This is part seven in our series exploring the life of Gideon Jura. Part one. Part two. Part three. Part four. Part five. Part six.

When we last left them, the Gatewatch had barely escaped with their lives after their disastrous jaunt to Amonkhet.

When they rendezvous on Dominaria, it’s clear their defeat has shattered the fragile unity that had built up between them. Jace is missing, dragged against his will to the plane of Ixalan. Nissa is traumatized by what happened and refuses to trust the others anymore. Chandra temporarily abandons them as well, wanting to become stronger before the rematch with Bolas.

Gravely injured, and with only Liliana Vess to depend on, Gideon faced a mountain of a challenge. He would rise to it admirably, finding his groove and gathering allies through the simple belief that victory was possible. We’ve seen Gideon inspire people many times, but on Dominaria, he inspired an angel:

For a moment he thought she wouldn’t answer. Then her wings extended fully and she rose, stepping off the column. She landed lightly, her knees flexing to take the weight. This close, he could see her white tabard was stained with blood and her armor bore the dents and scrapes of recent battle. Her face expressionless, she said, “Who are you?”

“I’m Gideon Jura and this is Liliana.” They had decided not to tell anyone of Liliana’s past association with Vess. Gideon already had enough to cope with. “We know you’re Rael, Battle Angel and Protector of Caligo. You led the Benalish forces against the Cabal here.”

Rael said flatly, “Then you know I failed.”

“You lost a battle,” Gideon told her. “It doesn’t mean you failed.”

After finding help from the reformed crew of the Weatherlight, Gideon and the remnants of the Gatewatch will hear of a weapon that has already slain one Elder Dragon: the Blackblade. Gideon claims the sword in a daring raid on the Cabal’s fortress, and it proves its potency by killing the demon Belzenlok with the shallowest cut. The Gatewatch knows Bolas is headed to Ravnica, and now they have a way to kill him.

Everything culminates in the War of the Spark. Nicol Bolas unleashes an army of Eternals on Ravnica, and hundreds of planeswalkers and all ten guilds must stand as one against him. It is Gideon who takes charge of the situation, and Gideon who slays the God-Eternal Rhonas, bringing hope to the defenders.

Fighting beside Aurelia and her Boros Legion, Gideon rallies the Ravnicans and the planeswalkers for a final, last-ditch assault. Though everyone will do their part, Gideon has the only weapon capable of killing the dragon: it is all up to him. All Ravnica holds its breath as Gideon leaps from the back of the demon Rakdos and plummets down upon Nicol Bolas like a falling star…only for the Blackblade to shatter on the dragon’s scales and explode into pieces.

As the pain ripped through both his arms—shrapnel from the ancient, mystic blade tearing through his aura of invulnerability as if it hardly existed—Gideon fell amid the shards of his broken, useless weapon, landing hard on the roof of the citadel.

The last thing he heard before losing consciousness was the laughter of the dragon Nicol Bolas.

Gideon Jura failed, and with him failed all the hope in the Multiverse. Nicol Bolas was seconds away from ascending into a Dragon-God, and Gideon could not be the hero to stop him. No one else was close enough to the dragon, and no one else could have challenged him anyway.

Well, almost no one. Despite a lifetime of battle, Gideon’s greatest victory occurred as he lay there in the rubble, where no one thought to look for it.

Let’s talk about Liliana Vess.

Deploy the Gatewatch by Wesley Burt

Liliana joined the Gatewatch because she thought they could be useful, and Gideon knew it. She didn’t care about protecting the Mutliverse, she needed people to help her kill four powerful demons she’d made deals with, and the Gatewatch fit the bill.

When Liliana first rescued them on Innistrad, Gideon defended her to Nissa, who would rather have struck Liliana down then fight alongside her. He accepted Liliana’s oath, once all was said and done, and welcomed her to the team. However, the minute they were back on Ravnica, Gideon decided some light surveillance might be appropriate:

Lavinia straightened, almost imperceptibly. “Some time ago, Captain Jura requested I have someone follow Countess Vess when she leaves.”

Jace glared at Gideon, who shrugged. “Necromancer. Only prudent.” He put another forkful of steak in his mouth.

Liliana, for her part, treated Gideon with the utmost contempt. She always referred to him as “Beefslab,” constantly mocked him behind his back, and responded to his every kindness with acid. Take this moment, from Jace’s perspective before the jump to Amonkhet:

“We’ll trust you to navigate, then. Both to Amonkhet and to our rendezvous after.” Gideon flashed what I’m sure he intended as a warm smile at Liliana.

Liliana gave an exaggerated bow back. “I’m flattered and honored by your trust.”

I cringed. He’s trying, Liliana. You could cut him some slack. Liliana’s eyes darted in my direction, and she gave me a wink.

Jace always, always defended Liliana to the others, even against his own best judgement. But her actions on Amonkhet push the group to the breaking point, and when they rendezvous on Dominaria, Jace isn’t there to support her. During the Hour of Devastation, she used the Gatewatch to slay one of her demons, then walked away from the fight with Bolas. And now, her final demon just so happens to be there, on Dominaria, and she wants the others to help her kill him.

Nissa never liked Liliana and is done being used by her, but Gideon is not willing to turn on her. Nissa planeswalks away in response, forsaking her oath and leaving the Gatewatch behind. When Chandra leaves as well, it’s just the two of them.

For some reason, Gideon, still severely injured, decides to stay and help Liliana kill her demon. His unconditional loyalty, combined with his unerring perception of her desires, proves grating for the necromancer:

She shook her head and glanced down at the herb packets. “They don’t have what I need, but it should grow nearby. I’ll go find it.” He sank back on the couch, wincing at the pain of movement. She put on a malicious smile for form’s sake, and added, “Don’t fear I’ll abandon you.”

“I don’t fear that,” he said, mildly, gazing up at her. “You need me to kill Belzenlok.”

Liliana found herself with no reply and, doubly irritated, left the inn.

So, Gideon allows Liliana to drag him into peril after peril, all in pursuit of her own selfish gain. Gideon’s greatest strength has always been his insight into other people, and he saw something in Liliana that he felt was worth nurturing. His confidence in her starts bearing fruit: Dominaria was Liliana’s home, and returning there humbles her and shakes her confidence.

And even Liliana is not hard-hearted enough to dismiss the goodwill he shows her. At the end of the Dominaria arc, he is the only one who continues to believe in her when everyone else is convinced she has turned against them.

Aloud, he said, “Wherever you are, Liliana, I hope you know what you’re doing. And I hope I see you again. Truly.”

Finale of Eternity by Daarken

It turns out that with all of her demons dead, Liliana’s contract defaulted to its broker: Nicol Bolas. Enslaved to his will, Liliana becomes the commander of the Dreadhorde, and his instrument for the invasion of Ravnica. Everyone is startled and enraged by her betrayal. Jace, her old lover and longtime advocate, gives up on her so completely that he orders her assassination and carries out the attempt himself.

But Gideon believed in Liliana, and Gideon was right. Liliana was there when Gideon lunged for the dragon, and saw him crash to earth. When she looks at his broken form and contemplates an eternity under Bolas’ rule, Liliana finally finds something she fears more than death.

For over a hundred years, Liliana’s sole focus had been on increasing both her life span and her power—with zero cost to herself. So now she had power, tremendous power, and because the dragon had a use for her (and complete control over her), a solid chance at living forever.

And that was when Liliana had a moment of clarity.

This is not a life worth living. Serving Nicol Bolas for eternity is even less appealing than…than…it was hard for her to even complete the thought, but: …than dying.

She glanced down at an unconscious Gideon, his arms two bleeding masses. The shards of Blackblade scattered about him. Her eye twitched at the sight. Her mouth went dry.

Seriously? Am I really going to do this?

She really was.

Gideon Jura may have lost the battle against Nicol Bolas, but he won the war for Liliana’s soul. When everyone else despised her, he welcomed her. When others attacked her, he supported her. And when others marked her for death, Gideon believed in her. Because of his example, Liliana broke her contract with the dragon and turned the Dreadhorde against him, watched her own skin burn off as she bent her entire will towards his destruction.

But it wasn’t quite enough. Bolas was able to hold the zombies back with a shield, and Liliana was dying before they could breach it. She made the choice to turn on him, and she only needed one more minute to see it through to the end. She just needed a little more time.

Even when fate is already written, there’s always time to change the names. And so Gideon Jura intervened for the last time.

Gideon’s Sacrifice by Chris Rallis

Then she felt a hand on her shoulder. Half thinking it was a stray Eternal that Bolas had sent to harvest her Spark, she turned.

It was Gideon, bleeding from both arms, but tall and handsome and smiling at her.

She watched as he extended his invulnerability to her, over her.

She found herself thinking, Stop. You do this, and you’ll take on my burden—without protection. This will kill you. And you don’t have to die. You’re the one person who doesn’t have to die.

He just smiled and shook his head. One would’ve thought he was Jace, his thoughts seemed so clear: Many have died to stop Bolas. Let me be the last.

Gideon, please…

He whispered, “I can’t be the hero this time, Liliana, but you can.”

In the end, Liliana Vess saved the Multiverse. For all Gideon’s contributions, Liliana was the one who struck the final blow and denied the dragon his godhood. The scourge of Ravnica, who led an army of zombies through its streets, also proved to be its saviour. Liliana, not him, was the one who stepped up and made all the difference in the War of the Spark. This one time, Gideon Jura was not the hero.

His most incredible act was having the humility to recognize it.

Gideon Jura spent his whole life fighting his emotions when his arrogance was always the real problem. For years, he oscillated between Red and White, not realizing that both were servants of his pride. His Red arrogance made him think he could bring down a god through sheer willpower, and led him to attack Erebos on Theros and Nicol Bolas on Amonkhet. And his White arrogance made him think he was responsible for the wellbeing of everyone on Zendikar, Ravnica, and Amonkhet, as if he somehow had the power to shield entire planes from harm.

This was a man who, when the god Bontu demanded a heart, banged his chest and said “come and take it!” This was the man who stood alone between an Eldrazi titan and a city of innocents, “just in case” he needed to wrestle it into submission. Hazoret spoke truly when she said Gideon saw himself as a god; it was only in his final moments that he came to terms with his own mortality.

In the end, Gideon stepped aside and allowed Liliana to save the day. He recognized his own limitations, saw Liliana’s strength, and fell in to support her. He took the bullet for Liliana and trusted that she would be able to defeat the dragon without him. Gideon matched her noble sacrifice with his own, buying her the time she needed to finish it and end the War of the Spark. After being told for years that he was destined for greatness, Gideon relinquished his status as the protagonist and promoted Liliana to that role by lifting her up above himself. And though his actions would tip the scales toward victory, he died without knowing whether it would be enough.

Gideon Jura sacrificed himself for the most selfish, craven, vicious murderer in all the Multiverse. Even after everything she had done over centuries of killing and conniving, Gideon still valued her, and laid down his life to save her own. Because she was his friend, and she was a person, and that was more than enough for him. And so we mark the passing of Gideon Jura, the Champion of Justice, the Ally of Zendikar, the Martial Paragon, and the Oathsworn, called Gideon Battle-Forged, Gideon of the Trials, and Gideon Blackblade.

But Gideon was always larger than life, and his story cannot be expected to end with his death; we have one scene left to bring his tale to a perfect close. After a lifetime of denying his feelings, burying his Red side, and sacrificing his inner peace to stand vigilant over the Multiverse, Gideon finally receives his reward:

I never thought a card game would get me choked up, but here we are! Gideon Jura died, but with him died the identity he had created for himself. Freed from that burden, Kytheon Iora was finally able to rest. In the afterlife, he found his family again, and could accept his true name without pain. He no longer had to be the Mono-White guardian the people needed, but could reclaim the Red/White harmony of his youth. The one mistake that dominated his thoughts no longer has any power over him: his friends have long since forgiven him, but more importantly, he has now forgiven himself. Kytheon Iora can finally put the bodies down, and live the life duty stole from him.

May he find peace with his Irregulars until the end of time. Join me next week, as I end this series by trying to sum up his incredible life in a final eulogy for Gideon Jura.


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