A few weeks ago, Wizards of the Coast announced that War of the Spark (the upcoming new Magic set) would contain a Planeswalker card in every pack. And as part of that announcement, they showed off sweet, stained-glass themed teaser art of the 36 different Planeswalkers who will appear in the set.
As I pored over the image above, I realized that Magic’s Planeswalker roster has finally hit the depth needed to do something that superhero fans will find familiar. Geeks like me have been debating what their ideal Justice League, Avengers, and X-Men line-ups would look like since the 1960’s (I started in the 1990’s, with an account on the now-defunct DC Comics message boards).
And now, geeks like US can start debating what our ideal Gatewatch line-ups would look like!
The Gatewatch itself is a semi-recent invention, and its line-up hasn’t changed much since Gideon and all your other Core Set faves founded the team on Zendikar. War of the Spark, however, seems set to radically change the Magic landscape, so it could be a great time to create a completely re-vamped Gatewatch!
And even if it’s not, creating your own fantasy “superteam” line-up is just plain fun. Oftentimes, these sorts of line-up creation contests or debates come with guidelines. Because this is Magic, I think a few are in order here:
- An ideal Gatewatch line-up likely includes no less than five Planeswalkers, but no more than seven. If you pare the team down to four or less ‘Walkers, you run the risk of under representing each color. If you include more than seven, the team starts to get kind of busy.
- The Gatewatch should likely be color-balanced. That is to say, there should not be more Red-aligned Planeswalkers than White-aligned Planeswalkers. White, Blue, Black, Red, and Green should be represented equally.
- The team should be as close to gender-balanced as possible (including non-binary characters like Karn and Ashiok).
Those are the guidelines I set for myself, as I sought to build an interesting, dynamic team that had a motivation for both sticking together, and protecting the Multiverse. I started from a number of places, but kept coming back to one particular Planeswalker as my team leader …
Sorin is an unlikely choice for team leader, but the more I thought about it, the more a Sorin-led Gatewatch intrigued me. After having failed to protect Innistrad from Nahiri and Emrakul (and being trapped in a goshdarn rock for quite some time), I think Sorin would look at Gideon and co.’s success and see something worth stealing. But because he’s Sorin, I think he’d also find a way to turn the Gatewatch toward his own ends.
Sorin, Nahiri, and Ugin were, essentially, the original Gatewatch. So there’s precedent for Sorin being part of a team like this. Sorin also now knows what happens when he pursues his own whims and abandons the Multiverse to its own fate. Things fall apart. Sorin saw the Gatewatch save Innistrad from Emrakul and (presumably) deal with Nicol Bolas on Ravnica. He now knows that teams like this are needed to solve epic problems. And if a team like this is going to exist, it may as well be his.
Of course, the first problem on Sorin’s list would likely be re-taking Innistrad from Olivia Voldaren, under the pretense of clearing Emrakul out of his plane. From there, Sorin’s Gatewatch would solve the Multiverse’s problems when needed, and solve his own as he saw fit. Sorin’s motivations would, of course, end up putting him in direct conflict with the members of his own team.
For the purposes of this line-up, I’m considering Tamiyo to be a Blue-Green character, and not White-Blue-Green. My Tamiyo’s not interested in inflicting order on the Multiverse; she’s just interested in gathering its stories. She’s drawn to the team because she knows the Gatewatch experiences the Multiverse’s most epic stories firsthand. And she’s terrified of the team, because she HAS experienced those stories firsthand.
Tamiyo still needs to know what happened between her and Emrakul on Innistrad, and so Sorin’s proposal that she join this new Gatewatch’s first mission (a journey back to Innistrad) will ensnare her. From there, Tamiyo will grow to appreciate the friendships she forms with the Gatewatch’s other members, and also realize that the Gatewatch is writing the next chapters in the Multiverse’s most consequential stories. Of course, when Kamigawa eventually experiences a crisis large enough to merit the Gatewatch’s attention, Tamiyo won’t hesitate to bring the team there …
Chandra color-balances this first set of team members and adds some much needed spark to a line-up that’s currently full of stoic warriors and storytellers. Where Sorin is likely to wait before diving into battle, and Tamiyo is more likely to open a book than battle at all, Chandra keeps this new Gatewatch moving toward its goals. Sorin, of course, sees a bit of his younger self in Chandra, and (at least secretly) admires the pyromancer’s “devil-may-care” attitude. Tamiyo, on the other hand, has no time for Chandra’s impulsive attitude.
But why is Chandra even on the team? Well, for one thing, she’s just too proud to quit. The original Gatewatch defeated the Eldrazi Titans and Nicol Bolas. Chandra doesn’t want to let some other roster of Planeswalkers out-do her Gatewatch’s feats. And also, Chandra wants to keep an eye on her friend, the newly “reformed” Liliana Vess …
I am assuming that Liliana will redeem herself during War of the Spark. That is, she will turn on Nicol Bolas and stand with the Gatewatch, and her doing so will be one of the key plot points that leads to Bolas’s defeat.
Assuming this is true, Liliana will finally be free. Free of her demons, free of Bolas, and free to do whatever her heart desires. So why would she stay with the Gatewatch?
There is a certain selfish thrill that comes from doing good. Having experienced perhaps the ultimate version of that feeling during the Planeswalkers’ battle with Nicol Bolas, Liliana will seek to re-create it. She wants to do good not just for good’s sake, but because of how her good deeds incline people to treat her. Post-War of the Spark Liliana is hailed as a hero, and it’s “Liliana the Hero” that Sorin will appeal to when he asks her to join his new Gatewatch. Surprising even herself, Liliana will say “Yes.”
Of course, Sorin merely wants Liliana’s necromancy. He needs an army of zombies to fight the army of vampires that has overtaken Innistrad. And Liliana will learn that upholding a hero’s image is harder than it looks.
Ajani knows the ends that Sorin’s Gatewatch could be turned to. He also knows how much good a true Gatewatch could do in the Multiverse. So, in an attempt to temper Sorin’s influence and guide the new Gatewatch toward problems that truly need solving, Ajani will stay with the team. He will be the team’s heart and its conscience, in much the same way that the Martian Manhunter is for the Justice League.
I love Ajani’s interactions with Chandra and Liliana, and I know there are more great character moments to be found as Ajani counsels both women on how to become better heroes (or in Liliana’s case, on how to remain one). Because Ajani is Green-White, he also serves as connective tissue between Sorin (White-Black) and Tamiyo (Blue-Green), though I imagine he and Sorin would butt heads more often than not. Both characters are White, but the color’s influence bears out differently in each of them.
Of course, mentoring Chandra and Liliana will remind Ajani of the friend he lost on Theros. And when he arrives to pay his respects, he’ll find a problem that may require the Gatewatch’s attention.
Dack Fayden is, somehow, a wildcard on a team of wildcards. Uninvolved in the battle on Ravnica, the Greatest Thief in the Multiverse will join the Gatewatch for one simple reason: there’s something he wants to steal, and he needs the Gatewatch’s help to do so.
Last we saw him, Dack had entered a gate to Theros’s Underworld, hoping to cure himself of Ashiok’s Sleep Curse. There’s no telling exactly what Dack found down there, but it likely involved both Ashiok and Elspeth.
Having heard of Ajani’s love for Elspeth and Theros, Dack decides to seek out the leonin Planeswalker. And together with the Gatewatch, the pair of them hatch a plan to counter Ashiok’s nightmare influence and steal Elspeth back from the Underworld.
Sorin, of course, is against this plan. He does not care if Theros falls to Ashiok, and he does not care about Elspeth. The rest of the Gatewatch, however, chooses to support Ajani and Dack. And by mission’s end, the Gatewatch may have replaced their Vampire Planeswalker with a member of the Returned (and no, I don’t mean Daxos) …
And that’s my Gatewatch! A six Planeswalker team, perfectly color-balanced and full of rich drama just waiting to unfurl.
I thought of adding Karn in as a seventh member, but a) this version of the Gatewatch has enough “stoic” members already and b) it has enough to do without adding New Phyrexia into the mix. Perhaps Karn would make an appearance and enlist the team’s aid later, but for now, these six Planeswalkers seem enough.
Of course, you likely disagree with my line-up completely, and have your own version of the Gatewatch that you’d love to see! I’d love to hear about it, so be sure to jot down your ideal Gatewatch roster in the comments below. I’m very curious to see what everyone else’s “Justice League of Magic” would look like.