This morning, Wizards of the Coast announced its latest Secret Lair drop, Pride Across the Multiverse, to coincide with and celebrate Pride Month. The drop will contain eight cards, will cost $49.99 (foil) and $39.99 (non-foil), and will be available on May 4, 2022. Wizards says that 50% of all sales of the drop will go to the Trevor Project.

Those eight cards—Alesha, Who Smiles at DeathBearscape, Collective Voyage, Heartbeat of Spring, Mana Confluence, Savor the Moment, Sol Ring, and Triumphant Reckoning—are full of Pride-themed art and flavor. Heartbeat of Spring, for example, gives us our first look at the romantic relationship between Saheeli Rai and Huatli as they take their “dogs” for a walk:

Wizards also published a new piece of web fiction, “Note for a Stranger,” that dives deeper into Saheeli and Huatli’s new relationship.

Savor the Moment gives us a look at the wedding of Ral Zarek and Tomik Vrona, whose relationship was was revealed in Django Wexler’s The Gathering Storm, the prequel to the War of the Spark story by Greg Weisman.

The drop also contains a more humorous display of Pride in Bearscape.

We also get to see Alesha, who was introduced as one of Magic’s first trans characters in the Khans of Tarkir story, later in her life guiding the next generation in Alesha, Who Smiles at Death:

You can read about the stories behind Collective Voyage, Mana Confluence, Sol Ring, and Triumphant Reckoning in Wizards’ announcement.

“The team worked incredibly hard to depict characters from across the Multiverse on cards that represent everything from quiet mundane moments to big celebrations while recognizing the ongoing fight for our future,” said Stephanie Cheung, art director for the Pride Across the Multiverse drop. “This project was a terrific opportunity to bring in new styles and artists while also giving visibility to the folks who have been painting Magic: The Gathering for years! I looked for artists across the spectrum of LGBTQIA2S+ and BIPOC identities; having a breadth of artists is an important part of celebrating the diversity of our community and experiences.”

“Each card in Pride Across the Multiverse tells its own story of love, struggle, resilience, joy, and community,” she continued. “Stories are how we practice hope, and I think it’s so important to hope, to really be in the practice of holding fast and remaining true. It is our triumph, and we will shape the future with our ferocious resilience. I am so proud of what we were all able to accomplish in this set and thrilled to accompany you on this journey.”

Queer Representation in Magic

The joy and pride with which the Pride Across the Universe Secret Lair drop engages with queer identities and relationships represents a new phase in Wizards’ rocky history with queer representation.

That history reached a low point at the end of 2019 with the release of Greg Weisman’s War of the Spark: Forsaken. After spending a few years building a potential romance between two of Magic’s main female characters, Chandra Nalaar and Nissa Revane, Wizards and Weisman suddenly changed directions in Forsaken and retconned that relationship out of Magic’s story: “Chandra had never been into girls,” Weisman wrote. “Her crushes—and she’d had her fair share—were mostly the brawny (and decidedly male) types like [Gideon].”

The Magic community’s reaction was swift and angry, forcing both Wizards and Weisman to issue apologies for their treatment of Chandra and Nissa’s relationship.

“Over the past week, we have seen and heard strong reactions from fans about how we handled the resolution of the Nissa-Chandra romantic relationship in the recent Forsaken novel, and we apologize,” Wizards said at the time. “We didn’t live up to the expectations we created for Chandra and what she means to our fans.”

Separately, Weisman apologized for those lines and said that he was told that the romance between Chandra and Nissa “was not a relationship that [Wizards] planned to pursue.”

Many theorized that the decision to retcon Chandra and Nissa’s relationship was an attempt by Wizards to improve its standing in China, where Wizards was attempting to expand but where queer content is banned and censored. That theory seemed to be proven correct a year later when Wizards announced that it wouldn’t be censoring Magic’s story going forward, even if that meant the story won’t be accessible in all countries.

“We will tell the stories we want to tell, featuring the characters and relationships that best serve the story and our audience,” Wizards said in December 2020. “Our focus will be crafting engaging and relatable stories. These stories will have diverse casts of characters with varied experiences, challenges, and adventures.”

“We will not change these stories to accommodate local markets,” they continued. But “some regions prohibit subject matter we think is valuable to our storytelling” and, “[w]hile we do not agree with these laws, we are required to follow them.”

The newly-revealed relationship between Saheeli and Huatli (both on a card and in Magic’s story) is a clear example of Wizards building on its promises after the Chandra and Nissa incident and taking a new approach to queer representation in Magic. Here’s to hoping that Pride Across the Universe is just the beginning.

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