flourishing societies like Benalia, Amrou and Zhalfir have been ravaged by the ensuing wars or abandoned/lost to time chaos. Slivers have been running rampant throughout the plane for decades and Phyrexian remnants still wander the land, trying to win a war long over. On top of all of that, with the time rifts in full swing, random people and creatures are being ripped from their current place in time and dropped into Dominaria, where they either wreak havoc, have no clue where they are, or DO know where they are and just wonder what the hell happened to home. Just imagine what it must be like for people still surviving there, especially the people that have been alive for multiple wars.
- Elspeth's entire life is one Tear Jerker after another. She grew up on a plane ruled by Phyrexians, which is the height of Nightmare Fuel in of itself. She awakened her spark and escaped when she was thirteen, and for several years travelled the multiverse (including finding her sword on Theros). Then she came to Bant, and made it her home, becoming a knight and finding the comradeship and friends she dearly missed. But then the Conflux happened and her world fell apart around her, leaving her practically broken as Grixis invaded.
- After that, she wandered again, and when Ajani found her in the arenas of Urborg, she refused to return to Bant because she felt she was unworthy of being a knight.
- On Mirrodin, she is forced to watch the resistance fail and New Phyrexia rise despite her best efforts.
- On Theros, she manages to become a hero by slaying the hydra Polukranos and then breaking the siege of Akros. It seems as though her misery is finally over when she and Daxos fall in love and she is a hero, but then Xenagos brings it all crashing down. First, he uses mind-control to trick Elspeth into murdering Daxos, and then she becomes a scapegoat after he ascends into godhood. Blamed by all of Theros, Elspeth struggles on with Ajani's help and finally confronts Xenagos, slaying him with the Godsend.
- To even reach Xenagos, she undertook the Ordeal of Erebos, which consisted of a Lotus-Eater Machine where she was married and had children on Bant. And she had to reject this illusion to advance. As a reward for this, she gained access to Nyx but also one request of Erebos. After slaying Xenagos, she asks to trade her life for Daxos'. But then Heliod enters, disarming her with ease, taunting her, and then killing her with the Godsend out of sheer spite and jealousy.
- Daxos' ultimate fate is just heartbreaking. Erebos does as Elspeth requests, but he revives Daxos as a Returned who wanders endlessly in search of Elspeth, who by this point is condemned to the underworld.
- The flavor text for the Planeshift version of Slay. "The elves had the edge in guile, skill, and valor. But in the end, only sheer numbers mattered." To make things worse, the art shows the elves of Llanowar being overrun by Phyrexians.
- Sorin finding the long-dead corpse of his friend Ugin on Tarkir. He loses all hope of combating the Eldrazi when he confirms that not a trace of his old comrade remains in spirit, echo, or whatever remaining form but a miles-long-carcass.
- Sorin and Nahiri, The Lithomancer, witnessing the extinguishing of an unnamed plane and its last remnant of inhabitants in 'The Lithomancer'. And the knowledge that this is exactly what has happened numerous times before, and will continue for as long as the Eldrazi roam free.
- The Lunarch's Journal and the defeated reaction of Comitant Dovid about the nature of the nature of Avacyn.
- "We are livestock. We are unwitting participants in our own cultivation. The church to which I have dedicated my life, the being that I have loved since birth, the boundaries of my world, all of it is a sinister lie. How strange this world is, and how cruel."
- Tarkir's storyline is pretty much one hell of a sad ride. Throughout the Khans of Tarkir uncharted realms, we're offered a distinctive, rich world with several complex characters (aside from the Sultai), albeit dying slowly. Sarkhan goes back in time, and we're given a glimmer of hope for Tarkir's problems to be amended... only to end up with a far worse present, where dragons tyrannise the plane and destroyed everything the clans held dear, like a particularly twisted Ironic Hell:
- The Abzan are in the new timeline ruled by draconic fascists who, while nicer than other dragons, still impose their morality with an iron fist and kill anyone who dares to worship their ancestors. They literally take babies away from their parents, and while relatively merciful, still operate on a social darwinist level, with Dromoka herself eating the "weak links".
- The Jeskai were converted into Ojutai's personal cult, have their own history edited, and are run by an elitistic platform in which dragons can do whatever they want without consequence. Fanaticism has also increased to the point that dissenters are considered heretics worthy of death.
- While the most warmongering clan, the Mardu were still reasonably honourable and valued altruism. In the new timeline, they have been degraded into murderous, cannibalistic savages that are pretty much Kolaghan's punching bags.
- The Temur were pretty much forced to become Atarka's personal waiters, always serving her at all times lest they become her next meal (and she pretty much revels in this, starving them and forcing them to hold her praises to remind them of their situation). As if that wasn't enough, she ate away all that they held dear, from their shamanic culture to their notion of family. Now, they're probably the biggest threat to Tarkir as a whole, hunting species to the brink of extinction and conquering new lands to sate their brood master's hunger.
- Individual characters suffered immensely as well. In the original timeline, Gvar Barzeel and Anfenza were adopted siblings, but now the former was never adopted because Dromoka doesn't allow it anymore, forcing him to stay with the Kolaghan and become a horrible, hateful shadow of his original self, while the latter was murdered for daring to worship her ancestors. Neither of them knew each other, which makes it especially tragic given how well-developed their relationship was on the original timeline.
- Unsurprisingly given how sparks most often ignite, the five Magic: Origins stories will punch you right in the feels.
- Chandra had to watch as her mother, her father, and an entire village of innocents were slaughtered, and the one who did the slaughtering blamed her for it.
- Kytheon is sent by the sun god to slay a titan of Erebos that is on a rampage. He and his Irregulars set out to meet the titan and conquer it... just in time for Erebos himself to show up. Filled with arrogance, Kytheon throws his sun-blessed spear at the God, and Erebos casually redirects it back at him. Kytheon calls upon his magic to protect him, but the clash of powers instead releases a shockwave that strikes down all his friends.
- First Jace discovers that his mentor, the person who took him in when others condemned him as a freak, has been Mind Raping him over and over and using him as a pawn to keep the perpetual war going. In the ensuing mental duel, he wins... but only at the cost of losing all his memories. When the ensuing shock causes him to planeswalk to Ravnica, he can't even remember where he came from, let alone his family or childhood or anything.
- Lilliana may be the biggest bitch in Dominaria, but watching her desperate attempt to save her brother's life go horribly wrong and raise him as some kind of twisted zombie-thing will still bring tears to your eyes.
- Nissa's emotions as she watches the elves of Lorwyn slaughtering the boggarts and her connection to the plane's spirit lets her feel each death diminish it ever so slightly.
- Goblins have always been a source of Black Comedy, with all the various horrible things happening to them across time, space, and all the planes of Dominaria being a Running Gag for much of the game's history. Then you read about one of them crying her eyes out over the corpse of her friend and blaming herself for not being fast enough when one of her legs is half crippled, and it doesn't seem all that funny anymore.
- In Home Waters, we learn the story about how Kiora ignited her spark. After accidentally attracting a giant mer-eating serpent with her younger sister, Turi, Kiora desperately led the monster away from Turi, who turned around just in time to see her idolized older sister eaten alive. The trauma of that event ignited Kiora's spark, and she wandered the Multiverse for months before finding her way back. In all that time, both sisters deeply believed to have completely failed the other, and by the time of Kiora's return, Turi had sunk deep into depression, wasting away almost completely.
- The Believers' Pilgrimage is just one long string of tear jerkers, one after the other. It opens with Jace doing a mind-dive on his companion, Jori En, and reliving her memories of watching her friend the only person who understood the way the Hedrons worked firmly enough to save Zendikar die. Jace realises he's got to go to the Eye of Ugin to find the answers he needs, but Gideon refuses to help, insisting that the people of Sea Gate are more important. Jori En and Jace set out alone, only to be waylaid by a group of Kor who've given up hope and started worshiping Ulamog. They escape, only to discover Ulamog is working its way towards Sea Gate. Jace insists Jori En return to Sea Gate to warn them, but Jori En refuses -$ whereupon Jace breaks out his powers. She finds herself alone, having spent an unknown amount of time travelling back towards Sea Gate, thinking she was the one who convinced Jace to go on to the Eye of Ugin alone.
- From Shadows of Innistrad, Avacyn, the Angel created to protect mankind and preserve the status quo of the plane, has gone mad, and the card Anguished Unmaking shows that Sorin has no choice but to put her down like a rabid dog... and it hurts."Sorin had created Avacyn, so it was a cruelty beyond imagining, a pain beyond description, that it fell upon him to end her forever."
It is a grim duty to save the world from those created to protect it.
- Clip Wings could count for similar reasons.
- On another note, Sorin and Nahiri. Think of what a punch in the gut the current situation is to Sorin. After Nissa messed up the maintenance of the seal of the Eldrazi, Sorin goes out of his way to, in spite of his words of washing his hands of Zendikar, locate Nahiri and Ugin so they can re-seal them. In Tarkir's original timeline, until Sarkhan, Ugin was dead, but he's found alive again in the new timeline. That only left Nahiri, nowhere to be found... and then he returns to his home plane and finds her wrecking the place in spite. Both parties are unaware, in turn, that four other Planeswalkers saved Zendikar from destruction. Nahiri is throwing a tantrum of spite over a problem that has now been solved, and Sorin's home he sought to protect is currently in shambles, with Eldritch Moon on the way to show things can seemingly only get worse.
- Promises New and Old gives some insight on why Nahiri's friendship with Sorin fell apart. The first time the Eldrazi escaped, Nahiri was forced to reseal the Eldrazi on her own since Ugin and Sorin didn't respond to her call for help. When she finds Sorin, she is overjoyed and almost speechless when she sees that he's alive, believing him to be dead since he didn't come to her aid on Zendikar. Sorin, however, brushes her off and makes the truth painfully clear to her he didn't bother to help her or Zendikar since he had more concern for his own home plane, Innistrad. To twist the knife yet further, Sorin tells Nahiri to go bother Ugin instead and implies that he could easily have killed her when her spark ignited. This understandably breaks Nahiri's heart and sets her on the road that leads to her lashing out on her old mentor in Shadows Over Innistrad.
- Nahiri hates Sorin so much that she crosses the Moral Event Horizon. All those cults, the cryptoliths, the Drownyard? It was all to lure Emrakul to Innistrad, and let Her do the rest of the wrecking. Nahiri has become what she hated being viewed as, and just doesn't care.
- War of the Spark cards reveal that they're still trying to kill each other on Ravnica, even as Bolas comes perilously close to taking over the Multiverse.
- I Am Avacyn gives us the death of Avacyn shown on Anguished Unmaking... but in first person. Before Avacyn could kill Jace and Tamiyo, Sorin comes to intervene, whom she finds that she cannot harm, until he explains to her that it is because he was the one to create her and made her to be loyal to him. Avacyn's madness starts to subside, and she has a horrible Heel Realization before starting to blame Sorin for allowing her to be corrupted. Sorin finds that Avacyn is able to harm him because she had lost all faith in him. After a long and drawn-out battle, Sorin is forced to erase her from existence bitterly, Innistrad losing its only protector.
- Sacrifice follows the story of childhood friends Mia and Wilbur and their growing infatuation for each other, only for them to slowly drift apart as Wilbur is drawn in to the town's growing fear and obsession with the legend of the "Gitrog Monster", which Mia disparages as a myth. She persists in her affections for him, however, and later goes into town where the villagers decide that since Mia does not believe in the Gitrog Monster, she will become a sacrifice to the beast in order to keep it from devouring them all. It doesn't work, and the Gitrog Monster eats them all in response, but Wilbur manages to save Mia and pull her to safety. Immediately afterwards, Mia Goes Mad From The Revelation, and to show her fealty towards the Gitrog Monster, she stabs Wilbur in the chest and offers him up to it, while cradling him affectionately in her arms. A tale of young love cut tragically short by the horrors and madness infecting Innistrad.
- A Real Life example: Mark Rosewater's emotional Drive To Work Podcast #306 in which he paid tribute to Christopher Rush, the influential Magic artist and dear friend of Mark's who had died the previous day. Maro mostly holds it together for 30 minutes, but starts breaking down from the point where he tries to talk about his wife's fondest memory of Chris. The worst part is the very end, when Mark attempts his standard up-beat outro while he's clearly in floods of tears. It's heartbreaking.
- As of spoilers of Eldritch Moon and Uncharted Realms, Emrakul is on Innistrad, and everything is being warped by Her mere presence. Bruna and Gisela, whom had joined Avacyn's bloodthirsty crusade, have been warped into something that looks akin to the Thing!
- Uncharted Realms gives us the brief tale of the child Maeli in Shadows Over Innistrad and Eldritch Moon. The boy ran from home and was soon sought and brought back personally by Avacyn herself, before the angel descends into madness. Weeks pass, and soon insane angels are set upon his home, his fearful mother ushering him to run into the forest as blood-stained wings descend. He, in his running, soon comes upon a kindly old woman. She gives him a stuffed bunny, invites him to live with her for as long as he likes. This being Innistrad, the warning signs are there, and sure enough, disaster happens, just not how it would occur without Nahiri's and Emrakul's influence on the realm. One night, he sets to dinner with her, and with his first slurp of soup... the old woman's chest suddenly bursts open into a mass of writhing limbs and the now-monstrous woman gives chase to the terrified child in a mad frenzy. He runs and runs until he somehow, still carrying that bunny, makes it to a squad of Cathars, all the while praying for Avacyn to protect him... and then, to crush the boy, a mad angel descends, not to protect him, but to declare to his face that Innistrad's protector is dead, and now there is only Emrakul. Then, the blade comes down, all the while he begs and prays in his mind.
- Kessig Prowler's flavor text gives a sad view on the state of the local lycanthropes, and reads thus:In the wake of Emrakul, some werewolves' human forms were lost forever. A different kind of transformation has taken place.
- The card Peace of Mind in Eldritch Moon, especially to anyone who has lost a loved one to dementia.Not all minds touched by the Eldrazi turn to raging psychosis. Some simply withdraw from this world into memories of a better one.
- For greater context, it's a lament by an Indian-American former fan of Magic about how they gravitated to the game because they finally felt that they had found a game where they could "feel like the hero", but now they feel betrayed twice-over. Firstly due to the change to Planeswalkers after the Mendingnote . Secondly, and more poignantly, due to Kaladesh, which had promised to promote itself as a well-researched "Indian Fantasy" setting without falling into Sim Sim Salabim territory, but which they feel has instead wound as being Indian In Name Only, claiming the only things remotely Indian about the setting is that the humans look, ostensibly, Indian.
- In Release, we catch up with Ajani for the first time since Theros, and his actions on Kaladesh are interspersed with a flashback of him visiting Tamiyo on Kamigawa. From that, it turns out that part of his reason for throwing himself into his Rage Against the Heavens was so he didn't have to think about Elspeth's death.Ajani: "I went among the people. I told them her story, as I'd witnessed it. They had to know. They had to remember. It had to matter. I walked and spoke, and did not rest until the words had taken root, and were growing on their own. It was important. And it meant... I didn't have to think."
"In the stories my people tell the old ones, the ones that matter the hero loses her mentor. She lives, grieves, and moves on to save the world."
- The worst Tear Jerker, however, is right after that:
The clouds rumbled. Poofy-headed rain charms spun and danced on their strings. Nashi didn't know what Tamiyo would say, so he said nothing. Sometimes Tamiyo said nothing, and that was the right thing.
At last, Ajani whispered, "It should have been me. Not her."
His big hands were shaking. The sharp hidden claws, the long tooths, the arms like tree trunks.
"My hero is dead," he said, hoarsely. "And all she wanted, all she fought so hard for... was just a home. The simplest thing. The smallest."
When you grieve, you're not leaving someone behind, Hixus had told Gideon once. You're carrying them with you. And one person can only bear so much.
- Ajani hasn't let go by the end of the Kaladesh storyline, and detectably stumbles over his words as he tries to find the right ones to properly honour Elspeth with his oath.
"I have seen" he said, before his voice cracked.
Liliana looked away in disgust. Or embarrassment.
"We don't have to do this now," said Nissa.
"No," said Ajani. "No. This is right."
The leonin breathed deeply.
"I have seen tyrants," he said, "whose ambitions knew no limits. Creatures who styled themselves gods, or praetors, or consuls, but thought only of their own desires, not of those they ruled. Whole populations deceived. Civilizations plunged into war. People who were simply trying to live... made to suffer. To... to die."
His left hand gripped the hem of his white cloak tightly. It had Bant-style stitching, Gideon noted. And it was too small for the leonin. What and who was the big cat carrying with him?
"Never again," said Ajani. "Until all have found their place, I will keep watch."
- The Kaladesh storyline introduces the Aetherborn, a race of extremely short-lived genderless people made up of aether who make the most of their short lives by being hedonists who regard parties almost religiously. Several of the stories focus on Yahenni, an aetherborn who's already made it far by living to be a whole four months old. It's obvious how their story is going to end. But that doesn't make Yahenni's final story, in "Renewal," any less sob-worthy. They host their Penultimate Party an aetherborn's literal going-away party, which always ends with the aetherborn's death while their body is literally falling apart. As they sit dying, Nissa decides to confide in Yahenni the truth that Kaladesh is only one world of thousands, and that aetherborn are literally made of the stuff of worlds. Yahenni dies triumphant, scratching the ears of their best friend's pet hyena, knowing that they are becoming one with the Multiverse.
- What makes it even more of a Tear Jerker (but with a note of Heartwarming), is that for Yahenni, death is not a forgone conclusion. Yahenni is one of the rare aetherborn who can extend their own lifespan by draining the life of others. Yahenni uses that power to survive long enough to help the renegades deal with the Consulate, but afterwards chooses to let themself die rather than live through the death of others.
- The Commander 2015 set provided two characters who met with terrible fates. While it is stated above that Daxos became a Returned, we are shown that Ezuri, one of the more notable elves on what is now New Phyrexia, has been perfected by Jin-Gitaxias and is being used against the remaining forces.
- From Hour of Glory, Rhonas dies. And in his last moments, Bolas' falsehoods are ripped away and he sees the truth for the first time in decades, realising that the God-Pharaoh he served and exalted had actually twisted Amonkhet beyond recognition. And worst of all, that the horrific monstrosity who killed him was none other than his brother god, turned into a nameless abomination by Bolas.
- The entirety of Favor, told from the point of view of Hazoret.
- The Hour of Eternity, told through the eyes of its citizens. The zealous faithful to "The God-Pharaoh" even as she is killed by his Eternals; the warrior who fights two Eternals alone to try to save as many people as she can in her last breaths; the lover who is killed by his beloved, corrupted by the enchantment of the Eternals; a faithful follower of Oketra, whose continued faith in her dead god leads to a single strike on Nicol Bolas, only for her last effort to be swatted aside and for her to be killed by Eternals; the last breaths of a man who never took the Trials, yet gave his life to protect a child who may not have survived the same onslaught that wounded the man. It embodies all the ways Nicol Bolas has corrupted its people, how he is destroying them, and the last heroic acts of its people, from the warriors to the civilians.
- The Hour of Devastation. Nicol Bolas breaks the Gatewatch. Completely.
- The entire backstory of the Plane of Amonkhet is this mixed with Nightmare Fuel even before The Hour of Eternity happened. It's an entire culture who have been brainwashed, from the gods on downwards, to dedicate their entire lives to training rigorously in the hopes of becoming immortal servitors of the God-Pharaoh through a final, invariably fatal "test of worth". In reality, they're blindly sacrificing themselves to join the ranks of an ever-growing army of the undead, and Nicol Bolas decided to do this to them on a whim, after learning that Amonkhet was rich in the undead-bolstering Lazotep.
- And the reason for the Hour of Eternity? Is because Nicol Bolas is just that Stupid Evil. Instead of taking his enormous army of Eternals and waiting for the Amonkhetians to replenish them, he decides to take what he has and then wipe out the plane. He has neither rhyme nor reason for doing so, he just feels like doing so. Though, as noted by Nissa, Amonkhet was already dying, and Bolas has honestly admitted to being just a petty sadist way back in his confrontation with Tetsuo Umezawa.
- Out of all people, Angrath turns out to ''be'' one. Everything about him can be seen in a whole different light: the fact that he seems not to have a crew, his ruthlesness, his interest in other planeswalkers...Magic Story Team: Angrath was a family man on a plane we haven't been to yet. He has two adorable daughters, and whenever he wasn't at work as a blacksmith, he would travel the Multiverse to bring them back presents. He went away on a weekend holiday years ago and ended up on Ixalan, and when he tried to return home, he could not.
- The first chapter of Return To Dominaria starts right after the Gatewatch get's curbstomped by Bolas at the end of Amonket, and their reactions, bickering and arguing with each other about what to do next, are pretty heartwrenching, not helped by the fact Jace is still missing on Ixalan, and for all they know, he's quit on them. Nissa outright quits the Gatewatch to go back to Zendikar, and Chandra blames herself for not being powerful enough and leaves to get stronger, promising to come back.Nissa: I'm sorry, but my watch is over.Chandra: We failed Amonkhet because I was too weak!
- As bad as she can be, Liliana returning to her hometown for the first time in a century, only to find it falling apart and underattack from the Cabal's undead is pretty sad, as anyone whose ever come back to their home town to find it not the way they left it can easily relate too. There are even ghost stories about "the undead brother and the evil sister" giving you a pretty good idea why she didn't want to come back. The worst part of it all? Her last demon-contractor is there, running the Cabal, and what has he done? Made Liliana's own brother into a lich in his army, just to spite her. Her reaction is a classic example of Even Evil Has Loved Ones.
- And it gets even worse in the second chapter. Liliana lays her brother to rest with the Chain Veil's power, but their reunion as his soul is freed right before he is laid to rest is hardly heartwarming. Josu reveals that she is the "Curse of Vess". Josu blames her for their family's downfall because their entire family perished trying to lay him to rest or to find her. He spends his final moment calling Liliana the "Curse of Vess". Gideon overhearing all of this, tries to express sympathy for Liliana. Sympathy she angrily rebuffs, deciding to channel her rage and grief and guilt towards ending Belzenlok instead.Josu: You killed me. You killed them. It is you, Liliana. It will always be you. You are the curse of the House of Vess.
- In chapter 5, Jhoira learns about Karn's return and is overjoyed....until she learns about Venser's fate way back in Scars Of Mirrodin from Ajani, who presumably heard about it from Elspeth. Ajani wisely leaves her to grieve in private.
- The end of the Return To Dominaria Arc gives a major Yank the Dog's Chain moment to Liliana. She's absolutely thrilled to have finally killed all her demon contractors, and seems to finally be developing into a more heroic character. Cue Bolas arriving at the last second, with the reveal that killing her demons means he now has ownership of her soul. If she tries to disobey him in any way she'll age into dust like that. All her Character Development since joining the Gatewatch, only to find herself Trapped in Villainy.
- As said in Guild to Order, Part 1, The storyline of Guilds of Ravnica will be written in Film Noir style. It means that the jolly and energetic place we used to see is no longer it. It'll be melancholic and dark, lack of the liveliness so many fans loved about Ravnica.
- How about THE ENTIRE WAR OF THE SPARK TRAILER? it's about Liliana as she watches a girl trying to save her younger brother during Bolas' attack on Ravanica, only for them both to be crushed by the falling debris. This pushes her to turn against Bolas....only for the dragon to keep good on his threat and make her burn from the inside. All to an even sadder and softer cover of an already tear-jerking song that perfectly captures her situation.
- Gideon saves Liliana by taking the price of breaking the pact onto himself, sacrificing his own life.
- As if to drive home the point that Gideon is dead, the card "Rest in Peace" from his Signature Spellbook series shows a memorial to him, in the form of a giant statue of him in his "Oath of Gideon" pose.
- Nicol Bolas definitely deserves his punishment, and it's hard to feel sorry for him, but when you consider his Freudian Excuse, it can tug a bit at the heartstrings: The very first thing Bolas experienced in life was being trapped and unable to escape without the help of his brother. Now, he is trapped again, but there is no help to be gotten from his brother. Nicol Bolas, who spent his first minutes trapped. Nicol Bolas, who was named by his brother before he named himself. Nicol Bolas, who above all else, never wanted to feel weak again, is now trapped forever, reduced to what he considers an insect.
Tear Jerker / Magic: The Gathering