I doubt Wizards planned for the story taking place in Aether Revolt to draw so many parallels to the political climate of America. Whether they did or did not, they deserve some applause for for being right on time. The story of the revolution on Kaladesh should resonate with us on a fundamental level. It’s the story of the oppressed seeking justice from their oppressors. The downtrodden citizens of Kaladesh rising up against the greedy consulate who cares not for the people.
Like it or not, this is the story of America in 2017. This weekend I attended the Women’s March in Washington, DC and I thought a lot about the parallels between the women fighting for freedom, equality, and basic human rights in America and the women fighting for those same ideals in Kaladesh. After all, this is Pia’s Revolution, is it not?
There are twelve non-artifact legendary creatures in the Kaladesh story who are depicted in the cards to go along with six planeswalkers for a total of eighteen featured characters in the story. Twelve of them are aligned with the rebels and six of them are aligned with the consulate. Of the dozen rebels, eight are women, two are genderless, and two are men. Of the six consulate members, five are men and one (Padeem) is a woman.
The women of Pia’s Revolution are all about smashing Tezzeret’s patriarchy. And, so are the men, in a very, very important way. Ajani, Jace, and Gideon have all featured prominently in the stories, but they’re not leading this revolution at all. Ajani arrives to help his friend Oviya Pashiri and decides to join Pia’s cause because he has heard from Elspeth and Tamiyo that Tezzeret is a threat.
Jace and Gideon come by way of following Chandra, not on their own, and not before Chandra is first followed by Liliana and Nissa. Chandra, Liliana, and Nissa all go to Kaladesh because Chandra is struggling emotionally with the plight of Kaladesh, and her friends want to cheer her up. Jace and Gideon come much later in the story, at Chandra’s request, to help with Pia’s Revolution. Jace and Gideon, despite being identified by Dovin Baan as the leaders of the Gatewatch, do not take the lead when they arrive on Kaladesh.
The leadership of the Gatewatch is not clearly defined and often results in conflict between Jace and Gideon over who is in charge. The consulate, as per Dovin Baan, is counting on exploiting this conflict to create a rift within their enemies’ ranks. Instead, the resistance is able to succeed in progressing their cause because Pia Nalaar, Saheeli Rai, Kari Zev, Rashmi, and the rest of the women take charge and present a unified front.
The struggle on Kaladesh is one of income inequality, plain and simple. The currency of the struggle is aether, a resource needed for just about every part of daily life on Kaladesh. The consulate controls it and does with it as they please. Tezzeret, their recently installed leader, has no qualms about harming civilians or making people suffer so that he can take all the aether he needs for his personal projects. The rest of the consulate goes along with it as do most of the plane’s aristocracy. After all, they’re not suffering.
The American struggle today also has large contributions by income inequality. A ruling class continues to take more of the economic resources for themselves, while pitting the poor against each other, and telling them it’s for their own good. Sure, it’s not exactly Tezzeret’s consulate, but the conflict between the wealthy elites and the oppressed masses is a well-documented one that is playing out across the American landscape in parallel with Kaladesh.
Last, but certainly not least, are the small doses of LGBT equality that WotC’s creative team crafted into Pia’s Revolution on Kaladesh. First, there is the subtle-but-clear relationship between Nissa and Chandra. I think that as representation and diversity continue to be critical in storytelling that it’s inevitable for Magic to have LGBT planeswalkers and it seems that it won’t be too long before this becomes reality.
Second, I want to give Wizards a lot of credit for the aetherborn, a race without any gender. There are many among us, fans of Magic, who identify their genders in ways that are very different from what we’re assigned at birth. The aetherborn, in my opinion, are a nod to the fact that this revolution is for everyone. Full stop. The aetherborn aren’t just passengers in this story either. They are a key component of Pia’s Revolution, and they are not part of the consulate’s plans.
Women’s rights. Income inequality. LGBT rights.
Pia Nalaar and the women of Kaladesh are leading the Women’s March on Ghirapur, but unlike our own peaceful protests this past weekend, Pia’s Revolution is going to be a bloodbath. Let’s hope Wizards got that parallel wrong about our own revolution, but let’s also remember that the cost of freedom and justice are always worth it.
What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. Each week we will take a look at the past seven days of major events, big news items, and community happenings so that you can keep up-to-date on all the latest and greatest Magic: the Gathering community news.