Magic: Women in Eldritch Moon (Part Two)

Tracey returns with part two of her article looking at the prevalence of female characters in Eldritch Moon and the Shadows Over Innistrad block as a whole. We’ve looked at the baddies and the fence-sitters – now we’re onto the heroes! Be warned – spoilers lie ahead:

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410007.fullArlinn Kord

Now we get on to the good guys – or girls. Arlinn Kord is a new planeswalker brought out with SOI, and as well as being a planeswalker, she’s a mage and a werewolf. A native to Innistrad, where lycanthropes are common, Arlinn has become their protector, seeking to help them survive in a world that is – rather understandably – hostile to them. She’s also a walking example of how the curse can be controlled, changing the dynamic of the Innistrad werewolves entirely. This brings us interesting possibilities for a future return to Innistrad – with Avacyn gone and Emrakul imprisoned, the vampires will be free to glut themselves on the largely helpless humans – who better than a liberated race of werewolves to take on the mantle of protector?414474.full

 

Nissa Revane

Nissa – one of the two female Gatewatch members – doesn’t have a huge part in the SOI / EMN story really; she turns up with the Gatewatch at the end and helps to imprison Emrakul. Her nature-based magic isn’t hugely effective against the army of mutations, though it is useful in starting the spell that imprisons Emrakul, and she largely seems to be uncomfortable and out of her depth. But Nissa is a staple member of the Gatewatch, so she’s a key female character and presumably will continue to be for the foreseeable future.

414420.fullChandra Nalaar

The second female member of the Gatewatch seems even more out of her depth in Eldritch Moon! Chandra spends most of her small part of the story standing around, not sure what to do with herself! She burns up a lot of mutations, but when it comes to Emrakul, she has nothing to offer. So in this set she’s not putting up a great show for the ladies, but that’s okay – she’s already established herself as a strong, kickass lady in previous sets, and with Kaladesh on the horizon it looks like we’re going to see a lot more of her soon. It’s okay, Chandra -you don’t have to hold up the show this time.

Sigarda414333.full

Another character who only has a small appearance, Sigarda is important as she is the only angel who manages to withstand Emrakul’s influence and retain her sanity and identity. Some of the humans of Innistrad, after learning of Avacyn’s destruction, start to rally to her instead, and she personally flies to their defence when her poor mutated sisters, Bruna and Gisela, attack. She may well be a big part of the future of Innistrad, once Emrakul is gone and the Gatewatch leave on their next adventure.

414338.fullThalia and the Order of Saint Traft

The Order of Saint Traft is by no means a women- only affair, but nearly all of the key characters from it mentioned in the story are women. Thalia takes the lead, directing the small army against Emrakul’s forces, and Grete and Seeta are notable characters either in her command, or challenging it. In a manner remeniscent of Joan of Arc, Thalia rides out to battle in the fallen Avacyn’s name, taking on the nightmarish Brisela-mutation alone.

Halana and Alena

This pair of human hunters have been around, lurking in the background as is their wont, since the original Innistrad block – check the flavour text on your old cards and you’ll get some of their words of wisdom! Halana and Alena feature in the SOI story, investigating a murder in Gatstaf, where they have been patrolling to keep the werewolves out. They feature briefly in the Eldritch Moon story too, as Emrakul’s influence starts to mutate the people around them and they fight to keep control of their own minds. We don’t find out if they survived.
The two women are clearly very close, having formed an almost instinctual bond over their years hunting together, but in a couple of places we’re given the suggestion that the bond between them may also be a romantic one. This is sweetly and subtly done, drawing no particular attention to itself, and throws in same-sex relationships as a normal thing in this world. Which is as it should be – and much kudos to the storywriting team for putting it in in such an inclusive, ‘it’s-no-big-deal’ kind of way!
Sadly, Halana and Alena don’t feature on any card artwork, so we can’t show you an example of the pair; we don’t even know what they look like. Here’s hoping this awesome couple appear on a card sometime in the future – if they lived through the events of Eldritch Moon, that is! There certainly seems to be plenty of stories left to tell in Innistrad, so who knows?

So what’s my point here? To be honest, I’m not sure – it struck me that a huge amount of the major characters in this block are female, and given that games like MtG are stereotypically thought of as boys’ games, I thought it warranted a closer look. It’s not all fantasy eye-candy, either – only Liliana can really be considered as being presented in a sexualised way (which seems totally in character for her), though Nissa and Chandra have both been shown in slightly revealing outfits in the past. No, these characters are presented as real, strong, relevant women – they don’t always win, they’re not always successful, but they’re there, and they’re in the midst of the action. Is Innistrad as a realm simply more gender-blind than others? It doesn’t seem so, as several of these characters have been around for ages and are not Innistrad natives. It seems to me (I’ve only been playing since M15, though, so I invite debate on this) that MtG has been slowly ramping up the female characters lately, presenting us with a variety of female role models and antagonists, and making the game more inviting to girl gamers. Heaven knows the gaming world needs to be more inclusive – you still hear some horrible stories about sexism and racism in gaming. And as MtG is one of the most recognisable brands in tabletop gaming, it’s great that they seem to be taking up the challenge. And, with the spoilers already leaking for Conspiracy: Take the Crown and Kaladesh, it looks like they’ve got plans to continue the trend.

Well, that’s enough of my rambling thoughts on the women in Eldritch Moon – and in the entire Shadows Over Innistrad block. Feel free to add your opinion – either on the characters or on the general subject – below. And ladies, keep gaming!

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