Welcome to part two of my list of “The Worst Card Art in Magic!” Last time, we featured a list of cards from pre-modern sets that in my opinion had some of the worst art ever. If you didn’t read the article, you can check it out here:
As Magic moved into the modern sets, the first big change WoTC made was the update to the card frame. The updated card frame allowed for more rules text to be printed, as well as allowed for larger images to appear on the cards. Around this time period, I would say there was a large shift in the creation process of magic artwork, a lot of it becomes digitally manipulated/edited at this time. Shortly after Magic’s transition into “modern” sets, WoTC hired a new art director, Jeremy Jarvis. He was largely responsible for Magic’s transition into more abstract concepts, less literal artwork, and more metaphorical imagery. As a result of this, the overall quality of the artwork improved, and I think it’s significantly more difficult to find artwork that is inherently ‘bad’. Let’s see what we can get into this week though, hopefully we can still find some.
Valor in Akros, Igor Kleryluk
The first card on my list is Valor in Akros. This artwork is the product of some really poor CGI, and it’s really difficult to get past that when looking at this card. It’s surprising to me that this is also the artist who illustrated Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, which is a much more significant piece of art.
Aerial Predation, BD
I don’t even know what I’m supposed to be looking at, what is this thing? Is it a spider with reach or some mutant insect with flying? Whoever this artist is, they didn’t illustrate anything before or after this.
Sorin, Grim Nemesis, Eric Deschamps
This one might get me some hate, so let’s be specific about why I don’t like this artwork. A lot of Eric Deschamp’s planeswalkers (and he has illustrated quite a few!) all look very similar. Take a look at Garruk Relentless, Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Nahiri, the Lithomancer, etc. All of these poses are VERY similar. They’re not really dynamic, most of the characters have for the most part one arm up holding a weapon of some sort. Sorin is particularly bad in my opinion because in addition to having a similar style, he also doesn’t have a lot of detail, and the pose isn’t strong enough in my opinion. For being a serious component to Shadows Over Innistrad, I would have hoped to see better artwork.
Grazing Kelpie, Drew Tucker
I’m really not sure what I’m looking at here. If you look at the other kelpies, they at least have faces, but this thing is just a weird blob. Personally I think the background is lazy, and I can’t tell if the kelpie is on water, or land, because the colors are too similar. I’m also not quite sure this fits with the visual aesthetic of Eventide.
Fellhide Brawler, Nils Hamm
A poor experimentation with color. If the colors had been a bit stronger it might have translated better in what we are looking at, but the colors blend together a bit too much, so aesthetically it’s not very pleasing. It’s difficult for the eye to focus on one particular aspect of this piece. Nils Hamm did a lot better with colors for Baleful Strix.
Simic Signet, Greg Hildebrandt
Greg Hildebrandt did a full cycle of signets, why is the Simic signet a bar of soap? All the other ones are cool looking. Don’t get me wrong though, it fits great with the flavor text. “For the Simic Combine, its sigil serves not as an emblem of honor but as a trademark. Its familiar image on any biological commodity attests to superb craftsmanship, ingenious innovation, and higher cost.” But it’s still not a piece of art I would ever like to own.
Honden of Infinite Rage, John Avon
This is an image that I think doesn’t look too bad until you get a larger sized image of it, and then you can see how little detail was put into the image. I’m also not sure why this shrine has arms holding up weapons, and tentacles. Maybe somehow this made sense in the Kamigawa block, but from what I hear not a lot of things in that block did.
After these images I found myself sort of stuck. I’m sure there must be some other bad magic art out there, but I’ve had a hard time finding things I thought were poor enough to include in this list. What do you guys think, do you have any cards you think are particularly awful that should be on this list?
Thankfully next time we’re going to get into my favorite artwork of Magic. Those articles are going to be significantly larger because let’s be honest, there’s way more to like than to dislike. Some of you might also know that I collect prints of magic artwork, so we can take a look at some of that as well. So stay tuned for next time, we’re going to take a look at Anson Maddocks, Johannes Voss, Filip Barburan, and a lot of artists that made the ‘worst art’ lists, because let’s be real, most of them made some great art too.