Wizards of the Coast dropped a bombshell on the MTG fandom earlier this week, when it revealed that of the 10 planeswalkers in Phyrexia: All Will Be One, five are going to be compleated and join the evil Phyrexian forces. We all knew someone was sure to get robotised in the Phyrexia set, but by Magic standards, it’s shaping up to be an unprecedented blood bath.
It’s particularly surprising that the list of possible compleation victims includes Magic: The Gathering’s leading man, Jace Beleren. Surely the company that only killed three named MTG planeswalkers during a giant planeswalker war isn’t about to slay the face of Magic?
For Dominaria United, we did a great job predicting who would be compleated next, but to switch things up for this set we’re going to talk about who should be getting the terminator treatment, and poor Jacey is number one on my list.
Here’s why it’s time for MTG’s Jace to kick the bucket in Phyrexia: All Will Be One.
He might finally develop a personality
Even if you really like Jace, you have to admit that he’s as bland as a brick wall. In a way, that’s the point of his character – everyone’s supposed to be able to project themself onto the quippy clever clogs. He’s a bit of a wish-fulfilment main character.
But that makes him a poor character to pin a franchise-worth of lore onto. Sure, I expect most MTG players would recognise Jace in a flash, but far fewer could actually tell you much about him.
Jace is at his most popular when his character undergoes radical shifts. When he lost his memory and went roaming around as a shirtless pirate on Ixalan, that’s about as popular as the character has been for years. It’s hard to think of a bigger character shift than compleation.
Also, Jace started out as a villain, or at least an anti-hero, and he probably suits that role better than he fits the purehearted good guy archetype. He’s got the arrogant, snarky attitude that would make him work well as a villain you’re supposed to hate. (Though, to be fair, just about every Magic hero has a permanent case of Dreamworks face).
It will raise the stakes
I feel Wizards really messed up by pulling punches in War of the Spark, and many fans were disappointed that the ultimate showdown ended up with a lower casualty count than your average Christmas dinner. Killing Jace would be the ultimate course correction. Like Game of Thrones’ cruel execution of Ned Stark, it’d demonstrate that nobody is safe.
There’s no better way to make MTG fans grow more attached to the game’s characters than by putting them in danger. Just look at how all the Ajani fans rose up out of the woodwork as soon as that character was imperilled.
It will create neat character moments
Jace’s compleation would be a mighty shock, and it’d be neat to see how Magic’s surviving roster of characters copes with the loss. In particular, it could stimulate some angsty moments for Vraska. Or, since she’s on the possible compleation list too, we could end up with Phyrexia’s new hottest couple.
It will make room for a soft reboot
The Gatewatch plotline of Magic: The Gathering has been a bit underwhelming in my view: filled with shallow and inconsistent characters. Killing Jace would signal that Wizards is wiping the slate clean, beginning a new chapter of Magic’s storyline. It’s likely this is what March of the Machine aims to be, with the mysterious Aftermath set presumably taking stock of the new situation.
Of course, this only works if Wizards has new, interesting characters and plot points waiting in the wings to fill the gap after Jace is turned evil. The MCU has demonstrated what happens if you kill off your best-established, most compelling characters without a plan – it ain’t pretty.
Jace lacks a mechanical identity right now
Whereas most modern planeswalkers have at least a thematic cohesion between their various cards, Jace has always been the generic blue planeswalker (™). He’s basically able to do anything and everything blue, and that kind of eats into the design space for other blue walkers. I think it’d be good to reinvent Jace in a new Phyrexian form. This will allow the designers to rethink the character’s mechanical identity, and hopefully find one that’s a bit more solid.
There are few plot reasons not to
Despite arguably being the main character of Magic: The Gathering, Jace has been background noise for a long time now, and it feels like his character arc is more or less done with. Sure, he’s got a lot of secrets wrapped up in his big head – for instance, he’s the only one who knows MTG’s Liliana is still alive – but it’d be fairly trivial for WotC to decide he shared those facts with a trusted ally offscreen.
There’s little to lose by killing Jace, and in terms of drawing a reaction from fans and getting people talking about Magic, a whole lot to gain.
Jace dies in the comics, and they sound rad
Finally, in the (non-canon) Boom Studios comic series for Magic: The Gathering, Jace is killed by Marit Lage (yes, that giant sea beast locked up under the ice in the card Dark Depths) crashing down onto Amonkhet in a bit meteor. I can’t speak to the comics’ quality aside from that, but it sure sounds like they’re pretty unhinged – and I want more of that in my Magic: The Gathering, oh yes I do.