More often than not, some of the questions players and clients seem to keep asking me are: ‘what is my favourite magic artwork?’, ‘what do i think is the best artwork from a certain set?’, and what I’d like to talk about today, ‘what is my least favourite art of magic?’. Trust me, there’s a lot of it out there. I think my fine arts background gives me an advantage to analyse magic artwork, but ultimately everyone knows what they like and what they don’t, so I’m sure a lot of you will come to the same conclusion as me on these. I’m going to try avoiding the popular cards we love to hate, things like Word of Command, Stasis (which I personally really like), and Celestial Prism. We’re going to try and dig deep this week, and get into the worst art I can find, so stick with me guys, hopefully you get some laughs. Here’s my curated list (in no particular order) of the worst art of Magic: The Gathering.
I’m going to start with the dream team of awful magic artwork, Kaja and Phil Foglio. Let’s be real, when people talk about bad magic artwork, this usually comes up pretty early into the conversation. I tried really hard to choose only one from each of them, otherwise I think I could write the whole article on their images. Let’s start with Kaja:
Silhouette, Kaja Foglio
I mean, I guess this card is literally what it says it’s going to be, but the cartoony appearance and lack of a background leaves much to be desired. When it comes to Kaja’s ‘worst’ art, it was a toss-up between this card and Millstone, but I think the Millstone probably took more effort. It certainly has more detail. Retrospectively, this image represents very little in the way of Magic lore characters or the story line. I often wonder when looking at the art of Silhouette why the artist took this illustrative approach.
Lure, Phil Foglio
Onto Phil Foglio, Lure is a perfect example of early magic artists taking the card name they’re assigned to and using their drawing to illustrate the title as exactly as described. I have no idea what this image has to do with Magic: The Gathering. This scenario happens quite a bit in the earlier sets of magic with other artists, see Fishliver Oil, Pyramids, and Whip Vine. When you consider the dichotomy between illustrations like this card, and the other images through the Ice Age set, it’s difficult to take these pictures seriously. They seem much more suited for children’s illustration, rather than a fantasy-based TCG.
Coils of the Medusa, Darbury Stenderu
This card, illustrated by Darbury Stenderu is the only card she has ever done for Magic: the Gathering. I actually feel like in the correct artistic setting this image might have had merit. Unfortunately when images are scaled down to such a small size, a lot of the details are lost, so the snakes become very undesirable to look at. At the same time, this image is again, just very odd for Magic artwork. I think especially considering the existing storyline at the time of the Weatherlight set, this art really gets lost in that context.
Hasran Ogress, Dan Frazier
Keep in mind this is the artist who illustrated half the moxen that many players have come to love.
Rod of Ruin, Christopher Rush
Some of you may disagree on this one purely because it’s by Christopher Rush, and it’s basically sacrilege to knock the artist who made the art for Black Lotus, but Rod of Ruin is boring, and bland. In my opinion, for a ‘rod of ruin’ the colour palette is awful, and not nearly dynamic enough for what it sounds like we should be viewing.
Mold Demon, Jesper Myrfors
I actually met Jesper Myrfors at a GP last year, and he was a really pleasant artist to speak with. During some of the earlier sets he was an art director/designer, and a lot of his other work is awesome. (Elves of Deep Shadow, Atog, some of the original dual lands) Mold Demon is one of those cards that again, in a different context would be really cool, but I think mostly because of the small scale, the image is difficult to decipher, and becomes a bit uncanny.
Imaginary Pet, Heather Hudson
Another image I love to hate, is the artwork on the Urza’s Saga version of Imaginary Pet. I’m really just going to let this one speak for itself. Heather Hudson has illustrated some of my more favourite images as well though, such as Spike Feeder, and Wall of Blossoms. (She also illustrated Chains of Mephistopheles), but this card barely shows resemblance to those artworks.
Spirit of The Night, Cliff Nielsen
I’m not sure how many people know about Cliff Nielsen, formerly the husband of Terese Nielsen. If you ever compare their art side-by-side, you will see a lot of similarities in the composition, colours, and art style. This card is really strange though, I often compare it to Mold Demon because I think they are stylistically very similar. In addition, another card on my list of awful magic art that has a similar composition (kind of a collage style painting) is Decomposition.
Scavenger Folk, Denise Detwiler
This dude has seen some shit. (Editor’s note, Why is his hand so big?)
Haunting Apparition, Chippy
Chippy is one of those artists whose early work was not great, but has vastly improved and made a lot of great art for Magic. I think when people put this card beside his other popular works like Lotus Cobra, Spellskite and Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon, it’s surprising that they’re from the same artist. I think this might be one of those cases where an artist really excels at digital art making, but not so much in the traditional medium.
Mutilate, Eric Peterson
The last card on my list for this week is Mutilate. This art really has very little to do with mutilation, but a lot to do with disfigurement and distortion. Thematically, the art is really strange. I think the realistic facial features kind of creeps me out. At the same time, I find it difficult to relate this to the storyline of Torment, and the artwork feels out of place.
Next time, we’re going to explore my least favourite cards from modern sets, and hopefully check out some commissions I’ve been working on. Lastly, the alter I’ve decided to include for this article. This is a throwback, part of the first commission I ever did, a Fire Imp. I think I’ve come a long way since then, what do you guys think?
What is your least favourite magic art? I’d LOVE to hear what you guys hate, so be sure to comment below. If it’s a modern card, I might include it in the next article. Stay tuned!