The Ninth Sphere: What’s the Best Art in Magic? – Part Two

We’re finally here, the end of my four-part series of my favorite and least favorite artwork of Magic: the Gathering. I can honestly say I’m really excited to complete these articles, not because I want it to end, but because I’ve been saving the best for last, and we can finally talk about my favorite modern artwork. For those of you who are just tuning in for the first time this week, I spend a lot of time looking at Magic art, analyzing it and altering cards. I own a small amount of magic prints, and spend a lengthy amount of time browsing sales of original artwork for what is hopefully going to result in purchasing my first piece of original art.

Here’s a few photos of my current print collection, some of which will be detailed in the article:

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Most of these have been picked up by myself or my friends at the Grands Prix they have attended, and a few of them have been purchased directly from the artists websites.

This article is going to be quite large since I have a lot to cover, so I’m going to go through the artwork in block/set order. Unfortunately there won’t be images from every set, due to the already large scale of the article it’s difficult to include everything. I think overall the following 50 images (yes that’s right, I chose fifty images for you guys!) are an accurate representation of the variety that we see in MTG artwork.

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Birds of Paradise, Edward P. Beard Jr.

Specifically, I really like 8th Edition Birds of Paradise, although it’s almost identical to the 7th edition version. This image was always a favorite of mine, did you guys know that the black tips added to the wings were not added with the approval of the original artist? I’m pretty sure that’s why we don’t see this artwork used after this set.

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Counsel of the Soratami, Randy Gallagos

A fantastic oil painting from Champions of Kamigawa. Many players think this block was one of the worst ever created, but there is so much talent showcased in the art.

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Meloku the Clouded Mirror, Scott M. Fischer

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Time Stop, Scott M. Fischer

Two more of my favorites from Champions of Kamigawa are by the same artist. I appreciate the realism in the characters portrayed, at the same time both images have a very ‘hand made’ quality to them. I think the collage background lends itself well to the feel of Time Stop. I also really like the small intricacies in the patterning on Meloku. The two images compared together have a lot of similarities as well, such as the color palette, and the flowers. I think this artist is very consistent.

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Ayumi, the Last Visitor, RK Post

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Sakashima, the Impostor, RK Post

Two images from Saviors of Kamigawa, both illustrated by RK Post. Both of these images have details in them that I never noticed until I saw larger sizes of them, like the shoes Sakashima is wearing, or the details in the creatures hovering around Ayumi. I own a large size print of Sakashima, and it’s definitely one of the best in my collection.

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Yuki-onna, Hideaki Takamura

This block was well-known for referencing folklore, and this card by Hideaki Takamura is a great depiction of one of those lores. A Yuki-onna is a spirit from Japanese folklore, often appearing in snowstorms. There are different legends pertaining to the character, many referencing her as a woman spirit that steals the vitality of others.

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Thieving Magpie (9th Edition), Una Fricker

I think fellow Manabase streamer Nikachu will appreciate seeing this one in the list, since he was the first person to introduce me to the artwork. I definitely have an affinity for birds, and I think this picture is great.

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Lurking Informant, Ron Spears

I like the contrast between the smooth shading and the more stark shadows of the informant, and the balance of warm and cool colors makes this image attractive. I think a lot of thought was put into the color and composition of this picture. I think that the more that Magic progresses the less of the traditional ‘fantasy’ style drawing we see, and this image retains a lot of that feel to me.

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Elvish Skysweeper, Mark Tedin

There is SO much detail in this picture that is lost in the small scale of the card. Mark Tedin really outdid himself with this one. I also appreciate the way he signed his name onto the stone in the bottom of the image, rather than signing his name across the work. Sometimes signatures detract from the depth of the work.

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Goblin Flectomancer, Matt Cavotta

This is one of those images I saw for the first time while picking through a bulk bin at my LGS, and just thought it was so funny and whimsical. How many glasses does this guy need to look through?

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Feral Animist, Ron Spears

This one is terrifying and hilarious at the same time. That wolf head really looks like it’s taking a bite out of him. I like Ron Spears’ art a lot, I don’t think I’d want to put this one on my wall though.

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Simic Guildmage, Aleksi Briclot

Definitely looks reminiscent to Momir Vig, also from the Simic faction. He looks part machine-part human, and the image fits well into the lore of Dissension. The original purpose of the Simic combine was to “preserve the health of all Ravnican life-forms” and most members of the combine allowed Momir Vig to ‘improve’ them with alterations and prosthesis.

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Hallowed Fountain, Rob Alexander

I told myself when I started this series that I wasn’t going to include any images from lands, but this one I just can’t ignore. It’s just such a classically beautiful image, and the attention to detail and perspective is just amazing.

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Tombstalker, Aleksi Briclot

I don’t have a lot to say about this one, it really speaks for itself.

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Pestermite, Christopher Moeller

I think when I look at the card sized version of Pestermite, I completely ignore the figure in the background. The large scale really showcases the details in the image. I really appreciate the style of the faeries in these blocks, and how they have taken on a less sexualized context than is often referenced in fantasy art.

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Ashling the Pilgrim, Wayne Reynolds

Ashling is another example of a card art I really like, and the more detail I get to see the more I can enjoy and appreciate it. The picture still has Wayne Reynolds ugly signature in it, but at least it blends into the background.

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Sage of Fables, Shelly Wan

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Faerie Macabre, RK Post

This is another piece of Magic art that I own a print of. I think I mostly was attracted to the color palette, however the character design is also very appealing. The style is very similar to other faeries such as Pestermite, but it definitely takes a darker twist here.

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Bloom Tender, Chippy

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Gilder Bairn, Nils Hamm

Often regarded as the “cutest card in Magic”, it just had to make the list.

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Ethersworn Canonist, Izzy

This has been a favorite for a while, mostly because of the painterly quality of the face, and how it looks like watercolors. I think it really benefits the flushed features of the face, and contrasts well with the lifeless metal on and surrounding her. This image is a great representation of the kind of art we see in Shards of Alara.

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Bant Battlemage, Donato Giancola

Again, another beautiful painting that I honestly didn’t pay attention to until I started writing this series.

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Banefire, Raymond Swanland

It was difficult to choose which piece I wanted to include by this artist, since he has done so many easily recognizable and popular works. But Banefire is too awesome and brutal to pass up.

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Slave of Bolas, Steve Argyle

This image is beautiful, and terribly sad at the same time. When you reference the other cards of the set, you can see the coin shapes are Sigil of Distinction that have become Tainted Sigil, as you gain control of the creature. After the corruption of the creature, and your turn in the game, you sacrifice it.

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Naya Hushblade, Jason Chan

There’s not a lot of vivid detail in the image, but we do get a lot of subtle details. This card looks great in foil, and just seems to be an image that is overlooked by a lot of people.

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Baneslayer Angel, Greg Staples

A lot of delicate details in this one, Greg Staples originally created this as the art for Serra Angel, but it was considered too “ethereal”, so they used it for Baneslayer Angel instead.

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Lotus Cobra, Chippy

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Demystify, Veronique Meignaud

I bought a print of this one at GP Montreal, the color scheme really sold me on this one.

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Copperhorn Scout, Shelly Wan

A similar color palette and composition to Sage of Fables, the bright color scheme really contrasts with the rest of the art in Scars of Mirrodin, and provides a good balance to the set.

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Neurok Commando, Matt Stewart

It always reminds me a little of HR Giger and the art from Alien. I like how futuristic this looks.

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Suture Priest, Igor Kieryluk

Igor Kieryluk really excelled at art in this block, this image is terrifying. Definitely the stuff of nightmares.

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Flusterstorm, Erica Yang

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Mindshrieker, Dave Kendall

This is one of those pictures I can’t appreciate until I see a large size of it. So much of the detail is lost in the small scale, it’s hard to see the faces in the shrieker that we can easily see in this picture.

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Maw of the Mire, Vincent Proce

This is an artist whose work I like frequently, often without knowing who has created it. It’s really cool to see the hands made out of skeletons in the larger size image.

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Mikaeus, the Unhallowed, Chris Rahn

I appreciate the similarities between this and Mikaeus, the Lunarch (which came out in Innistrad). I’m really interested in the interaction between Mikaeus touching the statue on the wall beside him.

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Killing Wave, Steve Argyle

Another image I think is easily recognizable to Steve Argyle because of the color palette (and theme).

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Crippling Blight, Lucas Graciano

This is the first image I knew I wanted to put in this article. I love the artwork, color scheme, and realistic features, and this image is always overlooked by people. I often show my friends this picture and they are blown away when they see the details and what is actually being portrayed. If I had the chance to own the original, I’d buy it in a heartbeat.

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Gift of Orzhova, Johannes Voss

One of my first “favorites”, the perspective of the image and the radiance of the wings makes this picture really fantastic. I have a hard time thinking of other Magic artworks that uses this perspective.

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Burning-Tree Emissary, Izzy

Another great piece of art out of Gatecrash. Izzy doesn’t disappoint.

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Hopeful Eidolon, Min Yum

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Ephara’s Radiance, James Ryman

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Drown in Sorrow, Noah Bradley

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Nyx Infusion, Jason A. Engle

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Nyx-Fleece Ram, Terese Nielsen

The above 5 images are just a small amount of the beautiful art that came from the Theros block. There was such a wonderful representation of art that is whimsical, and just gives viewers so much insight into what a beautiful plane the characters were on. There was also a ton of character development in these sets, the Gods were a great addition to the storyline. (I wonder if Amonkhet will give us a similar feel?)

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Rite of the Serpent, Seb McKinnon

This is another artist I had the chance to meet in GP Montreal, and I’m kicking myself a little for not picking up one of these prints while I was there. I like it more every time I look at it.

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Conclave Naturalists, Howard Lyon

I overlooked this one until I saw it on a WMCQ playmat, and realized how pretty the art is. The women also have incredibly realistic facial features, and the delicate tonal values on the skin really adds to the overall impact of the image. I think it’s really easy for features like that to look fake or overdrawn.

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Macabre Waltz, Willian Murai

This is SO much better than the original. (editor’s note: That’s debatable) 

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Thalia, Heretic Cathar, Magali Villeneuve

Probably my favorite from Eldritch Moon, I love the movement of the hair, and the piercing gaze of Thalia. I like this representation a lot more than Thalia, Guardian of Thraben.

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Azorius Signet, Raoul Vitale

“The maze-like design embodies the core of Azorius law—strict structure designed to test wills and stall change.” I like when the image intertwines with the flavor text of the card it depicts. Otherwise this might have been confusing for a signet that is for a blue-white aligned guild. This was one of my new favorite pieces of art from Modern Masters 2017, along with the new art for Goblin Guide.

So what do you guys think? That was a lot of art for one article. I hope you came out at the end with at least one new favorite, or at least saw a piece of art you haven’t really looked at before. The artists for Magic are so talented, and sometimes I think they are incredibly under-represented and under-valued. Did I miss something on this list that you really liked? Do you want to discuss one of these in more detail with me? Send me a message or post a comment! See you guys next time, back to the regular articles with some new alters to share!

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