Ajani. The original white walker. The first planeswalker to change their color identity. One of the first multicolor walkers. But who is this catlike creature? Why did he get so angry? And why did he cease to be?
Part one: a death in the family.
Ajani Goldmane is a leonian- a cat like humanoid from the plane known as Naya. Ajani’s only family was his brother Jazal, but where Jazal’s strength made him Kha (basically a chief) Ajani’s white fur set him apart (basically an outcast). Ajani became a skilled warrior and healer, and these abilities combined with his brothers’ respect made him barely tolerated in his pride. Ajani endured this ordeal with stoic good grace.
Then his brother was killed. The anguish it caused ignited his spark and set him on a collision course with another power player- Nicol Bolas.
So let me backup a bit.
Naya was one of five “shard” collectively known as Alara. Each of these shards possessed only three colors of magic- in Naya’s case, green, white and red. These planes are where we now get the names for some three color decks. See also, Jund and Grixis.
The shards were colliding, fusing together into Alara.This fusion created a nexus of energy- the conflux. Each shard raised an army and marched them to the conflux, as this fusion created an understandable deluge of tension between each shard’s native inhabitants.
Ajani found his spark shortly before this conflux began, and his path to discover his brother’s killer brought him to the nexus. There he found his brother’s murderer, who (long story short) had been manipulated into committing the act. Ajani, returning to his reasonable nature, let her live and abandoned his vengeance.
(side note: while Ajani Goldmane was printed before Ajani Vengeant, chronologically vengent represents Ajani when he is younger. When he abandoned his vengeance, he gave up red.)
At pretty much that moment, Nicol Bolas appeared. Bolas’s quest for power had led him to manipulate the shards and cause the confluence, which he could then absorb. Ajani used the power of the conflux to create a copy of the Bolas, which managed to chase away the original.
His actions earned Ajani the respect he deserved, only to find life among his people was no longer what he craved. He left them and walked the planes, doing what he could to help and trying to find a place where he would finally fit in.
Part two: With friends like these...
One effect of his initial ordeal was introducing Ajani to his friend, Elspeth.
Elspeth’s story is not a happy one. Elspeth was not from Alara, but on the chivalrous shard of Bant (the green-white-blue aligned fragment of Alara) she was welcomed. It’s noble outlook matching her own, Elspeth took to her new home and embraced it. But it was not to be. After the conflux the world she had come to love began to fade as red and black manna corrupted it’s outlook. Disheartened, she left Alara.
This began a period where Elspeth was in a not particularly good headspace. The full story is sadly beyond our current scope, but in her one chronicled meeting with Ajani during this time she sent the leonian away rather than accept his help. Eventually Ajani decided to disregard her wishes and find his friend again. He tracked her to a plain called Theros, where Elspeth was about to learn a hard lesson about greek tragedies.
Once again the threat was a planeswalker. This time it was a satyr who fancied a place among the Gods of Theros. The gods, as you might expect, were unimpressed. One of them- Heliod- sent Elspeth to defeat this upstart. Ajani joined Elspeth on her travels, and was there for the final conclusion.
Elspeth struck the killing blow. Unfortunately Heliod decided he didn’t want around a person who knew how to slay gods, so without warning he struck down his champion.
This time, it was Ajani that was unimpressed.
Shortly after Elspeth’s fall he began spreading word of Heliod’s betrayal, and the fickle nature of the gods. People started to listen. Once his words began spreading on their own, Ajani left.
Part three: New friends, new enemies
As it turns out, Ajani had made more friends in his travels. One of these was Tamiyo.
Tamiyo hosted a “story circle”, basically a gathering place for generally benevolent planeswalkers, in her home on the plane called Kamigawa. After his adventures on Theros, Ajani went to Tamiyo’s home hoping to find solace. He found instead a new threat.
Elspeth had encountered the seeker on a plane called Mirrodin (shortly after she dismissed her friend) and she told Ajani of his cruel machinations. Tamiyo knew of Tezzeret and was surprised to hear of this meeting, mostly because Tezzeret was thought to have died during a mission on Kamigawa years earlier.
Ajani decided to go after the troublesome planeswalker and force him to cease his meddling. He tracked Tezzeret to the plane of Kaladesh. Tezzeret had placed himself in a position of authority before proceeding to descend into tyranny.
But Tezzeret's ambition has a yet more nefarious undercurrent. Because just to bring things full circle, Tezzeret works for Nicol Bolas.
Thankfully, Ajani has backup of his own. It turns out being a pretty decent guy can pay off when you meet other generally decent people. In this case, those people are the gatewatch: Magic’s current protagonist league. The gatewatch consists of Gideon, Jace, Liliana, Chandra and Nissa. Already after Tezzeret for their own reasons, they quickly allied with the large leonion. And together, Tezzert’s plans were foiled.
Now a member of their alliance, the gatewatch’s newest recruit has walked countless worlds and finally arrived home. He stands beside his allies, squarely between the tyrants and the oppressed.
Author: Robert Trueblood