With Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica‘s release, I felt like it’s a good time to share what makes Magic the Gathering so cool, which is the characters that populate the infinite multiverse of planes. As GMs and players alike start delving into the expansive city plane of Ravnica, let’s take a look at some of the coolest characters from Magic lore. Note, friends, that this is my personal opinion, and I’m not a guru of all things Magic (sadly), so there may be some cool figures in Magic history that I miss!
7 of the Coolest Characters from the MtG Universe
Ah, Niv-Mizzet. Insane (some would say genius) mad-scientist dragon extraordinaire. Leader of the Izzet Guild of Ravnica, that harnesses the power of Red and Blue mana (as well as an incredibly dangerous amount of lightning) to forge a veritable army of wyrds and golems.
While it is fitting to start with a native of Ravnica, Niv-Mizzet is actually the first character I fell in love with when I began delving into Magic back in Return to Ravnica. If a mad-scientist genius dragon doesn’t make you fall in love, then I don’t know what love is.
What’s cooler is that Niv-Mizzet can share his genius with his followers through the Firemind. So even you can get a chance to link with a fraction of Niv-Mizzet’s omniscience. Imagine being able to link up to a crazy smart dragon and be flooded with his genius. Sign me up, please. Bummer is that only those whom he deems worthy get the opportunity (which makes sense). So that means I have to actually prove myself? Lame, that sounds too hard.
Niv-Mizzet and the Izzet guild are credited for inventing Mizzium, a malleable, fireproof metal that has a wide variety of uses (including making friggin’ mortars). To boot, the guild makes many inventions for the benefit of Ravnica (when they’re not accidentally frying themselves and others because of failed experiments, that is).
Though typically reclusive, Niv-Mizzet has led several initiatives in order to restore order to the often troubled Ravnica. In Dragon’s Maze, with the help of planeswalker Ral Zarek and Jace Beleren, Niv-Mizzet discovered the Implicit Maze, a maze of leylines that was revealed in case the Guildpact (an agreement that keeps peace between the Guilds) broke. Niv-Mizzet issued forth a challenge for the Guilds to send champions to reach the end of the maze, granting the Guild who succeeds rights to the power of the maze, as well as securing a new peace for Ravnica.
For those delving into Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica, might I recommend having this guy make an appearance? I think the experiment would lead to some shocking plot hooks (oh god I’m so sorry).
2 Alesha, Who Smiles at Death
The multiverse of Magic the Gathering has epic warriors aplenty. It is a given that every plane has a badass swordsman or two. But few are historic in the way that Alesha, Who Smiles at Death is. Alesha is the first trans woman character in Magic, and she is a badass to rival the best of them.
Hailing from the plane of Tarkir, Alesha appears in Fate Reforged as the khan of the Mardu clan, in the ancient past of Tarkir where the clans are forced to fight off hordes of dragons that are forcing humanity to the brink of extinction on the plane. Embodying Black and Red Mana (Mardu would eventually come to adopt White Mana in the future represented in Khans of Tarkir), Alesha leads the Mardu against the dragon Kolaghan and her brood of lightning breathing dragons (man, you just can’t trust dragons with lightning).
The Mardu clan under Alesha’s leadership operate like a horde not unlike the Huns. So basically she is fantasy-Atilla, and how is that not the coolest thing ever? And like Atilla, she takes flack from nobody. Want proof?
Had I written this a while ago, I probably would not have included Avacyn on this list. She is an archangel tasked with watching over the gothic-themed plane of Innistrad. Basically, standard angel stuff. She helps the beleaguered plane by instilling them with faith to perform great deeds, and does drive off an array of devils, demons, zombies and werewolves after being freed from the Helvault in Avacyn Restored. And she was created by vampire planeswalker Sorin Markov to do just that. So vampire-created archangel is pretty cool. But otherwise she’s basic holy angel fare.
Nah, the reason why she’s on the list is what happens after all that. In a twist of delicious irony, in Shadows Over Innistrad, Avacyn goes berserk, declaring humanity impure and leads her host of angels in slaughtering them all. I bet you didn’t see that coming, eh? What I like most about Avacyn isn’t necessarily the character itself, which falls as a bit of an archetype, but rather how the writers managed to reverse that archetype unexpectedly. Poor humans; and they had such faith in her.
Sadly (or thankfully), Avacyn meets her end by Sorin’s hand. Creation ended by creator. I’m sure there’s some sort of poetry in there somewhere.
Let me introduce
Cthulhu—err Emrakul as our next entry. She is an Eldrazi Titan, one of the leaders of the lovecraftian horde of horrors that are the Eldrazi. Each of the Titans are monolothic creatures that can be seen for miles, and are known to lead their race in devouring the planes. Introduced in Rise of the Eldrazi, the Emrakul and its siblings Ulamog and Kozilek awoke from their slumber on the planes of Zendikar due to some ill-advised shennanigans on the part of some Planewalkers (here’s looking at you, Nissa).
While Ulamog and Kozilek were narrowly defeated and destroyed in Battle for Zendikar, Emrakul decided to take a vacation to good ol’ Innistrad. Honestly any of the Eldrazi Titans would’ve been a great addition to this list, each embodying a terrifyingly overwhelming sense of dread and hunger. Emrakul wins out, because:
- A) she is the only known surviving Eldrazi Titan and
- B) because she was basically responsible for Avacyn going mad.
Each of the three Titans embody a certain trait, with Emrakul embodying madness and corruption. It is commonly believed through Emrakul’s power to corrupt and distort that Avacyn had to be put down. With Avacyn out of the picture, Emrakul was free to enter Innistrad and raise havoc (which you can read in this super cool short story here). This resulted in mutating a large number of the plane’s inhabitants, including creating Cthulhu-angels, something that I never knew I wanted but now can’t live without.
Alas all terrifying nightmares must come to end, and though Emrakul is still technically alive, at the end of Eldritch Moon she gets trapped on Innistrad’s moon, which I guess you could call it a summer home? Or maybe more like a lunar home BA-DUM-TSCH (please don’t kill me).
5 Elesh Norn
As I’m writing this list, I have discovered that I think I have a thing for bad guys with a twist. Enter Elesh Norn, Praetor of the White Faction of the Phrexyians. Phrexyians are cool, because they have mastered the art of bio-mechanics, having infused themselves with artifacts that enhance themselves, basically making them Magic’s equivalent of cyborgs. The Phrexyians have a bit of a history in Magic, having attempted to invade other Planes because their home plane of Phrexyia was artificially made by an old planeswalker, and thus is not stable enough to live on indefinitely. So they’ve had to try to find a new home plane, typically by forcing or assimilating that plane’s denizens.
Elesh Norn is cool because she leads a faction of Phrexyians tied to White mana, which is usually reserved for the good guys (such as angels and knights). While yes, the corrupted angels in Shadows Over Innistrad and Eldritch Moon aren’t doing great things, they are generally considered corrupted by an outside force (Emrakul, in this case).
Elesh Norn, however, has created a sect of religious fanatics to help her reign over Phrexyians, as she is considered the chief Praetor in New Phrexyia after decimating a couple of the other Praetors’ forces. From the outside she is seen as delusional or fanatical, but in earnest she is subtly manipulating those around her. She is perhaps the most deviously dangerous of the Phrexyian Praetors, and I think that’s pretty cool.
It’s equally cool that Elesh Norn and the other Phrexyian Praetors, actually successfully invade the plane of Mirrodin at the end of the Scars of Mirrodin block. It is one of the few times you see the bad guys win, and heck, who doesn’t like seeing them win once in a while?
I admit that before writing this list I had never heard of Squee (I was not into Magic since the very beginning, afterall). As such, he was suggested to me by a friend. After reading a bit about him, I realized that this was a grievous lapse in my Magic lore. Squee is an immortal genius goblin cook. I’m pretty sure I can leave the entry at that, and you’d understand why he is on the list.
Alas, that is not fair to fair Squee. Born on Dominaria, Squee joined up with the Skyship Weatherlight to work as a cook and cabin-hand. As you can imagine, his cooking is considered legendarily bad. He is a goblin after all. Later, during the Phrexyian invasion of Dominara, Squee gets captured by the Phrexyians who make him immortal so they can kill him over and over. This backfires when Squee accidentally kills them, escapes, and goes on to become the Yoda of Goblins. I can’t even begin to describe how awesome this is.
7 Nicol Bolas
Though I would be content to have Squee be the king of this list, I would be sorely remiss if I left out Magic’s OG big bad, Nicol Bolas. Nicol Bolas is a dragon planeswalker who has been the king of evil shenannigans reaching early into Magic’s history. Though he is the youngest of the Elder Dragons, he is perhaps the most powerful being in Magic’s multiverse.
According to his wiki-entry he has “sired whole races, populated entire planes, and then hunted them to extinction for his own amusement.” Wielding Black, Blue and Red mana, Nicol Bolas has the ability to shatter people’s minds with the slightest touch, having done this to one of the key planeswalkers Sarkhan Vol.
Among the coolest of Nicol Bolas’ achievements is his rule of the Plane of Amonkhet, where he is worshipped as a God-Pharoah. In Hour of Destruction, he returns to Amonkhet to retrieve an elite army known as the Eternals, which he uses to easily defeat the Gatewatch (a group of Planeswalkers that work together like Marvel’s Avengers).
It remains to be seen what more crazy shenanigans Nicol Bolas will get up to, but I can assure you that we won’t be disappointed.