As a society of all different types, we are striving to gain representation and inclusivity in all forms. In television, movies, cosplay, and in the games that we play. Magic the Gathering is one of the most popular and most played games in the world and inclusion is not lost here. The lore and backstories are intertwined and very detailed. These stories are reflected in the cards and gameplay. Throughout Magic’s history, Wizards of the Coast has done an admirable job responding to and incorporating representation of its player base within the story and art of the game. In a Multiverse that features baloths, elves, orcs, and dragons, it’s great to see diverse human characters that also span color, gender identity, and sexual orientation.
The presence of non-binary, androgynous characters and their relevance in the story has helped so many players feel represented and recognized. Hallar, Ashiok, and the Aetherborn Yahenni all identify as neither male nor female and have helped create visibility for fans in the real world who use they/them pronouns. These characters also are referred to as asexual with no interest in having a romantic relationship with anyone. Aetherborn in particular are created as a living byproduct of refining Aether on Kaladesh and have no desire for a romantic partner.
The introduction of Kynaios and Tiro in their Commander 2016 release made Wizards’ opinion on featuring LGBTQ+ characters clear. Here were two Kings, committed to a loving partnership in ruling Meletis. Standing side by side, one running his fingers through the other’s hair, there is no question as to the nature of their relationship.
The fact that a gay, biracial couple was deliberately chosen to be the frontispiece for one of the biggest Magic: The Gathering product releases of the year was a revelation to many players, proof that the game they were passionate about also cared for them.
There has been no doubt that the efforts made by Wizards of the Coast have been inspired and deserve praise. For example, while there have been other queer characters in Magic, none have been so prominent and as inspirational as Alesha, Who Smiles At Death, the strong and fearless Mardu Khan premiered during Fate Reforged. Alesha’s presence was one of the main reasons I chose to play Magic, and her greatest strength as a character has been her presentation within Magic lore. Her story of claiming identity amidst the bloody and ruthless society of the Mardu has become a source of pride for so many players, thanks in part to the research and careful consultation of trans women. This attention to detail and accuracy imbues Alesha with an authenticity that cannot be imitated.
Ral Zarek is another character that is openly gay, Ral is a young man with a smirking smile and streaks of silver-white in his frizzled black hair. He is a Storm Mage who can create electrical storms and has control over rain. His boyfriend is
Tomik specializes in contracts, verbal agreements, and barriers protecting physical treasures. Tomik is known to fly a gargoyle. He is Ral Zarek’s lover, and they had been living together but trying to keep their relationship on the down-low because they’re from different guilds.
And the word on Chandra is? When a fan asked Mark Rosewater if Chandra is pansexual, the MTG head designer took it to his Blogatog to provide an answer that defined that term: “I’m horrible with terminology. She’s attracted to others regardless of gender. What’s that called?” She is more of the omnisexual often called pansexual. Here’s the particular passage from the novel that sparked this controversy:
“Chandra had never been into girls. Her crushes — and she’d had her fair share — were mostly the brawny (and decidedly male) types like Gids. But there had always been something about Nissa Revane specifically, something the two of them shared in that great chemical mix — arcing between them like one of Ral Zarek’s lightning bolts — that had thrilled her. From the moment they first met. Now everything’s different. It was over. Before it had ever had a chance to begin. Maybe, maybe they had missed their moment”.
All of the Planeswalkers have their own story and details. They are intertwined and carefully thought out. These characters are just a few that represent the much-needed change in this world. Offering relatable stories and diversity. Being seen in this world that we live in is so very important, and we are making great strides in this fight for equality. Having a game that is ever-changing like MTG makes it easier for all of us to be seen.
In the Kaldheim set that was recently released, they gave us a character called Niko Aris. These planeswalkers pronouns are they/them. Kate Allison, one of the creators of Niko Aris said:
“First and foremost, we wanted to design an interesting, heroic character whose non-binary gender is just one facet of their identity. A deeply important part, to be sure, but not the only thing that defines them. I’m personally very happy with where we landed with Niko, who feels like an awesome person with a resonant story and also happens to be a badass representation of my gender”.
The inclusivity is even embedded into the rules of the game. It’s literally in the rules that govern all sanctioned Magic tournaments: the environment must be welcoming and inclusive for all genders, gender identities, sexual orientations, ages, races, or religions, whether it’s in-game or outside one. If a player or spectator is being in any way offensive, they are penalized and kicked completely out of the tournament. The same rules apply to people not taking no for an answer and being sexually aggressive. The MTG community is generally made up of people who just love to play the game and show off what they can do with the countless card combinations.
Wizards of the Coast has stood by their views on inclusivity staunchly, even firing artists that were discovered to have homophobic leanings and alt-right views.
I feel like this is a step in the absolute correct direction. The makers of this game have thought about this and are striving to include us all. I’m happy to be a part of playing this game and looking forward to seeing all of the great things they are bound to do in the future.