Kumagoro42's picture
By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Aug 16 2018 1:00pm
0
Login or register to post comments
590 views


Art by Wesley Burt

 SUMMARY OF CONTENTS


INTRODUCTION

 

< back to top >

 Spiritual and strongly connected with nature and the land, Nissa hails from the Joraga elves of Zendikar, whose society and lifestyle most closely resemble real-life Native American culture. After a rocky start as a jarring racial supremacist, Nissa has been largely refocused as a character, starting from the moment she was chosen as the new face of monogreen, replacing the increasingly deranged Garruk. Magic Origins retooled Nissa's back story, and turned her into an animist, a druidic mage gifted with a strong bond with the mana flow and the living leylines of each plane. Able to gently bend nature, plants and elements to her will, Nissa is especially in tune with her beloved home plane of Zendikar, and has trouble adjusting to life in other, more artificial environments, like the gigantic metropolis that constitutes the whole of Ravnica. By making her more of a committed hermit, her past extremism was repurposed as a way to emphasize her love and pride for her homeland. But the reserved, ascetic Nissa is not entirely closed off to new experiences; her sensibility to the flow of mana translates into an extreme empathy for other beings' emotions and mental states, which simultaneously frighten and fascinate the elf, overwhelming her sensory patterns and causing her severe social anxiety (as she's most comfortable around trees than people), but also arousing her curiosity and preventing her to lose herself completely into the elements. This is a facet of Nissa's personality that's best represented in her relationship with the volcanic, restless Chandra, whom Nissa poetically compares to a hummingbird constantly fluttering her wings, always on the brink of flying away; as much as she'd like to reach and connect with the mercurial pyromancer, and to fully understand her pain and passion, Nissa fears not being able to convey her intentions through her inadequate social skills, which, when it comes to dealing with people, leave her at a definite disadvantage.

 The dynamic between the withdrawn elf and the loud human is front and center in the stories that feature both, but so far has been canonically kept on a completely platonic level of deep friendship, with the quiet, shy Nissa having a calming effect on the frenetic Chandra. Their emotionally charged interactions have nonetheless tickled the fancy of many a fan eager for alternative representations, with the two "Gruulfriends" becoming one of the more frequently discussed topic as far as the relationships between the members of the Gatewatch are concerned.

 Nissa's attempts to relate to the vastly different people and surroundings she meets as a consequence of her planeswalks represent the stimulus to seek the knowledge of the unknown, symbolized by her foray into blue mana during the Amonkhet saga. Within the Gatewatch, of which she is the resident mana expert and plane-whisperer, Nissa finds the highest degree of commonality with fellow introverted overthinker Jace, with whom she's keen to engage in telepathic conversations while in the field. Her elegant fighting style plays well with Gideon's, though, and she's the only one to fully grasp the soldier's troubled dealings with matters of faith and spirituality.

 The in-game frequency of Nissa Planeswalker cards has been only 0.8 per year if we consider the full span of her existence as a card, but an amazing 1.75 per year during the 2014-2017 period.

 Her powers, as represented on cards, include:

  • Land animation: 5 instances (Elemental)
  • Card drawing: 4 instances (of which two exploring)
  • Creature boosting: 2 instances
  • Creature tutoring: 2 instances
  • Lifegaining: 2 instances (plus one other instance grafted onto another ability)
  • Mana production: 2 instances
  • Token creation: 2 instances (Elemental, Plant)
  • Cheat-into-play from the top: 1 instance
  • Genesis wave: 1 instance
  • Permanent creature boosting: 1 instance
  • Regrowing permanents: 1 instance
  • Scry: 1 instance

 Nissa's introductory lines from MTG Arena:

  • I protect that which cannot protect itself.
  • Through this land, we are all connected.
  • What a strange and magnificent world!
  • We will not fail.
  • Seek shelter in my stewardship.
  • Power surges through these lands.
  • Together, we will prevail.
  • I will protect the virtue of this world.
  • Witness the ties that bind us all.
  • I will aid you.

FICTIONAL BIOGRAPHY

< back to top >

 Nissa Revane was born within a tribe of the nomadic Joraga Nation on Zendikar. Her mother Meroe was the last of the Joraga animists, shamans visited with often ominous dream-prophecies. Meroe herself never experienced any vision, but the same can't be said of Nissa, a young adept of nature magic whose recurring nightmares of an engulfing glowing stream and a menacing knot of darkness worry the tribal chief Numa to the point of deciding to ban both mother and daughter from the camp, fearing the wrath of a vengeful Zendikar, the embodiment of the plane that the elves worship as a sentient being. Numa believes the animists' very existence angered Zendikar, leading to their near-extinction. Overhearing the conversation between the chief and her mother, Nissa chooses to flee the camp alone, herself convinced the visions are meant as a warning that the darkness sent after her by an angry Zendikar will put everyone around her in danger. The entirely different truth is unveiled when Nissa meets the glowing stream of light while awake, in the deep of the forest, and she connects with it, finally realizing it was the soul of the plane trying to communicate with her. Filled with wonder and awe, she's given a new vision. Nissa learns that the stream, composed by hundreds of thousands of tiny sparkling filaments, is the sum of all the living beings of Zendikar: each plant, animal, and person; it describes the land, and every part of it is connected to the rest. Then Nissa sees herself traveling through the land, reaching a mountain peak containing the growling darkness, and cleansing it with some unknown magic. Emerging from the vision, she's joined by her friend Mazik, whose family also believes in the animist ways and does not fear Nissa's visions. It's in fact Nissa's mother who sent him to look after Nissa, and together they're embraced by a playful Zendikar.

 Now Nissa knows the soul of her world is not after her for vengeance; it's in pain, and wants her help. Accompanied by Mazik and under the benevolent guide of Zendikar, Nissa starts her quest, discovering her simple nature magic has grown disproportionately now that she has accepted her bond with the plane. They leave the Joraga forest in Bala Ged and journeyed through the vampire-infested swamps of Guul Draz into the mountainous region of Akoum, where the "dark knot" resided in her vision. Nissa experiments with her new powers, summoning massive elementals and moving the very earth under her precise commands, creating bridges and shelters. Once in Akoum, the two elves are caught up in the Roil, the magical process that constantly shifts and warps Zendikar's geography, an instinctive reaction of the plane to the darkness of the Eldrazi presence, which it greatly fears. Nissa has to literally sing an animist lullaby to calm down the land, which finally materializes into a single elemental being.

 

 The Zendikar elemental guides Nissa and Mazik closer to the darkness, to the highest peak of Akoum, surrounded by floating hedrons. That's where she had attacked the alien force in the vision, but neither Mazik nor Zendikar are able to stand near the source of the darkness, and have to go back. As Zendikar's Chosen, Nissa continues alone, until she reaches the point where in the vision she conjured the cleansing spell; she taps into the soul of the plane and channels through her body an enormous amount of energy, pointing it toward the unholy peak, but to no avail: the unknown entity writhes and gnarls in metaphorical laughter, and sends waves upon waves of pure madness against Nissa. And that's how the brave elf's spark ignites; she briefly finds herself wandering the Blind Eternities, and then she lands on a completely unrecognizable place; a forest with strange colors and a strong smell, where plants and trees feel foreign and elves have horns and hooves: Lorwyn.

 Now a self-aware animist, Nissa immediately connects with the new plane, and senses the Great Aurora coming, turning Lorwyn into its dark counterpart, Shadowmoor. She runs into Dwynen, a high-ranking packmaster from Gilt-Leaf, during a hunt for what the aesthetically classist elves of Lorwyn call "eyeblights". Dwynen deems the green-eyed Nissa beautiful enough to join them, but the Zendikari soon realizes these elves are ruthless, racist predators and their hunt was not aimed at the evil spider-things she saw in her vision of the Aurora, but it was rather just a slaughtering of innocent boggarts, this plane's goblins.

  

 Nissa rebels against their sadistic customs, but Dwynen and her lieutenants didn't have time to turn against her in retaliation, because the Aurora is upon them all. Nissa barely escapes planeswalking back to Zendikar, her mind filled with tempting offers of power from the upcoming Shadowmoor.

 In the following years, Nissa made several trips to other planes, including Ravnica and Mirrodin (NOTE: This comes from pre-Origins material, so it might have been retconned away). On Zendikar, she would live in Ondu with the Tajurus, the most culturally advanced of the Elven Nations. During her stay with them, she developed a taste for music. When the Eldrazi finally awakened, and the Tajuru leader, Speaker Sutina, was killed by their drones, Nissa took her place. She lead an expeditionary force to find more about the Eldrazi broodlings that roamed the land, but they all met their end, leaving Nissa as the only survivor, saved by the intervention of the vampire planeswalker Sorin Markov. Sorin and Nissa then free an Eldrazi-enthralled Anowon, the vampire sage with unparalleled expertise on ruins and relics who had crossed paths with Chandra when she first came to Zendikar. Together with the two vampires, an uncomfortable Nissa marches toward the Eye of Ugin, which Sorin knows to be the key to the Eldrazi resurgence. It's in fact the very cave, hidden deep beneath the Akoum mountains, against which Nissa had in vain directed the plane's cleansing fury right before her spark ignited; the source of the dark knot, the prison of the colossal Eldrazi titans, engineered six thousand years prior by three powerful, ageless planeswalkers: the kor lithomancer Nahiri, the elder dragon Ugin, and Sorin himself.

 On their way to the Eye, the strange trio makes a plethora of encounters, ending up being joined by a group of goblins that Sorin and Anowon periodically use as road trip snacks. Nissa summons a behemoth to power the boat that takes them across the ocean from Ondu to Akoum; she then has to use some empathic diplomacy to gain passage from a large kraken named Brinelin, who was friends with Sutina. Ultimately, Nissa's compassion, or her distrust of vampires, gets the better of her: once they reached the secret chamber, instead of helping Sorin reinforce the hedron prison that keeps the Eldrazi titans at bay, she decides to free the poor trapped cosmic abominations, hoping they will just escape the plane to get back "home" to the Blind Eternities. Unfortunately, they don't: they remain on Zendikar and proceed to happily ravage the plane. Sorin understandably gets mad at Nissa and storms off, resolved to wash his hands of the entire situation.

 Two years later, Nissa is still fighting the good fight for her plane, ripping apart tentacled monstrosities with her staff-sword, her superhuman strength (whose origin is a bit unclear) and her elemental magic. But she's grown more and more disillusioned, feeling the weight of her inconsiderate actions in the Eye of Ugin, and doubting the faith Zendikar still seems to place in her being able to reverse the doom she brought about to the world she swore to protect. Ulamog and his brood lineage are laying waste to the land, and the corruption they spread is final: what the Eldrazi touch is dead forever. At some point they assault the Joragas, seemingly extinguishing them all except for Nissa. Hamadi, a human from the Graypelt tribe, rescues and befriends her. Thanks to him, Nissa recovers some shreds of hope, realizing her duty to never give up and the meaninglessness of the divide between elves, humans and the other races. Nissa keeps summoning increasingly powerful manifestations of Zendikar to battle the Eldrazi, thus earning Hamadi's moniker of "Shaya", which in the Graypelt language means "the Worldwaker". One of Nissa's tree-like elementals, and a truly gigantic one at that, isn't absorbed back into the land when dismissed, remaining at her side. Complementing Hamadi's appellation, she names this elemental "Ashaya": the Awoken World.

 A vampire acquaintance of Anowon (who's missing, possibly turned once again into a Pawn of Ulamog like many of the vampires) brings Nissa four seeds, one for each of the major native plants of the plane: the Kolya tree, the Jaddi tree, the red mangrove, and the bloodbriar, the latter coming from Nissa's now annihilated home continent of Bala Ged. The unnamed vampire believes Nissa to be Zendikar's last hope, as well as its legacy; she's given the seeds to plant them on another plane, so that, once the Eldrazi will be done devouring it, the doomed, dying Zendikar won't entirely disappear from the multiverse. But Ashaya won't just let Nissa give up the fight and planeswalk way. The towering colossus doesn't speak but is ultimately able to show Nissa that she is truly one with Zendikar, not so much a Chosen One as a natural extension of the plane, just like everything else born of it. Zendikar's pain is hers and her pain is Zendikar's; as long as she'll fight, Zendikar will fight, and vice versa. Nissa also learns to detect and manipulate the glowing network of leylines of the plane, the same ones that Nahiri followed when she arranged her hedron pattern.

 After Nissa has become one with Zendikar, able to wield the entire planar force through the leylines, her powers increase exponentially, and she now understands the Eldrazi apocalypse is not irreversible, not as unwinnable a scenario as the vampire believed and Nissa herself had feared in the deep of her heart. The land itself turns into an augmentation of her being, the forest moves with her, supports her, propels her and Ashaya forward; she's fully open to the beauty and power of the world she had called home for so long, and she feels like slaying not just spawns but one of the titans themselves might be within her reach. She will not stop until one day she will plant those seeds: not on a foreign plane, but on a free Zendikar, reborn anew.

 In the months that follow, the battle for Nissa's home plane rages on, mobilizing all of Zendikar's peoples and a few planeswalkers. Nissa and Ashaya, now able to communicate through their silent bond, are the plane's mighty avengers, always ready to intervene wherever an Eldrazi threatens any living being, be it even just a blade of grass. Through her connection with the plane, Nissa commands tidal waves of land and vegetation, animates ground and roots, erects walls with chunks of land, rock and detritus; the surroundings part and move aside to make room for her passage, as she rides Ashaya on the saddle-like cleft between the giant elemental's thick wood horns. They answer any call for help, smashing Eldrazi's butt left and right. Until, after yet another battle against Ulamog's progenies in the Vastwood Forest of Tazeem, Ashaya disappears and Nissa loses her connection with Zendikar. Suspecting this to be the titan's work, she suddenly feels empty and alone again. Trying to repair the bond with the planetary entity she now calls her friend, she staggers blindingly through the woods and stumbles upon a swarm of Eldrazi drones not far from the fallen port city of Sea Gate. She rescues a wounded merfolk explorer called Jori En, but pretty soon the two find themselves overwhelmed by the crawling spawn, as Nissa is not accustomed to fight hand to hand anymore. Luckily for them, a guy with a weird accent and peculiar weaponry appears to save the day.

 Gideon and other Zendikari freedom fighters have established a safe encampment for Sea Gate survivors atop one of the larger floating landmasses, Sky Rock. His current mission is to bring Jori to Jace, in an effort to understand the relation between Nahiri's monoliths and the Eldrazi and find a way to stop the rampaging monstrosities. Nissa is all for it, but first she needs to re-establish her severed bond with the plane. She had immediately recognized Gideon as a fellow planeswalker, but neither the brave soldier nor the mind mage can't help with or even understand her druidic predicament, so she decides to go keep vigil at the spot in the woods where Ashaya was last seen, refusing to accept Zendikar was gone, praying she would come back, and fighting off Eldrazi swarms all on her own, to make sure their corruption didn't pollute that symbolic clearing. She was briefly joined by one of Gideon's lieutenants, Munda, chasing after the female goblin Pili, in turn trying to find her missing beloved, Leek. Together, they found a large group of goblins hidden in a cave, who Munda promptly recruits to their world-saving cause. But Leek is already dead, and Pili's grief and rage touch Nissa like nothing else since Ashaya's disappearance. She instinctively hugs Pili, and it's an elf embracing a goblin, the symbol of an upturned world where old rivalries have become moot in the face of unspeakable doom. Nissa is inspired by Pili's determination and tries to think of a secret, safe place where Zendikar, like Leek, could have retreated to. It doesn't take long for her to be reminded of the Khalni Heart, the outgrowth of the plane's soul, where all the leylines converge. Nissa knows her native forest of Bala Ged is where the mythical flower is said to bloom, so she makes an intraplanar planeswalk back home (which is probably just a narrative shortcut to avoid a story where Nissa treks through three continents or takes a long trip by sea).

 In Bala Ged she's shockingly faced with the consequences of the Eldrazi blight, as everything that was once her homeland has been consumed, disintegrated, replaced with a dusty, chalky wasteland. Her memories guide her through the corrupted emptiness, past what has been her own village, and into a cave marked with pale moss: a crucial clue of the presence of life. Inside, she finds an unnatural arrangement of hedrons linked by artificial leylines, and among them the mystical flower she was seeking, except someone had cruelly uprooted it and placed it on a slab of stone. That someone being the former human, former planeswalker demon Ob Nixilis, who was trapped on Zendikar by Nahiri many centuries ago, then unwillingly freed by Jace just recently, and is now trying to use the Khalni Heart to re-ignite his spark and regain oldwalker powers. Of course Nissa won't have it, so she takes down the hedron circle and the smug demon by tapping into the wild side she was repressing since her youth, or something like that (honestly this story doesn't make a lot of sense. Nissa used to brawl with baloths?). In the climax of the battle, she sent her own essence through to the Khalni Heart, reviving it long enough for the flower's roots to grow and touch the soil, escaping the demon's clutches into the ground. In that moment, the soul of Zendikar comes back online, and Nissa's connection with it, once again allowing her to move in concert with the land. The cave collapses on the startled demon, and Nissa surges upward toward the surface, where Ashaya finally reforms at her side, the two of them ready for the final battle at Sea Gate, where a host of disparate forces is trying to take back the city that was once the cultural center of the plane. At Nissa's command, as she had promised Gideon, Zendikar itself spectacularly joins the fray in the form of dozens of hulking elementals.

 The Zendikari merfolk planeswalker Kiora arrives to join the fight wielding the powerful Bident of Thassa, and with the help of her leviathans and Nissa's elementals, the Zendikari force lead by Gideon succeeded in freeing Sea Gate. They've barely time to celebrate, though, because Ulamog himself is now slowly approaching. The impetuous Kiora, who holds a grudge against the false god Ula, wants to just assault the titan frontally, but Jace has devised a plan to trap the titan using the hedrons, like Nahiri had done. Nissa is crucial to the execution, for it falls on her to dig out and move the hedrons in position through her connection with the land. She'd rather destroy the titan than imprison him again, but wouldn't risk chasing him to another plane, which he would begin devouring like he did Zendikar. Once the towering Ulamog stands in the center of the hedron ring they've built for him, Nissa clicks the last of the arcane stones into alignment, corrects a last-second misalignment by mind-melding with an aghast Jace, and then the eldritch monstrosity is finally trapped.

 Unfortunately, it's a short-lived victory. A vengeful Ob Nixilis, who had been tracking down Nissa since his Khalni Heart debacle, shows up again, successfully siphons the power of the hedrons to reignite his spark, then breaks the circuit, releasing Ulamog, and for good measure summons a second titan, Kozilek, who rises from the depths ready to wreak more havoc on the shell-shocked Zendikari. Nissa had desperately tried, to no avail, to use her own body to keep the leylines connected through the disrupted, crumbling hedron network. Both Nissa and Jace had secretly planned to obliterate the trapped titan channeling the plane's full lifeforce through the hedrons, even with the elder dragon Ugin telling the blue mage that they shouldn't mess with cosmic entities of this magnitude. But they missed their brief window of opportunity, and now Nissa is consumed with pure hatred, blinded by the violent rage that had so far managed to keep contained at the center of her soul. While all around her the world descends into a living nightmare of warped geometries, time anomalies and gravitational distortions, all courtesy of Kozilek, Nissa's singular drive is to chase and end Ob Nixilis. But the demon dodges her furious, uncoordinated assault, then takes command of a group of Kozilek's drones that twist reality around Nissa, knocking her out.

 

 In turn, Jace and Gideon engage Ob Nixilis and also fall one by one to his cunning and tactical acumen, incapacitated just as Nissa. While all this was going down, Chandra had planeswalked in from her monastery on Regatha and was observing the dire events from a distance. Unknowingly, the core of the future Gatewatch was mere feet away from assembling. Tazri directs Chandra toward the cavern where Ob Nixilis was seen take the other three planeswalkers, and soon the pyromancer breaks into the demon's lair, and meets for the first time her future best friend caught in a less than pleasant situation.

 Luckily for everyone involved but Ob Nixilis, Chandra semi-flawlessly performs her rescue and the four of them, working in unison as one formidable demon-defeating machine, force the winged enemy to a bitter retreat to some unknown other plane. It's at this point that the thought hits them: from planeswalker powers come planeswalker responsibilities. Gideon takes his oath, and Nissa follows suit. In her mind, only life.

 Nissa is the one who prods Jace to express in words his commitment to their newborn superfriends gang, and who warmly embraces Chandra when she also does. Now there's just the slight issue of the two rampaging titans still in need of a takedown.

 The Fab Four rejoin Tazri, Kiora and the other surviving leaders of the anti-Eldrazi league. Pressured, Jace comes up with half a plan. Certain that if left unchecked, the titans will ultimately leave Zendikar to start feeding on the next plane, and with trapping both of them now off the table, the new goal becomes officially their destruction, and the hell with Ugin's admonitions not to do that. The idea is having Nissa weave the leylines around them in the form of the glyph that was used in the hedron arrangement, the one Nahiri designed and Ugin had shown Jace. This would freeze them in place again, if just as long as Nissa could maintain concentration, but also force into the physical world their entire bodies, not just the mere appendages currently present on Zendikar (described by Ugin as hands reaching into a pond). This accomplished, how to proceed from there with the destruction agenda, it's everyone's guess. And it's Nissa who figures it out. To explain it, Jace has to commune with the animist again, and this frightens him, because when he lets himself into Nissa's mind, two things happen. The first is: he sees the world the way she sees it, pulsing with the millions of crisscrossing interconnections, an experience that simultaneously amazes and overwhelms the telepath. Secondly, he's not in control of the mental merging; she is. A unique peculiarity of Nissa's mind.

 Nissa has come to understand the Roil was a consequence of energy being discharged into the leylines by the hedron network as a result of the Eldrazi's periodic assaults at the walls of their mana prison. Without the hedrons acting as dampeners, she might be able to disperse into the plane their entire essence; this way, Zendikar will do to the titans exactly what they have tried to do to it: devour them. During their mind-meld, Nissa has also revealed to Jace that she was the one who removed the final failsafe in the Eye of Ugin, letting the titans loose. In response, Jace discloses how he and Chandra had been previously responsible for opening the first lock of the prison, allowing the Eldrazi broods to roam the plane in the first place. So basically Gideon is the only one who's not there to fix a mess of his own making.

 Nonetheless, the haphazard plan of which Nissa is the key is put in motion. The surviving Zendikari armies lure the two life-consuming, indifferent entities by just converging all to the same valley, like inviting them to a banquet. Once they're close enough to each other, Nissa does her thing, scintillating with energy, and suddenly the two unfathomably ancient cosmic beings find themselves at the mercy of a little elf. The pattern of visible green mana surrounds and ensnares the giants, drags them completely out of the Blind Eternities and binds them to the material realm, which is cause for some disturbing cataclysmic events: the very fabric of reality collapses into the immense, contorted effigies of the two titans, who now fill the sky and extend to embrace everything, regurgitating millions of broodlings in the process. Defended by her allies, Nissa barely resists the strain put on her by the channeling, but soldiers on nonetheless. Zendikar falters and begins to come apart, in a contest of consumption with the titans: they drain to avoid being drained. As the floating landmasses start falling into the whirling, boiling seas, Kiora panics; she fears the death of the titans will lead to Zendikar's extinction as well, and tries to forcibly stop Nissa's spell, to allow the abominations to just flee the plane. But with Nissa's silent encouragement, Chandra steps in. She wanted to burn the titans to cinders since this whole thing had begun. And when her burn spell is still not enough to take care of the now epic versions of the two Eldrazi, Nissa lends her the full might of the plane: infinite mana. It's the fiery end of Ulamog and Kozilek.

 

 In the quiet days of convalescence and reconstruction that follow, Nissa has the chance to finally plant the seeds of the four plants that represent Zendikar. She chooses the spot at the center of the glyph, whose glowing silhouette has remained permanently carved into the ground, marking the site of the ultimate battle that saw the victory of the Gatewatch and the Zendikari. People already start to pilgrimage to that valley, and Nissa thinks it's the right place for a new, sacred forest. She plans to stay on Zendikar to watch it grow, to protect the fragile ecosystem to come, but Chandra changes her mind. The connection between Nissa and the pyromancer during their Channel/Fireball gambit has been the deepest the elf ever felt in her life, more profound than ever the one she shares with Zendikar and Ashaya – on top of that, Chandra makes Nissa smile and laugh, for the first time in forever. The animist realizes that as much as she'll miss the presence of Zendikar's soul at her side once she's gone, she'd also miss the makeshift family of the Gatewatch if she stayed behind. She also understands that if Chandra hadn't chosen to leave her home world and perceived obligations to come to the rescue, Zendikar would have been annihilated by now. The four of them are needed elsewhere, to stop other threats to other worlds. It's the beginning of Nissa's extraplanar adventures.

 First stop: Innistrad, where Jace had been searching for Nissa's old acquaintance, Sorin Markov. When the feud between the ancient vampire and his former associate Nahiri culminates in the angry lithomancer summoning Emrakul and the plane descending into tentacled chaos and mutant insanity, Jace deploys the Gatewatch, aiming to recreate the same trick used on Zendikar against the other two titans. But Nahiri's cryptolith network hijacked most of Innistrad's leylines, which were too dark and foreign to Nissa to begin with, not to mention polluted by the titan's influence. The attempt nearly ends in disaster, if not for the intervention of Liliana, who sweeps in at the head of a vast zombie horde just in time to prevent the Gatewatch from being overrun by Emrakul's perversions of nature. Nissa can't stand to be in the proximity of the Chain Veil, distressed by the artifact's extremely dark power. But she doesn't have time to worry about that, because a few moments later, Emrakul rises, and everyone goes utterly mad.

 Kept mostly sane by a protection spell Jace had put in place as a safety measure, they later come to their senses long enough to assess the situation. Nissa recognizes the godlike purple aberration as the dark knot in the cave from when her spark ignited. Touched by her presence in deeper ways than the others, she prepares herself to die right there and then. Fortunately, the serene moonfolk planeswalker Tamiyo is now part of the company, and she knows how to trap Emrakul inside Innistrad's silvery moon, with some finessing from Jace, and of course the mana sources provided by Nissa, as per usual. Or so it appears; but that's a story for another day.

 Three months have passed, and the Gatewatch, with Liliana as the newest member, has more or less comfortably taken residence in Jace's sanctum on Ravnica. Nissa is not enjoying very much the loud, crowded urban setting of the city-plane, and she forfeited the "too angular" room Jace has assigned her, instead spending most of her time in the roof garden. Despite her sincerity and humility, Nissa is still perceived as a silent, detached alien; none of the humans she shares a home/headquarters with really understands her and her bizarre animist rituals, like communing with her food. She devoted her own existence to protect life anywhere, but her primary sense of belonging still remains to Zendikar, and she misses Ashaya very much. Still, she does enjoy the company of her teammates, as she trains with Gideon and is increasingly attracted by Chandra's antithetical approach to actions and emotions (concepts which, in Chandra's case, coincide). So when the pyromancer goes rogue, as she does, and might find herself in danger on her home plane of Kaladesh, Nissa volunteers to follow her, and surprises herself thinking of Chandra as her friend, the first of hers who's not also the elemental incarnation of a plane (at least since when poor Mazik disappeared from her storyline without a trace).

 Ghirapur, Kaladesh's main city, is a better environment for Nissa, as metal and stone and large gatherings of people are still prevalent, but the lines of objects and buildings are softer, everything is more colorful, elegant and pleasant to her eyes compared to Ravnica's gray cement. She also learns to (attune with the aether), finding the energy that flows through all of Kaladesh not dissimilar to the all-embracing leylines of Zendikar.

 Urged by Chandra, she uses this new ability to track the location of the secret underground prison where Chandra's own mother, revolutionary leader Pia Nalaar, is supposedly held captive. Too bad the two of them, along with Chandra's old aunt surrogate, Mrs. Pashiri, fall into a trap, only to be rescued by Ajani.

 

 While inside the poisonous cell with no physical escape, both Chandra and Nissa refuse to just planeswalk away leaving Mrs. Pashiri to die alone. With death as a distinct possibility (despite Nissa's elvish physiology attenuating the effect of the poison on her organism), they acknowledge their deep connection, and the way the Gatewatch is as much about saving worlds as it is sparing its members from feeling alone and disconnected in a cruel multiverse.

 Once the Kaladesh situation is solved, the group heads to Amonkhet, to chase down the next big interplanar threat at hand: the endlessly scheming elder dragon Nicol Bolas. On the scorched desert-covered plane that supposedly functions as Bolas's base of operations, Nissa suffers from the exhausting heat and is unsettled by the aura of death and decay that permeates everything, a malaise that makes her physically sick. She perceives and investigates the ancient Curse of Wandering, which causes every living being that dies on Amonkhet to rise again as undead. She connects with the soul of the plane, and senses that is old, frightened, and desperate (she's not having a lot of luck with the planes she visits). During a morning walk with Chandra down the streets of the exceedingly polished city of Naktamun, more unspoken words linger between the elf and the pyromancer; Nissa confesses her discomfort with being around people, and Chandra appears disappointed hearing the other define their relationship as "just" friendship (in a famously edited first version of this story, Chandra was more explicitly broken-hearted, but there's still a heavy sigh from her at the end of the scene).

 Nissa is the first of the visitors to understand Bolas didn't actually create Amonkhet, he just took it over, perverting its culture for his nefarious goals. Trying to consult the ibis god Kefnet, she ends up trapped in the cascading nightmares of his Trial of Knowledge; with the prodding from the vision of an angel that might or might not be proof that Emrakul is still connected with her after the events of Innistrad, Nissa realizes her leyline powers are far greater than she imagined, since any kind of mana and magic, i.e. pretty much anything, is actually made of leylines. Focusing her conscious mind rather than just doing it instinctively (hence the odd blue symbol in the casting cost of Nissa, Steward of Elements), Nissa manages to get a hold of Kefnet's own leylines and change them, basically reprogramming a god. This power feels inebriating to Nissa, which just a few moments before was wondering if she wasn't the reason of the blight that seemingly accompanies her to every plane she travels to. She risks losing herself into it, ominously urged by the Emrakul vision to stop being a pawn and become a "hand that moves".

 Furious to find out Liliana's primary motivation to come to Amonkhet was to kill the penultimate of her demon creditors, Razaketh, Nissa nonetheless helps her getting rid of him. Unfortunately, the final battle with Bolas himself is in another league, and the Gatewatch gets resoundingly thrashed, one by one, Nissa second to last right before "the Rock" Gideon.

 Hastily reconvening at their rendezvous point on Dominaria, with Jace still missing in action, the group's tensions come to a head. Nissa can't abide Liliana flagrantly manipulating all of them for her own ends, and is upset with Gideon for what she perceives as his ongoing willingness to let himself being played by the necromancer. She had been intermittently questioning the purpose of her continuous allegiance to the Gatewatch, at the price of abandoning Zendikar during the post-Eldrazi rebuilding. So she impulsively rescinds the oath and, before a devastated Chandra could say anything to stop her, she planeswalks back to her ancestral home, where everything started. Now on Zendikar, disillusioned and completely on her own once again, with a power whose implications she's only beginning to understand, where will Nissa go from there? To be continued.


INCARNATIONS 

1.   

  • Name: Nissa Revane   >> back to top
  • First Appearance: October 2009
  • Versions: Zendikar (Nissa's Chosen also as Game Day Promo, then reprinted in Duel Decks: Nissa vs. Ob Nixilis)
  • Converted Mana Cost: 4
  • Turns to Ultimate: 6
  • Ultimate's Power Level: High, it's a wincon, albeit strictly contingent on the deck's composition and state at the moment of the activation
  • Self-Defense: Moderate, she summons a 2/3 onto the battlefield
  • Role: Tribal Leader
  • Evaluation: If Lorwyn was the timid beginning of the planeswalker type, and Alara was the improvement on the efficiency of the original model, the third wave that started with Zendikar was the time to experiment and test the boundaries. Nissa's debut, in particular, was an attempt to assess the new type's possible tribal applications. She's also the first and, so far, only planeswalker to directly mention by name another card (a functional reprint of Elvish Warrior) required to be in the deck for the ability to produce a result, which is not the most elegant solution. The main problem with Nissa Revane, though, is that she may even do useful things (or at least, useful enough), and she builds toward an ultimate that all but translates into an outright victory, at the time probably the most inescapable ultimate after Jace, the Mind Sculptor's, yet those are all things that an Elf tribal deck already does on its own, and usually faster. And Nissa Revane isn't just better in an Elf build – she more or less exclusively works in an Elf build. And such a deck can't really think of a reason to include a frail, slow, non-tribal card.
  • Rating: 4

2.  

  • Name: Nissa, Worldwaker   >> back to top
  • First Appearance: July 2014
  • Versions: Magic 2015, Archenemy: Nicol Bolas
  • Converted Mana Cost: 5
  • Turns to Ultimate: 5
  • Ultimate's Power Level: High, provided the deck includes a fair number of basic lands
  • Self-Defense: Adequate if there's still an untapped land the turn Nissa drops
  • Role: Creature Factory/Ramp Enabler
  • Evaluation: Almost five years since her first appearance, Nissa is back, proving she wasn't a one-and-done character after all. With a styling and haircut inspired by South African musician Yolandi Visser, and leaving the Elf mechanic behind to focus on lands and Elementals, the card that represents her new Worldwaker moniker is a complete and winsome reboot that marries flavor and mechanics. Her role is perfectly split in two, as represented by her parallel +1 activations: you can either have her swarm the board with 4/4 tramplers, or she can boost your mana, almost doubling it the turn following her arrival. Both uses have slight downsides; the animated lands do not get untapped, so if you tapped out to cast Nissa, the first of these activations will result in a tapped Elemental; and to produce mana you can only untap Forests, which may decrease the impact of Nissa's ramp, unless properly built around. In some ways, the Worldwaker maintains a part of that general feeling Nissa Revane had that you can't just chuck her into any deck supporting double green. This time her deckbuilding requirements are minimal, though, and she's a very solid presence in a midrange deck, churning out board presence or helping fuel massive threats, and in both cases marching toward an ultimate that, again, needs some pre-planning but it's a reliable and affordable wincon, being essentially a deck-wide version of her first ability, a true worldwake.
  • Rating: 8

3.   

  • Name: Nissa, Sage Animist (transforms from Nissa, Vastwood Seer)   >> back to top
  • First Appearance: July 2015
  • Versions: Magic Origins, From the Vault: Transform
  • Converted Mana Cost: 3
  • Turns to Ultimate: 5 (starting from the turn of the transformation)
  • Ultimate's Power Level: High, 36 points of power ready to swing is a scary enough prospect
  • Self-Defense: Moderate, she can take cover behind Ashaya right away, but goes down to one loyalty in the process
  • Role: Card Factory
  • Evaluation: The year following the Worldwaker redesign, Nissa shows up again in a core set, which was meant as the last one; for the occasion,  the five monocolored characters headlining the mana wheel are given a new origin story and a creature-to-planeswalker transformer card, and Nissa is now the rightful owner of the green spot, ready for the upcoming formation of the Gatewatch. Her creature version is Borderland Ranger for Forests, and the mechanic of the transformation invites to play her in multiples, because you'll only flip her to the other side late in the game, so chances are the Vastwood Seer you dropped on turn 3 is not going to stay around all the way through. As a result of this slower process, the actual planeswalker card ranks among the best in the cycle, able as she is to cast Explore (or, more precisely, generating a Coiling Oracle trigger) every single turn, on her way to a pretty resolutive ultimate, most likely pausing just to summon dear Ashaya as protection. The combination of card advantage and land development is smooth, especially considering the ETB trigger of the Seer was already advantage to begin with. Once again, you might want to give Nissa a little hand by incorporating spells that accelerate the land drop, so that the transformation into Sage Animist will happen sooner. The only real issue is flavor-related: the towering Ashaya shouldn't be a run-of-the-mill vanilla 4/4, she should stand at least at 6/6. I guess the power level didn't allow for that, but it's too bad she didn't get better card representation.
  • Rating: 8

4.   

  • Name: Nissa, Voice of Zendikar   >> back to top
  • First Appearance: January 2016
  • Versions: Oath of the Gatewatch, Duel Decks: Nissa vs. Ob Nixilis
  • Converted Mana Cost: 3
  • Turns to Ultimate: 5
  • Ultimate's Power Level: Moderate, it's alluring, but not necessarily crucial
  • Self-Defense: Moderate, she puts a chump-blocker in front of her
  • Role: Token Factory
  • Evaluation: Nissa continues her successful streak concurrently with the introduction of the Gatewatch. Her final Zendikar incarnation is a fast token generator that plays greatly in aggro decks. Her ultimate is sweet, but unlikely to reach because the loyalty counters are going to be periodically redirected toward the team pumping – all those little Plants are in need of a power-up. Curiously, this is the only Nissa that creates multiple tokens, as her various planeswalker cards so far have approached the act of putting creatures onto the battlefield from a series of very different angles: fetching a specific card, animating lands (either permanently or temporarily), creating a single legendary token, and cheating into play from the top of the library.
  • Rating: 8

5.  

  • Name: Nissa, Vital Force   >> back to top
  • First Appearance: September 2016
  • Versions: Kaladesh, San Diego Comic-Con 2018 Promo
  • Converted Mana Cost: 5
  • Turns to Ultimate: 2
  • Ultimate's Power Level: Moderate, it offers advantage, not resolution
  • Self-Defense: High, an untapped 5/5 is guaranteed
  • Role: Tactical Superiority
  • Evaluation: The Kaladesh adventure with Chandra regaled us with the strongest Nissa. Similar in cost and power level to the Worldwaker, the Vital Force solves the issue of the first turn tapped creature awkwardness by just untapping it. This Nissa won't proliferate Elementals on the battlefield, though; in most cases, she basically operates as a 5/5 virtually indestructible beater with haste for five mana (yes, you can kill the land, but she'll just animate another in the next combat phase). The summon must be repeated every turn, but it lasts enough to defend if needed, and the ultimate is around the corner, rewarding us with free card advantage for the rest of the game – such is the power of the emblems, as this is the first time Nissa has got one. The deal would be good enough already, but Nissa, Vital Force is not only about recklessly sending creatures after the opponent; the minus ability is a very tactical Nature's Spiral, regrowing crucial permanent in a crucial moment. It's a setup that would become common among the top walkers: a plus ability that you want to repeat every turn, building to a desirable ultimate, while the minus is powerful but situational, so the path is clear and easy to follow.
  • Rating: 9

6. 

  • Name: Nissa, Nature's Artisan   >> back to top
  • First Appearance: September 2016
  • Versions: Kaladesh (Planeswalker Deck only)
  • Converted Mana Cost: 6
  • Turns to Ultimate: 4
  • Ultimate's Power Level: Moderate, a big Overrun can prove lethal, but it doesn't do anything on its own
  • Self-Defense: None
  • Role: Healer
  • Evaluation: As far as Planeswalker Deck cards go, Nature's Artisan is not even terrible, but she's certainly overcosted. She'll gain you a ton of life, occasionally draw you two cards (with Sage Animist's plus ability times two), and she's hard to take down. But she can't defend herself and the ultimate is too unreliably far away to matter. Casually playable, but nothing more.
  • Rating: 4

7. 

  • Name: Nissa, Steward of Elements   >> back to top
  • First Appearance: April 2017
  • Versions: Amonkhet
  • Converted Mana Cost: 3 minimum
  • Turns to Ultimate: 4, assuming fastest drop
  • Ultimate's Power Level: Moderate, it's a roundabout way to deal 10 damage to the opponent
  • Self-Defense: None, unless you luck out on (or set up) an eligible creature from the top of the library
  • Role: Strategic Superiority
  • Evaluation: Green girl gone Simic. Steward of Elements is the strangest, yet most fascinating of all Nissas. First of all, it's the only scalable planeswalker currently in existence. You can play her for three and then have her start scrying her way up in order to produce a meaningful result for the second ability, which correctly doesn't cost any loyalty counter, so it'll never feel like two steps forward and three steps back. Or you can chance upon her in late game and set her up for a larger value of X that may bear more fruit, though you'll still want not to go into that topdeck blindingly. Or maybe you do, and once Nissa has accumulated a decent number of loyalty counters, you'll just enjoy what at worst is an Oracle of Mul Daya effect. The promise of getting some big free Wurm or Dinosaur through it, if that's what your deck is going for, may outclass the solid but unspectacular ultimate, but it's a trick that requires a lot of preparation and major library manipulation, so the best course of action is probably to just scry turn after turn, until the right moment to steward something into play naturally presents itself. And hell, at some point, it'll come the moment to just send those flying Elementals swinging and call it a day. This is a tricky planeswalker, but she can prove extremely rewarding.
  • Rating: 8

8. 

  • Name: Nissa, Genesis Mage   >> back to top
  • First Appearance: July 2017
  • Versions: Hour of Devastation (Planeswalker Deck only)
  • Converted Mana Cost: 7
  • Turns to Ultimate: 4
  • Ultimate's Power Level: High, she dumps a big chunk of the deck onto the battlefield
  • Self-Defense: Moderate, if there are creatures around, she can untap and put them on defense duty
  • Role: Tactical Superiority
  • Evaluation: Her time on Amonkhet was a strange period for Nissa, with visions of power dancing in her head. It's fitting that her Planeswalker Deck card for Hour of Devastation feels a little weird, too. For one, that super Giant Growth is unprecedented. What you want to do with this incarnation, though, is getting to the ultimate the card is named after, that Genesis Wave for ten that was the cause for the high casting cost. It takes four turns of just untapping stuff after you've spent seven mana, though. Not ideal. And it still has the flaw of many of Nissa's flashier, "worldwaker" ultimates: it's nullified by any wrath effect or, worse, Settle the Wreckage.
  • Rating: 4

NISSA'S CARDS

   

< back to top >

 All the non-planeswalker cards with Nissa in their name (half of which search for lands):

  • Nissa's Chosen is one of the Joragas who fight alongside her on Zendikar.
  • Nissa's Expedition is her exploration of her home plane to find more about the hedrons and the Eldrazi.
  • Nissa's Pilgrimage is young Nissa trying to reach the mountain of her vision.
  • Nissa's Revelation is her perceiving the true, maddening form of the darkness that lies inside that mountain.
  • Nissa's Renewal depicts the moment she finally reconnects with the soul of Zendikar after Ob Nixilis's interference.
  • Oath of Nissa is her induction into a certain disfunctional support group.
  • Nissa's Judgment shows her fury against the Eldrazi.
  • Nissa's Encouragement is Nissa desperately trying to cling onto some remnant of life on Amonkhet.
  • Nissa's Defeat is Nicol Bolas disagreeing with her.

 Nissa has had so far two Story Spotlights focusing on her:

  • Deadlock Trap is the claustrophobic predicament she shared with Chandra on Kaladesh.
  • Broken Bond is the dramatic moment when she walked away from the Gatewatch.

   

 Other cards clearly depicting her as the main character:

 Planeswalker Deck exclusive cards:

NISSA'S STAFF-SWORD

 Apart from her elvish ranger clothes and her Joraga facial warpaint/tattoos (which usually frame her face but sometimes disappear, probably due to specific artist's renditions), the most prominent feature of Nissa's gear is her long, druidic wood staff that conceals a blade. She uses it in her dance-fighting style of close combat, which makes her the most proficient hand-to-hand fighter in the Gatewatch, behind Gideon.


IMAGE GALLERY

< back to top > 

Fresh-faced ranger Nissa exploring her beloved Zendikar before her ignition. Art by Wesley Burt.

Nissa's peculiar staff-sword – and her even more peculiar eyes. Art by Daniel Ljunggren.

Fighting Eldrazi with Sorin, right before taking one terrible, terrible decision about it. Art by Michael Komarck.

Nissa the Worldwaker connecting with the leylines. Art by Wesley Burt.

Nissa looking in the distance at her beloved Zendikar, probably with a touch of sadness. Art by Chris Rahn.


< The Planeswalker Files Central >

< back to top >