Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
Villains in Magic
One of the coolest things about Magic is its ongoing stories; cards aren't mindless characters but heroes and villains with plotlines told through flavor text. Magic stories involve countless worlds that beings called planeswalkers can travel between.
Of course, some characters are only out for themselves, often igniting wars and decimating worlds with their ambitions. But which tyrants reign supreme? These are the ten most iconic villains in Magic: The Gathering!
Mana Colors: Green/Red
Species: Satyr (later God)
Xenagos was disturbed even as a youth, killing his twin sister in the womb and attempting to murder his own mother. Like other satyrs, he engaged in hedonistic pleasures across his world, but when his planeswalker spark ignited and he experienced other realms, he realized just how insignificant he really was.
This led to a dangerously nihilistic view, and while his forces attacked the land of Theros, Xenagos somehow ascended to become a god. He was barely conquered by the combined might of Elspeth, Ajani, and Nylea, showcasing his enormous power.
Xenagos has both planeswalker and creature depictions, each offering powerful creature-based supports to red/green decks.
Mana Color: Colorless
Known as the Titan of Corruption, Emrakul is the largest and fiercest of the eldrazi. After the heroic Gatewatch defeated Ulamog and Kozilek, they combat Emrakul on the Innistrad plane. Emrakul is ultimately sealed within Innistrad's moon, but it's revealed she let this happen, stating "It was not her time. Not yet".
So, Emrakul's a looming threat who will probably return to wreak havoc. In the meantime, she enjoys some of the best creature cards ever made, with her "Aeons Torn" form being one of few banned in commander format.
Mana Colors: Blue/Colorless
Memnarch arose as the manifestation of the Mirari, a dangerous artifact that makes wishes real but corrupts them (basically Magic's form of a Monkey's Paw). Memnarch uses his golems to recreate the plane Mirrodin to his whim, populating it by abducting beings from other dimensions using a device called the "soul trap".
Memnarch was opposed by the elf Glissa Sunseeker, but he defeated her armies and trapped her within a temporal bubble for five years, during which he conquered the realm. Glissa finally escaped and only managed to defeat Memnarch by plunging them both into Mirrodin's mana core.
Even with Memnarch's death, his Mirari core remains intact and could very easily corrupt another character in future sets.
Mana Color: Black
Species: Phyrexian Vampire
Crovax is one of the most sympathetic villains you'll ever encounter, suffering a string of misfortunes that eventually drove him mad. In his youth, Crovax left his family (taking their guardian angel Selenia with them) to join the heroic crew of the Weatherlight ship.
However, with him and Selenia gone, Phyrexian agents destroyed his family's home, which he blamed himself for. Making matters worse, Selenia (who Crovax loved) rejected his affection and left him.
By destroying the artifact which held Selenia, Crovax unknowingly placed a curse on himself that doomed him to a life of miseries. After several misadventures, Crovax ended up under Yawgmoth's control, ruling Rath in his steed until his eventual death at the hands of Gerrard.
6. Elesh Norn
Mana Color: White
Praetors are rare and disturbing creatures, with Elesh being the most dangerous of the set. Cunning and powerful, she manipulates her religious fanatics as needed to suit her desires.
Elesh manages to win the praetor war, defeating rivals Sheoldred and Ulabrask and gaining command over New Phyrexia. And really, that's where her story leaves off, with her resounding victory—unlike most villains, Elesh won (at least for the moment).
Mana Color: Blue/Black
Tezzeret's an interesting character wielding many planeswalker cards that specialize in artifact support. He's a servant of the renowned Nicol Bolas, carrying out his evil plans. However, he actually hates Bolas and occasionally allies with the heroes (like his brief partnership with Jace) to try and topple him.
But he's a villain through and through, and his intellect and power exceed any single planeswalker from the Gatewatch. Even after Bolas's ultimate defeat, Tezzeret remains at large and will undoubtedly reemerge to cause more trouble.
4. Baron Sengir
Mana Color: Black
In his youth, Baron Sengir schemed against his father, who was dabbling in black magic and needed to be stopped. Sengir killed his father, but the attempt completed his transformation into a vampire and sparked his thirst for power.
Sengir ends up ruling Ulgrotha, with his ego only matched by his cunning—Sengir always manages to come out on top and recruit spies in every faction. Like Elesh, we last saw him dominating his plane, thwarting any attempts made against him.
3. Ob Nixilis
Mana Color: Black
Species: Human (later Demon)
After conspiring with demons in a pact that killed every other person on his plane, Nixilis traveled to other realms in search of new conquest. He eventually acquired the powerful Chain Veil artifact, but it cursed him into becoming a demon himself.
Nixilis's resulting travels lead to several atrocities, notably his release of the eldrazi Kozilek to attack Zendikar. He's defeated many of the Gatewatch planeswalkers, who only ever fend him off by ganging up or boosting their powers with special artifacts/mana.
Having survived the War of the Spark, Nixilis remains a looming threat to the multiverse. And as much as I like his planeswalker cards, it's actually his creature forms that most impress, devastating foes with powerful abilities.
2. Nicol Bolas
Mana Colors: Red/Blue/Black
Species: Elder Dragon
The twin of the benevolent spirit dragon Ugin, Nicol Bolas serves as the primary antagonist for many sets. He was one of the few survivors of the Elder Dragon war, going on to invade several planes, including Dominaria, Tarkir, and Amonkhet.
After many clashes with both heroes and villain, Nicol defeats the Gatewatch and casts "The Elderspell", which harvest sparks from other planeswalkers into himself. Only the combined efforts of Ugin, the reunited Gatewatch, and the betrayals of his own Dreadhorde generals lead to his demise.
Now, Bolas is alive but imprisoned and guarded by Ugin. Only time will tell if he escapes, but in the meantime, he's got many tempting planeswalker cards to pick from, focusing on exiling opposing spells.
Mana Color: Black
Species: Human (later God)
Yawgmoth served as the main antagonist for most of Magic's earlier sets, and he was mysterious as he was powerful, with no cards actually depicting him. Eventually, we finally saw his true form in the artwork of the above legendary sorcery.
Yawgmoth's story involves many demented conquests, but in short, he becomes a god by binding himself to Phyrexia's core and doggedly pursues Urza for years. Urza is eventually killed, but his artifacts allow Gerrard Capashen to finally destroy Yawgmoth. Still, he's responsible for the Phyrexian mayhem that continuously plagues Dominaria and arguably the strongest villain yet.
Villainous Groups in Magic
In addition to today's malicious entities, Magic cults like The Cabal deserve mention, as does anything Phyrexian. You never quite know who or what will emerge as the next antagonist; even generally "good" colors like green and white contain their fair share.
From tragic to demented, Magic villains come in all shapes and sizes, and I look forward to their future schemes. But for now, as we await Magic's next set, vote for your favorite character and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2019 Jeremy Gill