It’s pre-release season, a time for drafting guides and ratings for cards in the new set. Most of that content will focus on helping players win games, which is a real shame. As we all know, the principal objective of deckbuilding in Magic: the Gathering isn’t to build a deck that will win games; it’s to put in as many ladies who should totally kiss each other as you can fit, while still winning every once in a great while. It was Mark Rosewater who laid down this ironclad principle in an article during the early 2000s, but alas, due to a site migration, links to that important document in the history of Magic no longer work.

My win/loss ratios have never been very good, but I always do very well on this key metric. In the interest of sharing the wealth, here’s my top ten list of cards to look out for at your draft if you’re more interested in real accomplishments, like having hot queer ladies in your deck, than you are in something petty like winning.

What are my criteria for this list? It’s basically, “how badly would I just have to put this card in my deck because the woman (or women) pictured are my people, and I want them to kiss other women already in my deck?” Keep in mind: that’s different from a “hottest ladies” list, although there’s a lot of overlap. Kasla, the Broken Halo, is clearly a very striking card portraying a woman, and I had her high up on this list during early versions, but the more I studied her the more I felt straight vibes. (I’m hardly the authority, of course, and I wish the Kasla/Linvala shippers out there all the best).

One big ground rule: yes, obviously Chandra, Hope’s Beacon and Archangel Elspeth meet the criteria listed above. More controversially for some, perhaps, so does Elesh Norn. They all loom so large and are such obvious picks, that I disqualified all three. We’re here to pull out hidden gems, not tell you what you already know!

The March of the Machines Queer Women Countdown

#10 – Zhalfirin Lancer

The card Zhalfirin Lancer, a white creature. The art shows a muscular Black woman in heavy armor riding a rhinoceros. The flavor text reads, “The Phyrexians armored themselves against blades, fire, and every conjuration they could think of. She brought a war rhino.

Let’s begin the way any Pride Parade should, with a dyke on a, er, rhinoceros. This card gets marked slightly down for two reasons: Nino Vecia’s artwork is beautiful but we don’t get too good a look at our lancer here, and of course she’s in competition with a lot of other strapping knightly women in Magic (for which we give thanks). The playful, badass flavor text elevates this card over other handsome lady knights in the set, like Knight-Errant of Eos.

#9 – Voldaren Thrillseeker

The card Voldaren Thrillseeker, a red creature. The art shows a pale white woman in an elaborate but torn red dress, surrounded by Phyrexian creatures. She’s clearly just kicked one in the face, and she’s smiling gleefully. The flavor text reads “The end is always nigh. Let’s have some fun!

Sometimes you’re not looking for Ms. Right; sometimes you just need Ms. Right Now. You probably won’t bring Voldaren Thrillseeker home to meet your chosen family, but if you had a hard day of dodging Phyrexians and confronting heteronormativity, she’s just the vampire you need to dance and drink and, er, fight the blues away, until you feel like you feel like a new person (with 2 new +1/+1 tokens). This is another card that’s definitely elevated by playful flavor text; I can think of worse ways to spend the apocalypse than saying “fuck it.”

#8 – Iridescent Blademaster

The card Iridescent Blademaster, a green creature. The art shows a bronze-skinned elf woman in extremely ornate and beautiful armor, her hair styled elaborately, wielding a fancy sword. She shimmers with a white light. The flavor text reads, “Her arm and spirit were weary, but as the Halo flowed across her blade, it became weightless, and new strength flooded through her. She would fight on.

It can be intimidating to date a high femme whose beauty skills are on point, and Iridescent Blademaster doesn’t exactly look like a chill lady. But come on, that’s part of the fun. She’ll push you to be your best self and look as good as she does doing it. Livia Prima’s art is what really sells this card, from the Blademaster’s ornate outfit and shimmer of halo to the gorgeous rendering of the Aetherflux Reservoir in the background. Maybe most important, though, is the look of resolve on the Blademaster’s face. I know this is a lady not to be trifled with just from the set of her mouth.

#7 – Guardian of Ghirapour

The card Guardian a Ghirapour, a white creature. The art shows a gigantic dark-skinned angelic woman, with giant white wings and four arms, wearing intricate golden armor. She stands protectively in front of a woman with a sari. The flavor text reads, “She was hope incarnate, an incandescent bulwark against the tide of machines.

This is Opal from Steven Universe, which obviously makes her gay.

#6 – Inga and Esika

The card Inga and Esika, a blue and green creature. The art shows two white women in blue cloaks in a chariot pulled by cats, riding on a rainbow high in the air. One of the women has white eyes indicating blindness, and points ahead. The other has her arm spreads and seems to be calling out joyfully.

Finally, some rainbows for this Pride Parade. Inga and Esika are both cool characters in their own right, but it’s not so much the backstory as Wayne Reynolds’ art: Inga’s focus, Esika’s joy, the bright colors of their cloaks and the prismatic bridge and Esika’s cats. This is maybe the team-up legend that most makes me want to ship the two characters pictured (after all, Errant is married and Zimone is too young for Dina). They look like two women on an adventure, and really, what’s gayer than that?

#5 – Enduring Bondwarden

The card Enduring Bondwarden, a white creature. The art shows a dark-haired woman wearing a leather jacket holds a rabbit-like creature in one arm, while the other gestures to magically create a golden forcefield. Her cheek is scratched, but she looks determined.  The flavor text reads “I will be with you. Always.

I’ll just put it bluntly: tops are great, but the multiverse needs bottoms, too. The Enduring Bondwarden is the kind of girl who will gaze at you across the breakfast table, smiling dopily, and when you say she looks happy she’ll sigh and say “I’m just so lucky I found you.” You’re going to need to love animals, or at least little bunny-monsters, but for a lot of sapphics that’s a plus. Once again, the art does a lot of work here; I particularly like what artist Kim Sokol has done with the Bondwarden’s hair, and the little scratch on her cheek.

#4 – Furtive Analyst

The card Furtive Analyst, a blue creature. The art shows a petite woman with curly hair, a beautiful dress, and glasses, sitting in a dark corner of a library. She has a thick tome open in one hand, and the other is raised to cast a spell, which has created a sigil of blue light centered around the symbol of Phyrexia. The flavor text reads “Where had she first seen that symbol? She usually took such detailed notes, but her memory of it was fading like a nightmare.

Ok look. Look. The Mummy came out when I was a teenager. It’s a problematic movie in many ways. It also left me with a lifelong weakness for curly-haired librarians discovering dark secrets. Plus, LOOK at this woman’s outfit; artist Marcela Bolivar nailed it. The art and the flavor text work together on this one to create a spooky atmosphere and I think it’s part of what makes the Analyst pop; I want to rescue her and feed her tea. I’ll ask her about her PhD research to try and get her mind off the scare she’s had and slowly fall in love as she tells me about the new magical theorem she’s so close to proving.

#3 – Ayara, Widow of the Realm

The card Ayara, Widow of the Realm, a black creature. The art shows a middle-aged white woman, dressed in a beautiful black and purple dress, wearing a horned crown and a veil. She holds a cup in her hand and looks down at the viewer thoughtfully.

These cards are getting harder to comment on intelligently, which is probably a good sign. Come on. Regal older woman, staring down at you kind of judgmentally. Boob window. I just. Come on. Listen, if you don’t get why this one is gay, I’ll tell you when you’re older.

#2 – Swordsworn Cavalier

The card Swordsworn Cavalier, a white creature. The art shows a dark-skinned Black woman with locs, dressed in white with a golden tiara and breastplate. She is swinging a sword that’s taking fingers off the hand of a Phyrexian, but she’s smiling warmly and confidently. The flavor text reads, “The Royal Knights of Belona are equally practiced in courtesy and combat.

The Swordsworn Cavalier is so high up for a very simple reason, which is the expression that Stella Spente gave her. In the middle of battle, she’s smiling with real warmth, real tenderness. I have to think she just saved the day. Now imagine if she just saved you, and that’s the look you see on her face. The Cavalier is friendly and fun and real; she’d take you dancing and you wouldn’t feel self-conscious about the fact that she’s an amazing dancer and you can barely keep up. There would be moments, early on, where you’d wonder if she was shallow or fake, but slowly you’d realize, no, she really does just live with her whole heart all the time.

#1 – Valor’s Reach Tag Team

The card Valor’s Reach Tag Team, a red and white sorcery. The art shows two big, strong women, with yellow-green skin and curly black hair. They don’t look quite human. They both wear armor and wield axes, and are moving in unison. The flavor text reads, “Let’s give these creeps the old one-two!

Oh, you thought this was a list of creature cards? Did I ever say that? No I did not. The two orc (or ogre?) ladies on this card are butch amazon committed life partners, platonic or not, with thighs that won’t quit and arms that qualify as deadly weapons. Why do they deserve the number one slot? Did I mention thighs? No, seriously, it’s their butchness and bigness that puts the Valor’s Reach Tag Team over the top. Magic has a lot of gorgeous femmes, which is great, and a lot of pretty, slender women in big armor, which is amazing. But I think here, we can honor some thick, handsome butch queens.

Dora Rogers (she/her) is a writer, game designer, and heart-eyes lesbo from Montreal. She is one half of Gal Pal Games, and you can find her solo TTRPG and interactive fiction projects on Follow her in all the places, or catch her on Arena playing questionable Vorthos decks in Standard.

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