I’m a woman who is a six on the Kinsey scale, which if you’ve forgotten your mid-20th century sexology means that I typically experience much more same sex attraction than opposite sex attraction. Never say never, but it’s very rare for me to experience any attraction or romantic feelings for men. So I have to beg indulgence for spending a lot more energy covering queer female characters and stories in Magic lore and culture in this space.

But even I feel like I need to ask: where are the gay men?

Wilds of Eldraine was a relatively sparse set in terms of fiction, with five main stories written by K. Arsenault Rivera and no side stories. We’re big fans of Arsenault Rivera’s on this site, and I loved what she did for Wilds of Eldraine. In particular, she included a wonderfully sly passage where our heroine–or should I say, protagonist–Rowan Kenrith pretty clearly has a sexy night with a fae spider-woman. The passage made me smile; one more cool Magic lady in the family. Wilds of Eldraine also features the agender Ashiok on a card for the first time since Theros: Beyond Death (though they did figure in two stories last year, A Garden Of Flesh  and The Dark). And it introduces the non-binary Talion; all in all, the story for this set is another strong showing for the Story team (and the author) that just reunited the Gruulfriends.

Rowan, a blonde-haired young woman in red and black, rides a horse out of the green countryside into a dark forest, surrounded by eerie purple lights. From the card Rowan’s Grim Search by Aurore Folny.

Rowan’s Grim Search by Aurore Folny

What it doesn’t have, like the story for every set going back to Midnight Hunt, is a single clearly identified gay man.

There are, of course, gay men (a term which, incidentally, I’m using inclusively for all men who love men) in Magic history; perhaps most notably, Ravnica power couple Ral Zarek and Tomik Vrona. But in the last few years, even as we’ve gotten numerous strong portrayals of lesbian or sapphic characters, portrayals of gay men have lagged behind. As a lesbian, I got Nissa and Chandra as one of the main storylines of March of the Machine, as well as Huatli and Saheeli, who got a beautiful story this year as well as their gorgeous introduction in Pride Across The Multiverse. That already feels like almost an embarrassment of riches to my little lesbian heart. Now I can look to Rowan too, and, in recent sets, Adeline, Radiant Cathar, Halana and Alena, Partners, wives Errant, Street Artist and Parnesse, the Subtle Brush, and possibly Heiko Yamazaki, the General (it’s not clear how Heiko thinks of her sexuality, but her partner is non-binary).

Meanwhile, Ral and Tomik received a beautiful reference in the Pride Across The Multiverse treatment of Savor The Moment, but other than that we haven’t seen a trace of them since 2019 (with one exception; they both feature as secondary characters in Ravnica: One And The Same, a wonderful story that is very much not about them). Will has appeared in two sets in the last three years; neither made any allusion to his sexuality. Wild Hunt gave us Vadrik, Astral Archmage in 2021, and we learned a little about his loving husband Hailin in His Eyes, All Of Them. And Oko, who is not explicitly queer but sure as heck is queer coded, looms large in the backstory of Wilds of Eldraine, but doesn’t actually appear. As far as I can determine, that’s it in terms of named characters (I could always be missing something).

A machine shaped like a small creature meant to act as scales. The scales are not balanced. Art from Noetic Scales by Andrew Robinson

Noetic Scales by Andrew Robinson

It’s a sharp disparity, both in terms of the number of characters and prominence in Magic’s storytelling; Errant and Parnesse, Huatli and Saheeli, and of course Nissa and Chandra have all had multiple stories since 2021 in which their relationships were an important theme. They’re all characters who have been represented on cards, and four of them are/were planeswalkers. On the other hand we have Vadrik, a planebound character appearing in only one set, who has one story.

There’s a clear pattern here. So, why is it happening? The cynical answer would be that it’s conscious and intentional; as I’ve written before, gay men can be challenging to mainstream audiences in ways that other queer people aren’t. Portraying gay men is not more difficult or more fraught per se; it’s just that each letter in the LGBTQ+ acronym has its own unique way of chafing against straight and cis expectations. It’s possible that someone at Hasbro or Wizards is worried that stories about love between men will be particularly challenging to Magic’s audience, which is stereotypically overwhelmingly male and straight.

Having watched the current Story team turning out sets for a while now, though, I don’t really buy that. The team behind Magic’s story cares about LGBTQ+ representation, and has at least some freedom to explore it. Frankly, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that March of the Machines and Aftermath are ultimately about Nissa and Chandra’s relationship. As anyone who’s worked in a corporate environment can attest, it doesn’t take much to create a chilling effect around a particular idea, so corporate politics are still a conceivable explanation, but it just doesn’t seem very likely to me.

Regardless of why we’ve seen this pattern in the last few years, though, I trust and hope that Magic will give us more gay men (and, to be completely explicit about it, bi and pan men, too) in upcoming sets. Here that, Story team? I’m giving you my “I’m so proud, I know they won’t disappoint me” tone of voice, so don’t make a liar out of me, please! If nothing else, next year’s return to Ravnica in Murders at Karloff Manor is a great opportunity to showcase icons Tomik and Ral. And hey, while we’re at it–Magic has never had a named trans man. Food for thought.

None of that means that Magic should stop being so very delightfully sapphic, of course (I better get some mopey Huatli longing for her distant lover in Caves of Ixalan). There’s plenty or multiverse to go around–and as ever, what’s good for one part of the queer community is good for all of us.

So for one of the only times in my life, I will say: bring on the men.

Big men lounge in a natural hot spring, some of them cuddling. Art from Bearscape by Ricardo Bessa

Bearscape by Ricardo Bessa

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 itch.io. Follow her in all the places, or catch her on Arena playing questionable Vorthos decks in Standard.

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