This is the seventh and final part of an article series analyzing the character of Jace Beleren. You can read the first six parts here.

Our final step along the journey of Jace resumes during Glimpse the Far Side of the Sun. When Jace and Vraska find the door to the innermost chamber, Jace recognizes the symbol of the Azorius inscribed upon it. He asks Vraska if the Azorius had any planeswalkers, and reaches past the door with his mind.

“The parun of the Azorius was Azor.”

Jace scanned the room again and froze. He did not know who was inside, but he instantly knew what was inside. This person’s mind was familiar, labyrinthine, a mind like only one he had ever encountered before.

Was Azor a sphinx? he asked Vraska in her mind with hushed terror.

We just saw how pervasively Alhammarret marked Jace’s life. To face a sphinx again so soon after is a trial beyond thinking. This time, however, Jace is not alone.

You’ll never be hurt by a sphinx ever again, she said with resolution. A cruel hint of amber flashed in her eyes.

Jace could have hugged her there and then. He remembered her preferences, and settled for a thankful smile.

I’ll start charging to petrify, Vraska said. Give me the word and he’s dead.

Recall their conversation aboard The Belligerent, when they said they were proud to know each other:

Vraska had no idea how fragile her mind was, just as he had no concept of how easily she could turn him to stone.

Look at how much their relationship has changed! That was an observation of shared vulnerability, the knowledge that both of them could easily kill each other but had chosen not to. Now, there is not even a hint that they might pose a threat to one another. Vraska knows Jace is terrified of sphinxes, and is raring to turn this one into a lawn ornament. Jace knows Vraska cannot handle physical touch, and checks his own instinctive reaction. These two intensely private people freely display their most intimate fears and injuries to each other, even though a month ago they would have used that knowledge to kill each other. What a remarkable shift.

With his friend and captain by his side, Jace goes to face his fear.

He is so much like Alhammarret, Jace thought, his chest tightening with the ache of memory. He stowed his fear. He was not ruled by a sphinx. Not anymore.

“You will refer to her as Captain,” Jace said in a measured tone.

The sphinx growled and looked past Vraska at Jace. “And what does that make you?”

“I am Jace Beleren, the Living Guildpact,” he said with confidence.

The sphinx’s wings flinched. “The fail-safe?!”

“The pirate.”

Within the Sanctum of the Sun, Jace and Vraska find Azor, parun and founder of the Azorius Senate and the entire guild system of Ravnica. He is arrogant and condescending, referring to Vraska as gorgon, imperiously throwing mind and law magic at them. Jace throws up wards to block Azor’s attacks, but cannot block his words:

He flicked his wings, trying another tactic. “You are talented, Living Guildpact. Have you upheld your responsibilities well at home?”

A diversion, Vraska thought, opening her mouth to get this confrontation back on track.

“No,” Jace said with brutal honesty, “. . . I have not.”

Vraska’s train of thought vanished. Jace was safe behind his psychic barriers, and yet still entirely vulnerable. His voice betrayed his unease with himself. “Azor, you built an incredibly intricate system with magic more complex than any one person could readily understand, and yet you made your failsafe a living mortal. Even if I had a gift for governance, I would not be able to accomplish the task I have been burdened with.”

The truth is, Jace has been a terrible Guildpact. He has avoided his duties or pawned them off on subordinates, doing the bare minimum to get by and sulking at even that much. Ravnica desperately needed him to keep peace between the guilds and ensure the safety of millions of citizens, and instead he has vanished to endanger his life on foreign planes. His failings may not be the same as Azor, but he has failed all the same.

And yet, Jace is also right in that he was handed an impossible job. No mortal could possibly carry the burden he has been given, and yet Azor designed it so. Azor created an inherently unworkable, unsustainable system, and chooses to blame the citizens when it falls apart. He accepts zero responsibility, and that will prove to be the key difference between them.

Vraska, who has suffered brutally at the hands of the Azorius, loses her cool and is about to execute him when Jace steps in.

She leaned closer and hissed, eyes glinting gold, “You deserve punishment. A leader cannot abandon their responsibilities.”

“. . . Captain,” Jace interjected from behind. His voice was gentle and calm.

Vraska looked to him.

Jace’s face was unreadable, eyes distant, his mouth a firm line.

“I think I need to do this,” he said calmly.

Vraska blinked, uncertain of what he meant. “Do you want to punish him?”

He stared back. Vraska watched a specter of uncertainty, then resolution, pass across his face. He nodded. “It is my responsibility to act on behalf of Ravnica.”

Vraska spoke truly, but acted wrongly. Azor was the first citizen of Ravnica, and though he did abandon his responsibilities, the Guildpact cannot standby while one Ravnican murders another. Vigilante justice is no justice at all. Jace is not fully used to his position. Vraska sees his uncertainty, but he knows his purpose and authority, and is willing uphold the former by exercising the latter.

Jace approached, and the roles shifted, as if players on a stage had passed around their scripts. Where once stood a conqueror there was now a convict. An assistant, now a judge. The Living Guildpact stared at the parun of the Azorius and spoke with the wisdom and earnestness of the Jace Vraska knew well.

A melding of personality, showing that the gravitas and dignity of the Living Guildpact can coexist with the insight and honesty of the Cunning Castaway. Jace has chosen to become a different person, but he has not abandoned every part of his old self. He has retained his best traits, his curiosity and intelligence, while adding confidence and independence.

The evocation of status had halted Azor in his tracks, and he listened with wide round eyes to his sentencing. Jace, meanwhile, did not try to tower over Azor. He did not try to physically dominate or intimidate. His posture was calm and measured, his eye contact constant. This was an act of humility, of accepting something he never asked for.

“You will be the master and caretaker of Useless Island. You will not be able to leave, and you will never meddle in the lives of sentient beings ever again. Leave the Immortal Sun here and depart with your life. As Living Guildpact, that is my decree.”

Remember how insecure Jace used to be about his size? He hated being towered over, and would do anything to avoid it. And remember how much of a people-pleaser he used to be? Jace was desperate to earn Ugin’s respect, and Ugin’s dismissal absolutely crushed him. A few months ago, he would have fawned over a mind mage of Azor’s caliber, done anything to cover-up his failures as Guildpact.

There is none of that here. He is not intimidated by Azor’s stature: physical, mental, or historical. But neither does he boast in his victory, or revel in his ability to subdue a mighty sphinx. Jace is attempting to honor something bigger than himself: the Guildpact, the tie that binds all of Ravnica, for which he is the prime caretaker. He never asked for it, but it was given to him, and here we see him finally accept it. He judges decisively, but mercifully, allowing a being of order a realm to order as he pleases. He displays confidence, competence, composure, and cognizance of the burden he carries. Jace has grown up.

And yet, there is more to it than just that, one more change in Jace Beleren that must be acknowledged. Azor accepts his punishment without a word, and flies off into the sunset. Jace and Vraska then come up with a brilliant plan to screw over Nicol Bolas and save Ravnica. If you are familiar with the color pie, you might already be connecting some dots. I shall add two more to the board, and then we can step back and see the final result.

He looked at Vraska with calm determination. “You have my word as the Living Guildpact that your memories will be kept safe and returned intact. I swear to find a plan we can use against Nicol Bolas, and I swear to uphold my responsibility to protect Ravnica, my home.”

Jace swears by the power vested in him to fulfill his end of a bargain. He willingly enters into a pact of honor, putting his reputation and status on the line should he fail. What’s more, he also acknowledges Ravnica as his home and declares that he has a responsibility to defend it. Jace, who has always been cagey and clever, is binding himself to a greater cause in pursuit of the common good. Jace, who has always been a loner, accepts his place in a broader community, and takes up the obligations that places upon him.

“I won’t stay on Dominaria after I find them, though.” He went strangely quiet. A little crease was cut between his eyebrows. “The Guildpact belongs on Ravnica. I don’t want to be like Azor.”

Jace admits his blunders, and intends to do better. He sets aside his personal desires in favor of fulfilling the purpose of his office. But what is that purpose? Azor callously disregarded the welfare of Ravnica, caring only for perfect, optimal system, even if it sowed chaos and death. Jace is not satisfied with that. He will govern for the people, and ensure that his statutes and decrees benefit them and improve their lives, not gratify his own ego. An impeccable structure that hurts people is a failed structure, in his eyes.

What does all of this mean?

Jace is white/blue now. Ever since Gideon recruited him on Ravnica by saying “I know you’ll do the right thing,” we’ve known he had it in him. Ever since Jace stepped forward on Zendikar and swore an oath to protect the multiverse, we have been building to this moment. And now it’s here, more powerful and moving than I could have hoped. This isn’t a sudden twist: it is the product of almost a decade of calculated, deliberate growth, with Ixalan as the grand crescendo. As the face of Blue magic, it may never be represented on his cards, but Jace is undeniably Azorius: using Blue methods to achieve White goals.

After that, it’s all denouement. Jace and Vraska finalize their plan, and then make plans for afterward:

Vraska smiled. “After all this is over . . . can I show you Tin Street Market back on Ravnica?”

Jace returned a sad little smile of his own. “I remember where Tin Street Market is.”

“Yes, but . . . I want to give you a tour. Get some coffee. I know a really good bookstore.”

“You like books?” Jace asked, a hopeful, happy look in his eyes.

Vraska nodded. “I’ll get a history, you can get some schematics or whatever it is you like to read,” she teased.

He laughed. “I like memoirs.”

“Really? You like memoirs?”

“I like interesting people,” he said with a soft and bashful smile.

Vraska smiled. “It’s a date.”

Jace cloaks himself until the dust settles, and he can planeswalk once more. As he prepares to leave Ixalan, he takes stock of himself.

The tan was real. The scrapes, the newly callused hands, the muscles (the muscles!) were all his. Jace felt proud of his body for the first time in his life. He must not lose track of it now. Gideon would help with that—he’d been trying to foist a workout regimen on Jace for a year now.

In the final scene of the last short story, our original Esper triad appears once again to encapsulate Jace’s development.

Jace’s first instinct was to reach his friends on Dominaria by focusing on Liliana, but the thought of her gave him pause. What he felt for her now wasn’t anything resembling affection. It felt more sickly than that. An anemic, old, anxious tether between them that felt more like dread than tenderness. The entire notion of her was unsettling him, so he focused on the others instead.

The bright, brilliant goodness of Gideon shone across the Blind Eternities like a searchlight, so Jace decided to aim for that.

Jace planeswalks successfully, and finds himself in an unfamiliar location, with one familiar face.

He heard quick footsteps on metal and saw Gideon skid out from a nearby door, eyes wide and body frozen with shock. His expression was overcome with emotion. This was someone who was happy to the point of tears to see that he was alive. This was a friend.

Jace grinned with elation. “Gideon! I’m not dead!”

He saw Gideon lurching forward to hug him, but one of the other people in the room abruptly stepped in his way.

No, I’m not crying, you’re crying. Leave me alone!

As a character, Jace is widely thought to be arrogant, shallow, and irritating. The genius leader of the Jacetice league, a boring douchebag with smug one-liners and lore-breaking feats. This pair of articles was written to put that meme to rest. Jace is not shallow; he is the most complex and layered character in the entire Magic storyline. He is not a jerk; just a man in a mask. And though others will disagree, I do not find him boring at all. He is an excellent example of the potential Magic has to be a universe for stories and not just cards, where compelling characters face and overcome internal and external struggles.

Jace is not any one thing. Though Liliana in-story and his critics outside of it have tried, he cannot be reduced down to a single personality trait. He is all the lives he has led: bullied child and Vryn’s prodigy. Scrawny nerd, and slayer of Eldrazi. Magical researcher and Savior of Zendikar.

Leader, Detective, Scholar, and Illusionist, Pirate, Companion.

Living Guildpact, Cunning Castaway,

Jace Beleren.

I want to thank you for reading, I hope you found it thought provoking. I need to give specials thanks to the Reddit users vaqari and Jeysie for inspiring this article series. Their discussion in this thread for Jace, Alone directly inspired this post, and many of the observations within it. All credit for this article series goes to them for their perceptive insight, and the amazing team of writers at Wizards of the Coast who gave me all of this great material to sift through.

If you enjoyed this and would like to read more, be on the lookout for more.

David Walley is only a recent fan of Magic: The Gathering, but a lifelong spectator to stories. After discovering the Magic Story earlier this year, he was greatly impressed by both its strength and subtlety. In his articles, he endeavors to expand the Vorthos community by showcasing the story’s excellence to the average Magic fan.

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