Not a Creature Type: Playing While Queer

Curator's Note

My two common experiences walking into my local card shop for Friday Night Magic are the faint but ever-present smell of week-old sweat and the instantaneous feeling that I am alone in my queerness. One particular week, however, only the smell hung in the air. By my first match, I think I knew why: the player across from me was trying to flirt. The cliché of nerd life affirmed in his awkward flirting and my inability to do any better (he told me later he was trying to play footsy with me). But our conversation was ultimately flat and labored, so when I won the match we parted ways. He found me a match later, returning the phone I left and once more our awkward attempts at flirtation continued before leaving for the final match. During my last match, he returned handing me a Scion token with his number written on it, telling me to call if I ever want to have some fun—thus beginning an amazing journey into the faerie and pup communities.

In the Magic universe, a Scion is an extension of the massive Eldrazi titans. The titans stretch their forms over the plane and break into Scions to devour life before being consumed and returned to the titan's form. In the game, Scion tokens are produced by numerous Eldrazi creatures to function as chump blockers to keep the player alive or to be sacrificed to build up mana for stronger creatures and spells. The Scion’s role is to give life through the destruction of others and themselves. 

Magic is not inherently or overtly queer, but queerness can thrive in its constructive universes and performative communities. Queerness within Magic functions not unlike the Scions: we willingly devour the universes we enter and produce expanding communities of energy that are consumed by the host body so it may thrive. And while this may be true of non-queer Magic communities, we are not creature types, we have no designation. We are tokens to be conjured as confirmation of “diversity” to chump block powerful attacks and for our needs and desires to be sacrificed readily in the name of the host’s survival. Like the only two supposed queer characters in Magic, we are obscured by distance and vague language. 




This was so fun to read Daren, I really enjoyed it. Within the context of the game, as you know, tokens are rarely a point of emphasis, even if they are a vital tactic in a given game. But your reading beautifully renders just that point within the context of queerness. Thanks for your thoughts!

Daren, I want to start with saying that I adore that you forged a bond with Eldrazi scions. While every queer person won't have the same experience playing Magic, I too find myself drawn to Eldrazi as totems of queerness. However, instead of associating myself with the humble Scion, I find my queerness best represented in Emrakul, the symbolic archaic mother, a pre-semiotic, parthenogenetic abyssal-womb of sorts. I want to explore the possibility of Magic as an inherently queer game. The game isn't designed by a queer company per say, nor produced for an explicitly queer audience, but is there something to be said about the status of Magic: the Gathering as a "fringe" game, a game for social outcasts? Lastly, along with The Guardians of Meletis, what do you think about treating Emrakul, Ashiok, and Alesha as canonically queer? Links: Emrakul: Ashiok: Alesha:

First, thank you for your comments! They are really opening some questions for me. As for these cards, I find them fascinating, and none were on my radar. Alesha was brought to my attention by a friend soon after posting. And she explicitly fits within the larger representational politics that my Meletis reference was partially a call to, and there is something really interesting going on with the short story "The Truth of Names." While it is very on the nose about trans* visibility, I am drawn to the ways that taking of descriptive and victorious titles works as the notation of identity—with generative collective being valorized— even more so than a formal name. As for Emrakul and Ashiok, the act of perpetual distortion and rupturing of the game space and narrative worlds definitely reads as queer, and Ashiok's genderlessness and bodily ineffability read as profound in regards to your points of abjection and to Magic's queer possibilities. And as context, that I think affirms some of my claims about queerness in the act of playing, I have been playing Magic for about ten to twelve months at this point. By the time I arrived, Theros and Fates Reforged were still in standard but far passed inclusion in drafting, my primary form of play. This points to the constructive and shifting possibilities of the game as when one arrives and how one plays (always towards the future or stretching backwards into the game/universe's past) radically orients the rupturing potential of the game. Alesha's queer collectivity and Ashiok's violent nightmare demolishing of the field may have produced a different relationship to the queerness of the game. Whereas, with the Eldrazi Scions as my primary marker of queerness, it is marked as one of consuming otherness.

This is slightly tangential, but I would love to hear what a curator on this site would say about descriptive titles as "notations of identity" in Magic. What a fabulous topic! It reminds me of a practice my high school friends and I used to do when playing Magic. Before each game, we'd pick an outlandish made-up "wizard name" off the top of our head, something like Sysyphx the Lesser, Valkentron Shadow-Clad, or Rick, and we'd act out our chosen persona until the match ended. The logic behind our fun was that a single game Magic represents a battle between planes-walking sorcerers, armed with a library of spells, conjuring creatures from the aether. Alesha wasn't in print at that time, but nevertheless we recognized the power in naming ourselves.

Add new comment

Log in or register to add a comment.