In the many, many years of Magic, Wizards has often strived to be the best in the business at what they do. With 2021’s Pride month just starting, I thought it would be interesting to look into their portrayals of LGBTQ+ Characters. Maybe you'll even find a new favourite card for your deck!
A Hot Mess and a Magic Old Woman
To start with, let’s take a look at two of the most important characters in Magic: the Gathering: Chandra Nalaar and Nissa Revane. Although Forsaken caused some problems with Chandra’s identity (the book made her straight, among other things, and is essentially non-canon), they are still two of the most important LGBTQ+ characters in the series. Originally intended to have been dating, they are now just close friends, with Nissa being lesbian and Chandra being a pansexual “hot mess”. Wizards can’t ever stop putting out puns, apparently.
Oviya Pashiri is a lifecrafter from Kaladesh and a major contact of Chandra’s aether-running mother. One of the first people to know of Chandra’s pyromancy, Oviya has been an important character in every return to Kaladesh since Magic Origins. Originally, she was a teacher in crafting Artifact Creatures. But, when her wife died, she turned to the smugglers. Groups like the Nalaars supplied her with the aether she needed. She eventually saved multiple members of the Guildpact from various run-ins in Kaladesh, and since Chandra left, she has been working on a secret project of great scale.
Echoing many real-life examples, Kynaios and Tiro were a couple in ancient Therosian myth who defeated the tyrant Agnomakhos ruling over most of the plane. Creating Meletis, the largest city on Theros, they had statues made of them towering over the city. However, as the years went by, their story eventually became twisted to that of two rival rulers. Their card, introduced in Commander 2016, perfectly exemplifies this. At the end of each turn, every player in the game may make the choice to play a land or draw an extra card. A great group hug Commander!
Ashiok is an interesting one. Magic introduced he nightmare-wielding Planeswalker in the original Theros block. As a character, Ashiok has always been interesting. As they could manifest nightmares, the mage originally used their own, eventually eroding their own face into a shadow-bellowing crevice above the mouth. Being a Planeswalker, they have the ability to navigate the multiverse, although up to now has only majorly appeared on Theros. They have had numerous run-ins in the comics with fellow Planeswalker Dack Fayden, however.
The Saviour of Kaldheim
Sticking with the nonbinary theme, we have Niko Aris, a much more recent addition. A planeswalker from Theros, who travelled to Kaldheim when their spark ignited. Niko is someone who stood up to the gods of Theros by challenging their own fate. Their destiny was to be the victor of anything they tried. When they threw away a javelin-throwing competition, however, the goddess of Destiny herself appeared and challenged them. This ignited Niko’s spark and sent them to Kaldheim, where they played an instrumental part in saving the realm from Tibalt. Niko will probably continue to be an important character in Magic: the Gathering’s story as they ran into Kaya, a major character, Orzhov-aligned Planeswalker and member of the Gatewatch, and was told that they “needed to have a conversation”. With the return to Innistrad coming soon, it’s very possible the mirror-mancer could come back!
Conquerors and Saviors
Alesha is a character from Tarkir, first introduced through the story The Truth of Names in 2015. A powerful human Khan of the Mardu, she has the ability to cause anyone to fight for her. Her design is already super cool, but her main struggle in The Truth of Names is about her childhood. Born male, she took her grandmother’s name after killing her first dragon in front of her clan. She was instrumental in the larger story of Tarkir, with the dragon Kolaghan seeing her as an equal. Magic’s first trans woman ended up becoming both a loved character and card, and is still played to this day!
Finally, we have another important character. Ral Zarek, a planeswalker and the Izzet guildmaster. His boyfriend, Tomik Vrona, is an Orzhov lawyer. This rival guild/Romeo and Juliet story is a major part of their relationship. Ral’s spark first ignited after being stabbed and finding his lover, Elias, cheating on him. Later, he returned to Ravnica to do jobs for Niv-Mizzet. This eventually caused Bolas’ invasion and the entire saga of War of the Spark. After helping save the multiverse, he chased Tezzeret across the realms and lost hard to him in a fight. The last time we saw him, he won his seat back of the Izzet League. He is one of the most important Ravnican characters, and I hope this boyfriend doesn't cheat on him.
So, there we have it. This is, of course, not an exhaustive list. I didn’t even mention Hallar or the Aetherborn, and even this year many more LGBT characters will appear. The return to Innistrad will likely bring some new faces, as will the Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. Magic’s only going to get bigger and better, and I for one look forward to it!