Ahoy planeswalkers! What a fine time to be a Magic player! Amonkhet is a sweet, powerful set with all sorts of fun brewing potential, the CopyCat menace has been laid to rest, the next Pro Tour coming up fast, and, of course, the Amonkhet story is in full swing!

In a property with such a devoted fandom as Magic, romances between major characters are apt to be contentious topics. People who are invested in the story tend to have strong opinions about who should be with whom. So, naturally, recent developments in the Amonkhet stories “Trust” and “The Writing on the Wall” caught a lot of peoples’ attention, as Chandra seems to be caught between two possible romantic pairings: one with Gideon, the other with Nissa. In today’s column I’m going to look at key moments in Chandra’s relationships with Gideon and Nissa to try giving a summary of where this storyline stands.

The seeds for both of these possible pairings can be found at the end of Oath of the Gatewatch, in the story “Zendikar Resurgent.” Chandra teases Gideon quite a lot during their scene in this story, seemingly unable to keep her hands off of him as she constantly punches and elbows him. As a fledgling Magic blogger last fall, I took this as a sign of Chandra’s attraction to Gideon. Her blossoming friendship with Nissa, however, was even then one of my favorite parts of the Battle for Zendikar story. Rereading their scene now, it seems to do much more to set up the possibility of a Chandra/Nissa romance than I realized at the time:

Hmm. “They had connected in a way Nissa had never connected to another being,” you say.

Shadows Over Innistrad didn’t spend any real time on Chandra, Nissa, and Gideon’s relationships with each other, but Kaladesh made up for lost time on that front. When I first read “Homesick” I thought I was right about Chandra and Gideon.

If nothing else, Chandra finds Gideon physically attractive. But, once again, Chandra and Nissa’s relationship is the real highlight of the story: Chandra seeks out Nissa for help quieting her mind after Dovin Baan’s appearance stirs up old emotions, then panics and runs away. Nissa regrets startling the jumpy Chandra away and decides to follow her to Kaladesh.

Their relationship becomes one of the centerpieces of the Kaladesh/Aether Revolt story, and comes to a particular boiling point when they get trapped together (along with Mrs. Pashiri) in Baral’s Deadlock Trap.

The two deciding to stay and die together? That’s a hell of a choice; a choice that speaks to something deeper than mere friendship.

The next big development came in the Aether Revolt story “Burn” which brought Chandra’s relationships with Nissa and Gideon up against each other in one quiet scene, as a struggling Chandra asks Gideon for a hug, and Nissa walks in.

There’s a bit to unpack in this moment. Chandra’s thoughts suggest that hugging Gideon doesn’t inspire the sort of attraction now that it would have during the events of The Purifying Fire, indicating she sees him more as a friend now—although perhaps her sense of safety could signal a different, less physical type of attraction. Even then, though, the panicked way she breaks the hug the moment Nissa walks in suggests that she was worried the hug would send some kind of wrong signal to Nissa. This feels like fairly decisive evidence of Chandra’s attraction to Nissa; for her part, Nissa tells Chandra that she’s not upset by what she saw, but that there’s “much I don’t understand,” an ambiguous response that at least leaves some possibility that she might reciprocate Chandra’s feelings. Chandra/Nissa shippers certainly picked up on this:

Art by Tiocleiton, whose gallery has several lovely Chandra/Nissa drawings.

The story’s biggest reveal about a character’s true feelings, however, came from Gideon:

“Three unfair, uncertain, unforgivable words?” Gideon loves Chandra: confirmed.

While the story of Aether Revolt ends on the intimate note of Chandra falling asleep in Nissa’s lap, the way in which the story’s climax might move the needle for Gideon shouldn’t be overlooked: Gideon shields Chandra in his indestructible arms so that she can go supernova safely, taking out Tezzeret’s Planar Bridge. More compellingly, Wizards commissioned art of Chandra and Gideon aboard the Hope of Ghirapur. This is the only official art I’ve seen that puts Chandra in intimate quarters with either of her potential lovers; indeed, as important as Nissa is to the story of Aether Revolt, she appears on exactly zero cards in the set.

As Gideon and Nissa both step to the fore in Amonkhet, each has been the main character in an episode of Magic Story, and each has had a quiet moment with Chandra. Gideon’s turn came first in “Trust”.

So, it’s important to remember here that this story comes from Gideon’s point of view, and he is in love with Chandra. Last we knew, Chandra’s feelings for Gideon were seemingly more friend-like in nature, and number of factors could have caused the naturally jumpy Chandra to break eye contact. However, it’s worth wondering if Gideon’s heroics (and life-saving cuddles) on Kaladesh might serve as the impetus for a shift in Chandra’s feelings. Chandra’s also cross with Gideon right now over his immediate devotion to the gods. Him turning to her side (as depicted in By Force), however, could bring them closer together.

Chandra’s moment with Nissa in “The Writing on the Wall” meanwhile, could be a key moment for how this love triangle is going to resolve.

This particular scene had some added controversy, as it was quietly edited shortly after publication, with Wizards explaining that an older version of the story had been posted by mistake. However, the older version was a bit more explicit about Chandra wanting to be more than friends. This has inspired both parody edits of the scene and more earnest calls for Wizards to be more forthright in their queer representation. (For what it’s worth, regarding this controversy, I agree with Cary Barkett—the edit feels more in character for Chandra and Nissa, but it is a shame to lose the more explicit representation of the earlier version.)

So, this is where we stand. The lynchpin of what happens going forward is how Chandra responds to Nissa. This could be Nissa shooting down a relationship with Chandra for the foreseeable future, which prompts Chandra to explore a relationship with Gideon. It could also be that the heart wants what the heart wants, Chandra sticks close to Nissa and perhaps, over the course of the set, as Nissa learns about herself (and her new access to blue mana), she will reach a point where she’s willing to try a relationship. The latest episode of Magic Story sees Nissa struggling with a sense that she always fails and brings destruction upon others, and that self-image could be holding her back from making deeper connections. Or it could be that her arc for the block will see her start trying to master these feelings, which might let her open up to Chandra more. As Vorthos Jay notes, though, the story also ends on an ominous note, suggesting that Nissa might be starting down a dark path. On the whole, it is hard to parse what “The Hand That Moves” might mean for the possibilities of a Nissa/Chandra romance.

If I had to guess how this plays out, I’d say that Chandra/Gideon feels more probable to me. It’s the safer choice in terms of mass appeal, and I think the commissioned art of the Hope of Ghirapur moment is particularly telling as to what Wizards is interested in. As for what I’m rooting for? Chandra and Gideon are probably my favorite members of the Gatewatch, but I really want to see Chandra/Nissa. I just love the way they’ve been written together, the ways in which they have earnestly struggled to connect with each other through their own social struggles.

And, yes, my motives are not solely tied to my investment in the storytelling. A couple years ago I got an email from one of my relatives, coming out as gay to the family. When I read the first few lines, I thought I was reading a suicide note from its tone, as he discussed his long-running struggles to come to terms with an identity that he had been taught was wrong. Vice President Pence is a prominently anti-gay politician, while the situation is worse still in other parts of the Magic-playing world.

So if the first Gatewatch romance (Jace and Liliana’s late-night “reminiscing” aside) were to be a same-sex couple? Yeah. I think that’s a big deal. And a big opportunity for the game we love to stand for something more.

Beck Holden is a Ph.D. student in theater who lives in the greater Boston area. He enjoys drafting, brewing for standard, and playing 8-Rack in modern. He also writes intermittently about actually playing Magic at beholdplaneswalker.wordpress.com.

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