Savor_the_Flavor

Magic's wittiest firestarter takes center stage, and boy is she hot!

Jaya Ballard, Task Mage

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The letter F!or starters, I want to express what a privilege it is to bring you the first glimpse of Magic’s favorite Fire Woman, Jaya Ballard, Task Mage. I consider myself lucky, because not only is Jaya a character that has captured the imaginations of Magic fans for years, but because this card features artwork by yours truly. Not only do I get to show off her talents, but also my own. What a firecracker this is going to be!

I am sure a good number of you are wondering who she is and why I am making such a fuss. Let’s start at the beginning. Jaya Ballard is a Task Mage. This is the term for a maverick wizard who works as a hired gun. There are cryptomancer task mages and auramancer task mages and healers and diviners and countermagicians. There are Swiss Army Knife task mages who can do a little bit of everything. Jaya Ballard does one thing – burn stuff!

Burning stuff is what leads us to the answer to the second part of the question—why such a fuss? The fuss is because Jaya has been sizzling our hearts with her fiery wit since way back in Ice Age. Here’s a sampling of some of her early quotes:

Incinerate
Incinerate
"Yes, I think ‘toast' is an appropriate description."
—Jaya Ballard, Task Mage
Lava_Burst
Lava Burst
"Overkill? This isn't a game of Kick-the-Ouphe!"
—Jaya Ballard, Task Mage
Pyroblast
Pyroblast
"Just the thing for those pesky water mages."
—Jaya Ballard, Task Mage
Meteor_Shower
Meteor Shower
"Eenie, meenie, minie, moe . . . oh, why not all of them?"
—Jaya Ballard, Task Mage
Word_of_Blasting
Word of Blasting
Walls? What walls?"
—Jaya Ballard, Task Mage
Pyroclasm
Pyroclasm
"Leaves more room for the big ones to fight in, you know."
—Jaya Ballard, Task Mage

I think you can see that this is not a woman to be trifled with. Not only does she have the ‘tude, but she has the firepower to back it up. Look at all those spells—red as they come, and hot to the core. She has a lot more where that came from too, flavor text on a total of 20 cards.

It just occurred to me that I have not yet shown you the preview card. I know you’re champing at the bit to see it, but don’t skip ahead. Trust me, you’ll appreciate it more if you wait ‘til we get there.

Flavor text is not all this flamethrower has going for her. Jaya burns up the pages of two Ice Age block novels; The Eternal Ice and The Shattered Alliance, both by Jeff Grubb. I don’t want to spoil the fun for any of you who still plan on reading these novels, so I will not get into specifics. Unfortunately, there’s some fat info that I need to reveal in order to do Jaya’s character justice - hopefully, this won’t keep you from reading the novels. Anyway, here’s the short and sweet:

Jaya bops around Terisiare lending a flame to those who will pay. She and fellow adventurer Jodah get tangled up in conflicts between Kjeldor, Balduvia, and Tresserhorn, and walk away with an ominous trophy—the magical rings of the necromancer Lim-Dul—still adorning his severed hand! But one of the rings took hold of her mind and bent her to the will of an ancient mage of great power, Mairsil. In order to save Jaya from Mairsil, (Wow, I am really boiling this down. Read the novels—there is so much flesh attached to these bare bones), Jodah shatters his magic mirror on Mairsil/Jaya’s face. Sounds like a strange way to save your pal, eh? Read on. Jodah’s mirror was enchanted by Freyalise, the powerful Planeswalker who ended the Ice Age. When it hit Jaya, it did not kill her, it “released her spark.”

I am fighting the urge to head up this paragraph with “You Can’t Start a Fire Without a Spark,” but this is as far as I’d allow myself to sink into hot melted cheese. Anyway, the “Spark...” This is the term that represents a person’s potential for becoming a Planeswalker. I hit on what a Planeswalker is in last week’s “Parlez Vous Vorthos,” but here’s another quick hit: A Planeswalker is a nearly omnipotent being who can travel from one planar dimension to another, collecting knowledge, power, and magic from all of these worlds.

So back to Jaya Ballard—when the magic mirror breaks and releases its power, Jaya’s dormant spark ignites and she becomes a Planeswalker. From fireflinging baddie to world-scorching pyropotentiary in the blink of an eye. Jaya being a Planeswalker is why we get to see her incendiary repartee on cards outside of Terisiare (Ice Age block) and outside of the plane of Dominaria. Here are a few examples of Jaya quotes found in Nth Edition sets (which are collections of cards from all Magic planes.)

Inferno
Inferno
“Some have said there is no subtlety to destruction. You know what? They're dead."
—Jaya Ballard, task mage
Chicken_Egg
Chicken Egg
"That's a lotta nuggets."
—Jaya Ballard, task mage
Sizzle
Sizzle
“Of course you should fight fire with fire. You should fight everything with fire."
—Jaya Ballard, task mage

That last one really sums up Jaya’s modus operandi pretty well.

At this point, many of you may be wondering what this history lesson has to do with a card preview. Allow me a moment to explain how it means everything to this card preview and to this entire new set of cards. Time Spiral is a set of new cards whose eyes are all on Magic’s history. You won’t need to be a history expert to master play with Time Spiral cards, or even to be a true fan of their flavor. But a little knowledge about the past will unlock layer after layer of extra special goodness in just about every Time Spiral card out there. Jaya Ballard, Task Mage is a great example of this. This is why I am going to reveal her to you one layer at a time.

Here’s layer 1. No real news here except we get to see that she is (no big surprise) a Red card and that she costs 1 ManaRed ManaRed Mana. I, for one, am happy to see the double Red Mana in her casting cost. If this sizzler doesn’t demand a commitment to Red, then I am a stone-faced Spike.

Click here to see layer 2.






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