Magic the Gathering has been a mainstay in geek culture since the 90’s, so it should come as no surprise that people are making a big deal about the addition of a new trans character, Alesha, Who Smiles At Death. The announcement came in the form of a short story on Wizards Coast’s website entitled The Truth of Names, and is not actually indicated on the card itself. In fact the only text besides the card’s ability is a quote: “Great death with Sword in hand”. The art doesn’t necessarily give you the impression that Alesha is a trans-person either.
The card’s back story, as detailed by writer James Wyatt, discusses a clan of people who earn their names in battle. The tale depicts an Orc who fights for the Mardu clan, which is lead by Alesha. During the battle the Orc questions Alesha’s gender, after failing to kill a dragon and claim his own name. The story goes on about the battle and eventually ends with other warriors detailing deeds that deemed the Orc worthy of the name. However at the end the Orc admits he has yet to figure out who he is and willfully acknowledges that Alesha is in fact a woman.
Certainly this news has caught the attention of SJW-friendly meadia such as Kotaku (archived link) and of The Mary Sue (archived link). To put it simply Nathan Grayson thinks it’s “pretty darn cool”. Not everyone is on board with it. Several IGN users have voiced their concerns as I’m sure many of our readers will do the same.
As always with these situations, the topic of political correctness is bound to come up. I’ll admit this isn’t as in your face as it could be, so I’ll give Wizard’s of the Coast credit for that, and as a casual magic player myself I’ve never really concerned myself with Magic’s story. Instead, I’ve enjoyed the strategic and social aspects of the game, so I can’t really say this has been earth shattering revelation.
Strategically speaking, this is not a bad card. It has a relatively low mana cost. The card’s ability allows you to resurrect low powered creatures from your graveyard, which is nice in a tight pinch. Furthermore, the card would work great in a red/black deck were creatures are being funneled through the graveyard. A smart player can use Alesha’s ability effectively resurrecting creatures with useful abilities.
Introducing Alesha could be a simple PR stunt in order to gain more progressively minded players. Then again how many players pay attention to the back story? Is Magic in need of trans-characters? Probably not, but I don’t think the game will suffer because of it.
Alesha, Who Smiles at Death is 1 of 185 part of the Fates Reforged expansion, Magic’s 66th expansion. Fates Reforged is second expansion in the Kahns of Tarkir block. Fates Reforged decks and booster packs have hit store shelves on January 23, 2015.