With Theros block, Magic’s Creative team set up a storyline featuring a character who could have become one of Magic’s most interesting villains – Xenagos, the planeswalker-turned-God, whose motives (frustration, disappointment, amoral hedonism) were perhaps more complex and relatable than those of any other major Magic antagonist. Unfortunately, in having him grapple with Elspeth in the climactic moments of the storyline and be struck down by the Godsend, with Elspeth in turn being killed by Heliod, they also seemingly drove his character arc to a screeching halt before it started.
The ending of the Theros block story was heartbreaking in a number of ways, but we at least know Elspeth isn’t gone forever, as she remains conscious in the Underworld, and her own future character growth will be great to see, not to mention how nice it is to have Magic’s biggest heel be Heliod, a white-aligned bad guy, for the return to Theros. But no matter how you slice it, Xenagos was DOA. Or was he?
See, the thing is, Xenagos’s fate was pretty ambiguous: He, as the God of Revels, got killed within Nyx itself, all the while previously having a mortal body. Whether this means he’s been wiped from existence or merely that the part of him that’s divine has simply been stripped away is open for interpretation. And if he’s mortal again, that’s where things get complex again for him as a character, which can be taken one of at least two ways by Creative.
On one hand, his fall could provide further fuel for his villainy. His failure embittering him, he’ll decide Theros is beyond all hope – a backwater compared to the other worlds he’s seen, whose pathetic inhabitants deserve what they get. Instead, he’ll turn his hatred for Gods and everything resembling them, like ideals or moral concepts, outwards, and begin to export his idea of perpetual revolution to other planes. A society getting too prosperous, too much progress being made, things a little too orderly? It’ll have to burn to prevent a travesty like Theros from arising.
On the other, a humbled Xenagos could be redeemed. If he stays on Theros, he might, against his better instincts, begin to sympathize with the mortals, his more selfish vendettas against the pantheon turning into a selfless war against tyranny. He’d see that he couldn’t defeat the Gods alone, but also that it wasn’t his battle to fight alone – that it was right for all mortals to rise up against their oppressors. Alongside Ajani, he could raise an army to conquer Nyx – and with Xenagos’s knowledge of how to get there, the mortals might just have a chance.