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Women in Magic (art): Good vs. Bad


MJ Scott is a new guest author on GatheringMagic. She will likely be joining the staff to contribute more Vorthos-ian content week to week. Below is her first piece, please take a read and give her some feedback in the comments below! -- Trick

Think back to your early school days. Chances are you knew (or know) a dominating, overtly sexy, de facto ruler of the playground—Glissa, the Traitor, in cheerleader form. There was probably also a shy, studious teacher's pet—Melira, Sylvok Outcast, often found at the edge of the cafeteria or a corner of the library. Today, we're choosing sides. Who do you run with: the Bad Girls or the Good Girls?

Middle school and high school: rough times for most. They're harsh, New Phyrexia–style environments rife with dangerous competing factions, morbid social rituals like parent–teacher conferences (about as enjoyable as a good flensing) and the terrifying prospect of some slathering beast or corrupted angel walking up to you on Valentine's Day with a carnation in hand, mouthing "You compleat me."

I remember those years as a time of learning that the world wanted me to be definable as something—anything. Nerd. Jock. American. Immigrant. Rich. Poor. For girls, a lot of the labeling was oriented toward sex and one's rumored experience or inexperience at it. Prude. Slut. It's a lose-lose situation: If you're in the know, it's some kind of moral shortcoming. If you'd rather not know—well, then, you're strictly undateable. Interestingly, two highly visible and influential cartoon females of the late ’80s to mid-’90s capture this false dichotomy perfectly.

Little Mermaid's ArielLady Death

Ariel, a.k.a. The Little Mermaid, is an ingénue damsel-in-distress type and spent an entire movie in love with a guy she barely knew, in true teenage fashion. Lady Death spent her time killing people. And obviously, there's about twenty cup sizes' difference between their physiques. Plus, Lady Death spent a lot of time sprawled across covers, limbs akimbo in all kinds of enticing ways; Ariel doesn't even have legs, meaning, sorry, dude—no Spreading Seas here.

In fact, all women are part Ariel, part Lady Death. There's no choice to be made, in reality, about who to be. But crap middle-school stereotypes, when rebooted as academic archetypes, are useful as tools for character analysis in art and literature. We're going to take some of the most iconic, powerful, and fan-favorite females in the Magic world and divide them into Good Girls and Bad Girls for a little head-to-head, Street Fighter fun.

No need to shoot for teams, since NPH has already given us our ideal captains representing opposing female archetypes: Glissa, the Traitor and Melira, Sylvok Outcast. Let's look at their stats toe-to-toe, UFC style, to get to know them better as well as get familiar with some common Bad Girl/Good Girl themes.

Glissa, the TraitorMelira, Sylvok Outcast

Glissa, the Traitor Melira, Sylvok Outcast
Key Mechanic Deathtouch Infect-proof
Color Affiliation Black and Green Green
Social Status ruler, general, advisor orphan, student
Social Circle minions, underlings, politicians keepers, mentor
Weapons giant sword-arm thing staff or walking stick
Physical Traits voluptuous, muscular, womanly adolescent, soft, in-progress
Attire metal thong bikini cloth tube top and skirt
Gaze direct, at viewer sidelong, to out-of-frame
Lighting light-consuming light-reflecting
Personality knowledgeable, enjoys power innocent, enjoys learning
Activities killing and manipulating studying and surviving
Pose provocative, premeditated uncertain, natural

From Mothership info, we know that Glissa has become an extremely influential Phyrexian leader, not to be messed with or taken lightly. Often knowledge, or the search for knowledge, comes with a price (got Eve kicked out of Eden, of course), and Glissa is no exception, having been compleated en route to her current position of power. She's got Vorinclex, a native Phyrexian lord, eating out of the palm of her hand (fun to imagine the conversations that led to this relationship!) and a host of nasties who defer to her.

Melira, orphaned for her nonmetallic body (a deformity on Mirrodin), has had Thrun as her Obi Wan, and she's immune to the Phyrexian infection. Melira's superpower, in other words, is her exceptional purity. Now that Melira's been educated by Thrun and is coming of age and making her debut by stepping out from hiding in the Tangle, we can expect some changes to her character and challenges in her future storyline. Knowledge is power. Knowledge comes with a price.

Glissa and Melira line up really well, with most of their traits being in direct opposition. It's interesting to note they share the color Green (historically the color of potential, growth, fertility) but that Glissa's casting costs adds Black to the mix (the color of evil, temptation, night, and the kinds of things that happen at night). Recall that Glissa Sunseeker, like Melira, was a mono-Green girl. At what price will Melira's new knowledge (and certain future power) come? It'll be interesting to watch her character develop in coming sets.

And with that, let's get reeeeady to rumbllllle!

Bad Girls Good Girls

Glissa, the Traitor Melira, Sylvok Outcast
Dominates Bennie Smith's SCG column nearly every week Got a whole Mike Linnemann column to herself
A popular Commander She's on preorder
Deathtouch is nice Completely neutering Infect strategies is sick
A lot of history and character development, deep An unknown newb, departure from traditional prototype, refreshing
Rad arm-sword thing Gorgeous hair
Glissa, the Traitor wins by decision.

Elvish RangerElvish Ranger (Portal)

Elvish Ranger (Alliances) Elvish Ranger (Portal)
Has a red-blooded, drooling legion of Twitter fans Can't figure out what she's doing with her bow, and looks hungry
Alliances Elvish Ranger wins by TKO.

Akroma, Angel of WrathBaneslayer Angel

Akroma, Angel of Wrath (Time Spiral) Baneslayer Angel
Luscious purple hair Japanese foil peaked at $200 . . . holy smokes!
Iconic, with a great storyline Helped Kibler's Rubin Zoo win PT: Austin 2010, and helped Rick Zou's U/W Caw-Blade win SCG: Los Angeles 2011
Baneslayer Angel wins by TKO.

Goblin Matron (7th Edition)Brigid, Hero of Kinsbaile

Goblin Matron (7th Edition) Brigid, Hero of Kinsbaile
Way too much . . . just too much. Everywhere. Way too much cleave for a Kithkin *shudder*
Wearing an avant-garde polka dot flight suit Did we mention the cleave? It's like putting Frodo in a speedo.
Foil valued at $70, a Legacy Goblins staple Hero of the Kithkin never made the Kithkin deck
Goblin Matron wins by TKO.

Kalastria HighbornStoneforge Mystic

Kalastria Highborn Stoneforge Mystic
Have you heard of this deck called Vampires? Have you heard of this deck called Caw-Blade?
Stoneforge Mystic wins by TKO.

Oracle en-VecNoble Hierarch

Oracle en-Vec Noble Hierarch
Is she painted on black velvet? Move over, Elvis. Second in piety only to Mother Teresa
More flavor text quotes than a fortune cookie. Discussed as one of the top ten 1-drops ever
Noble Hierarch wins TKO.

Phage the UntouchableJhoira of the Ghitu

Phage the Untouchable Jhoira of the Ghitu
Worst Commander ever A popular Commander
If she touches you, you lose the game! Scarier than Katy Perry in the E.T. video. Dude, she's the chick on Tinker!
Jhoira of the Ghitu wins by TKO.

Bloodbraid ElfKnight of the Reliquary

Bloodbraid Elf Knight of the Reliquary
Brokenest card of the broken Cascade mechanic Drew comparisons to Tarmogoyf
Kept JTMS in check for an entire Standard season A favorite of Lauren Lee
Bloodbraid Elf wins by decision.

Wooly ThoctarEmrakul, the Aeons Torn

Woolly Thoctar Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
According to the Twitterheads, it's a girl. Let's not get into details. It's a girl, trust me.
Watchwolf's big sister Ulamog and Kozilek's big sister
Emrakul wins by TKO.

Ink-Eyes, Servant of OniMirri, Cat Warrior

Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni Mirri, Cat Warrior
Popular in Commander and Cube One of the most sympathetic storylines ever
Bangin' rat body Bangin' cat body
4.8 out of 5 rating on Gatherer Has a Vampiric alter ego
Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni wins by decision.

Braids, Cabal MinionLin Sivvi, Defiant Hero

Braids, Cabal Minion Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero
Banned in Commander Banned in Masques Block
Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero wins by decision.

Bad Girls – Wins: 5 Good Girls – Wins: 6

The Good Girls take it this time, and what a well-earned victory! But before we go, I want to talk about a female who happens to be the most-mentioned card when I asked for feedback about powerful and memorable women: Eternal Witness. She's not in the matchups because she's truly uncategorizable as Good Girl or Bad Girl. She comes into play and brings a card back from your graveyard to your hand; with her life, she brings new life, and embodies the cycle that perpetuates the human race. She looks in our general direction, assuredly saying, "I dare you," yet her pose is comfortable and relaxed. Wild. She seems to draw light into herself, and yet she's surrounded by light as though she gives it off. Her face is youthful but not unaware—ageless—her body is supple, but strong and developed. Her attire is sexy yet practical, and her flavor text alludes to a particular compassion: "She remembers every word spoken, from the hero's oath to the baby's cry." Shieldmate. Mother. Historian. Bad-ass chick. The girl next door. The girl out of reach. Ariel. Lady Death. Sister, friend, partner. Woman.

There's no choice to be made. To each her own. Thanks for reading, and I'd love to hear from you! Did I leave off your favorite female? Suggestions for future topics? Let me know in the comments or e-mail me at moxymtg@gmail.com. I try to respond to everything. Cheers and beers!

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