Magic: the Gathering Artwork – a Look at Some Old Favorites

One of the few things Anna Kreider and I have in common is we both find the art in Magic the Gathering rather disappointing. However, whilst Wundergeek’s complaints largely revolve around boob plates and the elves being too sexy, my gripe is the artistic shift away from the iconic art styles that defined MTG during its 90s heyday.

Before his death, Quinton Hoover, one of the artists who, perhaps more than any other with the exception of Douglas Schuler, shaped the aesthetic and implied setting of MTG, remarked that one of the reasons why he was out was that by the 00s, the art directors just didn’t want the kind of fantasy art he was known for and he couldn’t conform his style to the sort of art they did want.

The art was still pretty solid by the time I had quit regularly playing and collecting(late 1999), and not all of the stuff I’ve seen since was bad, but I’d noticed that there was definitely a shift that had started going on in Rath and Urza that struck me as being stylistic forerunner of the typical Wizards of the Coast fantasy art that you see all over the place these days. But rather than complain about the new art, I’d like to show a few of my favorite examples of the classic art.


Quinton Hoover’s clean line-art was second to none.  Even so-so cards like this one became icon parts of MTG because of Hover’s art.


Another classic Hoover common.


A card whose endless popularity has nothing to do with how good it is.

pixie queen

I promise, Hoover illustrated cards that didn’t suck, but even the ones that did, his art made them worth holding onto.

uholy strength

All censoring this card did was send us kids to the dime boxes to buy up as many of the older versions as we could when we found out we’d been cheated out of burning pentagram.


But Schuler was someone who knew that evil existed and could be vanquished by good.  Only thing that would make this better would be a Teutonic Eagle.


I also dug this Joan of Arc-ish piece; these found their way into a lot of my white decks.


Never neglect your education.


Of course, his Serra Angel is perhaps one of the most iconic images in all of MTG.


Whoa, hey, a thing is happening here!  Betcha the squeamish Pathfinder feminists aren’t happy about this lady character or the lady who illustrated her, but man, don’t you want to know more about this character whose story this card gives you a tiny window into?!  Baroh’s a mixed bag, but I do like a lot of her stuff.


Though Rebecca Guay often goes for a hazy feel in her water-colors, all of her line-work is incredibly strong and solid.


This was one of my all time favorites.  It was a mediocre card in its day and even just a couple years of power creep later rendered it beyond bad, but man, who would not want to read half a dozen short stories about this lady!?  Really, the early MTG flash fiction was a bigger selling point for me than the game itself.


Roped into a Shadows Over Innistrad Booster Draft

Over the weekend, I got roped into a Magic: The Gathering tournament by an acquaintance.  There was a booster draft going on and they needed an 8th, so the guy offered to pay my entry fee if I’d take the slot and let him keep the drafted cards.  Not as cool as Hornblower being paid to hang around and be a 4th for Admirals playing whist, but the D&D game I’d been hanging around waiting on had moved to another location unbeknownst to me, so I figured why not?

Having not played Magic in a decade , it was a surreal experience.  Some bad draws screwed me, and my last loss came because I didn’t bother to call the other player on his misinterpretation of the rules and was really more eager to be done than anything.

One thing that struck me was how many new rules and terms have been tacked on in the years since I quit playing.  The last time I still collected –over 16 years ago – Interrupts were a thing, and when I started playing, creatures had only 5 named abilities (flying, banding, trample, first strike and rampage) while the rest were spelled out in detail.  These days, lots of the old familiar phrases, such as ‘remove from the game’ and ‘play any time you could an instant’ have their own unannotated terminology.  Simpler, sure, but not exactly clear for someone who hasn’t been steeped in the game for any long period of time.  It made me realize just how much I’d taken for granted MTG’s complexity back when I did play it and how strangely impressive it is to have all of these folks playing such a game without a single rulebook present.

While it’s not one I look to revisit any time soon, it was an interesting experience.  The guy who paid my way in was actually impressed by the deck I’d drafted; it worked in theory, I just never got what I needed until it was too late a lot of times.  He was happy with the cards he got, even though we both ended up losing pretty hard.

While I miss the old old old old artwork and style, the new set Shadows Over Innistrad isn’t as bad looking as some of the recent stuff I’d seen, even if it is still that muddy modern fantasy style that’s everywhere.  If I were still into MTG, it would be a set that I’d be interested in (thematically, at least), as it aims to be sort of a ‘gothic horror’ block.  In some ways it reminds me a bit of Homelands which, while universally accepted as one of the worst expansion in MTG history, was always one of my favorites in terms of art, flavor and overall setting.

MTG Nostalgia

Every time I find myself feeling nostalgic about MTG, it’s always about the stuff from Fallen Empires, Ice Age, Alliances & Homelands, since that was about the time I started playing.

Watching this, I’m like “I had all of those cards!”  For a brief moment, I relived the excitement of opening a booster pack and seeing some awesome stuff.

If MTG had managed to retain the aesthetic and feel from these sets, I might still be playing today.

Geordie Tait: A Man In His Own Words

I know I updated the original post, but I really think that this deserves a post of its own.

Geordie Tait went on King of Pol’s stream and doubled down, entirely straight-faced and without hyperbole, on advocating genocide against groups with whom he disagrees.

You can listen to the interview here, though you might want to fast forward a bit to where he joins Pol on the stream.!/embedvideo/316600

I’m really glad that I had stopped playing and buying Magic: the Gathering cards before this guy would’ve been profiting from my purchases.

Update: over the course of the day, I’ve finally managed to finish listening to everything in the interview, and I must say, this is the most frightening thing I’ve seen in all of gamergate.  I agree with Sargon: this hardline stance and attitude perfectly illustrates how things like the Holocaust can happen.  The thorough and complete dehumanization of a group of people, placing said group on the opposite end of not just an ideological spectrum, but a moral spectrum, then advocating for the elimination of said group can be completely justified within this frame of mind.

I do NOT think that Geordie Tait is representative of all people who are anti-gamergate; some people who are anti-gamergate may just be misinformed or simply just don’t care (though most who don’t care tend to be neutral on the subject) rather than be ideologues or corrupt individuals, Geordie Tait, on the other hand, is not just an ideologue academician or journalist or whatever. He is an incredibly dangerous and possibly sociopathic individual who should probably be avoided at all cost.  I do not, however, advocate silencing or censoring Geordie Tait: I’m reminded of how the Tale of Heike described the actions of Tairo no Ason Kiyomori against Buddhism, in that his crimes against the religion made it stronger because he could be a shining example of the world of how not to behave, a reverse mirror image of what that which he opposes stands for*.

* Edit 2: When I mentioned this, I had no idea someone had created a “joke” twitter account of a mirror universe “nega Geordie” who advocates Buddhism.  Coincidence?  The Buddha works in mysterious ways.  (And no, I’m not “Nega Geordie”, nor am I on twitter, nor do I really think it’s a good idea, even though it is kinda funny…)